ANSC to hold Fall Convention in Montgomery on September 22; increasing Black voter turnout in November is major focus

The Alabama New South Coalition will be holding its Fall Convention on Saturday, September 22, 2018 at the Maggie Street Center in Montgomery, Alabama. The theme of the convention is “Lift every vote; Make our voices sing!” “Our goal is to increase Black voter registration, education, organization and enthusiasm leading up to the November 6 General Election. We want to see a statewide turnout that exceeds the turnout in last December’s Special Election for Doug Jones to elect progressive candidates around the state,” said John Zippert, President of ANSC. “We are encouraging all Alabama residents who will turn 18 before the November election to register to vote by October 22, 2018 which is the deadline – 15 days before the election. We are especially interested in helping the thousands of Alabama residents, who previously were incarcerated for a crime, unless it involves ‘moral turpitude’ to restore their voting rights before the October deadline,” said Shelley Fearson, ANSC Staff Secretary.

Alabama passed a law in 2017, which lists 43 categories of crimes that involve moral turpitude, so it is easier to determine if a previously incarcerated person can get their voting rights restored said Fearson. “ If you need help in registering or restoring your rights contact our ANSC State Office in Montgomery, Alabama at 334-262- 0933,” stated Ferason. “We will have workshops at our Fall Convention to discuss all aspects of the voting process and encouraging more people to participate in grassroots canvasing and campaigning. Speakers include people who were elected to office and others who participated in last year’s ‘Vote-or-Die Campaign’ to gain insight into how best to increase turnout,” said Zippert. ANSC will recess its Fall Convention, to hold a candidate endorsement session by the Alabama New South Alliance (ANSA) its sister organization that endorses candidates. The ANSA will endorse candidates for statewide, Congressional and multi-district positions. Candidates for statewide office have been invited to attend this statewide screening. Statewide Democratic candidates like Walt Maddox for Governor, Will Boyd for Lieutenant Governor, Joe Siegelman for Attorney General, Heather Milam for Secretary of State, Miranda K. Joseph for State Auditor, Bob Vance Jr. for Alabama State Supreme Court Chief Justice and others will be present to seek endorsement for the November 6 General Election. “We must be awoke, excited and involved in this election. We need to canvass our neighborhoods and communities. We need to put the word out about this election on social media. We must talk to our relatives, friends and neighbors about the importance of turning out to vote in this critical election. Every vote counts and every vote should be cast in November,” said Faya Rose Toure, Selma activist and Vote-or-Die campaign leader.

Federation honors memory of Ralph Paige at 51st Annual Meeting

Pictured above are members of the Paige family including wife Bernice, children Bernard and Kenyatta, and grandchildren on stage with Federation Executive Director, Cornelius Blanding and members of the organization’s Board of Directors. Cornelius Blanding discusses plans for cooperative development curriculum with President Quentin Ross of Alabama State University. The Rural Coalition presents a certificate to the Federation for its 50th anniversary. L to R Shirley Blakley, Chair of Federation Board, Lorette Picciano, Rural Coalition, John Zippert, Rural Coalition Board, Darnella Burkett Winston, Rural Coalition Board, Cornelius Blanding, Federation Executive Director.

