‘Midgets’ take capital

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 23, 2003

MONTGOMERY &045; When you reach my age it is easy to fall into the trap of talking a lot about the good old days … the good old days when things were so much better than they are today.

For example: I drive a sporty foreign-made car today (a Lexus), but I would swap it even right now for that l955 Chevrolet Monte Carlo I once owned.

You will never convince me that the songs written today, the movies made today, are in the league with the songs and movies made a half-century ago.

And now to the point: public service in general and the legislature, in particular, does not attract the same quality of people it did decades ago.

This is not just one man’s opinion &045; ask anyone who has been keeping close tabs of the legislature for several decades, and I will bet my life they say the same thing.

And before you broadjump to the wrong conclusion, it has absolutely nothing to do with the racial or gender make-up of the legislature.

This is an across-the-board indictment.

Legislative service simply does not attract the quality of people it once did.

An example of what I say is what happened in the first week of one of the most critical special sessions of the legislature in years.

Lawmakers are faced with the awesome challenge of passing a pared-down state budget by Oct. 1 or closing state government for all practical purposes.

And how did the House of Representatives spend its time the first week &045; brawling over a bill relating to the restoration of voting rights for convicted felons.

On one hand, the black legislative caucus has collectively bowed up their back and said there will be no budget until the bill passes.

On the other, the 42 Republican members of the House … at least most of them … have threatened to block the voting rights bill even if it jeopardizes the budget.

There are about 3,000 ex-inmates who would be affected by this bill, and yet they have been given priority over hundreds of thousands of school children and countless thousands of other Alabamians who depend on state services to survive.

You have heard some people described as &uot;giants&uot; in public service … would not &uot;midgets&uot; be a better adjective to describe some of our legislators today?

One of the first victims of the lay-offs precipated by the budget crunch in state government was one of the state’s best known public officials &045; John Patterson, whose resume includes terms as attorney general, governor and state court judge.

After retiring from the Court of Criminal Appeals several years ago, Patterson has continued to work several days a week in a part-time capacity for the court.

Patterson told me a few days ago that he had been informed that his services would no longer be needed after Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.

The timing of his lay-off was unfortunate &045; he observes is 82nd birthday on Sept. 27.

Two Alabamians have made Forbes Magazine’s list of the 400 richest people in America.

Ranked 278th was Marguerite Harbert of Birmingham, the 80-year-old widow of construction giant John Harbert. Her net worth was listed at $960 million.

Mark C. Smith, 63, of Huntsville was No. 393 on the list with a net worth of $610 million.

He made his fortune in the telephone equipment business.

In case you are interested, Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, held on to the top spot with a net worth of $46 billion.

If you believe in prayer, voice one for Goodwyn Myrick, the now-retired long-time head man of Alfa.

Myrick is gravely ill at his home in Montgomery.

A native of the delightfully named community of Smoke Neck (near Southside in Etowah County), Myrick served as head of the giant agricultural/insurance organization during a period of its greatest growth, financially and politically.