Monday, November 26, 2007

Remembering Earl Middleton

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, most of the daily newspapers in the state published articles noting the passing of former State Representative Earl Middleton of Orangeburg at age 88.

Most readers of the newspapers in which this column appears have not lived in the Orangeburg area, and thus may not be familiar with the name. But Earl Middleton was a friend of mine, and I wanted to take the opportunity to add a few thoughts… because Earl was truly a beacon of light for all of us.

The daily newspaper accounts covered some of the highlights from Middleton’s lifetime of achievements. They told of his four years of service to our nation during World War II as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, with rotations in the 4th Aviation Squadron, the 129th Port Battalion and overseas duty in the Pacific Theatre.

It was recalled that Middleton was born in Orangeburg on Feb. 18, 1919, the youngest of Samuel and Ella Middleton's six children. He received his elementary, high school and college education at Claflin University, graduating in 1942 with a B.A. in sociology. While at Claflin, he served as class president for each of his four years in college, and developed a life-long commitment to his Alma Mater. And he served on the board overseeing Charleston’s Middleton Plantation, where his grandfather had been a slave until the end of the Civil War.

Returning to Orangeburg in 1946, Middleton began his business, first as a barber, and later, selling insurance from his shop. Eventually, he entered the real estate business as well, and became a respected business fixture in Orangeburg for decades. In 1974 Middleton was elected to the South Carolina legislature, where he served for 10 years, becoming the county’s first black elected representative since Reconstruction.

It was there that I first met Middleton. In 1983, an acquaintance introduced me to Middleton, who was planning to run for State Senate against one of the most senior members of the Senate, the late Sen. Marshall Williams. At the time, I was still in my 20’s, and an as-yet unproven political consultant… or actually more of a political-consultant wannabe. But Middleton asked for my help in his campaign. I joined his campaign team, and embarked on one of the most memorable times of my life.

For sure, we were an odd couple: Middleton, a senior African-American Democrat from Orangeburg County, and I, a white, wet-behind-the-ears young Republican from Lexington County. But we had an immediate friendship and mutual respect. And I learned much from this gentleman.

For me personally, Earl’s campaign allowed me to break the color barrier and the party barrier. It was the first time I had directed a legislative campaign for an African- American or a Democrat. And, in so doing, I learned that we had much more in common than in contrast. Working hand in hand with Earl Middleton and hundreds and hundreds of his African-American friends and supporters gave me a perspective that most of my political colleagues never had the opportunity to gain.

Earl also gave me a bit of historical trivia that most others never knew. In the early 60’s, Middleton and two other African-Americans had been chosen as delegates to the Republican National Convention. Unfortunately, the slate of delegates which included Middleton was displaced by a second slate, and he was never seated as a delegate. A decade later, as he embarked on his trail-blazing political career, he ran as a Democrat, and became a leader of his party. But for a twist of fate, history might have been vastly different. It was then that I first realized how unimportant labels could be.

In the 1984 Senate race, another twist of fate came into play. That year, the State Senate for the first time was being elected from newly-formed single-member districts. The district in which Middleton was running against the incumbent Senator Williams had an African-American population of 51%, which favored Middleton. In the spring of that year, however, veteran Senator Marion Gressette, Chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, suddenly died. Marshall Williams was next in line as Chairman, a position he used to halt the upcoming election, and quickly redraw the lines of his district to reduce the percentage of African-American population.

In the end, we lost the race by about 600 votes. Middleton and Williams remained friends, with residents complimenting both on the positive, gentlemanly campaigns they had run.

And for me, although I was not successful in winning the race, the Earl Middleton campaign has endured as one of my proudest achievements of my life. Though we only spoke on infrequent occasions through the next two decades, we remained friends. And the lessons I learned from Earl Middleton have been an important part of my life.

