- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

Oct. 14

Anniston (Alabama) Star on the lottery:

Over Alabamians’ heads floats the notion of a state lottery that would pump cash into Montgomery’s bank account. Just when we think the notion is dead - Poof! - it reappears, like a Halloween ghost, bloated by questions and a lack of specifics.

Election years are Alabama’s lottery years. The most recent example is Democrat Ron Sparks, who tried four years ago to win his way into the Governor’s Mansion on a platform built around the lottery. He failed. Alabama’s Republican-dominated electorate simply wouldn’t support a Democrat for governor, lottery or not.

Now it’s Democrat Parker Griffith, Gov. Robert Bentley’s opponent, who’s wooing voters with his plan for a lottery he claims would keep gambling money at home instead of allowing it to cross state lines into Tennessee, Georgia and Florida. Griffith may have no better chance to unseat Bentley than Sparks did in 2010, but his use of the lottery as a campaign tool that would theoretically enhance education in Alabama is keeping this topic alive.

As for Bentley, the lottery isn’t among his strongest talking points.

In a sense, Griffith’s lottery talk is putting Bentley in a bit of a bind.

Perhaps that’s why Bentley told a Birmingham radio station, WAPI, on Tuesday that he knows “it’s a popular issue” with Alabamians because his campaign’s polling shows that 60 percent of Republicans support a lottery vote, according to AL.com.

“I have not changed my stance,” Bentley said. “I really do believe in the people’s right to vote … and people would like to. But the problem with the lottery is this: is it going to solve our problems? No it’s not.”

Well, fine, governor. But that’s not the point.

Alabama’s constant confusion over gambling issues - lotteries, bingo, electronic gaming - has led to all sorts of problems, both political and legal. A deciding vote on a lottery would at least bring a modicum of clarity. But that’s not likely to happen.




Oct. 13

The Gadsden (Alabama) Times on bullying:

Being bullied isn’t a childhood or teenage rite of passage.

Being bullied isn’t something that toughens the recipient up, preparing him or her for “life in the real world.”

Being bullied isn’t something the recipient needs to “get over” or suffer in silence, to keep the peace either on or off school grounds.

Being bullied, in the form of various team or club initiations or hazings that cross the line from harmless fun to outright sadism, isn’t a way to promote unit togetherness and spirit. (Seven New Jersey high school football players were arrested, at least one lost a scholarship offer, the rest of their team’s season was canceled and the highly successful program’s very future is in doubt, after the line wasn’t just crossed, it apparently was obliterated.)

Bullying is wrong - period.

It needs to be stopped - period.

Thankfully, educators, law enforcement personnel and social agencies are adopting that attitude in the 21st century, not just across the U.S. but locally.

The fourth Gadsden Challenge anti-bullying rally is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Gadsden City High School auditorium. Guest speaker will be Jessie Funk, a singer, author and motivational speaker, who in her younger years was on both sides of this equation. She was bullied and responded by becoming a bully.

That’s not atypical. According to statistics provided by the rally’s organizers, two-thirds of bullying victims become bullies themselves. It’s hard to think of a more vicious cycle.

Schools with active anti-bullying programs have seen bullying cut in half.

That’s why we hope lots of folks - students, parents, teachers, school personnel, church groups - turn out for Wednesday’s rally. This message needs to be heard and spread by as many people as possible.

Bullies do their mischief in the dark, metaphorically if not literally. Shine a spotlight on them, and they scurry like roaches.




Oct. 10

Dothan (Alabama) Eagle on Alagasco case:

Last month, an Alabama circuit judge blocked a newspaper from publishing public record information legally obtained from the Alabama Public Service Commission - and did so without giving the newspaper an opportunity to be heard on the matter.

It was the first time in 143 years that a court blocked a member of the Alabama Press Association from publishing “truthful or accurate” information, APA attorney Dennis Bailey said.

Fortunately for the public, the judge later lifted the temporary block. Regardless, the ruling is a chilling circumstance - a classic case of prior restraint.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Robert S. Vance said the case reminded him of a historically significant prior restraint, involving the U.S. Supreme Court and the Pentagon Papers. The high court refused to block publication of those Vietnam War-era documents by the New York Times- prior restraint of the First Amendment - and allowed the newspaper to proceed, and let the chips fall where they may.

In this case, The Montgomery Advertiser had obtained information about Alabama Gas Corporation’s natural gas lines through an open records request to the PSC as part of a larger investigation into pipe safety by parent company Gannett’s USAToday. Alagasco asked the court to block publication, arguing that the documents belonged to the company, were illegally obtained and that publication of information in the documents would reveal the location of gas lines, threatening national security.

Judge Vance’s turnaround is more a victory for the public than for the Montgomery Advertiser and other news organizations. After all, the whereabouts of gas lines is no secret - the locations are on file and open to the public, and often there are signs nearby with a phone number and an admonition to “call before digging.”

The public deserves to know if there are substandard natural gas lines throughout the state and, if so, where they’re located. More important, the public has a right to information deemed public record, regardless of whether they’re embarrassing or not.



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