Friday, September 30, 2005

Gov. Riley Gives Insurance Buddies A Fat Raise!

Kudos to The Montgomery Advertiser for this Slam Dunk Editorial!!

Montgomery Advertiser

If Alabama state government is going to lead the Southeast in some category, it shouldn't be in pay ing the highest salary in the region to a state insurance administrator.

But if Gov. Bob Riley doesn't rethink his administration's proposal, Alabama taxpayers will have the distinction of leading the region in what they pay the administrator of the State Employees Insurance Board.

This week the State Personnel Board - at the urging of Riley's administration - voted 3-2 to raise the pay range for William Ashmore, executive director of the State Employees Insurance Board, and his top deputy, Gary Matthews.

Ashmore's salary will go from $146,179 to $157,601. Matthews' salary will go from $96,075 to $117,028.

Interestingly, those increases came on top of a 6 percent salary increase for state employees that went into effect with the current pay period.

In pushing for the salary increases, Finance Director Jim Main cited work by Ashmore and Matthews on a program he said would save the state millions of dollars on health care for prison inmates.

Fine. Give them a plaque and a pat on the back. At most, the administration should get the Legislature to approve a one-time bonus for the two insurance executives. But Matthews was already the second highest paid state insurance director in the region, and coming up with ways to save the state's taxpayers money is what he and his assistant already were paid handsomely to do.

A problem with Main's pay-range proposal is that by increasing the range for these positions, the new salary will become the base for all who later fill the posts - none of whom will have had anything to do with coming up with this purported cost-savings.

Any administration claim that the top two administrators will somehow have to work harder under this new arrangement would be silly. Their agency may have more responsibility, but taxpayers should hope these two were working a full work week already.

Remember, they were already among the best paid in the Southeast. And that is comparing their salaries to some state insurance administrators who have responsibility over both state employee and state teacher insurance programs. Those roles are split in Alabama.

It is telling that the Personnel Department staff recommended denying the raise request, with the board agenda stating: "Information could not be found which would support either of these increases."

Alabama's overall pay for state employees is not particularly out of line, but the state has too many top public officials who are among the better paid of their counterparts in the nation, with the most egregious example being the state's appellate judges, who lead the nation in salaries.

The governor needs to recognize that these latest pay increases are unseemly in a state with a per capita income well below the national average.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Senator Sessions Appears at Pro-War Protest

"The group who spoke here the other day did not represent the American ideals of freedom, liberty and spreading that around the world," Sen. Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican, told the crowd. "I frankly don't know what they represent, other than to blame America first."

Dear Senator Sessions,

If your idea of American "freedom and liberty" is forced "theocracy", illegal wars for oil and profit, illegal occupation of another country and the sacrifice of everyone's children except your own as cannon fodder for said illegal war...then you are DAMN RIGHT (quite likely for the first time ever) that WE DO NOT REPRESENT YOUR IDEA OF AMERICAN FREEDOM AND LIBERTY!

You are an embarassment of the great state of Alabama. If you love this damn war so much then grab a gun and head on over you traitorous SWINE!

That is what WE REPRESENT in case you are wondering.

Very Sincerely Yours,
Loretta Nall

Ten Commandments Judge Roy Moore to announce intentions on Oct. 3

From NBC 13

GADSDEN, Ala. -- Former Chief Justice Roy Moore will announce October 3 whether he will run for governor next year. The chairman of the We Need Moore 2006 Committee -- George Hundley -- says Moore will make an announcement at 1 p.m. that day in his hometown of Gadsden. A spokesman for Moore confirmed the plans.

Moore served as a circuit judge in Gadsden before being elected Alabama's chief justice in 2000. He had a homemade plaque of the Ten Commandments in his Gadsden courtroom. But after he became chief justice, he put a 2 1/2 ton monument of the Ten Commandments in the state judicial building.

Moore was ousted from office in 2003 for refusing to abide by a federal judge's order to remove the monument.

The Second Commandment:

You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath.You shall not bow down to them nor serve them.

Now, if Roy Moore believes so much in the Ten Commandments then why did he turn them into a carved (graven) image and proceed to worship them thereby disobeying in the highest fashion the Second Commandment?
And why do people who claim to be Christian follow him?

