Jackson County Opinions...

 July 12, 2000

Adam Fouche
The Commerce News
July 12, 2000

'Rutabagas Kill You'
Recent Report Finds

I don't care for rutabagas too much. In fact, I hate them.
For a while, I thought my dislike for this so-called vegetable lay only in its taste and smell. But the results of a recent study show my fears were not unwarranted.
The Georgia Association of Vegetable Advocates (GAVA) recently published the results of a 10-month study conducted at the National Institute of Plants, Botany Division, Consumption Sect at the University of Georgia.
Researchers, two of whom died during the study, found rutabagas to be "extremely dangerous." In fact, the group said rutabagas were "more dangerous than Ricky Martin music."
The initial results of the study intrigued me, and I contacted research director Dr. Ernie Pottlemore at GAVA to get more information.
"We have issued a warning to all vegetable consumers in North America," he told me. "Don't eat rutabagas. You'll die."
The research team, composed of four high school drop-outs and three state representatives, concluded that anyone who eats a rutabaga will die. Even more astonishing, the team found that 73 percent of all deceased Americans have eaten at least one rutabaga.
A press release I received from GAVA early Tuesday morning offered even more information, including the following statistics:
·94 percent of all federal prison inmates have eaten, seen, heard of, touched or dreamed about a rutabaga.
·68 percent of all traffic accidents involve a driver who was under the influence of rutabagas. Of those, three-fourths have a blood-rutabaga content (BRC) above the legal limit of .10 grams or more per 100 mL of blood.
·Half of all pregnancies involve a rutabaga.
·82 percent of all mental hospital patients say rutabagas have tried to attack them.
Pottlemore told me he was first alerted to the rutabaga problem after hearing about a woman in Thunderbolt, Ga., who was injured when a crate full of rutabagas fell on her and scratched her arm.
"Apparently, the young lady scratched her arm when a crate full of rutabagas fell over," the doctor said.
I, myself, looked up "rutabaga" in the dictionary and found the word to mean "a turnip having a large, yellowish root used as food by humans and livestock."
Clearly, rutabagas are "large" and "yellowish" and should only be eaten by "livestock."
I hope those of you who eat rutabagas will cease immediately. Heed GAVA's warnings, they are very serious.
As for the local grocery stores, I urge you, as a public service, stop selling rutabagas. The next victim of a rutabaga incident could find legal grounds to sue. At least that is what my attorneys tell me.
If any of you come in contact with a rutabaga, do not touch it, do not cook it and please don't eat it. The danger is real.
Adam Fouche is a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers.

The Jackson Herald
July 12, 2000

Anti-growth shrillness has hollow ring
That growth should dominate the local elections this year isn't surprising. In all counties where economic expansion takes place, growth and its related issues take center stage on the political agenda.
While there's nothing wrong with such a debate, there is something wrong with the shrillness that has come to frame the issue. Here, and in other counties, anti-growth candidates rise to exploit voter frustrations. Last week, one local candidate said "greed fuels growth." Other candidates have likewise demonized growth as the bane of all evil. In fact, one candidate voices the idea that government should rule over individual property rights.
Now, we realize that with economic expansion comes an expansion of certain problems. But we do not believe that growth is just a product of "greed," or that the answer to dealing with growth is to instill a Socialist government to regulate our lives. Such simplistic views have no place in a serious discussion about how our county should deal with growth issues.
We have said it before and we'll repeat it again: Growth brings certain problems, but those problem are preferable to those faced by dying communities where there is no growth.
Have we forgotten that just a few years ago, there were few housing options in Jackson County?
Have we forgotten that just a few years ago, there were few job options in Jackson County?
Have we forgotten that just a few years ago, our county had one of the most negative reputations in the state as a haven for organized crime?
We fear that our community's institutional memory has become short - we're so busy complaining about the extra traffic that we've lost sight of just how far this county has come during the last two decades.
Rather than exploiting this for political gain, we'd like to see local candidates offer some real, workable ideas about how Jackson County should prepare for growth.
It's our view that our local governments should certainly be engaged in the growth problems, but that engagement should focus on how to provide the necessary infrastructure to handle this growth and on the appropriate process for managing growth.
The anti-growth candidates may be tapping into voter frustration for political gain, but they have not offered Jackson County any workable ideas.
Such shrillness without substance has a hollow ring.

