Jackson County Opinions...

DECEMBER 4, 2002



Column
By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
December 4, 2002

Remember Public
Officials With
Appropriate Gifts
Is it possible that it's already been a year since you last struggled to find the perfect gift for your local, state and national politicians and public servants? Well, it has been, so once again as a public service, I offer my annual Gift Guide For Public Officials in the hope it will make your holiday shopping more pleasant.
Jackson County commissioners Harold Fletcher and Sammy Thomason would love a collection of all the editorials and columns written in the past year in which their names appear. Go the extra step and have Mike Buffington, their favorite journalist, sign it.
All County Manager Al Crace needs for Christmas is a clue, because after a year here he still hasn't got one. If you can't find that at the outlet stores or Wal-Mart, he'd settle for a contract.
Commissioner Emil Beshara wants an animal control ordinance, but lacking that you could give him a certificate good for a free neutering.
Commissioner Stacey Britt would like the Jackson County Water and Sewerage system. He needs something else to add to the board of commissioners' agendas because five-hour meetings are just too short.
Current lame duck State Senator Mike Beatty could use some pay-back for his relentless support of Republicanism. How about the job of state transportation commissioner?
Lame duck State Rep. Pat Bell would like an R beside her name, retroactive to Nov. 5.
Let's not forget our beloved governor, Roy Barnes. I suspect his diet would benefit from a thick slice of humble pie. And while some might think that Sonny Perdue got his gift Nov. 6, I think he deserves something else, like an improved economy or a few more legislators changing parties.
What to get Pepe Cummings, president of the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce? He's always hard to shop for, but he could use a successful liquor referendum. The same gift, if applied in Commerce, would be better than visions of sugar plums for Jan Nelson, executive director of the city's Downtown Development Authority as well.
Commerce residents really should remember their public officials at Christmas too. You can make Mayor Charles L. Hardy Jr., and city councilmen Archie Chaney, Richard Massey, Riley Harris, Donald Wilson, Sam Brown and Bob Sosebee all happy with a single gift; a new school board chairman.
The above gift would probably make Commerce school superintendent Larry White's Christmas too, but he'd settle for regaining his First Amendment rights to free speech that have been taken away.
For Commerce Police Chief John Gaissert, I recommend some automatic weapons for use in homeland defense. Sheriff Stan Evans wants a new jail or a copy of the Mended Hearts' cookbook of heart-healthy recipes.
For Jerry Waddell, superintendent of the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority, I'd suggest a copy of Harold Fletcher's memoirs.
Nicholson city residents will want to buy their mayor Ronnie Maxwell a water system capable of supporting fire flow.
And for me? As usual, cash.


Editorials
The Jackson Herald
December 4, 2002

Towns should study joint police force
The creation of a police department in Pendergrass raises an interesting question that merits further study by four Jackson County towns:
Should Arcade, Jefferson, Pendergrass and Talmo create a joint police department?
There are a lot of reasons to believe that such a unified police department would be in the best interest of all those towns.
As is evident in Pendergrass, the start-up cost of a new department is high. In addition, police departments tend to grow even if the demand on those departments is minimal.
A joint police department with those four towns, however, would help damper those costs and still provide service to the citizens in those communities.
The logic behind a joint department is the same as that which led these four towns to create a joint planning commission. Arcade, Jefferson, Pendergrass and Talmo are linked by one of the county’s main North-South routes along Hwy. 129 and bisected by the county’s largest growth road, Interstate 85. With the opening of the new Jefferson-Arcade bypass and the Pendergrass-Talmo bypass, the linkage from Talmo to Arcade is stronger than ever.
Inherent in this linkage are overlapping interests. What affects one community has ramifications for the others. That was true in zoning and planning issues and it is also true in law enforcement.
We believe the concept of a unified police department of these four communities has a lot of merit. One structure for that would be for the towns to create a joint police commission that would oversee the functions of a unified department. That commission could have members appointed by each of the towns, similar to the structure of the new joint planning commission. In addition, the joint department could be funded by each community based on population or some other formula agreed on by the communities. Whatever the formula, such a joint department would be more economical to operate than three independent departments.
Moreover, the unified department could someday pursue its own facility located somewhere in the middle of the service territory, thus saving additional overhead costs of multiple facilities.
Following the creation of such a unified police force could be a unified municipal court system. The fines would still flow back to the local jurisdictions depending on where the infraction took place, but rather than having three separate judicial courts, one could do the job.
We realize that in any discussion of this nature there are turf wars to battle. But the potential benefits of a unified police department far outweigh turf considerations.
The goal should be the most efficient delivery of law enforcement to the citizens of those four towns. If a joint department can do that, then it should be pursued.