I actually hope Moore gets the Republican nomination because that will raise my chances of winning the election exponentially!

Friday, September 23, 2005

State prisoners overstay welcome

State prisoners overstay welcome
Thursday, September 22, 2005
News staff writer
The Birmingham News

Alabama counties say they're again footing the bill as sentenced prisoners linger for months in county jails, and they want Gov. Bob Riley to fix it.

Though jails have been forced to house a backlog of state prisoners off and on for years, the situation has pushed county officials to send a resolution to Riley calling for an immediate solution.

"We can't continue this piecemeal solution," said Sonny Brasfield, assistant executive director of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama. "We're really weary of doing the same thing over and over again."

County jails now house 1,153 state prisoners ready for transfer into the Department of Corrections, including 644 who've been ready longer than 30 days - the time allowed before the state violates a long-standing court order.

Among other problems, the inmates can't be transferred until DOC employees enter inmate sentencing transcripts into a computer system, and those transcripts are piling up untouched.

County officials believe the state doesn't start counting it's 30-day limit until the records are entered. But prisons spokesman Brian Corbett said the clock starts when DOC receives the paperwork from the court.

"If it is received today and entered 31 days later, we immediately show that that inmate is over 30 days. We are not using this to buy time and keep inmates in county jails without penalty," Corbett said.

Brice Paul, director of jail services for the Alabama Sheriffs Association, said he's learned that only one DOC employee is entering the transcripts, though Corbett said three positions are allotted to that work.

"All of a sudden we've got three stacks over there, 27 inches tall, that have been sent over there by clerks at the circuit courts, that have never gotten into the computer," Paul said. Because of the disarray, prisoners whose paroles have been revoked sometimes get stuck in county jails past the date they're supposed to go free, he said.

`Vastly understaffed':

Cuts in state court budgets also have left fewer employees in Circuit Courts, so the transcript work required on that end has fallen behind, as well.

"The clerk's offices are vastly understaffed," Paul said. "It can be a month to six months from when the clerk's office gets it to the DOC."

State courts have laid off 212 circuit clerk employees since 2003. Almost half remained vacant through 2004, according to the Administrative Office of the Court.

The bureaucratic backlogs are somewhat of a blessing to the state, but a burden to counties. The state pays county jails $1.75 per inmate per day for food, a fraction of what it pays private prisons where it is housing inmates.

"They'll pay $24 and change a day to keep 200 and something inmates in Louisiana, and they won't pay my sheriffs anything," Paul said.

The Jefferson County jail houses 148 sentenced prisoners, including four who have been there longer than 30 days, said sheriff's department spokesman Randy Christian. He estimated that it costs county taxpayers $62.50 a day to house each state prisoner.

Pushing for a plan:

The Association of County Commissions passed the resolution at its August meeting and sent it to Riley's office this week.

"The State of Alabama prison system has endured years of inadequate funding, tough-on-crime sentencing laws, lack of effective alternative sentencing programs and general neglect," the resolution reads.

It asks the governor to call a special session of the Legislature, if necessary, to develop an immediate plan with long-term solutions to the chronic problems.

Riley has said he's considering a special session to address prison issues.

He's also appointed the Task Force on Prison Overcrowding that's been meeting several months and will soon have a list of recommendations, said Riley spokesman John Matson.

Under Riley, the backlog disappeared for about a year and has stayed below 2002 levels, Matson said.


Good to see the county commissioners giving it to Riley in this fashion. When Bob Riley was running for governor one of his "promises" was that he would abide by the recommendations of the sentencing commission with regard to prison overcrowding. That did not happened.

Later Riley commissioned a second group of "experts" which included prison guards, police, judges and district attorneys but no average citizens, to look at the prison crisis and what was causing the overcrowding.

And now we are on our third group of experts which goes by the lovely name "Task Force on Prison Overcrowding" (why does everything have to be a "task force"?) who are currently wasting our money studying the same things the first two studied.

There couldn't possibly be anything they do not already know with regard to why prisons are so overcrowded.

I guess when Riley said he would "abide by the recommendations of the sentencing commission" he failed to mention which commission that would be. Apparently he plans to keep forming them until they tell him what he wants to hear and then he will abide by their recommendations.

