Jackson County Opinions...

JULY 31, 2002



Column
By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
July 31, 2002

Baseball Is Deserving Of
Huge Subsidies
With the economy in a turmoil, two groups have competing plans to solve economic problems perplexing all of America. I'm referring to Major League Baseball, of course.
The issue is the economy of baseball. The billionaire owners say they are in danger of going broke and being found in bread lines, so they want more money. The players say income levels higher than the gross national product of most third-world countries do not sufficiently reimburse them for the hours they put in, and the pharmaceuticals they require. They want more money.
Usually, such an impasse is not a problem, but with the stock market caving in, raising ticket prices another $5 and doubling (again) cost of everything from TV advertising to hot dogs is not an option. They're talking about striking.
The players want to strike right before post-season play, holding the playoffs and World Series as hostage. The owners want to end the season, then declare a lock-out, which is like banning snow skiing in Aspen from July through September. All the fans want is for baseball to last into September when college football play begins and there's something worth watching on TV.
Jimmy Carter and Zell Miller have offered to mediate; Jessie Ventura and Dick Cheney are available. Tensions are high, but there have been no suicide bombers, although the Mets, as a team, come close.
I'm trying to figure out just who needs the money the most.
On one side you have the players, who struggle to pay for their kids food, clothing, orthodontics and private schooling on salaries that average in the millions of dollars per year. On the other side are the owners, most of whom (at least until the last month) are billionaires. Baseball is their hobby, like fishing or hunting to folks here, and the cost is going up.
The pain from both sides makes me weep.
The only thing we can be sure of here is that the fans will be asked to pay for whatever settlement is ultimately reached. That's fair enough. We're the ones who benefit when Javey Lopez grounds into a double play or Tom Glavine can only pitch five innings because of a blister. We enjoy the excitement when the Yankees buy up every quality player or when the Marlins unload anyone batting over .270. Baseball is played for our entertainment, so we should pony up for whatever it takes to resolve this crisis.
I favor granting federal subsidies to Major League Baseball. We pay trillions to watch Congress in action. Baseball should be worth a couple hundred billion. Best of all, we can subsidize now and let our children and grandchildren pay later under the Bush Deficit Plan For Homeland Security and Chasing Osama bin Laden. Deferred payment is as American as baseball and apple pie.
Most importantly, baseball is crucial to our national defense and economic prosperity. It is inconceivable that we can remain a world leader and the richest nation on earth without Major League Baseball. Keeping baseball on life support is more crucial than guaranteeing our right to oil in Kuwait or frisking 5-year-olds in airports.
Call your congressman NOW.
Mark Beardsly is the Editor of The Commerce News.


Editorial
The Jackson Herald
July 31, 2002

NWA lawsuit is all wet
The Nicholson Water Authority is all wet. That’s our take on the lawsuit filed last week against the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority by the NWA. The suit claims that the county water system has illegally provided service into an area the NWA claims exclusive rights to serve.
Balderdash!
The NWA has long been a strange political animal. It claims to be a public agency and indeed, it was created in 1972 by the Georgia legislature. But the NWA has never acted like a public agency; rather, it has acted like a private association, or as some suggest, a private fiefdom.
For example, when was the NWA’s last board meeting? It has not, as far as we know, followed any state laws in how and when its leaders meet. It has not announced any public meetings. If it is indeed a public agency, then why has it not followed state laws that govern how public agencies operate?
Moreover, who are the NWA leaders and how are they selected? The 1972 law sets the county grand jury as the agency to appoint NWA board members, but we don’t recall any recent grand jury making such appointments. As far as we can determine, the NWA selects its own members, hardly the way a real public agency should operate.
The NWA claims in its suit that it has a four mile exclusive territory that cannot be served by any other water system. But we see nothing in the 1972 law that gives it such an exclusive right. In fact, this is really what the law says on that point:
“This Act does not in any way take from Nicholson or any adjoining county the authority to own, operate and maintain water or sewer systems...”
Obviously, the 1972 law does not grant exclusive territory rights to the NWA. In fact, the four-mile boundary was designed to limit how far the NWA could itself operate, not to limit other water systems.
The growth and development of the county water system should not be impeded by spurious lawsuits. The county water authority is right in defending its countywide mission against such claims.
But now that the NWA has raised the issue, we expect it, from this point on, to really operate like a public agency, including having its board members appointed by the grand jury and having regular, announced public meeting to conduct its business
.

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Column
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
July 31, 2002

Laurels and darts to local leaders
The announcement a few weeks ago that Toyota, through its Michigan Automotive Compressors Inc., would be building a large manufacturing plant in Jackson County for automotive air compressors is a huge boost to the community. The firm has a good reputation for not only providing jobs and a tax base, but also as being a good corporate citizen.
To some extent, Jackson Countians have become jaded to growth and development announcements. Our record of attracting new businesses over the last decade has caused us to expect growth.
But industries, especially large businesses like Toyota/MACI, don’t just drop from the sky. It took months of work, mostly behind-the-scenes, for that deal to reach its conclusion.
A lot of people were involved in that effort, but two names stand out: Jackson County Industrial Development Authority chairman Scott Martin and Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Pepe Cummings. These two men took turns driving the effort of landing this large industry. Although they both had a lot of support from other local leaders, it was ultimately their day-to-day work that made the difference.
They deserve a wreath of laurels for those efforts.

