By Zach Mitcham
Jail funding issues a product of flawed SPLOST process
Madison County SPLOST dollars are like the T-shirt that won’t cover the gut. You can pull and pull, but they won’t stretch enough to do the job, not entirely.
County commissioners heard the pleas from department heads last year on how sales tax money could be used over the next six years. And everybody who took the podium made good points on why they need the dollars. Yet, the board was ultimately a little too nice, agreeing to divide the pie into so many pieces that nobody leaves the table with enough in their stomach.
We reported last week that the BOC plans to borrow $5 million to fund the jail project and borrowing money is a good decision. The BOC wants to avoid paying more money in construction costs in years to come. And getting funds up front, rather than waiting for inflation to take effect, is smart. What wasn’t a good decision was allocating just $3.3 million for the jail expansion on the SPLOST referendum. Board members knew the project would cost more than that, but they heard legitimate requests from county department heads and wanted to do all they could to avoid cutting funding for needed projects. So, they shorted the jail project by an estimated $1.1 to $1.7 million. That shortfall must be covered with general funds, meaning local property owners must cover the added expense, rather than shoppers at local stores.
Ultimately, the BOC was right to push for the jail expansion, but they should have done some extra whittling away on what projects actually made it onto the SPLOST ballot. The discussions they will soon have about trimming jail expansion costs will be necessary because they shied away from hard cuts during SPLOST planning last year.
The SPLOST issues are among the most important county leaders must face. And the BOC ought to consider revising county policy to mandate that future boards hold their first SPLOST meetings at least two years prior to any sales tax renewal referendum. The current shortfall in funding for the jail seems like a product of the rushed nature of last year’s SPLOST planning.
I express my thoughts on these funding issues knowing full well that any political commentary these days is examined for election-time motivations. The “who are you for?” mentality is hard to shake when the signs cover the yards of our neighbors.
But it’s my personal goal and the aim of this newspaper to avoid the teams and offer a straight shot. We don’t feel comfortable with allegiance to any candidates, not when we’re trying to give readers objective material to form their own judgments.
Instead, I’m most passionate about systemic issues related to election and governance. As I’ve harped on so many times before, the primary election system is truly flawed. For instance, if you want to offer support to incumbent sheriff Clayton Lowe or his challenger Troy Asmus in the Democratic primary, then you can’t vote for the county commission chairman or BOC representatives in districts 1, 2, 4 and 5, which are all on the Republican ticket. Instead, you have to choose to participate in one election at the expense of having your voice heard in another.
That’s a real shame.
All county voters should have the opportunity to cast a ballot in every race that directly affects them. Anything short of this begs for reform.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.
By Frank Gillispie
I don’t fit the profile of a high-tech redneck
I have a new toy. Now I am not heavily into the latest technology. I still do not have an iPod, or Bluetooth, for example. My television is still not a digital although it looks like I may have to buy one by the end of the year. I have a basic cell phone that does not take pictures or read my e-mail. I do not quite fit the profile of a high-tech redneck!
But now and then a new device combines the best of old and new technology. That is where my new toy comes in. It is a USB turntable. It can convert the old vinyl LP’s into digital sound that can be stored in the computer. And if there is one thing that I have plenty of is old vinyl LP’s, what the old time DJ’s referred to as “stacks of dusty wax.”
After the turntable arrived, I dug into my half century accumulation of old records and came up with over 500 of them, mostly from the 50’s and 60’s. I will spend quite a bit of time sorting through, cleaning and converting these recordings to digital.
In the process, I am rediscovering a great deal of our heritage in them. The emergence of what we now call “rock” from the old gospel and blues music is clearly seen in the collection. The impact of the big bands comes through as well as the growth of Southern Gospel, bluegrass and other styles of music. I am highly eclectic in my music choices and that is made clear by my collection.
There was a single instrument that marked the popular music of the 60s, but has not been used much since then. It is the bongo drums. It shows up in all types of music of that age from folk music to major concerts. It is featured heavily in what is now considered to be the peak of Judy Garland’s career, her Carnegie Hall Concert.
My major concession to high technology is my computer. I spend a great deal of time with it, including researching and writing this column. I get most of my news from the Internet now, spend time sorting and arranging my many files of information, and exploring such things as my family tree and Southern history. Thus, with the advent of high capacity hard drives, it makes sense to have my music stored in the computer. The first thing I do when I sit down is turn on the music program and set it to play in the background as I work.
Not only will the project of converting all these “stacks of wax” into digital music keep me busy during my semi retirement, it will greatly expand the variety of styles and artists available. As I write this, I am enjoying light jazz. Earlier I had some Beatle music playing, and before that, contemporary Christian selections. Variety, as has been said, is the spice of life, and I use music for just that purpose. And variety was the hallmark of music from that era, not the monotonous sound alike noise that passes for music today.
I have to repeat a phrase that we have all heard from our parents and grandparents: when it comes to music, “They just don’t make it like they used to!”
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. His website can be accessed at http://frankgillispie.tripod.com/