Jackson County Opinions...

 March 8, 2000




Editorials
The Jackson Herald
March 8, 2000

Jefferson leaders need to walk
Now that Jefferson voters have approved a bond referendum for a new middle school, City of Jefferson leaders need to take a walk.
Literally.
We'd like for members of the Jefferson City Council to walk up along Lynn Avenue to Hoschton Street and then turn left on Old Pendergrass Road for about one-half mile. After that, we'd like them to proceed back down Old Pendergrass to Hoschton Street going north and out Holder Siding Road.
If there are any city council members left who don't get run over by a vehicle, we'd like them to explain to us how elementary and middle school children are supposed to get around the growing school complex without being hit by a car.
Most of that area doesn't have any sidewalks, yet it is booming with new houses. Dozens of children already walk to school along those dangerous roads, but many more could safely walk to school if the city would invest in some sidewalk construction.
We realize that the city can't put sidewalks along every street in town, nor should it attempt to do so. But at the very minimum, it should provide for safe walking areas around the city schools. Not only is that good for children who might walk to school, but it is also good for students who may need to get from one school to another.
The recently approved special purpose local option sales tax will allow road funds to also be used for sidewalk construction. We believe Jefferson should allocate a large part of those funds for new sidewalks in the city, starting at the school complex and later extending into other areas of the city.
Jefferson has a lot of small town charm. But it does not have a good network of walking paths or sidewalks.
City leaders should get off the dime and go to work on that.


Editorial
The Commerce News
March 8, 2000

Nicholson Library Could Be Asset To Community
The Nicholson City Council put some attention Monday night on an issue that really needs attention ­ the Harold S. Swindle Public Library.
A library should be a community center, but the Nicholson library has not proven to be an important public institution. Its inventory of books is apparently stale, its reference materials out of date, its programs very limited and the traffic through the building hardly justifies it's being open.
That can be changed; it must be changed, and it appears that the city council wants the library to be a viable, interesting and useful place to visit.
There are several things the town council can do to help the library.
First, it can embrace technology. The city and its library have been hesitant to support moves to bring in computers and access the Internet in the past, partly due to fiscal concerns. That, apparently, is no longer the case. The town council realizes that Internet access is important to the library.
The city and its librarian can talk to the Piedmont Regional Library about what can be done to increase the number of books and to update reference materials. With the Internet available, a library need not carry as much of that on its shelves as in past years, but up-to-date encyclopedias, atlases and other materials are essential.
The library can also actively promote reading through such programs as Story Hour and the summer reading programs. It can build its inventory by appealing to area residents to donate books. It can build a network of support through the creation of a Friends of the Library chapter.
Nicholson has a good library building, the foundation upon which a strong library can be built. Hopefully, the city council will continue to seek improvements, and the community will rally behind it to make the Harold S. Swindle Public Library the institution it should be.


Spread Out Primaries
While the buildup to Super Tuesday has been interesting, a day in which more than a dozen states all over the country select delegates does more to harm than help the election process.
By Wednesday, in all likelihood, the races for the Democratic and Republican nominations for president will be all but over. Voters in states with upcoming primaries will have been essentially eliminated from the process.
For yesterday's primaries, the four viable candidates left had to conduct campaigns on opposite sides of the country, finance advertising in a multitude of markets and had to try to get their messages out in states where time prohibited them from visiting. It isn't fair to the candidates or to the voters.
A more reasonable process would be to stage caucuses and primaries so they fall regularly and in manageable numbers so candidates can prepare for each. Primaries and caucuses could be staged weekly, every two weeks or in small groups every month, creating a nomination process that is viable for months. That process would allow candidates to visit each state and to have the time to conduct meaningful debate, hold informed discussions and mix with the electorate. We've seen in the preparation for Super Tuesday that the campaign is conducted by press release, by polished commercials and by a few visits to states where the most delegates are available.
It is a rare circumstance when after Super Tuesday there are two competitive candidates remaining in either party. Thus, voters in states who hold primaries and caucuses after the first Tuesday in March are essentially eliminated from the process. A longer primary process would give voters more time to see what each candidate offered, to make judgments about character, record and capabilities and would bring more people into the selection process.


Letter
The Jackson Herald
March 8, 2000

Says educational reform would come at high price
Dear Editor:
As you are aware, Governor Barnes has been pushing education reform. While I am a supporter of smaller classrooms and teacher accountability, I wonder if parents realize the ultimate price we and our children are going to pay?
I have done some asking and here is what I have found:
·Elementary schools may lose all parapros with the exception of special education.
·Middle schools may lose all parapros and band, chorus, art, ag tech. and computer courses.
While decreasing class size, more teachers will need to be hired. We will need more classrooms and more schools. Where is all the money going to come from for this?
While all the "extras" may be cut from the middle school, no athletic programs are being cut. What message does this send the children who do not excel in sports?
Music, band and art are all a part of education. Not every child excels in sports.
I urge the parents in this county to call your elected representatives and the governor. Let them know how you feel.
Sincerely,
P. Mead

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Column
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
March 8, 2000

