Opinions

1/30/02

Quote of the Week: No Surprise
Quote of the Week: No Surprise "I have heard that he (Woodrow Lovett) was considering a run. It comes as no surprise to me." - Cleve Mobley on the announcement that Woodrow Lovett is going to seek the Republican nomination for the 12th Congressional District seat.
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Allen In Control?
After six years as police chief in Waynesboro, Karl E. Allen apparently is now in control of the city police department. Recently, Allen was removed from the direct supervision of the city administrator and placed under the jurisdiction of city council. Instead of advising Brantley of this, he learned about it at a city council meeting. While the mayor and council certainly have the authority to take this action, we believe it could have been handled more appropriately. Last week, Allen went before council to advise them that he had promoted one officer and changed the job description of a dispatcher to include the duties of records clerk. He said they were not additional positions. One dealt with the promotion of Officer Susan Salemi to a third investigator assigned to handle child abuse cases and domestic violence. He submitted data to support the move. After councilman Dick Byne had asked several questions, veteran councilman Neal Leonard Sr. wanted to know why the chief was even before council. He said it was taking up valuable council time to discuss things that did not need to be run through city council. "You don't need to come to council to ask for this," Leonard said, adding, "if you're promoting to meet the department needs - I've never heard of other department heads coming to ask council for such." Allen, appearing to be frustrated said he was there because "I thought this was policy." Brantley agreed that the chief now was under council jurisdiction and needed to run them by the governing body. Mayor Martin Dolin, who was instrumental in having the chief removed from Brantley's direct authority, pointed out that Allen needed "clearer guidelines." "I need some direction," Allen said. The matter was finally settled when council agreed but did not vote, that the chief did not need to come before council in this matter. Allen has a mandate from council to run his department without interference so long as he stays within the budget process. We hope that members of the city council will remember this dialogue in the future. Our advice to the chief is to run your department efficiently and make the decisions that are good for the protection of all the citizens of Waynesboro.

A Low Down Thief
Last week a truckload of plywood was stolen from the building site of Roberson Grove Baptist Church on Highway 24. The material was at the site to be used in the construction of a new sanctuary building for the church, which just a year ago suffered the loss of their 119-year-old sanctuary to a mysterious fire. To this date, arson investigators have been unable to pinpoint the origin of the blaze that leveled the structure. In November, the church members had a joyous groundbreaking service and were elated that they were going to get their church back. But some lowly thief apparently had other things in mind for the plywood and stole the truck and its contents.

Harold Rowland
Rude, Crude and Uncouth

Believe it or not there was a time in this great country when gentlemen doffed their hats in the presence of ladies, were very careful to watch their language around children and the fairer sex and even opened doors allowing ladies to precede them. Now, I won't argue that these superficial expressions of chivalry indicated any greater depth of character, but they did show a respect for others that is sadly missing today. Our speech has become so liberally sprinkled with expletives and colloquial terms for various bodily functions that even women and children blurt them out without a thought as to their impropriety or their audience. We are becoming a crude, uncouth people. Rude is another matter. Ill-mannered, impolite, discourteous and contemptuous are synonyms for rude. They reflect total disregard for other people and complete dedication to oneself. Rude is carrying on your private conversation against a public speaker, a movie or a concert that others wish to hear. Rude might well be described as a complete lack of manners. Rude is acting as though other people simply did not exist. In this world of mad bombers, economic crisis, mayhem and murder, the niceties of our speech and conduct may seem frivolous and superficial. But the quality of life is made up, not of things but of people and relationships. Schools are in turmoil, families are falling apart, workers are shooting up their workplaces and their colleagues, and all because our relationships and values are all screwed up. We don't teach our children manners anymore. Is that because we have none ourselves? We teach no respect for authority but by example imply that might makes right.

If a teacher suspends a student the parent attacks the whole administration for embarrassing his child. If the game goes against his child, a father beats the coach to death. If a policeman shoots a suspect, the community riots, no matter that the victim is a career criminal with a record as long as your arm. Next time you are in church check out the choir. See how many jaws are chomping away on a wad of gum. When you go shopping see how many kids scream at their parents demanding a toy or refusing to do what they are told. Keep score of vulgarities, profane words and violent scenes when you watch television or go to a movie. We are saturating ourselves with rude, crude and uncouth. We are instilling in our children a careless indifference to those things that protect and enrich relationships. We are isolating ourselves from one another by focusing all our attention upon ourselves to the exclusion of others. This has been a progressive decay of public mores, not a sudden demise of all taste and decorum. It's a long way from Rhett Butler's "I don't give a damn," to the stream of vulgarities spewed forth by today's so-called comics. But little by little we acclimate ourselves to a society with fewer rules and to relationships with very few responsibilities. Warning! With the demise of common courtesy comes increasing friction and with increasing friction comes more conflict. Do you by chance remember; "For the loss of a nail, a shoe was loss. For the want of a shoe a horse was lost. For want of a horse, a rider was lost. For want of a rider, the battle was lost?" We are losing a lot of nails, those innocuous little things that keep us together. It's worth your attention.

