Jackson County Opinions...

November 1, 2000

By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
November 1, 2000

Neither Gore Nor Bush Worthy Of Endorsement
If you're a careful reader of this newspaper, you've seen the endorsements for candidates for local office, for state House and Senate seats and for the U.S. Senate. You can even find a position on the amendments and referendums that will be on Tuesday's ballot.
What you will not find is an endorsement of a presidential candidate.
There's a reason for that: I don't like either of the candidates enough to recommend them to somebody else.
Now I will cast a ballot for one of them on Nov. 7, but it will be a ballot cast without a great deal of enthusiasm.
I suspect that only candidates who are fanatically Republican or fanatically Democrat will get much satisfaction out of marking their ballots and out of the election returns. The rest of us are saddled with making a decision between two men whose candidacies have managed to destroy most of any credibility they ever had.
What was I looking for in a candidate for president?
Fiscal responsibility. And neither candidate has presented an economic plan that is close to reality.
Neither candidate has indicated an understanding of where the "surplus" comes from or an understanding that it will exist only as long as the economy stays sound and there is a handle on spending.
No CPA would look at the country's accounts and say we have a surplus. Virtually all of the money left over after the bills are paid and programs funded comes from Social Security and Medicare. That money is pledged against future expenses and, under normal circumstances, would be protected in a separate fund committed to pay expenses we all know are coming.
But not in Washington, DC. There, that money becomes available to spend for new programs or tax cuts. George Bush wants to use $1.3 trillion over 10 years for tax cuts weighted to the rich, $784 billion in new programs and another $1 trillion for private investment accounts.
Gore's approach, $1.048 trillion in increased spending over 10 years and $480 billion in tax cuts, isn't quite as bad, but it too vastly exceeds the real surplus, which William Gale of the Brookings Institute and Alan J. Auerbach of the University of California at Berkeley figure (using real-world accounting methods) say is a scant $1.2 billion.
All of the so-called surplus will be needed to meet Social Security and Medicare obligations as the Baby Boomers age. Both candidates propose to use that money collected in the name of Social Security and Medicare to buy votes Tuesday.
This kind of reckless spending today of money earmarked for tomorrow should be damned by real fiscal conservatives, but there are no fiscal conservatives. Those who claim that mantle are just as eager to use the revenue to entice voters as are the so-called liberals.
There are other issues, of course. Your litmus test issue may be abortion, gun control, prayer in the schools, or something else. Mine is fiscal responsibility, and neither of the two major candidates running for president seems fiscally responsible.

