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

GCH.jpg

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.”

Mia Jordan wins BBQ grill

Grill.jpgGreene County Associates of the Black Belt Community Foundation held a raffle of a BBQ grill at the festival. Mia Jordan of Eutaw (3rd from left) won the first prize in the raffle. W. Hamm won the $50 second prize and Mr. Gee, a blues musician from Montgomery won the $25 third prize. In photo are Greene County BBCF Associates, from left, John Zippert, Darlene Robinson, Jordan and Geraldine Walton.The raffle generated more than $1,200 for the work for the Black Belt Community Foundation.

Hospital Board vows to keep facility open

The Board of Directors of the Greene County Health System, which includes the Hospital, Nursing Home, Physicians Clinic and Home Health Care Services, based in Eutaw, said that it will work to keep the facilities open despite widespread ‘community rumors’ and media coverage which suggested that closure was imminent.
John Zippert, Chair of the Board said, “We face many challenges to continue to operate a small rural hospital with 20 beds and a 70 bed nursing home but we have been six months from closing, nearly every month for the past twenty years that I have served on this board.”
“We need the support of the residents of Greene County, Black and White, to use our facility and services. We need the support of all public officials. We need the support of churches and other community organizations.
“We need better support from the Sheriff and the five charity electronic bingo facilities in Greene County to cover deficits in our budget caused by serving low income people in Greene County. Last year, as a public facility, we turned no one needing health care away and provided over $1.4 million in services to Greene County people for which we were not paid. This is called “uncompensated care” in the jargon of health care,” he said.
In the midst of these issues, the Board received a letter of resignation from Elmore Patterson, who has served as CEO and Hospital/Nursing Home Administrator for the past four years. Patterson submitted his resignation, dated August 30, at the July board meeting. The Board declined to accept Patterson’s resignation and urged him to reconsider.
Patterson said at this, the August meeting, that he still wanted to resign but would stay until the hospital finds a replacement. “I do not want to leave you without a suitable replacement but I have tried for four years and I do not feel I have the support of the community for this healthcare facility. I want to move on to other opportunities but I will assist in any way I can.”

Zippert suggested a comprehensive search process, similar to the one used to recruit and employ Patterson, which would require 60 to 90 days from announcement to selection. A committee of the board or the whole board needs to be involved in the process.
Patterson pointed out that many of the financial problems of GCHS are based on insurance reimbursement rates. “Medicare pays us about 65% of the charges that we bill; Medicaid pays us only about 32% of the charges that we bill; these are our two biggest payers accounting for two thirds of our patients. Private insurance, which is less that 10% of our patients, pays 70-80% of charges. The remaining quarter of our patients, due to low income, are unable to pay for services but we treat them anyway.”
“When Alabama refused to extend Medicaid to the working poor, under the Affordable Care Act that put more pressure on us. The uncertainties of ‘repeal and replace of health care’ coming from Congress and the President have also placed more pressure on us and all healthcare providers, especially rural hospitals and nursing homes,” said Patterson.
Zippert said some of the charges on television and in the news media are ‘fake news’. For instance, “Some officials are charging mis-management and misuse of funds and calling for an audit. We have a private CPA audit each year, which is approved by the State of Alabama and the Federal government. We must have an audit and a certified cost report to be able to get any reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid. These audits do not show any mis-management of funds,” Zippert said. Patterson brought the last six annual audits to show the board. These audits are available for inspection by the public
At the end of the meeting, all GCHS Board members agreed to work together, with public officials, especially Sheriff Joe Benison, to find long and short-term solutions to keep the facilities open.