Alabama editorial roundup

By: The Associated Press, Associated Press
October 5, 2016 Updated: October 5, 2016 at 4:44 pm

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:


Oct. 3

The Gadsden Times on removing Roy Moore as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court:

For the second time in 13 years, Alabama's Court of the Judiciary has removed Roy Moore as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

One can quibble about the terminology in the two cases. Moore in 2003 was "removed from office" for defying a federal judge's order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the State Judicial Building; Friday's COJ ruling "suspended him without pay" for the rest of his term.

The results were identical, though — election results were nullified and Moore was tossed out of office.

The former is not something that should be either discussed or taken lightly.

The latter, in our view, was the only choice the COJ had, given the circumstances and the evidence in the case.

It didn't appear the nine members agonized over the decision, either. Their ruling was unanimous and came just 48 hours after Moore's trial on charges brought in May by the state's Judicial Inquiry Commission over his reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage throughout the U.S.

That decision came down in June 2015, three months after the state Supreme Court (with Moore recusing himself) ordered Alabama's probate judges not to issue same-sex marriage licenses despite a federal judge's ruling that the state's ban against the practice was unconstitutional.

In January, Moore issued an administrative order that said, direct quote, "Until further decision by the Alabama Supreme Court, the existing orders of the Alabama Supreme Court that Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Amendment or the Alabama Marriage Protection Act remain in full force and effect."

Moore's attorney before his trial pointed to another sentence in the administrative order — "I am not at liberty to provide any guidance to Alabama probate judges on the effect of Obergefell (the gay marriage case) on the existing orders" — as contrary to that assessment.

Moore said the same thing during his testimony before the COJ, insisting that he was only providing a "status report" on the case by pointing out that state Supreme Court's March 2015 order remained in effect.

That's balderdash.

The words in Moore's January administrative order are clear and direct, and their meaning cannot be misunderstood or confused by anyone with an IQ of at least double digits: Moore was pressuring probate judges to defy the U.S. Supreme Court.

The COJ agreed and cited similar double talk by Moore in 2003 on the monument controversy, when he insisted he never said he would defy a federal judge, just that he wouldn't move his monument.

The COJ refused to get into the rightness or wrongness of same-sex marriage, and focused on Moore's conduct, his comments about matters before his court and, especially, his prejudicial conduct and lack of impartiality.

We're aware that many Alabamians will never resign themselves to legalized gay marriage or other demographic, moral, societal and spiritual changes taking place in this country, and will never stop looking for a paladin to champion those increasingly lost causes. We don't underestimate the number of people who support Moore philosophically and feel he was, again, done wrong.

However, in the secular political realm, when the Obergefell decision came down, the state Supreme Court should've shut up and walked away (not that it had any business, as we've noted, chiming in on federal constitutional issues in the first place).

Roy Moore couldn't do that. It's why, again, he's out of a job.



Oct. 3

The TimesDaily on the positive aspects of government:

If you have ridden on a major road, attended a public school or enjoyed TVA-built Wheeler Lake, you've experienced the positive impact of government.

The same goes if you've gone to sleep feeling safe, eaten at a restaurant with a reassuring health rating, or had a choice of brands when buying fuel.

In a year when elected offices from City Hall to the White House are being contested with passionate rhetoric from candidates, it can seem as if all taxes are too high and all government is bad.

That's not the case.

Our lives are enriched and improved in numerous ways by government, and it may not be as bad of an investment as we cynically assume.

Consider what is spent on workers delivering some of our most valuable government-provided services, such as police and fire protection, education and national defense. Pay is low to modest for front-line police officers, firefighters, soldiers and teachers. Taxpayers aren't getting gouged by paychecks in those occupations.

For many Americans, especially those with modest incomes, the services received from the federal government may be greater than what they pay toward them.

About 62 percent of individual federal tax returns in 2014 came from filers with adjusted gross incomes of $50,000 or less, according to Pew Research Center. Yet, those filers paid just 5.7 percent of the federal individual income taxes collected.

Those workers also contribute to local, state and federal government revenue in other ways, from Social Security and Medicare withholding to property taxes, sales taxes and items such as fees on phone bills. In return, they benefit from a multitude of services. Consider some of them.

- Government regulators prevent monopolies. They curtail pollution. They inspect food and protect consumers. They allot radio broadcasters separate frequencies so that they don't overlap with indecipherable static.

- Locally, governments provide garbage service, keep records for deeds and marriage licenses, and make sure buildings from homes to factories are constructed safely.

- We also rely on government for college loans, home loan programs, grants for city beautification and redevelopment, bridge building, flood control, national defense, handling diplomacy and operating traffic signals.

Government affects our lives constantly, and we need its helping hand because the world is complex and dangerous.

At the same time, government is imperfect. It doesn't have the same motivation to root out incompetence and inefficiency that a private business has while engaged in competition with survival at stake. There is waste in government. There are unnecessary regulations.

But there is not perfection in private business and industry either.

Ineffective or wasteful government programs should be exposed and eliminated. One of the strengths of our democracy is that we are able to criticize bad parts of government and demand solutions. We can constantly improve what government does.

As many local voters prepare for Tuesday's municipal runoff elections and all of them make decisions for the Nov. 8 general election, it's worth reflecting on some of the positive aspects we forget about government.



Sept. 28

The Montgomery Advertiser on the new director of the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System:

The appointment of retired Air Force Col. Linda Boyle as new director of the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System, announced Sept. 23, offers promise for a new day of accountability and improved patient care at its Montgomery and Tuskegee hospitals and regional clinics.

Boyle comes with impressive credentials, having served as interim director of the Alaska Veterans Affairs Healthcare System since 2015 and previously as associate director for patient care services at the Alaska system, beginning in 2001.

Expected to start work in a month or two, Boyle will need to hit the ground running to transform a history of shoddy treatment of veterans at CAVHCS.

The system was at the center of the national firestorm over poor VA care that erupted in 2014, when the public learned of shamefully long wait times for patients, fraudulent record keeping to cover up abuses, unread test results and other wrongdoing that led to the firing of former director James Talton.

Over the past two years, some needed reforms have been put in place. Claims and appeals are being processed faster, new staff members have been hired and wait times for exams are significantly shorter, according to CAVHCS interim leaders.

For example, in 2015 Montgomery's benefit office processed 24,635 claims, roughly 3,500 more than in 2013. The backlog of unprocessed claims was also slashed from a high of 611,000 in 2013 to 77,614.

That's welcome news, but not enough.

Boyle needs to look beyond improving statistics as she prepares for her challenging job, down into the details.

As the Montgomery Advertiser's Josh Moon reported in June, at least one patient continued to receive shabby treatment as recently as May.

Army veteran Willie McCall, who served in the Korean War, was near death in a CAVHCS exam room but left unattended with no bed or gurney to lie in, while awaiting an ambulance to take him to an emergency room, according to a family member and friend.

McCall passed away in June. His difficult experiences with the VA dated back decades and featured a long list of frustrating attempts to receive care, not just at local facilities, but from the bureaucratic VA system as a whole.

Boyle should take the time to familiarize herself with McCall's torturous trail in search of quality, compassionate treatment for we are certain his case is far from unique.

In the steep learning curve ahead for Boyle, she'll have a keen ally in Alabama U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, who has been a dogged advocate for better services for veterans through legislation and other initiatives.

Working together, the two leaders can hasten the day when Alabama's veterans no longer have to fight - or suffer needlessly - to receive the caring services they deserve.


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