The Commerce News
April 25, 2001
To Announce Animal Control Plan?
Who says the Jackson County Board of Commissioners lacks leadership?
The board is about to announce the solution to a problem with
which it's been wrestling for several months now.
I refer to animal control. It's the pet (pun intended) issue
of Commissioner Emil Beshara.
The commissioners will announce in the next week or two, their
"410 Caliber Plan For Animal Control."
Basically, anyone who calls the county with an animal complaint
will be directed to chairman Harold Fletcher. Upon determining
that a complaint is valid, Fletcher will lend the county's .410
shotgun and a shovel to the complainant, who will then have the
means by which to resolve the matter.
While on the surface this plan seems cruel and violent, there
is one major aspect that has led the commissioners to accept
it: the cost.
The county's expense will be about $90 for a single-shot 410
shotgun and two boxes of shells, which should last several months,
if not a year. The outlay will be so insignificant as to have
no effect on your tax bill. The shovel will be taken from the
county prison and will never be missed.
The alternative is an animal shelter, which could cost hundreds
of thousands of dollars to build and thousands more per year
to operate, but which would have the same end product a
lot of dead animals. A typical animal shelter "shelters"
stray dogs and cats three to seven days before killing them.
The 410 Caliber Plan For Animal Control will have virtually the
same results, but without the waiting period. It is also considered
much more humane because the animals are not cruelly caged prior
to their termination.
"It's a humane, efficient, cost-effective way of solving
the problem," chairman Harold Fletcher would have said if
he'd thought of it. "When I ran for office, I pledged to
get the people more involved in government, and this will do
It also fits with Jackson County's rural traditions of people
resolving problems with firearms instead of waiting for expensive,
often inefficient government initiatives and their refusal to
neuter or spay their animals.
One reason the commissioners have delayed announcing the program
is that there are a few minor bugs to work out. For example,
the Humane Society is considered likely to oppose it because
its members are Pro Life when it comes to dogs and cats. The
commissioners are also worried that children, many of whom think
an animal shelter is a place for dogs and cats to play until
they are adopted, will be upset at the idea of the .410 solution.
In the event that the public refuses to accept the 410 Caliber
Plan For Animal Control, the commissioners do have a fallback
plan. They would ask the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority
to declare the 100 acres it bought next to the Texfi waste treatment
plant to be an animal preserve and to house all stray or unwanted
"With 10,000 potential watchdogs, the authority will never
worry about a break-in," Fletcher would probably say. "It's
a definite win-win situation for Jackson County."
Now that would be leadership.
Mark Beardsley is editor of The Commerce News.
The Jackson Herald
April 25, 2001
will be important to county
Let the fights begin. That may be how Georgians feel this summer
as the Georgia Legislature convenes to reapportion the state
into new local, state and national election districts. Reapportionment
is politics at its worst as both parties vie for position and
Locally, every town in Jackson County that has a council elected
by districts will have to draw new lines. That will be a major
change in Jefferson, Braselton and Hoschton because of the growth
those three cities have seen since 1990. The balance of power
in those communities could see a dramatic shift after new lines
At the county level, the new board of commissioners will have
to have new lines drawn since the current districts are based
on the 1990 census. There probably won't be any major shift in
power, but the districts will be altered.
But the biggest fight local citizens are likely to see will be
over the House of Representatives seat held by Pat Bell and the
creation of a new Congressional district in Northeast Georgia.
In the state House district, local Republicans want to find a
way to regain the position for their party. But since Jackson
County likely now has the population to give it a unified district
within the county lines, local Republicans face a difficult issue.
To ensure that seat for Republicans might mean splitting Jackson
County to create a strong Republican seat that would include
part of Hall or Gwinnett County. But few local officials would
want to see Jackson County divided into two House districts.
In the Congressional district, Jackson County may have to decide
if it wants to be part of a new district centered around Athens,
or hand its hat with a district that focuses down I-85 toward
Gwinnett County. Athens leaders are pushing hard for a new Congressional
seat to be based in Athens. Traditionally, Athens has been a
regional center of business.
But Jackson County citizens have two other considerations: First,
Athens is largely a Democratic county while Jackson County is
predominantly Republican. Do we want to be a part of a district
that could elect a Democratic Congressman?
Secondly, while Athens has long been a regional center for Jackson
County, that is shifting as more and more people move out of
the Atlanta area up I-85 to Jackson County. One could argue that
Jackson County will have more ties to the I-85 corridor than
to Athens in the future.
All of these are important decisions and the outcome of reapportionment
will affect us for the next 10 years. Now is the time to weigh
all the options and to somehow build a consensus around doing
what is best for Jackson County during that decade.
The Jackson Herald
April 25, 2001
The rite of spring
Baseball is a sublime game. Every sport has its unique challenges,
of course. It'd be difficult to say that any one sport is better
than another since we're drawn to sporting events for a variety
of individual reasons.
But in the spring, the dominant sport in Jackson County is baseball.
Hundreds of kids take bat and glove to local fields for this
annual rite of passage. It is more than sporting, it is a cultural
tradition that runs deep in the fabric of our society.
