Eutaw City Council works on IRS and water problems

The Eutaw City Council met for its regular meeting on April 13, 2021 and continued to work on correcting problems with the water system, bad debts to IRS and other issues. The Council received a report from Terry Tyson who audited all of the water meters in the city system. He surveyed a total of 1,521 meters in the city on nine different routes. Together with Cory Martin, the City’s Certified Water Operator and other staff they found over 200 that needed corrections or adjustments. They found 6 inactive meters, 68 meters with the wrong address, size or attribution; 21 meters that were misidentified by number related to their account; 88 meters with a “0” reading; 10 old meters that need to be replaced; 18 meters serving duplicate residents; 10 meters needing boxes or lids; and 78 meters that could not be found. Tyson agreed to work with the staff to correct the meters that needed to be fixed and find those that had not been found in the first survey. Tyson assured the City Council that once corrections were made that would account for a significant portion of the water loss now reflected in the system between water pumped and water actually billed by the system. The Internal Revenue Service has a lien against the City for unpaid employee taxes, interest and penalties most of which date back to 2016-2020 before the current administration took office. There are some 941- Quarterly Employee Tax forms in 2020 and first quarter of 2021 which have not been filed properly or on time. There is a total payroll tax assessment of $226,077 from IRS of which more than half are penalties and interest. Mayor Latasha Johnson said she retained CPA Rob Pearson of Tuscaloosa to help update and maintain the payroll and tax records. She also said that she dismissed Kathy Bir, City Clerk because she did not inform the Mayor or Council about the problems with filing the employees tax records and correcting past problems. The Council approved the hiring of Rob Pearson to handle the payroll records and the dismissal of the City Clerk. Mayor Johnson says, “correcting the problems with IRS reporting and payment of taxes, penalties and interest is now her highest priority. We are seeking a meeting with IRS to discuss abating the penalties and interest since these mistakes were made by prior city administrations and the current administration is willing to pay or make payment arrangements for funds owed to IRS, after discussion of abatement.”

In other actions, the Eutaw City Council: • Approved $40,000 for GIS mapping of the city’s underground utilities systems like water, sewer, gas. • Agreed to hold a work session on May 4 to include a workshop on workforce development by Ms. Tammie Holley of AlabamaWorks. • Authorized the Mayor to purchase two new police vehicles. • Approved a Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday. • Approved the City’s mask ordinance until at least its first regular meeting on May 11, 2021. • Approved recommendations of the Zoning Board for variance for two day care centers in Branch Heights. • Approved the city’s portion of the County Hazardous Mitigation Plan. • Approved payment of a $5,094 civic forfeiture claim ordering repayment of funds seized in a police arrest. The funds were not placed in a bank account and cannot be located. The current Chief of Police has initiated an investigation with assistance from the District Attorney into the missing funds. •Approved payment of bills and claims against the city.

$940 million incentives in American Rescue Plan SOS holds rally to encourage Governor Ivey to Expand Medicaid, since financial incentives are available

