Jackson County Opinions...

August 15, 2001



Column
By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
August 15, 2001

Fishing Was Lousy,
But The Company Good

The annual Beardsley fishing excursion to Land Between The Lakes, TN, was a success, in that no one was seriously injured and we did not require the services of an automobile mechanic.
For the third year, I met my cousin Bruce of St. Louis at a Dover, TN, "cabin," and if I printed the pictures, you'd understand why the quote marks surround "cabin." It was the third year we've scheduled this trip in the first week of August, which is generally among the worst weeks of the year for fishing anywhere north of Cuba and south of Vermont.
But timing was subject to meshing schedules. It was his fault, not mine, so we met with low expectations of angling success and more optimistic views of conversation. Both, it seems, measured up to expectations.
The highlights of the trip were a photo op in front of Paris, TN's, miniature Eiffel Tower and the lack of contact with the auto repair fraternity of Dover, with whom we'd become acquainted on our first two trips. The photo of me in front of the Eiffel (Dover) Tower is something I will cherish for days, maybe even weeks, to come.
It is Bruce who got me obsessed with fishing when we were teenagers, but it was also Bruce who taught me to fish within my means. If the smallmouth bass aren't biting due to heat stroke, catch bluegill and sunfish; if they're unwilling to cooperate, enjoy the hot coffee or the cold beer. We used ultra-light tackle as mayflies shaken from trees on shore created a feeding frenzy among little fish as we waded, rather than tossing casting gear from my boat.
So, rather than catching the prey we were after, we settled for what could be had, catching a few smallmouth, one or two largemouth and spotted bass supplemented by numerous yellow bass, bluegill, longear sunfish, a channel catfish, a lone warmouth bass, a couple of shellcrackers, a pair of threadfin shad and a fish to be named later (we could not identify it). We fished both Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, the latter right under the guns that defended Fort Donaldson valiantly but unsuccessfully from federal troops in the Civil War of Northern Aggression Between the States.
We killed time, not fish. In the process, we observed that "resort" in Tennessee can mean a floating shack on a weed-filled cove at the end of a long dirt road where the restrooms are portable toilets but the beer is cold, and marveled over being able to get but one channel on the TV in our cabin. We found an "elk farm" for sale, but did not buy, and accepted Dover hospitality in the form of four homegrown tomatoes from the proprietress of the LBL Big Piney Woods Campground. It was too hot not to take it easy; loafing came naturally.
Since we see each other but twice a year, most of what little energy was expended was dedicated to catching up with each others' lives, two grandsons of a woman long dead, first cousins, best friends.
We plan the next trip for early June, when though it may be warm, it won't be hell-hot. Maybe the fish will be active; maybe our schedules will again sentence us to the first week of August. Either way, we'll go.



Editorial
The Jackson Herald
August 15, 2001

Mascot names need not be politically correct
We pity the Oconee County community. The sensitivity police are working overtime there and have decided that the local high school should abandon its mascot, the "Warriors," because it is insensitive to Native American Indians.
The suggestion to change the mascot came from a group called the "Cultural Awareness Task Force" which was created a few years ago to push for more minority representation in the Oconee County school system.
While this issue may be new in Oconee County, it is just one part of a growing national movement to eradicate all school mascots that reflect Indian names. Along with Warriors, these groups want to stop the use of "Indians," "Braves," and any other mascot that they believe to be insensitive. Dozens of web sites are devoted to that cause. In North Carolina, the issue has been especially heated in recent years.
While the Indian mascot issue won't directly affect Jackson County since our local schools use other names, it does affect all of us indirectly.
With all the pressing issues facing public schools today, the community debate should be more substantive than a discussion over mascot names.
We are all for recognizing the ethnic heritage or diversity of a community, but when political correctness becomes more important than education, we wonder where our community priorities have gone.
We suggest that Oconee county citizens bury the tomahawk on this issue and put their efforts into matters that aren't so superficial.

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Column
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
August 15, 2001

