Jackson County Opinions...

 August 23, 2000

By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
August 23, 2000

After 23 Years The Beardsley Nest Is Empty
The last fledgling has flown; the Beardsley nest is empty.
With Steven's departure to the University of Georgia, Barbara and I are adjusting to a household without kids for the first time in almost 23 years. The quiet is sometimes overwhelming.
There were no tears shed as we left Steven in his UGA dorm room, but the absence of children is manifesting itself daily in a variety of small ways.
For example, Barbara doesn't know how to shop for groceries anymore. Steven required vast quantities of "snack" foods, those fattening (for older folks) morsels from Little Debbie cakes to Jell-O pudding cups to pecan twirls, and a variety of beverages to wash them down, from juices to soft drinks to "sports" beverages.
Milk, which used to disappear at an astounding rate thanks to Steven's concept of cereal as a snack food, may actually go bad in the refrigerator before we can use it. A pack of Klondike Bars could last for days before it is consumed.
When Laura went to college, Steven's presence in the house kept us feeling like a family. Now that he's gone, we're suddenly a couple ­ at least until the kids visit ­ and we're in a period of adjustment.
Now I come home to an empty house. There is no teenager to harass about making a mess, with whom to discuss the news or who can keep me current with the culture of youth. The TV is not on, nor the CD player, but the quiet is not always welcome. Where there was once life, there is stillness.
It is not all bad. It's nice not to have to fight for the paper or the remote control and to find the study available if I want to use the computer or take a nap. The house is also less disorderly.
But more than turning 30, 40 or even 50, the empty house validates my advancing age. I no longer have day-to-day responsibility for children; I'm a last-resort call if there's a problem and one of the people who still pays the education bills. Mostly, I am older.
For 23 years, our lives have revolved around our children, but now that center is removed and we have to fill up the hours with other matters.
For Barbara, who works 60 hours a week, that's not a large problem. But for me, well, some adjustments will have to be made. I suspect it's along the same lines as coping with retirement, though not so severe.
It really hits on Saturdays. My Saturdays usually involved fishing in the morning and doing things with Steven in the afternoon. That might be working on our two hives of bees or driving to Athens or Atlanta to some store, trips that will be remembered more for the time spent together than for whatever was acquired. He'll have new friends, probably a job and the University of Georgia to fill that time. Me, well, I've got to come up with something.
I don't begrudge the change. It's good to see the kids grow and mature. Laura is enjoying college at Georgia State; Steven will thrive at UGA. Barbara and I will readjust to living as man and wife, not Mom and Dad, and we're looking forward to having more time for each other.
Life goes on. Faster, it seems.

The Jackson Herald
August 23, 2000

Hoschton should stop hiding behind committees
Is the Hoschton City Council trying to hide something from its local citizens?
Maybe not, but a recent trend toward holding "committee" meetings to discuss important city issues appears to be an effort to keep these discussions out of the public eye.
When a majority of the council is present, the public, and the press, must be allowed to attend meetings. But when a committee meeting is held without a majority of the council present, the sessions can be held behind closed doors.
At a recent council meeting, there was tension among the members of the council over a planned committee meeting to talk about city water and sewage matters. That issue has long been controversial in the city due to the Panther Creek situation. The mayor even suggested that because water and sewer is such a big issue for the city, the full council attend the meeting.
But council member Paul Turman, who has pushed the committee meeting system, insisted that it not be discussed before the full council until after the committee had first met on the matter.
At another recent meeting, Turman told a reporter to leave the council meeting because it was about to go into a committee meeting. A majority of the council stayed for that meeting, which meant the reporter, or any member of the public, should not have been asked to leave.
It is time for Hoschton to quit hiding behind closed doors to discuss issues that impact all of its citizens.
The city council should have fewer committee meetings and more meetings open to the public.

The legacy of Jesse Ventura?
We realize that ex-wrassler and current Minnesota governor Jesse "The Body" Ventura redefined the meaning of a "political body slam," but we didn't know others would seek to follow in his unusual path.
But last week, a Jackson County politician did just that, only in reverse - a politician became a wrassler.
Rep. Scott Tolbert entered a staged ring in Atlanta early Friday morning to take down a disc jockey in a publicity stunt for 96 Rock radio station.
Frankly, we'd prefer that our public officials spend their time wrestling issues, not DJs.




