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 Jackson Herald
October 18, 2000
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
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.
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
· 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
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
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
·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
·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