My Encounter with a Riley Minion

by Holden McAllister

Tuesday evening, at the very professional League of Women Voters Forum in Tuscaloosa, I had the privilege of asking a question of Neal Wade, Director of the Alabama Development office. This was not my first political forum, and I knew that to ask a question, I’d have to print my question on my knee on a tiny sheet of paper with a three-inch pencil. I also understand that if you want to ask a politician a question, you better make your point within the question, because these people will ramble, filibuster, and do just about anything but respond.

So I brought my own questions already neatly printed: about a dozen of them. Good questions too, like "Which comes first? Throwing seniors out on the streets, or the $38 million a year ABC board?" or "Are you planning on first releasing rapists, or stopping the planting of million-dollar bushes on the highways?" My one question that made it through to the panel dealt with the rise in Alabama spending from 12.39 to 17.65 billion dollars since 1997. These figures came straight from the Alabama State Budget office ( In my question, I also pointed out tax collections were running about 5% ahead of last year.

Upon hearing my question, which brought the first applause of the evening (in fairness, led by me), Wade simply lost his cool, claiming he "didn’t know where these figures came from." He said this is the "sort of misinformation we have to deal with" all the time. He even said my question "was written ahead of time," insinuating that not only had I made up the figures, but somehow my question wasn’t worthy of an answer, and that, I suppose, I was evil for having a question in advance of a community forum.

This seemed to me to be a totally inappropriate response, hardly an answer to my question, and frankly quite insulting to me personally. There was no audience participation allowed, but having grimaced silently through over an hour of completely one-sided pro-tax propaganda, I couldn’t restrain myself any longer, so I raised my hand and said "these figures come from the state’s own budget office." He mumbled something about how small the education budget was and then moved on to another puffball question. My concern was aired, but tossed aside as unimportant.

Mr. Wade has every right to ignore my question and dispute the state’s own figures, for it’s still a partially free country. And I fully admit that my question was as loaded as his big-government statements throughout the evening. However, because I don’t want him to continue to spread "misinformation," perhaps he should refer to the web page and office listed above. There he’ll see the phenomenal increase in Alabama spending: almost 50% in the past six years. Perhaps if he knew this, he’d be campaigning against this plan instead.

Holden McAllister Holden McAllister writes from Tuscaloosa and is a member of the Libertarian Party of Alabama.

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