Jackson County Opinions...

March 28, 2001

By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
March 28, 2001

Fletcher 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

Nicholson 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 none.
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 community.
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 it.
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.

By Mike Buffington
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 blood.
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

Zoning Appears 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 and regulation.
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 wasted effort.
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 primary importance.
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 has spoken.

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