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Staff Editorials

Things that make you go hmm on the downtown planning

    At the recent packed-house discussion of Jasper downtown transportation, there was a lot of enthusiasm, which is good. But listening to the comments, some of this optimism over the process may have been geared towards unrealistic expectations.
    Not to dampen, but hopefully to constrain, some of the more exuberant ideas. Please consider the following:
    “The city is held back by a lack of vision.” This was the number one most commonly cited weakness that consultants Kimley-Horn uncovered. The consultant tried to soft-pedal it so that those who are writing the checks, Jasper City Hall, weren’t offended.
    But it is really not accurate. There is a vision for what people want: basically for us to have a downtown where nice shops stay open late with well-lit, tree-lined streets and there are plenty of stylish pedestrians window-shopping and very convenient parking. While we are at it, let’s throw in that is remains a perpetual 75 degrees with sunny skies year-round.
    There is no lack of vision for what is wanted, but it’s true there isn’t any clear cut path to reach that vision. So much depends on what the existing businesses do and who shows up in the future with ideas and capital for a venture in an empty space.
    Many people at the meeting argue as though it is a fundamental law that if Jasper winds up with the right signage, right width of sidewalks and a nice theme of street-lamps, the downtown will see business boom. We are not convinced this is a sure bet.
    In fact, a greatly improved streetscape along Main was accomplished years ago and did not produce a longterm growth trend in business. The sidewalks here are nice, the downtown monument at the north end, the grassy park on the south end, that there are trees (regardless of whether you like the current crop) all amount to an attractive streetscape for Main Street.
    Bear in mind, the minions for years cried out, “Oh if we could do something about that blue building, it would help all of Main Street.” Voila, blue building restored more grandly than anyone could have wished for and it’s sitting empty.   
    • One of the more interesting ideas presented at the meeting was to work on the two back streets which parallel Main Street.  This may not be that useful as those streets (Mark Whitfield/West Street on the west and East Street on the east) serve in many places as backdoors of the buildings fronting Main Street.
    But to totally contradict the above point, the expansion of the downtown area with new streetscapes and routing of traffic into  backstreets, the area behind the Methodist church, (not to mention creating “connectivity” to old the Piggly Wiggly area), is an ambitious plan that might bear fruit. Maybe if people see a lot more nicely connected space it will give a renewed confidence in bringing businesses to town. Maybe?           
    There were some simpler points from that meeting, we would like to second:
    • The need for a better entrance to Jasper on Highway 515. A few trees, nice signs, some flowers and people on the four-lane know they are somewhere when they reach the Highway 53 intersection.
    • A little attractive signage in downtown. How about something directing people to the courthouse and the parking for it?
    Let’s be hopeful that some solid small changes will result from the planning process. Maybe we’ll see some traffic improvements and some attractive signage.         And more importantly this will allow our vision of a thriving downtown to result. But let’s keep in mind that neither Rome nor an improved Jasper will be built in a day.

Living off the land

By Dan Pool
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    I’ve been living off the land this summer, just like our ancestors, except of course I live in a subdivision where there is only one barn, but a couple of swimming pools – not exactly a farming settlement.
    Nevertheless I set out, just like Thoreau, to live simply this summer, enjoying the produce that would be the reward of my hard work in the garden. I talked big of how I was going to eat so healthy I would need gluten supplements to balance all the greens.
    All the self-reliance rhetoric sounded fine planting spring crops when you actually don’t have any option of eating your own produce.
    But my spring garden mainly chose to reward me with kale – lots and lots of kale, plus a few beets and some now bitter lettuce.
    Summer has been better with green beans by the bucket full, but unless tomatoes are supposed to have flat, blackened bottoms, something is a little off in my yard.
     Still I have made a game effort – sort of.
    The hunger set in after about three days. Turns out a normal human can eat healthily only so long before he’s sick of it – mentally. Kale smoothies in the morning, kale and bitter lettuce salad at lunch and sautéed kale in the evening is, frankly, more kale than anyone can take. It does stuff to you – in my case I turned to theft.
     Not proud here, but I began stealing food from other family members. In my case an all healthy, homegrown diet did cause me to shed a few pounds, but also to take food from children’s mouths.
    While I rhapsodized about the moral superiority of kale and squash diets, my wife and kids stuck to standard American food like pizza and stuff from the microwave.
    They had normal food – even leftover burgers and ice cream, which no amount of fertilizer would make my garden produce. So a little bite here and a little sample there and my resolve busted. Heck, they had shelves filled with good stuff and if you look at the big picture, the ingredients for Captain Crunch were grown in something like a garden, or maybe a factory, by people who were either good hard-working American farmers or would probably like to be Americans. So how bad could it be to sneak a bowl here and there?
    And the remnants of a Rocco’s burger might have gone to waste if I hadn’t secretly devoured it. Food waste is a real problem and I was doing my share to correct it.
     Finally, I abandoned any grand plan of living off the land, making excuses about how I WOULD eat my kale but “man I am running so late,  better just have some bacon and eggs this morning – whole lot quicker than picking my crops.”
    I can say I tried it and, according to historians, even Henry David Thoreau would leave Walden Pond to go eat at friends' homes. I have looked at the madness eating nothing but garden grown food produces and frankly didn’t much like what I saw or tasted.
    But as Scarlett O’Hara declared “as God as my witness, I will not be hungry again” as long as Ingles keeps selling Amstel Light, ice cream and potato chips.

