Jackson County Opinions...

OCTOBER 9, 2002

By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
October 9, 2002

Rumors Started
By The Devious To Fool The Fools
Have you heard the rumor? Rep. Pat Bell, if re-elected, will merge the Commerce and Jackson County school systems!
One would expect such a rumor to have zero credibility, given Bell's character and the approaching election, but it is never prudent to overestimate the intelligence of the average voter.
It is the kind of behind-the-back politicking that came up two years ago when Bell was first elected and it is aimed at one block of voters – Commerce residents. Those same people supported Bell last time and if her opponent is to have any chance at unseating her, he must carry Commerce.
Bell's record is such that it leaves little room for attack. She's voted conservatively, she's doggedly protected her district, she's worked hard and she's been available to her constituents. The key to beating her is to either distort her record or distort her position. That's a nice way of saying that she can only be beaten if lies can be spread about her and the public buys into the lies.
Commerce superintendent of schools Larry White is prohibited by state law from endorsing a politician in any race, but he's publicly thanked Rep. Bell more than once for her work on behalf of the Commerce City School System. White went to Bell during last year's state budget session when it appeared that Commerce was about to lose $241,836 as the General Assembly tried to slash budgets. Bell got the money restored.
And when volunteers were needed to help with the City Lights Festival, proceeds of which will build a performing arts center on the campus of the new middle school, which of the two candidates for House District 25 could be found helping out? That was Pat Bell waiting tables at the Dinner with the Stars.
Which of the candidates for District 25 was instrumental in getting the covered bridge restored at Hurricane Shoals? It was Bell. In fact, Bell, then an Extension agent, was one of the public officials who got the park created nearly three decades ago. Her public service is a matter of record, and a long record it is.
Merge the schools? No politician seeking election support in Commerce would broach the issue. In fact, after the voters overwhelmingly rejected merger in 1993, not even the Commerce City Council has taken up the subject. Bell's method of operation is to go through public officials on such matters. She would propose legislation on school merger only if it had the endorsement of the Commerce Board of Education and the Commerce City Councils, which is only slightly more likely to occur than the election of Yassar Arafat as prime minister of Israel.
Bell is a true public servant; she's there to help you and me, our city councils and our school boards. Anyone who knows her understands that politics is neither her strength nor her passion. She's a people person, a worker for any good cause.
Whoever started and spread the merger rumor is a liar. Plain and simple. And anyone who believes it is a fool. If someone tells you Pat Bell will try to merge the Commerce and Jackson County school systems, they’re taking you for a fool.

The Jackson Herald
October 9, 2002

Important election ahead Nov. 5
An important election is less than one month away.
Several top state positions will be filled in the Nov. 5 election. New electronic voting machines will also be used for the first time in Jackson County.
All registered voters are encouraged to do their homework in the next month. Find out as much as you can about the candidates and issues. Attend political forums, read news articles and advertisements from the candidates.
Voters are also encouraged to try out the new voting machines, which are located in the probate judge’s office. The machines are very different than the method used in the past and things will flow smoother on Nov. 5 if everyone tries them out beforehand.

Jackson County Opinion Index

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By Kerri Graffius
The Jackson Herald
October 9, 2002

