City election qualifying starts in two weeks

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Let's clean out the notebook ... 

• Writing this week about the municipal elections coming in Aug. 25 makes me realize how quickly - very quickly - they are coming. Qualifying runs from July 7 to 5 p.m. on July 21; both are Tuesdays. As I write this, qualifying starts in two weeks. Holy cow.

Municipal runoffs would be Oct. 6. Voter registration deadlines will be Aug. 10, and the last day to apply for an absentee ballot in the city elections will be Aug. 20. Candidates have to have resided in the city or town for at least 90 days and be a qualified voter. 

Here is some information from an online election manual concerning residency requirements: 

"On numerous occasions, the residency requirement set forth herein has been construed to mean actual physical residence and not merely legal residence for voting purposes.

"The term 'resident' refers to domicile or permanent residence as distinguished from temporary residence. Neither residence in the police jurisdiction nor ownership of property within the corporate limits qualifies a person to vote in a municipal election." 

He goes on to say, "The manual clarifies that candidates do not establish a legal residence merely by stating an intention to reside in a particular district. A candidate must have a physical presence in the district, as well as the intention to reside in the district." 

(I once knew one municipal candidate who tried to claim he often slept in his store for security, so that is why he should claim that area to run in. It didn't work.) 

The best guide for all things concerning the municipal elections is the Alabama League of Municipality's election section on its website, at www.alalm.org, which has the election calendar and a manual. 

By the way, the Daily Mountain Eagle will have paid candidate profiles to promote their campaigns and their history. We should have a story soon, but you may call advertising director Jake Aaron or the advertising department at 205-221-2840 or email jake.aaron@mountaineagle.com. You could also get with James Phillips at the same number or at james.phillips@mountaineagle.com. (My two cents on it is that is is a good thing - but please email or text it, which should help you and us both.) 

Oh, and candidates must file a Statement of Economic Interests form with the Alabama Ethics Commission in order to appear on the ballot, as demanded by state law.  For questions regarding the statement, call the Ethics Commission at 334-242-2997. And, yes, they do keep up with this sort of thing - but feel free to call, as they would also prefer preventative measures. 

• By the way, the municipal elections brought to mind the plight of District 4 Carbon Hill Councilman Robert Warren, who sits in jail awaiting trial for Lisa Michele Benton Clements, who was once thought to be his wife although now it is doubtful to authorities. 

To review again, Warren last attended a council meeting on Feb. 24 and has only missed two consecutive regular meetings, May 11 and on Monday; he also missed a Feb. 26 emergency meeting. The council did not meet between its Feb. 26 and May 11 meetings due to COVID-19 and other issues, and it did not meet on Memorial Day. It also didn't meet on Monday, as Mayor Mark Chambers sent me an email through the city clerk that a quorum could not be reached that night and the meeting was cancelled. 

According to Section 11-40-25 in the Code of Alabama and and an online summary (apparently from a 2016 orientation conference publication) from the Alabama League of Municipalities, a councilman who fails to attend all regular meeting and special called council meetings for 90 consecutive days, beginning on the date of any absence, shall be removed from office by operation of law. 

The clerk is required to keep track of attendance, even if a quorum is not present. The removal is automatic and does not require a vote to remove. However, the council member can be reinstated by the council by a majority vote. If it does not reinstate the office, the council can then fill the seat with someone else. 

So I didn't stay at Holiday Inn last night, and, yeah, I could stand to be wrong. But I would say that technically Warren is off the council, as it appears to be a time frame as opposed to number of meetings. 

But here is the thing for all the councils in the near future: Meeting twice a month, they only have eight meetings left in their term, stretching to late October. (Parrish is monthly and will have four.) So it is possible District 4 could just do without a councilman until the election is over and the new council is sworn into office in November. 

And then there is this possibility: Only one person might qualify for District 4 by July 21. More might qualify, but let's just assume one does. Then it would be certain that person would be a councilman in November, so it only stands to go ahead and appoint that person to the seat early. 

• It is amazing to see how slow to yet many businesses and organizations have been to open up, although the pace of the pandemic has all but mandated a careful approach. Some restaurants are still only doing drive-in and pick up. Johnny Brusco's (which has done really well with their dining area set-up) had opened up but had to close for cleaning over a few days when a worker got infected. (The reopened Wednesday.) Churches are still all over the place in what they are doing. 

The Daily Mountain Eagle is still closed at the front, although we have a drop box with envelopes and we still take mail, packages, fax, phone calls, emails, texts and Facebook messaging. (If it is complicated, call us in advance at 205-221-2840 and talk to us, or message us on Facebook. Our emails are simple: firstname.lastname@mountaineagle.com.) 

As for myself, I am still taking it careful. I watch church online. I don't dive into crowds if I can help it. I wear a mask (although I am still looking for the right fit). I do interviews by phone when possible. 

Many of the experts have said we can get over this sooner if we use masks, social distance and wash our hands. I know many of you are skeptical, but I would beg you to be more considerate considering how this virus is still raging. Walker County as of Tuesday was rated high at 364 cases per 100,000 over the past 14 days, and all but Marion County were in that category for the surrounding area. By Tuesday we had 10 deaths and more than 700 cases. Overall, as of Tuesday, our rate of confirmed cases per 100,000 was 1,120, pretty much near the top for the top half of the state. 

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Ed Howell is news editor of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He can be reached at 205-221-2840 or at ed.howell@mountaineagle.com.