Jackson County Opinions...

APRIL 9, 2003

By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
April 9, 2003

What We See Of
War Is Just Tip
Of The Iceberg
Those of us who have no friends or family in the military tend not to fully appreciate the emotional strain under which those with loved ones at war live every day.
I got a glimpse of this at Sunday afternoon's prayer service at the First United Methodist Church where a dozen or more people lit candles in honor of loved ones either in the Middle East or, as one dad said, "just a phone call away."
The emotion was intense, even for those whose loved ones were still stateside, and provided a reminder to me – which was why I was there.
I tried to imagine what civilian life was like during World War II, when everyone had a loved one in the service, but I could not. Was it easier since everyone was in it together or because communications did not provide 24-hour coverage of the war?
I cannot believe that it was.
This war has a huge effect right here in Commerce on the families of soldiers. Wives are without their husbands for extended periods; parents have children or grandchildren who-knows-where in Iraq; siblings worry about their brothers or sisters just called up for duty, children have parents at risk. That is the nature of war that will not change, one we must never forget. We pray for our troops; we should pray for the soldiers' loved ones, who may need prayer as much and be mindful of the losses they endure while the troops fight for their country.
Nor should we forget to pray for the civilians of Iraq. I had the misfortune of seeing footage of American troops arresting a Baath Party member at his home in the suburbs of Baghdad. The looks of terror on the faces of the man's youngest son and daughter, both under 10, as they were herded outside at gunpoint were a heart-rending reminder that soldiers are not the only casualties. Imagine the terror we would feel if through our streets rolled the unstoppable tanks of a foreign nation intent on occupying our land. Imagine what it would be like for our children, and for us as parents, knowing we could not protect them.
What we see on TV or in the newspapers is dramatic, scary stuff, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. We do not see the greater portion below the surface – the angst of the families of those who serve, the anxiety and longing of the troops, the fearfulness of civilians, particularly children.
We speak of the cost of the war, $80 billion or $100 billion, and we look ahead to the cost of rebuilding Iraq. There is a hidden cost not measurable in dollars that includes the fear, uncertainty, interrupted relationships and missed loved ones experienced by our troops, their families – and the civilians of Iraq.
If soldiers are subject to nightmares about being in combat, what do children subjected to the horrors of war experience? The children in Iraq are living a nightmare; so are the children in America with moms, dads, brothers or sisters at war. They too pay a price for this war.
I had written what I hoped was a humorous column this week, picking at our county commissioners for their self-grading on goals. After Sunday night, it didn’t seem worth the effort in light of current events. This war produces many casualties and they all need our attention and our prayers.

The Jackson Herald
April 9, 2003

Make housing goals defensible
We have very mixed feelings about the proposed Jackson County Unified Develop-ment Code currently under study for unincorporated parts of the county.
It’s obvious that one of the goals of that effort is to keep out mobile homes in the county and to raise the overall cost of housing for everyone else.
The motive behind the move to stop mobile homes and to raise the cost of other housing has many aspects. Mostly, there is a general fear among county leaders that Jackson County could become “another Barrow County” where low-cost starter homes have flourished.
County leaders fear “starter homes” for the same reasons they dislike mobile homes — lack of tax base. Both starter homes and mobile homes typically have young families with school-age children. That puts a burden on classrooms, but with little financial return in the way of property taxes to pay for those classrooms.
And yet...
While the idea of protecting the tax base is valid, there is also a sense of elitism at play in all this, a feeling that the community would be better served to draw higher-income families rather than lower-income ones.
What is not discussed in all this, however, is the question of just how far local governments should go to manipulate the housing market? Should local governments use their powers of zoning and building requirements to achieve fuzzy social or political objectives? To, in effect, force up the cost of housing so as to price out what is perceived to be an undeserving underclass?
While there are some legitimate public issues involved in these discussions, we are very, very reluctant to allow governments to use their powers in such a manner.
We believe the best way local governments can achieve their objectives of having a balance and higher-quality of housing is to encourage the kind of job creation that makes that possible. If people can work in higher paying jobs, that will automatically generate higher-priced housing.
Of course, to lure such jobs requires a better educated workforce, and that requires more money for schools. And schools cannot get more money from lower-priced housing and mobile homes.
It’s a classic chicken-and-egg problem, one in which there is no clear right or wrong answer.
But we would caution against any government getting in the habit of artificially manipulating the marketplace.
The goals of any housing regulations should be clear and defensible, not just the result of snobbery.

Jackson County Opinion Index

Send us a letter

By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
April 9, 2003

An appeal to the ACCG to do the right thing
To: Mr. Jerry Griffin
Executive Director
Association County Commissioners of Georgia

