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August 2020
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Editorials - Pickens Progress Online

Editorials

Keep it civil, people

The best lack all conviction

While the worst are full of 

passionate intensity 

- W. B. Yeats

A lot of us are frustrated by the continuing COVID-19 situation in this country and it’s easy to understand the pent-up anger. There is conflicting information and political angles alleged for every utterance. Conspiracy theories abound and fuel is added to fire by social media posts and national news networks where people with absolutely no relevant experience or education expound with vigorous and robust certainty that they have a full grasp of the situation.

There is no harm with long rants on Facebook or videos on Youtube. They are great places to be entertained, blow off steam, and completely uninformed opinions there fit right in with Russian misinformation.

On the other hand, we have heard several accounts, both right here in Jasper and around the country of teenagers, single moms and minimum wage employees being on the receiving end of extremely heated political rhetoric.

It’s ludicrous and sad to see someone want to do their Sean Hannity impression by berating a 16-year-old working a drive thru over their national company’s corporate policy.

What do they expect will happen? The high school kid will somehow pick up a direct line to corporate and call the CEO, “Hey, this is Jane Doe working the drive thru in Jasper, Ga. and we had a customer tell us we should take our masks off. Not sure if y’all over at corporate are aware of this, but there are some people who don’t believe in this mask wearing policy.”

Corporate CEO: “Oh. Wow. Really. We haven’t heard that. We thought everyone was on board.”

Jane Doe: “He was really fired up. Said he had watched eight different Youtube videos and read a blog and saw a cousin on Facebook post that a nurse told his wife at a gas pump that it was all a socialist hoax.”

Corporate CEO: “Wow. Had no idea. Masks are gone.”

In reality what most of the front line people, (here we mean the convenience store clerks, grocery employees along with the medical personnel) should tell someone pitching a fit about mask wearing: “I am making minimum wage, stressed to the max about whether my college is going to open, or if this place cuts back how I am going to make a car payment, or if the schools don’t open where am I  going to put my kids. And you’ve been sitting home all day watching crap online and now come out acting like a bigshot doctor with all the answers. But I don’t care what you say. My boss said wear a mask and to stand here and ask customers to wear a mask.”

The insults being directed towards the businesses themselves are particularly uninformed. When the businesses - the free-market capitalists themselves - are making decisions about what to do in their own privately built and operated stores, how can it be “a socialist plot?” We suspect people saying that don’t know what socialist means. Because when you get private business making their own decisions (even if that decision comes from a corporate board) that is as non-socialist as you get.

This is a tough, complicated time where there are decisions that can affect lives and livelihoods. There is no clearcut right answer about when something should open and people who think they have one, need to remind themselves of the complexity of a national healthcare issue with an epidemic.

Let’s support the people who are out working, the businesses who are making their own business decisions and facing the consequences and the community leaders who are doing their best with issues like school starts. Disagreement is fine. A healthy debate is fine (again as long as it’s not with someone just trying to take your order and keep their job). 

But do it with civility.

 

Voting no to SPLOST is cutting off your nose

By Dan Pool, Editor

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For much of the past year, I have editorialized and argued this SPLOST plan we vote on Tuesday didn’t contain nearly enough park spending. I spoke with our commissioners and encouraged them to significantly bump up the park allocations. They did increase it some. 

I had hoped parks would have been the key item. The commissioners saw otherwise with 43 percent of the projected $37 million  allocated to roads, while parks is second at 10 percent.

You don’t always get what you want, but, in this case, voting no for the SPLOST is a bad idea. Cutting off your nose to spite your face never works out. 

SPLOST is business; it’s not a place to let political differences hurt the property owners who literally will foot the bill (via higher property taxes) if the SPLOST flops at the polls.

I had pushed the commissioners to be more creative, find things to improve the overall quality of life here. What they chose were nuts and bolts (details appear in Page 1A article). There is nothing frivolous in the package.

This point was made abundantly clear during the county budget hearings when the sheriff was asked if his officers aren’t supplied new patrol vehicles through the sales tax, how will they be provided reliable transportation? The sheriff made it plain, they have to have patrol cars and the money must come from somewhere.

Looking around there aren’t other sources besides the SPLOST to scrape up $150,000 in new patrol cars every year other than property taxes. And it is far better to see these cars funded one penny per dollar at cash registers rather than by property taxes.

Sales taxes are fair taxes. If you spend a lot, you pay more. If you don’t spend much, you don’t pay as much. There is the added perk that all those people stopping here on their way to the mountains fund our road paving, water improvements and public safety. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true when local people choose to shop out of town or online.

There is a sense of urgency with the more than $5 million in public safety spending and the $1.1 million water/sewage needs. Those things are  needed and are going to be paid for soon.

From a strictly business-is-business standpoint, the 9.45 percent ($3.5 million) dedicated to erase debt at the airport makes the most sense to fund. What is being paid is a past debt for an idea that didn’t work out. The county’s plan under the final days of the Bill Newton administration of creating a commercial area connected to a taxiway has never gotten off the ground, to borrow a phrase we have used often over the past 15 years. The Progress ran a front page article from commercial aviation professional Dan Ashby warning this was a bad idea. Few agreed with him, believing businesses would flock to our airport. They haven’t.

Now, just like any small business mis-step, sometimes you must cut your losses. There is no reason to continue paying interest when we can pay it off. The county will own the horseshoe property and maybe something good will locate there eventually with a bunch of high-salary jobs and taxable private jets.

Paying old debts and paving roads may not be exciting but if you must do it, do it as painlessly as possible. 

Vote yes to the SPLOST.