If you suspect you have encountered irregularities in state and local elections, you can report the incidents through the Secretary of State Office’s Stop Voter Fraud Now website. All reports of alleged violations filed through the web site will be kept confidential.
The Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama in a new survey said Alabamians favor supervising non-violent criminals in the community and giving them more rehabilitation opportunities rather than sending them to prison.
In the ”Public Opinion Survey: 2019 Edition,” released Wednesday, a slight majority of residents surveyed, 58 percent, oppose building new prisons. Almost that many, 54 percent, thought only violent criminals should be held in the state’s prisons.
As in previous PARCA surveys, Alabamians ranked education as the most important service the state provides, followed by health care, public safety and highways. Read more.
City of Birmingham
Applications are now open for A Citizen’s Experience, a new initiative from the city of Birmingham designed to promote civic engagement. The free, seven-week program is slated to begin in June and is open only to Birmingham residents who are 18 years old or older. Applications are being accepted this month. Read more.
A smaller portion of new high school graduates is having to take remedial classes when they first go to college, according to a PARCA report on data from the Alabama Commission on Higher Education.
The rate of students needing remediation is dropping even though high schools have pushed to raise the graduation rate and are sending more students to college than they have in recent years. Read more.
Federal officials released a report Wednesday alleging conditions in the state’s male prisons violate the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, along with three U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the State of Alabama issued the findings. Read more.
Violence is the newest strategic focus for the Jefferson County Department of Health. During Tuesday’s annual State of Health in Jefferson County address, Dr. Mark Wilson said the department added the issue in response to increasing rates of homicide.
“It (violence) isn’t something that our health department has devoted resources to in the past,” Wilson said, “but it is clearly a public health problem.” Read more.
State officials are looking into a fish kill that happened near Alabama Power’s Plant Gorgas in Walker County. The coal-fired plant sits along a tributary of the Black Warrior River. Riverkeeper Nelson Brooke says he first heard about the incident Friday morning from a local fisherman. Brooke says he was not allowed to access the fenced area of the creek near the power plant, but counted at least 100 dead fish downstream. Read more.
The Birmingham Police Department will soon have two new high-tech crime-fighting tools at its disposal. On Tuesday, the Birmingham City Council approved nearly $75,000 for two law enforcement software systems, PredPol and Assisted Patrol Bait Systems, which are designed to increase patrol efficiency and crack down on repeat offenders, respectively. Read more.
The Alabama Public Charter School Commission approved plans for a new charter school in Birmingham on Monday. The Birmingham school board rejected the i3 Academy application in January, and school organizers appealed to the state.
The next step is for i3 Academy and the state to negotiate a contract for the school. It will outline expectations for academic performance, school operations and finances, school officials said.
Tommy Bice, former state education superintendent, is part of the team working to open i3 Academy as a K-5 charter school in Woodlawn in 2020. Read more.
CBD or cannabidiol seems to be everywhere. CVS pharmacy announced earlier this month it would begin carrying some CBD products in eight states, including Alabama. It’s also in convenience stores and coffee shops. CBD is derived from cannabis and proponents say it can help with conditions from epilepsy to anxiety to pain. But is there evidence for that?
WBHM’s Andrew Yeager spoke with Dr. Marcel Bonn-Miller, research director at the Lambert Center for the study of Medicinal Cannabis and Hemp. Read more.
Amazon Fulfillment Center on Pace to Meet Contract Timetable Although It’s Missing the Estimated Delivery Date
Bessemer will have to be patient when it comes to the present it’s getting from Amazon.
That present – the online retailer’s first Alabama fulfillment center – won’t be delivered as quickly as company leaders projected at the groundbreaking in October.
But Jefferson County commissioners, speaking during and after their committee meeting this morning, said they are confident the center will come to fruition. Read more.
Jefferson County Commission
Adamsville on Thursday became the latest municipality to reach a through road agreement with Jefferson County. Countywide, 34 municipalities have agreements for the county to maintain the roads in the agreement.
Adamsville Mayor Pam Palmer said “human-high weeds” along Minor Parkway had been a particular concern in her city. Read more.
Birmingham City Council
After weeks of debate, the Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to approve the proposed development of a Major League Baseball Youth Academy at the city’s George Ward Park, though it remains unclear whether the MLB Youth Foundation is still interested in pursuing the project in the wake of the controversy surrounding it.
Though the MLBYF apparently had nixed its plans for the academy after receiving pushback from residents of the surrounding neighborhood, councilors said they did not believe a “vocal minority” should scuttle the project, arguing that it would benefit youth from all of Birmingham’s 99 neighborhoods.
