Editorial Roundup: Alabama

Cullman Times. August 14, 2021.

Editorial: Welcome to Cullman, be safe

This weekend, we welcome some 20,000 visitors to Cullman for Rock the South. We hope these visitors have a good time, that they meet the welcoming and friendly people of Cullman and go back to their communities speaking well of their visit to our community.

Our fear, though, is that Cullman is going to be talked about in a much less positive light.

With a county-wide covid vaccination rate lower than the state average - which is already the lowest in the nation - amid a quickly-spreading virus, it’s entirely possible “Cullman” becomes synonymous with “super spreader.” Cullman leaders are rightfully protective and careful with the community reputation, and a designation of a super spreader event is not the national recognition anyone wants for our city or county. But it may be the one we’ve earned.

The only thing spreading faster than the delta variant of the covid virus is blame, and there is a lot of it to go around. There are the individuals who won’t get vaccinated or wear masks because someone is telling them to do so, and they don’t like to be told what to do. If stubbornness prevented diseases, we’d be fully covered against all illnesses.

Then there are our state leaders. Gov. Kay Ivey says, “blame the unvaccinated,” and that people should use “common sense” in deciding to get vaccinated or wear masks to help limit the spread of the disease. But common sense does not teach people about viruses; science does. Science teaches us that viruses are living organisms that are able to adapt and change to ensure their survival. The coronavirus we faced in 2020 is not the same virus we’re fighting now. The virus changed to be easier to spread and easier to infect. Instead of one person infecting two people, as last year’s virus was capable of, one person infected with the delta variant can infect up to five people. That makes this variant much worse than last year’s virus. As Cullman Regional Chief Medical Officer Dr. William Smith told Cullman Rotary this week, “It’s simple math.”

Maybe instead of asking people to follow common sense, we should ask them to follow science and do the math.

Science also tells us the virus does not spread as easily outside. However, when it comes to large events, like concerts or political rallies, people are much closer together and the danger of viral spread increases.

There are some who say the organizers of Rock the South aren’t doing enough to protect concert-goers. But thanks to Ivey and the Alabama General Assembly, there isn’t a lot they can do, short of canceling. State lawmakers this year passed a bill that does not allow businesses to refuse service or entry to people based on their vaccination status. Unlike the Lollapalooza concert that took place in Chicago recently, where attendees had to either be vaccinated or get a same-day covid test, in Alabama that is verboten.

Lollapalooza drew about 385,000 people to the four-day festival and organizers said about 90 percent of attendees were vaccinated. There have been slightly more than 200 cases of covid traced back to the festival, but it is important to note that none of the cases led to serious illness or hospitalization. That’s what the vaccines do - they help prevent serious illness and death.

You would think that it would be common sense to allow organizers of large events to request people be vaccinated against a fast spreading virus. After all, businesses are allowed to refuse service or entry to people not wearing shoes, and bare feet - while perhaps an unpleasant view for others - have not killed anyone. Apparently, though, in the world of politics, common sense is secondary to political expediency.

Rock the South founder Shane Quick told AL.com this week that the event has been scaled back a bit from previous years and they are providing hand sanitizer throughout the grounds, as well as providing masks for those who request one. He points out that he is invested not just in the event, but in the community as a whole. He said, “This is my home. This is my festival. We take it very serious. We take people’s safety very serious. We love the people that come here. This is a labor or love for us. We’re going to look out for people. If we have to zig and zag and make changes at a whim to keep people safe, that’s what we’ll do.”

We hope they are able to do that. We sincerely hope that this weekend and next - when we invite thousands more people to Cullman County for the Trump rally - that people leave here with good memories and in good health.

Cullman’s reputation is at stake. And we know better than most how reputations can linger for generations.

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Decatur Daily. August 15, 2021.

Editorial: Business incentives merit greater transparency

A group last week called for greater transparency regarding the millions of dollars the state of Alabama hands out to lure companies to the state. Meanwhile, a growing body of academic literature calls into question the value of such incentives, making it more important for taxpayers and their elected representatives to know exactly how much bang they’re getting for their buck.

Jobs to Move America, an advocacy and research group, released a report last week saying Alabama does a poor job compared to other states in disclosing information about incentives. Now, advocacy groups say lots of things, usually with an ax to grind, but in this case the group included someone who should know.

Patricia Todd, a former Democratic member of the Alabama House, compiled the report and said she had difficulty obtaining information about incentives even as an elected representative.

“We’re not against incentives,” Todd said, according to The Associated Press. “There’s needs to be more accountability and transparency on how these deals are doled out.”

Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield disputed the report and pointed to cases where incentives were crucial in bringing industries to the state.

“We can point to numerous examples where incentives have played a role in industrial growth and job creation across Alabama. This includes Mercedes and other automakers, along with Airbus and other companies that have put down roots in Alabama,” Canfield said, according to The AP.

Mercedes is the project that started the ball rolling, but it came with a hefty price tag: $253 million in incentives, or $169,000 for every job Mercedes promised the state. But the end result went far beyond Mercedes; Alabama is now a hub for automotive manufacturing, including the Mazda-Toyota joint venture under construction in Limestone County.

But Mazda-Toyota didn’t come cheap. In 1993, the Mercedes incentives struck many as extravagant, but they’re a fraction of the combined $700 million in state and local incentives offered Mazda and Toyota. That’s because the Mercedes incentives helped kick off a bidding war between states to see who can lure the biggest industrial prizes.

Some contend that bidding war is actually bad for economic growth and that even when incentive deals seem good, states and localities often overpay.

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Dothan Eagle. August 14, 2021.

Editorial: Knee-jerk reaction

Alabama’s public schools face a lot of challenges, beginning with the perception that our state’s schools are the worst in the nation, and most immediately, a lack of consensus about how to keep students and staff safe during surging cases of a new coronavirus variant.

The state school board could address these and many other shortcomings, with a statewide mandate for mask use in all public schools. Many people would not like it, but it’s an easy fix.

However, when the state school board met last week, it didn’t tackle those problems. Instead it addressed something that’s not a problem at all – critical race theory.

Critical race theory is part of the curriculum in some upper-level university fields of study. It is not taught anywhere in Alabama’s public primary and secondary schools.

Regardless, the board voted along party and race lines to approve a resolution prohibiting the teaching of anything that would “indoctrinate students in social or political ideologies that promote one race or sex above another.”

The term has become a political buzzword cast about to create discord, and it has. The state school board’s resolution is a knee-jerk reaction to a manufactured threat, and the vote itself could be considered an exhibition of sociopolitical ideologies, as suggested by the divided board.

Members of the Alabama Board of Education should identify and address the existing, very real shortcomings in our public school system, and set a goal to improve the quality of education for the young people of Alabama in safe, learning-conducive environments, and leave politics to the politicians.

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