Jackson County Opinions...

APRIL 14, 2004



Column
By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
April 14, 2004

Latest Snafu Just Beginning Of A Greater Design
The public has accepted the news that the new county courthouse isn’t really inside Jefferson with quiet resignation. Voters apparently consider it something of a relief that the commissioners did manage to site the building on county-owned property.
If voters understood what was really happening, they’d be astounded.
What nobody understands to date is that the “oversight” was not a mistake at all, but a calculated maneuver. By leaving a corridor of unincorporated land on the east side of the building site, Commissioners Harold Fletcher and Sammy Thomason have provided a loophole through which Commerce can annex part of the building.
Voters should note that when a business straddles jurisdictional lines, for the purpose of taxation, it is the location of the business office that determines which county can claim the ad valorem taxes. Since the unincorporated third of the courthouse holds the judges’ offices, all Commerce has to do to claim the entire courthouse is annex that portion.
Once that is done, the commissioners have agreed to declare that, since Commerce has the courthouse, it is therefore the county seat of Jackson County. Suddenly, the county’s power will have left Jefferson and moved to Commerce.
This is a plot that has been developing for years. It is the reason the new courthouse was located as far on the Commerce side of Jefferson as possible. It is also the impetus behind Commerce’s extension of its city limits to Montgomery Shores on the Jefferson side of this city. Three or four more friendly annexations and Judge David Motes has to change his office mailing address to Commerce.
That is not the final step, however, just another piece of a puzzle whose completion will thoroughly change Jackson County. Just as he did in Clarke County, Al Crace is laying the groundwork to consolidate the government into a single entity. Clarke County is now officially Athens-Clarke Unified Government; ours would be known as “Commerce-Jackson Unified Government Plus Arcade.” The move would decommission the towns of Jefferson, Pendergrass, Talmo, Hoschton, Braselton, Maysville and Nicholson. Arcade, for the sake of its liquor business, would be retained, a junior partner, though relocated to Darnell Road.
What is not clear is what form of government will operate the Commerce-Jackson Unified Government Plus Arcade. Crace is likely to argue for a county manager form of government, while Fletcher envisions a monarchy, complete with a throne, a court jester and a few eunuchs to be named later. Commissioner Evil Beshara craves a fascist state with a security director who could be counted on to eradicate the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority. Saddam Hussein’s résumé looks promising.
If it all sounds far-fetched to you, remember, in Jackson County, the unthinkable is not only thinkable, but is also quite likely. A government that would borrow $25 million and then say under oath it is not debt is capable of anything.
Just be glad you have a free press. Otherwise, you’d never get the truth.


Editorial
The Commerce News
April 14, 2004

Arcade Request A Way To Hurt Water Authority
It is hard to see how turning over service territory belonging to the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority Arcade can help the authority, Arcade or Jackson County.
The county government has been doing everything within its power to frustrate the water authority. This summer, it will be able to replace two more authority members with yes men to do the will of the commissioners.
Arcade lacks the financial ability to build or maintain a water or sewer system. It wants to become a water and sewerage middleman to skim some of the revenue the authority generates in Arcade. The city also covets what sewer lines can bring – growth. Arcade wants to annex every acre it can.
The Board of Commissioners is less interested in humoring Arcade’s fantasies than in taking a public shot at the authority. In accomplishing that, the commissioners set a precedent for other Jackson County towns to grab service territory and reduce the viability of the county water and sewer systems. They assure duplication of services, unrestrained growth and a water and sewer authority whose revenue sources are always subject to being raided.
It’s ironic that as the commissioners pay a consultant to “analyze” the authority’s management, they are working so hard to make the authority difficult to manage. Call it the politics of cutting your nose off to spite your face.

