Jackson County Opinions...

January 2, 2002

By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
January 02, 2002

Looking At 2002 Through The Crystal Ball
Well, we've made it through another year, survived a terrorist attack and learned to again open our mail with confidence that the worst thing we can expect is our county tax bill.
Let's face it; 2001 was a bummer. The economy declined, the terrorists attacked, the economy plummeted, the Braves held their annual fall swoon and even the beloved Bulldogs suffered once again at the hands of Florida.
Now we can focus on 2002. What should we expect? In a continued display of public-spiritedness, this columnist has consulted his online crystal ball (www.whatthehell). Here are the startling findings:
•George Bush will order air strikes on Baghdad once he's done in Afghanistan, to try to finish off Saddam Hussein. Late in the year, he will order attacks on North Carolina to kill Eric Rudolph and will expand the war on terrorism to Montana and the Democratic-controlled Senate.
•Nike will sign Richard Reed to a multi-million dollar contract as it tries to corner the exploding shoe market in the Middle East.
•The Commerce Tiger football team will clinch a playoff berth by May.
•When the extent of the federal deficit becomes clear, President Bush will order a massive retroactive tax cut to spur the economy.
•Senator Tom Daschle will send himself some anthrax in the mail, but it will be lost by the U.S. Postal Service.
•Saturday Night Live will be moved to Tuesday night as part of a major network TV lineup shakeup that will also move "Good Morning America" to prime time.
•Under the cover of night, the city of Commerce will finally remove the 1999 and 2000 "state champion" signs attached to city limits posts, causing limited riots at the high school.
•Soon after being re-elected governor, Roy Barnes will seek a change in the state constitution making it a lifetime appointment.
•The economy will recover somewhat, but most Americans will still be afraid to open their monthly 401K statements.
•The U.S. military will declare Osama bin Laden dead; hours later bin Laden will be a surprise guest on "Larry King Live."
•In spite of a new and liberalized government, competitive cheerleading will not catch on in Afghanistan.
•In a 2,500-word letter to the editor, Jackson County Commissioner Emil Beshara will thank MainStreet Newspapers for its accurate and objective news coverage.
•To settle their first major disagreement, board of commissioners chairman Harold Fletcher and county manager Al Crace will use a best two of three in "paper, rock, scissors."
•Rev. Jesse Jackson will go to the Middle East to arbitrate the dispute between Israeli and the Palestinian officials.
•War will break out between Israel and the Palestinians.
•In a breakthrough compromise, Congress will approve school vouchers, but only for schools where the uniform includes burkas for girls.
•Engineers overseeing the Bear Creek Reservoir project will predict its completion by Dec. 1.
I predict an incredibly interesting year.

The Jackson Herald
January 02, 2002

Goals for 2002
During the first week of each year, it has become a tradition for us to publish a list of our top goals for Jackson County for the new year.
So as we enter 2002, we’d like to share our New Year’s goals for Jackson County:
1. The start of construction for a larger county courthouse and administrative complex. This project has been dragging for several years. Because of the huge costs involved, it will require careful planning. But the project appears to be a low priority of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners. It’s time for it to move back to center stage.
2. The development of a county animal control program. This issue has been hotly debated in the last 12 months, but little real progress has been made. While expensive, it’s obvious that animal control is a real hot-button issue. It’s time to try something.
3. The smart expansion of the new county sewage system. The county has a lot of money tied up in this system and it needs customers. But that customer base must be balanced so as not to fuel high-density growth projects.
4. Additional work on the county’s zoning codes to bring them up to date and to better plan for the county’s growth. The BOC now has “its” planning commission in place and will soon hire a new department head. Let’s see if they do a better job in this than their predecessors.
5. A continuing review of the county’s fire protection services. Some of this was done last year, much to the consternation of some firemen. The existing system of independent fire districts served a useful purpose, but we believe it’s time for a more unified approach to fire protection.
6. The continued independence of the county water authority from political manipulation. It’s no secret that the BOC would like to name “its” own people to the water authority and to fire its director, Jerry Waddell. While we’re open to ideas for better management of any public service, it’s important for the water authority to maintain its independence and to work outside the direct influence of political leaders. To do otherwise would politicize those infrastructure decisions in a way that would harm Jackson County.
7. The continued development of sidewalks in the City of Jefferson. There’s a huge need in Jefferson for pedestrian areas, especially sidewalks. The city has begun that work during the last couple of years. It should continue in 2002.
8. The further development of advanced telecommunications infrastructure in Jackson County. Some areas of the county now have DSL access, but that’s just the beginning. We’ve said it before, telecommunications will be the backbone of the 21st century.
9. A continuation of local efforts to focus on the problem of domestic violence and the related problems of substance abuse and suicide.
10. The further planning for a nice, large civic center in Jefferson designed to serve as a meeting place, community stage and for other community events. The city is considering just such a building now and we hope that project will develop during 2002.

