Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

___

April 20

Tuscaloosa News on Gov. Kay Ivey's handling of Alabama's problems:

Alabama has a full-blown overcrowding crisis in its prisons and our leaders in Montgomery have done little but put a Band-Aid on the problem. If they don't do more — and quickly — a federal judge is going to step in and order that criminals be released long before their sentences are up. And any fix by the courts certainly will cost Alabama taxpayers much more than if Montgomery fixed the problem first.

Our state's public schools continue to underperform. In some areas of the state, including Montgomery, the problem is so bad it is hard to imagine how it could get much worse. The situation is also making it difficult to improve the state's efforts at workforce development. Addressing both of these concerns is crucial if the state is going to make progress in economic development and job growth.

We have a looming budget crisis. The embarrassing list of elected officials charged and convicted of crimes continues to grow each year. Rural hospitals are closing all around the state, making the trip for emergency care dangerously long in many areas.

In short, Alabama has no shortage of serious, pressing problems.

Most of the top candidates in this year's gubernatorial election shared their ideas on how to fix these problems in two recent debates. But Gov. Kay Ivey decided not to participate in either one. Ivey, who ascended from her position as lieutenant governor to the governor's office last year, after Robert Bentley resigned under scandal, is one of four candidates in the Republican primary.

But instead of sharing her ideas on how to move the state forward, Ivey opted to do more important things, like throw out the first pitch of a minor league baseball game last week. Then, on Tuesday, she aired a campaign ad touting a law that prohibits the removal of Confederate monuments.

Instead of addressing any of the important issues impacting the lives of all Alabamians, Ivey slams politicians' favorite boogeyman, "special interests," and decries "political correctness" in the ad. After decades as a politician, Ivey pointed to her decision to sign the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act last May - the legislation was sponsored by Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa — as a reason to elect her to a full term. Surely, she has something more than that to offer us.

Whatever your position is on Confederate memorials, most reasonable Alabamians would have to agree that the chunks of granite, metal plaques and molds of cement have little impact on the quality of their day-to-day lives. Most people are more concerned with their struggle to make ends meet.

Ivey's primary opponents — Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, state Sen. Bill Hightower of Mobile and evangelical leader Scott Dawson — are at least trying to tell Alabama why they want to lead.

Meanwhile, Ivey, thought by most political pundits to be the overwhelming favorite to win the Republican nomination, is pandering. So much for leadership.

She may not be losing ground to her three challengers in the primary, but she should be.

Online: http://www.tuscaloosanews.com

___

April 21

Dothan Eagle on the now-infamous "Parrish Poop Train":

Longtime Dothan residents, particularly those within a mile or two of Rip Hewes Stadium, may recall a time in the early 1970s when a huge flock of birds congregated in a copse of trees where the city's Pittman Field now stands. There were thousands of them - perhaps tens of thousands - reminiscent of a biblical plague. The birds settled in for more than a week, and their chattering was a deafening, ceaseless din.

Neighboring residents thought the noise was bad - until a few days passed, and a stench rose from the excrement of legions of birds.

To say it was foul is an understatement. Not even the usual comforting aroma of fresh-baked loaves from nearby Colonial Bread bakery could touch it. The bird litter made a paper mill smell like a summer breeze by comparison. It was so bad that many people still recall the incident almost half a century later.

Scientists say the sense of smell is most closely tied to memory. Recalling the Great Bird Invasion of the last century, that doesn't bode well for the few hundred people of Parrish, Alabama, where several tons of a sludgy byproduct from the excrement of New Yorkers festered for more than two months, filling the air with ungodly effluvia.

Last week, trucks hauled off the last of the putrid sludge, delivering it to a landfill that held the contract to receive the material. Legal wrangling had prevented the train from moving an area near the landfill. Instead, the cars were left in a place without restrictions - a train yard in Parrish, where residents refer to it as "the poop train."

No one there thinks it's funny. Neither should the rest of us. Because poor, rural communities dazzled by the idea of income for landfill use too often welcome the refuse of urban populations to the detriment of their own residents.

The Parrish Poop Train should stand as a tipping point in this ill-conceived bit of economic development - residents in every community across the South should ensure that their elected officials create the necessary restrictions to prevent a similar nightmare in their own communities.

It's a priority that's unlikely to slip anyone's mind. Remember what the scientists say about the sense of smell.

Online: http://www.dothaneagle.com/

___

April 22

Decatur Daily on regional differences:

The United States always has been a collection of slightly divergent cultures sharing the great middle of the North American continent.

North and South, New England and the Far West, rural and urban — the regions that make up the U.S. have barely tolerated one another at times over the past 242 years. Sometimes they haven't. We all know about the Civil War, but most people have never even heard of the Hartford Convention, when the New England states contemplated secession in protest against the War of 1812, which the North saw as a purely Southern misadventure.

Most of the time, however, we Americans, regardless of region, get along pretty well with each other. There are no border guards between Alabama and Florida, just fireworks stands on one side and convenience stores selling lottery tickets on the other. No one checks your papers when you drive from New York to New Jersey. Leaving California isn't like crossing Checkpoint Charlie.

Yet, the old regional divisions seem to be worsening again, sometimes because opportunistic politicians have something to gain by stoking resentments, and sometimes simply because of sheer tone deafness.

An example of the latter emanated a couple of weeks ago from The New Yorker magazine. Dan Piepenbring, "a writer based in Brooklyn," thinks the Southern fast food chain Chick-fil-A is "infiltrating" the Big Apple.

He writes there is "something especially distasteful about Chick-fil-A, which has sought to portray itself as better than other fast food: cleaner, gentler, and more ethical, with its poultry slightly healthier than the mystery meat of burgers. Its politics, its decor, and its commercial-evangelical messaging are inflected with this suburban piety."

It's the Christian conservative worldview of the privately held company's founders that most strikes Piepenbring as creepy: The restaurant's arrival in New York City "feels like an infiltration, in no small part because of its pervasive Christian traditionalism. Its headquarters, in Atlanta, are adorned with Bible verses and a statue of Jesus washing a disciple's feet. Its stores close on Sundays."

The conservative politics of Chick-fil-A's founder don't help either, and when Chick-fil-A first set up shop in NYC, Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed a boycott.

New Yorker writers and even New York mayors, however, are not representative of most New Yorkers, who have embraced Chick-fil-A even with its frustrating habit of being closed on Sundays. Even Piepenbring must concede new locations are greeted with lines of eager customers; that's what worries him.

Far from Chick-fil-A being an infiltrator, it seems right at home. New Yorkers and Alabamians have something in common: They line up to patronize new Chick-fil-As.

Meanwhile, it would never occur to Piepenbring to describe New York's vast array of ethnic restaurants, staffed by immigrants from all over the world, as an infiltration, nor should it.

Yet, it's a bizarre mindset that views fellow Americans as somehow more foreign than people actually from other countries. And New Yorker writers are certainly not the only ones guilty of this.

Back during the 2016 presidential election, Republican candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, of Texas, caused a fuss by railing against "New York values," the implication being that "New York values" weren't "American values," as if New York wasn't part of America. That, of course, was before his party nominated a New Yorker for president, so it seems a bit silly in hindsight.

America's regions will always vie with one another for political dominance, but away from politics, the differences between regions are cause for celebration, not fear. Most people get this, which is why Chick-fil-A is in New York and Starbucks (based in Seattle) is in Alabama. We share our diversity with each other. It would help if our politicians, and our cultural elites writing for glossy magazines, realized this, too.

Online: http://www.decaturdaily.com/