Jackson County Opinions...

September 27, 2000



By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
September 27, 2000

Glad To Get Medical Care Close To Home
First of all, let me say thanks to the folks who provided me with drugs Sunday night, Sept. 17.
Those would be the people on duty at the BJC Medical Center emergency room when yours truly, in agony with a kidney stone, appeared at the door.
"How can we help you?" the attendant at the desk asked.
"Give me drugs," I gasped.
Actually, there was more to the conversation than that, but within 10 minutes an attendant gave me a shot of Demerol, and slowly my thoughts of how attractive death would be diminished. Later, there was morphine. Life was again worth living.
I do not handle pain well. My idea of severe pain is a botched hit-and-run with the Braves trailing by one in the eighth. That there should be a rock clogging up the works in my innards, accompanied by unimaginable pain was, well, unimaginable.
"That's the male equivalent of having a baby," Barbara offered helpfully.
"At least you got a break between contractions," I said, a mistake I would not have made but for the influence of narcotics. If what she says is true and it were up to men to have babies, there would be no global overpopulation.
The medical consensus as I write is that I am still in possession of the stone and can expect it to make itself evident until I flush it.
It was also my first night's stay at BJC Medical Center. Since then, when recounting the tale with growing emphasis on my suffering, I've heard the comments about "lucky to be alive," but for the record, I am completely satisfied with the care and particularly the speed at which it was rendered at BJC. The folks who treated me were polite, professional, and interested in relieving my suffering. I am grateful.
You can go to an emergency room at a big hospital and wait for five hours for treatment; we've seen that personally. A kidney stone is not life-threatening, though it feels like it at the time, and larger hospitals inevitably have busier emergency rooms, so you will likely wait while gunshot victims and heart attack patients are treated.
BJC Medical Center's existence is threatened by federal budget cuts; if something doesn't change in the way Medicare is reimbursed, hospitals like BJC will close. I remembered that as we drove to the hospital Sunday evening; I can't imagine having had to endure a 22-mile trip to an Athens hospital.
People here belittle BJC Medical Center. Its patient load is largely Medicare, and it constantly struggles for respect from those of us who disdain using the local hospital.
Because Medicare reimburses BJC at a rate much less than the cost of providing the service, BJC Medical Center has lost money for two years running. It can't go on that way forever. No business can operate indefinitely, regardless of volume, if it loses money.
For some people in the Banks-Jackson area, there are hospitals much closer than BJC. For the rest of you, I'll guarantee one thing: When you experience your first kidney stone attack, you won't feel like driving to Athens or Gainesville. You'll appreciate the local hospital. You will really appreciate it.

The Jackson Herald
September 27, 2000

Massive rest areas not needed
We're not quite sure why the Georgia Department of Transportation wants to build two massive rest areas in Jackson County. The proposal, which has drawn a lot of negative comments from area residents who would be affected, would put the two rest areas along I-85 between Hwy. 129 and Hwy. 332. Each would have around 200 parking spaces, with half of those designated for truckers.
But why do we need those rest stops?
We could understand why they might have been necessary 20-30 years ago before the interstate system was built up. Even today, there are areas in the national interstate system where there are few exits and facilities available.
That, of course, isn't the case in Jackson County or Northeast Georgia. As a major growth corridor, this part of I-85 has hundreds of private facilities that are accessible to the driving public. In Jackson County, for example, there are four private truck plazas available to the large tractor-trailer rigs. For the motoring public, there are dozens of gas stations and restaurants which are easily accessible.
So why should the state spend $18 million for a rest area here when private businesses are already providing the same service?
We can think of a lot of uses for that $18 million. How about an interchange at Hwy. 332 or Hwy. 60 to take the pressure off the Hwy. 53 exit at Braselton? Or how about helping the county government provide access roads between our exits that would accommodate future growth in this part of the I-85 corridor?
We realize, of course, that along with the good things an interstate brings to an area are some downsides. And if there was a real need here for an auto/truck rest area, we'd be all for it in spite of the problems it might bring.
But frankly, we don't see the need, nor do we see any benefit to Jackson County.
And unless the DOT can show a compelling need or benefit, we believe the project should be dropped.