The Save Ourselves Movement for Justice and Democracy (SOS) held a rally and press conference on Tuesday, April 20, 2021 at the State Capitol to urge Governor Ivey to approve Medicaid Expansion because there are new financial incentives available in the American Rescue Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Biden. These incentives will provide $700 to $940 million in additional Medicaid reimbursement, over two years, to the State of Alabama for its current Medicaid participants if it Expands Medicaid to the working poor, who have incomes up to 138% of poverty. This would cover 300,000 or more Alabamians who are not covered now by health insurance coverage. The incentives raise the reimbursement level on all existing Medicaid recipients from 78% to 82% of allowable costs. This 5% increase translates into the millions of new revenues for the state based on calculations by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington, D. C. think-tank. “Governor Ivey has a second chance to cover the cost of initiating Medicaid Expansion for Alabama citizens, because of the incentives in the American Rescue Act. These incentives were provided to encourage states that had not adopted Medicaid Expansion in 2014, another opportunity to avail themselves of this health care benefit, especially in view of the health challenges of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Johnny Ford, former Mayor of Tuskegee and Co-Chair of the SOS Health Committee. Martha Morgan of the SOS Steering Committee said, “ It is a shame that Federal taxpayers in Alabama have been sending millions of their tax dollars to subsidize Medicaid coverage for working poor people in other states – when we have so many people in Alabama who need this same coverage. Governor Ivey, please act now to Expand Medicaid!” John Zippert, SOS Health Committee Co-Chair, explained “ Seven years ago, Alabama could have expanded Medicaid at no cost for three years, Governor Bentley did not take advantage of the offer then. Now Alabama has a second chance to get incentives for expanding Medicaid. We urge Governor Ivey to take advantage of this new opportunity. The Federal government is paying Alabama to get all of its citizens covered for healthcare. Now is the time for Alabama to Expand Medicaid.” Zack Carter, SOS Steering Committee member said, “ We cannot understand why Gov. Ivey will not accept this program to save Alabama lives. A Kaiser Health study showed that before the pandemic, three people in Alabama were dying every two days, 700 a year, because we did not expand Medicaid coverage. This is the same Governor that is using state funds to pay for state tropers to lead strike-breakers into the Brookwood coal mines, in yellow school buses. She has funds to break a strike but not to Expand Medicaid!” At the close of the rally, Johnny Ford warned, “ Gov. Ivey we will be back with hundreds of people, every week, to push you to Expand Medicaid!” WSFA-TV in Montgomery in its report on the SOS rally said they contacted the Governor’s office for a comment and her staff said they were still studying the American Rescue Plan to see what benefits it contains to assist the state in dealing with the pandemic. For more information on how you can join with SOS in the fight for Medicaid Expansion, contact Shelley Fearson at 334-262-0932 or visit the SOS website.

Newswire: St. Vincent, neighboring Caribbean islands grapple with aftermath of volcano eruption

Volcano eruption on St. Vincent

By Anoa Changa, Newsone

St. Vincent and other parts of the Caribbean remain covered in ash from the La Soufriere volcano. Bracing for more explosions, St. Vincent evacuated about 16,000 people from the surrounding communities. La Soufriere’s latest eruption comes almost 42 years after the last major eruption in 1979. Authorities canceled flights as a safety precaution. Nearby Barbados, St. Lucia, and Grenada prepared for light ashfall, according to the Associated Press.  Heavy ashfall rained down on parts of St. Vincent, with a strong sulfur smell making its way through nearby communities. No casualties were reported as of Saturday afternoon.  Ash from La Soufriere caused air quality issues in nearby areas. In an interview with a local station, prime minister Ralph Gonsalves said people had trouble breathing. Officials were working to figure out how to remove the ash. “Agriculture will be badly affected, and we may have some loss of animals, and we will have to do repairs to houses, but if we have life and we have strength, we will build it back better, stronger, together,” Gonsalves said. He estimated it could take as long as four months to complete the cleanup. La Soufriere sits in the northern section of St. Vincent. St. Vincent is a part of a chain of islands, including the Grenadines. Grenada, Antigua, Barbados, and St. Lucia agreed to accept refugees. St. Vincent has asked other countries to accept people without passports who need shelter. Over 2,000 people are currently in 62 government shelters.  “This is an emergency, and everybody understands that,” said Gonsalves.  Cruise ships arrived Friday to assist with the evacuation effort.  The Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises released a joint statement Thursday explaining the coordinated effort with St. Vincent authorities. “Royal Caribbean International’s Serenade of the Seas and Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Reflection are on their way to the island nation and are expected to arrive later this evening to assist with evacuation efforts,” read the statement. The cruise lines assured they would take precautions “to protect the health and safety of the crew and passengers who board our ships.” With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, St. Vincent authorities recommended those entering shelters be vaccinated. St. Vincent and the Grenadines received 24,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines earlier in the week as a part of a global relief effort. Reports indicate ash from the first explosion reached 32,000 feet. In a Friday interview with the Associated Press, Erouscilla Joseph, the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Center director, said more explosions could occur. Joseph said it was difficult to predict the size of subsequent explosions. A majority of the 19 volcanoes in the eastern Caribbean are on 11 islands. There are also two underwater volcanoes near Grenada including one that has been active in recent years.

