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Staff Editorials

The ebb and flow of fundraising events in Pickens County

By Dan Pool
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    Saturday night’s chamber of commerce Auto-Raffle at Rocco’s was unusual and not just because I happened to win one of the cash prizes.
    It is an anomaly in this county for an event to run into trouble because it proved to be too popular, too well attended.
    The chamber of commerce has held an annual auto-raffle for years. It used to be called  “the truck giveaway” because the grand prize was always a truck.
    It had been at the chamber building every year before and was well-enough attended; good crowds but nothing that swamped the hosts like Saturday. After moving it to Rocco’s this year, it seemed everyone wanted to attend.
    Right now two different groups of people reading this are gnashing their teeth.
    Those who had many-hour waits for food and nowhere to sit due to the unexpected doubling of attendance are fuming again. The organizers of most every other event held in Pickens County are also mumbling words we can’t print.
    Overcrowded? Not enough food? Not enough space? Too many people trying to get in? It’s as rare as winter parkas at the July 4th  to hear these complaints about a local event.
    The reverse is the norm: Event organizers left befuddled and broke because more people didn’t show up.
    The bluegrass festival this spring was the most recent victim of a fickle public. Organizers from veteran groups put in a lot of time and effort and money only to see very few local bodies show up. Music festivals have particularly borne the indifference of the area population. Concert events appear to do well in other locales but for some unknown (at least to us) reason, don’t catch more than scintilla of public interest here.
    And it’s not just a festival setting, consider that the sprawling empty space beside the courthouse was briefly the Sidebar, where owners poured in a fortune to establish it as a blues club. Didn’t work. The chamber has in several years tried to host some kind of concert in connection with the Marble Festival. Didn’t work a decade ago with country music and didn’t work more recently with bluegrass.
    Visual arts have found an equally tough row to hoe attracting support. Most tellingly, Sharptop Arts Association shut down after several appeals for support went unheeded. And this followed the demise of ArtFest which never gained a foothold despite showing a lot of potential in the second and final year. The Marble Festival has also dropped the fine arts portion of the weekend as it  produced mainly shrugs from festival goers.
    Outside the arts, the recent public safety day in Nelson  drew mostly presenters, not visitors.     The roster of events that don’t get off the ground could go on and on. And our aim in presenting the failures is to be sure other groups out there are aware how tough the environment can be. Too many times we have heard stories like one from  a principal a few years back who told us they were literally going to have to hold a fundraiser to cover losses from an earlier fundraising disaster.
    We hope someone proves us wrong by putting on a successful music or art festival here. We’d like to see it. We’d support it. But we feel it’s our duty to let various fundraising chairmen know the difficulty in getting a new event up and running.
    The chamber event Saturday and JeepFest, not to mention the Dairy Queen reopening, all demonstrate people here will come out but only if the event catches their interest. Anyone who thinks they can hire a couple of good bands and pack a field had probably better do some refiguring.
    Secondly, we’d encourage the public to be a little more willing to make time for events. Part of going to the bluegrass festival earlier this year was because you liked the music, but part (the biggest part) should have been to support the local veterans raising money for their needs.
    Next time you see a group putting a lot of work into a festival, concert or other fundraiser, show them a little support. It’s what a community is all about.

Kudos for 515 crackdown

    They didn’t have to, but heads of Georgia State Patrol Post 28, the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office and the Jasper Police Department pulled together to address skyrocketing crashes along the Highway 515 corridor – and they deserve to be applauded for their effort.
     For the entire month of July these agencies doubled down patrols on 515 with a strong focus on speeding and distracted driving, and all three reported the crackdown a success.
    Not only did the number of crashes on 515 decrease proportionally to crashes worked in the entire county, officers and deputies issued about double the usual number of citations during the month and there was not a single fatality.
    Their increased presence raised awareness in the community about the need for extra caution on the four lane, especially at the most dangerous areas -   the intersections of Highway 53, Highway 108 and Camp Road.
    The sheriff’s office even reported that they learned how great the public concern is over speeding, aggressive and distracted driving in the area. The sheriff office also found an ongoing need to use unmarked vehicles to identify distracted drivers.
    If you were one of the more than 375 people ticketed on Highway 515 last month, consider yourself lucky - better a lesson than a crash.
    And while the one month crackdown has ended, drivers beware. As the sheriff’s office figured out during July, citizens want aggressive enforcement on the four-lane and we suspect our local agencies will honor these wishes.
    Just because the crackdown has ended, it doesn’t mean you can go back to flying 75 miles an hour through an intersection.
     It gives us a great deal of comfort knowing our law agencies aren’t static. They are willing to respond to the changing needs of a community to keep the public safe.
    Police scanners are standard equipment in newsrooms and we don’t like listening to call after call responding to a wreck on 515 (we don’t like hearing about wrecks anywhere, but the numbers on 515 are noticeably more). We want to see that number continue to decrease and we know that our law enforcement agencies want that as well.
    As members of the public who use 515 almost everyday, lets all heed the advice of our law officials – slow down, put down that cell phone and pay attention at intersections on Highway 515, because even though we know they are looking out for us, we need to look out for ourselves, too.
    Safe driving from the Progress.

