- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

Feb. 3

Anniston (Ala.) Star on Rep. Rogers‘ choice of words:

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks, represents a district that is Republican in its politics and conservative in its beliefs. But he nonetheless represents all Alabamians in the 3rd congressional district, even those whose beliefs and lifestyles may be different from his.

That fact didn’t stop Rogers from allegedly making inappropriate comments about homosexuals while speaking at a Jan. 23 meeting of the Board of Directors of the Alabama Association of Realtors in Montgomery. While at the mic, he reportedly “joked about how nice it was to be called ‘Honey’ and ‘Sweetie’ by a woman at an Atlanta restaurant rather than a D.C. men’s room,” according to Equality Alabama, a group that supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender causes. He also allegedly said the nation’s capital was “a cross between Detroit and San Francisco.”

It’s not surprising that these observations would cause consternation for Equality Alabama Chairman Ben Cooper, who wrote an open letter to Rogers expressing his dismay at remarks that were “racist, homophobic and hurtful.”

Had Rogers known his audience, he would have known that AAR four years ago amended its code of ethics to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, lack of preparation is not the point.

The fact that a U.S. representative would think there was no harm in such comments gets into the realm of judgment. In this case, Rep. Rogers‘ judgment left much to be desired.

More troubling yet is the fact that Rogers‘ comments suggest that he needs to pay more attention to the diversity of his constituency.

In the letter Equality Alabama sent to the congressman, the group invited him to attend the “Vigil for Victims of Hate and Violence” at the state Capitol Feb. 16. That’s the 15th anniversary of the death of Billy Jack Gaither of Sylacauga, who was brutally murdered because he was gay.

Rep. Rogers should put that event on his calendar.




Feb. 2

Decatur (Ala.) Daily on taxpayer money being wasted:

Republicans are right in their adamant and frustrated argument that governments are wasteful.

Governmental waste, either through incompetence, misappropriation or fraud, is a fact of taxpayer life at every level of the tax chain.

And even though Alabama pays some of the smallest taxes in the nation - we receive $1.66 for every $1 we pay in federal income tax - we still must stand vigil over our elected officials and their appointed department heads.

Democrats, in fact, should stand hand in hand with Republicans in this cause, because big government is big waste.

But not because of the reasons most people, including favor-currying politicians, believe.

One target of the Republican cause is the poor. We blame those without jobs for their poverty, and legislators are writing laws to make them “more accountable.”

If managed properly, such laws can be of service. Losing a job, an income, is a very traumatic experience. Attempting to join the workforce, especially for those without an attractive set of skills or middle-aged workers facing a “redefined income level” in their next job, can be intimidating, stressful, and even depressing.

The sad truth about our “improving” unemployment statistics is that they do not account for those who have given up looking. They know, or are at least convinced; the economy is not on their side. These are strong, smart, worthy people who can and want to work.

Too often, we focus on the smaller percentage that don’t. Through its history, America has dragged its underclass along - sometimes with loving care, sometimes like back-alley furniture.

We wish these outliers weren’t there, but they are and always will be. But we do our neighbors and our country an injustice when we lump all the poor into one category. We do our souls an injustice.

Financially, taking care of the poor doesn’t make the impact we might assume. Fifteen cents of every income tax dollar is dedicated to the impoverished.

We have to demand elected officials balance their budgets. It isn’t as hard as some would have us believe. But diminishing the cushy jobs of friends and campaign supporters, or shelving programs that don’t produce easily identifiable results, comes with a lot of headaches.

Blaming the poor - that’s a layup.

Politicians like layups. Voters should swat this one away.




Jan. 31

Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser on bill would force public business into public’s view:

The Open Meetings Act is sometimes seen as something that only reporters care about, but this critical law is meant to provide all Alabamians with protection against unwarranted secrecy in the operations of government. Alabamians of every occupation and every political stripe should be contacting their legislators to demand they support a crucial reinforcement of the law.

The bill by Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, rebuilds the law and repairs the damage done by three harmful rulings by the Alabama Supreme Court. In three of its darkest hours in recent memory, the court took dubious positions on the law that ignored the public interest. Arcane legal justifications can be constructed, but the spirit of the law - that public business should be conducted in public - was trampled.

The first ruling came in a 2012 decision involving the Montgomery County Board of Education. To its great discredit, the board had engaged in a series of smaller, closed meetings - taking care never to have a quorum present - to discuss the hiring of a superintendent. The full board later convened, but of course the debate and decision-making that should have taken place in public had already occurred.

The court let the board get away with it, holding in a 5-4 decision that the law did not apply to these serial meetings and thus giving its approval to a transparent maneuver to exclude the public.

Then in 2013, the court ruled that citizens do not have standing to bring suit under the act because the civil penalties the law imposes for violations are not payable to them, but to the state. That was a truly appalling decision.

Also in that year, the court held that there is no requirement for the Alabama Legislature to meet publicly. Ponder that for a moment. If it chose, the Legislature could close its doors and conduct business - the public’s business - in secret, with the blessing of the Alabama Supreme Court.

Ward’s bill would heal the wounds the act has suffered from these rulings. It specifically prohibits serial meetings. It declares that any violation of the act is “a concrete and particularized injury to every citizen of Alabama,” thus allowing an individual to bring suit under the law. It requires the Legislature to meet “with their doors open to the public” unless there is a vote taken for executive session under written rules developed by each house.

The public interest that the Open Meetings Act represents has been poorly served by the state’s highest court. This bill would remedy that. No legislator genuinely committed to the public interest can justify opposing it.



Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide