More Jackson County Opinions...

APRIL 23, 2003


Column
By:Bill Shipp
The Jackson Herald
April 23, 2003

The ordeal of Terry Coleman
Terry Coleman must feel as if he’s just come through the war in Iraq — on the losing side.
The veteran lawmaker from Eastman has endured one bruising political battle after another in his maiden voyage as speaker of the Georgia House. He ought to be decorated as a survivor of the General Assembly from hell.
Under different circumstances, the new presiding officer might have emerged in his freshman year as one of Georgia’s most accomplished leaders. Now, as this legislative session finally appears ready to close, Speaker Coleman is sometimes seen as a fellow hanging on for dear life to a runaway Legislature and trying to survive in a very hostile — and at times even anarchical — environment.
Consider what has happened to Coleman in the four months he has wielded the gavel in the House.
—He listened in shock and awe as the first Republican governor in modern history demanded that lawmakers enact sweeping tax increases.
—Coleman watched almost helplessly as the traditional ruling coalition of black and white Democrats evaporated — perhaps forever — first over amending the predatory lending law, then in a gut—wrenching debate over changing the flag.
—He found himself in the political fight of his career against a member of his own party, seeking to deny him the speakership.
—He witnessed the state Senate change from majority Democrat to majority Republican by virtue of four senators switching parties. “It was like they were trading baseball players,” Coleman told a friend.
—He was virtually ignored by Gov. Sonny Perdue’s office and then wooed, even as he called for a “summit” to end the budget impasse.
—He has presided over the least productive — yet one of the longest and most acrimonious — House session in memory.
—He may find himself in the awful situation of having to participate in a costly special session to raise taxes — and perhaps redo redistricting — and even take up the flag issue again.
And poor Terry has been second—guessed at every turn. “Tom Murphy would have handled this differently,” say the Monday morning quarterbacks as they review the film of Coleman’s every move as leader of the Democratic House.
Yes, it’s true. Murphy, who was Coleman’s mentor for three decades, might have handled matters differently. But Murphy is gone, a political victim of the onrushing Republicans in the 2002 election.
Also, Murphy never had to operate in the environment Coleman has encountered. Every day, Coleman must consider how to handle an increasingly irritable and unpredictable Gov. Perdue. Life for Coleman might have been easier with a different Republican chief executive, such as a give-and-take Johnny Isakson or seasoned business negotiator Guy Millner. Instead, the speaker must deal with an erratic CEO who never quite says where he stands nor what he favors.
The same governor now appears ready to call the Legislature back into a bruising and probably unnecessary special session.
Being speaker is certainly not as much fun as Coleman thought it was going to be.
That is too bad, for he brings to the office a different and less stressful style from that of his hard-charging, take-no-prisoners predecessor.
Coleman appears laid back and mostly forgiving. If he has a mean temper, he has kept it from sight during the current legislative wars. He made peace (and even made a few friends) with the Perdue-inspired group that tried to derail his bid for speaker. However, Rep. Larry Walker, D—Perry, the leader of the cabal, has not been totally welcomed back into the inner circle.
Whenever possible, Coleman has sought consensus — and he runs a much more democratic House than autocratic Murphy ever dreamed of.
For instance, Coleman allowed black legislators to speak for six hours against the flag bill that finally passed. He must have decided he owed the African—Americans their full say before he presided over the inevitable passage of a measure they deplored. And Coleman confounded his critics last week by leading the way to House passage of a $78 million tobacco tax, which put the “no-tax-increase” Senate Republicans on an awkward spot.
Coleman asks his main lieutenants — Reps. Jimmy Skipper, Tom Buck, Richard Royal, Calvin Smyre, Bob Hanner and Dubose Porter — for their advice before issuing marching orders. In his first years as speaker, Murphy almost never bothered with trying to reach a consensus — instead, it was Murphy’s way or no way.
Coleman may not be a long-term speaker. Changing demographics and less-than-favorable redistricting maps suggest Democrats may soon lose majority control of the House, if not in the 2004 election, then almost certainly in 2006. Even so, when the winners and losers are tallied at the end of this current legislative debacle, Coleman deserves to be in the winning column — just for surviving without losing his cool and behaving with civility in the midst of a rabble-rousing partisan mob of hooligans posing as elected officials.
You can reach Bill Shipp at P.O. Box 440755, Kennesaw, GA 30160 or by calling (770) 422—2543, e—mail: bshipp@bellsouth.net, Web address: http://www.billshipp.com

