A Vision for the State of Alabama”
Remarks to the Governor's Alabama Citizens' Constitution Commission in Birmingham
March 7, 2003

By Lucy Jones
Student, University of Alabama Birmingham

   Ladies and gentleman, the cost of reform may be some reorganization and a tough period of transition, but the cost of doing nothing means maintaining the status quo—it means watching Alabama stagnate as it continues to rank among the very lowest of all the states in almost every single indicator of quality of life.

   Good morning. My name is Lucy Jones and I am currently a third year student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. I would like to thank the commission for your work and commend you for your
commitment to the state of Alabama.

   I am here today to represent a large constituency of students in the UAB community that strongly support the need for constitutional reform in this state. Alabama has suffered from low expectations for generations
and we have continued to rely on short-term fixes—742 of them to be exact—to temporarily ameliorate Alabama’s problems. It is obvious that those short-term fixes have not worked.

   Alabama is a package deal, and the only way to make progress in this state is through comprehensive, long-term reform. We need to restructure the tax code, create more efficient and responsive government, and give more home rule to the local and county governments.

   I would like to speak specifically today to the issue of home rule. Alabama must have a system of government that is responsive to the people. The only way to do that is to increase the amount of home rule
given to the municipal and county governments—where the problems can be addressed a local level. Right now, more than half of the state legislature’s workload involves bills that apply to a single county or a single municipality. This prevents our state legislature from focusing on more comprehensive and systematic statewide concerns—it forces them into those short-term fixes (those 742 amendments)—and this system is not working. The necessary corollary of this situation is that the county governments also cannot be responsive to their citizens, because what they could do in ten minutes at a county government meeting often takes two years and a statewide referendum on the issue to get it approved. This extreme inefficiency and unresponsiveness creates distrust and dissatisfaction among the voters in Alabama. It is the worst situation that we can be in given the state’s financial and educational crises. I urge you to include comprehensive home rule in your proposal to the Governor.

   Ladies and gentlemen, I admire you for the work that you are doing, but I must also remind you that your charge is limited. You have been given five specific issues to examine and make recommendations about—but I believe that it is clear to all of us in this room that there is much more work to be done. I also urge you to remind the Governor that Alabama’s problems will not be solved by limiting the work of reformers to these five issues. We must get away from the politics of this situation and finally do what is best for Alabama—what progressive-minded people have been trying to do for over one-hundred years now. We must have comprehensive constitutional reform and it must address all of the problems in this state—the unfair and inadequate tax structure, the inefficiency of government, and the lack of home rule. While this commission’s work will be ground-breaking and a good start, its limited charge prevents it from having the necessary authority to make the changes necessary to make Alabama rise to all its potential.

   Ladies and Gentlemen, I am twenty years old, and some may call me naïve or overly optimistic, but I believe in what we, as reformers, can do. I have a vision for the state of Alabama. I want to see a time when out-of-state students are competing to go to the higher education institutions here. I want to see a time of unfettered growth and opportunity. I want to see a time when the national news media characterizes Alabama as a destination for individuals and their families seeking an improved quality of life. You are the first, and a very important step in this direction—but there will be a lot of work after this commission’s charge is over. Please, do what is best for Alabama. Do what the good people of Alabama deserve—make proposals that insist on comprehensive constitutional reform. Thank you.

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P.O. Box 34
Montgomery, Alabama 36101-0034

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