Newswire: Harriet Tubman’s lost family home found in Maryland

Harriet Tubman

 

By: DeMicia Inman, The Grio

Maryland state officials announced the landmark discovery of Harriet Tubman‘s family home, found by archaeologists working on land owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In a press release, the State Highway Administration (SHA) conducted research that led to discovering the historic homesite once owned by the father of famed abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman, born Araminta Ross. The home belonged to her father, Ben Ross, and is believed to be where she spent her childhood and teenage years. “This discovery adds another puzzle piece to the story of Harriet Tubman, the state of Maryland, and our nation,” said Lieutenant Governor Boyd K. Rutherford.  “It is important that we continue to uncover parts of our history that we can learn from, especially when they can be lost to time and other forces. I hope that this latest success story can inspire similar efforts and help strengthen our partnerships in the future.” Descendants of Tubman were also present at the reveal. According to the press release, Tina Wyatt, Harriet Tubman’s great-great-great-grandniece and Ben Ross’ great-great-great-great-granddaughter expressed excitement for the historic find.  “Discovering the location of patriarch Ben Ross Sr.’s home and artifacts he used has humanized a man responsible for giving us a woman of epic proportions, Harriet Ross Tubman,” Wyatt said.  “This brings enlightenment, revealing how he lived his daily life making it a real-life connection to and for me, a great-great-great-great-granddaughter. The world benefits also from the study of these artifacts concerning objects used by the enslaved; are they common to this plantation, to his position, or to this region? It gives us so much more to explore, explain and exhibit.” Archeologist Julie Schablitsky shared with the Washington Post how the discovery of a coin dating to the 1800s was vital in locating the homesite and other artifacts. “A lot of us think we know everything … about Harriet Tubman. This discovery tells us that we don’t and that we have the opportunity to … understand her not just as an older woman who brought people to freedom, but … what her younger years were like,” Schablitsky shared with the Post. She added, “It’s not just one artifact that tells us we have something. It’s the assemblage. It’s the multiple pieces.” According to the release, the newly-uncovered home site of Ben Ross will be highlighted on the historic Thompson Farm where he and his family were enslaved. The property was acquired in 2020 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) as an addition to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County, Maryland. “When we protect vulnerable habitats, we help preserve the stories of those who came before us, like Harriet Tubman’s father, Ben Ross,” said USFWS Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System Cynthia Martinez.  “Acquiring Peter’s Neck last year was a critical addition to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, as the area is predicted to naturally convert to marsh by 2100 because of sea-level rise. We look forward to working with our partners to create more opportunities to connect people to nature and strengthen the bond between the land and community.” In January, theGrio reported the President Joe Biden administration wants to ‘speed up’ effort to place Harriet Tubman on the $20 note.  U.S. Congresswoman Joyce Beatty has been working tirelessly for Tubman’s image to be placed on the $20 note. Now that Biden is in office, Beatty is hoping to speed up the process of the “Woman on the Twenty Act of 2021” bill and replace Andrew Jackson’s image with a portrait of the late abolitionist

