Jackson County Opinions...

October 18, 2000



By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
October 18, 2000

Phasing Out The Editorial Board Of Review
It's Tommy Stephenson's fault.
During an angry moment, the candidate for county commission chairman let out in a letter to the editor the secret that The Commerce News Editorial Board of Review consists of myself and a six-pack of beer. It's not the first time I've regretted taking Tommy into my confidence.
Actually, it's been a pretty good system over the years, making for interesting and refreshing board meetings, the results of which have been some, well, unusual editorials. I am sad to say, though, that meetings are becoming infrequent.
Under Mark's rules of order, a Board of Review quorum comprises myself and three beers. In my younger days, I insisted on perfect attendance, but on the few occasions when the board meets these days I'm happy to proceed with a quorum and have been known to conduct business with myself and just one other member.
Meetings do not necessarily take place on a regular schedule. Unlike governing bodies, which have to announce the time and place of their meetings, The Commerce News Editorial Board of Review can meet whenever and wherever it pleases. I've found myself with a quorum, sometimes a whole board, in such diverse places as the beach at Panama City, my john boat in Kentucky Lake and Warren's Package Store.
In such meetings, it may or may not have been the intent of the editor to discuss editorial issues, but the more other members present, the less business got done. Sort of like Congress.
Ever since Stephenson let the cat out of the bag, my coworkers at MainStreet Newspapers have expressed interest in attending Board of Review meetings. In fact, while Zach Mitcham, editor of The Madison County Journal, thought he was shooting eight ball at Bankshots, a billiard hall in Louisville, KY, last week, he was actually in the middle of a Commerce News Editorial Board of Review meeting. And a fine meeting it was, even though we barely had a quorum. At that meeting, the board voted unanimously to endorse neither Al Gore nor George W. Bush for president. The election of either would be too sobering, we decided.
Alas, the board of review is mostly a thing of the past. These days, more editorial decisions are reached over coffee than beer. Caffeine is the drug of choice of this generation of journalists, and while beer on the premises is grounds for firing or at least a harsh memo, coffee remains acceptable.
With most decisions being made elsewhere, the Editorial Board of Review becomes as irrelevant as a board of education. We still meet occasionally, and our meetings are relaxing and congenial. Sometimes, I invite a consultant, such as Mr. Bourbon or even the Gallo brothers, to provide a new perspective, but no matter how much they and I interact, I've usually disregarded our conversation by the time I sit down to write editorials.
So, I officially announce that the Editorial Board of Review is no longer affiliated with The Commerce News. It served a high and noble purpose for a number of years, but times have changed.
We may get together for old times' sake, but it just won't be the same.

The Jackson Herald
October 18, 2000

Sen. Madden has earned re-election
In three weeks, voters will decide which candidate, incumbent Sen. Eddie Madden or challenger Mike Beatty, will represent Jackson County and the 47th District in the Georgia General Assembly. It is an important position since it is one of only two local voices Jackson County will have in the Georgia Legislature.
We believe the best candidate for that position is Eddie Madden and that he should be re-elected for another term in office.
Sen. Madden has been a consistent champion for Jackson County on a variety of issues and has earned the trust and respect of county citizens. Time and time again, Sen. Madden has put effort and energy into issues that are important to Jackson County citizens.
Consider a sampling of that record:
· In 1996, Sen. Madden successfully got legislation passed to halt a proposed private landfill in Arcade.
· Sen. Madden has worked with local government officials to secure funding for a variety of projects, including grants to attract new industries, funding for the new Jackson County Agricultural Center, funding for the Adult Learning Center, funding for Commerce civic improvements and a host of other local needs.
· Sen. Madden has sponsored a slew of legislative bills, including such things as the 1995 "mothers-of-newborn" legislation which said new mothers wouldn't be booted out of hospitals quickly as had been the practice in some places.
· Sen. Madden has served on a variety of state committees and subcommittees, covering issues as diverse as poultry feed costs and education reform.
· Last year, Sen. Madden successfully got legislation passed to stop private sewerage companies, like the infamous Water Wise Inc., from having the power to condemn private land without local government approval. That was a bill suggested by Jackson County officials and Sen. Madden successfully carried it through the legislative process.
· Sen. Madden also has a long history of community service outside his political office. He's a past president of his local Kiwanis Club, chamber of commerce, merchants association and PTA and has been chairman of his local Main Street Committee. He is also a small businessman as owner of Madden's Pharmacy in Elberton.
Sen. Madden has a record of being committed to serving his constituents. He has not been anyone's puppet. He has been, and continues to be, his own man.
That doesn't mean we have always agreed with Sen. Madden. But on those issues where we have been on opposite sides, the dialogue has been open and honest and Sen. Madden has always responded graciously. We've always found Sen. Madden willing to listen and consider other viewpoints even if he disagrees.
We realize, of course, that in supporting Sen. Madden we are turning away from our hometown candidate, Mike Beatty. To some, that may seem strange, even disloyal.
It's not that we don't like Mr. Beatty. He is a nice guy and one of the best political campaigners we've seen.
But when it comes to looking at which candidate we believe would best represent the interests of Jackson County and its citizens, simply being from our own back yard isn't enough.
Our major reservation about Mr. Beatty is that he lacks a record of being committed to public service. Unlike Sen. Madden, Mike Beatty has never played a leading role in his local community. You won't find him leading civic clubs, or chambers of commerce, or business associations.
If Mike Beatty is really committed to public service, why haven't his past actions shown that here in his own hometown?
Those who've been in Jackson County since 1990 will also recall that this year's Senate race isn't Mr. Beatty's first venture into politics. In 1991-1992, he served in the state House of Representatives. But during that brief term in the House, Mike Beatty walked away from two major local issues to which he had previously committed. He turned his back on those efforts when he began receiving pressure from those who opposed them. As a public official, Mike Beatty didn't live up to his commitments.
That's important because Mr. Beatty has said over and over in this campaign that voters are "tired of the same old politics." But voters in 1990 gave Mike Beatty the opportunity to help change the "same old politics," yet he walked away from public office after just one term.
When the going got tough, Mike Beatty just wasn't committed.
Even today, Mr. Beatty's real commitment isn't clear. During this campaign, he has said little about local issues important to Jackson County citizens. Rather, he has run a campaign rooted in party politics. And frankly, much of Mr. Beatty's campaign is so negative that it doesn't even sound like the Mike Beatty most people know. We wonder if he's running his own campaign, or if he has become just a puppet of statewide party politics.
This election shouldn't be about party politics or hometown favorites; it should be about a candidate's record of commitment to public service and his record of commitment to serving the interests of Jackson County and its citizens.
Sen. Eddie Madden has a proven record of both community leadership and of being committed to the people of Jackson County. He has served us in the state senate honorably and honestly for eight years and we believe he's earned another term as our state senator.

