Jackson County Opinions...

September 12, 2001

By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
September 12, 2001

Is This War? The Pearl Harbor Of 2001?
First of all, I hope everyone will vote to extend the special purpose local option sales tax for education next Tuesday. A column to that effect would be in this space but for the remarkable events of Tuesday.
The first thought I had when it became apparent that the events were caused by terrorists was that now I know how Americans felt in 1941 when Pearl Harbor attacked.
Maybe. At least then, we knew who was responsible. But Tuesday as I write this, nothing is known, though I heard one Defense spokesperson compare the events to the attack on Pearl Harbor. The next few weeks will be fascinating.
I've long pondered what the national response would be to a massive terrorist attack in which the identity of the perpetrators remained unknown. Will Americans call for blood? You bet.
The speculation has already started as to whether a terrorist group could mount this kind of attack without the support of an Iraq, and Iran or some other state that equates America with the "Great Satan."
If it becomes readily accepted that some country is involved, a declaration of war is a distinct possibility. But what if the best we can do is determine that a group, which gets funding or other assistance or is merely befriended by such a state, proves to be the culprit? Do we still declare war on the basis of guilt by association?
We can find someone to blame for this. Clips of Palestinians dancing in the streets of East Jerusalem can and no doubt will, be duplicated in Tehran, Baghdad, Kabul and elsewhere and could serve to incite the kind of bloodlust that could cause our leaders to identify a target for revenge as much to satisfy the public as to exact punishment.
But the Pearl Harbor analogy can go further too. That attack united America, caused us to focus and led to the defeat of the Axis in World War II. It may well be that the terrorist group that instigated this tragedy will find that it signed its own death warrant, finally moving to action the kind of massive response only a superpower can provide. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure that counterterrorist organizations, the CIA and the military will get everything they need to respond. Likewise, policies targeting terrorists, including assassination of foreign leaders, may be re-established in this time of need. If there is one thing of which we can be certain, it is that terrorist groups will get the full and undivided attention of the U.S. government. All resources will be be available.
Our chore will be to manage our anger and frustration, to avoid the kinds of shameful actions that led to, among other things, the internment of the Japanese in the months after Pearl Harbor.
If our national response is to lash out blindly against all who look like our enemies, if we suspend constitutional rights, if we cower under this new threat, then the terrorists will have won.
Let's be wise and patient until we know who is responsible for this unprecedented terrorist attack. Then we'll show the terrorists and their supporters just how strong, united and powerful we really are.

The Jackson Herald
September 12, 2001

Support SPLOST
Next Tuesday, voters in Jackson County will decide whether or not to continue the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for education.
We believe that our local school systems have used those funds wisely in the past and that voters should continue to support the SPLOST for education.
Growth is putting a lot of pressure on our local schools. The question is, how will we pay for the facilities to house these students?
We hope Jackson County voters will agree that a sales tax is the best and fairest method to build the necessary infrastructure for our schools.
Next Tuesday, we encourage a YES vote in favor of the education SPLOST.

Beatty wins video poker fight
Video poker will soon be history in Georgia and no doubt state Democratic leaders will take credit for that action.
But the truth is, video poker was banned because Republican Sen. Mike Beatty of Jefferson pushed the issue to the surface and forced his opposing party to confront the matter.
During last winter's legislative session, Beatty attempted to address the video poker issue, only to be met with resistance from Democratic legislators. It's not that the Democratic Party supported video poker, but rather they didn't want to give a victory to a freshman Republican senator.
But as the video poker problem began to grow, legislators began to come under fire for not having addressed the issue. Obviously, the Democratic Party didn't want video poker to be an issue in the 2002 elections and saw that the only way to avoid a potentially devastating issue was to do away with the problem now.
While Beatty has been praised by his Republican colleagues, state Democrats will no doubt attempt to take credit for the action.
Frankly, we don't care about the party politics, just that the right thing has been done. And for that, we salute Sen. Beatty and his persistence on the video poker issue.

Jackson County Opinion Index


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By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
September 12, 2001

