Jackson County Opinions...

AUGUST 7, 2002

By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
August 7, 2002

Beginning Now: Expect 17-20
Weeks Of WUIIt is not marked as a holiday on anyone's calendar, but Aug. 1 is a day of importance on my calendar.
Aug. 1 is the day I start Writing Under the Influence (WUI).
For the next 17-20 weeks, I will be operating under a drug-induced haze, a statement that will doubtlessly cause someone to inquire: "How will we know?" Very funny indeed.
Every evening until Sept. 1, just before bed, I will pop one tiny white pill. On Sept. 1, I will begin taking a second pill each morning.
Unfortunately, I get no "high," no feeling of euphoria. Instead, I go through days feeling as tired as Rip van Winkle before his nap. In fact, I can go home from work, snooze for two hours, arise tired enough to sleep well that night and wake up the following morning in need of a nap.
But it is a necessary ritual. Nearly 30 years ago, I was diagnosed as having "the worst case I've ever seen" allergy to ragweed by an Atlanta specialist. I was on shots for a couple of years, but every fall I suffered mightily, unable to breathe through my nose from about Sept. 10 through mid-December. I tried every prescription sinus medication ever devised; some put me to sleep, some kept me from sleeping, but none of them helped much and all of them left me feeling as though I've just awakened from a four-year coma.
Then I took my pharmacist's advice and began taking an antihistamine well in advance of the onslaught of my troubles to build up resistance. I started Aug. 1.
It worked. I still suffered from lethargy, but I could actually breathe through at least one sinus passage at any given time. The ability to breathe freely is a blessing not to be taken lightly.
Compared to my previous fall status, I now suffer relatively little from ragweed (I am knocking on wood as I type this). The drug haze is just the price one pays for the relief of symptoms that are much worse. I will emerge from this semi-hibernation some time in December.
Thus, on those beautiful fall days when one should be outside enjoying nature, I will likely be taking a five-hour nap on the couch or staring at my computer in a trance-like state, eyes glazed over and mind wandering over some distant land or shut down altogether like a computer with a screen-saver. My counter-attack with massive doses of caffeine is enjoyable but taxes my kidneys.
Unfortunately, management at MainStreet News will cut me no slack for this handicap. You can be fired for operating a company vehicle under the influence of recreational narcotics, but WUI seems to be actually encouraged. A loophole in the Americans With Disabilities Act exempts the seasonally self-induced mentally impaired from protection.
I used to worry about (greater) lapses in writing during the weeks of drug use, but since determined that half the country suffers from fall allergies that require medication. Thus, while I write under the influence, half of you are reading this under the influence (RUI). This means any error I make after the first two paragraphs will go unnoticed by half of you because you dozed off.
That’s OK. I will not be offended. I’ve dozed off three times just writing this.
Mark Beardsley is the Editor of The Commerce News.

The Jackson Herald
August 7, 2002

Just say ‘No,’ Mr. Chairman
Go back to the front page and re-read the observation by Jackson County Commissioner Stacey Britt regarding a proposed road to serve the Darnell Road area.
It’s an amazing quote, a moment of clarity that has long been absent from this meandering band of erstwhile leaders.
For those who don’t want to turn the page, here’s what was said: The BOC received a request for permission from county administrators to seek engineering and design proposals for “Jackson Parkway,” a road proposed to connect the Dry Pond/I-85 area to Darnell Road. It is along Darnell Road that this board wants to build a new courthouse on a 165-acre site.
But Britt balked at the road idea. He pointed out that the county is obligated to do another major road project near Pendergrass to serve the recently announced Toyota/MACI manufacturing plant.
Said Britt (you’d better sit down for this): “I don’t see how we can afford to do both of them at the same time with everything else we are doing.”
Amazing. A local county commissioner has at long last asked the number one question on the minds of every taxpayer in the community. Britt actually had the gall to worry about where the money was going to come from to fund these very expensive projects.
It’s a darn good question and timely observation. Britt knows, as we all do, that there is no way to fund both these projects without a major hike in taxes.
But Britt’s question was not met with enthusiasm by commission chairman Harold Fletcher, architect of the misguided courthouse project and it’s number one proponent.
“I don’t see how we can not afford to do both of them at the same time,” replied Fletcher.
Well, Mr. Chairman, we have a suggestion: Just say “No.”
Say “No” to the boondoggle of building a road from Dry Pond to Darnell Road. Moreover, say “No” to building a courthouse in a location that has no public support.
Just say “No,” Mr. Chairman. It’s easy.
The county has an obligation to the Pendergrass-area road for Toyota. That’s an expensive project, but one that will clearly be paid back in revenue in the future. That road will open in a wide swath of industrial land along I-85 and in the coming years, bring in far more to the county than it will cost to build. It’s a good deal.
But the other road, the one Mr. Fletcher says we can’t live without: What, Mr. Chairman, will it bring into Jackson County? Where is the industry that needs it? How will it pay for itself?
But wait, the story gets even better. Following Mr. Fletcher’s pithy remark, Britt kept pushing the issue.
“It may be clear to some of you, but it’s not much clear to me. I’m still trying to figure out how we’re going to do it,” said Britt.
Imagine that. A county commissioner actually had the audacity to disagree with Mr. Chairman! Will wonders never cease.
Not only that, but Britt got backing from commissioner Emil Beshara, who pointed out that it would be “premature” to design the road before there was a design for a courthouse.
But the biggest issue is the one raised by Commissioner Britt — how does the county plan to pay for Fletcher’s Freeway and the much more worthwhile industrial road for Toyota?
It can’t do both without a tax hike. And for that reason, Mr. Chairman, you need to learn how to say that magic one-syllable word: “No.”

