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November 11, 1997


Coming Attraction: The Forked-Tongue Follies

Not much has been said lately in Mobile's daily about the funding situation of the Mobile County Public School System. Through various thumb-in- the-dike measures, Superintendent Paul Sousa has, with minimal resources, circumvented and delayed the funding crisis imminent several years ago and kept the System not only functioning but moving ahead progressively (see Tsang's article this issue). The funding crisis, though temporarily muzzled by Sousa's creative financing, is still with us and will soon rear its ugly head again. In order to pay the cost of new buildings and new technology, Sousa maintains the System needs an increase in funding of approximately 11 percent, or 30 million dollars per year more than it currently has available to it. Without this increase in funding, the System will lose the modest gains it has made and slip back into decrepitude.

Whether or not the System backslides depends on the willingness of the citizens of Mobile and Mobile county to fork up the increase in revenue through some viable tax remedy. The track record in attempts to raise money through an increase in property tax, the most viable remedy, has failed miserably. The last attempt, the notorious nine-part "Cafeteria Bill," the brain- child of Ann Bedsole (then state senator), was doomed from the start. Some would argue it was intentionally conceived to fail. That makes sense given the elitist attitudes of local power possessors for whom Bedsole was a major mouthpiece. Oh, they talk a good game, but if they really cared, they'd put their money where their forked tongues are. Many of them are the genteel bandits who sat and still sit on Mobile's Industrial Development Boards (IDB). Collectively, these boards for years adroitly allowed business and industry to avoid paying millions of dollars that would have gone to the school system through property tax exemptions. (In January 1991 IDB's in Mobile removed the school tax exemption and began to require businesses and industries to pay school property tax as part of the bond financing agreement. )

As Doug Magann said when he was superintendent of the Mobile County Public School System, "these 'community leaders' have no sense of ownership of the public schools, and they have no sense of responsibility for them. They have no personal investment in them. Their children and grandchildren attend private and parochial schools. The public schools are for the children of the plantations workers." Of course, as everyone knows, the "community leaders" got rid of Magann.

Well, we'll see what the forked-tongue crowd will proffer this time around. Though it's getting harder and harder, you can be sure they will come up with some slick gimmick to protect their own deep pockets and their domination of politics in Mobile and Mobile county. Doubtless, they'll use the same scare tactics to keep in place the regressive sales tax which steals bread out of the mouths of the poor. And the indicators (increases in violent crime and drug use, etc.) indicate it will only be a short while before Mobile reaps what it has been sowing for years and years. The future is always right now!

-- Tom Brennan

Life Forms by Dan Silver

Letter to the Editor

An Open Letter to the Honorary Governor Fob James,

It has come to my attention that Alabama is testing its "line" on certain controlled substances, specifically the issue of hemp and marijuana prohibition.

I am generally too busy to write such letters, but have a soft spot (and family) in Alabama, and it is in everybody's interest that you solve this issue with the least harm, including the farmers, manufacturers, customers, inhabitants, law enforcement and the government of Alabama.

As the CEO of Appropriate Technology International, I oversee development of international hemp markets, as well as agriculture, seed and fiber processing, manufacture of textile, etcetera, here in the People's Republic of China. Here in Yunnan Providence, hemp is ubiquitous, and used for many purposes. We have the support and cooperation of the authorities, including the Department of Agriculture, the National Environmental Protection Agency, the Institute for Scientific and Technological Information, the Academy of Science, Organic Food Development Center, etc. Tens of thousands of urban and rural citizens cultivate hemp for seed, and even more hemp is grown for fiber, which finds its way into products sold around the world.

What is conspicuously absent here is the use of hemp as marijuana, not to mention all the debilitating social effects claimed by America's "drug warriors" to be the result of marijuana use. Indeed, notably absent is a war on the people here who grown and use hemp responsibly and productively.

The rest of the world can only hope that you find a way to keep the issues straight. If there is any way you feel I can help Alabama sort these issues out, please let me know.

Michael Sutherland
Appropriate Technology International
Member Hemp Industries Association
International Hemp Association
Ph: +86 871 819-8623
Kunming, China

Editor's note: Angela Guilford and Jeff Russell in Hoover, Alabama, were recently arrested for selling hemp clothing and hemp bird-seeds. No "drug" was found however.

The Harbinger, Mobile, AL