Jackson County Opinions...

OCTOBER 27, 2004

By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
October 27, 2004

Bush Is The Best Reason To Vote For Kerry
I would like to use this opportunity to endorse Senator John Kerry in next week’s presidential election.
I really would like to, but I can’t.
Don’t get me wrong. While I once had just about given up on voting for Kerry and planned to toss my ballot to the Libertarian Party, a recent poll showing George Bush leading Kerry in Georgia by only 10 percent made me change my mind. I’m going to vote for the Democrat.
I can’t endorse him, however; I don’t think he’ll make a good president. About the only good reason I can think of to vote for him is that he’s almost certainly going to be a better president than Bush. He can’t be that bad.
Jackson County and Georgia will almost certainly vote for Bush, and it appears that the election is his to lose. I hope he does.
Bush’s record is abysmal, no matter what FOX News and the talk-show hate-spreaders think. His turning a record budget surplus into a record deficit is reason enough to oppose him, but that is only one issue. Here are my other reasons.
•the Iraq war: The Bush administration wanted to go to war and used the slimmest of evidence to attack Iraq. Yeah, Saddam Hussein deserved it, but Bush misled the American public to sell us on the war. The administration continues to link the war with the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a link the 9-11 commission said does not exist.
•Bush’s environmental record is nothing short of the sale of our water, air and national forests to industry. An article in the New York Times demonstrated how the president chooses scientific advisors first by their loyalty to the president. What global warming?
•the culture of deception: This president misled us about the war, concealed estimates about the real cost of the Medicaid bill and has had fewer press conferences where he might be subjected to hard questions than any recent president. From the Pentagon’s concocted story of the “heroic” Jessica Lynch rescue to the denial in the last debate that he’d ever put the hunt for Osama bin Laden on the back burner, this administration lies repeatedly and consistently to the American public.
•energy: Thanks largely to the Iraq war, oil prices are skyrocketing. While his oil company friends get rich, the risk to the American economy is huge. We need to reduce our dependence upon oil from the Middle East.
•the Rambo approach: From his “bring it on” challenge to terrorists (who are) to the pre-emptive war, this president’s tough guy leadership is isolating America.
•homeland security: America is using in Iraq the troops and resources that might have helped find bin Laden and that would certainly have made our ports and borders less susceptible to attack. We are little better able to prevent or respond to attacks than we were in 2001.
That’ll have to do for a start. I have neither the time nor space to run through my entire list of why Bush should not be re-elected.
Unfortunately, I’ve seen nothing in Kerry to suggest he’d be a great president. I’ve seen no plan for getting us out of Iraq or improving the economy. There is no compelling reason to support him – except that if he does not win, Bush does.
George Bush is the reason I can think of to vote for John Kerry. For me, that’s enough.

The Commerce News
October 27
, 2004

3 Candidates Have Earned Public’s Trust
Jackson County voters will return to the polls again next Tuesday to continue the process of electing the county’s leadership for the next four years. Two local races of particular importance are on the ballot.
One is the race for chairman of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.
Because of her long-time involvement in the county, Pat Bell is the better choice. She is experienced in the holding of public office after one term each as a county commissioner and state representative and in both cases she served well. She is keenly aware of the local needs and issues and is a tireless worker on behalf of the county’s citizens. She will make every effort to be the kind of leader Jackson County needs to restore the public’s confidence in the board of commissioners.
In the sheriff’s race, incumbent Stan Evans is the clear choice. In a county with a sad history in law enforcement, Evans has restored the public trust in the office of sheriff. His department works well with the local municipal police departments and with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. His track record warrants his re-election.
Voters would also do well to return incumbent coroner Keith Whitfield to office. His experience and training make him the best qualified candidate.
It’s crucially important for Jackson County to elect the best possible leaders for the next four years. Pat Bell, Stan Evans and Keith Whitfield have all earned the public’s trust and deserve to be elected next Tuesday.

Chairman’s Remarks Warranted An Apology
Warren Walker, chairman of the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority, stuck a foot in his mouth last Wednesday with a remark insulting to new member Saverne Varnum. Walker’s chickens-and-watermelon comment after the meeting ended struck everyone but Walker as overtly racist at the worst and stupid and insensitive at the best.
When he was made aware of the gaffe, Walker rushed outside and apologized to Mrs. Varnum. Two days later, he resigned as chairman and issued a statement that fell well short of an apology, noting that one of the members planned to use the incident to “force me out of office.” Mrs. Varnum deserved a public statement acknowledging the inappropriateness of Walker’s comments.
To her credit, Mrs. Varnum accepted the first apology and has indicated that it’s time to move on to conducting the business of the authority. Her graciousness is sharply contrasted with Walker’s non-apologetical public statement. It also shows she has more maturity than Commissioner Emil Beshara, whose outrage at Walker’s remarks has zero credibility, considering his relentless campaign against the authority and previous BOC demands for the resignation of past members.
However, the commissioners’ two other most recent appointees, Hunter Bicknell and Phillis Holland, bring stability and leadership – and the ability to put the pettiness behind them – to the authority. Mrs. Varnum’s decision to move beyond Walker’s statement suggests she will also be a stabilizing influence and will help return its focus to the responsible managing of the county’s water and sewer system.
Three new members of the authority seem intent on getting beyond the intrigues of the past two years, while Walker and the fifth member, Wanda David, appear rooted in the political gamesmanship that dominated the authority and county commission.
A better public apology would have been welcomed, but new leadership is even better.

