49th anniversary of Greene County Freedom Day held at Morrow-Brown Community Center

 

Spiver W. Gordon presents certificate to Rev. John Kennard, Guest Speaker at the 49th anniversary program. Several of the program participants joined them at the podium.

On Saturday, July 28, 2018, about 50 residents of Greene County, met at the Morrow-Brown Community Center in Branch Heights to celebrate the 49th anniversary of the July 29, 1969 Special Election. This election resulted in a victory for four African-American candidates for the Greene County Commission and two for the Board of Education, which meant Black control of county government for the first time since Reconstruction. The Special Election of 1969 was ordered by the U. S. Supreme Court in a case brought by Greene County indicating that local officials had deliberately left Black candidates supported by the National Democratic Party (NDPA) off the 1968 ballot. In the 1970 election, William M. Branch was elected Probate Judge and Thomas Gilmore was elected Sheriff of Greene County completing a sweep of almost all public offices in the county. The Greene County Special Election of 1969 was heralded as a great victory for the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in an Alabama Black Belt county that contributed marchers to the ‘Bloody Sunday’ and subsequent marches in Selma. A New York Times headline on July 30, 1969 proclaimed: Election of 6 Alabama Negroes hailed as ‘Giant Political Step’. The Alabama Civil Rights Museum under the leadership of Spiver W. Gordon sponsored Saturday’s program, which included a display of photos, and programs from the museum’s collection. Rev. John Kennard was the Guest Speaker. Levi Morrow Jr. spoke about the origins and planning that went into the construction of Branch Heights. District 1 Commissioner Lester Brown and others made remarks to commemorate the occasion.

Greene County Commission re-elects Tennyson Smith as Chairman and Michael Williams as Vice Chair

 

County Commissioners and County Engineer show off the new Asphalt Distributor Maximizer 3 truck recently purchased. The 2017 model made by Rosco has a 1,950 gallon capacity and cost approximately $170,000. Standing L to R: County Engineer Willie Branch, County Commissioners Allen Turner, Jr., Lester Brown, Tennyson Smith, Corey Cockrell and Michael Williams. and Asphalt Distributor Maximizer 3 Truck

At its regular November meeting on Monday, November 13, 2017, the Greene County Commission re-elected Tennyson Smith (District 2) as Chairman and Michael Williams (District 5) as Vice Chairman. They will serve in office for the next year.
The Commission also reaffirmed Merchants and Farmers Bank and Citizen Trust Bank, as the county’s banking depositories, with the same signatories on checks. Regular meetings were scheduled on the second Monday of each month at 5:00 p.m. at the William M. Branch Courthouse.
The Commission received a financial report from Paula Bird, CFO for the month of October, which is the first month of the new fiscal year. Bird reported that the Commission had bank accounts totaling $4,572,811 and an additional $1 million in bond related sinking funds.
Bird recommended closing two accounts, the REHAB Grant account with $6,060 and the RSVP account with $4,966, which were no longer needed and transfer the funds to the General Fund Account. The Commission approved this transfer of funds.
The financial report indicated that overall the county had spent 14.7% of its budget, $1,636,824 during the first month. This is a little higher than the 8.33% expected but according to Bird there are some recurring expenses that occur at the beginning of the fiscal year that will even out by the second quarter of the year.
General Fund expenses were running at $416,466 or 13%, for the month, with the Sheriff’s Department and Jail exceeding the budget, due to overtime pay. The Commission approved paying all bills and claims for the month of October.
The Commission voted to instruct the County Engineer, Willie Branch, to consider County Roads 60 and 120 for resurfacing utilizing Federal matching funds. Only major and minor collector roads are eligible for Federal support.

The Commission also considered asking the County Engineer to resurface two miles of road in each County Commission District with county funds. Commissioner Corey Cockrell raised the concern that since his district, District 2, did not have many major or minor collector roads, which are eligible for Federal support, that his district should receive more paving of other roads.
The other commissioners were not impressed with Cockrell’s arguments and supported the original proposal for the County Engineer to designate two miles of roads in each district for paving.

In other actions, The Commission:

* Appointed Sheila Henderson (District 1) and Ron Edwards (District 3) to the DHR Board, which gives recommendations on welfare assistance policies in the county.
* Reappointed Margretta Bir (District 2) and Shirley Edwards (District 3) to the Hospital Board.
* Approved an alcoholic beverage license for Patrice Harris Kimble to operate DOCS Bar on the Lower Gainesville Road.
* Approved travel for Probate Clerk to Licensing Conference, January 10-11, 2018 in Prattville, Alabama.
* Approved Holiday Work Schedule for all county employees.

