Madison County Opinion...

 November 1, 2000

By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
November 1, 2000

Frankly Speaking

BOE taking right steps
Things are going as they should at our board of education. The board is being confronted by citizens of Madison County who insist on knowing how and why tax money is being spent by the school system.
We were promised a government of the people, for the people and by the people. That only works if we the people take an active role in overseeing government affairs. When we elect someone to represent us on a government board of legislature, we expect them to reflect our concerns, and to answer to us for their actions and decisions.
That is what is happening now with our board of education. A number of citizens are asking questions about the board's handling of tax money, how well they supervise spending by school officials and how they plan to solve the current cash flow crisis. These people have the right, and the responsibility, to ask these questions. The board has a responsibility to answer the questions.
I am pleased to see that the board of education is making a real effort to satisfy these public demands for information. They have already addressed some of them by letters to the newspapers, comments at board meetings and discussions with news media. Now they have set a date for a public forum to answer all questions presented by the public. The forum will be Thursday, Nov. 30, at 7 p.m. in the high school media center.
Now it is our responsibility to attend the forum, to ask good questions and offer our suggestions. We have an opportunity to re-establish local control over our schools, and we must grasp that opportunity.
The best way to lose control of our schools is to ignore them. We have bureaucrats at the state and national level who feel they know what we need in Madison County. They sit in Atlanta or D.C. and issue orders to the local board of education. Time after time, I have heard the superintendent tell the board, "We are required by the State to pass this policy."
If "we the people" make it clear that we want the final word on any subject, the board will have to decide between our desires and the demands of the bureaucrats when making decisions. By hearing from the board that a decision is being demanded from Atlanta, we will be able to go to our local delegation asking for a change in state law giving more power to the local system.
Each week, a list of local government meetings is listed in local newspapers. All these meetings are open to the public. State "Open Meetings" and "Open Records" laws require that public meetings and public documents be made available to anyone who asks for them. I urge all concerned citizens to attend these meetings, ask questions, demand publication of vital records and, in general, keep us fully informed about current issues and activities.
The board of education has responded to such demands, and is making a serious effort to inform the public. I salute their efforts and encourage the public to take this opportunity to take control of our schools.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at His e-mail address is

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By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
November 1, 2000

From the Editor's Desk

Thinking about the election
Like most people, I'm wondering what Tuesday will bring.
I'm anticipating the late night and the workers from each precinct bringing in their tallies. The numbers will be called out and the fate of each candidate will take shape gradually.
I can picture the crowd at the probate office, some sporting colorful election attire - i.e., Mr. Leo Smith and his patriotic suspenders.
Many of the candidates will stand outside the probate office, wringing their hands as they wait for word on who voters favored.
It's a nerve-racking experience for many of them. But it provides wonderful drama for the rest of us.
After you've voted Tuesday, you may consider making a trip down to the probate office in Danielsville to watch as the numbers are posted.
Voting ends at 7 p.m., then workers at each precinct will count the votes before bringing them to the probate office. This will probably take at least a couple of hours. So arriving around 9 p.m. will probably give you a chance to see the first precincts arrive, though the whole process may extend past midnight.
For those of you who don't make the trip, check out Tuesday night. We will post the results as precincts come in.
Here are some other election-time thoughts and tidbits:
·Mary Patton, who has been with the Madison County registrar's office 39 and a half years, is familiar with the late elections nights. But one night really stands out from years back, before Madison County had voting machines. Patton and other elections workers saw the sunrise because one precinct failed to show up. "Ila never came in. They locked up and went home and we stayed the whole night," said Patton.
·Madison County's voter turnout in the 1996 general election was 65 percent, down from 79 percent in 1992, according to old Journal records. The dramatic drop was attributed by some to the Motor Voter Bill, which increased the number of registered voters in Madison County by 2,348 from 1992 to 1996. Records indicated that many of the people added to the rolls through the Motor Voter Bill didn't vote. Wouldn't it be great to see the county boost its turnout above the 1992 percentage? Make sure you do your part.
·Madison Countians should push for non-partisan local elections in 2004. Consider that partisanship allows for laziness in candidates and voters. Candidates may laud party principles without offering much in the way of individual expression. Meanwhile, voters often ally themselves with one party and choose not to learn about candidates outside of their party. Holding non-partisan elections would force both candidates and voters to put a little more effort into the process. It would also open the door for candidates outside of the two-party system.
·Feel the thickness of this paper. It's the biggest one I've been a part of since I've been with the Journal. The paper is full of candidates' ads as well as written interviews with office hopefuls. Take the time to read each one. And let us know if there's anything else you'd like to see from the paper in terms of election coverage.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.
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