Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:
The Brunswick News on infrastructure improvements in Georgia's Glynn County:
If city and county commissioners really want to impress voters, they would make infrastructure improvements the sole priority for all revenue generated by a proposed new 1 percent special purpose local option sales tax. Few could argue rationally against it.
Roads are in disrepair, and in the city, one almost needs psychic power to know where the dividing line is between opposite traffic flow, especially at night and even more so in heavy rain. Most city streets haven’t been restriped in years.
Those depending on pedal power for transportation are still having to ride on the far side of the highway on the mainland on major thoroughfares, including U.S. 17 and U.S. 341. And the fatalities keep piling up. The new sidewalk on Chapel Crossing Road looks nice but serves hardly anyone who calls Glynn County home.
Individuals without cars or the means to hire a taxi to take them to and from work each day or to college or to medical appointments have little choice but to depend on a bicycle or their own two legs to get around. That means putting their safety – or worse, life – on the line.
Then there’s water and sewer, services still not available to a vast number of residents and businesses in the Golden Isles. In the 1980s, a county health board urged elected officials to do everything they could to rid the community of septic tanks after labeling it a major environmental issue. Consider the growing number of septic tank services as a good indicator of the number and imposition of septic tanks.
Fire poses an even greater threat to the safety of residents and firefighters when it strikes structures beyond the reach of existing water lines. Firefighters must depend on water tank trucks for resupply. Hopefully the response is always enough to protect life and property without the need for refills.
Like street repairs and fresh road paint, extending water and sewer services to unserved areas will cost money, lots of it. The 1 percent special purpose local option sales tax could generate what is needed.
It could, as advocates of the penny tax in this tourism community are fond of pointing out, raise the necessary dollars without thumping a heavy financial strain on the backs of local residents.
Bringing the community into the 21st century — need over want. What a novel idea.
The Valdosta Daily Times on social media companies suspending user's accounts and U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's temporary suspension from Twitter:
Government cannot restrict free speech.
The First Amendment guarantees “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
In just 45 words the founders guaranteed our five basic freedoms, not the least among them the freedom of speech.
Government cannot use its strong arm to silence its critics — not in the United States of America.
The First Amendment protects the people of the United States from the government itself. It is the very beginning of our Bill of Rights and that promise sets us apart from authoritarian regimes.
The First Amendment holds government in check.
The First Amendment does not restrict or regulate businesses or individual rights. It protects our liberty, it does not take away the freedoms of businesses or individuals.
If a business, organization or non-government agency does not want to be a platform for speech it deems inappropriate, that is in no way an abridgment of First Amendment rights.
If Twitter or Facebook suspends a user’s account for whatever reason, it is well within their rights to do so. These are private businesses that can make decisions about how their respective platforms will be used.
If they chose not to use their platforms to help spread misinformation not only is that not a violation of the First Amendment, it is the responsible thing to do.
During the weekend, Twitter temporarily suspended the Twitter account of Rep. Marjorie Greene, and for good reason.
Greene, who has spewed debunked QAnon conspiracy theories and has been tweeting untrue allegations about the Georgia election, has not been silenced, and no one has abridged her First Amendment rights.
She can shout her conspiracy theories from the rooftop but that does not mean Twitter — a business — has to hand her a megaphone.
The Daily Citizen-News on commissioners in Georgia's Whitfield County voting to rescind a requirement to wear masks in county buildings:
As COVID-19 spread through Whitfield County, members of the board of commissioners took some eight months to pass a resolution merely recommending people wear masks to help slow the virus. During that meeting on Dec. 14, 2020, commissioners also passed a requirement that anyone in a county-owned building must wear a face covering or mask.
It was a small step forward, but an extremely important step to help residents in a county who are being severely impacted by the virus. But after just 28 days, commissioners took an enormous step backward by voting Monday night to rescind the mask requirement in county buildings.
During those 28 days, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Whitfield County soared.
On Dec. 14, 2020 -- the day commissioners passed the mask requirement -- Whitfield County had 9,123 confirmed, cumulative COVID-19 cases with 98 deaths attributed to the virus, according to the state Department of Public Health.
On Monday -- the day commissioners rescinded the mask requirement -- Whitfield County had 11,998 confirmed, cumulative COVID-19 cases with 132 deaths attributed to the virus.
That’s almost a 32% increase in COVID-19 cases over 28 days,
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists wearing a mask as one of its “three important ways to slow the spread” of COVID-19, along with staying at least 6 feet from people who don’t live with you and avoiding crowds. Medical experts from the local level (Dr. Zachary Taylor, interim health director of the North Georgia Health District based in Dalton) to the state level (Dr. Kathleen Toomey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health) to the national level (Dr. Anthony Fauci, a lead member of President Trump’s administration White House Coronavirus Task Force) have implored the public to wear masks.
So why did commissioners rescind the mask requirement so quickly?
Some commissioners harped on personal responsibility, appealing to people to do the right thing. If those commissioners adhere so strictly to the ideal of personal responsibility, why have speed limits? Why have zoning ordinances? Why have environmental regulations?
Why? Because many people don’t do the right thing.
Commissioners contend a mask requirement in county buildings is “unenforceable” -- although plenty of rules and laws for those who enter a county building are routinely enforced. No weapons are allowed by the public inside the Whitfield County Courthouse. To enter, you must pass through a metal detector and pass by several deputies. You can keep guns and knives out of the courthouse, but you can’t ensure people in the building wear a piece of cloth over their nose and mouth?
Commissioner Greg Jones voted in favor of the mask requirement in December. Asked why he had changed his mind so soon after the vote, Jones said he had “seen a little more data that masks don’t help.” So far, we haven’t seen his data. We’d like to. We’re certain our local doctors, nurses and other medical experts would like to as well.
Commissioner Barry Robbins also voted for the mask requirement last month.
“A vaccine has been introduced,” he said when asked about his change of heart. “Things seem to be going well. I think we are doing the right thing.”
Actually, things aren’t going well.
Whitfield County’s rate of 11,899 cases per 100,000 residents ranks second among Georgia’s 159 counties behind Chattahoochee.
Whitfield County has the 14th-most COVID-19 deaths among all Georgia counties.
Over the past two weeks, Whitfield County has added 1,475 new COVID-19 cases.
The vaccine rollout locally has run into problems. This week the North Georgia Health District’s website crashed and the phone lines were jammed with some 38,000 calls per hour by people trying to make vaccine appointments. The city of Dalton and Whitfield County came together to set up two drive-through vaccination clinics next week at the Dalton Convention Center that will offer over a thousand vaccine doses. The 600 spots for Monday’s clinic were claimed in only two-and-a-half hours. Another clinic is set for Wednesday.
Statewide, Georgia continues to be a COVID-19 hotspot. Nationally, we are setting daily records for new COVID-19 infections and deaths.
We are dismayed that the mask requirement was added to the agenda at the meeting Monday instead of being placed on the agenda and advertised days in advance. That way, more people would have had the chance to voice their opinion and attend the meeting to discuss the subject. Some attendees at Monday night’s meeting came prepared to talk about doing away with the mask requirement, although it was not on the original agenda.
The mask requirement aimed to help keep residents of Whitfield County and employees of Whitfield County government safer. Rescinding the mask requirement in county buildings was the wrong move at the wrong time.