Jackson County Opinions...

OCTOBER 29, 2003



Column
By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
October 29, 2003

5 Words Explain A Lot About Education System
Kudos to Southeastern Toyota Distributors and JM Family Enterprises for donating 8,000 hard-cover books to the libraries of the elementary schools throughout the county. These are folks who appreciate what reading means and how crucial it is to the success of any child.
Vice President Bob Moore made an interesting comment when talking about his two sons, who attended Benton Elementary School when he ran SET.
“My boys had the good fortune of having a mother that would read to them when they got home. Almost every day when I got home from work, she’d be either doing homework with them or reading to them,” Moore said. “Not every child has that.”
Those last five words could sum up what is largely “wrong” with education in Georgia.
I do not discount the problems that exist in schools, but the greatest keys to student success come out of their homes.
But, not every child gets them.
Go down the list.
For students to succeed, they need a stable family environment.
“Not every child has that.”
Children need to come to school adequately clothed and fed.
“Not every child has that.”
Children need homes where their parents love them.
“Not every child has that.”
For students to succeed, parents must be interested in their education.
“Not every child has that.”
Children not only need parents to read to them, but they also need reading materials in the home.
“Not every child has that.”
Children need parents who expect and demand that they succeed.
“Not every child has that.”
Children need homes that are free of drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence.
“Not every child has that.”
Having two parents in the home increases a child’s chance of attaining educational success.
“Not every child has that.”
There are more children every day who lack one – and often several – of the keys to academic success. The social problems that affect the schools affect the homes first, and the children who walk out the doors of those homes bring the problems to school with them. They manifest themselves in many ways in school, through learning and behavorial problems that retard the efforts of teachers with the rest of the students. When the system has to slow down to help these children catch up, the entire student body is cheated.
There are exceptions, but overall we expect the educational system to perform as if all children came from the same homes, the same cultures and the same work ethic. That is impossible.
The No Child Left Behind Act takes that approach. It is a fantasy created by a president whose real agenda is to pronounce the public school system a failure to pave the way for school vouchers. The president believes privatizing public education is the cure-all, but school vouchers will not solve the educational problems created in homes where students don’t receive the basic needs crucial to their academic success.


Editorial
The Commerce News
October 29, 2003

Southeast Toyota Sets Example For All Of Us
Southeastern Toyota Distributors and its parent company JM Family Enterprises set a fine example of corporate citizenship with their donation of 8,000 hardback books to local elementary school libraries. Those books will make a huge difference to the libraries and their young patrons.
You don’t have to be a major corporation to help out a local library or to provide reading opportunities for local children, and most citizens can emulate in a small way what Southeastern Toyota did.
Every public library in Jackson County can use additional books, particularly books for children and juveniles. All of them will accept donations of used (and new, of course) books and most families with children have books their children have outgrown. Instead of relegating those books to the yard sale box, the attic or basement, do the children of your community a favor and donate them to the library.
This is particularly important as all libraries are seeing reductions in state funds for new books, but hardest hit will be the smaller libraries like those in Nicholson and Maysville where city funding for books is limited or nonexistent and where the collections are smaller.
SET and JM Family Enterprises recognize the importance of reading in achieving academic and lifelong success and made a tremendous contribution. Every family can take a similar role by donating books to the local libraries. If the knowledge that contributing books is helping children isn’t enough, for those who itemize their income taxes, donations of books are tax deductible. SET and JM Family Enterprises showed their commitment; citizens should follow suit.

Defining ‘Greenspace’
The Commerce Planning Commission realized Monday night that its members could not reach a consensus on what constitutes “greenspace.” This is of significance in that the city’s subdivision regulations require developers to set aside 20 percent of the land for greenspace.
The planning commission will eventually decide just what definition suits Commerce, but the intent of the greenspace provision in Jackson County has always been to retain the rural quality of the county through the preservation of undisturbed land.
To a homeowner, particularly one adjacent to a new development, greenspace will mean an undisturbed buffer between his property and the new development. Retaining woods between houses gives homeowners a sense of being in the country.
In larger developments, however, greenspace might be a 25-acre field or tract of woods centrally located. While that parcel might have a recreational use, its primary function for the community is to retain some open, undisturbed space.
Ideally, a subdivision would provide both a buffer and some natural, undisturbed space so that homeowners would not feel packed in like sardines in a can and their children would have woods or fields for play. That, in turn, requires larger lots.
There is another issue yet to be understood, and that is the ownership and upkeep of the greenspace. Under the city’s current plan, a homeowners’ association would take on that chore. The problem is that most of the subdivisions in Commerce consist of starter homes where there is significant turnover and where the organization of a homeowners’ association is not likely to be successful. Residents of an 18-lot subdivision may or may not keep up the common ground, reach agreement on the level of upkeep required, and have a mechanism for enforcing monthly dues.
The easy part was deciding that all developments should provide greenspace. Now that we have it, the more difficult question is what do we do with it?