U.S. Can’t Dodge Its Commitment In Iraq
A major issue confronting the voters as the 2004 presidential election looms is the war in Iraq. In part, the issue is the circumstances by which we got there, but the more critical question will be how do we get out and circumstances that occur between now and Nov. 2 will greatly affect the voters’ thinking.
One thing is clear. Whichever candidate wins, the challenge remains – that of getting out while living up to the moral commitments and obligations made at the time of the American invasion. However one feels about the justification for the war, the nature of the occupation, the ongoing bloodshed or the chances of establishing a democracy, America is morally obligated to the rebuilding of critical infrastructure, to providing security for the resumption of civilian life and to the restoration of self-government in Iraq. The first step in facing that obligation is to accept that regardless of its cost in American lives and dollars, which may be enormous, it is indeed a moral national debt.
Voters may decide to return George Bush to office because they believe the world is safer without Saddam Hussein; or, they may replace him with John Kerry because they believe Bush lied and misled this nation into a war that had nothing to do with terrorism. The point is that whether Bush or Kerry is elected makes no difference in terms of America’s obligations in Iraq. America invaded; it now owns the responsibility of restoring Iraq to the world community, a responsibility that is not diminished by anti-American sentiment in Iraq or anti-war rhetoric in America.
Most of the world is skeptical about this country’s intentions in Iraq. Anything less than the re-establishment of Iraq as a viable nation damages American credibility and dishonors the hundreds of allied personnel and thousands of Iraqi civilians who perished during and after the war.
How we got into war in Iraq is a valid issue for the 2004 presidential election, but our obligations now that we’re occupiers remains the same, no matter how the voting turns out.

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Column
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
April 14, 2004

Cultural clash looming in ‘suburbia of suburbia’
We don’t fully understand what it means yet, but Jackson County is fast becoming a quintessential example of how America is being transformed. A force stronger than politics, stronger than that of the counterculture ‘60s is at play here.
That force is exurban sprawl, the giant migration of people settling vast areas of land that was once home to only cows or pine trees.
The growth that underlies all this isn’t news, of course. For the past decade, Jackson County has seen a wave of growth as people escape the more urbanized areas around Atlanta. Local government rezonings are the staple of our political landscape today, as much a part of what government does as providing water.
But the impact of exurban growth runs deeper than just new subdivisions. That point is being made clear by several social commentators, including a recent essay by David Brooks, a senior editor at The Weekly Standard and an op-ed columnist in The New York Times.
In an upcoming book, Brooks argues that the impact of American suburbanization is just the latest reincarnation of “the American dream.” Says Brooks, this mass middle-class migration is happening for “the same reasons people came to America or headed out West. They want to leave behind the dirt and toxins of their former existence — the crowding and inconvenience, the precedents, and the oldness of what suddenly seems to them a settled and unpromising world. They want to move to some place that seems fresh and new and filled with possibility.”
This latest exurban migration isn’t coming from the urban centers, however. Brooks says that exurban immigrants are “leaving older suburbs — which have come to seem as crowded, expensive, and stratified as cities — and heading for newer suburbs, for the suburbia of suburbia.”
Such a view is at odds with much of the prevailing wisdom about suburban life. To the America liberal elite, the suburbs represent all that they perceive as wrong in the nation; soccer moms who drive gas-guzzling SUVs, who display a strong appetite for conspicuous consumption, and who keep homes as neatly perfect as the cookie-cutter home next door in a subdivision whose name sounds like a French chateau; and baseball dads whose kids play on traveling teams in three sports, drink only Starbucks coffee and watch professional sports on large screen televisions while they cook burgers on the deck with $2,000 grills that are only a little smaller than a Humvee (in Brooks’ witty term, the “Patio Man.”)
While Brooks acknowledges these traits of suburban conformity with all their humorous underpinnings, he also points out that the same impetuous that drives suburban culture today — the impetuous to improve one’s life and to live around people who share similar upwardly-mobile, middle-class values — has become the “controlling ideology of national life.”
That ideology, says Brooks, is not as shallow as it may first appear to critics of the suburbs and in fact, makes this nation the “locomotive of the world.”
But if the suburban ideal is alien to urban residents and liberal snobs, it is also the antithesis of the traditional, Jeffersonian rural culture where virtue is found in citizens’ agricultural ties to the land. While the agricultural roots run deep in this community, they are no match for the lure of suburban life where megastores and megachurches and McHouses in McSubdivisions will replace barns, and parking lots will replace fields.
Jackson County has just had its first wave of this exurban growth, a wave that while dramatic by historic standards, has done little so far to upend the myriad of traditions long associated with rural communities. That is because this first wave has been dominated not by those seeking a suburban culture, but rather by those who identify with rural roots and who moved here after being swallowed up by older suburban growth in Metro Atlanta.
Many of Jackson County’s newcomers in the last decade have been people who grew up in small towns and who now seek to recreate that atmosphere for their own children. They couldn’t do that by living in the old suburbs, and so they moved a little further out to a county that, in many ways, reminded them of their own hometowns.
But the next wave of immigrants moving here will be different. Indeed, just around the corner is a spasm of growth that will bring in people not in search of a rural ideal, but rather long-time suburbanites seeking out the “next best” suburb. They will be escaping older suburbs where crime and traffic are rising and ethnic diversity is increasing. They want what Brooks called the “suburbia of suburbia.”
And in that awaits a cultural clash for this community. Unlike that first wave, these newcomers won’t bring with them small town backgrounds or Jeffersonian rural values. Rather, they will bring demands to recreate a new suburb similar to the one they left, only with less traffic, less crime and less ethnic blending.
Not all of that will be bad, of course, but it will create a cultural shift of how we live in this community. And if we are honest, we will admit that no amount of new zoning codes or land use planning will prepare us for the changes this cultural clash will bring.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.


