Gigi Douban

Gigi Douban

News Director



Gigi Douban has reported for public radio since 2006. She’s filed stories for WBHM, NPR, Studio 360, and Public Radio International’s The World. Most recently, Gigi reported for Marketplace, bringing the country stories about toxic landfills, debtors prisons, and lighter fare, like why urinals are ubiquitous in public bathrooms, but not in homes. She's also written for Bloomberg News and Runner’s World, and on occasion, actually runs.

Birmingham Revitalization: Developers Spur Growth in Avondale, Downtown

Behind every new coffee shop and oyster house and once-vacant building is a real estate developer. The same goes for parks and condos and baseball fields. To understand how developers choose where to invest, we’ll start in Avondale.

State’s Historic Tax Credit Expires this Month

From the Lyric Theater in downtown Birmingham to the Howell School in Dothan, a number of renovations have been supported by the state’s historic tax credit. It offered developers financial incentives to take on projects that might have come with big risks. But the bill to renew those tax credits has died this legislative session, and the tax will expire this month.

North Alabama Residents Sue 3M Over Drinking Water Contamination

Safe drinking water is an issue that’s been playing out from Parkersburg, West Virginia to Hoosick Falls, New York. It’s a question many courts are taking on. Among the most recent is in North Alabama, where residents and a water authority are suing 3M, maker of products from Scotchgard to Post-It Notes in connection with toxins in the water supply. The EPA is expected to release new guidelines on safe levels this spring. Meanwhile, the fight is on over who might foot the bill if a cleanup is in order.

Some Doubt Gov. Robert Bentley’s Prison Reform Plan

Critics call them five-star prison hotels. Fact is, Alabama’s prisons are among the most overcrowded in the nation. The state’s correctional facilities, designed to hold 13,000 inmates, instead house almost double that. State prisons are also chronically understaffed, a factor thought to have contributed to two recent inmate riots at Holman Correctional Facility and a fatal inmate stabbing at Elmore Correctional Facility. A Senate budget committee approved Governor Robert Bentley’s proposed solution to the problem. But there’s uncertainty as to whether that’s indeed the way out.

Senate Committee Approves Prison Consolidation Plan

A Senate budget committee approved a prison construction bill Wednesday. The bill would close  14 state prisons and build four large regional facilities. Senator Cam Ward was among the bill’s supporters, citing prison overcrowding issues. “Everyone says well you can’t build — and I’ve said this before — you can’t build your way out of the […]

US Senator Richard Shelby Spends Big in Alabama Primary

What does $5 buy you in Chilton County? All the chili you could eat, line dancing, and door prizes galore. Oh, and a chance to meet Senator Richard Shelby, who spent a recent Saturday campaigning at the Chilton County Chili Cookoff.

Clinton, Rubio Among Presidential Hopefuls Pushing Through Birmingham

It was a politics-heavy weekend in the state as presidential candidates swept through in the days leading up to Super Tuesday. The Clintons, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, and Donald Trump all held events throughout Alabama.

Clinton, Cruz and Trump to Visit Birmingham and Huntsville this Weekend

Presidential hopefuls Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Senator Marco Rubio will each make a final push campaigning in Alabama this Saturday, just days before Tuesday’s SEC Primary. They will campaign separately in Birmingham. Republican front-runner Donald Trump will hold a rally in Madison on Sunday.

Tea Party Group Angered After Gun Store Owner Calls Off Senate Debate

An event featuring candidates for U.S. Senate took a bizarre turn Thursday evening. The Rainy Day Patriots had organized a debate for all five republican candidates at Hoover Tactical Firearms. But when Senator Richard Shelby didn’t attend, things quickly began to unravel.

Tea Party Senate Debate Featuring Shelby Opponents Halted

A debate featuring Alabama candidates for U.S. Senate was shut down Thursday evening and attendees suddenly asked to leave. The event was to showcase Republican opponents to incumbent Senator Richard Shelby.

