Jackson County Opinions...

October 24, 2001



Column
By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
October 24, 2001

Beatty's New Challenge To Be Interesting
I didn't give Mike Beatty a tortoise's chance of beating a hare when he took on incumbent Senator Eddie Madden in 2000. Beatty beat Madden badly, not tortoise-like by any stretch of the imagination.
Beatty had performed miserably in the Georgia House in 1991-1992, waffling on legislation related to a school merger effort, which alienated him to people on both sides. Later, he flopped again on an annexation bill Commerce wanted, winning no friends here.
But Beatty is personable and a good campaigner and he exploited weaknesses in his opponent to oust Madden. His good fortune continued this year when he seized upon the kind of morality issue about which he is most passionate and was spared the indignities of controversial local legislation. Whether Beatty was actually responsible for getting video poker legislation passed may be a matter of interpretation, but there can be no doubt that he was the person who made it a front-burner issue that even Gov. Roy Barnes had to address. He well deserves the credit for that legislative initiative.
The so-called conventional wisdom a year ago was that in exchange for running against Madden, the GOP hierarchy would support Beatty in a congressional bid in 2002. So much for conventional wisdom.
Timing is crucial in politics. The reach of the Republican Party in the election will be extended or shortened by how the public perceives George Bush to be doing in Washington. Bush has the advantage of being president following an attack on America, when the country is more united than ever. But if the economy continues to worsen, terrorism spreads and the war in Afghanistan stalls, the president may not only lose his coattails, but may become a liability. On the other hand, if that war brings about some decisive victories (the death of Osama bin Laden, for example), and the economy improves, those coattails could get very long and the GOP could find itself taking up residency in the Governor's Mansion and controlling the Georgia Senate.
Before Beatty gets that far, he's got to win the GOP nomination in what could be a nasty, vicious primary ill-suited to Beatty's style. Last year, Beatty showed no hesitancy in absolutely distorting Madden's legislative record. Should he take a similar low-road approach against a well-respected Republican opponent for lieutenant governor, he could get more back than he bargained for, damage his standing in the party and, if he wins, enter the final campaign already bloodied.
That Beatty had greater political aspirations than being a state senator has never been in question. He's much more attuned to the conservative Republican "family values" concept than to the nuts and bolts of local and state issues, and the bully pulpit for promoting that agenda is not found in the 47th Senatorial District. Beatty wants to overturn Roe vs. Wade, get prayer back in the classroom, make desecration of the American flag illegal and complete the entire Newt Gingrich checklist that brought the GOP glory when Ronald Reagan was president.
Beatty has an uphill battle, but these are strange times. Whatever happens, it'll be worth watching.



Editorial
The Jackson Herald
October 24, 2001

Don't overreact to anthrax fears
The outbreak of terrorist-inspired anthrax cases has created a new level of fear across the nation. Even as our Congressmen called on Americans to resume their "normal" lives, those same leaders fled like scared sheep when anthrax was discovered in their own offices.
So much for leadership. Between Rep. Cynthia McKinney's antics as an apologist for terrorism and her cohorts trembling when mail arrives, one has to wonder if there are any leaders left in Washington.
Fortunately, President Bush has not backed off his pledge to destroy those who harbor terrorism, starting with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Still, the terrorists have achieved their goal of instilling fear in Americans, from the Congress down to rural residents in Jackson County. Last week, a number of people called law enforcement agencies to report "suspicious" mail or packages.
But it's very unlikely that local residents would be the target of terrorism via the mail. It is fear not based on reality.
While the attacks on this nation are serious, let's not become paranoid every time the mailman comes to our doors. As both a nation and as individuals, we must not allow fear to overcome reason.
Real courage is having the ability to face our fears and carry on in spite of them.
It's time for our Congressmen and our citizens to show that courage and not overreact out of fear.

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Column
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
October 24, 2001

