Bedford wins pork award

MONTGOMERY &045; I am an Auburn grad … more correctly, an Alabama Polytechnic Institute grad … but despite all the jokes about that institution being a &uot;Cow College,&uot; I cannot drive a tractor, milk a cow or chop cotton.

As to hogs, which is the subject of this column, all I know is that they are exceedingly important to our way of life. They produce some mighty good food &045; ham, sausage, bacon and porkchops, to mention a few &045; but other parts of the hog are used to make lard, leather, brushes, soap and medicine.

So valuable is the hog that someone once wrote that the only useless part of this animal is its squeal.

There are a number of varieties of hogs. The only breeds that ring a bell with me are Poland China and Hampshire,

but others include Berkshire, Duroc and Yorkshire.

All of which leads to a suggestion for my friends in the Animal Husbandry Department at API … aka Auburn University: If a new breed of hog should be developed, what better name for it than the Bedfordshire to honor State Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, who has shown he has no equal in slopping at the trough.

And while he has been getting fat at your expense, the squealing is being done by his legislative colleagues.

The facts are these. Buried in the 2002-03 budget was about $10 million in what is kindly called &uot;pass through&uot; money.

It was appropriated to the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) with the understanding it would be allocated to various projects for members of the Legislature.

It was understood that about two-thirds of this would go to pet projects of state senators, the remainder to members of the House.

Now comes the revelation that Bedford, the Democrat from Russellville, walked off with about $3.1 million of the money appropriated for the entire Senate. He represents 1/35th of the Senate, but he got almost 50 percent of the money.

The biggest chunk of the slop that Bedford got was $1.5 million for a new fieldhouse, bathrooms and concession stand at the Russellville High School football stadium.

And this came, mind you, at a time when there is talk of closing schools and laying off teachers.

While Sen. Bedfordshire … I mean Bedford … was wiping drops of slop off his chin, some of his colleagues were squealing, and mind you, these were fellow Democrats.

&uot;There are a lot of hacked-off senators out there&uot; opined Sen. Hinton Mitchem, D-Albertville.

Squealing louder was Democrat State Sen. Larry Means of Attalla.

&uot;I’m angry and I left Roger a message saying so,&uot; Means said.

Why was outgoing Gov. Siegelman … who approved the grants … so kind to Bedford?

That’s a good question that will probably never be answered. But it has made for some interesting speculation.

No matter, at the 2003 Franklin County Fair &045; if they still have county fairs in rural Alabama counties &045; it would be an injustice if Sen. Bedfordshire didn’t win the Blue Ribbon as the best pork producer in the county.

While scarcely in the same slopping league with Bedford, State Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, didn’t do badly himself. Of the $3.5 million in &uot;pass through pork&uot; in the budget for House members, Knight walked off with about $600,000 in grants.

It is no coincidence that Bedford and Knight chair budget committees in the Legislature.

Meantime, in the weeks ahead, the taxpayers will be told by these two legislators and others how desperate is the need for more money for schools and other branches of state government.

It didn’t get much press attention but the voters of the city of Talladega sent a grim message last week in two tax referendums.

Like most school systems, the Talladega City System is in dire financial straits. To provide some relief, two proposed property tax increases were submitted for a vote of the people … a five mill hike and a three mill hike.

Despite grim predictions about the fate of the schools if the measures didn’t pass, both were turned down by more than a 3-to-1 margin