Last week, South Carolina lost one of its true heroes… quiet, unassuming, respectful and dignified. But, the thousands of lives he touched along the way will assure that Earl Middleton’s beacon of light will continue to shine for many years to come.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Time for Thanksgiving

Since it’s Thanksgiving Week, I though I would do what virtually every columnist in America (plus a lot of bloggers) will be doing this week… tell you about a few of the things for which I am personally thankful.

First and most obvious, I’m thankful my three-month Weight Loss Contest is over… just in time for Thanksgiving. (Someday, I may tell you who won. Or not.)

I’m thankful for my Mom & Dad. I was blessed with good ones. To paraphrase Lincoln, all that I am, I owe to my mom and dad. Dad’s no longer with us, and that leaves Mom to shoulder the blame alone. But she never complains.

I’m thankful for my wife and kids. Again, I’m blessed with good ones. Two sons and a daughter who make me proud, and a wonderful wife who puts up with me… which surprises me! And I’m thankful for the rest of my family. Altogether, they not only provide me with comfort and joy, but also with a high degree of entertainment value. (It’s actually better than TV – somewhere between Reality TV, Day of Our Lives, Dr. Phil, and The Beverly Hillbillies.)

I’m thankful for our Democracy. If you ask me in mid-January, after we’ve endured about 10 weeks of the non-stop TV ads for the presidential campaigns that we’re getting ready to endure, I’ll probably seem a little less thankful.

I’m thankful for my friends. I have a lot of ‘em, and I know they’re true friends. Sometimes, you’re not sure if a person is a true friend… or just interested in your money. Fortunately for me, I never have to question whether my friends or genuine or not.

Which reminds me…

I’m thankful to be free of the burdens and responsibilities of great financial wealth. (In the political world, that’s what we call “putting a good spin” on something.)

I’m thankful to be 53 years old. There are those who didn’t think I’d last this long. By all rights, I probably shouldn’t have.

I’m thankful to live in South Carolina. It’s a great place to live. Now, I know we’re ranked last in the nation in education, health care, income, and lots of other things… and I suppose that should make me less happy to live here. But, somehow, it’s still a great place to live. Statistics or not… I wouldn’t live anywhere else!

I’m thankful for the people I work with: co-workers, associates, clients, employees, suppliers. Lots of good people -- better than I deserve -- hard workers who care about their performance, and generally try to do the right things. They make me look good… at least for a while, until I come along and do something to mess things up.

I’m thankful for my health. Looking at me from a distance, you wouldn’t think I’d be that thankful, given the condition I’m in (and from up close, you’d be even more surprised.) But, in the big picture, as old and out-of-shape as I might be, I’m healthy. I can see and hear, I can walk and talk… and there are lots of people in the world who can’t do those things. So, yes, I’m thankful for my health, as feeble as that may be.

I’m thankful Steve Spurrier is our Head Ball Coach. He’s a great coach. It really gives me hope for next year, even while our Gamecocks are tumbling like drunken sailor down a flight of stairs in a snowstorm. I believe in Steve. Things will get better.

I’m thankful for my readers… especially those of you who have made it this far into my column. You’ve probably already had to jump from the front page to a page somewhere near the back of the newspaper, and it may have taken a lot of time and effort to find the right page. To top that off, if you’re a regular reader, you probably know that my columns tend to run a little long, and sometimes start to fade near the end. Plus, you undoubtedly know that they are usually just random thoughts hastily strung together a few minutes before weekly my deadline, typically with not much rhyme or reason, and very little literary, entertainment, or informational value… and yet, YOU are still here reading…. and for that, I am thankful… and surprised.

I’m thankful for electricity. I think electricity is a good thing, and it’s taken for granted. I take it for granted, too. And I’m not really that passionate about being thankful for it, but I was thinking… there will be hundreds of columns like this written this week about “Things I’m Thankful For” … and nobody else will mention electricity. So I thought I would.

I’m thankful for Random Thought Patterns. Without them, I would not have been able to write this column every week for almost a year.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, and a Joyous Holiday Season.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dirty Money?

