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 OPINION PAGE - OCTOBER 20, 1999 - DANIELSVILLE, GA

Column
By Margie Richards
The Madison County Journal
October 20, 1999

Surviving the 'wonder years'
The new mentoring program, sponsored by the Madison County Chamber of Commerce's Education Committee, is attempting to reach out to kids who need someone to take a little extra time to "just be there."
The "wonder years" - as the late childhood, early adolescent period is sometimes called - is an often difficult time for both boys and girls.
In my case it's a "wonder" I got through it at all.
I wish the middle school mentoring program had been in place when I was a middle schooler. You see, much of that time was a nightmare for me and for my mother.
Besides dealing with all the biological and social adjustments of that time, I also had to deal with the devastating loss of my father, who up until that time was pretty much my whole world.
Daddy died when I was 10 years old, during the summer break between the fourth and fifth grades. As I remember, I did pretty well during the fifth grade. I still made good grades and enjoyed going to school.
The worst thing was that most of my friends, of course, didn't know what to say or how to treat me and that made the whole thing pretty awkward.
The first time it really hit me that I might be acting differently at school was when my fifth grade teacher wrote a note to my mother on my report card that read; "Margie hardly ever smiles. Is there anything I can do?"
She must have felt sorry for the little girl in her class who had lost her dad, but for me, it was mortifying. How many others thought I was weird? Of course, it would have been better if she had called my mother discretely, instead of writing it on my report card, although I know she meant well. But I still cringe when I read it to this day.
Later, in middle school, I began to suffer from what I now know were panic attacks that made school, which I had loved, become a constant dread for me.
Looking back, I know all this was combined with the fear of losing my mother, who was also in poor health. But at the time I just knew that I was sad and afraid - what is now called "being depressed."
Two out of three of my middle school years were a real struggle to get through. Months were spent at home, where I kept up with my studies and managed, I am now proud to say, to not only make my grades, but to do so with flying colors.
My several returns to school after being at home were heralded with whispers and giggles from some of the kids, and even worse were the others who smiled at me sympathetically and grew quiet when I came around.
I remember one younger boy on the bus who boldly asked what I'm sure others were thinking; "I heard you went crazy? Were you?"
I just smiled as if I thought it was a joke, but I jumped off the bus as soon as it reached my house and ran inside quickly so no one would see me cry.
What a help a mentor would have been during that time! Someone who could have been my own "special friend" and perhaps, with a little patience and understanding, could have earned my trust.
Many of my teachers were both compassionate and helpful, working with me to catch up on my studies, but an "outside person" to just talk with or do something fun with could have also been a great benefit.
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Finally, I emerged from those rough days, but when I think of how things are today, with so many social ills that kids are suffering with and from, I realize there is much work that can be done to help them.
The mentoring program is just one way to do this, but it is a good start. Most of us, adult or child, need someone to listen and to be there, as well as something to look forward to. A caring mentor can provide all these things.
If you have a little time on your hands or can "make" a little time for someone, please consider being a mentor. It could make all the difference to a child.
I'm sure it could have for me.
Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager for the Madison County Journal.

Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
October 20, 1999

Frankly Speaking

Georgia shouldn't restrict third-party candidates
Georgia is number one in the nation! That is the bad news. The good news is that you have a chance to do something about it.
Georgia has by far the most restrictions on independent and third-party candidates for public office. In order to win a spot on the ballot, independent or third-party candidates must collect signatures from five percent of all registered voters in the district. That is twice the number needed in the next most restrictive state (Illinois at 2.4 percent) and 10 times more restrictive than the former Soviet nation of Ukraine!
When you consider that the average voter turnout in Georgia is 50 percent or less of registered voters, a candidate will have to have one of every 10 actual voters signing a petition to be on the ballot. In off year or special elections, the figure is even worse.
Because of these restrictions, 29 of Georgia's 56 State Senators and 107 of the State Representatives were elected to the 1999 state legislature without opposition. In every one of these cases, the voters of Georgia were denied the opportunity to select a representative of their choice. There simply was no choice.
Currently in Georgia there are five members of the State House of Representatives who received fewer votes than the number of signatures that an independent candidate would have had to collect to challenge him. That is simply not acceptable to me.
Now, what can you and I do about this problem? Call your state representative today and tell him or her that you support passage of HB 672, the Voter Choice bill. This legislation is co-sponsored by Republicans Brian Joyce and Lynn A Westmoreland, and Democrat Tyrone Brooks. (What's this? Me agreeing with Tyrone Brooks? That is a strange twist of politics!)
HB 672 makes several changes in the Georgia Election Code that will benefit third-party and independent candidates. First, it makes it easier for small parties to gain the right to nominate candidates for all political offices in the state. Secondly, it changes the number of signatures needed to qualify for a local office from five percent of registered voters, to five percent of the votes cast in the last election.
I do not think this bill goes far enough. I believe that all elected offices should be available to anyone who wishes to run with NO restrictions whatsoever. I support HB 672 as a good start. It is far better than what we have now!
If you want more information on this issue, go to http://www.voterchoice.org on the Internet. The public library can connect you if you do not have a computer at home.
Call your state representative and state senator and tell them you support voters' choice. We deserve the right to choose our political leaders. It is not right to have them hold office by keeping other candidates off the ballot!
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal.


Letters
The Madison County Journal
October 20, 1999

Thanks Scogin for pushing for legal fee change
Dear editor:
I wanted to publicly thank District 5 Commissioner Bruce Scogin for his proposal to amend the county's policy regarding payment of certain legal fees incurred by county officials. With his proposal, county officials filing suit over job-related matters will have their attorneys' fees paid by county taxpayers only under two conditions: if ordered by a judge, or if approved by a majority vote of the board of commissioners. My thanks also to Mr. Scogin, District 4 Commissioner Melvin Drake and District 1 Commissioner Bill Taylor for voting to approve the proposal on Sept. 27.
I am sure that I am among a large number of Madison County citizens who have grown weary of reading about money spent on legal issues by county leaders with taxpayers picking up the tab. With so much time, energy and money redirected from this use, many more positive things can be accomplished for our county.
Sincerely,
Phyllis Dickinson
Colbert



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