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Op-ed, blogs and columns

Nelson Mayor comments on police coverage: Town needs police officers to do more than sit on porches

By David Leister

Nelson Mayor

In this first of what I hope will be many articles about the City of Nelson, I would like to thank the Pickens County Progress for the opportunity to communicate openly with the citizenry.

Recently I evoked a very strong response from a small group of citizens with the use of the word ‘out-sourcing.’ While it succeeded in pulling citizens into the city council meeting as I had hoped, I am not certain that they were of a mind to hear what the reasons were for discussing it. Too often we realize that the best of intentions may not have wide acceptance and are often blurred by the emotions of the moment. Such was my night on May 2, 2011.

[Resident Brian Cain of North Avenue said, “Efficiency is not as important as safety. People are willing to pay for security.” They demonstrate that when they buy security systems and firearms, he said. “You’re willing to pay for security. Don’t forget that.” Cain advised other residents in the audience, “When you want a policeman up there, it’s worth it.”] Pickens County Progress, Thursday, May 5, 2011.

The comments of Officer Cain while intended to refute my call for open discussions, were very supportive. The very week that he made those statements and other citizens agreed with him, insisting that I resign, our lone police officer finished his week ‘in-service’ by Thursday afternoon. Our city went unprotected from 4:30 Thursday afternoon until 11:30 Monday morning. Furthermore, our city has had no weekend coverage for the past three weeks. As an example, in the month of April only one traffic ticket and six tall grass citations were issued. The city court for May was canceled leaving the city attorney and criminal court clerk with significantly reduced work loads that taxpayers are still paying for.

The city council has, since August, allowed a decline in both coverage time and visibility stating that they wanted a police officer that would stop and sit on porches, as in the fictional town of Mayberry.

They, despite the phenomenal job of stopping crime in Nelson carried out by Officer Jim Van Alstine, refuse to acknowledge that Nelson has crime. In 2006 a meth lab across the street from a council member went unnoticed by the city officials.

They have continued to turn the same blind eye to the city’s decline over the past 50 years. For the past year I have asked the city council to be active in interviewing and fully staffing Nelson’s police department to insure the quality of life and security that  the citizens of Nelson expect.

Instead, they have reduced in-service time and failed to maintain their responsibilities.

Why should concerned citizens buy security systems and firearms instead of having the benefit of the one full-time and two part-time officers they are taxed for? While under my direction the police covered peak times and were very visible.

I have suggested various scheduling strategies for the police and have had them all rejected. We need all of our elected officials to have our safety and the future of Nelson as their singular purpose rather than simply labeling of the mayor a trouble-maker for speaking out.  I have been told to ‘stay in line and know my place.’ I do and it is not under anyone’s thumb, including that of the city council. Nelson needs its citizens involved now.             Please make time to guide your elected officials to save our city and to breathe life back into your community.

I would like to hear from you regarding this or any other topic for discussion. You can call 678-820-9872, e-mail me at david.leister@nelsongeorgia. com or send a letter to David Leister, Mayor, 1985 Kennesaw Avenue, Nelson, Ga. 30151.


Progress columnist debates Tolstoy on happiness

A laugh for your week

The essential bad attitude By Alan Gibson

Moscow, 1884. It was obvious from the first vodka that Alexi Tolstoy had little truck with happiness in the American sense. “If you want to be happy, be,” he shrugged in that annoying way fatalists have.

Seeking to enliven the intellectual climate, I smashed my glass on the hearth in what I assumed was a symbolic rite.

Tolstoy groused peevishly that it was his best stemware and how happy would I be if he came to my house and smashed things?

“Gimme a break, Alex,” I told him. “A Russian – the original gloom culture – lecturing an American on happiness. Listen pal, Americans are happy because we know how. It’s a trait we cultivate.”

