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 OPINION PAGE - JULY 28, 1999 - COMMERCE, GEORGIA



Editorials
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 need.
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 SPLOST.



Column
Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
July 28, 1999

The Media
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 excesses.
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 thing.
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.


Letters to the Editor
The Commerce News
July 28, 1999

Who Is In Control Of Schools?
Editor:
First, I would like to thank you for almost an accurate article written in your July 14 edition entitled "Group Request Changes in School Policy." There were only two points that differ from what actually happened.
Chairman Perry said the letter from CUE would be answered within the week instead of before the August regular board meeting. It has been received. Also, Steve Perry called for comments only from the board. I had requested time to speak concerning the policies at the July 12 meeting however, the request was not granted. Secondly, Mr. Perry read a prepared statement from the consensus of our board concerning the opinion of the students, teachers and parents about "clearly stated school rules." One would question at what meeting was the statement prepared by the consensus of the board? Furthermore, as the legal organ of Commerce, did The Commerce News receive notice of this meeting? There had to be a meeting between the close of the work session Thursday night and the vote Monday night to prepare a statement and vote on consensus. On Monday night after the meeting there was a request for the results of all three surveys referred to at the meeting. The board of education must have looked long, hard and over other relevant responses to come up with the approval statement that parents, students and faculty "agreed that the behavior code clearly stated school rules."
Among students surveyed the lowest ratings were: Teachers treat all students fairly and consistently; and discipline is fair and related to violations of agreed upon rules. Only one average score out of 15 responses ranked at or above the "agree" point, leaving 14 average responses ranked below the "undecided" point.
Among the faculty surveyed the lowest ratings were: Teachers treat all students fairly and consistently; classroom discipline is enforced in a fair and consistent manner; discipline is fair and related to violations of agreed upon rules; the parents organization at this school is considered important to the staff; and the school staff effectively involved parents in achieving the goals of the school. Twenty-one of out 50 responses were at or above the "agree" point, leaving 29 at or below the "undecided" point.
Among parents surveyed the lowest ratings were: Discipline is fair in this school; I feel encouraged to become actively involved in this school; and I received adequate feedback from teachers concerning the progress of my child. Only five of 18 responses averaged were ranked at or above the "agree" point, leaving 13 at or below the "undecided" point.
I would like to address Mr. Fouche's column, "Is CUE Seeking Control or Change." CUE may be a minority group, however, from the results of the board of education's own survey, CUE's presentation at the work session included the majority of the concerned opinions based on faculty, parent and student responses. So the question is "who is in control?" Why hasn't our trustee citizens group (elected board of education) addressed these issues openly in their meeting so the public could be aware of the responses at least through your reporter? Superintendent White stresses that the first reading of the Policy Students Extra-Curricular Activities (June 14, 1999) was tabled for four weeks to allow for public comment. The only information given about this was in an article in which the information was misleading and inaccurate. The article stated that there would be a board, including a hearing officer, present in case of a student-athlete being removed from a team. The fact is there is not a hearing officer required. The panel includes the principal, superintendent, athletic director and head coach. If there happens to be a tie, who would break it? If the athletic director is also the head coach, does he get one vote or two? These questions have been repeatedly avoided because, there is no answer. Trustees interested in the well being of our children do not ignore questions and pass the policy without refining it, no matter how much time was expended. The policy does not address the concerns of the person who requested a policy earlier in this year. It also does not take into consideration any of the policies she presented to the board in writing.
Mr. Fouche needs to refine his statement that "Another parent present opposed a decision to kick a student off of a team for vandalizing school property." That was the statement I made except for one small but meaningful word: "accused." This was never proven, there were no witnesses and the student/athlete did not admit to it. On the other hand, student/athletes were left on teams after being charged with crimes recorded at the Commerce Police Department. Furthermore, it has been reported that a student/athlete was taken out of in-school suspension to play in a playoff game. Even though the board of education rebutted that it had no policy concerning this and could not control the coach's behavior because of lack of policy, the Georgia High School Association has an eligibility requirement that excludes student/athletes from participation if they have been removed from the regular classroom for discipline purposes. Unfortunately, the actions of a few coaches in conjunction with the athletic director support CUE's position that the coaches have too much power with little or no accountability.
Currently, the control of our school is not in the hands of the trustees. I'm certainly glad that Mr. Fouche recognizes that it is not in the hands of Citizens United for Education. No matter who has the control of our school at this point, it is most certainly a fact that ultimately the buck does stop with our elected school board officials. With or without committee structure for impute, it is far past time that they take a serious look at what the parents, faculty, student and state ethics have to say; then establish policies which support the direction of the people they serve.
Sincerely,
Gloria C. Henderson

It's Parents, Not Schools That Are The Problem
Editor:
This letter is in regard to the (letter) about how bad the schools are.
I am a student at one of the Commerce schools. It is awful how parents act the way they do about the school systems. I have only been at Commerce for half a year, and I see the hard work that is going toward making the schools the best they can be.
The parents who are making the comments are so immature, and parents wonder why there are school shootings. I think schools have violence because of immature parents coming and complaining.
I don't blame the schools. I blame the parents, so get a life and let the school system do its job.
Robert Parris
Commerce



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