Jackson County Opinions...

SEPTEMBER 24, 2003



Column
By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
September 24, 2003

Holding Out Hope For Sam Brown’s Recovery
I wish I had a dollar for every time since Friday I’ve heard “Can you believe that about Sam Brown?” or some variation.
No, on second thought, that wouldn’t do anything to reduce the sense of shock and loss at seeing a long-time and good city councilman taken down by a heart attack, almost without warning. My city councilman, for that matter.
I would not say that I’ve agreed with every vote Sam has made, but I can’t recall offhand the occasions upon which he and I parted company. On the other hand, I remember clearly several instances when I asked him to bring something up at a council meeting or get something done; he always did.
Maybe it’s just part of being in a small town where your government is so accessible, or perhaps it’s familiarity because I cover city council meetings. Whatever, but to me it seemed that Sam’s responses came more like those of a friend and neighbor than of a city councilman, and I saw the same kind of reaction when other people sought him out.
Seldom did a meeting pass without Sam having some small but important (to some constituent) issue that city staff needed to resolve, whether a drainage problem on Scott Street or a rough utility cut on Clayton. He knows his ward and all of the people in it.
They say the odds of Sam recovering are slim, a tragedy for his family and a source of great sadness to a huge circle of people. Politicians, even on the local level, are apt to be widely known and even admired, but people universally like Sam because he’s a such a good man. He is willing to talk with anyone, has an easy laugh (I’d swear it has a drawl) and is outgoing. He’s also an effective city official, one of our firemen, a strong booster of his school system and a member of a local church. Those things, plus the fact that he’s lived here forever make him even more well-known, but not everybody who is well-known is also known as a “good guy,” the two words I’ve heard most often in describing him.
Commerce has benefitted from stability in its government and Sam is part of that. If he’s had opposition more than once since 1989, I can’t recall it. Nothing serious, I’m sure. He’s been too good and too approachable to give people any incentive to support someone else. Those of us who live in Ward 3 know we can ask him to do something or find something and he will – or give a sound reason why he cannot.
As of this writing, we still cling to hope that Sam will get well and we pray for his recovery and for his wife, Debbie, and sons Michael and Gary. And one more time we are reminded that life is not something we can count on, for ourselves or our loved ones. We get reminded of that all too often, but nonetheless, we take it all for granted.
As Sam struggles, his nephew Eric Redmon is making good progress in overcoming the injuries from his June accident. Judging from the community response to Eric, he shares that “good” quality with his uncle. Who can ask for a better adjective than that to describe one’s overall character?


 Editorials
The Jackson Herald
September 24, 2003

Citizens group should stay the course
It is good that the group pursuing a lawsuit against the Jackson County Board of Commissioners has decided to appeal the suit to the Georgia Supreme Court.
Last week’s ruling by a visiting Superior Court judge in favor of the BOC was not justice for the citizens of Jackson County. Indeed, it is clear that judge did not seriously weigh the evidence in the case.
Make no mistake, this lawsuit is stepping on the toes of some of the most powerful groups in the state, including both the city and county state associations and the influential bond lawyers in Atlanta.
At issue is this question: Is the $25 million lease-purchase financing for a new courthouse proposed by the BOC really long-term debt? If it is debt, then the citizens have the right to vote on the matter.
We believe what the BOC proposes to do is debt and should go before voters.
This case is a test of the honesty of our judicial system. Either the Georgia Constitution means what it says, or it doesn’t.
No doubt the BOC will now proceed with its deal and continue spending money on its new courthouse.
But make no mistake, this facility is not a building for the citizens of Jackson County — it is a monument to the egos of our political leaders.
We believe the Supreme Court will be more honest in its evaluation of the merits of this case. We applaud the concerned citizens’ group for its tenacity and willingness to stay the course.

 

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Column
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
September 24, 2003

