The Jackson Herald
March 29, 2000
Say 'No' to Internet
Within a few weeks, Congress may take
up the touchy issue of allowing sales taxes to be applied to
internet transactions. Many traditional retailers have pressured
Congress to allow internet sales taxes in order to "balance
the playing field." Some local and state governments are
also worried that a growth in internet sales will affect their
source of sales tax revenue.
But we are not convinced that internet sales should be subject
to a sales tax. Although the argument of a "level playing
field" sounds reasonable on the surface, it is not a valid
reasons to create a new tax. Consider:
· Internet sales are only a fraction of overall retail
sales in this country. They have not harmed the traditional retail
community in any substantial way.
· Many transactions done via the interent, such as prescription
drugs and travel products, are already exempt from sales taxes.
· There are thousands of different sales tax districts
in the nation. To track those sales for tax purposes would impose
a huge burden on small e-commerce retailers, which make up many
of the on-line merchants. Only large established retail firms
would be able to track those sales, thus slamming the door on
many small businesses that operate only on the internet.
· Those using the internet to make a purchase do not use
public infrastructure in the process. Since many sales taxes
are tied to specific public projects, it seems unfair to tax
a purchase made out of state to support a local road, park or
· Existing retail merchants have the opportunity to also
market via the internet. No merchant is locked into only selling
from traditional storefronts. Thus, the playing field will level
itself as traditional "bricks and motor" retailers
So our message to Congress is this: Continue the moratorium on
internet taxes until there is a compelling reason to consider
such taxation. So far, we see no such compelling reason.
The Commerce News
March 29, 2000
New Look At Subdivision
It appears to be a consensus of the Commerce
Planning Commission that a major overhaul of the city's subdivision
regulations is overdue. Members recently watched a video about
the effect of large-lot subdivisions on urban sprawl.
As we understand it, the concept to be considered is that developers
of larger subdivisions will be allowed to put houses on smaller
lots, but because they leave green space, the density of the
subdivision as a whole would be unaffected. In this concept,
the development would "cluster" housing, while leaving
sizable acreage open for recreation, buffer, whatever.
No change in policy has been made yet. Greg Perry, vice chairman
of the planning commission, has asked that the same presentation
be made to the mayor and city council to see if they agree with
the concept. If they do, expect some changes in subdivision regulations.
The idea has merit. It is, in effect, what the city was getting
at when it approved a large subdivision recently on Mount Olive
Road. In addition to keeping some open space to preserve the
character of the land, it can also reduce the costs of infrastructure
required to provide water, sewerage and other utilities to houses.
It also gives a more pleasing appearance and provides smaller,
more manageable lots, which could lead to more of a sense of
neighborhood among residents.
To date, sprawl has not been a consideration in planning in Jackson
County, much less Commerce. But as the growth pushed this way
by Atlanta accelerates and the fields and forests we've long
taken for granted are carved up into 1.5-acre lots, we need to
re-think our ideas about subdivisions if we are to retain any
of the rural character we enjoy. A different approach to regulating
subdivision development is certainly worth considering.
Award Not About Justice
A California jury has awarded a dying
woman and her husband $20 million in punitive damages from two
tobacco companies it apparently found responsible for the woman's
life-long smoking habit and the lung cancer it may have caused.
What makes the award significant is that it is the first time
cigarette companies have lost such a judgment for someone whose
smoking began after the Surgeon General's warning began appearing
on cigarette packages.
As hard as it is to side with tobacco companies, the judgment
sounds a clear warning that users of products which can cause
harm will not be held responsible for the damage those products
ultimately do. It is inconceivable that anyone in America who
started smoking after the Surgeon General's warning became a
mandatory part of the cigarette package can say they were misled
about the safety of cigarette smoking. But it has happened, and
a jury has bought the story to the tune of $20 million.
The concept of personal responsibility gets talked about by a
few politicians, but when there is money at stake, the responsibility
becomes corporate. Anyone with just a little bit of sense
say the ability to read knows that smoking is a hazard
to one's health. Those who opt to smoke because they think it's
cool or like the taste do so with the knowledge that they have
greatly increased the odds for a multitude of health problems.
Smoking is a matter of personal choice. The rules against smoking
in public places are designed to protect others from the ramifications
of the smokers' choice. But when a smoker comes down with lung
cancer after 30 years of ignoring the Surgeon General's warning,
the fault rests not with Big Tobacco, but with the smoker. A
$20 million award for the smoker is more about the exploitation
of a wealthy and unpopular (but legal) business than about justice.
The Jackson Herald
March 29, 2000
Aging boomers to change elderly healthcare
If there was ever any doubt that I'm getting
old, it was erased the other evening after tossing a baseball
with my kids. Sore arm. Sore shoulder. Sore back.
They said it was downhill after 40, now I believe it. In fact,
there's an entire generation of us aging baby boomers who consume
increasing amounts of medical services. We ain't as young as
we used to be.
