Archive for the ‘Jefferson County AL’ Category

>Sewer debt is your responsibility

March 14, 2011

>There was an article in the Birmingham News recently in which the Jefferson County sewer crisis was covered. In the article John S. Young was quoted as saying that Jefferson county sewer customers could expect double digit rate increases (even as high as 25%) to deal with the sewer debt. Young is the court appointed receiver handling the case. He has the power to raise rates and increase revenue to pay off the debt.

I have stated before that this debt is not the responsibility of just the sewer customers, and gave a reason suggesting that so called non-user fees are one way to increase revenue. More on this later.

There is another reason that all the citizens of Jefferson County, not just he sewer users, should contribute to paying off the debt. This debt was amassed as a result of poor decisions and unethical dealings by elected officials and their staffs (and some are paying the price). Those elected officials were put in place by all the (voting) citizens of Jefferson County, and like it or not, we must also pay the price for our poor decision in elected those corrupt and inept officials.

Here is the Western Tribune column in which I suggested non-user fees were proper. This is a public health issue, and all residents benefit from the sewer, whether they are hooked up to the system or not.

When this column ran, someone asked for an example of harm resulting from a septic tank. Here is an example; a septic tank was the source of a Norwalk virus outbreak that affected 135 people in South Dakota, as mentioned in this article. So yes, septic tanks can contribute to disease outbreaks.

Someone else mentioned that they pay (taxes) for local schools even though they have no children in the schools. Is that a non-user fee that we are paying? We all benefit from an educated public (just as we all benefit from the sewer system).

Cholera became the first reportable disease in the United States. Hundred of thousands of people in this country died from cholera during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Only after the connection between contaminated water (from sewage) and disease outbreaks was recognized were public health measures undertaken. With filtration and treatment of drinking water and disposal and treatment of waste in separated facilities Cholera became a non-threat in this country.

We take clean, uncontaminated drinking water for granted.

Everyone benefited from the public health measures put in place to control Cholera, and like wise, everyone benefits from the Jefferson County sewer system, whether your waste flows through it or not.

So there are two reasons why the responsibility for the debt should be spread among all the residents of the county, not just the sewer users. I wonder if Mr. Young will agree.

>Tomorrow’s election

July 12, 2010

>Tomorrow is primary runoff election day.

Turnout will be low. Very low.

Some Democrats will be switch hitting.

That is why it is so important for you to go to your voting place and ask for Democratic ballot and vote. Here are the recommendations for the progressive Jefferson County and Jefferson county – Bessemer Cutoff voters.

All video and audio is by Left in Alabama.

Recommendations

Statewide

Attorney General – Giles Perkins

“The only progressive in the race.”

Federal District

AL-07 – Terri Sewell

Still refuting the lies spread by her opponent.

But there is more to Terri. Listen to her talk at the West End town hall meeting, about what we need to do, and how we can get it done. “Investing in human capital.” Opening the doors so that “all of us have those opportunities.”

Plus, hear what those in the community say about her.

And she does a good “Shirley Chisholm”.

State District

56 – Claire Mitchell

I have personally spoken with Claire and she is the most progressive, and remember, her opponent voted against constitutional reform and when I asked him about it, his answer was not satisfactory.

County Commission

District 2 – Gary Richardson

District 3 – Ron Yarbrough

Jefferson County

Circuit Court Place 12 (Bessemer cutoff) – Annetta Verin

Judge Verin’s opponent has some ethics issues that are being looked in to. Plus, there are people in Bessemer who are recommending voting for him for precisely the wrong reason. I won’t name names, but it might be the usual suspects.

Circuit Court Place 17 (Remainder of county) – Nicole “Nikki” Still

Circuit Court Place 23 (Remainder of county) – Denise J. Pomeroy

Sheriff – Willie Hill

>Bad news for Bessemer

April 23, 2010

>OK, after a couple of good news stories about the Marvel City, some bad news.

Actually one bad news, and one odd, and sort of bad story.

The bad news is that regional planners want to remove the “Western leg” of the Northern Beltline from the plans. That would put off completion of the beltway for more than 25 years.

They think that Trussville and Gardendale are more important than Bessemer, and would end the roadway at Hwy 78 in Graysville.

I wonder what our city leaders think about that.

The project has always been referred to as the “Northern Beltline” and this is the first I have heard of it having a “leg” that could be amputated.

More planners channeling Bettye Fine Collins’ misunderstanding of the importance of the Bessemer cutoff is what it is.

The other story is this “altar call” at Bessemer City High School during school time at an assembly. The assembly had a good purpose, it was the second annual Young Men’s Conference, and included discussion on safe sex as well as abstinence, self respect and acceptable behavior.

But when social studies teacher Tarus Lyons asked the guys if they had done anything wrong in their lives and to come to the front things began to sound a little “revivalish”.

And by the time school counselor Rick Owens led them a prayer seeking forgiveness and said JC was the only way to salvation, things had gone a little bit too far.

I am a little bit confused by principal Jerome Cook’s explanation that the assembly was “required” but that attendance was “voluntary.”

I think Bessemer City High officials have learned from the experience. The principal also said that part two of the conference would not feature a prayer.

But, can you say ACLU?

Here’s the unofficial video to Airplanes by Local Natives.

And here is the official one. Both are good, but which do you like best?

>Western Tribune column August 5 2009 Jefferson County mess

August 5, 2009

>Months ago in this column and elsewhere the day or reckoning was predicted, and here we are. On Friday many Jefferson County services were stopped or reduced as up to two thirds of the county employees were laid off.

