Jackson County Opinions...

February 13, 2002



Column
By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
February 13, 2002

Valentineıs Day: A Holiday To
Kill All Romance
Valentine's Day: No holiday terrorizes and victimizes men more than Thursday's annual holiday devoted solely to romance.
I hate it and feel victimized by it. You guys understand it.
You could buy a dozen red roses from the florist last Thursday for $45. This Thursday, the price is $75 for the same roses. On Friday, the roses will cost you $45 again. Unfortunately, you cannot buy a dozen roses on Feb. 7, put them in the freezer, and present them to your loved one Feb. 14. Nor can you purchase them Feb. 15 to present them just one day late. Not if you want your relationship to continue. The flower industry has been very successful holding relationships hostage to roses for one day a year.
And, women expect roses on Valentine's Day. They like them any time, but they expect them on Valentine's Day. Except Barbara, who after 27 years of marriage knows better. I refuse to participate in being ripped off for something that will die in three or four days.
That always leaves the dilemma. What do you do for your most loved one on Valentine's Day if you're not in a position to buy jewelry, furs, trips to the Orient or roses?
Don't tell me chocolate. We're trying if not to lose weight then at least to not put it on. Besides, they don't make boxes of chocolate big enough to stand alone as Valentine gifts. In this day of enlightenment, women know you have an ulterior motive if you pick up a gift from Victoria's Secret, so don't even think about that.
Women have it easy when shopping for men. What's the perfect Valentine's gift? Anything he can use, from a set of jumper cables to a simulated dead animal mount that sings when you push the button. Men don't relate to romantic gifts; they want gizmos and gadgets, or consumable items like fishing lures and golf balls.
Then there is the Valentine's Day meal. It is required. I am not sure if restaurants raise their prices for that one day, but they could get away with it. The problem is that if everybody is obligated to dine out, the wait at your favorite restaurant will suck any lingering romance right out of the occasion. One option is to cook your wife a nice meal, but that means something more sophisticated than Mrs. Paul's frozen entrees heated in the microwave and served with white zinfandel wine and Jell-O instant pudding for dessert, so that option is not for everyone. (I had planned to prepare a gourmet meal for Barbara Thursday night, but the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority has decided to do its part to kill romance and will meet then to talk about water and you-know-what, so I will be spending Valentine's evening with Jerry Waddell, Elton Collins, Keith Ariail et. al. I won't take flowers.)
Actually, the idea of a romantic holiday is counterproductive. If you have to act romantic, it really isnıt from the heart; your spouse knows you had to buy the card/flowers/furs. And since there is a day when that is virtually mandatory, most guys figure there is no need to attempt romance any other day of the year.
But, weıre stuck with it. Just get out your credit card and do your best or be ready to seek forgiveness.


Editorial
The Jackson Herald
February 13, 2002

Schools are examples of good planning
Although we might debate some of the trends our public schools adopt regarding academics, thereıs no doubt our local school systems are doing a good job in one area — planning for future growth.
Itıs a tough job. In growing counties like Jackson, attempting to get a grip on growth infrastructure is like trying to herd cats. Usually, weıre two steps behind the need. Roads, water, sewer and other ³hard² infrastructures always lag demand, partly because of cost and partly because of inattentive local government leaders.
But we canıt say the same for local school leaders. Indeed, over the last decade our local school systems have been aggressive in keeping up with student growth. A new upper elementary school opened this year in growing West Jackson and a new middle school opened in Jefferson following the Christmas school break. In the coming year, a new elementary school is scheduled for the East Jackson Area and within a few years, a new high school in East Jackson. And all of that is not to mention a number of classroom additions planned for other schools in the county.
In one way, our local schools are being penalized by the state for being so aggressive in keeping up with growth. Had our systems not provided these new facilities, using portable classrooms instead, they would likely qualify for additional state funds for facility improvements.
But while the state may penalize our systems for being farsighted, our students are benefiting from these local efforts.
We sometimes disagree with the academic aspects of our public schools, but we certainly support the good job being done to provide classroom space for our students.
The leaders of those efforts deserve the publicıs thanks.


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Column
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
February 13, 2002

