Jackson County Opinions...

January 23, 2002



Column
By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
January 23, 2002

Growth Means Controversy For W&S Authority
Like virtually every other government entity in the area, the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority is experiencing growing pains. But because it is a relatively new water and sewer system in a county largely served by private wells, those pains are more severe.
Right now, the authority is trying to work out financing which, if everything falls into place, would build 100 miles of water lines and potentially serve another 1,800 customers. That sounds like a lot and is a lot, but the demand for water is growing a whole lot faster than the ability of the authority to deliver that water.
That just about guarantees a lot of controversy for this authority – not even considering the sewage issues, which are by their nature much more displeasing to residents.
Recession or not, development rolls on. Every developer wants county water. Every property owner building a new house wants county water. The drought continues; wells are going dry, leaving citizens frantic for reliable water. Many other wells are contaminated.
Plentiful, pure drinking water seems to be considered nothing short of a constitutional right. People get angry when told it isn't available, believing that the payment of the SPLOST penny of taxes entitles them to water service.
The current special purpose local option sales tax, 70 percent of which goes for water and sewer projects, expires in 2005. The projects it will fund have already been determined, which means if your well runs dry and you're not in one of the identified project areas or on an existing county line, your odds of getting county water by 2005, let alone next month, are vastly diminished.
Water lines cost about $100,000 a mile, all things considered. A typical residential water bill brings in about $30, most of which goes to pay operational overhead, leaving very little to set aside for more water lines. The county water system now has 2,200 customers. If all 100 miles of line are built over the next three years, water will be available to 1,800 more households, but that does not mean those households will purchase water – until their wells go dry, pumps quit or all of the septic tanks being placed in every new development contaminate the wells.
Before water is available to those 1,800 households, there will be hundreds of other requests for water from every area of the county and limited funding with which to get it to them. That's why you can count on another proposed five-year extension of the SPLOST for water and sewer. And another and another.
Now, maybe the drought will end and the water table will return to its pre-drought levels. That would be a nice scenario, but residential growth alone will keep the phones ringing in the water authority office; and let's not forget that there are sewer issues that will arise as well.
For the foreseeable future, the demand for water will outstrip the county's ability to provide it. The Bear Creek Reservoir will give us the supply, but completing the delivery system will require years, millions of dollars and, the hardest part, patience. A lack of the latter guarantees that the authority will experience its share of controversy.


Editorial
The Jackson Herald
January 23, 2002

Say ‘No’ to National ID Card
There’s no doubt that security issues have come to the fore since the events of Sept. 11. Airports, especially, have introduced tough security measures. We now have to take our shoes off to be screened and an elderly congressman recently had to drop his pants because a metal hip implant “beeped” in the metal detector.
It’s bad enough for everyone to be treated like a criminal at airports, but we fear that’s just the beginning of a massive wave of government intrusion into our lives.
In their quest to be “secure,” some people are now pushing for a National ID Card that would, in effect, be an internal passport.
No doubt such a card will be sold as a way to increase travel “connivance” for consumers. If such a card were just limited to airports, that might not be a bad idea.
But we all know that like our Social Security numbers, an ID card would grow into something much larger than what it was intended for.
Some people envision such a card would contain a slew of data, such as medical information, to replace existing insurance cards. Add a swipe, and the ID card could be used as a credit or debit card with all your personal financial data. Criminal records could also be encoded on the card so that law enforcement officials could check the background of everyone they stopped.
Because of security fears, it wouldn’t take long for movie theaters, restaurants, malls and other places of public accommodation to require an ID card before allowing admittance.
The problem with all this, of course, is that by using such a card, the government could track the movements of every individual in the country. What food you bought, the movies you saw, where you shopped and other routine information would be fed into a huge database. From that, individuals would be “profiled” for law enforcement or other purposes.
One doesn’t have to have an Orwellian view of the world to see how such a system could be abused by government. Along with cameras at traffic lights, a national ID card would assure that personal privacy, such as it is, would cease to exist in this country.
There are those, of course, who are willing to pay that price in order to feel “secure.”
But we are not among those. The right to be left alone by government is one of the main reasons our forefathers had their rebellion 225 years ago. What is the difference in having British soldiers put in Boston homes and a government tracking device put in your back pocket?
We are not willing to trade personal privacy for the vague notion of homeland security. All efforts to create a national ID card, including the proposed linking of MVH databases by the states, should be opposed.


