Jackson County Opinions...

May 23, 2001



Column
By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
May 23, 2001

Stock Tip: Invest In The Oil Companies
My light pickup truck gets 22 miles to the gallon when fully loaded with boat, fishing tackle and other gear and ripping along the interstates of the Southeast at an unhealthy 75-80 miles per hour.
I offer that observation ­ that's the only time I ever actually check gas mileage anymore ­ as I ponder the national energy crisis that has George Bush and Dick Cheney anxious to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
At this writing, California is bracing for a summer of brownouts and $2 per gallon gasoline. In Commerce, the price is $1.44 or thereabouts.
The topic of gas mileage is relevant to the cost of gasoline, in that the creaky 1992 Chevy S-10 probably actually gets better than average gas mileage. After the energy crisis of the late 1970s, America got serious about conserving energy. There were energy conservation tax credits, and auto manufacturers began turning out cars that got upwards of 40 miles per gallon.
Today, half of the vehicles on the road are pickup trucks and SUVs, neither of which get many miles to the gallon. The little cars of the early 1980s are being forced off the road out of fear of a collision with the trucks and SUVs that dominate auto sales. A large part of the American public, even if sick of 16 miles per gallon, is afraid to ride or let their loved ones ride in a car small and light enough to get 40 miles per gallon.
Ironically, most pickup trucks are not used for work and only for very occasional hauling. SUVs have little more utility than a Toyota Camry for most families, and may actually be less stable on the road than the average sedan.
Gas prices are subject to the law of supply and demand. We have a finite supply of gasoline and a growing demand in part because the use per vehicle per mile has gone up. The increases in price are a natural consequence.
The Bush-Cheney administration would rather find more oil than reduce our consumption per mile, and you can't help but figure their oil company backgrounds play a part in that position. Oil companies stand to make more money if they can find more oil to sell; they make less if people use less of their product.
This tactic plays well with a public far removed from the Arctic National Refuge or other pristine areas. Confronted with the choice between $1.75-per-gallon gas or possibly inconveniencing the caribou migration and chiseling out roads and pipelines in the remotest corner of Alaska, and most voters want to see more drilling.
America's romance with big, inefficient personal transportation is stronger than its appreciation of wilderness. Our cars, SUVs and trucks sit in our driveways; and most of us will never go near the Arctic or any other wilderness. This battle will go to Big Oil and its White House connection.
Maybe when there are no more fragile areas to exploit, someone will realize that there is a relationship between our wasteful use of fuel and its high cost.
In the meantime, buy stock in the oil companies. They're going to make a killing.



Editorial
The Jackson Herald
May 23, 2001

Support salute to area veterans
A special salute to area veterans is planned Friday night in Jefferson. Organized by leaders of the Jackson County School System, over 100 local veterans will be honored during the event at Jackson County Comprehensive High School.
While all veterans will be honored, a special focus will be put on those veterans of World War II. These men and women have entered the popular vernacular as "The Greatest Generation" after the book of the same name which outlined their sacrifices during that terrible war.
It's a title well-deserved. At the end of WWII, over 12 million men and women were on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces. Of that, 292,131 were killed in action and another 671,278 were wounded. Another 105,000 were held as prisoners of war.
Over 73 percent of those on duty served overseas and the average duration of service was 33 months.
The production of military equipment in the U.S. was staggering during WWII. In 1944 alone, for example, over 96,000 aircraft were produced. During the war, the U.S. built 10 battleships, 27 aircraft carriers, 100,000 tanks, 12.5 million rifles and 41 billion rounds of ammunition.
And the losses were staggering as well. Over 59,000 U.S. aircraft were lost, 157 naval ships and 866 merchant ships.
In short, Americans sacrificed during WWII to a degree that we today can hardly fathom. Yet for all the bloodshed and terrible pain, these same men and women helped to rebuild both friend and foe when that war was over.
There may be no better opportunity to salute our veterans than to honor them Friday night at this special program in Jefferson. We encourage everyone to attend.

 

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Column
The Jackson Herald
May 23, 2001

