Alabama Gazette - The people's voice of reason

That Smell: more 'gas tax' Goat Hill methane to build prisons…

 


Some may recall my 2019 column on Gov. Ivey’s new and improved ACCA, BCA, et al bulldozer tactics deployed where Goat Hill legislators ‘passed the gas’ tax to fuel a more over-built/unsustainable road system in Alabama. That familiar Goat flatulence odor is again in the air to build prisons. No doubt our low class, high-end political prostitutes (Armistead to Waggoner type ‘Hubbard grubbers’) will prosper as usual. Montgomery is once again emitting the familiar loud, foul smell on par with all the Republocrat rhetoric surrounding the 14% special election turnout result (49 days before a general election) to rob $437 million from our ETF. That 2012 sham result was at least determined by an election the politburo members could spin as, “a great show of support from the people.” The politburo wouldn’t let voters decide a few weeks later on a general election ballot where greater participation forecasted an outcome, which would block these political thieves. Similarly, Goat Hill oligarchs wouldn’t put the gas tax vote on the next Statewide general election ballot and now the prison issue will not be subject to an informed, transparent voter determination.

Political columnist Kyle Whitmire [AL.com] recently wrote how the price tag of prison construction has changed in a very short window of time, noting originally four new prisons would be built for approximately $900 million. Whitmire wrote: “At the time, way back in 2019, that seemed like a lot of money, especially since the state wouldn’t be buying the new prisons, but leasing them from private companies. From there, though, the plan evolved. At some point, a whole prison went missing. The women’s prison got excluded from the deal, which was weird since the barbaric conditions at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women were what supposedly spurred the state into action on this plan in the first place. But one thing hadn’t changed – the price.

In the world’s worst BOGO, Alabama would get three prisons for the price of four. Next, the price did change – it went up. Instead of the original $900 million estimate, last year the Department of Corrections said the new prisons should cost ‘no more than’ $88 million/year over 30 years. If state officials had been telling the truth then, that would be a maximum of $2.64 billion. That’s if they had been telling the truth, but they didn’t.”

Mr. Whitmire offers some insight on how ‘indexing’ would work to estimate the first [2025] prison lease payment at $94 million with an increasing bill to cough-up each year, offering the caveat our State can’t provide a total price tag because it wouldn’t be finalized until closing the deal. In similar Speaker Pelosi flatulence, Gov. Ivey is saying we won’t know what’s in it until it is passed. For those familiar with elementary schoolboy potty humour - these had the dubious nomenclature, ‘silent but deadly.’ Whitmire equated this as closing on a house without knowing all the expenses, but with some extrapolation using what little our politburo has offered w.r.t. indexation the 30 year deal comes to about $3.7 billion – i.e., about four fold more than initial estimates.

Mr. Whitmire spilled much ink to be clear his arithmetic may be off or missing some (possibly substantive) variables given how politburo members have refused public record requests for the ‘closed/no bid’ confidential proposals submitted for three prisons instead of four facilities and in the end ALDoC doesn’t keep the prisons we pay on for 30 years.

Prior to Ivey, Gov. Bentley championed the Alabama Prison Transformation Initiative Act in 2016, with proposed construction of four new prisons via $800 million bond issuance legislation which failed; brought back up in 2017 to fail yet again, setting the stage for the current outrageous price tag Mr. Whitmire provided which will saddle Alabama taxpayers for 30 years. This warrants more representative input from legislators and voter approval in a Statewide general election.

Alabama Students Against Prisons [ASAP] demanded, “Governor Ivey immediately cease construction plans for these prisons; decline to sign a contract with Core Civic or Alabama Transformation partners; release any and all contractual, financial, and social impact research which has been conducted related to the proposed prisons,” and further demanded, “Governor Ivey call a special session of the legislature dedicated to passing criminal justice reform policy which explicitly addresses the shameful and unconstitutional conditions existing in our state prisons including but not limited to repealing the Habitual Felony Offender Act and removing the overly harsh, mandatory sentencing minimums for drug offenses in the State, for example. This special session should pass policy related to decarceration, and policy which funds renovations to improve the current conditions of incarcerated people in Alabama’s prisons. We demand Governor Ivey and the Legislature address investing in our communities, rather than prison buildings, and boost funding for the sectors of education, mental health services, healthcare, infrastructure, and sanitation.”