Candidates should make independent decisions
Tell me it ain't so.
There's a political rumor going around that some of the current three county commissioners (no one names names, of course) have offered to "help" the five new county commissioners who will be elected later this year. It's an offer that may seem reasonable, but is really outrageous.
But first, a little background. As most people know, this is the last year of the current three-member board of commissioners. A new county government made up of five commissioners will take office Jan. 1, 2001. The law that created this new board also created the formal position of a county manager. It will be the hired county manager, not the elected commissioners, who will run the county on a day-to-day basis.
For those unfamiliar with the details, it is a "strong" county manager government. The legislation creating the new government details the powers of the manager and of the elected board of commissioners. The manager will have broad powers to run the county and the board will be a policy-making group rather than a hands-on group.
It will be a dramatic, and perhaps unsettling, change for a county accustomed to having elected commissioners running the day-to-day county government.
Maybe the thought of losing power to an appointed official is so upsetting that at least one, if not more, of the current three commissioners (no one names names, of course) has offered to "help" the newly elected board by going ahead this year and hiring a county manager.
The idea was told to me something like this: After the elections are concluded for the five new commission seats later this year, the current three commissioners would meet with the five soon-to-be commissioners. Together, that group would hire a county manager in late 2000 so that he would be in place when the new board took office Jan. 1, 2001.
The reasoning behind the idea, so I was told, was to effect a smooth transition from the current government to the new government.
Sounds good, but is total baloney. What is really at play is an effort by some of the current board to control what happens long after they have left office. Knowing that the county manager will be the county CEO, they want to have a say in who that person will be.
If the five newly elected board members go along with this scheme, they will have betrayed the trust of the voters who created the new government structure and put them in office. The overwhelming approval of a new government came because of a deep-seated mistrust of the existing system. The public clearly wants to break with the past, both in system and personalities.
There is no valid reason for allowing the current county government to participate in the hiring of a county manager. When the new board takes office Jan. 1, it can appoint an interim manager to operate the county's business until that group has time to go through a formal search and hiring of a county manager.
Of all the decisions the new board will make in 2001, the hiring of a county manager will be the most important. That process needs a lot of thought and foresight. More importantly, it needs to be done independently of those with ties to the past system of government whose views may cloud the real issues at stake.
So far, only two candidates, Sammy Thomason and Stacey Britt, have announced for the new commission seats. In the coming weeks, others will be tossing their hats into those races as well.
One question voters should ask all those candidates is this: Will you be able to make decisions independently, or will you allow the politics of the past to make those decisions for you?
(Note: Commissioner Pat Bell called Tuesday, saying she had heard about this same idea and was opposed to having the current board play a role in the hiring of a county manager.)
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.


Column
Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
March 8, 2000

Confessions Of A Would-Be Primary Hijacker
I confess. I tried to hijack the Republican Primary Tuesday.
There wasn't anything going on in the Democratic Primary. C'mon, why waste a vote on Al Gore or Bill Bradley when you know what the outcome of that contest will be?
I like the George W. Bush-John McCain contest. It's been nasty, of course, but there's enough difference between the two candidates to give Republicans something to think about. Why should they have all the fun? After all, we've suffered through Clintonia for eight years too. I like Bill Bradley, because it's about time we put a power forward in the White House, but Bradley's been running like a beaten man for a month. Tuesday was his last, faint hurrah. McCain, on the other hand, with a few wins Tuesday, might stay around awhile. Not that I was expecting him to fare well in Georgia.
Hijack is such a harsh word. Pat Robertson used it first as a way of trying to make George W's loss in Michigan look less embarrassing. I still don't follow. The party opens its primary to all comers, then complains when people accept the invitation. Will Pat complain in November if Independents and Democrats put marks beside the names of Republican candidates?
Probably. You know Pat.
What should start really scaring the Republicans after the results of Tuesday's primary is the possibility that all of those Independents and Democrats who voted for McCain really liked him and would have supported him in November against Boring Al Gore. You see, some of us hijackers see McCain as a good alternative to both Gore and Bush, but if it comes down to a Gore-Bush race in November, it's going to be a lot harder to go Republican.
The polls say McCain could beat Gore, but not Bush. Likewise, the polls say Bush could beat McCain, but not Gore. Since the whole point is to win the last race, the polling data seems to suggest that we hijackers are the swing votes in the presidential election.
Voting in the Republican Primary was an unsettling experience. The ballots for the Democrats were white. Those for Republicans were blue. There I was, a Yellow Dog Democrat, trying to conceal my blue ballot. I've never voted so quickly in my life.
As I walked out of the polling place, I expected to be interviewed by FOX News, CNN or one of the many organizations conducting exit polls so they can announce primary winners before the polls close. I was disappointed, so as the local media, I conducted a brief exit poll of my own. I interviewed myself, found I had voted for McCain, and called the election for the Arizona senator. That may be as close as he comes to victory.
There would be some good to come from this if Alan Keyes would go ahead and drop out. Keyes' politics are not so bad, but he's the most annoying candidate to run for president since Ross Perot. With nary a chance of getting as much as 10 percent of the vote, all Keyes managed to do was dilute the few face-to-face Republican debates. But Keyes will probably keep plugging, just so he can be introduced and announced as "the next president" at the GOP convention.
As for us hijackers, if our voting Republican now makes the GOP mad, they shouldn't ask for our votes in November.
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