Southern Politics

You may recall, the Music Man once sang, “Oh, we got trouble, right here in River City.”  Well, we got trouble right here in the River Region.

See, two years ago, Montgomery area officials all posed with brand new shovels to break ground for a new community health facility, to be funded with $1.5 million from the city and the rest with federal funds.

Among those turning the dirt was Montgomery City Councilwoman Martha Roby, who vocally supported the River Region Health Center. But now that she’s Congresswoman Roby for Alabama’s Second Congressional District, her tune is different. This week, she shoveled dirt again — right back on her constituents. Rep. Roby voted to slash funding for vitally important community health centers across the nation as one of her first major votes in Washington.

Roby voted with others in the Republican-held House to pass a federal budget proposal cutting $1.3 billion in funding to nonprofit community health centers, nationwide, like the River Region Health Center. These are the very community clinics that offer health care to uninsured or underinsured patients. They take the burden off hospital emergency rooms, which have become the port-of-last-resort for indigent patients who cost hospitals a staggering $4 billion annually in uncompensated care.

Hospital administrators and boards want centers like the River Region Health Center to be built and funded. The city wanted the RRHC to be built and funded. So did the county. And so did Martha Roby, when it was politically expedient.

The following quote from Alabama Democratic Party Chairman Mark Kennedy is taken from an Associated Press story: “Martha Roby celebrated this health center by smiling for the cameras with a shovel in her hand when she was on the city council, and now she’s flip flopped to gain favor with her political masters in Washington by putting an incredibly valuable community resource for her constituents at risk. She’s only spent just over a month on the job, but she’s already proven herself to be a first-rate political opportunist.”

Gita M. Smith

Gita M. Smith

Gita M. Smith is a former Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer who covered Alabama -- yes, the whole state -- for the paper's national desk where she fell under  the dangerous influence of Keith Graham and Ron Taylor.  She writes flash fiction at 6S, Thinking 10 and fictionaut.