Jackson County Opinions...

FEBRUARY 19, 2003



Column
By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
February 19, 2003

Lone Ranger Tony Beatty Is
A Meeting Terrorist
I've got the duct tape, drinking water and plastic sheeting all together. I'm prepared for al-Qaida or, worse yet, the next time Commissioner Tony Beatty wants to speak for "five minutes" to the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority. Oh, forgot the ear plugs.
Beatty proved to be a meeting terrorist Thursday night. The District 4 commissioner demonstrated the art of conducting a meeting in such a way as to suck the life out of everyone present. You're familiar with “dog years,” where every calendar year equals seven in a dog's life? In "commissioner time," every minute of a commissioner's life is equal to 13 stolen from the lives of his audience.
The irony is that Beatty has no idea how silly he sounded trying to advise the authority on legal issues, misunderstanding the word "quantitative" as he lectured the authority on proper bidding procedures and as he misunderstood how SPLOST funds could be spent.
The irony peaked as he responded to Chairman Elton Collins' promise that the authority will pay the Bear Creek debts if the commissioners "stop their harassment."
"I agree with you, we need to stop the harassment," said Beatty, who then proceeded to harass the authority for another 60 minutes. Perhaps the District 4 commissioner thinks "harass" is two words?
He proceeded to nit-pick everything he could find in the authority's 70-page agenda package and even suggested that, in the future, he will support having the board of commissioners build water and sewer lines for economic development.
The one thing he should have questioned but did not was a $721,000 "change order" in the sewer engineering firm's contract. Instead of asking what that was about, Beatty will go about the county complaining that the change order demonstrates that the water authority is out of control.
This is demonstrative of the current BOC method of operation. We have five lone rangers acting as if they're sole commissioners. Harold Fletcher orders the water authority to pay the Bear Creek debt. Stacey Britt declares payment of that debt with SPLOST funds illegal. Sammy Thomason sends a series of emails to friends warning of dire tax increases. Emil Beshara complains about not being informed, then refuses to allow the authority to deliver information. Britt starts rumors about Jerry Waddell. Beatty proposes that the county should build water and sewer lines and Fletcher orders the prison crew to quit doing maintenance for the authority. In each case, the other commissioners can claim deniability.
The only things the commissioners have in common (other than disdain for the press) are the love of hearing their own voices, a desire to put the courthouse far away from downtown Jefferson and the certain knowledge that they alone are capable of determining what is best for Jackson County.
Collins’ promise of the authority paying the Bear Creek debt is contingent on the cessation of harassment. That is not going to occur. If Beatty’s comments are an indication, they do not know what the word means.
But give them “five minutes” and they’ll make up a definition.


Editorials
The Jackson Herald
February 19, 2003

Federal law on schools has
impossible goals
The only thing worse than state control of public schools is federal control. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the faddish “No Child Left Behind Act.”
Indeed, the “No Child Left Behind Act” is a classic example of how out of touch federal officials in Washington are with the grassroots of America.
That federal law and its spin-off regulations will have a huge impact on all public schools in the coming years. Schools that do not meet standards will be labeled as “failing” and parents will have the option to send their children to other schools.
But the problem here is the standards. Not only must a substantial number of students pass various standardized tests, but also students in “sub-categories” must also show improvement on those tests.
The problem is, some of those “sub-categories” will be impossible to improve. Special education students, for example, are a “sub-category” and will have to show improvement on standardized testing. But in reality, many of those students may not be capable of “improving” test scores from year to year.
But if that doesn’t happen, a school will get the label of “failing,” even though the other 90 percent of its student population may show increases in test scores.
It is a crazy standard, one that will cause many good schools to carry a “failing” tag not because of any real problems, but rather because of how one small group of students may perform on a standardized test.
We are all for accountability in public schools, but the idea has been taken to an absurd level.
We believe the federal government should withdraw from meddling in local public schools and leave that task to states and local school boards.

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Column
By Rochelle Beckstine
The Jackson Herald
February 19, 2003

