Op-Ed by Amber Selman-Lynn

This week, The Courier newspaper, which serves part of Baldwin county, featured an op-ed piece by Amber Selman-Lynn. The op-ed is print only, however you can find the text below.

Time to Shake Up the Status Quo in Montgomery
By: Amber Selman-Lynn

 When people who aren’t from here picture South Alabama, they probably imagine the sandy white beaches of Gulf Shores or a quaint bayside downtown. I doubt they know that throughout much of the area our outdated water system backs up whenever it rains, turning our streams and creeks to sewage.

Unfortunately, that same mindset is typical of how elected officials up in Montgomery have treated our community for far too long. They’re happy enough when the tax dollars from our tourism industry roll in, but when it comes time for bold solutions to tough problems, it seems we’re out of sight, out of mind.

It’s time for that to change.

Baldwin is Alabama’s fastest growing county, and we’re not even close to having the infrastructure we need to keep up. South Monroe county is no better. There is no good reason that the rain should regularly overwhelm our sewers. Or that families should have to check whether it’s safe to swim in or eat the fish from our lakes and streams. These are the conditions you would expect to find in a third world country, not the greatest nation in the world.

Here’s the thing: We know how to fix it. But our elected leaders haven’t summoned the political will to shake up the status quo.

That’s why I’m asking you to let me represent you.

By all accounts, my opponent is a good person with years of public service behind him. But for more than a decade, we have sent him to Montgomery to represent us, and what has changed in that time? Our streets are getting more and more crowded. Our water crisis is worse than ever. And it’s not just infrastructure. By any measure Alabama ranks near the bottom of the list on education and healthcare.

Again, none of these failures stem from lack of talent or knowledge. We have the tools to succeed – we just haven’t found the conviction.

Just look at our Pre-K system. It’s the best in the nation. But after more than a decade, two-thirds of our children are still left out. That means too many of our kids are behind from the day they start school. It only gets worse from there. We were told the Alabama Accountability Act would aid students districted to failing schools. It has cost Baldwin County public schools alone $3 million since it was passed in 2013. Baldwin County has no failing schools. Meanwhile, how many of us know teachers who dig into their own pockets just to outfit their classrooms with the bare necessities?

Or take healthcare. Alabama has incredible hospitals that have served our rural communities for decades, but 75 percent of them are operating in the red. Twelve rural hospitals have closed across the state in the last seven years. That’s not sustainable, but we don’t have to accept it. Just like we do on infrastructure and education, we have the answers. Expanding Medicaid would keep those hospitals open and keep our families healthy. It would also ensure affordable coverage for more than 200,000

Alabamians, create billions in revenue, and be the largest jobs bill our state has ever passed. Yet our current leaders seem more interested in making a political point than making real change.

We can do better. We know how. Now we have to make the choice.

I’m an Alabamian by birth and by choice. I was born in Fairhope. I went to Georgia for school, but when it came time to start a family, I never considered anywhere but South Alabama. I wanted my kids to grow up here because it’s home and because I know the remarkable potential we have here in South Alabama and across the state.

Running for elected office is about the last thing I saw myself doing when I moved back. But when I think about all that potential; when I think about the Alabama I want for my little girls; and when I think about all the work we have to do to get there, I can’t just stand by and watch.

I don’t claim to have the perfect solutions to all our problems, and I don’t pretend we can fix them all overnight. But I do know this: if we keep doing things the same way, year after year, election after election, we’ll keep getting the same results. Our kids and our communities deserve better.