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 OPINION PAGE - JANUARY. 12, 2000 - DANIELSVILLE, GA

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Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
January 12, 2000

Frankly Speaking
Rocker unfairly
targeted by writer
When I finally got around to reading the Sports Illustrated article containing Atlanta pitcher John Rocker's tirade against New Yorkers, I came to the conclusion that Rocker was set up. The writer, Jeff Perlman, set out to create a controversial article designed to sell magazines. He figured that it would be easy to get the hot-tempered pitcher to spout off, and he was right.
To a large extent, Rocker's rage against Mets fans is justified. They have established a website (www.rockersucks.com) devoted to ever more creative ways to insult the Macon native. Many of the comments on the site make Rocker's comments appear to be in good taste. But that is not the main point of this column.
Rocker was set up to be the villain so that Perlman could sell an article. Nothing in the article uncovers anything new about Rocker. We all knew he has a temper. We knew that he has a habit of spouting off at the wrong time. We knew that Rocker takes pleasure in returning the insults thrown at him by the boorish underclasses that are the Mets fans. Perlman knew all that before he came looking for Rocker quotes.
The thing that amazes me is the absurd reactions to the article. You would think that Rocker has committed some vile crime that should result in his total banishment. That is not the case. Rocker never spat on an umpire. He has not attempted to strangle his coach. He didn't even get someone to kill his pregnant girlfriend. All he did was express his opinion in colorful language.
The last time I looked, we still have a constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech in this country. The Mets fans are free to hurl insults at Rocker when he appears in a game, and he has an equal right to answer them in kind. Any effort to deny Rocker a place in Major League baseball because of his comments is a direct violation of the Constitution.
Should Rocker be required to undergo psychological testing? That is also an absurd idea. This is the United States of America. People were sent to mental institutions for speaking their minds in the old Soviet Union, not here.
Look, Rocker is like a tightly coiled spring. His energy level has to be tapped regularly to prevent him from blowing up altogether. This explosive energy is what makes him such a great pitcher. It is also the source of his vocal eruptions. You cannot tamper with one without affecting the other.
Some smart doctor may be able to give Rocker a pill that will reduce his energy, but to do so will likely also reduce his effectiveness as a relief pitcher. It appears to me that the Braves will have to decide if Rocker's playing skills are worth dealing with his mouth.
Perlman deserves no credit for writing the article. His journalistic ethics are lacking. All of Rocker's critics are out of line for their efforts to deny his right of freedom of speech. And Rocker is at fault for failing to engage his brain before putting his mouth in gear.
Finally, we all deserve criticism for taking this temptest in a teapot seriously.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal.




Letter
The Madison County Journal
January 12, 2000

Seek funds, help for cemetery care
Dear Editor:
At the Lord reunion in September, (attendees) voted to clean up the Chandler Cemetery on Blacks Creek Church Road and the Lord-Harris Cemetery on Lord-Harris Road on Hwy. 334.
So far we have been very busy at the Chandler Cemetery. We would like to get a perpetual care fund going to take care of these cemeteries after we are gone. In the Chandler Cemetery, we found several grave markers which had been overturned, as well as tree houses erected by neighborhood children and platforms in a huge cedar tree.
At one of our clean-up days, we had a few people there and we accomplished quite a lot. At our second clean-up day, Mr. George Cowart, who owns the land adjoining the cemetery, and Robert L. Huff Sr. cut down a lot of trees so the cemetery can be seen from the road. We contracted with Mr. Darnell to reset the marker that had been overturned.
There is still a lot of work that needs to be done, but without the funds or the physical hands to do the work, we need help. There are Chandlers, McGinnises, Martins, Holcombs, Doves and many others buried in the cemetery, as well as Lords.
If you would like to join in this undertaking and desire information, contact Alice Huff at 548-1605. We want to start on the Lord-Harris cemetery around April. Any and all help will be greatly appreciated.
Sincerely,
Alice E. Huff,
Nicholson

Column
By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
January 12, 2000

Zach Mitcham
County politics sour again
Madison County's political beast is awake again as bad feelings abound. In the past two weeks, an official called deputies to apprehend a judge and another lawsuit was filed against the county, both issues revolving around long-standing, pay-related dilemmas.
Here are some thoughts on the county government's most recent storm.
·Jerry Mattox should drop his suit against the county if for no other reason than that tactically it will fall flat. The major aim of that action is to nullify the vote of the board of commissioners on Dec. 27 to award pay raises to the clerk of court's office. The BOC stood by that pay increase Monday night. So in effect, even if the suit is successful, the clerk's office will get their raises if the board is forced to vote on the matter again. Likewise, the suit will accomplish little more than to raise the tempers of all involved. We all want a more productive, cooperative government. The most recent litigation does little to accomplish those aims.
·Patsy Pierce and Nelson Nash questioned how Mattox got the information for the suit Monday night. They wanted to see the receipts for information obtained. They also wanted to know if Mattox or John Scoggins had a key to the county government complex. What seemed implicit in the line of questioning was the idea that Mattox may be using the lawsuit to accomplish the political aims of chairman Wesley Nash. This may not be true. But it is not an unreasonable stretch. Chairman Nash vehemently opposed pay raises for the clerk's office, maintaining that awarding the raises in one year will undermine a pay system that took a year to implement. He again asked the commissioners to reconsider their vote on the clerk's pay Monday.
·Chairman Nash is justified in his concern that the new county pay system is going down the tubes. Many clearly feel that fairness has not been accomplished and in the eyes of some, it may never be. However, two things must be done: An outside firm must be hired to lend an objective voice to an emotional issue and to wipe out any notions that those who conducted the pay study had self-serving aims. And the county's constitutional officers need to realize that giving up some of their power by joining a county pay system is in their long-term interest. Uniformity in pay should be the ultimate goal of all officials involved. One pay system would be a major step toward fairness, while easing tensions in county offices.
·Pierce, Nelson Nash and Melvin Drake should not have voted to hold a closed-door meeting when the question of the legality of such a meeting was a point of debate. If there's a mistake to be made, it should be in favor of openness.
·Commissioner Nash was wrong to suggest Monday that Mattox should have had a tougher time obtaining information from the commissioners' office. Mattox was charged $5 for the information he received. Commissioner Nash said: "As long as we keep feeding him (Mattox) information for $5 a lick, he's probably going to file them (lawsuits) all day long." But commissioners should be eager to make open records easily accessible to any citizen, even ones they dislike.
·Chairman Nash and Judge Donald "Hoppy" Royston should air their differences without getting deputies involved. Stopping the meeting and calling for a law enforcement officer to remove Royston was an unnecessary show of force by the chairman.
·Mattox should end the fight to remove Patsy Pierce from office. Many would agree that this conflict has run its course, seeming little more than a personal grudge match waged by Mattox against Pierce as an election nears.
There's no doubt about it. There will never be a love feast between many of the political figures in Madison County. The conflicts are complex, stretching over years with one bitterness blanketed by another. Unfortunately, the worst may be on the horizon as the 2000 elections near.
Let's all hope the voicing of differences will take place in a more productive manner than shown so far this year.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.




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