Advocates urge a “NO” vote Black Warrior EMC sends out package of revised by-laws for a membership vote by May 1

Special to the Democrat by John Zippert,
Co-Publisher

BWEMC

Members of the Black Warrior Electric Membership Corporation, as of February 24, 2017 have received a package of materials, including a revised set of By-laws, a summary of the changes and a mail ballot to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on all of the changes in one vote.
Members have contacted the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, which has been sponsoring “a co-op democracy project” focused on Black Warrior, to ask how they should vote on these by-law changes. Black Warrior members have also contacted the Greene County Democrat and other trusted community organizations to ask for advice on this by-law package.
If you receive your electric power from Black Warrior EMC you are a “member” of the cooperative. Black Warrior has 26,000 members in the rural parts of many of the western Alabama Black Belt counties including Greene, Sumter, Hale, Perry, Choctaw, Marengo, Tuscaloosa and others.
If you paid your deposit and have a Black Power Electric meter, you are a member of the “electric membership corporation” or cooperative and you have a vote on major issues facing the cooperative, like election of the board of directors, changing the by-laws and other important issues.
Rev. James Carter of Tishabee Community in Greene County said, “I was surprised to receive this 24 page set of new by-laws in the mail and a ballot to vote, without more explanations, without a meeting scheduled to explain these changes. I have an education but I feel you need to be a lawyer or other professional expert to fully understand this document and make an informed and intelligent vote on it.”

Carter, who is one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit to make Black Warrior’s Board and Management more transparent, accountable and democratic, also said, “ I am happy to see these by-laws because they answer many questions the members have been raising with Black Warrior, for a number of years, but they also raise new questions about additional discretionary powers granted to the co-op’s Board of Directors, which may adversely affect the members.
“We need more time and a series of meetings in the Black Warrior EMC service area to explain these changes and allow for the members to understand what they are voting on. We are also asked to vote up or down on the whole package in one vote even if we disagree with some of the specific changes or would like to add other changes to make the cooperative more democratic and responsive to its members.”
Adriauna Davis, a Community Outreach Worker with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, who has been meeting with BWEMC members to discuss and strategize ways to make the power provider more democratic and responsible to its members, said, “We plan to go to court, under our existing lawsuit, and stop this by-law mail ballot until a membership meeting or district membership meetings are held to explain these new by-laws and the changes.”
“In the meantime, we are urging BWEMC members to vote “NO” on the ballot and write in that, “ I do not understand all of these by-law changes and want a meeting to understand and discuss these changes,” said Davis.
Davis points out that the current BWEMC By-laws require a membership meeting to amend the by-laws. The Board and Management, who developed and sent out the new ballot revisions, say their effort is legal under new provisions of the Electric Cooperative Statute of Alabama, which allow for a mail ballot.
Marcus Bernard, Director of the Federation’s Rural Training and Research Center in Epes, Alabama said, “We received about 100 phone calls last week from BWEMC members who were mailed the by-laws package. They say that they do not understand what to do. Many do not fully understand that they are members and are entitled to vote on the by-laws and other matters. We are recommending a “NO” vote until there are educational meetings to explain the changes to members.”
Bernard pointed out that the BWEMC was founded in 1938 and has not revised its by-laws in 66 years since 1950. The co-op has not had an official Annual Meeting of Members to elect the co-op’s board of directors during this same period. Since their have not been official membership meetings, with the required quorum of 5% (1,300 members) the board has been allowed to perpetuate itself without meaningful input from the members.
The Democrat will be following this story closely in coming weeks and will have more articles and opinion pieces on these important issues.

‘voter fraud is a lie, voter suppression is alive’ Rev. Barber: “We want full restoration of the Voting Rights Act now!”

By: John Zippert,  Co-Publisher

Amid the celebration and commemoration at this weekend’s Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma, Alabama, celebrating the 52nd anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday March” in 1965, there was a demand for “Full Restoration of the Voting Rights Act” by Rev. William Barber of the North Carolina Repairers of the Breach and Forward Together Movement. Rev. Barber’s demand was echoed by other speakers and was the central issue in many of the workshops and programs of the Jubilee.
In addition to the workshops, there was a parade, golf tournament, dinners, a unity breakfast, street festival, and the march reenactment on Sunday afternoon. Ten thousand or more marchers crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge behind a host of local and national leaders, including: Rev. Jesse Jackson of PUSH, Charles Steele of SCLC, Rev. Barber, Faya Rose Toure, Senator Hank Sanders, Rev. Mark Thompson of Sirius 127 Radio and many others. The Masons of Alabama turned out in force and in uniform, to participate in the march.
The weekend culminated in Monday’s “Slow-Ride from Selma to Montgomery” with a caravan of 35 vehicles including a Greene County School bus, carrying the members of the Eutaw High Ninth Grade Academy. The caravan was met by local Montgomery leaders for a rally on the steps of the State Capitol.
Prior to the re-enactment march, Attorney Faya Rose Toure pointed out that the Edmund Pettus Bridge was named for an Alabama Klu Klux Klan leader and that the name should be changed to honor Ms. Amelia Boyton Robinson and the Voting Rights Foot-soldiers who won the 1965 VRA.
Rev. William Barber spoke many times, as ketnote for the Sunday morning breakfast, at Brown’s Chapel Church before the march reenactment, on a national radio broadcast from the Dallas County Courthouse on Sunday evening and at the rally at the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery at the end of the slow-ride.