***

While Martin and Cummings deserve praise for their efforts in the Toyota/MACI deal, two other local leaders deserve a few darts for their meddling.
County commission chairman Harold Fletcher and his sidekick, commissioner Sammy Thomason, tried to end-run one part of the deal that, if they had succeeded, would have been terrible for local taxpayers and two local school systems.
Early in the talks with Toyota, the company agreed that whatever other incentives were discussed, there would be no abatement of local school taxes. That has been a consistent position by local development leaders over the years — new industries would pay 100 percent of their school taxes unless the local school systems agreed to some other arrangement that would not hurt school system taxpayers. In this project, both the Jackson County School System and City of Jefferson School System were involved because it is in a shared tax district.
But Fletcher and Thomason attempted to derail that agreement. Both men wanted to “hijack” those education tax dollars and have them funneled back into the general county government account.
Why?
To make the Toyota/MACI project work, the county is going to have to build a large and expensive road off Hwy. 129, along with some other major road improvements. Fletcher and Thomason wanted to divert the school tax money to pay for that.
Thomason attempted to sell the idea that local school systems should “share” in the cost of development by giving up school taxes.
But there was another aspect to the Fletcher-Thomason ploy as well: Both men led the misguided decision to purchase 157 acres on Darnell Road for a new courthouse. Because of the cost of the Toyota/MACI road projects, the county cannot afford to both build that road and start work on a new courthouse.
Thus, Fletcher and Thomason cooked up a scheme to take school tax dollars away from the Jackson County School System and the Jefferson City School System to have enough money to pursue a new courthouse.
But in the end, wiser heads prevailed. When the other three county commissioners found out what Fletcher and Thomason were up to, they were angry, to say the least. For one thing, Fletcher and Thomason had done their end run in secret, then denied it to the rest of the board — that is until a copy of an email surfaced that tied the two into the misguided dealings.
Commissioners Stacey Britt, Emil Beshara and Tony Beatty quickly voted down the idea of diverting the school taxes from the Toyota project, leaving Fletcher in a huff and Thomason piqued. (Of course, most of Thomason’s district is in the City of Commerce school district, which would have not been hurt by his scheme. One has to wonder if he would have been for “sharing” the cost of development had it taken dollars away from his hometown schools where his constituents send their children.)
In reality, Fletcher and Thomason never had control over such a deal anyway. The decision over how those tax dollars were to be handled fell to the IDA, not the BOC. IDA leaders had no intention of diverting school taxes back into the county government account.
Fletcher and Thomason thought they could intimidate the IDA into that act, but Britt, Beshara and Beatty stepped in before it came to an ugly showdown.
The moral of the story: Fletcher and Thomason are so blinded by their desire to build a courthouse on Darnell Road as a monument to themselves that they would take money away from education to fund it.
That’s ego, not economics. Both deserve a dart.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.


Editorial
The Commerce News
July 31, 2002

Parents Hold Keys To Success This Shool Year
The 2002-03 school year starts in the Commerce School System next Wednesday; it is already under way for the Jackson County School System. Regardless of where the child goes to school, every parent has high hopes for success as the school year begins.
Some parents may be a little uneasy about the prospects for that success, what with Georgia's continual next-to-the-bottom ranking in education, so-called education reforms by state and national officials, test scores that leave much room for improvement and other misgivings based on fact or fallacy.
Regardless of whatever else is going on, however, the key to a child's success in school rests not in the school, but in the home. Study after study demonstrates that the home environment is the most important factor in a child's education.
Does the child come to school adequately clothed and nourished? Does he or she receive encouragement from parents or caregivers? Is there somebody present to read to younger children, listen to older children read, to help children with their homework (including seeing to it that they do it), is the home life stable and loving for children? Do children get enough sleep? Do they have access to age-appropriate reading materials? Is there someone in the household to support the child by attending PTO meetings and to meet with teachers?
These factors are beyond the control of educators, and while they may seem simplistic to many people, too often children come to school from homes that do not provide them. Children also arrive at school from homes with fractured families, substance abuse, child abuse and neglect and all kinds of parental carelessness. Sometimes children are virtually homeless.
Our local schools have their shortcomings, but they are minuscule compared to the problems in the homes of the children they serve. If every child had parents or caregivers who worked diligently to make sure the child was prepared and supported in school, there would be no call for school reform, no perceived need for "accountability," no need for school vouchers. Local administrators and teachers want children to succeed; they are dedicated to doing their part and they work hard to see that the child's time in school is well spent.
Every parent should feel the same way. Every parent or caregiver has a major role to play in the success of his or her child – and in the success of the entire class and school. If the 2002-03 school year is to be successful, parents and educators must work together to make sure the students are prepared and capable. The teachers will do their part; all that's left is for parents and caregivers to show the same level of commitment. If that happens, this will be the best school year ever.


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