Alex pointed out that a bowl of potato soup could make a Russian happy, so who was better at it? I told him belligerently that I was 10 times happier than he could ever hope to be and how did he like that! He yawned and said it was fine with him, then, to spite me, told a joke – some vapid bêtise about a walrus from Murmansk.

I responded imprudently that his Uncle Leo’s novel War and Peace was interminable and had too many characters.

“You’ve read it?” he asked.

“Skimmed it. Got the gist.”

“Which is?”

Actually I had no idea. “Don’t invade Russia in the winter?” I looked around for more vodka only to find that Tolstoy’s wife had hidden the glassware forcing me to swig from the bottle. “And one more thing: War and Peace needs a happier ending. Tell your uncle to read Chuck Dickens’ Christmas Carol – now there’s a happy ending.”

Tolstoy shrugged again. “If you want to be happy, be.”

Back on the train, I sulked most of the way to Warsaw. What would make me genuinely happy is to win just one argument with a fatalist.

Gibson contributes each week to the Progress and hosts a weekly discussion group. He can be contacted at 770-893-2578.

Minister’s Column-- What is Lent?


By Rev. Rob Bruce

Pastor at Tate UMC

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. At Tate UMC as well as some other churches we celebrated by the imposition of ashes in the sign of the cross on our foreheads while hearing the words, “You are dust and to the dust you shall return. Repent and believe the gospel.”

Lent is an important time in the church year. It is the time of year we reflect on our own mortality as we travel to the cross. Just as we cannot have Easter morning without Good Friday, we cannot be prepared for Easter without our time in the wilderness.

Where does the concept of Lent come from?

At Jesus’ baptism the sky split open, the Spirit of God, which looked like a dove, descended and landed on Jesus, and a voice from Heaven said, “This is my Son, My Beloved, with whom I am pleased.” Afterward, as told in Matthew 4:1-11, Jesus hiked into the wilderness. Maybe he needed some time with God to sort through the major changes happening in his life. Maybe he was searching for direction and answers. Maybe he needed to get away from family, friends and the familiar routine in order to see God, and himself, more clearly. For whatever reason, Jesus retreated into the wilderness for forty days to fast and pray.  Lent is 40 days for us to fast, pray, and reflect as we make our way to the cross and resurrection.

What does Lent have to do with me?

It’s pretty easy to get caught up in the drama of work, school, relationships and family. Our lives are filled with distractions that take us away from living a life with Christ. We try to fill the emptiness inside us with mindless TV, meaningless chatter, stimulants, alcohol or other things. We run from silence because we’re afraid of being alone with God. So, like Jesus, we need to take some serious time to pray and figure out where God is in our lives, and where God is calling us to serve. We need to re-focus our lives to be more in line with God.

How do Christians celebrate Lent?

Normally we give up something. However, this year instead of giving up something (which often becomes self-serving), I ask you to add something. I am asking you to devote some time each day to a quiet time with God. Do not be afraid of being alone with God. It is in the time spent alone with God that we become closer to Him and understand more about ourselves. This is a time that can be transformative. Pick up a copy of the Upper Room or other devotional guide that your church may offer and use it for a time of daily reflection.

The good, the bad and the ugly of pet foods -- Local Vet offers advice for pet owners

By Lyn Lewis, DVM

Wayside Animal Clinic

Is it just me or is there a new food product coming out every day? There are so many out there now. Truth be told that we can attribute a lot of our pet’s longevity to the evolution of pet foods. But there are still a lot of products that are not what they appear; others even can be dangerous for your pet depending on its age or health risks.

Ever since the big food scare about 3 years ago when melamine from China appeared in a few major brands, new boutique brands have been popping up. It is mind numbing all the different foods I am asked about daily. People ask me about wheat free, gluten free, bi-product free or preservative free foods all the time. The truth is there is no law that says a dog food needs to have balanced nutrition. That means that there are potentially many different foods that can be dangerous to our pets over time because they may lack vitamins or even some minerals that are important for our pet. To me that is just as scary as toxins in the food, both lead to diseases eventually.

