Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:
The Times Daily on upcoming municipal runoff elections in Alabama:
The one thing that would benefit the dozen candidates in next Tuesday’s municipal runoff elections most of all is a strong voter turnout.
Unfortunately, history isn’t on their sides.
Voters in Florence, Sheffield and Muscle Shoals will return to the polls on Tuesday to make their final choices in six key races.
In Florence, voters must choose between incumbent Steve Holt and veteran council member Andy Betterton. And District 5 voters must decide between Blake Edwards and Thomas Spence.
In Sheffield, voters must choose between challengers Steve Stanley and David Johnson in the mayor’s race. District 2 voters also must vote for either Barbara Cook or DeWayne Roden.
Muscle Shoals voters have two council positions to fill – the Place 2 runoff between Leon Madden and Gina Clark, and the Place 5 runoff between David Moore and Mike Price.
During the Aug. 25 municipal elections, voter turnout in the Shoals was dismal with less than a third of registered voters bothering to cast ballots. The worst of the turnouts was 25% in Florence. Sheffield and Muscle Shoals reported 32% turnouts.
It’s likely to be worse on Tuesday, and that can have serious implications for the futures of all our cities. Why?
Because elected officials who serve on city councils, county commissions, school boards and other municipal offices wield considerable influence over communities. And decisions made by local governments have a far greater effect on the day-to-day lives of residents than those made by the state or federal governments.
That’s why it’s critical that Shoals-area voters where races are still undecided return to the polls Tuesday.
There is a silver lining to low voter turnouts: And that can have serious implications for segments of the populace that need government assistance the most — the poor, needy and uneducated. “The real tragedy is that the people who need government the most are the ones abdicating their opportunity to vote,” said Colbert County Probate Judge Daniel Rosser. ”Those who don’t vote have to fear politicians with poor character, those who’ll cut corners with the people who have no impact on them,” he said.
Even with multiple city positions being up for grabs in all the elections except one (Tuscumbia), less than a third of the registered voters in the Shoals bothered to cast a ballot on Tuesday. The worst of the turnouts was the 25% in Florence. The best of the turnouts were the 32% of voters casting ballots in Sheffield and Muscle Shoals, but officials were quick to note that figure is nothing to brag about.
Sheffield City Clerk Clayton Kelly said the city had more at stake in this election than ever in his nearly three decades of public service with the mayor’s position and all five council seats up for grabs, and no incumbents seeking re-election to their former posts.
Low numbers make your vote even more important.
So Tuesday’s runoff elections are the final chance for Shoals citizens to have an impact and influence on what happens for the next four years. Their votes will establish the leadership that will be charged with building a better tomorrow.
All they have to do is vote.
The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The Cullman Times on small businesses and the coronavirus pandemic:
Last week was National Small Business Week, and we want to recognize the achievements of small businesses.
According to the Small Business Administration, nearly half of the jobs in Alabama are provided by businesses with less than 100 employees. While we celebrate announcements of new or expanding industries bringing a large number of jobs to a community, if you add up all the jobs in small businesses, you can see the impact small businesses have on employment and the economy.
It takes courage, ingenuity and stamina to take a germ of an idea and transform it into a thriving business. Twenty percent of small businesses fail within the first year; by year five, 50% will have failed.
This year has been particularly rough, with stores being temporarily shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. It was encouraging to see how many of Cullman’s small businesses evolved to continue their operations. These small businesses owners demonstrated ingenuity and resilience in the face of seemingly impossible odds.
It was also very encouraging to see so many people invested in making sure the businesses survived. The federal Paycheck Protection Program certainly helped many small businesses, but without the determination of owners and the support of the community, the toll of the shutdown would have been much higher.
Not all small businesses have come through unscathed. According to the Small Business Bureau, employers with 20 to 49 employees had an employment decline of 21.5 percent from March to April. Fortunately, we are seeing businesses rebound, and we hope that even with the changes wrought by the coronavirus, they continue to grow and thrive.
The Cullman Times is proud to be among Cullman’s small businesses. We know the value they bring to the local economy. Our 30 employees pay taxes in Cullman County, shop here, use their health insurance benefits with local Cullman County health providers and contribute to the community in many ways. The Times also pays property taxes and prints five newspapers out of our Cullman office, bringing additional economic value into the community.
We salute our fellow small businesses and thank our subscribers and advertisers, who support us as a business and as a valuable member of this community.
The Decatur Daily and The Times Daily on the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus and Alabama's statewide rule requiring face masks in public:
The United States reached a grim milestone last week. On Tuesday, the number of deaths in the U.S. from the new coronavirus surpassed 200,000.
That’s the most COVID-19 deaths in any one country, although not the most per capita. Ten countries have higher rates per person. Nevertheless, it’s a number roughly equal to the population of Huntsville.
“For five months, America has led the world by far in sheer numbers of confirmed infections — nearly 6.9 million as of Tuesday — and deaths,” reported The Associated Press. “The U.S. has less than 5% of the globe’s population but more than 20% of the reported deaths.”
While no country has had the perfect coronavirus response, the response in the U.S. has been notably lacking. That’s the case whether one looks at President Donald Trump downplaying the severity of the disease, he says, to avoid a panic; contradictory information coming from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; missed opportunities like an aborted plan to have the U.S. Postal Service deliver masks early in the pandemic; or state governors simply being in denial.
While she was slow to act early on, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey took decisive and effective action in July with her statewide mask order. That order has paid off in terms of lower rates of infections, hospitalizations and deaths.
The result was some good news even on the day the U.S. reached 200,000 deaths: Alabama seems to have avoided a Labor Day resurgence of the coronavirus.
“More people wore their mask while engaging in gatherings around Labor Day, and I think that as a direct result, we are seeing fewer hospitalizations than we might have feared,” said Dr. Donald Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association.
Williamson added that hospitalizations in the state are at roughly the same level as before the July 4 holiday, which led to a summertime spike in COVID-19 cases just as Ivey’s July 9 mask order went into effect.
Just as important, hospitalizations have not spiked despite many students returning to class for in-person instruction.
In short, even with the state largely out of lockdown, the curve has flattened. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it has flattened at a high level. The state’s death count is the nation’s 21st highest, and even now, the state’s seven-day average for new cases (262 per 100,000) is the nation’s 12th highest.
The message here is we need to do more of what we’re doing: social distancing, washing hands, avoiding crowds and wearing masks.
Ivey’s safer-at-home order, which includes the mask requirement, is currently scheduled to expire Friday, and there will be a temptation to let it expire. After all, things have gotten better. But now is not the time to let up, especially as shoppers will soon be going out to begin their Christmas shopping.
The safer-at-home order doesn’t have a lot of teeth, but it is a useful reminder and gives businesses extra legal and moral backing to do what most of them appear to want to do anyway, which is encourage their customers to mask up.