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May 28, 2008


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Column
By Helen Buffington

Mumps…and books
I was about 10 years old and had the mumps. Stay in bed, I was told, even though I felt well.
This was during the Great Depression. There was no TV in those days and use of our battery-powered radio was limited. No problem. I loved to read. But I’d read everything in the house! What to do? I was bored stiff lying in bed that first day. My little Pine Grove Elementary School had no library.
But surely the high school in a nearby town had a library. My father checked and sure enough, it did. I soon had “The Prince and the Pauper” in hand. Boredom went out the window!
But after I got well, getting books was still a problem. My aunt, a teacher, lived next door and she provided me with many children’s books. I’d grab a book as soon as I finished washing dishes or ironing and I always volunteered to churn because that was one chore you could do while reading!
When we moved away from the farm during my early teen years, a whole new world opened up as I gained access to the public library which had been established in a room at the county courthouse. It was free! And that was really important during those years. My sister and I made a beeline for that library every time our family went to town. While they shopped, we “shopped” through the books and carried home an armful. We always joined the summer reading club and won a lot of stars for reading so many books.
Libraries have always beckoned, whether it was the beautiful Carnegie Library in Rome, Ga. during the 1950s or the humble Jefferson Public Library in a back room at a Jefferson house in the late 1960s. The Commerce Public Library brought a new dimension when its able librarian offered a memoirs writing program which I enjoyed for many years. Libraries had begun to diversify and offer more than just books. But there are those who don’t think libraries are important. They think people don’t read anymore, which just means they themselves haven’t visited a library recently. The Jefferson Public Library, no longer in a back room but instead in a beautiful facility near the school campuses, is so busy it needs more space. And, in fact, plans for a new building are in the works.
Public libraries have sprouted up all across Jackson County in the last few years. There are seven in all and every one of them is widely used, by children and adults alike. People do still read. But libraries today offer more than books. They offer books you can listen to in your car, books you can see on your TV, movies, reference books of all kinds, special children’s programs and computers for public Internet use, as well as plenty of old-fashioned books in print. Libraries have become full-fledged information centers and, of course, information is the key to a well-informed citizenry as well as to education.
Governments, and the public, are doing a good thing when they support libraries. And I’ll bet a lot of 10-year-olds in Jackson County agree, whether they have mumps or not.
Helen Buffington is the editor emeritus of The Jackson Herald.

Benton-Sosebee debate raises larger issues
The argument two weeks ago between Jackson County Rep. Tommy Benton and Commerce city councilman Bob Sosebee over state funds for local projects raises some much larger issues than just the two politicians’ disagreement
Sosebee complained to Benton at a Commerce council meeting that the city wasn’t getting its “fair share” of state funding and blamed Benton for not getting more pork for city projects. He also slapped Benton by comparing him to former Rep. Bubba McDonald, a one-time political heavyweight under the Gold Dome and a former employer of Benton.
Benton defended his record, pointing out much of the pork projects funded by the legislature are in areas where powerful Republican leaders live.
Sosebee also told Benton that his support of House Speaker Glenn Richardson’s plans for the state to takeover the funding of local schools was wrong and that in sum, Benton wasn’t doing a very good job representing the community.
Benton defended his support of Richardson’s proposal by saying most of the email he received supported the idea and he defended his record of representing his district.
So what does all of this political squabbling really mean?
There are several thoughts that come to mind:
1. Sosebee’s gripe that Benton wasn’t getting enough pork for the city is just another myopic view which reflects Commerce’s decades-old feeling that the town doesn’t get enough money or attention from other governments. It’s a tired, worn and illegitimate refrain that Commerce leaders have sung for years both to the state and to the county government. But that inferiority complex is grating and Commerce officials should move beyond such a narrow-minded view. The world does not shun Commerce.
2. Sosebee is correct that Benton’s vote to support Richardson’s school tax plan didn’t represent the best interest of the community. While Benton may have gotten a lot of emails from people hoodwinked by Richardson’s power grab, Benton should have known better. Nobody likes property taxes, but Richardson’s plans would have been a cure worse than the disease. The real truth is that Richardson used intimidation to get House members to go along with his idea. It’s time for Benton and his colleagues to toss that petty dictator out of the Speaker’s chair.
3. It’s clear from this debate that Republicans aren’t any more fiscally conservative than their Democratic predecessors. Both parties use pork funds to enrich their friends and to punish their foes. If Georgia Republicans were really conservative, they’d do away with pork funds. That they continue to abuse tax dollars seriously undermines their attempts to claim the moral high-ground in government spending.
4. Benton and Sosebee were both a little right and a little wrong in their debate. That’s the nature of politics. It’s sometimes messy, but there’s little doubt both of these men have the public’s best interest in mind. We’ll score this debate as a tie.



 

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