Countywide meeting held to support and defend Greene Co. Constitutional Amendment 743 for ‘electronic bingo’

groupMore than 250 people attended Tuesday’s countywide meeting at the National Guard Armory to discuss the recent decision of the Alabama Supreme Court deeming ‘electronic bingo’ in Greene County to be illegal. This decision made on an appeal by the State of Alabama on the 2010 raid which confiscated 825 electronic bingo machines from Greenetrack.The Alabama Supreme Court ruled that it has defined bingo as a game of chance played on paper cards and that the electronic bingo machines used at Greenetrack and other gaming facilities in Greene County are “illegal slot machines”.
This decision comes despite the 2003 vote by Greene County residents to enact Constitutional Amendment 743 authorizing electronic bingo. Greene County voters approved this amendment by an overwhelming vote.
Luther “Nat” Winn, CEO of Greenetrack presided over the meeting and introduced the county and legislative officials who spoke.
Winn said, “This decision by the Supreme Court is an illegal decision, they went against a Constitutional Amendment that we that we worked hard and legally secured for Greene County. The voters of Greene County have lost our basic right to vote and make decisions to help ourselves and build our county. The Supreme Court is taking 300 jobs from Greene County and millions of dollars of support for county government, municipal government and vital services. They have given us nothing in return. We are not going to accept this decision, we are going to fight it.”
Mayor Raymond Steele of Eutaw said,” This is going to be devastating for Eutaw and Greene County. There is no growth or new business in our area besides gaming. If the Supreme Court and the State take away bingo what will we have left. Do not touch Greenetrack until you bring us some jobs and revenues to replace it.”
Elmore Patterson, CEO of the Greene County Health System, warned that the hospital and nursing home would be forced to close without the jobs and revenues from bingo.
Hodges Smith speaking on behalf of the Greene County Firefighters Association said, “ We got tired of selling hamburgers and fish sandwiches to support our voluntary fire departments in Greene County. We supported Amendment 743 and went to the Alabama Legislature to get it passed because of the revenues that have been generated to support 14 fire departments across the county.”
Dr. Carol P. Zippert, District 1 School Board members said, “I cannot speak for the Board, but I can speak for the children of Greene County. We have not received enough funds from bingo but what we have received has helped the children of the county. This is a voting rights issue; the Alabama Supreme Court is taking our votes away. I had hoped that we had made some progress since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s but it seems that our children will have to fight the same fights all over again to protect our rights.”
Lester Brown, Greene County Commissioner said, “ We need to support Amendment 743. It provides that matching funds for roads and bridges in our county. It provides jobs for our people. The Supreme Court wants us to cross a bridge with out the money to build it – that won’t happen!”
State Representatives Ralph Howard and Artis McCampbell who represent Greene County in the Alabama Legislature also spoke. “We have Constitutional Amendment 743, what else do we need to have? We need to stand up for the rule of law… it is worth fighting for,” said Howard.
Kennard Randolph, Blackbelt Outreach Coordinator for Congresswoman Terry Sewell said the Congresswoman was supportive of gaming in Greene County and would help in any way she could.
State Senator Bobby Singleton addressed the group and said he had been involved in the original debates over bingo in Greene County and helped insert the language for ‘electronic bingo’ in the legislation for the Constitutional Amendment referendum in 2003.
“This whole fight against bingo is a conspiracy between AG Luther Strange, the Republican Supreme Court and the Republican Party. There is ex parte communications between Luther Strange and the Supreme Court. The Republican Party wants to cut out all possible sources of campaign funds for the Democrats. They went after the teachers (AEA), unions, state employees, trial lawyers and gaming, “ said Singleton.
Singleton said he serves on the Governor’s Task Force on Gaming and he learned, “That this issue of electronic bingo in Greene County stands between the state giving the Native Americans exclusive rights to gaming in the state; a state lottery and other issues. I am fighting for the people of Greene County, not just Greenetrack. We need jobs at livable wages and revenues from gaming to support needed government and community services.”
Near the end of the meeting, Probate Judge, Judy Spree asked Winn what was his plan of action. Winn said, “ We are going to fight to protect bingo but if you know people in high places then contact them and ask them to help Greene County.
Others suggested using social media like Facebook to spread the word of the impacts of the Supreme Court’s decision on Greene County people. A more detailed strategy of resistance and fighting back was left to future meetings.
Noticeable absent from this countywide meeting was Sheriff Benison, who is the county official who supervises bingo under Amendment 743, makes the rules and administers the funds coming from bingo. Also missing were representatives of the owner-operators of the other bingo parlors in Greene County – Green Charities, Rivers Edge and Frontier.