The Jackson Herald
January 19, 2000
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
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.
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.
January 19, 2000
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
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
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
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
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.