- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

Sept. 23

Anniston (Alabama) Star on Montgomery morality:

Alabama needs more than an influx of governmental morality. It needs elected leadership with equal doses of guts and humanity, both of which are lacking these days at the state Capitol.

That said, what took place Monday in Montgomery was a start. About 150 people rallied in what’s being described as Alabama’s version of “Moral Monday” - a grassroots civil-disobedience effort in North Carolina that has become the model for activists in other states to mimic. It’s happened in Georgia. It’s happened in South Carolina. Now it’s Alabama’s turn.

The genesis of North Carolina’s Moral Mondays is quite simple. Two years ago, Republicans won control of the three main facets of that state’s government - the governor’s mansion, the Senate and the House. Strong-right, if not far-right, conservative governing followed. A hefty number of North Carolinians felt the GOP-controlled state government was going too far, and too soon.

Protests began in April 2013 at the state Legislature’s chambers. They haven’t waned. Hundreds, sometimes thousands, show up each week for organized gatherings. Arrests have taken place, as have sit-ins at legislators’ offices.

Though started by the NAACP and religious leaders, North Carolina’s Moral Monday protests gained traction because they quickly became a cross-section of all North Carolinians: blacks, whites, well-to-do, poor, office workers and laborers, the highly educated and the not-so educated. The protests have worked - to a degree, at least - because they’re not seen solely as an NAACP movement, a black movement or a religious movement.

They’re a smart-government movement.

Alabama isn’t North Carolina, though the similarities exist. They’re Southern states operated by Republicans who, as is their right, have passed legislation that’s highly partisan and extremely controversial.

Those who organized Monday’s gathering in Montgomery brought in the Rev. William Barber, head of the North Carolina branch of the NAACP and the protests’ founder. He lent his voice to their concerns - Medicaid expansion, equality and voting rights, for instance. He may have given Alabama’s opening Moral Monday a bit of buzz.

“After all the division and strife to make people mad, (Alabama’s elected leaders) made sure people can get a gun quicker than they can vote,” Barber said, according to the Montgomery Advertiser. “… We are not against Republicans. We are not against Democrats. We are against extremists.”

We agree with the reverend.

Extremists make lousy leaders.




Sept. 23

The Gadsden (Alabama) Times on Happy 50th, Mid-South:

The venue has changed and the once-glorious parade and street competition are no more. Other, similar events have popped up over the years and reduced the ranks of participants.

However, for high school bands and people who enjoy watching them, not just locally but throughout Alabama and other states in the region, one hyphenated word remains a massively big deal: Mid-South.

The official name, of course, is the Mid-South Marching Band Festival, and it will take place for the 50th time Saturday.

The festival is the “baby” of former Emma Sansom High School Band Director Billy “Rip” Reagan, who decided to create a marching band competition because there weren’t any nearby.

Twenty-nine bands turned out for the first Mid-South, held Sept. 25, 1965, at Murphree Stadium.

Helped by financial support from Chattanooga music store owner Bob Rush (whose name still adorns an award given to bands who earn superior ratings in all categories), the festival became, at its peak, Etowah County’s largest single-day event.

According to a 20th anniversary retrospective published in The Times in 1984, more than 15,000 people would, somehow, cram themselves into 11,000-seat Murphree Stadium to watch as many as 40 bands from as far away as Louisiana, Virginia and the Carolinas.

Local hotels would get so full, visiting band members would have to be housed with local families.

Organizers won’t have that problem this year, although a strong field of more than 25 bands is expected.

So, we offer an earned and deserved “Happy 50th” to this part of Gadsden’s history, and hope those who attend Saturday will do the same.

May it enjoy another successful half-century, so future chroniclers can acknowledge its centennial.




Sept. 21

Dothan (Alabama) Eagle on bingo:

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange breezed into our office last week on a campaign stop, and the editorial board took the opportunity to pick his mind about the state’s aggressive stance against illegal gambling in the state and how that squares with some Republican lawmakers’ interest in striking a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, which operates tribal casinos in Alabama.

It appears the state is hedging its bets, so to speak. Not only have non-tribal electronic bingo operators found themselves in the crosshairs of the state’s law enforcement, but Strange has also pursued litigation in an attempt to shut down the Indian casinos’ electronic bingo operations - the same profitable endeavors from which some lawmakers want a piece of the action.

Strange, however, managed to make that dichotomy seem, well, almost reasonable. He is, after all, a politician.

He reminded us that Gov. Robert Bentley’s first order of business was to dismantle his predecessor’s special task force on illegal gambling and return that authority to the attorney general’s office, into which Strange had just been sworn, and the new AG set about prosecuting the cases he inherited. “Our job - and we try to stay in our lane - is to make sure we’re enforcing the law.” As for a compact, Strange agrees that the state could benefit from such an arrangement, providing that the legality of the machines’ use is resolved.

Of course, there are far more important issues facing Alabama than electronic bingo. And Strange, after all, is running for re-election in a race that is becoming increasingly about gambling - his opponent, Joe Hubbard, says Strange is ignoring drug dealers and targeting “little old ladies” in bingo parlors. Strange counters that Hubbard’s campaign is bankrolled by the Poarch Creek Indians, who gave the Democrat “a million dollars” in contributions.

In a moment of levity, Strange quipped that he hoped “we’re not all sitting around in retirement talking about (the bingo) issue.”

As elusive as resolution to this intractable issue has been, that may well become our reality.



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