Jackson County Opinions...

MARCH 19, 2003

By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
March 19, 2003

Whatever May Happen, Respect Our Troops
By the time you read this paper next week, it is likely that the war with Iraq will be under way. It could even be over.
Last week, I spelled out my reasons for opposing this war. Nothing has changed my thinking, but President Bush has changed everything. Barring the very unlikely scenario of Saddam Hussein and his sons fleeing Iraq, American soldiers will be putting their lives on the line for their country – not just for those who feel the war is just, but also for those of us who are not sure.
The greatest debacle of the Vietnam Conflict was the treatment of American soldiers by their country. They were dishonored by a country who realized that the war was unjust, treated like criminals and never recognized for the sacrifices they made on behalf of their nation. The troops who fought in Vietnam did not create the war; they just pursued the policies of their government like soldiers always do. Just war or not, they bled and died and endured and they earned our respect and love, not our disdain and dishonor.
As you read this, young men and women are perhaps just hours away from entering the unknown of battle from which some will not return. We can argue the pros and cons of the war as an intellectual exercise, but the decision has been made and the focus of every American should be its successful conclusion with the highest regard for the safety of our troops and, after that, the safety of the civilian population of Iraq.
Here's what I'd like to see occur:
•the passage of a formal declaration of war by the U.S. Congress. Our troops should know they have our full support.
•publication of specific objectives of this war, followed by their achievement and the cessation of hostilities when our troops are secure. Let's not repeat the mistake of the Gulf War in ceasing action before achieving the goals.
•commitment to the men and women in battle of every resource they need to do their jobs, to improve their safety and to promote their comfort.
•an equal commitment by the public to the troops: To write, e-mail, send cards, packages, gifts, to support the families they left behind.
•a commitment by the employers of reservists and Guardsmen to provide as best they can for employees called up. For that, I give the Jackson County Commissioners, criticized elsewhere on this page, a real A+.
•reasonable access to the press to cover the war, and that means the bad news too. War, after all, is mostly bad news. In return, balanced coverage that demonstrates to the public what our troops experience, what the Iraqis experience and how the objectives of the war are being met.
•straight talk from the government. No lying as when the previous President Bush boasted about the successes of Patriot Missile batteries hitting 21 of 22 targets.
•the keeping of Bush's commitment to provide food, medicine and a stable government to Iraq.
Most importantly, keep the men and women who are fighting in your thoughts and prayers. They’re putting their lives on hold and in jeopardy on our behalf. Their families suffer in their absence. That, we must never, ever, forget or belittle.

The Jackson Herald
March 19, 2003

There they go again....
Yep, we said it was coming. Several times in recent months, we’ve voiced the opinion that the Jackson County Board of Commissioners wanted to take over economic development efforts in Jackson County.
Last weekend, in that board’s out-ot-town meeting, just such an idea rose to the surface.
We aren’t surprised, nor will many citizens be shocked. It’s just part of this board’s pattern.
A little over a year ago, the BOC took over the county planning commission, kicked off the municipal “partners,” and politicized that board to a level that makes it useless.
This year, the BOC attempted to take over the county water authority, but failed when that action met with a firestorm of opposition.
Now that power-hungry board wants to drive the economic development bus and put the county’s chamber of commerce and industrial development authority in the back seat.
That’s not a surprise. BOC chairman Harold Fletcher and his sidekick Sammy Thomason are still angry over last year’s Toyota deal where the two failed to divert local school taxes into the county’s bank account to build roads related to the deal. And they are angry that the deal was led by local private business leaders in the chamber and IDA. Both Fletcher and Thomason believe only government should drive the bus.
But they are wrong. Prospective industries looking at a community don’t much care what local political leaders think, but they do care a lot about what other local business leaders think. It is the credibility which comes from existing industry that seals most economic development deals, not the glad-handing of politicians.
Certainly, local elected officials and the county and city levels have to be involved in the process. No one would argue otherwise.
But Jackson County has been successful in luring new industry with its current economic development team. Why in the world would we want to fix something that isn’t broke?
There is a darker side to this as well. Both Fletcher and commissioner Stacey Britt are in the development business. To put those two as the “lead” in local development efforts would be to create a huge, monumental conflict-of-interest. Both men own land in key areas of Jackson County. How would the public ever know if the deal was “clean,” or if Fletcher or Britt had something personal at stake? (And just think, if they could wrest control of both the water and economic development, they could really enrich themselves and their friends.)
This BOC effort to take over the county’s economic development bus has been tried once before, by former BOC chairman Jerry Waddell. That effort was a big mess and Waddell soon learned that county political leaders needed the leadership of the business community to be successful.
We doubt the Fletcher administration will garner such insight and the county’s business leadership should be outraged at this attempted takeover.

