The Commerce News
February 28, 2001
To Impeach President Over USS Greeneville
Senator (R-Florida): "Distinguished colleagues, the American
public is sick and tired of presidential shenanigans. The President
has made a mockery out of the highest office in the land. I say
it's time for the Congress to impeach the President.
"The public remembers Paula Jones, Whitewater, Monica Lewinski,
Travelgate and the pardons.
"He's rented out the Lincoln Bedroom, tried to steal furniture
and gifts, lied repeatedly to the American public and resisted
efforts at tax relief. Now his liberal buddies caused a U.S.
submarine to crash into and sink a fishing vessel, murdering
"I propose that we open public hearings. You can bet that
those civilians didn't get on that sub without giving something
in return. I tell you, he's renting out our Navy for campaign
contributions for himself and his wife. That's more than the
American people can stand for.
"My colleagues, this latest action is nothing less than
murder. Can we continue to let this man occupy our top national
office after what amounts to the murder of nine foreign civilians?
Can we look the representatives of other nations in the eye without
blinking when our President commits this crime?
"Ladies and gentlemen, the man will stop at nothing. He
not only put his Arkansas friends at the helm of a United States
Naval vessel and caused the death of innocent civilians, but
he also put the armed forces of the United States at risk in
an attempt to divert attention from this most serious of matters.
"Just as the questions about the submarine incident were
beginning to be asked, what did he do? He ordered U.S. airplanes
to strike Baghdad, a move calculated to force the USS Greeneville
incident off the nation's front pages.
"My friends, this is evil incarnate. That a President, who
never served so much as a day in the armed forces of his country,
would order our brave young men into harm's way for purely political
reasons is beyond belief. How cold and calculating can he be,
to put our military men and women at risk and for what good reason?
To detract attention from the shameful incident off the coast
of Hawaii. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a crime of monumental
proportions. The President's actions have killed people. Is it
not time to act to remove this scourge from office?
"I propose that we once again impeach this president; that
we seek a special prosecutor to establish the connections between
political contributions and presence on the USS Greeneville.
How much money did the President or the Democratic Party receive
from each of those civilians? I propose that we investigate the
use of deadly military force to divert attention from yet another
presidential fiasco and that these hearings and proceedings be
public so the voters will understand what a scoundrel we have
occupying the White House. Bill Clinton must go."
Senator (R-Texas): "For the record, Senator Mack, Bill Clinton
is gone. George W. Bush is President, and those were Texas Republican
friends of his on the USS Greeneville."
Senator (R-Florida): "Well, dang my chads. Just strike everything
I've said from the record. These things happen."
The Jackson Herald
February 28, 2001
was a hatchet job
An opinion columnist for the Atlanta Journal/Constitution did
a hatchet job on Jackson County Monday, implying that some kind
of underhanded land deal had been done by the county's water
Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, those who follow
local politics had already heard the accusations during last
fall's elections when Scott Tolbert attempted to paint the same
picture in his re-election bid for the state House. Tolbert was
defeated in that election, but Monday's AJC column appears to
be his early bid for 2002.
Whatever columnist Lucy Soto's motives, her portrayal of the
water authority's land purchase was unfair and misleading. Here's
the real story:
After the county government won its court fight last year against
Water Wise, it began work on upgrading the old Texfi facility
and planning for its first sewer line to serve Mulberry Plantation
and other areas of West Jackson. But abutting the sewage plant
was a tract of 150 acres platted for a subdivision.
That worried county leaders because with the growth expected
in the next 20 years, that property could become a gun to the
county's head. Gwinnett County had learned that the hard way
when it had to buy out a subdivision near one of its sewage treatment
facilities at a cost of millions of dollars. Jackson County leaders
didn't want to face the same problem 10-20 years down the road.
About the same time, Joseph Holcomb took an option on the property
and offered to sell it to Jackson County. Ultimately, the county
agreed to pay $7,100 per acre for the land. On the day the county
bought it, Holcomb exercised his option with the owner and purchased
the land for $4,000 per acre before selling to the county.
