Jackson County Opinions...

August 8, 2001



Column
By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
August 8, 2001

Privatizing $600 From Social Security Fund
At our household, we're eagerly awaiting the $600 we expect from our beloved president, George W. Bush, who lacked only three votes of sweeping the Beardsley household last November. (The election was closer in our house than it was in Florida, but at least we know who carried it.)
Naturally, we view the money as a reward for Bush's near success in our household and as an advance payment in lieu of Social Security funds, since that's essentially where the money is coming from.
I hope the prez won't hold it against us if we don't immediately cash the check and run to Wal-Mart to help rev up the economy, because ours will go in our Roth IRA accounts instead. Since Bush and most of the other politicians seem comfortable with continued raids on the Social Security Trust Fund, it's probably not a good idea to figure on Social Security as playing a significant role in post-work budgetary planning. Not that we had ever counted on retiring on Social Security, but we had hoped that our monthly checks might at least pay the cable TV bill.
Bush ran, in part, on the idea of privatizing Social Security, and that's exactly what he's doing with these refunds. Money is "borrowed" from Social Security to try to buy more popular support in the polls, and we can invest it in anything from malt liquor to wheat futures. I figure even with my current investments sinking like a fishing rod dropped over the side of a boat, the chances of that $600 being around when I retire are better in our Roth IRAs than in the government's IOU file.
But Bush's actions are much different from what he proposed during the campaign, which was to let Americans invest some of that SS money in the stock market. Now he's raiding the Social Security Trust Fund to try to kick the economy up a notch. That's a liberal for you. Conservatives like me would rather see the trust fund kept solvent; lacking that, we're taking our share and, like the man suggested when he was campaigning, doing our own retirement investing.
Not that $600 will go very far, but it will likely go a lot further than any $600 Washington, DC, has of our money. Like most of the other fiscal conservatives we know, we're not counting on much help from Uncle Sam (or George) with retirement, not when there are more dependable alternatives like 401Ks, lottery tickets, recycling of aluminum, dotcom stock, raffle tickets and putting off retirement until age 83.
I admit to feeling a small amount of guilt for so selfishly investing the tax rebate on myself instead of supporting my country by using it to stimulate the economy. Every time I drive by Bass Pro Shop, I have to subdue a surge of patriotism that would otherwise compel me to do the right thing by my country.
But you know me. I can't abide by the liberal spending philosophy, regardless of its effect on the economy. I'm a compassionate conservative who believes in both paying our debts (national and private) out of compassion for the lenders and for future generations which will otherwise have to pay those bills.
But we elected a liberal, so I'll just have to put up with it.



Editorial
The Jackson Herald
August 8, 2001

Redistricting plans make no sense
Although we understand the political pressures that have led to the current redistricting maps - that is, the Democratic Party wants to preserve power - the price that would be paid by Georgia citizens is too high. Most of the proposals we've heard or seen split counties in ways that do not preserve local spheres of interest.
We realize that crafting districts for common interest hegemony is less important to some leaders than political hegemony. Political self-interest is always a factor in redistricting decisions.
But the current plans take this political interest too far at the expense of doing what is best for Georgia citizens. There is no valid argument, for example, to say that Jackson County has similar interests to Warren County in middle Georgia or Gilmer County in north central Georgia. Yet the Senate plan splits Jackson in such a way that we are tied to both areas. It simply doesn't make sense.
Nor do we like the governor's idea of using multi-member districts in the House to dilute Republican strength in the state. Multi-member districts would do a disservice to growing counties like Jackson where larger surrounding communities would dominate the county's representation in Atlanta. If Jackson were part of a multi-member district with neighboring Clarke County, for example, those running for office from Clarke would dominate the outcome. Jackson County's interest would be lost in the politics and we would not have our own voice in Atlanta.
Frankly, we don't care one whit about the power struggle between the Republican and Democratic parties. If the Republicans were in control, we have no doubt that they, too, would gerrymander district lines to suit their political agenda just as the Democrats are doing now.
What we do care about, however, is having some district lines that preserve as much common interest as possible so that our citizens will have true representation in the General Assembly.
The current proposals don't do that. If those plans move forward, the citizens of Jackson County, and indeed the state, will have been robbed of true representation.
And that, in our minds, should be unforgivable during the next elections.