It’s all Greek to Americans with credit card debt

For national politics, most Americans profess a strong belief in conservative values - tight controls on spending and avoiding deficits at all costs.

In a recent edition, Fortune magazine humorously pointed out, in our personal lives, however, too many Americans operate like Greece, a country making headlines for its near insolvency with excessive spending. When it comes to household spending, the majority of Americans are free-spending liberals.

In fact, Fortune found that if you compared Greek debt, earnings (GDP) and amount of income required to service interest with the average American’s financial condition, the foreign country was in better shape. (Now as a disclaimer, Greek’s debt is held with a phenomenally low 2.6 percent interest rate. And much of the American family debt is in mortgages, which is a productive use of borrowed money.)

But if world bankers were gathered around the dinner table with an American family, when they started looking at credit card statements, austerity programs would quickly come up. As Fortune noted, the nation of Greece has all sorts of negotiating power for bailouts that the rest of us do not. You are not likely to see this headline ever - Jasper Family announces default if bank bailout not extended.

The comparison of family debt to Greece is a clever way to highlight the problem that  too many Americans live beyond their means courtesy of  plastic cards. 

According to Federal Reserve figures, the average American has around $10,470 in credit card debt. However, as the Consolidated Credit website showed, this figure drastically underrepresents the situation as it bases the average on all Americans. If it is refigured using only the 53 percent of Americans  who have credit cards (average 3-4 cards each) then the debt is actually $15,799 per American credit card user.

Online estimates of the average credit card interest rates vary between 12 and 17 percent. Even with the lowest rate, you see a lot of family income going to pay monthly credit card bills and related interest – a use of money as productive as buying scratch off tickets.

Economists have long argued that consumers make better decisions when using cash over credit. With cash you see when your money is running out and bypass non-essential purchases. With a credit card: It’s buy now and worry later about how much of your salary just went for the new shoes or fishing rod.

A German government official recently provoked a backlash by suggesting that if Germans were encouraged to use credit cards, their consumer economy would improve, knowing what retailers have long realized, people buy more with credit cards. Average Germans responded that they like the control of cash and didn’t want anyone pushing them to run up debt.

In America, we use credit cards for 50 percent of our purchases, according to an article in the July 17 edition of USA Today. And this is increasing with the ease of swiping cards most anywhere and online purchases. No one need urge us to whip out the plastic here.

What we need is some urging to stick with cash and to be aware that the ease of using plastic makes us less responsible – in essence we become the liberal spenders noted at the start of this piece.

Finally, back to our average American with his $10,000 plus in credit card debt. Consider this for your budget, if you are that person and pay only the minimum every month, it will take you a little over a decade to pay it off and you would spend slightly more in interest than you did for the goods purchased.

A purchase that takes less than a minute to make could have you paying for years. Just because credit cards are easy and convenient doesn’t mean you should use them whenever something catches your eye. 

Just how rushed are we?