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Column
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
October 29, 2003

Schiavo case being exploited by all sides
The huge controversy surrounding the Terri Schiavo “right-to-die” case in Florida has been described as both “heartbreaking” and “tragic.”
It is indeed both of those, but it is also an ugly political sideshow that is being abused by zealots of all stripes.
Here is this poor, brain-damaged woman whose fate rests more in the hands of talk radio and CNN than medical professionals.
Every movement needs a cause and a celebrity to carry their banner. For political groups on both the left and right, Schiavo has become an icon. Those on the right see her as the potential victim of state-sanctioned murder; those on the left see her as the victim of politicians who won’t allow her to die with dignity.
The truth, I suspect, falls somewhere in between those extremes.
But how do we get to that “truth?”
Maybe the best way to delve into this case is to study what the situation is not rather than to focus on what it is.
Terri Schiavo is not the victim of cancer or some other progressive disease that will lead to certain death. It is not uncommon for end-stage victims to be allowed to die with dignity by the withholding of further treatment, or sometimes through the accelerated use of painkillers that will hasten death for those suffering in pain.
While those situations also involve some ethical questions, it is much easier for doctors and family members to let go when death is certain anyway.
Nor is Terri Schiavo “brain dead” in the conventional sense. She is not hooked up to respirators or other artificial means of keeping her physical body breathing and circulating blood. Schiavo is not comatose either. Rather, she apparently goes through sleep and wake cycles. She is, however, receiving nourishment through a feeding tube. It is that feeding tube which is at the center of the Schiavo legal wrangling.
The ethical debate, however, centers on whether or not Schiavo has any level of “consciousness” left. On that key point, doctors disagree.
Those who say Schiavo should be allowed to live, including her parents, believe that she does have some level of brain activity left and that while she will always be brain damaged, she might be able to recover some ability to communicate. To make that point, videos of Schiavo responding to her mother and to the movement of a balloon have been broadcast over and over.
But Schiavo’s husband and his doctors believe she is in a vegetative state and that her responses are just reflex reactions. They say that Schiavo has no level of consciousness and that it is impossible for her brain to ever recover. That side believes Schiavo should be allowed to die by removing her feeding tube.
Making the situation worse is the idea that the motives of the two contesting parties (husband vs. parents) may be financial. Both sides of the family accuse the other of wanting to profit from Terri Schiavo’s condition. Some say her husband should be removed as guardian since he may have a conflict of interest. He says otherwise. It’s an ugly mess.
Beyond the family mess is the national and international mess as various special interest groups latch onto the case to further their cause. Right-to-die and pro-abortion groups see the case as a bellwether for their views, while a slew of conservative religious groups are using the case to trump up support for their causes.
Add to that the media circus of talk radio and talk-TV which are exploiting the case to boost ratings and to play on the emotions of listeners and viewers.
With all of that going on, no wonder it has become so difficult for us to find “truth” in the dialogue.
I certainly don’t know what the truth is either, but I’m astounded by the fact that there is so much disagreement on the level of brain activity with Schiavo. Given all the medical equipment and knowledge available, getting a definitive, scientific and medically reliable answer about her mental abilities should not be so difficult.
But here’s the ultimate question: Even if Schiavo is in some kind of vegetative state, does that give us the right to purposefully kill her? She is not terminally ill and is not going to die soon unless her feeding tube is removed and she is, in effect, starved to death.
Those who argue “Yes” to that question will say that if she is in such a state, without chance of recovery, her quality of life is so poor that she should be allowed to die. But if that is the case, then why starve her body to death? Wouldn’t it be more humane to inject her with a drug that brings on a rapid death as we do with animals? And if we are to make “quality of life” the main issue for living, then aren’t there thousands of others in hospital wards who we should also kill?
Those who argue “No” to her death will say that so long as there is a chance for Schiavo to recover some abilities, she should be allowed to live and should not, in any event, be purposefully killed because it would open the door to more “mercy killings” sanctioned by the state. Yet, is she really “alive,” or is her body just functioning flesh?
I don’t have the answer to those questions and I’m glad I don’t have to make that terrible choice.
But this case should be a directive to all of us to make or update a living will so that we leave instructions about our wishes should something so terrible happen to us.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.


Editorials
The Jackson Herald
October 29, 2003

Time to rein in rogue police departments
We’re increasingly troubled by the names of those arrested on our weekly crime pages — troubled by the fact that in some Jackson County towns, a large percentage of those names are Hispanic.
That begs this question: Are some of our local police departments targeting Hispanics in their traffic stops?
We believe some departments are doing just that.
While no one excuses criminal activity from any ethnic group, the purposeful targeting of one ethnic group for traffic stops violates all of us. DWH (driving while Hispanic) is not enough reason to be pulled over by a small town cop.
It is time for this ethnic profiling to stop in Jackson County.
But this targeting of Hispanics by some of our local police departments is just one part of a larger issue. In the last few years, several local towns have established, or greatly expanded, their police departments. That has been done not out of public safety concerns, but rather from a desire to generate more income for those small town bank accounts.
The City of Arcade, for example, is currently undergoing another review by the Georgia State Patrol about its traffic stops. At this writing, the results of that report are not yet available, but whatever the report concludes, we have little doubt that Arcade does indeed operate a speed trap designed to bring in revenue for the city.
At the Northern end of the new Jefferson bypass, the town of Pendergrass has established a very controversial police department which has been accused by some residents of also operating a speed trap. The flak over that department is so great that it is the central theme in next week’s city election for mayor in Pendergrass.
That department announced this week that is was “suspending” the use of its radar gun until some questions about the city limits are resolved.
Amazing that the radar gun gets turned off just before the mayor’s election.
As with the situation in Arcade, we have no doubt that Pendergrass is also using its police department for profit, not just public safety.
We’re not sure what is being done with all the money these departments are generating, but we believe some of it is being used to buy unnecessary “police toys,” such as fancy motorcycles, electronic gadgets and fast cars.
Enough is enough.
It is time for our local city governments to review their police department’s operations and to shut down the speed traps and targeting of Hispanic drivers. Moreover, elected city leaders should themselves stop pressuring these small town cops to be “fund-raisers” for city bank accounts. And they should make sure these police departments are not wasting taxpayer money on unnecessary “police toys.”
If the leadership in these towns fail to do that, then we call for legislative action to stop what has become an obvious abuse of citizens by rogue police departments in our county.


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