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Staff Editorials

Vote yes on SPLOST even with some misgivings

    On Tuesday (or before with early voting) Pickens County will be asked to continue the one-cent sales tax by the county and cities. The plan would see most of this money going to the area roads with lesser but not insignificant amounts being directed to the library and emergency services.
    We’d encourage our readers to give this a favorable nod on the ballot, though we advocate this with all the enthusiasm north Georgia shows for hockey and modern art. Yes, to continue the tax is the best choice, but it’s something we do regrettably.
    A yes vote will give the county some substantial sales tax dollars to remedy potholes, cracked pavement and dirt roads. All it takes is a drive around the county and you will swerve, bounce and rattle over the evidence of need. The “hump” that forced the Ga. DOT to close the bridge on Jones Mountain escaped notice of most drivers as it seems about typical for north Georgia roads.
    As explained by proponents of the SPLOST, the local sales tax cents are needed as the state no longer funds county roads like they once did. And that is true, but it’s not really a full explanation or excuse. The state didn’t one day suddenly stop letting the all pork fly. They began scaling back and our county and the city of Jasper (like many around the state) failed to adapt, simply throwing up their hands and saying roadwork is just too expensive.
    Local leaders have yet to propose any plan that might have staunched the asphalt decay or  prevent us from being back in the same situation when the SPLOST dollars expire in five years. The governing agencies didn’t seek cutbacks elsewhere, look for more effective ways to accomplish road maintenance or propose new ideas for raising revenue.
    So, we are at the point that our roads are crumbling and cracking – a process greatly accelerated with the long, cold winter’s freezing and thawing.
    We need to address our road problem right now by approving this sales tax. You would have to go back more than a decade, before Rob Jones was elected sole commissioner, to find a period of time where the county was not seeking or using a SPLOST. A one cent sales tax isn’t  noticed on a daily basis. If it were to fail on Tuesday, it’s hard to believe shoppers would rejoice over the savings – keep in mind you only get taxed an extra $1 for every $100 you spend.
    Even a $1,000 shopping spree at the Bargain Barn would only cost you an extra $10 for the SPLOST. (Of course, the schools also have a SPLOST in place as part of their general business plans.)
    Individually the sales tax doesn’t impose much burden, but when you accumulate that penny-per-dollar for all commerce inside the county borders on every retail purchase, it adds up to some  nice working funds. The courthouse was built with it; different schools have been built using sales taxes. The sales tax is a great way to fund things.
    It is disappointing to see the commissioners using the “special” sales tax to fund routine maintenance. The position of commissioner used to be called the “road commissioner” back in the old days, and that former title should give office-holders a clue on what voters expect as top priority: keep the roads in working order.
    The voters should trust the local road departments to see that this money is well used and, in exchange, the county and city leaders should respect what they are being given and plan on how to take care of it -- do not borrow against it or bow to vocal minorities on how it is spent.
    For this SPLOST we agree the poor roads must be addressed. But come back again in another decade and ask for more special monies for routine work without some evidence of permanent stewardship plans and we’ll have a different answer.

Pull an Anna Jarvis this Mother’s Day

    With Mother’s Day approaching this Sunday, employees who work in the floral industry are making arrangements at break neck speed. People who work at restaurants are preparing for a day of insanity, and folks in the greeting card and chocolate industries have anticipated peak sales.
    But knowing what a juggernaut of commercialism Mother’s Day has become would cause the holiday’s founder Anna Jarvis to roll over in her grave. And in fact, Jarvis – who created the holiday after her mother’s death - spent more time denouncing the holiday than she spent creating it after losing control to corporate interests.
    Here’s a brief timeline to catch you up to speed:
    •As a young girl, Jarvis overheard her mother tell her Sunday school class that she wished for a day to honor mothers.
    •In 1905 Jarvis’ mother – who cared for wounded soldiers in the Civil War – died. During the war Jarvis’ mother formed Mothers Friendship Day to foster peace between Union and Confederate mothers and was well known for her charity work. Jarvis was overwhelmed with kind letters she received from family and friends after her mother’s death.
    •In 1907 in Philadelphia, Jarvis - who worked in the advertising department of an insurance company - began her crusade to have National Mother’s Day recognized around the world through an aggressive campaign.
    •In 1908 Jarvis sent 500 white carnations – her mother’s favorite flower – to a Mother’s Day event that was held at the Sunday school where her mother taught. Jarvis wanted the carnation to be worn on Mother’s Day to honor mothers and to represent the purity of a mother’s love.
    •In 1909 Mother’s Day services were held at over 40 states, as well as in Canada and Mexico. The white carnation was worn at these events.   
    •Despite harsh opposition from many U.S. Senators, Jarvis’ persistent campaigning and the increasing popularity of Mother’s Day events led to the adoption of Mother’s Day as a national holiday in 1914, to be observed the second Sunday in May.
    But like Frankenstein giving life to a monster he eventually came to abhor, the adoption of the holiday marked the beginning of the end of the day’s sanctity for Jarvis.   
    White carnations became a must-have and led to profiteering by floral companies. After a few years the floral, greeting card and chocolate companies had their claws wrapped so tightly around the holiday that Jarvis would never be able to loosen their grip.
    Jarvis (who incidentally never married and never had children) came to resent the holiday and began a campaign to have it abolished. She was arrested for protesting the sale of carnations and - as history has it - after seeing a “Mother’s Day Salad” on a tearoom menu, Jarvis ordered it for the sole purpose of dumping it on the floor and stomping it. She sued powerful leaders and went door-to-door collecting petition signatures.
    "I wanted it to be a day of sentiment, not profit," Jarvis said, going on to call greeting cards with printed messages "a poor excuse for the letter you are too lazy to write."
    “A maudlin, insincere printed card or ready-made telegram means nothing,” she said, “except that you’re too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone else in the world.”
    Jarvis battled the holiday until 1948 when she died in a mental institution, indigent, blind and partially deaf.
    So this Mother’s Day lets honor the true spirit of the day as Jarvis had intended it. Forgo the Hallmark card for something you write yourself, and forget about the expensive gifts. Just tell your mom what she means to you and tell her how much you appreciate what she’s sacrificed in her own life to make yours better - Because, in the wise words of Jarvis, “Any mother would rather have a line of the worst scribble from her son or daughter than any fancy greeting card.”
- Happy Mother’s Day
from the Progress 