The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund honored the memory of its longtime Executive Director, Ralph Paige, who served for thirty yeas from 1985-2015. He was awarded its Estelle Witherspoon Lifetime Achievement Award on Thursday night in Birmingham at the beginning of the organization’s 51st Annual Meeting. Several speakers at the Witherspoon Award banquet celebrated Ralph Paige’s 46 years of work and service to the movement for Black farmers, land and cooperative development that symbolized the work of the Federation. Paige died recently at the age of 74. The Federation’s Board of Directors met Thursday in Birmingham to review the program direction and finances of the organization. Two Roundtables one on Cooperative Development and one on Land Retention were also held in Birmingham. Quentin Ross, President of Alabama State University in Montgomery spoke at the Cooperative Roundtable of working with the Federation on developing a cooperative education curriculum for the students at ASU including internships with Federation member cooperatives and credit unions. The Federation has developed and is in the process of implementing a similar program with Tuskegee University. On Friday and Saturday the site of the meeting shifted to the Federation’s Rural Training and Research Center, near Epes, in Sumter County, Alabama. Friday’s program began with a panel of USDA program experts who both presented about their programs and answered questions from the audience of farmers and landowners. There was a lively interchange of views between USDA officials and their farmer stakeholders on issues of agricultural tariffs, program eligibility, focusing resources on new and beginning farmers and other relevant issues. State Senator Hank Sanders of Selma was the lunchtime speaker and among other remarks, he introduced his daughter, Malika Sanders Fortier, who is running to fill his position as State Senator for District 24 in the November 6 General Election. Several members of Federation related cooperatives gave five-minute testimonials on their experience working with the Federation and how it helped to improve their family income and quality of life. There were more educational workshops, demonstration farm and forestry tours and a fish fry, food tasting, auction and entertainment to close out the Friday activities. The program on Saturday began with a Prayer Breakfast at which Rev. Wendell Paris, a past staff member, spoke to the importance of the work of the Federation and the “sacred ground” that the Federation’s training center was built upon. A business meeting, report from the Board and Cornelius Blanding, Executive Director, state caucus discussions on program needs and direction, and the awarding of five $1,000 scholarships to high school graduates for their first year of college rounded out the program.

Poor Peoples Campaign holds Rally and March in Washington, D. C. to mark end of initial 40 days of protest and begin the next phase of ‘A National Moral Revival’

By John Zippert, Co-Publisher

Pictured John Zippert, Faya Rose Toure and Hank Sanders at
a Poor Peoples Campaign Rally

On Saturday, June 23rd thousands of people from across the nation came to the Mall in Washington D. C. for a Rally and March to mark the end of the initial phase of the revitalized Poor Peoples Campaign and plan for the future.

The Rally heard from the leaders of the Poor Peoples Campaign, those of national recognition and those who have emerged from the past three years of organizing at the grass roots level. The rally was opened with a prayer from the San Carlos Apache Nation, an indigenous group that prayed, sang and danced to a traditional drumbeat.

Rev. William Barber, co-chair of the Campaign said to the assembled crowd, “You are the founding members of the 21st century Poor Peoples Campaign. This is not a commemoration of what happened 50 years ago but this is a re-inauguration of the struggle. We have had 3,000 arrested for civil disobedience in 30 state capitals over the past forty days of protest since Mothers Day. We are moving forward and if the system resists change then we will have to shut-it-down.”
Rex. Liz Theoharis, a Presbyterian minister and head of the Kairos Center for Peace and Justice and co-chair of the Poor Peoples Campaign said, “ We have 140 million poor and working poor people in this country and they are seeking justice and fairness in issues that affect their daily lives, access to health care, a $15 an hour minimum wage, free tuition at colleges, an end to our war economy and ecological devastation in our communities.”
There were two massive banners hanging from the stage saying ”Fight Poverty – Not Poor People” which sum up the theme of the campaign and rally to date. There were many songs including some civil rights standards but also new songs like ‘When you lift from the bottom – Everybody rises’.
There were speakers like Rev. Jesse Jackson, actor Danny Glover, Essence Magazine publisher, Susan Taylor, but there were also many new leaders and organizers of the Poor Peoples Campaign, A Call for a National Moral Revival. One of the strongest speakers was Louise Brown, who led the Charleston, South Carolina hospital workers strike 50 years ago and is still battling for workers rights.
Rev. Barber moderated a discussion by grassroots organizers in the five thematic areas of the campaign: systemic racism, systemic poverty, labor and workers rights, ecological devastation and ending the war economy and militarism.
After the speeches, more than 10,000 marched from the Mall up to the U. S. Capitol building and back. A smaller representative group from the Poor Peoples Campaign went into the capitol and brought a letter of the Campaign’s demands for every Senator and Congressperson.
About twenty people from Alabama were part of the delegation including Rev. Carolyn Foster of Greater Birmingham Ministries, who is co-chair of the state committee. More than 50 people from Alabama participated in civil disobedience during the initial 40-day campaign since mid-June. Many were present at the rally and march.
During the march, many of us walked behind a banner that attracted much attention, which said, “We are from Alabama, and we are ashamed of Attorney General Jeff Sessions”.
Riding home from the event with Alabama participants, all said they were pleased to be part of founding this new movement and ready to take part in the next steps as they are developed and implemented.
Any one seeking more information or wishing to join may go to: www.poorpeoplescampaign.org.