Dear Mr. Griffin:
The future of a major decision in Jackson County rests in your hands. You have the power to either help, or hurt the citizens of Jackson County depending on how you respond to a request from our county government.
At issue is the desire of our board of commissioners to use the ACCG to finance a new Jackson County courthouse.
But that is a plan fraught with peril.
There’s no argument that Jackson County needs a new courthouse. But the way this BOC wants to build and finance it has stirred up a firestorm of protest among our citizens. And now the BOC is attempting to pull the ACCG into the middle of that controversy.
Obviously, you know the building of courthouses is often controversial. No matter what the BOC did, not everyone would be happy.
But this board has so badly managed the effort, so arrogantly dismissed public opinion, that nothing good can now be salvaged.
For a couple of years in the late 1990s, a citizens’ committee had been studying the courthouse issue. I didn’t agree with all aspects of that effort, but at least an effort was being made to include the public in the siting and planning process.
Then in 2000, we elected a new five-member BOC. During 2001, they were silent in public on the courthouse issue, although they did apparently meet in secret with the courthouse committee a couple of times.
In 2002, the BOC suddenly bought the issue to the fore when it secretly decided to take an option on 150 acres three miles from downtown Jefferson, the county seat. That land had only recently been annexed for a residential development.
Without looking at any alternative sites, the BOC then purchased that land and several more acres for a total of 160 acres. And it was financed by your organization, the ACCG.
But that site has a lot of problems and is not supported by a majority of citizens in Jackson County. It is remote, away from the main growth and traffic corridors in Jackson County and has no existing infrastructure. It will take millions of dollars to make it accessible.
At the same time, the BOC turned down an offer of 25 free acres along the new Jefferson bypass.
But the location is only part of the problem. From the start, the BOC has pursued plans to avoid any kind of public vote on the courthouse financing. It does not want a bond referendum. It does not want to wait for a 2004 SPLOST vote.
The board’s first plan was to create a building authority to do a lease/purchase deal. But that was shot down last week when our county’s five-member legislative delegation refused to create such an authority.
Now the county wants you, the ACCG, to finance the deal via a lease/purchase arrangement.
But I think I reflect the majority of citizens when I say that would be a bad move. If the county pursues such an arrangement with the ACCG, I believe litigation will follow. The citizens here want to vote on this issue and not have it done via back door lease deals.
I know the lease/purchase plans have survived one other challenge, but that did not involve a bricks-and-mortar project. Given the way this project has been handled, I don’t think it could survive a legal challenge.
But even if it did, and you and the ACCG agreed to build then lease a new courthouse to the county, you may be stepping off a financial cliff. As you know, all such lease deals are required to allow the local government the option of canceling the lease at the end of every year. Taxpayers cannot legally be obligated to that lease payment.
I believe that if the ACCG does this project, it will be left owning an empty building. I expect some major changes will take place during the next elections, changes which could lead to a new BOC agreeing to walk away from this proposed lease deal.
If the ACCG wants to own a 115,000 sq. ft. building in the pine woods of Jackson County, that’s your business. But I don’t think you will have a customer to lease it to after the next elections. The citizens here are fed up with the heavy-handed dealing of this BOC on this, and other issues.
Now I know the ACCG wants to help its member counties with such projects. But you have to remember that the dues to ACCG don’t come from the pockets of our five BOC members, but rather from the pockets of our taxpayers. I hope the ACCG views its member counties as something more than just the elected officials, that the voice of citizens is also important to you.
These are difficult times in Jackson County. Our county leadership is, frankly, the worst I’ve ever seen for elected officials.
I hope the ACCG will take a careful look at this issue before jumping into bed with our embattled county leaders.
You don’t have to do a lease with the county for this courthouse project to proceed. All the BOC has to do is allow a bond referendum or SPLOST vote before it breaks ground. If the citizens of Jackson County approve this project, then so be it. I’ll hush.
But Mr. Griffin, let us decide the fate of this for ourselves. Don’t let the ACCG be used by this BOC as a tool to bypass the voice of Jackson County citizens.
Mike Buffington
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.

The Commerce News
April 9, 2003

Patriotism Requires
Action Every Single Day
The ribbons and flags flying from buildings and car antennas are symbols of a nation's support for its troops at war and, in the eyes of many, are symbols of patriotism. But in what practical ways might a love of and dedication to country be demonstrated?
Love of and devotion to country can certainly be shown through the flags and ribbons and the support of troops, but there are 365-day-a-year ways of showing true devotion to and love of your country. Those who are truly patriotic will:
•love and protect the ideals upon which it is founded. Read the Constitution and challenge those who propose to limit freedom of speech or religion or who promote the abuse of other constitutional rights. True patriots rejoice that people in America have the right to criticize their government, to express views opposite to that of the majority, even when those views are distasteful.
•pay their taxes. People who love their country will pay the taxes it imposes to maintain those freedoms and to support the troops now fighting for us. No one who fudges on his (or her) income tax can claim a love of country. Patriots may also complain vigorously about tax policies or rates.
•participate in government. Vote in every election. Thousands have died to assure those rights and when we fail to exercise them we suggest that the deaths of those who won them are not respected. Stay informed about government at all levels.
•respect the rights and culture of others. The U.S. Constitution protects every citizen, regardless of race, creed, gender or religion and patriots recognize that the diversity of beliefs and people are part and parcel of a great nation. Today, that means understanding that those who practice Islam are as American and as likely to be patriots as any other group of citizens and deserve the same respect, rights and protections.
•obey the law. Patriots do not break the law – including those of states, counties and municipalities. We are a nation of laws; patriots are law abiders who understand how laws are made in a democracy and the importance of their enforcement.
•challenge the unacceptable. The government is not always right, not always truthful, not always forthcoming, but what makes America great is the right we have as voters and citizens to challenge and change that which is wrong. Those who love their country want government at all levels to respect the rights and liberties of the people and to act morally. They will challenge government when it fails in that capacity.
•be vigilant in regard to public officials and institutions. Our leaders are but humans subject to a myriad of weaknesses. Patriots do not follow blindly. They question, seek clarification and weigh the facts for themselves before forming opinions and making decisions based on what they think is best for their country.
Patriots are no more of one accord than Baptists or baseball fans. They can be found in all religious and political affiliations, on all sides of any issue. They are as diverse as the American population, but have one thing in common: they love their country, want what's best for it and they act accordingly.
Ribbons and flags are colorful symbols; true patriotism, real love of and dedication to country, requires action every day.

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