Basically different foods have merit for different diseases definitely, but some can also be dangerous. Did you know there are some brands of food that claim to help joints and arthritis? While this is true, many of them contain glucosamine and condroitin, which are important for joints, they also contain high amounts of fat. Fat contains Omega 6 and 9 fatty acids but also a lot of calories. When this is fed to your pet over time, yes, they gain some protection and pain relief from arthritis. But, they have also gained significant amounts of weight which is infinitely worse for their joints. So, in the overall sense, these foods are the worst thing you can feed for joint health. Other diets that claim to be helpful for bladder stone or kidney disease actually are only higher in sodium making them drink more thus leading to more urine. It really did nothing more than give the appearance of better health.

On the other side of the coin, there are many great foods out there. Many companies have foods that are very balanced for young animals, adult animals and seniors. There are good foods for animals with sensitive stomachs and other common conditions. On the veterinary side,companies like Purina, Science Diet and Royal Canin make great specialty diets that can be wonderful for many diseases. In some cases they are even better than drug therapies.  Diseases such as kidney failure, liver failure, bladder stones and heart disease I usually treat with special diets first before going on with medications.

I guess the main point for this article is to not put too much stock in many of the over the counter foods. There is no governing body in our country to make sure label claims are accurate or that foods are balanced with the daily requirement of vitamins and minerals, let alone the quality of the ingredients. A final example of this is one of my favorite foods to talk to clients about, Ol’Roy. There was an interesting study a few years ago that compared Ol’Roy to Purina Puppy Chow, both products are over the counter.  They tested both foods on how much the puppies gained over their first 6 months. The conclusion of the study showed it took 2.5 times more Ol’Roy to match the weight gain of the Purina.  So to get the same results, people had to feed 2.5 times more food. That actually made Ol’Roy more expensive than Purina. I could go on and on about examples. I really am not trying to pick on any one food.

In the end, it is all about the AAFCO statement on the bag.  AAFCO is the Association of American Feed Control Officials. They are an organization that can certify that a food is balanced in its nutritional content. A certification body to guarantee a foods nutritional content is what’s important.  When people ask for my recommendation or ask if the food they found out from a friend or on the internet is good I simply ask back if it is AAFCO certified. Usually they have to go back and check but I trust all AAFCO foods for balanced nutrition. If you stick with companies that adhere to AAFCO standards you can never go wrong. If you have any other questions about food. Especially foods used to treat various conditions in your pets it may pay to go see your veterinarian first.  They can help guide you in the right direction.


Progress columnist offers tips on handling criticism

By Alan Gibson

Why respect your critics? They don’t respect you.

When someone says, “May I give you some constructive criticism?” I simply respond, “No, but perhaps you’d care to wrestle?”

Seriously, if you want to criticize, give it to me straight from the shoulder and let me decide how constructive it is.

Herewith a few typical criticism with wise guy responses, in case you enjoy being counterproductive.

Criticism: “You’re not giving me 100%.”

Response: “How about 86% plus lunch at Burger King.”


Criticism: “You think you’re better than me!”

Response: “Only by any objective standard ever devised.”


Criticism: A stern critic waggles a finger in your face saying, “Now look here!”

Response: Attempt to bite the offending finger. If you succeed, release. The point is symbolic.


Criticism: “I’m sorry but you may not write your term paper on Bart Simpson. Pick another subject.”

Response: “Ok. Jerk teachers in our schools.”


Criticism: “You should use self-deprecating humor.”

Response: “The trouble with self-deprecation is that it’s always directed at me!”


Responses like these will soon silence your critics. They’ll also drive off your friends and put you on the fast track to alienation from all that’s worthwhile.

One way or another, the critics always win. On the other hand, there may be the odd instance in which critics praise you, which is harder to deal with in some ways than the negative stuff.

[Gibson hosts Pickens County’s Friday Morning Discussion Group. All attitudes are welcome. For info: 770-893-2578.]