Sen. Doug Jones gives keynote address UWA holds Rural Technology Summit illuminates high-speed broadband gaps in Alabama Black Belt region

Special to the Democrat by John Zippert,
Co-Publisher

 

Senator Doug Jones and  Shown L to R: Greene County participants in Summit, Lovie Parks Burrell, Debbie Duncan, John Zippert, Phillis Belcher, Beverly Gordan and Johnny Coleman, Jr.

The University of West Alabama in Livingston held an all day ‘Summit on Rural Technology” on Friday, April 13, 2018. The session was attended by 200 political and community leaders from the Alabama Black Belt and surrounding communities.
The session highlighted the importance of high-speed internet connectivity and digital literacy for economic development, health care, education and quality of life for the future in all communities of Alabama. The session illuminated that not all communities, especially rural communities and the Alabama Black Belt area, were prepared and positioned to equitably access to the ‘broadband highways’ of the future.
In his keynote address, Senator Doug Jones of Alabama said “270,000 people in rural parts of Alabama do not have access to high speed internet and there was a need for equal access and opportunity for all zip codes in the state.

Jones said, “ The state’s economy depends on high-speed broadband and this is a bi-partisan issue which transcends the division between political parties.’ He also said that internet access was a key to ending the ‘homework gap’ between well-heeled urban/suburban school districts and rural areas. “Ending the internet access gap will also improve the availability of healthcare and telehealth capabilities in the rural communities of the state,” stated Jones.
Jones reported that $600 million was appropriated in the latest budget for USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) programs to improve broadband access in rural areas. Senator Jones said his staff would be working to help businesses and communities that wanted to take advantage of these programs.
Dr. Roberto Gallardo of the Purdue University Center for Regional Development gave the opening talk on Rural Development in the Digital Age. He said, “Big data will be the oil of the 21st century. The digital economy has a 6.5% share of the total economy or $1.2 trillion. Rural on-line transactions today are $1.4 trillion annually.”
As an example of the exponential growth of the internet economy, Gallardo said, “Airbnb generates an average of $6,700 in income for its members. In four years, it has grown to offer 600,000 rooms. It took Hilton Hotels 93 years to grow to offer 600.000 rooms!”
Gallardo called young people “digital natives” and said they have grown up with digital skills that the rest of us must catch-up and master as well or we will be left behind in the coming ‘digital economy’.
Gallardo said that the digital future was at least 25 megabits of information down and 3 megabits up. Communities without these capabilities would miss out on the benefits of the coming digital economy. “Digital exclusion may be our gravest problem in the future,” said Gallardo.
C. Wayne Hutchens of Alabama A. T. &T spoke on some of the technical innovations that his company was pursuing and testing to bring high speed internet to more people. He spoke about small cell technology to reduce the need for large-scale towers in congested areas. These small cells could be placed on lampposts, mostly in cities. He also said that AT&T’s Project AirGig was testing ‘inductive coupling’ which was a way of transmitting high-speed internet in conjunction with electrical power lines. “If these trials work then we will have a way to serve more rural communities,” said Hutchens.
The Rural Technology Summit also has a panel of Alabama State Legislators that spoke on state funds that will be available for broadband access in rural areas. There was also a panel featuring Mayor Sheldon Day of Thomasville and Mayor Gary Fuller of Opelika on ways they were providing broadband to businesses and residents in their municipalities. Fuller explained that Opelika had a municipally owned electric system which had borrowed $43 million in bonds to finance proving high speed internet anywhere in the city limits of Opelika. This system was serving as an incentive to attract businesses of all kinds to the east Alabama city.
At the end of a challenging day of information, Dr. Tina N. Jones of the University of West Alabama said the summit was the beginning of an effort by the university to reach-out and assist rural communities in west Alabama to benefit from the growing digital economy.