Tolbert, and now Soto, made a lot of noise over the fact that
Holcomb made a profit on the sale. But the truth is, such property
transactions are common when those with an option on a tract
of land exercise that option for an immediate resale. There's
nothing dirty or underhanded about that. We publish property
transactions each week in this newspaper, so nothing is secret
or wrong with how that deal was handled.
Moreover, the county had no choice but to deal through Holcomb
because he had control of the land. A condemnation lawsuit would
have taken too long and cost the county even more than the $7,100
per acre. Thus, if the county wanted the land, it had to make
Soto also complained that the county didn't get a written appraisal
before buying the land. Perhaps it should have gotten a formal
appraisal, but that still wouldn't have mattered in the end.
A tract of land is worth whatever a buyer is willing to pay,
and for Jackson County that 150 acres was worth the $1 million.
After all, buying the land wasn't like buying office supplies
- the county couldn't just go somewhere else to get it. And the
truth is, that tract was worth more to the county than to anyone
else because of the potential long-term impact. A formal appraisal,
in light of the circumstances, would have been useless.
Like so many of the Atlanta anti-suburban naysayers, columnist
Soto managed to pillage Jackson County by saying its move into
sewerage service "leaves the impression of a county eager
to jump into the melee of metro Atlanta's growth without fully
considering the consequences for the taxpayer."
That's nonsense. The county government carefully weighed the
issue of getting into sewage, and in fact had resisted the move
until the Water Wise ordeal forced it to confront the matter.
Readers of Soto's column will notice that she didn't point out
the dirty dealings of Water Wise, or that its owner had been
indicted and pled guilty to corruption charges in federal court,
or that if the county had not acted to get into the sewage business,
our growth would have largely been in the hands of such corruption.
The truth is, the county water authority didn't just "jump
into" the sewerage business, nor was it involved in a shady
deal to buy that 150 acres. Far more than most local agencies,
the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority has looked to
the future and attempted to plan for our infrastructure needs
and to protect the long-term interest of county citizens.
This newspaper isn't known for going easy on our local elected
leaders. In fact, we often disagree with them in this space when
we believe they have acted in a manner that was not in the public's
But this is not one of those times. We have seen no evidence
of dirty dealings with the water authority's handling of the
land transaction; the only thing dirty we've heard came from
the Tolbert campaign last fall.
Frankly, Soto's column was a poor piece of journalism. It may
have served the interests of Scott Tolbert and his future political
ambitions, but it was not fair to Jackson County or the water
The Jackson Herald
February 28, 2001
OK, so I've had my say to the "newcomers" about some
of the attitudes they express and actions they take after having
parked their recliners in Jackson County. Now it's time for a
little heart-to-heart with my fellow "old-timers,"
those who've lived in Jackson County for a while.
Of course, defining exactly what makes an "old-timer"
is difficult. I've lived here 36 years, yet to some I'm still
a newcomer. If you weren't born here and your daddy wasn't born
here, then you're a foreigner to a few folks. For the sake of
this article, consider yourself an "old-timer" if you've
ever muttered a sentence that included the phrase "all those
First, we old-timers ought to stop blaming "newcomers"
for all the county's problems. There were plenty of problems
here before the county began to grow. In fact, some might argue
that bigger problems existed before the growth than it does now
Second, let's stop chanting the mantra about wanting to "preserve
our rural way of life." Just what do we mean by that? Let's
face it, old-timers, Jackson County has not historically been
at the center of great social, political or cultural achievement.
It's only been in the last 35 years that this area was even noticed
by the rest of the state. Before then, this was the backwash
of the backwater. It was known as the home of "Crackers,"
a derisive term used to describe the poor white tenant farmers
and sharecroppers. Sherman didn't even bother to come by here
in 1865 since there was nothing of importance to burn.
Historically speaking, our "rural way of life" was
that of hardscrabble subsistence farming. A few large landowners
got wealthy, but most people barely got by. Even after the textile
industries came to the area in the early part of the last century,
life here was not easy. And even later, this area was mostly
known for its bootlegging and car theft operations, not exactly
the kind of image we could be proud of.
So let's don't get too romantic about wanting to preserve some
bucolic view of rural life in Jackson County. While there were
some good things, life was hard and harsh for many people.
