Madison County Opinion...

MARCH 10, 2004

By Frank Gillispie
The Madison County Journal
March 10, 2004

Frankly Speaking

American politicians have rewritten the Golden Rule
“When Teresa Heinz-Kerry arrived, she handed me a pin that read in the center: ‘Asses of Evil’ with ‘Bush’, ‘Cheney’, ‘Rumsfeld’ and ‘Ashcroft’ surrounding it.” Pamela Leavey on December 11, 2003
Last week, the presumptive Democratic nominee for President, John Kerry, was overheard bitterly complaining that the Republicans were about to demonize him and his wife. He is right, of course. You can expect to hear about every little thing he and his wife have done that someone may not like.
By complaining about the negative campaign he is about to face, Kerry is crying crocodile tears. The quote that opens this column makes it clear that the demonization is going both ways. The Democrats have made their entire campaign one of hating Bush. Kerry did not win the nomination on the basis of his personality, or his values, or his vision for America’s future.
He won the nomination simply because so many Democrats think he has the best chance to beat Bush.
Kerry has to face about eight months of attacks. His party started attacking Bush before he took office, and their attacks have not let up for the 40 months. Do you remember the “Commander in Theft” comments? How many times have you heard the comment that “Bush is a traitor,” or “Bush lied,” or “Bush the Draft Dodger?”
Last week, the Bush campaign ran their first TV commercials. One of them included a four-or-five-second scene from the rescue efforts after 9/11.
Immediately, the Kerry forces let loose a barrage of attacks about his insensitivity and the hurt his ad was causing the survivors. The national media gleefully reported this protest. Now, we learn that the protest came from groups financed by Kerry’s millionaire wife. But the national media has not reported that little fact.
Mud slinging has been a part of American politics from the beginning. In the past, we did not have the instant communication available today. When the mud was slung then, it didn’t go very far. Today when mud is slung it splatters all over the entire nation. And as always, the mud slingers always get their hands muddy as well.
Over the years, the number of people who bother to register and vote has steadily dropped. When you ask them why, they have several answers. Some say that it doesn’t matter because the politicians are going to do whatever they want anyway. Others say that they are simply sick of the whole nasty business.
American politics has rewritten the Golden Rule. Rather than “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The political rule is “do unto others then complain loudly when they do the same to you.”
It is proper for politicians to contrast their own virtues with their opponent’s weaknesses. We need to know both kinds of information. I would prefer that both sides find a less vicious way of pointing out their differences. A little less mud and a little more reality would be welcome.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is

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By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
March 10, 2004

In the Meantime

Don’t forget other side of the deal
It seems strange, considering that we expect the commissioners to make the final call on our biggest matters, but the $1.7 million water line approved Monday morning by the industrial authority wasn’t even mentioned at the commissioners’ meeting later that evening.
But remember, the commissioners essentially handed over control of water development in Madison County to the authority several years ago.
And, for better or worse, the IDA has run with it, taking bold steps to lay infrastructure in this county, an essential prelude to growth.
For instance, the IDA borrowed over $1 million to develop a water system in the Hull area. It also borrowed $425,000 for a land purchase off Hwy. 72, a piece of property that would serve the dual purpose of providing a backup water well for the Hull water system and land for a business park.
No doubt, the IDA has taken its share of heat for its actions, which have been characterized as wonderfully brave or horribly reckless. Now there are loans and more loans to pay off, resentments that still simmer with some.
So it’s got to be something good to get them to stick their necks out again, right?
Based on Monday’s action, the IDA members see the planned water line as worth putting their necks on the chopping block, worth the echoes in their ears from the last ruckus when there were cries of “snakes needing their heads chopped off.”
If the numbers hold up, and the deal goes through, a petroleum company is going to fund about 55 percent, $950,000, of a major water line expansion that will serve much more than the contaminated Colbert Grove Church Road area. (See this weeks Madison County Journal for map)
It makes sense for the industrial authority to look beyond the contaminated area and consider a way to improve the county’s overall infrastructure at a fraction of the regular cost.
Oddly, it’s two city councils, not the commissioners, who could have a direct veto of the proposed water line, since the IDA will need backup water sources and will seek agreements with both cities for such services. The BOC’s only veto power is to kick members off the authority.
Of course, this project is not the result of some five-year plan in which every needed agreement is ironed out in advance. It’s a quick action based on sudden opportunity, not long-term planning.
And let’s not forget the basis for that opportunity — Colonial Pipeline’s eagerness to remain subterranean in our county, its desire to stay out of the political eye.
It wants to cut and run, and do it quick.
Colonial Pipeline doesn’t like the public paying attention to its long-time contamination of water in the Colbert Grove Church Road area. More than 20 families have had to move due to that contamination.
But there’s no real danger now, according to the company, whose representatives maintain that the Colbert Grove contamination is a “legacy” issue from a time when the company was bad. But it got new management, new equipment, new ideas in the late 90s. Now they say they’re good. They’ve changed — though, remember, they won’t meet in public in this small Georgia county.
Still, good, bad or ugly — you can form your own opinion about Colonial. Go online and look for yourself.
The fact is, extremely small doses of benzene, which can cause leukemia, can contaminate vast amounts of water. And benzene remains present in deep well water in a plume that the EPD has described as “3,200 feet in the east-west direction and up to 2,200 in the north-south direction.” Benzene has also been detected in at least one residential well outside of the identified Colbert Grove contaminant zone.
This is not meant as an alarmist’s rant.
It’s a simple belief: Any deal with Colonial must also include contractual teeth on the county’s part to ensure that the contamination isn’t forgotten with the installation of a water line.
Should the contamination spread and hit major water sources, it could make a water line seem like a pretty poor deal.
So how about additional test wells and how about letting the county choose someone to conduct independent tests of those wells at Colonial’s expense? Would this not be a good clause in any IDA contract with Colonial?
Don’t we want to take whatever steps we can to ensure that there is no spread of contamination in this county, perhaps pushing the company to do more than what it thinks is required in terms of testing?
And how about having Colonial pay not just the hookup costs but also the monthly water bill for those in the contaminant zone, since those residents are looking at going from free well water to paying a monthly charge to the government due to Colonial’s contamination?
We can look at the long water line on the front page of this newspaper and see that we’re most likely going to get a massive infrastructure upgrade for a low dollar.
And yes, there’s plenty to gain in that.
But don’t forget, if we ignore the contamination under our feet, there could be plenty to lose too.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.
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