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By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
September 27, 2000

Beatty distorts 1997 Madden vote
In an election, the incumbent runs on his record. His opponent also runs on that record by attacking it in an effort to show how he would be different.
That's been the nature of politics for decades. But what happens when an incumbent's record is twisted and distorted by his opponent? That has also been going on for decades as challengers attempt to unseat incumbents by putting their records in as bad a light as possible. Such efforts often make it hard for voters to discern the truth.
That's what happened last week in an attack by challenger Mike Beatty on a 1997 vote by incumbent state Sen. Eddie Madden.
A major part of the Beatty strategy in the Senate District 47 race is to attack Madden's voting record and paint him as a closet "liberal." During recent weeks, Beatty's campaign has been flooding area fax machines, including those of the media, with various shots at Sen. Madden. I have a large pile of those faxes on my desk, but one last week caught my eye. The fax heading read: "Incumbent Eddie Madden votes for criminal's rights above victim's rights."
Now, that's a fairly strong allegation to make, so I read the memo and discovered it was about a piece of legislation which I had followed closely back in 1997 - SB 48.
According to Beatty, Sen. Madden "voted to allow criminals to profit from books and movies about their crimes." Beatty went on to label it "one of the most repulsive votes I could ever imagine a legislator casting."
Whoa, Mike. Calm down. I'm afraid the truth of that legislation and Sen. Madden's vote is a lot different than you're making it out to be. I know because I was involved with efforts by the Georgia Press Association to deal with language in that particular bill.
Here's the real story: In the 1997 legislative session, several state senators introduced SB 48 to allow privately run prisons to use convict labor the same as state run prisons. The bill passed the state Senate and moved on to the state House. In that chamber, the legislation was amended twice. The second amendment added language that not only said those convicted of a crime shouldn't profit from books and movies, but also that anyone who writes about a crime had to share profits from books, articles or movies with victims.
That amendment came from a freshman legislator and got a lot of attention, including scrutiny by the Georgia Press Association. As a member of the GPA's legislative affairs committee, I and others questioned the amendment's language because it was too broad. For example, it could have been interpreted in such a way as to force newspapers to pay crime victims when we covered a trial. It would also have forced those writing a book about a crime to pay victims 50 percent of the book's profits. The language was clearly unconstitutional and newspapers along with others across the state opposed the amendment. (There is already a law in Georgia that prevents criminals profiting from books and movies about their crimes.)
But the amendment passed in the House and the amended SB 48 went back to the Senate. I called Sen. Madden and voiced opposition to the bill with the language of the amendment in it. Other senators also got phone calls questioning the constitutionality of the bill's amended language. Consequently, the Senate voted 42-9 to remove the unconstitutional language from the bill and sent the rest of the legislation back to the House. Sen. Madden voted with the majority and it is that vote which Beatty is pointing to when saying Madden voted "for criminal's rights above victim's rights."
Clearly, that wasn't the case. Sen. Madden didn't endorse criminal rights with his vote. He voted to remove language that wasn't legal and that would have had no effect on criminals.
Such political maneuvering isn't new to campaigns, of course. But when examining a candidate's voting record at the state or national level, it is often very difficult to get the truth. One bill, such as this SB 48, often goes through a variety of changes as it moves through the legislative process. Votes by a legislator on a particular bill have to be considered in the larger context of what was happening with the legislation at the time. Seldom are the votes as black-and-white as they are painted by political opponents.
That's not to say voters shouldn't look at an incumbent's voting record. Certainly, that record should be open to scrutiny.
At the same time, voters shouldn't automatically believe every word a political opponent says about an incumbent's voting record. Often, as in the case with Beatty's rhetoric on that 1997 legislation, the facts are taken out of context. In this case, Beatty went further and bent the truth in an obvious effort to mislead voters.
I've known Mike Beatty for a long time and while I haven't always agreed with his politics, I had believed he was above such misleading tactics.
And politicians wonder why voters have become so cynical.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.

The Commerce News
September 27, 2000

First Impressions Of New Business Not Good
Banks Crossing's newest business made its presence known last week in a manner that gives one pause to question its corporate citizenship. 84 Lumber announced its grand opening by illegally posting signs all over the public rights of way in Jackson County, directing people to its Thursday grand opening.
Perhaps company officials saw all the political and real estate signs and figured that anything goes on public rights of way and utility poles. But we expect more of a major corporate citizen than to trash our roadsides with illegal advertising, however momentous the event it promotes might seem.
The little signs with the words "84 Lumber" and an arrow also bear witness to our own governments' lack of concern for enforcing the law. With the exception of Commerce and some Department of Transportation crews, most local governments wink at those who litter the public right of way, as if there's any difference between trash thrown out of a moving car and trash attached to a pole hammered into the ground.
It is against the law to post a sign in the public right of way or on a utility pole. Period. Any advertisement or promotion, other than utility and traffic signs, may not be put on the right of way. The right of way is public property ­ just like a city park ­ and advertisements for politicians, real estate companies and 84 Lumber are no more appropriate there than are discarded fast food containers and empty beer bottles.

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