Talking among agencies is a good sign
Last week, four local entities sat down for a day-long meeting to discuss issues key to Jackson County's future. At the behest of the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce, members of the industrial development authority, county commissioners and county water and sewer authority board met to discuss some questions that may have an impact on the county's growth.
By all reports, it was a good, productive meeting. No decisions were made, but the fact that these groups are talking is a sign that Jackson County is about to enter a new era. In fact, that meeting appears to be just the first of many to come. This week, the BOC called for a sit-down with the county's three boards of education and another meeting with representatives from the county's 10 fire districts.
To some, none of this may seem important. But it is, and here's why. Jackson County covers a large geographic area and contains a slew of groups with narrow interests. We have nine towns and several of those have subagencies. We have three school systems and a host of community schools. We have a county government that also has a number of subagencies and interests, including the water and sewer authority and those 10 fire districts. We are part of several regional agencies, including the Bear Creek Reservoir project. And we have a growing number of private interests covering industrial developments and residential projects.
In short, the governance of Jackson County is often confusing even for those directly involved. Seldom, if ever, have all of these groups attempted to sit down and talk about their common problems and interests. More often than not, each of these agencies has spent more time in protecting turf than they have in working with each other for the common good of all.
But that may be changing. If these various groups begin meeting together to talk, it could clear the way for a stronger Jackson County.
One of the key issues to be resolved was the one which apparently dominated last week's meeting - the future development of water and sewer infrastructure in the county.
Now, I know that sounds boring. Most of us don't give a whit about the technical details of water lines or sewage treatment. That is, we don't care until our well goes dry or becomes contaminated by a neighbor's septic system. Then we scream at the county to "do something" to solve our problem.
But those issues aren't simple. Nor are they cheap. This year, in an almost simultaneous move, the county government is taking on the Bear Creek water project and the startup of its first sewage line and treatment plant. Coupled with that are two very large debts that could affect every citizen in the county for decades to come. One wrong move or bad decision could undermine the financial underpinning of those projects with terrible results for taxpayers.
But the financial considerations are just one part of the picture. County leaders are also facing some difficult decisions about how to allocate the use of these new resources.
For example, the startup of the sewerage project will largely be paid for by the developers of Mulberry Plantation, the 1,500-home planned community on Hwy. 124. That one project made the county's entry into sewerage possible. But in reality, most county leaders don't want to allocate this sewerage capacity to such residential projects. Rather, most leaders want to use the sewerage capacity to lure new industries to the county. Allowing residential access to sewerage would allow increased housing density and that is a situation most local governments are attempting to avoid.
But it's a difficult balance to achieve. Somehow, the sewerage system has to have enough cash flow to survive, otherwise taxpayers will have to pick up the debt. So how will the county balance that financial need with the longer-term goal of using sewerage capacity for industrial development? How will that debt be paid for in the interim?
There are no clear or easy answers to these questions. Just as soon as the county's leadership comes to one decision, a private investor may propose a project that would completely change the picture.
But the fact that the county's leadership is beginning to talk about these issues is an encouraging sign. If everyone understands the issues better, then perhaps we can avoid the partisan bickering that has been typical of our county's splintered leadership in the past.
Last week's meeting was just the first in what may be an ongoing dialogue between our county leaders. It's a good sign and we should all encourage those efforts to continue.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.


Editorial
The Commerce News
May 23, 2001

They Paid The Price So We Can Be Complacent
Next Monday, most American businesses (including this one) will be closed for Memorial Day. This is a day that has become more known as the kickoff of summer vacation than as a tribute to those in whose honor it was created.
That is a shame. The fact that America has not been seriously threatened by an opposing military force since World War II seems to have dulled the collective consciousness to the fact that American men and women put their lives on the line for their country every day. Even in times of peace, lives are lost in the defense of this nation.
At Memorial Day 2001, veterans of World War II are dying at the rate of 1,500 a day, and many a Memorial Day Speaker will borrow Tom Brokaw's title, referring to them as "The Greatest Generation."
But most of the men who served in World War II and other wars or military engagements do not see themselves as special. They were ordinary men, called upon to perform in extraordinary times, and often their service was extraordinary. Of those who died, some no doubt acted heroically, others less so, and some perhaps succumbed to less noble inclinations. But all allowed themselves to be put in situations the rest of us cannot imagine out of a sense of obligation to their country. While Memorial Day is set aside to remember those who died while serving their country, the nation owes just as large a debt to all those who served when they were called and those who now serve in the event they are needed.
It would be nice to know that Americans would never have to enter another war, but history suggests otherwise and prudence dictates that we keep a strong military. That, in turn, means men and women must undergo training that itself can prove fatal and be prepared to put their lives on the line if so required. The recent incident in which China forced down an American spy plane demonstrates that even in peacetime, American military personnel are at risk.
Many a young man died on the fields of Europe in World War I, never to grow up, to be forgotten except in family history. It happened again all over the world in World War II, and again in Korea, again in Vietnam, again in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and again in the Balkans. Those soldiers lie mostly forgotten, many on foreign ground and some were never even accounted for. They never grew up, never married, never saw their loved ones again.
They and their families paid a terrible price so that the rest of us might continue in complacency to enjoy the fruits and benefits of the United States.
Remember them Monday. Remember those who served, and especially those who died. Remember also that there are hundreds of thousands of Americans standing ready right now in case they are needed. Whether in defense of their homeland or for the furtherance of foreign policy, they are prepared to risk their lives for their country, and doubtlessly, some of them will die on our behalf.
Monday isn't just a day for a cookout or to mark the beginning of summer. It's a day to pay respect to those without whose sacrifice we would have nothing to celebrate.


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