Jackson County Opinions...

MAY 22, 2002



Column
By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
May 22, 2002

More Unsolicited Advice For The Recent Graduates
Now that all of the seniors are back from their graduation trips to beaches all over the Northern Hemisphere, I will continue my tradition of offering them sage but unsolicited advice – you know, the kind you and I ignored when we were their age.
I don't expect many young people to read this, but perhaps one or two will stumble across this column while trying to find sports or school news and will absorb part of this information before either falling asleep or discovering their error.
School may be over, but education never ends. Unfortunately, some lessons learned painfully could have been learned painlessly from a parent, older acquaintance or even another young person who got his education the hard way.
It is one thing to give good advice, but another to take it. Nonetheless:
•Before you get that tattoo, ask yourself "What are the odds that design will be cool in 15 years?" You wouldn't want to wear the same fashions all of your life; don't assume you'll always like that tattoo.
•Being cool isn't cool; it's an admission that you're a slave to the influence of others. Don't let what you do, say, consume, wear, drive or think be determined by fad.
•For those going to college, there are more valuable things to do with your evenings than getting drunk. That may be the most popular after-hours activity, but puking your guts out that follows is annoying.
•The surgeon general's warning on the cigarette pack is true. Ask anyone over 30 who smokes if he or she thinks smoking is a good idea.
•It's not necessary for you to prove the axiom that a fool and his money are soon parted.
•Your parents, currently the stupidest people you know, will get smarter as you age. You, sadly, will get dumber every day, a process that accelerates rapidly once your first child turns 13.
•Think twice about getting a tan. A tan may look good, but skin cancer looks like hell and can kill you.
•All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and his wife a young (but well-provided for) widow.
•Avoid people who lack humor.
•Maintain a healthy skepticism. Not everything you hear, read on the Internet or see on TV is true. Cross my heart.
•The bill goes in the front on a baseball cap.
•Blind allegiance to anything is foolish.
•When someone says "It isn't about the money," it is about the money.
•Your government will lie to you. At the drop of a hat.
•Never date anyone you can't imagine yourself married to.
•No matter how bad you screw up, Mom, Dad and your dog will still love you. Your cat will be indifferent.
•Being a video game master will not assist you in the real world, where you get but one life.
•The companies that constantly offer you credit cards are the corporate equivalent of drug dealers, hoping to hook you on debt.
•There is no such thing as a free lunch, except at your parents' house.
•If it seems too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.
•Religious faith will help you cope with the disappointments of life.
•Your best bet of attaining wealth is hard work, not the lottery.


Editorial
The Jackson Herald
May 22, 2002

Alternative courthouse site deserves study
We have said many times in recent months that the location of a new courthouse in Jackson County is a huge decision. The ramifications of that decision will echo through the community for decades to come.
That the Jackson County Board of Commissioners has only pursued a single site on Darnell Road is a great disappointment. Whatever the merits of that location, that board has an obligation to the public to look at a variety of possibilities for a courthouse, not just one site.
Now the board, however late in the game, has that opportunity. An alternative site put on the table by commissioner Stacey Britt at Hwy. 129 and Storey Lane is a reasonable location that deserves further study and consideration.
If viable, that location won’t please everyone. Those wanting a courthouse in the immediate downtown area probably wouldn’t be happy, nor would those on the BOC wanting the Darnell Road site.
But it may be best to throw out both those locations and find an alternative that better addresses the problems inherent in both those sites.
The question now, however, is will the BOC give serious study to Britt’s proposal? Given that the options are set to soon expire on the Darnell Road tracts, the BOC is likely to vote within the next couple of weeks on whether or not to purchase that site.
So is Britt’s proposal too little too late?
We have said all along that the board intends to purchase the Darnell Road site and that it was a foregone conclusion the day they took options on that land. Despite comments to the contrary, several BOC members made up their minds early in the process to support only the Darnell Road location. Certainly chairman Harold Fletcher did, even though he continues to deny it in public.
So how the board responds to the Hwy. 129/Storey Lane site will be telling. If the board gives that location serious study, equal to that of Darnell Road, then perhaps the board is more open-minded than we previously thought.
But if they plow ahead with buying the Darnell Road site without taking a serious look at this alternative, then the public will know for sure that the fix was in from the beginning and that this last-minute proposal was only political window dressing.

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Column
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
May 22, 2002