The Jackson Herald
November 1, 2000

Pat Bell for state representative
Jackson County voters face a lot of important choices in next Tuesday's elections. But of all the races on the ballot, the District 25 seat for the Georgia House of Representatives is perhaps the most important local race. In that contest, Democrat Pat Bell is running against incumbent Republican Scott Tolbert for the right to represent Jackson County in the Georgia General Assembly for the next two years.
For Jackson County voters who are increasingly voting for Republican candidates, the choice in this race can be summed up with this question: Is a good Democrat better than a bad Republican?
We believe the choice in that race is clear no matter what one's party affiliation may be. Pat Bell should be elected to replace Scott Tolbert. Mr. Tolbert has misused his office in an effort to help a private legal client and has repeatedly embarrassed Jackson County by his actions, words and deeds.
Pat Bell is honest and her personal integrity is above reproach. She will restore public confidence to a position that Mr. Tolbert has abused. During her term as a county commissioner, Pat Bell has demanded fiscal accountability of county operations and has played a leading role in many important local issues. It is from that position that she saw firsthand how Mr. Tolbert betrayed the interests of Jackson County for the interests of a private client and his family.
But this race is about more than just these two personalities and it is that dimension which makes it so critical. The outcome of the District 25 race will say a lot about our county and the values of its voters. It is a litmus test for how we as countians view ourselves and how we view our obligations as citizens.
Many voters were quick to jump on the anti-Clinton bandwagon when the Lewinsky sex scandal hit, accusing the president of lacking integrity and ethics.
Of course, they were right.
But voters can't point to President Bill Clinton's lack of ethics without also holding other office holders to the same standard. Although the specifics are different, Scott Tolbert's actions as a legislator call for condemnation in the same way Bill Clinton's actions called for condemnation. Both Tolbert and Clinton violated the public trust and should be held accountable for their actions.
Ironically, for Republican voters that is especially true. If Republicans hope to build an effective party, both locally and nationally, they cannot in good conscience embrace candidates like Scott Tolbert who bring shame to a public position. Republicans must weed their own garden if they are to have a strong crop in the future.
It's a shame, really, that Mr. Tolbert created a situation where those who had previously supported him, including this newspaper, must now call for his removal. There are many positions which he took in the General Assembly with which we are in agreement. We had hoped that as a young man, Mr. Tolbert would help usher in a new generation of leadership for Jackson County. It was, after all, his efforts which led to the change in our county government structure. For that effort, this newspaper named him as our "Newsmaker of the Year."
Yet for all that potential, Mr. Tolbert squandered his reputation and soiled his office by embracing Water Wise, a private sewage firm that wanted to do business in Jackson County, and by repeatedly making public statements that show a deep lack of maturity.
We know the Water Wise controversy is complex and many voters may have tuned it out. But Mr. Tolbert's actions in that matter speak volumes about his integrity as a public official. If voters don't recall most details about Water Wise, there are two points they should ponder:
First, Mr. Tolbert violated the public trust when he and his law firm represented both Water Wise and the City of Pendergrass in an insider deal that involved his family. The interests of the citizens of Pendergrass were not considered in that action, only the interests of Water Wise and Mr. Tolbert. No lawyer can serve the interests of two clients in a deal as Mr. Tolbert attempted to do.
Second, Mr. Tolbert violated the public trust when he stood in the state House last spring in an ill-fated attempt to kill a bill that would hurt Water Wise. Not only that, but he attempted to mislead his colleagues about his relationship with the sewage firm. Because of that self-serving action and his attempt at deception, Mr. Tolbert is now one of the least respected legislators in the state.
Beyond the Water Wise matter, Mr. Tolbert has violated the public trust by not attending many of his legislative committee meetings. That's where the real legislative work is done, yet Mr. Tolbert has a pattern of not having done his part to represent those who elected him. On one of his committees, he missed every single meeting this year.
Finally, Mr. Tolbert has engaged in a pattern of public utterances and actions that show a lack of maturity. At a recent DOT meeting with local citizens, for example, Mr. Tolbert said "constipated people don't crap." We're not sure why he said that, but it was not the time or place for bathroom humor. Nor did he show maturity in a recent missive to a supporter of his opponent where he threatened to sue over a political sign in the back of a truck. It was a childish and petty letter unbefitting a state legislator.
But the removal of Mr. Tolbert from office wouldn't be possible if Jackson County voters didn't have a good alternative to take his place. Fortunately, such a candidate does exist in Pat Bell.
Many people may know her as having been a county commissioner for the last four years. Indeed, it was from that front row seat experience that she decided to challenge Mr. Tolbert.
That doesn't mean we have always agreed with her on county issues. As with any public official, there are issues where reasonable people will disagree. But we have always respected Pat Bell for two overriding traits - she always says what she thinks openly and honestly, and she has always conducted herself in a manner that displays integrity. Indeed, during this campaign she has had to make a number of politically sensitive decisions as a commissioner, yet in every case she put the welfare of Jackson County above the political considerations of her race. And in a heated race like this one, such stands take courage and commitment.
But Pat Bell's record of serving the public goes deeper than just the last four years as an elected official. For three decades, we watched her as she worked with hundreds, if not thousands, of young people in Jackson County as an extension agent and 4-H leader. During her tenure, Jackson County had one of the strongest 4-H programs in the state, if not the nation.
It was under Pat Bell that Hurricane Shoals Park became a priority of local officials and she continues to work even now to make that one of Jackson County's premier attractions.
Beyond all of that, Pat Bell has been involved in dozens of other community volunteer efforts over the years, from helping with the local Child Abuse Council to assisting with the Jackson County Mentoring Program. She was, and still is, a dynamic leader and tireless worker.
Pat Bell has no lofty political ambitions, no lust for power or money, and no illusions of grandeur. In both her work as a county extension agent and as a county commissioner, she has consistently put the interest of the public above her own self-interest.
So now the choice is up to Jackson County voters: Re-elect a man who has demonstrated serious violations of the public trust, or put someone in office who will restore respect and confidence to our representative's seat. And to Republican voters in Jackson County, we would offer this thought: What matters most in this election isn't party labels, it is integrity and ethics.
If that's what we as a community really value, then Pat Bell is the clear choice next Tuesday.

By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
November 1, 2000

Thoughts and predictions on the elections
At laST, the election season is winding down. Next week, the silly phone messages will stop, the fax machine will return to normal and our mail won't be full of those slick flyers that huff and puff.
As a prelude to the end of this long, long election season, I got out my dusty but trusty crystal ball for a few predictions. Here's what it told me:

SHERIFF: Stan "The Man" Evans will return as sheriff for his fifth term in office. You know when your leading critic gets arrested for shoplifting two weeks before the election that the political wind is in your favor. Prediction: Evans by a 65-35 margin.

BOC DISTRICT 1: This is a tough race between two good men with very different views. One looks to the past for inspiration, the other to the future. My crystal ball says that it'll be close, but Stacey Britt will squeak by Tommy Benton with a 51-49 margin.

BOC DISTRICT 2: Commerce area voters will choose between Don Blalock and Sammy Thomason for this seat. Since being in politics is akin to having your teeth pulled, the crystal ball says dentist Thomason will yank out a win by a 60-40 margin.

BOC DISTRICT 3: This has been a long race, but underdog Emil Beshara pulled out a victory last summer to win the chance to face former commissioner Fran Thomas next week. Early predictions put Thomas as the favorite, but when she didn't show up at last week's forum, she put the last nail in her political coffin. The crystal ball says it'll be Beshara with a 65-35 win.

