By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
March 14, 2001
Boon For Lawyers And
In case you missed it, the great secret
of "Ginger" is out. No, there is no dirt on one of
Gilligan's castaways; rather the explanation is the invention
of Dean Kamen, which made headlines a couple of months ago.
Industrial espionage techniques were used to establish that "Ginger,"
sometimes called "IT," is a one-person, two-wheel motor
scooter of sorts. It purportedly burns hydrogen, leaves no emissions
and gets fabulous mileage.
The rendering published by the Atlanta Journal resembled a souped-up
version of my canister vacuum cleaner.
I am known as something of a skeptic, which is a Beardsley family
trait. (It is said that the earliest known Beardsley, Og, took
one glance at the first wheel and declared, "It'll never
So, forgive my skepticism about Ginger being the new mode of
transportation. No way. What Ginger will be, if the article and
artwork are anywhere near accurate, is the biggest boon for emergency
rooms and liability litigation in history.
Our highways are already over-clogged with cars, SUVs and trucks.
Imagine millions of souped-up unicycles competing for the same
space. Envision Gingers racing up and down our sidewalks. Buy
stock in your local trauma center.
Ginger is promoted as a personal transportation unit that will
take cars off the roads, which in turn will reduce air pollution.
Try to imagine downtown Atlanta or even downtown Athens traffic
with a couple hundred PTUs mixed in.
Even without other vehicles, Ginger is just waiting for the abuse
and improper use to which we ingenious Americans put everything.
People who try to dry laundry in the microwave and mix paint
in the blender will be just as creative in finding unexpected
uses for Ginger, such as cruising the Appalachian Trail.
Within 20 minutes of the sale of the first unit, the first Ginger
accident victim will be en route to the nearest emergency room,
whether because the owner fell off in a turn, pulled out in front
of a Chevy Suburban or collided with the second Ginger sold.
But like every huge dark cloud, there will be a considerable
silver lining. Attorneys are already boning up on product liability
law in anticipation of the millions of injury claims to be filed
by future owners. Insurance companies have dispatched their brightest
managers to come up with a way to get massive premiums from owners
look for laws requiring each Ginger to carry 100/300/100
liability insurance and with ways to deny paying those
claims when they're made. Now is the time to buy stocks in companies
that manufacture bandages, braces and the steel pins that hold
broken bones together.
There is no doubt Ginger will be a marketing success. It has
a motor and will do 60 mph everyone will want to be unique
and have a Ginger, so they can be seen by their friends cruising
along, one hand holding a cell phone to the ear and the other
holding a latte. What could be more natural?
This is technology. We can't refuse it. Not being enthusiastic
about it is akin to rejecting Windows 2000
Coming next: The Ginger SUV.
The Jackson Herald
March 14, 2001
Time to stop
It took a while, but South Carolina finally discovered the dark
side of video poker - essentially, it exploits those who can
least afford to throw away their money.
But since the games have been shut down in that state, they have
traveled down I-85 toward Atlanta and can now be found all over
Northeast Georgia, including Jackson County. In convenience stores
across the area, people sit at these machines hoping to win a
jackpot. The problem is, this gambling is unregulated and the
video poker machines are rigged heavily against the bettor.
It's time for Georgia to put a stop to this growing problem and
the Georgia House of Representatives has an opportunity to do
that with SB 204. As amended in the Senate by Sen. Mike Beatty
and others, this bill would ban video gambling machines. It would
not, however, affect other video machines that are used in kids'
We recognize, of course, that a large number of people approve
of gambling. Even the state of Georgia endorses gambling with
its lottery. But a trip to Las Vegas or playing the Georgia Lottery
is different than dropping money into a video gambling machine.
Both the lottery and the betting machines in Las Vegas are regulated
such that the players have known odds of winning.
These unregulated video gambling machines, however, are not required
to post odds or maintain any particular level of payout. For
most players, it is only a pit into which they throw dollar after
We hope our legislators in Northeast Georgia will vote to support
this legislation and put these machines back in mothballs.
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
March 14, 2001
decision-making process flawed
If there was ever any doubt about the wisdom of the City of Jefferson's
move to a manager form of government, Monday's council meeting
should be enough to convince doubters. Jefferson's city administration
is faltering, partly because of a lack of strong leadership and
partly because of years of bad habits in city governance.
The hot issue Monday night was a proposed pay raise for the city's
police officers. Because police officers are difficult to hire
right now, and because recruiting and training a new officer
is so expensive, police salaries are climbing and surrounding
departments are raiding underpaid staffs. Thus was a proposal
to raise police pay by $1 per hour to quell what might have been
a large loss of manpower to other departments.
The raise was justified, but the real issue Monday night wasn't
just about police wages - it was the entire decision-making process
which needs review.
Some years ago, Jefferson began naming each councilman as a liaison
to a city department. In theory, that probably looked like a
good idea, but the reality has been a nightmare for administration.
Council members with too much time on their hands have taken
over city departments, often referring to a particular department
as "my department." Tension between council members
over inter-departmental issues is often evident at council meetings
and is widely discussed outside those monthly meetings.
