Jackson County Opinions...

JANUARY 22, 2003



Column
By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
January 22, 2003

BOC To Try Communicating
By Nude Dancing
First Amendment watchdogs in Lavonia are no doubt still celebrating the fact that Cafe Risqué won its battle to allow employees to express themselves through nude dancing.
As the South Broad Street spokesman on First Amendment issues, I'm relieved to see Cafe Risqué win this case.
According to one newspaper account, the lawsuit against Lavonia describes nude dancing as "a beneficial social activity which enhances individuals' conscious ability to assimilate and consider various issues involving sexual candor and the interest in human sexuality."
I'm happy that Lavonians will have that opportunity to assimilate and consider various issues involving sexual candor and the interest in human sexuality, but the more burning issue in Jackson County is the understanding of the various issues involving county commissioners and the interest in political maneuvering.
Given that the commissioners have not been able to adequately express why they want to build a courthouse in the middle of nowhere, why they want to take over the water and sewerage authority and what exactly they do among themselves when they go behind closed doors late at night, they are now said to be considering trying to express themselves in some new, possibly more effective manner, say, nude dancing.
This is a radical step I would never recommend were I the reporter assigned to cover their meetings, but in the interest of better communications, they figure it's time to shed some inhibitions and try something new.
The Cafe Risqué lawsuit observes that the human body "is a thing of beauty which, when combined with music and rhythmic motion in the form of dance, conveys an important message of eroticism." Possibly the beauty of the human body will be lost with some of our governing officials, but we too have important messages that the commissioners have been unable to convey through conventional means. If provided with the proper musical accompaniment, could they convey to the voters some rationalization for what otherwise appears to be a political ploy by five power-hungry men?
Imparting information by dance is a new concept, but the commissioners believe we are no less sophisticated than people in Lavonia and could employ dance to our benefit. The BOC certainly has been unable to get its message out by conventional means, so what is to be lost by trying dance?
My concern is that the commissioners know so little about the language of dance that when Stacey Britt tries to convey the idea of "checks and balances," the message he will actually dance out will be "build a water line for my friends" or Harold Fletcher, when trying to say, "raise taxes," will dance "I have a duck in my naval," and we’ll be right back where we started, with the commissioners complaining about being misquoted.
The commissioners say they have nothing to hide, but I would prefer that they not use this means to prove it. We don’t want too much information conveyed.
One thing for sure. Those long board of commissioners meetings will become even more unbearable.


Editorials
The Jackson Herald
January 22, 2003

Time for citizens to stand firm
It was on the spar of a small hill outside a small town in southern Pennsylvania that one of the most famous moments in American history took place.
On July 2, 1863 the future course of America was decided by a small group of boys and men from Maine who stood on that spar and refused to give up.
The moment was, of course, the fight for “Little Round Top” during the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. The boys of the 20th Maine decided the fate of that battle, and perhaps the entire Civil War, when they refused to be moved from their position by an onslaught from the 15th Alabama.
The leader of the 20th Maine, Joshua Chamberlain, was to become immortalized for that courageous stand and for his famous rallying cry during the battle, “Stand firm ye boys of Maine!”
There are many lessons to be learned from that battle, but the most important is that strong leadership and standing firm can change the outcome of large events. From such small acts does the course of history flow.
It is with that lesson in mind that we call on citizens in Jackson County to stand firm in opposition to its county leadership’s attempt to takeover the county water and sewerage authority. While not a battle in the classical sense, the fight for control of the county’s water and sewerage infrastructure is critical to the county’s future.
We believe the lines are clear in this debate. The development of water and sewerage infrastructure should remain an independent process that is not subject to political pressures. To allow the county board of commissioners to directly control those decisions would be to give the keys of the county’s future away.
We don’t believe that is what the citizens of Jackson County want.
We don’t believe that citizens want developers who sit on the board of commissioners to decide when, where and for whom water and sewerage will flow.
We don’t believe that citizens who have paid the SPLOST tax want those dollars to be spent by politicians to do favors for their friends.
But that is what will happen if the board of commissioners is successful in its takeover attempt. Just look at that group’s record: The board took over the joint city-county planning commission without even consulting with the towns involved, then weakened it so it could dominate the zoning agenda; the board then dismissed years of work on a new courthouse location and without any site selection process or citizen input, purchased a controversial piece of land for the site; and now that same board seeks to takeover the water and sewerage authority so it alone can control where, when, and to whom those services will be offered.
But that is not what is best for Jackson County. What is best for the county is for a quasi-independent authority to make those decisions based on sound financial planning, not political favoritism.
That is why we call on the citizens to stand firm in the face of this political onslaught.
Do not give in to the spurious and misleading arguments that some on the commission have put forward.
Do not give in to the impulse to “compromise” this issue away by bowing to unacceptable terms.
Do not give in to political pressures to bend to the commission’s demands, or face retribution.
So what can citizens do?
Let our state legislative delegation hear from you. Let these men know that this takeover is unacceptable.
By standing firm now, the citizens of Jackson County can begin to reassert control over their county government. Five men, two of whom are real estate developers, should not alone control the destiny of Jackson County.
If you are concerned about this takeover attempt, contact the men below and let them know your thoughts.

