Governor#039;s listening post tour stops in Luverne

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 13, 2002

Gov. Don Siegelman was in Crenshaw County Monday evening, and while at the Luverne High School auditorium for a "listening post" stop, was treated to a program from Luverne Elementary second graders.

The children paraded into the auditorium dressed in costumes representing all occupations of Americans, including firefighters, police, soldiers and sailors, nurses, cowboys, dancers, and several others.

The program, entitled "All-American Sing Along," featured the children singing patriotic songs.

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Following the program, a special surprise presentation was made by Gov. Siegelman, Sen. "Walking Wendell" Mitchell and Rep. Charles Newton.

A check, in the amount of $250,000 was presented to the Crenshaw County Commission for the construction of a new community and nutrition center for the Helicon community.

Crenshaw County Superintendent of Education Craig Pouncey introduced Gov. Siegelman.

"It is one thing to speak about a cause, but another to live it," Pouncey said. "Gov. Siegelman has dedicated his public career to the children of Alabama. When 14 other governors before him allowed proration to cut expenses, and virtually education, Gov. Siegelman said No' to it, and refused to give up until proration was resolved, in special sessions.

"Because of his leadership we have more than 300 National Board certified school teachers in Alabama, and our state is eighth in the country that has that distinction," he said. "It gives me great pleasure to introduce the biggest education governor Alabama has ever seen," Gov. Don Siegelman.

Quick to pass off the credit for Alabama's accomplishments, the governor said who he felt was responsible for its educational success.

"The reason we have such good schools in Alabama is because of people like Craig Pouncey," Siegelman said. "I appreciate the pat on the back, but honestly, I could not live with myself n having two children in public school n if I did not take issue with education.

"I've heard all kinds of excuses n we've got rich kids, poor kids, white kids, black kids, Mountainbrook kids n I don't care where a kid comes from, or who or what he or she is, every kid deserves a chance to excel to their greatest educational potential," the governor said. "We are going to keep fighting until they do."

Siegelman talked about the past week, and the Hyundai development.

"Hyundai, pronounced like Sunday, is the fourth wheel in Alabama's success," he said. "The Wall Street Journal recently said, Alabama is the hottest place for the automotive industry, and it is because of its workforce.

"The automotive industry's bible, Automotive Industry Weekly, said there is no auto manufacturer in the world that does not have Alabama on the top of their list," Siegelman said.

Talking again about children, Siegelman discussed healthcare issues.

"We want our kids to get off to a healthy start," he said. "We now have 80,000 children in this state that would not otherwise have had the benefit of health insurance, covered under our Kids First' program. We are ranked third in the nation for kids with insurance coverage."

Siegelman said Alabama is the only state in the nation to have a hunting and fishing trail for people with disabilities.

"We also have tripled the amount of hunting and fishing available in the state," he said. "But we need to keep working on our schools n preventing the state from going backward is not a lofty goal."

Siegelman said that what concerns him most is that while everyone in the audience pays fair shares of taxes, there are big corporations in Alabama that don't pay a penny of tax toward Alabama's schools.

"There is a $1.2 billion company, and it pays absolutely nothing in Alabama taxes, that should go into funding our schools," Siegelman said. "It is not fair for our children to have to sell magazines and candy so they can participate in after school activities. They should not have to work for their education."

Siegelman said the special interests in Montgomery would not let this be fixed.

"I have outlined a plan for a Constitutional Convention," he said. "I have heard all kinds of criticism from it, generated from the special interests.

"But let me tell you this n our heavenly Father is safe, our Second Amendment right to own and bear arms is safe," he said.

"I've also heard it said that the convention, as I have outlined it, is designed to exclude anyone from participating that is a lobbyist, or an elected official to be a delegate, would cause it to be filled with Bubbas,' Juniors' and Shortys' n let me tell you that Bubbas, Juniors and Shortys in the convention will have the guts to close those loopholes for the big corporations," Siegelman said. "We have got to straighten out the problems in our state. We have a better chance of solving the problems if we come together for a Constitutional Convention.

"Why not give people the right at the local level to make the decisions locally, by vote, to get equipment for the schools," he said. "Those in Montgomery don't want to give up that power n the power that rightfully belongs to the people."

Siegelman complimented the community.

"Crenshaw County is a special community, one of many throughout this region that raise their children with good Alabama values," he said.