Jackson County Opinions...

MAY 14, 2003

By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
May 14, 2003

Houses Don’t
Help Government
Bottom Line
One thing I find tiresome in covering government meetings is the attitude of residential developers that they're helping cities and the county financially by building houses.
Invariably, they mention "increasing the tax base" as though we should send thank-you notes for their contribution to our well-being.
A developer making a recent pitch to the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority made that statement, and sweetened it by pointing out that his project would be in "an undeveloped part" of the county.
Gee, thanks. Those fields and forests are so annoying.
True, houses generate tax revenue. The problem is, they also generate expenses in the form of roads, schools, water and sewer lines, drainage, police, public health and law enforcement services. It takes a house valued at $300,000 to $400,000 just to generate property taxes to cover the costs relating to the people in those houses. We don't have many houses like that.
To the bottom line of government, houses, mobile homes and apartments are all money-losers.
That's not to say that we don't need them. We live in a high-growth area and we're going to see new developments springing up like dandelions for decades. The people who will live in those developments bring vitality and diversity – and often needed leadership. They also provide a labor force that can be used to help entice tax-heavy industry.
It's just that while subdivisions do increase the tax digest, the new tax revenue is offset two or three times by the increased cost to government. We need industrial and commercial development, which provide massive amounts of property tax revenue, to subsidize the costs associated with the people in all those houses.
With the proliferation of local option sales taxes (Jackson County has three), retail establishments have become an increasingly important part of the tax mix. That's why the Tanger Outlet Center is crucial to Jackson County, providing huge amounts of cash to help build roads, water and sewer lines and, most importantly, schools.
Unfortunately, many of the new residents of these subdivisions work and are oriented to Athens, Gainesville or Atlanta and that's where they shop. Their sales tax dollars build infrastructure elsewhere.
This poses a dilemma for the Commerce Board of Education and Commerce City Council, which at their retreat agreed (among other things) to create a joint committee to work on annexation. If the city annexes raw land or subdivisions, the school funding will worsen. The two groups created a committee to work industrial growth too, but residential developers are crawling out of the woodwork, while industrial and commercial developers are more selective and slower to arrive.
We do need to enlarge the city limits for long-term economic viability, but if doing so contributes to the growing imbalance in the tax digest, school taxes will soar.
The last thing we need to do is to encourage residential development. We’re getting plenty. Our economic development effort should be aimed at commercial and industrial development - because residential growth causes taxes to go up.

The Jackson Herald
May 14, 2003

New flag a good solution
The 2001 change of the Georgia state flag was one of the worst examples of political leadership in the state’s history. Behind closed doors, Gov. Roy Barnes and a handful of powerful allies created, then rammed, a new state flag on Georgia citizens. There was no political debate and no effort to build public consensus for the change.
We say all that knowing that Gov. Barnes recently received a “Profiles in Courage” award for that action.
But that award was not deserved. Yes, some hailed the move as the “solution” to Georgia’s image problem. The “old” flag from 1956 had the St. Andrew’s Cross on it, a relic of many Civil War battle flags that was often interpreted as a sign of defiance to school integration taking place in the mid-1950s.
Whatever the connotations of the 1956 flag, the 2001 flag was worse. Not only was it adopted without any public input or debate, it is ugly.
Now, two years later, a new “new” flag is flying over the state capitol and next year, voters will get the chance to decide between it and the ugly 2001 banner.
While this latest version won’t stop all the debate, it seems to us a reasonable compromise that many voters will support.
While the 2003 flag doesn’t have the St. Andrew’s Cross on it, it does echo the historic design of the First National Flag of the Confederacy. Indeed, it is similar to the pre-1956 flag that served Georgia for decades.
And it’s a clean, neat design that looks far better than the cluttered Barnes Banner of 2001.
But most importantly, this new design came about after debate in the Georgia General Assembly. All sides of the flag issue had a chance to have their say and while the decision ultimately fell to our elected state leaders, it wasn’t done behind closed doors in secret, as happened in 2001.
It’s time for Georgia to put this flag issue to rest. We believe the new flag can do that and that a majority of Georgia citizens will agree next year by supporting the 2003 design.

