October 26, 2000: Open Letter to Governor Roy Barnes

Governor Roy Barnes

State Capitol

Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Governor:

It has been quite awhile since I have written.  You will recall that a few months back, I asked you to resist Atlanta Journal columnist Colin Campbell lobbying you to store Olympic first aid forms at my beloved alma mater, the University of Georgia.  I check periodically to be sure that junk hasn’t slipped in during the night and so far, so good.  The heat may be off this issue, governor, because Colin has now discovered that Atlanta’s mayor, Bill Campbell, is lacking a tad of leadership.  After all these years, he and I finally have something we can agree on.  Imagine that!

I know you are a bit distracted given that your popularity ratings have swooned like the Atlanta Braves in September.  Education reform isn’t as easy as it looks.  What your advisors forgot to tell you was that tarring all teachers with the same brush in your enthusiasm to do the right thing upset the teachers and they, in turn, have upset the parents.  Conciliatory letters and promises of pay raises may be too little, too late.

Now here I come with a request that isn’t going to help your popularity either.  We need more state patrol personnel and quickly.  Somebody has to save us from ourselves on the highways because we clearly aren’t capable of it.

I’m sure one of the perks of being governor is people fly you or chauffer you where you need to go while you work on important stuff like how to get teachers off your back.  You probably don’t drive yourself around much anymore.  If you did, you would no doubt have already called a special session of the legislature to get the money for new and current troopers.

I have just come off the road from six weeks of book signings and speeches all over the state.  I drove over 3000 miles and never crossed the state line.  I was on every interstate highway in Georgia.  Let me give you some not so surprising news, governor – drivers in the state are absolutely, positively out of control.  There are third world countries in the middle of civil war showing more discipline than we do as motorists.  I look back on the past six weeks and thank God that I lived to tell about it.

As I went from city to city, my strategy for survival was to get in the far right lane and creep along at 75-80 miles per hour.  That allowed cars and trucks to recognize a pokey car ahead and to swoosh by in one of the alternate lanes, while giving me dirty looks for holding up traffic.

We need the State Patrol out nailing these wild people before they kill each other – and me – but I understand we are woefully short of personnel.  We don’t have enough authorized manpower to begin with and even if we did, we can’t fill the current openings.

If you are waiting on the motoring public to ask you to slow them down, you might as well wait on inmates to call for asylum reform.  It ain’t gonna happen.  You are going to have to roll the legislature for the money while you still have enough power to do so.

I think you could collect enough in fines to more than cover the cost of the additional troopers needed to try and take back our highways.  I don’t know what the price tag would be, but I can tell you the state hasn’t got enough money to get me back out there.

Let’s start by fining anyone going the speed of sound.  That’s a step in the right direction.  If caught driving with one arm draped over the seat while going the speed of sound, you get fined and sent to Puerto Rico, where everybody drives like that.  Talking on a cell phone while driving the speed of sound would incur a fine and a government-mandated removal of your larynx.  More than six lane changes in five seconds would result in a fine and ten years of driving on a two-lane highway behind a logging truck.  I’ve got other suggestions, but you get the idea.

Governor, please do something to slow us down.  I hate to hit you with this problem while Linda Shrenko is making your life so miserable but remember I did get Colin Campbell off your back so, respectfully, I think you owe me one.

Yours for happy motoring,

Dick Yarbrough