More love. Less hate.

     I love you mommy.
    I’m going to die.
    Imagine reading those words in a text from your child. It’s unimaginable.
    Mina Justice’s son wrote those words to his mother as he sat crouched in a bathroom hiding for his life from a hate-filled maniac. Her son, 30-year-old Eddie, was one of the 49 people to die in the Orlando nightclub Pulse in the early morning hours of Sunday. Eddie texted his mother, pleading for help while trapped in the club’s bathroom. “In the club. They are shooting. Please call the police. I’m going to die.”
    In a world riddled with horrors, the overwhelming feeling now coming out of the Orlando tragedy where so many lost their lives or were injured, the one thing that now resonates: More peace. Less hate.
    While the world tries to come to grips with what happened and what led a deranged 29-year-old man to walk into a club where people were dancing and enjoying life and kill 49 people and injure another 53, let us remember the victims and the families left behind. They deserve our love and compassion. They were mothers, fathers, dancers, students, couples.
    While people all over the world express their heartbreak over the tragedy, those in Pickens also took to social media to show their support for the people of Orlando who lost their lives.

    Today's massacre hit me harder than many. I'm happy and grateful today to be spending a few hours in one of the most tolerant and open minded cities on earth (New York) and I'm privileged to be able to have that freedom as an American. Cheers to love, open mindedness, and tolerance for good and steadfast unity against hate. ❤
--- Valerie Boehm

    I will be going to Orlando next week to donate blood, march, hug and anything else I can do to demonstrate Peace, Hope and Love in this world. I welcome anyone to come and join me. #prayforOrlando
--- Mike Martin

    This is not a day to debate the police response. This is not the day to debate the location it happened. This is not the day to debate gun control. I turned on TV for about three minutes and that was all I could stand. This is a day to pray. Pray for the families. Pray for the law enforcement, EMS, Firefighters, Nurses and Doctors who respond to this situation. Finally, pray for our country. This isn't who we are.
--- Allen Wigington
    As I mourn today for the victims of the "Pulse" club shootings, I would like to remind anyone with hatred in their hearts against the Queer community --- we do not fear you, and you will not change us. A rainbow never hides, nor does it run--it only shines bright to unite all those in its presence. The Queer community is the Rainbow, and we will stand strong and persevere against any and all who would do us harm. Continue to shine with love and pride my daulings.
--- Daniel Picklesimer

    Coming from a law enforcement and event security background. I spent more years than I care to think about protecting those who were just simply trying to leave their day to day struggles and pressures behind them, and enjoy themselves for an evening. No one deserves to have this happen to them. No one. We must all remind ourselves and others that hate will never conquer love. Fear will never overcome the goodness that everyday people across the country have for each other. It’s past time to love one another and put the rhetoric, anger and hatred behind us.
    ---Chris Childers

    Why? How? I just don’t understand the hate in the world today. Please pray for Orlando and all the families involved.
---Letisha Crowe

    There is not one person on this earth that is not both sane and insane. Just depending on the day and situation. We all got dark spots. Given the right buttons pushed you, me and all else are capable of things we would not believe or want to think about. But the thing I want to know is what is happening in this world today? There is a special breed of crazy loose now.
---Billy Roper

Praying for Orlando, Fl. and each and everyone of us during this difficult time. God is about love, not hate.
---Darrin Satterfield

