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 OPINION PAGE - JULY 14, 1999 - COMMERCE, GEORGIA



Editorials
The Commerce News
July 14, 1999

Zoning Fiasco An
Embarrassment For City

Something is amiss with the Commerce system for zoning enforcement if a proposal can get through the planning commission to the mayor and council before anyone discovers that the plan is massively out of compliance with the zoning ordinance.
Such was the case with the proposed planned unit development (PUD) "Kensington Park" proposed by Broughton Cochran for the Mount Olive-Ridgeway Road area. It came before the Commerce City Council Monday night with a "do-pass" recommendation from the Commerce Planning Commission.
Apparently, no one, including the planning commission, building inspector or developer had fully read the PUD requirements in the zoning ordinance. The proposal was in conflict with the PUD provisions in the ordinance, and its handling by the planning commission was muffed as well.
We'll write that off to the fact that this was the first PUD to come before the planning commission, but let it be a reminder for those involved to do their homework in the future.
The development itself, with a mixture of houses on small lots, townhouses and a commercial strip has been a subject of concern for area residents who worry over density, traffic, upkeep of common areas and impact on the community. But since the neighbors also recognize that the land is better used for residential purposes than for anything else, the potential for compromise between the citizens and the developer is quite good.
Any major development in Commerce is likely to attract resistance and should draw careful scrutiny by citizens and government. Part of the citizens' protection should be the city's thorough knowledge of what can and cannot be done under the city's zoning ordinance. Someone designated as the zoning administrator should be knowledgeable about the fine points of the ordinance, and the members of the planning commission should review provisions of the ordinance under which they are expected to make recommendations.
The PUD snafu is embarrassing. Neither the city nor the developer did their homework. In the future, let's be sure the city is prepared and has a full understanding of what the zoning ordinance says.



Column
Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
July 14, 1999

Vacations Help
Us Appreciate
Going To Work

There's nothing like a good vacation to make you anxious to go back to work. Indeed, probably the most important function of the vacation is to make one realize how nice and relaxing work is ­ by comparison.
I have heard it alleged that people have taken vacations just to relax, and have succeeded, but it has never happened to me.
Barbara and I experienced a lot more stress on our vacation than our jobs produce. By the time I'd found a parking place at the Atlanta airport as we left on our last trip, I was a candidate for hospitalization. (Memo to self: avoid Atlanta airport whenever possible.)
Our vacation was just the two of us. A family vacation is much worse, even if it's just a trip to the beach.
God did not intend for families to spend eight hours cooped up in an automobile the size of your smallest bathroom while en route to a destination never favored by more than two of the four family members. If two are excited about going to the beach, one would prefer to head to the mountains and the fourth is angry about having to be with the other three.
Then, upon arrival where a second mortgage on the house has secured a condo for a week, things finally go well. For as long as a day. On the second day of a beach trip, the beach has become boring. Father wants to go somewhere to fish. Mother and daughter want to shop. Son wants to go para-sailing. Regretfully, there is only one car, and it can go only one place at a time, much to the frustration of at least half of the family. Father decides to buy two six-packs instead of one.
Meals are exercises in stress management. If they are taken in a restaurant, two family members are sulking because they would rather be someplace else. If meals are cooked in the condo, there is always mumbling about "why can't we eat out."
Children believe that it is written in the Constitution that they should be allowed to avail themselves of every activity offered on the Grand Strand, from scuba diving to bungee jumping ­ financed by Mom and Dad, of course.
During the first three days of the trip, Mom and Dad are trying to get over the stress they incurred at work trying to get ready for the trip. Unless you work on an assembly line, chances are you have to do much of the vacation week's work in advance. Then, the last four days are spent with the knowledge that once you get back to work you're in for a hellacious week of catching up and worrying about whether the house is still standing and the pets are still alive. If it's a really good vacation, the worrying also includes recovering from the expense.
Also, on a typical trip, the air conditioning in the condo or, worse, your car, fails, you get booked next to a family whose teenage sons are into heavy metal music or someone in the family comes down with the chicken pox or mumps. Possibly all of the above.
By the time you actually finish your vacation, you're anxious to return to the office. The first week will be hell, but once it is over, you can settle into a predictable if not comfortable routine.
A good vacation will make you thankful you have to go to work.

Column
Adam Fouche
The Commerce News
July 14, 1999

Is CUE Seeking Control Or Change?
BY ADAM FOUCHE
Our country and community operate by rules and procedures. We have a government to make and execute laws and policies. We elect the people who make up this government, and in doing so, we trust them to do what is best for the majority of people.
Political minorities need to be heard and do have an impact on our system of government. But we cannot and should not allow the minority view to prevail in every situation. If it is a minority political view, then most people (the majority) are against that view.
Citizens United for Education (CUE) is a minority political group. CUE, in a letter sent to the Commerce Board of Education, says it seeks to establish citizen committees to revise and implement new city school policies, especially those relating to athletics and student-teacher interactions.
A citizen committee sounds like a good idea, but there already is a group elected from the community to serve the community. Establishing a citizen committee is such a good idea that one was formed at the birth of the school system. We call it the board of education. Every one of the members of the Commerce BOE is elected by the very people served by Commerce City Schools.
It seems to me that CUE's citizen committees are just a way for a minority political view to gain control of a system that is representing a differing majority view.
It is good that these people want to interact and are concerned with government, but they may be forgetting the whole reason we have the system of government we have. We elect people to represent us. They, however, take on the role of a trustee more than they take on the role of a delegate. CUE is upset because the BOE is not acting enough like a delegate. It can't do that.
Most people don't understand every issue, nor do they realize the consequences of actions. When we vote for someone, we are entrusting them to make the decisions they feel will benefit the most people.
This isn't to say they shouldn't listen to their constituency, because they should. But if the majority of a school board member's constituency believes we should execute anyone caught breaking school rules, that board member cannot possibly carry out those wishes. They must decide what the best available policies should be.
CUE has also made the claim that the school system is more concerned about athletics than academics, and seeks a reverse to this line of thinking. You can argue that more emphasis is being placed on athletics, but CUE is doing so hypocritically.
CUE member Jenny Harrison argued at a BOE work session last week against her son not receiving an athletic letter she felt he deserved.
"I'm saying that on the school transcript, colleges and universities look at those areas [athletics]," she said. Another parent present opposed a decision to kick a student off of a team for vandalizing school property. It appears that such an argument places athletics over doing what is right.
How can a group whose purpose seems so deeply rooted in athletic matters argue that athletics are being put above academics? They themselves are arguing for the importance of athletics.
Perhaps CUE could do good things in this community. Perhaps it could act as a lobbyist presenting policy ideas to the BOE.
But now CUE is only a hindrance. To be effective, it must cease its quest for control and put more emphasis on pushing change. Otherwise, it is only killing its own arguments.
Adam Fouche is a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers.



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