The Madison County Journal
July 3, 2001
Celebrating a 'lost cause'
This week we celebrate the birth of a nation that no longer exists.
Our ancestors had a specific plan of governance in mind that
was based on specific principles. They fought several wars in
an effort to win and preserve those principles. Yet we have let
them slide away with only minor resistance.
What were the principles for which those brave men risked "our
lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor?" They believed
that every person should have the greatest possible degree of
"liberty," or freedom of action without government
interference. "Give me liberty, or give me death,"
declared John Hancock. They believed that government should be
as small as possible. Thomas Jefferson said, "he who governs
least, governs best."
Two hundred and twenty-five years ago, patriots led a rebellion
against the king of England in order to win liberty for themselves
and their descendants. They won. One hundred and forty years
ago, people of the Southern states realized that our liberty
was being stolen away by a growing federal government, so they
rebelled in an effort to re-establish the rights to liberty.
They lost. Since then, our liberty, the right to govern ourselves,
has steadily deteriorated until we have all become virtual slaves
to the federal bureaucracy.
The founders of this nation knew just how difficult it would
be to preserve the liberties they won for us. After the Constitutional
Convention, someone asked Benjamin Franklin what kind of government
they had given us. "We have given you a republic, if you
can keep it," he answered.
They gave us the best possible chance by establishing the principle
of "government of the people." In their plan, we the
people would choose representatives from our local communities
who would represent us in legislatures making what rules are
necessary to protect our liberty, and nothing more. The proper
place for most political power is in the local city hall and
county courthouse. Most government efforts, from building roads
to feeding the poor, belong at the local level.
The individual states were proclaimed free and independent. We
gave the principal right to govern to our states. Each state
was a separate, sovereign entity. The states banded together
to form a federal government of limited powers with the duty
to provide security, conduct foreign affairs, create a uniform
monetary system and regulate trade between the states.
Today, the federal government is all-powerful. The majority of
Americans don't bother to register or vote, saying that the politicians
will do whatever they want anyway. Congress passes laws with
no regard to limits set by the Constitution. Presidents issue
executive orders without consulting the wishes of the people.
The Supreme Court makes decisions based on factors other than
the Constitution. Most of the government we have today is in
direct violation of the principles on which this nation was founded
and almost no one cares.
We still celebrate the 4th of July as the date we declared our
freedom. But the truth is that we are celebrating a lost cause.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal.
His web page can be accessed at www.mcga.net. His email address
The Madison County Journal
July 3, 2001
County leaders show improved relations
The Madison County commissioners and chairman recently told Colbert
Mayor John Waggoner that they all plan to ride together in the
city's annual Fourth of July parade.
This may seem pretty insignificant - six guys waving and throwing
out candy to kids.
But think about the malaise in recent years amid the bunch. Think
about the lawsuits, the arguments, the pettiness that turned
Madison County into a political caldron, even an area laughingstock
according to many. Had commissioners in past years all ridden
together in a parade, a referee may have been required - or at
least a mediator.
Until recently, you mention the Madison County commissioners
and people would roll their eyes and gasp "Oh, Lord. What
But anyone reacting that way these days probably hasn't been
to a BOC meeting in a while.
The new term and the new faces at the table have led to improved
relations between county leaders. Of course, there are reasonable
differences, but they are aired without the underlying malice
so evident in the past.
Until this year, an audience member at a BOC meeting could predict
how most any controversial vote would go, basically down faction
lines. It was clear who sided with who.
County taxpayers forked out thousands for intergovernmental squabbles
taken to court. And worse, county business often seemed less
important to commissioners than the business of payback or revenge.
With the bitter infighting, the county suffered financial losses,
a poor public image in Northeast Georgia and an obvious lack
Now, the storm has cleared. Let's hope future differences - which
will always occur and are, in fact, evidence of necessary critical
thinking - are voiced without the abandonment of respect, which
is so essential for good business. Let's hope the commissioners
can maintain their good relations, realizing that this is best
for the county.
COURTHOUSE PLAN GETS THUMBS UP
Another positive in recent county politics is BOC chairman Wesley
Nash's proposal for restoring the county courthouse. Nash wants
local organizations to use parts of the courthouse for office
space in exchange for "sweat equity," or time put into
restoring a portion of the building. Inmates contracted through
the state will also work on restoring the exterior of the structure.
There are many who feel the old courthouse is the county's crown
jewel, its greatest link to the past. They want it revitalized.
The courthouse restoration committee raised significant funds
for the replacing the courthouse roof and that project was recently
completed with the county government pitching in $100,000. Some
have asked for more financial support for the courthouse from
the local government. But there are others who feel the county
should address more pressing needs before taking on a costly
courthouse restoration project.
Nash's plan should please both groups. It gets the ball rolling
on further renovations, but puts little burden on the backs of
taxpayers. The chairman estimates that the county could restore
the exterior and the first floor interior of the structure for
$150,000 or less. Other counties have spent millions restoring
their old courthouses.
Nash's plan, however, could take several years. And it does require
a significant commitment from local groups. They must invest
considerable time and effort in the building.
But the potential rewards are great. Think how satisfying it
is to build something yourself instead of forking out the money
to have it done.
There is opportunity now for many to help in resurrecting a lasting
county landmark. Hopefully, there will be plenty of people willing
to seize that chance.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.