The Commerce News
March 28, 2001
Playing Bad Cop,
Not Quite As Bad Cop
WARNING: Reading this column could be hazardous to the health
of Republicans who live by the "No Tax Increase" mantra
popularized by Ronald Reagan or to anyone else whose property
taxes seemed too high last year. That should cover almost everyone.
SECOND WARNING: Before you read this, read the news account published
elsewhere, about Jackson County Board of Commissioners' chairman
Harold Fletcher promising a huge county property tax this fall.
OK. Now you've been warned and you have the background. Take
a Valium and read on.
Harold really did promise the Kiwanis Club a huge tax increase.
But, as they say, you can't believe what you read in the newspaper
(because we're always quoting politicians, and you know never
to believe them).
Don't believe Fletcher. Not for a minute.
Here's the situation: The previous board of commissioners, possessing
several million dollars in reserve funds and new tax appraisals
that inflated the county tax digest, last fall cut the county
tax rate from 7.58 mills to 2.58 mills. Note that I said cut
tax rates, not cut spending.
That left the new commissioners with lower reserve funds and
a tough act to follow from a tax standpoint.
Now Fletcher says it will take a millage rate back at 7.58 mills
just to operate government.
I don't think so.
If you do the numbers from a millage rate, a hike from 2.58 to
7.58 mills is a whopping 290 percent.
Very funny, Mr. Fletcher.
But since the tax digest grew by about 30 percent before the
county commissioners lowered the millage rate, a levy of 7.58
mills in 2001 would bring into the county coffers (even with
no growth this year) some 30 percent more money than it did back
in 1999 when that rate was last levied.
I swear on the Contract With America that Mr. Fletcher is playing
"Bad Cop, Not Quite As Bad Cop."
Doc Elliott, former Commerce superintendent of schools, used
to do the same thing. Early in the school budgeting process,
he'd predict a three-mill tax increase. When the budget finally
came out, the increase would be a half mill, and folks would
be thankful and congratulate him for keeping taxes down.
That's Fletcher's game. He's hoping the taxpayers will be so
relieved not to get a five-mill tax increase that they'll consider
him something of a financial genius, or at least a hero, if the
end result is merely a three-mill tax increase.
It's a risky game. Most of the Kiwanis Club members who heard
that pledge were too engorged with food to take action. But if
he were to make the same comments before a less sedentary crowd
say the Rotary Club a riot might have ensued. For
his own health, the chairman should be cautious lest he be prosecuted
for a hate crime against taxpayers.
Also, remember that there are four other commissioners who have
to vote on a tax increase, and they're not likely to deliver
a 290 percent increase in the property tax rate before hell has
frozen over for at least the second time.
Raise taxes by five mills? That Fletcher, he sure is a joker.
Mark Beardsley is the Editor fofthe Commerce News.
The Jackson Herald
March 28, 2001
will have to
live with its choice
It's a foregone conclusion that next Monday's planned city council
vote in Nicholson over the adoption of zoning will be defeated.
With two new anti-zoning councilmembers and an anti-zoning mayor,
the odds of the town adopting some kind of zoning are slim to
There's little doubt that most of those living in Nicholson oppose
zoning. Even those of us who support the idea know it isn't a
perfect solution to growth problems. In some cases, zoning has
been a tool used to unfairly trample property owner rights.
But even with its imperfections, we support the use of zoning
as a tool to manage the impact of growth.
The citizens of Nicholson obviously disagree and have chosen
to support those who favor unfettered and unregulated development.
That's their right as a community and while that decision may
impact the rest of us, it is those living in the town who will
be most affected by that choice.
So be it. But a word of warning, Nicholsonians: Don't come running
to the the rest of us in the future when you want to stop some
project that will undermine your property values or ruin your
You may get a landfill.
You may get a huge, unregulated trailer park.
You may get some kind of unhealthy commercial or industrial project.
You may get a project that will make traffic around the local
elementary school even more dangerous.
When those things happen, we don't want to hear a peep about
Don't come to county commission meetings and expect that government
to bail you out.
Don't write us letters to complain about how one project or another
has ruined your property values.
We don't want to hear it. You have made this choice. You have
selected your leaders.
Now you will have to live with the results.
The Jackson Herald
March 28, 2001
The soul of a
nation laid bare at Gettysburg
GETTYSBURG, PA - A cold wind blew across this place today. That
was far different from the three hot days in July 1863 when the
fields and farms of this hamlet exploded into American history.
It is more than just the name of a place; it is a moment in time
when this nation looked into a mirror and saw its very soul laid
bare. In no other time or place has this nation so confronted
its own future as it did here 138 years ago. For all its greatness,
even the American Revolution cannot be distilled into such a
single, awe-inspiring moment.
It was here that the life or death of a nation was decided.
If there is any place in America that should be considered hallowed
ground, this is it.
Remarkably, much of it has been preserved, save for the unsightly
commercial development that intrudes along the north end of the
battle field. Otherwise, the fields and stone walls and old barns
stand as a moment frozen in time.
When Gen. Robert E. Lee marched his dwindling forces north in
June 1863, it was both a brilliant maneuver and a fatal mistake.
