More Jackson County Opinions...

FEBRUARY 12, 2003


Column
By:Elton Collins
The Jackson Herald
February 12, 2003

Commissioners should stick to the facts
Commissioner Emil Beshara explained in a guest column in last week’s newspaper why the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority should be taken over, according to him. However, very little of his explanation was accurate. In fact, it was so distorted I felt I must reply and let the citizens form their own opinion after reading both sides of the issue.
Mr. Beshara displayed the typical arrogance of a Dunwoody transplant to Jackson County: “How did Jackson County government function before I got here?”
He addressed a number of items that he did not agree with and misstated facts about the water and sewerage authority.
I will try to address these items as they appeared in last week’s guest column in The Jackson Herald:
First, Mr. Beshara and the commissioners proposed legislation rescinding all contracts, including the contract with the City of Jefferson. He reiterated this again at the Jan. 30 public forum, at which he claimed was a vast “majority” of Jefferson residents. The fact is that there were 25 to 30 people from Jefferson, but the remaining 250 were a cross-section of all of Jackson County. He should know this since he was sitting there when the Jefferson people raised their hands when polled by a member of the audience.
Second, Jerry Waddell has a salary approved by the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority board that is comparable to other similar positions around the state. Over the years that Mr. Waddell has been there, other board members who have now gone off the authority have also approved his salary. This is in addition to the existing board, which is made up of three of the current board of commissioners’ appointees. In that same paragraph, he discussed the fringe benefits of he and chairman Harold Fletcher after they leave office. When did Mr. Beshara become concerned about chairman Fletcher’s welfare? He once personally told me the position of the chairman didn’t mean “jack.”
Third, Mr. Waddell never suggested a position of superintendent to the water and sewerage authority. The board made that decision. When the water and sewerage authority board started soliciting resumes for water superintendent, they were sent throughout the Southeast. They were gathered, reviewed and recommended to the board by the Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center (RDC) in Athens. The RDC handled the operation to relieve the board of the time-consuming effort and to keep the process as independent as possible. We interviewed four applicants. After looking at the total salary, employment cost and abilities to do the job, all five board members agreed Mr. Waddell was the best candidate for the job. I remember very well. The commissioners told me at the time if we hired Mr. Waddell, we would regret it. You can be assured our board will be harassed as long as Mr. Waddell is employed by the water and sewerage authority, even though three of the existing board members were appointed by the current BOC. Their number one reason for wanting to take control of the water and sewerage authority is so they can fire Mr. Waddell. It has nothing to do with authority versus responsibility. It is simply do what we tell you or pay the consequences.
Fourth, the water and sewerage authority contract for line services cost at $1.2 million has been beat to death. Mr. Beshara is totally confused on this issue. I have explained it a number of times, including at the Jan. 30 public forum and it was explained in Mike Buffington’s column last week. Enough said about this (commissioners’ friends sometimes get upset). The courts have upheld our bidding process a number of times.
Finally, I do not have any plans to place $500,000 in an escrow account for Mr. Waddell in case he is fired by the commissioners. This is how silly Mr. Beshara can get when desperate. Mr. Beshara, give me the bank name and account number of this escrow account. This would be unethical and against the law as a misuse of public funds. Let’s, at least, play above the table, Emil.
I felt it was important to respond to Mr. Beshara’s distortion of facts. However, I am sure the citizens’ are tired of listening to me and to all of the commissioners.
We need to be working together to improve services and the well-being of all the citizens of Jackson County. Both groups should try hard to improve on serving the citizens, such as working hard to see the new Toyota plant come on line as quickly as possible, which will provide good-paying jobs for 125 people in the beginning.
I know if I am tired of listening to all this rhetoric, the citizens surely are. If the majority of citizens tell me it is best for Jackson County if I resign from the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority, I will do it immediately. What about you commissioners — will you make the same pledge?

