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Oglesby: On well-wishers, a late friend, lottery
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The response to my thyroid cancer treatment column has been overwhelming and unexpected. The biggest surprise was so few people knew we had such a nuclear medicine facility in Hall County. Several had family members that had been through it, one several years ago in Columbus. I told executive editor Mitch Clarke I would keep tabs on response numbers, a promise I can’t fully keep.

The morning it appeared, I was awakened by a phone call and had two more before I left; four stopped me in the post office lobby, a fifth in the parking lot. At Kiwanis, a total of eight spoke. I had four more calls waiting at home, and before bedtime, five more had called. After four e-mails the day after it appeared, a total of 29 had responded.

At Turnstile the next day, seven more thanked me for it, including three who asked if I was Ted Oglesby. It began to slow down Thursday, but at Poor Richards on Friday night, eight more came by the table and a couple more tables who overheard asked if I were the author.

Saturday at a Dahlonega restaurant, three strangers asked. I started getting letters Thursday. At church Sunday, more than two dozen stopped me. At a Tuesday night Thanksgiving party where the count showed 95 present, many of whom had already responded, five more came up to me. I lost count at about 68.

The death of former Times editor Bob Campbell in Asheville, N.C., wasn’t entirely unexpected but sad nonetheless. Bob and I were on opposite sides of political philosophy, but we worked well together on the editorial page.

Then-managing editor Johnny Vardeman ran the newsroom while I worked with Bob on the editorial page and did a number of special projects. I eventually became the associate editor, and then when Bob retired, succeeded him in charge of the editorial page with the added title of opinion page editor. Bob agreed I pushed him closer to center on economic and foreign policy issues but he remained steadfastly liberal on social issues.

Bob was a brilliant writer, listened patiently to all sides, asked probing questions, sought opposing views and then decided our editorial position. I know I am a better journalist and The Times is a better paper because of Bob Campbell. Gainesville is all the better because he came our way.

It’s easy to understand the bitterness of furloughed educators and public safety officers at the Georgia Lottery’s sizeable bonuses paid out. At the same time, it is frightening that legislators are thinking about intervening. That’s a recipe for disastrous change.

Zell Miller purposefully and wisely put the lottery under control of an independent board, stipulating that as close to 35 percent of the ticket revenue as possible go to the Hope Scholarships. True, the actual percentage is currently well below that, making it possible that unless stemmed some portions such as texts may have to be reduced. Despite the lower percentage, actual revenue is slightly higher (about $5 million last year).

Miller had seen in other lottery states what happens when legislators start siphoning lottery funds to fund pet projects and help balance state budgets without tax increases or other means requiring tough choices.

Top execs in most industries are paid for financial performance, basic salary plus; if stated financial goals are met, they earn contracted bonuses. Georgia’s lottery execs exceeded those goals. Their record makes them prime targets for other states with lotteries. If changes in pay formulas are needed, the responsible board should get to the table and work out such changes.

It’s asking for increased financial trouble in Georgia’s educational system for legislators to try to gain political favor of economic-weary voters, most who don’t understand such compensation realities and necessities.

Ted Oglesby is retired associate and opinion page editor of The Times. You can reach him at P.O. Box 663, Gainesville, GA 30503. His column appears every other Tuesday.

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