Environmental issues have made headlines throughout 2018, and 2019 promises to be no different.
Decisions will be made that affect the cleanliness of the state’s waters, air and land. Issues that will affect recycling, coal mining and solar, nuclear and hydropower generation also are looming on the horizon. Here are a few of the issues to watch in 2019.
More What to Watch in 2019
A gasoline tax increase to fund road improvements is expected to be a major topic of the 2019 Alabama legislative session. Legislators also are expecting several hundred million more dollars to spend in the education budget and will be debating raises, a child literacy program and other education improvements. Other issues include funding improvements in prisons and a possible lottery proposal. Read more.
Thirty-two people have applied to fill two vacant seats on the Birmingham City Council, and they will all get the chance to publicly make their cases to the council later this week.
During a special-called meeting on Thursday, Dec. 13, applicants will be given one minute each to give “elevator speeches” on their qualifications, Council President Valerie Abbott said during Tuesday’s regular council meeting.
“They are going to show us their skills at concisely telling us why they are the best candidates for the positions,” she said.
Gov. Kay Ivey continues to add to her fundraising advantage over Democrat Walt Maddox with one week remaining in their campaign for governor, according to reports filed Monday with the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office.
Ivey, the Republican nominee, reported raising $146,413 from Oct. 20 to Oct. 26, compared to $45,465 for Maddox. Ivey spent $212,304, leaving a cash balance of $288,586. Maddox reported spending of $62,242 and has an account balance of $167,479. Read more.
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Tensions continued through the week between a Birmingham City Council member and Mayor Randall Woodfin over the council’s Tuesday decision not to contribute $1 million over five years to the Firehouse Ministries Homeless Shelter.
That proposal is no longer on the table; the council voted it down at its Oct. 23 meeting. But Woodfin and District 8 Councilor Steven Hoyt continued to trade barbs in one of the most high-profile public disagreements between the mayor and council since Woodfin took office nearly a year ago. Read more.
Despite the city’s rising homicide rate and a recent rash of highly publicized violent crimes, Birmingham-area law enforcement officials say they are optimistic about the city’s long-term crime-fighting prospects, due in part to an array of government agencies working together.
After a violent start to September, which saw seven homicides in its first eight days, Birmingham is on track to have its deadliest year in decades. As of Sept. 20, there have been 86 reported homicides this year, compared to the 79 counted at this point last year, which was the deadliest year for the city since 1994.
“It’s too high for sure,” said Jay Town, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, which is centered in Birmingham. “It makes you wonder if we weren’t putting all of this effort … I shudder to think where those numbers might be.”
Town, who has been on the job for roughly 13 months, said he has worked to develop a “vertical” model of law enforcement that includes federal, state, county and local departments. It’s a model, he said, that can serve as a crime-fighting method going forward.
“The only promise I can make is that we are establishing long-term processes, and it takes time,” he said. “As much as we would like in the Magic City to have crime disappear overnight, we are taking the painstaking efforts to make sure that there are systems and methods and processes in place that are going to last a lot longer than any of us.” Read more.
Six homicides happened in Birmingham during the first week of September, putting the city firmly on track for its most violent year in more than two decades and pressuring city leaders to improve their strategies for responding to such incidents and to focus on preventing them.
The first homicide of the month was the highly publicized death of 16-year-old Woodlawn High School student Will Edwards, who was killed in his North East Lake home just after midnight Sept. 1. The following evening, seven teenagers were shot during a gunfight at the downtown music venue WorkPlay, though none were killed.
Mayor Randall Woodfin described the weekend’s incidents of youth violence as a “devastating blow to our community.”
By the end of the first week, five more homicides had been reported by the Birmingham Police Department, four of which happened within a 24-hour period. Just minutes after the week ended, the city already had logged its first homicide of week two. It wasn’t the most homicides that have taken place in a single week this year — that would be an eight-homicide stretch between July 29 and August 4 — but it has placed Birmingham firmly on track to have its deadliest year in recent memory.
The Jefferson County Commission waded back into the issue of small cities’ providing for their residents after learning that the air conditioners at Brighton’s senior center were not working and seniors were being subjected to 90-degree temperatures. Read more.
Balch & Bingham attorney Joel Gilbert and Drummond Vice President David Lynn Roberson were found guilty this afternoon on all counts in a trial over allegations former Rep. Oliver Robinson was bribed to oppose the expansion of an EPA clean-up site in north Birmingham.
Both men had been charged with conspiracy, bribery, money laundering and three counts of wire fraud. A third defendant was dismissed from the case earlier this week. Robinson has pleaded guilty and agreed to work with prosecutors. His sentencing date had been set or next month but earlier today was extended until September.
This story will be updated as events develop.