Alabama’s rural hospitals are on life support Legislature claims victory in adjourning early while ignoring life-saving issues Alabama SOS again calls for Medicaid Expansion in Alabama

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Shown above John Zippert Chair of SOS Health Committee addresses crowd

 

Montgomery, AL – Members of Alabama SOS, the Save OurSelves Movement for Justice and Democracy, held a news conference, Tuesday, March 27th, at 11:30 a.m. in the 3rd Floor Press Room of the Alabama State House to address critical and time-sensitive health care issues facing the State of Alabama.
John Zippert, Chair of the SOS Health Committee said: “We are concerned about the State of Alabama’s requesting a Medicaid rule change that would affect 8,500 Medicaid caretakers in our state, denying them Medicaid coverage. The rule requires they show they are earning a mandatory wage. These 8,500 people are taking care of Medicaid-eligible children and/or seniors and adults. They are hardworking Alabamians caring for others, but they are not earning a wage that would provide them Medicaid coverage under this rule.

“For these Alabamians to be covered under this new rule, they would no longer be able to care for other Medicaid-eligible Alabamians, who are either children or adults or seniors in much greater need. This makes absolutely no sense. This is part of a national trend that is needlessly hurting people in Alabama and other states by putting political rhetoric ahead of facts and dollars and sense.”
“SOS is urging everyone who disagrees with Governor Ivey’s shortsighted and meanspirited effort to impose a work requirement on Medicaid caretakers to write the State of Alabama Medicaid agency expressing our concern and opposition.. Each of us has the opportunity to email our comments by April 2nd at PublicComment@medicaid.alabama.gov and by mail to Administrative Secretary, Alabama Medicaid Agency, 501 Dexter Ave., P.O. Box 5624, Montgomery, AL 36103-5624,” said John Zippert, SOS Health Committee Co-Chair.
Johnny Ford, SOS Health Care Committee Co-Chair and founder of the World Conference of Mayors, said: “Because the State of Alabama has not expanded Medicaid coverage, small rural hospitals across Alabama are being hurt, threatened with closure, or closed. Many of the people coming to these hospitals were supposed to be covered by Medicaid but currently are not. This is harming the area where I live as well as rural areas throughout our entire state. If these hospitals close, all people in these areas will be directly hurt.”
Another critical issue SOS addressed is the ongoing failure of the State of Alabama to expand Medicaid coverage. “Expanding Medicaid would be a huge economic boon to our state,” said Alabama State Senator Hank Sanders. “More than 30 states across the country, including in the South, have already expanded Medicaid. Alabama tax dollars are going to help people in other states instead of the people of Alabama.”
Zippert, who is also Chair of the Board of the Greene County Health System and President of the Alabama New South Coalition added: “Medicaid reimbursement – including the disproportionate share that rural hospitals already receive – has been even further reduced by the failure to expand Medicaid. People who have insurance are also going to pay higher premiums in Alabama because we have not expanded Medicaid. So many Alabamians are paying the cost because the State refuses to expand Medicaid”
“Rural hospitals are on life support,” said Ford, “and the Governor could save them with the stroke of her pen. The Alabama Legislature is proud to be adjourning early this week claiming their work has been done while rural hospitals across the state – both in Black and White communities – are threatened with closure every day. This can be fixed with Medicaid expansion. We need action – not today, not yesterday, but years ago. But we will take action today. The Legislature’s work is not done nor is the work of the Governor.”
SOS is comprised of more than 40 statewide Alabama organizations committed to justice and democracy. Members of the SOS Health Committee led today’s news conference.