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Column
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
December 4, 2002

Two poster boys for bad government
Politicians never cease to amaze me. If politicians didn’t exist, we’d have to invent them just for laughs.
I point to comments made this week by two local public officials which demonstrate just how “funny” some politicians can be.
Both of these comments came during Monday night’s debate over the proposal to adopt an animal control ordinance in Jackson County. At issue here isn’t the merits or demerits of that plan, but rather how two-faced a couple of county commissioners were in discussing that idea.
Commissioner Tony Beatty voted against the animal control proposal. But during the discussion, he had this to say:
“I think we need to see the whole package. If we vote on the ordinance tonight and we vote on the funding later, that is useless. I like to see everything at one time. It’s a big issue.”
OK, Tony, fair enough. But where were you when the discussion over buying land for a new courthouse took place?
I know where you were, Tony: You were sitting silent in those meetings and then voted to buy a $2 million tract of land without being able to “see the whole package.” You voted to buy that land on Darnell Road without any cost estimates of the project, Tony. You didn’t question the cost of the roads to make it accessible. You didn’t question the cost of a new courthouse.
You just voted, Tony. You voted to commit the taxpayers of this county to a $25-$30 million investment and you never asked a single question about it.
Yet now with a $100,000 animal control plan you suddenly found a voice. You want numbers. You want specifics. You say it’s a “big issue.” You want to see “everything at one time” on animal control, but never asked to see a darn thing about the courthouse.
Let’s see, Tony: Which is a bigger issue, a $30 million courthouse or a $100,000 animal control department?
That’s not a trick question, Tony. Don’t count the zeros.

Thomason likewise had a lot to say about the proposed animal control plan, including the following:
“It’s too controversial an issue not to contemplate it...I want to support it, but I want to fully understand it. It is so controversial.”
OK, Sammy, so animal control is “controversial.” Does that make you quake in your Gucci’s?
Need I remind you, Sammy, that like Brother Beatty, you supported spending $2 million for land for a new courthouse in a “controversial” location. You did that, Sammy, without any comparison to other potential sites. You did that without any kind of site selection study. You did that without any cost estimates for roads or construction. You did that in spite of the controversy that ensued.
But with animal control, you say you need to “fully understand it.” What’s the matter, Sammy, the guys at the country club haven’t told you how to vote yet?
And Sammy, are you suggesting that animal control is more controversial than a courthouse? So much that you need to “contemplate it?”
And after two years of discussions on the issue, are you really saying that you still don’t “understand” what animal control is about? Heck, Sammy, it only took you a couple weeks to “contemplate” the courthouse site, then wham, you voted to make a $30 million decision. Did you get confused by the zeros, too?
Well Sammy, at least Brother Tony had the courage to vote against the idea. You took the chicken way out and “abstained.” That’s leadership, Sammy, real leadership. Your district ought to be real proud of how you represented them Monday night.
Let’s be honest here, guys: You two supported the Darnell Road site for a courthouse because it’s closer to your own two districts. And now you oppose animal control because a few folks in your own districts are fussing about it.
You won’t touch it because it’s “controversial” back home. Gotta study it some more. Need more information. Wanna “contemplate” awhile.
You guys are a laugh a minute. Like Laurel and Hardy.
Martin and Lewis.
Cheech and Chong.
Abbot and Costello.
Lucy and Desi.
The Smothers Brothers.
And now there’s Tony and Sammy.
So where do I write to nominate these two clowns as poster-boys for bad government?
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.


Editorial
The Commerce News
December 4, 2002

Take Time To Study
Proposed Tax Cuts
Emboldened by the Republican Party's sweep in the Nov. 5 elections, the Bush Administration is said to be at work on a series of tax cuts to be enacted next year.
With a majority in both the House and the Senate backing him, President Bush may well be able to deliver on the Republican Party's constant demand for reduced taxes. The question is not really if he can, but if he should and if so, when?
Critics of the cut-taxes-now philosophy have pointed to the current deficit spending caused by the slow economy, which was further hurt by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the ensuing campaign in Afghanistan and the Bush tax cut. Defenders of the tax cut blame the economy for the deficits and argue that the way to balance the budget is to cut spending.
Now at long last, the Republicans have within their grasp the power to do something they've demanded of Democratic administrations and the Democratic-controlled Senate: they can cut spending to achieve that balanced budget that, until the second term of the Clinton Administration, Republicans sought.
Bush will argue that further tax cuts is just what the still-sagging economy needs to guarantee a recovery that some analysts believe is already under way. But it also comes with some danger attached. If, like after the last round of tax cuts, the economy tanks, the tax cuts will result in truly massive federal deficits. And even if the economy does begin to recover, another successful terrorist attack such as we are promised almost weekly, or the anticipated invasion of Iraq will not only cool the economy, but will also result in increased government spending making the cutting of federal revenue ill-timed.
The debate over tax cuts thus comes against the backdrop of a strong likelihood for much greater federal spending. Should all go well, a tax cut might have the desired effect; but if the immediate future does not pan out so brightly, slashing the federal government's income would be an economic disaster.
Fiscal responsibility demands that politicians tie the government's spending to its income. If spending is indeed cut, taxes may be reduced correspondingly; if government spending increases, cutting federal revenue sources becomes irresponsible.
The issue is further complicated by the effect of tax cuts on state government. The current recession has cut into the sales tax revenues that many states have become dependent upon while cuts in the U.S. income tax have eroded revenue in states like Georgia where a large portion of the state's income comes from taxes based on the federal gross adjusted income of individual taxpayers. The combination of federal cuts and a poor economy have left the nation's states in the worst financial condition since World War II. While the states' fiscal health is not directly the responsibility of the federal government, it would be foolish for Congress to enact policy that would result in financial catastrophe in the states, particularly at a time when the cost of homeland defense is being increasingly passed on to states.
We'd all like to see our tax bills decrease, but it is crucial that the Bush Administration take a long look at the likely and potential ramifications of such action. The economy may or may not be recovering, but the post Sept. 11 rules dictate that it is increasingly susceptible to attack from outside the traditional economic forces. Any new economic policy, but in particular one of tax cuts, should be examined with great caution and, when enacted, crafted with enough flexibility to react quickly to unforeseen events.


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