It’s Personal

My pal Hill Carmichael, Coordinator of the Constitutional Reform Education Campaign at Greater Birmingham Ministries, has a great piece in today’s Birmingham News. Hill’s great-grandfather was a delegate to the 1901 constitutional convention.

…According to convention President John B. Knox, the delegates set out “to establish white supremacy in this state.” To accomplish their goal, the delegates devised a system of government designed to centralize political power in Montgomery, strip cities and counties of the authority to make their own decisions, and discourage black and poor white voters from participating in the democratic process. No constitution is perfect, but the 1901 Alabama Constitution, which remains in effect today, has been almost perfect in achieving what it set out to do.

I am the great-grandson of Archibald Hill Carmichael. I share his name – he was the first, I am the fourth. I am neither a lawyer nor a politician. Instead, I work at Greater Birmingham Ministries, where my sole focus is to coordinate a statewide campaign to create and adopt a new state constitution. So there is something personal about this campaign to educate Alabama citizens about the 1901 Constitution, because my name is literally on it.

But your name is on it, too, as is the name of every Alabamian who allows the 1901 Constitution to remain in effect. By our complacency, we reratify the 1901 Constitution every year. [emphasis mine]

The 1901 Constitution is no more personal to me than it is to hundreds of local leaders in Alabama who cannot do what they know is best for their cities and counties without first asking Montgomery for permission. It is personal to the thousands of Alabamians who, as they struggle to make ends meet, are forced to pay absurdly high sales taxes on basic necessities like food, medicine and baby supplies. It is personal to the public schoolteacher who holds her breath and crosses her fingers every year, hoping and praying that our highly volatile tax revenues are high enough to avoid another year of proration and outdated textbooks. And it is very personal to the thousands of schoolchildren languishing in underfunded schools in the Black Belt, for whom the American Dream will be deferred until the adults decide to scrap a system of taxation that is doing exactly what it was designed to do: keep the wealthy landowners in their rural counties from paying their fair share of taxes…

“By our complacency, we reratify the 1901 Constitution every year.” We reratify a document that has proven so inadequate to the needs of our state that it has been amended 799 times in 106 years (the US constitution, by contrast, has been amended 27 times). That’s an indictment, but also a challenge. How long are we going to wait to meet it?

12 Responses to “It’s Personal”

  1. Don says:

    “How long are we going to wait to meet it?” Until enough voters become politically aware AND ACTIVE and tell (not ask) their two public servants (whom they have to power to help remove from office through their activism among those legislators’ constituents) that unless they do as they are told they run the considerable risk of being voted out of office at the first opportunity.

    Listen folks, those two people are supposed work for you and at your pleasure, so it’s past time to start telling them what to do rather than to asking them to do something. It’s the same principle that I espouse to help make Alabama the 25th Initiative and Referendum (I&R) state @ so go there and read about it. Then tell your two legislators to do whatever you want them to do about the constitution and at the same time tell them you want I&R included as part of the process.

    If we already had I&R in the form that Representative Mike Ball repeatedly introduces in the legislature voters could initiate legislation to change the constitution (and anything else that a majority of voters want to change). Such legislation would bypass the legislature and be put on the ballot for voters to accept or reject. That would give us “government of, by, and for the people”.

  2. Bhmhomeboy says:

    I&R would mean voters could initiate legislation with a simple majority and by pass legislators. Why elect legislators if voters are going to make laws? I don’t understand the need for I&R. I read in the above mentioned web site that the “Democracy Defense League” was for it, which is enough to make me against it. Voters have the power to remove legislators from office without I&R.

  3. Don says:

    Bhmhomeboy, I have a couple of questions for you.

    You said that you checked out my website. Maybe you missed something on where it says, “The initiative process is not a cure-all for Alabama’s problems, nor should it utilized to replace the legislative process. In his address to the 1912 Ohio constitutional convention Theodore Roosevelt told delegates, ‘the initiative and referendum should be used, not as substitutes for representative government, but as methods of making such government really representative. Action by the initiative or referendum ought not to be the normal way of legislation; but the power to take it should be provided in the constitution, so that if the representatives fail truly to represent the people on some matter of sufficient importance to rouse popular interest, then the people shall have in their hands the facilities to make good the failure.’

