More Jackson County Opinions...

MAY 7, 2003

By:Bill Shipp
The Jackson Herald
May 7, 2003

While state government fiddled
While the government of “New Georgia” frittered away the first four months of 2003, a not-so-funny thing happened in parts of rural Georgia.
Population declined sharply for the first time in more than a decade. The slide has been evident for at least the past 24 months.
And the population of several of Georgia’s middle-sized cities grew only because of an increase in births to impoverished, unwed mothers - not because of in-migration.
In fact, “white flight” has evolved into “bright flight” as middle-class African-Americans joined whites in exiting Georgia’s rural and urban areas in the first three years of the 21st century.
This dismal statistical portrait of the great reaches of New Georgia - as the recently empowered Republicans like to call our state - is contained in an analysis by UGA Professor Douglas Bachtel of census data from 2000 through 2002.
As the economy sagged at the beginning of this century, the state’s population began shifting dramatically in some areas. A total of 28 counties, nearly all in rural South Georgia, lost population in the first three years of the 21st century.
The loss, says Bachtel, “is related to the lack of a diversified economy, trouble in agriculture, timber, and the inability of small-scale economies to withstand serious downturns in the national economy. . Communities losing population face major problems of providing fundamental public services such as education and community-based health facilities. Without these particular services, it becomes difficult to retain coming generations and nearly impossible to attract new industries and families. Once a population starts to decline, it becomes extremely difficult to reverse the process or to resume past levels of development.”
Compare the declines of 2000-02 to the booming 1990s when only eight Georgia counties experienced population losses.
What’s going on here?
According to Bachtel, the declines occurred as major employers exited and residents moved away to seek jobs and/or better schools for their youngsters.
Overall, Georgia’s population increased 4.6 percent (373,857 people) from 2000 to 2002 to become the fifth fastest-growing state on a percentage basis. But the bulk of the growth was in metro Atlanta (minus the City of Atlanta and DeKalb County) and in north Georgia. Eighty-seven of the state’s 159 counties grew at a rate lower than the state average. Just forty-four counties matched or exceeded the state’s average growth rate.
Notably, the fastest-growing counties, almost without exception, had the best-performing school systems, Bachtel says.
Conversely, the declining counties had the lowest-achieving schools. According to Bachtel, the lagging counties have another common characteristic: More than half of their births are to unwed mothers, nearly all of whom are low-income African-Americans.
The stagnant cities have a similar problem: Too many babies born to uneducated single mothers.
On the bright side, high-performance school systems attract new residents, more affluence, stable families, better quality of life, etc.
If better schools eradicate poverty, induce family stability and attract new residents, doesn’t it make sense to upgrade the school systems across the state, especially in the declining areas?
Sure it does. But that obvious fact has failed to register on the government of New Georgia. Education improvement, a part of every administration for 40 years, was all but ignored the last legislative session.
The General Assembly enacted, with encouragement from Gov. Perdue, reinstatement of teacher tenure. Translation: no teacher can be fired without administrative and judicial review. Once again, unqualified and incompetent teachers enjoy virtual untouchable job security.
Reinstating tenure was only one small step backward for Georgia. Most of the other burgeoning people problems received no attention at all. The General Assembly and Gov. Perdue seemed too preoccupied with the inner workings of state government - redistricting the state Senate, changing flags, fighting over a House speaker, expanding executive office space, battling with the attorney general over legal turf, dictating official standards of conduct, etc. All this self-absorption came at the expense of making actual improvements to the quality of life in the state.
Perhaps the new government of New Georgia has purged itself in 2003 of the need to immerse itself in internal process. Maybe next year it can forgo the navel gazing and begin to address substantive issues, the impact of which extends beyond the corridors of state office buildings.
True, many of these long-term social problems are ultimately beyond the fixit function of state government. However, the state has a responsibility to identify trouble spots, shift resources and improve services to try to reverse trends of decline.
You can reach Bill Shipp at P.O. Box 440755, Kennesaw, GA 30160 or by calling (770) 422-2543, e-mail:, Web address:

Jackson County Opinion Index

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By: Rochelle Beckstine
The Jackson Herald
May 7, 2003

Water: You may not be getting enough
Most Americans are chronically dehydrated, but the average American believes he is drinking enough.
A study conducted by Yankelovich Partners for the Nutrition Information Center at The New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center found the average American drinks only half the recommended daily minimum amount of 64 ounces and does not know that caffeniated and carbonated beverages actually remove water from the body. So the end result is the average American gets only one third of the water they need to live well.
Why do we really need water anyway?
Water plays a significant role in every body function. It acts as a lubricant between bones, helps digest food and turns food into energy, regulates body temperature and maintains muscle tone. Water removes toxins and other wastes and is necessary for successful weight loss. It carries nutrients and oxygen to every cell in the body and protects and cushions vital organs, including the spinal cord.
What will happen if I don’t drink enough water?
Even mild dehydration slows down a body’s metabolism by as much as three percent. And a two percent drop in body water can trigger fuzzy short-term memory, trouble with basic math and difficulty focusing on the computer screen or on a printed page. Furthermore, amazingly it is not a lack of sleep that triggers daytime fatigue, but a lack of water. So before you try sleeping off your weariness, drink a tall glass of water.
More seriously, without water, blood thickens making it difficult for the heart to pump and distribute water to the rest of the body. Plus, capillaries shut down creating obstacles for nutrients circulating to vital organs. A lack of water leads to muscle pain and abdominal cramping.
The body’s most important organ, the brain, is 85 percent water. A temporary loss of water causes dizziness, confusion and irritability. A long term lack of water can cause permanent damage to the brain. Water also cushions the brain, so without water the brain is more vulnerable to injury.
Can water really cure what ails me?
The days when stage coaches pedaled the “Miracle Cure” from town to town may be gone, but water still packs a punch. In addition to keeping your body running smoothly, eight to 10 glasses of water a day could significantly ease back and joint pain for up to 80 percent of sufferers. Plus, consuming water can reduce the risk or prevent kidney stone formation. Best of all, five glasses of water a day decreases the risk of colon cancer by 45 percent, slashes the risk of breast cancer by 79 percent and a person is 50 percent less likely to develop bladder cancer.
Should I drink water even if I’m not thirsty?
You may be thirsty and just not know it. The thirst mechanism is so weak in 37 percent of Americans that they mistake it for hunger. And as people age, their percentage of reserve body water lowers while their sense of thirst dulls.
(Too much of a good thing is always bad so don’t funnel water into your body. It can be lethal.)
So how much is enough?
The old standby is eight eight ounce glasses minimum, but recently the Mayo Clinic and other high profile health centers have advised taking your body weight in pounds, dividing it by 2 and drinking that many ounces a day. For every ounce of caffeniated or alcoholic beverages, drink another ounce of water. If you exercise, take that into account also. has a useful calculator for computing individual water needs taking into account a myriad of factors.
Can I count juice or milk towards my daily requirement?
No. Sugary soft drinks, juices and milk contain concentrated nutrients and qualify more as food than fluid and increase water needs.
Rochelle Beckstine is a columnist for MainStreet Newspapers.
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