Author: Jason Johnson

State sues Birmingham for covering Confederate Monument

The state of Alabama has taken legal action against the city of Birmingham after officials ordered city workers to cover a Confederate monument in a public park. Mayor William Bell ordered the 52-foot-tall monument in Linn Park to be covered with wooden paneling Tuesday in an attempt to bypass an Alabama law passed earlier this year that prohibits the removal of structures that have been in place for more than 40 years. The monument — a memorial to Confederate soldiers— was dedicated in 1905 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and would be protected under that law. Bell...

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Nonprofit prepares to open state’s first charter school

When a student at the Acceleration (ACCEL) Day and Evening Academy told Superintendent Jeremiah Newell he was nervous at orientation, Newell asked, “What’s to be nervous about? We’re just building an entire school from the ground up!” That combination of nervousness and excitement has been a background theme for teachers and administrators as ACCEL prepares to open the doors of Alabama’s first tuition-free public charter school Aug. 21. With targeted enrollment of 300 students, ACCEL has billed itself as being focused on the individual needs of students both in and out of the classroom — an idea spurred by successful programs launched by its parent company, the nonprofit Mobile Area Education Foundation (MAEF). ACCEL has already seen students enroll from public, private and home-based institutions, but CEO Carolyn Akers said MAEF had to paddle against a current of opinion in national discussions about the role charter schools should play in public education. “You hear people talking about ‘creaming kids,’ where they’re taking children off the top of other school systems and putting them into charter schools, but that was never our design here,” Akers told Lagniappe. “Our purpose has always been to meet the needs of those students for whom the regular public school system has just not worked.” New to Alabama, charter schools are publicly funded but operated by independent organizations. They’re bound by a contract that sets specific academic...

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County reviewing ‘legal remedies’ for city’s unpaid rent

Despite sharing the 10th floor in Government Plaza, city and county leaders appear to have hit a boiling point and are letting their attorneys settle a disagreement over back rent the city of Mobile of the Mobile County Commission. Commissioner Connie Hudson says the city owes the county more than $500,000, but while city officials acknowledge their rent hasn’t been paid since February, they say the decision was made in response to losses the city incurred collecting the county’s taxes in recent years. As Lagniappe previously reported, Mobile has collected sales taxes on the county’s behalf for decades. Based...

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After Charlottesville, local leaders denounce ‘white supremacy’

Local leaders are joining a “chorus” of voices across the country decrying the violence that left one woman dead and several others injured after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. turned deadly over the weekend. The event, which was dubbed “Unite the Right,” drew several hundred people, many associated with known hate groups like neo-nazi organizations and the Ku Klux Klan. The intent was to protest the city’s plan to remove a statue of Confederal Gen. Robert E. Lee, but several days of publicity ahead of the event prompted large numbers of counter protesters as well. While skirmishes...

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City of Mobile challenging its own judge over body cam ruling

As discussions of police body cameras have swirled publicly, the city of Mobile has been quietly taking action to override one of its own judges for prohibiting prosecutors from “mentioning or referring to anything” captured in footage of an arrest in which they failed to produce a video. While the issue is rooted in a misdemeanor case, there’s concern a ruling from Mobile Municipal Court Judge Shelbonnie Hall might impact what evidence prosecutors are allowed to introduce in future cases where body camera footage wasn’t recorded or isn’t available. In January 2016, Terry Druckenmiller was charged with driving under...

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