More Jackson County Opinions...

January 24, 2001


Column
By Rochelle Beckstine
The Jackson Herald
January 24, 2001

Atlanta suburbs: The tidal wave of the future
When people ask me where I'm from, I say Jackson County. I wasn't born there. I didn't start school there. But it is the place where my life started over and the place I call home.
I was born in Athens. I started kindergarten in a green dress with my name pinned to it in Gwinnett County and I lived for a time in Cherokee County. Yet I don't consider any of those places home.
When my parents separated, Mom loaded us into her station wagon and we trucked up Interstate 85 to Braselton, where my grandparents had lived for several years. And there began the rest of my life.
We thought we were only going to be here temporarily. I taunted a neighborhood boy that my Daddy was going to come and get us any day. Ignoring my taunts and the snobby attitude I know I must have had, he asked me if I wanted to come over and play kickball and he introduced me to the whole neighborhood gang.
I was a bit resentful (my mother would probably say a lot resentful) and I complained a lot. Everyone talked funny. School was boring. I couldn't bicycle to the library. And I wanted my own room back.
But, as I attended school that year at Jackson County Middle School, I found myself softening. The kids were nice and they didn't ask me a lot of questions. Both at school and at home playing in the neighborhood with my new friends, I forgot about mentioning that I would probably only be at school for another week before my Dad came to get me.
Then the day that I forgot about came-Dad arrived with a moving truck. I filled an address book with names and addresses and cried when the neighborhood boy rode his bike over just before the truck pulled out with his name and address scribbled across the top of a note. I didn't care about my room or riding my bike to the library and I certainly didn't care about all those snobby people at that other school. The only thing that seemed to matter there was what kind of house you lived in or what kind of car your parents drove. No one had ever bothered to ask me anything about my house in Jackson County.
My story does have a happy ending, sort of. By the time seventh grade started, I was right back at Jackson County Middle School and I could ride my bike to the neighborhood I used to play in. It was like I had never left.
Six years later, I married the neighborhood boy and we moved to Gwinnett County so that I could be near my college. As we crammed all of our things into a one-bedroom apartment, we plotted and planned for the day we would go home. Five months before my graduation, we began looking for a house. We thought we'd have no problem finding something within our budget since both of us worked. Our real estate agent found us several broken-down homes that we could afford. No heating, no air, holes in the wall that would need to be patched, broken windows. Homes our mortgage company wouldn't approve. We relented to our agent's advice and broadened our search to include any area within a 25-minute drive from Braselton. Jackpot.
I'm now a resident of Barrow County, a true expatriate of Jackson County. And though both Eric and I are happy with our home, I can't help but dream about a house in Jackson County where our daughter could attend the same schools we did, maybe have a few teachers who will ask her if she's related to Eric Beckstine, that sweet boy she taught so many years ago.
It doesn't seem right to me that homes are so expensive in Jackson County that two people who work hard and pay their bills can't afford to live there. A sense of community is lost when this happens. I know why I can't afford to live there-Jackson County is earmarked as the next little Atlanta. It's destined to be a suburb of Gwinnett. My father says that "Where there is no growth, there is only stagnation." I don't want to hear about rising land values being good for the county, true or not. I liked the forests and fields that lined Hwy. 124 and 332 and numerous other roads in Jackson County, whether they were stagnated or not. And like that whiney child I was, I just want to go home.
No county is safe from the way suburbs replace farm land as Atlanta swallows whole communities. Not Jackson, not Banks, not Madison. Interstate 85 and Hwy. 316 are the tentacles of the city. That access makes them easy prey for the developers ready to capitalize on unused land. City councils and county officials can try to limit growth, but what's the point when your children can't afford to buy a house because of outrageous land values and a skyrocketing cost of living? Isn't that who you're trying to preserve the community for?
Rochelle Beckstine is a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers.

Column
By Tim Thomas
The Jackson Herald
January 24, 2001


Make way for Dodge
Looking for signs of spring? Try looking south, specifically toward Daytona Beach, Florida. That's where the good old boys of NASCAR are readying for the start of the 2001 racing season.
As with any, the 2001 season brings with it a host of changes, the most notable being the re-entry of Dodge into the Winston Cup scene.
Much has changed at Dodge since we last saw them on the track for a WC event in 1985. Back then, U.S. parent company Chrysler was trying desperately to recover from hard financial times.
Today, Dodge could be considered at least partially a foreign car company, now part of international mega-corporate Daimler-Chrysler.
The obvious question is, how competitive can the new Intrepids be?
NASCAR is still trying to work the kinks out of Ford's switch from the Thunderbird to the Taurus. To expect the powers-that-be to make an Intrepid competitive right off the bat might be too much to ask.
Ten drivers who are planning on getting behind the wheel of an Intrepid this season gathered recently at Daytona with 41 other drivers for a series of track tests. Everyone expected good things, given that wind tunnel tests had already shown the Intrepid to be aerodynamically competitive with the Monte Carlo and Taurus.
Something got lost between the tunnel and the track.
Of the 51 cars that took to the track, the fastest Dodge ran 26th. That means that of the slowest 26 cars, 10 were Intrepids. Not a good start.
The point man in the Intrepid camp is NASCAR genius Ray Evernham, who helped make Jeff Gordon a superstar. Evernham has a personal stake in Dodge, fielding a two-car team for the upcoming season. Driving for Evernham will be Casey Atwood and Wild Bill from Dawsonville ­ Georgia's own Bill Elliott.
Petty Enterprises also has a big chunk of time and money invested in the Intrepid. PE will feature a three-car team in 2001, with John Andretti still behind the wheel of the 43, Kyle Petty moving into late son Adam's 45, and another Georgia boy, Buckshot Jones, taking the helm in number 44.
The other five drivers climbing into Intrepids this season will be Stacey Compton, Ward Burton, Dave Blaney, Sterling Marlin and Jason Leffler.
The early Daytona tests not withstanding, don't count out these Dodge guys just yet. With names like those listed above involved in the program, the bugs will eventually be worked out.
If an Intrepid can't finish in the top 20 at Daytona, look for NASCAR to break out the wind tunnel again and make some aerodynamic changes to the Intrepid and possibly even the Taurus and Monte Carlo to help even things out.
Once that happens, look for veteran drivers in Fords and Chevys to complain about the unfair advantages enjoyed in the Dodge camps, and look for an Intrepid in the winner's circle.
Soon after, start looking for them all to have big, black donuts on the side, courtesy of the black No. 3, because some things will never change.
Tim Thomas is a reporter for The Jackson Herald.

 

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