Eutaw City Council hires new City Clerk, continues work to improve water system

At its regular meeting on April 27, 2021, the Eutaw City Council approved the Mayor’s recommendation to hire Shakelvia Spencer, as the new City Clerk. Mayor Latasha Johnson said Spencer had been working in a clerical position with the police department and wanted to promote within the existing staff to secure a new clerk. The Council approved a new ordinance for the payment of per diem, at $75 a day for Council members and employees traveling on city business to conferences and training workshops. At the suggestion of Zane Willingham, Legal Counsel, the City Council voted to suspend the rules, requiring two readings of the ordinance at successive meetings, to pass it on a unanimous roll call vote, at the April 27th meeting. Corey Martin, Water Department supervisor, reported on continuing improvement to the City’s Water Department. He indicated that water loss for the entire system had been reduced to 41% in March from previous levels of 50.2% in January and 68% in February. Water loss is the difference between the water pumped each month and the water billed. This means more of the water is being accounted for and billed. Martin also said, “ We have received more revenue for water, sewer and garbage in the past six months under Mayor Johnson than we received in the previous year.” After the meeting, Martin said the City took in $845.000 in payments since the beginning of the current fiscal year on October 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021, compared with a total of $808,000 for the past fiscal year. He and the Mayor indicated improvements and closely monitoring the system has yielded significant benefits. The Council also approved a series of routine items including:

• Approved travel and per diem for police to attend training. • Approved resolution for Tier 1 employees of the Retirement System of Alabama (RSA).

• Approved the Municipal Water Pollution Prevent Annual Report for 2020.

• Approved payment of three claims against the city, Truddie Cox for $732.50; Cindy Taylor for $39.00 and Barbara McShan for $615.19. • Approved closing of the Eutaw Downtown Revitalization Community Account and donate its $1,054.65 to the Eutaw Garden Club for beautification efforts.

• Approved travel and per diem for Robert Geter and Austin Whitehead to attend Birmingham Police Academy, July 12 to 16, 2021.

• Approved Belinda Vanable for usage of the City Park on May 8 for a Cancer Memorial Ride.

• Approved payment for Mayor, Council and Administrative Assistant to travel to a League of Municipalities meeting in Huntsville on May 11-15, 2021.

• Approved payment of city matching funds for lighting at the Exit 40 on Interstate 20/59.

• Approval of rental of space at R.H. Young for Elegant Beauty Supply LLC and This Belongs to US Inc. • Approval to pay bills including to Layne Services for well repair.

New Families USA report finds lack of health insurance heightened COVID-19’s impact on Alabama communities, underscoring need for Medicaid expansion

SOS members rally in front of the Alabama State House on April 29th to urge Governor Ivey and State Legislature to Expand Medicaid Now! They stressed that $700 to $940 million were available in the American Recovery Act to assist and incentivize the State of Alabama to Expand Medicaid. (Photo by Jacque Chandler, Picturethismagazine)