And that leads to the third point, which is to be grateful for
the increased job opportunities we now have because of growth.
The truth is, most of our best and brightest packed up and moved
away during the last 100 years to chase better opportunities
elsewhere. It's only been in the last 10 years that some of these
people have begun to move back, lured by opportunities that weren't
available in the past. A huge brain-drain took place for decades
in Jackson County. Let's be thankful that some of our children
and grandchildren can now find good jobs closer to home.
Fourth, let's stop making the assumption that just because we've
lived here longer, we somehow have more rights than new residents.
I've heard local political leaders openly espouse such views.
But legally, we all have equal rights. Just because you've lived
here 50 years doesn't give you the right to have more of a voice
in a rezoning than a new resident. Property rights are property
rights and we should all be treated fairly, no matter what our
Fifth, let's hope that the influx of new people will help dilute
the influence of, for lack of a better term, a pervasive anti-education
culture. Let's face it, we have a significant number of people
in Jackson County whose cultural values are not what most of
us want for our children. Some people's idea of a high cultural
experience is a cigarette and lotto ticket in one hand, a beer
in the other hand and "pro wrassling" on television.
The last census showed that 45 percent of our population hadn't
finished high school. In 1997, Jackson Countians spent $7.2 million
on lottery tickets. How much did we spend on buying our children
books, or finding other ways to enrich their lives? Our attitudes
need to change.
And finally, old-timers, let's acknowledge that the influx of
newcomers has done a great deal to revitalize many of our social,
civic and educational institutions. Many programs that were dying
got new life because new residents became involved. Here's one
example: I work with our local Cub Scout program in Jefferson
and out of 21 registered leaders, only two of us have lived in
Jackson County more than 10 years. The same is true in area churches,
civic organizations and schools. Newcomers aren't just sitting
at home uninvolved. Many are working to make Jackson County a
better place for all of us.
Certainly, growth and the influx of a new population is bringing
changes to Jackson County. Some of those changes, such as increased
traffic and crowded school classrooms, aren't necessarily good.
We need to work on creating the infrastructure to deal with that.
But growth isn't inherently bad. A lot of positive things are
happening in Jackson County because of our growth and the impact
new residents are having in our communities.
So, fellow old-timers, let's don't be too hard on our new neighbors.
The truth is, they're shouldering some of the load which we set
down years ago.
We ought to be grateful for that.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.
The Commerce News
February 28, 2001
County To Benefit
From 'Suspicious' Land Deal
It's hard not to look at an "investigative" piece in
Monday's Atlanta newspapers without seeing local politics in
It's pretty easy, providing limited information is available,
to characterize the purchase by the Jackson County Water and
Sewerage Authority last August of 150 acres in unflattering terms.
First, the authority bought the property from a man who that
same day had exercised an option to buy the land. His sale to
the authority netted a quick $700,000 profit. Second, there was
no written appraisal. Third, Scott Tolbert, trying to link then-commissioner
Pat Bell to scandal, made it an issue.
It was not your typical county land deal, but neither was it
the sleazy operation Tolbert wished to cast it and that the Atlanta
newspaper appeared to suggest. No one in the public trust profited
and the county got land it needed for a price that was reasonable.
It may be distasteful to some that the man who put the package
together made so much money so easily, but few of the critics
of that move would have done differently had the opportunity
come to them.
Still, the land purchase provides an example of what can happen
in spite of good intentions when standard procedures and sound
principals are not followed. The water and sewerage authority
has provided an opening for politicians to make allegations that,
though false, many people will believe. It provides an opening
for those who would like to attack the county government and
it feeds the paranoia of those who view every government action
Members of the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority receive
no pay. They bear the responsibility for meeting the county's
water needs, including acquiring and distributing the water.
Until just last year, the sole purpose of the authority has been
to deliver water to the public. Now it must also build and manage
a county sewer system. The authority has a track record of fiscal
responsibility, quality management and of looking out for the
interests of the citizens. Those opposed to the authority for
political purposes or because of where lines are to be built
will make whatever they wish of the 2000 land purchase, but it
won't change a thing. The authority is doing good work for Jackson
Jackson County Opinion Index