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 OPINION PAGE - OCTOBER 6, 1999 - COMMERCE, GEORGIA

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Column
Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
October 6, 1999

 

I'd Rather Pay
Taxes One Cent
At A Time

We're going to have a referendum on a one-cent sales tax in November. The tax could raise $35 million to provide water and sewer lines and to build and maintain roads, bridges and sidewalks. A small portion would go to fund recreation and a fire training facility.
The passage of a referendum on the special purpose local option sales tax, or SPLOST, faces an uphill battle. People have grown cynical about government and taxes. Say "tax," and a conservative America has heart palpitations.
People have lost the concept that government services are essential. They expect criminals to be caught, tried and jailed, roads to be built and maintained, public buildings to be adequate, drinking water to be safe and plentiful ... People expect all of the amenities to which they are accustomed, but they no longer accept that it takes taxes to provide those services.
Americans have embraced the idea that all government is inefficient and unnecessary, even as they demand government solutions to every problem. The same citizen who demands smaller government wants a cop at his door 60 seconds after he reports a prowler. The citizen who protests his school tax bill wants metal detectors at every school door.
Jackson County has a water system about a decade old, financed entirely by about nine years of sales tax revenue. Those lines loop all over the county, but they don't reach everyone. Every week, people come to the county water office seeking water because their wells are dry or contaminated. They demand water. But they didn't vote for the SPLOST last July. They are not interested in hearing that the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority is out of money. Don't talk to them about costs. They just want water lines run to the house. Today.
Commerce needs more capacity at its sewer plant and water plant. Both projects cost millions; both must be done and will be done. The voters may refuse to support a sales tax that would provide much of the money for those essential projects. Then they'll scream when water or sewer rates are increased to cover the work.
Nothing irritates people like poor roads. People want them paved or resurfaced as though a smooth ride is a constitutional right. Every single road we have was built with tax money. Guess where the funds must come from to maintain them? Taxes. Those roads the public demanded be paved for the past 20 years must be maintained.
Taxes built the infrastructure of this county, state and nation and they will build any new roads, bridges or water and sewer systems or courthouse annex. The only question is what kind of taxes.
The sales tax is the least objectionable form. It is applied equally to everyone based on spending, and probably 40 percent of the tax will be paid by people who don't even live here. Of course, you pay Athens-Clarke taxes when you shop there or Banks County taxes when you shop there, and you're going to pay them whether our SPLOST passes or not. It all works out. If we don't fund these things with a sales tax, the other tax alternatives are much worse.
As for me, I'd much rather fund them with a sales tax and get a little help from the tourists and the Department of Transportation.



Column
Pat Greenberg
The Commerce News
October 6, 1999


Internet Is
Changing Lifestyles

The Sept. 20 issue of Newsweek was devoted to "e-Life, How the Internet is Changing America." This special report heralded the news that America had "turned the corner" and "there's no turning back." Being a "cyber-holic," I couldn't agree more, but what caught my eye was a question they asked in one of the articles. "Was there a single moment when we turned the corner?"
The author was asking a rhetorical question about whether or nor we could pinpoint any single event that would mark the turning point when people agreed to adopt an institution, in this case, the Internet. You may ask, what's the difference when the exact amount occurred? We transition from one practice to another, from one technology to another, from one way of doing a certain thing to another, and hardly ever notice the switch. But we as a civilization do seem to need these points in time to mark changes. It seems to be a universal phenomenon, whether we are talking about a new technology, or a change in a cultural or societal practice. We want to mark events. It helps us to place ourselves in this linear time frame that our civilization uses to chart advancement and change.
Mark Beardsley and Art Greenberg talked about it in their columns last week -- the changing of the seasons. We all mark our calendars for that event. We mark anniversaries and birthdays. We have a grand event coming up in just a few months. We will mark a new millennium. And if that is not enough, we created a virus (the Y2K) specially for the occasion, just to help celebrate and make sure our lives were impacted enough so we would definitely know that we had "turned that corner."
But how often do we turn these corners in our daily lives without even giving them a second thought? When did I turn into a "responsible citizen"? When did I "grow up" (if indeed I have, yet)? When did I become the mature adult, or the authority figure, or assume the role of parent? We never seem to stop and look at these passages and note when we turn these corners, yet we are keenly aware at some point later on, that we have. But as it is happening, we never seem to see it. That is the nature of these "passages" and these "changes." I wish we could look at them and admire them as we do the seasons.
But while we are players, actively immersed in the process of change, it is difficult to stand back and say, "Hey, I am part of a new wave of how we do things in this world."
And so it has been and still is with electronic communication. It's been such a long stretch, but such a short time from the advent of the "talking wires," as the Native Americans used to call the telegraph lines in the last century, to the wireless, and then to the computer and all it means to us today.
The people at Newsweek summed it up best when they wrote about "e-life" -- this electronic life that we now live in. Where once it was a novelty, it "isn't just about the future -- it's about the here and now The day is approaching when no one will describe the digital, Net-based, computer-connected gestalt with such a transitory term (e-life). We'll just call it life."
When did we change?

Pat Hood Greenberg is a native of Commerce and a program analyst for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Letter
The Commerce News
October 6, 1999

Prisoner: DA, Investigator Wronged Him
My name is Frankie Shields. I am an inmate in the Georgia Prison System, housed at Carroll County Prison.
The reason I am writing is so that Jackson County can know how bad I was treated by the Jackson County district attorney and detective David Cochran.
I had helped the district attorney and Mr. Cochran in the Donnie Lance case and testified against Donnie Lance in the trial. Ever since the trial ended, the district attorney and Mr. Cochran have avoided me in every way. I have written to them and tried to contact them, and they won't respond.
I was promised a transfer from this prison to another prison closer to Jackson County, due to my family's health and not being able to travel so far. Neither Detective Cochran nor the district attorney have helped me in any way.
I have been having trouble with inmates (because) I testified against Donnie Lance. I have written Mr. Cochran and the district attorney about this problem and my safety here, and they will not do anything to help me. They continue to avoid me.
I feel like I was used in the case and (that) my safety means nothing to them. I am in danger at this prison and (have) no one to help me. I knew how dangerous it was to testify against Donnie Lance, but I did it anyway. Now that it is over, neither the district attorney nor Mr. Cochran cares about what happens to me. That is why I am writing, so if something happens here to me, I want Jackson County to know the reason.
I am from Jackson County and lived with my grandparents, Theodore and Hazel Butler, Maysville. I have asked the district attorney or Mr. Cochran to call the warden here about my safety, and they have not. I also wanted (you) to know how badly I have been treated in this case.
Thank you very much.


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