    Going home from work the other day, I had one of those occasional four-way stop encounters. I got there at approximately the same time as another car. We both stopped, started again then we both stopped quickly a second time, indecisiveness on both parts over who got there first.
    The other driver roared off with quite a bit of flailing arms and obvious exhortations on the futility of life voiced inside his car – though no real obscene gestures.
    I am not above some flailing arms myself when a road situation dictates, though my temper tends to rise mainly when someone is threatening my life with idiotic driving – such as passing anywhere on Cove Road.
    What struck me at the four-way stop was the incredible display of anger resulted from a little miscommunication, costing neither of us more than a few seconds of our day.
    Some people lose their tempers over minor things and the other person may have been having a bad day already. But to put it in perspective, the furor resulted over the loss of less than 10 seconds out of a 24-hour day all because the cosmic forces of the universe put two drivers at a four-way stop at the same exact time – no maliciousness, nor premeditated act, nor anyone out to get anyone.
    And the effects of this coincidence are as ephemeral as you can get. No harm and very little time wasted. The seconds lost to both us combined would only equal:
    • the time it takes to do a good tooth brushing rather than a rush job.
    • slightly longer than it takes Facebook to load on a smart phone.
    • Much less time than it takes to eat three French fries.
    Incidents of road rage and other rages are certainly nothing new and definitely not unique and this wasn’t even a bad case – recall the shooting at RaceTrac last month.   
    Are we really in this much of a rush? A Pew Research Poll found that for a quarter of Americans the answer is yes. Twenty-three percent of all adults in this country indicated  they “always” feel rushed in a recent survey.
    For the always rushed crowd, my suggestion is to eat nothing but protein bars until you get caught up, saving an untold amount of time cooking and washing dishes and if you buy the bars in bulk, you won’t be tempted to berate a high school student for holding you up while they get your burger.
    You might also consider some alternative activities to help you slow down. Any baseball fan will gladly while away the minutes waiting on the pitcher. Is that wasted time or an opportunity to relax? And hunters and fisherman know that on most days, there is little action, but outdoorsmen still find their hobby enjoyable.
    Back to the four-way: in the U.S. at an all-way stops, right of way is determined by who got there first. Simple, but as we all know, sometimes cars pull up at the same time. Then, any astute driver knows right of way goes to the car on the right.
    But, heck, that takes a little too much figuring. I like South Africa’s system better, when cars arrive at the same time, drivers are expected to make eye contact and use hand gestures (preferably nice ones) to determine who goes first, which a lot of people already do here. Arrive at the same time, you or the other guy waves to indicate who should go. Seems not only more efficient but more friendly as well.

Nice guys do finish first, and it starts in kindergarten

    Well, what do you know? According to recent research from the American Journal of Public Health, kids who are nice, well-behaved and polite go on to succeed at a higher rate than their surly little punk counterparts.
    All those stereotypes of ruthless, cold-hearted schemers rising to the top are not that accurate – at least if you look at personality traits of kids who go on to be successful.
    According to an article on the study published in USA Today July 17, kids judged to have good “social competence” go on to achieve healthy, economically viable lifestyles ahead of those  who have problems getting along with other students and teachers.
    The study, which followed 750 kids for 20 years, (until they were 25 years old) found that how the children behaved in the youngest school grades gave one of the best predictors of how they would turn out down the road.
    The social skills that translated in success: cooperation, resolving conflicts, listening to others points of view and the ability to give suggestions without being bossy, according to the USA Today article.   
    These skills, which needless to say many adults still lack, were thought to be just as important as academic grades as an indicator of who would go on to a good job and who would end up behind bars.
    The study found that kids who had the basic social skills were more likely to have graduated from college and be holding full time jobs during the study period.
    Kids that had been judged to have weak social skills were more likely to have substance abuse problems, require public assistance, and to have been arrested and unemployed.
    Parents who have some ill-tempered badger of a child at home can take heart that the researchers found these social skills, just like  math, can be improved at any point to increase the chances with later success.
    There is a certain amount of justice in this study’s findings. The kids that win the behavior award also stand a better chance of winning in life over the bully.
    The study’s findings clearly buck the old saying of nice guys finish last. Maybe, its not really that surprising that overall it’s students who know how to get along with others and have basic manners and discipline that come out on top eventually. Who wants to hire, promote or deal with some pushy jerk?
    If the grown-up bully happens to own a company then they can play the role of Bad Boss but there aren’t any movies about bad entry-level employees getting promoted – except the occasional comedy.
    As the school year rolls out, parents should take note of this study. These discipline, respect, and courtesy traits are clearly areas that need to be handled at home before your kids get to school.
    And this ought to be some inspiration to address discipline problems: You really do need to take your parenting seriously not just to get the school off your back, but to help your kid end up employed at a decent job.
    While some parents  ignore their children’s shortcomings, this study makes clear that sooner or later the child will face the consequences of all the things a thoughtless parent lets slip by.
    Better to be reined in by a mother or father as a youngster than have the courts or a boss do the reprimanding down the road.
    So as school bell rings for this academic year, do your child, his teacher, class, school and society a favor, instill respect and discipline when you parent. Good behavior pays off in the classroom and according to this study, down the road in life.