Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Garry Morgan, The man behind "In-the-Boro"

Garry Morgan

If you have ever been to a meeting of the Jackson County Commission or the Scottsboro City Council, chances are you have seen Garry Morgan; he is always there.  Week in and week out he shows up, video camera in hand. Garry is involved in his community, to say the least. 

Morgan is a graduate from Baylor University and for 21 years he served his country in the United States Army.   Following his military retirement, Morgan worked in medical administration. Through years of experience, his knowledge of medicine, sociology, race relations, equal opportunity and evaluation of risks became extensive, and because of his background he is astute to the problems in world around him. “If you don’t ask questions, if you don’t attempt to sit down and try to analyze problems and then resolve the problems, we’re not going to progress as a society. We’re not going to progress as a community,” he said.  

Because of the way he expresses his concern about so many local aspects, Morgan says people have attempted in ways to “censor” him. If you follow various local Facebook groups you are sure to have noticed that his comments are almost never well received. He is often labeled “negative” and even kicked off of groups for the input he gives.

The following is an excerpt from a post Morgan made on the private Facebook Group page for Revive Scottsboro:

“Reality demonstrations a failure of vision and planning. Scottsboro has expanded its shopping areas outward, away from the downtown area. There have been several revitalization plans; but when you spend hundreds of millions on bypasses, service roads and property owners greed- then fail to stick to your basic downtown revitalization plans, Scottsboro today is what you get a picture of urban blight.”
This comment sparked an onset of debate about negativity, but Morgan’s intentions, he explains, are not to simply stir the pot. “People like to say ‘Oh, you’re being negative.’ Well, there is no negative or positive about it. I’m just stating the facts. This is what I am seeing as Garry Morgan in the community,” he said.  

Ultimately Morgan was removed from the group for not following the rules about keeping comments positive.  To that he said, “My goal here in Scottsboro is education, to fight this every way possible. To fight narrow minded thinking. I’m not going to follow the rules set up to discriminate, to not look at reality and to be delusional. No, I’m not going to follow those rules.”

 “What I’m about is awareness, raising awareness and facilitating people to speak up not just to sit idly by, not just to go about your business because somebody tells you ‘hey, butt out.’ I don’t believe in that,” he said.

Before Facebook, however, there was AL.com and its infamous forums.  Morgan used to post there on a regular basis, but noticed that many of his posts were being removed.  Morgan learned that AL.com was receiving local political pressure to remove his posts. “So, I got to asking questions. At that particular time I was friends with folks in Birmingham who managed AL.com,” he said. “People in Scottsboro were calling and saying ‘You can’t let this guy say that.’ Sometimes they let [my comments] stay. Other times they didn’t. So, because of that censorship I started the blog.”
Morgan’s alternative news blog is called “In the Boro”, formerly” Watch for Snakes in Scottsboro.”

Sometimes the reactions other people have to Morgan’s actions are upsetting. “I feel like crying sometimes because of people’s ignorance. Do you not realize what I am trying to do?” he said.

On his blog, he posts political commentary and videos from local political meetings, as well as information he gathers about various environmental concerns.

In the past, he says, his actions have actually helped to improve the rights of citizens. “A citizen could not go before the city council or county commission not so long ago without begging either the chairman or the council president to speak. I’m proud to say I had something to do with changing that.”  Morgan, at his own expense, sued the county commission because they did not publish meeting notices on the bulletin board. Today, those meetings are posted in public view and a citizen sign in sheet is placed at all meetings so that anyone wishing to express a concern may easily do so.

Outside of politics, one of Morgan’s biggest concerns is the local environmental effects on health.  He is a part of groups BEST and MATRR and worked with them to compile a report about the health hazards of radioactive emissions surrounding Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant. “Jackson County has the highest rate of brain cancer in the state of Alabama. Why is that? We asked the question, could it be possible that radiation is causing problems in North Alabama? We couldn’t come to a conclusion on it, but what we can conclude is that when we look at what is happening medically with the pollution in the river in our water systems and our drinking water, some frightening statistics come forth with cancer rates, unknown diseases, people going to the doctor, they don’t know why they are sick they just know they are sick. We are pointing out that we think we do know why, because the river is our lifeblood and the river is polluted. If you look up the river you have a massive defense industry. Seven nuclear reactors, three research reactors, weapons facility production. Then you have chemical plants, massive chemical industries along the river.”

Morgan continues to monitor river and rain waters. His suggestions are stark; don’t eat fish out of the river and don’t play in the rain. According to Morgan there are very high levels of Mercury in the Tennessee River and the rain is radioactive. “I monitor it all the time and get counts as high as 2000 counts per minute, which is basically your annual dose of radiation that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says is allowed,”  he said. “You can’t see it, taste it or smell it. It’s out of sight out of mind.”

The answer is not that complicated. “Stop using those things which are killing people,” Morgan says.

  “That requires a cultural and lifestyle change. We are not prepared to do that.” Morgan explains that if we could begin to veer away from antiquated energy sources, such as nuclear and coal, then we could begin to see a positive change. “Energy efficiency is the answer. There are solar panels now that can not only generate electricity, but store it. We are at a point now where we can generate power from the earth the sun, sugar, hydrogen. The real answer for a future is moving from the fossil fuel economy to the hydrogen economy. Of course you have big oil companies and politicians making money. They don’t want to go there because of the greed. They are making billions and trillions of dollars. They are concerned about their sphere, their clique, their culture, which is a lot different from yours and my culture.”

Morgan says that while the majority of people have been educated to be quiet, he cannot live like that. “That’s not what our nation is about. That’s not why for 21 years I did what I did. It’s because of my military background and my education that I have a calling to speak up about things and write. I have experienced a strong censorship by the local media and business organizations to try and protect an image. But what image? The people are the image. You have to accept the good and the bad,” he said.

“I bring information forward to say “I think there is a problem here. Some people don’t like that. Some people don’t like it when I say ‘hey, here is the problem, let’s work towards the solution. That’s bothersome to me. After all, military is engrained into me. I’m still fighting this battle. It’s within myself, but it’s also in the community. How to make improvements. How to work on things. So, that’s the reason I write blogs. That can be my input. By conveying that information and in that information expressing my concern and my views. If that helps the community, if that helps other people to understand what’s going on around us, then I think I’ve accomplished something.”

Morgan's blog, which is frequently updated, may be viewed here.

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