Thank you, John Oxendine. State Rep. Ben Harbin is now free to build a dynasty.
As the chairman of the Appropriations Committee of the Georgia House of Representatives, Harbin is in one of the more powerful positions among state elected officials. But it's just the Evans Republican's first term as Appropriations chairman, so he hasn't had time to build a reputation.
His tenure could have been cut short -- but not because of anything he's done wrong. Instead, as former ranking member of the House Insurance Committee, Harbin was in line to run for state insurance commissioner if Oxendine jumped into the race for lieutenant governor.
But Oxendine just days ago announced that he will stay put, and won't be one of what are expected to be many running for the near-powerless lieutenant governor's post, which is being vacated as current Lieutenant Gov. Mark Taylor runs for governor.
Harbin has said all along he wouldn't challenge the well-entrenched Oxendine for the insurance commissioner post, so that means he'll stay put.
That's good news for Columbia County. There isn't much Harbin could do for us as an insurance and fire commissioner; but as chairman of the appropriations committee, he can certainly bring home the bacon.
In fact, the Atlanta media this weekend complained that Harbin had gotten $300,000 to pay for technology improvements for the county's new library, along with other local grants. I wonder where these folks were when the Democrats were building a bronze statue of a mule in South Georgia?
The folks at Stevens Creek Elementary are hoping for a share of pork, too: Harbin says he'll once again this year rescue funding for the school's foreign language model program.
Time to talk
Speaking of foreign languages, the county school board and the legislative delegation apparently are having trouble communicating.
Some of the complaints in the school board's weekend planning retreat came from members who believe their relationship with the elected lawmakers is strained.
Part of the problem is the effort to remold the school board from five members with a chairman selected from among them, to four members with an at-large elected chairman. Every school board member, with the exception of rookie trustee Mike Sleeper, opposes the change that 85 percent of the county's voters say they want.
Rather than get together with the delegation to work out a plan to implement the voters' wishes, some trustees have taken the attitude that if they can't kill the proposal, they don't want anything to do with it.
Fine. But good grief; it's hardly fair to turn a cold shoulder to the legislative delegation, and then act hurt because the lawmakers aren't begging them to talk.
And just in case they haven't figured it out yet: Columbia County will have an elected-at-large chairman on the ballot in 2006. The sore losers on the board need to get used to it.
Back in 1971, the school board prohibited any school from being named for an individual. That meant the name of long-time School Superintendent John Pierce Blanchard came off of the county's only black high school. That building is now Columbia Middle School.
But former students of the county's only black high school are working to preserve their alma mater's name.
Establishing a scholarship fund will help do that, the alumni of John Pierce Blanchard High School hope. They're in the early stages with this worthy cause; those interested in helping should call Gwen Williams at 860-3219, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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