Political nastiness also an American tradition

    With July 4th approaching, we will see our nation’s founding recalled fondly. The Founding Fathers are perhaps the greatest collection of thinkers, philosophers, and statesmen ever assembled in one place and at one time. The ones who served as early presidents - George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison - were all geniuses who set our nation’s course.
    Even those who never rose to the top ranks - Alexander Hamilton, Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine and Samuel Adams - are a collection of minds unparalleled in history. Though they came from widely different backgrounds, the foresight of that group assembled in one place, the American colonies, and at one point in history, 1770s-1790s, is simply unimaginable.
    Critics of modern politics are quick to point out how far we have fallen and they are largely correct; Gone are the vision and lofty ideals.
    But like most everything else, the founding fathers’ political infights were also bigger, tougher and more vibrant than the modern equivalents.   
    Those who say that the founding fathers would not engage in the same political rhetoric and divisiveness we see with the parties today simply don’t know their history.   
    Reading the recent biographies of John Adams and Alexander Hamilton one quickly realizes political infighting and partisanship dates back to our nation’s founding – or at least to Washington’s second term. Though they didn’t have organized political parties, the key players then were either Federalists or Republicans and these groups truly thought the other was out to destroy the country in a much more robust manner than Clinton and Trump lob allegations back and forth.
    Secretary of State Jefferson and Madison (in Congress) openly speculated about whether Treasury Secretary Hamilton had hidden aims to restore a monarchy.
    Hamilton faced an investigation by congress on charges of personal profiteering and giving insider information from the treasury. He was never found guilty, but the tradition of constant calls for scrutiny as a political tool was established early.
    The rhetoric was just as nasty as anything today. When Hamilton and his wife both came down with yellow fever, Jefferson, among others, questioned whether he might be faking it and also that he was of weak constitution so it was no surprise he claimed an illness.
    Washington, possibly the greatest of the founders, did his best to keep the lid on his cabinet, but infighting during his second term ran amuck. Eventually, Jefferson resigned over the split between his Republican allies and Hamilton’s Federalists.
    The goal in pointing out the unseemly side of early politics is not to tarnish the founders, but rather to correct the Disney Prince notion that our Founding Fathers were all on the same page and worked together. They didn’t. The brawls in that day were bare knuckle and at least one involved a shooting.
    The reason for their fighting then is the same as it is today – smart people have different views of how something as large and complex as our nation should be run and when they collide, it’s no holds barred. When fighting for deeply held beliefs, politicians in all eras justify a lot of means to achieve their ends.
    Recall that it was the conflict and the compromises that forged the nation -- not  unanimous belief among founders. The Bill of Rights was added as a political concession to get the Constitution passed and it took closed-door sessions, back room deals and all kinds of promises get the colonies to move from the loose alliance under the Articles of Confederation to a United States.
    So, as we celebrate our nation’s independence, bear in mind the political brawls today are meek compared to the days when Aaron Burr (a one-time Vice President) shot and killed Alexander Hamilton (the founding treasury secretary). Now that was a political divide.

FOMO kills the Lazy Days of Summer

By Dan Pool
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    I am anxiously awaiting the lazy days of summer. I have been waiting on them for about 10 years and thought this could be the summer they returned. Judging by the thermometer, summer has arrived but no lazy days on the horizon.
    For those who don’t understand the difference in regular ole summer and the lazy days of summer:  The regular days of summer is the jam-packed, vacation-filled, crazy (and occasionally fun) period when your calendar has a colored event oval on every single weekend and most weeknights for the whole season.
    The lazy days of summer are those blessed, luxurious days when absolutely nothing happens in a small town like Jasper. The days when you have the freedom to cut the grass or go fishing or throw something on the grill; NOT try to cut the grass and take a quick dip to cool off before rushing to pick up something for the mandatory cook-out, which totally knocked out your plans for fishing.
    Alas, it looks like the summer of 2016 will go down as another hectic, fun-filled season of outings, events, happenings, trips and staycations that run solid from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
    In fact, to borrow a term from Hollywood, this will be yet another “blockbuster” summer. And therein is the leading culprit in the demise of the lazy days of summer – every summer has to be blockbuster to measure up with the images that flood our culture portraying an ideal summer. It has to be big and exciting and crowded, not idling away at your own house.
    Over the past decade, the American family has been convinced that there is something inherently wrong with spending days at home “doing nothing,” and letting kids figure out some way to entertain themselves – which solely revolves around cell service now.
    Perfectly illustrating the widespread cultural push for constant social activity consider FOMO. This is a texting abbreviation and recognized condition of the Fear of Missing Out. It is defined on Wikipedia as “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent.”
    We have replaced the seasonal pause after the school year ends with dozens of new ways to entertain ourselves that overlap every waking moment. From sports camps/summer leagues, to arts camps to more vacation options to home improvement projects, to festivals celebrating every conceivable  animal and food, there is always something vying for our time. And a certain pressure to conform, to not miss out.
    But if every weekend offers something special, it all becomes routine so that nothing is really enjoyed because so much is undertaken. You must have time to reflect in order to appreciate what you saw or did.
    The sheer unrelenting onrush of places you need to be and events you should attend leaves them all less special.
    In the middle 1900s, the single day for July 4th was a massive event for this town. It was massive and memorable because that’s all there was for public gatherings or entertainment. Not only did everyone come to town for it, everyone looked forward to it beforehand and then recalled it afterwards.
    Today, there are dozens of similar events and the celebration itself stretches over several days. The American public expects more than one day of excitement.
    We all must fight the FOMO and saturation of images that tell us we aren’t happy or successful unless we are the snazzy dressed family and friends having an epic day that is well documented on social media.
    You need to have  FOMO that you are missing out on a chance to disengage and relax during the summer. There is a benefit to squandering summer days by doing nothing exciting and now is the time for it.