Bill Shipp
Equal Opportunity Temptation

The spin on Enron from the Georgia Capitol has taken a new twist. Sure, Enron is a villain. And, yes, the state employees' pension fund has been left holding a bag of worthless Enron shares, once worth $125 million. That's not as bad as it sounds. The Enron paper, even when it was hitting its highs, represented a tiny fraction of the total value of the pension fund. No pensioners have been hurt. Why, heck, if the whole pension-fund portfolio went belly up, what difference would it make? The taxpayers guarantee the pensions. Yep, that's the new spin. Let's don't get too excited (or nosey) about Enron. What happened? A week ago, Democrats were jubilant. Georgia GOP Chairman Ralph Reed had been caught with a fat consulting contract from Enron, one arranged by a White House insider. Enron had cheated everybody in sight, even in Georgia. So - guilt by association - that makes Reed a cheater, too. Reed is a Republican. And Enron is a Republican scandal. As any fool can see, Enron is red meat for the Democrats. That was the hot line then. Now comes the sudden chill, because the political questions about Enron began to go beyond Reed and Republicans. Who was Enron's lobbyist in Georgia? Not Reed certainly. Who represented Enron's interest before the Public Service Commission in Georgia? What was Enron after anyway? A hush fell over the Democrats. We sent a fellow to check the lobbying records for Enron. He said he found no "registered agent" for Enron. We asked him to look at the PSC records. Nothing there either, at least nothing you could put your finger on. But rumors abound. Enron's real muscle in Georgia was not Ralph Reed, but rather highly placed Democrats. We asked the Democratic spinmeisters about Enron and Georgia Democrats. The spin guys wanted to change the subject. When the dust settles on Enron, we're going to discover something we already knew. Enron was an equal-opportunity dispenser of gold. Party didn't matter. Power did.

If Enron wanted something in Atlanta or Washington, it put its money where it would do the most good. In Georgia, that means Democrats. Sen. Zell Miller took a thousand dollars from Enron a year ago, and he returned it last week. In the coming days, you will read a long list of other Georgia Democrats, both officeholders and behind-the-scenes operatives, who took Enron money, directly or indirectly. GOP Chairman Reed told us last week that Enron hired him to peddle the idea of deregulating electricity. He said he exerted almost no effort in Georgia. His stated reason: Electric power is relatively cheap in Georgia and other Southern states. So his efforts on behalf of deregulated electricity in our state would have been wasted. The other reason: He's a Republican, and Republicans don't carry much weight under the Gold Dome. In the end, the Enron mess may turn out to be a good thing. It may give us a peek at how giant corporations expend huge sums on politicians to gain favors. The sordid tale of one of America's biggest companies going bust may offer the clearest insight yet as to why Democrats and Republicans fight so fiercely to control government - not because they want to implement their ideologies and visions but because they want to sit in the seats of influence and reap the benefits of power. Gov. Roy Barnes reported earlier this month that he had raised $11 million for a re-election campaign that has not even started.

To be sure, much of that cash came from persons and groups that believe Barnes has been good for Georgia and will continue to execute initiatives that will benefit the state. But much of the money - most of it, I fear - came from sources interested only in having easy access to the governor and being able to sway his actions to improve their bottom lines. This suggestion is not meant to imply Barnes has been tainted directly by Enron, though lawyers representing that corrupt corporation support our governor - in the same manner that lawyers who represent utilities contribute generously to friendly members of the Public Service Commission. Enron has become a symbol of a terrible malady that has infected our system. Money matters most. In government, ducats can get things done - or, more importantly, keep things from being done. The only difference between Enron and the other special interests driving government is that Enron went too far too fast and got caught. The Enron scandal should have sparked a deafening cry from political leaders, even on the state level, for campaign finance reform and a general overhaul and upgrade of our code of ethics. It has not. Do you wonder why? Take a guess.

Bill Shipp is editor of Bill Shipp's Georgia, a weekly newsletter on government and business. He can be reached at P.O. Box 440755, Kennesaw, GA 30144 or by calling (770) 422-2543, e-mail: bshipp@bellsouth.net, Web address: http://www.billshipp.com
Legal Organ of Burke County, Waynesboro, Sardis, Midville, Keysville, and Girard