From a Cover Alabama press release MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Lack of health insurance coverage was a key factor in the spread and toll of COVID-19 in Alabama, according to a Families USA report, The Catastrophic Cost of Uninsurance, updated last month. The report shows how the impact of uninsurance extends beyond uninsured individuals to the communities where they live. “When people without health insurance begin to feel sick, they often delay seeking medical care or forgo care altogether because of cost concerns,” the report finds. “Not only does this place the individual patient in danger, it lets disease spread undetected and unchecked to family members, neighbors, co-workers, and others.” The Families USA report is based on a groundbreaking, peer-reviewed study published late last year finding that each 10% increase in the proportion of a county’s residents who lacked health insurance was associated with a 70% increase in COVID-19 cases and a 48% increase in COVID-19 deaths. The updated version includes more recent data through Feb. 1, 2021, and county-level numbers in every state, highlighting the 40 hardest-hit counties in several categories. More than 2,900 COVID-19 deaths or 38% of all COVID-19 deaths in Alabama through Feb. 1, 2021 were associated with high community rates of uninsurance, the report finds. The vast majority of uninsured Alabamians would qualify for coverage if the state expanded Medicaid. Medicaid expansion would provide health insurance to adults with low incomes who make too much to qualify for Alabama’s Medicaid program but not enough to afford a private health insurance plan. More than 200,000 Alabamians are in the coverage gap, and an additional 140,000 are struggling to pay for coverage they cannot afford. “Alabama’s failure to expand Medicaid left us more vulnerable than many states to the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jane Adams, campaign director of Alabama Arise and director of the Cover Alabama Coalition. “Because hundreds of thousands of Alabama families lack health insurance, they are more at risk of delaying care — both for chronic conditions and for infections like COVID-19. “The best way for Governor Ivey to honor the lives of those we lost in the pandemic is to expand Medicaid coverage, as 38 other states have done, and finally open a pathway for Alabama families to get affordable and consistent care.” The report finds that 21 Alabama counties saw more than half of their COVID-19 cases tied to high rates of uninsurance, resulting in higher rates of community spread: Barbour, Blount, Cherokee, Chilton, Choctaw, Clay, Cleburne, Cullman, DeKalb, Escambia, Franklin, Geneva, Henry, Jackson, Lawrence, Marshall, Monroe, Pike, Sumter, Washington and Winston. DeKalb County was hit especially hard, with 63% of COVID-19 cases and 52% of COVID-19 deaths linked to a high rate of uninsurance. “It is hard to believe, but despite the deadliest pandemic in more than a century, far too many politicians still haven’t figured out that we’re all in this together ‒ that if some of us can’t afford health care, all of us are at risk,” said Stan Dorn, the report’s author and director of the National Center for Coverage Innovation at Families USA. “People without insurance often delay going to the doctor even if they start to feel sick. Not only are they in danger, the virus spreads, undetected, to everyone whose paths they cross. “It’s finally time to make sure that, in the country with the world’s best medical research and treatment, no one has to worry that they can’t afford health care or has to choose between going to the doctor when they get sick and feeding their family.” The Cover Alabama Coalition is a nonpartisan alliance of more than 110 advocacy groups, businesses, community organizations, consumer groups, health care providers and religious congregations advocating for Alabama to provide quality, affordable health coverage to its residents and implement a sustainable health care system.

COVID

As of May 5, 2021 at 10:00 AM (according to Alabama Political Reporter) Alabama had 529,446 confirmed cases of coronavirus, (2,363) more than last week with 10,930 deaths (51) more than last week) Greene County had 923 confirmed cases, (2 more cases than last week), with 34 deaths Sumter Co. had 1,043 cases with 32 deaths Hale Co. had 2,222 cases with 76 deaths Note: Greene County Physicians Clinic has Johnson and Johnson, one dose vaccination for COVID-19; Call for appointments at 205/372-3388, Ext. 142; ages 18 and up.

Newswire: Environmental activist begins fifth week of hunger strike to stop dredging of Texas coastal bay

Kakays in Matagorda Bay protesting dredging

Diane Wilson, 4th generation fisher from Seadrift, Texas has begun the 29th day of her hunger strike to call attention to the dredging of the Matagorda and Lavaca Bay ship channel which will disrupt plans for a fishing cooperative planned for the Texas coastal area. Wilson hopes to stop the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE) from widening and deepening the maritime channel in the bay to accommodate large tankers reaching a proposed crude oil export terminal at Port O’Connor, at the head of the bay. The export terminal is owned by Max Midstream, a pipeline company seeking foreign markets for fracked oil from west Texas. Earthworks and other environmental organizations have been supporting Wilson’s hunger strike and held a recent rally and ‘kayakaton’ in the bay to support and call attention to her efforts. The USACOE conducted an Environmental Impact Statement in 2009, for a LNG project that was never built, with much more rigorous standards for the disposal of the 14 million tons of dredged materials. In the waning days of the Trump Administration, the USACOE pursued an expedited approval process for the crude oil depot. The newly approved disposal plan involves dumping the dredged materials on oyster beds and recreational beaches. The Matagorda and Lavaca Bay Foundations have written Commander Timothy Vail of the USACOE Galveston Office a detailed letter explaining why the Corp’s expedited approval process will do serious harm to the ecology of Matagorda Bay. They are asking for the USACOE to pause the project and conduct a new Environmental Impact Study before allowing the dredging of the ship channel. Diane Wilson points out, “The dredging of this ship channel will also impact an EPA Superfund site, with deposits of mercury from a now closed Alcoa plant. The dredging will stir up the mercury and make it difficult to market or eat fish caught in the bay. This will also hurt our efforts to develop a fishing cooperative in the area.” Diane Wilson urges her supporters to write or call the USACOE in Galveston and Washington, D.C. to stop the Matagorda Bay dredging project.

