Jackson County Opinions...

October 11, 2000


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Column
By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
October 11, 2000

Time To Ask Gore, Bush The Right Questions
The first debate between presidential wannabes Al Gore and George W. Bush lived up to all expectations. That is, both candidates repeated endlessly all of the catch-phrases we've heard from campaign speeches. I managed to read half of a novel while listening to two uninspiring men applying for a pretty big job.
Jim Lehrer, the moderator, asked some good questions, but he didn't get many good answers, and what members of the viewing public who had lost their remote controls saw was two guys using up their repertories of memorized positions.
I have a suggestion for the next presidential debate.
Make it four hours long, but don't tell either candidate that only the last two hours will actually be televised. That will give the candidates time to run out of rehearsed material, after which we will get to see how well they actually think on their feet ­ or if they do.
Secondly, each candidate should be wired to a polygraph machine so the public can see without interpretation who's lying when.
And thirdly, let me submit a few questions just to see how well the candidates respond. Here's what I have in mind.
For Gore:
·Tell us all about the last job you held in the private sector. Uh, you have had one, haven't you?
·Do you find Linda Tripp attractive?
·Explain your Medicare prescription drug plan in less than 10,000 words.
·Did you invent Spam before or after you invented the Internet?
·What's Tipper like when she's drunk?
·How much would your administration charge per night for the Lincoln Bedroom?
·Do you plan to name any Buddhists to your cabinet?
·You're alone in the Oval Office, and a sexy, 21-year-old intern makes a pass at you. What do you do? (a) call Bill Clinton to share the good news; (b) lock all of the doors; (c) establish a legal defense fund; or (d) tell him to leave.
For Bush:
·When, exactly, was the last time you did cocaine?
·If you couldn't lead the Texas Rangers to a division title, much less the World Series, why should the voters think you could be an effective president?
·Explain your position on prescription coverage for senior citizens in sentences that contain both a subject and a verb.
·If elected, would you pardon Newt Gingrich?
·Which one of the following is president of Iraq? (a) Slobodan Milosovec; (b) Fidel Castro; (c) Saddam Hussein; or (d) Dick Cheney.
·Tell us about your plans to lease Yellowstone National Park to Disney for a theme park.
·Explain your vision for improving the environment now that Texas has been deemed to have among the nation's worst air quality.
·Who's buried in Grant's tomb?
·Is it true you plan to appoint Judge Judy to the U.S. Supreme Court?
Tuesday's debate told us nothing, but with the right questions, we can find out who's really presidential. If anyone really is.



Editorial
The Jackson Herald
October 11, 2000

What will Scott Tolbert say now?
Water Wise owner Jerry Wickliffe has been indicted by a federal grand jury for price-fixing government bids and our question is: What will his advocate Rep. Scott Tolbert say now?
Consider the history:
· It was Tolbert who in 1999 began representing Wickliffe in Jackson County. At the time, Water Wise was pushing to do a deal with the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority.
· When that effort failed, Tolbert said Jackson County's leaders were "lunatics" for not doing business with Wickliffe. Tolbert then turned to his brother, the mayor of Pendergrass, and his father, a councilman in that town, to do a deal with Wickliffe in an attempt to end-run county officials.
· When that sweetheart deal failed, Tolbert and his law partner represented Wickliffe in a lawsuit against county leaders who had condemned Wickliffe's property.
· When that effort failed, Tolbert used his public office and stood in the well of the Georgia House of Representatives in an effort to gut a bill that he thought would hurt Wickliffe's firm, a bill that was initiated by Jackson County leaders and introduced by Sen. Eddie Madden.
· That effort failed as well and Rep. Tolbert began a re-election campaign that strongly defended his actions on Wickliffe's behalf.
So what is Rep. Tolbert saying now that it is crystal clear county leaders were right all along in avoiding an entanglement with Wickliffe? How will Rep. Tolbert explain his close ties to a man who is under the pall of a federal corruption investigation?
Jackson County leaders were wary early on about Wickliffe. In some initial meetings, Wickliffe said he had sewage deals with a number of area developers. But when county officials checked that out, they discovered that Wickliffe didn't have any deals with those developers.
There were other incidents also where Wickliffe misrepresented himself to the county. All of that raised red warning flags with county leaders about Wickliffe and they decided to walk away from doing business with him in spite of Rep. Tolbert's push.
Rep. Tolbert may say now he didn't know about Wickliffe's indictment or the federal probe, and perhaps he didn't. But if every other Jackson County official was reluctant to deal with Wickliffe, then why didn't Rep. Tolbert also show some reluctance? Why didn't Rep. Tolbert take the time to check out the man he wanted county leaders to do business with?
If county officials had followed Rep. Tolbert's advice, Jackson County's sewage, and much of its future growth, would now be in the hands of a man who is under a federal indictment; a man who would have had unregulated power to condemn private land in Jackson County.
How can Rep. Tolbert defend that?

