Jackson County Opinions...

FEBRUARY 11, 2004



Column
By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
February 11, 2004

A Scam To Keep Suckers’ Money Safe At Home
Police Chief John Gaissert regularly informs me that the separate-the-fools-from-their-money e-mail scams continue to pour into computers here. Most of them originate from Nigeria, but a recent version came from Liberia.
They must work to some degree, offering greedy area residents hope of a share of some alleged shady million dollar fund from (Nigeria) a former oil minister or (Liberia) a former chief of security. Otherwise, they would not keep getting mailed.
As a strong advocate of spending at home, I have developed a local scam aimed at keeping those sucker dollars in the community where they can benefit all of us.
Please bear with me:
I am a media relations representative unofficially affiliated with the Jackson County government, which has several million dollars of excess revenue that could fall into the wrong hands after the upcoming election. Part of this is money swept up off the floor of the Finance Department after the closing on the financing package for the county’s new courthouse. The remainder is the money not spent to fund deputies requested by Sheriff Stan Evans.
You have been selected for this honor because you are a reader of The Commerce News, which attests to your intelligence, integrity and impeccable judgement. I assure you that all communications between us will be kept very confidential by me and I urge you to take the same precautions. In particular, do not discuss this with security forces (police) because they are part of a conspiracy to loot the fund.
The situation in this county is very critical. Chaos reigns in the Administrative Building. The fund is in $100 bills in John Hulesy’s file cabinet and I need your help to protect it. If you are capable and willing to help, I will give you a 25 percent share. Otherwise, the next government in power will seize the fund and plunder it; I am sure you agree that it would be painful to see those tax dollars wasted on frivolities like roads, a courthouse annex, security or recreation facilities.
I call on good and loyal citizens (you) of Jackson County to help me in this public service. Please bear in mind that this cash is not looted or stolen money, but is hard-earned money that we need to protect at all costs from the forces of evil.
If you are willing to help, please very carefully send your checking or savings account numbers to me at P.O. Box 459, Commerce, GA, 30529, so I can have the money deposited in your account for safe keeping until it is time to remove all but your 25 percent share. To make sure no errors are made, the best and safest way to communicate this information is by sending a blank check or withdrawal ticket from your account. I must ask you to send a MasterCard or VISA number as well for verification purposes. Because this is taxpayers’ money, I must exercise the utmost caution before I transfer the funds to your account.
By thus acting, you will have helped keep local money in Jackson County instead of sending it to Nigeria or Liberia and you will have earned my gratitude.
Feel free to e-mail this offer to anyone you think is really stupid.


Editorial
The Commerce News
February 11, 2004

What Will Come Of Resource Team’s Visit?
Scores of Quality Growth Resource Team consultants who descended on Commerce last week have returned to their real jobs, taking with them impressions of Commerce, both the things they see as assets and those that could be improved. In a few weeks or months, they’ll unveil their plans for a revitalized community.
As would be expected of a group which has little concept of the financial and political situations locally, the report will likely contain a number of suggestions that will strike Commerce residents – both elected officials and ordinary citizens – as absurd to preposterous. For example, many of the consultants seemed almost obsessed with the creation of sidewalks to connect schools and to-be-developed “nodes” to nearby residential neighborhoods so people can walk to school or to the proposed neighborhood convenience stores. While many people walk for recreation or exercise in Commerce, people do not choose walking as a means of transportation. Not many parents will allow their elementary or middle school children to walk to school, for example, and few high school students would be caught dead being seen walking to and from the campus.
Just the same, it is also very likely that the Resource Team’s report will contain some recommendations and concepts that, if adopted, could greatly improve the community. One example is “redevelopment codes” which might require the owner of a vacant shopping center to bring the large parking lot up to the current codes before a new tenant is given a certificate of occupancy. Another is a proposal to develop a system of screening less attractive properties along the major entrances to Commerce as a means of giving visitors a better first impression.
The team’s visit offered a refreshing perspective on the town we see and take for granted daily. Members were enthusiastic about our commercial buildings – even the empty ones – and about the potential for maintaining (or developing) character as Commerce grows. They viewed what is and envisioned a positive “what if,” something we all need to do more often. It also verified that many of the problems we’ve become accustomed to are liabilities that need to be addressed – such as the need for a coordinated economic development approach and the lack of cooperation among key groups like the city council, board of education and planning commission and the fact that the town will not attract the restaurants it needs until the restaurants can serve alcohol.
Commerce residents have long heard about the potential of the community. The Quality Growth Resource Team’s visit is a reminder of that; hopefully its report will prod the city government and the citizens into actually trying to reach that potential. Commerce can pick and choose among the recommendations it likes, but if the report winds up collecting dust on a shelf at City Hall like so many plans before it, the whole exercise will be both a colossal waste of money and a lost opportunity.

