June 8, 2000: A Letter to Our Governor

Honorable Roy Barnes

State Capitol

Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Governor:

As you know, I am one of your biggest fans.  I think you have done an outstanding job as governor and I have said so in my columns and in speeches around the state.  But today I am not a happy camper.

You are being lobbied shamelessly by Colin Campbell, a columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to foist more than 5000 boxes of Olympic junk off on the University System of Georgia – and the taxpayers.  I think it’s time you heard the other side of the story.  First, most of the boxes in question were located in the State of Georgia archives until September 1997 when the Olympic folks were told to come take them off the state’s hands.  They did and began an effort of deciding which boxes were worth saving and which weren’t.  It takes an average of six hours to read through a box just to know.  The price for this thoroughness was accusations that brought the reputations and the integrity of these people into question and that is a shame.  They deserve better.  Campbell knows better.

The archiving process done by Atlanta History Center professionals produced some 900 boxes that have material considered to be of historic value.  Since July 19, 1999 – almost a year ago – those 900 boxes and, in fact all 6000 boxes, have been available for Colin Campbell or anyone else to view.  To my knowledge, he has made less than five trips to the Atlanta History Center to look at them.  Now, he is lobbying Chancellor Steve Portch and you to accept the 5000 or so remaining boxes of junk.  I can’t for the life of me understand why.  If he can’t get to the Atlanta History Center from downtown Atlanta, why would he drive 20 miles to Kennesaw State or 75 miles to UGA or 100 miles to Macon State?

The boxes at the Atlanta History Center are being paid for privately, not by the taxpayer, just like the Games themselves.  If you force the University of Georgia or any other institution in the state to take the boxes that are deemed not of historical value, here is an example of what you are sticking the taxpayers with: Boxes of blank forms for people wanting to volunteer for the Games, several boxes of advertising slicks – or pictures – of the woebegone Olympic mascot, Izzy, and 30 to 40 boxes of forms used in the venues when someone needed first aid.  Really historic stuff.

As you and I both know, the university system has grown in stature and reputation.  We are the envy of other states.  One reason is that the system has had the strong support of you and your predecessors.  For another, it hasn’t had overt political pressure put on it since the days of Gene Talmadge.  I spend a lot more time in Athens than Colin Campbell and I can tell you that if the University of Georgia wanted those boxes of junk, they would have asked for them.  They don’t want them.  They don’t have room for them.  They don’t need them.  And the boxes should not be forced on them or any other institution to pacify one columnist.

I don’t like seeing the University of Georgia and the other units of the university system placed in the position of pawns to satisfy one writer and I am tired of my friends at ACOG being cast as heavies.  Neither can fight back, but I can.

If you or Chancellor Portch decides to accommodate him, how will you explain to taxpayers that what they are paying for isn’t worth a cup of warm spit?  Olympic scholars aren’t standing in line to see who skinned a knee during the Centennial Olympic Games.   Everybody seems to understand this but Colin Campbell.

Governor, there is nobody on the horizon that stands a snowball’s chance in you-know-where of beating you in 2002.  You know it and I know it. Your record is solid as a rock.  You are headed toward being one of our best governors ever and you can do it without having to worry about one nagging columnist.  Therefore, I have the solution for you.

Tell Campbell that if he wants those boxes so badly to come pick them up and store them at his house.  Then you can get on with the serious business of the state.

I’ll even find Izzy and help him with the move.

Your friend,

Dick Yarbrough