Jackson County Opinions...

JANUARY 1, 2003

By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
January 1, 2003

Commerce’s Funniest Police
Reports Of 2002
In the course of a year, law enforcement officers have to deal with the dangerous and tragic situations, from murders to domestic violence, kidnapping and rape. But they also find themselves investigating the bizarre, the stupid and the outright hilarious.
Following are the 12 incident reports filed by the Commerce Police Department during the past year that struck me as having the most entertainment value.
•the pedestrian hit at by a car at 5:00 a.m. – before 30 witnesses (none of whom she knew). It's hard to imagine 30 people in one neighborhood even awake at that hour.
•the woman who, after "drinking heavily," let a man who had attempted to rape her three years previously walk her home. And what happened? He tried to rape her again. Duh. Some people do not learn from experience.
•the 17-year-old boy who, found parked behind the city pool at 6:00 a.m. with his pants around his knees, tried to convince an officer that he had a woman with him. ”Yeah, officer, she’s the Invisible Woman.”
•the 17-year-old male caught shoplifting six blister packs of cold and flu medicine who admitted taking "16 at a time to achieve a drunken effect."
•the man who complained to police that while he was in the hospital recovering from a bad reaction to crack cocaine his brother stole his checkbook and wrote checks all over town. I’m having a hard time mustering up a lot of sympathy.
•the Madison County man who bit a woman's ear off, a wannabe Mike Tyson? Hopefully, he’s been banished to Nevada.
•the youth who, to win a $2 bet, mooned a Commerce City School bus, for which he paid a $125 cash bond. I think he needs a refresher course in economics.
•the Pardue's Mobile Home Park couple who called police to stop the woman's brother from harassing them for selling his car without his permission. What could he have been thinking?
•the middle school student who suffered the humiliation of being beaten up by two girls after calling one of them ugly. Who says there’s no justice in the school system.
•the case where a woman conducted strip searches of three men at a late-night party to (unsuccessfully) recover $145 in money stolen from her purse. You just never know what’s going to happen at a party.
•the man who fled, leaving his girlfriend behind, when they were caught shoplifting at Quality Foods. True love waits.
•the man, who "smelled strongly of alcoholic beverages," and who said he was "running away from another man who was throwing drugs at him."He probably had 30 witnesses, but couldn’t remember their names.
Alas, while such incidents give you pause to smile in reading about them, they are not so funny as they occur. There are a lot of dysfunctional people who have a gift for getting into crazy situations, some of them quite dangerous, and who do not seem to learn from their mistakes.
Here’s to 2003; I hope your name does not appear in a police report.

The Jackson Herald
January 1, 2003

More time needed on unified code
The new Jackson County Unified Development Code is a massive tome. Over 500 pages in length and weighing seven pounds, the UDC is a major revision of the county’s zoning ordinances, subdivision regulations, sign regulations, and a slew of other development rules and codes.
Much of the language in the UDC is new; new rules and codes that had not previously existed in Jackson County that are being changed in this rewrite.
Because of the massive nature of this document, we agree with the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce and Jackson County Homebuilder’s Association that more than the currently-allotted 45 days is needed to study and react to these proposals before final action is taken.
To most citizens, the UDC is a lot of rules that have no context. But to developers and builders who work with these rules every day, this document is of vital importance.
For residents of Jackson County, this document will in part determine the future cost of housing and commercial development in the county. It could also have an impact on the quality of life here for years to come.
The next meeting about the UDC will be next week on January 7 at 6 p.m. in the county Administrative Building. Those who have questions about this plan should attend.
In the meantime, we believe that such a large proposal needs a 90-day review before final action is taken. All interested parties need time to digest and understand the implications of this new UDC before it becomes law.