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Column
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
February 11, 2004

Hoschton facing difficult choices
It’s not exactly a crisis developing in Hoschton, but the city government of that small West Jackson town is facing some difficult choices.
In recent weeks, the issue of raising revenue in the city via alcohol sales has again been discussed by the Hoschton City Council. This time, that issue is being driven by the need to fund part of a massive city sewerage upgrade.
The situation in Hoschton is a classic example of what happens when small towns get caught up in the whirlwind of growth. On one hand, towns want to take advantage of that growth by expanding and offering infrastructure to lure in quality community investments.
On the other hand, most small towns lack the financial resources to build that infrastructure and, as has happened in Hoschton, find themselves squeezed somewhere in the middle.
To some extent, Hoschton leaders need look no further than the town’s history to see one of the problems in the current debate. For years, the city pulled extra funds out of the city water and sewerage department and shifted it into general city operations. Rather than holding onto those funds to pay for future water and sewerage expansion, city leaders took a spend-it-now, don’t-plan-for-the-future approach.
Another problem faced by Hoschton is touched on this week in a letter to the editor by councilman Brian Boehmer: That is, the town bumps against neighboring Braselton in efforts to lure quality development. Boehmer even suggests that Hoschton discuss merging with Braselton because of the proximity of both towns and the duplication of services that each provides in that West Jackson area. And, as Boehmer points out, Braselton has “the mass, the money and the momentum” to become the dominate town in the area.
That idea will no doubt be hearsay to many in Hoschton — if Boehmer isn’t tarred and feathered, he will certainly receive a few heated phone calls and emails. Like two siblings too close in age, Braselton and Hoschton have a century of coexisting in a love-hate relationship.
Hoschton could build a lot of infrastructure, but because of a service area dominated geographically by Braselton, not be able to use its infrastructure to lure the kinds of commercial and industrial projects the citizens of the town want. With debt on the table, the town might then be forced to accept the kinds of high-density residential development that leaders say they don’t want, just to pay for the infrastructure.
There is a lesson here for a couple of other small Jackson County towns itching to get into the water and sewerage business. Both Arcade and Pendergrass have expressed a desire to “determine our own destiny” by getting into providing such infrastructure.
But as is the case in Hoschton, a large investment in infrastructure doesn’t always allow a town to determine its own destiny. Indeed, such debt often has the opposite effect of forcing governments into decisions they abhor politically, but have to make in order to pay the notes for their large infrastructure investments.
Not every small town should measure itself based on growth statistics, or the actions of other towns. Rather than comparing itself to Braselton and other surrounding communities in the sphere of growth, Hoschton should focus on finding ways to cooperate with surrounding communities for infrastructure, while at the same time measure the quality of life in its town by other standards.
Will it take major infrastructure investments to build that quality of life?
That is a question only the citizens in Hoschton and their leaders can answer.
And while some may disagree with councilman Boehmer’s approach, his willingness to discuss all options is a realpolitik view which is much needed in this debate.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.


Editorials
The Jackson Herald
February 11, 2004

Redistricting ruling good for citizens
When a three-judge panel threw out Georiga’s convoluted redistricting Tuesday, it was a good sign for the citizens in the state.
The current district map is one of the worst examples of partisan politics ever seen in the state. Communities were split for political purposes as Democrats in the Georgia Legislature attempted to hold onto power in the face of a growing Republican threat.
But we believe communities should be kept together in districts as much as possible. Moreover, each district should represent a distinct geographic area that has, more or less, a common interest.
We hope Legislative leaders will try and fix the current mess in Georgia. The courts have opened the door for that to happen. Now let’s see if state political leaders can rise above their partisan interests and do what is best for the citizens of Georgia.

Happy birthday, Boy Scouts
This week, the Boy Scouts of America celebrates its 94th anniversary. That this organization has survived so many generations of boys is a testament to the unique strengths the organization has at its core.
You might not recognize the strength of the organization, however, if you just followed national news. Because the organization does not allow openly gay leaders or boys, and because one of the tenants of Scouting revolves around religious beliefs, it has become the hated icon of the far left. To many on the political left, Boy Scouts have come to represent what they consider “evil” about America.
But beyond the din of political rhetoric and America’s “cultural war,” the work of Scouting in America goes on. Boys are camping in the cold to test winter skills, cooking for chili dinners to raise funds and taking merit badge classes on weekends.
And more.
In Iowa this week, a group of Boy Scouts took ice rescue training.
In Ohio this week, a group of Scouts collected items to be sent overseas to American troops.
And in Tennessee, a group of Boy Scouts helping rake leaves discovered a dangerous gas leak at an elderly lady’s home.
Those are perhaps small events, but far from unusual. In community after community, Boy Scouts work not only for their own advancement, but also for the betterment of fellow citizens.
We salute our Boy Scouts and hope that despite the cultural war which rages nationally, we believe the strength of the organization is the individual boys who, like a hiker on a difficult path, continue to move forward one step at a time


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