By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
October 18, 2000

On property reassessments
I don't like taxes. I especially don't like property taxes. That system is getting so riddled with special exemptions and becoming so distorted that it has become an unfair way to levy a tax.
Yet for all my innate dislike of that tax, I try to be a realist: Property taxes are mandated by the state government. They are the major local source of income for schools, city and county governments. And while sales taxes are a much fairer way to tax people, we are stuck with property taxes until state leaders decided to overhaul the system, an action that is unlikely in the foreseeable future.
Given that reality, we should work to make our local property tax system as fair as possible.
But in Jackson County, our property tax system hasn't always been fair. A couple of years ago, there were so many errors and problems in our county's tax digest that drastic action was needed. Heads rolled (jobwise) and new people were brought in to run the county appraisal department.
It wasn't long until county leaders realized that a countywide re-evaluation was needed. A lot of property wasn't even on the books; other property had wrong information.
The result of that decision was the recent sending of re-evaluation notices to county property owners. As expected, those notices drew a strong reaction from some property owners who saw their property's value jump.
Here are a few general observations about the re-evaluation:
· The percentage of increase in a piece of property isn't important. Some property went up 300 or 400 percent, but much of that property had previously been grossly undervalued. My house and lot went up 51 percent, but it's still less than I'd put it on the market for. The real issue isn't the percentage of increase, but rather if the value itself is accurate.
· Some of the problems I've seen in the re-evaluation revolve around land prices. Because of the growth in subdivisions, small lots saw a jump in values. But some of that wasn't very accurate because not all small tracts have access to water and sewer as many subdivisions do. If you own small tracts of undeveloped land, double-check your values to make sure they look accurate.
· In addition to being accurate, property values should also be uniform. In one neighborhood, for example, land prices should be fairly consistent from lot to lot. Talk with your neighbors and compare information.
· One of the biggest factors that affect home values are improvements. Often garages are added or basements finished and those things don't show up until there is a reassessment. If your house assessment jumped significantly, double-check any new construction done in the past few years. That may explain the increase.
· Recognize that property values are climbing in Jackson County faster than many people realize. If you think your property is over-valued, talk to some real estate agents and compare your home to similar homes on the market. You might be surprised at what your house is worth.
· Don't look for a local political solution to property tax re-evaluations. The state forces counties to do re-evaluations and local leaders have very little control over that. What local leaders can control, however, is their own budget and how those local dollars are spent. Hold local leaders accountable for their millage rates.
In the next few weeks, local cities, school boards, fire districts and the county government will all be setting millage rates and budgets for the coming year. Look at those closely and continue to ask questions.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.

The Commerce News
October 18, 2000

The News' Choices For November 7
Two weeks from now, Jackson County voters will fill the offices of county commissioner, board of education, sheriff, probate judge and coroner, while at the same time electing a state senator, state representative and filling municipal positions in Nicholson, Maysville and Pendergrass.
Hopefully, voter turnout will be higher than it was in the primaries, when only 28 percent of eligible voters participated. It is ironic that a higher percentage of people vote in former Iron Curtain countries like Russia and Romania than in America, the country that is the envy of most of the world for its prosperity and its democracy.
For those who fulfill their civic responsibility by casting ballots and who have not already decided for whom they will vote, The Commerce News recommends the following candidates:
·For District 2, Board of Commissioners, Sammy Thomason. Thomason is well-known to most Commerce voters and he is knowledgeable about government, is well-respected in the community and has demonstrated leadership in the past. Thomason will give the Commerce area a strong representative on the new five-member board of commissioners.
·For District 3, Board of Commissioners, Tommy Benton. A lifelong resident of the county, Benton has a deeper understanding of the county's problems and its people than his opponent, who recently moved in from the Atlanta area.
·For District 4, Board of Commissioners, Emil Beshara. His opponent's last term of office was marked by discord and disorganization that led voters to reject her re-election bid.
·For Sheriff, Stan Evans. Evans has been much more effective than his predecessors. His opponent has good credentials, but he has been unable to show a compelling reason why Evans should not be re-elected.
·For Probate Judge, Margaret Deadwyler. She has shown she is capable and has a big edge over her opponent in experience.
·For Coroner, Keith Whitfield. Again, experience is the key. Whitfield has a lot of experience, while his opponent has absolutely none.
·For U.S. Senator, Zell Miller. Miller is second only to Jimmy Carter as a statesman in Georgia. Few other politicians are as knowledgeable about the needs of the state as the former governor. Miller's opponent, Mack Mattingly, had a remarkably undistinguished term in the U.S. Senate, for which the voters declined once already to return him to office.







Jackson County Opinion Index

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