How much rock and roll is noise pollution?

    We can tell when we have a story that sparks particular interest as the comments begin flowing immediately and come in all directions.
    Such was the case last week with the article on the planning commission for the third time throwing up their hands and saying we can’t approve a conditional wedding/events venue use for a Pickens property.
    Some of the comments we heard are that people are ready to fight for their right to party (technically not a guaranteed right under the Constitution).
    Others recalled unpleasant experiences from living too near a loud/overly-well-light public event area and the problems that spiraled out from it.
    Public events are a grey area in regulation terms for Pickens County. Property owners can still hold various gatherings as there are no laws such as crowd limits, traffic restraints or noise ordinances to stand in the way. The difference comes when someone needs governmental approval for a permanent commercial operation, such as the wedding/meeting venues sought in two recent planning commission meetings.
    Public sentiment is mixed.
    To boil it down, no one wants to be the neighbor of an outdoor entertainment venue, but many people feel we need one somewhere in the county.
    Those on the pro-side generally argue that such a venue would boost our economy as well as the social scene.
    Those on the negative usually maintain that the venues are too loud, messy and generate too much traffic. Thrown in are some subtler concerns about the likelihood any successful festival/wedding/event venue would serve alcohol and how to regulate that.
    We agree with all the comments. There is apparently a business need to meet the public desire for venues that could host everything from weddings to motorcycle rallies. On the other hand, people who live in a quiet, peaceful corner of this rural county shouldn’t be forced to tolerate late night party sounds, traffic and weekend disruptions so that others will profit and have a place to go.
    Thus far the planning commission has dodged the issue a trio of times in the past few years. First, the owners of a large tract in the Big Ridge area sought a permanent spot for festival and events. They held a run/adventure race to benefit a local non-profit, then held a motorcycle rally.
    Both events went well and the property is well suited for large events with one notable exception: To access it, normally quiet country roads are used.
    The next events were both wedding venue requests for two different spots along Cove Road. The first denial looked pretty obvious as the parcel in question would be entered near the top of the steep curves on that road and it doesn’t take a DOT engineer to recognize the dangers of adding and stopping traffic in that spot.
    The other proposed site was further out Cove Road and the proposal met the ire of nearby property owners who noted they could “sing along with music” from an event already held there.
    Looking at the planning commission’s rejections, it’s important to note they didn’t say we don’t want events/wedding chapels or motorcycle rallies. They made it plain, the county lacks established codes to govern any potentially large, loud, raucous gatherings and, once permitted, safeguards will be hard to add after the fact.
    We’ll give venue operators the benefit of the doubt and assume they really will maintain a family-friendly site, will be considerate of their neighbors, wind down the music at acceptable times, and keep a close eye on alcohol consumption.
    But in reality, there will be pressure from the paying customers to “turn it up.” The planning commission is dead-on with their insistence that an honor system won’t work and it’s reckless to permit anything until there are rock-solid rules in place.
    With three requests in recent months, we’d suggest the county commissioners, planning commission and appropriate law enforcement agencies begin looking at this hole in our county codes.

When did kids get so busy?