Still, we've all heard the horror stories of parents losing control
at youth league baseball events. Critics of youth sports have
latched onto those outbursts and magnified them into an anti-sports
It is true, of course, that emotions often run high in youth
sports, especially when kids are experiencing competition for
the first time. We parents often seek to relive our childhood
using our own children as substitute players. It is sometimes
difficult to set aside our own adult-level competitive urges
in a game played by our children.
But considering the millions of kids who participate in recreation
baseball each year, the ugly incidents between parents are small.
Mostly, parents enjoy seeing their kids play, not only learning
a game, but also learning how to cope with the ups and downs
For those who've been out of the child-rearing business for a
while, baseball starts young these days. T-ball for 4-6-year-olds
is the best show in town. Your child, or grandchild, might be
more interested in picking flowers in the outfield than in the
little white ball that just rolled by. Infielders love to kick
up brick dust - it becomes a competition, I think, to see who
can kick up the most. And batters love to hit the ball and run
around the bases, sometimes even backwards.
T-ball is mostly about fun and learning the basic skills of the
sport. It is in the ensuing years that the mental and physical
abilities begin coming together in a way that makes for real
competition. It is this stage that I enjoy the most because while
the emphasis is still on having fun, there is the kindling of
a competitive fire. You can see that in the players' eyes and
you sense it during a game.
There are those, of course, who decry this competitive urge.
Some believe that competition is harmful to children and that
it should not be part of any youth sporting event.
I would disagree. Somewhere after age 6 or 7, most children start
to become competitive in their interactions with other children,
a fact that is readily apparent on the playground where no structured
game is taking place. Kids, especially boys, run, push, shove,
wrestle and romp to see who is the fastest or strongest. Competition
is a part of nature, it is part of being human.
What's challenging about youth sports to find a way to allow
that competitive spirit to emerge in the right atmosphere and
to channel it in a productive way. That's often difficult for
any parent and for those who attempt to coach youth in sporting
But of all the youth sports, baseball offers perhaps the most
advantageous atmosphere for kindling this competitive nature.
The various skills of baseball - hitting, running, fielding and
throwing - usually emerge at different stages. This baseball
season, I've seen kids who could hit but not field, throw but
not run. Putting all those kids together on a team with their
individual strengths and weaknesses helps each to grow in their
physical abilities. A big part of that growth is due to the innate
competitive nature that motivates a kid to develop his weakest
But the other great thing baseball does for kids at this age
is it forces them to value the mechanics of teamwork. Coaches
place players on the field to play to a kid's strengths. The
player who can catch consistently goes on first base, the best
fielder at shortstop. But kids quickly learn that no matter where
a ball is hit, it takes teamwork to get a runner out.
As both a coach and a parent, it is rewarding to watch youngsters
develop during a season of play, to watch the kid who couldn't
throw at the beginning of the year throw out an opponent during
a game, or to watch the kid who couldn't hit whack the ball to
the outfield by the middle of the season.
But mostly it's rewarding to see how a group of diverse kids
come together as a team, to ride the wave of competition together
for a common goal and to see them develop not only the physical
skills to win, but also the mental agility that is such a key
part of baseball and of life.
Win or lose on the scoreboard, kids who participate in quality
youth sports will learn some valuable lessons that go far beyond
hitting and catching.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.
The Commerce News
April 25, 2001
Stem Tide Of Rental Projects
Developers of proposed rental housing
projects will disagree, but the Commerce Planning Commission
should be commended for doing what it can to slow down the growth
of rental housing in the city.
For some reason, every developer with from four to 100 acres
seems determined to put rental housing units in Commerce. Some
would be built under a federal program targeting low-income residents;
others are purely private enterprise.
To be sure, Commerce needs adequate rental housing, but suddenly
the city appears to be overwhelmed with proposals. The balance
between rental housing and resident-owned housing appears to
be tilting the wrong way. In addition to crowding the schools
and causing taxes to go up, an imbalance of rental housing creates
a community in which too many residents are transient.
The Commerce City Council will be asked at its May 14 meeting
to approve a zoning request for multi-family housing and two
zoning for annexation requests. The planning commission has recommended
that all three be rejected.
Naturally, property owners and those trying to develop the projects
are disappointed angry even when their proposals
are shot down. They suggest that renters are considered "second
But it's up to the city to protect the interest of the city at-large,
and right now our government needs to be extremely careful about
what it permits, and extra careful about what it annexes. At
this point, there is no good reason why Commerce should annex
property so developers can build rental units. Our schools are
already strained to provide classroom space, the city's sewage
treatment capacity is almost used up (an expansion is planned),
and while the city has plenty of water right now, that is a resource
to be parceled out carefully. Many of our streets cannot handle
the increased traffic of residential development and Commerce
is already known regionally for the severity of drug problems
in the community. In short, Commerce is ill-prepared to handle
what growth is already coming, let alone any more that is encouraged.
It remains to be seen if the city council will accept the planning
commission's recommendations, in that half or more of the council
seems enamored of rental projects especially the bigger
ones. The council should call for a moratorium on rental housing
developments until it can establish exactly how many rental units
are already permitted and determine if there really is a need
for more. The city has already endorsed the construction of two
large low-income housing developments, and with low-income-housing
proponent Councilman Bob Sosebee sitting on the board that determines
which projects are funded, Commerce could end up with one or
At least until the city learns the fate of two large apartment
complexes, it should bar the gate on additional rental housing
projects. The planning commission is doing its part; now it's
up to the city council.