ŒLords of the Realmı messing up courthouse effort
If you want to wrestle with a tiger, just try to figure out what needs to be done about a new courthouse in Jackson County.
Those who have gone through the process of building a house know a little about how it feels. Getting a husband and wife to agree on a home site, then a floor plan, then the paint colors, then the wallpaper, is difficult at best, life-threatening at worst.
Now imagine five MEN on the board of commissioners trying to site and build a multi-million dollar house with 40,000 other people offering advice. No matter what they do, where they build, what style they choose and what color itıs painted, someoneıs going to be unhappy.
But donıt feel too sorry for those guys. Half the problems they encounter will be of their own making.
By the time most of you read this, Wednesdayıs public forum about a proposed courthouse site will be over. That, of course, was the point of scheduling the meeting on a Wednesday night. Between church commitments (itıs Ash Wednesday) and the lack of a published reminder, not many average citizens will turn out.
The board was also careful to make it clear that it didnıt want comments at Wednesday nightıs meeting. No, no, the public must not speak while the Lords of the Realm are in the room. Only written comments to their hired help, the county manager, will be accepted.
And those who couldnıt attend Wednesdayıs meeting wonıt get much meat in this weekıs newspaper either since the board refused to release a map of the proposed site to us. It is, of course, an open record and it will be released, but just not in time for THIS edition. Theyıre holding the map the legal limit of 48-hours so itıll miss publication deadlines.
Arenıt they clever?
All of this is just another example of how secretive this board has become. Every discussion this board has had about a new courthouse has been in secret. Some of that has been legitimate dealings with real estate issues, but itıs obvious other decisions have been made in these secret meetings as well.
The need for a courthouse is without question. Those who oppose building a new facility simply donıt know whatıs going on in Jackson County.
But the nature of a new facility should still be open to debate. Should it be one large building, or should it be a collection of smaller structures in a ³campus² setting? Should it stay in downtown Jefferson, or be moved further out? If it is moved, where should it be put? Is more than one single location a possible alternative? What can Jackson County afford to build?
All of those are important questions. But donıt expect to see much debate on the BOC since the board has already discussed those issues in secret. And while the BOC may go through the motions of gathering citizen input, they really donıt give a whit what the peasants think.
What they do care about, apparently, is the political aspects of a new courthouse. Commissioners Sammy Thomason and Tony Beatty represent East Jackson districts and want the facility on the east side of Jefferson. It is Thomason, in fact, who has pushed the proposed secret site somewhere on Darnell Road.
This Sammy-Site might be a political feather in Thomasonıs cap, but it may not serve the best interests of the public.
For one thing, it lacks good surface road access. To make that site work will require some major road construction projects around the eastside of Jefferson.
For another thing, the Sammy-Site is not exactly in a high-profile setting. If Jackson County taxpayers are going to spend $10-$20 million on a new courthouse, do we want it hidden in the woods where you need a map and compass to get to it?
In addition, putting the courthouse facility east of Jefferson would be putting it on the opposite side of the countyıs main growth. It is the West Jackson area that is seeing rapid growth. Whatever the geography, the Sammy-Site isnıt in the center of the countyıs population corridor.
There are a number of possible alternatives in pursuing new county facilities. There may even be a need to separate some of the services and have two different sites — one for the judicial functions of county government, the other for administrative and other county functions. Those donıt have to be under one roof or even in the same area of town.
Whatıs being discussed is a major decision for all of Jackson County. So far, however, only the five Lords of the Realm have been talking and all of those discussions have been done in secret.
And they scheduled a public meeting on a night with other conflicts so the public wonıt attend.
And they told us not to speak when they unveiled their plan.
And they refused to release a copy of the site map to the public.
If the BOC wants public support for a new courthouse, this isnıt the way to get it.
Mike Buffington is editor of the Jackson Herald. He can be reached at Editor@mainstreetnews.com.


Editorial
The Commerce News
February 13, 2002

Development Trends Are
Problems For Commerce
In his "Native Intelligence 2002" report to members of the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce last Wednesday, Frank Norton Jr., president of The Norton Agency, warned that every county needs a balance of housing. Some, like Forsyth, have almost no starter homes available for teachers, police officers, clerks and other employees crucial to a county's health to live.
Commerce has the opposite problem. While the city has permitted something upwards of 500 new lots, virtually all of them are aimed at mobile homes or "starter" homes. At the same time, it is recruiting no industry and little commercial development. Unless this market is augmented, Commerce will be the bedroom community for labor markets at Banks Crossing, Jefferson and beyond.
While it is desirable to have starter homes, Commerce also needs homes for the middle and upper management people or those who want one or more steps above a starter house. Only one of our new subdivisions offers homes at $150,000 and up, and there are just a few lots designed for houses beyond that. When new management comes to a Commerce industry, typically the manager lives elsewhere because of the lack of options here.
It may be that city subdivision requirements discourage upscale development or it may be that the housing developments catering to first-time home owners just reflect the reality of the market.
Commerce has no significant industrial development to create a demand for higher end housing. The industrial potential at the Maysville Road interchange and the so-called "Volvo megasite" remain just potential. The first development on Progress Road will be a rent-subsidized housing development. The Commerce government itself has shown little interest in industrial development – it is seldom represented at Industrial Development Authority meetings or chamber of commerce functions and has made no effort to lure industrial park developers. That not only affects the housing market, but it also bodes ill for financing the school system when these subdivisions are filled.
That Commerce is growing is not a matter of debate. How that growth unfolds will determine what this city is like in 10, 20 or 40 years. Unless the shapers of public policy make some changes to attract both industry and better housing, this community will be little more than a bedroom community burdened by the costs of serving people who work in businesses and industries whose taxes go to some other community.


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