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Corts will have tough job cleaning up system

By Staff
Bob Ingram, Capitol Scene
MONTGOMERY — The stench rising up from Alabama's community colleges is mindful of a hog pen on a warm summer afternoon. Come to think of it, that's not a bad comparison, at all. The cause of the stench is a bunch of hogs — also known as legislators — slopping at the trough.
The revelation by the Birmingham News that more than one-fourth of the members of the Legislature (or their wives or ex-wives) have choice jobs at these two-year institutions has created a firestorm of public indignation, albeit a belated one.
That these institutions were the refuge of double-dipping lawmakers has been known for years, but nobody seemed to care.
It has been common knowledge that a sure way to get a cushy job with a two-year college (and yes, some four-year colleges) is to get elected to the state Legislature. Their services might not have been needed before, but once they get the title of “representative” or “senator” they suddenly were needed to fill jobs with rather odd titles: population services coordinator, recruiter, and community liaison, just to mention a few.
For the record, 26 legislators on two-year college payrolls were hired after they were elected to the Legislature. If you think that is a coincidence, then you are a couple of beans shy of a casserole.
Of all the legislators involved in this affair, none is quite so offensive as Rep. Ken Guin, D-Carbon Hill. He is paid $48,000 a year as “auxiliary services coordinator” at Bevill State and $49,000 a year as “special population services coordinator” at Shelton State. Meanwhile he continues to practice law and serve as House majority leader in the Legislature.
A disturbing note in all of this controversy has been the less-than-outraged response from Dr. Tom Corts, who was named interim chancellor of the two-year schools after Roy Johnson was given the boot.
Dr. Corts is one of the most respected educators in Alabama. His years of service as president of Samford University were nothing short of outstanding.
But even one of his biggest champions, the Birmingham News, expressed concern in an editorial about Corts' response to the legislative mess. He came close to brushing off the legislative double-dipping by saying that he assumed the people must not disapprove or they would not have elected them. That was a dangerous assumption simply because many Alabamians were not aware of what was going on.
As respected and competent as Dr. Corts is, the question lingers: Is he tough enough and mean enough to do the job that needs to be done?
There are a few in and around the Capitol who would have liked to have seen former Montgomery Mayor Emory Folmar — now a Riley cabinet member — given the assignment to clean up this mess.
A decorated combat veteran, Folmar was known to carry a .357 Magnum while serving as mayor and he once said during a heated campaign that he “loved to wake up to the smell of napalm.”
Every poll since the primaries in June has shown Baxley falling further and further behind. The most recent has her a staggering 25 percentage points behind Riley.
Raising campaign funds is hard enough without having numbers like these spread all over the front pages of the newspapers.
Riley's problem is a different one. He has reason to be a little uneasy that these same numbers may cause many of his supporters not to bother to vote on Nov. 7. Why take the time when my candidate is sure to win anyway?
If that should happen — if overconfidence leads to a lighter than normal turnout of Republican voters — it may not have much impact in the governor's race but could have considerable impact in other state races, which according to the polls are too close to call.
It is not surprising to those of us who are paid to keep up with such things, but recent numbers showed that during the past dozen years more than $48 million has been spent on state judicial campaigns in Alabama. This is almost twice as much as was spent in judicial campaigns in any other state. For the record, runner-up to Alabama in this category was Texas with an almost-paltry $28 million spent during the same period.

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