Despite the lengthy discussion on the proposal and on a proposed compromise that was soundly rejected, almost every councilor voted in favor of the academy, leaving the project’s fate in the hands of the MLBYF. Read more.
A report out Tuesday published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute ranks the health of all 67 counties in Alabama. This year, Shelby County comes in first. Jefferson County ranks in the top third. The report compares differences based on location as well as race and ethnicity. Read more.
Ali Massoud, a 2011 graduate of Hoover High School, says he was disappointed at a video depicting white students who attend Hoover schools using the N-word and anti-Semitic slurs. But he wasn’t surprised.
“I think a lot of students of color who have been through the Hoover High School system have seen small aggressions on display, and so the fact that this was caught on camera shows the rest of the world that those things are not just in our minds” Massoud says. “They are real and they are happening.”
Massoud and others want to know what school officials plan to do about it. Recently, Massoud started a petition demanding Hoover City Schools take meaningful action to address racism within the system. Read more.
The Klansmen who bombed Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963, killing four black girls, did not face justice for years. In 1977, then-Alabama Attorney General Bill Baxley won a conviction against Robert Chambliss for his role in the attack. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that two others were tried and convicted. Senator Doug Jones led those later prosecutions and writes about it in his memoir “Bending Toward Justice: The Birmingham Church Bombing that Changed the Course of Cvil Rights.” Read more.
WASHINGTON – The U.S. House last week voted to approve a five-year extension of the Violence Against Women Act, including expansion of some of its provisions to help victims fleeing violent domestic situations and protect women in violent situations.
Alabama’s representatives voted along party lines, with Rep. Terry Sewell voting in favor of the extension and the state’s other representatives voting against it.
Read how area members of Congress voted on that and other measures during the legislative week ending April 5. Read more.
The Alabama Legislature will face tough choices this year on solving problems of the state’s crowded, obsolete and under-funded prison system, and the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama is preparing a series of briefings to address “a system in crisis.”
PARCA, a non-profit organization that does nonpartisan research on issues facing state and local governments in Alabama, outlined problems that it said could lead to a federal takeover of the prisons system if they are not solved.
Gov. Kay Ivey has proposed the construction of three new men’s prisons at a cost of $950 million as one step toward dealing with the issues of crowding, health care and crumbling facilities. Read more.
The state’s roads are in bad shape. Those potholes and accidents cost the average driver in the Birmingham area about $1,800 a year, according to a new report from a transportation group.
The report comes as state lawmakers prepare to convene next week in Montgomery for the start of the legislative session. Gov. Kay Ivey is expected to announce a plan to improve state infrastructure Tuesday. She supports a gas tax increase for roads and bridges.
More than 40 percent of Birmingham’s major roads and highways are in poor or mediocre condition according to Trip, a national transportation nonprofit research group. Read more.
Four years ago the Black Warrior Riverkeeper roused public opinion to keep the Shepherd Bend coal mine from opening. Now the river protection advocacy organization is warning of another proposed mining operation – this one three miles upstream on the Mulberry Fork from Shepherd Bend.
What’s called the No.5 Mine is in the Walker County community of Dovertown, near the city of Cordova. Mays Mining Inc. would operate the mine at a former industrial site that was left with contaminated groundwater, according to Riverkeeper Nelson Brooke. Read more.
U.S. Steel Corporation will restart work on its electric arc furnace in Fairfield. The $215 million initiative will replace the former blast furnace at Fairfield Works. The project started almost four years ago, but was put on hold due to poor market demand for steel. Ty West, editor-in-chief of the Birmingham Business Journal, says this is good news. Read more.
Birmingham Police Chief Urges Residents to Become More Active in Crime Prevention, Describes New Approach to Policing
In a presentation to neighborhood officers, Birmingham Police Chief Patrick D. Smith laid out a new strategy for the department and urged residents to be proactive in addressing crime in their communities.
“We have to get real about it,” he said. “We cannot do things the way we always did.”
Thursday’s meeting, which took place after a swearing-in ceremony for newly elected neighborhood officers, was one of the first major presentations of Smith’s strategy since he took the job in June. Smith described his first six months on the job as playing “catch-up” with a department that had fallen “behind the curve” in its approach to fighting crime.
“When I took over, I did an analysis of the department,” he said. “Over time, from 2014 to 2018, crime has doubled … We have to do a lot to bring this police department back to where it needs to be.” Read more.