Madison County Opinion...

JUNE 4, 2003


Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
June 4, 2003

Frankly Speaking
Search for Rudolph was a waste of money
Let me see if I have this right. The FBI, GBI, NCBI, Game Wardens and several hundred others spent five years and millions of taxpayer dollars trying to find Eric Rudolph. He was finally caught by a rookie cop on routine patrol. That means that all that money was wasted.
Judging by some of the film of the search for Rudolph, there were so many people in the mountains that they would have wiped out any trail he may have left. If anything, the massive search actually made it easier for Rudolph to hide.
There is a rule of economics that fits this story. It is called the Rule of Diminishing Returns. What the rule says is that each project has a maximum level of productive spending. The more you spend in excess of that effective level, the less return you get for your investment. The best economic plan is to spend at the effective level then exercise a little patience while your money grows at a reasonable rate.
But we Americans have become a very impatient people. We want things done NOW, no matter how much it costs. We demand that the responsible agency, usually government, spend more and more money on any perceived problem. And the more money government spends on any project, the greater portion of that money is wasted.
As a result, we dump huge amounts of money into health research, and demand even more if quick results are not achieved. We blow vast funds on poverty programs and succeed only in directing more people onto the poverty roles.
And we commit millions of dollars to a search for an Eric Rudolph likely causing a delay of several years in his capture.
How many of you remember the Limmuel Penn murder case? Penn was an Army reservist on his way back to Washington following training at Ft. Benning in the mid 1960s. He and a companion passed through Athens at night. Members of the KKK saw these two black men in an army uniform and became enraged. They followed the car into Madison County, catching up with them at the Broad River Bridge on the Bowman Road. Penn died from a shotgun blast into the driver’s window.
The FBI, Treasury, GBI and others flocked to Madison County. I can remember the county being heavily patrolled by helicopters. At the trial in Madison County’s old courthouse, Bobby Kennedy made a personal appearance.
In spite of the massive force of investigators, patrol cars and helicopters, a rookie lawyer from Athens easily won an acquittal for the Klansmen.
Later, using greater care and a smaller force, the culprits were convicted on federal charges of civil rights violations and served several years in jail.
Let’s get back to Rudolph. I am convinced that a task force of local police who know the area well, with some technical assistance from the FBI, could have found and eliminated sources of food for Rudolph. By leaving a few sources available, and staking them out. They could have found him within weeks. The area would not have been subjected to the massive disruption it endured. The cost of the effort would have been a fraction of the millions of tax money they wasted.
The hundreds of agents and millions of dollars wasted on the Rudolph search are a prime example of the Law of Diminishing Returns.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at www.mcga.net. His e-mail address is frankg@mcga.net.

Column
By Margie Richards
The Madison County Journal
June 4, 2003

A Moment With Margie
Fielding animal control calls
A couple of weeks ago, my husband Charles and I received a call about a dog that had been left chained to a tree with no one to care for him. His owner had died and relatives had abandoned him for various reasons.
And this wasn’t the first time we’ve gotten such a call.
Why?
Not because of my job at the Journal, but because of our involvement with the new animal shelter.
In this case it was a sheriff’s deputy who explained to our daughter that a woman had called in a complaint because her grandchildren are afraid to play in her yard, which is next door to the dog because it barks and lunges at people and has managed to get off its chain in the past. Besides, she was concerned that the dog had no one to feed or care for it and was putting out scraps sometimes herself.
The deputy, with good reason, simply did not know what to do with the animal.
This brings up a point that most people don’t realize - the sheriff’s department is left without a lot of resources in these situations. They don’t have specially equipped cages, vehicles and catch poles, they don’t have medications to calm a vicious, injured or frightened animal, nor are they trained to provide these services. They have their hands full just dealing with “people situations.”
Most of them, in my experience, care about the animals, but there is little they can do.
In some cases they are able to figure out a way to get the animal contained, and, providing it’s during the animal shelter’s operating hours, they do have a place to take it now.
But what’s really sad is that we have no animal control officer who can answer complaint calls of this nature, and we are lacking in local ordinances that would give teeth to state laws and provide clear mandates as to what can and can’t be done in these type situations.
And an animal control person is a service, by the way, that our county is mandated by state law to provide.
Although the shelter could not provide a solution to the sheriff’s office, Charles and I drove out there and met another deputy the next day because we care about animals and because we were concerned that this lady is afraid for her grandchildren.
When approached, the dog growled and lunged at us, immediately solving the question of any of us being able to get our hands on him.
What choices were we left with?
Not many, unfortunately. We left some food and water for the neighbor to give to the dog and I photographed him to add to our files of these type cases.
We could do little to help the woman except advise her to try to find someone who could put their hands on the dog and get him to the shelter. The deputy offered to help with transport when and if the animal is safely contained, and so he can surrender him to the shelter as an abandoned animal.
This incident was not an isolated event by any means.
The shelter, and sometimes board members, get calls almost every day, sometimes a number of times in one day, requesting some type of animal control service. Some want to know what to do about nuisance animals (there is no ordinance in place in the county), some callers want shelter workers to come pick up a dangerous dog from their property, or catch a feral dog or cat, or perhaps rescue an animal that is in a dangerous situation, such as out on the road, or trapped somewhere.
Our hands are tied in these situations.
The shelter does not have the funds, the staff, nor the authority to provide these type services. With a very limited staff, along with some wonderful volunteers, the shelter is busy trying desperately to care for the 200 animals already in residence at any given time.
Just the same, many people get angry when they are told no one can come out to assist them, and their frustration is understandable.
But look at it this way, at least there has been some progress and someone is trying to do something. The shelter staff, board members and other volunteers shouldn’t be punished or criticized because they are limited in what they can do.
And let me say this again - the shelter is not a county government facility, but a non-profit corporation. The shelter receives $3 per person per year from Madison and Oglethorpe counties to take in stray and unwanted animals from any resident of the two counties.
In my opinion, this county desperately needs an animal control officer to answer complaint calls as they come in. The sheriff’s department has neither the manpower, the equipment, nor the training required to act as animal control officers.
The shelter is here now to serve the citizens of this county, as a place to adopt a companion animal or to drop off a stray and the shelter board and staff are working hard to provide these services.
But as for animal control, it’s up to the citizens to make their wishes about this matter known to those that represent them in local government.
Until then, calls about animal control to the shelter, the sheriff’s office - or to my home - are pretty much futile.
Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager for the Madison County Journal.

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