- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

June 2

Anniston (Alabama) Star on paying for UAB football’s resurrection:

In recent years, University of Alabama-Birmingham administrators took a hard look at its books, measuring the revenue and costs of operating a college football program. In late 2014, Ray Watts, UAB’s president, concluded that football (along with bowling and rifle) was too costly a venture for a university best known for training doctors and not linebackers. So, Watts ended the football, bowling and rifle teams at UAB, a decision this editorial board agreed with.

The outcry from supporters of UAB athletics was loud and unhappy, a response that exhibited more passion than the sparse crowds that attended UAB home football games.

Of course, making matters worse were a horribly botched announcement and follow-up by President Watts and a mostly silent University of Alabama system board of trustees that refused to acknowledge what, if any, role it played in the decision.

On Monday, Watts announced that the university would bring back football, as well as rifle and bowling. He was less clear on when football would return. UAB’s president cited a huge response from Birmingham and the UAB community, including promises of $17 million in new financial contributions to bolster the program. Watts was clear on one condition: The university’s financial contribution to its athletics department — $20 million a year — will not rise. Any extra expenses must be covered by contributions.

That’s worth pondering for a minute.

Some colleges at UAB’s level operate a football team as a loss-leader. In other words, the sport, strictly speaking, doesn’t pay for itself, but its benefits (campus spirit, televised games, increased enrollment, a draw for alumni, etc.) are said to be worth the costs.

UAB must now restart a football program it shut down six months ago. Football coach Bill Clark remains, though he was noticeably absent from Monday’s announcement. UAB’s best players are gone, having transferred to schools with football programs. It still needs serious upgrades in its facilities. It needs an on-campus home stadium to replace the dilapidated Legion Field. The price tag for these upgrades alone could easily exceed $50 million.

“There is still substantial work to be done,” Watts said Monday. “But we believe those who love UAB will turn this energy into the money required to take athletics to a new level of success.”

In other words, Watts told those who wish to see UAB field a football team once more: Pay up or else.

Online:

http://www.annistonstar.com

___

June 3

The Gadsden (Alabama) Times on last-hour state budget:

Each regular session of the Alabama Legislature has 30 meeting days spread across 105 calendar days. Time is running out on this session and lawmakers have been slow to devote their full attention to addressing the state’s budget woes.

Whether you believe Alabama has a revenue problem, as Gov. Robert Bentley does, or a spending problem, as anti-taxers in Montgomery do, is not really the relevant point we’re trying to make today. For the most part, our “leaders” simply chose not to address the state budget. The House passed a budget, but virtually everyone involved knows it’s flawed, cutting some $200 million from current-year funding for non-education agencies, and would require revision.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said late Tuesday that the lawmakers would devote the final days of the session to the general fund budget, saying he thought they had little appetite for dealing with any other issue.

Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard urged adoption of the budget as is, saying it could be fixed later. Others said they didn’t want to rush into anything and cause a panic among the agencies whose budgets face severe reductions. Bentley vowed to veto the budget if passed in its current form.

Looking at a list of bills and resolutions passed this term leaves us shaking our heads. Lawmakers commended, appreciated, urged, supported, designated, honored, named and recognized people, places and things one after another. (Did you know that “This Little Light of Mine” is Alabama’s Inspirational Song for 2015 or that 2015 is the Year of International Soils?)

And the budget woes went neglected for the most part. Services such as mental health and law enforcement face budget cuts. Several state parks were slated for closure but got temporary reprieves. The list goes on and on.

Lawmakers eager to throw a little political red meat to their constituents protected things already protected by the U.S. Constitution, but a little redundancy never hurts, right? In that vein, did we mention that the state’s budget woes were neglected?

This session has been at least one step back for every step forward. The state made progress toward fixing its awful prison population issue only to rekindle the threat of a federal takeover by underfunding the Department of Corrections in the House-passed budget. Good call there.

We might be able to understand this all better if this budget problem was created by some unforeseen catastrophe, but virtually everyone in Montgomery has known it was coming for years. That the Legislature couldn’t find time to tackle it before the final days of the session is sad.

Marsh acknowledged that lawmakers have little way of avoiding deeps to state agencies so even a last-hour vote isn’t likely to end the budget debate. Throw in a Bentley veto and who knows when this will end. Special session, anyone?

Online:

http://www.gadsdentimes.com

___

May 29

Decatur (Alabama) Daily on looming impact of China on the U.S.:

Our politicians can argue until they turn blue about what the United States should do about terrorists in the Middle East and missile launches from North Korea. But the country that will exert the greatest impact on the United States’ place in the 21st century is China.

And for all the atrocity committed by the group calling itself the Islamic State, for all the absurd stories about Kim Jong-Un and his temper, everyone in Washington wants to share their opinion until the talk turns to China.

That’s when the room grows quiet.

A strategy paper issued by the Chinese military this week only hinted at the country’s ulterior goals in its recent appearance in the Spratly Islands. You probably saw video on TV or the Internet last week of a U.S. military surveillance plane flying near a contested atoll in the islands and the subsequent response from Chinese military, ordering it to “leave immediately.”

That’s not how friends behave, and the Chinese strategy paper makes it quite clear that it considers the largely uninhabited Spratly Islands its sovereign territory. Even though Vietnam has claimed the island chain since the 1600s, China rarely takes no for an answer, as it has shown in “claiming” parts of India, Tibet, Japan, Taiwan and others.

So far, the bully has gotten its way, not without stern lectures from Western leaders who know how to posture but have little will to show the growing Chinese power their teeth.

China is pursuing a policy of expanding its military footprint, certainly its naval prowess, in a way that should cause concern. Other world powers have done the same, or tried and failed: Britain, France, Germany in the most recent past. And the United States.

Yes, even though the United States was more politically correct in its strategy to establish a worldwide presence, our forefathers had a similar goal in mind: create forward bases to reach foreign countries for military operations and for trade.

That’s why we have or had bases near key passes such as the Strait of Hormuz, the Panama Canal, the Suez Canal, etc. The U.S. now has more than 300 bases on foreign soil, if you’re counting, and these bases serve us well. Without “colonizing” like the British did in so many lands, America used its far-flung presence to establish itself as the world’s pre-eminent power, at times both militarily and economically.

Seeing China extend its growing tentacles is an attention getter for Western diplomats. But the U.S. must have poise in its dealings with China, and careless politicians can’t fling it around like a political Frisbee.

As countries grow in power, they also grow in responsibility.

China said its interests are simply to protect its investments, trade, energy, imports and growing number of nationals living abroad.

That could be true. But if it isn’t, the U.S.’s most powerful rival could have footholds in a lot of places.

Just like we do.

Online:

http://www.decaturdaily.com

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