Newswire Fact Check: The United States is, was, and will always be a racist country Opinion: If racism is not responsible for the continued degradation and positionality of Black and Brown Americans, then what is?

Biden and Harris
Senator Tim Scott

Preston Mitchum, The Grio

If a Black Republican and Black Democrat walked into a bar, one wouldn’t usually expect them to agree on anything let alone that racism, in the United States especially, is a thing of the past. But last week, Sen.Tim Scott (R-SC) and Vice President Kamala Harris reached across the aisle to agree that (white) American people are not racist.  In his rebuttal to President Joe Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress, Scott, the Senate’s only Black Republican, sought to offer an alternative to the Biden agenda while defending the GOP, and the nation at large, against charges of systemic racism. Scott said that “America is not a racist country” and warned that “it’s wrong to try to use our painful past to dishonestly shut down debates in the present.” In her response on ABC News’ Good Morning America on Thursday, Vice President Harris, the first Black and Indian American in this role, agreed with Scott, saying that America is not a “racist country” but the nation must “speak the truth” about its history with racism. She applauded Biden for being courageous enough to speak the truth about this country’s history with racism. For many, Harris’ comments were unsurprising, often aligning with her role as a former prosecutor and policies around policing and law enforcement. However, others were shocked, disappointed even, that the first Black and South Asian vice president — particularly with the onslaught of sexist and racist comments toward her own candidacy — would make such disingenuous and harmful comments about race and racism in America.  If placating centrist white voters forces a Black elected official to lie about the past, present, and likely future of the United States’ racism then we are no better than we were in 2016; and that we’ve learned nothing the past 365 days. Thankfully, I’ve learned to not be shocked about politicians politicking.  Let’s assume that Harris obviously knows that racism is still pervasive in the United States. Let’s also stipulate that she must walk a delicate line of not appearing too Black or be seen as too bold after a previous administration who consistently stoked white supremacist flames the past four years.  But Harris wasn’t the only Democrat to agree with Scott. In an interview that aired on NBC’s Today show, in being pressed on Scott’s comments on race in America, our commander in chief stated, “I don’t think the American people are racist, but I think after 400 years, African Americans have been left in a position where they are so far behind the eight ball in terms of education and health, in terms of opportunity. Biden continued, “I don’t think America is racist, but I think the overhang from all of the Jim Crow and before that, slavery, have had a cost and we have to deal with it.” So, the question becomes: if racism is not responsible for the continued degradation and positionality of Black and Brown Americans, then what is? And if we can acknowledge white supremacist institutions, then, unless the ether, who holds onto it? It is impossible to understand and call attention to the ills of white supremacy and suddenly believe it went away in the 1950s following the end of de jure segregation. George Floyd being killed was not a thing of the past. He was a 46-year-old Black man with limited options of survival before he was eventually killed by former police officer Derek Chauvin for the world to see. Though Chauvin was found guilty of Floyd’s murder after a one-month trial, this doesn’t account for the numerous times that white law enforcement officers were either not indicted or found not guilty in the murders of Black people, including Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray and Breonna Taylor, and many more named and unnamed. Ma’Khia Bryant being killed was not a thing of the past. She was a 16-year-old Black girl, in state care and custody, who was defending herself before she was eventually killed by Officer Nicholas Reardon of the Columbus Police Department. Immediately after her killing, Bryant was adultified as Black girls so often are in an attempt to justify her murder. That she was a teenager in the middle of an altercation, in which she was presumed to be defending herself and may have even called the cops to seek help, did not matter. Anti-Asian violence is not a thing of the past. An analysis of police department statistics has revealed that the United States experienced a significant hike in anti-Asian hate crimes last year across major cities. The analysis released by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism revealed that while such crimes in 2020 decreased overall by 7% (in large part due to the pandemic and less interaction in public spaces), those targeting Asian people rose by nearly 150 percent. The Georgia Spa Shootings in particular highlighted the intersections of racism and sexism of AAPI women.  COVID-19 is not a thing of the past. Though the COVID-19 continues to be driven down, the infection and death rates continue to disproportionately impact Black people. A global health pandemic coupled with a haphazard healthcare system creates a perfect storm for systemic racism to exact its deadly toll.  According to Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), even with vaccinations rolling out, Black and Latino people have received smaller shares of vaccinations compared to their shares of cases and deaths and compared to their shares of the total population in most states. On the contrary, white people received a higher share of vaccinations compared to their share of cases and deaths and their share of the total population in most states reporting data. .  The hard truth: Black people, regardless of the American political system, cannot be comfortable stifling our voices. We must not be fixated on the “what ifs” of every two or four years, especially if that means acquiescing to people who are ready to reject our experience at a moment’s notice. While there are varying calculations at play, none of them should involve lying about how race and racism — past, present, and likely future — impacts Black Americans.  In “Kamala Harris has to walk a tightrope on race. This time, she slipped,” Global Opinions editor Karen Attiah writes “Whatever the reason for Harris’s circumspection, imagine a different approach. Imagine if Harris felt free to plainly share her own thoughts and experiences about racism in America, particularly in a national moment when racist attacks and police brutality dominate so many news cycles.”    Imagine if we were honest about racism. Imagine if we demand that people bend to our truths. Imagine if people were made to capitulate to us. Imagine.

