The Madison County Journal
March 1, 2000
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
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
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.
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
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
Madison County Journal
March 1, 2000
MCMS sports deserve more recognition
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