Jackson County Opinions...

November 14, 2001

By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
November 14, 2001

What War?
The Taliban
Has ForfeitedI feel sorry for the national media who have to cover the war that isn't a war in Afghanistan.
How do you provide news when you can't go near the battlefield and your only evidence comes from the combatants and carefully orchestrated press briefings in which participants avoid anything specific.
The "war" is going good, we hear.
Which means the U.S. is successfully making big rocks into smaller rocks so that eventually Afghanistan will be one big pile of little rocks.
We were advised early that Afghanistan did not have many targets, but since then American planes and missiles have been bombing for six weeks. Personally, I think this is more the result of an economic stimulus plan for the companies which make cruise missiles, bombs and other things that go "bang" in the hope that the economy will recover.
"Kabul is free," we are told, which is shortly followed by "Law enforcement officials announce that there is a credible threat that terrorists will blow up the Disney World this weekend," which is followed up a day or two later by "Just kidding," and later by "Officials have been warned that Osama bin Laden plans to attack either the Grand Coulee Dam or the Commerce Watershed Dam over the next week."
Meanwhile, nobody has a clue where the anthrax is coming from, except that a disproportionate amount seems to emanate from New Jersey. The commander in chief warns that bin Laden might use nuclear, biological or chemical weapons after which bin Laden, not all that stupid, promptly announces that he just happens to have heretofore unmentioned nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.
Yes, the war is going so well that the government asks anyone with do-it-yourself ideas for catching bin Laden to call a toll-free number.
My suggestion is that the CIA put out the word that Time, Newsweek, People and Terrorist Today magazines want to put bin Laden on the front cover of their Jan. 1 issues and grab him when he shows up for a photo shoot/interview in the gravel quarry that used to be Kabul. But, I digress.
This is not so much a war as a forfeit. The other side has wisely not shown up, choosing to fight by using its PR agency to incite the Moslem world.
The question we need to ponder is, what will we do when we get tired of blowing up rocks in Afghanistan? We've more or less said we have a right to go after those who harbor terrorists, which means we might be bombing next in Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Ireland, El Salvador, Colombia, Lebanon, Cuba, Haiti, all of Africa, North Carolina or Montana, the latter two of which would be accessible to CNN.
If Bush can keep up the illusion of war long enough, he might win a second term, but he's got to produce two things first. One is a win, which means bin Laden's head on a stick and the troops coming home; the second is an economic recovery.
At least the media can cover the economy. You can't watch five minutes of TV without hearing of the latest layoff or dip in the NASDAQ.
Hmmm. Come to think of it, I like the war coverage better. At least we're winning there.


The Jackson Herald
November 14, 2001

Moratorium should be limited in scope
When county commissioners Stacey Britt and Sammy Thomason proposed a moratorium on new rezonings last week, the local construction community immediately objected. A blanket moratorium in an already down-market doesn't make sense, they said.
Indeed, a blanket moratorium on rezonings in any market is unwise.
Moratoriums on any activity are designed to give regulating authorities more time to deal with emerging problems. The moratorium in Jefferson on promising new sewer service, for example, is to allow the city more time to build additional sewer capacity. It's not a blanket ban on building, but rather a freeze on one part of construction needs - sewer service.
While commissioners Britt and Thomason have some legitimate concerns about one part of the county's zoning codes, those concerns do not merit a ban on all rezonings.
On Dec. 3, the commissioners will hold a public hearing to discuss several zoning problems and the potential of a moratorium. But the board should realize that zoning codes will never be perfect in any community. Governments cannot, and indeed should not, seek to control every facet of what is built on private land. Onerous zoning codes that attempt to regulate a "perfect" community are just as bad as no zoning at all.
So every time small zoning problems come to light it does not mean that the machinery of zoning should come to a halt.
If a moratorium is adopted to fix the problems commissioner Britt mentioned, it should be narrowly defined.
A broad moratorium is unnecessary.