BOC DISTRICT 4: The ol' ball is a bit fuzzy on this one as Tony Beatty faces Daniel Sailors. Let's see, looks like it'll be Beatty at a 52-48 margin.

STATE REPRESENTATIVE: This race caps a year of back-and-forth controversy between incumbent Scott Tolbert and county commissioner Pat Bell. It's been a close race that heated up after both state political parties got involved. But the crystal ball says that voters will reject Tolbert and elect Bell in a close 52-48 finish.

STATE SENATOR: My crystal ball is difficult to find amid all these Mike Beatty campaign faxes... oh, here it is. Hmmm, looks like a tight race again over the six-county area, but the ball says incumbent Eddie Madden will hold onto his seat as voters reject all those anti-Madden phone calls from the Beatty effort. It'll be Madden with a 53-47 win.

I understand that Mike Beatty aimed some harsh words toward me during last week's political forum. Mike was particularly upset that this newspaper endorsed Eddie Madden two weeks ago. He said something about my being some kind of Atlanta "liberal" for having done that.
Now, Mike Beatty's a nice guy. Heck, he was my JV football coach way back in the dark ages, so I'm sorry he got his feelings hurt with our endorsement of his opponent. I didn't know he was that sensitive.
Maybe he thought that because we had endorsed him in 1990 for the state House, we would do the same again for the state Senate. (I guess we weren't so "liberal" back in 1990.)
But Mike knows that this newspaper isn't affiliated with any political party or political cause. We don't have a horse in his political race, or any other political race. We've endorsed both Republicans and Democrats this year. We call 'em the way we see 'em.
In fact, it was Mike Beatty who taught me the old saying that "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything."
Well, this newspaper stands for what we believe is the best for Jackson County regardless of party politics or the flak we know will come our way.
To Mike's criticism, I can only quote from an old 1913 newspaper: "When our editor can't get himself cussed occasionally, he shows signs of declining mentality and advancing senility. Cuss away."
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald

The Commerce News
November 1, 2000

Restore Integrity: Elect Pat Bell To District 25
Four years ago, The News endorsed Scott Tolbert for the Georgia House of Representatives in District 25. Two years ago it endorsed him for re-election.
This year, however, The Commerce News endorses Pat Bell for the District 25 seat. The issue is integrity. Tolbert, who put the interests of himself and his client, Water Wise, before those of his constituents, does not deserve re-election. Tolbert claimed on the House floor that he did not represent Water Wise; he claimed in a court document that he did. He went to extraordinary lengths to help this company, which is owned by a man who has pled guilty to charges of bid rigging in Dekalb County, try to gain the right to condemn private property in Jackson County.
Bell, on the other hand, is a person of integrity. What she lacks in political cunning and glitz, she more than compensates for with simple, stark honesty and hard work. Tolbert has tried hard to depict Bell as a tax-raising, dishonest politician, but Bell's reputation and record are intact. Bell may be wrong sometimes, she may make mistakes, but she will never sell Jackson County to the highest bidder.
Among the many spurious charges he has made, Tolbert has tried to tie Bell to what he calls a "shady deal" on land purchased by the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority. Not only was there nothing "shady" at all about the purchase, but in damning Bell, who actually had nothing to do with the purchase, Tolbert is also charging water authority members Alex Bryan, Tom Crow, Keith Ariail, Larry Joe Wood and Elton Collins with corruption. Voters who know any of those individuals will realize Tolbert has no regard for the truth and little concern about who he might damage in his pursuit of election.
The issue in this election is integrity. Bell has integrity. Scott Tolbert's actions show he is lacking. Elect Pat Bell to the District 25 seat in the Georgia House of Representatives next Tuesday.

On The Amendments
The Commerce News makes the following recommendations for amendments and referendums that will be on the ballot Tuesday.
Amendment 1: Vote yes to allow removal from office of a person convicted of a felony.
Amendment 2: Vote yes to safeguard homestead exemption tax relief.
Amendment 3: Vote yes to provide a program of compensation to firemen and law enforcement officials injured on the job.
Amendment 4: Vote yes to allow a program of compensation to educators killed or disabled by acts of violence that occur on the job.
Amendment 5: Vote yes to allow a program of compensation to Department of Transportation workers injured or killed on the job.
Amendment 6: Vote no. The proposal would treat property taxation of boats differently than other property and its wording suggests that the intent of the amendment is to avoid uniformity with other classes of property or even among boats.
Amendment 7: Vote yes to increase from five to seven years the time a lawyer would have to practice before becoming a State Court judge.
Referendum A: Vote no to prevent exemption of farm equipment from property taxes. There is no compelling reason why farmers should get benefits not given other businesses.
Referendum B: Vote no on a tax exemption for the tools of manual laborers. Again, one group is singled out for tax breaks.
Referendum C: Vote yes to approve special homestead exemption for unmarried spouses of military personnel killed in action.
Referendum D: Vote no on a special property tax exemption for the Elks Club. The Elks should be treated in the same manner as all other civic clubs.






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