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 FRONT PAGE - SEPTEMBER 22, 1999 - COMMERCE, GA

Candidates For Miss Homecoming

One of these seniors will be crowned Commerce High School's "Miss Homecoming" at the Commerce-Towns County football game Friday night. Left to right are Ebony Anderson, Kyla Czerwonka, Beth Davis, Stephanie McFadden and Tabitha Saxton.

POLITICS

Only 1 City Race To Be Contested
Kimberly Camp To Challenge Incumbent Lanny Pope For School Board District 5
There will be only one race in the Commerce city elections Nov. 2, and that will be for the District 5 position on the Commerce Board of Education.
Incumbent Lanny Pope, who heads up the lab at BJC Medical Center, will face a challenge from Kimberly Camp, an employee of Henderson Academy, owned by Commerce school critic Gloria Henderson.
Incumbents Steve Perry and Bill Davis were the only candidates to qualify for the District 4 and District 3 seats on the school board.
In the city government, only incumbents qualified for office. They were Mayor Charles L. Hardy Jr., and councilmen Richard Massey, at-large Post 1; Sam Brown, Ward 3; and Bob Sosebee, Ward 4.


Commerce To Get Another Phone Prefix
First it was 335, then 336. This week, Alltel has announced that a third prefix, 423, has been added for new customers on the Commerce phone exchange, effective immediately.
"Wireless telephones, computer modems, facsimile machines and pagers all need telephone numbers," noted Wayne Parker, local operations manager. "An additional prefix enhances our ability to continue providing quality phone service for our customers and to handle future growth."


By The Numbers
County Statistics Reveal Problems With Poverty, Education, Housing
JEFFERSON -- A close look at statistical data for Jackson County presents an unflattering view, but the political and business leaders of the county need to know the truth.
So said Dr. Doug Bachtel, a University of Georgia professor who gathers, publishes and interprets such data, at a breakfast last Thursday sponsored by the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce and MainStreet Newspapers Inc. Bachtel's discussion was the prelude to a series of breakfasts planned for 2000 to delve into the obstacles and issues facing the county over the next decade.
Delivered with wry humor, the data on population, economics, education and vital statistics presented a portrait of a county that must confront low wages, poverty, a lack of education, high rates of teen pregnancy and large numbers of unwed mothers ­ not exactly the kind of information a chamber of commerce would use to attract business and industry.
"You might not like what you hear, but the business community and the movers and shakers need to know this," said Bachtel.
Bachtel compared the data in each category to the corresponding number for Georgia. For example, he noted that from 1990 to 1998, Georgia's population grew by 18 percent. "In technical terms, that's hellacious growth," he said. During the same time, Jackson County's population grew by 25 percent, fueled by the growth in the Atlanta area, which is the second-fastest growing metropolitan area in the country.
C.A.V.E. PEOPLE AND POVERTY
Of that population surge, Bachtel said 77 percent of it moved in from elsewhere, principally the Atlanta area.
"These are CAVE people, citizens against virtually everything," Bachtel told the audience in the gymnasium at Galilee Christian Church. "They want to move into Jackson County and close the door behind them."
The numbers for Jackson County also showed what Bachtel called, "hardcore, rural poverty."
The county's $19,526 per capita income is just above that of Mississippi, which has the lowest per capita income in America.
"So there's some poverty problems you have to deal with, and that's a business issue," Bachtel said. "In 1990, 45 percent of the (adult) population did not have a high school education. The bad news is, nine years later, a lot of those people have become parents."
Only nine percent of Jackson County residents have a bachelor's degree or higher.
"From an economic development standpoint, if you have a small number of people with college degrees, that ain't good," Bachtel stated. "That's where the entrepreneurs come from. These are the risk-takers who start new businesses.
"The good news," he added, "is that you have a low dropout rate (3.1 percent, less than half the Georgia average). Somebody's been working on that."
Bachtel's figures showed that 28 percent of the births in Jackson County are to unwed mothers, 25.2 percent of Caucasian births and 75 percent of African-American births. Interestingly, only 39.9 percent of births to unwed mothers are to teenagers, so a large number of older women are having children out of wedlock.
"That's amazing. I don't want anyone to say there's nothing to do at night in Commerce," Bachtel cracked.
The sociologist also commented that the county's retail trade accounts for more than 18 percent of employment, but only 10.9 percent of wages.
Among the miscellaneous figures Bachtel collected was the county's sale of lottery tickets for fiscal year 1997-98. Jackson County residents spent $7,108,363, which works out to $188.84 per man, woman and child. If the total spending is divided by the number of people 18 or older, the rate is $304.60 per person.
Bachtel suggested most of those tickets were bought by the less educated people.
"College-trained successful people don't play the lottery," he stated.
WHAT TO DO
Given that Jackson County faces these problems, what can it do to ameliorate them?
First, Bachtel said, the county needs to approve the two referendums on the ballot in November, one changing to a county manager form of government, and the other implementing a five-year special purpose local option sales tax.
Second, he said, the county needs to "build a coalition of people who can work together to solve problems." He added that organizers should not wait for volunteers, but go after people who need to be in the coalition "even if you have to drag them in kicking and screaming."
"Some of these things you have to address so when I come back in six or seven years the numbers will have improved," he concluded.
Asked what kind of growth he projected for Jackson County in the next 10 to 25 years, Bachtel responded, "Hellacious."



The Commerce News - Commerce, Georgia
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