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By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
January 02, 2002

And the walls came tumbling down...
The momentous changes of 2001 will echo long into 2002 and beyond. For Jackson County citizens, there were a multitude of changes, from the events of 9-11, to shakeups in local government.
Here’s a brief look at the key events of 2001 that will change our lives in the months and years ahead:

• The defeat of long-time Jefferson Mayor Byrd Bruce. A fixture on the local political scene since the mid 1970s, Bruce had dominated Jefferson politics by his ability to defeat all comers.
Until the early 1990s, Jefferson politics was determined mostly by issues surrounding the city’s independent school system. Bruce played that game well, carrying the water for those who dominated the education scene.
But survival of the school system depended on money and the need for those dollars led Bruce to push for industrial and commercial growth in Jefferson. It may not seem so today, but the annexation of the I-85 and Hwy. 129 interchange and the development of water and sewer service in that area was risky back in the 1980s. No one knew if that effort would pay off and Bruce had his share of critics who didn’t like money being invested in that area.
Yet the gamble was worth it, as the last decade has shown. Because of that investment in infrastructure, Jefferson’s tax base grew, the school system survived and the city itself began to see an explosion of residential growth.
In the end, however, that was Bruce’s undoing. Long accustomed to local politics with the old-time families, Bruce became lost in the forest of new homes and new residents. The traditional levers of power didn’t work any more.
Thus came the end this year when many of these new residents decided it was time for fresh leadership. The old political walls crumbled.

• The defeat of long-time Braselton Mayor Henry Edward Braselton. Much of what happened to Bruce also happened to Braselton. Tradition bound to a fault, Braselton had grasped the tiller of city government for decades. Yet as in Jefferson, growth changed the dynamics in Braselton politics and Braselton fell to the onslaught of new residents.
Because of its geographic location, Braselton may become a laboratory for growth in Jackson County. The town and its new leadership merit watching by the rest of Jackson County.

• The closure of two textile plants in Jefferson. Once the dominant industry in Jackson County, now there are only two textile plants remaining. It has been a sad, slow decline for an industry that once employed thousands of local citizens.

• The upheavals on the new Jackson County Board of Commissioners. While there has not been some of the internal personality conflicts that existed on the board a few years ago, there is a troubling disconnect between this board and many of its constituents. In 2002, the effectiveness of this board may lie with the leadership of its new county manager, Al Crace. If Crace steps into the leadership position, he may be able to give some direction to a board that appears to many in the public like a ship without a rudder.

• When the World Trade Towers crumbled on Sept. 11, so too did a lot of our illusions. Despite all the advances in social infrastructure, the evil of human destruction continues to weigh heavy on our world. Only time will tell how significant the events of 9-11 will prove to be. We are as yet too close to the rawness of the events to put them into a proper historical context. Yet there is little doubt that tumbling walls of 9-11-2001 will echo into the coming years as a turning point. Just where we turn has yet to be determined.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.


The Commerce News
January 02, 2002

A Foundation Is There For A Fantastic 2002?
The turbulent 2001 is finally over, but the effects of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks linger as we enter a new year. They will have a lot to do with our attitudes and actions as the new year gets under way.
As for Sept. 11, what we tend to think most about is preventing another such attack; witness the tighter airport security, increased focus on immigration policies, the possibility of extending the "war on terrorism" to countries other than Afghanistan and renewed discussion about defending against bio-terrorist attacks. All of those issues will affect our lives in 2002 and beyond – the terrorists' attacks were a wake-up call and America has awakened.
Just as important as the public policy changes, however, are the new perceptions we all now carry. They include a greater sense of patriotism and acknowledgment that for all the differences of race, culture, national origin and income levels, we are all Americans together. The attacks also provided stark reminders of the importance of friends and family, of the dangers inherent in some professions (police, fire and rescue in particular) and, for many, caused much second thinking about lifestyles and priorities. The United States is a much more closely knit community today because of attacks by outsiders. That is a considerable building block for a remarkable 2002.
We can build a stronger America person by person, family by family, community by community if the nation retains the focus forced upon it by acts of terror. If love of country demonstrated by the millions of flags that sprouted from buildings and car antennas Sept. 12 translates into renewed appreciation of the many different peoples that make it great, then America will be truly united. If the selflessness and generosity that led millions of citizens to give blood and make financial donations in the aftermath of Sept. 11 are directed to helping each other in our towns and cities, the United States will stand tall. And if the reverence for God and the recognition of his blessings indicated by the millions of "God Bless America" signs and bumper stickers are transformed into greater adherence to the teachings of the Bible, the Torah and the Koran, then the people of our nation will be stronger, more loving, more understanding and more forgiving.
Those are big "ifs," but should they come to pass, history may look back at Sept. 11, 2001, as a watershed event that propelled the United States of America to a new and real greatness. That is our opportunity as 2002 begins. What a legacy it would be to those who died Sept. 11 and what a response it would be to the world's terrorists if out of the rubble of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the United States of America lived up to its enormous potential. May that happen, starting in 2002. Happy New Year.

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