The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on September 29, 1997 · Page 4
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 4

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Monday, September 29, 1997
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A4 MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 1997 THE SALIN A JOU R N AL.. . George B. Pyle editorial page editor Opinions expressed on this page are those of the identified writers. To join the conversation, write a letter to the Journal at: P.O. Box 740 Salina, KS 67402 Fax: (785) 827-6363 E-mail: SJLetters® saljournal.com Quote of the day "No one from Georgia makes Shermanesque statements." Rep. Newt Gingrich R-Georgia, refusing to rule out a bid for the White House in the year 2000. By GEORGE B. PYLE / The Salina Journal The public's bidding IDE ISSUE Hiring lauyers and engineers THE ARGUMENT Qualifications first, then price W hether it's the millions that might be made by the attorney general's old law firm, or the few thousand for whoever fixes up the 4-H Building, our elected officials need to take another look at the way they award contracts for professional work. Kansas Attorney Carla Stovall raised a lot of eyebrows when it was revealed that she hired her old law firm — Entz and Chanay of Topeka — to represent the state in the big lawsuit against the tobacco industry. She did so without putting the job out for bids. If the settlement now before Congress is approved, which appears less likely every minute, Entz and Chanay could walk away with $250 million.' Meanwhile, on a smaller scale, Saline County commissioners are worried about how they will choose an architect or engineer to figure out how to add heating and air conditioning to the 4-H Building on the county fairgrounds. One architect was ready to do the job for $13,000, but commissioners put on the brakes when they wondered if anyone else out there would do it for less. County staff is doing as it is told, but staff members correctly express concern about assigning technical work to a low bidder. The cheapest, the staff rightly reminds the commission, is not necessarily the best. But keeping the process open is also wise. Hiring old friends just encourages everyone involved to get lazy. So here is the way to split the difference to everyone's benefit: Whenever a government agency has any but the smallest job for an engineer, architect or attorney, information about the job should be sent to a list of qualified firms. Such a list should be kept and updated frequently. Those who want the job should submit a proposal, specific to the job, touting qualifications and approach. Its fee should be placed in a separate, sealed envelope. After the staff has reviewed all the proposals and narrowed the list down to the top three or four prospects, only then would the price envelopes of the finalists be opened and compared. The others would be discarded, unopened. There would still be no obligation to hire the low bidder. A firm that is by far the best should not lose out to a far less qualified outfit just to save a few bucks. But everyone would be on notice that price is a factor in making such decisions, and the government — the taxpayers — would have the added bargaining advantage of knowing what the market would bear. Such a system won't always be the cheapest. But it will help the taxpayers get the best value for their money. LETTERS TO THE JOURNAL SJLetters@saljournal.com Salina needs two hospitals again Why does Salina need a surgery clinic when there is a surgery room available at St. John's Hospital, now called Penn Campus? Also an empty brand new ICU room? And has any one given thought to having two emergency rooms available? If I lived on the east side, I would be a tad uneasy thinking about it, if I would need prompt emergency treatment and would be delayed by a train. I've been told by more than one person about the long delay before they are seen and these people were in severe pain. I feel certain that our city on the move is large enough for the use of two hospitals. Many times I have wondered why St. John's Hospital was closed and I can assure you many people share my views. - CECELIA HENNENKAMP Salina Startling lack of knowledge revealed The good news from a recent survey of 1,000 adult U.S. citizens is that most of them know their country has an important document called the Constitution. But beyond that, they're shockingly dim on the specifics. A new poll finds that only 5 percent of Americans can correctly answer 10 rudimentary questions about the Constitution. The first- ever comprehensive survey of Constitutional knowledge, the poll was commissioned by the National Constitution Center (NCC) at the start of Constitution Week 1997, September 17-23. Highlights include: YOU GkU£1>, KEKIO? T WHITE HOUSE WATCH The fund-raising case against Clinton Even Without a SmOkinQ QUn them. He could have said he was too busy. systems, and she still doesn't know Even without a smoking gun, President Clinton's reputation is in big trouble W ASHINGTON — While Attorney General Janet Reno ponders why she ever agreed to come to Washington, it's time to assess whether President Clinton is in real trouble. First of all, despite his emphatic insistence that he stuck to the letter of the law in his fund-raising efforts, it's clear that he wasn't much interested * in