- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

May 12

The Anniston (Ala.) Star on how the state ranks:

Every so often it’s helpful to offer Alabamians a reminder of the state’s wide range of foibles and successes.

Let’s start with the bad.

News and political websites these days seem obsessed with producing top 10 lists that rank American states by virtually any available metric. One of those sites, a fairly well done site called TheRichest.com, took results from last year’s national polling on state governments and compiled a list of the worst among the worst, corruption-wise.

Alabama came in at No. 10.

It’s important to note that this list was not based on public officials indicted and convicted, but instead on how openly a state’s government operates and what safeguards exist to keep politicians honest.

The investigation gave Alabama F grades in public access to information, redistricting and political financing - areas where Alabamians have been kept out of the decision-making process. As a consequence, dishonesty is easily hidden and, in some cases, actually seems to be encouraged. State government got a D-minus in legislative accountability and a D in pension fund management.

In other words, once a politician gets in office in Alabama, the system shields them from the prying eyes of public and press, thus enabling them to cut deals and corners to benefit themselves and the special interests that support them.

But cheer up, Alabamians. It’s not all doom and gloom.

USA Today, in partnership with the site 10Best.com, recently published a list of the best historic cities in the United States, as ranked by their readers.

Not surprisingly, the list includes Charleston, New Orleans, Savannah and Philadelphia - all major tourist and historical locations. However, sitting at the top is our own Montgomery.

Perhaps Alabama’s legislators should allow a break from their backroom deliberations to take a lesson in public service from the city that hosts them.




May 8

Dothan (Ala.) Eagle on potential jobs outweighing lobbyist cost:

It was easy to get excited about the U.S.-China Manufacturing Symposium held in Dothan earlier this spring, particularly given the infectious enthusiasm of Dothan Mayor Mike Schmitz and SoZo Group CEO Raymond Cheng, who led the charge to bring the event to fruition. There were numerous industrialists from China in attendance, getting a look at southeast Alabama and considering how our part of the world might fit with their companies.

We’ve seen some positive moves, and have already welcomed one manufacturing company — Nanjing Zijin-Lead Electronics, one of China’s leading 3D printer manufacturers, which plans to set up an operation in Dothan - and a national accounting and consulting firm, Wipfli, will open an office here.

However, maintaining the growth of our city’s relationships with potential foreign investors requires the near-constant attention of a knowledgeable person to work as a lobbyist on a state and national level and a liaison with industrial prospects. This week, Dothan commissioners extended the city’s relationship with George Harris, who now works with the SoZo Group. Harris has been representing Dothan in a lobbying capacity, having been hired for the job before joining the SoZo Group. Extending the contract makes sense given Harris’s work putting together the symposium.

The cost of the contract — $60,000, plus expenses - pales in comparison to the potential industrial growth that might result.

We applaud our commission for its ability to see the value in establishing relationships toward a long-term goal instead of looking for immediate gratification.




May 9

Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser on Alabama State trustees:

Much of the controversy that has swirled around Alabama State University in recent years has stemmed from the board of trustees. The institution has seen dubious decisions, apparent conflicts of interest and an often heavy-handed approach to governance that has not benefited ASU.

Egos and agendas drive much of that, but another huge factor is the statute that established the board. Put simply, it gives the board too much authority.

Ideally, a university’s board of trustees would exercise only general oversight of the institution, hiring the president and setting broad policies and objectives for the president to pursue, but without injecting itself into personnel and programmatic decisions that should be the responsibility of the president.

The Code of Alabama empowers the ASU trustees “to organize the university by appointing a president . who shall serve as chief executive officer of the university.” So far, so good. It’s what follows that is problematic.

The president is not empowered to make significant decisions, merely to make recommendations to the board. Clearly, there are decisions the trustees should make - setting tuition rates, for example - but giving trustees broader authority over hiring and basic administrative and organizational decisions is unwise.

The ASU statute contrasts sharply with the statute for the trustees at Alabama A&M;, the state’s other public HBCU, which empowers the president to do what presidents should be expected to do - run the university.

“The board shall not engage in activity that interferes with the day-to-day operation of the university,” the A&M; statute reads. “The primary responsibility of the board of trustees is to set policy for the university and prescribe rates of tuition and fees. The board also has the power to organize the university by appointing a president . The president shall appoint . the faculty and such other instructors and officers as the interest of the university may require . The president may regulate, alter and modify the organization of the university, subject to review and concurrence of the board .”

ASU - and the taxpayers whose money supports the institution - would be better served by a revision of the statute governing the board of trustees that grants a broader measure of executive authority to the president while still maintaining a proper degree of general oversight authority by the trustees. The Legislature should make that change.

It is all too plain that ASU’s overly empowered trustees like things just the way they are, so changing that statute would no doubt mean a colossal political fight. Legislators willing to wage that fight will find support from this page.



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