Opinions

2/05/03


The True Citizen
P.O.Box 948
Waynesboro, GA
30830
(706) 554-2111
The Pledge of Allegiance

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one Nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Harold Rowland
Death In A Cloudless Sky

Who will ever forget the final moments of the space shuttle Columbia? Hurtling along at over 12,000 miles an hour the veteran spacecraft painted a white streak across the brilliant Texas sky. Just 16 minutes from touchdown in Florida the ship began to break up, the single contrail becoming a horror show of certain death.
A friend in Jacksonville, Texas, reported hearing a tremendous boom. Her whole house was shaking. She ran to check neighboring houses of her children and then to see if there has been a gas line explosion or a collision on the road in front of her home. Her scanner reported that an airplane had apparently exploded over the city.
All over the world the news was flashed. The shuttle Columbia was lost with all hands. Flags were lowered to half-staff, a universal signal of mourning. For hours the tragic loss of life and the inexplicable disintegration of a dependable ship on its 28th mission was explored by the media.

In 42 years of space exploration only 17 lives have been lost. It is quite an impressive safety record considering the enormous risks involved in riding a flaming rocket into space and returning through the maelstrom of the earth’s atmosphere creating in excess of 3,000º Fahrenheit.

What strange mixture of courage and fear can cause any human to aspire to space exploration? The answer can only lie within the heart of such an individual. By any definition they are heroes. They risk their lives to attain a dream and in the doing of it to bring benefits to their fellow mortals.

The Columbia crew had conducted some 80 successful experiments. They eagerly suited up and cheerfully waved their farewells as they boarded what was to be their fatal chariot of fire.
The inevitable questions have been raised about space travel. Is it worth the expense? Is it worth the loss of life? I suspect we could not count the benefits that have accrued to science and health and technology from the courage and sacrifice of these heroic men and women. But ultimately, the decision must rest with those who look with passion to the skies and beyond.

Punch up the Hubble telescope on the Internet. Marvel at the photographs of the heavens sent from the depths of space untarnished or blurred by the atmosphere of our planet. Knowledge is the key to human development. Discovery of the marvels and wonders of our universe enhance everything, including our awe at the majesty of the Creator. It is fitting that we mourn the loss of these brave men and women. That they died in such a stunning accident seized our attention, but that they willingly accepted the risks demands our admiration.

Their peers in the space program are not ready to abandon the amazing adventure. They continue in their dedication to probe the vaults of the vast caverns of space. To them all may we give honor and veneration and may we never become immune to the valiant spirit of man that supplies the courage to test the limits of human knowledge and endurance.
You can reach me at
Rowlandsr@aol.com.


Ben Roberts
A Lesson Even A Kid Can Grasp
Not only do I take pictures and write stories for the paper, I help deliver it as well. Every Wednesday morning, I start my day with a paper route out to Girard and back through Sardis.

It’s a nice break in the middle of the week and it gets me out of the office for a couple of hours. I get to talk to folks and, occasionally, you run across a good story or picture.

Last week, I was on my way back to Waynesboro, having just made my last stop at McClain’s Grocery. I had the windows cracked and was enjoying the warmth of the sun on my face as I drove north on Highway 24, when out of the window of the car in front of me came a cigarette butt. If I didn’t have a windshield, it would have hit me between the eyes. This brings me to a question I’ve been meaning to ask: What is it with you people in this county and your trash? Y’all know exactly who you are, too.

I would like to think that this column is like “preaching to the choir.” I would assume that the majority of people who don’t have sense enough to put their garbage in a dumpster wouldn’t have sense enough to read this paper, but then I’ve watched some seemingly sensible people in this county throw trash out the window of their car or on the ground.

Without giving away too much, I’ll share an example with you. I once had a discussion on the merits of aluminum cans versus glass bottles of a certain beverage. My reasoning is that cans are more manageable, they take up less space and are recyclable. This group of young men said that while all of the above might be true, the simple fact remained that cans weren’t near as much fun to throw at road signs. They then spent the rest of the evening attempting, and most of the time succeeding, at hitting nearly every sign we passed. My futile requests that they stop fell on deaf ears. So a word to the wise, if you ever break down on a Burke County road, I wouldn’t take my shoes off for the hike back to town.

The elections ended back in early November, and yet you can ride down some of our blacktops and still find a candidate’s little sign on a stake there by the roadside. Some of these folks didn’t even make it past the primary, and their signs are still there, asking for your vote.
And getting back to the cigarettes, you know they put these nifty little devices in most cars nowadays, it’s called an ashtray. People collect all sorts of things in there, like coins or ink pens, and whatnot. Although you rarely actually find any ashes or cigarette butts.
You folks that enjoy smoking and throwing your butts on the ground, indulge me with a little experiment. Save every last cigarette in a coffee can or something for one week and see what size of a pile you come up with. Then when you’re done, walk out your front door and dump it in your yard.

What? Why would you dump a pile of cigarettes in your yard, you ask? Well, I don’t know, but what makes it any different than throwing them out one at a time all over the county.
Some of you live with the belief that cigarette butts are virtually nothing more than tobacco leaves and, therefore, turn into dust within a short period of time. Well, I’ve got news for you, Plant Vogtle could go sky high and the only thing left would be the cockroaches and your cigarette butts.

