Madison County Opinion...

MAY 19, 2004


Column
By Frank Gillispie
The Madison County Journal
May 19, 2004

Frankly Speaking

County needs to develop communication system
It is becoming more and more important that the various governing agencies in Madison County find a better way to communicate. For example, the current drive to expand the county’s water system to provide water to the contaminated area along Colonial Pipeline south of Danielsville.
The pipeline has offered to pay a major part of the expansion. Grants and loans will finance the rest. The industrial authority, charged with developing infrastructure in the county, has had to coordinate its efforts with the county commissioners, planning and zoning, and the cities of Danielsville and Colbert.
Watching from the sidelines, I saw quite a bit of confusion, misinformation, and miscommunication as the various groups tried to sort out the needed actions to bring this project into existence. It would have been easier if there were some kind of county-wide communication structure where information and ideas can be exchanged freely.
To start, I think we need an organization of city officials. Call it the “Council of Cities,” or something similar. It would be made up of the mayors and council members from each Madison County city. This group would have a formal charter; elect a chairman who would have the ability to call meetings of the council when coordinated action by the cities is required.
Secondly, the chairman of the county board of commissioners is a de facto member of the industrial authority. I think the cities should be able to name a member of the board as well. The chairman of a council of cities would fit the bill well. Cities need to have a voice in other areas, such as the boards of health, recreation and public safety.
Another idea would be a newsletter for everyone involved in county activities. The newsletter would cover the activities of each city and unincorporated community, county offices, education system, boards and agencies, state agencies operating within the county as well as prominent civic groups. The letter would include a calendar of events that would allow recipients to schedule their time in the most-beneficial manner. The letter can be printed and mailed, or posted on one or more web sites available to all interested people.
Madison County is becoming a community of diverse interests. Solutions for one group’s problems create new problems for other groups. People who feel that their problems are not being addressed can become angry at the system.
People who think the government is becoming too involved in their private lives can be come angry. Groups who believe that other groups have more influence can become angry.
Until we have a system that allows a free flow of information between the people and government agencies, between various agencies within the county and between city, county and state agencies, more and more people are likely to feel that their needs and wants are not being met and their voices are not being heard.
If we are to have a smoothly operating county, we need to communicate. The better we understand each other, the greater the likelihood will be to meet the needs of all our citizens.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is frankgillispie@charter.net.

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Column
By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
May 19, 2004

In the Meantime

Upcoming Olympics brings back memories of ‘96
No, this wasn't a dream.
I sat in the bus driver's seat, nervously gripping the steering wheel, looking into the rearview mirror as SWAT team members approached the parked vehicle from behind, slowly, silently, as if there was a baby's crib they had to sneak by, but they cradled machine guns and had the intent of taking me down.
I guess the better analogy was that I was the trapped mouse, they the cats of prey, ready to pounce.
And they did, busting through the bus door, hollering for me to raise my hands and put my head down. The adrenaline raced through me, but shoot no, I didn't stand to confront them. Instead, in the excitement, in the desire to show quick compliance to the yelling men with machine guns, when they said put your head down, I did.
I slammed it hard on the steering wheel.
That day in the spring of 1996, I was a stand-in terrorist for the SWAT team in Athens. The SWAT team stormed the Athens City Bus on Washington Street numerous times that morning, taking several of us make-believe bad guys into custody over and over again, until the novelty wore off and I was ready to leave and do something that didn't involve guns, yelling and a bruised forehead.
I recalled that episode this week as I read about the preparations for the 2004 summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. That city is reportedly far from ready. There is quite a bit of construction to be done.
And I'm sure there are stand-in terrorists helping law enforcement teams prepare for the real thing, because we expect that nowadays — the real thing, the horrible thing.
Of course, there were plenty of security concerns in 1996, too, as evidenced by my SWAT team adventure. But we had a lot more than terrorism on our minds, because the world was turning its attention to Georgia.
We all remember the big board counting down the days till the Olympics. We wondered if traffic would be at a standstill two hours outside of Atlanta when the Olympics began. We wondered what the economic impact would be on the state, what historic events would happen at the new stadium, and ultimately, whether the Olympics would be deemed a success or a flop.
We all anticipated the Games for years. But as the countdown to the Olympics neared its end, I jumped ship.
Actually, it was a plane.
That summer I had the chance to travel to Europe. So I took it. I traveled with a friend to several countries: the Netherlands, Italy, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Greece.
And during the Olympics I watched soccer games played in Sanford Stadium from a dorm room in Budapest. It was strange to watch the "home of the dawgs" with an Australian and three Italian guys in Hungary. I wanted to share Larry Munson impersonations with someone, call soccer like he might, perhaps his grim Dawg loyalty temporarily given to a valiant underdog — "you got to hunker down Jamaica."
On a more somber note, I recall that I was in Krakow, Poland, when the Centennial Park bomb went off. I felt somewhat panicked, not knowing any details of the bombing and knowing that my family was going to the Olympics that day. At that point, I really felt trapped by the distance from home and wanted desperately to leave.
But that trip wasn't all anxiety-ridden. One of my best memories is of taking a boat to the island Andros, a mountainous, goat-covered land, with a hotel run by "Papa Nick," a kind, rotund man with a big laugh who treated us to huge meals and acted as if we were personal guests, not hotel customers.
We all have our memories of the historic 1996 games.
Mine have little to do with the actual events, or with Georgia, even.
On the other hand, my sister talks not of Michael Johnson's dash to glory, but of being driven to tears the prior night in a hotel room in Atlanta by our father's snoring.
Hopefully, we'll be able to look back on this year's Olympics without incident, unless of course, it's something glorious on the track or perhaps something noteworthy or humorous in our own lives, like the sorry bang of my head to the steering wheel.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.


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