You are a naughty boy Bob, and the citizens of the great state of Alabama do not hold naughty boys in high regard.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Agency treats more children 12 and under for drugs

Agency treats more children 12 and under for drugs

By Mike Linn
Montgomery Advertiser

The number of preteens who have sought counseling for substance abuse through the Alabama Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation has increased dramatically in the past few years. I am to believe a kid under the age of 12 walked into a drug treatment center and asked to be treated? This would not be legally possible as parents must be the ones who sign permission forms for anyone under the age of 18 to be treated. DUH!

The numbers are relatively small: 18 children between 6 and 12 years old last year received drug counseling compared with five in 2002.

These figures are unusual in that before 2000 it was rare for anyone under 13 to seek substance abuse counseling, according to Kent Hunt, associate commissioner for substance abuse at the state Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation.

"For years and years we never had anybody admitted to treatment (in this age group)," he said. "Every once in a while, we'd have a kid who was 13. For us, it's a huge increase percentage-wise for kids ages 6 to 12."

The number of high school age children seeking treatment is also up slightly, from 1,556 in 2002 to 1,587 in 2004, statistics show. But the percentage of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 who sought treatment declined by 5 percent.

Juveniles between the ages of 13 and 17 charged with drug offenses increased by about 7 percent from 2000 to 2004.

But Cary McMillan, juvenile technology manager for the Alabama Office of Administrative Courts, said some years there's a spike in drug complaints and other years they dip, so it's not necessarily a trend.

That more youngsters are getting treatment, she said, is likely due to more youth being screened for drug problems in the juvenile court system.

"Even if the youth is not held on drug charges, a screening may show they may have a substance abuse problem. Even if it's not a drug charge, they can send them to drug treatment," she said.

Courtney Green, a junior at Booker T. Washington Magnet High School in Montgomery, estimated at least 40 percent of high school students have tried marijuana and about 20 percent drink alcohol on the weekends.

Rachel Wismulek, a freshman at the school, said teens can get drugs relatively easily in Montgomery, and that many high school students have tried drugs like marijuana.

"People behind gas stations will give people our age drugs and stuff like that," she said. "It's really easy to get a hold of certain things. If anybody wanted to try it, they could."

And there you have it folks. Due to prohibition of certain drugs kids have unfettered, unrestricted access to them. Your laws to stop drug use are responsible for this as well as responsible for the prison crisis in Alabama. Maybe it is time to realize that approaching drugs from the point of regulation and harm reduction is not the same as condoning drug use.
If this is about keepng your kids safe then I would have to say your current plan is an abysmal failure. It will be your kids who are the next generation of Alabama inmates unless you do what is necessary to change these laws.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Siegelman: Will be candidate for governor; seeks debates

Siegelman: Will be candidate for governor; seeks debates
9/17/2005, 12:38 p.m. CT
The Birmingham News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Former Gov. Don Siegelman is no longer using the word "if" when he talks about running for governor next year.

"I intend to be a candidate for governor in 2006," Siegelman told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Washington, where he was raising money for his campaign. "I have listened to the people of Alabama. I have learned that a good many of them want me in this race."

He wants to get the campaign for governor started early, long before next June's party primaries. Siegelman suggested a series of debates, starting in November, featuring the major players he expects to join him in the run for the governor's mansion — Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley, incumbent Gov. Bob Riley and former Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. He said one set of debates could feature the Democratic candidates, while the Republicans square off in a separate event.

Baxley, who has been actively campaigning for several months, is expected to face off against Siegelman in the Democratic primary on June 6. Riley has yet to announce if he will seek re-election and be a candidate in the Republican primary, where he could face a challenge from Moore. The former chief justice, who has been speaking to groups across the country, has said he is "praying about" whether he should run, but has not made a decision.

"I think it's important for those people who intend to be candidates to begin to have conversations about the issues that are important to this state," Siegelman said.

Siegelman has sent a letter to the Alabama Press Association, the Alabama Broadcasters Association and The Associated Press asking for assistance in setting up the debates, which he said he hoped would be held across the state — possibly on college campuses.

