Jackson County Opinions...

January 10, 2001



Column
By Mark Beardsley
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 free.
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 service.
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 "cheapskate."
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.



Editorial
The Jackson Herald
January 10, 2001

Give new manager some room
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 county manager.
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 issues.
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 big surprises.
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 effectively.

 

 

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Column
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
January 10, 2001

Nicholson dispute 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 much.
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 services.
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 good purpose.
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.


Editorial
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 many.
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 1956.
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.


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