Jackson County Opinions...

OCTOBER 2, 2002



Column
By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
October 2, 2002

When Talk Turns
To Medications,
One of the sure signs of aging is the amount of thought and conversation you devote to medication.
Twenty years ago, I took basically nothing. A pharmacy was a place to go for a cup of coffee and keep current on the gossip. Today, we've had to put an extra leaf in the kitchen table to handle pharmaceutical products, and I write more checks to the drug store than any other business or institution.
I remember impatience back when I covered the Jackson County Board of Education. The board was dominated by two or three senior citizens who were prone to compare ailments and medications for the first 5-15 minutes of any meeting.
"I'll know I'm getting old when I start talking about the prescriptions I'm taking," I complained.
Bingo.
If my reflection in the mirror and the date on my driver's license didn't clue me in, my increasing familiarity with prescription drugs or vitamin supplements would remind me that, on the hill of life, I am slipping rapidly down the back side.
I even take one pill to help my system absorb the goodies from another pill.
Talking about medications with someone in a similar situation is not considered in poor taste, boring or rude. But if you're taking blood thinner, a cholesterol killer and anti-flatulence medication, that is not good material for conversation where anyone in earshot is under 50.
As you age, health issues move to the forefront, so one must assume that a greater percentage of one's conversation, thought, time and money will be allocated to medication. By 65, I will need no food because my medications will doubtlessly satisfy my hunger. And if trends continue, I won't be able to afford groceries anyway.
I am (as far as I know) in good health, which leads me to wonder what it is like to be my age in poor health (and makes me think I should move my 401k investments from mutual funds specializing in Hula Hoops and slide rules to funds specializing in drugs).
As we Baby Boomers age, prescription drugs crop up in political discourse. Driving that is the notion that every American should be able to have every (legal) drug he or she needs, because it's no fun to talk with fellow geezers about medications if you can't get them. As the cost of the average prescription heads to triple figures, Baby Boomers are pressing for federal welfare in the form of a prescription drug program. It is a logical step for a generation that has presided over the growth of the national debt to foist this cost onto their children and grandchildren. It would be cheaper to equip every senior citizen with a new Volvo every year than to fund their medication schedules, but you can expect momentum to build for such a program as we Boomers slide into geezerhood.
It is true that if Aspirin were patented today, it would cost $120 per tablet, but pharmaceutical companies have to be able to pay their CEOs exorbitant wages too.
I see no solutions, but when I enter the nursing home, I want every drug available, cost be hanged. That may be the only thing I’ll have to talk about.

You’ve Gotten Old


Editorial
The Jackson Herald
October 2, 2002

Is BOC acting cowardly?
A developer claims in a lawsuit filed recently that the Jackson County Board of Commissioners is acting “cowardly” in denying rezoning requests that it knows meets the county’s comprehensive plan.
The developer is also claiming that the BOC has a pattern of denying requests that have been recommended for approval by the county’s planning department.
“The (BOC) carry out their scheme by voting to deny a rezone application with the full knowledge a defendants’ denial will be reversed by a superior or district court,” the lawsuit reads. “After the denial is reversed, the (BOC) can then inform the voters that the rezone application was granted by the judiciary, not the board of commissioners.”
The plaintiffs call this an “unconstitutional and cowardly practice.”
The BOC has denied numerous zoning decisions that its staff has recommended for approval. The staff has conducted an in-depth review of the request. What the staff has not done is heard the public input against a zoning request. These public comments actually shouldn’t have any bearing on a zoning decision. Zoning decisions have to be based on legal issues and not whether or not someone wants a development in their neighborhood.
If the BOC is indeed acting cowardly on zoning matters, it should be stopped. Unnecessary lawsuits cost the county money and time that could go toward other projects.

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Column
By Rochelle Beckstine
The Jackson Herald
October 2, 2002