Rep. Chris Elrod
608 Legislative Office Building
Phone: (706) 367-5290
E-mail: celrod@legis.state.ga.us

Rep. Warren Massey
612 Legislative Office Building
Atlanta, Ga. 30680
Phone: (404) 656-0325 or (770) 307-2020
Fax: (770) 725-2651
E-mail: repmassey@aol.com

Sen. Casey Cagle
421-C State Capitol
Atlanta, Ga. 30334
Phone: (404) 656-6578 or (770) 297-0409
Fax: (770) 297-0707
E-mail: kccagle@legis.state.ga.us

Sen. Brian Kemp
324 A Legislative Office Building
Atlanta, Ga. 30334
Phone: (706) 543-0188
E-mail: bkemp@legis.state.ga.us

Sen. Ralph Hudgens
304 B Legislative Office Building
Atlanta, Ga. 30334
Phone: (706) 783-2405
Fax: (706) 783-2406
E-mail: ralphhudgens@aol.com

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Column
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
January 22, 2003

Town leaders rising to importance
Jackson County is at a crossroads. It’s not just the controversy about the board of commissioners, although that’s one part of the picture.
We are at the point where our identity and lifestyle as a rural community is fading into a blended suburban lifestyle. The two are not mutually exclusive, but the dynamics of each are different.
We’ve already seen some of these changes in the 2002 election cycle. The “newcomer” vote is now dominant and it is largely conservative and Republican. The old networks that once sustained local politics have faded. There was a time not long ago when politicians could talk with a couple of people in each district and that alone would sway the votes.
Those days are gone. Extended family votes are a thing of the past as families disperse and newcomers dilute the old system.
But the influx of newcomers has also had an interesting effect in some of those communities. There is, in fact, something of a resurgence of local community awareness across the county. Small communities that once languished in the background are suddenly finding a new voice.
That has been a trend in many suburban growth communities. People without long-standing ties to a community tend to look local. A newcomer to Braselton, for example, is more interested in what’s happening in their backyard than in Jackson County in general.
That is something of an ironic twist on current county events. While the county board of commissioners is busy trying to centralize power, the truth is that its influence among many citizens is fading. People in Hoschton or Jefferson or Talmo are often more interested in their city governments than the county government. The larger the town, the more that will be true.
What is happening, and I think will continue to happen, is a shift in focus away from the county government toward local governments. While the county government will continue to perform important functions in the county, many of the controversial issues they faced in the past will shift to city governments.
There are two areas where that will have a huge impact. The first is zoning and land use. As towns expand with annexation, land will be removed from the county government’s hands. Citizens will demand more local control over their community’s destiny and won’t be happy leaving that up to a distant county board over which they have little influence. We’ve already seen that with the creation of the Quad Cities Planning Commission.
The second is infrastructure, mostly in sewerage and water. Although the county government is now in a squabble over who will control county water and sewerage resources, that may become secondary to the impact towns have in offering such services.
That’s especially true in Jefferson, which sits at the center of the county and which now has a bypass which will become a key commercial corridor in the future. If Jefferson can work a joint arrangement with Arcade, Pendergrass and Talmo for infrastructure development, similar to the Quad Cities commission, that could become the center of the county’s growth in the coming decade.
How all this plays out will depend on where people choose to live in the coming 10 years. If the towns annex land in a strategic manner and provide infrastructure, the real decision-making about the county future won’t be with the county commission, but rather with municipal leaders.
That would require a lot of cooperation that has not been evident in the past. Braselton and Hoschton would have to work together rather than compete. The Quad Cities would have to expand their scope without stepping on each other’s toes. And the Maysville-Commerce-Nicholson corridor in East Jackson would have to form some kind of alliance that historically has been difficult.
But it is possible. The political games currently being played by the county commission gives everyone a common enemy. In times like that, even former adversaries tend to come together and join hands to fight back.
It would be better if the county government could find a way to work with the city governments in Jackson County. But that is not happening today.
That creates a vacuum of leadership at a time when citizens want their leaders to be more local. And that has opened the door for towns with leadership to rise to the plate and respond.
The question is, will they?
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.



Editorial
The Commerce News
January 22, 2003

Commissioners Acting
Recklessly With Authority
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners’ pursuit of total control over the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority is attracting more attention than the commissioners envisioned, but they haven’t seen anything yet.
City governments, fire departments, the Homebuilders Association and other groups are rallying in opposition to legislation the Board of Commissioners hopes to approve Friday that would, in essence, eliminate the water authority.
What is at stake goes further than a politically independent utility board. The commissioners’ lust for power is jeopardizing the plans of Toyota to locate its MACI plant. In addition to being behind schedule on meeting deadlines for its promised road improvements, the BOC is jeopardizing the ability of the water authority to meet its 2004 deadline for providing sewer to a plant whose investment in Jackson County is likely to surpass $100 million.
The authority cannot pay its engineers to proceed on the sewer line promised for the project because the BOC and County Manager Al Crace have yet to complete the paperwork for already-approved federal grants. And with the fate of the water authority in the balance, the authority is in no position to borrow more money. Meanwhile, the commissioners continue to question the ability of the authority to conduct its business.
The commissioners are endangering the largest industrial project to locate in Jackson County in years. Their actions go beyond reckless to dereliction of duty and, if successful, will do untold damage to this county, its taxpayers and its reputation.


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