    This past weekend hundreds of kids attended the county recreation department’s opening day ceremonies for t-ball, baseball and softball. On average these sports will require those kids (and parents) attend practices each week and games on the weekends.
    But for many of those children their extracurricular activities don’t end there. Some are also taking karate (to help with their self control and concentration), voice or violin lessons (to develop their right brains), Boy or Girl Scouts (to foster a sense of civic responsibility), or one of the other plethora of choices arranged by the parent that will create the perfect, most well-adjusted child possible.
    Unfortunately, having your kid enrolled in multiple enrichment activities has become synonymous with being a “good parent.” This world-view posits that the best parents will sacrifice anything (even money they probably shouldn’t spend) to give their child every opportunity. What if our child is a tap dancing prodigy or the next Mozart, but because we don’t fork over $65 a month for lessons they never realized their potential? So here we go, signing them up for activities that change from year to year, and which can result in stress for both the child and the parent.
    This world-view also causes some parents (whether they admit it or not) to feel pressured into signing their child up for activities – if they didn’t they feel they’d be seen as a bad parent.
     Some studies say there is no such thing as the “overscheduled child,” but we disagree. Some kids are just way too busy to enjoy being kids. 
    One Psychology Today article goes into the life of Kevin, a boy who was on the verge of clinical depression because of his hectic schedule. When he spoke in private to the author Kevin said he missed time playing with his friends outside. When the author asked Kevin’s mother about his schedule and suggested a link between that and the depression she said he was crazy. Kevin loved the activities - and even though her own schedule was hectic she wanted to give him a “good childhood” because her parents never did anything with her.
    Beyond the potential for stress, overscheduling our children also inhibits their ability to be creative. John Cleese – the brilliant mind behind Monty Python - gave a lecture to a group of video students on the subject of creativity. In his lecture he outlined five basic requirements he found to be crucial for fostering individual creativity -- Space. Time. Time. (Yes, he listed it twice). Confidence and Humor.  Without having that downtime, he said, there is no time for our brains to relax into a mode of being creative.
    Speaking in the Psychology Today article, Diane Ehrensaft, Ph.D., a developmental and clinical psychologist and professor at The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California, agrees.    "Middle-class children in America are so overscheduled that they have almost no 'nothing time,'” she said. “They have no time to call on their own resources and be creative. Creativity is making something out of nothing, and it takes time for that to happen. In our efforts to produce Renaissance children who are competitive in all areas, we squelch creativity."
     One part of the problem is that unstructured time is intimidating and uncomfortable for some, and the truth is our lives seem less trivial and more meaningful if our day planners are full. The harder truth is most of us wouldn’t know how to handle not being busy. How would we fill in the space?
    Fortunately, this incessant busyness is not mandatory– it’s something we’ve chosen and it’s something we can un-choose. We agree that these activities do teach things like teamwork and responsibility and they do develop skills parents can’t teach, but too much of a good thing is a problem.
    Our kids need strong relationships, not a relationship lived on rides in the car from fast-pitch lessons to baton. Let’s focus on our parent-child relationships and everything else will fall into place.

In praise of KPB’s environmental efficiency

By Dan Pool, editor
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    Several years back I was talking with a lifelong west Pickens resident who said many of new farms out there look nice, but aren’t real farms – “not enough junk laying around.”
    He explained that when he was growing up in the 40s, no one ever threw away anything, “never knew when you might could use it again.”
    While those farmers of the past generation would probably reject the label environmentalism, their attitude perfectly exhibits the pragmatic conservation you see in groups like Keep Pickens Beautiful – “re-use is the ultimate form of recycling.”
    A centerpiece of KPB’s Great American Cleanup is recycling throughout the county. They will even  set up recycling stations at events as a community service. And dealing with others’ dirty plates is in no way glamorous. These are committed people.
    There are plenty of reasons to be discouraged about bigger  environmental issues such as the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (hint: it’s not looking good). However, it is heartening to see that in Pickens County there is a group making a difference at the grassroots level. Less waste is generated and more is recycled and that is, at least, a start.
    There is something of the Appalachian farmer in my own attitude on recycling and environment and it comes down to efficiency and conservation. Why waste future resources when we can re-use stuff we already have? I am naturally a  packrat.
    Unfortunately for me there is one small but beloved place where I have a conflict. I love the coffees that come out of the single-serving plastic pod containers often called K-Cups. They are tasty, quick and so convenient - and there is no clean-up.
    I am not the only one who has jumped on the Keurig and Tassimo bandwagon.  A  survey by the National Coffee Association found nearly 1 in 5 adults drink single-cup-brewed coffee on any given day.
    The problem has always bothered me that for every cup of great coffee, you end up with the little plastic pods they come in, which are not re-useable and difficult if not impossible to recycle -- the aluminum tops would have to separated and the used grounds washed out. 
    There is also some more advanced questions as to whether the specific plastic composition, necessary to keep the coffee fresh, is practical to recycle.
    So, essentially for every cup of my favorite java I create a small piece of plastic garbage that is somewhere on the planet forever. Whereas with a regular cup of coffee, you wind up with only a paper filter and some grounds which can be thrown out the backdoor (my kind of composting).
    So what’s the big deal about a few extra pieces of plastic? Consider this, that in 2013, 8.3 billion K-Cups were produced, enough to wrap around the equator 10.5. The number of t-discs (for the Tassimo) isn’t readily available.
    The K-Cup dilemma is just one example of how a globe altering negative impact can creep up on us.
    Conversely, KPB shows how one  group can make a positive impact and hopefully similar groups are doing equal good work in other places.
    Thanks to Keep Pickens Beautiful for their environmental efficiency.