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Alabama editorial roundup

October 3, 2018

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

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Sept. 28

The Cullman Times on upcoming elections for state offices:

The long political year in Alabama will come to a conclusion when voters go to the polls Nov. 6.

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And everyone should be interested in the major state offices on the ballot.

The governor’s race, with Republican Kay Ivey as the incumbent against Democrat Walt Maddox, who has served as Tuscaloosa mayor, features two candidates who bring different messages to the campaign.

Ivey is running on her long years of services in various state offices and Alabama’s solid run of job growth. Maddox’s reputation became known across the state as he effectively led Tuscaloosa through the tragedy and rebuilding from a destructive tornado in 2011. He is challenging certain aspects of Ivey’s campaign, saying that education, health care, and the wages workers are paid all need improving.

The themes of this race with a seasoned politician facing a new, young candidate give Alabamians plenty to consider on election day.

Offices such as secretary of state, attorney general, chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and two Public Service Commission seats all carry importance for citizens across the state.

But to make a difference, every eligible voter needs to be registered and then go to the polls.

A record number of Alabamians have been registered to vote in recent years, but often the turnout is thin. For those who are looking to the future, there is still plenty of time to register to vote. The deadline is Oct. 22. Requesting an absentee ballot is open until Nov. 1.

Alabama has many crucial issues awaiting the next group of officeholders. Workforce training, better paying jobs, Medicaid expansion, access to health care, internet service for rural areas, and improving roads are among some of the topics that need to be addressed.

Candidates will have plenty to say between now and Nov. 1. A lot of them will be making stops in this community and points across the state.

Take the time to listen and ask questions when the opportunity arises. Alabama will reach its potential when citizens speak up. And the first step to be being heard is to vote.

Online: http://www.cullmantimes.com/

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Sept. 27

Decatur Daily on national violent crime rates:

Having spent the past year and a half claiming America was in the midst of a rising tide of crime, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has suddenly changed his forecast.

According to FBI statistics, both violent crimes and property crimes decreased slightly nationwide last year, after two years of slight increases.

At the time of the slight upticks in crime in 2015 and 2016, informed observers cautioned there was no cause yet for alarm because they might be simply statistical blips and crime levels nationwide remained close to 30-year lows.

Others, however, including some hoping to stifle bipartisan criminal justice reform efforts in Congress and in many states, seized upon the uptick as evidence being “soft on crime” was resulting in more crime. They pointed in particular to increased violent crime in Baltimore and Chicago, while ignoring New York City, which continued to see declines in crime rates even as the police there were ordered to abandon their controversial “stop and frisk” policy.

Honest observers recanted their doom-and-gloom predictions about New York. As National Review’s Kyle Smith wrote, “The statistics are clear: Crime is lower than ever. It’s possible that crime would be even lower had stop-and-frisk been retained, but that’s moving the goal posts. I and others argued that crime would rise. Instead, it fell. We were wrong.”

Now crime has again ticked downward nationwide, and just as the two years of slight increases were no cause for alarm, one downward year doesn’t guarantee everything is all blue skies and sunshine ahead. It does mean, however, that the 30-year trend of historically low rates of violent crime still holds, and it’s the long-run trends, the ones that reveal patterns and smooth out statistical bumps in the road, that are important. And being at a 30-year low is cause for some celebration.

Moreover, crime in the nation’s 30 largest cities is down, according to an analysis of the FBI data conducted by the Brennan Center for Justice, which found “that across the cities where data is available, the overall murder and crime rates are projected to decline in 2018, continuing similar decreases from the previous year.”

The Brennan Center analysis continues: “Especially sharp declines appear in San Francisco (-35.0 percent), Chicago (-23.2 percent), and Baltimore (-20.9 percent). These estimates are based on preliminary data, but if they hold, the number of murders in Chicago could fall by year’s end to the lowest since 2015. In Baltimore, homicides could drop to the lowest since 2014. While the city’s murder rate remains high, this would mark a significant reversal of the past two years’ increases.”

Sessions was quick to take credit.

“And I am announcing today the FBI will release its annual Uniform Crime Report, which will show that violent crime and murder have stopped rising and actually declined in 2017,” Sessions said in a speech to law enforcement in Alabama. ”. Those are the kind of results you get when you support law enforcement. Those are the kind of results we get when we work together.”

By work together, however, Sessions means ending federal oversight of local police departments that have violated the civil rights of the people they’re supposed to protect.

Ames Grawert, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, told Reason.com it was “galling to see” Sessions cite national crime data to support his position on policing: “Ascribing credit of any crime increase or decrease to a single year and a half of federal policy is just beyond belief, but here we are.”

Sessions first exaggerated the scope of the problem and now is exaggerating the supposed effects of his policy changes, all in an effort to derail criminal justice reform.

“The reality is, data-driven prison and sentencing reforms, like those that have passed in places like Texas, Georgia, and South Carolina, reduce crime while giving people opportunities to transform their lives,” said Mark Holden, of the Koch-backed group Freedom Partners.

With its overcrowded and underfunded prisons and some of the nation’s most draconian drug laws, Alabama is in desperate need of some criminal justice reform. Those demagoging every up and down in historically low crime figures should not be allowed to distract from that.

Online: https://www.decaturdaily.com/

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Oct. 1

Dothan Eagle on the case of Alabama death row inmate Vernon Madison:

The acrimonious spectacle of a confirmation hearing for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has captured the attention of the nation, eclipsing this week’s opening of the high court’s current session. With an FBI investigation underway, there’s uncertainty about when and if a full Senate vote on the nominee will take place.

Meanwhile, there should be heightened interest across Alabama in a case the court is expected to take up today - the execution of Alabama Death Row inmate Vernon Madison, condemned to death for his conviction in the 1985 murder of Mobile police officer Julius Schulte.

Madison has been on Death Row since 1994, when a judge sentenced him to execution over the jury’s recommendation of life without parole. Twenty-four years later, Madison suffers from dementia, his attorneys say, and cannot remember his crime.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed his execution, and will consider the case. His lawyers argue that he should not be executed for a crime he doesn’t recall and a sentence he doesn’t understand. Further, Alabama has since prohibited judicial override, removing the trial court’s option to disregard a jury recommendation during sentencing in a capital case.

Madison’s fate at the hands of the high court will likely draw keen interest in Alabama, where the death penalty has been contested over a constellation of issues in recent years.

Online: https://www.dothaneagle.com/

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