Black Belt needs to make first move

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Last week, newly elected Gov. Bob Riley released the names of Alabama citizens who will serve on his transition team.

The glaring omission from that list, as we know well in the Black Belt, is that no one from Marengo, Dallas, Perry, Clark, Hale or Greene counties could be found on that list. Long before the governor’s election, we expressed concern that Riley would ignore our part of the state. His latest announcement of a transition team does not give us reason to think any differently.

However, we’d like to warn against overreacting to Riley’s announcement, and there are numerous reasons for that.

A transition team is not a cabinet. Politicians who select people for a transition team are not hiring people to set policies. Rather, those politicians &045;&045; like Riley &045;&045; are trying to make a political statement about inclusion and variety.

One look at Riley’s transition team, and it’s evident he has done that. Riley scattered high-profile Democrats throughout his transition team, but it’s very likely he’ll give them a call and forget he ever spoke with them.

What is important to gauge about Riley and those people he surrounds himself with are the appointments he makes in the coming month.

Transition team aside, the leaders in the Black Belt need to keep a close eye on who Riley selects to lead the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, the Alabama Development Office and the Alabama Department of Transportation. Those positions will be integral to the continued development of our area.

The new head of ADECA will take charge of the numerous community grants that have come our way in the past four years. The head of the ADO will make sure the Black Belt is considered when new industries come hunting. And the head of ALDOT will ensure that road and bridge projects so prevalent during the Don Siegelman administration will continue under the Riley administration.

Whether or not the people of Dallas County and the Black Belt have any influence on state government in the next four years will be determined by the will of the people who live in this region of the state.

If we ask to be members of community planning groups on the statewide level, then Riley &045;&045; most likely &045;&045; will place us there. But if we sit back and hope for the best, we’re in for a long four years.