the spirit of the law. He gave lip service to campaign finance reform but, until lately, that was about all. The climate in the Clinton-Gore campaign last year was "get the money" and then get more money, keep political debate at a juvenile level and host schmaltzy "feel- good" events. There is no doubt that Clinton eagerly participated in the plan to use outside money, mainly from the labor unions, * to finance ads leading up to the primaries unfairly suggesting that Republicans were out to gut Medicare. Legally, "issue advertising" is tolerated, but the Democrats used it to get around restrictive limits on what they could spend to attack Bob Dole. Clinton saw nothing wrong with using the people's assets, such as the Lincoln Bedroom and coffees in the Map Room, to reward big donors. Whether or not he used his Oval Office phone or the more technically legal one in his study in the White House residence to make fund-raising calls, he did not refuse to make V ABROAD AT HOME ANN McFEATTERS Scripps Howard News Service them. He could have said he was too busy. Clinton clearly wanted more Asian-American money in his campaign but he doesn't seem to have had a qualm about moving John Huang from the Commerce Department to the Democratic National Committee. It makes a mockery of his high-minded ethics speech to his staffers during his first days in office. And where were the red flags when Indian tribes were being dunned for campaign contributions by Clinton campaign officials? What on earth was the chairman of the Democratic National Committee doing having any discussions at all with anybody in the CIA or the National Security Council about the shady affairs of Roger Tamraz, the would-be pipeline czar? What was a banking regulator doing at a coffee in the White House for rich fat cats? Didn't anyone remember anything from Ethics 101? When somebody at the National Security Council raised a red flag about people such as Johnny Chung or Roger Tamraz getting near the president, why were such warnings disregarded? Was the Immigration and Naturalization Service letting in thousands of potential citizens because they presumably would vote Democratic? And why can't these smart young men and women working for the Clinton campaign, working in the White house and working at the Democratic National Committee remember anything? Reno, who had a reputation as a no-nonsense prosecutor from Miami, keeps insisting she will not be pressured into making a decision on asking a three-judge panel to appoint an independent counsel. But she's had nearly 100 people working on the case for months, complaining about the FBI's document handling systems, and she still doesn't know what 1 Meanwhile, it's been almost a year since the_ election. f''-'^ Democrats are right in pointing out th'at ; they didn't raise as much as Republicans ^diaV"; last year. In fact Republicans raised almost''^ twice as much. And for all the rage Republicans have mustered about the support of labor •' unions for the Democrats, business gave about ' seven times as much and almost all of it went" for Republican causes. It's outrageous that so "• many Senate Republicans are against toUgh" change to the system, while every Democrat 1 in" •• the Senate claims to be for it. io?U; But the furor in Washington (few people emit-*-' side care so far) is not about what telephoW'— Clinton or Vice President Al Gore used-'or 1 " 1 what room they were in when they started' 'di-'^ aling for dollars. The uproar is about a seedy' • climate, not unlike that which led to Water-''-' gate, and the notion that the party that con- 1 -' trolled the White House had a moral obligation-- 1 ' to keep things in perspective. " ! '-'; Clinton will be out of office in January 2001*,' ] but he is still using every opportunity to raise'' - : money for the Democrats, who have about'$!?''•" million in debt to pay off. He says he won't urif-" laterally disarm by ending his fund-raising afcp-" tivities and blames Republicans for blocking" 1 campaign finance reform. ~' 1 ^ • There is no smoking gun, so far, that cottla' 1 ' even begin to justify talk about pushing CM-'' ton out of office. But he is in trouble. Even-' though some sort of minor campaign reform-'' law now looks possible, Clinton is likely to 'go ' down in office as having presided over a slea'zy" 1 atmosphere where the end (his re-electi6nV'' was used to justify almost any means neces-'' sary to raise more money to run a nation where politics and huge sums of money afev synonymous. Law deprives suspects of basic rights P.O. Box 740, Salina, KS 67402 • More than half of those polled do not know the number of U.S. senators; • Only 6 percent can name all four rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. • One out of six believe that the Constitution establishes America as a Christian nation; • Eighty-four percent incorrectly believe that the Constitution states that "all men are equal." Knowledge of the Constitution is power; ignorance invites tyranny. When people don't know their law, they can't tell when Congress, judges or presidents break it. They don't know when their liberties are in danger. America has some homework to do if it wants to stay free. — ART HOWELL Lincoln IRS should serve, not enforce Concerning your Sept. 24 opinion concerning the IRS, your conclusion was that the tax code was too big and it was the problem of