Jackson County Opinions...

DECEMBER 25, 2002



Column
By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
December 25, 2002

Congratulations To This Year’s Award Winners
My how time flies when you're having fun. This is the last issue of 2002, which means its time to announce the winners of the Beardsley Awards, traditionally given to area newsmakers.
For meritorious service beyond the call of duty, the following awards are hereby presented:
The Dilbert Award for Micromanagement goes to the Jackson County Board of Commissioners, which continues to add "staff" and whose meetings now rival in length those of the Athens-Clarke Unified Government when Al Crace was its manager.
The commissioners also get the Listening To The Land Award for their selection of a remote location to house new county government facilities.
The That's Gratitude For You Award goes to Commerce High School graduate Casey Gary, who is charged with multiple burglaries of Commerce school buildings.
The I Think I Can, I Think I Can Cup goes to commissioner Emil Beshara, for a year-long effort to get an animal control ordinance passed. Starting Jan. 1, all stray dogs and cats are to be delivered to the county manager's office for disposal.
The John Ashcroft Award for Constitutional Freedoms goes to Steve Perry, chairman of the Commerce Board of Education, for an email ordering Superintendent Larry White not to talk to any Commerce elected officials. It comes with a copy of Ashcroft's draft of a new constitution.
Perry also shares, with the rest of the Commerce Board of Education, the Good Timing Award for kicking the Commerce City Council out of CHS graduation exercises a month before the board had to get council approval of its budget.
The 2002 April Fools Award goes to Beers Construction Company, which for 11 months kept backing up the completion date of the water plant at the Bear Creek Reservoir. One of those dates was April 1.
For its perseverance on the reservoir project, members of the Upper Oconee Basin Authority will receive, for the second year in a row, the Patience of Job Award.
The Nicholson Water Authority wins the Spotlight Of Public Scrutiny Award for its lawsuit against the county water authority, the result of which was the replacement of most members and meetings that are regular and open to the public.
The Thank You For Sparing Us plaque goes to lame-duck governor Roy Barnes, who was too busy with his re-election campaign to speak at the dedication of the Bear Creek Reservoir.
To Chris Elrod goes the R Is For Winner Award, for his election success. Honorable mention goes to Angelia Speir, who never campaigned for the Public Service Commission, but beat Bubba McDonald just the same.
The Don't You Have Anything Better To Do? Award goes to the Commerce City Council for its interest in having an official city song.
All I can say is that it’s been a good year and we all owe our thanks to these award winners who have made it possible. Congratulations to all of those who won and, in many cases, to those of you who did not.


Editorials
The Jackson Herald
December 25, 2002

One solitary life
An Annual Christmas Message From The Jackson Herald

The imagery of the Christ Child being born in a stable beneath a bright star surrounded by both learned Wise Men and humble shepherds is one of the most powerful pictures in human history. Humble by birth, He became a shepherd of men, a king of kings and the light of humankind.
Yet, for all His impact on this world, little is known about the man we call Jesus. Relative to others of his era, his known words are few. And virtually nothing is known of His childhood after the birth in Bethlehem.
Many of Jesus’ parables revolve around the common things He observed, and it isn’t too much to imagine that those well-known stories may have come from the things he saw as a child, say scholars who wish to study the area.
Perhaps it is by design that we know so little about His childhood. But what we know of His later life was destined to change the world.
One unknown writer said it best:

He was born in an obscure village.
He worked in a carpenter shop until he was 30.
He then became an itinerant preacher.
He never held an office.
He never had a family or owned a house.
He didn’t go to college.
He had no credentials but himself.
He was only 33 when the public turned against him.
His friends ran away.
He was turned over to enemies and went through the mockery of a trial.
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.
While he was dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth.
He was laid in a borrowed grave.
Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race.
All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that One Solitary Life.

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Column
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
December 25, 2002

