The Commerce News
February 7, 2001
Growth' Embraces All The Increased Clutter
Now that Commerce has reinvented its zoning ordinance and Jackson
County has discovered greenspace, it's time for the county and
municipal planners to make sure development cleans up after itself.
The no-growth types complain that the rapid influx of Atlantans
and others to our pristine hills destroys our rural way of life.
Some of those rural ways no doubt merit destruction, but that
growth we covet does more than add to the traffic, increase the
cost of education and run sewer plants beyond capacity.
Both the commercial and residential growth create visual pollution
that our cities and county totally ignore.
Drive around this county and you'll see what I mean. The mayors
and councils and the county commissioners have given our rights
of ways and public thoroughfares to the developers, entrepreneurs
and con men. Actually, it would have been better if they had
sold them; then the county would have gotten something in return.
Instead, our public officials have ceded our roadsides to those
trying to make a buck off of us.
Supposedly, it is illegal for anyone to post signs in the public
right of way. The DOT and even the city of Commerce have been
known to take down signs during the political season. Our own
politicians are not allowed to advertise along the roads, but
every real estate developer and every work-at-home rip-off artist
and a variety of other companies that don't even have business
licenses here are allowed to trash our roadsides.
That's part of progress in Jackson County, I suppose.
It shouldn't be. If our planning commissions can regulate subdivisions,
they can damn sure prohibit Brentwood Estates and other developments
from posting their signs on the right-of-way all over county.
If they can pick up and burn the illegally placed signs of Scott
Tolbert, Mike Beatty, Pat Bell and Eddie Madden, they can do
the very same thing for the "affordable insurance"
and "make money on your home computer" signs that appear
on utility poles, the railroad right of way and even on the square
Oh, the current residents do their share. We plant yard sale
signs in the midst of our $1 million Streetscape project; Jefferson
allows everything from pizza to work-at-home schemes to be advertised
right next to its Crawford W. Long monument. Anyone with a lost
dog, a revival or a doughnut sale feels free to staple advertising
on our utility poles or post a sign at every street corner. In
Commerce, anything to promote the Tigers can be hung on the city
light poles in the name of community support and left there until
it rots away.
None of this should be too much of a shock. In an area where
abandoned farm equipment, plywood silhouettes of animals and
people and ceramic deer are considered serious yard art, who's
going to get upset over illegal signs scattered along the rights
of way or on the utility poles?
If this is what government officials like to call smart growth,
I'd like to know just what's so darned smart about it.
The Jackson Herald
February 7, 2001
& sewerage authority independent
It's understandable that those in the path of a sewer line might
have some questions about the project. But Monday night's call
by a handful of landowners to abolish the Jackson County Water
and Sewerage Authority appears to have more to do with politics
than any legitimate complaint.
For one thing, the residents said the authority had a bad track
record and that the control of sewer and water lines should be
under elected, not appointed officials.
We disagree with both points. For the most part, the water and
sewerage authority has done a good job for Jackson County. That
group only came into existence in the mid 1980s and has been
playing catch-up ever since. While some are disgruntled that
they haven't gotten water quick enough, that's to be expected
in a county as large geographically as Jackson.
But more importantly, the idea of putting water and sewer line
decisions directly in the hands of the board of commissioners
would be a huge mistake. It would, in fact, make the decision-making
process for water and sewer lines much more political, not less.
The BOC appoints authority members and that is an arm's-length
relationship which we believe is healthy for both groups.
Can you imagine, for example, how some developers would use political
pressure (and money) to get special treatment for their projects?
The result would be that any long-term planning for the county's
infrastructure would come second behind the immediate political
considerations. That would be bad for everyone involved, especially
No doubt, some on the BOC apparently would like to abolish the
water authority and take control of those infrastructure decisions.
Chairman Harold Fletcher hinted his support for that idea during
But one has to wonder if the presence of former county commission
chairman Jerry Waddell as water superintendent has more to do
with that desire than sound public policy. That Fletcher and
Waddell mix like oil and water (no pun intended) is no secret
to anyone who follows county government politics.
But gutting the water and sewerage authority just to undermine
Waddell would be the wrong thing for the BOC to do. The authority
is involved in some key decisions right now, among them the Mulberry
Plantation sewer project and Bear Creek Reservoir, both of which
are important to Jackson County's future. A political move to
kill the authority could have a devastating impact on the county
for decades to come.
If those in the path of the authority's sewer project have some
legitimate complaints, their recourse is in the courts, not the
political arena. That's the way the system works and that's what
the BOC should have told the landowners Monday night.
