July 20, 2000: ‘Supercop’ Will Give Gov. Barnes Even More Power

I owe an apology to the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta. In my column on the Supreme Court decision that upheld the right of the Boy Scouts of America to bar homosexuals as scout leaders, I spoke of the pressures being placed on the BSA.

I mentioned that Levi Strauss had dropped its support and that United Way organizations were not accepting solicitations for the Boy Scouts. While that may be the case for some United Way agencies, Mark Dvorak, the vice president of marketing for the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta, says it is not true for his group, which covers some 13 counties from Cherokee to Butts.

Dvorak says three local Scout councils have received nearly $1.8 million from the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta, much of it to serve at-risk kids. ”Volunteers have put aside their personal agendas in support of what’s best for the community,” he says. I am glad to set the record straight.

A Levi Strauss spokesman said the company’s non-support of the Scouts is not new. Levi Strauss adopted a policy in 1992 barring contributions to any group that it says discriminates in any number of areas, including sexual orientation. The Levi Strauss spokesman said its decision has not hurt sales. I assume Boy Scouts don’t buy Levis.

While I was gorging on corn-fried shrimp at St. Simons Island for a week, Gov. Roy Barnes continued to consolidate power by super-sizing the state’s law enforcement responsibility and naming longtime friend Bob Hightower head of the newly reorganized Department of Public Safety. I think everybody in state government with a badge and a blue light — except Insurance Commissioner John ”Crash” Oxendine — now reports to him. Hightower is being dubbed ”Supercop.”

With these consolidations and with the other moves he has made in his two short years in office, Roy Barnes has become as powerful as any governor in memory. Even Speaker of the House Tom Murphy is staying out of Barnes’ way. Otherwise, the speaker might find the Bremen High School Fightin’ Murphs moved from Georgia High School Association Class A to the NFL.

But as successful as Barnes has been in consolidating power, he still has a way to go. When I see Commissioner of Agriculture Tommy Irvin mowing the lawn at the Governor’s Mansion then I will know the governor has assumed total and complete control of state government.

Having survived my trip to St. Simons on the Redneck Raceway, also known as I-75, I have a suggestion for Supercop.

He needs to ask Super Governor for a few hundred million dollars to hire enough state patrol officers to see if they can get the speeds on our interstate highways down into the low 90s. Going 70 mph in the right lane on I-16 recently, I had a car roar past me in the emergency lane and give me half a peace sign in appreciation.

And truckers are just as bad. I am not a physics expert, but I am going to guess that it takes more than a few feet for an 18-wheeler doing 85 mph to come to a complete stop. Yet most of the trucks on the interstate are dangerously tailgating the few cars they can’t outrun.

Occasionally, as one of the behemoths flies by, I see a ”How’s My Driving?” sticker on the back of the truck. Before I can get the telephone number to cast my vote, he has already disappeared.

Supercop should have no problem getting the money from the legislature. If anyone in that august body has the temerity to question a Roy Barnes initiative, a good point can be made that additional officers would more than pay for themselves in fines levied to lead-footed drivers careening all over our state. We had better do something soon because our highways are approaching anarchy.

Besides, I need to venture out on the interstates in the near future when I head back to St. Simons Island. I just came home to give the shrimp a chance to regroup.