    QUESTION #1: Do you really believe that the Alabama legislature has not failed many times to “represent the people on some matter of sufficient importance to rouse popular interest”?

    QUESTION # 2: Are you not in favor of honest and fair elections that will hopefully stop citizens of all races and political persuasions from being disenfranchised….since that is what the DDL, a multi-racial and non-partisan organization, proposes?

  4. HotShot says:

    Dear Don,
    I&R is not the answer to question 1.

    The DDL is not the answer to question 2.

    Question: Who is against Constitution Reform in Alabama?

  5. Don says:

    Is Bhmhomeboy now hiding behind the pseudonym of HotShot?

    Whatever, HotShot, if those are not the answers (and please expound on why they aren’t), pray tell what are the answers to your way of thinking?

  6. pattie says:

    there seems to be a lot of really confused people out there. no wonder our government is in the state of confusion and corruption it is in today. we all need to wake up and see what is happening to our state and country.

  7. Bhmhomeboy says:

    I agree pattie,
    We’ve been lied to so much we don’t know what or who to believe.

    We don’t need I&R to hold elected officials accountable. They can be voted out of office just like they were voted into office.

    It’s not the job of private citizen groups to enforce voting laws. I would feel differently about the DDL if their purpose was to educate voters.

    Back to the subject at hand: Who exactly is against Constitution Reform and why?

  8. Pegasus says:

    At least with I&R we the citizens have a fighting chance to get things changed.
    Politicians for the most part are sleeze and do not give a rats rear end about the people. I have witnessed the total arrogance and contempt by our representatives of the Alabama citizens first hand in Montgomery! Not to mention the lobbyists! We need I&R and all lobbyists OUT of the Capital building! The lobbyists are the ones that are listened to (grease that palm) NOT the citizens! Wake up!

  9. Carol Hagan says:

    Go to my website,, for the answer to your complaints about the tax system in Alabama. I have been trying to get the Legislature to look at this and other changes in the Constitution for the past five years. My tax plan would simplify the system and return politics to the local level where all politics are.

  10. pattie says:

    Bhmhomeboy you don’t understand the purpose of DDL. We don’t try to enforce anything. We want legislative change in voting laws. Also one of our goals is public education and awareness. Apparently we are not doing a good job in this area. visit our website

  11. T. Thomas says:

    Dear Bhmhomeboy and others who don’t understand how our legislators are bought and paid for….
    If we leave Constitutional Reform up to the very legislators who are now giving us such fine service, then we are destined to get what we have now, a pile of feces. Constitutional, tax, voting law, tort, educational, etc. REFORM can only come when the people demand I & R accountability on these issues. IT is up to our famous legislators to bring the items up for a vote by the people. A cup of coffee and a $85 steak will buy any legislator in Monkeygomery. WHEN the Constitution comes up for REFORM, if Alabamians don’t distinguish between the same ole feces and those who want integrity and honor in government, then we deserve what we get. NEW HONORABLE DELEGATES SWORN TO bring progressive, legitimate, fair changes must be chosen and keep the Business Council, the AEA, the ALFA, the lumber dealers, the road pavers, the trial lawyers, the hospital lobbyists, you name it OUT of the delegate process, then we won’t have any change. How many teachers will Paul Hubbert buy to become delegates ? They will be there, they will be paid and they will be IN YOUR FACE !!!!
    Voting laws must be changed to penalize cheaters, stealers, conspirators and get them to serve lengthy periods in JAIL ! Without this threat of penalty, the same ole feces will remain in Monkeytown.
    May GOD have mercy on this state. We dare defend our rights !

  12. Bhmhomeboy says:

    Monkeytown? I’m out of this discussion.

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