Long before Jake Knotts became a State Senator, he was doing detective work to track down criminals for the City of Columbia Police Department. Now, as a member of the General Assembly, the ex-cop has occasion to put his skills as an investigator to work from time to time.

Over the last few months, Knotts has been tracking a governmental paper trail which is now raising some serious questions about Governor Mark Sanford, and his continual, very-public battle with the legislature.

Since the beginning of his political career, Sanford has played the role of uncompromising outsider battling the status quo. As a member of Congress, he relished those issues on which he could be on the losing side of a lop-sided roll-call, often being one of only five or six congressman to vote “no” against more than 400 voting “yes”. At least once, he was the lone dissenter against every other member of Congress, which he believed proved his political courage. While his posturing made him popular politically, it also made him irrelevant as a member of Congress: He readily admits accomplishing nothing during his six years representing South Carolina’s First District.

As Governor, Sanford has continued his “anti-government” approach to government, picking fights with his own legislature so he could continue to claim to be an outsider. His posturing has kept him politically popular, but has made him ineffective as governor. The State of South Carolina had the largest government spending increases in history during Sanford’s years as governor, a fact he blames on the legislature. Never mind the fact that HE is the elected leader of the state, and should be its most powerful official. He is the one person who could have prevented the budget increases if he were anywhere near as effective as former Governors Campbell, Beasley, Hodges, Riley, or Edwards… each of whom found ways to make a difference for the state without the gubernatorial powers or partisan advantages enjoyed by Sanford.

In recent months, Sanford’s feud with the legislature has led his office to develop a “hit list” of legislators marked for defeat at the hands of his allies. The governor announced a special political fund-raising organization – called ReformSC – which is soliciting contributions to use in campaigns to defeat those targeted members. And Sanford’s political allies have already begun an orchestrated effort to damage the reputations of those named on the “hit list”.

And, a couple of months ago, they “fired a shot” at Senator Jake Knotts.

But they missed.

Allies of Governor Mark Sanford published an untrue rumor targeting Knotts on an Internet website read by many political insiders, citing only anonymous sources as the basis of the rumor. It was an outrageous rumor, designed to damage Knotts politically.

Shooting at a cop is always a bad idea, even if the cop has been retired for more than a decade, and the “shot” is only an Internet rumor.

Knotts’ detective instincts took over, and he immediately started asking questions. He found the individual who owned the libelous website, and quickly determined the source of the rumor. And he kept asking questions.

What Knotts found is a network of people who appear to do Sanford’s dirty work… and a hidden paper trail of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars which is being used to finance the dirty deeds.

The central figure in the network may be Chris Drummond, a former news reporter in Charleston who also served as Sanford's chief spokesman for the first few years of his administration. Drummond left the Governor’s office to enter into private business, but apparently did not cut his ties to Sanford.

It was Drummond who anonymously fed the libelous smear about Knotts to the website which published it, according to the website’s owner, who also said Drummond had been using private investigators to try to “dig up dirt” against legislators..

But why would the Governor’s ex-employee spread untrue information about one of the Governor’s fellow Republicans, Knotts wanted to know.

The answer was easy to guess: Drummond was being PAID to try to smear certain Republican legislators. The 2008 campaign attacks had already secretly begun, and Drummond was being paid to discredit the names on Sanford’s “hit list”.

Sanford, of course, is far too smart to get caught paying people to do his dirty work. That’s why there are a number of new political “organizations” which have been formed in South Carolina during the years Sanford has been Governor. In addition to the newly formed ReformSC, there are groups named South Carolinians for Responsible Government, CIO, Club for Growth… all with close ties to Sanford. It is these groups which funnel money to try to defeat candidates who oppose Sanford’s positions on issues. But the money can never be traced directly back to Sanford.

As Knotts went searching for payments which Sanford or his allies might have directed to Drummond, he came across three stunning discoveries.

First, he discovered that when South Carolina hosted the National Governors Conference in 2006, Drummond received $27,000 from the funds used to pay for the event.

