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December 9, 2010     The Tuskegee News
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December 9, 2010
 

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-3 Page A-4, The Tuskegee News, December 9, 2010 I ourvi0000 Agriculture secretary brings a message of hope for farmers A message of fairness and moving for, ward came from Jim Vilsack, secretary for the United States Department of Agricul" ture, when the former governor of Iowa was speaking Tuesday to the 68th Annual Professional Agricultural Workers Confer- ence at Tuskegee University. His audience was a majority black one and it wouldn't be surprising if his re: marks may have been viewed with scepti- cism. Vilsack admitted up front the USDA's history in the area of civil rights was one that has to be improved upon. Many are waiting for payments from the Pigford II lawsuit brought against the USDA by black farmers. Some have been waiting years for their payments. In his re- marks Tuesday, December 7 to an audience at the Tuskegee University Chapel, Vilsack mentioned the Claims Settlement Act agreement by Congress last week that should speed up the lagging payment process. One has to remember that Vilsack's com- ments and promise came in the same county where the United States Depart- ment of Public Health conducted the infa, mous Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male -- the Tuskegee Syphilis Study -- where from 1932-72 many men in Macon County were misled to believe they were receiving treatment for syphilis as the government studied the disease's ef- fects. The Study is one of the blackest eyes in U.S. history. It is also a major reason many blacks don't trust the federal government when it comes to medical care. The same holds true for treatment from the USDA. But Vilsack seemed to offer hope that what he says can be taken to the bank as the truth. In the two years Vilsack has served in his capacity on President Barack Obama's cab- inet, many initiatives have been taken to address the needs of the nation's farmers. Those initiatives have targeted to improve the plight of minorities and those consid- ered disadvantaged. It's not all about settlements. Vilsack talked of programs to make farming more viable. He spoke of improving schools, hos- pitals, infrastructure and communication in rural communities so opportunities for the disadvantaged would be improved. It wasn't so much what Vilsack said -- which was impressive enough. It was the passion with which he made his points. That has to give people who will be most impacted a sense of hope. There hasn't always been thaL hope for the audience Vilsack addressed. Hope x- hibited through programs and initiatives is where the rubber meets the road. It appears Obama's Secretary of Agricul- ture understands the importance of mak- ing his word his bond on behalf of the USDA, where more times than not that hasn't been the case. OPINION LD0000"t't NG WITHOg"I" I R6FoCM 0#1, M,ly NOT ? W, HICH AI-AI00AMA? l' 0 tcFV,9;c, 4or 4-1he, l00;vwfivloh0000 News - th bli's nfide =estoring e pu c co nce We are all tired of seeing pub- lic officials going to jail for cor- ruption. Over the past decade the list of Republicans and De- mocrats, local and state office- holders, caught lining their pockets with public funds is much too long. It saps public confidence in our ability to do great things. It heightens cynicism and distrust at a time when we will need confidence to move our state forward economically and edu- cationally. It gives Alabama a bad name. The system must be changed, and the way to do that is to pass new laws to increase pub- lic scrutiny. While it won't stop every abuse, 1laving more dis- closure will certainly make politicians and bureaucrats think twice about doing some- thing illegal or unethical. Expo- sure and disclosure is the key. Our state has some of the most lax laws on campaign fi: nance in the country, inviting abuse. We are in the dark when it comes to how contracts are awarded by the administration, with questionable deals occur- ring too frequently. Money moves around in the shadows. It is time to ine.rease the pub- lic's ability to see every aspect of state business. When it comes to public corruption, the best disinfectant is a big dose of sunshine. For years the Legislature tried to pass new sunshine and ethics laws, only to see some sort of political shenanigans or special interest shoot them. down. Eliminating transfers of Legislative Report by Pebblin Warren Representative/ District 82 money from political action .ommittee to committee, the money laundering of our time, would regularly pass the House unanimously only to be de- railed in the Senate. Now it looks to pass, finally. In 2006, we passed strict ethics laws that would compel lobbyists angling for contracts with the governor's office to re- port their activities. This bill was vetoed by Riley himself, who said at the time that it would impede the administra- tion from doing business. So it is not without some irony that we see outgoing gov- ernor Bob Riley calling the new Legislature into special session to pass new ethics laws. One of the bills addresses the lobbying of future administra- tions. The old adage "do as I say not as I do" comes to mind, especially in light that none of the laws proposed would affect him or his administration. The Alabama state constitu- tion states that the nev Legis- lature is immediately installed after a general election; yet statewide offices such as the governor, do not take office until inauguration in January. This is why we have an old governor and a new House and Senate getting ready to meet, an uncommon dynamic for the special session on ethics.. This unique situation high- lights all the more that some of the governor's bills seem less concerned about ethics and transparency and more for po- litical points as Riley leaves of- rice. That's why it's even more im- portant for legislators to study the bills and make sure that they really are the strongest possible. If there are parts of the bills in the governor's package that have loopholes and gaps, then we will be looking to make changes. It's important to not have bills that may yet invite further abuse, like making leg- islative caucuses immune from some transparency rules and exemptions for certain pork spending. Everyone should recognize that the people of Alabama want stronger ethics laws, and they have stated that loud and clear. As we go to Montgomery for the special session, it's impor- tant to make sure that no one is inserting things in the ethics bills that inevitably create more problems down the road. Passing strong ethics bills is one way to restore the public's confidence and to show that when it comes to ethics, it's more than just "do as I say and not as I do." Pebblin Warren of Macon County represents District 82 in the A/abama House of Repre" sentatives. District 82 includes aH of Macon County and por- tions of Lee and Bullock Coun- ties. Tu00krgrr Serving Macon County Since 1865 The Tuskegee News (ISSN: 644480) is published weekly by Tuskegee Newspapers, Inc. 103 S. Main Street, Tuskegee, Alabama, 36083. Phone (334) 727-3020. Send E-Mail to tuskegeenews@bellsouth.net Second Class Postage paid at Tuskegee,.Alabama. POSTMASTER - send address changes to The Tuskegee News, 103 S. Main Street, Tuskegee, Alabama, 36083. This newspaper is printed on 100 percent recycled paper to aid in the nation's conservation efforts. Subscription rate in Macon County, $30 per year, outside of Macon County, $37 per year, out- side state of Alabama, $42 per year. Paul R. Davis. President/Owner Gayle Davis - Vice President/Treasurer Guy Rhodes - Publisher/Editor Scott Richardson - Assistant to the Publisher Jeff Thompson - Managing Editor Jacqudyn Carlisle - Community News Editor A worthy pledge I believe every person has worth as an individual I believe every person is entitled to dignity and respect, regardless of race or color. I believe every thought or act of racial prejudice is harmful I believe that if it is my thought or act, it is harmful to me as well as to others. Therefore,from this day forward I will strive daily to eliminate racial prejudice from my thoughts and actions. I will discourage racial prejudice by others at every opportunity. I will treat allpeople with dignity and respect. I will strive daily to honor this pledge, knowing that the world will be a 5etter place because of my effort. Take the pledge: Letters to the Editor Policy The Tuskegee News gladly accepts letters to the editor. Letters should be submitted to The Tuskegee News of- fice by Friday prior to the next Thursday publi- cation date. Letters must be signed and contain a contact phone number. Letters should also be typed duble-spaced (non-ital- ics, sentence case). The Tuskegee News reserves the right to edit all letters for content and length. J