The Commerce News
July 18, 2001
Joy Of Shedding Blood In Nicholson
I've been told that a lot of people in Nicholson have been calling
for my blood recently, so last week I shed blood in Nicholson.
Council member Margaret Ward asked me if I'd give blood at an
Antioch United Methodist Church blood drive in support of a member.
I normally give at the Commerce community blood drive, but since
I could not attend that last Tuesday because of work, I agreed
to drive to Nicholson.
There, in Jackson County's oldest church, the faithful were collecting
blood for cancer patient Toni McGinnis. I was the first one to
sign in; Mrs. Ward was the second.
After answering all the Red Cross questions relating to not having
sex with male prostitutes, intravenous drug users, people who
have had sex with either of the above or paying someone to have
sex since 1977, the attendant took my blood pressure.
"Let me do that again," she said.
"What was it?" I inquired.
"I'm not going to tell you," she said.
She took it again. "One-sixty-two over 102."
With blood pressure like you can expect to receive telephone
solicitations for cemetery plots.
"Impossible," I said. "It's never been anywhere
close to that."
I was ordered to sit down, have a glass of juice and take it
easy for 10 minutes.
"I guess coming to Nicholson causes your blood pressure
to go up," Mrs. Ward said, not altogether joking.
So, sipping ice water, I talked with Beulah Smith and Jane Cathy,
wife of the pastor and a long-time Red Cross volunteer. They
briefed me on the history of the church and talked about how
it is growing again; the youth ministry, once abandoned, is again
active. The UMW, sponsors of the blood drive, is also active.
The next time, my blood pressure was down to 150/80, so they
agreed to remove a pint of my O-positive blood.
By then, two other people had given, but on the day, the church
collected only 15 pints, something of a disappointment. Nine
other potential donors were rejected. The church had hoped to
collect 40-50 pints; the Red Cross' goal was 30.
According to Red Cross officials, it gets harder and harder to
get people to donate blood. The last blood drive at BJC Medical
Center resulted in 20 units being donated. Officials were pleased
to get 50 units Tuesday at the First Baptist Church, but 10 years
ago the same drive would have brought in 75 units.
"People are just unconcerned about something until it affects
them personally," Mrs. Ward commented.
It takes an hour or less to give blood. There is virtually no
pain or discomfort. The need is critical and gets more critical
every year and most of us can give blood. If you know someone
who's had cancer or had a major operation, then you know someone
who benefited from a blood drive. Virtually every person will
one day need a blood transfusion or a blood product.
The Red Cross and local volunteers are trying to figure a way
to get you to donate blood regularly, and I hope you will if
you can. Donating blood is so simple, but it is also extremely
crucial. Please consider it.
The Jackson Herald
July 18, 2001
be the focus of recreation programs
There are signs this week that the split between the City of
Jefferson's new recreation department and the Jackson County
Recreation Department may be healing. Following some changes
in Jefferson's approach, leaders of both departments have reportedly
talked with each other and worked out some details for the upcoming
fall sports season.
That's good news for those who have been concerned about the
direction the departments had been headed in recent weeks. That
recreation leaders are working together for the good of all local
kids is the way the system is supposed to work.
There are few areas of government more emotional than that of
kids' recreation programs. Some parents get all bent out of shape
over minor issues, such as where a coach plays their kid on a
team. Such tensions go with the territory, as any coach or recreation
leader will attest.
But when those tensions reach the leadership and political level,
that's when we should all worry. Regardless of how the departments
are structured in Jackson County, the focus should be on offering
the best-quality program possible for local youth.
Despite its initial rocky start, Jefferson did the right thing
in creating a city recreation department. Growth in the area
had made the coordination of Jefferson area youth programs difficult
for volunteers. Hiring someone to do that will facilitate the
growth that is bringing pressure on the city programs.
Unlike Commerce, Jefferson is not ready to opt out of the county's
recreation programs. To maintain a quality program for both departments,
Jefferson and Jackson County need each other. By working together,
the quality of play in all sports will be enhanced and in the
long run, local kids will be better served.
That's what it's all about anyway - serving kids with quality
programs. And as long as city and county recreation leaders keep
focused on that, we'll all be better served.
Jackson County Opinion Index
The Jackson Herald
July 18, 2001
firefighters, lousy bookkeepers
The vehement negative reaction by local volunteer fire departments
toward efforts to increase financial accountability should appall
every taxpayer in Jackson County. Those opposed to the idea of
better financial accountability within local fire departments
are doing a disservice to themselves and to those in the county
who collectively pay several hundred thousand dollars in fire
taxes each year.