ASAP is a coalition of student advocates from Auburn University, the University of Alabama, Tuskegee University, Birmingham Southern, Yale, UAB, University of North Alabama, Troy, Spring Hill, Montevallo, Harvard, and Samford Universities. One can hope our youth are beginning to pay more attention to this sort of Ivey, Pelosi, et al type passing of huge spending without approval by those they extract from for non-transparent expenditures. The Department of Justice [DoJ] declared Alabama prisons 8th Amendment civil right violations in both 2019 and 2020, compelling the DoJ to sue Alabama for failure to address these violations, explicitly asserting Alabama cannot build their way out of addressing issues of overcrowding, culture, corruption, mismanagement, violence, and abuse. Gov. Ivey continues ‘bulldozing’ forward to build new prisons disregarding concerns of surrounding communities of proposed construction sites who’ve been left out of the decision-making process.

Stressing lack of input from local communities, ASAP youth further emphasized critical criminal justice reform as necessary to effectively address the issues systematically ‘baked into’ the civil and human rights violations evident in Alabama’s prisons, often exacerbated by despicable incentives unleashed by immunities and privatization of the prison industrial complex some States are wisely abandoning after the observed result of taking the ‘for profit prison’ path Gov. Ivey is championing. So we observe yet another large ‘bond and spend’ Republocrat item unfolding, binding Alabama citizens’ future tax revenues for almost a third of a century on what many States have found a failed path, offering little promise to provide prisoner education for more to successfully return into society with reduced recidivism.

Just as I’ve observed the ‘Louisiana model’ destroy our public hospital in East Alabama, I forecast similar further decay and destruction in our prisons. It may seem foolhardy to pray for civil, transparent dialogue between a few good, rational men to assure citizens of my county and State not trod toward greater death, harm and failure. There are a few good souls who’ve revealed themselves driven more by acquired knowledge and principle over party and self-interest as shown by Rep. Chris England and former Sen. Cam Ward who recently moved to Pardons & Parole Director. “Rookie” Rep. Jeremy Gray (who was wisely chosen to respond to Gov. Ivey’s State of the State address) is also showing himself to be of sound mind and good Spirit on matters of this sort. I pray Mr. Gray continues to pursue legislation which promises to promote the general welfare and steer clear of those influenced by Felon Hubbard minions – e.g., Rep. Pebblin Warren who voted YES to pass the gas tax and supported Hubbard’s corruption by aiding him in the Lee County Circuit Court jury selection which convicted the former Speaker.

From what little has been disclosed by our ‘hide the ball’ politburo types, the prison construction plan as currently proposed promises to be a deleterious misappropriation of resources that could be used to develop community programs toward reduced incarceration of first time offenders and in prison education programs to earn GEDs and efforts like the Alabama Prison Arts & Education Project to earn college degrees proven to reduce recidivism; new prison construction is worthy of consideration once the fundamental issues driving prison overcrowding are addressed and resolved.

Postscript: a House bill has been submitted to end straight ticket voting in Alabama, something long-time readers of my columns know I’ve advocated abolishing these past decades. Sadly, we are one of only six remaining States (Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Oklahoma and S. Carolina) allowing straight political party ticket voting in general elections.

House Bill 397, introduced by Rep. Jeremy Gray [D-Opelika] has 21 co-sponsors last I checked. The bill also proposed legislation prohibiting descriptions of constitutional amendments on election ballots which “intentionally misrepresent the content of the proposed amendment,” that may have been more effective submitted separately.

Alabama Political Reporter quoted Gray with, “Straight-party ticket voting has always been an issue that citizens have voiced their concerns about,” and “Personally I feel like a true democracy embodies all citizens, and the straight-party ticket voting is not a representation of that. We leave out people who identify with other parties besides Democrat and Republican Party.”

Keep an eye on this fine young gentleman legislator, if Rep. Gray can stay on course and navigate the Goat Hill minefield of the worst players, Jeremy can make a difference toward a brighter future.

 

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