Newswire: 1100 miners on strike at Warrior Met in Brookwood, Alabama

United Mine Workers poster

1,100 workers, members of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) union have been on strike for three weeks, at the Warrior Met mine in Brookwood, Alabama, north of Tuscaloosa. Union workers made concessions in wages and benefits in 2016 when Jim Walters Industries, prior owner of the mine went bankrupt. The company was taken over by Wall Street hedge funds who have made millions in reviving the company. Warrior Met mines metallurgical coal for steel production over 2000 feet under the ground. After five years, the UMWA tried to negotiate a new contract for workers restoring wage and benefits cuts but the company refused to meet union demands, so the workers went on strike to enforce their demands. Cecil Roberts, President of the UMWA said,” We made the sacrifices that brought this company out of bankruptcy. While upper management was getting bonuses, UMWA miners took pay and benefit cuts., members of United Mine Workers of America The productive, professional miners at Warrior Met mined the coal that meant the company could become successful again. The people who manage the Wall Street hedge funds that own Warrior Met don’t know us, they don’t know our families, they don’t know our communities. And they don’t care. All they care about is sucking as much money as they can, every day that they can, from central Alabama. We want Warrior Met to be successful. But they can be successful and fair to its workers and communities at the same time.” Richard Trumka, National President of the AFL-CIO and past President of the UMWA, said, “To Warrior Met and all the union-busters out there: No matter how much you intimidate us…no matter how hard you try to break us… Working people are not going to cave or capitulate! We’re not going to give in or give up. We will prevail!” The union leadership brought management’s first contract offer to the members for a vote. This offer was rejected by the members and they sent their negotiators back to the table with the company, which has begun to bring in un-trained workers to mine the coal rather than negotiate fairly with the union.

Newswire: U.S. House holds historic session on reparations legislation

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, April 14, held the first-ever markup of H.R. 40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act. The 10 a.m. session on Capitol Hill helped advance legislation first introduced about three decades ago that establishes a commission to examine slavery and discrimination in the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies. “Why is this significant now to have a markup in this historic moment in our history? The bill was introduced a year after the Civil Liberties Act that provided reparations for our Japanese-Americans, and we as African Americans supported it,” Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) said during a news conference with African American media members. “The bill would allow the country to finally confront the stark social disparities occurring in the African American community today and provide solutions,” Jackson-Lee, the bill’s lead sponsor, stated. The historic markup of H.R. 40 is intended to continue a national conversation about how to confront the brutal mistreatment of African Americans during chattel slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and the enduring structural racism that remains endemic to American society today added House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). “Long after slavery was abolished, segregation and subjugation of African Americans was a defining part of this nation’s policies that shaped its values and its institutions,” Nadler remarked. “Today, we still live with racial disparities in access to education, health care, housing, insurance, employment, and other social goods that are directly attributable to the damaging legacy of slavery and government-sponsored racial discrimination,” Nadler remarked. “The creation of a commission under H.R. 40 to study these issues is not intended to divide, but to continue the efforts commenced by states, localities and private institutions to reckon with our past and bring us closer to racial understanding and advancement.” While a specific monetary value on reparations isn’t outlined in the bill, it does focus on investigating and presenting the facts and truth about the unprecedented centuries of brutal enslavement of African people, racial healing, and transformation. The bill would fund a commission to study and develop proposals for providing reparations to African Americans. The commission’s mission includes identifying the role of federal and state governments in supporting the institution of slavery, forms of discrimination in public and private sectors against freed slaves and their descendants, and lingering adverse effects of slavery on living African Americans and on society. “Since its introduction in 1989 by the late Chairman John Conyers, and now through its continued introduction, H.R. 40 has galvanized governmental acknowledgment of the crime of slavery and its continuing societal impact,” Jackson Lee maintained. “The markup of H.R. 40 by the Judiciary Committee is a major step toward the creation of a long-overdue national commission to study and develop reparation proposals. “Through this legislation, we will finally be able to confront the stark societal disparities occurring in the African American community today and provide solutions. “By passing H.R. 40, Congress can also start a movement toward the national reckoning we need to bridge racial divides. Reparations are ultimately about respect and reconciliation — and the hope that one day, all Americans can walk together toward a more just future.

