Madison County Opinion...

Janaury 16, 2002


Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
January 16, 2002

Frankly Speaking

Happy birthday,
Robert E. Lee
Happy Birthday to Robert E. Lee, a figure from our history who deserves our highest respect.
This war hero was the only man to complete his studies at West Point without receiving one demerit. In his military career, he always gave credit for victories to his subordinates, but took personal blame for his defeats. This great man was never too busy to entertain a child. He always honored the ladies in his presence. He was quick to refer to God in his conversations.
Here are a few little-known facts about Lee. When the split between North and South developed, General Lee was offered command of the Army of the Potomac. Being a strong believer in state sovereignty, Lee refused, offering his services to the state of Virginia.
Lee’s wife had inherited slaves from her father. Before departing to lead the Army of Northern Virginia, Lee signed papers freeing all slaves in his family. In contrast, the slaves inherited by the wife of General Grant were not freed until the ratification of the 13th Amendment.
When he was forced to surrender his army, Lee left the field to the tears of his troops, and applause by his opponents. General Grant ordered the Union band to play “Dixie” in his honor.
After the war, Lee was named president of Washington College at Lexington, Virginia. He was so successful in rebuilding the school that the trustees added his name. Today Washington and Lee University is one of the nation’s leading colleges.
Every year, a coalition of Southern organizations remembers General Robert E. Lee with a birthday celebration at the state capital in Atlanta. You may not know about these ceremonies, because the politically correct media in Atlanta refuse to provide coverage. The ceremony this year will be at noon on Saturday, Jan. 19. Rev. Jeffery Lowe of Riverdale will be the feature speaker. Rev. Lowe is best known for editing “Letters to Amanda,” a collection of letters by his great-great-grandfather to his wife during the War for Southern Independence.
Robert E. Lee was one of the greatest Americans. He fought to defend the principles of the American Revolution that were being taken away by Northern politicians for their own economic and political gain. The defeat of his army is a major factor in the massive, intrusive federal government that today denies us the level of personal freedom promised by the founding fathers.
The battle to restore state sovereignty, to limit the size of the federal government, and to bring back the degree of liberty promised by our founding fathers must continue, and one of the best ways of carrying on the battle is to honor the hero of this effort, General Robert E. Lee.
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
B y Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
January 16, 2002

From the editor's desk

The growth dilemma
The newest county controversy — a proposed industrial park in Hull — is of utmost significance in the lives of those who may be affected and for the future of Madison County.
Here are some thoughts on what’s happening:
•The county comprehensive plan has established Hull and the Hwy. 72/ CSX railroad corridor as the industrial portion of the county. Those placing homes in this vicinity must recognize that there is a risk associated with putting a home in an area tabbed as the commercial hot spot of the county. Locate near a railroad line and a major highway and you may have some big business neighbors.
•County land planning should include no bombshells like last week’s announcement of the purchase of 80 acres for the industrial park.
Such developments should involve ample public input before any vote to proceed. Consider that there was no public hearing on the industrial park, but the industrial authority did hold numerous “executive sessions” to discuss real estate. Georgia law will allow officials to discuss how much they’ll pay or accept for land in private, but state law does not allow officials to talk behind closed doors about whether a park is needed in the county. Reporters covering the industrial authority meetings were not aware of the plans to purchase the land until after the industrial authority finalized the deal. Any major development planned by county officials should follow a set method for timely disclosure. Unfortunately, the air of secrecy surrounding the deal compromises a solid case for an industrial park, an argument easily made after recent tax hikes show a need for county commercial growth.
•The honeymoon appears to be over for the current county commissioners. The group has brought a lasting civility to county business, a change from the constant power tugs of war of years past. But expect more and more criticism for the board if the group does not take the reins on this major development issue. Consider that the commissioners never voted for an industrial park, essentially meaning the BOC-appointed industrial authority went ahead with a $425,000 purchase for land for the park without direct board consent. Remember just a couple of years ago, the county required BOC approval on every purchase over $100. Of course, there is the obvious industrial authority retort: “But we are a self-governing body.” Indeed, the industrial authority has broad powers and it can purchase land without BOC consent as well as levy its own taxes. But voters put commissioners in office with the expectation that the buck stops with them. That expectation should be upheld.
•The BOC should put the authority more in the public eye and consider local legislation to either A) establish industrial authority posts as elected positions, or B) establish the authority as an advisory board, just like the planning commission. The industrial authority should also change its regular meeting time from 8:15 a.m. on the second Tuesday of the month to a time in the evening when more people can attend the meetings.
•Not allowing the large crowd to speak Monday night on the industrial park issue was a mistake by the BOC. Two commissioners — Bill Taylor and Johnny Fitzpatrick — kept those on hand from voicing their views by voting not to “suspend the rules” to allow discussion of an item not on the agenda — a unanimous vote is necessary to break from procedure. The problem with holding firm to the board’s standard procedure is that the BOC routinely “suspends the rules” to allow discussion of items not on the agenda. You have to question whether the door would have been shut on that many people on a feel-good matter. The board appears capricious in its enforcement of these procedures.
In short, planning an industrial park is a positive, not a negative. It means county officials are looking ahead, trying to establish a healthy balance of revenues in the future. County citizens should stand behind such efforts because a lack of business in the county will only increase the pinch on middle class homeowners.
But it seems obvious that inclusiveness was not a priority of those who brokered the industrial park deal.
The intent was right on, the method was not.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.


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