Madison County Opinion...

AUGUST 27, 2003


Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
August 27, 2003

Frankly Speaking

The story of MCHS and the Red Raider
On January 1, 1954, a spectacular image exploded onto the sports scene in America. The place was Jacksonville Florida. The event was the Gator Bowl.
The game featured Auburn University and Texas Tech.
During the opening ceremony, a previously unknown figure thundered onto the field. The rider was a Texas Tech student named Joe Kirk Fulton. He was mounted on a solid black quarter, dressed in black riding clothes, a black hat and mask and a bright red cape. This was the first appearance of “The Red Raider.”
Among the fans witnessing this event were a number of faculty and administrators from the newly formed Madison County High School. The school, constructed in the “separate but equal” period of Southern education was one of two new facilities opening in Madison County in the fall of 1955.
Madison County High was dedicated to the white students, and Southside High near Comer housed black students. The two schools were combined in the early 1960s in a new building at the MCHS site, ending segregation in Madison County.
When a committee of faculty and administration at Madison County High School gathered to discuss a school mascot, the Red Raider was high on the list.
Clearly, some members of the group had been in Jacksonville and witnessed his debut. The choices were finally reduced to two. After school opened the two choices were presented to the student body for a vote. The choices were Red and Grey, the Red Raider and Black and White, the Black Knights. The Raider was the overwhelming choice of the student body.
So, who and what is the Red Raider? Why is he masked? The answer has varied over the years. Most people who address this issue agree that he is a Mexican Bandito, a combination of the Lone Ranger, Zorro and Robin Hood. Thus he joins the ranks of the outlaw hero who defends the helpless from abuse from criminals and corrupt governments.
Many schools call themselves the Raiders. That includes nearby Habersham County. A few of them call themselves Red Raiders. But only Texas Tech, Madison County High School and one or two others proclaim the masked rider as their symbol.
Madison County’s Red Raider is unique in Georgia. Any time you see the masked rider with the red cape, you know Madison County High School is in town. Go Raiders!
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 Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
August 27, 2003

In the Meantime

Park issue still far from resolved
The votes are in — the county will steam ahead with the park plan.
But here are three questions that remain despite the BOC's approval of the IDA's industrial park rezoning request Monday:
1.) Will there be a day when the IDA sells its six tracts of land off James Holcomb Road to clean, tax-generating businesses?
2.) Will county leaders find a way to ensure safe, convenient access from Hwy. 72 to the park?
3.) Will the county see a financial reward in the industrial park development greater than the costs of buying and maintaining the land?
A "yes" to those questions will mean the commissioners were right in approving the IDA's rezoning request. If the answers to those questions are "no," then those opposing the park can say "I told you so."
These final answers may take time, but right now, the "I told you so" crowd owns the scoreboard, 3-0.
But you can't dismiss park proponents that readily: Those pushing for a park are right to look for a long-term way to boost commercial development in a growing county. They are right to look for ways to do that in the southern section of the county, the area designated as high growth.
But good intent is not enough in matters of finance. Factual proof on a balance sheet is where success and failure are determined. And right now, the IDA and commissioners have little to show for the park in that regard.
The IDA has paid interest on the $425,000 purchase, but has yet to address the principal debt. Most agree that the land purchase was a hasty IDA decision, without proper financial or public planning.
Even some county leaders who want to see the land developed will admit the purchase was not handled properly. It was a bombshell dropped on county citizens, not a publicized matter open for debate until it seemed too late.
If a citizens' committee was to be formed, it should have been done before any property purchase, not after the issue exploded before the board last year. The intent of forming the committee may have been to determine a good, long-term course of action for the property, but at the time, it seemed as much like a way to douse the hot tempers by postponing a tough decision.
The commissioners stepped back to the fire Monday, albeit a tamer flame than the "snake" and "head-chopping" caldron of a year ago.
As on most issues, commissioner Bruce Scogin was the most vocal board member, explaining his reasoning in heartfelt terms. Scogin said he felt the purchase may have been a mistake but that the county needed to move forward and do the best they could with the land.
He and commissioner Mike Youngblood both said they don't want to diminish the efforts of the committee by rejecting their recommendations. The feeling behind such statements is considerate, but such reasoning seems beside the point. The committee was a compromise group aimed at making the best of a bad situation. Its recommendations can't be construed as consensual endorsement of general industrial park plans. The committee was supposed to consider what parts of the property could be developed, not whether the overall plan was financially feasible or worthwhile. That bigger issue falls to the commissioners.
And Monday, board members seemed less inclined to address the fiscal concerns than to speak of honoring the committee's efforts.
Despite the good intent, someone is inevitably snubbed in such a decision. And the commissioners soundly rejected their planning advisory board, which voted unanimously last week to recommend denial of the industrial park rezoning.
The industrial park plan might just work in the long run. But doubts were not erased Monday. Instead, the questions were just highlighted in bolder print.
In the meantime, all of us eternal pessimists stand to be proven wrong.
Will the IDA and the county commissioners have the salesmanship and determination needed to turn those three "no's" into "yes?"
For the good of the county, let's hope they do.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.

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