Jackson County Opinions...

October 31, 2001



Column
By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
October 31, 2001

He Could Shrink Gov't, Cut Property Taxes
Authorities are trying to keep it quiet, but thousands of Jackson County residents experienced terrorism by mail last week. It wasn't anthrax; it was far worse. It was their county tax bills.
Mine arrived Tuesday and, as with my monthly mutual fund statements, the thought of opening it brought terror to my heart. Even Cipro can't give relief.
My tax bill will cost me about the same as a six-week supply of what is quickly becoming one of America's favorite drugs, but I'm not going to make a scene in Don Elrod's office; we'll just pay it.
No, we'd been well warned about the impending increase, and the reasons for it are pretty clear. County government is expensive. Too expensive. Now if only we could agree on how to trim it, then we'd have progress.
Personally, if God ordained me as czar of Jackson County and I had the authority, I'd reduce the size of government by eliminating the county transportation system, doing away with the county prison and eliminating the recreation department. I'd order the sheriff's department to keep two or three cars out on I-85 and ring up the speeders to increase cash flow. I'd mandate countywide garbage pickup and contract with a private firm to handle it, taking a percentage of the proceeds and fining any resident who failed to retain service. I'd close the two transfer stations.
No doubt my popularity would be soaring, encouraging me to move forward.
I'd next issue an executive order requiring an annual tax of $1 per year per tattoo, proceeds of which would roll the property tax rate back five mills. A similar annual tax on body piercing would eliminate property taxes altogether. I'd implement a ban on plastic and glass containers for beer and soft drinks, thereby eliminating half of all litter in the county, and I'd direct law enforcement officials to shoot any smoker seen throwing his or her butts around.
All this power is intoxicating.
I would next dismiss the county planning commission and handle all rezoning requests myself. I would eliminate all zoning districts for mobile homes, apartments and houses under $450,000, and businesses and industries that did not meet my high standards would be prohibited. I would order the sheriff (as czar, I have absolute power, remember) to shut down all rental housing not meeting the tighter housing code (did I mention I would rewrite the housing code?) and the fire departments to burn all abandoned structures. I would order all junked vehicles removed from residential and agricultural areas.
By order of His Imperial Highness, I would require paternity tests for all children whose parents aren't married and send the sheriff to visit the fathers to ensure support of those children. I would make it illegal for anyone not enrolled and passing in high school or with a high school diploma to drive.
See how much better (and cheaper) government would be if I had absolute power? If you don't like my ideas, that's tough. If God appoints you the Jackson County czar, you can do it your way.

 



Editorial
The Jackson Herald
October 31, 2001

Jim Joiner for Jefferson mayor
Jefferson has grown and changed a lot in recent years. Unfortunately, its governing structure has failed to keep pace with those changes. In ways large and small, the city administration is still operating under the same system it did 20 years ago.
On Nov. 6, the citizens of Jefferson will have the opportunity to put progressive leadership into place by electing Jim Joiner mayor. As a small businessman, Joiner has been involved in the Jefferson community for many years, having served in a variety of volunteer leadership positions. For the past two years, Joiner has served with distinction on the Jefferson City Council.
Early next year, the city government will undergo a transition as a city manager form of government is implemented. Joiner was a leading proponent of this change to a more professional government and has pledged to support a smooth transition. In addition, Joiner has said he wants to review the basic infrastructure in the city to ensure we can meet the demands of growth on our systems.
We believe Jefferson will benefit under the leadership of Jim Joiner and we encourage voters to support his progressive platform on Nov. 6.

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Column
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
October 31, 2001