Jackson County Opinion Index

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By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
August 7, 2002

Beshara-Presley race being watched by entire county
In a little less than two weeks, voters will go to the polls in Jackson County to decide a number of local and state races.
Although the governor’s race is perhaps the highlight of this season, the final showdown on that won’t take place until November when Gov. Roy Barnes meets the victor of the Republican primary.
One statewide race of particular interest in Jackson County will be the outcome of the Republican Primary for Lt. Gov. Sen. Mike Beatty of Jefferson is one of three Republican candidates on the ballot. The winner of the primary will face incumbent Democrat Mark Taylor in November.
Locally, two state House races and three state Senate races are on the platter this election season. Only one of those, House District 24, will be decided in the Primary as two Republicans face each other.
But perhaps the race that will be most watched locally in two weeks will be the contest between incumbent Jackson County commissioner Emil Beshara and challenger Jerry Presley. Both men are running as Republicans and there is no Democrat to face in November.
While this contest will be limited to District 3 in the West Jackson and North Jackson areas, it will be watched countywide as a barometer of county politics in general.
The two candidates are extremely different in personalities, although the differences in their platforms is a little more difficult to discern.
Beshara is known for being outspoken and direct. Presley is soft spoken and circuitous.
Of Beshara, Presley uses the term “abrasive.” For his part, Beshara portrays Presley as being a little loony, a loner on the political fringe.
There’s some truth to both views. Beshara sometimes has a difficult time controlling his tongue. Although most observers, even his critics, credit Beshara for his in-depth knowledge of county government and his ability to crystallize complex subjects, he’s given demerits for a lack of tact and diplomacy. He says openly he does not like political game playing, an attitude that is either admirable or abrasive, depending on whether you like what Beshara says, or find yourself on the receiving end of his verbal directness.
For his part, Presley opened the door two years ago to the loony label. At the time, he considered a run for county commission chairman as an independent. He filed as a pauper, but failed to get the necessary signatures to make a run. In the process, he labeled himself a “political entrepreneur,” whatever that means. Presley reminds me of Tommy Stephenson back when Stephenson first set his eyes on politics; likable, idealistic, and politically unwashed.
On specific issues, it’s difficult to find a lot of differences between the two candidates. This week, Presley attacked Beshara on the county’s decision to buy land on Darnell Road for a courthouse. But while Beshara did not support putting a new courthouse in downtown Jefferson, he voted against the original Darnell Road purchase. Presley does not say what his ideas are about a new courthouse.
On the other side, Beshara attacked Presley this week saying the challenger is working in concert with those wanting to put a large landfill in North Jackson. Beshara has opposed that project.
But while the political personalities of these two men differ, their race may not be decided by District 3 issues alone. As both men acknowledge, the race may become a referendum on the board of commissioners as a whole.
That could be bad for Beshara. For a variety of reasons, the new five-member BOC has not endeared itself to the public during the last 19 months of its existence. Voters held high hopes for the new structure of county government, but those expectations have long since been dashed on the rocks of political reality.
One cannot fault Mr. Beshara alone for that. If anything, most of the fault lies with the lack of leadership from the board’s chairman.
What remains to be seen, however, is whether voters in District 3 will separate the actions of the board itself from the actions, positions and votes of Mr. Beshara.
I suspect many voters won’t decide on this race until the moment they enter the ballot box and are forced to pick a candidate.
In the meantime, get ready to be inundated with political messages from both men as each maneuvers for the advantage.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.

The Commerce News
August 7, 2002

Barnes Right: No State Policy On Police Chases
This space has seldom been used to comment on any positive actions taken by Gov. Roy Barnes, but Barnes made the right call recently when he declined a Peachtree City request for a state-wide policy on police chases.
The request came after a Peachtree resident was killed when a woman fleeing police crashed into his vehicle. That chase has brought attention to the sometimes-disastrous results when criminal suspects flee and police give chase.
Equally disastrous would be a policy banning such chases, for they would give every criminal and every driver a sure means of escape when pulled over for any offense, whether traffic or felony. Police chases are a fact of life in law enforcement, but with good training and sound judgment, officers can reduce the risk of injury to the public.
In Commerce, a review of police reports indicates that most drug arrests stem from traffic stops. Many other felony arrests are also made when someone pulled over for a traffic violation turns out to be a suspect in a much more serious crime. From a police standpoint, if a suspect flees, he or she must have something to hide.
Barnes rightly observed that any statewide ban on police chases would have dramatic repercussions. Criminals would be encouraged to flee. But there is a step the state can take to help police with this situation: they can make it a felony to flee from police. If drivers knew they could get serious jail time for failure to stop for police, many of the chases would be prevented.
Still, as long as there are police, there will be people who run from them and police must be given discretion as to when to chase them. Last week in Commerce, officers had to chase and successfully apprehended a suspect in a Banks County auto theft and the video shot from the police officer's vehicle demonstrated a textbook case of how to engage in a chase and says much about the value of training, since the officer had just completed a course on the subject.
Under the best circumstances, however, fleeing criminal suspects and pursuing police pose threats to the public, but the governor was absolutely correct in refusing to implement a state chase policy. The best answer is professional training for all police and heavy penalties for those who fail to pull over when police try to stop them.

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