The Banks County News
October 17, 2001
happening with CVB moves?
The accountability for public money is one of the most important
issues in any government agency. Yet two local government groups
have been lax in having their books officially audited each year,
even though both handle a large amount of taxpayer funds.
The Banks County Chamber of Commerce and its sister organization,
the Banks County Convention and Visitor's Bureau, have both been
lax in complying with basic government agency audit standards,
even though around $170,000 per year in taxpayer funds are handled
by the organizations.
So the recent moves by several chamber leaders to suddenly change
their affiliation to the CVB organization raises a lot of questions.
Could it be that those involved in chamber leadership think they'll
have less public scrutiny under the CVB organization? Indeed,
although the CVB is a public agency and subject to both the Open
Meetings and Open Records Laws, there is no schedule of when
its board meets or where its headquarters will be located. That
group handles around $150,000 in tax money, so it's kind of important
that the public at least knows where to call for information.
In the past, both the chamber and CVB have been controlled by
the same small group of people. While we understand that most
of those involved in both groups do so just to help the community,
that does not absolve them from having audits done or being open
to public scrutiny.
But a few of those leaders apparently believe they are above
such accountability. Last Thursday, some of those involved in
the CVB and chamber blasted this newspaper for having the gall
to ask questions. It was a hyper-sensitive reaction and an unprofessional
response that taints all of those connected with its leadership.
Indeed, this defensiveness by chamber and CVB leaders is perhaps
one reason for a dwindling number of people attending chamber
meetings each month.
We believe the Banks County Board of Commissioners should take
a stronger hand in how these CVB funds are being handled and
to make sure the proper auditing is being done.
This is taxpayer money, not funds for a small group of people
to use for their own ego playground.
This newspaper won't stop asking question, but the ultimate responsibility
falls on the desk of the BOC. And that board should do whatever
it takes to make sure that taxpayer funds are fully audited and
October 17, 2001
Travel guide: the old myth of Old Faithful
When you spend three weeks driving across America, there just
isn't enough time to see everything. But some stops are mandatory.
In fact, the Federal Rules and Regulations for Trans-American
Journeys actually requires a stop at Yellowstone National Park
to see Old Faithful. We didn't want to get in trouble with the
law so we got in line with everyone else. And that's how I came
to learn the old myths of Old Faithful.
There is a sense of urgency upon arriving at the big geyser.
After all, it only goes off every so often. That means you don't
want to miss all the hoopla because you were standing in the
parking lot looking in the sideview mirror to make sure your
hair looks okay.
As a result, everyone rushes around like a chicken on a bad hair
day. And like chickens, everyone moves in no particular direction
but just gravitates toward any sort of crowd under the assumption
that all the other chickens have some better idea of where they're
going. And humans think chickens are stupid.
In the end, all paths lead to Old Faithful. In truth, it's about
as faithful as the Post Office. Sure, you'll probably get your
mail some time today, but you don't really know when. And that's
the reason you don't stand and wait by your mailbox all day.
Not so at Yellowstone. The spectators come in waves and without
the slightest clue as to the timing of the next eruption. We
asked one of the chickens that arrived before we did based upon
an improbable theory that he was somehow waiting to tell us what
he knew. "Oh, in about 15 minutes," he said with a
In response, we took a seat, pleased to have avoided a long wait
in the hot sun. Then, for the next hour and 20 minutes, we sat
and we waited, trapped by an invisible forcefield that told us
we could not return to Gainesville without seeing the geyser
no matter how long the wait.
We tried to make the most of our time. Little things helped,
like checking the film in the camera 37 times. After a while,
you ponder the probability that your battery will go dead if
you check the film just one more time. And because your brain
is melting, you wonder if you have enough time to flap over to
the welcome center to pay $16.95 for a spare camera battery.
It's a pretty hopeless plan because the odds are great that the
geyser will go off while you're in the checkout line waiting
for someone to search all their pockets for an extra two pennies
so they don't have to break a dollar. And if that happens, you're
likely to spend the next 30 years in prison for manslaughter.
Instead, you guard your ground and take turns telling your children,
"Oh, in about 15 minutes. So just sit down and be still
for one minute." That works about as well as walking into
a chicken house and telling the birds to line up, that they're
going for a little ride.
In the meantime, the geyser began teasing everyone with little
bubbles and squirts, and a weird whirring sound. Eventually,
I realized that the whirring sound was coming from all the cameras
whose batteries had finally died. The squirts were always false
alarms, and at some point, I began to understand what it must
have felt like to wait for Elvis.
When the geyser finally blew, it was almost anti-climatic. I
turned to the kids, and said, "Hey wasn't that great?"
I think it was my oldest daughter who said something along the
lines of "Why couldn't we have just gone to Six Flags?"
As we were leaving, a new flock of chickens began to wander up
to the pavilion area, clucking and scratching around in the dirt.
That's when some guy asked me how long until Old Faithful goes
off. He looked fresh and unrumpled, and his hair was perfect.
"Oh, about fifteen minutes," I said. "You'd better
Ordinarily, I would have felt a little guilty. But hey, it's
an American rite of passage. Like waiting for the mailman.
Phillip Bond Sartain is a Gainesville attorney.