Preston Mitchum is an attorney, activist, and advocate living in Washington, DC

Newswire: Saturday May 8 – National John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Action Day Join ‘Votercade’ from Selma to Montgomery

Poster for John Lewis Voting Rights Day

The Transformative Justice Coalition, joined by hundreds of state and local organizations is sponsoring the National John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Action Day on Saturday, May 8, 2021. The focus of the activities on May 8 is to demand preservation and expansion of voting rights by highlighting the need for Congress to pass national legislation in view of the over 300 voter suppression bills being considered in over 40 state legislatures. The legislation that is being supported includes:

• HR1/S1 – For the People Act • HR4 – the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act

• HR51 – Washington D. C. Admissions Act (DC Statehood)

• Addressing the Filibuster The May 8th actions seek to ignite public support for restoring the effectiveness of the Voting Rights Act and address one of the greatest obstacles to the passage of civil and voting rights – and one of the last vestiges of slavery – the filibuster!

The coalition is sponsoring more than 100 “Votercades in cities around the country on Saturday afternoon, together with national broadcast of the events on Facebook and other media. In Alabama, the May 8th events are focused on a ‘votercade’ from Selma to Montgomery, retracing the steps of the original 1965 Voting Rights March. Cars will line up at the Brown’s Chapel AME Church in Selma at 11:00 AM and the ride will begin at 1:00 PM after a press conference. The day’s program will end in Montgomery at Celebration Village, King’s Canvas, 1413 Oak Street, Montgomery, AL, where there will be additional speakers, dinner and a fresh food giveaway. For more information, go to the Transformative Justice Coalition website or to the Selma-to-Montgomery Votercade Facebook page.

