By Mark Swanger • Guest Columnist
Regardless of their magnitude, all disasters — natural or man-made — are local events and require an immediate, coordinated response from local government to protect public health, safety and welfare.
This function is called Emergency Management, and, in the aftermath of national tragedies such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, not to mention incidents like our own two 500-year floods in September 2004, many local governments have adopted ordinances to allow for a better, quicker response to disasters. These Emergency Management ordinances, which are heavily regulated through state and federal laws, give local governments the authority to quickly mobilize the resources needed to protect our citizens when the unexpected occurs.
Words sometimes change meaning. It may take a few years, but it happens, and it especially happens in politics.
A comment was recently posted on www.smokymountainnews.com in response to a column I wrote two weeks ago about the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority’s request to hike the room tax. The column covered several points, among them my support for increasing the room tax.
Within that commenter’s post was this gem of a line: “Scott McLeod, liberal publisher of The Smoky Mountain News and his band of Socialists ….”
By Doug Wingeier • Columnist
For some years now I have been promoting fair trade products as a means of helping organic farmers and cooperatives in the Third World get just prices and living wages, improve living standards, educate their children, build stable communities, and protect the environment from toxic chemicals destructive use of land and water.
My wife and I use fair trade coffee, tea, cocoa, and chocolate from farmers in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, and Palestinian olive oil — all organic, high quality, and reasonably priced. I sell it at cost, and have encouraged its use at church functions. My interest in this has grown out of visits to coffee farms in Nicaragua, Colombia and Chiapas, Mexico, where I have seen first-hand the struggles of farmers who operate at the mercy of the fluctuating world market with prices set in New York, unpredictable weather patterns, an invasive and destructive rust, and exploitative middlemen called coyotes who buy cheap at the peak of the season from small farmers with no storage facilities. I encourage you to join me in bringing your purchasing and dietary practices into conformity with the values of compassion and justice for the “least of these.”
Some teacher a long time ago explained to my class of intro to political science undergrads the difference between a statesman and a representative. The statesman, once elected, votes his conscience and does not necessarily bend with the whims of voters; the representative votes according to the wishes of their constituency. That’s a notable difference. What’s confusing, though, is when a leader goes both ways, depending on which is most convenient.
As Haywood leaders try to convince Rep. Michele Presnell, R-Burnsville, to support a hike in the room tax from 4 to 6 percent that almost everyone who holds elected office in the county favors, I was reading what she had said about the tax and trying to figure out where her opposition is coming from.
By Doug Wingeier • Columnist
Recently my wife and I attended the showing of a documentary film on animal rights. When the floor was opened for comments after the film, two members of the audience made the point that, while the cruel treatment of animals in laboratories and factory farms depicted in the film was deplorable, not all farmers and scientists should be “tarred with the same brush.” Immediately, they were jumped on by several vegans and animal rights activists in the crowd — to the point that one of the dissenters fell silent while the other stormed out in an angry huff, charging that he was being treated disrespectfully.
By Martin Dyckman • Guest Columnist
Even authoritarian regimes like Russia’s pretend to respect the right to vote. The contrast with authentic democracies is defined by these factors: the ease or difficulty of actually casting a vote, how honestly it is counted, and whether it even matters.
Democracy in North Carolina is failing miserably on two of them.
First, the Republican majority in Raleigh rigged the voting districts to guarantee their control of the General Assembly even before the people’s votes are cast and counted. The parties are contesting barely half the seats this year. Nearly a third are entirely unopposed.
“The less you know, the more you believe.”
Quality journalism is a powerful force. I’ve been fortunate to be able to witness that truth often during my career in the newspaper business. I’ve seen stories that helped the afflicted, honored the deserving, and brought down the powerful. I’ve been involved in stories that brought tears of joy to a mother’s eyes and tears of regret from an arrogant leader. I’ve held my notebook in hand and listened to someone who asks us for their trust tell such bald-faced lies it shocked even a jaded reporter.