At last month’s county commissioners’ meeting, I heard Jesse Burke, the county road superintendent, tell a story about a man one of his crewmembers caught dumping an old refrigerator out on the side of the road. When the fellow from the road department explained that you couldn’t just drop off appliances on the side of the road, the guy acted as though he had no idea there was anything wrong with it. He then asked the fellow from the road department to help him load it back on his truck.

Everybody complains about taxes and the county budget, but take this into consideration: The road department has a three-man crew that does nothing but clean up around the county dumpster sites, all day long, five days a week. Burke says that in addition, every Monday morning he sends out another crew with a truck and trailer and front-end loader to pick up all the furniture, appliances and animals people have piled around the dumpsters over the weekend.

Now, I was never very good at math, but it seems to me we could help the county budget, and therefore our tax rates, if certain county residents could follow a few simple ordinances or, at the very least, have better aim at dumpsters. We could then move a handful of road department workers over to actually working on the road.
Contact Ben Roberts at (706) 554-2111 or co
ntact benr@thetruecitizen.com

Bill Shipp
Three New Icons Of Democratic Power
The tedious task of putting together again the Humpty-Dumpty Democratic Party of Georgia may fall largely to three low-profile African-American public officials. Until recent weeks, most Georgians heard little from Attorney General Thurbert Baker, Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond or state Democratic Chairman Calvin Smyre, who also chairs the House Rules Committee.

Yet, they are easily the most influential black political figures in state government. They have occupied positions of power for years, while other – and sometimes less palatable – African-Americans hogged center stage. In the 2002 election, the media zeroed in on the antics of Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and the co-mingled private-public business ventures of state Senate Majority Leader Charles Walker. The aura of outrage surrounding Walker and McKinney (both were defeated) rubbed off on Gov. Roy Barnes and Sen. Max Cleland, contributing substantially to their downfall. Meanwhile, Baker, Thurmond and Smyre were conducting their business in a professional and orderly way. Voters, including a healthy helping of whites, re-elected all three without much fuss.

Republicans may regret that they did not target the trio for defeat. They are emerging as leaders in the chorus questioning many of the policies of Gov. Sonny Perdue’s “New Georgia.”
Attorney General Baker has led the dissidents. While the governor’s new inspector general hinted darkly at unspecified reports of wrongdoing, Baker kicked off an investigation of the public spending habits of former state School Superintendent Linda Schrenko, a Republican. When Gov. Perdue ordered the state to withdraw a court appeal of the federal government’s opposition to three state Senate districts, Baker thanked the governor for his “advice.” Baker added politely that he, not Perdue, would decide the course of the redistricting appeal.
(Don’t be misled about some of these redistricting cases. There are no good guys and bad guys involved – just opportunistic guys. The complicated state Senate litigation involves “packing” and “unpacking” black voters in three state districts. Democrats favor “unpacking” to spread out black and Democratic voting power. Republicans are pushing “packing” to maintain overwhelmingly black districts, which, in turn, help create lily-white Republican districts.)
Baker also has served notice that he will be the people’s champion against any attempt to circumvent the state’s sunshine laws. And Baker is liable to have the last word on whether the Perdue administration can legally transfer a $200 million payday from this fiscal year to the next as an accounting trick to balance the state’s books.

Commissioner Thurmond is operating under the radar on rebuilding the state’s white-black Democratic coalition. He has been mentioned as a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2004 to succeed Zell Miller. He has not said whether he will run. Thurmond has declared emphatically that the Democrats’ most important task next year will be to recapture the state Senate. Thurmond has said he is particularly interested in working to defeat four state senators, who were elected as Democrats but then switched to the Republican Party immediately after the election. He also says Democrats must be careful not to nominate an African-American candidate for the U.S. Senate, who might “scare” white voters. (Surely, he didn’t have former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson in mind.)

As chairman of the Rules Committee, Rep. Smyre is gatekeeper for legislation introduced in the House. He says he will block any extremist anti-abortion bills that Republicans offer. You can bet the Columbus lawmaker also will have major say-so over how and when a referendum on the state flag is held. In the recent battle for the speaker’s post between Democrat Terry Coleman and Perdue-supported Larry Walker, Smyre is credited with snuffing out the last vestiges of support for Walker. When several members of the Legislative Black Caucus considered defecting to the Perdue-Walker side, Smyre called them in for “a little chat.” The context of the Smyre chat has not been divulged, but the equivocating lawmakers stayed hitched to Coleman. In fact, they claim they never seriously considered crossing over. In his alternate role as the state Democratic chair, Smyre takes personally the setbacks that his party suffered in the last election. He has told friends he is determined to regain that lost ground.

Changes in the state’s population patterns and the inescapable political message of the 2002 election must be discouraging to black Democratic officials who previously saw an opportunity to climb to the top in Georgia politics. Yet, the competent performances and sudden assertiveness of Baker, Thurmond and Smyre may give Democrats, black and white, reason to be optimistic about a Democratic resurgence in New Georgia.

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