Hiding behind the mountains, he moved his army north in an effort
to shift the war into Yankee territory. It was partly a military
move, but it was mostly a strategic gamble. Having won battles
on his home territory, Lee hoped that a victory on Northern soil
would increase pressure on the Union to reach a peace settlement
with the Confederacy and perhaps also bring Britain to the fore
as a Southern military ally. A victory here might also bring
Federal troops away from the Mississippi where Grant had won
victory after victory and had Vicksburg under siege.
But when Lee poured his forces through a gap in the mountains
north of Gettysburg, he was not looking for a fight just yet.
It was only by chance that the two sides met here. Shadowing
Lee was the entire Union army, which was keeping itself between
Lee and Washington D.C.
When the battle began on July 1, it was between just a few troops
who met north of town early in the day. Union cavalry held back
the Confederate wave for several hours, allowing more Union troops
to advance to the scene. Still, by the end of the day the Confederates
had smashed the Union line and Federal forces retreated to Cemetery
Ridge south of town.
On the second day, Lee attempted to route the two flanks of the
Union line. On the north, Culp's Hill was the site where Confederate
forces focused their attention. But entrenched Union troops kept
a deadly fire pouring down and the line held. On the south side,
Little Round Top would forever be remembered for the heroic stand
made by the 20th Maine regiment against the 15th Alabama regiment.
The leaders of both units would later be governors of their home
states, their fame assured because of the bloody work they did
on this rocky hill on July 2, 1863.
Then came the third and final day. In the early afternoon, cannons
on both sides blasted away for an hour in what many say was the
biggest artillery duel in North American history. Smoke filled
the shallow valley between Cemetery Hill on the east where Union
forces were concentrated and Seminary Ridge on the west where
the Confederate forces were located. Only three-fourths of a
mile lay between the two sides.
When the cannons stopped, Union forces saw what has been called
the greatest military sight in the nation's history. For a mile
across this valley marched a line of 12,000 Confederate troops,
guns at the shoulder and flags waving. As Confederate drums beat,
the lines moved to converge on the center of the Union line,
Lee's last chance at winning a victory in this hostile territory.
But Union cannons opened gaps in the Confederate lines and when
the troops reached a fence some 200 yards in front of the Federal
line, the muskets opened fire. The carnage was horrific as men
marched into the throats of cannons and faced the deadly Union
fire. Only a few reached the Union line and those who did were
killed, wounded or captured.
It was over. The next day, Lee turned and marched south and the
tide of the war had changed. On the fields here at Gettysburg,
some 51,000 men from the two sides lay dead, wounded or captured
from the three days of fighting.
The guns are quiet now and monuments stand where boys of blue
and gray once fought and died. Tourists by the thousands come
to walk this hallowed ground and to ponder what might have motivated
men of the same nation, brothers, to drench this soil with their
My eight year old son was intrigued by his visit to Gettysburg.
He climbed on the cannons, heard stories from our guide, saw
where the 20th Maine made its famous bayonet charge and stood
in the spot on Culp's Hill where one of his Union ancestors fought.
Though the guns are silent, I pray that they will echo in the
memories of our children and our childrens' children for it is
here that America lay its sons on an alter and sacrificed them.
The nation was preserved, but amid the rocks and trees of this
place, one can still hear the moans of the wounded and the weeping
of mothers whose sons rest in this soil.
Or is it just the wind?
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.
The Commerce News
March 28, 2001
Dead In Nicholson For Now
It appears that zoning is dead in Nicholson.
For the second time in four months, voters have elected anti-zoning
candidates to office. Barring a surprise change in one or more
city councilman's position, consider the issue put to rest.
But be aware also, that such issues do not die. While the absence
of land use planning and building regulations and restrictions
appeals to the majority of the voters, all it will take is one
major new enterprise to change folks' view to the point that
a majority demands zoning.
That's what happened in Arcade. Residents were dead-set against
having controls over how they used their land until an
outside corporation decided to build a landfill in Arcade. Suddenly,
there were a lot of converts to the cause of land use planning
Until something similar happens in Nicholson, there is little
reason to try to push zoning on a citizenry that has spoken so
clearly against it. Were the town's governing body to implement
an ordinance without the support of the public, it would be a
In the meantime, the community will continue to be the Jackson
County magnet for low-income housing, particularly sprawling
mobile home subdivisions that will strain the Jackson County
School System. Nicholson will be the place in which building
codes do not exist, where there are no subdivision regulations.
It will attract the developers whose projects no other community
will accept. The mayor and council can count on having to pave
and patch poorly built roads and on seeing the percentage of
stick-built housing units decline. It can expect the costs associated
with that development to grow much more rapidly than its revenues.
Nicholson has thumbed its nose at conventional wisdom and signaled
its willingness to accept those burdens as the price to pay for
retaining property rights. The majority has said that the right
of the individual to do as he wishes with his property is of
For better or for worse, Nicholson remains the only place in
Jackson County where there is no zoning. That may not sit well
with some of Nicholson's residents and many of its neighbors,
but Nicholson has a democratic form of government, and the majority