Baxley said she would be willing to debate Siegelman, Riley, Moore and anyone else after candidates have officially declared and the race is underway, probably early next year.

"I think it's putting the cart before the horse to want to debate before you're an official candidate," Baxley said. She said she believes political campaigns are already so long that "people get sick of them before they are over" without extending them with early debates.

"There will be plenty of time to debate after the first of the year," Baxley said.

But Baxley said it's no secret that she will be in the governor's race. "I think the people know I am a candidate. I have said since first of June that I am a candidate for governor.

I applaud Lt. Governor Lucy Baxley for acknowledging that there will be other candidates in next years gubernatorial race and for stating her willingness to include them in the debates.

In the 2002 gubernatorial election the Libertarian candidate, John Sophocleus, was barred from the debates even though he had ballot access. The reason given was that a poll had been conducted and no one cared what he had to say.
However, no Libertarians were contacted or asked to take part in that poll.

I hope that Lt. Governor Baxley will remember her words in this article and will not allow her party (Democrats) and the Republicans to limit access to the debates and infringe on the rights of all Alabamians to hear from all persons seeking elected office.

Additionally, I would be happy to engage in a debate with former Gov. Siegelman, Governor Riley, Lt. Governor Baxley and former Chief Justice Roy Moore anytime they feel up to the challenge.

Alabama Looking at Alternative Fuel Resources

Alternative fuels may be South's best option

By Matthew Korade
The Anniston Star
Anniston Star

ANNISTON -- Living on a fixed income, Jean Hill and her husband used to clock double-digit mileage on their family car. Now, with gas prices high, they're thinking more about leaving the car garaged.

"My husband's retired, and I'm not working," said Hill, of Jacksonville. "And he takes care of his mom seven days a week. He drives there twice a day, he puts 10 miles a day round trip on her. That's a big chunk out of our retirement savings."

With the majority of Americans suffering from post-Katrina sticker shock, transportation experts are asking people to alter their driving habits. But considering that the U.S. economy is built on its mobility, some might wonder whether avoiding the gas pump is really an option.

In the South, where people drive longer and spend more on traveling than elsewhere in the country, rising gas prices are more of an issue, said Dan Turner of the University Transportation Center of Alabama.

"American travel is a matter of convenience," Turner said. "No other nation travels one person per vehicle like we do.

"Alabamians, without realizing it, have worked ourselves into a trap, because we commute 60 to 80 miles to work" in larger cities such as Atlanta and Birmingham, he said.

Local numbers mirror the nation: 91 percent of the U.S. population commutes to work by car, and U.S. vehicles consume 65 percent of the nation's oil, according to the U.S. departments of Transportation and Energy.

Changing the composition of petroleum-based fuels is one way to deal with the impending shortage, the Department of Energy reports. Fuel additives increase the oxygen content of gasoline, improving performance while reducing harmful emissions.

Researchers also are developing alternative fuels from electricity, hydrogen, ethanol, methanol, natural gas, propane, even biodiesel, which is distilled from the oils in vegetables. These fuels reduce or eliminate emissions and, except for natural gas and propane, are renewable, the Energy Department says. Ethanol, for example, can be made from corn, and electricity from wind energy.

Consider these facts: Alabama ranks among the top five states in the nation in the percentage of personal income spent on driving, Turner said; residents spend about a fifth of their incomes on cars and gasoline, more than any other region in the United States, the U.S. Census Bureau reported.

The average Southern household contains about two cars, according to the U.S. Department of Energys Energy Information Administration; this is about the same as the national average; but with longer distances to travel on average, Southerners burn more fuel; Alabama ranks 23rd in the nation in population but 19th in gasoline consumption, the U.S. Department of Energy said; and while Alabama's population increased 11 percent between 1990 and 2003, travel on state highways increased by 38 percent.

Americans live in the most oil- and gasoline-dependent country in the world. With about 5 percent of the world population, the United States consumes about 40 percent of the world's available oil, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Fuel-efficiency standards have cut U.S. oil consumption by half over the last 25 years, the National Association of State Energy Officials reports. But oil remains the leading fuel, cornering 40 percent of the U.S. market and essentially all the transportation market.

