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Alabama editorial roundup

December 20, 2017

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

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Dec. 18

The Opelika-Auburn News on Doug Jones winning support after the Senate election:

Finally, the media circus has left town, the hate ads have stopped airing, and it is time for Alabama’s next United States senator to get to work.

The morning-after effect needs to be done and put behind us.

President Trump, in one of his more statesmanlike moves, called and congratulated Sen.-elect Doug Jones on his hard-fought victory. It was a good thing for Trump to do on a personal level, and a good move strategically in welcoming a new congressional voter to Capitol Hill who hails from a state well known for its support of Trump.

Doug Jones may be an incoming Democrat, but the Republican Trump will try to sway Jones to lean more on the conservative side than most Democrats in Washington might otherwise be swayed to do.

That’s smart politics, at least for this early stage of such a relationship, and Jones likewise smartly said throughout his campaign that he would try to work with Trump. Many Alabama voters will hope that is the case, more so for constructive progress on key issues than simply for party protection.

And then, there is Roy Moore, still trying to keep his spot-on center stage and not accepting of the fact that the show has moved on without him.

Moore’s failure to concede the race smacks of poor character. Alabama’s secretary of state declared the election an honest and fairly decided contest with a clear winner.

Character was something that Moore did not need to have questioned any further than it already was, and the Republican Party in Alabama can ill afford any more damage to its reputation from this race. It desperately needs to move forward. Moore clinging to false hope does no good for anyone.

Which brings us back to Jones.

Jones won the election and now he needs to win support. Alabama needs him to win support.

Alabama’s image suffered a brutal beating from the past year of politics within the state, prematurely losing its governor, speaker of the House, Supreme Court chief justice, and an established veteran senator to an administrative post.

Jones will have an uphill climb to gain stature in a Republican-majority Senate as its most freshman member, but he also is riding a wave of international publicity that has made his name and background an established story line.

If Jones can use that to get himself an influential role on key committees, and if he can indeed work with Trump and across the aisle in creating productive legislation instead of simply joining a quagmire of inefficiency, then perhaps good things can come of it.

More specifically, perhaps good things can come of it to Alabama.

It was a tough race that split the state’s voters almost half-and-half, in part because of a lack of trust from one side of the other.

It’s time now to put that mistrust aside, to put party resentments and fears aside, and get to work.

Doug Jones has a job to do, and all of Alabama needs him to do it.

It’s time to get to work.

Online: http://www.oanow.com/

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Dec. 18

The Decatur Daily on funding mental health:

Anyone who lives in Alabama and has friends or family members in need of mental health services knows how difficult it can be to find adequate help. The state, in a perpetual state of budget crisis, cannot fund services at an acceptable level.

The problem is not confined to Alabama. Many states are experiencing similar problems and have turned to Congress for help.

Congress responded in 2016 with the 21st Century Cures Act, which, among other things, would provide grants for intensive early intervention for infants and young people showing signs of mental illness. The problem with the act is that it remains unfunded. Now, the Republican-controlled Congress is looking at massive tax cuts that put this act and countless other government services at risk of not meeting their goals.

The act grew out of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 children and six adults were gunned down by a mentally ill man. Experts are quick to point out that mental illness and violence do not go hand in hand, but that early intervention can improve the quality of life for those needing services and their families.

The 21st Century Cures Act also created a committee to advise Congress and federal agencies on the needs of adults and children with serious mental illness.

The quality of services is improving, experts say, but the big challenge is finding adequate funding for people to access those services. Without the money, the services too often are not accessible to those who need them.

Though funding is an issue, there is some hope that private insurance carriers will be required to treat mental health care in the same manner they treat physical health care.

Recently, a new assistant secretary position was created at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The assistant secretary will be dedicated to improving behavioral health care. It is hoped this will open the dialogue with insurers to be more open to mental health care coverage.

Still, states have an obligation to be in the funding mix, along with the federal government. In Alabama, just about every state agency has faced funding cuts and budget shortfalls in the wake of the recession. These shortfalls have exposed the failure of Alabama’s tax code, and lawmakers in Montgomery must come to terms with the fact new revenue must be created in order to deliver the services their constituents expect.

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

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Dec. 20

The Gadsden Times on indications of a new auto plant in Alabama:

Nobody who really knows what’s going on is talking, but there are indications that North Alabama is on the radar for Toyota and Mazda, should they choose to locate their joint manufacturing plant in Alabama.

AL.com last week quoted residents of a 1,252-acre patch of Limestone County as saying that people connected with the project had been nosing around, doing surveying and other types of work. At least one resident said he was told his property was part of the site being considered.

As noted, this is all gossip until the two automakers make an official announcement. All Toyota and Mazda have said is the decision will come “next year.” Plus, according to the AL.com report, the state is touting a 1,900-acre site near Greensboro where folks also have been nosing around in recent months.

Bloomberg News unofficially reported in November that Alabama and North Carolina were the two finalists in the plant “according to people familiar with the negotiations.” That could mean a tip from a source deep in one of the companies, or from a government or economic development official in one of those states. (Toyota and Mazda, not surprisingly, have declined comment either way.) It’s enough to have boosted hopes tremendously, given how big an impact this plant will make wherever its shingle is placed.

The companies are planning a $1.6 billion investment in a plant that will employ 4,000 people. Success won’t come cheap — the companies reportedly are seeking at least $1 billion in incentives — but once more, we’re in a situation of having to play this “game” as the chess pieces are presently aligned, not as we’d prefer them to be.

Some dreamers had wondered if Etowah County’s Little Canoe Creek mega site could be a possibility, but that was going to be difficult even if the most concerted effort had been made to push it. The Limestone County site simply makes more sense. It’s 3 miles away from Interstate 565, 6 miles away from Interstate 65 and just 10 miles away from the Tennessee River. It’s also a half-hour or so from the Toyota engine plant in Huntsville that has announced its fifth upgrade, a $106 million investment that will mean 50 additional jobs.

It also has been previously vetted for a major automotive plant — the Volkswagen plant that ultimately located near Chattanooga — although that was before it earned mega site and Advantage Alabama site status.

We’ll be intensely waiting and watching for the official announcement from Toyota and Mazda. Should the plant land in Limestone County, we hope there’s a “rising tide” scenario in this part of the state and Etowah County, 80 miles or so away from the site, feels a bit of the impact. Perhaps some other vendors or suppliers will be looking for a place to operate.

As for Little Canoe Creek — have patience. We’ve praised county officials for what seems to be a renewed commitment to attract something productive to that land, while not ignoring the need at some point for tangible results. Don’t consider this plant going elsewhere, to a place with significant advantages, as a defeat. Consider it another entry on the road map of “how to do it.”

Online: http://www.gadsdentimes.com/

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