Column
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
October 11, 2000

Henry Robinson was a class act
Twenty-three years ago, Henry Robinson ushered in a new era in Jackson County government. His death last week marked the end of that era and closed book on one of Jackson County's most notable public officials of the 20th century.
Although Robinson had previously been the county's tax commissioner, in 1976 he made a bid to become the chairman of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners. It was a tough campaign, leading Robinson into a run-off with Arthur Parr Jr. Robinson won that contest 3,872 - 3,651 and served for the next 15 years as the county's top elected official.
There were many, many notable events during that tenure, but the most important is the one least mentioned. It was under Robinson that Jackson County's government moved into the modern era. Prior to 1977, the county government didn't meet on a regular basis, and when it did much of the meeting was closed to the public. It was the typical "old-boy" system of government rooted in politics of the past.
Robinson changed all of that, ushering in a more open government that attempted to respond to its citizens. It was like a breath of fresh air that blew across Jackson County during a time when many were ashamed to admit they lived here.
The key to Robinson's success as a public official was due in large part to his easygoing personality. Whatever the issue, he rolled with the punches. He listened politely even to those who berated him in a public meeting. He was seldom defensive and never arrogant. If anything, his humility kept him in touch with the people who elected him.
In his dealings with other leaders, Robinson presented a good image for Jackson County. Whether with state officials or a local peer, Robinson could sit down and discuss an issue with clarity. He didn't demand respect, he earned it.
Because of those traits, Robinson acted as a unifying force in Jackson County. He could pull together people from all sides of an issue. He never shrank from making a tough decision, but he preferred that people work out their problems together rather than his having to intervene. Prior to Henry Robinson's tenure, Jackson County was politically polarized. During his tenure, much of that feeling dissipated.
What a contrast to today's political atmosphere, which has become so poisoned with political posturing and negative campaigning. Henry Robinson would have never engaged in such tactics. I suspect he'd rather lose an election than tarnish his personal reputation with such smarmy politics.
In 1996, Robinson left retirement for a final tenure in the public arena. He didn't really want to run for public office again. His health was already failing and he could have easily spent his last years living quietly and enjoying family and friends. But he was upset with what he saw taking place in county government where some of those who held office were more focused on themselves than on public service. That irritated Robinson, and when no one else stepped forward, he decided it was his duty to challenge not just an individual, but also the atmosphere that had been created in his absence.
Henry Robinson was a man with class, a man who embodied the best qualities of public service, a man who not only loved Jackson County, but gave of himself that it might be a better place to live.
And that should be his final legacy. If time forgets all the details of his public life, it should not forget his legacy of public service and the example he set both as a public official and as a man.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.


Editorial
The Commerce News
October 11, 2000

Application Puts W/S Authority In Tough Spot
In applying for a job leading the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority, Board of Commissioners chairman Jerry Waddell has put the authority in a tough spot.
Waddell played a role in appointing each of the five authority members. If they choose to hire him, the perception of the public will be that a deal was cooked up as a condition for the appointment. If they don't hire him, there could be strained relationships where the relationships have been good in the past. The authority needs Waddell's support through the rest of his time in office.
On one hand, one can't fault the chairman for seeking the job. He has to make a living, and after running the county for so long, he may be as qualified as anyone. But on the other hand, the political baggage Waddell would bring to the water and sewer authority may overshadow his assets. As the county's top elected official, he has been and is very political, something the authority does not need. Were he to get the job as superintendent of the water and sewerage authority, there would be inevitable strong conflicts between him and the next board of commissioners chairman, Harold Fletcher, and others.
To his credit, Waddell and the water and sewerage authority have worked well together in the recent past, and he has come out as one of its strongest supporters. It was his bulldogged determination that led the county to condemn the Water Wise (Texfi) sewage treatment plant, which launched the authority into the sewerage business. That is likely the crowning achievement of his time in office.
Hopefully, there are other candidates for the job whose expertise and experience make them much superior to Waddell for this job. Otherwise, it'll be damned if they do and damned if they don't for members of the water and sewerage authority.

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