Barbershop Forum Aims to Boost Support for Hillary Clinton

What happens when a handful of people gather in a barbershop to talk politics? People tend to speak their minds. That was the idea behind an event Monday evening at Moore Styles Barbershop in Birmingham’s Civil Rights District.

New Law Could Simplify Restoring Voting Rights for Felons

For millions of Americans, past criminal convictions mean they can no longer vote. Getting back that right in many states is straightforward: serve your time, do probation, and have your voting rights restored. But in Alabama, those with felony convictions face enormous struggles ––especially when they’ve committed certain crimes. We’re talking about crimes of moral turpitude. If you’re confused, you’re not alone.

Birmingham Becomes First City in Alabama to Ban the Box

The mayor of Birmingham announced today new hiring practices aimed at curbing discrimination against those with past criminal convictions. Birmingham now joins the ranks of other states and cities banning the box. Mayor William Bell said too often, those with past criminal convictions are automatically rejected by employers. “And it’s all because of that box […]

Zeigler: Send Prisoners Away From Alabama to Ease Overcrowding

Governor Robert Bentley isn’t doing enough to save taxpayers money. That was the core message of state auditor Jim Zeigler’s rebuttal of the governor’s State of the State address. Zeigler offered a few ideas, including this one: instead of building “four-star prison hotels”, ease overcrowding by letting prisoners volunteer to move at least two states away and get jobs.

Small Alabama County Offers Cash Amid Struggle to Stop Tuberculosis Spread

There’s only one health department in Alabama where people can go to be tested for tuberculosis. It’s not in the state’s biggest city: Birmingham or any large city. It’s in Perry County, where an outbreak has so far claimed three lives since last year. And it’s getting worse. The infection rate is 100 times higher than doctors say it should be. Now, health officials are trying to get handle on the disease. But it hasn’t been easy.

Sanders Tells Black Voters U.S. Must Confront ‘Institutional Racism’

It’s not just Iowa and New Hampshire where Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders will have to perform strongly to win the Democratic nomination. He’ll also need to do well on March 1st, this year’s Super Tuesday. That’s when a dozen, mostly southern states hold presidential primaries and caucuses. And in many of those states, African-Americans are a key Democratic voting block. That’s one reason Sanders spent Monday night in Birmingham celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Same-Sex Marriage Supporters Call for Moore’s Impeachment

About 100 same-sex marriage supporters gathered in front of the Alabama Supreme Court building in Montgomery Tuesday to call for Chief Justice Roy Moore’s impeachment. Moore recently issued an order to probate judges telling them not to grant marriage licenses to gay couples.

State Auditor Says Governor’s Mansion Restoration “Poor Stewardship” of BP Funds

State Auditor Jim Zeigler is accusing Governor Robert Bentley of misusing oil spill money from BP. In a statement released today, Zeigler says a reporter and photographer from the New York Times are in Alabama looking into Bentley’s use of $1.8 million of BP money to restore the governor’s mansion at the Gulf in Baldwin County. The property has been abandoned since 1997 after suffering hurricane damage.

Ted Cruz Rallies Support in Alabama

Republican presidential hopeful Texas Senator Ted Cruz spoke to about 15-hundred people at the Trussville Civic Center yesterday. It’s part of big push through Southern states. Cruz told supporters that if elected, he’d abolish the IRS, launch an investigation into Planned Parenthood and move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. That sat well with many in the crowd.

Support For Trump in Alabama Still High Despite Anti-Muslim Rhetoric

From a pig’s head left outside a Philadelphia mosque this week to mounting threats in other parts of the US, the backlash against Muslims has intensified. In Alabama, the Ku Klux Klan is reportedly distributing fliers urging recruits to “fight the spread of Islam in our country.” This, along with Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s heated rhetoric, has many of the state’s Muslims on edge.