Editorials
The Jackson Herald
April 14, 2004

Chopping up service area dangerous to water authority
A fundamental change is about to take place in the county water and sewerage authority. That change, a move to chop up its service territory, is just a precursor to the authority’s final demise later this summer when it will be taken over by puppets of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.
Both moves bode ill for the future of the authority, but the splintering of its service area is by far the larger threat to its long-term success.
At issue is a move by the City of Arcade to create its own water and sewerage system. But we wonder, is Arcade prepared to take the risk of this venture, or is it just wanting to piggyback on the success of the county water authority?
We believe it is the latter. Jackson County got started in providing water to rural areas very late in the game. It has taken 15 years just to get the authority up and running to its existing level, which in truth is still a stage of infancy.
But now, just as the authority is getting on its feet, other political groups want to use the system for reasons that have nothing to do with service, but a lot to do with ego and control.
This move to chop up the county water authority’s service area won’t stop with Arcade. Other towns are also wanting to start, or expand their service areas. And you can be sure those towns will want to expand along roads where the most growth will come.
In effect, what is happening is that the county water authority is being transformed from a builder and seller of retail water into a broker of wholesale water to other entities. The prime locations for the authority to grow will soon be traded by the BOC in a crass political effort to bolster their bid for re-election this summer.
It’s important to remember, however, that it wasn’t Arcade which took the gamble to build a county water system.
It wasn’t Arcade that took the gamble to be a player in the Bear Creek Reservoir. Indeed, it was the leadership of former BOCs and county water system leaders who, literally, laid the groundwork for building a system to deliver water to rural areas of the county, including the installation of water lines in Arcade.
But now that the system is running, now that it is moving forward and pipe is in the ground, Arcade wants to jump on that success by crying that they lack the ability to control their own “destiny.”
But the truth is, it is the county water system which is losing the ability to choose its “destiny.”
By chopping up service areas and putting political puppets on the authority, the BOC is taking what has been a successful effort to provide a needed service in the county and making it just another avenue for political patronage.
And when politicians, especially those involved in real estate, run water and sewer lines, you can be sure that service will go first to their developer friends, not to the average citizens who paid sales taxes to build the system in the first place.


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