Feingold to revisit Camellia

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 17, 2005


By Dennis Palmer

The City of Greenville is getting another look by a northern Senator who, according to many, painted an unflattering picture of the Camellia City during a vacation stop in December.

Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold (D) is returning to the Camellia City March 28, at the invitation of Mayor Dexter McLendon, who like many other Greenvillians, as well as Alabamians, took offense to Feingold’s characterization of Greenville on the liberal web site Salon.com as a depressed place where &uot;people were hurting economically and deserved more than they were getting.&uot;

Feingold’s commentary also drew the ire of his congressional counterparts with Republicans Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby writing op/ed pieces in response to what they considered stereotyping of Alabama residents by Feingold as having a dim future due to &uot;an increasingly radical conservative movement.&uot;

&uot;We are delighted that Senator Feingold has accepted our invitation to return to Greenville,&uot; said McLendon. &uot;While I sincerely believe he meant no harm to our city with his comments, his words did paint a very negative image of Greenville and that’s what we hope to correct during his upcoming visit.&uot;

McLendon said while the city has seen some tough times in the recent past, the future seems bright for &uot;The City of Smiles.&uot;

&uot;As a community, we have banded together, Democrats and Republicans alike, to pull this city out of the devastating economic situation we found ourselves in during the mid and late 90s,&uot; he said. &uot;We are proud of the steps we’ve made in a very short time. When Senator Feingold has a better understanding of our situation we believe he will look at Greenville as a model of hope for other cities. We want him to see us as an example of what can be accomplished when people put politics aside and work together for the good of its citizens – instead of pointing to us as a city mired in despair with a hopeless future.&uot;

Feingold, who said he’s received both positive and negative responses to his opinion piece, said he’s returning to Greenville so he can foster a better understanding of how people in the south feel national issues. He also wants to gain an understanding of why Alabamians, who are traditionally Democratic leaning in their local governments, choose to vote Republican on the state and national level.

&uot;I got all kinds of different responses from across the country,&uot; said Feingold, of his op/ed piece. &uot;Some were positive and some were not, but that’s not the point. I want to foster a dialogue between people in my state and (Alabama). I’m curious what they think about healthcare issues and job loss issues and curious about why people in Democratic areas vote Republican on a national level.&uot;

He went on to say that he feels the national Democratic Party has made errors in the past by not focusing attention on states they feel they can’t win.

&uot;I think the Democratic Party has made a significant mistake in writing off states it thinks it can’t win,&uot; said Feingold, who was recently reelected to his Senate seat for a third term. &uot;I think (Alabama) is one of the states where we need to listen to people.&uot;

One local Democrat who will be listening to what Feingold has to say is Paul Harding.

&uot;I think (Feingold) made a terrible rush to judgment,&uot; Harding said. &uot;I think there are job opportunities and the schools are trying very hard with the funding they have. I find Greenville to be a very nice town. I think he wanted to throw a little dig at the Republicans.&uot;

Local Republicans are also looking forward to the Senator’s visit. Republican headquarters, which is located behind Bates’ House of Turkey where Feingold and his wife shared dinner one night, has a new &uot;W&uot; banner on it along with the &uot;Hallelujah&uot; banner that led to Feingold’s characterization of Greenville as &uot;the reddest spot on the whole map.&uot; During the recent presidential election, red was used to color states that went Republican.

&uot;I think it’s fine for him to come back and maybe get a closer view of what the people really are about and our values, realizing that we’re not rebels here,&uot; said Joan Reynolds, chairman of the Butler County Republican Party. &uot;We look at issues and make decisions based on what we think is right to do. He obviously thinks quite differently. I don’t think his visit will change his views, but it will let him know there are people here that think along the lines we do.&uot;

While in Greenville Feingold, and his wife Mary, will visit Greenville High School and tour some local industries. He and McLendon have scheduled a press conference at 9 a.m. on March 28 on the steps of City Hall. The public is invited to attend.