Phillip Tutor: Bama's bad week, start to finish
Jul 31, 2009 | 1424 views |  0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Read the papers, scan the 'Net, scroll through your Tweets. Perhaps this isn't the best week to trumpet all the marvelous things going on in Alabama.

Jefferson County's not merely in debt; it's about to resemble a debtor's prison.

Pot — a 2-pound block of it — was found in a Goat Hill office three years ago, but no one thought it was a big deal — until now, for some oddball reason.

Gov. Bob Riley, exasperated over Jefferson County's debt and local efforts to either stem the losses or find a palatable solution, is likely to call a special session of the state Legislature.

There's no word if any lingering Goat Hill pot will be disposed of before the legislators arrive back in Montgomery.

There's also little chance Riley will let other things of importance — the plight of the state's shrinking education budget, the rescue of the state's prepaid college tuition plan — be included in that special session.

Decatur's city budget is facing a $3 million shortfall. (Hint: Decatur's mayor should call Oxford's mayor. Bet Oxford could float the good folks of Decatur a loan.)

Alabama's unemployment rate isn't the nation's worst. Great. But it has reached double digits for the first time in almost 25 years. Not great.

Former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy, now under a $2.6 billion civil judgment and his assets frozen by the courts, has asked for money for his family and household expenses.

Southern Co., the parent company of Alabama Power Co., saw its second-quarter profits rise to $479 million in the middle of the worst recession of this generation. Good thing this summer hasn't been as sweltering as years past, huh? Or is it only my family's power bill that seems way up over last summer?

U.S. Sens. Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby, Republicans resisting any urge for political moderation, have made Alabama proud. They're votin' no.

More splendid news from the U.S. Census Bureau: Alabama is ranked 39th in business climate and 37th in per-pupil spending in public education. And there's no reason to mention the Census' evaluation of the quality of life in Alabama. (Can't resist: We're ranked 47th. The governor should demand a recount.)

From Tuscaloosa, a groan: Auburn University students who graduate with a bachelor's degree, a Princeton Review study says, earn more than do students with bachelor's degrees from the state's other large state universities.

From Tuscaloosa, another groan: Bear Bryant may have been the best college football coach of all time, but he's only No. 3 on The Sporting News' list of all-time coaches overall. No. 1: John Wooden. No. 2: Vince Lombardi.

Queue up here for the barroom arguments on that one.

Proration's so popular in Alabama that Riley's calling for it again, only this time, he's emulating Emeril and kicking it up a notch. Bam!, Bob said last year. Bam! Bam!, he's saying this summer.

Speaking of higher education: Alabama State University in Montgomery, preparing for the fiscal pain of the coming academic year, has raised its tuition nearly 22 percent.

The Alabama Crimson Tide has asked for the return of the 21 football victories it forfeited in its latest round of NCAA sanctions, which is about as likely as Alabama inviting UAB over for a beat-down at Bryant-Denny. No word if the team has also asked for the return of Mike Price.

Nearly one-quarter of Alabama children are living in poverty, this year's Kids Count report says, though no one really seems alarmed. No riots, no Montgomery marches, only silence from the majority — a sure sign of status-quo acceptance.

Here at home, Leon Smith is rumored to be named state Archaeologist of the Year, Anniston's City Hall is thinking big — Hey! A revamped Web site! — and Jacksonville State University has a football stadium whose renovations aren't complete, whose football team is ineligible for the playoffs, and the season's only, what, a month away?

Oh, and the worst:

The University of Alabama's no longer one of the nation's top party schools.

The indignity, man.

The indignity.

Yet, I say the heck with all of this. A week of bad news, of depressing headlines, of demoralizing reminders that we could do better. Can we? Yes. Should we? Yes. Must we? Yes.

But putting together a list of things right with Alabama — Riley's usually progressive leadership, the state's ecotourism and outdoors activities, the noteworthy improvements in some areas of its public education system — would be just as lengthy, and a whole lot more enjoyable.

Next time, that'll be the assignment. Look through the morass, wipe away the residue of disappointment, and see the big picture. See the good with the bad, the positive along with the downbeat, the hope mixed in with the despair.

I'll try, if you'll try with me.
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