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.
·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
·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.
·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
·Who's buried in Grant's tomb?
·Is it true you plan to appoint Judge Judy to the U.S.
Tuesday's debate told us nothing, but with the right questions,
we can find out who's really presidential. If anyone really is.
The Jackson Herald
October 11, 2000
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
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?
The Jackson Herald
October 11, 2000
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
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.
The Commerce News
October 11, 2000
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
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.
Jackson County Opinion Index