Jackson County Opinions...

JANUARY 28, 2004



Column
By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
January 28, 2004

Age Means More Caution On Icy Surfaces
There’s nothing like a little ice on the ground to separate the (old) men from the boys.
I found myself securely in the former camp Monday morning as I walked gingerly along the Maysville Road toward the scene of a one-car accident hoping to get a photo to go with a weather-related story.
There wasn’t much ice, but about 100 yards of the southbound lane had a slick glaze that had sent a light pickup truck on a roller-coaster ride down the right bank into the woods. Luckily, no one was hurt.
My nearly-treadless shoes found little traction and as the shoulder of the road sloped toward the woods, I thought it safest to stay on the level pavement, taking baby steps toward my destination. Then it occurred to me that the next southbound car to hit the ice might take me out like a standing 10-pin, so I went back to the shoulder, clinging to the cars and trucks parked along the roadside for balance.
Luckily, I did not humiliate myself or earn a disability by slipping down the slope to join the wrecked truck, but neither did I attempt to traverse it to get a better angle on the picture. My insurance company would approve of my caution against breaking any bones for the sake of a picture.
I’m still immature enough to wish for ice or snow, but the instinct for survival has tempered my activities on the rare occasions when it actually arrives. I’ll still drive almost anywhere, though much more slowly than in the past, but I try to avoid walking on ice lest I end up suddenly seated or worse.
The realization that walking on ice is dangerous came to me two years ago when I foolishly accompanied Steven to the Clayton area for a winter hike. I had all the appropriate gear – except boots. My only pair of warm boots had a smooth sole.
We ended up at Black Rock Mountain State Park and embarked on a loop trail that would take us through a forest to a ridge with a view into North Carolina and a virtual tunnel through rhododendron bushes that, in spring must be beautiful.
This area had received recent snow, only for it to melt down in the sunny areas on a warmer day and freeze over for our hike, creating a slick crust that was treacherous on slopes. The result was that I got many a view of the trail from a sitting position, usually having reached it suddenly, if not unexpectedly, and violently. Both wrists were lightly sprained from attempts to cushion the unwelcome change from standing to sitting.
Steven, three-plus decades younger, better shod and of better coordination, had no difficulty. His largest concern was that he might have to carry me out. Ice, I decided, is best left to cooling refreshing beverages and is least enjoyable as a walking surface.
There’s nothing like unexpectedly discovering that the surface has gone from asphalt to ice, whether one is walking or driving. Stopping is not an option. One can only hang on and see what inertia accomplishes and hope that the insurance policy is current.
I like winter storms, but they’re best enjoyed inside where it’s warm and the only ice is in my glass.


Editorial
The Commerce News
January 28, 2004

Joyce Bradshaw Has Served Commerce Well
Commerce is losing an important health provider as Joyce Bradshaw, manager and lead nurse of the Commerce clinic of the Jackson County Health Department, retires after 30 years.
Mrs. Bradshaw has overseen the operation of the Commerce clinic since its inception in a single-wide trailer in 1974. Tens of thousands of people have walked through the doors of the facility since then to receive free, then low-cost immunizations, tests, screenings and other services crucial to their well-being. Many of the clinic’s clients have been low-income people who, without the clinic, would have received no healthcare. It is fair to say that Mrs. Bradshaw has spent her career in important public service and she will be missed by the clinic’s many clients.
As she enjoys her retirement, Mrs. Bradshaw can take great pride in the fact that during her tenure in Commerce she has helped thousands of people live healthier lives and that a service that started in a trailer continues to provide quality healthcare for so many.

But Is Anyone Listening?
Finally, a little sanity is returning to the world. According to The New York Times, some conservative Republicans are pushing President Bush for a slowdown in spending.
It used to be that “conservative” meant (among other things) one who wanted to balance the budget, while among the worst attributes of a “liberal” was the tendency toward deficit spending.
These characteristics have been turned on their heads. It was under the “liberal” Clinton administration that the budget was balanced and there were actually surpluses. Then, the “conservative” Bush administration turned the surpluses into massive deficits. Conservative commentators began even to argue the merits of deficit spending and the liberals were preaching on the dangers of federal debt. The world of politics and reversed on its axis.
Forty Republicans gathered to figure out how to get Bush and the Congressional leadership to bring their liberal spending under control. They’ve got to get his attention first, and the upcoming election may be a vehicle.
A recent poll found that 51 percent of respondents put the deficit as a top priority for the government, up from 40 percent a year ago.
The ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation calculates that government spending for the current year will increase by nine percent on top of 13 percent in 2002 and 12 percent in 2001. That gives the conservative Bush administration the distinction of creating one of the most liberal increases in federal spending since the 1960s.
The president had to respond to Sept. 11, but he used that as an excuse to invade Iraq, which while ridding the world of a cruel dictator was and is expensive in lives and dollars. He also signed the bill expanding Medicaid – which marks the largest expansion in a federal entitlement program in years. On the other side, Bush championed the tax relief bills which (he claims) are helping the economy rebound but which also deepened the deficit.
It is refreshing to see that fiscal conservatism is not completely dead. Fiscal conservatives may be completely at odds with one another over how to balance the budget (cut spending or raise taxes), but they believe, whatever other views they may hold in politics, that the country (or state or city) and the individual should live within their means. They can hold liberal or conservative views on social matters, be they Republicans or Democrats, but their common ground is don’t spend what you ain’t got.
America’s credit card is maxed out, but finally, someone is at least talking about fiscal discipline. The question is whether anyone will be listening.