Says area roads are as dangerous as interstate
Dear Editor:
As we enter this new year and with all the carnage in New York so fresh in our minds, I seriously wonder if anyone was truly changed by the violent events which touched all our lives.
I am reminded every day as I drive through Jackson County that the majority of people simply do not care about their fellow man. I am talking specifically about the dangerous, irresponsible drivers that terrioze our roads and citizens. Twice daily I take the same route, Jackson Trail, Hwy. 11 and Hwy. 124, these are probably the most dangerous roads I have ever driven and that includes Interstates 75 and 85.
The posted speed limits are 55 m.p.h., school zones obviously lower, but this does not deter speeders from doing 75 to 80. I am appalled at their lack of concern for other drivers that are doing the speed limit, if you are going the speed limit you are guaranteed to have your bumper ridden, especially if you slow down to heed school zone limits.
These dangerous drivers pass in no passing zones, then cut closely in front of you too, I presume to let you know you were going too slow, I have seen them pass unloading school buses, I have seen countless near misses. Every morning as I try and obey the speed limit or school zone limit I am tailgated, screamed at and receive obscene gestures for slowing down for posted limits.
I have been threatened and all for what? A few minutes on the part of these road terrorists to get ahead. The majority are students roaring past on their way to or from school. If only their parents knew the aggresiveness with which they are driving, they SHOULD be shocked. Perhaps if the parents cared enough to check how their children are driving or refrained from buying these irresponsible children high-powered sports cars there might be a change in the number of deadly accidents in and around the county.
Parents, whether they like it or not, need to take the responsibility of monitoring these children, driving is not a right it is a privilege and utimately the parents of these children who hurt or kill someone with their dangerous driving will be legally responsible.
These people who are harassing other drivers may not care if they maim or kill someone but perhaps they or their parents will when it comes down to being sued.
Jackson County is growing, more cars on the road, more people who are unfamilar with the area are moving in and there will be more deadly accidents if these rude, irresponsible and selfish drivers do not learn to obey speed limits and respect their neighbors. I am angry that I feel safer driving to Atlanta on I-85 than on the country roads surrounding my home. I am hoping that there will be more police presence as there is only one way to deter this stupidity, ticket the offender, if they lose their license so be it, better they are off the road than harassing those of us who are trying to obey the law.
It’s time these drivers are held accountable, time that we care enough about our citizens that we are willing to punish those who are making it unsafe for us all. To those of you who are the offenders that are reading this, you are not anonymous. I am keeping a record of license plate numbers of those that are particulary aggressive, those I see daily harassing others, because I know that it’s only a matter of time before one of these “road terrorists” causes an accident and I seriously doubt, given their driving habits, that they would have the decency to stop.

Sincerely,
Lisa Brown
Hoschton

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Column
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
January 23, 2002

Beatty proposal good, but dead
It doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in Hades, but Sen. Mike Beatty has introduced a resolution in the General Assembly that should be passed into law.
What Beatty proposes would be a constitutional amendment that would forbid the kind of gerrymandering of districts which was done by the Legislature last year.
I’m not sure how many voters really realize yet just how screwed-up the redistricting process in Georgia has become. Republican gubernatorial candidate Sonny Perdue, who was in Jackson County Tuesday, said people all over the state are upset about the new districts.
Certainly, Republican colleagues of Perdue are upset. Although the Republican Party has grown in Georgia over the last decade, the new district lines were drawn to maximize Democratic Party power.
One example of that is here in Jackson County. Because Beatty is a Republican, Jackson County was split by Democrats into three different Senate districts.
Beatty’s proposed amendment would prevent that kind of district splitting. Not only does the proposal say “districts shall be compact in form,” but it also would prevent dividing districts based on voting patterns.
“The General Assembly shall not take into account, directly or indirectly, the voting patterns or political party affiliations of the voters,” reads the legislation.
Of course, that is exactly what happened last year. Computer models that show voting patterns were used to slice and dice the state by party affiliation. There was no regard for county lines, city lines or any other usual political boundaries. Areas of common economic, social or historical interest were split. All that mattered was party voting patterns.
The redistricting may be a sleeper issue in the upcoming governor’s election. Voters might have forgiven Gov. Roy Barnes for his intrusion into education reform. Voters might have even overlooked his move to change the state flag.
But to have led the charge in creating these new politically drawn districts might be a political death knell for the governor. While the process has always been overtly political, there was some effort in previous redistrictings to keep areas of common interest together.
That wasn’t done this time. The political nature of the redistricting drove to a new level, one that many voters will find absurd.
Gov. Barnes will get either the credit, or the blame, for what was done. While the process is technically controlled by the General Assembly, there’s little doubt that Barnes pulled all the strings.
Sen. Beatty’s attempt to prevent such actions in the future should go before voters as a constitutional amendment.
It won’t. The light of day will never shine on his bill.
Voters, however, may have the last say anyway.

