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OPINION PAGE - FEBRUARY 16, 2000 - HOMER, GA

Editorial
The Banks County News
February 16, 2000

Openness in government good for all
There always seems to be some public individuals, groups or organizations which think they could go about their business more conveniently and easily if they did so in private, behind closed doors.
We prefer to characterize such notions as meeting in secret, not private. For any time public dollars are involved, the public has the right to know what is going on. They have the right to know how their money is being spent and how their elected officials are performing. It is called accountability.
Any time a quorum, or majority, of a public body gets together, it legally has to be a called meeting to which the public is invited. These meetings, whether they are over breakfast or lunch or out of town, have to be announced ahead of time to this newspaper.
The same openness goes for public records. If they concern taxpayer dollars, then they should be open.
Still, some of those same misdirected public servants who think meetings should be held in secret, think many public records should be kept secret, too.
The principle of open government­which we enjoy­presupposes that the public has a fundamental right to know what is going on, and thus that most records and meetings should be open. Government service is not meant to be easy or convenient.
Some people tend to think that our state's Freedom of Information Law is the media's law. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Yes, the media keep watch over it, and more than any other group of people, speak up, fighting to keep it strong. But they do so on behalf of everyone, and we thank those who challenge all attempts to weaken it.


Letters
The Banks County News
February 16, 2000

Congratulates sheriff on good job
Dear Editor:
I am proud of the successful management of the Banks County Sheriff's Department by Sheriff Charles Chapman. With only 14 uniformed deputies to patrol the 231-square-mile county, handle the D.A.R.E. program and patrol Banks Crossing, in my opinion, he is doing an excellent job.
There are eight jailers, a jail administrator and a senior clerk, who operate the jail at near capacity at all times. In addition, there are three investigators working full-time, and they are to be commended for solving all major crimes during 1999.
These 27 people do an outstanding job, along with the sheriff, who is willing to work any and all hours for the safety and well-being of all Banks Countians.
Congratulations to Sheriff Charles Chapman and his outstanding staff for a job well done.
Sincerely,
Ed Lindorme

Column
By Sherry Lewis
The Banks County News
February 16, 2000

'Economic development' is not always bad
While "economic development" is sometimes deemed a bad word, the right kind of development in the right place could be the answer to some of our ongoing tax woes.
From all of the meetings I attend, it seems our county officials are working to bring in "quality" business and industry while preserving our quality of life.
How is that possible? First off, plans are to bring development into certain areas of the county, including Banks Crossing, Martin Bridge Road at I-85 and a rail site in the north end of the county. That leaves plenty of other places for us to enjoy the beautiful scenery throughout the county.
"Shut the gate and throw away the key," is just one of the quotes I've heard on the issue. But since the law doesn't allow that to happen, we've got to deal with it.
Last week, I had the opportunity to represent the chamber of commerce at The Georgia Academy for Economic Development. This class will meet one time a month for four months and will basically promote regional development.
During the class, I learned that "you can plan for growth or be victimized by it." In one sense, I realize people would like for things to stay the way they are, but people are going to move here and demand services and the tax base is going to continue to increase. I would prefer to bring in environmentally-safe business and industry to help support it instead of paying more ad valorem taxes.
While I must agree that the $1.6 million we get each year from Banks Crossing is nothing to squawk at, I'd like to see us diversify and tap additional revenue sources. Officials are on track to market the industrial park for light industrial and office parks because they are easy on the infrastructure.
I also learned that catering to retirees would be an asset to the tax base. Bringing one retiree household to the community is like adding 3.6 manufacturing jobs, according to statistics presented in the class last week. This is because they do not demand a great deal of services or add to the school system.
Before last week, I thought of economic development only as soliciting new business and industry into the county. Last week, I found out that it is much more. The biggest factor in economic development is the existing business and industry we have in the county right now. Last year, 80 to 85 percent of all new jobs in the United States were from existing industry.
Yes, we should continue to strive to bring in additional business and industry, but our solution could be right under our nose. We should cater to the needs of our existing business and industry and be sure they continue to thrive. Hopefully, local companies can expand and become more profitable, while our tax base and employment opportunities grow. It should be a win-win situation for all.
Sherry Lewis is news editor of The Banks County News.


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