Madison County Opinion...

NOVEMBER 10, 2004


Column
By Frank Gillispie
The Madison County Journal
November 10, 2004

Frankly Speaking

Madison Co. should hold non-partisan elections
It is not often that I find something good to say about Athens-Clarke County. But this time, they did something right. Voters in Athens overwhelmingly approved a plan to require non-partisan elections. The measure won 69 percent “yes” to 31 percent “no.”
What does this mean to the voters on Athens-Clarke? It eliminates a great deal of the partisan political wrangling in their elections. It allows all potential candidates an equal chance to achieve ballot access. It greatly shortens the election process, allowing candidates to present a competitive campaign without excessive cost. It allows less wealthy candidates to have at least a fighting chance against the more wealthy.
All in all, this is a great move by Athens-Clarke, one that I think Madison County should emulate.
The election of a new chairman and board of commissioners in Madison County required over six months and thousands of dollars. Candidates started in the spring, lining up supporters, paying qualifying fees, purchasing signs and advertising and running a full campaign just to be nominated by one of the two major parties. Following that, the survivors had to rev up another campaign, again with signs, advertising and other expenses for the general election in four months later.
Anyone who attempts to go outside these partisan battles has little chance.
Consider Mr. Wendell Williams who chose to run as a write-in candidate. He filled out the forms to notify election officials of his candidacy, purchased advertising, a large banner for the back of his truck and called on voters around the county. After all that, he received 42 votes, or less than half of one percent of the total.
Had he chosen to run as an independent or third-party candidate, he would have been required to collect signatures on a petition. Judge Hoppy Royston’s office would have had to spend time and taxpayer money verifying the signatures, just to put him on the ballot. For most people, just getting on the ballot would exhaust their funds, and used up the good will of his supporters. He would have had nothing left to run a campaign.
This is not true of the board of education. They voted to go to non-partisan elections several years ago. If you wish to run for a seat on the board of education, you qualify for the non-partisan election and run one campaign. It does not matter if you are a Republican, Democrat, third party or independent. All candidates have the same requirements, and an equal chance to win. The same is true of the probate court and magistrate court.
If the rest of Madison County had non-partisan elections, the same would be true of all offices within the county. You would be able to represent the Libertarian, Green, Constitutional, Southern, Veterans or any other minor party and have the same chance as a Republican or Democrat. You would be able to run as an independent with the same chance. You would have to finance and run only one campaign and a run-off if needed.
The voters of Madison County would have to hear and see your campaign for a couple of months, rather than the six months or longer the way it is now.
Can you picture a political campaign that is conducted in a timely manner, where all potential candidates have an equal chance, where the cost of a campaign is greatly reduced and the voters have a greater opportunity to find a candidate that reflects their views? Madison County can achieve that by following the example set by Athens-Clarke County and go to non-partisan elections.
My congratulations to Athens-Clarke. They finally set an example we in Madison County ought to follow.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is frankgillispie@charter.net. His website can be accessed at http://frankgillispie.tripod.com

Column
By Margie Richards
The Madison County Journal
November 10, 2004

A Moment With Margie

Does God live under your bed?
Well, the elections are over and now it seems it’s time to jump headlong into the holiday season. Some of you probably already have. Maybe even a few of you have been smart enough and energetic enough to finish your Christmas shopping. If that’s the case, good for you. I’ve barely even given it any thought.
My daughter Miranda ran across something that came to her office by e-mail the other day that she forwarded on to me. Often I don’t take time to read some of the forwards I get, but she urged me to read this one. I’m glad I did, and now I’m encouraging you to do the same thing. It’s all about perspective, folks. And like the originator of this e-mail, I find I envy Kevin.
The title of it is “God Lives Under the Bed.”
“My brother Kevin thinks God lives under his bed. At least that’s what I heard him say one night.
He was praying out loud in his dark bedroom, and I stopped outside his closed door to listen. “Are you there, God?” he said. “Where are you? Oh, I see. Under the bed.”
I giggled softly and tiptoed off to my own room.
Kevin’s unique perspectives are often a source of amusement. But that night something else lingered long after the humor. I realized for the first time the very different world Kevin lives in.
He was born 30 years ago, mentally disabled as a result of difficulties during labor.
Apart from his size (six foot, two inches), there are few ways in which he is an adult. He reasons and communicates with the capabilities of a 7-year-old, and he always will. He will probably always believe that God lives under his bed, that Santa Claus is the one who fills the space under our tree every Christmas and that airplanes stay up in the sky because angels carry them. I remember wondering if Kevin realizes that he is different.
Is he ever dissatisfied with his monotonous life? Up before dawn each day, off to work at a workshop for the disabled, home to walk our Cocker Spaniel, return to eat his favorite macaroni-and-cheese for dinner, and later to bed. The only variation in the entire scheme is laundry, when he hovers excitedly over the washing machine like a mother with her newborn child.
He does not seem dissatisfied. He lopes out to the bus every morning at 7:05 a.m., eager for a day of simple work. He wrings his hands excitedly while the water boils on the stove before dinner, and he stays up late twice a week to gather our dirty laundry for his next day’s laundry chores. And Saturdays; oh, the bliss of Saturdays! That’s the day my Dad takes Kevin to the airport to have a soft drink, watch the planes land, and speculate loudly on the destination of each passenger inside. “That one’s goin’ to Chi-car-go!” Kevin shouts as he claps his hands. His anticipation is so great he can hardly sleep on Friday nights.
And so goes his world of daily rituals and weekend field trips. He doesn’t know what it means to be discontent. His life is simple. He will never know the entanglements of wealth or power, and he does not care what brand of clothing he wears or what kind of food he eats. His needs have always been met, and he never worries that one day they may not be. His hands are diligent. Kevin is never so happy as when he is working. When he unloads the dishwasher or vacuums the carpet, his heart is completely in it. He does not shrink from a job when it is begun, and he does not leave a job until it is finished. But when his tasks are done, Kevin knows how to relax.
He is not obsessed with his work or the work of others.
His heart is pure. He still believes everyone tells the truth, promises must be kept, and when you are wrong, you apologize instead of argue. Free from pride and unconcerned with appearances, Kevin is not afraid to cry when he is hurt, angry or sorry. He is always transparent, always sincere. And he trusts God.
For the rest of this story see this week's Madison County Journal.

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