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By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
January 1, 2003

‘Study’ of county authorities
just a sham
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners is ending 2002 the way it began — with a power play to grab more power for itself.
Readers will recall that in late 2001, the BOC abolished the Jackson County Planning Commission, then reconstituted it. The reason for that move was to open the door for the BOC to appoint its own members to the planning board.
It was a blatant power grab, a telling moment that demonstrated the overt desire by this board to micro manage the county by consolidating its own power.
Now the BOC is moving to take control of the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority. Two weeks ago, BOC chairman Harold Fletcher appointed a “committee” to study “adjustments” in the county’s various authorities.
But that “committee” is a thin veil. The only members of this study “committee” are commissioners Stacy Britt and Emil Beshara, both vocal critics of the water board.
It’s a sham. This is no real “committee” of independent people asked to study the structure and relationship of the BOC to its authorities. It’s a setup, the outcome a foregone conclusion. That’s why this “committee” was appointed to meet during the holidays — it is designed to exclude any outside input into its “study.”
The truth is, the BOC wants to make its own decisions about when and where water and sewer lines go in Jackson County. It cannot abide the idea that an independent water authority currently makes those decisions.
But that is a dangerous path for Jackson County. To allow the BOC to make such decisions is to politicize the process in a way that is unacceptable.
Here’s just one problem: Both Fletcher and Britt are involved in real estate ventures in Jackson County. If those two had the power to decide where water and sewer lines go, their location is foregone — water and sewer will go to land owned by those two commissioners, or to their political cronies who own land in the county. To think otherwise is to be naive about how politics works.
If Chairman Fletcher was serious about taking an objective look at the county’s authorities, he would have appointed a group that included independent voices and someone representing those agencies. And he would have given that group more than two weeks during the holidays to make a real “study.”
That he appointed two critics from within his own circle tells what the real goal is here — takeover and control the water board by whatever means necessary.
Britt and Beshara are not a “committee,” they are just carrying the ball for Fletcher in another power play.
The new year bodes ill for the citizens of Jackson County who care about the future of their community. Once again, independent voices of county citizens is being shut out of the political process. Once again, the BOC is moving to make a grab for more power and control.
The Jackson County BOC is quickly becoming the North Korea of North Georgia — a rogue government intent on power that’s willing to crush any group which stands in its way.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.

The Commerce News
January 1, 2003

2002: It Could Have Been A Lot Worse
Looking back into the shadows of 2002, it's hard to reach a firm conclusion on whether it was a good year or a bad one, personal experiences aside. It could have been better (think economy) and it could have been worse (no new domestic terrorist attacks).
Much of the nation's focus was on those two sets of circumstances. One was the roller-coaster nature of the stock market and the economy; the other was the dwindling War on Terrorism and the discussion of a seemingly-impending war with Iraq. Locally, the closest thing to a big story was the Jackson County Board of Commissioners' decision to build a new courthouse on Darnell Road about two miles from downtown Jefferson. The completion of the Bear Creek Reservoir provided relief, coming in the midst of a drought, though it was somewhat anticlimactic, being 11 months late.
Many good things did occur. In Commerce, the start of construction on a new middle school is certainly an important event, as is the work on the construction of a new waste treatment plant. Like the courthouse, they are projects that will continue through 2003 and beyond. Little noticed but of potentially great impact on Commerce is the proposal, still in the discussion stage, of opening a campus of Lanier Technical Institute in Commerce.
Nicholson appears to be bringing its water authority under control, Jackson County landed a major Toyota-owned industry, the Commerce City Council agreed to a reapportionment plan and SAT scores at CHS were up.
All of the area's public institutions had their ups and downs in 2002 and most of what occurred this past year was related to events of the previous year and will spawn more news and progress in 2003. Such is the nature of news.
If there were no great local triumphs, at least there were no huge disasters either. The Jackson County Board of Commissioners and Commerce Board of Education played their familiar political games and the city of Commerce continued to be idle in the area of economic development, none of which is earthshaking. There were more murders than usual for no apparent reason, the local economy was flat and government, from Jackson County to the state level, found revenue falling off correspondingly.
It is not likely that 2002 will go down in local history as a remarkable year for any reason, but we can now look forward to the next year. May it be distinguished for the good things that happen and quite unremarkable for bad things.

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