That these people took their complaints to politicians makes
us wonder if someone isn't privately encouraging the discord
as a cover to for political mischief they'd like to create.
Frankly, we believe this new BOC has enough issues on its plate
without meddling with the water and sewerage authority. They
should leave it alone.
The Jackson Herald
February 7, 2001
Flag vote may
hurt Beatty's bid for Congress
It was no great surprise last week when Sen. Mike Beatty voted
against changing the Georgia flag. As a conservative official
from a conservative district, he had little choice but to vote
the way he did.
But in doing so, Beatty may have endangered his longer-term goal
of becoming a Georgia Congressman. It's no secret that Beatty's
run for the state senate was designed by Republican Party leaders
as a prelude for him to make a run for Congress. With two new
Congressional seats going to Georgia, many believe one of those
seats will have to be in Northeast Georgia.
But here's the dilemma Beatty and Republican leaders face: The
state legislature is dominated by Democrats who will draw new
Congressional District lines to favor themselves as much as possible.
One way they might do that in Northeast Georgia is to create
a district surrounding Athens-Clarke County that would include
Jackson, Madison and perhaps other counties in Beatty's senate
district. Athens is a stronghold of Democratic strength in Northeast
Georgia, in large part due to the presence of the University
of Georgia. (For some reason, liberals are drawn like magnets
to universities.) Athens-Clarke also has a large minority population
that is a Democratic stronghold.
The result would be a district that Beatty, or any Republican,
would have a difficult time winning. It's also easy to imagine
that a Democratic opponent to Beatty in a congressional race
would hammer him about his vote on the flag.
If Mike Beatty does intend to run for Congress, then he didn't
have to vote against the flag. He could have cast a vote that
would have been much more politically expedient for his future
That he did not let his own future political goals determine
his vote on that issue speaks greatly in his favor as a public
Speaking of reapportionment, there's some indication that Gov.
Roy Barnes intends to have a strong hand in drawing the new legislative
and congressional lines. But after last year's education battle
and this year's flag battle, there appears to be a growing sense
of uneasiness within his own supporters. What if ol' Roy makes
so many people mad that he gets defeated by a Republican during
the next election? Democrats are becoming more concerned about
that possibility and some are wary of giving the governor's office
more and more power.
Any continued centralization of authority within the executive
branch of state government is likely to be met with increased
resistance from Democratic legislators. That includes allowing
Barnes to have a free hand in the redrawing of legislative and
While we're on legislative issues, all the efforts being discussed
to stem the carnage of teenagers on the highways are full of
hot air. Driver's education won't help and is in fact a waste
of taxpayer money and school time. Teenagers know the rules and
how to drive, but because of a lack of maturity, many do not
control their impulses to break those rules.
The simplest and most effective solution is to raise the driving
age to 17 to allow for an extra year of maturity. Anything less
than that simply won't work.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.
The Commerce News
February 7, 2001
No Kidding? Outside
Money Influences Votes?
A report from the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy
at Brigham Young University found that interest groups donated
tens of millions of dollars into crucial House and Senate races
and affected the outcome in some of those races.
Gee, no kidding.
If that conclusion came as a surprise, someone's been out of
touch with the political process. However, the study is yet another
indicator that elections are corrupted by groups with narrow
interests. To put it less politely, the study appears to verify
the national suspicions that a lot of politicians are bought
by interest groups.
It's one thing to note the problem, but something quite different
to find a remedy. Sen. John McCain continues to push the Bush
Administration to act on "reform," but there are constitutional
considerations that may make it impossible to stop the flow of
special interest money into campaigns and not a lot of interest
in either party in stopping that flow.
A major problem is that such groups need not donate money to
a candidate or his or her party. They can produce advertising,
put on promotions and stage rallies for any candidate even
without the candidate's permission.
One approach for controlling the so-called "soft money"
would be to implement and enforce conflict of interest legislation.
A politician who accepts major funding from a special interest
group could be prohibited from voting on legislation directly
affecting that group. Thus, a candidate who accepted $50,000
from the firearms industries' PACs would be ineligible to vote
on gun control legislation due to a conflict of interest.
Campaign finance reform has attracted some attention, little
of it from Congress, unfortunately, but the need for reform gets
worse in every election. Money buys more than elections; it buys
influence, access and passes legislation. The public may cast
the votes, but too often the interest groups pull the strings.
Jackson County Opinion Index