The state of the world after 30 years of abortion
In 1972, the Supreme Court decided that a person’s right to privacy was implied in the Constitution when our forefathers deemed every citizen had a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Then the Supreme Court justices took that statement a step further and said the Constitution also implied that women have the right to end their pregnancy because of their right to privacy. Here are my thoughts on that.
Ending pregnancy through unnatural means was a reality when Benjamin Franklin drafted the Constitution. If he and the rest of the men of the Continental Congress had meant to legalize abortion, they would have done so. Why seven of the nine justices felt Franklin would have left that our inadvertently I don’t know. But 30 years later here we are, perhaps in the best position to rectify a wrong perpetrated 40 million babies later.
As a Republican legislature enters the 2003 session, Republicans are promising constituents they will pass the “first significant pro-life legislation in 30 years,” and Democrats are shouting that the world has entered the “anti-choice trifecta.”
So what is Roe v. Wade’s legacy? 1.6 million abortions a year, 16 times as many as there were before legalization. That is 4,500 abortions per day. Before legalization, the number of abortions was 98,000 on average and the number of deaths were above 1,000 a year only before penicillin (pre-1940). Cynthia Knight, author of “Life Without Roe: Making Predictions About Illegal Abortions” who is also a specialist in state legislative issues, says that if abortion were illegal: “Even assuming an increased risk from illegal abortions, the total number of women dying and being hurt by abortion would be less [than the number currently injured or killed].”
Where does our community fit into all of this? In 2001, 1,110 women elected to have abortions from Banks, Barrow, Clarke, Hall, Jackson and Madison counties. That’s more than twice the population of Danielsville and 160 more dead babies than living citizens in Homer. The 2001 number of abortions even ellipses the population of Hoschton by 40 citizens. I don’t believe our community lacks morals and I don’t believe any of us believe that abortion is not murder. Scientists agree that life begins at conception. But abortions are still going on. I believe women and men weigh the responsibilities of pregnancy and a child against the life of someone they’ve never met. Being out of work for six weeks or missing the prom is real. A zygote is not. They don’t connect the mass of cells to the smiling baby with Uncle Bert’s chin and their mother’s eyes.
So why do moral women choose abortion over the alternative? The choice itself is often the impetus. Consider this. An unwed woman, clerking at a grocery store with no stable home becomes pregnant. Society promotes abortion as the only acceptable or feasible alternative for poor people who face unplanned pregnancies. And the realities for the women who decide against abortion are hard. Dual-income families are necessary. More than 40 million Americans have no healthcare. Day care is expensive and often unavailable. The minimum wage is $5.15 an hour. And the baby’s father is saying he supports her choice. He’ll pay for the abortion, but he doesn’t want children right now. It’s her decision, but it won’t be his baby. Translation: you’ll have to hogtie him for any kind of support. And who has time to hunt him down when you’re working two jobs to pay for childcare and housing and living off food stamps.
Frederica Mathewes-Green, a feminist who supported abortion in the early 70s, but has since switched to pro-life, sums the “choice” up for the educated professional woman in her article “The Bitter Price of Choice”: “It is a cruel joke to call this a woman’s ‘choice.’ We may choose to sacrifice our life and career plans, or choose to undergo humiliating invasive surgery and sacrifice our offspring. How fortunate we are-we have a choice!” Green asks if we choose instead to keep our bodies and our lives intact, what kind of social change could women instigate? What would make abortion unnecessary? She suggests flexible school situations, more flex-time, part-time and home-commute jobs, attractive adoption opportunities, safe family planning choices and support in handling sex responsibly. But she believes none of these changes will occur while women are willing to discard their children to ensure the status quo and live in a man’s world. She writes: “That we have willingly ordered our lives around a denigrating surgical procedure — accepted it as the price we must pay to keep our life plans intact — is an ominous sign.”
The Feminists For Life argue abortion is a betrayal of feminism. They state that all women who demand the right to an abortion admit that pregnancy and motherhood are incompatible to being a fully functioning adult and that an unencumbered, unattached male is the model for success. “By settling for abortion instead of working for the social changes that would make it possible to combine children and a career, pro-abortion feminists have agreed to participate in a man’s world under a man’s terms.”
So social change seems to be the prescription but changing society takes decades of swimming against the current.
There is something we can do now. We can plug the hole in the dike so to speak. Seventeen states have a Right to Know Act which states that any one considering an abortion be given all of the information to make an informed decision and given 24 hours to reflect on the information. The act was validated by the Supreme Court 11 years ago, but Georgia has not protected this right as yet. Some people think perhaps the legislature will vote on the issue this session. The act calls for women to be given printed materials that explain the age and size of her child, describe the type of abortion procedure to be used and discuss the help available to bring the child to term, as well as provide information on the alternatives. Abortion is the only surgical procedure in Georgia that does not require complete accurate information. When women are fully informed they are much less likely to go through with an abortion. The Georgia Right to Life Chapter (www.grtl.org) is circulating a petition to make the Right to Know Act law. If you go online to their website, it takes less than a minute to click the link and type in your name and address. If you have 10 minutes, pick up the phone and call your representatives in the legislature. Let them know how you feel. And who knows how many lives you could potentially save.
[The articles mentioned and most of the factual data can be found at roevwade.org. City populations are taken from the 2000 census data.]
Rochelle Beckstine is a columnist for MainStreet Newspapers.


Editorial
The Commerce News
February 19, 2003

Time To Investigate The Missing Documents
We now have a plausible explanation for why Jackson County's commissioners are uninformed about what is going on with the county water and sewerage authority. It seems that the monthly packets of information sent to the commissioners from the authority do not get from the central office to the individual commissioners.
It has been verified both by water authority staff and by the clerk of the commissioners that the monthly packets arrive at the commissioners' office in the county administrative building. The commissioners' clerk reports that she e-mails the commissioners that the packets have arrived and that she places them in the commissioners' individual mailboxes.
But the commissioners say they do not receive the information. In spite of the fact that the documents have been carried from the authority to the commissioners' office for more than a year, only when the packets were hand-delivered this month did the commissioners admit to receiving them.
Only two possible explanations come to mind. Either the documents are being stolen or the commissioners are lying. Since we cannot imagine that our commissioners are lying, that leaves theft of public documents as the only explanation.
The Jackson County Sheriff's Department, Georgia Bureau of Investigation and/or Jackson County Grand Jury should investigate the continuing disappearance of these public records and documents. If it is discovered who is stealing them, the county should prosecute the perpetrator for theft; if it turns out to be a county employee, that person should also be fired.
Almost as interesting as the disappearance of the monthly information is the fact the commissioners have expressed little interest in why they don't get the information after they are e-mailed that it has arrived. Shouldn't they be curious about getting monthly notification only to experience that the material is missing? Is it not strange that, given all of their public outcry about not being informed, that the commissioners have not called for an investigation to solve the mystery?
Also curious is commissioner Emil Beshara's demand that water authority personnel delivering the information the commissioners have lamented not receiving be kept off his property. Such a peculiar position might lead a cynic to think Mr. Behsara really does not want to be informed.
At any rate, it is clear that the theft of public records is taking place monthly in the office of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners. Let the sheriff's department and GBI clear up the apparent theft of public documents once and for all and let the grand jury consider an indictment.


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