By Clark Lipkin • Guest Columnist
I am the vice chairman of the Jackson County Planning Board. I presided over the public meeting to discuss the proposed revisions to the Mountain and Hillside Development Ordinance (MHDO) at last week’s Jackson County Planning Board meeting. I have some thoughts that I think are important to share with the public about that meeting, and about the proposed revisions. These thoughts are my own, and I do not speak for the planning board as a whole, or any other member of the board.
I think the biggest lesson I take from my experience on the board is how difficult it is to understand another person’s viewpoint. I saw a lot of people struggling with it at the public meeting. Many people who spoke failed to understand that two rational, honest people can have entirely different opinions about what’s best for Jackson County. Mature people know this, and then do two things: explain their position, and listen and attempt to understand what the “other side” has to say. People who can’t do this hurl threats and accusations of greed, corruption and ignorance at people whose opinions differ from their own. I saw both kinds of people that night.
Letter to the Editor:
While I currently serve as chairperson of the Jackson County Tourism Development Authority, I wish to make clear that I am speaking as a private citizen and my comments may not reflect the collective opinion of the TDA.
First, I wish to thank news organizations for their coverage of the formation and deliberations of this TDA. Having served six years with Jackson County Travel and Tourism Authority, I can say that this is the most attention the media has paid to the tourism efforts of Jackson County that I have seen in many years.
The statement made in a recent Sylva Herald editorial, “… a robust tourism industry is critical to everyone in Jackson County …to a great extent, we rely on visitation dollars,” is quite accurate. And no one knows that better than those the county has selected to direct the development of that segment of the economy just how critical it is. As the writer indicated, the impacts of tourism on the Jackson County economy are far-reaching. But it does all start with getting those “heads in beds.” That is the catalyst for all of the benefits that the paper listed in the editorial.
You see, each one of those who sit on the Tourism Development Authority was selected because of their connection and understanding of the industry based on ownership or management. They have a vested interest in the success of efforts being put forth. Unlike some, their income is tied to the dollars the TDA invests in enhancing and promoting the Jackson County tourism brand, accommodations, amenities and attractions.
And what they are doing is working. So much so, in fact, that in the first six months of the fiscal year, occupancy tax collections increased by 8.2 percent. That number is adjusted so that the 1 percent occupancy tax increase does not inflate the percentage (so actual collected revenue is even higher than the 8.2). Using the vernacular of the editor, I would say that the Board not only “burned rubber,” but left the previous revenue figures in the dust. Growth in that collection is one of the metrics of success that lets the board and the public know that efforts (and dollars invested) are bearing fruit.
Again, to use the analogy of the writer, youngsters often make fun of what they don’t understand. We, as citizens, need to be reminded occasionally that an opinion page is just that — opinion. Even if it is brought forward by those who normally bring us the “news” and even if it is peppered with facts, a person (journalists included) is not required to be accurate or correct when giving their opinion in print.
Insinuating that the TDA paid for two words shows a gross misunderstanding of what it takes to produce a slogan or brand concept, brand creative and the associated research, which is also a product of the effort. And to declare that the TDA is spending money frivolously is an insult to each of those who are putting heart and soul into efforts to improve Jackson County’s tourism product, image and help the overall economy of Jackson County grow. The TDA’s actions are not frivolous, they are deliberate and they are not only working; they are showing increase.
I invite you, as citizens and media, to attend our monthly meeting and see first-hand what is going on in the TDA. I can do that as a citizen; those meetings are public and open to everyone. Again, as the opinion writer stated, tourism is important to Jackson County. We should all be working to enhance it and not tear down those who are volunteering to lead it.
If someone had told me 30 years ago that someday I’d be sentimental about a Shoney’s restaurant closing down, I would have laughed out loud and accused them of being delusional. I guess I’ve always had a soft spot for their potato soup and hot fudge cakes, which I used to order as a kid when my parents took us there on infrequent trips out of town, but it is nothing I’d ever get misty-eyed over, anymore than I would over a three-piece original recipe chicken plate from Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Then again, 30 years ago, I could not have foreseen the unlikely role Shoney’s would wind up playing in my family history. Not just any Shoney’s, but this particular Shoney’s, sitting high on its perch in Waynesville like an enormous neon bird watching over the bustling traffic on U.S. 23-74 while keeping one wary eye on Lowe’s across the way.