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OPINION PAGE - JANUARY 19, 2000 - JEFFERSON, GA

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Editorials
The Jackson Herald
January 19, 2000

Applaud Barnes' education efforts
No matter what eventually comes out of this legislative session, Gov. Roy Barnes has set the agenda for the next round of education reform in Georgia. By emphasizing accountability in his message last week, Barnes has sent a clear message to state educators that the parameters of the state's education efforts have changed.
Barnes' predecessor, Gov. Zell Miller, has been called the "education governor" many times for his role in raising teacher pay and putting in place the HOPE scholarships. But while those were necessary items, they did little to reshape the core of the state's educational efforts. Money alone won't improve our schools. But money, paired with increased public accountability, may make some major changes.
There are many things we like about Gov. Barnes' proposals. Abolishing teacher tenure and becoming more flexible in teacher pay scales by rewarding good teachers are two items that are especially attractive. For too long school leaders have had to suffer with bad teachers they can't fire and have lacked the ability to reward good teachers with better pay. It's time to break the grip teachers' unions have on those issues and put in place a more real-world system.
But some of Gov. Barnes' proposals also give us pause. His move to lower the teacher-pupil ratio is worthy, but we wonder how much of that will have to come from local tax dollars rather than state funds. More mandates without increased state funding could break the backs of local property taxpayers.
Overall, however, the governor's thrust is in the right direction. We hope our legislative delegation, Rep. Scott Tolbert and Sen. Eddie Madden, will carefully study the issues the governor has put before them. We encourage parents to get involved in the debate and voice their concerns about these issues as well.
Gov. Barnes has set the tone for the education debate for the next four years. We would all be wise to become engaged in that effort because the outcome is important not only to the state, but also to the children in our local communities.


Red light a good idea
The intersection of Hwy. 15 and Hwy. 335 in Jefferson has long been a traffic problem, especially in the morning hours when students are heading to school.
So we applaud Jefferson Police Chief Darren Glenn for a recent letter attempting to have a red light put at that location. Although the department of transportation has been studying changing that intersection by altering the Curry Creek bridge, that effort may not be possible since the bridge is a historic structure.
We believe a red light at the intersection would solve many of the traffic problems in that corner of town. We hope the DOT acts quickly on Chief Glenn's request.



Column
By Mike Buffington
January 19, 2000

Be smart with 'smart growth'
Those who will lead Jackson County in the coming years should pay close attention to the building permit numbers found on the front page of this newspaper. Those numbers speak far more about Jackson County and its future than any perceptions that we may have.
There's a lot of talk now about "smart growth" in counties like Jackson. While there are a lot of different opinions about how to manage growth "smarter," no one can map out growth plans unless they know the reality of what's happening today.
So what do the 1999 building permit numbers tell us about Jackson County and what our leaders should be watching for the future? Here's a few items for thought:
1. "Smart growth" advocates contend that rural counties should grow around "townships" with lots of undeveloped land between those areas. With nine incorporated towns, Jackson County would seem to have a natural structure for promoting the township plan. But that's not happening. Only 24 percent of the county's residential growth last year took place inside an existing town. The other 76 percent was in unincorporated areas of the county. If local leaders like the idea of township development, they will have to find a way to encourage more construction within towns and less in unincorporated areas.
2. The local development and construction business is largely dependent on residential growth. That's great during strong economic times, but if there is an economic downturn, one of the first sectors to get hurt is residential construction. Local leaders will have to be careful in how they deal with this part of the construction industry, finding ways to work together rather than at odds.
3. Industrial growth lagged last year despite the strong economy. Only $12.7 million in industrial growth happened during 1999, less than 12 percent of the total. Moreover, virtually all of that industrial growth, $10.6 out of $12.7 million, took place in Jefferson. There's a lot more potential in Jackson County for industrial expansion and development and we need to tap into that market. Both Hoschton and Braselton are missing out on industrial development and should work together to lure investment into those communities.
4. Commercial growth in Jackson County was also flat last year. The bulk of the commercial development took place in Commerce and at the new Tanger Outlet Center. It's somewhat surprising that with the growth in residential projects, commercial projects haven't yet occurred on a larger scale. That's both bad and good. It's bad because most areas of Jackson County are seriously underserved by a lack of commercial investment. It's good because this lack of commercial growth gives county leaders time to rework local commercial zoning codes and to plan for sensible commercial projects. If you think too many subdivisions are a problem, just wait until commercial projects build in places they really shouldn't be located.
5. It's more and more apparent that because of its infrastructure and location, Jefferson is currently the fastest growing area of the county. There's a lot of undeveloped land in the city limits of Jefferson and even more just on the edges. With the right kind of leadership, Jefferson could emerge as a major commercial, industrial and residential center in the county. If the economy stays strong after the Jefferson bypass is completed, that area north of town will be a major point for new commercial and industrial growth. The city needs to be planning now for the bypass impact before it finds itself too far behind.
6. There's a lot of talk about making communities "friendly" to the people who live there. Most towns in the county, however, are pedestrian unfriendly. Every town in the county should be building sidewalks and linking their communities together.
Jackson County is growing, and while we haven't yet reached the kind of boom seen in some other areas, we should lay the groundwork for the growth that's coming. That will take leadership, both at the county level and in every town.
Citizens should demand that leadership and hold their leaders accountable for what they do, as well as what they fail to do.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.



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