Jackson County Opinions...

OCTOBER 15, 2003



Column
By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
October 15, 2003

Now If They Can Live Up To Commandments
Jackson County came out strongly in favor of God by voting to hang a copy of the Ten Commandments on the wall outside the State Courtroom. We can hope this will result in not only more godly court proceedings, but also county commissioners who act more godly.
I have a suspicion that this move is less about honoring God than about being perceived as honoring God, but in a society that prefers symbolism to action perception is more important than reality, which is that the commissioners would hang the “Last Supper” on black velvet from the J&J Flea Market if they thought it would win a vote or two. My guess is that God would much prefer that we follow the Ten Commandments than hang them on the wall as art, history or as an act of defiance.
The commissioners are in step with mainstream America where religious and political philosophy is promoted on bumper stickers, T-shirts and baseball hats and less in action and deeds. That fish symbol for Christianity on the car in front of you is supposed to offset the finger its driver gives when he or she is cut off; the profession of faith represented by the document hanging outside the courtroom is to mitigate the pettiness that occurs inside the room.
It was only a matter of time before Jackson County succumbed to the movement. Barrow County is fighting the ACLU. Madison County has the Ten Commandments in its courtroom. Politically, this slam dunk is what the commissioners need to rescue them from lingering resentment over the courthouse, the takeover attempt of the water authority and the other strong-armed tactics that have angered voters. It is time to harvest some low-hanging public relations fruit.
Harold Fletcher wisely suggested that if the Ten Commandments are to be hung, they be a part of a historical display to show the roots of our system of laws and government. Not only should it pass muster with the Supreme Court, but it might also actually educate the few people who bother to view it.
Emil Beshara had the better idea: Don’t do it at all. The commissioners pay sufficient legal fees already without soliciting more challenges over a symbolic political statement. We did not elect the commissioners to promote our faith or theirs, but to manage the affairs of government.
I can think of nothing more threatening to the health of church and state than to let the two breed. If Gov. Sonny Perdue successfully amends the Georgia Constitution to allow more government money to flow into “faith-based” programs, then more faith-based programs will be corrupted by government regulations and policies as government demands “accountability” for its funds. Faith-based today means Christian and Jewish. When Hindu, Islamic and other organizations hold their hands out too, will they be treated equally?
We Christians are called to witness, but mostly to live our faith. We want godly men and women in office because we expect them to be honest, compassionate and to put the interest of the people first. They are not called to government service to promote their faith, but to live it to benefit constituents of all faiths.


Editorial
The Commerce News
October 15, 2003

Community Must Help Police Reduce Crime
One key point Commerce Police Chief John W. Gaissert made at a poorly-attended “community policing forum” last Thursday night is that the reduction in crime requires a partnership between police and the community.
In his two years as chief, Gaissert has made a number of improvements and undertaken new initiatives to both increase the police department’s capabilities and to make it more visible. In the process, the department has become more professional, better trained and much more stable and the department has more credibility with citizens than ever.
But for it to succeed, the Commerce Police Department needs a public that will not tolerate the breaking of the law. That means more than providing information about suspicious persons or criminal activity. It means citizens who will not wink at the sale of drugs around them. It means parents who not only talk to their children about the moral issues of crime, but who also know who their children’s friends are, where their children are at all times and who will not accept disrespect for the law in their households. A supportive public is made up of individuals who let their peers know of their disdain for illegal activities. When the public has no tolerance for criminal activity, criminal activity will decrease.
It isn’t enough for those who would do crimes to know that what they are doing is wrong. People inclined toward criminal activities need to know without a doubt that their friends and neighbors and the community at large hold lawbreakers in low regard. They need to understand that buying and selling drugs, domestic abuse, theft, drunk driving and other forms of misbehavior are considered unacceptable behavior and the community must make those who commit such offenses uncomfortable.
The police will do their part to prosecute criminals, but to be truly successful in reducing crime, they must be backed by a community where crime is considered immoral and unacceptable. In the long run, the attitude of the community is just as important as police presence in deterring crime.

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Column
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
October 15, 2003