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By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
March 19, 2003

Iraq could redefine America’s role in world
WASHINGTON DC — If this city is nervous about war and possible terrorism, it doesn’t show on the surface. Convention meetings still crowd hotels near the Capitol, tourists still walk the streets, and the traffic is still as bad as always.
Yet the national dialogue hangs heavy over the city as our country prepares for war. By the end of this week, most observers say the nation will indeed be at war with Iraq.
While the outcome of that move is not in doubt, the ramifications from it are unclear. Will there be additional terrorist attacks in this country? Will Saddam use gas or biological weapons against American troops?
And for the long-term, what will this war mean to America as a nation? The war in Iraq will be a change of national focus, a “pre-emptive” attack of a kind that has seldom been done in our nation’s history.
Just up the road from Washington, we earlier walked the hallowed ground at Gettysburg and Manassas, two battlefields from our Civil War. Standing on that soil, it is impossible to take war casually. All around are reminders of the grim business of war.
Monday night, the clouds cleared at Gettysburg and a full moon rose over the battlefield. A fog settled in the low places, giving an eerie glow to the landscape.
I believe that on such nights, the spirits of those who died there rise and embrace each other, sorry for having shed a brother’s blood in conflict on our home soil.
Down the road in Manassas, the sorry business of war first hit home with Americans in 1861 at the first battle on that ground. The Civil War was young and many of those in uniform had never seen conflict before Manassas. Most thought the war would be over in a single battle.
The horror of Manassas changed that. The death and destruction there made it clear in 1861 that the conflict between North and South would be a long, bloody affair. The nation lost its innocence at Manassas as the green soldiers on both sides had their first taste of battle.
It was said by our guide at Gettysburg that the Civil War defined America — everything that happened before it was a prelude to it, while that which has happened since grew from its effects.
Both World War I and World War II would later define America’s role in the world during the 20th Century, but those wars cannot explain the new world order which America faces today.
Iraq is a poor, weak nation whose threat as a military power is nil. Yet because of the nature of today’s weapons, a single tinpot dictator can threaten the strongest nation on earth.
One could not say that Iraq will be the kind of defining moment in American history as Gettysburg or Manassas. But there is a feeling that this military action will, in some sense, define America in ways larger than the battle itself.
The Bush doctrine of how America is projecting its military power in 2003 may come to define how America acts on the world stage for decades to come.
In hindsight, we can see the critical importance of Manassas and Gettysburg in American history.
Someday, historians may also look back on 2003 and write about how we redefined the role of America in the sands of Iraq.
Let us pray that such hindsight will reflect well on America and on the critical decisions being made in this city.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.

The Commerce News
March 19, 2003

Commissioners Deserve
An A+ For Delusions
This newspaper is proud to announce that we have dean's list-type achievement from county government – at least that's the way our commissioners see it. Scoring themselves on how they fared with 11 goals for 2002, they generously awarded eight A's, two B's and a C. Any college kid with that kind of average (3.73) would make his Momma proud.
Taxpayers should be particularly proud for the A+ awarded on the courthouse project, where the commissioners ignored a citizens' committee's recommendations, voted in secret and accepted no public input until after the fact – and paid twice the appraised value to acquire 160 acres about as far away from downtown Jefferson as they could legally locate a courthouse.
One is tempted to ask what the commissioners would have had to have done with the courthouse to get a C, but good grades are not to be questioned. Let's just say there had to have been a generous curve in that class.
The commissioners also gave themselves an A for economic development – largely because Toyota decided to locate the MACI plant in Jackson County. And though they gave themselves an A, they later expressed the desire to take the lead role in economic development away from the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce and the Jackson County Industrial Development Authority – who did most of the work to bring MACI. Their quest for absolute control noted previously is hereby demonstrated once again; it too deserves an A+.
The self-grading shows us yet another area in which the commissioners deserve an A+ – for delusions of grandeur. The message they send to the public is that they're darned nearly perfect commissioners with precious little room for improvement. It's a nice thought at the University of Retreat, but there is no other scenario in which the 2002 efforts of these six men would be so generously regarded. The exercise shows how far the board of commissioners has retreated from reality.
Take time to smell the smelling salts, gentlemen. School is still in session and you're in danger of flunking out.

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