Sunday, November 14, 2010

Joseph O. Patton: Ethically-speaking…

  What would you buy with $300,000?

  Outgoing Governor Bob Riley and a passel of newly elected Alabama lawmakers are leaping about, tongues wagging and slinging drool like overly excited puppies, aiming to hold a legislative special session and tackle ethics reform. And though the buying, selling and renting of Alabama legislators is a chronic problem facing our great state, it is nonetheless not the most pressing issue facing us. Revenues are down, unemployment rates are up, and yet many new office-holders are more concerned with itemizing and making public gifts to said lawmakers as insignificant as a cup of coffee.

  Across party lines we should encourage, and if needed, demand ethics reform, but we don’t have over a quarter million dollars to spare as many of us struggle to simply put food on the table for our families and avoid home foreclosure as we crawl over each other to land one of the very few jobs available in our state. Besides, by law the Alabama Legislature will meet to organize the second week of January then convene for its regular working session the first Tuesday of March. Documentation of that cup of coffee can’t wait?

  It also warrants mention that many of those now clamoring for an expensive special session are the very individuals who were swept into office on a wave of promises to curb “wasteful government spending.”

  And no one should be misled over the zeal on the part of lawmakers to strike a blow for honesty and transparency. This is ultimately just a means for Bob Riley to snag a political victory on his way out the door and as the clock expires on his time occupying the big ole leather chair in the governor‘s office. He should rightfully be concerned about his so-called legacy since most of us will only remember him as being the guy with the unhealthy, overbearing and insufferably self-righteous distaste for charity bingo. Meanwhile, the new legislature merely wants to get cookin’ on the right foot by passing legislation which will make them appear more honest and forthcoming when it comes to who influences them and to whom they answer. (It ain’t taxpayers in case you were wondering.)

  Everyone in this mix should simply take a deep breath, dab their beads of excitement-induced sweat, and leave ethics reform for the regular session of the Alabama Legislature. Calling a special session will only squander our tax dollars when revenues are already shaky and play into the hands of those who only want ethics reform in order to score brownie points with voters. As for Bob Riley and his happy trails, he’s had the last eight years to build a legacy that doesn’t leave an overwhelmingly bitter taste in our mouths….

   About the author: Joseph O. Patton is the editor-in-chief and founder of the Capital City Free Press. He is a former news editor for the Coosa County News, lead reporter for the Montgomery Independent and editor-in-chief of the AUMnibus, the student newspaper of Auburn-Montgomery. Patton is also the creator of and writer for the satirical news radio segment "Goat Hill Gossip," which previously aired on WAUD in Auburn, Alabama and has appeared on several Central Alabama radio programs as a political analyst.

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