Jackson County Opinions...

NOVEMBER 6, 2002

By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
November 6, 2002

War Would Do More Than Hurt Christmas Sales
I really should read the Atlanta Journal-Constitution more closely. Last week, I saw a headline on a story of about 10 inches, which proclaimed something to the effect of "War Could Hurt Christmas Sales."
Since this newspaper publishes a lot of material about students observing National Pie Day or kids dressed in Halloween costumes that would not likely be considered newsworthy to anyone but the kids' parents and grandparents, I should be slow to criticize what is published elsewhere. And, given that I neglected to read the story to see if the headline was the product of a bored copy editor and the story actually had merit, I should probably keep my mouth shut and my computer on "sleep."
Alas, I am not proficient at either.
"War Could Hurt Christmas Sales," one would think, might be defined as stating the obvious rather than as news. I should think it would rather detract from the holiday spirit, putting a damper on the usual glad tidings that permeate the days leading up to America's biggest religious holiday.
There are those who believe all government policy, including when to go to war, should be driven by the market, so in this case a fear of further recession might be cited as reason not to go to war. I am opposed to the idea that America needs to invade Iraq, but its effect on the economy is not among my reasons to oppose war, although I concur with the notion that an invasion that triggers the use of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons in the Middle East and spreads to Pakistan and India firmly establishes all Arab nations as enemies of America and kills hundreds of thousands of people while doing untold damage to the environment just might hurt Christmas sales.
Likewise, I suspect that a terrorist's use of biological, chemical or nuclear weapons in New York, Atlanta or Chicago would slow Christmas sales, particularly in the affected cities, but that is hardly the primary cause for concern about terrorism either.
My worry about whatever we do or don't do in Iraq is based on the fear for the number of lives that will be lost, the morality of America grabbing Iraq's oil under the guise of homeland security and the wager over whether invasion will cause the use of weapons of mass destruction or prevent their use. When it comes to war, the casualties of the economy are merely collateral damage.
I’d rather make the world’s leaders contemplate the real effects of war. How about getting them all together to show gruesome film footage taken in Hiroshima following the atomic attack, the victims of Saddam Hussein’s gas attacks on Iran, close-up footage of wounded and dying soldiers from World Wars I and II, of grieving families when their young men return home in body bags, of families frantic for news of loved ones after the Sept. 11 attacks in America? I’d like that footage accompanied by an analysis of the devastation today’s weapons could cause. It might change nothing, but I’d rest a little easier if I knew all of the leaders involved had confronted the likely results of any action (or inaction).
War is Hell, General Sherman observed. It will affect a whole lot more than sales at Christmas.

The Jackson Herald
November 6, 2002

Bypass planning essential
We’re encouraged by the efforts being made by City of Jefferson officials to plan for future development along the Jefferson bypass. Because of its location in the center of Jackson County near I-85 and the fact that it intersects some key secondary roads, that soon-to-open corridor could become a major area for new retail development.
The birth of shopping centers and “big box” stores often depends on household counts within a certain geographic area. So far, Jackson County has not seen much of that type development. Our population is dispersed among a number of towns and communities.
The new bypass, however, falls into a region that will be attractive to commercial developments. Household counts within a five mile radius of the bypass will be sufficient to draw interest from retail stores that previously weren’t interested in Jackson County.
While that will be a plus for local consumers, it could also lead to the type of developments that give “growth” a bad name. Poorly planned shopping centers, gaudy signs and hodge-podge projects on major roads are the “poster children” of the anti-sprawl movement.
Planning won’t eliminate all the negative aspects of such growth, but if done correctly, it can mitigate poor aesthetics and traffic problems that often follow commercial projects.
We have not reviewed Jefferson’s plans in detail and we know that it will be a “work in progress” for many years as the city reacts to various commercial projects.
We do, however, encourage town leaders to pay special attention to the major intersections created by the bypass. Those key intersections need strong development rules to keep them from becoming both eyesores and traffic nightmares. For one thing, the total developed square feet allowed at those intersections should be limited. Over-development of retail stores at major intersections is one of the key problems in creating the “sprawl” effect that most people don’t want to see.
The time to address those issues is now, before any commercial projects begin in that area and we’re glad Jefferson leaders are thinking ahead about those potential problems.

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By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
November 6, 2002

Balloting brush-strokes
Pundits will be dissecting Tuesday’s election for weeks to come, looking for key trends in the political climate.
Here are a few brush strokes from that balloting:

• Nationwide, it appears that the coattails of President George Bush are stronger than many anticipated. For the first time in half a century, the Republican Party controls both houses in Congress and the Oval Office. The question is, can the Republican Party make a successful transition from being the “opposition” party to the “governing” party?

