Madison County Opinion...

October 10, 2001


Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
October 10, 2001

Frankly Speaking

A look at Madison County redistricting It is Madison County's turn. Now that the Georgia legislature has finished their fiasco of redistricting, city and county governments have to do the same.
Every 10 years, following the census, all political entities must draw new district lines in order to ensure that all voters will have the same representation. State and federal laws require that each district have approximately the same population. With one area of Madison County growing faster than the remainder of the county, the district populations are no longer within those population limits.
In drawing these district lines, politicians often take into consideration purely political factors, giving us the absurd districts newly approved for state House, Senate and U.S. Congress districts. I hope we in Madison County can do the job right!
Madison County has five commissioners and five school board members.
Thus the county is divided into five districts. Our current district design is adequate, although the actual borders reflect past political and social shenanigans. All we need to do is redraw lines between the districts to yield equal populations and smooth out some of the absurdities.
Currently, we have four districts drawn around the four corners of the county, and a central district around the county seat at Danielsville.
District 3 in Hull contains the area most subject to business and economic growth.
District 1 in the Neese/Sanford area is rapidly filling with low-density housing, typical of the rural/residential zone.
In order to come into compliance with new census figures, these districts will have to shrink.
District 5, covering the Hwy 72 corridor including Colbert, Comer and Carlton contains the largest concentration of minorities in Madison County. However, minority population growth has not kept up with overall changes, reducing the minority influence in the district. Necessary enlargement of the district will further reduce minority influence.
District 4, located around Danielsville, contains most of the county government infrastructure. With the shrinking of the southern districts, it will have to extend further south toward Diamond Hill
District 2, stretching from Ila to Harrison will continue to be the most agricultural of our districts. It will likely enlarge to take in even more of the county's northern area.
As you can see, each of these districts has a distinctive character.
They do not need to be tampered with beyond balancing out the populations and correcting past gerrymandering.
Let's show the rest of Georgia how it should be done. No gimmicks, no politics, just plain good sense. We deserve it.
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 Margie Richards
The Madison County Journal
October 10, 2001

A Moment With Margie

Walking among the 'spirits' of Savannah My husband Charles and I decided to "get away from it all" last weekend, so we packed a few clothes, a couple of lounge chairs and our bikes and headed for Tybee Island.
After a Saturday spent window shopping, watching dolphins frolic in the surf and a glorious afternoon nap on the beach, we drove into nearby Savannah for some supper and a walk on the spooky side.
Since it is October and Savannah with its colorful history, old buildings and cemeteries, is said to be one of the spookiest places around, we couldn't resist one of the many ghost tours.
As anyone who's been to Savannah knows, there are any number of ways to "tour" the city, in groups or on your own. We opted for a walking tour and what is billed as "the Original Hauntings Tour" that follows Savannahan Margaret Wayt Debolt's book "Savannah Spectres."
Although I'm sorry to report that we didn't see any ghosts, we did see plenty of spirits - in the hands of our fellow tourists. (Personally I think the ghosts were too afraid to come out among the living, especially on a Saturday night during Octoberfest.)
Taking a walking ghost tour (or tour of any kind) with a bunch of drunks is not my idea of a "fun time," but it did make for some interesting happenings.
All those signed up for the tour met at the foot of Savannah founder James Oglethorpe's statue in Chippewa Square promptly at 9 p.m.
We should have been warned when several on the tour asked our guide Mitch where they could go to the bathroom. Mitch pointed to a "haunted" bar down the street and most came back a few minutes later, spirits in hand.
Mitch himself wasn't the greatest as he seemed more interested in collecting the cash for the tour than in giving out information about local haunts. Since he didn't give out tickets or receipts, he kept asking if everyone had paid, sometimes interrupting himself in the middle of a ghost story (I began to wonder if Mitch had had a few too many himself).
But the tour, which was supposed to last 90 minutes but ended up lasting more than two hours (mostly thanks to the drunks, who giggled incessantly) did have some interesting moments.
One of the most interesting stops on our walk was Colonial Cemetery in the heart of the town. Mitch informed us we couldn't enter the cemetery because recent events have caused the gates to have to be closed and locked after dark.
Seems a dead goat and rabbit were found one morning inside the cemetery, their legs bound and their hearts removed and placed nearby.
The practice of voodoo, including bizarre rituals of animal sacrifice, is still pretty common in Savannah (read "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil") and was probably the reason for this episode of animal cruelty, according to Mitch.
To try to thwart further episodes, city officials were forced to bar the entrances to the burial ground, which contains the remains of the likes of Revolutionary General Nathaniel Greene, Declaration of Independence signer Button Gwinnett and others, including many, many unmarked graves.
Gwinnett is said to have been mortally wounded in a duel just outside the cemetery by a political rival, Lachlan McIntosh, who was also later buried in the cemetery.
But Gwinnett is not the only one who resides there as the result of the practice of dueling. A famous marker in the cemetery tells the story of the death of James Wilde, an Army paymaster who died in a duel with another officer on the South Carolina side of the Savannah River at the age of 23. According to his eloquent epitaph, "He fell by the hand of a man who a short time before, would have been friendless but for him."
Approximately 700 of the Colonial's inhabitants were laid to rest in 1820 as a result of a Yellow Fever epidemic, including two physicians who became ill caring for the afflicted.
With such a colorful history, it's no wonder this second oldest cemetery in Savannah is said to be haunted.
We also spent a lot of time at the Owens-Thomas House on Oglethorpe Square, which was built in 1819 for cotton merchant and banker Richard Richardson and his wife Frances Bolton.
After Richardson lost the home, it changed hands several times before being purchased by Congressman George Owens. It is his granddaughter Margaret Thomas whose ghost is said to reside there today.
Thomas, who designated the home to be preserved as a museum after her death, is said to move things around at night, occasionally play the piano, and her veiled figure has reportedly been spotted walking through the back garden.
It was also interesting to see how many of the upper floors of buildings in the historic district appear to be deserted. According to Mitch, this is because the antics of departed spirits repeatedly drive tenants away.
Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Lowe's childhood home, another stop on the tour, is said to be haunted by her parents.
A small girl and a yellow cat is said to haunt the attic of another nearby home, the Davenport Home on State Street. A former funeral home, now an inn (I can't recall the name), is said to be haunted by a woman who once lived there. One of her favorite pastimes during the house's funeral home days was supposedly to remove bodies from coffins and arrange them in amusing poses.
Sometime during these stories, one member of our tour was almost hit by a car as he staggered behind it while it was backing up.
Mitch calmly suggested that he would have to charge extra for the excitement if anyone were run over.
Ah, beautiful old Savannah, where the only thing to fear is the living - certainly not the dead.
Margie Richards is office manager and a reporter for the Madison County Journal.
 


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