Turnout is the key to victory in next Tuesday’s special election

 

Ballot Box

Ballot Box Vote December 12

News Analysis By: John Zippert, Co-Publisher and Editor

Most Alabama political pundits agree that voter turnout will be the key to victory in next Tuesday’s special election between Doug Jones and Roy Moore for the U. S. Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions when he became U. S. Attorney General.
Because Alabama is a deep red state, in the Heart of Dixie, very few political observes gave Doug Jones, a progressive Democratic candidate much of a chance. The polls have been all over the place but most show a tied race or a close race within the margin of error.
Most of the commentary dwells on the lopsided white Republican vote in Alabama but does not take into account Moore’s extremist religious stands which contest the ‘rule of law’ and had him removed twice from the state’s Supreme Court for unethical and unconstitutional behavior.
All of this was before the recent revelations that Moore sexually abused young women in the Gadsden area, some as young as 14, when he was a 30 year old assistant district attorney. Moore, following the example of Donald Trump, has denied all of the accusations by the women despite their believability and corroborating evidence.
The pundits also overlook and discount the efforts of Black organizations to mobilize the Black vote for Doug Jones in the rural Black Belt counties and inner city urban areas of Birmingham, Huntsville, Tuscaloosa, Montgomery and Mobile.
Since Labor Day, Black voter organizations in Alabama have been mobilizing under the banner of the ‘Vote or Die Campaign’ to awaken, register and organize Black voters to turnout in support of Doug Jones on December 12th. Alabama New South Alliance, the SOS Coalition for Democracy and Justice, NAACP chapters, Alabama Democratic Conference and others have been working at the grassroots to enlighten and empower Black voters to take part in the special election.
In the first primary on August 15, Doug Jones won the Democratic primary by 109,000 out of 165,000 total votes. In the second primary between Luther Strange and Roy Moore, Moore received 262,204 votes to 218,000 for Strange.

The turnout in both of these races was below 20%.
Next Tuesday’s election will be held in the midst of the Christmas holiday shopping season. Many people in Alabama just don’t realize there is an election going on and this will contribute to a low turnout.
Statewide in Alabama there are 3.2 million registered voters with 2.1 million active white voters and 760,000 Black voters. There are 1.5 million Republican voters, 1 million Democrats and the rest Independents.
If Roy Moore receives a third of the Republican vote – 500,000, that roughly corresponds to the Evangelic Christian vote which is dedicated to voting for him, then Doug Jones must put together a turnout of over half of the Black vote say 400,000 and enough white Democratic and Republican votes to win over Moore. Putting this type of coalition together is within his grasp but it depends on a strong Black voter turnout together with white voters who feel and know that Moore is and will be a continuing embarrassment to the state.
President Donald Trump, Steve Bannon and other far right conservatives have jumped into this election on Moore’s side but they are late arrivals. Jones has outraised by Moore by $10 million to $2 million in election funds. Jones has been dominating the TV airwaves until recently.
Trump seeks to nationalize the election by portraying Doug Jones as a ‘liberal Democrat’ who win not vote for Trump’s tax cuts, immigration wall, military budget and other issues. Trump’s leaning in late may help solidify the opposition to Moore and support for Doug Jones as the more progressive reasonable candidate, who shares Alabama’s progressive views on these ‘kitchen table issues’.
When you get and read this paper, there will only be a few day left before the Special Election on Tuesday, December 12th, go and vote and show that turnout is the key and will be the difference in this election.

Dr. Marcia Pugh chosen to be new Administrator of the Greene County Health System

Dr. P H 23

The Board of Directors of the Greene County Health System (GCHS) has chosen Dr. Marcia Pugh to be its new Administrator/Chief Executive Officer. GCHS includes the Hospital, Residential Care Center (Nursing Home), Physicians Clinic and other components of the county health system.
The GCHS Search Committee received over 40 applications, interviewed 10 persons by phone and held one face-to-face interview in the process of selecting the new Administrator. The GCHS Board confirmed the selection of Pugh at its November meeting. Her first day on the job at the Hospital was Monday December 4, 2017.
Prior to joining Greene County Health System, Pugh served as Director of Grants, Research and Outreach of West AL (GROWestAL), a division of the Tombigbee Healthcare Authority based at Bryan Whitfield Hospital in Demopolis. She held a number of administrative and nursing positions with the Tombigbee Healthcare Authority at Bryan Whitfield in Demopolis, starting in 1992. Prior to her service in Demopolis, she worked with the Jefferson County Department of Health and the John A. Andrews Hospital in Tuskegee, Alabama.
Pugh earned a Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree from the Capstone College of Nursing at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, in 2010. She has a Masters of Nursing and Business Administration from the University of Phoenix and a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Tuskegee University. She is an Adjunct Professor of Nursing at several colleges including Aurora University and Concordia School of Nursing of Wisconsin.