Refrigerator news most important
Most people probably think that newspaper reporters spend all their time looking for the "big story." After all, the "exciting" events are those that usually make page one.
While such hard news stories get a lot of attention, I suspect that most readers really care more about routine news than government scandals. In newspaper lingo, routine news is called "refrigerator news," those items that families clip out of the newspaper and hang on their refrigerators.
If your child's photo is in the newspaper for some event at school, it will hang on the refrigerator.
If someone in your family is mentioned in an article, it'll be hung on the refrigerator.
If a family member gets married, it'll be clipped and hung on the refrigerator.
Those may be routine items, but they're the bread-and-butter of what a community newspaper really does. All the government and crime stories combined don't touch the importance of seeing your child's photo in the paper for getting a certificate at school.
Each of these community news items, has its own ritual. In fact, the way we handle such items has changed dramatically in recent years as society has changed. The most obvious of items is the listing of names in weddings and death notices. Because of fractured family situations, there are now a variety of step-fathers-mothers-siblings that must get attention. In the past, that wasn't an issue. Today, however, we are much more liberal in how we list family members in such community news stories.
But the biggest change I've noticed in recent years has been a change in engagement and wedding announcements. To really get the flavor of a community, just look at the local newspaper's wedding and engagement page.
There is no story that an editor would rather get correct than a wedding or engagement. Every editor dreads getting a "mother-of-the-bride-call" wherein he receives a verbal thrashing for getting the name of the bride's lace pattern wrong. (Garrison Keillor, the Minnesota humorist of Lake Woebegone fame, told a newspaper group once that the hometown paper of his mythical town wrote in "excruiting detail" about every bride's dress.)
Even worse than a "mother-of-the-bride-call" is the "new-wife" call in which an editor is told that the woman's life has been ruined by an error in her wedding story that listed Uncle William as "Uncle Bill."
Of course, newspaper editors have their own humor about engagement and wedding notices. That's especially true with many of the photos. In their spare time, editors write humorous cutlines for wedding and engagement photos. We're especially fond of engagement photos where the bride-to-be is hanging all over the groom-to-be, as if to say, "He's mine now, d____it! Stay away!"
Another favorite are the engagement photos where the bride-to-be is sprawled across a sofa like Cleopatra and the groom-to-be is barely seen to one side. "Look at me and despair," is a favorite cutline for those photos.
The look on the groom-to-be's face is also another source of unending amusement for newspaper society editors. More often than not, there's a kind of bewilderment on the poor guy's face, as if he's silently asking, "What the heck have I gotten myself into now?"
Another common wedding photo is one where the bride and groom are staring off into space with a wistful look, as if they are sailing off into the sunset to live happily ever after. Newspaper staffs often wager on how long it'll be before the divorce notice appears after the blissful union.
There was a time when no newspaper would run an engagement or wedding photograph unless it was made by a professional photography studio. But we've all relaxed those standards to accommodate the changing times, which has in turn led to some interesting shots; an engaged couple standing at a lawnmower; a married couple with a family member holding a shotgun for the wedding photograph; newlyweds on horseback and a variety of other nontraditional poses.
But my own pet peeve with such photos is engagement and wedding pictures in which the groom, or groom-to-be, is wearing a hat with the number of his favorite NASCAR driver. I have nothing against NASCAR, but come on guys, can't you lose the hat for a minute to get an engagement picture made?
Another routine news article that generates a lot of debate within the walls of newsrooms is how to handle birth announcements. Some of our reporters don't like using a photograph of a newborn.
"All babies look alike," he says.
Other reporters don't like using the weight and length of the newborn.
"Makes it sound like a lizard," she says, with something of a pained look on her face.
But frankly, I like the photos of new babies and I like knowing how big the little bugger was. Women, perhaps, don't like thinking about that.
The news coverage of such family events as births and marriages is important and reflects the vast changes taking place in society at large. And that is perhaps more important than anything you'll read on page one.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.


Editorial
The Commerce News
October 31, 2001

Real Patriots Will Vote
It will be most interesting to see the level of participation in next Tuesday's municipal elections, given that they are the first elections held locally since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Why is that relevant?
Because, supposedly, "everything changed" Sept. 11. Note the proliferation of "God Bless America" signs, banners, T-shirts and license tags; every vehicle, business and yard seems to contain an American flag. Patriotism is rampant.
One of the ways Americans show their patriotism is to participate in elections, so it stands to reason that increased patriotism would lead to higher voter turnout.
There are those who say that the "new" patriotism is a mile wide and an inch deep, a symbolic gesture but little more. Hopefully, they are wrong. Hopefully, most Americans have taken a closer look at their faith, family, freedom and rights and responsibilities after Sept. 11 and realize that they've taken them for granted.
In recent elections, the level of voter participation has been dismal due partly to taking the right to vote for granted and partly to a growing cynicism about the democratic process. If everything truly changed Sept. 11, the percentage of people going to the polls next Tuesday should be the highest it's been in years. But if the same trend of low voter turnout continues, we'll have to concede that the cynics were right about the real level of patriotism.

Keep Eye On The Gov.
Having circumvented much of the Department of Transportation with the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority and having created an agency to oversee a large portion of the state's water resources, Gov. Roy Barnes is now said to be eyeing more state involvement in controlling land use.
A keen observer who has traveled the width and breadth of Georgia might be inclined to agree that the state should take over where local communities have failed. The state's mountains are carved up into tiny resort developments with roads that lack pavement and drainage; in the Atlanta area, building is outpacing both water and sewerage supplies; at the coast, no acre is safe from being turned into part of a strip mall or a condominium; agricultural land in the piedmont is succumbing to development. All over, rapid growth is changing the landscape and taxing our resources.
But do we really want some agency dominated by political appointees and heavily representative of Metro Atlanta deciding policy for Jackson, Banks and Madison counties? Not hardly.
With the notable exception of Nicholson, every community in Jackson County is striving to protect itself and its people through zoning. The county's comprehensive land use plan is due to be updated and officials all over the county are reconsidering their communities' approaches to development. These are people who live here, who know the people and the challenges and, even if indirectly, they are accountable to the people.
The state already mandates that a certain percentage of our land be reserved for "greenspace." If Gov. Barnes has his way, who knows where one would turn to fight the location of a landfill, a huge residential development or a mega-industry that selected a location in Jackson County. In a time when there seems to be public concern over "big government," it is troubling that the governor proposes to wrest more of the decision making on local issues out of the hands of local government and into those of a group likely to have little or no local input.
We ask that our legislators keep watchful eyes on Gov. Barnes during the 2002 legislative session. Local zoning and land use decisions are sometimes flawed, but it's a lot easier to correct problems at the local level than it is to reverse a mistake made by a statewide panel so removed from the situation that it hasn't figured out that it erred.


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