Sweet Home Politics

Tuesday, September 25th, 2018   |   Español

Category Archive: Letters to the Editor

  1. Don’t Forget Meaning of Memorial Day (Martha Roby)

    Leave a Comment

    Memorial Day is a time to remember and honor the brave Americans who sacrificed their lives in defense of this great nation. A special day set aside for all of us to stop and acknowledge those who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms we enjoy. 

    I hope you and your family are able to take time over the holiday weekend to commemorate this solemn occasion. I hope you’ll also take the opportunity to share the true meaning of Memorial Day with children and teenagers in your family. It is easy to allow the excitement of a three-day weekend or the beginning of Summer to distract from the reason we have this holiday to begin with.

    Let’s not take for granted those who were willing to lay down their lives to win and preserve the freedom we have today. On Memorial Day and everyday, let’s remember and honor their sacrifice. 

    Unfortunately, this Memorial Day comes at a time when our country is appalled by the shameful way some military veterans have been treated by the Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare system.  Reports of negligence and malfeasance at some VA facilities have become a national outrage, and deservedly so. The more that is revealed the more disgusting it becomes: secret waiting lists, veterans waiting months to receive care, falsified data to make VA facilities look good on paper while veterans suffered and died without treatment.

    I fear that a systemic lack of accountability within the VA has led to a culture of complacency, and that must change. But, actions speak louder than words, so here’s what we’re doing about it:

    • This week, the House passed the VA Management Accountability Act, a bill I co-sponsored, by an overwhelming 390-33. It removes legal barriers for swiftly firing senior-level VA bureaucrats who aren’t getting the job done. 
    • We recently passed an appropriations bill increasing funding for veterans health services, with special funding directed toward mental health care, suicide prevention, and fixing electronic records problems that have contributed to the backlog. 
    • I also am working to get the Department of Veterans Affairs to utilize its Patient Centered Community Care program, which allows VA medical centers to contract with local hospitals or clinics to get veterans care quickly and efficiently. I hear from veterans everyday who are waiting on services from the VA. We know there is increased demand, probably more than current VA resources can handle. So why not utilize this existing program to contract with local providers and get veteran patients the care they need, especially when the alternative is putting a veteran on a waiting list.

    This situation is past the point of being just a problem. It is a crisis, and I’m tired of hearing excuses for why we can’t fix it. Ensuring real accountability, directing funding to address priority problems, and tapping into local healthcare resources through Patient Centered Community Care are just some ways we can address the issue right away. 

    It has been said that the willingness of future generations to serve in the military and fight for this country will be depend on how they perceive those who served in earlier wars have been treated and appreciated by our nation. That’s true, and if you’ve watched the news lately, you know we have a lot of work to do on that front.

    This is not a Republican issue or a Democratic issue. It is an American issue, and we have to work together to address it. I’m committed to finding solutions by seeking the changes necessary to make the VA work.

    On Memorial Day we remember those we’ve lost giving what President Lincoln called that “last full measure of devotion” in defense of freedom. Let’s not forget the veterans who are still with us and not allow this nation to fail or forsake them with broken bureaucracy. 

  2. Obama Isn’t Running in an Alabama Primary (Darrio Melton)

    Leave a Comment

    We will go to the polls to choose our governor and lieutenant governor. We will choose our secretary of state, who will handle our elections. But most importantly, we will choose our representatives to the state house and the state senate.

    I’ve seen the ads across the state showing Republican hopefuls are running against President Obama. They say they will fight Obamacare and the “liberal special interests.”

    I hate to break it to them, but Obama and the “liberal special interests” gave up on Alabama a long time ago.

    These campaigns are using the President as a symbol of everything they think is wrong with America. But to me, the President stands for what is right about America. He stands for equal opportunity and the American Dream. He stands for a new generation that is removed from the oppressive ways of the past. He stands for the hope of a nation that works for all Americans, not just a privileged few.

    So while these candidates are running against President Obama, ask them what they are running for.  Are they running to secure a brighter future for children across the state? Are they running to improve education for all children, not just the ones who can use tax dollars to go to private schools? Are they running for well-paying, safe jobs or are they selling us out to big business?

    When we go to the polls on June 3, we will choose the nominees to face off in the election in November. We must choose wisely. We must be smarter than they think we are.

    Look at the candidates and what they value. Vote for the person who will represent your family’s best interests.

    Decisions are made by those who show up. You can go to the polls and cast your ballot or you can stay home and allow someone else to speak for you.

    The deadline to register to vote in the primary election is Friday, May 23. If you need to vote absentee, the deadline to request a ballot is May 29. Be sure to double check your registration status and polling location before Election Day.