***

There’s another potential “sleeper” issue in the upcoming elections — standardized school tests. There’s a growing backlash among some parents against the mountain of standardized tests now being administered to students. While many parents see the need for some kind of tests to evaluate students and schools, there’s a growing realization that many of the tests are seriously flawed.
Indeed, by manipulating the questions of standardized tests, state education bureaucrats have found a new tool to control local curriculum decisions. The movement of “new-new” math is a perfect example of how state-mandated standards have forced local school systems to adopt this controversial curriculum. (The curriculum may match the testing better and scores will likely increase, but there’s some doubt if the curriculum really teaches the mastering of basic math skills.)
One backlash against standardized testing has taken root in nearby Gwinnett County where a teacher opposed to that county’s testing process may lose his job after having released some fourth grade test questions following testing two years ago. That case is currently before a judge and its outcome could spark additional complaints.
There’s value in standardized testing, but the manipulation and inherent poor quality of some of the tests is a growing concern. Voters may take those concerns to the polls with them this summer.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald. He can be reached at Editor@mainstreetnews.com.


Editorial
The Commerce News
January 23, 2002

Don't Make It Easy For Drug-Related Theft
Maybe the price of illegal drugs has spiked, but for some reason, the incidence of theft reported to the Commerce Police Department is up. In the two weeks prior to this one, there were 20 cases, ranging from shoplifting to smash-and-grab burglaries. And that does not include the tragically fatal armed robbery of Jan. 11.
Back out the shoplifting and theft of gasoline cases and chances are you're looking at crime tied directly to the use of illegal drugs. The economy may be slow, but the sale of illegal drugs knows no recession. For many people addicted to crack cocaine, the only source of income is either selling drugs or stealing other people's property.
Since the suspect in the Jan. 11 fatal armed robbery had methamphetamine in his possession at the time of his arrest, it is reasonable to speculate that the proceeds of that robbery were spent on drugs as well.
If you're hoping to find plausible solutions to drug addiction and abuse, read no further. We have none. But there are some very basic things people can do to reduce the odds of being victimized by someone hoping to finance the next drug buy.
Citizens should lock their vehicles and residences; businesses should make sure their alarm systems are functioning.
Not exactly groundbreaking information, is it? But a review of the theft cases reported by the Commerce Police Department shows a high percentage of them made easier by citizens who failed to lock their vehicles – sometimes leaving the keys in the ignition – or failed to lock the doors of their residences, enabling burglars to walk right in. A couple of businesses hit had security systems – that didn't work.
Sadly, there are quite a number of local people who think anything of value is communal property, and they will grab your pocketbook, checkbook, tool box or electronics if they think they can get away with it. Prudent people will do what they can to make thievery less attractive.
Commonsense preventive techniques won't stop theft, but they will reduce your likelihood of being the next victim. Lock your doors, make sure your security system works, record serial numbers and don't leave items of value out in plain sight. It's not rocket science, just common sense.


Enron's Corruption
Seeking to capitalize on the fall of Enron, Sen. Zell Miller made a big production out of returning a $1,000 donation made to his campaign from the bankrupt energy marker. ItÕs a nice political gesture, but little more.
Had Enron fallen during the Clinton presidency, there would be a huge hue and cry for an investigation linking Enron and Clinton. But EnronÕs CEO was George W. BushÕs largest contributor, and Enron was an equal opportunity corrupter when it came to buying influence. It greased the palms of Republicans and Democrats alike. There will be investigations related to the companyÕs officers selling their stock as EnronÕs house of cards collapsed and of the accounting firm that apparently hid its bookkeeping shenanigans. But donÕt look for a serious investigation into the companyÕs largess.
Enron spent millions to avoid public oversight. It helped write BushÕs energy policy. The company schmoozed any and all politicians capable of helping it avoid government regulations. That warrants investigation, but neither political party is likely to express enthusiasm for exposing detailed information on that subject to the public.
EnronÕs dealings typify all that is wrong with business in Washington, D.C. The company bought influence, made its corporate officers rich and when the end came, its employees and stockholders – the little guys – wound up taking the fall.


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