Jackson County Opinions...

April 25, 2001



Column
By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
April 25, 2001

County 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."
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 animals.
"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.



Editorial
The Jackson Herald
April 25, 2001

Reapportionment 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 power.
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 are drawn.
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.

Column
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
April 25, 2001

The rite of spring is baseball
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 poster child.
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 of competition.
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 events.
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 skill.
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.


Editorial
The Commerce News
April 25, 2001

Commerce Should 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 class" citizens.
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 both developments.
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.


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