This isn't a new issue. Over the last decade, this newspaper
has reported and commented on the explosion of tax funds being
spent by the county's nine independent fire districts. We have
also reported on the sloppy record-keeping done by many of the
departments and on the late budgets often submitted by those
departments. But until last week, county leaders had refused
to openly address the concerns, fearing a political backlash
from those involved in volunteer firefighting.
Last week, that changed. Commissioner Emil Beshara had the guts
(or gall, depending on your viewpoint) to bring the issue up
in the open, but the heated reaction he got was all too predictable.
The fire departments don't want real financial accountability
and they don't want to discuss the future of firefighting in
the county if it includes the possibility of paid firefighters.
So how big is this issue? If fire protection in Jackson County
were a county department, it would easily be in the top 10 in
budget size. Last year, the county's nine fire districts (which
excludes Jefferson and Commerce) took in $612,000 in taxes and
another $48,000 in other income. In addition to that, the county
government kicked in $143,000 for fire protection, mostly to
pay for fire services provided by the Commerce Fire Department
to residents living outside the city limits. So in total, rural
fire protection in Jackson County was a $715,000 enterprise in
the year 2000. That's over twice the size of the tax commissioner's
office; it's nearly double the size of the county planning and
development department; it's nearly double the size of the clerk
of court's office; it's larger than the state court, probate
court, superior court and district attorney's offices combined;
and it's nearly $200,000 more than the county spent in recreation
for the year.
If those other departments refused to keep adequate records and
didn't balance their checkbooks, local taxpayers would be up
in arms and the BOC would be raising all manner of heck. If the
county recreation department kept its records in a shoe box and
didn't balance its bank statements, someone would get chewed
out by county leaders.
Yet that is exactly the situation with many of the county's fire
districts. The 2000 county audit pointed out a number of problems
with the fire department record-keeping, including the lack of
balanced bank statements. One department failed to issue 1099s
to firemen, a potentially serious IRS problem.
When the various fire districts were created in Jackson County
a number of years ago, each district was to have a local elected
board to oversee the department in that district. But those elections
are only nominal and often those on the district board are also
involved in the local fire department. There's not a true arm's-length
relationship and there is no real sense of accountability for
all that tax money.
What county leaders proposed last week was a reasonable solution
to that problem. Each district would approve invoices and then
forward those to the county for payment. The county would cut
the checks and credit that against that district's account. It
would be less paperwork for the districts and would introduce
some level of accountability beyond the shoe box system.
But fire department leaders put cold water on that idea, refusing
to even consider allowing such accountability. Not only that,
but they threatened to quit en masse should the county consider
hiring any full-time firefighters to fill in during the day when
many local volunteers are away at work.
Such a cowboy attitude is indefensible, even for volunteers.
This is tax money we're talking about - a lot of tax money that
belongs to the people of Jackson County, not the local fire departments.
Fire protection should be about serving the community, saving
lives and property, not egos and turf-protecting.
Fire department leaders have said that volunteer departments
will work as long as they have community support. But to keep
that support, those leaders will have to do a better job of financial
accountability and they will have to be open to changes in local
fire protection as the county grows, including the use of some
Local volunteers are good at fighting fires, but they're lousy
bookkeepers. It's time to fix the problem and move on.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.
The Commerce News
July 18, 2001
Funds From U.S.
Will Have Strings Attached
The recent Salvation Army flap illustrates a problem religious
groups face if they receive federal money under President Bush's
The SA proposed that religious groups receiving such funds be
exempted from laws prohibiting discrimination against the hiring
of gays and lesbians.
Legislation is now pending, promoted by Bush, to allow religious
groups that get government money to consider religion when hiring.
That legislation may pass, and an increasingly conservative Supreme
Court may uphold it, but religious groups anxious to get their
hands on federal cash should nonetheless be reminded that federal
dollars never, repeat, never, come without strings.
When religious beliefs clash with federal law, faith-based groups
receiving federal funds may find themselves compromised. In taking
federal cash, religious groups face not only possible challenges
to their faith-based policies, but also the possibility that
they will become too dependent upon federal money to ever be
truly independent again.
What makes faith-based initiatives strong is faith, not funding.
Groups that provide services to their community do so because
their faith dictates that they serve their fellow man, whether
with a soup kitchen, a homeless shelter or programs for the elderly
and disadvantaged. Add government funding to the mix and the
ability of the group to determine who it serves, who it hires,
how it operates and how it spends its money may be reduced. Federal
funds will not come without audits, accounting requirements and
entanglement with bureaucracy.
The greater risk may be that faith-based organizations will lose
the volunteer enthusiasm and drive necessary for success. Those
missions exist because people sacrifice time and money to fill
a need not being otherwise met. If a church program receives
federal money, is not the church's role diminished? The Bible
exhorts the faithful, not the government, to "be open-handed
toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land."
When the government enters faith-based programs, the church will
have surrendered its mission to the state.