“In the resume, she submitted for the position, she listed five pages of Federal and foundation grants in the healthcare field that she had written or participated in during the past ten years,” said John Zippert, Chair of the GCHS Board of Directors. He added, “We hope that she will be able to develop similar grant programs for Greene County.”
“I’m excited and I’m humbled to be given the opportunity to lead this fantastic team of employees who put quality first in providing health services support to Greene County Health System stakeholders,” Pugh says.
“Our men and women at Greene County Hospital take pride in serving the families of this community, and I am proud to join this team.”
John Zippert, Chair of the Board of the Greene County Health System said, “We welcome Dr. Marcia Pugh and will work with her in any way possible to enhance and strengthen our Hospital and health facilities in Greene County.”
Pugh listed as her major goals for improving the status and facilities of the Greene County Hospital and Nursing Home:
•Achieve a balanced fiscal position where the Hospital, Nursing Home and Physicians Clinic will have sufficient patient income and external subsidies to cover operations;
•Expand the Emergency Care capabilities of the Hospital;
•Fill the 20 vacant beds in the GCHS Residential Care Center (Nursing Home)
•Recruit additional health care providers, i. e., physicians and nurse practioners to increase services to Greene County and surrounding residents;
•Improve the image and involvement of the Hospital and Nursing Home in the community.
Dr. Pugh has two children, Nakieta, a Clinical Psychologist and Barrown, II, a husband and devoted father. She lives in Demopolis.

Solidarity meeting held to support electronic bingo in Greene County

Nat WinnGreenetrack CEO Luther “Nat” Winn addresses Solidarity meeting

 

On Tuesday, November 21, the Black-Belt Solidarity Committee held a meeting at the Eutaw National Guard Armory in support of Greene County Constitutional Amendment 743 authorizing electronic bingo in Greene County. The Solidarity Meeting Committee consisting of Val Goodson, Beverly Gordon and Patricia Edmonds sponsored the meeting.
Two hundred supporters of bingo attended and heard statements from community political and organizational leaders in support of electronic bingo and its benefits to the community.
The meeting was held in response to a recent lawsuit filed by Alabama Attorney General Mike Marshall to stop bingo in five counties around the state including Greene, Lowndes, Macon, Morgan and Houston where bingo has been authorized by voter support of Constitutional amendments.

Sheriff Joe Benison spoke and said he enjoys serving the people of Greene County with his staff of 34 employees and encouraged unity in the face of the attack on bingo by the Attorney General.
Hodges Smith speaking on behalf of the Greene County Volunteer Fire Associations said, “ Before bingo, we had to raise money for fire trucks and other equipment selling hot dogs and hamburgers. It was very difficult and we could not get all of the up to date equipment we needed. We do not want to be pushed backwards into the dark ages again. We need to stand together for bingo.”
Johnny Isaac, Chair of the E-911 Board also spoke in favor of bingo and the need for unity in view of the attack on Amendment 743.
John Zippert, Chair of the Greene County Health Systems Board of Directors said, “We received a distribution of $39,375, for the month of October, from four of the five bingo establishment this week which helped the hospital to meet payroll and expenses to continue to provide health services in Greene County to people who do not have any insurance.”
Mayor Raymond Steele spoke of the benefits of gaming to the City of Eutaw and other municipalities in the county that receive bingo funds. County Commissioner Allen Turner reported that the County Commission used bingo funds to match Federal funds for road and bridge repairs, which stretched the funds and made them to further to help the people of Greene County.
Luther ‘Nat’ Winn, CEO of Greenetrack said he was pleased to see people standing together to protect what we have. “I hope this sends a message to AG Marshall not to come to disrupt the jobs and economic progress we have made through electronic bingo.” Winn continued, “ I want you to know that we are not going to close our operations this time. If the state comes, I for one am going to stand in the doorway of Greenetrack and stop the State of Alabama from disrupting a gaming industry that employs hundreds and supports the county agencies and schools of Greene County. This is a part of our voting rights and civil rights and we are not giving up without a fight.”
Commissioner Marcus Campbell of Sumter County and Probate Judge Crawford of Hale County also spoke in support of unity to keep Greene County bingo working because it provides employment and other benefits to residents of their adjoining counties.
The Solidarity meeting was adjourned and a monthly Greene County Fire Association meeting went forward.