Technology and apologies
Technology, lately, has been a source of apologies for me. When we all started surfing the Internet and using personal e-mail accounts several years ago, many people thought it was the “revoluntary” way to keep in touch with friends and family members. Instead, it has made us into a bunch of slackers—and I’m sorry for that.
Since my birthday two weeks ago, I have yet to click on a simple button on my e-mail account and say “thank you” to those who actually remembered. Yeah, I’ve read the messages, but I just can’t find the time to respond. And I’m sorry for that.
It seems like that’s a common response among those of us who use e-mail frequently.
We read a message, maybe we put off answering for a few days, and when we do, it’s usually a short, boring apology of why we haven’t written anything yet.
Or we apologize for our “busy” lives keeping us from actually writing decent e-mails.
If your e-mail inbox is like mine, it probably has a few messages from various friends along the lines of: “hey. how are things going? sorry I haven’t written in a while. work has been crazy lately. thinking of changing jobs. i moved into a new apartment. it’s ok. sorry i can’t write more, but i’m at work now. will write more later. bye.”
Gee, and we can’t even bother writing in complete sentences or capitalizing letters either. Choppy and emotionless phrases, that’s how our writing skills have evolved in the past few years.
And we’ve resorted to using too much e-mail at work instead of actually talking to our co-workers.
I always thought it was stupid at the public relations firm that I used to work at that we would send every form of communication through e-mail.
“Susan, have you contacted the Miami office about sending the weekly report?” I would write.
“Yes,” she would respond (with the answer and previous message carbon copied to the Miami office).
Susan’s desk was right next to mine (on the other side of the cubicle wall). Why did we have to send messages through cyberspace just to get a one-word response?
Sorry, but verbal communication leaves no proof that the conservation actually took place (so the policy went).
Even the possibility of conversation is something that is lacking in most e-mails from friends. When someone e-mails me, I like them to tell me what’s going on in their lives. Tell me how the job is going (beyond “well”), tell me about your family life and tell me anything else that may be going on in your life.
Just, please, don’t send me another rehashed, forwarded e-mail.
I have one friend that when I see her name in my e-mail inbox, it does mean that she was thinking about me, but just not in the way that I hoped would be more personal. She usually includes me in one of those “send this message to ten people and something will happen” e-mails or a chain letter on how Jesus loves me.
“Jessica,” I write, “I know nothing happens when you send these things to ten people and I know Jesus loves me, but, please, write me a ‘real’ e-mail.”
“Sorry,” she writes back. “But nothing new is going on here.”
There’s also that one friend who can’t help but send e-mails that shouldn’t be opened in public places. Things start making noises, animated art begins moving and you’re left in an embarrassing situation. Oh, how that’s made me run out of computer labs before. And when I later tell that person I REALLY didn’t want to see that, he usually comes back with, “Sorry, but it was funny.”
Then, there’s the person who NEVER e-mails, except every few years—literally.
A few weeks ago, one of my friends from the Walt Disney World College Program suddenly sent me an e-mail. I hadn’t heard from him since 1998 and I actually posted a message on my website saying, “Have you seen this person?”. When I asked him why he hadn’t dropped a line after four years, he said, “Sorry, but things happen.”
On a final note, I meant to write this column earlier, but my computer at work crashed. I then managed to bring down two more computers at the MainStreet Newspapers office on the same day. Sorry, but I couldn’t do anything.
Kerri Graffius is reporter for MainStreet Newspapers. Her e-mail address is kerri@mainstreetnews.com.

The Commerce News
October 9, 2002

Schools Not Prepared For Terrorism? Really!
The National Association of School Resource Officers find that 95 percent of respondents describe their schools as vulnerable to terror.
The other five percent are either incredibly over-optimistic or profoundly stupid.
It is not conceivable to think that American institutions of learning would be prepared for an act of terrorism. Even those with well-thought-out disaster plans are vulnerable; they'll just be better able to respond should such an event occur.
Results of the study made great headlines. "Survey finds schools unprepared for terrorism," said the local daily. Write the same headline and substitute any institution or business – "Survey finds (insert name here) unprepared for terrorism" and you can scarcely go wrong.
Nor does it take a genius to assess some of the vulnerabilities of any school, such as open campuses, multiple building entrances, easy access by vehicle, lack of medical facilities, shortage of armed guards or police officers... There is no way schools or school systems can be "adequately prepared" for any disaster, let alone a deliberate act of terror.
Should we be alarmed that Georgia schools are not prepared to fend off a gunman or an anthrax-toting lunatic? More alarming is a traditionally low level of student achievement, reduced state support and schools ranked last in the nation.
There are steps prudent school officials and law enforcement can take to be less unprepared for any disaster, including general communication and evacuation plans, making those likely to respond more familiar with the layout of the campus, establishing chains of command and areas of responsibility among staff. But let's face it, there is no adequate level of preparation that could make our schools totally safe from whatever could possibly occur.
It's not time to succumb to paranoia. In spite of that lack of preparation, it remains a fact that children are far safer when they're at school than when they're at home or someplace else. Of course, should someone look into it, you can expect to read "Survey finds homes unprepared for terrorism."

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