Black Belt praises, will attack Riley in same week: Leaders from Alabama’s Black Belt region gathered at Alabama State University Monday to honor Alabama Gov. Bob Riley for his work in the impoverished reason, the Montgomery Advertiser reported. But many others from the Black Belt will probably say some very disparaging things about Riley on Saturday at a planned Montgomery rally to protest the actions of Riley’s Anti-Gambling Task Force. The praise was related to the Black Belt Action Commission, an organization which Riley’s administration supported and which has created 3,800 jobs and multiple improvements in health, economic and education in the 12 counties in the commission’s reach. The “bingo” rally hopes to draw 25,000 people opposed to the shutdown of “bingo” casinos like Greenetrack.
JeffCo gets $25 million from JPMorgan: Last year, JPMorgan Chase & Co.—which was largely responsible for the bonds that went bad and helped create a massive $3.2 billion debt on the Jefferson County sewer system—entered into an agreement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission concerning those bonds under suspicious circumstances. Though JPMorgan admitted no wrongdoing in the agreement with the SEC, they agreed to pay a $50 million fine to JeffCo, refund to the county nearly $650 million in fees related to interest rate swaps and pay $25 million into a “Fair Fund” for investors. On Sunday, the Birmingham News reported that the SEC was turning over that Fair Fund to JeffCo, reasoning that the county was harmed by the bond deals. That’s an understatement to say the least, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Speaking of JeffCo’s financial troubles… It’s difficult to get out of financial trouble when you’re not even sure how much money you have. As reported by Kyle Whitmire at the Second Front blog, JeffCo has spent $12 million over the past six years purchasing, installing, maintaining, and training county employees to use an accounting software system called SAP, which is still not up to task. JeffCo now wants to scrap the system. The city of Birmingham has had $4 million worth of similar troubles with its New World accounting software. Now Birmingham Mayor William Bell wants to spend an additional $89,000 to bring the system up to speed. What do the county and city systems have in common? Larry Langford, formerly a Birmingham mayor and JeffCo Commission president, and Steve Sayler, Langford’s finance director at both the city and county, presided over the software’s installation.
Bentley and Sparks support Forever Wild: In 1992, Alabama voters approved the creation of a program which uses part of the interest on oil and gas royalties, which are paid by companies producing fossil fuels in the state, to buy up land and preserve it for the public. That program, called Forever Wild, has been hugely successful, saving more than 200,000 acres of land for use in conservation and public recreation. However, the program is endangered on two fronts: unless renewed, the program will expire in 2012, and the powerful Alabama Farmers Federation wants to use Forever Wild’s funding for a farm preservation program. The good news is that both candidates for governor, Republican Robert Bentley and Democrat Ron Sparks, support the program’s renewal. They agreed on that last Thursday, speaking at an Auntie Litter environmental conference at Samford University, the Birmingham News reported.