Community Conversation urges political participation on Dec. 12 to deal with community issues

Doug Jones

U.S. Senate candidate Doug Jones addresses community meeting in Greene County

A ‘Community Conversation’ on Monday, October 30, 2017, at the Eutaw Activity Center sponsored by Greene County Chapter of Alabama New South Alliance, supported by the Greene County Chapter of Alabama Democratic Conference and other groups, heard from community leaders, elected officials, ordinary citizens and a special guest.
The conversation dealt with three important issues – supporting the Greene County Health System, providing more recreational and educational opportunities for young people and involving more people in voting and the democratic process.

Doug Jones, Democratic candidate for the U. S. Senate, in the December 12 Special Election, attended the meeting and made some remarks in support of his election.
Greetings were given by State Senator Bobby Singleton and State Representative Artis J. McCampbell. Both legislators strongly endorsed Jones and urged voters to participate and vote in the December 12 Special Election.
Commissioner Allen Turner, District 4 County Commissioner gave the occasion for the meeting suggesting that the community must participate and get involved and offer leadership and direction in solving problems facing Greene County.
John Zippert, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Greene County Health System, reviewed some of the problems facing the Hospital, Nursing Home and Physicians Clinic. He said that some of the financial problems of the health system came from Federal health-care uncertainties and the failure of the State of Alabama to extend Medicaid but the rest was our local responsibility in Greene County. He said, “ if we don’t use our health care system –we will surely lose it. We have doctors, facilities and services in Greene County which we need to use first before we go elsewhere to get our healthcare.”
Lorenzo French discussed the importance of providing more recreational opportunities for young people in the county. He said that he was committed to starting a little league baseball team in the coming year. French’s comments set off an animated discussion by others on the problems of Greene County in providing adequate recreation and sports activities to involve young people. A committee was proposed as a way for more people to get involved in working to provide opportunities for young people.
Sara Duncan and Commissioner Lester Brown spoke on the importance of voting and getting people registered and prepared to vote in the December 12th Special Election.
Duncan says that she encounters many people who tell her voting doesn’t matter, it won’t change things and that their vote doesn’t count. “I am very patient with these people. I talk to them about the struggle and history of voting in Greene County and the relationship of voting to the progress we have made in Greene County.”
After talking some will agree to register.
Lester Brown said, “ The Special Election on December 12 is critical to opening the doors for Democratic candidates to run in 2018 for Governor and other state offices. We must work to get everyone to vote in this Special Election. Absentee and Walk-in voting are available right now, starting today, at the Circuit Clerk’s Office in the Courthouse. If you plan to be out of town on Election Day, you can walk-in to the Clerk’s office and vote early. This is a sure way to make sure you vote and have your vote counted.”
Doug Jones, Democratic candidate for U. S. Senate, spoke at the end of the meeting. “I am glad that I attended this meeting and listened to the people of Greene County talk about some of the problems and issues in Greene County. This is not my last meeting or visit to Greene County. I will be back here after I am elected to work with you on the problems.”
Jones said his staff advised him, when he was U. S. Attorney that prosecuting the Klu Klux Klan for the bombing and murders at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was a ‘long-shot’. “We took that long shot and won the convictions. We face another long-shot now in this election, but I feel that we are on the right side of history and will win this election with your support,” said Jones.

