My previous post touched on Oxendine's antics with state cars and sirens. Tom Crawford knocks it out of the ballpark.
In his introduction Tom writes:
[In this blogging forum we'll] stick to a reality-based view of the world, for the most part, but we'll also add a little whimsy and sarcasm while we're at it.
One thing missing from much of the online commentary on Georgia politics is humor. There is a lot to laugh about in a state where the congressional delegation includes a guy who called for the public posting of the Ten Commandments, then could only name three of them during an interview with Stephen Colbert. Not to mention another congressman who collapsed in a Georgetown bar and had to be carried out by the Capitol Hill police. We're a state that once had three people claiming to be governor at the same time - while today, some would argue that we have zero governors.
In one of his early posts Tom writes about one of my favorites with a post entitled "Ox, we yearn for thee." It reads:
There is one group of business executives who are watching Georgia's race for governor very closely: the people who run America's Big Three (soon to be Big One?) automobile manufacturers.
General Motors, Ford and Chrysler have a huge stake in the outcome of this race because it could determine whether or not they have a future market for the cars they build.
I would guess that they're hoping for a victory by Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine. The reason? Oxendine has a proven track record of crashing and totaling state-provided vehicles. If he were to be elected governor, the demand for fleet vehicles for state government would probably increase exponentially as he turns himself loose on Georgia's highways.
As one auto industry executive confided, "Every time he gets behind the wheel of a Crown Victoria, our profit margins go up another two points."
The election of the Ox, in short, would generate an astounding growth in demand for American-manufactured vehicles. No wonder the Big Three is paying such close attention.
Oxendine has a long and interesting history when it comes to the state vehicles he has driven and purchased.
Shortly after he was first elected insurance commissioner, Oxendine ran off the road and crashed into some trees in Gwinnett County in March 1996. Cost of damage to the state car: more than $17,000. He told police he had swerved to avoid a deer, lost control of the vehicle, and slammed into the trees. (Personally, I think it was a conspiracy by the Karen Handel campaign and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to set up Oxendine, especially when you consider that the deer was later spotted on the grassy knoll in Dallas.)
Oxendine had his next state-purchased Crown Victoria equipped with flashing blue lights and a siren (Oxendine is also the state fire marshal and often drives to the site of arson investigations). On one fateful day in 2000, the Ox had the lights flashing and was trying to weave through traffic on Interstate 285 when he crashed into a pickup truck. The truck cost nearly $7,000 to repair and the Crown Victoria was totaled at a cost to the state of $18,000.
He told police he had been en route to a hazardous materials call in his office building near the Capitol, but investigators for the law department and the GBI questioned whether there was such an emergency call. Attorney General Thurbert Baker said the accident was "suspect." Based on phone records and interviews with Oxendine's staff, investigators said the accident was probably caused by Oxendine leaving home late for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and using his lights and siren to "circumvent the traffic."
Investigators also contended that Oxendine had used his emergency equipment on several occasions to get around traffic and avoid being late to social functions, including one dinner engagement with his son.
These "repeated misuses" of emergency equipment prompted Baker to recommend that Oxendine's emergency equipment privileges be revoked.
"Every time you flip on that blue light, you can potentially create a situation of danger out there on the highway," Baker said, adding that with Oxendine "there clearly seems to be a pattern of abuse."
Oxendine subsequently removed the blue lights and sirens from two of his cars and requested that his permits be "deactivated."
In 2003, the Journal-Constitution -- obviously continuing its conspiracy with Karen Handel -- reported that Oxendine spent $25,322 on a new Crown Victoria, including $6,363 for extras like leather seats, a CD player and a "pursuit suspension" package, after purchasing officials told him not to buy the vehicle because of the state's budget problems.
After reviewing that vehicle purchase, the state inspector general's office issued a blistering report that stated: "Commissioner Oxendine's actions were in blatant disregard for established authority. When informed that he would not be allowed to purchase his automobile, his response was, in general, 'Try and stop me.' ''
Oxendine eventually reimbursed the state for the vehicle and issued this statement: "I have stated publicly my disagreement with the report's findings of fact and conclusions. Although this office is not bound by the opinion of the Office of Inspector General, I have decided to purchase this vehicle personally and donate it to the Georgia Department of Insurance to finally resolve this matter and demonstrate this office's commitment to fiscal responsibility."
Can Oxendine save the American auto industry? If the past is any guide, yes he can. Single-handedly.