Next, he discovered that part of the $1.2 million used to pay for the conference for 50 state governors was actually taxpayer’s money: $150,000, to be exact, which Sanford obtained through the Competitive Grant fund of the State Budget & Control Board. Ironically, Sanford has repeatedly criticized the Legislature for the existence of this fund, calling it “pork”.

Most stunning of all is this: Knotts discovered that, after the conference was over and all the bills were paid, there was $101,524.14 left over. Did that money come back to the taxpayers? NO! Instead, Sanford’s office quietly directed that the entire balance be given to a Charleston-based group called “Carolinians for Reform, Inc.”… a group which was not even registered with the Secretary of State’s office until after Knotts started asking questions (on October 2nd, two months after they received the check in August!)

Little is known about the “Carolinians for Reform” which took $101,524.14 that should have come back to the taxpayers. Is it related to the “ReformSC” political group for which Sanford is raising money? Is it a political group? Are Drummond or others being paid from this group to do more of Sanford’s dirty work? Because non-profit corporations are not required to disclose recipients of funds, we may never know.

The only information required to be made public about the group are the names of at least three members of a Board of Directors. Interestingly, all three of the names – James K. Kuyk, Frank Zanin, and Tim Reese – can also be found listed as large donors to the Sanford for Governor Campaign.

Knotts has collected a file folder full of copies of checks, documents and correspondence which raise serious questions that deserve in-depth answers. Emails from Sanford’s staff directed the funds to the little-known group without any further explanation of why.

As an ex-cop, Knotts is accustomed to collecting evidence which is eventually used to make a case against the bad guys. In this case, Knotts is planning to turn over his findings to a Senate committee to determine whether any action is warranted.

But, action or not, Knotts has done his state a service by uncovering an questionable practice of which the public was unaware. With election year coming, the public deserves to know what kind of hidden political operations our governor is really up to.


Rod Shealy, Sr. is Publisher of The Lake Murray News and four other weekly newspapers. Additionally, he serves as an advisor to a number of political candidates and officeholders, including Senator Knotts. His column appears each week, and is intended to reflect only his personal views, not necessarily the views of the newspaper. All readers are always welcome to submit other viewpoints, which are published on a space-avialalbe basis.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

I’m On Vacation.

I’m on vacation this week. Truth is, by the time these words are actually published in the newspaper and read by you, I’ll probably be back from vacation.

You’re probably expecting that I’ll use “vacation” as an excuse not to write a column for this week. (In fact, you’re probably hoping.)

I guess most columnists, facing a week-long family vacation, would take the week off… but not me. To the contrary, the typical Shealy-family sojourn provides me some of my best material.

When I speak of the Shealy family, mind you, I’m talking about Momma’s family. Her entire family! That means five young’uns (me and my siblings), our spouses, our kids, their spouses, and – the latest addition – their kids. As of the latest family census, the estimated total is now 32, although that total seems to bounce up and down a bit for various reasons. For the record, only about half of the group was able to make it on this particular week in Florida. When the whole gang shows, the scene is not unlike a cross between two childhood poems: “There was an old woman who lived in a shoe, she had so many children she didn’t know what to do” and, “As I was going to St. Ives, I met a man with seven wives, each wife had seven…. etc., etc.!!!” It’s a mob scene… but always an adventure.

As I was growing up, Mom and Dad took the family on many vacations. But, as a Baby Boomer in the Leave-it-to-Beaver 50’s, I recall vacations being much simpler. No cruises. No airfare. No vacation packages. Not even any interstate highways. Just a station wagon with a luggage rack on top. Two adults and three kids would pile into the car and start driving in the general direction of a chosen destination. Gas was 19-cent a gallon. We drove until Mom and Dad decided it was time to stop. Then we looked at roadside motels until we found one with three important ingredients: 1) a pool; 2) a vacancy sign; and 3) a manager willing to drop his price to whatever Mom was willing to pay.

