Apr. 27, 2003: Some Advice For Governor Sonny Perdue

Dear Governor: When you were elected, I wrote and told you I would be giving you free advice from time to time in my role as a public-spirited citizen. I mentioned also that I had attempted to do the same for your predecessor, Roy Barnes, but evidently his crack staff convinced him they knew more about politics than I did and suggested that he ignore me. He followed their advice and now he is a Legal Aid attorney in Atlanta. Hopefully, your own crack staff won’t make the same mistake.

Let me start by congratulating you on the fact that you have lost 20 pounds on your highly publicized diet. You are looking more like the svelte quarterback you once were at Warner Robins High School and less like the Michelin Man. Your effort to shed weight was the second most positive development of the recent legislative session. The most positive, of course, was that the gridlocked Legislature was unable to pass all the laws that we didn’t want in the first place.

It looks like you had some frustrating days in your first session as governor. To put it in football terms, you fumbled a few too many times. You backed Democrat Larry Walker of Perry for Speaker of the House to replace Tom Murphy. Terry Coleman of Eastman won the job, as most of us thought he would. You introduced a tax package that included a property tax increase among other things. Since most Republican legislators had sworn not to raise taxes, your proposal was shot down faster than a Scud missile.

The flag debate was a debacle and didn’t come close to achieving the healing process you wanted. Last time I looked, the flaggers are madder than a wet hornet and think you have betrayed them. Be prepared to have them harass you for the rest of your term like they did your predecessor. Flaggers have lots of spare time on their hands.

Your ethics reform efforts were commendable except for the part where you would dismiss the current members of the State Ethics Commission and appoint the majority of the new commissioners yourself, thereby threatening the commission’s cherished independence. That looked a tad suspicious, particularly since you have a case pending before the commission. By the way, while you were pushing ethics reform, your folks were hitting up lobbyists for money to fund the recent Republican Governors Association meeting at Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro. One of those getting a request for a $15,000 donation and the opportunity to schmooze with Republican governors was a Democratic legislator. He declined, but was thrilled to have been invited and hopes you don’t take his lack of participation personally. Anyway, it turns out that the biggest entertainment at the meeting was a bunch of flaggers in an airplane buzzing you and your colleagues to show their displeasure over your handling of the state flag. I think you will agree that wasn’t worth $15,000.

On a public relations matter, I was surprised that you chose not to attend the Cracker Crumble this year, which is the annual fund-raiser put on by the Georgia Press Association and attended by most of the state’s newspaper editors. You opted to fly on the Cox media jet to a black-tie affair in Washington instead. (I guess my SST was in the shop that day and unavailable.) Your crack staff must have thought that making nice with the Cox executives, who own the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was more important than glad-handing a bunch of ink-stained wretches from the boonies. Who knows? Maybe it helped. After that trip, the Atlanta newspapers seem to have made a conscious effort to beat you up only on days that end in “y”.

Governor, I have a lot more advice to give you, but that’s enough for today. This legislative session was especially cranky and you are probably tired and ready for a well-deserved rest. I’ll stay in touch and I encourage you to do the same. Good luck with the diet, and when you see the flaggers, tell them I said to get a life.

Your friend,