An open letter to the Governor

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Gov. Bob Riley

State of Alabama

State Capitol

600 Dexter Avenue

Montgomery, AL 36130

Dear Governor:

Let me start with words of praise, applause much like you've been hearing from all corners of our wonderful state. You're having a good month and as a result, Alabama will continue to prosper, continue to take its significant place as a leader in the global economy.

Your role in bringing ThyssenKrupp to south Alabama will likely define your legacy as chief executive of the state. That it is a major coup is obvious. That it would not have happened without your personal involvement and commitment is becoming increasingly more apparent.

Thanks. Thanks for bringing a blue chip company, its talented executives and its optimistic and bright future to our area. Thanks for linking us with a massive, immediate influx of the 29,000 jobs necessary to help build the sprawling $3.7 billion plant and the 2,700 quality permanent positions that could ultimately lead to 35,000 to 50,000 indirect jobs over a 20-year period. Thanks for helping reshape the southern part of our state and thanks for keeping alive the momentum of a marvelously positive economic development story now being heard worldwide.

And thanks, most of all, for showing us we can work together, we can become a single focused team, we can cross party lines, we can stick together, we can answer tough questions, we can provide legitimate solutions, we can trust each other and we can hold our own, largely because of our deeply rooted system of values and a unique work ethic, in the most competitive of all situations.

Your tenacity, your enthusiasm, your energy can be contagious and inspiring.

Our hope is that our thanks will expand soon to your selection of former state board of education member and current state Sen. Bradley Byrne as the new chancellor of our troubled community college system.

There is much work ahead, many difficult decisions to be made and significant confidence to be restored in a statewide system that has plummeted from a shining star to an embarrassment but still holds perhaps the most important key to the creation and development of skills necessary to help our citizens earn a fair wage, to help those blue chip companies relying on us to provide quality workers critical to their success.

Whether the senator is the right man will be determined by events of the immediate future, by the wisdom of his leadership, by his abilities to surround himself with honest and competent team members, by his capacity to do what is right, swiftly and fairly.

He can, and will we trust, look to your example.

That you evaluated quickly the need for an immediate solution and moved forcefully to choose a leader with local knowledge rather than launch an expensive, multi-month national search is a leadership decision that should speed the healing, reduce the turmoil and end the uncertainty.

Let us all hope the turnaround is sudden, solid and permanent.

While there is a distinct need to now focus on the current legislative session and to salvage some good from a contentious, expensive period worse and less productive than we ever imagined, that might not be possible.

Selfish, petty, personal, party issues and hurt feelings that linger from the recent turbulent elections now override legitimate concerns of the people and that is sad. Irresponsible even.

We wish you and Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom luck as you wrestle with the final days of the disappointing time and we ask you, simultaneously, to address another state tragedy, one that can also be reversed, as you move Alabama forward.

Piles of debris litter one of our state treasures. A single strain of steel wire prohibits entry. Twisted steel shoots from concrete pillars that once formed a strong foundation. Palm trees remain, but they are few in number. Marquee signs carry no messages. Rubble replaces once inviting rooms of relaxation, all facing churning gulf waters that remain magical. Neglect only grows.

Hurricane damaged Gulf State Park needs your help.

And it is time to start anew the process of bringing it back to life, of restoring its fun and frolicking ways, of giving it back to the people instead of allowing it to remain an empty political pawn.

There is no attempt here to address the troubled past, those commitments which have yielded little progress or the legal battles that continue.

Rather, the message is to encourage you to exercise the diplomacy of your growing respect, to chart a path that reroutes the renovation and that turns over the project to the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) and its capable leader, Dr. David Bronner.

Completion of the magnificent Battle House in Mobile, creation of the prestigious Ross Bridge complex in Hoover, restoration of the Grand Hotel at Point Clear and development of the Marriott Shoal Hotel and Spa are only the latest in a portfolio of successes that originally brought us the remarkable Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail that, literally, altered the tourism landscape and image of Alabama forever.

It is a logical decision long overdue. Investing state monies in state projects that provide returns for state people makes sense. Restoring affordable, quality access to the sugar-white sands of our best visitor attraction seems even smarter.

Accomplishing that, governor, would be quite a feat, but if it can be done, you're the man capable of making it happen.

Then we can once again say thanks.

Ed Darling is president and publisher of Greenville Newspapers LLC. He can be reached at 382-3111 or