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Column
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
January 28, 2004

Time to reform the reformers
Once again, Georgia is in a “reform” mode with its education system. A draft copy of the proposed new K-12 curriculum has been posted on the state department of education website glc.k12.ga.us/spotlight/gps2.htm for parents, teachers and citizens to review.
If anyone takes time to read this new curriculum, and can understand it, please let me know.
I’ll admit that I don’t have glittering academic credentials. But I’m not exactly a dunderhead, either. Put me in the “average-middle-aged adult” category and that’ll be about right.
But having taken the time to read some of this new curriculum, I’m at a loss to explain what it all means, or how it will reform our public schools.
Since I have a child in the third grade, and one in the fifth grade, I decided to read the math performance standards of this new curriculum for grades 3-5. The overview of this curriculum had this to say:

“In grades 3-5, students should become more adept at learning from, and working with, others. Their communication can consist of not only of conversations between student and teacher or one student and another student but also of students listening to a number of peers and joining group discussions in order to clarify, question, and extend conjectures.”

OK, I give up — what the hell does that mean, besides the fact that some high-paid education consultant wrote an obtuse sentence?
The 3-5 math overview talks a lot about “reasoning” and “communications” and “connections” and “representations.” Actually learning to solve math problems in grades 3-5 is apparently secondary to those feel-good goals.
It remains to be seen what the full reaction to this new curriculum will be. Some teachers are already taking shots at various parts of the plan.
But unless you are a teacher, it’s almost impossible to understand what is being proposed in this current reform effort. The draft standards are just words — lots and lots of words that have little context for the layman.
And that may be the point. I don’t believe the state education bureaucracy cares what parents or citizens think. Education is a closed-door institution where a vast majority of policy-makers march in lockstep. To be on the inside of that institutional policy-making is little more than professional incest. Those who don’t carry around a curriculum vitae need not apply. And real rebels, well, they just don’t exist among public education policy-makers.
Thus, reform is not really “reform” as we know it, but rather just another opportunity for a vast number of special interest groups, textbook companies and education consulting firms to push their agenda and products.
The driving force behind all this, of course, is an effort to raise standardized test scores, which have become the god of public education decision-making.
And yet, I don’t think any of this really matters. All the high-priced education theory, questionable programs and curriculum reform won’t help students learn. Reform in public education has become just another word for dressing up a fat, lazy bureaucracy with a new dress. It gives bureaucrats something to do, academic theorists something to talk about and it keeps an army of consultants and textbook printers employed.
Maybe we should quit trying to reform public schools and begin trying to reform the reformers.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.


Editorials
The Jackson Herald
January 28, 2004

State speed trap standards need changing
Not surprisingly, the state report on Arcade’s police department found that the city did not violate state guidelines on writing speeding tickets.
But that does not mean that the town isn’t operating a speed trap.
The truth is, the state guidelines on the matter are so limited and narrow that they are virtually meaningless. Under those guidelines, no more than 40 percent of a town’s speeding ticket income can come from tickets written for speeds under 18 mph over the limit.
Arcade falls well within those limits, but we believe that criteria is too narrow and that our legislative delegation should study changing state law to a tougher, more meaningful standard.
Consider this: According to the state report, Arcade issued 2,301 citations in 2002. That is a huge number of tickets for a small town. Moreover, we’d guess that most of those tickets were written along the same short two or three mile stretch of road along Hwy. 129, the main corridor through town.
How is it, then that a small town can issue 2,300 tickets in such a narrow corridor and still not be considered a speed trap?
Let’s also look at the city budget which shows that speeding and other fines make up a whopping 69 percent of the town’s total income.
How is it that a small town can have two-thirds of its income from speeding fines and still not be a speed trap?
It is obvious to us, and everyone else who is familiar with the situation, that Arcade is indeed operating a speed trap. Just because the town falls within state guidelines does not change that fact.
What needs to be changed are those narrow, meaningless state standards that allow tiny towns like Arcade to profit from harassing passing motorists.
The current Georgia speed trap law is little more than a huge loophole.
We hope our legislators will study tightening that law by broadening the criteria.


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