Madison County Opinion...

 July 3, 2001


Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
July 3, 2001

Frankly Speaking

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 is frankg@mcga.net.

 

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Column
By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
July 3, 2001

From the Editor's Desk

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 now?"
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 of focus.
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.


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