Sheriff Jonathan Benison meets with GCHS Board; commits to change ‘bingo rules’ to provide major support to save hospital

By: John Zippert,
Co-Publisher and Chair of GCHS Board of Directors

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The Board of Directors of the Greene County Health System (GCHS) Board met with Sheriff Jonathan Benison and his electronic bingo staff twice in the past three weeks, on August 25 and September 12, 2017 to urge him to take action to support the hospital, which is in danger of closing due to financial problems.
The GCHS Board submitted a letter to Sheriff Benison on August 30, 2017 placing in writing its suggestions to help the health care system in Greene County.
These suggestions included: collection of a 4% tax imposed on bingo machine operators, in June 2016, which has never been enforced or collected; raising the per machine fee, paid by bingo operators from $200 to $225 and giving those proceeds to support the GCHS on a monthly basis, and other steps to help the hospital become more financially self sufficient.
In the meeting, this week on September 12, 2017, Sheriff Jonathan Benison and his attorney Flint Liddon and bingo staff announced that he was going to change Section 4 of the electronic bingo rules to provide an additional $25 assessment, on all bingo machines, in all five bingo establishments, in Greene County, with the funds going to the Greene County Health System to support the hospital, nursing home, physicians clinic and other services.
This change will be instituted effective November 1, 2017 to allow the bingo establishments time to adjust their budgets and operations.

Currently, based on data provided by the Sheriff and his staff, there are 2,032 bingo machines at the five bingo establishments in Greene County which means that based on current numbers, the GCHS would receive $50,800 per month from the proceeds of this rule change. The Sheriff said that he thought that the number of bingo machines in the county would hold steady at around 2,000 or above.
This means that the GCHS could expect to receive $600,000 per year in support from electronic bingo in the county sanctioned under Constitutional Amendment 743.
Rosemarie Edwards, a Board member from the Boligee area, said, “I want to thank the Sheriff for his decision to increase the fee on each bingo machine by $25. This will help to keep the hospital open and provide needed medical services for Greene County residents. I hope people in the community will support the Sheriff in his new bingo rules.”
Eddie Austin, Board member from the Forkland area, indicated, “I know of a person, within the last week, whose life was saved and stabilized by the Greene County Hospital Emergency Room. We all need our hospital to stay open and offer quality services. I commend the Sheriff for responding to our pleas for support.”
Pinnia Hines, Board member from Eutaw and former employee said, “With the commitment from the Sheriff to change bingo rules and provide substantial support for the hospital, nursing home and associated services, we will have certainty and stability to keep the facilities open. I thank the Sheriff for his decisions and I urge the community to support and unify behind these necessary changes.”
In response to a question from the Board, about what the Sheriff will do if the bingo operators do not agree to and comply with his per machine fee rules changes, Sheriff Benison said, “ I hope they will agree but if they don’t, I will have no choice but to enforce the rules and close down those who do not pay the funds to support the hospital.” Hank McWhorter, the Sheriff’s Bingo Enforcement Officer pulled out some large pre-printed stickers, which would be attached to the doors of those bingo establishments that did not comply with the new rules changes.
Attorney Liddon stated, “We do not really know how much money is passing through these bingo machines but we are sure it is enough to meet the conditions of these rule changes. We know the operators will not like these changes and may cry out that they are too expensive, but the Sheriff is determined to go forward to make these changes to assist the hospital.”
John Zippert, Chair of the GCHS Board, said, “We welcome and support the Sheriff’s decision to raise the per machine fee by $25 to assist the Greene County Health System. This infusion of $50,000 a month will be a significant and substantial help to the facility to meet its deficit of $100,000 per month. Our monthly deficit is roughly equal to the ‘uncompensated care’ we provide to low-income people from Greene County each month.
“The Board and the people of Greene County we represent, thank the Sheriff for his rule change and support for the GCHS. The Board will work with the people to find the rest of the revenues and savings to erase the deficit. More Greene County people must use the GCHS facilities and services; we must fill the 20 vacant beds in our nursing home; we must fully utilize the three doctors and two nurse practitioners in the health clinic; we must fully utilize all the services of GCHS.
“Our Board will also seek support and contributions from other public and private sources, including the Greene County Commission, the State of Alabama, Medicare, Medicaid, private foundation grants and other support. We will also work for better state and national health policies which will treat rural people and facilities fairly and recognize our contribution to the nation’s health care status and the well-being of our people.”