Alabama editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:
The Dothan Eagle on the loss of an Auburn Police officer:
Area first responders are in our thoughts today following a tragic event in an Auburn trailer park late Sunday night. Three City of Auburn police officers responding to a domestic violence call were fired upon after arriving at the scene. One officer, William Buechner, a 13-year veteran officer, died from his injuries. His fellow officers are recovering in an area hospital.
The work of police, fire, and rescue personnel is often mundane, but unlike the jobs many of us perform, theirs carries the unpredictable potential of danger. Any routine traffic stop or seemingly benign call can turn deadly without notice.
Shortly after the shooting, a suspect, Grady Wayne Wilkes, was taken into custody and charged with the murder of Officer Buechner and attempted murder of officers Webb Sistrunk and Evan Elliott. Police say Wilkes opened fire on the responding officers while wearing a helmet and camouflage body armor. Prosecutors will seek the death penalty.
Our sympathies are with the people of Auburn, their law enforcement community and the friends and family of Officer Buechner, as well as officers Sistrunk and Elliott.
We extend that empathy to the men and women of our own community’s cadre of first responders, who surely feel this loss deeply, reminded that evil respects no time or geography.
The Gasden Times on high school getting justice after travel nightmare:
An increasing number of people these days work individually instead of as part of a defined, tangible, visible team, even if it’s toward a collective goal. Call it the 21st century “gig economy,” which even sees folks working from home in their pajamas, only communicating electronically with their peers and colleagues.
That might lead some to question the relevance of team sports in the modern world as anything more than entertainment or a diversion. For those of you left befuddled by that sudden and drastic segue, consider what for generations has been touted as the No. 1 life lesson young people can gain from being involved in sports, even if they’re scrubs who never leave the bench: learning to work with others as part of a team.
We’d consider such an argument if teamwork — which isn’t completely passé just yet, mind you — was the only benefit involved. It isn’t.
There’s also perseverance when things get tough; courage when you’re facing difficult odds; a work ethic to ensure that assignments aren’t left undone; and determination that you’re not going to quit until a game’s over.
All those were on display in a recent situation involving Gadsden City High School’s athletic program, over something special that turned into a nightmare.
GCHS scheduled a game in 2015 with Goose Creek High School in South Carolina. It was the Titans’ first out-of-state game and school officials wanted to make it a memorable experience. Well in advance — the preparations actually crossed two principals’ administrations — they contacted an Arizona booking agent who had worked with other high schools on similar trips to handle airplane tickets and hotel reservations for the team.
As it got closer to game time, however, those officials became concerned that the booking agent wasn’t returning their calls. They learned that no hotel reservations had been made, only 15 airplane tickets had been purchased and that the money that had been allocated from school funds and various fundraising efforts for the trip had evaporated into the ether.
They had to scramble to line up buses to transport the players and coaches to South Carolina, and hotel rooms for when they got there. Kids are resilient and we’re sure the newness and excitement of the experience — it also was a memorable, competitive game, with GCHS coming up just short in a 38-35 loss — probably created positive memories for those who took part.
However, it wasn’t what it was supposed to be — and school officials got even more enraged when they found out that the same booking agent had ripped off nine other schools across the U.S., to the tune of roughly $250,000.
They decided not to let this go unaddressed. (Remember what we said about determination?)
It took four years to address it. (Remember what we said about perseverance?)
The outcome: Earlier this month the booking agent pleaded guilty in Etowah County Circuit Court to three counts of theft by deception. He received a 40-month suspended sentence with three years’ supervised probation. He was ordered to pay the school $44,700 in restitution, with $9.655 of it up front. If he pays all the money within six months, the case will be dismissed and he’ll be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea.
We could care less that the guy can avoid wearing a scarlet letter for the rest of his life by paying restitution. The important thing is that GCHS, as one of the school officials involved observed, did what was right.
That particular life lesson deserves the same cheers as any touchdown pass or bone-jarring tackle.
The Decatur Daily on using income tax donations to fund border wall:
A proposal allowing Alabama taxpayers to donate part or all of their state income tax refund to a group that claims it wants to help build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border has passed the state Senate, but remains in limbo in the state House.
As more questions arise about the group that would be the beneficiary of this tax checkoff, we hope the bill stays in limbo.
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, is the sponsor of Senate Bill 22. State law currently allows Alabamians to donate a portion of their state income tax refund to one of 22 “charitable and nonpolitical” organizations. Instead of refunding it to the taxpayer, the Alabama Department of Revenue sends it to the designated group, and SB22 would add We Build the Wall Inc. as a recipient taxpayers could choose.
We Build the Wall so far has raised about $20.7 million toward its $1 billion goal.
The group, founded by disabled Iraq War veteran Brian Kolfage, aims to help President Donald Trump build Trump’s promised border wall, although how a private group can do this is hazy at best, given the process involves condemning private property and getting around a host of environmental concerns.
But that’s only part of the problem. As we have said before, SB22 would make the state of Alabama the middle man shifting money from taxpayers to a group with no oversight. And within the past week, We Build the Wall has raised a lot of alarm bells.
New York Magazine’s Intelligencer column brings us up to speed:
“In January, (We Build the Wall board member and former Kansas Secretary of State Kris) Kobach told The New York Times that We Build the Wall would ‘be hopefully breaking ground within weeks.’ That time frame has been pushed back on a few occasions. In March, Kolfage said they would ‘start breaking ground’ in April, but he also told Politico that ‘we should be turning dirt on this thing by May 1, June 1 at the latest.’”
May is half gone and nothing is happening, which is hardly surprising.
Donors have begun to lose patience, and some of them have said as much on We Build the Wall’s Facebook page. That forced Kolfage to respond: “WALL UPDATE: there’s no update because we are remaining silent for a very good reason. You all will have the best present very soon. . We are in the homestretch and it’s on a need to know basis. We have been talking with Fox News and prime time shows to break the news for you, you’re going to see it very soon! And it’s going to be GLORIOUS!”
Kolfage goes on to assure his donors, “Steve Bannon, curt schilling (sic), sheriff David Clarke and others would not be backing me on this if they thought it wasn’t happening!”
Excuse us if we’re not reassured by the backing of Bannon, Schilling, a former baseball player whose bankrupt video game company left Rhode Island taxpayers holding the bag, and Clarke, a disgraced former lawman who is so toxic that Fox News and a pro-Trump super PAC both quietly showed him the door.
If We Build the Wall builds anything at all, and they might find some tiny stretch of private land where they can do something, we expect it to be little more than a showpiece meant to get people to send more money.
Alabama taxpayers deserve better than for the state to give a de facto seal of approval to a group as murky as We Build the Wall.
The Alabama House should let the bill die quietly and pretend this nonsense never happened.