Banks County Opinions...

NOVEMBER 12, 2003


Column

By: Margie Richards
The Banks County News
November 12, 2003

Thankful for a special friend
Someone sent me some flowers and a sweet card last week.
No, it wasn’t my birthday, or wedding anniversary, or anything like that.
Instead, they were sent to me on the anniversary of my mother’s death.
Some years this day is harder for me than others, when I think of my mama, and how much I miss her. Undoubtedly, when things are not so good, I take the memory of her death harder, because I long to have her to talk to.
But for years now, a very special friend of mine has never forgotten to mark the day I lost my mother with me, and that has made all the difference.
No matter what else may be going on in her own life, or no matter how far away she lives, she never forgets.
Over the years, as I’m sure she intended, the day of one of my life’s greatest losses has turned into a day when I celebrate my mother’s memory — and my great good fortune in having Phyllis as my friend.
Phyllis and I met in the mid-1980s, a few years after my mother had died. Shortly after that, she surprised me on the anniversary of Mama’s death with a box full of individually wrapped gifts and a card. The note included instructions telling me at what time I was to begin opening my gifts, one at a time, one hour apart.
So instead of spending the day thinking about how sad life can be, I spent the time pleasantly opening each of her gifts to me, some small, some quite nice, and all very special to me because I knew the time and effort that Phyllis had gone to out of her love for me.
I have, over the years, marveled at how I have been so fortunate to have a friend such as she, and how unworthy I have sometimes felt of her friendship. For me it has been a clear example of God’s love, given freely and without reservation.
When she lived up north for a few years, a box would arrive from her several days before that day in November, and like a special Christmas gift, the note attached would forbid me to open the box until Nov. 8.
As the years since Mama’s death have gone by — 23 of them by now — Phyllis has told me she has seen me grow away from my grief a little and instead focus more on the special bond my Mama and I shared.
As this has happened, she has changed her remembrances from the “all-day” gift box, to something like inviting me out for lunch — or as she did this year — sending me flowers, or some other special token to mark the day.
This year, the card on the bouquet said, “in memory of your sweet mother.” Although Phyllis never knew my mother in life, I like to think that in many ways she has come to know her, through the stories I have told her and the things that I have said about her. And that makes me very happy, because in a way it means that Mama has gone on living, through me and through Phyllis.
Thank you Phyllis, for the gift of your friendship over all these years, and for giving me a special way to remember my mother.
I love you and I know Mama would have loved you, too.
Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager for the Madison County Journal.

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Column

By:Zach Mitcham
The Banks County News
November 12, 2003

One rope worth walking
There’s often the man or woman at some meeting who reminds county or city leaders that growth is coming, whether we like it or not.
It’s as if he’s reminding us that a train is miles down the track — and, oh yeah, you’re standing on the track.
In the growth-is-coming-and-you-can’t-stop-it phrase, I recognize both a fact and an emotional hurt.
Yes, I know “growth is coming.” I recognize the logical truth.
But the emotional truth is a heartfelt wish that things would just stay the same.
This county is clearly in a tug of war of thinking when it comes to growth.
Fact is, so am I.
Who cannot feel sorrow in seeing their homeplace change? I grew up in Macon and when I go home to see my parents and drive through familiar areas, those places are no longer what I knew. There is a line in a song I like that says “the malls are our soon-to-be ghost towns” and when I see the commercial growth in the north Macon area, I think of how depressing old stores look as hollow buildings in other parts of town. I drive down the cluttered Tom Hill Boulevard and wonder how long it will be before those businesses follow the way of the dinosaur. I think about how the land will never go back to what it was.
I drove to a Madison County football game in Duluth a couple of weeks ago, noting how nice the Northview facilities were, how much tax money must have gone into that, but I was thankful to get back home to Madison County later that night, back to the rural sounds and out of the strip-mall scene.
These are my feelings. And I know I’m not alone.
But does my emotional want for the sameness of a rural landscape outweigh a logical consideration for the economic well-being of the county?
Honestly, sometimes yes, sometimes no. I am not wholly on a pro-growth or anti-growth team.
In all of our longing for sameness, we can’t dismiss this equation: increased population, plus no revenue growth, equals reduction in service.
The pro-growth side of our county has a compelling argument to make here. But frankly, I’m burned out on the most common mantra that more revenues are needed to offset the property tax burden. This is true.
However, many county property owners are willing to bite the bullet with occasional tax hikes as long as things stay the same.
So think about it this way. Are you willing to accept more tax payments for worse services for everything you get: the condition of your roads, your schools, your police force, your ambulances, or the countless other things that your community is supposed to provide for you?
If people move in, but businesses don’t, that’s what’s ahead for this county — not the status quo, but a decrease in the quality of services.
If we stamp out business growth, we’ll pay more for less.
We will never appease everyone in dealing with difficult growth issues. This was obvious in the recent rezoning debate concerning a proposed shopping development at the Hwy. 98 and Hwy. 172 intersection in Madison County. Those who opposed the development had a point when they said that the county should follow its comprehensive land use plan and that the proposal was not in line with the overall plan. But it throws a wrinkle in things if we consider this: how do we define the land use plan? Is it a text that requires absolute adherence? Or is it merely a guide to help leaders make a wise decision? Have we not seen it defined as both in years past?
I find it interesting that the proposed shopping center is near an industrial park where rolled hay dots the landscape, offering a curious juxtaposition of a rural and commercial area.
In years to come, we will have to find the right ways to live as both — rural and commercial.
It is surely a tenuous balance, but one rope worth walking.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.


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