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Column as I see ’em …
Last week’s editorial (I write those, too) about the county’s need to get serious about trashed- and burned-out houses and the story that prompted it certainly lit a fuse.
I received numerous calls and e-mails about other houses in similar shape that, frankly, amount to festering pimples on Anderson County’s otherwise beautiful landscape.
One of those calls came from Judge-Executive John Wayne Conway, who has vowed that action will be taken — and soon — to stiffen the county’s ordinances and get them cleaned up or torn down.
Conway said he tried in vain several times as a magistrate to make this happen, but wasn’t successful for a variety of reasons.
Here’s hoping he and the fiscal court can get this done. It’s one thing to have property values decline due to a recession, but it’s another when due to people who simply refuse to do what’s right.
Speaking of doing what’s right, I admit having some questions about the family that became stranded here when their mini-van stuffed with 29 dogs and cats was totaled, stranding them here for the weekend.
It seems illogical and then some for a family of four to be headed to Arizona with almost no cash, a vehicle that barely runs and 33 mouths to feed.
I tried to help them by making people aware of their circumstances, but people certainly much better than I are apparently predisposed to offer help first and ask questions later — if ever.
Former state Rep. Kent Stevens, Humane Society Director Donna Callahan, the county’s animal control team, Judge-Executive John Wayne Conway and plenty of folks who pitched in without my knowledge jumped on this immediately and did everything in their power to assist.
I’ll probably get an earful for this, but I’m going to single out Conway — one of the first people I met when I arrived here five years ago and a man I’ve spent a great deal of time getting to know.
I caught wind of this problem Saturday morning and called John Wayne to see what he knew. He was already in his dually and truckin’ toward town by the time I reached him.
As well as I thought I knew John Wayne, I found out plenty more about him not as a politician, but as a man. I’m not going into specifics, but just know that once he jumped on the problem, it started going away at once.
Now, let’s be clear. I’ve criticized John Wayne the politician in this space in the past, and he and I both know the day will come when I do so again. That’s part of my job, and we both understand that.
But the next time someone wants to criticize John Wayne the man, please call someone else because, frankly, I’ve seen the man in action when no one else was looking. That tends to be the truest barometer of a man.
I liked what I saw, and those of you who want to question him outside of the job he did as magistrate and now as judge-executive, would too.
That is, if you cared to look.
OK, enough of the lovefest and on to more serious matters.
Picking sides in the seemingly endless debate over polling places in western Anderson County isn’t easy. I genuinely see both sides of the issue.
What’s clear to me, though, are two things:
1. The fiscal court should step very cautiously before it spends a single dime on improvements to the fire house at Hickory Grove.
2. County Clerk Jason Denny doesn’t deserve the heat he has received.
First, I’ve heard repeatedly that the fiscal court can spend money on the fire house, but I’m not sure it can. Yes, its publicly owned, but not by the fiscal court. Instead, it’s owned by the fire taxing district — you know, that additional line on your county tax bill each year.
For the fiscal court to conclude it can spend money fixing it up, even for voting purposes, would be akin to saying it can also spend money to fix up the library or health building, both of which are also owned by separate taxing districts.
Oh, the fiscal court has done so in the past. Just last year it spent thousands of dollars in paving there, not to mention spending money in years past on actual private property at the Western Masonic Lodge.
Both were obviously mistakes and water under the bridge or over the dam or however that stupid saying goes.
But mistakes quickly become something much more serious when they are repeated time and again.
As for Denny, armchair quarterbacks can certainly criticize him for perhaps moving too fast last year to change the polling places. Should he have delivered the problem to the fiscal court beforehand? Yes.
But that doesn’t mean he purposely did anything underhanded. That would imply that he had help in the form of collusion from the rest of the elections board, including at the time the chief deputy, a deputy PVA and local business professional.
Sorry, folks, but I simply don’t believe that’s true.