BOC, BOE show contrasting styles
There was a time, not so long ago actually, that this space was full of not-so-flattering observations about the Jackson County Board of Education.
I was reminded of those days recently when a former member of that board told me, “You used to give me hell when I was on the BOE, but now I’m glad you’re giving hell to the board of commissioners!”
That got me to thinking about the way local government officials act, both individually and collectively. Indeed, the county BOE has gone from being a highly-controversial board to one that seemingly has its act together. It may not make everyone happy, but for the most part, it does not engage in the kind of rancor that was at one time common.
That’s rather amazing when you consider that the Jackson County BOE is the largest taxing authority in the county and is probably the largest single employer in the county. Many of the decisions that board makes affects thousands of students, moves millions of dollars and has an unmeasurable, intangible effect on every community in the county. And education itself is in the midst of some major changes being handed down from the state and federal governments.
Yet despite all that, few of us could name all the members who sit on that board. They do not parade their power or egos.
Now contrast today’s county BOE to the Jackson County Board of Commissioners. While not quarreling openly with each other, the BOC is at odds with a large segment of the county’s citizens on a variety of subjects, from planning and zoning to the proposed location of a new courthouse.
So what is the difference between the two? Why is the BOE floating calmly in its rough education waters, while the BOC seemingly creates waves of controversy where none previously existed?
The difference is one of leadership and of the different ways these two boards approach their public duties.
For its part, the BOE takes great pains to solicit public input in the process of making controversial decisions. The recent proposal by the BOE to adopt some of the Edison school testing programs is a textbook example (no pun intended).
Following some initial investigation last year, the system decided to pilot a controversial in-class testing program this past school year. System leaders, including BOE members, attended numerous meetings with teachers, principals and parents in evaluating the program. Visits were made to other schools to view the program, and outside school officials were brought into the county to lead discussions about the program.
There was a lot of discussion and feedback. It was a controversial proposal that was opposed by many teachers and some parents. But it also had its supporters. Both sides had ample opportunity to air their views and the BOE was engaged in that process.
In the end, the proposal did not go forward, at least for now, even though many in the system’s leadership thought it should. The lack of consensus that became evident from all the input caused the BOE to put it on the back-burner.
Now compare that open, public process to that of the process the BOC selected its proposed courthouse site. No public meetings were held by the board until after one site was selected and options taken. Those offering opposing views were met with scorn and ridicule. A citizens’ committee created earlier to study the issue was abandoned and left in the cold. And even while saying no final decision had been made, some on the BOC were privately saying otherwise. There was no effort to build public consensus behind the action and no independent study of the matter was done.
The BOE could have acted in the same manner as the BOC — it could have mandated the Edison project from the top down, forcing parents and teachers to accept it no matter what their views. But rather than employing its power that way, it chose to study the matter and to see if a consensus could be reached. When no consensus was found, the BOE did not flex its power just to prove a point, but rather agreed to keep its options open for the future.
That is real leadership. That is the way public policy decisions are supposed to be made. And even if they didn’t agree with the outcome, school system policymakers know that the best way to make lasting change is by building consensus, not forcing decisions on reluctant followers.
It would be instructive for the BOC to tear that page out of the BOE’s playbook and study it closely. Rather than attempting to force their courthouse site down the throats of citizens by the weight of political power, perhaps the BOC would learn the skill of working toward consensus by listening to its citizens and by working with others.
Two public boards: One attempts to lead by raw, brute force, the other by skill and consensus building.
In the long run, which one do you think will be most effective for Jackson County citizens?
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.


Editorial
The Commerce News
May 22, 2002

‘Civil Defense’ A Notion Worth Looking At Again
Unable to provide a warning before the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks, the Bush Administration is now going to great lengths to warn the American public that some huge new terrorist attack will occur. What it will be, when and where are, of course, unknown.
The general public has long conceded that another attack is very likely, even as America returned to "normal" in the weeks and months after Sept. 11. How many of us, though forewarned, have given thought as to how we may prepare for it, how we can best cope with it and considered how it may affect the way we live? Not many, because, like the federal government, we cannot plan for something so vague and unknown.
America is little more prepared today to respond to a biological, chemical or nuclear attack than it was Sept. 10. We have the capability of obliterating any offending force from the face of the earth – but first we must locate it. The war on terrorism may seem to be going swell on the rocky ground of Afghanistan, but al Qaida remains elusive as ever, Osama bin Laden is unaccounted for and is presumably plotting, the Office of Homeland Security is powerless and we are just as vulnerable to terrorism as we were last fall.
Maybe we will get lucky and the threats will turn out to be just threats. But if the predictions and beliefs of our leaders and the general public prove correct, we will look back on the months between Sept. 11 and when the next attack occurs and rue our lack of preparation. We will realize that all of the time and energy spent placing blame could have been more constructively used in improving our ability to respond to and cope with another large-scale tragedy.
The Cold War concept of Civil Defense is starting to look timely again. It was an organization designed to provide response in the event of a huge disaster, and while nuclear war was its inspiration, Civil Defense units helped restore order and provide rapid assistance after anything from earthquakes to tornadoes. The U.S. won the Cold War, but the world is even more dangerous now than it was then and the odds of the U.S. experiencing a major devastating attack warrant a lot more attention being paid to disaster preparedness. If Sept. 11, 2001, was a warning, it has largely been ignored.

Putting Trees To Work
The Jackson County Farm Bureau has a good idea. It’s planning a program to show people how the planting of trees can conserve and clean water on their lots, reduce the need for mowing, cut down on noise pollution, provide privacy and a sense of solitude and increase the value of property.
Such an idea might have been taken for granted 15 years ago, but with new, often treeless subdivision lots cropping up and growth threatening to damage the quality of life, the calculated planting of trees can restore a lot of what “progress” takes away.
The workshop will be Thursday, June 20, at a location to be announced. Call Gwen at 367-8877 for information or to make reservations.
Fortunately, most lots in Jackson County are large enough to allow planting of trees to achieve privacy, for screening or for shade. But well-designed planting of trees, as the Farm Bureau notes, adds more to a residential lot than shade and privacy. Trees conserve water, provide wildlife habitat, help mitigate summer heat and help reduce air and noise pollution.
Tree planting isn’t an instant remedy to residential congestion, but the Farm Bureau recognizes that residents of Jackson County can benefit from the judicious use of trees to maintain a better quality of life. Given our rapid growth, the Farm Bureau’s program has great merit.


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