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By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
August 23, 2000

Could you be a "Survivor"?
Wednesday night, millions of people will tune in to see which of four remaining "tribe" members will get the $1 million jackpot on the popular TV show, "Survivor." By the time you read this column, you'll know the answer.
I'm not sure why we've tuned into this show during the last two months. It is an obvious gimmick - putting a bunch of people on an island in the Pacific for a month under primitive conditions and filming them isn't exactly high culture.
I suppose I read "Lord of the Flies" too many times as a kid. That book, you may recall, has shipwrecked boys stranded on an island. It isn't long before the savage nature of humankind emerges as the boys shed any aspect of civilization.
Those on the "Survivor" show didn't have it quite so rough. Although they suffered some physical problems, and ate a few bugs, they were never in any real danger. At its core, the show was just a game to see who would win the money.
Still, the dynamics of the personalities on the show turned out to be far more compelling than any scriptwriter could have created: Sue, the tough and smart truck driver; Rudy, the crusty old man with an independent streak; Kelly, the sassy gal who has developed an "attitude"; and Rich, the star of the show with his Machiavellian scheming. Not since J.R. Ewing has a television show had a star that viewers love to hate more than Survivor's Rich.
Although the show is pure mindless entertainment, it does say something about the dynamics that exist within institutions. Every business, school, church and community has some of the same characters as Survivor. The difference is that most of our institutions don't exist as an island. The influence of others, both individually and collectively, moderates our behavior.
It's that idea that will be the theme of Wednesday's final Survivor show. Some of those already voted off the island will return to vote for the final winner. That decision will no doubt be affected by the experience those individuals had with the four remaining members. The actions of those four during the month on the island was no doubt moderated by the knowledge that their winning or losing would be determined by others.
I'm not sure that I would have survived on the island for more than a few days. The older I get, the more my taste for adventure gets muted.
Unless, of course, you put me on a deserted island with Kim Basinger for a month....
Speaking of survivors, the November election contests will soon be getting warmed up in Jackson County. We have 10 local races on the November ballot and four or five of those could become fairly intense during the coming weeks.
Two of the hottest races will be between incumbent Democratic Sen. Eddie Madden and challenger Republican Mike Beatty and between incumbent Republican Rep. Scott Tolbert and challenger Pat Bell. There's a lot of money being spent in those two races and the stakes are high for the overall state party politics.
Who will the survivors be?
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.

The Commerce News
August 23, 2000

Ordinance Will Mean Closer Scrutiny Of City
Perhaps it is a good thing that the city of Commerce has taken a stand on being "a city of ethics," but passing an ordinance doesn't necessarily make government or government officials ethical.
In fact, the ordinance has no provision for enforcement and no penalties should it be violated. That leaves it up to the city government to see that officials abide by the terms of the ordinance.
As a statement of principle for individual office holders and employees, the resolution passed at the August city council meeting is just fine. Participation in government should be about service, about professionalism and about treating people fairly.
Voters and taxpayers should expect that government officials serve the public not themselves, that they use the city resources with efficiency, that they treat all people fairly, that they use the power of their positions for the well-being of their constituents and that they operate in an environment of openness and integrity.
Passage of the ordinance doesn't raise the bar of ethical expectations one bit, but a city's declaration of ethical intent does raise the public consciousness. Having seen the city council vote unanimously to accept this standard, citizens will be more sensitive than ever to conflicts of interest and other lapses that could be called into question.
That's good. There may be no criminal penalties for violation of the ordinance, but every council member's action is subject to review by the court of public opinion. Voters have always expected their government to be honest and ethical. Now they will demand it, and rightly so.

Regulations Should Mesh
Jackson County seeks public input on a state proposal to set aside 20 percent of its land for "gree n space." Commerce has a subdivision moratorium in place while it ponders an ordinance that will require as much as 50 percent green space set aside in each subdivision.
Clearly, both governments are trying to come to grips with the increasing development and corresponding decreasing of open space and trying to preserve rural qualities as the city and county grow. They should work together.
The goal is the same: to protect the community against rapid and ill-advised growth and to preserve its character.
As the county and its municipalities try to plan how best the growth can be managed, they need to present a united front in some broad areas. With Nicholson about to approve a zoning ordinance, soon all of the county will at least have zoning. But not all areas will require curb and gutters in subdivisions, or the setting aside of open areas. Not all will develop impact fees or proportionate share fees to offset some of the costs of providing water and sewer services and other amenities. Provisions regarding telecommunications towers or billboards will differ.
Our land use regulations cannot be effective if they vary greatly from one jurisdiction to the next and our county will be less attractive in 20 years if the careful protection devised by one jurisdiction is undermined by much less restrictive regulations of the next. The varying zoning and subdivision regulations need to mesh.
Our three school systems communicate through regular meetings among the superintendents; the county as a whole could profit if our elected leaders and planning and building inspection officials had similar sessions. Right now, while growth is at the top of every government's list of concerns, the efforts to manage it are being made piecemeal. Jackson County and its municipalities could better deal with growth if they worked together and coordinated efforts wherever possible.

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