America's dependency on oil is cause for concern, some economists say. At the present rate of oil consumption, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates there's only enough petroleum in the world's reserves to last another 50 years. At mid-century, the extraction of petroleum from current reservoirs is expected to become increasingly difficult.

Alabama Inamtes Raise $5000 for Katrina Victims

I was very moved by this story of Alabama prisoners raising money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. It goes to show that not everyone in prison is evil, bad, mean and heartless.

Kilby inmates raise $1,100 for Katrina victims
Montgomery Advertiser
By Samira Jafari
The Associated Press

Edward Flynn, center, and Frank Rudolph, inmates at Kilby Correctional Facility in Montgomery, talk Wednesday to Helen Carroll of the American Red Cross about the donation of $1,112.37 their faith-based dorm collected from fellow inmates and made to the organization.
-- Karen S. Doerr/Advertiser

Iron bars and cinder blocks separate Edward Flynn from the rest of the world, but as a Mobile native he can relate to the hardships of Hurricane Katrina victims who've lost homes and loved ones in the Gulf Coast wreckage.

Shocked and hurt by the images unfolding on the old television he shares with 120 other inmates in his dorm at Kilby Correctional Facility in Montgomery, Flynn decided they could do more than watch. Together, the prisoners raised $1,112.37 for the American Red Cross from their own cash-strapped prison accounts.

"We're neighbors in here and we were able to help our other neighbors,"
Flynn said, reveling in a rare moment of pride. "It's a strange thing to say, but it made me feel proud of the neighborhood I live in -- even though my neighborhood is in prison right now."

An estimated $5,000 has been raised by prisoners statewide, said state corrections spokesman Brian Corbett, who stressed that the inmates made the contributions independently.

"My heart is so full that these men have chosen to give out of their own needs. This is a sacrifice for them," said Helen Carroll, account manager for the Red Cross of Central Alabama.

The effort began in Kilby's faith-based dorm, which accepts inmates of any faith who have clean disciplinary records and offers them special programs such as publishing a monthly newspaper for the general population.

Flynn and his fellow inmates aren't blind to the irony of their situation. Flynn himself is serving a life sentence for a manslaughter conviction and has already been denied parole once.

Cellmate William Slagle is serving a life sentence for murder, though he is eligible for parole.

His buddy Frank Rudolph has spent most of his 64 years behind bars -- mainly for theft, drugs and attempts to escape prison -- and likely will have to complete his life sentence.

But the devastating storm stirred their faith. They insisted that had they been home, they would have helped out even more.

"When you think about it, most inmates don't have very much money. When someone gives everything they've got in their account just to help someone -- that ought to maybe at least ... neutralize the image that we get," said Slagle.

They're quick to add that improving their image wasn't the main goal of their weeklong fundraiser -- but it didn't hurt.

"Regardless of our state in life, this storm was devastating to a lot of people. It touched a lot of guys. I mean, we weren't really expecting to get the money," Rudolph said.

Department of Corrections officials said they had little to do with the inmate contribution program and assisted only by allowing Flynn and other organizers to hang posters announcing their drive and gauging their progress in the other dorms and chow hall.

"This was not something we solicited from them. This was something they did on the their own," said Kilby Warden Terrance McDonnell.

The staff at the Alabama Department of Corrections has set up its own relief effort to help prison employees in Mississippi and Louisiana.

Flynn said raising more than $1,100 is significant to inmates, especially in a 1,400-population prison where 65 percent of the inmates are temporary. Kilby is the entry station for all the state's convicts, most of whom are shipped to other prisons after processing.

Even more amazing to organizers is how deep the participating inmates reached into their own pockets. Inmates typically rely on struggling family members to deposit cash in their prison accounts, which prisoners can only use toward the prison commissary -- a delicious haven amid faded uniforms, stiff rules and a dull routine.

The donations from the faith-based dorm and neighboring cells at Kilby ranged from 7 cents to $100. Flynn said inmates simply gave what they could, quickly realizing they had more than many victims.

"I think sometimes it makes you appreciative of even the small things we have in here," he said. "Sometimes we think we don't have everything in here, but when you see people who don't have water or shelter -- that little bed we lay on is not too bad after all."

Sunday, September 18, 2005

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