Blues reader Don pointed me to this excellent editorial in the Jasper Daily Mountain Eagle, addressing a couple of the people in the center of the two-year college scandal. The two-year system has turned into a jobs program for the Alabama legislature, and everything was rocking along just fine until Brett Blackledge of the Birmingham News broke the story (and won a Pulitzer Prize).
Anyway, Ed Howell, the editorial writer, does what some Democrats in the Legislature are starting to do — calls out House Majority Leader Ken Guin (D-Tuscaloosa), who until recently was employed as an unregistered lobbyist by two different community colleges, Shelton State and Bevill State. Guin resigned his position at Shelton State but is still on the payroll at Bevill State, and Bevill State President Harold Wade thinks that’s just fine. Ed Howell does not.
I think the Guin and Wade camps are mystified at what all the fuss is about. Supporters point to all the improvements on campus. They wonder why similar situations concerning legislators with the four-year system haven’t been discussed. They point out the methods that led to the fuss have been around for years. They say it is wrong to exclude some and include others in a citizen Legislature.
The ends, however, do not justify the means, no matter how long the system has been in place. It is a Wallace-era system that should have been changed long ago. At some point, you have to draw a line and say, “Wrong — change it.”
What makes Mr. Howell’s challenge different from some of the others we’ve seen in newspapers around the state? He makes it clear that both of these men are friends of his. It’s easy to point out problems when the perpetrator is a stranger who has no direct influence in the writer’s life. It can be a lot harder when the wrongdoer is not only a longtime friend, acquaintance, or business contact but may also be a go-to source for important stories. Mr. Howell stepped up and did the right thing. It’s time for Ken Guin, and others in the legislature who are feeding at the community college trough, do so as well.