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By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
October 27, 2004

Lawyers, not voters, may decide election
It had to happen. You knew it would eventually. Lawyers, not voters, may well decide the upcoming presidential election.
Both Democrats and Republicans are parachuting lawyers into key states where balloting is expected to be close. Their mission is to look for ways to sue should the election go against their side.
Thus is the result of a bitter, partisan, polarizing political climate, a climate where being a political moderate, or independent-thinking voter, is a curse.
So say the party faithful: “If you aren’t for us, you’re against us.”
Indeed, national elections have become this nation’s second civil war. We aren’t divided on geographic and economic grounds as we were 145 years ago, but we are a nation divided on ideological grounds.
Both political parties somehow believe they have cornered the market on “truth.” Like a preacher who believes he has the only direct line to the Big Guy, both parties preach their “truth” by declaring all those with differing views to be heretics.
For Democrats, the “truth” says that President George Bush is a right-wing, bible-thumping, lying dimwit who wants to use American military power to dominate the rest of the world.
For Republicans, the “truth” says that John Kerry is a coward who would bow down to terrorism and allow the French to hold sway over U.S. policies.
In past elections, independent voters would ignore the extremes of both political parties, vote for the person, and in the end, determine the final results. Indeed, it has been the moderate voters who determined the outcome of many elections. There have always been radicals on both extremes of the political spectrum; it was the moderate voters who brought some common sense into the ballot box.
Now, however, the intensity of political rhetoric has sucked in so many former moderates to one side or the other that there are few true independent and moderate voters left.
It may not matter anyway because lawyers are getting ready to litigate the presidential election to determine the outcome not at the ballot box, but rather in the courts. Where moderate voters once held sway, now lawyers swinging heavy briefcases may decide who becomes president.
The response is predictable: Whichever side loses will cry foul and claim the other side cheated. The validity of election outcomes will be blurred not by close voting, but rather by post-election legal wrangling.
It is unlikely that some kind of national third party will rise out of the ashes of such a mess. That’s been tried and just won’t work in our system.
But if we lose faith in our system of elections, if every election has to be litigated to be decided, then we will have lost the key to our democratic process. When the courts, not voters, determine the outcome, then our system of government will have collapsed in upon itself.
The 2000 election was decided in the courts. This one may be as well.
As a moderate voter, one who does not march to any party tune, I say a pox on both political houses.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.

The Jackson Herald
October 27, 2004

Pat Bell for chairman
The Jackson County government is facing a difficult period of adjustment. After four years of uncontrolled spending, the county now faces a looming fiscal crisis. In addition, payments on debt service will eat up more of the county financial resources in the coming years.
But the financial crisis is only one of the problems. Perhaps an even larger problem is that many citizens distrust their county government. That was very evident in the July Primary balloting where two county commissioners were booted from office, one by an 84 percent margin.
So in addition to mending the county’s leaking bank account, the new administration taking office Jan. 1, 2005 will have to mend the distrust that currently surrounds the county government.
We believe as chairman of the board of commissioners, Republican candidate Pat Bell can accomplish both of those tasks.
Bell is a former county commissioner and knows how the county government operated before the mess created by the current administration. She proved to be a no-nonsense public official, willing to take strong, controversial stands on issues important to county citizens. And she proved that she was not self-serving, but rather wanted to do what was best for Jackson County as a whole.
But perhaps even more importantly, Bell is trusted by a wide swath of community leaders and citizens across Jackson County. Even those who might otherwise disagree on a policy issue have been willing to drop those differences and rally behind Bell’s leadership.
Having such a rapport with citizens will be important as the next administration is forced to make some difficult financial decisions about the county’s future.
That is why we support Pat Bell for chairman of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.

Stan Evans for sheriff
It was 20 years ago when a young man burst onto the county’s political stage by unseating an incumbent sheriff in one of the county’s most contentious and important elections.
That man was Stan Evans, at the time the state’s youngest sheriff. Since those early days, history has proven that voters in 1984 made a wise decision.
At the time, Jackson County was known as a haven for various kinds of criminal activity. Few people had the courage to oppose the organized crime that was pervasive here. The money that flowed from this illegal activity had corrupted the county’s political system for decades. In 1984, was again a growing threat to the welfare of Jackson County.
But the election of Evans that year changed things. The old organized criminal activity that was an embarrassment to the county is now history. There’s still crime, but the flow of ill-gotten money into the county’s political process was stopped.
That was in large part due to the leadership of Sheriff Stan Evans. And over these past 20 years, Evans has continued to be a strong positive force in Jackson County.
That is why we once again strongly support the re-election of Stan Evans for sheriff of Jackson County.
In the coming months, the county will face a difficult decision about the need to construct a new jail. While county leaders were busy squandering taxpayer money on a lavish new courthouse, the offices which house county law enforcement officials and prisoners was rotting.
It’s only a matter of time until the county, willingly or unwillingly, must build a new jail.
And there are other difficult issues facing Jackson County law enforcement which comes from residential and commercial growth. How Jackson County responds to this changing face of crime will depend on who sits in the sheriff’s chair.
We believe the best candidate to oversee all of these issues is the man who has proven his leadership abilities over the last 20 years.
And that is why we again support Sheriff Stan Evans for re-election.

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