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Oglesby: Right calls on Afghan war, mayor vote
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Let this frequent critic of President Barack Obama’s qualifications, philosophy, lack of needed experience and most programs give him credit that is due. He got it basically and mostly right on Afghanistan, much to the chagrin of his liberal political base which seemingly forgets a president’s greatest responsibility is national security.

Not Afghanistan, not Iraq or Iran, not any other country — organized terrorism is our nation’s greatest external threat to our national security. It must be dealt with decisively no matter how long or how many administrations it takes.

Al-Qaida, which succeeded to leadership of the Soviet Union’s organization when the USSR collapsed, is today’s inspiration and main organizer. Its principal base is in Afghanistan. When you want to destroy a mortal enemy, you go after him where he is.

My biggest disappointment in his plan was setting a specific withdrawal timetable. The only reason I can think of his not calling them goals was to appease his liberal base. It wastes lives and money to adhere to preset dates regardless of battlefield realities, so my guess is he knows he may have to extend those specifics and is just keeping it to himself rather than further angering his liberal wing, whose support he desperately needs to get something passed on health care.

The biggest mistrust Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq has of us is that like in Vietnam when our leaders’ political bases got sufficiently riled up, we cut losses and abandon them to the enemy’s retribution. Don’t forget one more thing. Al-Qaida’s highly effective propaganda arm is going to be cleverly and unobtrusively working here at home fanning opposition to this policy for just that reason.

I personally think the present system of rotating Gainesville’s mayor and school board chairmanship has served us well through the years, and in the recent nonbinding referendum voted to keep it until it is proven another system would be better.

By narrow margins voters approved the general idea of electing the mayor and rejected electing the school board chair. Lead sponsor Rep. Carl Rogers wisely says he may call for another vote next year when voter turnout should be much larger. May I offer some suggestions?

First, name a true blue ribbon committee of working size to hammer out a recommended plan how the mayor and council might work. Let the current council name one member (two if there are opposing views on the council). Have two civic-minded citizen members from each ward.

Let the legislators whose districts include any part of the city agree on a chairman, ensuring he or she is pragmatic, knowledgeable about city governments here and elsewhere, how politics work, pragmatic and knows how to keep work on track to meet a deadline. The chair could participate fully in discussions and debate, including making recommendations.

Ideally, the committee would hold public hearings, and independently seek other input from citizens. Set a deadline for the resulting recommendation in plenty of time for citizen education and debate on it before Election Day.

Being personally satisfied with the current system, I have no specific alternatives but am open to change if that’s what the people say they want. If we decide to change, I do think we don’t need a "strong mayor" system where the mayor can veto a council vote or individually intrude upon a professional city manager’s discretion. He or she would preside over the council, fully participating in discussion, make motions from the chair but vote only in case of a tie, and be the city’s representative to official functions and the official spokesman for the city.

If we’re going to do anything, let’s do it right.

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 and on gainesvilletimes.com.

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