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Birmingham Public Library
Amid calls from employees to fire Executive Director Floyd Council, the Birmingham Public Library’s board of trustees voted instead to submit a “corrective action plan” to the embattled administrator. Board members refused to give any details about what that plan would entail, classifying it as a private personnel matter.
The board also voted to approve its first-year evaluation of the executive director — the details of which were also not disclosed — with a recommendation “to develop a specific performance improvement plan.”
In short, Council — who was not present at the meeting and who has refused to discuss the situation with the press — will keep his job for now. His one-year probationary period, during which the board can fire him without cause, will end before the board’s next regular meeting, on Nov. 13. Read more.
With the election two weeks away, Gov. Kay Ivey continues to widen her financial advantage over Democratic challenger Walt Maddox, according to reports filed Monday with the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office.
Ivey, a Republican seeking her first full term as governor, reported raising $193,291 in itemized cash contributions from Oct. 13 to Oct. 19. Maddox, the mayor of Tuscaloosa, reported contributions of $104,878.
The governor has raised $4.34 million since the current election cycle began last year. Maddox has collected $2.03 million. Read more.
Republican Will Ainsworth continues to hold a lopsided lead over Democrat Will Boyd in fundraising for the lieutenant governor’s race, according to reports filed Monday with the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office.
Ainsworth, a member of the Alabama House of Representatives from Marshall County, reported raising $84,850 in itemized cash contributions from Oct. 10 to Oct. 19. He spent $113,764 during that period and has a cash balance of $353,100.
Boyd, a Florence minister, reported $660 in contributions during the period. He spent $1,182 and has an account balance of $5,335. Read more.
HUNTSVILLE — After playing defense from charges by her opponent that she was avoiding a debate, Gov. Kay Ivey and her re-election campaign have turned the tables and gone on offense.
The Ivey campaign started circulating emails to the news media last week linking Democratic nominee and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox of taking money from political action committees that are funded, either in whole or in part, by billionaire financier George Soros — a bogeyman to Republican conservatives for years, well-known in political circles for contributing millions of dollars to liberal causes and campaigns.
That trend continued Saturday, as Ivey mentioned Soros in two separate appearances before GOP party faithful — one as a part of her standard stump speech to the Madison County Republican Men’s Club, the other in front of a smaller group of campaign workers in the party’s county headquarters. Read more.
Amid a controversy about Executive Director Floyd Council, the Birmingham Public Library’s board of trustees has called a special meeting for Monday at 4:30 p.m.
The subject of the meeting has not been officially confirmed, but this year has seen a series of special called meetings to discuss Council’s performance. He started the job in November and his one-year probationary period is slated to end before the board’s next regular meeting, on Nov. 13.
In an Oct. 9 meeting of the board, about 20 Birmingham Public Library employees said they had experienced a “hostile” work environment during Council’s first year in office. Through a spokeswoman, Monica King-Slater, they told the board that they had been “berated and treated like children in front of other employees and patrons.”
Council described the employees at the meeting as “extreme outliers” who were unrepresentative of the BPL’s 287-person staff. “Sometimes people will develop a coalition because what they want is a scandal,” he said.
So far, the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative in Jefferson County has generated more questions than answers.
The biggest question: How did 3,876 sexual assault kits not get submitted to the Department of Forensic Sciences for testing?
“There’s no way for me to know that yet,” said Michele Yarbrough, general counsel and business manager for the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office.
The district attorney’s office was awarded a $1.5 million grant in October 2016 for the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, an inventory of sexual assault kits in all 27 law enforcement jurisdictions in Jefferson County. That inventory yielded a finding that out of 4,999 kits, 3,876 were identified as having not been submitted for testing.
“I would be lying if I said it did not set off every alarm bell in my system,” Yarbrough said. “As someone who is a woman and lives here in Jefferson County, it was extremely alarming to me.” Read more.
Sentencing Hearing Tuesday for Drummond VP, Balch Lawyer (AL.com)
6 Former Justices, Including 3 Republicans, Endorse Vance (Associated Press)
'Make the Statehouse Look Like the State': Historic Number of Women Running for Office in Alabama (Montgomery Advertiser)
Joe Siegelman Says He Can Bring Urgency to Attorney General's Office (Montgomery Advertiser)
Steve Marshall Stresses Law Enforcement in Seeking Term in His Own Right as AG (Montgomery Advertiser)
Judge Rules Democratic Nominee for Jeff Co Judge Seat Not Eligible to Run (AL.com)
The Last Confederate Flag Factory (Washington Post)
Several months after taking the job, Birmingham Police Chief Patrick D. Smith is expected to deliver a comprehensive plan for crime reduction to the City Council next month.
The announcement of the plan was made at Tuesday’s council meeting by Cedric D. Sparks, Mayor Randall Woodfin’s chief of staff, in response to concerns expressed by the council about increasing rates of violent crime in the city.
2018 is on track to become the city’s deadliest year in decades. As of Oct. 16, Birmingham had logged 92 homicides in 2018, slightly ahead of the 87 homicides that had been reported at this point last year. By the end of 2017, Birmingham had a reported 117 homicides, the highest rate since 1995. Read more.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency has appointed a Jefferson County air pollution expert to the seven-member panel charged with giving the agency administrator independent technical advice for setting federal standards under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler named Corey M. Masuca, principal air pollution control engineer for the Jefferson County Department of Health, to the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee on Oct. 10. The CASAC will lead a review of recent science to advise whether any changes are necessary to the standards for ground-level ozone or particulate matter to provide public health with an adequate margin of safety.
That panel may take on added importance with the EPA’s move last week to dismiss two larger outside advisory panels of scientists who were to evaluate emissions for harmful public health effects. Read more.
