Jackson County Opinions...

MARCH 3, 2004

By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
March 3, 2004

Exit Poll Shows Edwards With 1-0 Primary Win
Consider this column to be a one-person exit poll regarding the Democratic presidential preference primary. While I am writing it on the eve of the primary, you are reading it (you are reading it, aren’t you?) after the election results are in.
Me: And who did you vote for?
Myself: Sen. John Edwards.
Me: And what was your vote based on? Was it Edwards’ populist approach, his ability to speak effectively to the working man or his potential to beat George Bush in the fall?
Myself: Beat Bush? Who are we kidding? I’m anti-Bush, but I’m not into fantasy.
Me: I understand. So, why did you vote for John Edwards instead of John Kerry?
Myself: You forgot to mention the other names on the ballot - Howard Dean, Joe Lieberman, Al Sharpton and those other losers.
Me: Your point is?
Myself: You shouldn’t assume that it was just a two-person choice. Actually, it was a one-person choice.
Me: Explain, please.
Myself: My vote was an attempt to prolong the process. It’s much too early to pick a presidential nominee. It hasn’t been that long since everyone was writing Howard Dean into the lineup as the Democratic nominee and look what happened. It’s too early to settle on Kerry. If we’ve got to suffer through a presidential election, I say keep the ballot open. Maybe we can come up with a brokered convention in the summer. Now that would be entertaining.
Me: So, this election is about entertainment?
Myself: That is the best-case scenario. If you look at it as the selection of the leader of this country for the next four years, it’s almost as depressing as looking at the leadership of the past three years.
Me: Do you support Sen. Edwards’ position on the Iraq war?
Myself: He has a position on the Iraq war?
Me: I think so. Possibly several.
Myself: None of the Democratic candidates concocted the false data Bush used to get us into Iraq. As far as I’m concerned, even Sharpton is preferable to Bush on that issue.
Me: Don’t say that too loudly. So, was the economy an issue in your selection of Edwards?
Myself: No. Only Sharpton worries me more than Bush regarding the economy.
Me: How do you feel about Kerry?
Myself: I have no feelings for Kerry; but if it’s Kerry vs. Bush in November, I’m sure I’ll feel a little better. You can’t blame the deficits on Kerry.
Me: Who do you think is more capable to responding to the threat of terrorism, Edwards or Bush?
Myself: Bush has shown a willingness to kill terrorists, which is OK, but his policies are creating plenty more. Now Dean, he could terrorize ...
Me: What is the most important issue in this (primary) election?
Myself: Keeping our options open.
Me: And how did you vote on the Georgia flag?
Myself: I used a write-in vote in favor of a unique but appropriate Georgia flag. It’s Treebark camouflage so nobody will notice it. This flag fuss is enough to get you talking to yourself.

The Commerce News
March 3, 2004

Let The Court Draw Reapportionment Maps
The panel of three federal judges looking at Georgia’s reapportionment map has handed Georgia voters a rare opportunity – the chance to have redistricting done by objective “experts” who don’t even know where the incumbent legislators live.
The bad news is that we could end up with another politically inspired district map if legislators can agree on one before the middle of March. As would be expected, the Democrats and Republicans have their own versions of “fair” maps, each politically suspect. The good news is that they may not be able to create a map that appeals to both parties.
It’s hard to say if the rejected map is any worse than its predecessors, but it was definitely designed by Democrats to protect Democrats. Sadly, that’s what reapportionment has become all about, politicians protecting or seeking to improve the fortunes of their party for the next decade. Across America, Republicans cry foul where Democrats control the process and Democrats scream “unfair” when Republicans design the map – all with good reason.
In the process, the voters take a beating. Multi-member districts are created, natural boundaries and constituencies are divided and district lines become so gerrymandered as to make it impossible for a senator or representative to represent the district. The rejected 47th Senate District is a perfect example. It contains five counties in their entirety and pieces of 11 others. There is no way Sen. Ralph Hudgens can build the relationships with all of the city and county officials – let alone individual voters – that are needed to understand how local voters feel about issues or even what issues are crucial to local voters.
Reapportionment has also helped create polarization. As Democrats strive to create “Democratic” districts and Republicans seek “Republican” districts, representatives and senators find they have to cater only to like-thinking voters. If Georgia can return to districts based on population and natural and historic boundaries, more politicians will have to temper their partisan rhetoric and voting and be more receptive to new ideas if they want to be elected or re-elected. That would be better for state government.
Georgia voters would be better off to let the courts create the new Senate and House districts than to leave it once again to the politicians. Someone with no political gain at stake should draw district lines based on the needs of voters, not Republicans or Democrats.

