Jackson County Opinions...

APRIL 23, 2003

By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
April 23, 2003

Thieves Don’t Care Who The
Victims Are
Bill Warnell is not a happy man, but if you know who stole the boat he and his son, Davis, 10, labored for nine months to make, you can probably make him happy again.
Being an insurance agent, Warnell is no stranger to theft reports. There are plenty of sorry people out there who'll drive off in your car, use your Social Security number to get a credit card, write checks on your bank account if they happen across your checkbook and who will walk right in your house and lift your DVD player without the slightest twinge of conscience.
Had they stolen his car or his tractor from his Waterworks Road property, Warnell might have been mad. But when they stole the fruits of a father-son construction effort, that's enough to make any Dad furious.
He's offering a $250 award for information leading to the conviction of whoever stole the boat.
"The boat is not worth $250, but the opportunity to prosecute the person responsible for stealing a 10-year-old boy's boat is," Warnell observed. "We've only put it in the water twice."
There is also a reward for the recovery of the boat, which is 11 feet long, plywood, with a V-front. It is grey, has a red top rail and a Georgia Bulldog "G" on the transom.
Even if it is re-painted, this boat should not be hard to identify. How many plywood boats have you seen recently?
If you see this one, call Warnell at 338-5537. Davis would be glad to get his boat back and Warnell would enjoy making the perpetrator pay for this crime.
Stealing from a child is akin to stealing from a church, but the truth is, thieves have absolutely no honor whatsoever and care not who suffers. They'll snatch a $1,000 irreplaceable ring your grandmother gave you on her deathbed and pawn it for $100, which they'll spend on crack cocaine. Remorse? Only when they're caught and facing jail time, because it's harder to acquire the drugs in jail.
All a thief needs is opportunity. Leave a door unlocked while you grocery shop or pay for gasoline, and a thief will enter your vehicle. A guest at your house Friday night may forge checks from your checkbook Saturday. Most thefts are perpetrated by friends, family or roommates. After keeping your property secure, the best way to avoid theft is to be discriminate about your choice of friends. If they do drugs or if they steal from other people, they will steal from you.
As Jackson County transitions from rural to urban, theft will become more prevalent due to more potential thieves and more potential victims. If you've never been a victim of a theft, the law of averages will catch you if you're not careful.
Theft prevention is a new industry. A home security system is now a must. Home shredders are considered essential to keep people from getting crucial financial data from your trash, and spotting shoplifters is part of customer service in the retail world. This ain’t Mayberry RFD.
There’s a lot of sorry SOBs out there who don’t mind stealing, even from kids. Ask Bill Warnell. And keep your eye out for a plywood boat.

The Jackson Herald
April 23, 2003

Tired of flag flap
With all the major issues confronting state government, we’re disappointed that the debate over the state flag has dominated the waning days of the legislative session.
Poor planning and uncontrolled state spending has left a huge state budget deficit. While a proposed tobacco tax has gotten a lot of attention, some of the state’s problems will no doubt be put on the backs of local property taxpayers. That’s especially true in education where state funding has been cut, forcing local school systems to plan tax hikes to cover some basic costs.
But rather than deal with those complex and important issues, the General Assembly has wasted time by jumping back into the contentious flag debate.
This isn’t the year to tackle that issue. In politics, timing is everything. This wasn’t the year for state leaders to undertake that debate.

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By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
April 23, 2003

