Jackson County Opinions...

 April 5, 2000




Editorials
The Jackson Herald
April 5, 2000

New courthouse annex effort full of hard choices
What kind of courthouse annex should Jackson County build and how should it be paid for?
Those were the two key questions facing members of the board of commissioners as they attempted to get the courthouse project out of the talking stages and into construction.
Everyone has known for a long time that a new courthouse annex is needed. There was no debate on that point.
What was under debate, however, were the issues of what it would look like, where it would be located and how much it would cost.
Those were darn tough issues and county leaders are to be commended for tackling such a difficult task. This week, the board of commissioners committed the county to a new courthouse annex by deciding on the architectural firm to oversee the project and on a financing package.
Those two votes were major steps and mark the real beginning of the annex project.
But while those votes were important, there are some important matters yet to be decided. First among those issues will be a resolution of the parking question. A facility the size of a new courthouse annex would require 300 parking spaces under county codes, says BOC chairman Jerry Waddell. But neither firm bidding for the architectural contract apparently allotted that amount of space.
When the courthouse advisory committee and the BOC decided to keep the courthouse in downtown Jefferson, one of the key issues was traffic and parking. Somehow, though, attention to all the other details let the parking question fall through the cracks. But whether with a parking deck or the purchase of additional land, adequate parking must be made available for the facility.
The answer to that question may answer the issue of how much to leave unfinished on the interior of the courthouse. The county can save some money by leaving part of the building for future buildout. But if too much is left for the future, the county won't have gained the additional space it needs now.
There is also some debate over the aesthetic look of the building. The two firms competing for the county's business offered two very different concepts. In the end, the style offered by The Leo Daly Firm won out, but even that design will no doubt undergo further changes as leaders refine the final architectural plans.
Finally, of course, is the question of money. In attempting to keep the project to under $10 million, county leaders have limited options available. Even at that level, a tax hike of some sort is likely, if not now, then down the road. The new Georgia Power plant will be a boon to the county's tax digest, but it won't alone pay for this new facility.
There are those who believe county leaders have been dragging their feet on the new courthouse. But what we have seen are county leaders befuddled by a slew of difficult choices for which there were no clear or easy answers.
But time pressures are mounting. It's important that the construction phase begin, not only because of growing space pressures, but also because of the looming change in county government. No one wants that new board to be saddled with these decisions so early in its life.
Whatever their differences on other county problems, county leaders must come together now in this critical phase of the annex development. Although this week's actions were a firm commitment to the project, a lot of work has yet to be done, work that will tax the experience and leadership of those making the decisions.


Editorial
The Commerce News
April 5, 2000

Work Ethic As Important As Education, Training
Jackson County business leaders found themselves drafted into an impromptu panel discussion last week at Jackson County Comprehensive High School about what employers want to see in people who apply for jobs.
One might have expected the major concerns to be about education. They weren't. The employers talked about the ability to think, about workers showing up on time, getting along with other people, being flexible, drug-free and being willing to work from the bottom up. In short, the major concern of those employers was less of the academic qualifications of the applicant than of the work ethic.
Maybe that is a sign of the times. With virtual full employment, yet "help wanted" signs in almost every business, the applicants employers see for entry-level jobs these days are not necessarily the cream of the crop. Anyone who has a decent work ethic and who wants a job can get one in today's climate. The problem is that businesses trying to fill low-wage slots have a small pool of unmotivated potential workers from which to draw employees.
Management of personnel is probably business' biggest headache. Whenever employers talk about the job market, they inevitably bring up horror stories of employees who accept a job Friday but fail to show up Monday, who quit after two days on the job, or who for any number of reasons make it clear they don't appreciate working.
The good news here is that anyone who is willing to start at an entry-level position can find work at entry-level wages. From there, it is up to the employee to grow; to build a record as a hard and diligent worker, to accept increasing amounts of responsibility.
The day will return when jobs are harder to find, when employers have more to choose from. The employee who has demonstrated a good work ethic in times of a tight labor market will still have a job when times get tough and will have the inside track as better jobs open.
Education, training and experience are all important to prospective employers, but none of them is as important as a good work ethic. That's information workers of all ages need to understand.


An Effort Of Cooperation
A diverse group will gather, rain or shine, Saturday morning at the Commerce reservoir to clean up the land around the lake. The event brings city workers, Banks County officials, local fishermen, Boy Scouts and residents of Banks County and Commerce together for a good morning's work.
The clean-up was brought about by the Game and Fish ranger for Banks County, Winford Popphan, who is a tireless worker on behalf of his county's natural resources. The city reservoir is located in Banks County.
Politically, Banks County and Commerce seem to be at odds as often as not, but Popphan has brought groups together to protect and beautify what is a resource for people of both jurisdictions. The water from the lake meets the needs of city residents and many Banks County businesses at Banks Crossing; the lake is a recreational resource for anyone who wants to use it. All parties have an interest in its preservation.
In that interest 20-60 people will turn out Saturday morning to pick up litter and debris and to restore the lake's shores to a more pristine state. If you're available, come on out and help; all materials will be provided, including a lunch. It's proof that with a good cause and some outside encouragement, political and territorial differences can be set aside for the common good.

