Madison County Opinion...

MARCH 24, 2004


Column
By Frank Gillispie
The Madison County Journal
March 24, 2004

Frankly Speaking

We the people’ now have a chance to regain control over our gov’t
The federal court’s suggestion for drawing Georgia’s state legislative districts accomplishes most of the goals set by the three judge panel.
The one goal that fails is the directive that county lines be kept as intact as possible. Madison County’s representation, for example, is reduced from five to four.
Rather than three state representatives, we now have two. The senate map again splits Madison County into two districts.
The directive required that the residence and party affiliation of current legislators not be a consideration. That has created another oddity for Madison County. Local voters have, in recent years, voted heavily Republican. Yet both state representative incumbent legislators in the new plan are Democrats.
The plan started with the state’s major cities. Once the cities were well apportioned, the rural areas were then addressed. Apparently, the computer that did most of the work classed the Hull area of Madison County as a suburb of Athens. Most of the county is in one senatorial district made up of rapidly changing agricultural areas. Hull is combined with Clarke, Oglethorpe and Oconee counties to represent the Athens metropolitan area. Athens generally votes for liberal democrats. But the current Senator, Brian Kemp, is a Republican.
Overall, the pundits appear to think that the plan will heavily favor the Republicans. That is probably correct, unless the Democrats can come up with a better list of conservative candidates. One estimate is that at least 20 percent of the current legislative body, including several committee heads, will be gone after this fall’s elections.
The flaggers are expressing approval of the new districts because they will force a number of the “turncoats” to face each other, thus reducing their numbers. They still hope for a state legislature that will finally allow a valid referendum on a state flag that includes the ’56 banner.
While I still dislike having our county split up as it is, I am pleased that we finally have a set of districts that are not designed to keep one party in power, or to protect long term incumbents. This plan will, for a while, return the choice of representation to the people, and out of the hands of partisan politics.
Now, if we can get the state election laws changed so that two powerful parties will no longer have the power to control all political activity, things will be much better. The first step should be a permanent, non-partisan system for drawing district lines. Then, we need to set reasonable term limits for all elected officials in the state. Next, we need to stop the state from financing partisan primaries for the large parties.
Then open the general election ballot so that candidates from all parties and independents have equal access.
Thanks to the shenanigans of the current political power structure, we the people now have a chance to regain control over our government. Let’s not waste the opportunity.

Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is frankgillispie@charter.net.

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Column
By Margie Richards
The Madison County Journal
March 24, 2004

A Moment With Margie

A chilly time at the beach
As most things do, it started out simply enough.
When Charles and I decided to head to one of our favorite places to celebrate my 45th birthday a couple of weeks ago, I had one request - I wanted to take two of my best buds; that dynamic duo, Shirley and Virginia.
What can I say, Charles is a brave man unafraid to embark on a 600 mile round trip with three women and lots and lots and lots of luggage - all in a mid-size pick up.
It took a while to get all the arrangements made and everyone set on a time that they could leave, but we finally managed it and set out for the 300 mile drive south late on Friday afternoon. It seemed unusual to be heading for the beach one day after our Thursday snowstorm, but it’s not the first time we’ve been known to do the unusual; in fact it would be unusual for us NOT to do the unusual.
We had to travel in Charles’s pick up because I had already received an early birthday present - my car had been rear-ended the week before and was in the shop for repairs. So, undaunted, we loaded ourselves, the girls, a couple of bikes, some beach chairs, a cooler, flashlights, snacks, and all our luggage (including three matching sea grass bags - don’t ask) into the truck and headed out. We always pack as if we’re going on an extended vacation - packing for a month wouldn’t be any harder.
But, all things considered, including roadside deer sightings, we made good time, stopping only once for a quick meal and arriving in the coastal city of Brunswick around midnight.
That was a mercy for Shirley, who hates tall bridges and didn’t relish the prospect of crossing the new high-rise Sidney Lanier Bridge (at night it was harder for her to tell how high up we were) on our way over to Jekyll Island.
Since Shirley had never been to the island before we decided to drive around a little before checking into our hotel room.
It was then that things began to go downhill.
I had just been talking about the low crime rate on Jekyll and how the State Patrol monitors the island and the access bridge over the causeway when we spotted a State Patrol car sitting along the road on Oceanview Drive. Charles thought he was being funny when he commented that he was probably ‘napping’ - famous last words. Charles was driving slowly and probably weaving over the center line a little (after all he’d just been driving six hours or better) while gazing out at the distant lights of boats on the ocean. Suddenly blue lights signaled for us to pull over.
The officer ordered him out of the truck and checked his license and registration.
After ascertaining that we weren’t up to anything - yet anyway, we were allowed to proceed to our hotel rooms.
All was quiet when we arrived at the hotel, we checked in and decided to take the outside stairway to our corner rooms to avoid waking other guests. Little did we know we needn’t have worried.
After unloading all our stuff and then dragging it up two flights of outdoor stairs in a cold and brisk Atlantic Ocean wind, we finally said ‘good night’ to the girls and went to our room across the hall.
No sooner had we fell exhausted into bed than it started.
Just our luck, a local fraternity group began to “party” in rooms next to ours. Shirley and Virginia got the worst of it that night - the group next to them kept shouting “one, two, three” something and yelling obscenities.
But all of us spent the next several hours listening to whooping, cursing, running, dancing, banging on doors (including ours) and various other sounds that prevented us from getting a lot of rest. We called the front desk and complained, but that did little except make the partyers more determined than ever to keep their unfortunate neighbors awake.
The next day the sun rose on a gorgeous day. I greeted that day by pulling a pillow over my head as I heard Charles getting ready for his usual pre-dawn beach combing. No sooner had he closed the door and I drifted back off into an exhausted slumber than the bedside phone rang.
I answered, but didn’t hear anything. However Shirley insists I hung up on her when she announced they were ready “to go out and play.” At any rate, I was in no shape to crawl out of bed, let alone brave a cold wind on the beach.
Sometime later we went out for breakfast -which in itself turned out to be no simple feat. The part of the island that wasn’t filled with the fraternal party-goers, now unconscious and sleeping peacefully in their rooms, was filled to the gills it seemed with those on the island for weekend conventions.
We spent the day shopping and looking around the historic district, then tried an afternoon chilly walk on the beach. Charles even rode his bike, something I couldn’t bring myself to do in that icy wind. Later we took the girls to our favorite restaurant, Blackbeard’s, where we watched night fall over the ocean while we ate our supper. All was quiet when we got back to the hotel, so we hoped cautiously for a peaceful night, but it was not to be and we headed
For the rest of this story see this weeks Madison County Journal.


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