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By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
November 14, 2001

Grape juice at school and other inane issues
A 13-year-old Gwinnett County middle school student was suspended for nine days recently for "pretending" to drink wine at school. She was actually drinking grape juice.
But a kid in a public school who claims to have a learning, behavior or physical disability can assault another student and only get slapped on the wrist.
Between nutty federal disability laws and nutty school administrators who overreact to grape juice, one has to wonder how public education will survive.


Speaking of education, UGA has finally abandoned its defense of using a racial quota system to help bring in a larger percentage of minority students. While that system was a minor part of the admissions process, it became difficult for the school to defend using race as any part of the formula.
What will happen, of course, is that the admissions process will now become much more subjective and an informal "affirmative action" program will be put in place.
But as others have pointed out, the real problem isn't in the admission of minority students to UGA, but rather that the pool of qualified minority students isn't very deep. While some have called on the state to do a better job of preparing minority students in the K-12 years, that is easier said than done.
The truth is that there is an anti-education cultural bias in some minority communities. When adults don't see the importance of education, it's difficult to force-feed their children an appreciation of education.
There is more opportunity for education today than ever before. There's a slew of early intervention programs that attempt to bring students up to grade level before they get too far behind. In fact, the main focus of many public schools today is on the bottom 20 percent of students, not on the other 80 percent of average or above-average kids.
In addition, the HOPE scholarship program has torn down financial barriers that might have kept minority students out of college in past decades.
Yet despite these programs, and millions of dollars being spent, most minority students continue to lag behind their peers both in K-12 and in college admissions.
The reason has nothing to do with opportunity - it has to do with a culture that too often shuns education.


The Braves agreed this week to pay 24-year-old Andruw Jones $75 million for the next six years.
Let's all get out in the yard with our sons this weekend and toss the baseball around. Who needs an education when some fool will pay $75 million to play baseball?


A news release from the Georgia Department of Corrections states that the prison population in the state has more than doubled since 1991, a 104 percent increase in the decade.
One could argue about how bad it is that we have to lock up so many people. Spend more on education, they say.
But it's hard to educate those who reject education.
If it takes building prisons to keep the dregs of society off our streets, then so be it. I'd rather pay that price than the price of crime.

Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.

The Commerce News
November 14, 2001

'Partnership' Would Change Nothing
The Commerce Board of Education proposes that the city enter into a "partnership agreement" that would, in effect, change nothing about how the school system and city government operate.
Promoted by school board chairman Steve Perry and modeled after an agreement between the city of Canton and Cherokee County, the proposal's main points would be to give the Commerce Board of Education input into city zoning and land use issues, to guarantee that facilities of both parties are shared without cost and to allow the city government input into future school site selections.
At present, the school board has little input on land use issues only because no board members have attended meetings of the Commerce Planning Commission and Commerce City Council, both of which allow public input by citizens. The groups already allow each other to use their facilities and with the school board having just purchased land on which it plans to build its next two facilities, city input on site selection seems a moot point.
The agreement is made more curious by the memory of last spring, when the school board tested the waters to see if it could discontinue the practice of having the mayor and council participate in graduation exercises. What has changed since then that makes the school board want a cozier relationship with city government?
The main thing is that the Commerce Planning Commission has fielded several rezoning requests for multifamily housing projects. The school board apparently would like to be heard when such discussions arise in the future. After all, it has to provide space and staff to teach children who will come from such projects.
In fact, the planning commission has cited potential school crowding numerous times in rejecting rezoning applications for multifamily housing ­ without hearing from the board of education. Further, any school board member could have testified before the planning panel just by showing up at the meetings, but no BOE members ever appeared in spite of advance publicity about what was on the agenda. The emphasis on rezoning suggests that the agreement is a foot in the door toward giving the school board veto power or at least a vote on certain land use issues.
Last spring's graduation tiff aside, relations between the city and the school system are better than they've ever been. Superintendent Larry White communicates well with City Manager Clarence Bryant and the same is true in reverse. Most of the board members and the mayor and city council also get along.
The lines of communication are open between the school board and the city council. If a member of one body wants to be heard by the other, meetings of both groups are open and time is set aside for comment. The framework for cooperation works and is in place; no signed document is necessary nor is one likely to improve how the school system and city work together.


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