Motorists Beware: Don’t Let Auto Insurance Lapse
Many Georgia motorists let their auto insurance policies lapse before renewing them, a practice that many have gotten away with. A new law effective April 1 changes the rules retroactive to Jan. 1.
Motorists who let their insurance lapse for more than one day since Jan. 1 can expect to get a $25 bill from the office of the tax commissioner. It’s another attempt by the state to reduce the number of motorists driving without insurance.
Many insurance companies provide a “grace period” when a policy expires; the state does not. In addition, possession of an insurance company issued card showing proof of insurance is not necessarily considered proof of insurance – such as when policies have been allowed to lapse.
All this means is that responsible motorists should make sure no lapses occur in their coverage. In addition to causing significant problems if they wreck or are pulled over during the lapse, it will result in the new $25 fine.

Jackson County Opinion Index

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By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
March 3, 2004

Fletcher lies again
It was exactly one year ago that Jackson County citizens staged an uprising against attempts by the board of commissioners to take over the county water and sewerage authority. The BOC lost that fight, but that doesn’t mean the board has stopped trying to get control of the water authority and its infrastructure.
Two weeks ago, BOC chairman Harold Fletcher attempted to once again mislead county citizens about the water authority, suggesting that the authority was being mismanaged and couldn’t make payments on the Bear Creek Reservoir debt.
But Fletcher was lying. Again.
The truth is, the water authority has made all the note payments on the Bear Creek debt, although it is the BOC which is legally obligated to do that. All the water authority asked for is that the BOC once again make payments for a couple of months so that the authority’s cash flow won’t be drained during a slow time of the year. That was done last year and the authority paid the county back as the spring and summer water sales picked up.
It has nothing to do with mismanagement, as Fletcher well knows. All Fletcher wants is to find some way, even if it is a lie, to try and make his political nemesis, Jerry Waddell, look bad.
As regular readers know, Waddell is the superintendent of the water authority and a former BOC chairman. There’s bad blood between the two men and since taking office, Fletcher and a couple other BOC members have been trying to have Waddell fired.
Two weeks ago, Fletcher was just grandstanding with his voice of outrage about the authority. As authority chairman Warren Walker said in a letter to Fletcher, the comments created a “snarly and provocative atmosphere.”
That, of course, is what Fletcher and company want. Remember, it was the BOC that put Waddell’s ex-girlfriend, Wanda David, in as an authority board member in an ugly effort to force Waddell to resign. It was a petty move, one that stands as a monumental embarrassment to this BOC and Jackson County. Like Fletcher’s comments, that move was also “snarly and provocative.”
But there’s more. In addition to the public grandstanding and outright lying, Fletcher and the BOC are pursuing an effort to create a management report that will be critical of the water authority and Waddell. In January, the BOC sent out an RFP to have a “management analysis” of the authority done despite objections by the authority to that idea.
Of course, the outcome of that “analysis” is a foregone conclusion. It will be done by some firm that has tight ties to the BOC and it will echo what the BOC wants it to say, which will undoubtedly be critical of the authority. It is, then, nothing more than an expensive political ploy designed by Fletcher and company as a cover for the BOC to take over the water authority.
This summer, the BOC will take over the water authority anyway. Longtime member Elton Collins’ term is up and he will be booted off and replaced with a BOC sycophant. Then Fletcher and his real estate buddies will have control over the county’s water and sewer infrastructure and he can force out his nemesis, Waddell.
Fletcher is an embarrassment to Jackson County and to the decent citizens who make this community their home. In all my years of covering local governments, I have never seen a worse example of leadership than what has come from this BOC chairman over the last three years.
Jackson County deserves better.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.