Congress to fix this. I agree the tax code is big and complex. It should be simplified. But that does not excuse the IRS to .intimidate and confuse the public and then blame it on a complex code. They are being used as an enforcement agency and not a service agency. This must be changed. Also, the law which requires taxpayers to prove their case during an audit should be changed. The IRS should have to prove the taxpayers have an incorrect return. Currently we are guilty until we prove we're innocent. — RANDY LOHMANN Lincoln lscl@nckcn.com In America, no person, even an immigrant, is supposed to be held on secret evidence W ASHINGTON — The prisoner has been in solitary confinement for 17 months. There is no charge that he has ever committed a crime. He is held as a danger to the security of the state — on the basis of evidence that he is not allowed to see and cannot answer. It sounds like a report from a tyrant state, but it is happening in our country. The prisoner, facing a deportation proceeding, is being held in a New York City jail without bail because an immigration judge heard secret charges that he was a risk to national security. • The U.S. Department of Justice is using secret evidence in at least nine other current deportation cases. And the practice could be greatly expanded under a clause that the chief congressional scourge of immigrants, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, is trying to slip into a supposedly non-controversial bill. To penalize someone without giving him a chance to confront his accusers goes against fundamental American ideas of fairness. That happened in this country during the McCarthy years. Even when officials in good faith use secret evidence that they think is reliable, testimony untested by cross-examination may be ANTHONY LEWIS The New York Times tainted by bias or mistake. The New York deportation case shows how unfair such a shadowy process can be. The prisoner is Nasser Ahmed, an Egyptian who has lived in the United States since 1986 and has three American children. He worshipped at the mosque in Brooklyn where Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman preached and was a court-appointed translator at the trial in which the sheik was convicted of conspiracy to blow up buildings in New York. The Immigration and Naturalization Service sought to deport Ahmed to Egypt for overstaying his visa. He asked for asylum, on the ground that his association with Sheik Abdel Rahman would subject him to persecution by the Egyptian government. Bail is usually granted in such cases, but government lawyers opposed it. In secret they gave the immigration judge, Donn Livingston, evidence they said showed Ahmed was connected with a terrorist organization. They would not tell Ahmed the names of the alleged terrorist group or of his accusers. On the open evidence, Judge Livingston said, Ahmed "would most certainly be found to be a good candidate for release" — and there were "compelling" reasons for him to fear what would happen to him if sent back to Egypt. But on the basis of the secret hearing, the judge denied bail. Ahmed's lawyers argued that it was unconstitutional to imprison someone on evidence he could not examine and rebut. Judge Livingston found that argument "appealing because it is based on the most important principles of a free society." But as an immigration judge, he said, he had no jurisdiction to con- sider constitutional objections. Ahmed'« r " lawyers have now gone to a federal court'to seek his release. : ' '; •' Another case is that of Mazen Najjar, who'; taught at the University of South Florida'ifa, Tampa. He has been in prison since May !&,' ' J again on the basis of secret evidence said t 'ib' show he had connections with a terrorist orga-" nization. "•'' -•''.' The subjects in those two cases are Arabs';'' And so are eight others against whom secr%' • evidence is being used. Four of them, impriS- J oned in Bakersfield, Calif., are Iraqis whom 1 ""' the U.S. government brought out of Iraq after a 1 ;' CIA-managed plot against Saddam Hussein', collapsed but whom we now apparently con-"';, sider pro-Saddam. ''•'"Rep. Smith is trying to broaden the use of se; cret evidence through a provision he has writ-"* ten into a proposed "Technical Corrections^, Act" for last year's immigration law. It wquyf' „ require deportation of any alien found, oivse,-;.,. cret evidence, to be a member of an organization that has been described by the secretary of state as "terrorist." Anonymous accusation's*, of Communist Party membership were a scan." dalous feature of the McCarthy years. Here.tlie ' accusations would often come from foreign ' governments that want to get a critic home"; where they can deal with him. '" 'V'' On Nov. 23,1953, at the height of McCarthy' / ism, President Eisenhower told a B'nai B'rith' : dinner about the ideals he had learned growing up in Abilene, Kan.: "In this country?'if' someone ... accuses you, he must come up in,, front. He cannot hide behind the shadow. He •* cannot assassinate you or your character fEbm~^ behind." > .!* III ESBURY By G.B. TRUDEAL) - " ATTHOSe- MQWNG5! ROYAL. FAMILY \ HA5ALKGAP/ UPTOSP&PON CfKTAlN- UHOMU.0eiH&&, t-Y.,, UW0UM&R5HOOT? I VfWOUS COUSINS AN? SUCH, OKAY, NOW {rr5WWEp\\ WHICH ones MWMZ HA\0(Wr/N6 &$%§ PI$OMER$?J\ awx y ^A<S3%

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