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OPINION PAGE - OCTOBER 20, 1999 - JEFFERSON, GA



Editorials
The Jackson Herald
October 20, 1999

A hit and run society?
Tuesday's tragic death of a 9-year-old child by a hit and run driver leaves all of us shaken. It is made even worse by the fact that the driver didn't stop to offer help, but rather continued on his way.
And now we hear from other witnesses that a number of cars passed by the scene without stopping to give aid. Some reports indicate that other cars may have also hit the child before traffic finally came to a halt.
We'd like to think that because the morning was dark, many of those didn't realize they were passing by an injured child. But surely some of those passers-by should have wondered why people were in the road trying to stop traffic.
Have we become a hit and run society where our rush to get to work is more important than helping a hurt child? Have we become so callous to tragedy that we no longer recognize it when we see it?
This hit and run death was also amplified by a new program Tuesday night in which many youngsters in nearby Rockdale County were portrayed as being "lost." No, these middle-class kids had homes, but for all practical purposes had been abandoned by parents too consumed with their own selfishness. They were left to run and roam as they pleased, the result being a huge outbreak of sexually transmitted diseases from after school group sex parties.
It's a cliché to suggest that our society is damaged and broken, even amid our economic wealth and well-being. Yet that is exactly what we see when a number of people appear uncaring and insensitive about a child lying hurt in the road.
We hope those people didn't realize what they were swerving to miss in the early Tuesday darkness.
God help us all if they did know, but didn't care.


Letters
October 20, 1999

Wants to 'set record straight' on youth football
Dear Editor:
I am writing in response to the letters from the last two weeks regarding youth football and to set the record straight.
On Saturday, October 2, a pair of assistant coaches from an 11-12 year-old football team was involved in a physical and verbal confrontation with each other. Profanities were used and the two men nearly came to blows, bumping chest to chest, grabbing, shoving and shouting at each other. A parent assisting the team helped break up the scuffle until I arrived from the score booth. Once play on the field had been halted by a time out, the head coach assisted in ending the scene and used his off field authority to assure that the confrontation would not escalate.
While on the sideline after the confrontation, the two assistant coaches involved in the scuffle apologized and seemed to be in control. With the game nearly over and the coaches calmed down, they were allowed to remain on the sideline rather than make another scene in front of the kids. Although no actual punches were thrown, the incident was one of the worst displays from adults or youth that I have seen in recreational sports. Consequently, both coaches have earned themselves suspensions from coaching for the remainder of the season. The message: there is no place for displays of unsportsmanlike behavior or violence in youth sports, especially from grown adults who are supposed to be setting an example for our children.
I also want to respond to comments on kids' playing time. This is an issue that is a constant concern in recreational sports. All participants at this level are granted an opportunity to explore their ability and desire to participate in activities and to do so in a safe and relatively controlled environment. Our department has made large strides over the last two years in setting standards for minimum and maximum playing requirements for participants in all programs to assure this opportunity and fairness. When introduced, these standards were very unpopular and were met with substantial resistance. However, most of the initial opponents now agree that these requirements are a necessary and important component of recreational youth sports. These standards are still being fine-tuned and no system is perfect.
Tackle football, in particular, requires more effort from coaches when it comes to giving playing time for participants, especially teams with large numbers of players. Having been a coach myself, I know personally how difficult a task it can be to play all players as much as possible, especially when factoring in some unique characteristics inherent to tackle football. In addition, during the heat of a game, honest mistakes are easy to come by and things can be unintentionally looked over. Our department steps in when it appears that there is a deliberate or unjustified exclusion of a player from participation, or if there is a failure to adhere to safety or playing requirements. Fortunately, this is a rare circumstance.
Since the first game of the season, the coaches who have been criticized (and several other coaches in similar situations) have done an excellent job of giving substantial playing time to all players, as was evidenced in recent games.
Coaches should be praised and supported for the time and energy they put in with our children. There are times when there are legitimate concerns about coaches' actions. When brought to our attention, or to the coach in a constructive manner, they are addressed appropriately. However, many times complaints and criticism come hastily and too often in the wrong way, at the wrong time, or without full understanding of a situation. Because of all these elements, coaching youth sports can be one of the most difficult challenges an adult can face. It can also be one of the most rewarding.
Sincerely,
John Hoos
Director, Jackson County
Parks and Recreation



Column
By Mike Buffington
October 20, 1999

Hoschton candidates should support SPLOST

Last week, I again had the pleasure of moderating the Hoschton forum with those running for the town's city council. Sponsored by the Hoschton Womens' Club, the forum is a chance for citizens in the town to question candidates about various local issues. It's also a chance for me to get a good feel for the public mood on issues.
Perhaps not surprisingly, water, sewer and other infrastructure to handle growth were at the heart of the discussions. Citizens complained about water pressure and quality and about the lack of sewage capacity. Residents of Panther Creek Subdivision again demanded that the city fix their sewage system. Just in case any candidate missed the point, a bucket of the raw sewage was brought in as evidence.
In addition to the infrastructure discussions, there was also a lot of talk about wanting to keep the small town's charm in the face of growth. Four of the six candidates are relatively new to Jackson County, having located here from Gwinnett County or other more densely populated areas. Several had ideas for making Hoschton a pedestrian town of small shops to lure tourism.
But while the candidates were generally in support of improving the town's infrastructure and appearance, they were less united when asked whether they support the special local option sales tax that will appear on the Nov. 2 ballot. One candidate said he was for it. Another candidate said he was against it. The others sent mixed messages and appeared to be on the fence.
Frankly, I can't understand the fence-sitting, especially after all the talk of infrastructure needs. It's one thing to point out the problems that need to be fixed - that's the easy part. What's not so easy is finding a way to pay for fixing those problems.
It's interesting to note, however, that just about every problem discussed by the Hoschton candidates could be addressed by using SPLOST funds. The town would directly get around $736,000 over a five-year period from the funds. That's a lot of money for a town whose budget is under $450,000 per year.
For example, the city would get around $523,000 in SPLOST money to be used for water and sewer upgrades. That would be money that could go toward fixing the city's water and sewer problems and for expanding the system to handle the growth all the candidates said was coming.
Another $172,000 would go to Hoschton for roads and other street improvements. If the vision for Hoschton is to be a pedestrian town, those funds would go a long way toward putting the streets and sidewalks in place to accomplish that goal.
On top of these funds, the town would get another $41,000 for recreation, parks and green space. Again, it is money that could be used for improving the quality of life in the town, a goal every candidate espoused.
Those are funds that would go directly to Hoschton and don't include money slated to be used at the county level that would also have an impact on Hoschton.
What's also interesting about the SPLOST and Hoschton is that many of those living in the town already pay the tax - to other counties. Because Hoschton is close to three county lines and because it lacks a major retail center, many people in Hoschton shop in Barrow, Gwinnett or Hall counties, helping those communities with their infrastructure payments. Jackson County's SPLOST income mostly comes from other areas of Jackson County that have larger retail stores, such as the outlet malls around Exit 53.
Of course, getting SPLOST money is only part of the battle. Those funds have to be put to use if they're to do any good. In the past, Hoschton has raided its water department funds by transferring money from it into the general city budget. Those funds, if left in the water and sewer budget, could be useful in expanding the city's infrastructure. (Surprisingly, no candidate mentioned this during the forum.)
Given all the various needs Hoschton has, every candidate should not only like the SPLOST, they should be out working to get it passed.
So here's a final rhetorical question for Hoschton's slate of candidates: If you're lukewarm on the SPLOST vote, then how do you plan to pay for all the things you want to do?

Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.



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