The Jackson Herald
March 3, 2004

Pitfalls of same sex marriage debate
Tripping around the caldera that holds the gay marriage debate, one can feel the ground shudder. When this thing blows, the cultural seismograph is really gonna shake.
Indeed, in Georgia and across the nation, the debate over gay marriage has become the Rubicon of our times. Once crossed, the future could be changed in ways that are today unclear.
Still, outside of hard-core activists, many citizens are hesitant to take a position, carefully separating their personal life choices from the political rhetoric.
And yet, there are serious issues at stake, not just in the legal sphere, but also in the broader cultural clash that has become the uncivil war of our times.
In the legislative and judicial arena, the issue of same sex marriage revolves on some very specific legal questions. Those questions are essentially tied to property rights and family civil law. For example, if same sex marriage is allowed, then same sex divorce would ensue with the same kind of division of property, child custody arrangements and other such details that are customary in traditional marriages.
But the legal issues don’t end there. If one argues that anyone in a “committed relationship” should be allowed to marry, regardless of gender equations, then should not other “committed” relationships also be afforded equal legal rights? For example, would not polygamy and other multiple-spouse relationships also qualify for legal inclusion?
While the idea of government wading into this morass with constitutional amendments is troubling, it is not new. Legally, governments have for decades recognized that along with traditional marriages are accrued certain benefits and legal rights. For one thing, married spouses have specific tax benefits granted by government, in addition to the various civil property rights mentioned earlier.
We cannot, then, completely divorce “the government” from its legal entanglements with the family unit in this country. Indeed, government is the third partner in a marriage menage a trois. Governments do define, in a legal sense, what “marriage” is to look like.
But this issue isn’t just about the legal questions of property rights. Indeed, it is part of a larger social upheaval that has been labeled by social critics as the “cultural wars.”
In that context, the legal sanctioning of same-sex marriages by government is seen by many as little more than an attack on the traditional family structure. Critics argue that a legal elevation of same-sex relationships to that of traditional marriages is tantamount to official endorsement of those relationships. And that, from a historical perspective stretching back centuries, is a cultural shift of tectonic proportions.
Same sex relationships have been with mankind throughout recorded history. They have been both tolerated and scorned by various societies. Hitler had homosexuals murdered. The ancient Romans and Greeks tolerated, sometimes celebrated, same sex unions. Whether by genetic predisposition or lifestyle choice, same sex attractions are not recent inventions.
But no major culture has ever put same sex relationships on the same legal, moral and cultural plane as traditional male-female marriage. Indeed, there has always been both a stated and unstated link between governments of all kinds and traditional marriage. The stability of both has been mutually beneficial — stability in government creates an atmosphere where individuals form families and contribute to the social and economic fabric which underpins that government. By the same token, a stability in families lessens the demand on government and society in general. Whether from intangible feelings of love or tangible economic considerations, traditional family creation has been not just a social convention, but also a building block of the political, economic and cultural order.
So government has historically elevated marriage to a special status, both legally and culturally. But in doing that, it has not trampled on the civil rights of other relationships, including same sex unions. Rather, it has simply recognized the unique historical, cultural and human imperative of male-female unions.
And that, in the end, is the very core of the current debate. Even if one can justify some kind of legal recognition of same sex partnerships for the purposes of property rights and other civil legal issues, that must be done without a wholesale redefinition of “marriage.” If “marriage” becomes anything we say it is, then it becomes meaningless in both a legal and cultural sense.
For a variety of reasons, there are those who choose to enter into same sex relationships. Government should not seek to undermine those relationships. What people choose to do in their private lives is none of our business.
But it does not follow that government must endorse that choice and give those relationships the same legal standing as that of traditional male-female marriage.
The former is a relationship of choice and convenience, the latter is the foundation on which our very human existence is created. And that is a distinction worthy of government protection.

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