Newswire: Chauvin guilty verdict a moment in history as President Biden, others say ‘We can’t stop here” 

Derek Chauvin being handcuffed in court after verdict and George Floyd and Derek Chauvin,  Chauvin guilty verdict a moment in history as President Biden, others say ‘We can’t stop here” 

By Hamil R. Harris

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – The conviction of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin of all charges in the murder of George Floyd has sparked an outburst of joy from his family and Civil Rights veterans to the President of the United States, who sees the verdict as the beginning of a new chapter in American history. After a three-week trial, more than 40 witnesses, and 11 hours of jury deliberation, Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. President Biden said in a live statement to the nation that the verdict sent a message that justice can be achieved when police officers fail to serve people with respect and dignity. “But it is not enough,” the President said. “We can’t stop here.” Biden continued, “In order to deliver real change and reform, we can and we must do more to reduce the likelihood that tragedies like this will ever happen and occur again; to ensure that Black and brown people or anyone — so they don’t fear the interactions with law enforcement, that they don’t have to wake up knowing that they can lose their very life in the course of just living their life.  They don’t have to worry about whether their sons or daughters will come home after a grocery store run or just walking down the street or driving their car or playing in the park or just sleeping at home.” But some question whether there would have been a trial had it not been for a 9:29 second video of Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck, shot by a 17-year-old bystander, Darnella Frazier. Frazier captured the May 25, 2020 incident during a trip to a neighborhood store.   “It has been a long journey,” said Philonise Floyd, one of George Floyd’s brothers who spoke during a Minneapolis press conference after the verdict was announced. The press conference was attended by family members, their lawyer Ben Crump and a host of Civil Rights leaders that included Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League. In his comments, Philonise Floyd cast the jury’s verdict in the context of generations of African Americans who were killed but never had a day in court. “Emmett Till was the first George Floyd. We ought to always understand that we have to march, we have to protest. I am not just fighting for George, I am fighting for everyone in the world. ‘Today we are able to breathe again.” Less than an hour after Chauvin was convicted by a jury that included 6 whites and 4 blacks, he was handcuffed and walked out of Minneapolis courtroom, people gathered outside the store where Floyd was killed, as well as at intersections where other people died at the hands of police officers across the US. President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris talked to the family by phone after the verdict was rendered and then both addressed the nation from the White House about the significance of this moment in history and how . “Today we feel a sigh of relief, l it can’t take away the pain,” Harris told the country. “A measure of justice isn’t the same as equal justice. This verdict brings us a step closer, and the fact is we still have work to do, we still must reform the system including passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.” In his remarks Biden said George Floyd “was murdered in the full light of day and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see systemic racism…that is a stain on our nation’s soul. The pain and exhaustion that Black Americans experience every day.” Chauvin faces up to 12 and a half years on either second-degree unintentional murder or third-degree murder according to sentencing guidelines. Second-degree manslaughter has a maximum four-year sentence. Aggravating factors could determine a longer sentence of up to 40 years.  Sentencing is expected to occur in a separate hearing at a later date, in part because prosecutors say they intend to seek an enhanced sentence above the guideline range due to aggravating factors. Chauvin waived his right to have a jury make the determination about aggravating factors in his case, so Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill will do so at sentencing. After sentencing is completed, Chauvin and his legal team will have the opportunity to file an appeal in relation to the conviction and sentence. His lawyer indicated on Monday that an appeal is likely to focus in part on what they perceive as improper comments made about the trial by politicians, including Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA). Appeals in criminal cases rarely result in convictions or sentences being overturn

COVID-19

As of April 14, 2021 at 10:00 AM (according to Alabama Political Reporter) Alabama had 520,780 confirmed cases of coronavirus, (3,666) more than last week with 10,728 deaths (76) more than last week) Greene County had 910 confirmed cases, (4 more cases than last week), with 34 deaths Sumter Co. had 1,031 cases with 32 deaths Hale Co. had 2,186 cases with 75 deaths Note: Greene County Physicians Clinic received Johnson and Johnson, one dose vaccination for COVID-19; vaccination has been paused by CDC; vaccination will be available again when CDC lifts pause. Call for appointments at 205/372-3388, Ext. 142; ages 18 and up.

