The Jackson Herald
June 25, 2003
Whatever happened to Jimmy Stewart?
Perhaps Jack was having a midlife crisis. Or maybe he really believed he could make a difference. Whatever the reason, Jack decided about three months ago to run for Congress.
Jack is not his real name. He doesnt want his identity spread around. A few weeks back he was trying to figure out how he could make the name his parents gave him into a household word. Now he yearns for anonymity. Jack is afraid somebody will one day use his now-shelved political ambitions against him. And, who knows? He might change his mind and run after all. For now, however, Jacks plan to seek a U.S. House seat is on indefinite hold.
The story of why Jack wanted to go for Congress then retreated from the idea is instructive and sad. It tells us something about our modern democracy we may not want to hear.
The truth is, our man Jack is eminently qualified to be a member of Congress. As both an attorney and a certified public accountant, he understands pressing issues (taxation, for instance) better than anyone I know, including every member of the Georgia House delegation. Jack, who is in his early 50s, has been active in civic organizations and his church and is generally successful and well liked. But he yearned to do something more: to represent in Washington the interests of the small business guy the fellow who carries the heaviest load and makes the republic work. But Jack had a problem or two, and...
Lets not get ahead of the story. This tale begins with Zell Miller announcing he would not seek another term in the U.S. Senate, and 6th District Rep. Johnny Isakson deciding he would leave the House to run for the Senate.
Several well-known political figures immediately declared their intentions to succeed Isakson. Among them: State Sens. Tom Price, Chuck Clay and Robert Lamutt, state Rep. Roger Hines and former Newt Gingrich aide John McCallum.
Jack looked over the prospective field and decided he might still have a chance to win in the 6th District, despite the fact that the other contenders are established public figures. He asked his wife what she thought. She said, in effect, Are you nuts?
Then he spoke with friends about his political prospects. They presented several arguments against running. Among them: It would take $1 million to build name recognition, and You dont look like a politician.
He interviewed two former statewide candidates, one a winner, the other a loser. The loser said, The campaign was a bad experience. Asking for money is gut-wrenching. The winner said, You could be a breath of fresh air with new ideas, but raising money would be very difficult until you could prove, by being in the runoff, that you were a viable candidate.
He talked to his pastor, who told him not to do it unless the wife said OK. She finally did.
He hired a freelance TV producer to make a tape of him going through a tough, under-the-lights interview. A panel scored his performance: 8 out of 10 on content, 7 out of 10 for appearance. Pretty good for a first-timer, but still not good enough to be elected in this field of candidates.
Jack asked a couple of professional political observers how they would rate his chances of winning. Their estimates ranged from a low of 1 out of 100 chances to a high of 15 out of 100. In other words, a very long shot.
Being an accountant, Jack sat down with a legal pad and added up the pros and cons. This is what he said he decided:
Since I have no political experience and no name recognition, raising money for the primary would be extremely difficult. Therefore, I would have to borrow money and personally guarantee a loan for a great deal of money until I made the runoff. Once I made the runoff, then contributions would come forward. I am not willing to take that kind of financial risk.
My family, though now somewhat supportive, would not want to subject themselves to what appears to be a very unpleasant experience.
Without some kind of assurance that I had a chance to win, I would hate to ask people for money.
And just about all his advisers told him he needed to shave off his beard. Jack said he wasnt about to do that.
Too bad. He might have made a fine candidate and an even better congressman. But the days of Jimmy Stewart and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington are long gone. No-name candidates, no matter how wise or idealistic or qualified they may be, are not big box-office draws in the current political environment. We could say that is the new American political reality, except its not new; politics has been this way for a long, long time.
You can reach Bill Shipp at P.O. Box 440755, Kennesaw, GA 30160 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Web address: http://www.billshipp.com
By: Adam Fouche
The Jackson Herald
June 25, 2003
Growth not the biggest threat to rural areas
Make no mistake about it. The Banks-Jackson-Madison area is one of the fastest growing in the state of Georgia.
Im not that old, but land that was once forests and fields when I was a kid has been replaced with new homes, subdivisions and industries. Even parts of my old neighborhood in Commerce look vastly different.
And the rural landscape continues to change as expanding four-lane highways reach farther and farther into the countryside.
But the biggest threat to the rural serenity of northeast Georgia doesnt come from development moving out of Athens or Gwinnett County. It comes from those who live here now and have, primarily, since birth.
I spent one morning last week riding with a Georgia Department of Natural Resources Ranger around just a small fraction of rural Banks County.
Too many of the remaining dirt roads have become make-shift dumps for old appliances and used tires.
Creeks are littered with hunks of metal and discarded automobile parts. And more than a few times a week someone will dump household garbage alongside the countys pristine dirt roads.
DNR Ranger Winford Popphan has already arrested six for trash-related violations in Banks County this month.
The problems arent limited to Banks County either, with the same mess strewn across Madison and Jackson counties as well.
Madison County code enforcement officer Jack Huff said he may work anywhere between 40-50 trash-related cases per month there.
The major problem, he said, comes from car littering, most of which is hard to prosecute. Inmates usually pick up a large portion of that mess.
Large dump sites arent as much of a problem in Madison County, where the local transfer station takes junk metal, including old appliances, for free.
In Banks County, those who are caught dumping trash are usually forced to clean up the mess they have made and often times the trash that others have left behind.
But many of the offenders are never found. So the evidence of their laziness remains an eyesore to an area where nature becomes harder to find.
And those who enjoy the outdoors are really left to suffer. Human trash pollutes the land and water that sustains our wildlife populationthe same population we hunt and fish for and often times end up eating.
Im not too content with eating deer that have been feeding off another persons garbage or cooking fish that make their home in discarded refrigerators leaking all sorts of toxic coolants.
Fortunately, we all can help the problem caused by other people. In Jackson County, littering and illegal dumping violators can be reported to the county marshals office at 706-367-8935.
Northeast Georgia may be losing a lot of its countryside to development, but its already lost much more to the laziness of a few inconsiderate citizens.
Adam Fouche is a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers. His email address is email@example.com.