Greene County Schools use funds resulting from COVID-19 to improve academic program, staff development, facilities upgrade

To support schools and districts in addressing the impact of COVID-19, Congress has provided financial support through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. Funds are allocated to each state in the same proportion as their Title I, Part A grants. In March 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act included $13 billion in ESSER funds. In December 2020, an additional $54 billion for ESSER II was allocated through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act. The American Rescue Plan (ARP) authorized another $122 billion for ESSER III (also called “ARP ESSER”) in March 2021.  With the CARES ACT of March 2020, Alabama was allocated $217 M for its K-12 schools, administered through ESSER 1. The Greene County School System received approximately $864,000. ESSER I provided resources for additional student services in curriculum and instruction; staff development and professional services; Special Education Services; PPE supplies and safety and sanitation of facilities in preparation for students to return to on site classes; technology including learning aids for students’ virtual classes; transportation; health services which included equipping nurses stations; other sundry services for the system. These funds must be spent by 2022. Following the CRRSA Act signed December, 2020, Alabama received $899 M for ESSER II. Greene County School System has been allocated approximately $3.3 M in ESSER II funds. According to Superintendent Dr. Corey Jones, the system is in the process of completing its ESSER II plan, which must be submitted to the State Board of Education by June, 2021. Dr. Jones noted that 50% of these funds can be allocated to upgrading facilities, with the remaining supporting curriculum and learning loss with enhanced summer school programs; technology expansion and upgrade across the system; staff development; continued safety measures in facilities; supplies, etc. These funds must be spent by 2023. In the recently passed American Rescue Plan of March 2021, Alabama is likely to receive $2 B to distribute through the ESSER 3 fund. Although the specific guidelines have not been released, more than 80% of these funds will be used to address unfinished learning and supporting the school system’s return to in-person learning. The ARP specifically states that the public school system must spend 20% of ESSER funds to directly address student learning loss. Districts have the flexibility to use the ESSER funds on any “activity authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.” As a condition for receiving ESSER funds, state education agencies must continue to financially support K-12 public schools (maintenance of effort) at the same level or greater in fiscal 2022 and 2023 as they did on the average of fiscal 2017-2019. Similarly, state agencies and local districts may not reduce funding on a per-pupil basis (maintenance of equity). As the Legislature prepares to pass a state education budget, it cannot reduce funding to local school districts or the state risks losing ESSER funds. This is not expected to be an issue, with both Gov. Kay Ivey and the Legislature supporting increases in state funding.

Bingo facilities contribute $485,958.87 for the month of March

On Wednesday, April 21, 2021, Greene County Sheriff’s Department reported a total distribution of $485,958.87 for the month of February from four licensed bingo gaming operations in the county. The bingo distributions were contributed by Frontier, River’s Edge, Palace and Bama Bingo. Greenetrack distributed an additional $71,000. The recipients of the February distributions from bingo gaming include the Greene County Commission, Greene County Sheriff’s Department, the cities of Eutaw, Forkland, Union, Boligee, the Greene County Board of Education and the Greene County Hospital (Health System). Sub charities include Children’s Policy Council, Guadalupan Multicultural Services, Greene County Golf Course, Branch Heights Housing Authority, Department of Human Resources and the Greene County Library. Bama Bingo gave a total of $114,990.90 to the following: Greene County Commission, $30,570; Greene County Sheriff’s $33,750; City of Eutaw, $9,250; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,875; Greene County Board of Education, $10,500, and the Greene County Health System, $12,500. Sub Charities, each received $1,132.50. Frontier (Dream, Inc.) gave a total of $114,990.00 to the following: Greene County Commission, $30,570; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $33,750; City of Eutaw, $9,250; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,875; Greene County Board of Education, $10,500; Greene County Health System, $12,500. Sub Charities each, $1,132.50. River’s Edge (Next Level Leaders and Tishabee Community Center Tutorial Program) gave a total of $114,994.98 to the following: Greene County Commission, $30,570; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $33,750; City of Eutaw, $9,250; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,875; Greene County Board of Education, $10,500; Greene County Health System, $12,500. Sub Charities each, $1,333.33. Palace (TS Police Support League) gave a total of $140,983.89 to the following: Greene County Commission, $37,478.82; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $41,377.50; City of Eutaw, $11,340.50; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $4,750.75; Greene County Board of Education, $12,873 and the Greene County Health System, $15,325; Sub Charities each, 1,389.47.

