Tag: New Report
For nearly three decades, Jim Williams applied the force of factual, objective research to the partisan, political reality of Alabama state and local governments.
So did he move that boulder of problems that Alabama governments create, deal with – or avoid?
Until last month, Williams – officially James W. Williams Jr. – had been the first and only executive director of Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama. PARCA, as it is known, was created by former Alabama Gov. Albert Brewer in 1988 with the mission of improving how the public’s business gets done. Williams retired at the end of September from the executive director job but will continue to do some research for the organization.
Alabama scored a D+ on its report card from the State Integrity Investigation, but the near-failing 67.3 grade was enough to rank the state seventh-best in the country on measures of transparency, accountability and ethics in its government.
The ranking is much higher than might have been expected as Alabama’s powerful speaker of the House, Rep. Mike Hubbard, faces 23 felony ethics charges alleging he used his office to benefit clients of one of his private companies and illegally lobbied the executive branch on their behalf. Not to mention the dozens of Alabama officials, employees, contractors and others convicted in state corruption-related cases in the past decade.
Jefferson County officials vowed not to make the same mistakes with a new financial software purchase that were made by a previous commission, which spent nearly $20 million for a system that was eventually scrapped.
But the current commission now faces problems with its $5 million-plus replacement — a system the county needs to help comply with a non-discrimination court decree.
Virginia Martin is the Alabama reporter dispatched this year by the Center for Public Integrity to find answers to 245 questions about transparency, accountability and ethics in 13 areas of the state’s government. For Martin, it was a return to the scene where she spent many of her 30 years as a reporter and editor.
Martin was political editor and state editor for The Birmingham News and for several years coordinated legislative coverage by that Birmingham newspaper, The Huntsville Times and the (Mobile) Press-Register. Stories about accusations of wrongdoing against Gov. Don Siegelman and those about corruption in the state’s two-year college system were among those that came to her desk.
You’ll find Martin’s knowledge of Alabama politics and government, as well as findings of the new survey, in these close-up looks at the good, the fair and the ugly of the state’s performance in 13 important areas. Story links are presented in best to worst-grade order. You can take the full tour or check on one area that especially interests you. Either way you’ll get fresh, important information about how the public’s business gets done in our state, from an expert guide.