Alabama’s senators, like most of the senators from across the country, split along party lines this weekend as the body voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as the newest U.S. Supreme Court Justice.
Sen. Doug Jones, a Democrat from Alabama, decried the process that he called a “rush to confirmation” during a 25-minute address to the Senate before Friday’s vote to limit debate on the nomination. He lamented that millions of dollars had been spent both on campaigns to get Kavanaugh confirmed to the court and to block that confirmation.
“I think that this kind of political campaign for a seat on the Supreme Court of the United States, a political campaign run by either political party, should be condemned as completely contrary to the independence of the judicial branch of our government,” Jones said in his speech.
He said he believed Americans from both parties were “disgusted” by the political process.
“I am deeply disappointed and concerned by the process, the posturing and the partisanship that has degraded what should be one of the most serious, deliberate and thoughtful decisions that we as the United States Senate are entrusted to make,” he said.
Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, who at first took a “wait and see” approach to Kavanaugh’s nomination after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced, supported the confirmation in the end.
“During the hearings, I found Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony to be credible,” Shelby said in a statement after the vote. “It is evident that the accusations against Judge Kavanaugh are uncorroborated, and there is no confirmation of any of the alleged misconduct,” he said.
Read more about the Senate’s 50-48 vote to confirm Kavanaugh’s nomination and how senators voted on other key issues in the week ending Oct. 6, 2018. The House was in recess. Read more.
The CBD Store in a strip mall along Highway 280 in suburban Birmingham looks like a typical health and wellness shop. A decorative waterfall gurgles against the light blue walls. Capsules that look like vitamins, creams, drops taken orally and candies line the shelves. They’re all infused with CBD.
People seeking an alternative to pain medications or anti-anxiety drugs are increasingly turning to CBD oil. Some athletes even claim it helps with post-workout recovery. Others say it helps with chemotherapy and arthritis. Studies have shown it curbs severe epilepsy.
But there’s just one problem: CBD is derived from marijuana. Marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Read more.
WBHM’s Andrew Yeager interviewed Judge Bob Vance, who is trying for a second time to become the head of Alabama’s court system. Vance has been a civil circuit judge in Jefferson County since 2002. This year Vance is the Democratic nominee for Alabama’s chief justice. He faces current Supreme Court Associate Justice Republican Tom Parker in November.
Yeager talked with Vance about a range of issues, including opioid abuse, politics on the court and funding for state courts. Read more and listen to the interview.
A federal judge on Thursday sentenced former Alabama Rep. Oliver Robinson to 33 months in prison and three years of supervised release for his role in a bribery scheme to block the expansion of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cleanup site in North Birmingham and Tarrant.
Robinson pleaded guilty to encouraging residents not to have their soil tested for contaminants in exchange for bribes. He also diverted money from his campaign account and nonprofit account for personal use.
After pleading guilty, he cooperated with federal prosecutors in investigations that led to the conviction of former Balch & Bingham attorney Joel Gilbert and David Roberson, a Drummond Company executive. They are scheduled for sentencing Oct. 23.
“Robinson betrayed his constituents and neighbors in north Birmingham and Tarrant, selling his elected office to special interests for personal profit,” Jay Town, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District, said in a statement Thursday. “An elected official can scarcely commit a more egregious crime.” Read more.
Coal mines are coming back in some parts of Alabama. Industry observers say easing of regulations and a steady demand for coal overseas means more mining jobs. That’s welcome news in places like Brookwood in Tuscaloosa County, where coal is mined to produce steel. Read more.
Alabama’s startup scene grabbed eyeballs last year when Target bought Birmingham-based Shipt for $550 million. The city’s entrepreneurial community wants to keep that momentum going. One new effort is the Alabama Futures Fund. The $25 million fund will provide venture capital to new companies either in Alabama or to those willing to relocate here. WBHM’s Andrew Yeager spoke with Matt Hottle of Redhawk Advisory.
AIIJ/BirminghamWatch Selected For NewsMatch 2018, National Campaign to Encourage Donations for Journalism
More than 150 nonprofit newsrooms across the country, including Alabama Initiative for Independent Journalism in Birmingham, will participate in this year’s NewsMatch, the largest grassroots fundraising campaign to support nonprofit news organizations. The national effort will launch Nov. 1.
In 2017 NewsMatch helped to raise more than $4.8 million from individual donors and a coalition of private funders.
Sue Cross, executive director and CEO of the Institute for Nonprofit News, which serves as one of NewsMatch’s nonprofit partners, said, “We are encouraged to see such strong growth in community support of news … NewsMatch makes it easy for communities and individuals to find and fund their local sources of trusted news.” Read more.
The Jefferson County Department of Health has extended the deadline for comments on the proposed renewal of the air emissions permit for ABC Coke. The move comes at the request of residents and environmental groups.
Concerns about the permit heightened following a federal corruption trial where an executive with ABC Coke’s parent, Drummond Company, and a lawyer were convicted in a scheme to thwart testing for pollution near the Tarrant plant. Read more.
Reading Birmingham: Put Aside the Politics. This is First and Foremost a Story of People who Love Music.
About 10 years ago, while visiting rural England, I met a genuine Southernphile (and yes, that is a word I just made up). When a young hotel clerk learned I was from Alabama, he engaged me in a long and animated conversation about his love for Southern pop culture.
While his sources were dubious (his favorite movie was Smokey and the Bandit and his favorite television show was The Dukes of Hazzard), his fascination was sincere. What he loved most of all was the band Lynyrd Skynyrd. “I don’t care about the politics,” he said. “They just sound so bloody good.”
Historian Andre Millard found a similar lack of interest in politics, especially the politics of race, among many of the musicians interviewed for his book Magic City Nights. Read more.