Banks County Opinions...

MARCH 19, 2003


Column

By: Rochelle Beckstine
The Banks County News
March 19, 2003

Freedom of
speech with no repercussions
Every human being should have the right to voice their opinion without repercussions. That is one of the founding principles of our country.
One that has driven the United States to aid foreigners bent on overthrowing rigid governments which do not allow freedom of speech. A person should be able to say, “I don’t like the president. I don’t think he is doing a good job. I don’t want to go to war.”
This is what our military is fighting for. Freedom. But what kind of freedom is it when you can lose your livelihood because you voice an opinion that is unpopular with the general public? Think about it.
If someone says they don’t like the way the president is handling the entire Iraq matter and they are fired from their job, who do you think the court system is going to say is right?
The employer who was angered at the comments and so fired the employee with no provocation? Or the employee who lost his job because he is anti-war? I would be extremely disappointed if the judge found in favor of the employer.
After all, we can’t discriminate based on race, religion, sexual preference or creed, why would our stance on the war be an OK excuse to terminate an employee? I think you know where I’m going with this.
The Dixie Chicks have a livelihood that is threatened because so many Americans are angered about comments made in England. Radio stations have pulled their songs from the air and people are throwing out their CDs.
While it is OK to be angry about the comments made, it is not OK to stop listening to their music, which has nothing to do with the comments made by one member of the band. To do that and boycott their music and vow to never attend another concert is also an American right.
But in exercising that right, you’re walking all over Natalie Maines’ right to free speech. It is the same thing as the employer who fires the anti-war employee. She has since apologized and said she should never have spoken so disrespectfully about the president. She learned a hard lesson that I think she never should have learned-that being in the public eye means free speech doesn’t always apply to you.
And there are more. Charlie Daniels, a revered name in country music and maybe the proudest American, has called for a boycott of anti-war Hollywood actors and actresses.
Visa pulled the Martin Sheen advertisement from TV after being flooded with calls complaining, though Visa says it did not pull the ad for that reason.
After World War II, the United States adopted an anti-socialism policy, aiding any army trying to overthrow Communist regimes. Unfortunately, one man saw it as his opportunity to make a political career overnight. He ran for office hinting of a secret communist party operating in the United States.
When elected, he promised to root out the evil and name names. One of the repercussions of his statements was the Hollywood 10, a list of writers and actors who would find no work in Hollywood because they were “blacklisted,” suspected of being communists or sympathizing with socialism.
The House Committee on Un-American Activities began to hold hearings in November 1947, where it became clear they had no evidence to support paranoid claims that “subversive” movies were written, produced and acted by Communists as a plot to convert America. By 1954, 210 actors, writers and producers were blacklisted while hundreds more were “graylisted.”
In history class, the Hollywood 10 is mentioned along with the moving of Japanese-American families to holding camps during World War II as some of the darkest days in American history, when fear outdistanced moral reasoning and American freedoms were stripped out of ignorance.
Let’s learn from past mistakes. Don’t strip entertainers of their ability to speak freely when they disagree with our leader or our actions. We are their employer and they are just as entitled to their opinion as the rest of us.
They are Americans, too.
Rochelle Beckstine is a columnist for MainStreet Newspapers.

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Column

By: Shar Porier
The Banks County News
March 19, 2003

Do we need a county administrator?
There’s been fussing from one end of the county to the other over the past two weeks. A rift has developed in the board of commissioners, and that same rift has spread to Banks County residents.
At issue is whether or not the county would be better run by someone educated in the workings of county government — a county administrator, or someone elected by county residents.
Many counties surrounding Banks have already gone to a county administrator or county manager because they recognized what was happening and accepted the fact that commissioners and chairmen needed help in running affairs. One would assume that since the counties still have administrators, the residents are content with the system.
We currently have a chairman who believes he can handle all the day-to-day affairs of the county, as he was elected to do. Unfortunately, some decisions Kenneth Brady made as “day-to-day county affairs” were not within his authority and should have gone before the board of commissioners for approval.
One such instance concerns raises a few county employees received mid-term. Another concern is the rehiring of a former department head. A third concerns a promotion and pay raise for another county employee.
Commissioner Pat Westmoreland said he did not know about the raises or the promotion or the hiring until after the fact.
While Brady can say the raises were included in the budget, his action, nonetheless, has created unrest among county employees. His actions also alienated the two commissioners.
March 3, Brady wrote a memo to all departments that states: “From this point forward, all employee raises, regardless of size, must be approved by the commissioners in a meeting.”
The memo suggests one of two things — that Brady was in error in giving the raises or that he wants to appease the commissioners now that they have pushed for a county administrator.
But, that memo comes too late for most county employees and what they feel has been an inequity in pay raises. Nothing can bring about discord among employees more than inconsideration. It’s a bit hard to swallow, when you know someone within your pay scale receives a salary increase of eight percent while you get two-and-a-half percent and have been with the county for a longer period of time. Then there’s the question of why three water department employees receive more pay than some department heads.
Could a county administrator have alleviated the situation? Yes. The administrator would have had to go before the board of commissioners before granting any raises, promoting or hiring anyone.
In fact, there is little an administrator can do without BOC approval.
While some may say the administrator would be under the thumb of commissioners Westmoreland and Ricky Cain, it just isn’t so. Sure they will be in on the hiring, but that is no different than being in on the hiring of any county employee or contractor for county work projects.
The fact that Westmoreland and Cain were elected is because the voters chose to trust them with the county’s business for the next four years and wanted to see some changes. According to Cain, one of those changes was going to a county administrator.
To say help isn’t needed, is arrogance. Projects are on the horizon that need an expertise that does not exist in the collective experience of our BOC. We have elected the best the county has to offer, but, let’s face it, we’re getting into territory outside their experience. Westmoreland and Cain are not ashamed to admit it.
Lastly, to say the county would be “under the control of politicians” is nothing new. The county is and has been under the control of politicians. “Good ol’ boy” politics has been the way in Banks County for years. Besides, one could argue any person elected to public office is a “politician,” whether it is the board of commission chairman or the county coroner. It need not be a derogatory term.
Some may see the push for a county administrator as a slap in the face. But, it could be better seen as a way to help the county and the residents in the coming unpredictable days of growth and development.
The residents will still have a say in their county government and how it’s run. They still will vote for commissioners. They can vote them in or vote them out if they don’t like what’s being done. Besides making their voices heard during elections, all commission meetings are open to the public. Residents can voice their opinions in that forum.
Do we need a change of government? I’m not sure at this point. But, I have to admit it poses some positive possibilities.
At any rate, it will be up to the voters next year. They will have the last word. And that is as it should be.
In the meantime, the pros and cons of the system should be discussed intelligently and objectively, with the best interests of the county at the forefront.
Shar Porier is a reporter for The Banks County News.


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