Newswire: U. N. Chief links rise of extremist groups and ‘vile messages’ of Rwanda genocide

Rwanda genocide poster

Apr. 12, 2012 (GIN) – In a message marking the grim anniversary of the 1994 genocide of Tutsi in Rwanda, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned of the rise of extremist groups and the inflammatory rhetoric that produced horrific consequences.  “Everyone must take a hard look at today’s world and ensure that we heed the lessons of 27 years ago,” the U.N. chief declared. “While the technology used by extremists  is evolving, their vile messages and rhetoric remain the same.”  More than one million were systematically killed in Rwanda over the course of just 100 days including Hutu and others who opposed the massacre.  This year, the “Day of Reflection” took place in the shadow of disturbing revelations uncovered by French historians that tied France – blinded by their fears of losing influence in Africa and by a colonial view of the continent’s people – to the massive slaughter. The report was intended to answer charges that France did not do enough to halt the massacres orchestrated by Rwanda’s Hutu president Juvenal Habyarimana, with whom Paris had cultivated close ties. The document was commissioned in 2019 by President Emmanuel Macron.  Fifteen historians with unprecedented access to French government archives produced the 992 page report. While the authors cleared France of complicity in the deaths of the ethnic Tutsis, they faulted former President Francois Mitterand under whose regime the “murderers but also the masterminds of the genocide” were protected in a safe zone established by French forces and who the French authorities refused to arrest.  Mitterrand and his inner circle were also fearful of the encroachment of English-speaking influence into francophone Africa by Uganda and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) of Kagame.  Meanwhile, U.N. chief Guterres stressed the urgency of addressing deepening social and cultural divides, especially given the COVID-19 crisis, which have profoundly affected the entire spectrum of human rights everywhere, fueling discrimination, social polarization and inequalities “all of which can lead to violence and conflict”.   “We saw what happened in Rwanda in 1994, and we know the horrific consequences when hate is allowed to prevail”, he said, calling on everyone to defend human rights and ensure full respect all members of the society.   “On this solemn day, let us all commit to building a world guided by human rights and dignity for all”, Mr. Guterres added.

Newswire: President Biden nominates three Black women for Federal Court of Appeals

Three women nominated for court positions

By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Correspondent

Remember these names: Ketanji Brown Jackson, Tiffany Cunningham, and Candace Jackson-Akiwumi.  These are President Joseph Biden’s first three nominations for the Federal Court of Appeals. In 2020, Biden pledged to name the first African American woman to the U.S. Supreme Court.  A number of retirements are expected from the federal judiciary now that Donald Trump is out of office. The percentage of African American judges on the federal appellate circuit is inconsistent with the makeup of the broader U.S. population overall. Former President Trump nominated no African Americans of 54 U.S. appellate nominations. President Biden has now nominated U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.  She would replace Merrick Garland who is now U.S. Attorney General. The position is also seen as a steppingstone to the U.S. Supreme Court. President Biden nominated Candace Jackson-Akiwumi to the Seventh Circuit where no African American judge has served in three years. Biden has also nominated Tiffany Cunningham who will now likely become the the first African American judge ever on the Federal Circuit. In December 2020, Biden said, “We are particularly focused on nominating individuals whose legal experiences have been historically underrepresented on the federal bench. Including those who are public defenders, civil rights and legal aid attorneys and those who represent Americans in every walk of life.” The power of the federal judiciary to be the final decision maker on policies that impacts that lives of African Americans unmatched. Former President Trump, along with Sen. Mitch McConnell, nominated many judges to the federal bench who were defined as unqualified by the leading groups who follow judicial nominees. Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist for NNPA and the host of the podcast BURKEFILE. She is also a political strategist as Principal of Win Digital Media LLC. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke