Yolanda Rochelle Flowers is running for Governor of Alabama in the Democratic party primary. On Friday, 1819 News discussed the campaign with her in a lengthy phone interview.
“We are still trying to get it off the ground,” Flowers said of the campaign.
Flowers is an Alabama native who graduated from Woodlawn High School in 1978, but she spent much of her professional life in Tennessee. Flowers has extensive experience as an educator, as a speech pathologist, and in vocational education. She is a mother and grandmother.
1819 News asked Flowers if she supported school choice.
“If the parent feels that the child learns better at the school then yes,” Flowers said. “I hate to say that.”
Flowers said that she would like for everyone to get a quality education at every school and that there are no “failing schools” but achieving that is going to take some time.
“Having worked in the schools for many years I understand the importance of the psychological evaluation,” Flowers said. “By the age of five, we should know if a child has autism, central auditory disorder or if they need speech [therapy].”
Flowers said every child learns differently and that should be addressed in the classroom. She also said early psychological evaluations are important for children.
“An early psychological evaluation of the child is important to let us know what we as parents need to do,” Flowers explained. “Teach them some nursery rhymes, teach them some colors,” Flowers said emphasizing the role of parents in education, especially early childhood education.
Flowers began her career as a paraprofessional working with at-risk students. While working, she earned her degree from the University of Tennessee as an audiologist, where she also got her master's degree.
In her career, she has worked as a speech-language pathologist, taught English as a second language and worked as a rehabilitation counselor for the state of Tennessee where she worked with the adult disabled. She also worked in the high schools where she helped coach the teachers in vocational education and workforce development.
1819 News asked if she supported an Alabama lottery.
“Yes, people are gambling anyway,” Flowers said. “They are going to gamble. We ought to get some of that money that we are losing to Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and other states.”
“I was a product of the Tennessee lottery,” Flowers said. “I received a Hope Scholarship. The roads were cared for, the students were getting the laptops and the WIFI they needed. We all were able to benefit.”
1819 News asked if Alabama approves gambling where should the money go?
“Schools, roads, highways,” Flowers said. “The roads have so many potholes here that my car is constantly getting out of alignment. Not in building jailhouses and prisons.”
Flowers said that the Alabama justice system needs to do a better job at rehabilitating prisoners.
“Those who have been incarcerated, that is counted as a disability,” Flowers said. “Many employers are leery of hiring a person who has been incarcerated.”
“We need to try to grow them up and try to teach them a skill,” Flowers said. “We need to talk to employers and offer them incentives to hire people who have been in prison.
“Spending $400 million on building prisons is not beneficial. We should not keep them jailed or locked up like they are in a dog pound. Give them a chance to be productive members of society.
“When you are caged in for so long it is like becoming a feral person.”
Flowers said that the state needs to hire law enforcement and prison guards with the right mentality for the job and that not everybody is psychologically suited for those positions.
“You have to have a mind for that and a heart for that,” Flowers said. “You have to be able to apprehend somebody without shooting them.
“Everybody is not qualified mentally to carry a gun. A lot of people do not know how to handle power.”
Flowers said that she favored “very stringent” screening of potential law enforcement and corrections officers with background checks.
“Security has had a bad reputation on both ends,” Flowers said.
“A bad officer in the past has tainted many people’s perception of law enforcement," Flowers said.
On the need for building the two new mega prisons, Flowers said, “I have to see why Gov. Ivey is wanting that. We have got to count the cost.
“That is money going to waste. We need to rethink that. What program can we do to rehabilitate? Don’t just build up new buildings.”
1819 News asked Flowers if she favored ending the gun permit requirement for concealed carry.
“That is dangerous to me, No, I don’t,” Flowers said. “A gun is power, and some people can’t handle power.”
“Everyone should be able to go to the store without carrying a gun,” Flowers said. “All the violence is because you can buy a gun here. I am not for it.”
Flowers said that the state should do more to keep its rural hospitals open.
“Every county should have a hospital,” Flowers said. “It makes no sense for our hospitals to close and people to have to travel to another county for medical treatment.”
Flowers said that Alabama needs to become self-sufficient and that with our climate we should not be dependent on food grown in other states or other countries.
“We need to grow our own food,” Flowers said.
Flowers outlined a lengthy program of revitalizing small towns in rural Alabama that included hydroponics, solar energy, windmills, and training our citizens to work them.
“We need to go back to agriculture,” Flowers said. “We can grow a plethora of things here rather than purchasing imports. Alabama is a great place for that.”
Flowers said that Alabama needs to do a better job of teaching our children and she stressed hands-on learning like the 4H.
“Every high school needs to have a vocational side to them,” Flowers said. “Every high school should teach farming, auto mechanics, nursing, welding. Not every child is going to college.”
Flowers said that she is in favor of addressing the homeless by building small houses 400’ to house workers in rural Alabama and having them work the land while teaching them job readiness skills.
“I see a lot of things that can help our rural communities,” Flowers said.
1819 News asked Flowers if she was in favor of Medicaid expansion.
“I am for Medicaid expansion, the lottery can pay for part of that,” Flowers said.
1819 News asked if Flowers supported more money for public transportation.
“Yes, the lottery is so needful, they have cut our routes,” Flowers said. “Not everybody can afford a car, not everybody can drive a car. That hurts poor people. We cannot keep ignoring the needs of the people. You have people who are walking from one bus stop to the next bus stop.”
Flowers faces a crowded Democratic party field that includes Chad “Chig” Martin, State Sen. Malika Sanders-Fortier, Arthur Kennedy, Doug “New Blue” Smith, and Patricia Salter Jamieson.
The Democratic Party primary is on May 24.
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