Madison County Opinion...

 March 1, 2000

By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
March 1, 2000

Frankly Speaking

Officials should keep public informed
When a person runs for an elective office they are putting in a job application. They want to be hired for a particular job. They expect to be good employees. The only difference is that they have all the voters as bosses.
Once the voters hire them, they have the same kinds of obligations to those voters that any other employee has to his employers. They are expected to be at work on time. They are expected to perform their assigned duties in a professional manner. And they are expected to keep their employers, the voters, fully informed about their activities.
That is what the open records and open meetings laws are all about. It is a way to guarantee that we, the voters, can keep up with the activities of our employees, the elected officials.
For some reason, many of our office holders think that they have the right to conduct the people's business behind closed doors, or closed records. When they are pushed to open the records to the people, they dodge by conducting whispered conferences at meetings, and making access to public records as difficult as possible.
To me, when a public official puts roadblocks in front of the people, or their agents, who are seeking public information, they are violating the agreement under which they were hired (elected). The only way elected officials can properly represent the voters is to regularly report their activities, and regularly seek input from the voters about their performance.
Elected officials should not wait for the voters, individually or through an agent such as the press, to ask for information from their offices. Each official should devise a way to offer all public information to the people without being asked. Minutes of all meetings should be posted on bulletin boards or the Internet, or both. Regular summaries should be submitted to all local media. Monthly reports on tax collections should be posted, as well as road paving projects and updates on the repair or construction of public buildings.
More voluminous information such as rezoning request, the sheriff's incident reports and the results of judicial actions should be placed in a folder on the front desk of the office for public inspection.
We, the voters, select those people who hold public office. We, the taxpayers, pay their salaries. We have a right to be fully informed about public actions without having to ask.
As a final reminder to our elected officials, this is an election year. If we the voters are not satisfied with the way you do your job, we have an opportunity to hire someone else.
To anyone interested in seeking an elective office, I suggest that you make the first item in your platform a promise to keep the public fully informed about your office, and offer a program of truly open records and meetings.
To the voters: Our founding fathers drew up a system that was intended to keep most political power at the local level so that the voters would have a greater opportunity to keep an eye on those chosen to conduct the people's business. When candidates come around asking for your vote this year, ask them how they plan to keep you informed. If they act as if it is none of your business, vote for someone else.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal.

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By Margie Richards
The Madison County Journal
March 1, 2000

A Moment With Margie

The joy of reading
I was visiting the library the other day in search of a few good books to read. I thought of so many good authors, now dead, whose books have contributed, and continue to contribute, so much to the lives of others - mine included. Some of my favorites are children's author E.B. White, Laura Ingalls Wilder, C.S. Lewis and James Herriot ("All Creatures Great and Small"), to name just a few.
Then there's Dr. Seuss. My niece, Lindsey, celebrated her second birthday this week. As one of her gifts, I gave her a copy of the Dr. Seuss book "Hop on Pop." Lindsey also happens to share Dr. Seuss' birthday - March 2.
Every time I look at a copy of "Hop on Pop," I remember my Daddy patiently turning the pages, reading it to me for the "umpteenth" time. Daddy had only a seventh grade education, but he knew the importance of learning to read, and he started with me early. That poor book's pages were worn thin, but I never got tired of "Hop on Pop." In fact, it was the first book I could read all by myself.
It's my hope that it will bring as much joy to Lindsey.
You know, no matter how "technologically advanced" we get there is still nothing like a good book to entertain, to educate or just to relax with. Unlike a TV show or movie, a book can provide the story at our own pace, leaving us to conjure up our own mental pictures that are limited only by our imaginations.
My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Bowen, read the book "Charlotte's Web" to our class. I remember how we all looked forward to the daily installments during story time, as much to witness Mrs. Bowen's enjoyment of reading the book as to see what happened next to Wilbur and Charlotte. She would laugh so hard sometimes she would have to stop to wipe her eyes and catch her breath. She would really get caught up in the story, doing imitations of the characters' voices and funny expressions. I'm sure the other classrooms around us often wondered what was so uproariously funny in Mrs. Bowen's class.
And I will never forget the day she read the end - you know, the part where Charlotte dies - and Wilbur is left to care for the spider's egg sack. Mrs. Bowen cried so hard she could barely get through it. I don't think there was a dry eye in the room.
I loved the book so much I asked my parents for a copy for my very own. She, by her example, was one of the first to open my eyes to the sheer pleasure of reading.
It dawned on me the other day as I was walking among the books that each author whose titles appear on the shelves in a library or a book store has left a legacy and a little bit of themselves behind.
Whether it is the simple idea of "Hop on Pop" to entertain and educate children or the works of Shakespeare - each writer's words will last an eternity - long after they themselves are gone - and perhaps otherwise forgotten. If you don't read, or if you're not reading to your children, you're missing one of life's great and simple joys.
Read a book today.
Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager of the Madison County Journal.

The Madison County Journal
March 1, 2000

MCMS sports deserve more recognition
Dear editor:
My name is Jennifer Horton and I am writing on behalf of the students at Madison County Middle School.
We have noticed that in recent issues of the Madison County Journal that MCMS has not been noticed very often. In almost every issue of the Journal, MCHS has gotten all the spotlight.
Don't get us wrong. We are very proud of our high school, but we deserve a little credit too. Our seventh grade basketball team defeated an undefeated team and nothing was said. If the high school loses, that even gets in the paper - sometimes even on the front page.
We hope you will recognize this problem. Thank you for your time.
Jennifer D. Horton
Student, MCMS

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