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Column
By: Bill Shipp
The Jackson Herald
February 12, 2003

In the land of ‘No’s’, one ‘Yes’ may dominate
No wonder the governor almost blew his top when he received the attorney general’s letter.
Everywhere Gov. Sonny Perdue turns these days he hears a resounding “No!” More than 50 years have passed since anyone in the Capitol power pack dared shout “no” at the governor on a major issue. Now “no” seems to be imbedded in the walls and included in the elevator music.
Attorney General Thurbert Baker, previously considered the gentlest, mildest, most get-along guy in state government, is the latest no-sayer. He wrote the governor a note, saying he had no intention of following the governor’s request - or was it an order? - to drop the state’s redistricting appeal in court.
Perdue the Frugal became so angry that he hired Griffin Bell, probably the most expensive lawyer in the state, to fight the attorney general in court.
The governor wants to make an example of Baker. He wants to show people that they can’t just say no to the governor whenever they feel like it. He’s tired of hearing the two-letter n-word.
When Perdue tried to name his own speaker of the House, the House said no.
When he asked Teddy Lee to resign as executive secretary of the Ethics Commission, Lee said no. When he phoned at least one member of the Ethics Commission and told him to resign, the commissioner said no. Four members of the State Board of Education said no when Perdue asked them to step aside.
When the governor proposed raising property taxes, even his Republican buddies in the Legislature said (make that yelled) no.
But no one in a position of authority has dared say no to the most worrisome item on Perdue’s agenda - the referendum on the flag. The Legislature, even the Democratic leaders of the House, is likely to approve whatever Perdue wants in the way of a flag vote. Then they will stand back and watch the fireworks, as the governor struggles to keep his promise “to let the people vote,” while attempting to maintain the state’s progressive business image.
You have to travel back to 1949 to find a situation even close to paralleling the current flag fuss.
Then-Gov. Herman Talmadge, in his election campaign, promised Georgians a referendum on a proposed tax increase to finance across-the-board improvements in schools, highways and welfare and public health services. Talmadge kept his word.
In 1949, the voters responded. They defeated Talmadge’s tax plan by a whopping 3-1 margin (222,268 to 77,819). No matter. Talmadge brushed aside the referendum and commanded the Legislature to enact a 3 percent sales tax, which it did.
The sales tax revenue wrought massive improvements to our state’s facilities and services, though Talmadge sold it to the Legislature as a way to upgrade “Negro schools” to avoid integration.
Gov. Perdue might find the Talmadge situation instructive on how to respond to a referendum on the flag. The governor also ought to remember that “no” is not always bad.
If Gov. Roy Barnes had heard the word more often, he might still be governor.
The Legislature said “yes” to virtually everything Barnes requested, including a new flag. In the end, his startling successes in the legislative area cost him the governor’s office. In a twist of the old medical analogy, one might say the operation was a success, but the doctor died.
Though Perdue probably disagrees, the Barnes model also might teach the new governor a thing or two.
For instance, when the flag issue arose, Barnes did not flinch. He provided the leadership essential to keeping the state on a progressive path.
“Of course, I knew there was a chance [that changing the flag] would affect my re-election, but I also knew that the time had come to do it,” Barnes says. “We had watched what was happening in South Carolina and Mississippi. I didn’t want the flag to divide Georgia more than it already had. It was the state government that changed the flag in 1956, and it was our responsibility to correct that mistake.”
Like Talmadge, Gov. Perdue has vowed to keep his promise. He will reopen the flag issue. This time, hardly anyone in state government will say no. If the flag referendum doesn’t turn out the way Perdue might hope, one wonders if he will continue to follow Herman’s example and brush aside the results. Of course, no one is quite certain what Perdue wants from the flag vote, other than the impossible dream of “unity and harmony.”
As Barnes left the Capitol, the defeated governor said one other thing Perdue might want to keep in mind: “People should challenge their leaders to lead. They should demand that they stand up and make the tough decisions - and that they put the people’s interest ahead of their own political interest.”
You can reach Bill Shipp at:: bshipp@bellsouth.net, Web address: http://www.billshipp.com


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