America will not yield to fear
When terrorists dove commercial jets into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon Tuesday morning, the symbolism was obvious - it was a strike at the twin strengths of the American economy and the American military.
The loss of life in this attack will likely climb into the thousands and it will affect the lives of millions more. Sept. 11, 2001, will long be remembered in the same way we remember Nov. 22, 1963, and the assassination of President Kennedy. Indeed, these two events bridge across three generations and while the loss of life differs, the psychological impact is the same. American institutions were attacked because of what they represent and the American people find themselves in a state of collective shock and grief.
Tuesday's attacks were a strike not at strategic buildings, but rather at American values. That is, of course, the very point of terrorism. Whether the target is an individual or thousands of people in buildings, terrorism seeks to spread fear and panic among those who are not directly involved.
In today's wired culture, the birth and manipulation of this fear is surprisingly easy. Tuesday's attacks were designed for maximum dramatic impact, especially in television footage. Those behind the events sought, and got, both the terrible images they wanted and a virtual lockdown of America.
But Tuesday's events were not, as some politicians have stated, another "Pearl Harbor." While both events do involve surprise attacks on American soil, they do not share the same evil parentage. Pearl Harbor was a military attack with military objectives done by a known government. It led to America's entry into a massive worldwide war that consumed millions of lives.
While a horrible event, Tuesday's attacks were apparently not done by a powerful government, but rather by a relatively small number of unknown terrorists whose goals were psychological, not military. It will not lead to another world war and it did not weaken America's military standing. To compare the two events is to trivialize the sacrifices of those whose blood was shed in the years following the attack on Pearl Harbor.
But Tuesday's events could weaken America by instilling a sense of irrational fear that leads us to cede freedom in the name of security. We've already seen smaller examples of how fear can consume a nation. The Columbine High School shooting led to days of rumors and fears in other schools across the nation. Parents kept children at home not because of credible threats to their safety, but rather because of unfounded rumors. An ugly form of mob psychology took hold as fear erased reason. And because of that tragic event, many of our high schools have installed security systems that in any other environment would raise troubling questions about individual liberty.
It is important, then, that our reaction as a nation to Tuesday's events not come from fear, but rather from reason. However horrible these events may be, we cannot afford to let terrorists manipulate our society by using fear as their weapon of choice.
In the short term, of course, our response should be one of caution. The closure of the nation's mass transit systems was the only option given the events taking place Tuesday.
In the coming days, it is also appropriate that we collectively mourn the great loss of life that resulted from this terrorism. Thousands of innocent people died Tuesday not because they were at war, but rather because they were simply Americans.
But once we overcome our numbness, once we mourn the great loss of life, we should resume our lives in as normal a manner as possible. To do otherwise would be to give those behind these attacks the victory they seek.
And we must not let these events erode the essential freedoms our nation has long embraced. We cannot trade liberty for security, for in attempting to do so, we would only lose both.
So while our flags now fly at half-mast in honor of those who died, the nation which those flags represent is unbowed.
We are strong. Our institutions are strong. Our people are strong.
We will not yield to fear.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.

The Commerce News
September 12, 2001

Vote 'Yes' To Renew Education Sales Tax
Voters in Commerce and elsewhere should go to the polls next Tuesday and vote "yes" for the special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST). It's the best scenario available for the school systems in this fast-growing county to meet students' needs.
Over the past five years, enrollment in the Commerce School System has grown from 1,055 on opening day in 1996 to 1,321 this year. Officials project that when the 2008 school year starts, there will be 2,069 students in the system. When school started in 1996, the Jackson County School System boasted of 4,286 students; today it educates 5,255. In that five years, the system has opened two new middle schools and an intermediate school, has another elementary school under construction and has added classrooms at every school.
Conventional wisdom is that all of Jackson County is on the cusp of great growth; in fact, we are in the midst of it, but the pace is picking up. The need for new classroom space is already upon us and there is no end in sight. The sales tax is merely the most economical way of funding the construction that will be necessary to educate all of those new children.
Historically, Jackson County residents have spent a lot of their income in Clarke, Hall or Gwinnett counties where they helped build the schools, roads, water systems and other infrastructure for those counties. But with the retail development along Interstate 85 in the past two decades, now people from all of those areas and beyond come here, where the sales taxes on their retail purchases help finance school construction and build our infrastructure. It is estimated that the Tanger II Factory Outlet Center alone generates $2 million a year just for the Jackson County School System.
We have no choice but to provide schools and classrooms for the new students entering our schools, but we do have a choice in how we pay to build them. We can finance them for 20 years with long-term bonds and pay three times the construction cost (with property taxes) or we can pay them with the proceeds from sales taxes, a large part of which is paid by shoppers from all over the southeast who now spend their money in Jackson County.
Viewed in that context, a failure to pass the referendum and extend the sales tax for another five years amounts to fiscal irresponsibility. Make the smart choice and vote "yes" next Tuesday.

Tuesday: Day Of Terror
The World Trade Center, the Pentagon, hijacked airplanes...America is stunned by Tuesday's string of terrorist attacks on America. Today, the top issue remains rescue and prevention. Tomorrow, the more difficult task begins. Who is responsible and how should the United States respond?
The investigation into these events will be the top priority of a country damaged and provoked to furious anger by an attack that ranks with that on Pearl Harbor that precipitated U.S. involvement in World War II.
But let's exercise caution. Whatever retaliation this country chooses should be measured and calculated, directed not by public or political anger and desire for revenge, but for the purpose of bring those responsible to justice ­ including, it may turn out, any government found to have supported the group making the attack. The challenge of our leaders will tremendous: to identify those responsible and to devise a means by which they may be prosecuted while keeping the citizens calm. Of greater damage to America than the loss of life and property would be the loss of security, loss of freedom of movement or a reduction of the openness America enjoys.
This is a test for all of us. How we respond in crisis will tell us a lot about our strength and our character. We expect nothing but the best.

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