State’s past comes back to haunt us

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Gov. Bob Riley has a huge sales job ahead of him during the next couple of months.

Before he can deliver on his promise to bring a &uot;new day&uot; to Alabama’s inefficient state government, he is first going to have to deal with a pessimistic public.

For years, the people of Alabama have heard the so-called horror stories that the sky was falling in state government.

Citizens have been told year after year that if we do not do something major this year, then old people will be forced from nursing homes, children will be denied education and police officers will be removed from the streets.

The problem is these stories were usually followed by news articles about state senators who personally profited from state finances or millions of dollars in pork projects going to non-governmental agencies back home in their districts.

This pattern of abuse has gone on for years &045; from the racial demagoguery of George Wallace through the buffoonery of Fob James to the corruption of the Folsom and Seigelman administrations.

These stories have made people rightfully skeptical that Montgomery can properly manage the money it has been given to spend.

Are people in Alabama willing to pay more for improved services? Sure.

Are they willing to throw more money into a system that has consistently shown it will misuse and abuse the public’s trust? No.

Therein lies the problem for Gov. Riley.

Can he convince people that his plan will truly reform Montgomery forever? Will he be able to sell himself and the state for that matter as an honest steward of our tax dollars?

He deserves credit for passionately believing in what he is promoting. He is one of the most honest elected officials to ever serve in Montgomery, but to a public who is numb with bad experiences from state government that will not be enough.

Gov. Riley will have to convince the public that he is putting ethics back in government, and fiscal responsibility is a first priority for our state again.

It is a tough sale to a disillusioned electorate, haunted by Alabama’s political past. The referendum will be held on Sept. 9. Regardless if you support or oppose the Governor’s package, get involved in the debate today.

Cam Ward is one of a nine-member Legislative Delegation representing Shelby County in Montgomery. He and his wife, Julie, and his daughter, Riley, reside in Alabaster