Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Capitol is not on Fire
by Hollis Gillespie
Georgia Online News Service

I was there standing right there in the rotunda of the Georgia State Capitol on Firemen's Day and yet I somehow had not seen a single fireman inside the building. I saw a couple outside, with their coats off and smoking cigars -- firemen really do wear suspenders and handle-bar mustaches, by the way but all that did was get my hopes up. In the end it turned out I had missed them.

"Oh, they was here all right," said the officer at the security entrance. "They was all over the place. I don't see how you missed them. They used to come here in the fire engines. It used to be a huge deal. This place would be surrounded by fire engines. But I guess these days that freaks too many people out. We kept having to tell people, "No, the capitol is not on fire!'"

I'll say. In fact, if the place burned to the ground anytime during late March to late June, the firemen won't even need to rescue any legislators from the building. That's because there most likely won't be any legislators in the building due to their unanimous measure to take four months off in order to digest whatever stimulus package the president may hand down.

Maybe it's me, but it seems that four months is a long time to digest something. Even a python can digest a pygmy faster than that, and I heard pygmies are really hard to pass -- unlike that vote the Georgia legislators took in order to give themselves a four-month break. They passed that like a big bucket of roughage. And, like roughage, it took stuff with it, like the faith of a lot of Georgia constituents, considering the state is facing a $2 billion shortfall -- the worst many at the Gold Dome say they've ever encountered. Recently, Gov. Sonny Perdue cut funding to nearly every state agency and program, which includes the Department of Labor, the Community of Health and Human Resources, the Department of Education and, yes, fire departments.

Not that they're lighting any fires down at the Georgia State Capitol, what with the 3-day work week the legislators have to suffer before taking their four month break in order to gear up for the Georgia portion of the president's $789 stimulus package gets around to coming around. The legislators say they need all that time to figure out how they can make the Georgia portion of the president's $789 stimulus package repair that gaping $2 billion shortfall in our budget.

Maybe the firefighters can lend them a hand. Or better yet maybe they can lend them an example. It's always inspiring to be in the presence of honor and courage, so on Fireman's Day at the Capitol the firefighters were already off rescuing people by the time I got there. That is the appeal of firefighters, after all: they'll risk their lives to save a stranger. Take Macon-Bibb Firefighter Steven Solomon, who died in 2006 just four months after transferring to Atlanta, when he was severely burned fighting a fire reportedly set by a homeless man. Here are guys who showed up for work even when it means they might die that day, horribly in a house fire.

The Georgia Capitol is not even on fire, yet the firefighters were here anyway, even though this "stimulus package" the legislators need so much time to digest will not likely correct the cut in funding for their departments. They showed up here because people need to be rescued, obviously, and someone's gotta do it.

Hollis Gillespie is one of Atlanta's best known literary personalities. She has published three books, and a fourth is on the way. Gillespie for years was a columnist for Creative Loafing. She now writes for the Georgia Online News Service and Atlanta magazine, giving readers her unorthodox and often-hilarious point of view on life in Georgia. She also runs a writing academy.   [full bio]

Editor's note: It's warmer today in Florida, where spring training commences, than it is here in the Peach State. If you're driving there, the Georgia roads you travel are also becoming the home of repairs that have come to a halt because the state can't afford to get the job done. Our Legislative reporter Maggie Lee writes today of the possible creation of a new state agency to keep traffic flowing, an agency that would take a lot of power from the current Department of Transportation, which some see as dysfunctional. Columnist Hollis Gillespie thinks honor is in short supply at the Capitol. Except when the firefighters are there. And if our baseball writer Paul Kaplan had his way, Alex Rodriguez, self-confessed steroid abuser, should be on his way out of spring training and into a new line of work. He's unfairly altered the game, Kaplan writes, and that's just not acceptable.

As always, we'd like to hear from you. GONSO is an enterprise founded and staffed by more than two dozen leading journalists and media executives in Georgia. We're providing content free -- for a limited period. Newspapers, broadcasters, bloggers and websites are welcome to use our articles -- please credit the writers and the Georgia Online News Service.

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Today's GONSO

Governor Takes the Road to Streamlining Transportation Agencies

by Maggie Lee
The state is considering a different way to manage transportation. The governor wants to do it with a new division that would absorb two agencies and drain power from the Department of Transportation.
Full Story

The Capitol is not on Fire

by Hollis Gillespie
Gold Dome bon vivant Hollis Gillespie took a look around the Capitol this week and thinks our legislators could use a dose of honor, something firefighters show the public every day.
Full Story

Steroids? You're Outta Here!

by Paul Kaplan
Alex Rodriguez fessed up about his use of steroids. Public confession may be good for his soul but it's not enough to repair the damage he's done to baseball by artificially altering the game. Send him off the mound and into the locker room. For good.
Full Story

Tomorrow's Budget
More nuclear power in Georgia? It's 'pro America,' sponsor says
by Maggie Lee
Gov. Perdue's Transportation Shuffle
by Lyle Harris
View to a Georgia Kill: A New Book Looks at Leo Frank on Film
by David Lee Simmons
Vouchers recognize the fact that one type of school doesn't fit all students' needs
by Lisa Baron

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