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Alabama editorial roundup

Posted August 30

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

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Aug. 29

TimesDaily on regulation for day care facilities:

Five-year-old Kamden Johnson was found dead in Mobile last week, his body lying near a driveway about 3 miles from the unlicensed day care he attended. Police have charged the driver of his day care van with manslaughter and abuse of a corpse. A preliminary autopsy indicates the child died while trapped in the hot van, and then his body was dumped.

Because the church-affiliated day care was unlicensed, there was no requirement that it conduct background checks on its employees. The van driver has a lengthy arrest record, including charges for theft, not having a driver's license, failure to appear in court and being a fugitive from justice.

The state House of Representatives this year passed a bill that would have required all day cares to be licensed and regulated by the state, but the bill died in the Senate amid claims that it would interfere with religious freedom.

The bill should have passed. Lawmakers should have been more concerned about the welfare of children, and less consumed by a fear of regulation.

Merely requiring day cares to be licensed, however, will not solve the problem.

There was a time when most children were tended by two parents, one of whom was able to stay home. Changes in the economy and a breakdown in families have changed that. Now, 65 percent of Alabama children under age 6 have all available parents in the workforce. Day care is not a luxury, but a necessity.

According to the most recent Alabama Child Care Market Survey, conducted by Auburn University for the state Department of Human Resources, child care costs average $112 per week for a child under 2 ½ years old, $104 per week for a child between 2½ and 5, and $94 for a child over 6.

These costs might not be so troubling in a wealthier state, but they pose a huge challenge in Alabama. Twenty-seven percent of Alabama children live in poverty, and another 23 percent are in households with incomes that are between poverty and 200 percent of poverty. These are families who cannot afford quality day care, and who therefore gravitate toward less expensive unlicensed facilities.

If state law requires all facilities to be licensed, the cost is likely to force many families to use illegal day cares that are affordable.

Alabama needs a law requiring all day cares to meet minimal licensing requirements and pass regular inspections. It also, however, needs robust subsidies that ensure parents have the ability to place their children in day care.

If Alabama cares about its children, it must act.

Online: http://www.timesdaily.com/

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Aug. 25

Montgomery Advertiser on the need for a Martin Luther King Jr. statue in Montgomery:

With all the talk nationwide about tearing down statues, Montgomery needs to focus on building one instead.

Our country is struggling with its Civil War history and the plurality of narratives about the war's leaders, something that Montgomery and Alabama have known for generations. Many here have antagonistic viewpoints of what Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis represent and you might not like your neighbors' opinions when it comes to our complicated history in the South, but we generally accept that both narratives exist - rightly or wrongly.

This is nothing new for Montgomery. After all, we like to call ourselves the cradle of the Confederacy and the birthplace of the civil rights movement. The slogan tries hard to honor the duality of a racially charged narrative about your city. We are also the same city that has Rosa L. Parks and West Jeff Davis avenues intersecting.

Calls for moving the Lee statue away from Robert E. Lee High School on Ann Street are worthy discussion. What Lee represents to many, particularly the African-American community, makes the placement in front of a school with an 83-percent African-American student body perplexing.

Local activist Karen Jones' request to Montgomery Public Schools to relocate the monument to the First White House of the Confederacy was reasonable and thoughtful. Do not let her strident rhetoric about what Lee represents get in the way of a good, honest, level-headed conversation we need to have about who we are today.

But it's the statue that's missing that our community should be concerned with. Montgomery has taken too long to build a statue to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The push for the statue has been going on for nine years since Evelyn Lowery, founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Women's Organizational Movement for Equality Now, suggested it. The Rev. Cromwell Handy at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church where King preached in Montgomery took up the cause in 2013 to have the statue erected on Dexter Avenue.

Birmingham and Selma have statues for King. Washington D.C. does. Boston, too. Even the Bahamas.

Handy said earlier this year the church was trying to build the statue for about $125,000 and the fundraising hadn't reached goal. He also expected donations from the county and city. We hope both government bodies find a way to support the cause.

King is honored in Montgomery with a historical plaque, a portion of one of his famous quotes is on the Civil Rights Memorial, a school is named after him, and part of Interstate 85 bears his name.

Despite his name been placed on schools and roads, there's something to be said for having a statue to reflect on what King did to unite our country. He changed the world, and he did it peacefully. It all started right here in Montgomery.

Think about that for a moment. The streets you walk today are the same streets where a young King developed into a transcendent figure. He was in his 20s and leading the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

If we ever wanted a statue that represents who we are today as a community, then there is no better person than King. He represents love and understanding. He embodies a belief that we are all good people. He is what Montgomery should champion as many ways as possible.

Online: http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/

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Aug. 29

Gadsden Times on helping those hit by Hurricane Harvey:

We can't sum up what's happened on Texas' Gulf Coast since Hurricane Harvey made landfall Saturday, because this disaster remains in the present tense. The rain is still falling and floodwaters are still climbing.

There's no telling how much damage this storm will have inflicted once an assessment is possible, although the death total to date has been minimal (and we pray it stays that way).

You've heard the projections of 50 inches of rainfall in some spots. Let your brain absorb and process that number for a bit. That's the average height of an 8-year-old boy or girl, according to Livestrong.com. Think how many spots in Gadsden and Etowah County become problematic when we get 3 or 4 inches of rain. Do a little exponential math, figure in that Houston is the country's fifth largest Metropolitan Statistical Area with more than 6.7 million people, and the scope of what's happening there is both jarring and chilling.

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long told CNN on Sunday that his people would "be there for years." That should make the jarring more forceful and the chilling more icy. Harvey's going to become one of those names like Andrew, Camille or Katrina — Alabamians would offer April 27 — where no other verbiage is necessary. People will know what you're talking about, because the memories won't easily fade.

We imagine — we hope — the thought that's been circulating among local folks as they watch the devastation from afar is "what can we do to help?"

Our advice: Send money.

The sound you hear is an assortment of red flags unfurling and popping to attention in the brains of mistrustful, suspicious people who are afraid their cash "won't get directly to Texas," or that staff members at various nonprofits or charities might be enriching themselves on the side.

We saw it during the 2011 tornadoes, when Alabamians cleaned out their closets, thinking they were helping victims who'd lost everything including stuff to wear. Unfortunately, they only produced piles of clothing that, for the most part, moldered in warehouses, then cost the receiving agency money once it was time to clean up and clear out. Good intentions created unintended and costly side effects.

Organizations typically haven't promised people they can designate their donations for a specific event because in a crisis like this, who has time to sit around dividing beans into different jars? The needs are too urgent.

However, the Red Cross on its website will allow donors to designate their gift for Harvey relief: http://rdcrss.org/2xA7G11. Other groups say only that donations will help their efforts in Texas, or that a percentage of donations will go to other needs, but we're talking about folks who have a proven record in disaster recovery and ought to be trusted:

The Salvation Army: http://bit.ly/2vtIdF2

Save the Children: http://bit.ly/2vgJ5BF

Heart to Heart International: hearttoheart.org

Religious groups also are in the front line of relief efforts and seeking donations:

Catholic Charities: http://bit.ly/2iBZwTb

Online: http://www.gadsdentimes.com/

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