Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Our Stand: Missing in action: Robert Bentley's conscience

  Monday Governor Robert Bentley engaged in one of the most unconscionable acts to date during his time as governor. After appearing at a statewide news conference in which he stressed the severity of the coming winter storm and admonished Alabama drivers to stay off the roads Bentley - inexplicably and in the same breath - ordered the state's public servants to report to work Tuesday despite the threat, and in doing so placed many lives in danger without apology.

  For those beyond these Southern climes who may chuckle at such conditions, you're failing to realize that only those who have lived in areas regularly affected by ice and snow are experienced in how to drive in such conditions. These conditions included a large volume of freezing rain which accumulated throughout the day. And Alabama's resources aren't such that the state can dispatch large fleets of trucks to salt or sand roads and take similar measures.

  By issuing such a statement Bentley essentially admitted he does not value the lives of state workers. Or worse, he harbors such contempt for them and is so fixated instead on pandering to his Tea Party base, that he believes he'll score points with that crowd by wantonly endangering the well-being of state workers and scoffing at their welfare. Schools had closed, many municipal offices in the area had closed and some counties were closing their road systems altogether. The City of Montgomery, Montgomery County and even Maxwell Air Force Base had released their non-essential workers. Yet Bentley sadistically and without conscience had ordered state workers to report to work and continued to hold them there without any regard for their safety until nearly mid-day, several hours into the development of dangerous conditions.

  Around 11 a.m. Tuesday word leaked out that Bentley had ordered state agencies to remain open, leaving who to dismiss up to agency heads and ordered agencies to work with a "skeleton crew" according to Montgomery television station WSFA. Too little, too late. And even that act reeked of cowardice in that Bentley was dodging the resulting heat from the very workers he was endangering by shifting the responsibility to his agency heads.

  Even as the minute-by-minute, heightening warnings were issued by meteorologists and Emergency Management officials about the rapidly deteriorating conditions coupled with stern warnings to stay off the roads, Bentley held state workers hostage in the workplace. Even as reports filtered in about countless accidents on the roads, including one that resulted in two fatalities in Elmore County--five fatalities have been reported statewide so far--Governor Bentley still wouldn't release his iron grip on state workers, forcing them to sit helpless as conditions became increasingly dangerous, petrified of what may await them on the roads by the time the governor might finally relent and allow workers to leave even though conditions were already highly dangerous for traveling. It was a position in which they should have never been placed.

  Governor Bentley's deplorable inaction during this statewide emergency directly endangered the lives of state workers, the very public servants who enable our state government to function and meet the needs of Alabama's citizens. And worse, we can only assume that Bentley's inexplicable and reckless lack of action in this matter was a misguided attempt to appease his right-wing base that seems to treat bashing state workers as sport. Meteorologists across the state were clear and consistent in expressing the great danger this winter storm would bring, so there was no excuse for any employer - and especially our state's chief executive - to take such a dangerous risk with the lives of others. The governor's order to state workers was dangerous. It was reckless. It was contemptible and it is unforgivable.

Copyright © Capital City Free Press


  1. I completely agree with you. When the governor of the state declares a state of emergency which he did on Monday, he should have immediately announced the closure of the state offices, except for emergency situations. What he did or should I say, did not do, was deplorable and unforgivable. I have carnal knowledge of some state workers who were unable to get home on Tuesday because of his indecision and thoughtlessness. Some of those state workers had to go to the expense of staying in rather expensive hotel rooms (unwillingly but necessary) at their own expense. These state employees who many people bash, have worked through almost 5 years without a single cent pay raise. Effectively, these workers have taken pay CUTS for almost 5 years because of inflation. Then they have to pay for hotel rooms, and meals and in some hotels, like the Renaissance, even pay for parking (can you believe that?) while staying in the hotel. ALL out of their own pocket. WHY? Because Bentley didn't have the cahoonas (or maybe it was intelligence?) to order the state offices closed when he declared a state of emergency on Monday. And I voted for the man!!! Wake up Bentley and don't throw the state workers under the bus ever again.

  2. " I have carnal knowledge of some state workers who were unable to get home on Tuesday because of his indecision and thoughtlessness"

    Say what? Carnal knowledge"