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 OPINION PAGE - SEPTEMBER 22, 1999 - COMMERCE, GEORGIA



Column
Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
September 22, 1999

It's Time To Work
On The Quality
Of Our Growth
Score one for Henry Braselton.
The mayor of the Jackson County community of the same name brought to light an issue last week that is of concern to every community in the county.
Speaking at the meeting of the board of directors of the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce, Braselton proposed that Jackson County needs to develop a plan to promote quality of growth, rather than just growth.
Later, Braselton was worried that perhaps his comments would not look good in print. From my standpoint, at least, they looked very good. While everybody associated with the chamber and county government has spoken about the need to promote quality growth, no one has come forth with a suggestion as to how we might do that. It's time we looked seriously at what we want in the way of growth and how we might avoid the kinds we don't want.
Nor have they defined quality growth, except to declare that mobile home parks are not quality growth.
To the best of my knowledge, "quality," when it comes to industry, means that it provides lots of tax dollars and makes few demands upon the county's infrastructure, meaning mostly its water and sewer service. Quality in housing means stick-built houses, particularly upper scale. Quality, in terms of businesses, has yet to be even remotely defined.
Jackson County is having some difficulty making the transition from a county desperate to get any growth to one that is more selective. Even now, the need to put industry on the tax digest to help offset residential growth is the driving force.
Superintendent of schools Andy Byers says it takes a house valued at $350,000 to provide enough taxes to offset the services its occupants will require. Jackson County will never be snooty enough to attain that lofty figure, but if a $175,000 house falls short of paying its way, imagine the impact of 500 mobile homes. Thus the clamor for industry.
Byers agreed that the chamber should seriously discuss the issue, pointing out that we might otherwise end up with industries that pollute our environment and use up our resources. You can bet he was also thinking, "and give us children to educate without resources to educate them."
The Georgia Power peak production plant is considered the ideal industry. When it is completed, it will add more than $100 million to the tax digest. It uses lots of water, but with about 10 employees, makes no demands on the roads or school systems, and it requires only domestic sewer service.
Our location means we will grow rapidly. Our leadership will determine whether we do anything to control growth, to prevent the undesirable from coming in and to accommodate whatever kinds of growth will benefit us. It looks easy on paper, but it will be very difficult. Accomplishing quality growth will require discipline. Communities will have to turn down industry that offers jobs and taxes they desperately need and wait until a better prospect comes along. Governments will have to tighten zoning and subdivision ordinances over the objections of those who profit from such developments.
Our choice is to get tough now or suffer later. The mayor of Braselton is right on the mark.



Editorial
The Commerce News
September 22, 1999

Let's Learn From Floyd
Georgians living near the coast certainly breathed a bit easier last week when Hurricane Floyd skirted by. The flooding that Floyd caused in the Northeast was horrific, but nothing like what it would have done had it struck Georgia's coast head-on.
For the first time, mandatory evacuations were used all along the eastern seaboard, legacies of the damage done by hurricanes Hugo and Andrew. Although Floyd missed the Georgia coast, there is a lot to be learned from what happened as hundreds of thousands of people fled to the interior as it approached.
First, although there were problems, horrible delays and other foul-ups, the evacuation was a success. It got people out of the storm's path.
Just the same, the evacuation showed that Georgia (and Florida and South Carolina) were not prepared to cope with the evacuees. In addition to massive traffic jams on roads leading from the coast, there were more people on the road than could be housed.
Fortunately, most of the refugees were able to return home in a day or two. But the logistical problems encountered with housing hundreds of thousands of extra travelers would have been much worse had the hurricane hit and the evacuation remained in effect longer.
The state government can now address those shortcomings, so that the next evacuations will run more smoothly. But local government and churches can be a part of it too. Those with buildings that could house refugees should consider making their facilities available and have a plan for providing emergency shelters. Already, the Jackson County Department of Family and Children Services is preparing a county disaster plan that, hopefully, will include many churches and some businesses. Jackson County could have provided temporary relief to thousands of people fleeing Floyd. Hopefully, next time, we will be ready.


Letter
The Commerce News
September 22, 1999

Do Athletics Have Top Priority At City Schools?
Editor:
This is in response to your recent editorial -- Below Average Not Good Enough For City Schools.
"The CHS class of 1999 was above grade level in the fifth grade In seven years, they went from above average to below average.
"It's time the Commerce Board of Education took a long look at why our students so often fail to meet even Georgia's dismal state average and take whatever steps are necessary to improve our schools." I strongly support your statement and add that it is past time to take such actions.
I do not know the length of time the current board members have been in office. Nor do I know how long Mr. White has been the superintendent. I do know that if they have been there during the past seven years they have some responsibility in the decline in the SAT scores.
Also, the high school counselor has some responsibility. Last week I had my son get an SAT application from the counselor, only to find out that the deadline for application was the next day. In my opinion the applications should have been given out to every senior in ample time to meet the deadline. They don't do any good laying around, cluttering up the office. Most importantly, parents and students are ultimately responsible as they are the ones this will affect the most.
Could it possibly be that athletics is really a higher priority at Commerce High than academics?
It's too late for our class of 2000, but not for the students of the new millennium. The Tigers have always had parent and community support and involvement athletically. Now let's get the Tigers roaring academically.

Jenny Harrison

Jenny Harrison is a frequent critic of the Commerce Board of Education in the area of athletic policies.



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