In short, council members compete with each other for status,
turf and funding. That's especially true with departmental pay
scales. Some employees are underpaid and others overpaid. No
one really evaluates employee performance in the city and pay
has traditionally been more about longevity than about education,
qualifications or the level of responsibility.
Compounding the problem is the lack of restraint by the council
itself. If one "councilman's department" gets a pay
raise, the other council members want pay raises for "their"
departments as well.
Here's an example: At Monday's meeting, councilman Bosie Griffith
was one of two councilmen opposed the police pay increase. He
said the increase wasn't in the budget and wasn't fair to other
departments. But after the pay increase was approved, he said
he would bring back proposed pay increases for "his"
department next month. Other councilmen echoed the same thing.
But no one asked Griffith about the $38,000 salary the council
had just approved for "his" recreation department position,
even though the city had only budgeted $25,000 for the position.
(And the city didn't budget anything to buy equipment and fund
other aspects of starting a city recreation program.)
The truth is, there is no objective, overall look at the city's
pay rates, nor is there objective oversight of the departments.
Favortisim is rampant and department heads bicker over pay and
work schedules. Jealousies abound, both among employees and council
There's nothing new in any of this - it has been going on for
years and has often been dismissed as just "small town politics."
But the stakes are higher now. These internal battles are distracting
the council from doing its real job of policy-making and planning
for the future in an era of rapid growth.
That may surprise some people because from the outside, Jefferson
appears to be doing well with a lot of growth and development.
But that surface prosperity has masked these internal problems
of city administration.
To its credit, the council has moved toward a professional manager
government. But the irony of that action is that it has highlighted
the council's own weaknesses. Its management flaws have been
magnified for all to see and that could open the door for more
change than the council may have wanted.
The situation is similar to the late 1980s Soviet Union when
Gorbachav began talking about the need to change a badly flawed
and ineffective Soviet government. But instead of reform, which
was all Gorbachav wanted, what followed was the total collapse
of the old power structure, including the fall of Gorbachav himself.
Once the system's flaws were admitted and in the open, there
was no where left for its leaders to hide.
The same thing could happen in Jefferson. The undercurrents for
change seem to be growing. Many new residents complain about
a lack of city leadership and are asking a lot of questions.
Even among long-time residents, there's a new sense that the
time has come for some dramatic changes in city leadership.
Monday's meeting over the police pay rates is just one example
of the city's flawed decision-making process. It highlighted
the real need for professional management and perhaps, the need
for some new blood in city leadership.
The winds of change cannot be controlled. Once unleashed, they
blow on everyone in their path.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.
The Commerce News
March 14, 2001
Violence Must Be Won In Homes
On March 5, a 15-year-old student at Santana
High School in Santee, CA, killed two fellow students and wounded
13 people. President George W. Bush, on the day of the California
school shooting, suggested that the way to stop such acts was
"to teach children right from wrong."
That may be the greatest over-simplification in the history of
presidential responses. It suggests that perpetrators of violence
did not know that it is wrong to hurt and kill, a most far-fetched
But it is clear that society is teaching children that violence
is a valid means of resolving conflict. Whether the cause is
violence in entertainment (sports, movies, TV) or something else,
too many children are willing to create mayhem and take lives
when they are angry. The lessons of violence, from whatever their
sources, are in some children overwhelming all of the other messages
about tolerance, respect and diversity.
Unfortunately, children are not the only ones learning that lesson.
Road rage is but one manifestation of a society where fuses are
getting shorter. One need only look at the local police blotter
to see weekly lists of assaults, harassment and other crimes
of intense anger.
Controlling access to guns, teaching anger management, adopting
zero-tolerance policies, rating movies and TV shows, promoting
cross-cultural understanding and increasing security are all
options proposed to stop the carnage.
All of the proposed solutions are aimed at institutions, but
the greatest hope of preventing violence is in the homes of parents
who know what their children are doing, who their friends are,
how things are going in their lives and how they are feeling.
A troubled youngster should be able to talk to his or her parents,
but too many kids come from homes where there is no dialogue
between parent and child. The lack of communication crosses racial,
cultural and economic lines. It's rampant in the inner cities
and in the suburbs, among the poor, the middle class and the
rich. An emotionally isolated child is a child at risk; the failures
of our families cause bloodshed in the schools and in the streets.
Alas, there is no one group, no institution to blame. It is not
the fault of the Republicans or the Democrats, the liberals or
the conservatives. The blame rests not with Caucasians, whites,
blacks or Hispanics. Were there one group or policy to blame,
it would be a small matter to correct.
If only it were that simple. The best we can do is to be vigilant
about our own children, to maintain parent-child relationships
that foster conversation, trust and understanding and to provide
good role models. The parents are the most important line of
defense in our schools and our streets, and if they fail to do
their jobs, all the schools, legislators, courts and public agencies
can do is pick up the pieces.
These kids know right from wrong. What they need to know is that
their parents care, that they have time to talk with them, that
they are interested in their children's feelings, concerns and
hopes. No government agency, program or initiative can substitute
for good parenting. No security system is as good as a strong
If the war against violence is to be won, it must be won family
by family, household by household. Every parent has a stake in
the problem and every parent has a role in the solution.