Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Welcome News

Last week Randy Stumler announced he was heading for the Azores. His adventurous move created two openings. An outstanding candidate has stepped forward to announce that she would like to fill one of the vacancies.

Suellen Wilkinson has decided to seek Stumler's unexpired term on the Floyd County Council. For those who know Ms. Wilkinson this is wonderful news. For those who don't know her, let me offer why it is, in fact, wonderful news.

Ms. Wilkinson has lived in New Albany for 19 years. During 16 of those years she worked at the Floyd County Museum, now known as the Carnegie Center for Art and History. She was instrumental in raising it to the level it holds today as one of the shining examples of what New Albany is capable of achieving when its citizens work together for the common good. She was at various times the Director of Development and the Director of Business Operations. She has been involved in many of the good efforts of our community. Her resume also includes volunteer contributions of work with the Arts Council of Southern Indiana, Leadership Southern Indiana, the Library Board, and the Board of Directors for Rauch Industries. Although she is now retired, she can still be found many days at the Carnegie Center.

Prior to moving to New Albany Ms. Wilkinson held several key positions in government in her home state of Wisconsin. She was on the Governor's staff and the Attorney General's staff. She was the state Chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party.

All of these positions highlight her ability which would be a welcome asset on the County Council. Her involvement in the community gives her strong background knowledge of the most capable and committed people in our midst. The high regard shown toward the Carnegie Center stands as a testament to her work there. It bears mention, of course, that the Carnegie Center depends on the contribution of time and effort from its entire staff under the direction of Sally Newkirk, but Ms. Wilkinson is the subject at hand, and her effectiveness with the Center is one of the important qualifiers for her service on the County Council.

The balance of Randy Stumler's County Council term will be filled by a caucus vote to be held August 5. It is critical that in filling this unexpired term we look toward who is best qualified to stand for election in the fall. Ted Heavrin has already secured a spot on the November ballot. The person named to fill out Stumler's term will be, in essence, the Democratic Party's farm team. This short period of time is that person's brief opportunity to get known in the wider community. Unabashedly, I think Suellen Wilkinson is highly qualified and well suited to assume the duties of a County Council representative. I think we are fortunate that people of her caliber and qualification are willing to serve in this position. As a Democrat, I don't think we could find a stronger candidate to complete the slate we offer to the voters in November.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bon Voyage, Mr. Chairman

Floyd County Democratic Party Chairman and County Councilman Randy Stumler is resigning both of those positions this week. He is accepting what he calls a, " once in a lifetime opportunity."

Randy has accepted a post with the Department of Defense to teach dependents of military and diplomatic personnel. He and his family will depart in August for the Azores. If you know anything about the Azores, you'll wonder, "why would anybody leave New Albany for that place?"http://www.fotosearch.com/ICN001/f0000964/ (click on Azores in Keywords)

This truly is the opportunity of a lifetime for Randy, Karen and the children. I'm sure they will make the most of it. There's a wide, beautiful world just beyond our self-imposed limits. Bon voyage to the Traveling Stumlers. Be safe. Carpe diem.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Meme Me Up Scotty

Perhaps it's because I see nothing on the horizon that threatens controversy, since the discussion of a nascent smoking ordinance surely won't ruffle any feathers. Or perhaps it's because I just can't stand the implications of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down the D.C. handgun law. But whatever the inner current, I'd like to make a modest proposal which has plenty of obvious local effect but little chance for local birthing.

The National Rifle Association has become the recognized voice for all in the U.S. who own guns or hunt. Find a gun owner or a committed shooting hobbyist and I'm not sure they would assign such high position to this organization but the media are sure willing to make the assumption that the NRA offers the definitive view of the place of firearms in our country. It's kind of like the Beef Council's opinion of "what's for dinner", but the media in its varied forms is not known for discernment.

My modest proposal is an odds-on loser with the NRA. I don't, however, think I've seen this particular trial balloon aloft. I think only infrequently about guns, and then mostly the thought that I don't want one launching a lead projectile in my direction. (I don't see the need to hurl lead in the direction of other living creatures either since we've long established that protein can be harvested from many other sources, nuts, cheese, Krogers to name a few. But truly that's another topic for another day.)

My proposal is simply this: a license for firearms users and stiff, hefty, onerous fines and sentences for those caught in possession of a firearm and no license.

The NRA wants nothing to do with gun registration. It wants nothing which could lead to confiscation of firearms; this is the scenario that ends in someone's cold dead fingers being pried from the barrel of a gun. Is it possible the NRA could stomach licensing of firearms users?

The license would be issued to those without felony records, who have no history of serious mental illness, and who have completed a gun safety course offered by qualified instructors.
This would place the use of a deadly instrument into the hands of those at least nominally and minimally qualified to do so; similar to the licensing of operators of automobiles. Those caught in possession of a firearm of any kind, but without a license would face a fine and/or sentence, possibly including forfeiture of the gun.

Since this in no way states that the owner of a license is also the owner of a gun, it could not be construed as registration of firearms. It could prevent the purchase of guns at gun shows if a purchase is attempted by an unlicensed buyer.

Of course the standard refrain could often be true here. A criminal would likely not have a license for the gun used in a crime. So what? At least law abiding citizens would have to prove they are nominally competent to own a gun. That's an improvement over what we have now. And it might prevent some of the needlessly tragic accidental shootings of children by children as the parents are better educated about safety. It might possibly have prevented an incident such as the shooting last week in Henderson, Kentucky, which was carried out by a man with mental illness.

Licensing of gun users seems like a sensible response to the obvious danger posed by the proliferation of guns in America. This proliferation suggests a climate not too unlike the Wild West. The NRA's response to the Supreme Court case, on the other hand, is just plain nuts. The NRA has filed suit against the Public Housing Authority in San Francisco to disallow a gun ban within public housing property.

If the NRA gets its way, its theory goes, more people will be armed and those who pull a gun are thereby more likely to be shot down by their fellow citizens, thus insuring safety for the residents of public housing. And they wonder why people call them "gun nuts".