    Choose the Alabama your family deserves. Vote on June 3.

  3. A Call for Action (Craig Ford)

    Leave a Comment

    What if Etowah County and the 4th Congressional District had the same leadership in our congressional representative as they do in South Alabama?

    Last week, Congressman Bradley Byrne of Mobile made a strong, public stand for construction of a bridge on Interstate 10 over the Mobile River. The congressman called the project, “a national priority,” and warned that inaction would endanger public safety and economic development.

    How refreshing to see a congressman who gets it! Projects like this are essential to our economy. These projects create jobs almost immediately for the workers who build these roads and bridges. In the long-term, these projects facilitate commerce, which in turn allows businesses to expand and hire more employees.

    And just as Mobile and Baldwin counties will benefit from completing the work on I-10, Etowah County and North Alabama would benefit from completing the I-759 extension.

    Building the I-759 extension in Etowah County is just as much an economic development and public safety issue as Mobile’s I-10 project. With all of the congestion piling up on Meighan Boulevard, we need help from our congressman to put pressure on the federal government to provide relief to that area with the I-759 extension.

    We are already seeing the traffic congestion getting worse! And once the new shopping center development is complete, it will become too difficult for residents to get to and from work and for shoppers and visitors to travel throughout our county effectively – not to mention the enormous public safety issue it will cause due to increased traffic in the congested area.

    How is it that a freshman congressman can see that this is an issue for his district, but our 9-term congressman can’t provide any federal support for the issue in our district?

    Congressman Byrne said, “…all interested parties – including federal, state and local leaders as well as government and business interests – have a ‘common understanding’ of what needs to be done.” Here in North Alabama, our local delegation, community leaders, and business leaders all understand what needs to be done in our district. Now all we need is for our congressman to fill the gap with support from the federal government.

    I applaud Congressman Byrne for making a stand for his district. He looked the Federal Highway Administration in the eye and announced that he had “thrown a stick in the sand.” That is what leaders do. They do not sit in their offices in Washington and collect a paycheck at the taxpayers’ expense. They take action and demand results.

    How many textile mills closed and jobs have we lost because of the Central American Free Trade Agreement that our congressman not only voted for but cast the deciding vote? How many businesses have passed us over because of unfinished projects like I-759 that will continue to endanger our safety and economic development?

    As Congressman Byrne said: “We have an obvious problem. Why can’t we fix it? It’s my job as a congressman to fix that.” I only hope that Congressman Byrne’s leadership encourages our congressman to step up on behalf of his district as well!

  4. Why I’m Serving on the Select Committee to Investigate Benghazi (Martha Roby)

    Leave a Comment

    House Speaker John Boehner recently asked me to serve on the Select Committee to Investigate the September 11, 2012, terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, a significant and solemn responsibility that I accepted.

    This was not a decision I took lightly. The Benghazi attack was a terrible tragedy, and we still mourn the four Americans that were brutally murdered that day. Some have asked why further investigation is needed on Benghazi after multiple existing committee inquiries into the matter – including one I led.

    One reason is that the Administration’s explanation for exactly what happened that day and why has been far from clear – both in the immediate aftermath and months later.

    Recently we learned the White House withheld important Benghazi documents from Congressional investigators. These documents reveal a campaign-focused White House in spin control mode, and the failure to disclose them raises questions as to what else has been hidden from the public.

    Such a lack of transparency is unacceptable. It is the duty of Congress to seek answers on the government’s activities on behalf of the American people, particularly when government officials attempt to obscure the truth.

    Another reason this Select Committee is needed is that the multi-jurisdictional nature of the Benghazi issue makes it difficult to investigate across the existing committee structure. You may remember that during my time as chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, I led the inquiry into military activities surrounding the Benghazi attack.

    While we were thorough in our investigation, our jurisdiction was limited to the Department of Defense. There are many more layers to the Benghazi story, including our intelligence community, the State Department, and, of course, the White House. And, while other committees have made inquires in those areas, no group has had the authority to investigate all aspects of the Benghazi situation at the same time – until now.  A select committee with broad jurisdiction will better connect all the dots and produce a clearer,  more complete picture.

    Lingering questions about the Benghazi attack combined with continued White House obstruction and the narrow scope of existing House committees compel us to form this Select Committee and continue the search for truth.

