Verify your registration and polling place, and check the status of your provisional or absentee ballot at the Secretary of State’s AlabamaVotes.gov site.
BPD Sgt. Wytasha Carter Laid to Rest Saturday
Remembering Sgt. Carter: Family, Friends Speak at Funeral of Fallen B’ham Officer (WBRC)
‘He Lived and Died for Us:’ Thousands Honor Slain Birmingham Police Officer Sgt. Wytasha Carter (AL.com)
"We Are Blown Away:" Father of Slain BPD Sergeant Speaks at Son's Funeral (WVTM)
Birmingham Police Chief Patrick Smith Speaks at Sgt. Carter Funeral (WVTM)
Former Birmingham Police Chief A.C. Roper Leads a Prayer at Sgt. Carter Funeral (WVTM)
Thousands Say Their Final Goodbyes to a Hero (ABC 33/40)
Remembering Sgt. Carter: Law Enforcement From Around the Country Attend Funeral of Fallen BPD Officer (WBRC)
Protesters at a Walmart in Hoover chanted “no justice no peace” one night last month as they approached the entrance. There have been several similar demonstrations in the wake of the fatal police shooting of a black man at the Galleria mall on Thanksgiving. At one of those demonstrations, police arrested protest leader Carlos Chaverst. They charged him with disorderly conduct and loitering for wearing a mask. It’s one of the more antiquated laws in Alabama. Over the last decade or so there have been numerous challenges to mask laws across, and many states have added the language “intent to intimidate.” But Alabama’s law includes no such language. Read more.
Birmingham City Council
Pepper Place Entertainment District, Fairfield Fire Equipment and New Committee Assignments Occupy Birmingham Council
Birmingham is getting another entertainment district and Fairfield is getting three firefighting vehicles as a result of Tuesday’s Birmingham City Council meeting. The council also voted to approve new committee assignments — a necessary change after last year’s appointment of three new councilors. Read more.
Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
By Sherrel Wheeler Stewart, WBHM
The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute apologized Monday for the way it handled the decision around issuing the Fred L. Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award. Officials canceled the award presentation to human rights activist Angela Davis after it had initially decided to give it to her.
“We acknowledge that the culmination of our decisions and actions has caused division in the community and compromised the good name of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute on the world stage,” the board said in a prepared statement. “Regardless of the outcome of our vote, many have rightfully questioned our selection process, which we vow to improve.” Read more.
Jefferson County Sheriff
By Sherrel Wheeler Stewart, WBHM
Like a lot of kids, Mark Pettway wanted to be an astronaut when he grew up. But as he got older, things changed. Pettway begins his job as Jefferson County sheriff today. He’s the first African American to hold that post after defeating longtime Republican Sheriff Mike Hale in November. 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.
Citing “heartbreaking stories” from Alabamians affected by an “increasingly costly federal shutdown,” U.S. Sen. Doug Jones on Thursday urged Congress to act on legislation to restart government services now and then hash out Homeland Security funding for border security after employees are back at work and getting paid.
“We need to get the government going and talk about border security in a reasonable way,” Jones, D-Alabama, said during a Thursday call with Alabama media outlets.
Alabama’s junior senator said his office has heard from many Alabamians affected by the federal shutdown.
“These are heartbreaking stories from families who are literally scared to death of losing their paychecks. These folks are not getting rich working for the government and many live paycheck to paycheck,” he said. About 5,500 federal employees are on furlough or working without pay because of the shutdown. Read more.
Jefferson County Commission
Jimmie Stephens said “it wouldn’t be right” for Jefferson County to spend money preparing for the move of UAB West Hospital to McCalla only to have the hospital annexed by neighboring Bessemer.
“It wouldn’t be right for the county to expend all those dollars on infrastructure in unincorporated Jefferson County for them to reap those benefits and then go away,” Stephens said following Thursday’s Jefferson County Commission meeting.
“We want to work with our municipalities,” the commission president said. “If the CEO of UAB West wants to go into Bessemer, that’s fine. But they should do the infrastructure. If you do the infrastructure with the county, it should be in the (unincorporated part of the) county.”
Stephens said there’s no news concerning plans for the new hospital. “It’s still planning to be moved,” the commission president said. “We haven’t gotten any drawings. We haven’t gotten any of the infrastructure work that will be done.” Read more.
Gov. Kay Ivey is a proponent of a statewide gas tax increase, despite previous signed pledges to oppose “any and all” tax hike efforts.
Ivey is one of dozens of current and former Alabama politicians — most of them Republicans — who at some point signed an anti-tax pledge from the group Americans for Tax Reform. Ivey’s not the first or only to later back away from it.