Fletcher declared Pope Harold I
In an amazing move of political shrewdness, Jackson County Board of Commissioners Chairman Harold Fletcher has declared that he is now the new Pope and the other BOC members will be his court of cardinals.
“I am desirous of doing something positive, so therefore I am now the new Pope, to be known officially as Pope John Harold I,” said Fletcher in a rambling announcement Monday night.
As for the status of John Paul II in Rome, John Harold said, “it’s time for the old guy to go.”
“I bring many years of experience and insight to this position,” said Pope Harold. “I’m a leader, I’ve always been a leader and I will always be a leader.”
County manager Al Crace is reportedly in line to be Pope Harold’s ring-bearer at formal ceremonies. He will reportedly wear the traditional costume of the Pontiff’s Swiss Guards.
Pope Harold said he and his court plan to take up residence at the new palace being built on Darnell Road in Jefferson.
“No one has ever dreamed of such a building as we are doing — that old Roman Vatican can’t compare to our New Vatican,” he said.
Pope Harold said Jackson County would henceforth become Georgia’s first Theocracy under his new religious government.
“We know what is best for our citizens and we shall not allow the rabble to rule our society,” he said.
One part of Pope Harold’s agenda was enacted last week when Cardinal Stacey Britt proposed hanging the 10 Commandments in a public building. Pope Harold also suggested the hanging of the Code of Hammurabi and the Magna Carta.
Cardinal Britt said he agreed with most of the Commandments, but had some problem with Number 10, which begins by saying, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house...”
“As the world’s first Real Estate Cardinal, I have some problem understanding what that has to do with religion,” said Britt. “I try to buy up all my neighbors’ houses and frankly, I don’t think that’s wrong.”
Cardinal Britt said he would ask Pope Harold to declare Commandment 10 as obsolete and unnecessary.
Cardinal Sammy Thomason said he had a problem with Commandment Number 9.
“‘You shall not bear false witness’ — does that mean we’re not supposed to lie to the citizens?” Cardinal Thomason asked. “If that’s the case, then maybe we should also do away with Commandment 9 since that would limit what we talk about.”
Cardinal Tony Beatty said maybe Pope John Harold should also do away with Commandment Number 8 — “Thou shalt not steal.”
“Well, we are kinda stealing from the poor to pay for the rich to build our New Vatican,” Cardinal Beatty said. “Maybe we should take that one out as well just to cover ourselves.”
Pope Harold said he would consider having just seven commandments and would let the others know his decision later.
On a more positive note, Cardinal Thomason said he thought putting up the Magna Carta was a good idea, but didn’t fully understand why it was being done.
“Yeah, I drank a few Magna Cartas one time and thought they were pretty good,” said Cardinal Thomason. “But I’m not real sure why Pope Harold wants to put beer bottles on the wall for people to just look at.”
Pope Harold said his favorite document was the Code of Hammurabi from ancient Babylon which has 283 commandments.
“I especially like Number Two,” said a gleeful Pope Harold. “It begins, ‘If any one bring an accusation against a man, and the accused go to the river and leap into the river...’ I’ve been wanting to tell a certain newspaper editor to jump in a river for years; now I can do that officially under the Code of Hammurabi.”
Pope Harold also said a phrase from the Code of Hammurabi would be engraved over the entrance to his New Vatican on Darnell Road: “The king who rules among the kings of the cities am I. My words are well considered; there is no wisdom like mine.”
“That speaks deeply to my heart,” said Pope Harold, a tear coming into his eyes.
Cardinal Beatty had no comment on that, but was noted to be looking up ‘Hammurabi’ in a dictionary.
Cardinal Emil Beshara was the only voice that spoke against Pope Harold’s actions. In a tone almost inaudible to most listeners, Cardinal Beshara mumbled, “Who the hell ever heard of a non-Catholic, Southern Baptist, Republican Pope?”
Cardinal Beshara said later the only good thing about the new government is that at least under Pope Harold, “that darn Jerry Waddell can’t be Pontiff.”
Waddell, who is considering his own religious path by studying the Analects of Confucius, responded with this:
“Confucius Say: ‘Fine words and an insinuating appearance are seldom associated with true virtue.’”
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.


Editorials
The Jackson Herald
October 15, 2003

What’s happening in Jefferson?
The almost frantic tone at Monday’s Jefferson City Council meeting was unusual for a council that is usually easy going.
But the tone reflected the severity of the city’s budget crunch and the twin financial problems the town faces.
First, it appears that the city may need to “borrow” some $600,000 from its water fund to pay its general expenses for the remainder of this year. It remains to be seen how the town ended up with such a shortfall.
Second, and even more troubling, is the confusion over the town’s budget for 2004. Somehow, the city advertised a massive 53 percent tax hike last week even before the council had discussed the budget and tax rate in public. The prospect of such a large hike apparently surprised some council members as much as it did the general public.
Monday night, the council spent a tense three-and-one-half hours slashing projected expenses from the 2004 budget, going so far as even closing the city’s swimming pool.
But even after that blood-letting exercise, the council managed to only cut 8.5 percent from its $4.8 million tentative budget. It will still require a 20 percent tax hike to balance the budget.
So how did Jefferson get into this situation?
It appears to us to be a combination of factors.
For one, city income has been flat due to the economy, but that isn’t the only explanation.
In the last two years, Jefferson has taken on a number of large civic improvement projects, including purchasing a building for a new civic center and land for a recreational complex. In addition, various other civic improvements have also been undertaken.
All of that has cost money and perhaps the city bit off more than it could chew.
There are several key factors that need to be considered as the city works its way through the budget process.
First, not all city departments exist on the same financial basis. The city planning and zoning department, for example, almost takes in enough fee income to pay for its expenses. On the other hand, the town is having to use tax funds to subsidize garbage collections fees.
By far the largest city department is the city police department at $1.4 million, 31 percent of the town’s total expenses.
The street department is second at 19 percent of the budget, followed by general administration expenses at 14 percent and the fire department at 11 percent.
The town’s recreation and culture department makes up 10 percent of the budget, but that’s a little misleading since debt expenses are put into a different category. The real cost of that department is closer to 15 percent of the budget once those items are added in the equation.
We hope city leaders will take the time to step back from the immediate crisis and do some long-term thinking about how the city operates and what its priorities should be.
No government can do everything, so it has to carefully define how it allocates its limited resources.


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