    Speaker Boehner has tapped my friend and colleague, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) to chair the Select Committee. Trey is a perfect fit to lead this process. He’s a tough prosecutor, but also fair and judicious. I can tell you he understands how important it is to keep politics out of this investigation and dedicate all of its the energy toward searching for truth on behalf of the American people. I am committed to working with Chairman Gowdy and my colleagues on the Select Committee to conduct a thorough, judicious and unbiased pursuit of facts.

    As can be the case in Washington, tension over the Benghazi attacks has at times become a political issue. That is true on both sides of the aisle. As Chairman Gowdy said, politics will have no place in this process. Facts aren’t Republican or Democratic. Facts are stubbornly impartial, and I’m committed to pursuing the facts wherever they lead.

    It is important that you know that my involvement on this Select Committee will not affect my commitment to serving the people of Alabama’s Second Congressional District. Taking care of the needs of my constituents – particularly our active duty military and veterans – remains my highest priority.

    I have heard from countless constituents pleading for Congress to get to the bottom of what happened in Benghazi. As a member of this Select Committee, I promise to leave no stone unturned in the search for truth.

  5. A Time to Build (Bradley Byrne)

    Leave a Comment

    Last week was National Transportation Week – an excellent opportunity for our community to have a discussion about transportation needs in Southwest Alabama. Most of us agree that our most pressing need is to build a new I-10 bridge that is able to handle increased vehicle traffic as we continue to attract more businesses to relocate to our community. Everyone living in Southwest Alabama who has tried to cross the Bay at rush hour understands that this is an issue of critical importance.

    In honor of National Transportation Week, I convened a group of nearly 50 local officials, business leaders, and community voices at the AIDT Maritime Center overlooking the current I-10 route to have a roundtable discussion on where we are today on the project, and how we can all work together to finally build this bridge. We had a very productive discussion with agencies like ALDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) to gauge their needs and roadblocks and to hold these entities accountable. After hearing these agencies make their case, I called for a July 1 deadline to release an Environmental Impact Study – the current document that we are waiting on the FHA to finish so this project can move forward.

    We still face significant hurdles ahead. Our national infrastructure fund, the National Highway Trust, is in poor financial health. However, I believe this project is a national priority – one that demands urgent action. This stretch of the I-10 highway is the number one chokepoint from coast to coast. It’s clear that my challenge as our Representative in Washington will be to communicate the need for this project effectively and clearly to my colleagues. This is a top priority of mine heading into a potential Highway Bill reauthorization – the legislation passed every few years by Congress to maintain our roads and bridges.

    Now is the time to build. I feel confident that we are forging consensus and getting everyone in our community on board to push for this project. It will take a coalition of voices like those at our roundtable to make this finally happen. I’m more optimistic today than I was yesterday that progress is being made. With this meeting, I believe we are one step closer to making this project a reality. I’ll continue to be a positive, proactive voice bringing our community together in pursuit of this common goal that we share.

  6. Entrepreneurs are the Heart of the American Dream (Darrio Melton)

    Leave a Comment

    The American Dream is built on the principles of hard work and ingenuity.  In today’s economy, though, these virtues are paying off less and less as more people are unable or unwilling to pursue their dreams.

    The ability to create your own path–to start a business, to develop an idea, to capitalize on an invention–is a key part of what it means to be an American. We have the freedom to forge our own paths and create our own outcomes.

    We tell our children to work hard, get an education and they will surely succeed. Yet we live in a nation where the odds are stacked against small business owners and entrepreneurs.

    Let’s look at the example of a small-town pharmacy owner. The pharmacist worked his way through pharmacy school and returned home to open a small business. Opening a pharmacy meant that he would have to take out a huge loan for start-up, so he used his own home as collateral. He worked hard for years, taking on a huge risk for the opportunity to build a successful business and offer a valuable service for our community.

    Then a large, corporate pharmacy wants to come to town. They promise new jobs, so the government rolls out the red carpet, offering tax incentives and infrastructure development.

    So the community builds a new, large corporate pharmacy. Nobody puts their house on the line. The company has to pay very little for start-up. And they’re able to offer the same products at a lower price, making life much harder for our small-town pharmacist.

    This pharmacist played by the rules. He worked hard and built a life, but the cards were stacked against him. So we have to shuffle the deck.

    If we want our children to still have the opportunity to pursue the American Dream, we must shuffle the deck that makes competition difficult for small business. We must give them the ability to turn their dreams into reality and pursue their goals. We must give everyone a fair shot. We must make it worth the risk.

    Everyone deserves the right to charter his or her own path. Everyone has an unlimited amount of untapped potential, which we must allow them to pursue through ingenuity and innovation. We must make the American Dream more than just a dream.

