Madison County Opinion...

 March 21, 2001


Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
March 21, 2001

Frankly Speaking

James Madison should be remembered
Last Friday, March 16, 2001, was the 250th birthday of the man for whom Madison County was named. On that day, I asked 25 people to identify this famous man and describe his accomplishments. Five people knew he was President James Madison. None of them were able to describe his principle work on the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
James Madison has been described as America's first nerd. At 5'4", he was the smallest of our presidents. Yet he is recognized as the most intelligent of the founding fathers.
It was Madison who devised the theory that true freedom requires that political power must be dispersed. He argued that anytime power is concentrated in one agency, that body would become dictatorial. He warned of a "tyranny of the majority" and suggested a plan that would protect the nation from such abuse.
Writing in the Federalist Papers #10, Madison said, "Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens."
As a result of his theories, our founding fathers devised a system in which power was divided between the state and federal governments. Going beyond that, the federal government was divided into three centers of power, President, Congress and Supreme Court, with each having the ability to limit the power of the others. Madison appeared to suggest that to have a healthy government that assures freedom for all requires the involvement of as many different groups as possible.
Madison's ideas are being assaulted today. We have a federal government that has become all-powerful by stealing sovereignty from the states. We have a political system that is dominated by two political parties who work together to prevent the development of any new parties with new ideas. We have a society that allows one idea to use "political correctness" to prevent other ideas from being expressed.
James Madison, the man for whom Madison County, Georgia, was named, had the right idea. All voices must be heard if we are to have a truly free society. All political agendas must be on the ballot, giving voters the widest possible choice. The history and heritage of all Americans must be preserved, not attacked.
James Madison was one of the most important thinkers in America. Yet he has no monument in Washington, D.C. He has no presidential library. He is little known, even in the county named for him. In order to restore and protect the freedoms of America, the work of President James Madison must be taught in our schools, promoted in our press and memorialized in our nation's capital.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at www.mcga.net. His email address is frankg@mcga.net.


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Column
By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
March 21, 2001

From the Editor's Desk

A sad day
for county schoolsIt is a sad day for Madison County schools.
The thick stack of papers released by the county school system this week tells a shocking story about Comer principal Mac Almond, who submitted his letter of resignation this past week.
Evidence in the packet supports the allegations that Almond used school funds for personal profit and that he hid and discarded records that might have incriminated him.
The irony of the situation is that the county school system has been in the fiscal gutter all year. And many citizens feel it's former superintendent Dennis Moore and the county school board, not Mac Almond, who should face punishment for their misuse of school funds.
Outrage at Moore and the BOE for fiscal incompetence is justified. The schools were forced to borrow money and raise taxes 26 percent to cover expenses because of negligent money management. The spending practices of Moore and the BOE were like a kid with his first credit card. It's as if there was no recognition that there were limits and that there would come a time to pay.
And taxpayers are now like the mommies and daddies who have to bail out the kid and pick up the bill.
While the financial situation of county schools has been atrocious this year, auditors uncovered no evidence to support speculation that Moore or school board members illegally profited off school funds. Still, citizens are right to complain that there was not enough done by the board to explain the fiscal crisis. Moore was not called in for public questioning about the funds and this has left many citizens unsatisfied. There were meetings on the fiscal crisis, but few felt the board did much to cut through the fog of what went wrong.
But the Almond situation is different. The investigation conducted by board attorney Lane Fitzpatrick and interim superintendent Allen McCannon presents evidence of criminality - of personal gains off money which should be tagged for kids.
These allegations should be heard in a court before impartial ears. If there's merit to the charges, a jury should severely punish Almond. If the charges have no teeth, the belief that this is a political plot to get Almond out of the school system will be validated.
Almond's positive influence on kids and teachers is obvious in the overwhelming support he has received. This has spanned the years and cannot be negated.
But the public should also realize that any governing body has a duty to investigate allegations of personal profit from school funds.
And in this case, anger toward the board is somewhat misdirected. Fitzpatrick and McCannon conducted the investigation of Almond, while McCannon made the decision to suspend the principal. The school board did not receive investigation packets from Fitzpatrick until Monday night, when they voted on accepting Almond's resignation.
It seems logical that Almond will now respond to the specifics of these charges. We expect that from anyone who maintains their innocence.
This is clearly one of the most emotional situations this county has had to deal with in years. Almond has been a beloved figure in the county and he will remain so for many in Comer.
And the sadness and bitter feelings from this issue will take quite a long time to heal in Comer.
Let's hope the mending doesn't include tearing new wounds.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.


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