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Column
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
August 8, 2001

Jefferson leadership trips again
Won't Jefferson city officials ever learn? Once again, a member of the city council has reportedly attempted to interfere with the duties of hired city employees, this time apparently seeking to have an employee fired.
That's nothing new in Jefferson. For years, city council members have meddled in the day-to-day affairs of city business. That has been done, in large part, because the city council has a practice of naming city council members to "oversee" various departments in the town. Every city councilman has one or two departments that they are "chairman" over.
But that practice has led to nothing but problems as Jefferson has grown. The demands being placed on the city are greater than ever before, yet many of the key decisions are being made by politicians who simply don't know what they're talking about. On top of that, the inside jealousies and bickering between council members over departmental control border on the inane.
The latest incident, however, goes even a step beyond such meddling. Although city councilman C.D. Kidd is not the "chairman" of the police department, he reportedly threatened the job security of Police Chief Darren Glenn if Glenn didn't fire a local policeman.
According to an incident report for July 31, officer Richard Jewell had responded to a juvenile problem at Heritage Heights Apartments where some kids had been arguing. While Jewell was talking to the boys and their parents, Kidd reportedly arrived on the scene and asked one of the parents to walk over and talk with him.
At that point, Jewell asked Kidd to move his car, which he said was blocking the road. Kidd reportedly responded that he would "move it in a minute."
After Jewell finished talking with the boys and their parents, he was reportedly confronted by Kidd who said, "You need a new attitude, boy."
A verbal altercation occurred between the two men over where Kidd had parked his vehicle. Jewell reported that Kidd said, "I am city councilman C.D. Kidd and this is private property. I will park where I want to."
When Kidd eventually walked away, he reportedly told Jewell that "This ain't over yet."
In an August 3 letter to city attorney Ronnie Hopkins, Chief Glenn reported that on the day of the incident, he was paged by Kidd while out of town. When he returned the call, Kidd reportedly told Glenn that "you need to do something about that man," meaning Jewell.
"He went on to say that if I did not fire Officer Jewell that he could not support me in December," wrote Glenn. December is when the council officially appoints its department heads, including police chief, for the coming year.
Glenn said he told Kidd that Jewell had tendered his resignation a few days before the confrontation to take a position at another department and was working a notice.
"Then you had better fire him before the two weeks is over or I'm not gonna support you, Chief, it's plain and simple," Glenn quotes Kidd as having said. "I want him to know that I had something to do with it."
Glenn refused to fire Jewell and sent his letter to Hopkins to "have this conversation on file since threats were made to me."
If all of that sounds like small-town petty politics, it is. All too often, local elected officials begin believing their own rhetoric. Egos get inflated and some politicians begin to believe it's OK to swing their political weight around.
That's not universal, of course. For every petty politician, there are other public officials who serve the public interest and who would never use their position in a threatening manner.
But in Jefferson, such swagger hasn't been unusual over the years. The city's practice of making council members "chairmen" of departments only intensifies the idea of their self-importance. It plays on the worst in human nature, not the best. On top of that, years of nepotism have disfigured the way the city operates and give fodder to critics who claim that to be employed by the City of Jefferson depends not on your ability, but rather on your bloodlines.
This latest fiasco will no doubt soon fade. The councilman would be foolish to pursue a vendetta over a verbal confrontation and the officer in question will soon be leaving the department anyway.
Still, it is another indication that Jefferson's leadership is teetering on the brink of collapse. And while some hope the advent of a city manager government Jan. 1, 2002, will be the savior, one has to wonder: What kind of manager would want to work for a city government like Jefferson's?
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.


Editorial
The Commerce News
August 8, 2001

Reservoir's Success Is Inspiring To Others
While the water is not flowing out to member counties yet, the success of the regional Bear Creek Reservoir is attracting attention. Last Monday, a delegation from Grady County visited the reservoir and talked with representatives of the four-county Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority to get an idea of what it takes to pull off a project of this complexity and magnitude.
Grady County officials hope to build a reservoir on Tired Creek to meet their water needs. But leaders there see the greatest need for water there as being for recreational purposes, which could make getting all the necessary state and federal approval harder. The fact that northeast Georgia is rapidly growing and its water supplies are limited was an advantage in getting local leaders focused and state and federal bureaucrats interested.
Meeting the requirements of the EPD, EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was incredibly difficult, but it was sometimes less taxing than meeting the individual demands and soothing the egos of politicians from four counties. Nonetheless, in addition to gaining expertise in the political realities of regional cooperation, officials in Jackson, Barrow, Oconee and Athens-Clarke counties have also become knowledgeable about dealing with the regulatory agencies.
Leaders elsewhere are taking note. The Bear Creek Reservoir is a significant accomplishment.


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