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By Mike Buffington
The Commerce News
May 14, 2003

Bittersweet thoughts
at graduation
I’ve long thought about doing a special story this time of year. At the end of each school year, I look back on my high school graduation and consider doing a story on that Class of 1977 — where is everyone? What have they done with their lives? Have they fulfilled their dreams?
Seems like yesterday, but so much time has passed. I look at the kids graduating this year, at my niece, and at the sons and daughters of friends, and see them experiencing the same combination of hope and fear that we all felt during our own graduations so long ago.
For those over age 30, and especially over age 40, there is a bittersweet taste that comes with the graduation season. When we look at those graduating from local high schools next week, it will be with this thought: “If I only knew at that age what I know now...”
Without a doubt, the years following high school graduation are the most critical years in a person’s lifetime. During those years, most people make important decisions that will affect them for the rest of their lives — education, jobs, spouses.
We choose our futures at a time when frankly, we are ill-equipped financially and emotionally to make such choices. The heady taste of new found freedom is powerful. It is also scary because suddenly, the safety net below us is being jerked away. Everything is changing all at once. It’s a lot to ask of an 18-year-old.
I think that’s why a lot of people at that age simply refuse to make any decisions at all. Rather than pursue a dream, or make any direct choices about life, they simply drift until drifting itself becomes so comfortable, any thought of breaking away becomes virtually impossible.
That process is not restricted to any gender, race, economic situation or academic background. Sometimes the kids who were at the top of the academic heap in high school fail to translate that talent into positive “real life” experiences. They drift, allowing the tug and pull of life’s tides to set their course.
On the other hand, I’ve seen those of mediocre academic ability set goals and pursue a more focused agenda. In life after high school, they achieve far more than anyone ever expected of them.
I sometimes wonder just where those years of “schooling” fit into our lives. What is it that we really learned in school that stays with us and makes a difference in the decades after graduation?
One writer tackled that theme in a popular book, “All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten.” It had nothing to do with academics, but everything to do with “life lessons” taught in kindergarten — share, don’t hit, play fair, clean up your own mess.
I think he’s on to something. Certainly, the fundamental academic skills learned in school are important. But so are the lessons learned on the playground, or athletic field, or in the band room. They all have a place in our lives and direct us toward who we become in later life.
But while reflecting on our high school past is often tinged with nostalgia, it is sometimes too easy to make that era the highlight of our lives. We all know people who never quite grew up from high school, individuals who feel they achieved the pinnacle of their life’s ambition by age 18. Even decades later, they relive the “glory” of their youth, the winning goal or touchdown, or have a resume padded with academic achievements that date back a couple decades.
There is a fine balance in all that. Even as we celebrate the graduation of friends and family members, we also know that the relative sheltered world of high school can never really prepare a teenager for the tides of life. We hope they remember their high school days fondly, but that they also move forward with new pursuits.
Someday, I’m going to write that story of my graduating class and ask my peers what advice they would have for new graduates. What do they wish they knew at age 18 that they now know? What wisdom have they developed since their teenage years?
I know that such wisdom will be lost on those who need it most. Each generation must make its own mistakes and learn life’s lessons not from a book, but from experience.
The old saying is true: Youth is wasted on the young.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.

The Commerce News
May 14, 2003

Graduates Now Ready
For Life’s Challenges
Congratulations to the 67 Commerce High School seniors who graduate Friday night and to the hundreds of seniors who will graduate at Jackson County Comprehensive and Jefferson High School a week later. You're reaching an important milestone in life.
The ceremony in which you receive a slip of paper acknowledging that you've completed high school also signifies the official arrival of adulthood. Although many of you will continue to rely on Mom and Dad for support for several more years, you are all at least beginning to be on your own. With that freedom comes great responsibility, but you should be prepared to handle it.
Those immediately entering the full-time work world will find themselves making all their own decisions – when to get up, how to spend leisure time, how to budget money. Those pursuing more education will not be quite so independent, but will also have much greater freedom and control of their own lives. Mom and Dad may offer financial and other support, but how you progress from here on is up to each of you. You control your own destiny.
Decisions you make relating to behavior, career, opportunity and spouse are of critical importance and will to a large degree determine whether you find "success" or happiness. All of you will make some poor decisions that will cause you to suffer; a few of those decisions will be life altering, even ruinous. You have the knowledge and ability to live happy and productive lives, but achieving those ends also requires good decision-making skills.
Enjoy your success and apply yourselves as diligently to the next task, be it college, technical school, the military, the workplace or parenthood. You will find great similarities between your life in the next few years and your high school career. Hard work, character and self-discipline are still necessary and good friends are just as important. Life isn't always fair and success won't always make you successful, but take solace in the fact that you're ready to take on the next challenge. You've equipped yourselves with the knowledge and tools to make your own positive mark in the world.
To the Class of 2003, congratulations and good luck.

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