Rev. Barber made similar points in each speech. At the breakfast, we invoked the martyrs of the civil and voting rights movement – Dr. King, Jimmie Lee Jackson, Jonathan Daniels, James Reid, Viola Luizzo, and un-named others, whose blood he said was crying out to people today to continue the work of restoring the Voting Rights Act, fighting voter suppression in all its forms, and building a more beloved community involving Blacks, Whites, Latinos and all religious faiths.
He said he had come to Selma, ”not for the nostalgia of history but to listen for the ‘blood’ that was shed and soaked into the concrete of the bridge and the wooden pews of the churches.” Barber said that America was headed by an egotistical narsisistic man, “but this is not the first time that a racist was in the White House. Steve Bannon is not the first white Supremacist to be in high places. Trump is not the first President to hold these views. Many of his predacessors felt the same way.”
“On June 25, 2013”, Barber said, “the U. S. Supreme Court in the Holder vs. Shelby County case, overturned Section 4 and nullified Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Within an hour of the destruction of pre-clearence of voting changes in the Shelby decision, Texas approved a voter ID law and other changes; two months later, North Carolina passed voter suppression laws.
Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and other Southern states also passed voter ID and other voter suppression measures. Voter fraud is a lie, voter suppression is alive.”
“Twenty-one states adopted 47 regressive voting changes within a year of the Shelby decision, The 2016 Presidential election was the first in half a century without the protection of the Voting Rights Act.
868 fewer polling places were allowed in Black and Brown communities around the nation. In the 25 Presidential debates, both Republican and Democratic, no mention was made of the issue of voter suppression in our communities,” said Rev. Barber.
“Long before Russia interfered in our elections, voter suppression had hacked and distorted the system,” said Barber. He pointed out that in Wisconsin 300,000 voters were disenfranchised due to the voter ID requirements and Trump defeated Hillary by 20,000 votes in that state.
Senator Hank Sanders spoke to the problems of voter suppression, voter ID, Legislative gerrymandering in Alabama, Packing and stacking Black voters in majority Black districts. He also recounted the history of now Attorney General Jeff Sessions role in initiating voter suppression in Alabama with voter fraud trials of civil rights activists.
Rev. Barber said, “ the 11 former Confederate states have 171 electoral votes, you only need 99 more to have the 270 needed to win the electoral college. These states have 26 U. S. senators, the extremists need only 25 more Senators to control the Senate which they are doing now. They have the House of Representatives, statehouses, county courthouses, we have work to do to fully restore the Voting Rights Act.”
As part of the evening radio broadcast and rally at the Dallas County Courthouse, Rev. Barber displayed maps, which showed the concentration of poverty, child poverty, low wages-right-to-work states, states that did not expand Medicaid, overlapped with the states that adopted new voter suppression measures. Most of these maps showed concentration of these problems in the rural South. Rev. Barber also displayed a map of states and areas with a concentration of protestant Evangelical Christians and once again the overlap was clear. He called this a “mis-teaching of faith and a false interpretation of the Bible”.
At the rally in Montgomery, speaker after speaker blasted the voter suppression, racial gerrymandering and limits to voting by the people. Rev. Barber said, ”We must get ready for a 100 days of disruption and civil disobedience in our state houses and in Congress to work for full restoration of the Voting Rights Act. Different state organizations should be preparing to go to Washington, D. C. and non-violently disrupt the process qnd win back our full voting rights.

Clinton and Trump win Alabama and Greene County; Zippert elected to Greene County School Board – District 1; Runoff in District 2 – Madelyn Thomas and Kashaya Cockrell

Hillary Clinton, Gregory Griggers, Carol P. Zippert, Madelyn Thomas, Kashaya Cockrell

Yesterday on “Super Tuesday” in the Democratic Primary election, Hillary Clinton led the state with 309,928 (78%) to Bernie Sanders with 76,399 (19%). In Greene County, Clinton garnered 2716 (90%) votes to 213 for Bernie Sanders (7%).
In the Republican Primary, Donald J. Trump led the field with 371,735 (43%) of the votes. Cruz was a distant second with 180,608 (21%), Rubio with 159,802 (19%), Carson 87,517 (10%) and Kasich 37,500 (4%) rounded out the field.
In Greene County, Trump led as well with 147 (54%) of the total 273 Republican votes cast in the primary.
In the 17th Judicial Circuit District Attorney contest that serves three counties – Greene, Marengo and Sumter, incumbent Gregory Griggers was reelected with 6,873 (56.5%) votes to 5,281 (43.5%) for Barrown Lankster. Griggers carried all three counties. In Greene County, Griggers received 1439 votes to 1237 for Lankster.
Carol P. Zippert was elected to the Greene County Board of Education in District 1. Zippert received 376 (62%) of the votes to 235 (38%) for challenger Kiasha Underwood Lavender. Zippert carried the Courthouse, Mantua Knoxville and the Absentee Box. Lavender led in Union and Jena precincts.
In District 2, for the Greene County School Board there was a five person race which resulted in a run-off between Madelyn Thomas with 138 (27.7%) votes and Kashaya Cockrell with 113 (22.7%). Latoya “Mimi” Pelt received 102 (20.5%), Brandon Meriwether 76 (15.3%) and Robert “Coach” Kimbrough 69 (13.8%). The run-off is scheduled for Tuesday, April 12, 2016.
In the race for U. S. Senator, incumbent Richard Shelby was nominated in the Republican primary and Ron Crumpton was nominated over Charles Nana in the Democratic primary.
In the vote on the Constitutional Amendment to allow district attorneys and circuit clerks to participate in the state retirement system, it was passed in Greene County by a vote of 2,254 (82%) for; 492 (18%) against. Statewide this amendment was approved 679,956 (63%) to 402,060 (37%).