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Column
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
April 5, 2000

Traits of good leadership
A couple of years ago, I wrote a column outlining six traits of good leadership. In this political season where people are announcing their candidacy for public office, the question of leadership is of paramount importance.
Leadership is more than being elected for public office. I've seen people in office who will never be leaders and I've seen leaders who will never hold public office. It's not the title that counts, it the ability to be effective.
The truth of public office is that it magnifies one's character flaws. The demands of public office often bring out the extremes in people, exaggerating either their virtues or their vices. In some instances, the same individual is polarized on both extremes, showing both good and bad traits at the same time. (Richard Nixon comes to mind).
So for all of those who are running for office, or thinking of doing so, here's one editor's list of what it takes to be a good leader. See if you see yourself in the following:

1. The ability to put things into perspective.
Public life involves all sorts of controversies and complex issues. Having the ability to deal with those details, yet not lose sight of the larger picture, is a key trait of good leadership. The ability to organize and prioritize are of paramount importance to good leadership.
2. The ability to get along with others.
Good leaders are good with people. Public service is rife with conflict and disagreements, but those who can debate and disagree on policy issues without getting entangled in personality conflicts make good leaders. Leaders should have the ability to control both their emotions and their tongue, remaining cool and calm on the outside even in the stormiest debates.
3. A core knowledge of the issues.
If you're going to run for public office, get to know what the issues are. Attend some meetings of the board or position you're running for. Amazingly, a number of people run for office without any idea of the issues the position will deal with. Public life is hard enough without looking foolish because you didn't bone up on the issues.
4. A realistic view of the issues.
Good leaders don't view the world as black or white. Most issues are complex and have many shades of gray. Often, the right answer to a problem isn't obvious; more difficult is the fact that many issues don't have a right answer at all, only a choice of "less-bad" answers. The key is knowing what issues require a tough stand and what issues require the ability to compromise.
5. A vision of where the government should go.
The day-to-day problems of government often distract leaders from looking down the road. But good leaders know the key to long-term success is having the ability to sense problems and issues before they become a crisis. Good leaders also know that it's important to plan ahead and to look beyond the next elections.
6. The ability to communicate.
The ability to articulate issues, problems, positions and decisions is key to good leadership. The complexity of public life taxes even the best minds, but those who can see the issues clearly and explain those complex problems are the real leaders. And don't be fooled - being a good public speaker does not necessarily make one a good communicator. We've all heard those who can speak in public well, but who say nothing of substance in the process.
Jackson County is facing a lot of difficult issues. The solution to those problems and opportunities will depend on those who are elected later this year.
So if you have the traits listed above, your community needs you - sign up and run for office. But if you only have a personal agenda and none of these traits, then please don't put your name on the ballot. Jackson County needs leaders, not leeaches.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.


Column
Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
April 5, 2000

New Technology For Taking Bad Photographs
As of next week's issue, The Commerce News will have gone digital with most of its photographs.
The sports photos will still be taken with conventional 35 mm cameras. The rest of the shots will be digital.
It's happening at the other MainStreet newspapers too. Those of us who shoot typical school, feature and other non-action shots were paired up Friday morning with brand new Kodak digital cameras, given a few rudimentary instructions, urged by photo guru Travis Hatfield to "please, please, read the owners' manual," and sent out over the weekend to take a lot of pictures.
My professional assessment of this new technology? It's cool.
The idea for the change is twofold; better quality and saving money. We no longer have to buy or process film, saving both time and money. Color reproduction should also be better. On the downside, we have no negatives to store for prosperity, although images will still be saved to CD ROM.
The real appeal, of course, is that for once I'm carrying into the field the latest piece of technology. That's quite a jump from the 30-year-old Nikon I've been using for years.
The new camera appears to have at least 156 possible settings for a whole menu of options, which means I am certain to discover that there are scores of new ways to screw up pictures. But I can review my photos right after they are taken and, if I don't like them, can immediately re-shoot them. Again and again, if necessary, until batteries wear out or patience erodes. With a conventional camera, you don't discover the blank or underexposed negative until you develop the film, by which time it is too late.
It has been my policy to resist all technological advances, a result of a childhood when one could look under the hood of a car and actually see the carburetor, a situation that technology has changed to the point where I can't even find the hood latch, much less the carburetor. The fear of change increased as the rate of change in technology accelerated, but at this point I have learned to surrender without a whimper. Why, five years ago, I'd have confronted management with ten arguments about why 35 mm cameras were superior to digital, supported by a monologue of the "if it ain't broken, don't fix it" genre.
Embracing technological changes is a first step; learning to use the new technology is another thing. I tried a new tactic. I read the owner's manual, which to this point has always been a step taken only when the new equipment lay in pieces on the ground.
I took a lot of pictures of the flowers in my yard, even of a yardstick on the ground (to test depth of field and focusing range), tested to see if the fill-in flash works (it does), and even hooked the camera up to the television set to view the pictures. I've zoomed in, zoomed out, shot in various kinds of lights and at various ranges.
But when the first opportunity to take a photo for the newspaper came, I didn't use it. Steven and I passed a serious wreck on I-85. I just couldn't expose it to the pouring rain. Sometimes new equipment is just too nice.
That'll change in a week or two, at which point I can begin discovering new ways to take bad pictures.

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