Mar 7, 2011

Texarkana Gazette Targeting Judge Larry Burgess?


Larry Burgess ran his campaign with a promise to get away from the “good old boy” politics, and the “business as usual” attitudes that he saw as a major problem for Miller County.  He ran with support of the Miller County Patriots and the Miller County Republican Committee.  He also ran with the support of the majority of the Miller County voters. 

On Sunday March 6th, the Texarkana Gazette ran an article called “Grave Concern”.  The article focused on the fact that Judge Burgess could not dig graves for people unable to afford them with county money.  Burgess lived up to the campaign promise he had made to use county money as it should be.  He is supported by laws, and common sense (the view the county might have to repair damage to other graves).  Simply put, Judge Burgess not only lived up to his campaign promise, but he also demonstrated that he is not willing to let his office act outside the law.  The Gazette gave front-page coverage to the policy and wrote a title that almost sounds like it is against Burgess.  “Grave Concern” is a unique twist on words that could be taken negatively.  The article goes on to say that the preparation of graves by the county has been being done for years.  The implication is that poor Judge Burgess isn’t going to play along with business as usual…Big surprise, Judge Burgess again is following up on his campaign promise.  He is going to do things by the law.

It was interesting to find Judge Burgess’ name once again thrown into the spotlight with Monday’s edition of the Gazette (yes, the 7th) with the headline “Smith Park caretakers evicted:  County Judge Burgess says health problems to blame.”  Some figures state that around 44% of people only read a newspaper headines.  If that figure is true, then 44% of Burgess’ voting public is going to see that Judge Burgess evicted the caretakers due to health problems.  Since most people at least look at the pictures, the readers are then going to see an elderly couple standing on the front porch of the home at Smith Park.   The article goes on to capitalize on the fact that John Feutral is 74 and his wife, Hazel, is 72.  To inflict more for the reader, it is noted that they have lived in the park since 1992.  After the initial shots are fired at Burgess, the article does include the fact that the county has paid for the house, utilities, and that the Quorum Court actually discussed it.  The article appears to indicate that the Quorum Court was unable or unwilling to evict and that Burgess “announced the eviction during a recent Quorum Court meeting.”

When reading these articles, apparently taking aim at Judge Burgess, a few things need to be kept in mind.  First, Judge Burgess is doing exactly what he said he would do.  He is not playing “good old boys” politics, and he is protecting county money and interest.  The law clearly does not allow the county to dig graves.  It can be amended, but as it is currently written, Judge Burgess is doing the right thing.   By not digging graves, he is following the law and possibly saving the county from a potential lawsuit if the county caused damage to other graves.   The Feutral’s have lived rent free with their utilities paid by the county for nineteen years, and on top of this they get another sixty days before they need to leave.  In the real business world, when an employee is no longer able to perform his or her duty, the company lets them go.  In most cases the company does not give a sixty-day notice, and in most cases rent and utilities is not part of the employee benefit package.  The fact is the Feutrals have enjoyed a benefit that few other Miller County residents have had at the expense of the county. 

Instead of making it appear that Judge Burgess is being heartless and uncaring, the Texarkana Gazette should consider the fact that he is doing exactly what he promised voters.  By trying to introduce ways the county can help with graves and by working with the Feutrals Burgess has shown that not only is he going to follow the law and his promises, but he also has a compassionate side and wants to work with people.  Burgess should be cheered for his efforts and Miller County should back him one hundred percent.