    We must reward our entrepreneurs for taking the risk–for stepping out and reaching for their goals. Nobody likes to play a rigged game–We must unstack the deck and shuffle the cards to revive our small businesses and rebuild the American Dream.

  7. Congratulations Graduates! (Craig Ford)

    Leave a Comment
    I have always believed in the power and value of education. That is why I want to take this opportunity to congratulate all those who are graduating this month.
    Whether you are finishing high school, a vocational program or a college degree, you should be proud of how hard you have worked and what you have accomplished!
    Getting an education is a crucial step to achieving your other goals in life. As the saying goes: “Knowledge is power.” The more you learn, the more opportunities you will open for yourself. And there is no limit to where those opportunities can take you.
    You might choose to continue your education or to enter the workforce. Either way, you are now better prepared for the journey ahead. But with knowledge and opportunities comes responsibilities. As it says in the Bible, “unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.”
    Now more than ever, we need motivated individuals like you to become leaders in our communities. I am not just talking about political leaders, though we certainly need those too! But we need smart, talented leaders everywhere – from business to the church to politics and everything in between.
    Though things are improving, our economy is still struggling to grow and create jobs. As the new generation of leaders, you are in a unique situation. This may be the time for some enterprising person to start that new small business or to develop some new innovation.
    I encourage all of you to pursue your dreams. Because with hard work and a good education there is nothing you cannot do; no goal you cannot achieve.
    You have devoted years of your life to your education. You have worked hard – you may have even worked two or three jobs to pay your way through school – and now that hard work has paid off. You should be proud! You have earned the right to sit back and enjoy this moment.
    But when the celebrating is over and you turn your focus to what is next, remember what it took to get here: hard work and determination. Those values will benefit you no matter where life takes you next. Honesty, dependability and the quality of your work are three more characteristics that will take you far in business and in life.
    So enjoy this moment of victory. You have spent so much time and effort to get here, and you deserve to enjoy it! But your journey is only just beginning. Take the lessons you have learned along the way and apply them to whatever is next for you. Continue to work hard and stay focused and there is nothing you cannot achieve.
    Congratulations, graduates! And good luck!
  8. Government Must Play By the Rules Too (Martha Roby)

    Leave a Comment

    There’s an old saying that, in life, nothing is certain but death and taxes. It’s true that paying taxes is a fact of life, one that ordinary Americans accept and dutifully take care of every year. We play by the rules when interacting with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and if we step out of line there are consequences. So shouldn’t we demand the same accountability for those serving in the IRS?

    Of course we should. That’s why the stonewalling from Lois Lerner, former IRS Director of Tax Exempt Organizations, is especially troubling. You probably remember last year it surfaced that the IRS was targeting certain groups for extra scrutiny based solely on their political beliefs. It was revealed that the IRS focused increased scrutiny on groups that “criticized how the country is being run” and expressed an interest in public awareness “on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.”

    Actually, a group from Alabama was among those singled out: the Wetumpka Tea Party, based in Elmore County. Whether or not your agree with the group’s views, we can all agree they should be able to express those views without fear of selective targeting from the federal government.

    For the IRS to target groups or individuals based on political beliefs isn’t just wrong, it is un-American. Actions of this nature erode the public’s trust not only in the IRS, but in government as a whole. That’s especially true when those responsible refuse to answer questions about what happened.

    Numerous emails from Lerner indicated that she was actively involved in the targeting and that it was not just “rogue” employees, as some had suggested. Given her clear role in the IRS targeting scandal, Lerner was called to testify before Congress. During the hearing, Ms. Lerner elected to exercise her right to avoid self incrimination under the Fifth Amendment, though many believe she had previously waived that right. The better question is this: if Ms. Lerner did nothing wrong, as her lawyers allege, then why is she so unwilling to share the facts and clear her name?

    Lois Lerner was trusted with immense responsibility to ensure fairness under the rule of law, and instead it appears she used her position of authority to project a political agenda. Even now she continues to hide information from Members of Congress who are simply seeking the truth.

    Her actions left us no choice but to act. Last week, the House of Representatives passed a resolution finding Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress, making her one of only five government officials to be found in contempt by the full House of Representatives.

    I wish it hadn’t come to this. I wish Ms. Lerner had been forthcoming from the beginning about why her agency targeted groups and individuals because of their political beliefs. By dodging questions and obstructing the truth, Ms. Lerner left us no choice but to publicly condemn her behavior and hasten the Justice Department to act.

    In a further effort to get answers, the House also passed a bill calling on Attorney General Eric Holder and the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel to investigate the IRS targeting scandal.

