Jackson County Opinions...

OCTOBER 8, 2003



Column
By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
October 8, 2003

Live Recklessly? State Will Pick Up The Tab
Gov. Sonny Perdue wants to repeal Georgia's law requiring motorcycle riders to wear helmets. A matter of personal freedom, I suppose.
Responsible adults are prudent. They wear seat belts in their cars, wear helmets when they ride motorcycles and do not engage in activities that endanger themselves and others. They take what steps they can to protect themselves, if only for the benefit of their loved ones. Perdue believes, as do many others, that the state should not mandate prudent behavior; I am inclined to agree.
But with a caveat. Let those motorcyclists who ride without helmets notify in writing their health and life insurance companies and let them sign a waiver relieving the state of any obligation to provide medical care (Medicaid) when they turn up with a brain injury requiring extensive hospitalization.
The personal behavior of motorcycle riders becomes the state's business when the state stands to have to pay the bills. Otherwise, what happens when a motorcycle wrecks is none of government's business.
This logic can be expanded. Anyone who takes up smoking, for example, increases the likelihood of health problems tremendously and the state and federal governments get stuck with the bill for many a smoker's bad habit. And for our poor eating habits, carelessness with or addiction to alcohol, etc. If all citizens exercised prudence in their eating, drinking, driving and other habits, there would be no Medicaid or Medicare funding crises.
By comparison, the state's cost for helmetless motorcycle riders is inconsequential.
Americans want government to stay out of their business, but not completely. We want the freedom to live as we choose ­ but when things fall apart, we expect the state to be there to pick up the pieces. Hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and mental institutions are full of people whose personal irresponsibility ­ maybe for an instance or for a lifetime ­ put them there, and the taxpayers are footing the bill.
I decided to wear a seat belt after my first child was born, when it occurred to me that as a father my duty was to do whatever I could to improve the odds of survival in the event of a wreck. Later, seat belt use became a law, but there is still debate over whether the loss of that freedom is too high a price to pay for the lives saved and injuries reduced.
Healthcare is in a crisis, and one of the reasons is because state and federal governments pay for healthcare for the poor and elderly and assume responsibility when the cost of treatment soars beyond the ability of the rest to pay. Thus, our lifestyle choices arguably are the business of government, scary as that is.
We know how to live responsibly, but most of us eat too much of the wrong foods, fail to get enough exercise and drive too fast and have other habits we know have health repercussions. We'd throw out of office anyone foolish enough to try to regulate that behavior, because how we conduct our lives is nobody's business but our own.
We have decided that as a nation we'd rather pay the bill than curtail personal freedom. We can all ride through life without helmets, knowing the taxpayers will take care of us.


Editorial
The Commerce News
October 8, 2003

Playing Fast And Loose With Election Laws
Mac Barber's back to his old tricks again.
The 86-year-old would-be mayor of Commerce is not registered to vote in Commerce, which in the eyes of election superintendent Shirley Willis means he cannot legally seek election as mayor.
Exactly where Barber lives is apparently rather fluid. A year ago, Barber swore he lived at 181 Trout Lane, an address in Banks County convenient to qualifying to run against Lauren "Bubba" McDonald for the Public Service Commission. In an administrative hearing, the state ruled that Barber did not live at the Banks County address.
Now Barber says he lives at 325 Shankle Road, Commerce, which is helpful if one seeks to be elected to office in Commerce. Unfortunately, after failing to convince the Secretary of State's office that he was a resident of Banks County, Barber forgot to change his voter registration as he set his sights on the Commerce mayor's office.
At one time Barber may have been an effective public servant, but that day is long gone. His two most recent attempts to get back into office demonstrate that he does not take seriously the laws governing qualifications to run for office. It is not likely that the voters of Commerce would turn back the clock to the day when Barber led the city to the brink of bankruptcy, but it would be good to be spared that possibility.
That decision will be made by the city attorney and is subject to the appeals process. Maybe Barber can find a technicality to allow him to stay on the ballot, but voters who recall the 2002 attempt to claim residency in Banks County will recognize that this is a last-gasp effort by an aging politician to once again have the power of public office. Many of those will also recall the debacle of Barber's lone term as mayor of Commerce in the late 1980s. A reprise of that is inconceivable.