Marco Rubio Makes First Campaign Stop in Alabama

Florida Senator Marco Rubio made his first Alabama campaign stop in Guntersville yesterday. Despite heavy rain, more than 800 people crowded into a gymnasium to hear what the presidential hopeful had to say.

Republican Presidential Hopeful Donald Trump Draws Crowd in Birmingham

Donald Trump held his second campaign rally in Alabama on Saturday. It was well-attended and a bit of a rollercoaster ride. The Republican presidential front-runner shared his views on tracking Muslims, immigration, and at one point during his speech, threw out a protester in the crowd.

Three Ways Alabama’s Medicaid Is Set to Change in 2016

On Wednesday, Governor Robert Bentley’s Alabama Health Care Improvement Task Force voted to recommend Medicaid expansion for the state. This comes years after Governor Bentley decided against expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Instead, Bentley and the Alabama legislature agreed to rebuild the state’s Medicaid structure. And the clock is ticking on that plan. Eleven months from now, Alabama’s new Medicaid system launches. Details about the overhaul have been fuzzy. But WBHM’s Gigi Douban gives us three ways the new plan will change health care for the one million Alabamians on Medicaid.

Controversial ISIS Coloring Book Reaches Vestavia Home

Really Big Coloring Books, which credits itself with starting the adult coloring book craze, has come out with a new and controversial one titled “ISIS: A Culture of Evil.” The company sent thousands unsolicited around the country, and one ended up in a Muslim household in Vestavia Hills. Henna Budhwani had just gotten home from work […]

Feds Wont Sue Alabama Over “Motor Voter” Non-compliance

The U.S. Department of Justice announced today a settlement agreement with Alabama in connection with the state’s violation of the National Voter Registration Act. The move follows an investigation by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

Hillary Clinton Voices Criticism of Drivers License Office Closures During Alabama Visit

Secretary of State and Presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton campaigned in Hoover on Saturday. The Alabama Democratic Conference gathered at the Hyatt Regency Wynfrey Hotel, where Clinton was the guest speaker. Clinton’s comments on racial justice drew plenty of support from those in attendance.

Many Alabama Legislators Use Private Email, Limiting Public Access

The controversy continues over Hillary Clinton’s use of personal emails during her tenure as secretary of state, and it’s raising broader questions about how public officials should communicate electronically. In one survey, 33 percent of government workers said they use personal email for government business at least sometimes. The issue? Private emails are nearly impossible for the public to access. If you thought AOL and Hotmail were dead, just scroll down the list of Alabama lawmakers and check out their contact info. State senators and Representatives also list plenty of Gmail, Yahoo and emails tied to their personal websites. In Alabama, more than half the state’s House members and almost a third of senators use an email other than the state-issued .gov email address.

Alabama Auto Workers Say “Yes” to Joining Union

The United Auto Workers Union scored a major victory Wednesday in Piedmont, Alabama where workers at truck seat manufacturer CVG voted in favor of joining the union. The company says it has been responsive to employee concerns, and invested millions to improve working conditions. But that wasn’t enough.

Interview: Dr. Edward O. Wilson, Biologist and Alabama Native

Dr. Edward O. Wilson is best known for his work studying ants. Wilson discovered the first fire ant colony in North America, as a 13-year-old playing outside in Mobile. The world-renowned scientist recently came back to his alma mater, The University of Alabama, for a week-long symposium celebrating Alabama’s biodiversity. Reporter Gigi Douban talked with Wilson about what makes Alabama so special, what to do when ants invade your kitchen and his recent contributions to UA.

Air Quality: Emissions

The average price of regular unleaded gas in Alabama is $3.94 a gallon, and that has many people thinking about alternatives. The Birmingham Regional Planning Commission says hundreds of people have signed up for their carpool program, and some businesses are moving to four-day workweeks. All of this could have an impact on the environment. In today’s installment in our Air Quality series, reporter Gigi Douban examines vehicle emissions testing in Alabama.