By the time I was twelve, I had visited Florida, Maine, California, and a total of 30 states in between.

Lunchtime meant we found a roadside park with a picnic table and pulled over. Vienna sausage sandwiches with mustard were the typical meal.

At some point during our years of travels, we graduated to eating in restaurants, upon which Dad instituted the dollar rule: Each child had a budget of $1 per day for food. We could order anything we wanted from the menu up to a buck for the day. If we didn’t spend it all, he gave us the difference as spending money. (I averaged pocketing about a quarter every day!)

In a way, this trip has been reminiscent of those vacations from decades ago. Mom (Elsie), wife (Pat) and Yours Truly, Your Publisher, Rod-Boy, piled into a vehicle and headed south. (The rest of the family was on their own: I think there was a total of three mini-vans and eight airplane flights.) Just like trips of decades gone by, we played the “A-B-C” game and “I Spy”… although this time we each had to repeat ourselves three or four times on each clue, because none of us can hear very well anymore.

Our destination this time was Club Med near Port St. Lucie, Florida. (This incidentally, is NOT a good place to spend a week during the final month of a $1,700 weight loss competition.)

I am confident that this vacation will provide a lots of good material for future columns. You’ll be hearing about it for months!

But, for now, I’m just going to leave you with a few observations from the 10-hour drive down I-95:

-- Ike was a visionary. He gave us the interstate highway system. Turns out, it was a good idea. As Presidents go, Eisenhower may well have left us with the most lasting legacy of any recent Commander-in-Chief.

-- Bikers don’t look like they used to. Now they look like me: old, overweight, and out-of-shape. And they dress funny on purpose. (There were a lot of bikers heading down I-95 toward Daytona.)

-- When you enter Florida and visit the Welcome Center, nowadays they give you a choice of orange juice OR grapefruit juice!

-- Did you know they now make “Just Married” car magnets, so Honeymooners no longer have to drive with white shoe-polish or soap on their cars?

-- Say what you will about our state’s own South of the Border. It still has the most entertaining signs on I-95. Other have tried to duplicate the impact… but no one else has succeeded.

That’s all for this week. I’m going to lay in the sun.

MIA: Fourteen Fat Guys

Missing in Action: Fourteen Fat Guys!

As regular readers of this column know, I have been engaged in a fierce weight-loss battle with sixteen friends for the last twelve weeks. Starting back in August – the 14th to be exact – the seventeen of us have been competing to determine who could lose the most weight in three months. To make it interesting, we each chipped 100 American smackers into a pot (or in my case, an IOU for $100, since I was a little short that day) with the winner(s) taking it all at the end of the contest. That’s $1,700 worth of weight-loss incentive, plus the promise that I would provide regular public pressure in this column.

The whole lot of us started off strong. At the initial weigh-in we tipped the scales at an enormous 4,528 pounds. That’s more than two tons. During the first few days of dieting, we were all on a roll. (As a matter of fact, it was reported that, during that week in August, the rotation of the Earth varied ever so slightly, due to the shift in the gravitational pull.) Weight was dropping like footballs thrown by USC quarterbacks during the Vandy game.

Twelve of the thirteen weeks have now elapsed. The final weigh-in is this Tuesday, November 13th.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the finish-line. We lost 14 of our contestants.

Or, at least, we haven’t heard from them for a while.

At the beginning, there was trash-talk spewing on a daily, even hourly basis. Emails back and forth every day. Boasts. Bragging. Dares. Side-bets. Even some hyperbole thrown in.

But, then came the first weekend.

Weekends have a way of doing things to a dieter. We lost about a quarter of our contestants on the first weekend.

As the weeks dragged by, the trash-talking disappeared, and the emails rarely got returned.

I hate to say it, but I think we lost about fourteen of our fat guys. I think they’re even going to skip the final weigh-in.

So, one more time, I’m going to apply a little pressure by publishing the whole list – along with their starting weights. And if you happen to bump into one of these guys, ask them how the weight-loss contest is going. (You’ll know it’s them because they’ll probably be casting a shadow bigger than a water tower.)

