The Commerce News
August 30, 2000
For REAL Good
TV, Can't Beat Little League
Perhaps missing the final episode of "Survivor" will
become a generational shortcoming, sort of like missing Woodstock
in the 60s, but while 50 million people were trying to figure
out who would win the CBS "reality TV" cash prize last
Wednesday, I was watching Little League World Series baseball
on ESPN2. It never even occurred to me to switch to CBS.
I "discovered" LLWS baseball last year. It's the best
baseball on TV because every game is huge to each and every 11-and
12-year-old boy on each team. Emotions run high, but so do skill
levels. I watched one pitcher take a perfect game into the seventh
inning (regulation play is six), saw a diving grab and backhand
flip as Saudi Arabia beat Canada and witnessed some pretty sophisticated
coaching and pitching from the Bellaire, Texas, U.S. champs.
I saw a great bunch of big athletes from the Bronx beaten in
extra innings by a New Hampshire squad that looked like midgets
by comparison, and I saw the Texas catcher save a run by blocking
the plate like Mike Piazza.
Baseball is my sport. Football is OK and watching basketball
is better than having a hemorrhoid lanced, but a good baseball
game is something to savor. I'll take a low-scoring contest,
given the option, and watch the strategies unfold as managers
and players try to steal a run.
But above all, baseball is a kids' game. It may be that the pros
have a good time, but when you watch a Little League all-star
game, you see kids having a great time.
I pitched for our Little League all-star team, losing the eliminating
game in the state tournament, an extra-inning affair, thanks
to an umpire's bad call. But when I watched the LLWS last week,
the baseball I saw was a lot better than what we played in 1962.
The 12-year-olds take the game seriously in that they play hard
and smart and, above all, to win, but not so seriously that they
throw tantrums and pout when they lose. They know it's just a
game, even if some of their parents haven't worked that out yet.
The games were as exciting as any World Series competition. There
were great defensive plays, heads-up baserunning, pitchers striking
out the side after loading the bases with no outs, diving catches
and clutch hits from the eighth and ninth spots in the lineup.
Reserves came in to get big hits, pitchers threw change-ups for
strikes, and there was a 12-year-old with a mustache.
It was a different kind of "Survivor" on ESPN2, the
kind where the fittest team for six (or seven) innings survived
and the other was eliminated. There were no silly contests, no
votes to see who was put out and no cash prize for the winner.
The American public's taste in entertainment is always subject
to analysis. That "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire,"
"Survivor," "Big Brother," and the others
are considered "reality" shows is bizarre. They are
invitations to a voyeuristic escape from reality, and the fact
that so many people are entranced by them says. a lot about our
Little League is baseball at its purest. The 11-and 12-year-olds
are fun to watch and the games are exciting. They're also real.
The Jackson Herald
August 30, 2000
on Water Wise deal long on words, short on the truth
After months of staying quiet about his role in the Water Wise
affair, Rep. Scott Tolbert responded to critics last week by
saying his work for the firm was only attempting to "ease
the burden on the taxpayers of this county."
Unfortunately, Rep. Tolbert's words were more about easing the
burden of his political career than about the truth. Once again,
he attempted to mislead the public about the depth of his own
role in that controversy.
Let us be specific:
·Rep. Tolbert claimed that Water Wise had made offers
to the county water and sewer authority that were "both
realistic and economically beneficial for the county." Water
Wise did indeed attempt to get the authority to sign off on its
dealings, but that group balked when it realized that it was
not in the community's interest to allow a private sewage company
to have control over the county's future growth. The terms set
forth by Rep. Tolbert and Water Wise were not beneficial for
·Rep. Tolbert said he was only the "closing attorney"
when Water Wise purchased the old Texfi facility and that only
after the county condemned the plant was his law firm of Tolbert
& Elrod hired by Water Wise. But the truth is, both he and
other members of his family were deeply involved in the Water
Wise negotiations and dealings long before the county filed a
suit to condemn the Texfi plant. Rep. Tolbert cannot rewrite
the history of his entanglements now that he wants to distance
himself from Water Wise for political reasons.
·Rep. Tolbert said he is "no longer affiliated in
any way with the City of Pendergrass" and attempted to distance
himself from the July 1999 meeting when the Pendergrass City
Council was mislead by Water Wise. But the truth is, Rep. Tolbert's
law firm attempted to represent both Pendergrass and Water Wise
in that deal until this newspaper pointed out the obvious conflict
of interest. Rep. Tolbert played a key role in setting up that
1999 meeting as a ruse to end-run the county water authority.
To do that, Rep. Tolbert used his brother, the mayor, and his
father, a city councilman, to mislead the council about the real
intentions of Water Wise. To say he is unfamiliar with all of
that simply isn't the truth.
·Rep Tolbert said Pendergrass was "eager" to
get sewage and voted to approve the signing of a Trust Indenture
with Water Wise. The truth is, the Trust Indenture was never
mentioned in that 1999 meeting, although his brother the mayor
did indeed sign it the following day. Whatever the rest of the
city council believed, Tolbert family members on the city council
and Rep. Tolbert himself knew that there would not be a sewage
plant in Pendergrass. (Where is it?) All they wanted was a government
signature on a key document Water Wise needed for an EPD permit.
·Rep. Tolbert said his attempt to gut Sen. Eddie Madden's
bill that gave local governments final say over private utility
firms' power to condemn land was an effort to defend the state's
businesses. He also said he was not "arguing on behalf of
Water Wise" when he made that effort on the floor of the
state House of Representatives. Poppycock! Rep. Tolbert blatantly
used his public position in an attempt to stop legislation that
would curtail the power of Water Wise, his private legal client.
