Jan. 12, 2003: Some Unsolicited Advice to our New Governor

Dear Governor Perdue: You may not remember me, but along with the state’s movers and shakers we used to eat lunch together at the President’s house in Athens before University of Georgia football games. That was back in the days when I was a very important person and you were just another Democratic state senator. Now look at us. Here you are, the new Republican governor of Georgia, and I am now a lowly scribe trying to scratch out a few relevant thoughts each week. Who would have guessed?

I used to write your predecessor, Roy Barnes, and give him the benefit of my wisdom and experience in the political arena. He never responded because I think he opted to listen to his crack staff instead. Thanks to them, he is now employed full-time by the Legal Aid Society and you are the governor. I don’t expect you will have time to reply either. You’ve got your hands full dealing with a bunch of suck-up business tycoons and corporate lobbyists who are falling all over themselves to give you money now that you are in charge. Since you were elected without their help, I’d tell them to take their money and put it where the sun never shines. But that is not the way politics works. When you run for reelection in four years, you’ll want a lot of money to scare off any potential opposition. Just remember, that tactic didn’t work in the last election and it might not work next time, either.

I know reelection is not uppermost on your mind right now, but the “Fergit Hell” crowd is already making ominous noises that if you don’t hold a referendum on the state flag pretty soon, you will be a one-term governor. My advice would be that you go ahead and let us vote and be through with it. I’ll bet most folks would favor the pre-1956 flag anyway, if they are given that option. With the flag issue out of the way, maybe the Confederates will declare war on North Dakota or Idaho and let the rest of us move on with our lives.

I have a couple of public school teachers in my family, and I tried to tell your predecessor that picking on teachers wasn’t a smart thing to do, even if you were trying to improve public education. But the same crack staff that flushed $20 million down a rat hole trying to get your predecessor reelected also advised him to say he was going to “get rid of bad teachers.” Teachers took it personally, and they told a lot of parents who also took it personally. I suggest that if you want to do something good for public education while you are governor, start by being nice to teachers and letting them know you appreciate the fact that they have a tough job.

Everything I read says that Georgia is having a hard time financially and that you are going to have to make some tough choices about the state budget. Here’s an idea. We taxpayers fund something called a pork barrel. Legislators dip into it to build swimming pools and softball fields for local constituents so that those same legislators can get reelected and not have to go to work. The pork barrel is always full of money. Why don’t you tell the Legislature to use those tax dollars to hire some more state patrol officers? The officers would pay for themselves in no time with the fines they would collect from the maniacs currently roaring unimpeded up and down our highways. While swimming pools and softball fields are nice, I believe taxpayers would prefer being able to drive around our state without fear of being run over by some 18-wheeler or SUV.

Because you are the first Republican governor in Georgia since 1872, I suspect the Democrats will work overtime to make things rough for you. I believe you are up to the challenge, and I am confident that you are going to do well. All the best to you, Governor, and remember – be real careful about taking too much advice from your crack staff. They don’t have to run for reelection. You do.

Your friend,