The Commerce News
January 10, 2001
What? Pay For Access To The Internet?
They finally did it. They made me pay for Internet access.
That's right. I've submitted a credit card number and will be
billed $14.95 a month to receive what until now I've gotten for
I am not terribly happy about this.
Lost among the hoopla about all the dot-coms losing money and
going out of business is the fact that a lot of the companies
previously offering free Internet access do not anymore.
Technically, the server I used, Juno, is still offering a free
service. You just can't get online with it. It's like the gas
station offering unleaded gasoline at 69.9 cents a gallon
but they don't have any.
I've used and generally been (relatively) happy with Juno for
years. For free. Now I'm paying, at least for the time being,
and I'm not happy. Right now, they've got me, but I am hardly
a satisfied customer.
Juno began its subterfuge by sending out relentless streams of
e-mail noting that some customers abusing the system would have
to start paying. Next, I received notice that I would no longer
be able to log on at 4:00 a.m., which has never been a top priority.
The final insult (well, since I'm now paying for Juno, I guess
it isn't the final one) came when upon connecting to the system
I was given a chance to "upgrade" to the paid service.
When I chose not to, I was prevented from going online, all the
while being assured that Juno would continue to offer a free
My two other "free" services long ago went kaput
at least from my computer. NetZero refuses to accept my member
ID or password; Freeinet never connects. Personally, I think
the version of Internet Explorer Juno included with its last
update is designed to prohibit access to any other free e-mail
service. I've got no evidence, just a healthy paranoia.
I suppose it's true that you get what you pay for. I would just
rather get something I'm not paying for.
Actually, I would not have been offended if my Internet provider
had just sent an e-mail message advising me that it was terminating
its free service and offering to sell me a better one. But to
claim that it still offers a free service even as it refuses
to let me online, well, that's not kosher.
Admittedly, the paid version is better and faster. As it should
be. But I was and still am quite willing to put up with the idiosyncrasies
of the free service. I don't spend enough time online to warrant
paying $3 per month, let alone $15, and I don't want to spend
that much time online.
I am shopping. If and when I find a decent, make that halfway
decent, free service, I'll ditch Juno faster than you can spell
I already have a disk for the K-mart service. NetZero keeps sending
me e-mail boasting about its system, but it makes Juno look good.
I'm going to utilize my paid online service only as long as it
takes me to find another free service, a cheaper paid service
or a better one.
It's a matter of principle that free is better than cheap, and
since I'm accustomed to getting it for free, paying is all the
more unattractive. It's like having to pay to go fishing or for
horse manure for the garden. I'll resist as long as I can.
The Jackson Herald
January 10, 2001
Give new manager
Some 14 months ago, the citizens of Jackson County voted to change
their county government to a professional manager system.
Two months ago, voters elected five members to a newly created
board of commissioners.
Last week, that new board hired Skip Nalley as the county's first
Now comes the hard part - making the new system work in the real
world. It's one thing to create a new system on paper, but implementing
a new system is often much more difficult.
That's why it's important for all of us, from average citizens
to elected leaders, to give Mr. Nalley some breathing room in
the manager's role.
This isn't the first time Mr. Nalley has been in the position
of being the first county manager. He was previously the first
county manager in Upson County where he served 14 months. But
a dispute with the county commission over how a pay plan was
implemented cost him his job there last year.
We don't know the details of that issue, but we do know that
the transition to a new system of government is always difficult.
A county manager's position is always in the middle of a political
whirlwind and jobs are often won or lost over seemingly trivial
So it is in everyone's interest to make sure clear and consistent
communication is established within the framework of our new
county government. County employees don't need any big surprises.
The citizens in Jackson County don't need any big surprises.
The new board of commissioners don't need to be surprised. But
perhaps most importantly, the county manager doesn't need any
That's why we believe Mr. Nalley needs some room to learn about
Jackson County, his new job and the personalities of those he
will be working with. Mr. Nalley brings a lot of experience in
the public sector with him and those management skills could
be important to Jackson County's future.
Let's just make sure he's given the room to use those skills
Jackson County Opinion Index
The Jackson Herald
January 10, 2001
deeper than zoning
The Nicholson City Hall is once again open for business. But
the real question is, did anyone notice much while it was closed?
On the surface, the dispute in Nicholson is a fight over zoning.
Two council members want zoning, the new mayor doesn't want it.
The result was a shut down of the city for a couple of weeks.
But zoning is just the surface of an even larger issue. Do the
people living in the Nicholson community need a municipal government?
What does that government do for its citizens that couldn't be
done by some other entity?
Maybe a little history would help answer these questions. Nicholson
was created in 1882 because the local people wanted a railroad
stop in the area. Several citizens approached the railroad officials,
one of whom was a Mr. Nicholson. The citizens wanted to sell
wood to the railroad, but needed a fuel stop to do that. If Mr.
Nicholson agreed to create the fuel stop, the citizens agreed
to name a town for him (the area had previously been called "Cooper").
Thus, Nicholson was born and in 1907, the town officially incorporated.
Like most rural towns of that era, the Nicholson government was
involved in building local schools, had a policeman and a jail.