Society encourages weight gain
Is it too many carbs? Or is it too much fat? For years, “experts” have been urging America to cut this or avoid that in order to slim down; yet the truth is cutting one food group out of your diet is not good for your body. The only way to shed extra pounds is eating a variety of foods, cutting portion sizes and exercising. America’s waistline is ever expanding because calorie consumption has risen while exercise levels have dropped. Between 1987 and 1995, U.S. Department of Agriculture dietary intake surveys show a 236-calorie-per-person-per-day increase which translates into an average 24-pound weight gain per person every year.
And society is fueling the changes.
Our food comes from a different source than our grandparents’ food did. Before World War II, food was produced on family farms and sold locally. Changes in farming practices led to an abundance of food and innovations in processing, packaging, preservation and refrigeration. These changes gave us a dependable low cost food supply, but food is so overproduced that there are 3,800 calories per person per day. (Most Americans should eat roughly half of that.) And our food packs more punch because processed foods have added sugar and calories. In fact, processed foods and sugary drinks translate into 20-33 teaspoons of sugar per day for every American, according to the U.S.D.A.
As Americans work longer hours, they have less time to fix meals from scratch so we turn to processed foods which cut the cooking time in half or to restaurants and fast food chains which do all of the cooking for us; but prepared foods are half the problem. Restaurant meals generally contain more saturated fat, less fiber, more cholesterol and more calories than homemade meals. And restaurants have increased portion sizes slowly over the last 15 years in order to promise the consumer a good value (think Buffet style restaurants-how many trips do you have to make in order to feel you got the most for your money?). Super Size, Biggie Size, any way you put it it adds up to more calories. A Quarter Pounder with Cheese “Extra Value” meal super sized contains 1,550 calories. And when it is there, there’s a complex that comes with not finishing it. Pennsylvania State University professor Barbara Rolls has proved that people will eat more if it is put in front of them. She studied lean young men who were known to eat healthy. They were given different portions of macaroni and cheese for lunch on different days. When served 16 ounces, they ate 10 ounces, but when they were given 25 ounce portions, they ate 15 ounces, 50 percent more than what had satisfied them on another day.
Survey after survey proves that Americans recognize that people are getting fatter, but they do not see that portion sizes are increasing or that the amount of food eaten directly corresponds to weight gain. In an article in the August 19, 2002 issue of U.S. News and World Report, Amanda Spake said one reason Americans are so clueless about weight is because they still see obesity as an individual moral failing and not an environmental one. In a Harvard University study released in May 2002, two out of three people said the obesity epidemic could be explained by overweight people lacking the willpower to diet and exercise. University of Colorado’s James Hill says the only way Americans will become thin and stay thin is to think about what they are eating all of the time. (And that’s depressing.) He said the problem is that few people know how to balance what they are eating against the calories they are using up in exercise. Many suggest these skills be taught in school health education classes.
And that may be a good start. Today a quarter of kids’ calories come from snacks; the typical snacks are cheesy crackers, sugary fruit bites or rolls, snack cakes or chips. Foods with very little or no nutritional value. And TV contributes to the phenomenon, according to the Centers for Disease Control, prompting children to snack as they watch. U.S. children see about 10 food commercials during every hour of TV they watch. But rather than promote healthy eating, schools are reinforcing bad snack choices with vending machines that feature high calorie sodas, chips and candy bars. A king size Butterfinger has 680 calories. The healthier choice? A quarter cup of raisins at 120 calories, but its not featured in Lance vending machines. And while teenaged boys are drinking an average three cokes per day, a whopping 750 calories, most are seriously dehydrated, drinking less than the recommended eight glasses of water.
Schools really need to shape up. Literally. Schools should allow students to carry closed water bottles into class, but not sodas. Snack machines should feature healthier items. Schools should reinforce eating a variety of foods by providing more fruit and vegetable choices and fewer starches and fats. Parents should do the same. Offer fruit or nuts to snack on. Encourage exercise and make physical education classes a priority.
Unlike Mr. Hill, I don’t think we need to constantly think about calories in order to lose weight and stay thin. I do think it is important to eat healthy. It’s not hard. Replace non-nutritious snacks with an apple or a cup of yogurt. Stop drinking so many flavored beverages. Drink ice water. It’s necessary for a healthy body. It won’t happen overnight. Farming practices evolved over decades so the changes will take time. And slowly, by recognizing what is good for you and what is not, I believe Americans can take control of their waistline.
Rochelle Beckstine is a columnist for MainStreet Newspapers.


Editorial
The Commerce News
October 2, 2002

Time To Correct Authority’s Operations
The new version of the Nicholson Water Authority and the Nicholson City Council have begun a series of meetings aimed at creating a cooperative relationship between the city and the organization providing water to Nicholson area residents.
With three new members and a scathing description of its past operations from a Superior Court judge, it seems likely that the water authority will have to change its method of operation. Its first meeting didn’t exactly set a swift pace; the authority spent 90 minutes behind close doors to elect officers, a process that should have been conducted in an open meeting, according to Georgia law. Some city leaders say the meeting was never officially closed, but the members left the main meeting area to go into a separate meeting to discuss their business. This is not exactly meeting in the open.
Chalk that up to the new experience of conducting business in public, but don’t let it happen again. From now on, the authority must conduct its business in the open in regularly scheduled meetings under the provisions of the state’s open meetings act. Contracts, personnel moves, decisions on new projects and all of its financial dealings are subject to public scrutiny and, for the most part, must be discussed and voted on in meetings open to the public.
In the coming weeks, some consensus will be reached as to the precise relationship between Nicholson and the Nicholson Water Authority, including exactly who owns various lines and wells used by the authority. There should also be agreement on the service priorities and management practices, but everyone should remember that the Nicholson Water Authority is a state chartered unit of government. Legally, it is not obligated to be subservient to the city government, though it may choose to for practical reasons.
The city government has struggled in recent years, but appears to have stabilized. The Nicholson Water Authority needs to do the same. The result will benefit both groups but, more importantly, the residents of Nicholson and the water customers of the Nicholson Water Authority.


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