BOC, Nalley not a good marriage
There was no great surprise in last week's action by the Jackson County Board of Commissioners to part company with county manager Skip Nalley. With a new board structure, new board members and a new county manager, this year was fated to be one of change and upheaval in county administration.
Any person who became Jackson County's first manager would have had a tough time. Not only is there the county to run, but also a new board to deal with.
In truth, both the BOC and Nalley share the burden for the parting. Like many marriages, this union just didn't work out and it's difficult to point fingers at either party or define exactly what went wrong.
For its part, the board has been in such a transition during the first 10 months of its existence that no cohesive leadership has emerged. If the board has a vision of where it would like Jackson County to head, or if any of its members individually have such a vision, that has not been apparent.
Perhaps that lack of strong leadership by the board came in part from its perception that such leadership should come from the county manager. It appears that part of the board was waiting for Nalley to grab the reins and guide them through the various issues facing county government. That, however, didn't happen.
For his part, Nalley may have wanted more guidance from the board. On administrative dealings, most board members give him good marks. But on overall leadership, the board seems to be split on Nalley's performance.
"He's supposed to be the expert," one board member told me, frustrated by what he perceived as a lack of initiative by Nalley to pull the board along in the decision-making process.
But other board members say the board itself didn't give Nalley enough direction. That split is a fundamental difference that was unlikely to end with both parties happy.
So where does the board go from here?
Before the BOC can begin to search for a new county manager, those five men will have to decide among themselves just what kind of manager they are looking for. Do they want someone who is good on the inside details of county government, a person who thrives off the daily nuts-and-bolts, or do they want someone who is more a "big picture" person?
That's an important distinction. While future candidates for this job may have similar backgrounds, their approaches to the job will be different. Some of the candidates will be great at the daily grind of administering budget numbers and in dealing with personnel issues. Other candidates will be content to delegate those duties to assistants while they focus on county PR and overall direction of the county government.
All organizations, whether they are corporations or non-profit groups or governments, go through cycles in their management needs. There are times when an organization needs a lot of hands-on administration; at other times, the organization needs someone with a broader view, an ideas person who can help create growth and change.
Both viewpoints are valid, but the board will have to reach some consensus between the two before they hire a replacement for Nalley. If the board wants an "ideas manager," it will have to frame its selection process to fit that criteria. If it wants a "nuts-and-bolts manager," the selection process and criteria will be different.
To determine which type manager would be best suited for Jackson County today, the BOC will have to do an objective appraisal of the status of the current county government. What are its real strengths? What are its biggest weaknesses? Where does a county manager need to focus his time and energy?
That's a difficult decision, but from the outside looking in, it appears that this board needs a manager with a broad view, one who will be aggressive and who will lead the board rather than be led by the board.
It's not that the current board is weak, but it is inexperienced. It cannot develop a county vision without strong leadership.
In addition, Jackson County is a complex mixture of government agencies. Some get along well with the county government, others barely communicate with the county. It will take a strong personality to work those levers of power and to keep the local political landscape on an even keel.
There will be a time in the future when Jackson County will need a nuts-and-bolts administrator. But right now, it needs leadership and a strong voice that will build confidence.
Skip Nalley wasn't that type manager. It's probably best that he and his board dealt with that now rather than letting a weak marriage endure for another year.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.


Editorial
The Commerce News
October 24, 2001

Time To Be Alert But Not Overly Fearful
The reports of people being exposed to anthrax through the mail system have led to a nationwide outbreak of reports of "suspicious" mail that run from legitimate concerns to hoaxes to paranoia and are tying up law enforcement personnel at the local, state and federal levels.
Jackson County is not immune. Commerce alone has had at least six calls for assistance; several others have occurred in Jackson County. It's time to use a little common sense and put this situation into perspective.
The likelihood of anyone local being on a terrorist target list is so low as to be laughable; the odds of real anthrax being delivered here are incredibly minute. A much more plausible scenario is that someone would take advantage of the hysteria created by terrorists to make a threat by sending a powder or granular substance to an ex-spouse or someone with whom they are engaged in a dispute. Terroristic threats and harassment cases are all too common here. But by far the biggest cause of alarm are pieces of mail that are totally harmless except that the recipients have convinced themselves they might be threatening.
Citizens should use caution but also common sense. It's not time to call 911 because a scented letter or unsolicited correspondence arrives. If the recipient has received no palpable threats, has no other reason to feel threatened and the mail appears unthreatening, there is no cause for alarm. If the recipient has received threats in the past by telephone or otherwise, there is still probably no danger, but caution is certainly warranted and calling 911 is prudent. If an envelope actually contains or appears to contain a powder or granular substance, the threat of exposure to anthrax is still very remote, but all caution should be exercised and the matter reported to law enforcement agencies. Regardless of what the substance is, any threat constitutes a terroristic act and is a felony. Law enforcement agencies will pursue the case and the perpetrator, if caught, could face prison time.
In short, there is no reason for anyone in Jackson County to feel more at risk for anthrax exposure today than a month ago. While we must all recognize that we now live in a more threatening world and should be more cautious than in the past, we should also realize that the chance of actually being subjected to acts of terror remains very low. In short, be alert but not fearful.

Vaccinate For Smallpox
While the real and perceived threats of anthrax are being attended to, medical professionals are far more concerned about the use of an old enemy as a weapon of mass destruction.
That enemy is smallpox, a devastating disease all but wiped off the face of the planet by the systematic vaccination of children. The eradication effort was so successful that the disease was considered virtually extinct and the vaccinations discontinued.
But it was not eradicated. Samples of smallpox have been maintained in scientific laboratories ­ including biological warfare facilities ­ and it is hardly inconceivable that terrorist organizations or nations like Iraq that are sympathetic to terrorists have it. If an outbreak of anthrax is seen as a scary event, an outbreak of smallpox, which is terribly contagious, could have an effect like the black plague, sweeping across the planet against an unprotected populace.
As part of its war on terrorism, the Department of Homeland Defense should give very strong consideration to reinstituting the nationwide inoculation program against smallpox. Medicine eradicated the threat of smallpox from occurring in nature, but the threat of it being introduced by mankind is all too real. Every person in America should be vaccinated against this potential plague.


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