Newswire: U.N. finds France culpable for deadly attack on wedding party in Mali

Protest against France in Mali

Apr.19, 2021 (GIN) – Major combat operations by French troops in Mali have drawn fire from local officials who accuse the French military of killing civilians including at a recent wedding. Nineteen wedding guests and three armed men died in the strike in the village of Bounti, central Mali.    Now, a scathing report by the U.N.’s mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA, concurs with Malian authorities and upholds the claim that the victims were protected under international law. The French defense ministry rejects the report’s findings.   Those killed at the party were civilian males aged 15 to 20, and they were hunting birds with one gun among them, local officials said..   “I know all these young people. Some are from my family,” Mohamed Assaleh Ahmad, mayor of the nearby village of Talataye, told Reuters by telephone. “We have seen these airstrikes in the past here. We have never said anything, but this time, it’s 100% an error.”   The newly released report by the U.N. raises the stakes for France whose military footprint has grown to 5,100 from 3,000 since the start of their anti-terror operations in Mali.  At the same time, opposition among Malians is growing against the former colonial power.   Anti-French demonstrations have been taking place since 2013 on a regular basis, according to the French newsmagazine “Liberation” in an article titled “A Rejection of Colonialism.”    Yvan Guichaoua, a Sahel expert at the University of Kent’s Brussels School of International Studies said of the French: “(They) want to stay influential in their former colonies and have leadership in this sort of global division of labor” by major powers. “But the longer you stay, the greater the chance that you become part of the problem,” he warned in an interview with the Associated Press. According to Africa specialist Marc-Antoine Perouse de Montclos, French authorities have ignored local realities, like inter-communal vengeance and armies operating brutally with impunity to promote the narrative of jihadis with direct links to Iraq and Syria. As a result, a future French exit strategy may be as elusive as victory. French Defense Minister Florence Parly insists that the military strike on Jan. 3 was legit and rejects the U.N. probe’s methodology, calling the investigation based on unreliable sources. Some 7,000 people have died in what has been called France’s “forever war”, according to data by the Armed Conflict and Location Event Data Project. w/pix of Mali protest against French

Newswire: SPLC condemns the observance of Confederate Memorial Day, as a holiday on April 26

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The following statement was issued by SPLC Chief of Staff Lecia Brooks: “Since Reconstruction, Confederate symbols have been used by white supremacists as tools of racial terror. The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans erected hundreds of memorials to the Confederacy across the United States as part of an organized propaganda campaign, created to instill fear and ensure the ongoing oppression of formerly enslaved people. “This is the heritage they continue to champion. One that not only is reflected in monuments, but also in school names, parks, municipalities, military bases, roadways, prisons, and flags, all ‘honoring’ a history of brutality and racial subjugation. Sadly, many southern states protect and defend this legacy by establishing laws that protect these symbols of hate and white supremacy. “This includes the official celebration of Confederate Memorial Day on April 26th by several Southern states including Alabama. State and county offices in Alabama were closed on Monday, April 26th, surprising many residents who tried to secure state government services and found locked doors at their local courthouse. “But there is hope. Many Americans are taking action to challenge oppression and counter false narratives, and Black people are often leading the way. Communities are coming together to create more inclusive public spaces that reflect liberation, not oppression. “In 2020, 170 Confederate symbols were removed from the U.S. landscape. And this year, 31 Confederate memorials have been removed or are pending removal. “And yet, there is much work to be done. Thousands of these symbols still litter our public spaces as reminders of white supremacy and anti-Black racism. We recognize that removing these symbols is only the first step. We must work for racial justice and an honest reckoning with our country’s past and present. That cannot be accomplished by removing a memorial or renaming a school, but it is a necessary step.”