A lesson in real leadership from the creation of JEMC
You’ve probably never heard of J.W. Jackson. And the date of April 10, 1939, holds no importance for most readers of this column.
But it’s because of Mr. Jackson’s leadership and the event which took place on 4-10-1939 that many of you are able to see and read this page.
In this era of rapid local growth, it’s easy to forget about the rural, agrarian roots which at one time characterized the lifestyle in Jackson County.
With nostalgia, we look back today on this past “rural life” with a sense of longing — if only today life could be that simple!
But in the era pre-1939, life in rural Jackson County was mostly a hard scrabbled existence. The farmer’s lot, and that of his family, was difficult. Few modern conveniences had found their way into their rural homes.
The reason was that rural farms had no electricity to power conveniences that were increasingly common in towns and cities across America. Even small towns had access to electricity by the 1930s and there was a growing cultural and social divide between the “city folks” and “country folks” because only the former had access to power.
It was a national problem in many rural areas and in 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt created the Rural Electrification Administration to bring electricity to rural farms across America.
At about the same time, J.W. Jackson became the county agent in Jackson County. From that position of working with farmers, he saw the need for bringing electricity to rural homes and farms.
In 1936, Jackson held meetings in rural schoolhouses all across the county to discuss a plan to bring electricity to rural farms. But the effort failed to get approval in Washington D.C.
The next year, Jackson tried a new tactic. At the time, he was president of the Commerce Kiwanis Club and through that civic organization, he organized a meeting of Jackson, Banks and Madison County farmers to discuss forming a co-op to deliver electricity to rural farms in all three counties.
In May, 1938, a large meeting was held in Commerce to select directors from all three counties for an electric cooperative. The following month, on June 27, 1938, the REA granted a charter to the group which formally created Jackson Electric Membership Corporation.
It took a lot of legwork, including a trip to Washington D.C., by Mr. Jackson and others involved in the project to get that far. But the process had hardly begun.
It took six more months of paperwork before any real work began on putting up power lines.
Finally, on January 2, 1939, work began at Post #17 on the Commerce-Jefferson Road, near the location of the current JEMC building. From that point, poles and powerlines were erected across the county, often using mules to drag poles into areas where vehicles couldn’t go.
Then came the biggest day of all: April 10, 1939. At a point near the Jefferson water treatment plant on the Commerce-Jefferson Road, the first 100 miles of power lines was turned on at 3:30 p.m. following a ceremony of speeches and back-slapping. Some 250 families in Jackson, Banks and Madison counties received electricity that day. Rural electrification had arrived.
Among the diverse areas to get electricity that day was the county prison camp (then a chain-gang facility) and Dry Pond Methodist Church. Families from Pendergrass to Nicholson came out of the dark as electricity gave them light.
This Thursday, Sept. 25, JEMC is hosting its annual membership meeting. It is a meeting with deep roots in Jackson and surrounding counties, roots that hark back to those early days when rural farms finally got electricity.
But that effort was bigger than just electricity. It is a lesson of leadership; of how one man built a consensus, organized a core group for support and did the legwork necessary to make a vision become reality.
Leadership was the foundation on which JEMC was built and the firm continues to provide community leadership today.
And that’s an achievement worth remembering.

(The dates and information in this column came from a document written by Charles Dawson about the early years of JEMC.)
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.


Editorial
The Commerce News
September 24, 2003

Terrorism Preparation Has Other Benefits
This week’s reports on U.S. interrogations of Sept. 11 architect Kahlid Shaikh Mohammed present a chilling reminder that Osama bin Laden has more and bigger plans for terrorist attacks against the United States and other western nations.
Prudence dictates that we do whatever is possible to both prevent and respond to future attacks, and a story elsewhere in this issue shows that even in rural Jackson County steps are being taken to increase preparedness. County and city governments, large and small, are all taking steps to be better prepared if and when bin Laden strikes again.
Sept. 11 and the anthrax attacks that followed demonstrated the nation’s vulnerability to attack and showed shortcomings in its ability to respond to the victims of those attacks. They reminded us that America has enemies from without and from within.
As America begins to build a system to respond to terrorist attacks, however, a collateral benefit is that its ability to handle other more likely disasters, from hurricanes and tornadoes to multi-car accidents or mass transit accidents also improves. What is being developed is a Civil Defense-style system, focused on terrorism, but which can be activated at any time there is a need.
In Jackson County, for example, representatives of all local governments and many agencies are making plans and assessing their needs should such an event occur in or near Jackson County. Better communications, a wider variety of equipment and a clear command structure will be forthcoming; already, the county is due to receive a mobile unit that can provide treatment for up to 100 victims. Very few of even the most paranoid Jackson County officials see a likelihood of a terrorist attack against a local target, but as they prepare for what could happen, they also acknowledge that those preparations could save lives in the more likely event of a natural disaster or large industrial accident.
It is only prudent to prepare for a terrorist attack the best we can in this uncertain world. It is more comforting, however, to understand that those preparations will make local agencies better able to respond to disasters that are less sinister in origin but disasters just the same.
In a crazy sort of irony, the threat of terrorism will actually save lives even as the terrorists try to find ways to kill and maim. All over America, governments like ours are working behind the scenes to be better prepared to react if terrorists strike – and they’ll also be better able to provide relief when a tornado hits, a bus wrecks or a hurricane arrives.


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