Critical look at 'quality of life' issues
There's no doubt that "quality of life" issues are hot in Jackson County. Old-timers and newcomers alike are keenly aware that the county is going through unprecedented changes. Naturally, no one wants the side effects of those changes to lower the local standard of living or to be detrimental to local lifestyles.
Yet to define "quality of life" is difficult. One person's idea of convenience is another person's idea of "sprawl." It's impossible to really get your hands around such a slippery subject.
In addition, there are a lot of ideas floating around that on a close examination don't hold much water. Buzzwords and populist fads may make some people feel good, but they don't really contribute to a clear understanding of those quality of life issues everyone talks about.
Let's take a critical look at some of these ideas and weigh them on the scale of reality:
· "Jackson County is historically agricultural and we should preserve that heritage."
It's difficult to know exactly what people mean when they say they want to "preserve" the agricultural past. I suspect, however, that most people mean the aesthetics of rural life, such as large open fields with cattle and old weathered barns.
Yet those who say this the most are usually those who don't work in agriculture themselves. And therein lies a conundrum: We may value the aesthetics of an agricultural life, but few of us make our living doing it. Indeed, only a very small percentage of people living in Jackson County actually live off agricultural income. Manufacturing, retail jobs and service industries dominate our employment base today. Agriculture simply doesn't employ many people, nor will it in the future of today's graduates.
In addition to that, agriculture does not pay local governments a lot of tax dollars. Special tax breaks for agriculture, such as the conservation use program and making farm equipment tax exempt, means that residential, industrial and commercial property make up a larger percentage of government tax income. Because of that, there is virtually no incentive for a local government to "preserve" agricultural land when industrial or commercial development will reap more tax benefits.
But the biggest problem with attempting to preserve open land as a part of agricultural heritage in Jackson County is that the free market rules. There is far more money to be made by selling or developing raw land than there is in keeping it in agriculture. And because that land is privately owned, the rest of us have no standing to tell a farmer he can't sell his land just so we can have a pretty field to look at. That landowner has the right to profit from his land even if that means he doesn't keep it in agriculture.
· "We should build communities where people can live and work close to home and that will curb sprawl."
In theory, that sounds great. But the reality is that people work where they want to work and none of us can force people to abandon their commute and walk to work nearby. No place is a blank slate where planned communities change the way people will live. While local governments have been successful in attracting more local jobs during the last 15 years, people will still commute to other areas to work. That is their right and we should not waste our time on utopian ideas that simply don't mesh with human nature.
· "We should oppose commercial development and limit the sprawl effect of those big-box mega-stores."
Everyone who lives in the suburbs complains about the traffic around malls and commercial centers - then they get in their cars and go there anyway. We can complain about the megastores all we want, but the truth is they appeal to a large number of people. That's how the marketplace votes and if people didn't like the stores, they wouldn't exist. Again, human nature will rule over all other considerations.

So what should we do in Jackson County?
Accept the fact that change is coming and make plans now to accommodate it.
Build enough roads with enough lanes to carry the projected traffic around schools and commercial centers.
Build the other infrastructure, such as water and sewer, to make sure we don't create an environmental problem.
Strengthen the planning and development branches of local governments so that building and zoning codes are enforced.
In short, let's talk less about how we want to make other people live and talk more about how we can lessen the impact of change on all of us.
That, in a nutshell, is the main way we can build a quality of life for the future.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.

 


Editorial
The Commerce News
August 15, 2001

Senate Reapportionment A Disaster For Georgia
The state's Democratic leaders and Gov. Roy Barnes are approaching reapportionment with all the vision for the future of a suicide bomber. With a redistricting plan so skewed to protect their hold on state government, Barnes and other leaders of the Democratic Party seem destined to prove to the public that all the bad things the Republicans have been saying are true.
The theory is that redistricting is done after every census to guarantee equal representation throughout the state. In the process, however, the party in power has the capability of drawing districts that fit the numerical criteria but which deny all logic, save political logic. In this case, the Senate Democrats have drawn districts favorable to the election of more Democrats and which will force 10 of the 24 Senate Republican incumbents into districts where they must run against other incumbents.
Now it is very likely that were the shoe reversed and the Republicans in charge of government, they would attempt the same thing. But the Democrats occupy the governor's office and control both houses of the legislature and while one might speculate about what the Republicans would do, one can see what the Democrats are doing. And it isn't pretty.
Assuming the gerrymandering is approved, it will not escape public notice and when the 2002 elections roll around, it won't be lost on the voters that the Democrats resorted to grossly convoluted district lines to protect their own. It may well turn out that the Senate Democrats' desperate attempt to stay in power will be the catalyst for their loss of that power as Republicans take over the Senate or, if the gerrymandering is successful, assume control of the governor's office two years later.
Grimes Embezzlement
Case Finally ClosesNow maybe we can close the George Grimes embezzlement case with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's finding that the late police chief, acting alone, stole more than $269,000 in public money.
Since it has been determined that the city will get back all but $5,000 of that money, the case doesn't have quite the urgency it did before that fact was made public. The city was harmed, certainly, but the damage is more to the public trust than to the public's money. It is still tough to swallow the fact that one of the city's top officials was apparently a crook, but not near as tough as it would be if the damage was uninsured. In the scheme of things, the financial loss was minimal.
Perhaps now we can close the case, a little wiser for the experience. New accounting procedures are in place to prevent the same sort of theft from occurring again, the hiring of a new police chief is a matter of a couple of weeks away and the GBI has confirmed the prevailing suspicion ­ that Grimes alone was responsible for the theft. He is dead and beyond prosecution, so this case is closed. The city can learn from this experience and move on.


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