But by 1937, the town had allowed its charter to lapse and the
government of Nicholson lay dormant for the next 35 years.
Of course, Nicholson isn't the only area town where questions
need to be asked. Pendergrass, Talmo and Arcade are also municipal
governments where there is a question of need. In Arcade, for
example, the city was created years ago as a "wet"
town in a "dry" county. Today, Arcade is best known
as a major speed trap in North Georgia where fines from heavy-footed
motorists are used to bail the city out of a financial hole.
But is that reason enough for a town to exist?
And how about Talmo, where the city coffers total over a quarter
of a million dollars in the bank? What does the Town of Talmo
need with $250,000? It'd take a helluva picnic to spend that
Pendergrass, of course, has come under a similar microscope in
recent years after its city council became partners with the
infamous Water Wise. In truth, the town exists to serve the interests
of its dominant family, not the citizens within its sphere.
Several years ago, a state reform study asked these same kinds
of questions about a number of communities around the state.
The result was a new law that mandated municipal governments
offer at least three services to citizens.
The problem was, however, that the law has a lot of loopholes
which allows towns to claim services which they really don't
offer. A town could, for example, contract with a county water
authority for water services. But those services would likely
have been available even without an existing municipal government.
Another problem is that a town may create a service even when
such services aren't really needed. For example, if Arcade went
out of business it would no longer have a police force. But law
enforcement would be done by the county anyway so that those
living in the Arcade community would still be provided with such
There are those, of course, who would counter this argument by
saying that people should be allowed to govern themselves in
whatever manner they choose. If the people of Nicholson want
a government, then shouldn't they be allowed to have one?
To an extent, that thinking is correct. There was a time, in
fact, when most of these small rural governments did serve a
But the rise of county governments and the stagnation of many
small towns has changed that dynamic. County governments now
offer services that only towns provided a few years ago. There
is nothing that Nicholson offers that isn't already offered by
either the county government, the state or private businesses.
If you don't believe that, take a look back over the last couple
of years at these towns and try to name three major things they've
done for their citizens - not talked about, but actually done.
We all complain about growing federal and state governments,
but it is here in our own back yard where we have created a slew
of government agencies. In Jackson County, there are nine towns,
three school systems, 10 fire districts, 10 public authorities,
not to mention the county government itself and several regional
authorities of which Jackson County is a part. All of those handle
public tax funds and many overlap in their services.
In the case of those nine towns, several are perpetuated not
because of a real need or public good, but rather because of
tradition and inertia.
Nicholson was created 118 years ago for steam trains.
It keeps chugging along today because no one wants to be the
conductor who puts its worn, rusting hulk in the shed for good.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.
The Commerce News
January 10, 2001
Flag Diverts Attention
From Important Issues
Guess what's on the agenda for the Georgia General Assembly?
Changing the state flag.
Former Gov. Zell Miller got burned when he tried to have the
flag changed, a move he said was necessary because the Confederate
battle emblem's incorporation into the flag was offensive to
Proponents of keeping the current flag prevailed overwhelmingly,
but this is an issue that won't go away, not so long as the flag
represents a time of repression and racism to so many. To others,
the same flag represents a heritage of gallantry and sacrifice,
and removing it would be perceived an insult to those who died
defending the South in the American Civil War.
Leaders of both parties in the Georgia Senate have proposed a
pair of public hearings to get comments on all sides. Civil rights
groups threaten to boycott, a federal suit is proposed and an
Augusta Democrat plans to introduce legislation bringing back
the flag Georgia used before the current flag was adopted in
The emotions surrounding the controversy are as strong on one
side as on the other, which means there will be plenty of impassioned
commentary but no easy resolution. In the meantime, energy that
could be more profitably spent on greater issues will be used
up arguing over what kind of flag should fly over state buildings.
The current flag was created as much for Georgia to thumb its
nose at federal desegregation efforts as to honor Confederate
sacrifices. Among the traditions it honors is that of holding
a race in bondage, of treating blacks as property, of state-approved
discrimination. But since 1956 there has been a growing interest
in the time of the Confederacy, an interest that has resulted
in study of Confederate politics and history, re-enactment of
battles and in men and women pursuing genealogical research to
see what relatives served in the Confederate armies. To many
of these people, the current state flag is symbolic of the era
they've grown to love and admire. Replacing it, they believe,
dishonors that era, their ancestors, and themselves.
The flag will ultimately come down, just as did the walls of
segregation. But before it does, Georgians and their government
will have invested too much time, emotion, money and energy that
would have been better spent improving education, bringing services
to the people or solving water and growth crises.
But that is typical. It is much easier for people to express
anger and for politicians to debate an emotional issue than to
deal with one requiring real thought. Whatever the solution,
a large number of people will be unhappy and nothing terribly
significant will have occurred. But by debating the pros and
cons of the Georgia flag, the public and politicians alike (not
to mention journalists) will have saved themselves the effort
of tackling more important and complex issues.
The flag will not change until a lot more Georgians think it
should be changed. In the meantime, attention is being diverted
from a whole lot of more pressing matters.