Jackson County Opinions...

AUGUST 21, 2002

By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
August 21, 2002

Rampant, Even
Among Our Allies
Rev. Tom Lewis in a recent column (he will write a monthly column) pondered the question: "Why do they hate us?" It was a reference to the anti-American sentiments of the Middle East so dramatically illustrated by the Sept. 11 attacks.
It ain't just the Middle East. A recent article from either USA Today or The New York Times (I can't remember, having read it online), provided evidence that an epidemic of anti-Americanism is global. Even in England, our staunchest ally, America bashing is rampant.
Most of the blame is directed at President Bush for various policies, but in particular our nation's response to Sept. 11.
Initially, the entire world rushed to our side as the World Trade Center's twin towers crashed to the ground, but, the thrust of the article says, we squandered that good will "out of arrogance and incompetence."
Bush's proposed war on Iraq is popular only at home. It is the primary example of what the Europeans see as America's self-centered attitude and its arrogance.
According to Robert Kagin, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC, Europeans "view the United States simply as a rogue colossus, in many respects a bigger threat to (their) pacific ideals than Iraq or Iran."
One London scholar on international relations argued during a debate on the BBC show "Straw Poll" that as the lone superpower, the United States is a danger to the rest of the world. At the end of the show, 70 percent of the show's audience supported that hypothesis.
A recent poll commissioned by Prime Minister Tony Blair showed "spectacular unpopularity" for Bush. Other earlier polls found that 85 percent of Germans, 80 percent of French, 73 percent of Britons and 68 percent of Italians think the U.S. is acting strictly in its own interest in the war on terrorism.
The phrase "that's American" in Europe now means "not taking anyone else into consideration."
"A lot of people who would have never considered themselves anti-American are now very distressed with the United States," declares Meghnad Desai, director of the Institute for Global Governance at the London School of Economics and Political Science (and a member of the House of Lords).
Europeans fault Bush for his support for steel tariffs and for farm subsidies, our one-sided support of Israel and the decision that American soldiers will not be subjected to the new international war crimes court.
In short, we are perceived in Europe and much of the rest of the world as a self-serving and arrogant people led by a self-serving and arrogant president.
I’m not sure how important it is to be loved in Europe and the rest of the world, but it is unsettling to be so disliked. America saved Europe from itself twice in the 20th century, but this is not the 20th century and the world’s view of us has changed.
We can’t let world opinion dictate our every action, but anti-Americanism is growing so rapidly that we should pay attention to the reasons, just or unjust. Some of them are likely to be valid, and even a super power can't stand alone.

The Jackson Herald
August 21, 2002

Time for Jefferson to act on planned courthouse site
When the Jackson County Board of Commissioners voted two weeks ago to purchase an additional seven acres of land at the proposed site for a new courthouse, it upped the ante in what has already been a polarizing debate.
Why, for example, did the board pay $360,000 for the property that was appraised around $300,000? Less than a year ago, the property sold for just $210,000.
Those who supported the purchase argued that the seven acres was necessary because it made the property “whole.” That may be, but the real reason the board voted to buy the land appears to be political. Some on the BOC feared that the City of Jefferson would purchase the property and use that as a basis for contesting the removal of the courthouse from the downtown area.
We doubt that Jefferson leaders ever considered buying that land, but the town does have a legitimate standing to be a major player in the courthouse debate. After 200 years as the seat of Jackson County’s main government facilities, the town has invested a large amount in infrastructure to accommodate county operations. Whatever action is eventually done about a new courthouse will directly affect the town.
We believe Jefferson leaders were misled during the annexation process which put the Darnell Road property into the city limits, thus making it available for a courthouse site. We know, for example, that BOC chairman Harold Fletcher had promoted that area for a new courthouse prior to his taking office and before the annexations took place. We suspect a lot of behind-the-scenes manipulation took place to get that property annexed under the guise of residential developments when it was really intended for a courthouse site.
We don’t know if Jefferson can prove in court that it was misled during the annexation process, but we believe the town should take whatever legal actions necessary to put all the parties involved on the witness stand to testify under oath about their role in the Darnell Road land annexations.
As regular readers of this page know, we think the Darnell Road location is a terrible choice for a county courthouse site. It is inaccessible to a large majority of the county’s population. To make it accessible will take millions of dollars in new road construction. That cost will fall on the backs of county taxpayers.
But just as bad as the site itself is the process used to select the location. If that process was tainted by manipulation, we believe the public should know it.
The City of Jefferson is in the legal position to help bring that issue to the fore.
We encourage it to do so.