Here they are. The contestants, as we enter our final week of dieting and humility – with their starting weight along with MY personal guess at their current weights:

Irmo Town Councilman Barry "Fatback" Walker -- starting weight 331; estimated current weight 311;

Hizzoner Brian Jeffcoat -- starting weight 316; estimated current weight 316;

Lexington Town Councilman Danny Frazier -- starting weight 312; estimated current weight 312;

Senator Jake Knotts -- starting weight 302; estimated current weight 302;

Stan "The Man" Bowen -- starting weight 292; estimated current weight 292;

Transportation Pro Gerald Head -- starting weight 285; estimated current weight 285;

ETV’s Andy Gobeil -- starting weight 279; estimated current weight 279; GOP

Heavyweight Scott Malyerck -- starting weight 273; estimated current weight 274;

Design Guru Douglas Adam -- starting weight 264; estimated current weight 264;

Econobug’s Ricky “Rubi” Wingard -- starting weight 263; estimated current weight 263;

Yours Truly, The Publisher -- starting weight 245; estimated current weight 198;

Insurance Veteran Terry Campbell -- starting weight 237; estimated current weight 238;

Former Secretary of State Jim Miles -- starting weight 235; estimated current weight 234;

Reigning Champ and Okra Strut Chm. Kirk Luther -- starting weight 234; estimated current weight 254;

Anonymous A. L. Wingard -- starting weight 225; estimated current weight 215;

Retired Humor Writer Tim Kelly -- starting weight 225; estimated current weight 224.9;

R.J. Shealy (that’s Rod, Jr.) -- starting weight 210; estimated current weight 210.

That’s it for my weight-loss update... with a little trash-talking on the side. We’ll give you a report on the winners and soon as the polls are closed.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Making a tough decision

On November 6, District Five residents will cast a vote that will determine the future of our schools and our entire community.

As a result, the pages of this newspaper are full of letters, articles and advertisements trying to persuade readers to vote for or against the bond referendum.

It is the policy of this newspaper to try to allow all sides of issues to be presented through letters to the editor, which we always try to publish… whether we agree with the position or not. We believe that’s the proper role of a community newspaper. (In some cases, advocates or opponents of an issue feel strongly enough about it to purchase additional advertising space to make their case.)

Invariably, several things happen.

First, there are usually more letters for one side of an issue than the other, which sometimes leads readers to believe the newspaper supports the side with the most letters. That’s not the case: we just happen to get more letters from one side than the other, and we try to print them all, space permitting. (That’s why many people believe this newspaper has opposed all past bond referenda.)

Second, there are usually many letters written by key supporters or opponents, but signed by other names. This is done to create the appearance of widespread support or opposition to the issue. We know it happens in our newspaper, just as in every other newspaper. We don’t try to police it, because the signer of the letter always consents to have his or her name used in this way.

Third, many of the letters contain statements or statistics which are designed to confuse, mislead, or distort. If you’re shocked, don’t be. That’s the nature of campaigns: well-meaning people trying to win a majority of the votes… invariably believing that the end justifies the means.

As you read through the pages of this paper, you’ll see examples of all of the above. Understandably, you’ll be confused.

Which is why I have decided to try my best to offer you an honest, unbiased opinion about the tough decision we must make on Tuesday. (Hopefully, free from the confusion.)

First, let me clarify my position. I am NOT involved in any campaign -- neither for nor against the referendum. I have many, many close friends working both for and against the bond referendum. In the past, I have generally opposed bond issues, usually out of distrust for the school administrations at the time. Also, like the majority of the residents of this area, I am a fiscally-conservative Republican, and am therefore inclined to always want taxes as low a possible.

This time, however, I will be voting “YES”.

And there is a very simple reason I will vote yes: We need the schools.