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Column
By: Rochelle Beckstine
The Jackson Herald
April 23, 2003

Lessons learned in the field of bridal showers
Don’t co-host a bridal shower with someone you’ve had two conversations with.
Save yourself the anger, frustration and helplessness. It’s liable to keep you up nights, to fill your days with wonderings if purgatory would indeed be worse and to completely alienate someone you may very well have liked in different circumstances.
It started simply enough. My best friend Rachel, who will be a bride on May 24, has two best friends-one from her childhood and one from her adulthood. We are her bridesmaids and we both asked if we could throw her a shower nearly 10 months ago. She asked if we would do it together and having met her friend on several occasions when we carried on normal conversations, I didn’t see the harm. I had co-hosted showers before, once with my best friend and twice with my sister-in-law. It should be about the same, I thought. Ten months older and much wiser, I recognize the difference, as I should have then — it isn’t as though it’s subtle.
We ironed everything out via email last October as she now lives in Boston, MA. We’re both planners so neither of us thought it was anal to plan a shower six months in advance. It seemed perfect. [And the Jaws theme song begins to play in my head.]
In January, we found out that the location we were going to rent for $50 was going to be closed for Easter holidays on the only day the other bridesmaid was willing to fly into town. That’s when she decided we were going to rent out a historic house and have tea and cookies in a stiff parlor. You know rather than choosing to fly into town on a different day, which I suggested; it isn’t as though the flight tickets had been bought. So the stiff parlor shower was what we were going to host because that was the kind of shower she had when she got married and why would anyone want anything homier with games and laughs and loud voices? With a guest list of 30 people, each of us would pay $250. I nearly choked right before I balked. She went on and on about how much Rachel meant to her and how important it was for her to throw a really nice (i.e. expensive) shower for Rachel because Rachel deserved the best. And didn’t I care about Rachel, too? Didn’t I want her to have the best?
That’s when the steamrolling started. She called several other places and got two more people to chip in on the cost so it was down to $120 per person. To stop the emails and the phone calls and because I felt no one was really hearing me say that a more personal shower was what I had in mind, I agreed to the $120. That was on a Friday. Monday I had an email about a florist and how mush floral decorations were going to cost and I’d need to send a check. And party favors for each of the thirty guests should cost only $140. And we needed to start thinking about invitations. That is to say, she would pick out the invitations and order them and then tell me how much money I owed her for that. I started to feel like someone who foots a quarter of the bill while she planned the shower. I called Rachel and asked her to split the guest list. She stepped in and said we would hold it at her new house because that was what she wanted. After much protesting, the other bridesmaid agreed.
Then she wanted everything to go through committees and be presented to the board. And the floral arrangements would be this. And the decorations that. There was about to be some hair pulling and eye scratching. I suggested we divvy up each part of the shower and each person cover and pay for what they said they would do. It worked. I covered food and my husband’s catering company did a brilliant job making everything so much fancier with lobster canapé and roma tomatoes stuffed with potato salad and so much more. There was enough food to feed 45 men and I’ll be eating potato salad for a week. It was much better than the cold salad the $16 a plate provided at the historic house.
It all came together despite what others said to the contrary and it was the most elegant shower I’ve ever attended with watermelon sculptures of a bride and groom and an apple carved into a bird. Yet all of her close friends were comfortable. Despite the success of the shower, after all of the comments and the emails and the pushiness, I don’t think I’ll ever be cordial friends with the other bridesmaid. And that’s the price of it all.
Rochelle Beckstine is a columnist for MainStreet Newspapers.


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