• That so many people turned out on a dreary, rainy Georgia day — even standing in the rain awaiting their turn to vote — tells me one thing: Lots of folks had been waiting for two years to vote against Gov. Roy Barnes and nothing was going to stop them. Yes, the Republican Party is on the rise in Georgia. It’s a trend that appears unstoppable. But there was an edge to this voting that goes even beyond party politics. Voters were angry with Gov. Barnes over a variety of issues. Yet, it wasn’t just issues — it was a personal feeling that transcended normal politics. Voters do not like politicians who show a lust for power, who force decisions on the public without debate, and who act to consolidate control into their own hands. Barnes was guilty of all three and Tuesday, he paid the price for his political arrogance. One can hope that Jackson County BOC chairman Harold Fletcher is paying attention to that.

• Wave good-bye to Sen. Max Cleland. The long-time fixture in Georgia politics will now have to get a real job. Cleland is one of the oddest public officials I’ve ever interviewed. He deserved to be retired and voters did the state a good deed by helping him along that path.

• The power of party politics and growth was really evident in the outcome of the Bell-Elrod race. Democrat Pat Bell is a long-time fixture in Jackson County, having been the director of the county extension service for many, many years before her entry into politics in the mid-1990s. She was elected to the county commission on a reform agenda, then ousted former Rep. Scott Tolbert following a huge controversy over Tolbert’s ties to a waste water firm. Over those many years, she held countless leadership positions in local civic and charitable organizations as well.
But she had one flaw: On the ballot there was a (D) next to her name instead of an (R). All Chris Elrod had to do was put his name on the ballot as a Republican to get elected to a state office. Elrod’s a nice guy, in spite of his choice of law partners (the aforementioned Tolbert). But as far as I know, he’s never held any kind of local civic, charitable or public leadership position in Jackson County. He’s an unknown quantity in public life.
But he is a Republican and to many newcomers in Jackson County (and a part of Barrow County) who didn’t know Bell, that’s all that mattered.
There was a time when those who sought high public office had to pay some dues before being elected, first giving of their time to the community through civic, political or charitable work. You had to prove your leadership skills before being seriously considered for a top public office.
Chris Elrod may prove those leadership skills in the coming years and I hope he does. But so far, all he’s had to do was break bread with the right political party and ride the Bush-Chambliss-Perdue coattails to victory.
But here’s something to remember: Solutions to problems come from people, not parties. Leadership does matter, no matter what party banner a candidate may carry. And doing the right thing for the public good is always more important than following the party line.
If you don’t believe that, ask Roy Barnes.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.

The Commerce News
November 6, 2002

Time To Put An End To School Vandalism
Much will be made this week here and in Jefferson of the upcoming Commerce-Jefferson football game, the intense competition and the traditions of big plays and upset victories.
And while the game doesn't have quite the level of importance it did 20 years ago, thanks to a rather one-sided Commerce dominance of late, there is something to be said for the small-town football tradition.
On the other hand, there is a darker side of the tradition, but one that seems to be as long-standing as the athletic rivalry itself. That is the vandalism by high-spirited fans, damage to public property that has no place in high school football or anywhere else in society.
At the very least, supporters of both teams gather at the bridge on Georgia 11 in the early morning one day before the Commerce-Jefferson football game to vandalize the bridge with paint. Amazingly, this late-night spectacle seems to have the endorsement, if not participation, of adults as well as students, and perhaps a "kids-will-be-kids" tacit approval from school and public officials who more or less wink and let it slide. A harmless night of hijinks, you might say – unless your vehicle is one of several damaged by paint during this fun-filled event or unless someone is hit by a car or hurt in a mishap.
The vandalism is not limited to the bridge and highway. Sometimes it gets meaner, like this year when Commerce High School students vandalized Jefferson High School's new track and Jefferson students vandalized Tiger Stadium. Several thousand dollars worth of damage hardly suggests healthy school pride and is an embarrassment to both schools, their football programs and their communities. The incidents are crimes and should be prosecuted as such – but they won't be because, well, it's tradition. But Commerce Superintendent of Schools Larry White indicates that this tradition will end, suggesting that law enforcement will be invited to participate in prosecution in the future. That's a good idea.
Since the schools are required to provide "character education," maybe both Commerce High School and Jefferson High School could accomplish some good by letting their students know that all future acts of vandalism will be resolved by the police and the courts – and be subject to discipline at school. Winking at the destruction of public property in the name of school spirit is a local tradition that should be stopped immediately.

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