Not only that, when questioned by a fellow legislator, he denied
that he had anything to do with Water Wise. That Rep. Tolbert's
effort to gut the bill failed 107-53 shows that even his legislative
colleagues saw through his attempt at deceit. Of all his actions,
this one on the floor of the state House was the worst.
Rep. Tolbert said in Tuesday's political forum that he's "disgusted"
with the political process. But if the political process has
been compromised, it is because of politicians like Rep. Tolbert
himself - politicians who openly use their public positions for
We agree, Rep. Tolbert - "disgusted" is a very good
word to describe how we feel about both your words and your actions.
The Jackson Herald
August 30, 2000
Last week, I had the opportunity to talk briefly with the new
class of Leadership Jackson County. Sponsored by the Jackson
County Area Chamber of Commerce, the leadership program is designed
to expose participants to a variety of timely issues and to foster
a better understanding of leadership skills.
Many in this year's Leadership Jackson class are already leaders.
Others will no doubt soon be leaders in various public and private
efforts. All recognize how important leadership is to Jackson
Because news reporters spend a lot of time talking with various
community leaders, we often get a unique look at the inner dynamics
of local leadership. I don't know if that makes us better judges
of those involved in community leadership, but it does make us
sensitive to the demands of leadership.
Each month, this newspaper covers nine town councils, three school
boards, a board of commissioners, a county water authority, a
regional water authority, a planning commission and a host of
lower-profile events and officeholders. Altogether, we come in
contact with well over 100 leaders each month in Jackson County.
(That doesn't count those leaders from Banks and Madison Counties
where we also publish newspapers.)
From this broad perspective, there are several general observations
about leadership that seem to be consistent no matter what group
1. Individuals matter. While most public decisions are made by
committees of people, individual leadership is important to the
final outcome. Different people have different skills and each
one is valuable in the decision-making process. The top leader
in a group, however, is the person who can synthesize those various
ideas into a cohesive package that leads to a final decision.
2. Personality does matter. People who get along well with others
are generally more effective leaders. No matter the details of
an issue, those who are sensitive to opposing views and who can
"agree to disagree" on matters of policy are more effective
than those who attempt to ram their views through a board.
3. Wide views are more important than narrow perspectives. Those
who can keep some distance between themselves and individual
issues are generally more effective than those who pursue single
agendas. People with narrow agendas in public life usually wind
up sounding like a broken record. Those who have the ability
to weigh the issues and keep the various issues in perspective
usually wind up making the best decisions.
4. A focus on public service rather than self-service is important.
Those who enter public positions thinking they will find a way
to enrich themselves personally generally make bad decisions.
If the focus of a leader is on himself and not the public, he
won't be a good leader.
5. Respect for the process is important. Those who have the patience
to make sure issues are handled properly are better leaders than
those who let their impulses control their actions. Just as important
as the final outcome is the process to that outcome. If the process
is compromised by end runs and impatience, the final outcome
will be tainted.
6. Moral authority is important. Actions don't exist in a vacuum
and policy leaders should ask themselves one question about every
decision: "Is this the right thing to do?"
7. There is no substitute for common sense. All too often, leaders
let themselves get tangled up in a legal or bureaucratic web.
Some of that is to be expected, but good leaders also know when
to step back and apply common sense to an issue.
8. Good leaders respect the individual. All too often, leaders
get caught up in group politics and forget that the foundation
of our government is to protect individual, not collective, rights.
9. Good leaders know when to hold and when to fold. No leader
ever gets his own way on everything. Some issues are worth fighting
for, while others fall low on the list of priorities. A good
leader will pick and choose his battles carefully.
10. Leadership is proactive, not just reactive. Good leaders
can spot issues before they come to the surface. They may not
be able to solve those problems in advance, but at least they
get the dialogue going early in the process.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.
The Commerce News
August 30, 2000
Shifting Tax Burden
Not A Viable Solution
In a full-page advertisement published
last week, Rep. Scott Tolbert pledged that, if re-elected, he
would introduce legislation to "end county property reappraisals
for Jackson County homeowners." The idea, he explained,
is to reappraise homes only when they are sold, which means someone
buying a house valued at $140,000 in 2001 could pay taxes based
on 40 percent of that amount for 20-40 years if the house
was not sold.
That sounds like a wonderful idea, but it isn't. Tolbert's proposition
would shift the burden of property taxation to other pieces of
property and would create vast tax inequities between similar
houses based solely on length of ownership. By slowing the growth
of the tax digest, it could also force governing authorities
to raise millage rates.
It is true that the sale of a house is normally the best way
of determining its value, but it is the market that dictates
the value of house and land. As long as Georgia uses property
taxes to finance education and local government, the only fair
way to implement that tax is to base it on the value of the property.
Tolbert also proposes to eliminate school taxes for the elderly,
another case of redistributing the tax burden. If the homeowners
are paying less and the elderly less, who will pick up the slack?
Somebody will, because the school systems and city and county
governments must have the funds to operate.
What motivates politicians like Tolbert to propose exemptions
or exceptions to the current tax law is a desire to win votes;
give breaks to the homeowners to win their votes, to farmers
to win theirs, to the elderly to win theirs. But the reality
of the situation is that every exemption for one group means
more taxes must be paid by the next, and every change actually
diminishes the fairness of the tax.
Tolbert says he does not like taxes. Who does? But his salary
in the General Assembly is paid by taxes, the roads he uses to
get there are tax-built, the schools educating his constituents'
children are funded by taxes, and all government services are
paid for by taxes of one kind or another. Taxes are unpleasant,
but not evil, and responsible leaders will not only work to keep
them as low as possible, but also to make sure they are equitably
applied. Tolbert's proposals would do nothing to lower the overall
tax burden; they would only shift it, and he's not saying who
would have to pay more so some could pay less.
Jackson County Opinion Index