So it's not surprising that various service industries are catering
to this aging population. Computers may be a growth industry
today, but caring for us old folks 20 years from now will be
the growth industry for the future.
The idea behind Northminster Presbyterian Homes in Jefferson
may not have been quite that direct, but there's little doubt
that the facility is positioned for growth in the coming years.
As an outgrowth of the Jefferson Presbyterian Church's efforts,
the facility is a marriage of church mission and private business.
A lot of people have given time and considerable funding to get
Northminster going and now the facility is looking toward the
future and even more growth.
Ken Brown was recently hired by the Northminster board as president
and CEO of the facility and has big plans for its future. With
20 years' experience in management and health care, Brown looks
around Northminster's acreage and sees a lot more than trees.
It is a vision of how an aging population will be cared for in
the coming decades, a vision that banishes the usual concepts
of nursing homes and other elderly care facilities. And with
a projected build-out population of around 300 people, Northminster
will be a city within a city.
Rather than corridors of rooms and beds of elderly people, Northminster
is betting on a combination of facilities and differing levels
of service, depending on the needs of its population. Better
health care has us living longer, and many elderly people have
the ability to live relatively independent lives. For those people,
Brown envisions detached living houses or duplexes that require
little maintenance and that are designed with the physical needs
of an elderly population. As those physical needs become more
dependent on others, the level of service would increase accordingly.
The idea isn't a totally new concept, having been practiced in
larger retirement communities around the nation. But it is rather
new to Georgia and certainly to this community.
Several months ago, I had to take one of the kids to the emergency
room on a Sunday afternoon. While we were waiting to see a doctor,
an elderly man and woman came in, she in a wheelchair and he
carrying two bags of medicine. I couldn't help but overhear the
conversation with the doctor - the man had driven some distance
to get to the hospital, even though he was on a powerful medication.
He didn't know what pills his wife should take or how many. She
had had a stroke and couldn't communicate. It was a pitiful scene
of two people who no doubt wanted to be independent, but who
were far past the time when they could take care of themselves.
Facilities like Northminster aren't the answer for all such situations.
It is, after all, a business, and such care doesn't come cheap.
But for those who have planned financially for their elderly
years, places like Northminster will become home. And with that,
the dynamics of us aging baby boomers will again change and evolve.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.
The Commerce News
March 29, 2000
It Beats All The Alternatives
On March 20, I hit the half-century mark
and, aside from a dip in the NASDAQ, nothing serious happened.
Some people get depressed when they hit certain decade marks.
Turning 30 and 40 never bothered me, but I assumed if there was
any milestone that might take me to the ledge on a tall building,
it would be turning 50 and being eligible for AARP membership.
I am happy to report that there is no need for anti-depressants,
and I can be trusted to use sharp objects.
It was a low-key affair. My family and I celebrated with my sister
and brother-in-law in a delightful dinner Saturday and the opening
of gifts on Sunday for my Monday birthday (an appropriate day
of the week for such an observation). Barbara vandalized my office
and on Tuesday, my computer and desk suffered similarly in Jefferson:
black crepe banners, references to being over the hill, but no
explosives or women bursting forth from cakes. Company policy,
People seem surprised that I was 50; perhaps they had guessed
55 or even 60, but having a birthday seems preferable to the
alternative, if you catch my meaning. As for being over the hill,
I went over the crest at age 30 and have been going downhill
ever since, though the rate of descent seems to increase every
I am determined to enjoy my senior citizen status. To exploit
it, really. There ought, after all, to be some rewards for getting
old. Some cultures actually honor their elderly, though I don't
live in one of those. America worships youth. We elderly have
to fight for anything we can get.
I've done some research and planning for being old.
The big advantage is that instead of being considered an SOB,
I now qualify for the adjective of "crotchety." Some
of the other attributes now expected of me include:
·driving slowly. It's safer with our deteriorating reflexe,
and "slowing down" is what we're supposed to do in
all aspects of our lives. Besides, we're pointing out everything
that's been built in the past three decades, destroying the way
things were in the old days.
·forgetting to do things. Now, maybe sympathy will replace
·need for naps. I'm not lazy when I take a nap; I'm old.
I need one.
·inability to cope with technology. Likewise, this has
always been a problem with me. With senior citizenship, I have
the right, the duty, actually, not only to curse the "new-fangled"
ways, but also to enlighten everyone around me with how much
better and simpler things were way back when. Over and over,
There are also some amenities of age:
·shopping discounts: I'm not sure if Warren's Package
Store carries a senior citizens' discount, but I'm going to demand
·status as a special interest group. "The elderly"
pack significant clout; at least, that's what the AARP would
have us believe.
·seniority: We can't work as hard, but we've been on the
job forever, so companies have to give us longer vacations. I'm
looking forward to five or six weeks off with pay each year.
·the right to be grandparents. Whoa! Give me another 10
years before that, please.