Letter To The Editor
The Jackson Herald
July 12, 2000

Says editorial only 'scratched the surface'
Dear Editor:
I thought that your editorial of July 5th, regarding the infringement of rights guaranteed by the 1st Amendment to the Constitution, was right on; however, it barely scratched the surface. Freedom of speech is most certainly becoming the pawn of "political correctness." Witness the John Rocker bruhaha because of his negative comments about New Yorkers. Ty Cobb, who is still honored as an outstanding baseball player, was certainly one of the most offensive celebrities ever and yet never was the object of the type of outrage that Rocker has become.
The fines and examples that you mentioned in your column were incredible. Who is making these decisions? And why are we, the people, so complacent that we just sit back and watch this type of thing insidiously creeping into every aspect of our daily lives?
What has changed? I believe that our government, with the voluntary or forced help of some of the media, is eroding the essence of freedom intrinsic to the Constitution. Free speech and the other related rights stipulated in the 1st Amendment are being re-interpreted so that they only apply when the government wants them to apply. Similarly, the right to bear arms, guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment, is also undergoing a slow and methodical erosion. Additionally, there is evidence that the 4th Amendment, security within our houses from unwarranted search and seizure, is undergoing a subtle erosion that has accelerated in recent years. I viewed the pictures of the raid to extract Elian Gonzalez with amazed disgust; the question of whether or not there was a legal warrant issued has still not been resolved. Another example is justified by the "war against drugs." The government feels that it is justified in simply taking your money if you are found to be carrying $10,000 or more on your person on the theory that only drug dealers would be carrying that much money. Or how about your property if someone decides that you are growing marijuana on your land? Gone.
Put this all together and it forms the shadowy outline of a terrifying trend. What happens when we find ourselves severely punished for expressing our ideas, forbidden to own firearms unless the government says it's OK and subject to searches and the confiscation of our property at the whim of the government? If you are sitting there thinking that I'm paranoid and that this could never happen to you, think again. And if you are as concerned as I am, call, email or write all of your representatives ­ today! There is an election coming up and now is the time to make yourself heard.

Sincerely, R. Wigton

By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
July 12, 2000

Handicapping the
chairman's race

This year's elections will be important to the future of Jackson County. The new five-member board of commissioners will set the stage for the decade to come - if they do well, Jackson County will do well. But if they slip into nasty political backbiting, Jackson County will suffer.
Of primary interest in next Tuesday's balloting is the race for chairman of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners. Since all three candidates are running as Republicans, that race will be decided this summer.
Under the new form of government, the chairman will be a key player in the dynamics of the entire board. It will be the chairman who must keep the board focused and who must see that it doesn't get sidetracked on minor issues. It is the chairman who will play a key role in the day-to-day communication with the county manager. And it is the chairman who must attempt to build consensus on the board around the important issues facing Jackson County.
Fortunately for voters, two of the three candidates have the qualifications to fill that position and do a credible job. Both Harold Fletcher and Tommy Stephenson have the skills needed to lead Jackson County in the coming years. And although their styles are different, they both have taken similar positions on the key issues facing Jackson County.
Candidate Roy Grubbs is also in that race and while he brings some worthy ideas to the table, his views on individual property rights are frightening. Grubbs, who is making his first run for political office, believes that people don't really own property, only certain government-granted rights to property. In his view, individual rights of property ownership are secondary to governmental control. It is a quasi-Marxists view - that the good of the many outweigh the rights of the individual. His views on this are not only extreme, but in the context of zoning and land use planning, illegal. Growth may bring problems, but I don't think Jackson County property owners are willing to give up their individual rights as land owners and install a Marxist-style government to dictate their future.
While both Fletcher and Stephenson recognize the difficulties of managing for growth, both are former county commissioners and have no illusions about what lies ahead. Both know that hiring a county manager will be the most important decision this new board will soon face and both have similar views about how that should be done.
With two strong candidates having staked out similar stands on issues, voters are left to decide this race based on the individual styles of these two men. In that department, they do have some differences.
Stephenson is the consummate politician who has seldom been a polarizing force in politics. He isn't overly sensitive to criticism nor does he appear to get upset when he loses a political fight. And Stephenson has avoided being allied with any particular group over the years. If he keeps counsel with anyone, it isn't obvious.
Fletcher is more intense than Stephenson and has been known to take unpopular positions because he thought it was right. Some of that was put on him, however, during his last tenure on the board. He and Henry Robinson, who was chairman at that time, had a "good cop, bad cop" routine where Fletcher would play the outspoken critic on an issue to get it to the surface so that Robinson as chairman could be the peacemaker and deal with it. That role didn't endear Fletcher to some, but it was a role that ultimately served the larger interests of Jackson County well.
Fletcher says that in hindsight, he made some mistakes during his earlier terms, perhaps having played the "heavy" a few too many times. He claims to have mellowed in the years since he came off the board and says he has come to appreciate dissenting views more than in the past.
So the question for voters next week, is which of these styles is best for Jackson County in the coming years? Will Fletcher's stronger style be the kind of visionary leadership the fledgling new government needs, or will Stephenson's softer style of consensus-building work best? And which style will work best with a new county manager? Indeed, that's difficult to gauge because much of that will depend on the personality and style of the manager himself.
Between Stephenson and Fletcher, the decision revolves more around style than substance. And for voters, that isn't a bad thing.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.

