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Alabama editorial roundup

May 8, 2019

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

May 3

The Gadsden Times on seniors helping to bridge the gap:

Who says there’s a generation gap?

The very notion has been shattered by a couple of projects Southside High School seniors have been involved in this year.

First up was Senior Buddies, the brainchild of Cassie Clark, the school’s media specialist and National Honor Society sponsor.

Clark saw a news report about some younger students — third-graders — elsewhere in the U.S. who had adopted older members of their community as pen pals.

For those with no frame of reference beyond Google, pen pals were people who communicated regularly using “ancient” methods like pen or pencil, paper, envelopes, postage stamps and the U.S. Mail. Baby boomers will smile at the memories of running to the postbox to find out what their pals were up to. Of course people today can do that instantaneously with a few key strokes. There was just something more special — maybe it was the building sense of anticipation — about how things used to be.

Clark looked for a way to recapture that and centered on Southside Baptist Church. She contacted Bill Drummons, a longtime staff member at the church who retired in 2017, to see if senior adults there would be willing to write to her students. The response was so strong that Clark had to expand the program beyond National Honor Society students, her original intention, to include other 12th-graders.

The exchanges were all via letters written by hand — no email — and according to Clark the students adapted well, relishing in the anticipation we spoke of and expressing gratitude at being able to share their plans and accomplishments with, and seek counsel from, people with vastly greater life experiences.

The second project — more in the students’ collective wheelhouses — was Generation App. The mission was for 12th-graders to whom cellphones, tablets and the like are practically extensions of their fingers to help older folks who aren’t as fluent in modern technology.

Senior Buddies participants were a perfect group to share that knowledge with, so Southside High recently hosted a reception where they could meet their young pen pals face-to-face and get help with their devices. It was an enjoyable and productive experience for all concerned.

Some would call this a “feel-good story.” That label is a bit trite, plus we think it diminishes the divide bridging that went on here. Kudos to everyone who made these projects happen — and we hope other schools are taking notes. (We doubt the Southside folks would mind.)

Online: https://www.gadsdentimes.com

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May 1

The Dothan Eagle on keeping violent criminals off the street after arrests:

Almost every day in these pages, there are stories about people who have been arrested for crimes involving violence, weaponry, or other affronts to fellow residents. More often than not, those suspects are charged and jailed, then released on bond.

Occasionally, these crime stories reveal that a person arrested for a violent crime was already charged with another similar violent crime, and was free on bail when the next crime took place. It’s reasonable to conclude that had the suspect been held on the prior charge, he or she wouldn’t be free to be accused of a subsequent crime.

We can’t blame the judges who set bail. They’re following the state constitution, which states that all people are “bailable” unless they’re charged with a capital crime. If those people can gather the resources to post the set bond, they’re entitled to go free until their trial.

Alabama lawmakers are working to change that. A proposed constitutional amendment would give judges more leeway to hold those charged without bond. It appears to have broad support in the Legislature, having breezed through the House Judiciary Committee earlier in the session. If it were coupled with an allowance for lowered bond amounts and alternative sentencing for non-violent offenders, it may well help mitigate overcrowding rather than exacerbate it.

Lawmakers should fast-track this measure, which would help ensure that violent criminals won’t simply go through a revolving door after being charged, free to commit mayhem before they’re ever tried on the original charges.

Online: https://www.dothaneagle.com

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April 28

The Decatur Daily on economic growth:

It’s a familiar refrain: “Not in my backyard.” NIMBY.

Everyone wants growth. Everyone wants new places to work and play, new restaurants, and new shops. Everyone wants the stronger tax base those things bring. But a lot of people want them somewhere else, perhaps across town. They don’t want them in their “backyard.”

That tension was on display last week at a Decatur Planning Commission meeting, where the subject was rezoning Point Mallard Park to permit alcohol sales.

Parks and Recreation Director Jason Lake says the zoning change, from agricultural to business-riverfront, which the commission OK’d and now goes to the City Council for final approval, is to allow alcohol sales at the park’s ice rink. The change is largely for the benefit of the adult curling league, but it could also benefit a hockey team, if a replacement for the departed Point Mallard Ducks happens along.

City Planner Karen Smith said the change also puts all of Point Mallard Park in the same zoning district and makes it consistent with other riverfront properties like the Point Mallard Golf Course, Riverwalk Marina and Ingalls Harbor Pavilion.

But some residents of nearby neighborhoods worry the zoning change could lead to a hotel, restaurants, bars and other businesses at Point Mallard, leading to more traffic, noise and nighttime lights. Some believe that’s on the agenda despite statements otherwise by city officials.

“There are absolutely no plans to build a hotel, a bar or anything else. I would not be for that,” Lake said.

Across the Tennessee River, in the strip of Decatur that extends into Limestone County, property owners want Decatur to rezone their land from agricultural to light manufacturing to accommodate a truck transfer business.

This time the opposition comes not from other Decatur residents, but from a neighboring community.

Mooresville, incorporated in 1818, is the oldest incorporated town in the state and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Mooresville Mayor Margaret-Anne Crumlish said she and others don’t want a light manufacturing zone near her town.

The business would be at least 1 mile from the closest residence and three-quarters of a mile from the town, according to developers.

But trucks leaving the property “would certainly have to go through our town,” Crumlish said. “It would interfere with the plans for the Singing River Trail, which is supposed to go right through there. I also just learned that the (Wheeler National Wildlife) Refuge has plans for canoe and kayak trails. It’s just not a good fit.”

The Planning Commission tabled the rezoning request for the time being, but it just goes to show that almost any development can draw opposition, even if it’s a mile away. Some residents near the Publix-anchored shopping center on Point Mallard Parkway still complain of the grocery store the City of Decatur allowed in their “backyard.”

The solution used to be for business and industry to locate on the outskirts of town, but Decatur is running out of outskirts. Besides, that strategy has led to the sprawl that is now the reason the state must spend millions of dollars widening Interstate 565 and a rural road like Huntsville Brownsferry Road to accommodate all of the traffic. Growth never comes without trade-offs, and one of those trade-offs is deciding between greater density, with shops, restaurants and residential close together, or more sprawl, requiring more lanes to accommodate more traffic until those lanes, too, are clogged and still more lanes are needed.

Some residents even prefer having development nearby rather than having to drive across town, so not everyone views these trade-offs the same way. Only one thing is undeniable: Decatur is surrounded by neighboring cities on all sides. If it is to grow, it’s going to have to do so within its existing boundaries, and that means in someone’s backyard.

Online: https://www.decaturdaily.com

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