The Commerce News
July 28, 1999
- Poor Turnout For Sales
Tax Meetings Means Little
The lack of public interest in learning
more about a special purpose local option sales tax referendum
proposed for November should not be surprising or discouraging
to those trying to generate interest in the tax. The Jackson
County Area Chamber of Commerce, holding two forums designed
to sell the tax and get public input, has managed to attract
a total of less than 10 people.
To begin with, there are still more than three months during
which the details of the tax split and distribution will be worked
out and in which voters can get the information they need to
decide whether to support the tax. For many voters, the projects
for which the tax is used will determine whether they vote yes
or no. The county commissioners have yet to give a clear signal
on what items they will put into the distribution formula. So
far, discussions have included water and sewer, roads and bridges,
recreation, a fire training facility and a courthouse annex.
While the support is strong for water and sewerage, roads and
bridges and, probably, a fire training facility, the issues of
a courthouse annex and recreation are received very negatively
by some voters.
The real job of the people promoting the tax will be to get voters
to overlook the one or two funding areas with which they may
disapprove in order to fund the areas in which they agree with
The chamber has already touched on the best way to do that, which
is to note that a sales tax is a tax shared by non-residents.
Just as Jackson County residents pay sales taxes out of the county
when they shop in Athens-Clarke, Hall, Gwinnett or Banks counties,
non-residents will help finance our water and sewer system improvements,
our road and bridge work, our courthouse annex, fire training
facility and recreational construction when they shop at the
outlet stores or along Interstate 85. It is believed that nonresident
spending accounts for at least 40 percent of retail spending
in Jackson County. In short, whatever is financed through a sales
tax, we would be getting for 40 percent off better than
the outlet stores offer. If the sales tax referendum fails, county
taxpayers will fund the whole cost of those projects themselves.
That is a concept taxpayers can understand.
In concert with this approach, the local entities with projects
to be funded by SPLOST revenue must explain exactly how the failure
of the tax will affect their plans. A courthouse annex will be
built. Roads will be resurfaced and maintained. In Commerce alone,
massive spending for water and sewer projects must be made to
meet the demands of growth and of state environmental regulators.
Those needs can be funded 100 percent by the county taxpayers,
or subsidized by nonresident shopping. That will be the choice
voters make in November when they accept or reject a five-year
The Commerce News
July 28, 1999
Critiquing The Media
The media loves to critique the media.
Usually, it comes from newspaper columnists, as if we are not
part of the media. We are. I am a little cog in the massive journalism
fraternity that is collectively called the media.
Newspaper folks would rather not be called "the media."
We prefer "the press" or "print journalists,"
either of which would differentiate us from (in our narrow view)
the obnoxious television journalists, who we blame for all media
Last Thursday, a columnist in the Athens paper blasted the "media"
for its attention to the death of John Kennedy Jr. The media
had bestowed royalty upon him, she complained.
She meant television. Print journalists would never do such a
Well, actually they would and they did.
"The press" includes those wonderful tabloid publications
like The Enquirer, The Globe and their spin-offs found next to
TV Guide and People Magazine at the grocery store. These papers
dedicate themselves to covering the real and fictional happenings
of Important People (mostly in Hollywood) and visits by aliens
generally overlooked by the mainstream press.
Certainly that group treated the loss of John F. Kennedy Jr.
with the same élan with which they covered the loss of
Princess Diana. They treat everything with such respect. Time
and Newsweek had special editions.
"The media" is an umbrella term meant to cover all
groups that disseminate news. It does not differentiate between
those whose purpose is news coverage (mainstream newspapers and
magazines) and those whose goal is to entertain (radio, TV, the
tabloids, some magazines).
When we criticize "the media," whether for its sensationalist
coverage or its addiction to violence, we mean television, where
investigative reporting can be good, but which is also likely
to have an exposé on "how your blender can kill you."
It is television that offers Jerry Springer and film of every
murder. It is television that brings news "live from the
Persian Gulf," from a reporter standing outside his hotel.
It is television that brings "30 Days of Mayhem," every
"Rambo" or "Rocky" movie ever made, South
Park, Rescue 911, Melrose Place and professional wrestling.
It's awful stuff, and we watch it everyday. After observing 80
minutes of gore with a body count in the hundreds, we fault "the
media" for its violence.
The public loves violence and mayhem. The public loves to gawk
at disaster and misfortune. It wants to believe Elvis is still
alive, that aliens have abducted the president (count me in),
and wants to know the most intimate details of the lives of the
rich and famous.
If people didn't watch violence, the media would not offer it.
If people were not interested in the sex lives of the 90210 cast,
they would not buy the tabloids reporting it. The media is market
driven; we are the market.
Shame on us for buying it, watching it and then blaming the media
for putting it there. If you don't like what's on TV, don't watch
it. If movies are too violent, don't go. If the newspapers are
too sensational, don't buy them. The blame for outrages of "the
media" must be shared by its consumers. That's all of us.
Gotta go. "Seven" is on.