The Commerce News
July 12, 2000

The News' Picks
For Tuesday's Primaries

The election of five brand new Jackson County commissioners makes the 2000 election cycle among the most important in the county's history. The new commissioners will be responsible for establishing the new form of government to be created as a result of last year's referendum.
No longer will there be one full-time commissioner who virtually runs the county and two part-time commissioners who supposedly have equal power but who actually don't. Under the new government, there will be five part-time commissioners and a county manager, whose responsibility it will be to run the government according to the policies established by the commissioners.
It is a more effective and efficient form of government, but the effectiveness depends upon the commissioners ­ who they hire as county manager and how willing they are to let the manager do his job. The transition can be smooth, but it can also be quite ugly.
Also under the new system, only the chairman runs at-large. The other four commissioners are elected from districts, a system which assures that all areas of the county will have some representation. It also means that each voter will be able to cast ballots for only two commission candidates, the at-large chairman and a candidate from the voter's district.
In a small county like Jackson, many of the voters know one or all of the candidates in any given race and are likely to have made up their minds as to how they will vote. The News is not so pretentious as to try to tell voters how to cast their ballots, but for those who have not yet made up their minds, consider the following:
For Chairman: Harold Fletcher is the candidate who offers the most for this important job. Fletcher has experience as a county commissioner, during which time he was largely responsible for keeping county operations in the black. He has been successful in industry and in private business. He is not the best politician of the three candidates, but he is serious about providing the leadership Jackson County needs.
Fletcher's most prominent opponent is former Commerce mayor Tommy Stephenson. Stephenson has also been a state representative and a county commissioner, but he quit the latter post to run for yet another office. Stephenson's interest is politics; he knew long before he decided to run for chairman that he would run for something ­ state senate, state representative, chairman ... and there is no telling when he might quit in the middle of his term in office to seek yet another post. In addition, Stephenson lacks business experience, handling financial issues is not among his strengths, and his suggestion that he would consider current chairman Jerry Waddell as an interim county manager is scary. Fletcher is by far the best choice.
For commissioner, District 2: Sammy Thomason is the choice on the Democratic ballot. Thomason has a long history of service in the Commerce area, from his church to the Commerce Kiwanis Club to the Industrial Development Authority. He has also operated a successful dental practice.
For commissioner, District 4: Kenneth Bridges gets the nod over Tony Beatty for the district that includes Nicholson, South Jackson and the Arcade area. Bridges has the education, common sense and experience to serve his district well.
For Sheriff: On the Republican side, Stan Evans, incumbent, is the choice. He has the experience, a reputation for honesty and in the past four years there has been no compelling reason not to re-elect him. On the Democratic side, Steve Gary is the candidate with the experience in law enforcement and jail management.
For Coroner: Keith Whitfield has served well and deserves re-election. He also works locally and has experience working with law enforcement personnel.

Jackson County Opinion Index

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