The first gift of Christmas was a child
There were several hundred smiling faces in last week’s newspaper, faces which mute the cynics and renew the faithless.
Each Christmas, our newspapers collect hundreds of photos of area children and compile them in a special section. It is a Christmas card to our readers signed by the hundreds in whose hands rest all of our dreams.
Where but in the eyes of a child can you see both the past — little Tommy has granddad’s eyes, sister Suzie has her mother’s hair — and the future — Blake wants to be a fireman, Jane a doctor.
Tomorrow is a memory of today by the children, youngsters whose innocence is our joy, whose faces light up our homes and whose wonder keeps tradition alive.
Many cultures believe that it is the old who keep traditions, who pass down the wisdom of years and the touchstones of life. But it is the young who are the torchbearers. Without a new generation to teach, traditions mean very little.
It is that faith in the future and our collective desire to pass the cultural torch which makes Christmas a special season. It is a season of faith, not only of religion, but also in our humanity. Even with the kitsch and commercialism being blared around us, the fundamental desire for “peace on earth, good will to men” rings through. Our social conventions may sometimes be shallow, but somehow generation after generation will touch the core of the Christmas spirit and be renewed.
For some, it is a season of mixed emotions. Amid all the gaiety, there are the memories of friends and family who are gone. The music, the smell of a Christmas tree and the annual nesting of families bring back the bittersweet thoughts.
For others, it will be the last Christmas together. There are those who face the inevitable end and even having lived a good and long life is little consolation to the families who will miss them.
But in the faces of their offspring, of the great-grandchildren who laugh and play around them, is the faith that pulls life forward. Without the laughter of children, there would be an emptiness in their wake.
And so, the torch is passed and the traditions continue, someday to be in the hands of those who now play around the Christmas tree and peek up the chimney.
The past and the future come together at Christmas — the memories of our own childhoods mixed with the new memories now being formed by our children. They will someday look back at this special time and smile just as we do at our own childhood memories.
And someday our children’s children will tug at the Christmas tree ornaments and be amazed by the shimmering Christmas lights along city streets.
They will sing in church plays and perform in school concerts.
They will sit on Santa’s knee and promise to be good so they can get that new bike.
They will look at the nativity set and rearrange the pieces, always making a special place for the Baby Jesus.
They will want to see the tape of Rudolph until they know every line by heart.
They will ask 1,000 questions about the sleigh and reindeer.
They will leave milk and cookies because Santa’s sure to be hungry.
They will check the stockings every day, just in case.
They will eat too much candy and be happy about it.
They will hope.
They will dream.
And they, too, will someday know that the first gift of Christmas was a child.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald. This is a reprint of his favorite Christmas column from several years ago.



Editorial
The Commerce News
December 25, 2002

Physician Recruiting
A Valuable Tool
Last week’s news that BJC Medical Center is negotiating to bring a pediatrician to Commerce probably didn’t strike most readers as particularly significant, but it is evidence of the medical center’s relentless effort to provide medical care in the Banks-Jackson area.
In an environment where a hospital’s survival depends upon admissions and doctor referrals, bringing additional medical staff is crucial. BJC Medical Center’s ongoing staff recruitment is one reason why this rural hospital has been able to keep its doors open while similar hospitals have closed.
In a perfect world, the government medical programs (Medicare and Medicaid) would pay hospitals at the same rate hospitals get for patients with insurance, and there would be no indigent care. In reality, the government reimbursement rates are low enough to keep many rural hospitals with heavy caseloads of poor patients on the verge of shutting their doors. Indigent care is and always has been part of the case load.
The recruitment of new physicians – who will bring new patients to the facility – is one means of countering the effect of inadequate government funding. It is not a remedy for a health care dilemma that is nationwide, but physician recruitment is a survival tool. Ultimately, the population growth of the Banks-Jackson area should bring more patients, while the economic development efforts in this county should result in more jobs with benefit packages that include health insurance. Both factors can be expected to help BJC Medical Center, but neither will occur overnight.
Few people understand the importance of BJC Medical Center to this area, so few appreciate the efforts needed to keep it viable. Physician recruiting is a management tool to keep BJC able to provide health care for the Banks-Jackson area.

Development Code
Warrants 90-Day Review
Last Thursday night, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners accepted the new "unified development code," a single document containing both the county's long-range land use plan and its zoning ordinances.
After the obligatory public hearing, the commissioners propose to pass the final document at one of its February meetings.
So far, two groups with interest in the content of the document have stepped forth to ask that the commissioners allow more time for the public to look at the product of a year's work before making it law. The Jackson County Homebuilders Association and the board of directors of the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce have both asked that there be a 90-day review period before the document is made law.
That is a reasonable request and a prudent move; the board of commissioners should immediately grant those requests.
The unified development code is a complex and lengthy document that warrants a more lengthy review. Because its provisions will govern for years how this county develops, the commissioners should not rush the final package through. A time of review will provide interested citizens a chance to thoroughly study the document and to uncover any overlooked issues or future "problems." To be sure, the commissioners aren't obligated to make any changes if they feel that the matters discovered upon review do not warrant change, but they would be grateful for the opportunity to make corrections now if some major flaw is discovered.
Ninety days is a reasonable time for review. Another 90 days of public review is in the best interest of Jackson County.


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