Americans for Tax Reform is led by lobbyist Grover Norquist, who recently asked state leaders to reject a proposed gas tax hike.
An infrastructure improvement plan and gas tax increase are expected to be a major part of the 2019 legislative session, and Ivey has signaled to lawmakers it’s her No. 1 priority. Read more.
WASHINGTON – The U.S. House of Representatives took up a litany of funding bills last week despite the federal government’s partial shutdown. Among them was a Republican move to increase funding for rural broadband by $125 million, to a total of $565 million.
Robert Aderholt, R-Alabama, spoke in favor of the move, saying. “You might not find a great deal of agreement between the parties of President Trump and former President Obama, but the vital need for rural broadband is one of those things.”
Nonetheless, the House defeated the measure on a largely party-line vote.
There was near unanimous support for one bill to ensure federal employees will be given backpay once their departments are fully reopened. All of Alabama’s representatives approved that measure, which now goes to the president.
“Christmas in Birmingham” by Tim Hollis (History Press, 2015)
I was six or seven years old. After visiting my grandparents’ house on Pearson Avenue one December afternoon in the late 1960s, I persuaded my parents to stop by McDonald’s so I could talk to Santa Claus. Our usual Santa was at Eastwood Mall, but the McDonald’s Santa was giving away Ronald McDonald hand puppets. And I wanted one. Read more.
Out of Washington
Donations From Franklin Haney, Owner of the SS Building and Bidder on Bellefonte Project, Part of Latest DC Investigation
A name familiar in Alabama has come up in an investigation into spending from President Trump’s inaugural committee funds. The investigation also is focusing on whether some of the donors to Trump’s record-breaking $107 million inaugural fund gave the money in exchange for access to or influence over the Trump administration, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Tennessee-based developer Franklin L. Haney gave $1 million to the inaugural committee after Trump’s election, and federal prosecutors in Manhattan have asked to see documents related to that donation.
Haney, who owns the Social Security building in downtown Birmingham, also has come up in the investigation into whether the president’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has conducted lobbying activities without registering as a lobbyist since Trump took office.
Haney has been accused of offering Cohen $10 million in exchange for Cohen’s help obtaining a $5 billion federal loan to redevelop the Bellefonte Nuclear Plant in north Alabama. Read more.
President Trump moved today to weaken the federal Clean Water Act by redefining the Obama administration’s Waters of the US rule, known as WOTUS, to eliminate protections for much of the nation’s waterways – a majority, in some estimates.
The action principally would remove oversight for small tributary headwaters that do not flow year-round and for wetlands not clearly connected to flowing streams.
The proposed new EPA rule is expected to be challenged and eventually work its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where a conservative majority now sits.
Birmingham Public Library Deputy Director Sandra Lee bid an emotional farewell to the library’s board of trustees Tuesday afternoon, praising the BPL’s “passionate” staff and emphasizing the important role that libraries play in communities. Read more.
Birmingham City Council
More than a month after the Birmingham City Council rejected a five-year funding proposal for the Firehouse Ministries Homeless Shelter, it voted on the item again Tuesday — and this time, it passed.
The funding proposal hadn’t changed since it had last come before the council on Oct. 23; it still allocated $200,000 per year for five years to the Firehouse, which is building a $5.6 million facility to expand its services for the homeless.
But the council itself had changed drastically since Oct. 23, with two councilors leaving and another, District 7’s Wardine Alexander, being appointed in the interim.
The absence of former councilors Lashunda Scales and Sheila Tyson, who both resigned from the council in November to join the Jefferson County Commission, was likely the deciding factor in the proposal’s passage. Both had vehemently opposed the measure, citing unsubstantiated allegations that the Firehouse did not give black patrons equal treatment, and along with District 8 Councilor Steven Hoyt and District 9 Councilor John Hilliard, they formed the voting bloc that had initially blocked the Firehouse’s funding.
But Hilliard was mostly silent during the discussion of the Firehouse funding Tuesday, and while Hoyt expressed at length his reservations about the funding, both ultimately voted to approve it. Alexander abstained from voting. Read more.
Jimmy Smith, an 86-year-old Collegeville retiree, held an 8×10 framed photograph of his four daughters in his hand when he stood Thursday to ask the Jefferson County Department of Health not to renew an air emissions permit for ABC Coke.
He says his oldest daughter died of cancer and another daughter gets cancer treatments twice a month. He’s also a cancer survivor and a survivor of a community he says has been plagued with pollution for years.
“Y’all can deny this permit, and I promise you they will get the message. They will clean up their act,” he says. Read more.
2018 Election News
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 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.
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.