As a newspaper publisher, I’m forced to keep up with the growth in our community. But even if I was not in the newspaper business, I could tell that our growth rate is staggering. All I have to do is ride around. Thousands of new homes have sprung up in recent years. We are one of the fastest growing areas in the Southeast.

We need more schools.

If I were trying to defeat the referendum, I could easily provide statistics that seem to demonstrate that we don’t really need new schools. And I could probably make you believe it… unless you opened your eyes, looked around, and used your common sense.

I could also pick apart the proposed plans for our schools, and find some part of those plans I personally don’t like. I could probably use that to incite you to vote against the entire thing. But that would be like deciding to oppose a strong military for our nation just because you think we pay too much for spare parts for tanks.

We’re a fast growing community, and we need new schools.

If I was trying to defeat the referendum, I would try to confuse voters by raising so many questions, some voters would simply say: “I’m not really sure, so I’d better vote no.” Confusion is a tried and true political tactic.

Frankly, all political issues seem complicated these days. Can we ever really know for sure about any issue?

That’s why we have a rather unique system of government in America. We elect our neighbors to study complicated issues to make tough decisions for us. And that’s where we in District Five are very fortunate: We have a school board which thinks like we do.

Although school board is a non-partisan position, the majority of our board has made no secret about the fact that they are solidly conservative Republicans… just like me… and just like the vast majority of the citizens of Irmo, Dutch Fork and Chapin. From the very beginning, they joined the school board for one key reason: to watch out for the taxpayers. For the last three years, that majority has worked diligently to make sure we were getting the best value possible for our tax dollars.

If our tight-fisted, fiscally-conservative school board majority tells us that we MUST build new schools, then we must. They have NOT been taken in by distortions and confusion. They know the truth about our growth, and our needs, and the millions of dollars which will be wasted if we delay the schools we need.

Like me, some of those conservative, Republican board members voted “No” on the last bond referendum, because they were not convinced. This time, however, we understand we must vote “Yes”… not just for our schools, but for our entire community.

It’s a tough decision… especially for those of us who are conservative Republicans accustomed to voting “no”. Voting "yes" is a tough decision.

But this time, it’s the right decision.

Fall Back…. Laughing!

This weekend marks the end of another installment of America’s longest running practical joke.

The joke is so wildly successful, we’ve even given it a name. We call it “Daylight Savings Time”.

Not by accident, the joke has begun each spring… shortly after “April Fools Day”. What classic timing! Every comedian will tell you that timing is one of the key elements of successfully delivering any joke. I’ve always felt that the timing of the “Daylight Savings Time” April Fools gag is sheer genius. (It would be far too obvious if the annual escapade began each year ON April 1st. Hold it a week or two… just to catch all of us off guard. Brilliant comedic timing.)

It’s a hoot every year to observe the mischief caused by this prank. For days after the stunt, folks are showing up late for work, late for school, missing their bus, and rushing about trying to adjust. Some clocks go for months showing the displaying the wrong time. And then, when somebody takes the time to reset them, invariably a few of them get cranked in the wrong direction. Two hours off!!! What a great hoax!

Starting this year, we’ve added some new wrinkles to the classic gag. Now, we’re actually starting Daylight Savings Time three weeks early – before April Fools Day – and ending one week later each year. This year, the prank ends the first weekend in November – which happens to be this weekend!

But, next year, the end of DST moves a week later, and then even a week later the following year. Now, they’ve made the practical joke confusing to everyone. Sooner or later, we’ll all fall for it.

Here is my favorite part of the whole joke: It has been passed into law by 50 state legislatures and by Congress – not even realizing it’s a great big giant April Fools Joke. They think it’s a real law!!! They probably even list it among their major end-of-the-year legislative achievements!

April Fools!!!

Next week, after we all Fall Back at 2am/3am on Sunday morning, witless victims will be showing up early for their breakfast, their work, their classes, and even their dentist appointments for days to come.

And, of course, farmers across the land will also be spending the entire weekend -- and possibly the first few days of next week -- adjusting the schedules of their cows and chickens.