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By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
August 21, 2002

Reading election tea leaves
Attempting to decipher election results for subtle messages is a little like reading tea leaves. The message is in the eye of the beholder.
No doubt, then, that as county leaders look at Tuesday’s election results from county commission District 3, there will be more opinions and interpretations than truth.
In that closely-watched race, incumbent commissioner Emil Beshara defeated challenger Jerry Presley by 140 votes, 55 percent to 45 percent.
No doubt county commission chairman Harold Fletcher will look at the results and declare it a vindication of his administration’s policies, including the proposed siting of a new courthouse on Darnell Road. Given the size of Fletcher’s ego, he will also likely view Beshara’s race as some kind of personal endorsement as well.
But the truth is more humbling. Beshara won not because voters like the policies of the Fletcher administration, but rather because Beshara is viewed as being an independent, if sometimes abrasive, voice on the BOC.
That may seem like an odd conclusion. But voters in District 3 that I spoke with viewed Presley as being soft and weak, someone Fletcher could easily manipulate and control. Beshara perhaps summed up his opponent best when he labeled him a “Kum-ba-Ya” candidate who wanted to hold hands around the political campfire. Given Fletcher’s gift of being able to manipulate others, many voters in District 3 believed Presley and Fletcher would have been holding hands and singing together within 60 days.
In addition, the fact that Presley is not a property owner and doesn’t pay county property taxes hurt him with voters who do have to engage in that distasteful act of civic duty. Whatever his personal politics, Presley could not “feel the pain” of taxpayers in his district. It’s hard to set a credible tax rate when you don’t have to write a tax check yourself.
Although not a diplomat, Beshara is viewed by many voters in District 3 as being his own man. He is no lackey for Fletcher, although on some issues they do agree.
But Beshara is the BOC member Fletcher fears the most because he is impossible to manipulate and control. For example, back in the winter when the discussions about buying land on Darnell Road for a courthouse site were happening, Fletcher held one-on-one meetings with the other BOC members to promote the idea. He said later he did that because he didn’t want to violate the Open Meetings Law.
But that wasn’t the real reason. The reason Fletcher did his sales pitch one-on-one was that he feared what might happen if Beshara were in the room with the entire board during that debate. With Beshara in the room, Fletcher can’t control the discussion or manipulate the final outcome.
So while Fletcher will probably view the District 3 vote as some kind of ringing endorsement of his policies, that is not the case. District 3 voters re-elected Beshara because the alternative would have been to give the chairman a second waterboy to do his bidding. With both Presley and commissioner Sammy Thomason in his hip pocket, Fletcher would have been able to pursue any crazy scheme he wanted, the public be damned.
Voters in District 3 sensed that and, in the end, returned the outspoken Beshara to office to act as a counterbalance to Fletcher.
But it was a closer race than some expected which also says that while Beshara was returned to office, voters are not giving him or the BOC a free ride. When a political unknown like Presley comes within 140 votes of an incumbent, it’s a signal that the natives are restless.
Beshara may be outspoken, sometimes even abrasive, but he is independent and honest, which is more than one can say about the current leadership of that board.
Did anyone else hear those strange voices singing “The Wicked Witch is Dead” when DeKalb County results came in that sealed the defeat of fruitcake Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney?
Maybe there is justice in the Land of Oz after all.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.

The Commerce News
August 21, 2002

Paving Work To Make Parking More Difficult
Whether it begins next week or next month, the resurfacing of Georgia 98 (including Broad and Elm streets) through Commerce will exacerbate an already difficult parking situation.
The project is expected to continue until cold weather forces it to a halt and then resume in spring. The contractor for the Department of Transportation will shave off the top layer of asphalt, then replace it, not just on the driving lanes, but also in the parking spaces. The road work itself makes both driving and parking more difficult; resurfacing the parking spaces just complicates things.
The end result will be a much-improved surface for both driving and parking, but as the work is done, local merchants and their employees can help themselves and their neighbors by parking off-street and saving whatever parking spaces are available for customers.
Most Commerce merchants currently use off-street parking, but in every section of the downtown there are businesses whose owners and employees park in spots that should be reserved for customers and have done so for years in spite of repeated pleas to park elsewhere. For all of the revitalization efforts downtown, there are times when personnel from any business have need to park close by as they go in and out or make deliveries, but Commerce will never thrive as long as lazy merchants and their employees feel like they must park within 50 feet of their front doors.
During the best of times, that practice is costly for businesses that require walk-in traffic; when construction consumes parking spaces, it is doubly costly. It will not hurt employees to walk 100 feet or 200 yards to get to work, but the same inconvenience will send customers elsewhere.
Good neighbors look out for each other. Be a good neighbor, during the road repairs and afterwards. Leave the parking spaces in front of businesses for the customers.

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