Personal vendettas driving
BOC decisions
You have to give the Jackson County Board of Commissioners credit for being consistent — consistently vengeful and arrogant.
This group has the notion that all decision-making in Jackson County flows from their hands, that no group is as important and powerful as the BOC and that no other voices should be heard unless they sit on the “committee of five.”
At times, their self-important views are amusing. One commissioner told me that local towns were just “political subdivisions of the county government.” The implication was, of course, that the county government was, by law, more important and powerful than town governments.
But the truth is, municipal governments are political subdivisions of the state and are created by the state. They are not subservient to county governments. Indeed, at one time city governments in Georgia actually had more authority and power than county governments.
This misplaced sense of power has driven many of the controversies that now engulf the BOC. It is at the heart of the courthouse controversy, was at the center of the takeover of the county-city planning commission, drove the failed attempt to take over the county water authority and is now driving a move to take control of the county’s economic development efforts.
This board has, more than any government I’ve ever seen, serious delusions of grandeur. Making that worse is this feeling of omnipotence is now combined with the desire to carry out personal attacks against perceived “enemies” of BOC control. That is a dangerous combination, one that will continue to create turmoil in Jackson County.
The BOC’s latest takeover move is a case in point. The desire by some on the board to take control of economic development is driven by an extreme sense of paranoia and a desire to exact revenge for perceived past transgressions. That’s especially true with commissioner Sammy Thomason who is leading the charge for a BOC economic development takeover.
At the heart of Thomason’s move is the age-old jealousy between his home in the City of Commerce and the rival City of Jefferson. Commerce political leaders have long felt that Jefferson had too much political power and although smaller, was getting more than its fair share of growth.
It is a sentiment still echoed by some Commerce leaders today. They complain that the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce doesn’t bring Commerce the kind of new industries that Jefferson has gotten.
At its core, this is the regional politics which underlies the current attempt by Thomason and his board to take control of economic development. Egged on by Commerce political leaders, Thomason has launched an attack on the chamber of commerce and its executive director, Pepe Cummings. Moreover, he wants to get control of the Jackson County Industrial Development Authority, the funding group for many of the county’s large economic development projects.
Let’s be clear about this: Thomason’s motive for the proposed takeover is political and is a personal vendetta, nothing more. It is the result of the BOC’s new election-by-district system which has split Jackson County into petty fifedoms over which individual commissioners wish to rule.
The truth is, Commerce leaders have always complained about Jefferson. Yet the facts show that the reason Jefferson has gotten the lion’s share of new industry during the last decade was due to two things: First, the town is closer to metro Atlanta than Commerce; and second, Jefferson put the infrastructure in place to attract industry in the 1980s while Commerce political leaders were bickering and self-destructing.
Today, however, Commerce leaders want the chamber and IDA to hand the city new industries on a silver platter, yet Commerce leaders have done little on their own to create the dynamics for that to happen.
Jefferson political leadership has had its faults over the years, but the one thing they’ve done right is to create the atmosphere and infrastructure for industrial growth.
This isn’t a new move that Thomason and company are pursuing. Former county commission chairman Jerry Waddell also sought to take control of the chamber of commerce and IDA in the mid-1990s, a move that was a huge failure for the county.
And that’s the issue which the BOC is missing in this entire debate. Because of its past takeover efforts, this BOC has alienated scores of supporters, including many municipal leaders.
The exception, of course, is some Commerce leaders who have prostituted themselves on behalf of the BOC.
The irony of all that is this: While Thomason and the BOC mess around with another takeover attempt, those seeking to locate industries in Jackson County are quietly distancing themselves from the county government. Rather, they are choosing to work with either Braselton or Jefferson city leaders on local projects, bypassing the county government for a more favorable, and less political, partner.
If Thomason and his political prostitutes in Commerce wonder why they don’t get new industries, perhaps they should take a look in the mirror. What industry would want to get in bed with them?
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.

The Commerce News
April 23, 2003

Time To Put The
Courthouse On Hold
It’s taken a long time, but finally two of Jackson County’s five commissioners have figured out that the public is adamantly opposed to putting a new courthouse at the remote Darnell Road location and wisely suggested putting the project on hold. But that hasn’t stopped the others from forging ahead.
When this project is finally stopped, as it surely will be, the commissioners will not only have squandered millions of dollars, but will also have wasted a public consensus that a new courthouse is very much needed. The public is not opposed to building the courthouse; it’s opposed to putting it in such a remote location. Unfortunately, as these commissioners continue to toss good money after bad, they set the whole process back and jeopardize any future effort to build in a practical location.
This week, the commissioners are showing off the design of a building, but a public already put off by the location will have little interest in giving due consideration to style, form and function. Until there is a consensus on location, how can there be a consensus on what the building should look like?
Jackson County needs a new courthouse. It also needs a new jail and additional space for many of its offices. But the Darnell Road only approach, along with the attempt to prevent the public from voting on the financing (and the heavy-handed dealings with the water and sewerage authority) have put the county’s ability to accomplish any major project in jeopardy.
Jackson County cannot afford to proceed with this project without the approval of its citizens. It’s time to listen to the two commissioners who finally understand and put the courthouse on hold.

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