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COLUMN: Gillispie’s rehab comments music to prosecutor’s ears

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By BEN CARLSON

Column as I see ’em ...

You know that whole spiel the police go through while making an arrest? The “anything you say can and will be used against you” spiel?

Someone should tell Billy Gillispie that that includes comments made to the media after he popped off to a Houston-area television station shortly after entering alcohol rehabilitation.

It’s anyone’s guess how Gillispie will respond after getting nabbed here Aug. 27 on a drunk driving charge, but the following statement certainly will haunt him if he decides to plead not guilty and fight it out in front of a jury: “I’m not very proud of what happened in Kentucky two weeks ago,” Gillispie told the TV station. “That’s inexcusable at this stage of my life. It should have never happened.”

Ouch. If you don’t think County Attorney Bobbi Jo Lewis danced a little jig when she heard or read that statement, you’d be wrong. With no blood alcohol evidence to use in her prosecution — Billy Clyde refused to blow — Lewis has testimony from the police, in-car police video and a witness at the Shell station who blew the whistle on Gillispie by calling the police upon which to mount her prosecution.

If this case ever gets in front of a jury, it will be interesting to see how much hay Lewis can bale on that statement, and how Gillispie’s attorney, Bill Patrick, can mitigate the potential damage.

Speaking of blowing the whistle, I have nothing but respect for the families who publicly called out the city council for its wrongheaded approach to ridding the cemetery of wooden crosses.

Those folks were treated unfairly because there is a virtual mountain of other items placed around grave markers that aren’t supposed to be there, either. It will be interesting to see if the city follows through and eventually forces everyone to clear the cemetery of items not allowed by ordinance.

Speaking of wrongheaded, the city council had no business offering up taxpayer dollars to stop the bleeding on the wooden cross issue.

After bungling the issue from the start, the city council decided that it should spend up to $1,250 to buy the aggrieved families permanent grave markers if they’d agree to remove the wooden crosses.

The average city tax bill is only a few hundred bucks, meaning the entire tax liability for four or five families would have been used to fix what should never have been a problem in the first place. The next time something like this happens, it says here that the council and mayor should offer to dip into their own bank accounts to fix their problems, and leave the rest of us out of it.

Speaking of tax liabilities, that’s just what our fair county and city continue to have thanks to the ongoing inability to attract new businesses.

While our neighbors in Shelby County rejoice the fact that Harley-Davidson has agreed to come to town to build a factory, we sit back and hope that rumors of how perilous times are for a couple of our factories aren’t true.

If we had someone out there pitching Anderson County to companies like Harley-Davidson, a compelling case that it should move here would have been easy to make.

Instead of killing two birds with one stone, such a world-renown manufacturer coming here would have killed three.

1. It would have provided a sorely needed tax base.

2. It would have provided decent-paying jobs. Despite what some folks say, jobs and plenty of them is just exactly what Anderson County needs.

3. It would have provided a remarkable shot in the arm to our tourism efforts, and wouldn’t have required a restaurant tax to do so.

For the umpteenth time, Anderson County needs a full-time director of economic development, someone who can get out and attract companies like Harley-Davidson.

We have a solid economic development authority, staffed with good people who have the county’s best interests at heart.

But those people have full-time jobs and cannot be expected to scour the nation to recruit new industry.

While our elected officials cry poormouth at the prospect of paying such a person, they should consider how they got into their poormouth position in the first place. It happened because residential real estate growth alone will not provide an adequate tax base to meet a growing population’s needs.

And if this current cast of city and county officials don’t do something about this, let’s hope that voters toss the lot of them out of office next year and replace them with people who will.

E-mail Ben Carlson at bcarlson@theandersonnews.com.