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Column
By Angela Gary
The Jackson Herald
October 8, 2003

Nothing wrong with a public reminder
Adultery, murder, lying, stealing...
These are things that most everyone would agree are bad things. They are things that can send you to jail, make you an outcast and leave you with no friends. And who likes hearing the Lord's name taken in vain. Dinner-table conversation certainly shouldn't include that ugly curse word.
The Ten Commandments, or the "laws of the Bible," are rules that would improve the lives of most anyone who abides by them. The Commandments listed above are ones that everyone, regardless of their religious background, should follow. The world would be a better place if there were no murders or stealing or lying or other "bad things."
Hanging the Ten Commandments will not stop every murder. It will not stop every thief or adulterer. But it might remind a few people of how to live their lives. If someone doesn't believe in the commandments or support them, they don't have to look at them. Just pass them by. There are more important things to protest in this world than what is hanging on the wall. I see many establishments and things that I don't agree with or like. I just pass them by.
I'm glad several counties in this area have posted the Ten Commandments in a public place. It made me start thinking about the Commandments. I could only think of nine. For some reason, I couldn't remember "thy shalt not make unto thee any graven image." Passing by the Commandments as I go to meetings in our county will help me and others remember all 10 of the Commandments.
No one lives a life without sin and most everyone has been guilty of violating one of the Commandments. While murder is not very common in this area, how many can say they have never lied or never "coveted" or wanted something their neighbor has.
While we may have done these things, we shouldn't. Maybe having the display so prominent will give some people a daily reminder of how to live their lives.
Some politicians may be pushing the Ten Commandment display for the wrong reasons. I don't know. I just know that I'm glad of the end result, which is a public reminder of how to live.
This reminder is needed now more than ever before. Evil and sin are everywhere from the nightly news to the school yards. Morals are sadly a thing of the past. Divorce is more common than marriage. The few people who have morals are laughed at and called "old-fashioned."
I'm proud to be "old-fashioned" and thank my mother for instilling the importance of the Ten Commandments in my life from an early age.
I read a recent article about the Ten Commandments by columnist Lyle E. Brenna. He summed up my feelings perfectly.
"The Ten Commandments provide a foundation for a moral code that served mankind well for thousands of years, and they have not become outdated. In fact, they are as basic to the health of our society as food and water are to our physical health."
Let's all reflect on the Commandments every day and strive to live better. It really will make the world a better place. At least seven of the Commandments are rules everyone should live by, regardless of whether they call themselves Christians.

Angela Gary is editor of The Banks County News and associate editor of The Jackson Herald. She can be reached at AngieEditor@aol.com or 367-2490.


Editorials
The Jackson Herald
October 8, 2003

Man of many hats served county well
Volunteer firefighter, civil defense director, coroner, EMS director, city council member and fire chief.
These are just a few of the many hats Doug Waters wore during his 36 years of service to Jefferson and Jackson County.
Waters retired Oct. 1 after more than three decades, but the impact of his service will be felt throughout the community for decades to come.
Two of the most prominent displays of his work can be seen in Jefferson. The two fire stations reflect the pride and hard work that Waters and other fire officials poured into the project. Waters spearheaded the effort and future generations will benefit from his leadership.
During his tenure with the fire department, other improvements were made that advanced fire protection for the town. The ISO rating was lowered and the response time decreased. This led to the department to being recognized as one of the state's leading small departments.
Waters also led the effort to bring 911 to Jackson County. He wrote the grants to get the county's 911 system implemented and was director of EMS when 911 went on line. It was a lengthy process but he never backed down from the red tape, paperwork and politics involved in such an endeavor. Everyone who has an emergency and dials 9-1-1, can thank Waters for leading the effort to bring this service to the county.
Even though he is retired, the community will likely continue to benefit from Waters' efforts. He plans to continue to represent Jefferson on the construction of a county fire burn building and on a homeland security building for the city.


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