    The Justice Department had a chance to prove it was truly committed to accountability by swiftly and aggressively investigating this issue, and prosecuting those who were responsible. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. It is that lack of accountability that has allowed Lois Lerner to think that she can “plead the fifth” to Congress without consequences. Our vote to hold her in Contempt of Congress showed that isn’t the case.

    I believe in the rule of law because it ensures fairness for everybody. If ordinary Americans have to play by the rules, then so must government officials. No one is above the law, and it’s my responsibility as your Representative to make sure those who abuse positions of trust and power are held accountable.

  9. Bipartisan Support for LCS Means Alabama Jobs (Bradley Byrne)

    Leave a Comment

    Last week, the House Armed Services Committee considered the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), legislation that the committee passes every year to authorize funding and set policy for the military. The scope of this legislation is so wide, it typically takes well over 12 hours to complete committee consideration of the bill. Last Wednesday, we worked past midnight to make sure this bill was finished. Of importance to Southwest Alabama, the jurisdiction of this bill includes our Mobile-built Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), which requires authorization by the Armed Services Committee every year to continue supporting the 4,000 jobs represented at Austal. I’m very proud that the committee passed this legislation authorizing construction on four LCS and including complimentary language about the Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV), boding well for the future of these ships built in Alabama’s First District.

    The consideration of this legislation was not without controversy, even in regard to the LCS. Representative Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) offered an amendment that would have blocked all funding to the LCS pending a report from the Pentagon on a follow-on version of the ship, even if the report was late or incomplete. I argued that this amendment could have placed a devastating chokehold on construction of the LCS, unnecessarily slowing the delivery of ships to the Navy and risking the jobs housed here in Southwest Alabama. The amendment was defeated on a bipartisan basis.

    Although there were controversial amendment fights, I continue to be encouraged by the bipartisan atmosphere among the Members on the Armed Services Committee. Working through our differences, the Committee passed the NDAA by a vote of 61-0, giving the legislation strong bipartisan momentum as we head to consideration before the full House of Representatives next month. Every Member on this committee, Republican or Democrat, recognizes the critical function our military serves and the need for Congress to support its success. I’m proud to serve alongside these men and women.

    As we move forward with this fight to preserve the LCS, I am mindful of the fact that we still have work to do. However, I consider the passage of this legislation through our committee a substantial victory for the ship. It shows that the committee stands fully behind this program and recognizes its importance to the future fleet. It also underscores the need for Southwest Alabama to have a voice in this process, and makes me proud to serve as a member on the Armed Services Committee to represent our area. As we consider this legislation before the full House, I continue to be optimistic that we will be successful. I’ll keep working hard to preserve these important jobs for Southwest Alabama.

  10. We Cannot Get Help If Our Leaders Do Not Ask For It (Craig Ford)

    Leave a Comment

    The storms that hit Etowah County and Alabama last week have left a devastating impact on our community. While the EMA is still working on a damage assessment, it is already clear that in Etowah County we have suffered far more damage than the required threshold to be declared a federal disaster area.

    In my opinion, if even one house or business takes damage, that should be enough for the state and federal government to get involved. We all pay our taxes, and that is what our tax money is for!

    But unfortunately, the governor has left Etowah county out of his initial request for federal aide, claiming that he would add us back after the president declares Alabama a federal disaster area.

    Even if the governor intends to add us to the list after the initial declaration, by leaving us out now he has delayed vital assistance that our people need right now!

    These storms had a terrible impact throughout our state, and everyone who has suffered should be included in the request for help. I don’t understand why the governor left Etowah County off his initial request, but I hope he will work with us now.

    I, and the other members of our state legislative delegation, have submitted a letter formally requesting Gov. Bentley immediately amend his application for an expedited declaration of Alabama as a disaster area to include Etowah County.

    I have also asked Gov. Bentley to personally come and tour the damaged parts of Etowah County. The governor needs to see with his own eyes what has happened here so he can see the extent of the damage and understand the need to expedite our request for help. Having the governor here would also reassure the people of Etowah County that he is doing everything that he can to get us the help we need.

    But the governor is not the only one we need to be working for us in Washington. Throughout all of this, I have not seen or heard from Congressman Aderholt or his office. And who could be a better advocate to the federal government for our community than our own congressman?

    While I understand that requesting aide is a process, I also believe in the old adage: “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” The only way we will get the help we need is if all of our representatives in Montgomery and Washington are out there calling on the government to step in and help out.

    One thing is certain: we cannot get help if we do not ask for it. And while this is an election year and there will be plenty of politicians blaming Obama for everything they can think of, these politicians cannot blame Obama if they never asked for the money in the first place!