Governor discusses vision with Pike Co.

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 14, 2000

Staff Writer

March 13, 2000 11 PM

A crowd of Pike County residents woke up early Monday morning to see Gov. Don Siegelman.

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The governor made Troy his first stop of the day on his Listening Post Tour, which includes visiting 14 cities in March and April.

"I have enjoyed every single minute of being your governor," Siegelman told those gathered at Julia’s Restaurant. "We’re going to continue to swing hard and hit some home runs."

When Siegelman was running for the state’s highest office, making Alabama the "Education State" was a top priority.

"I think we’ve done that," he said.

Just after he was inaugurated, Siegelman pushed to remove portable classrooms from school campuses.

"My first day in office, portable classrooms were growing like kudzu. Now, portable classrooms are on their way off campuses," he said.

For 17 years, Alabama teachers tested their students, but weren’t tested themselves. That has changed since Siegelman took office.

The governor has also worked on legislation to protect children, including mandatory background checks for teachers.

"When parents drop their kids off in the morning, they’re leaving their most prized possessions in the hands of school officials," Siegelman said.

"All you folks know the job’s not complete," the governor said.

He wants to increase teachers’ salaries to the national average and require them to be board certified.

"If we don’t have good teachers, then nothing else really matters," Siegelman said.

Siegelman also wants to streamline tenure for teachers and abolish tenure for principals.

"Taking three years to get a bad teacher out of the classroom isn’t fair to the students," he said. "We’re going to get serious about accountability."

One project of Siegelman’s has met with some rolling eyes.

The governor wants to require students in kindergarten through sixth grade to use "sir" and "ma’am" when addressing teachers and principals.

"I can’t help but think it will make a difference," Siegelman said.

In addition to education legislation, the governor has played a big role in crime legislation.

He said he believes criminals should be held accountable for their actions. He example was the fact the last person executed in Alabama spent 22 years on Death Row.

"Alabama is the only state that gives convicted felons two bites at the apple to go free," Siegelman said, adding the appeal process should be shortened.

Chemical castration for those adults convicted of raping or sodomizing children is another piece of legislation Siegelman has supported.

Those "deadbeat dads" who refuse to support their children should also be dealt with more firmly, Siegelman said.

He is pushing the publication of Top 10 offenders in local newspapers.

Following his comments, the governor answered questions from those present.

One person asked Siegelman the status of the agricultural bond issue, which will fund diagnostic labs.

"Farming is important to this state," Siegelman said. "It’s not just a matter of income, it’s a matter of preserving a way of life."

He listened to request a for stronger litter laws, taxing Internet sales and funding for higher education.