My greatest empathy is with the laid off workers who not only have to live with the diminished services in the county but must do so without their income.

We can live with decreased road maintenance. Anyone who drives in Bessemer is accustomed to washboard road surfaces and pot holes large enough to break an axle since our own elected officials have been unable to address this problem for at least the last seven years.

And we can live with longer lines at the courthouses which are, after all, just inconveniences.

But more serious effects are looming. Without the services of the county coroner’s office bodies may lay at crime or accident scenes for days, we are told. As usual, the elderly and indigent populations will suffer the most, as services are curtailed. Even the county nursing home will be affected; what will become of their residents?

If you are fortunate to sell your house or want to buy one, you may face a delay as title searches will take longer. Processing of wills and commitment of the mentally ill will be delayed in probate court.

The true effects of the layoffs will be seen over the next few weeks and beyond. The county legislative delegation may come together and a special session may result in some money being returned and some employees being called back.

But that won’t solve the problems. Jefferson County’s credit rating is lower than any municipality in the country, according to Moody’s Investors Service. One of their directors said that outside of Detroit, they have not seen any place in America with the severity of problems that we face.

As a county store owner said, “The big dogs ate all the bones. Now we are all out of bones.”

Some of those big dogs are in prison. Some may be headed there soon. But there are still five big dogs on the Jefferson County Commission, and it’s time that their bone eating stops.

As embarrassing as the situation is for Jefferson County, the biggest embarrassment of all would be to return the current commissioners to office. Remember that next year.

>Western Tribune Column May 20, 2009 Occupational Tax

May 21, 2009

>If you go back and read one of my columns from February you will realize that the Alabama state legislature ignored my advice once again. I can’t feel too insulted, however, because it seems they ignored or defeated many important issues, as they often do.

One issue that I had hoped would pass was an enhanced hate crimes bill that added sexual orientation to the existing law. The house passed the bill, the senate let it die. Since a threat toward sexual minorities was recently uttered during an unsolved crime here in Bessemer, such a law would be relevant to the safety of our citizens.

But there were several other issues of major importance that were not addressed to satisfaction, including the Jefferson County occupational tax. The legislature failed to approve a replacement for the tax which was struck down by a circuit judge earlier this year. County Commission President Bettye Fine Collins said, “I am stunned…We will begin Monday morning to reduce government.”

Up to twelve hundred jobs may be lost. By the time this is printed, we will have heard (again) that the new courthouse in Bessemer will not open when completed. And look for reduced services (and longer lines) in the old courthouse.

Maybe the newly created Alabama Commission to Reduce Poverty will be called on to solve this because this inaction is certainly going to create economic hardship for some.

Seriously, the occupational tax is the most important unresolved issue of the current legislative session and a special session could be called to resolve it. But why should we think the Jefferson County delegation would agree on anything in a special session when they couldn’t agree on a solution during the regular session.

Representative John Rogers is clearly right when he says that it is useless to introduce a bill that still exempts certain professionals when the Alabama Supreme court declared that the existing tax was unconstitutional because of those exemptions.

The original occupational tax passed in 1967 provided an exemption for fortune tellers, among others. Although the fortune telling industry has shrunk and they are no longer exempt from the tax (are they?) maybe we should call upon their services to determine if a special session would be successful.

And while they are at it, if they could predict for me the winning lottery numbers, my budget woes could be solved as well.

>Non-User Fees… Western Tribune column

February 18, 2009

>I like it when I can add visuals to my columns, and this week I have.

Think about this when you are in a conversation about the proposed sewer non-user fee.

Western Tribune column February 18, 2009

Sometimes there is a great misunderstanding that leads people to their opinions and this is the case with our sewer debt crisis. A web poll by this paper led me to write this column, which I am sure will be unpopular.

The question was whether non-sewer users should be charged a fee. Conventional wisdom says “Of course not.” But in reality, the benefits of the sewer system to non-users are worth much more than the $20 or $30 proposed fee.

In 1854 in London a cholera epidemic was underway, and a physician named John Snow discovered the source of contamination using epidemiologic methods.



A particular source of drinking water, the Broad Street Pump, was found to be the source, but ultimately the cause was contamination of drinking water with material from a cesspit. Cesspits were dug to collect wastes which were from time to time collected and removed.

Without our sewer system people in our county would be forced to use cesspits or outhouses for waste collection. Have you seen “Slumdog Millionaire?”

In one scene of the movie the waste collection system is seen and it’s not a pretty sight.

Without a sewer system, we might have something like that. Not all land is suitable for septic tanks, nor are they possible in the densely populated areas of the county.

The World Health Organization estimates that over 2 billion people in the world lack proper sanitation. One only has to look at the rate of diarrheal diseases and death, especially among children and women, in those areas to understand the importance of proper sanitation.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that “cholera was prevalent in the 1800s but has been virtually eliminated by modern sewage and water treatment systems.” In the past 100 years cholera has not been a threat in our country.

This is because of our sewer and wastewater treatment systems. Plus better understanding and education of the importance of hand washing and other sanitary procedures.

In view of the consequences, it seems that a few dollars is a small price to pay for the assurance that your baby or elderly parent won’t die the excruciating death that cholera causes.

The public, including sewer users and non-users, should reconsider their stance on this issue and be thankful for the benefits our system provides.

Now, about fairness of the current sewer rates, that is another story.