Sessions hits the right notes

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, January 14, 2004

By Staff
A few weeks ago, we ran a story about two committees comprised of Alabama businesspeople Governor Bob Riley brought together to come up with suggestions for how state government can be run more efficiently.
The idea behind the commissions was that business leaders could bring a new, results-based perspective to the table, offering the kind of thinking that's too often missing from the way decisions are made when politicians get together and decide how to spend taxpayers' money.
All the committees can do is offer their suggestions, which they've done. Now it's up to the governor and lawmakers to decide whether or not they take them to heart.
Shortly after we ran that story, we posted a question on our website which read: "Do you believe the Governor and Legislature will make an effort to follow the recommendations of the Alabama business community's recent report, which are designed to bring greater efficiency to the way state government operates?"
So far, 75 people have voted in the poll. Of those 75, 15 percent voted "yes." The overwhelming majority, 85 percent, answered "no" in answer to the question.
Wow. Granted, 75 responses isn't a big enough sampling to say we've accurately guaged the heart of the state's electorate. But the percentages do suggest one thing: perhaps the toughest of many difficult tasks state government faces when it reconvenes Feb. 3 will be winning back any measure of trust from the citizens they answer to.
That's state government. But what about the elected federal government, the people we send to Washington to look out for our best interests? Is the general public's level of trust in regard to them any higher than it is for state officials? In general, probably not.
Whether they serve in Montgomery or D.C., what we realistically expect from professional politicians isn't necessarily that we can trust them with our wallets, literally or figuratively, although that would certainly be nice.
About the most we generally hope for is that the people we elect to represent us share and stick up for values that are important to us, and protect our day-to-day way of life when it's threatened.
U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions certainly hit all the right notes while in Escambia County this week.
From his views on the war in Iraq to his convictions on the institution of marriage, Sessions came across as someone whose values reflect those of most of his constituents, and that's a good thing.
That covers the values part. As far as looking out for interests, Sessions touched on a number of issues, but one thing in particular stood out to me: his commitment to the state's military bases, and his belief in the importance of keeping them here.
Alabama, like all states, will soon need all the help, and all the legislative clout it can muster in this regard, as The Department of Defense has announced that 25 military bases could be closed during 2005.
Our four bases -- Redstone Arsenal, the Anniston Army Depot, Maxwell Air Force Base and Fort Rucker -- do more than just add to Alabama's rich history of contributing to the nation's protection. They directly employ about 30,000 people, and exceed $4 billion annually in operating budgets and payroll, all of which adds up to an inestimable impact on the state's economy each year.
Losing these bases would be more than just a hit to the state's military heritage -- it would be an awful blow to an economy that's already suffering.
But many states could say exactly the same thing, and all will be fighting for the survival of their own bases. What it may come down to is who we have doing our fighting for us.
Sessions seems to be a good person have on our side here, as is Bob Riley, who's been proactive in promoting the importance of the state's military bases, in terms of their contribution to national defense and their economic impact here.
Both are doing what they can to look out for the state's interests -- in this case, the most we can ask of them.

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