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Your Views: Political pressure has no place on tax board
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In response to Roy Don Stroud's letter of Wednesday: Tom Oliver appointed me to the (tax assessors) board in July 2008 to take affect Sept. 1, 2008. I attended every meeting in August to make sure that I could attend the meetings and do justice to the board and to my growing landscape business.

During one of the August meetings, Commissioner-elect Ashley Bell and Commissioner Bobby Banks came to one of the meetings. Mr. Bell, an attorney, proceeded to ask Mr. (Terrell) Gaines and Mr. (William) Vaughn questions about the charges made by his clients against the board members. He did this without giving them the opportunity to have their lawyer present. Ms. (Melissa) Weinman from the Times was called by Mr. Bell and asked to attend this meeting. This interrogation sidelined the entire meeting.

When Ms. (Belinda) Lipscomb was appointed, I attended that meeting to welcome her to the board. She told me she would have trouble attending our meetings at 8:30 a.m. and asked they be changed to accommodate her school schedule. I told her that was something the board would have to vote on. The board voted and we changed our schedule.

My contention with Mr. Bell was that he did not have the courtesy to address this issue prior to naming his appointee. Ms. Lipcomb said that she addressed the issue at the time and was told it would be handled. When Mr. Bell came to our meeting and asked us to compromise on the scheduling, and I told him that everything he brought up was costing me income rather than working out a compromise.

The schedule cuts my work day short on those days, effectively wiping out any pay that I get for serving. That's OK. I would have served if there had been no pay and would ask Mr. Bell and other board members on both boards to give up their pay during these troubled times.

We are a board that handles individual property tax matters and there is not a member who would not meet with anyone at any time to resolve a problem. We are not a board that makes decisions that effect entire neighborhoods with our decisions. If we make a decision on someone's property by law they must receive a notice. That's the difference between us and the commission and planning boards.

At one of our economic development meetings, Mr. (Bill) Blalock, the county attorney, informed commissioners Bell and Banks that politics has no place in the assessors board. That's the reason the board was created, to take the evaluations out of the hands of politicians. I feel this was a direct ploy by Mr. Bell to exert pressure on our board when he came to us. Mr. Stroud was allowed to speak at the end of our meeting even though he was not on the agenda.

I have enjoyed serving on the board and it is my hope and prayer to be able to do so effectively.

Bobby Hulsey
Chairman, Hall County Board of Tax Assessors

Bill would allow public trees cut for billboards
Good News: Your lawmakers are considering to pass a law (Senate Bill 164) to make it easier to cut down trees along public highways to put up more billboards. Of course few people who read this think it's good news.

A survey by American Viewpoint found that 70 percent of Georgia voters oppose allowing billboard companies to cut down trees on public property to more easily see billboards on private property.

Wealthy states and some towns in Georgia resist billboards, but it appears our lawmakers are unwilling to protect most of us. Trees along the highways create pleasant visual corridors, prevent distractions and make driving safer. Trees enhance tourism and related economic benefits. They assist with cooling, creating oxygen, consuming carbon dioxide and protect against erosion and reduce sediment in our streams and subsequent drinking water. Trees in Georgia lessen the number of days taxpayers have to pay federal fines for our already unacceptable, asthma-inducing summer smog.

Billboards are ugly and cheapen the beauty of our environment. Sadly, after billboards are permitted, every business feels it needs a big ugly billboard to compete. This law would let companies cut down trees to avoid the expense of putting signs above the tree lines, as they do now. While this latter scenario is also ugly, at least we get to keep out trees on our public property and maintain a decent visual corridor and air and water quality.

The proposed bill permits companies to cut trees on public property, even when they were planted as part of a state or municipal funded beatification project. It would void the five-year wait rule for putting up a new billboard and getting permission to cut trees in the visual path. The bill, thus, puts both new billboard creation and deforestation on a fast tract.

The bill is being resisted by at least 11 of Georgia's conservation groups more interested in air, drinking water and beauty than short-term gain and an uglier state.

The bill puts a set price on cutting down the trees for billboard companies instead of the real price. It makes taxpayers pay to cut down their own trees instead of making companies pay the true costs. It would make the whole state look like cheap urban sprawl.

When I contacted Rep. Carl Rogers, about this issue, he wrote that he has always been a supporter for this industry, voting the last 14 years for it. That's all he said of any substance. I find it troublesome that he could not instead offer any specific rationale that might speak to the majority of Georgians and homeowners, conservation, air and water quality groups who are against this bad bill.

This is not the leadership we need. I hope this representative and the others friendly to this ugly bill think about the larger long-term issues involved and not just pressure from one special interest group that is at odds with the majority of the people.

John O'Sullivan
Gainesville

Some distort science to support their faith
Trevor Thomas opens his column in Monday's Times by saying that first and foremost he is a Christian. He then proceeds to condone an administration that repeatedly put ideology and politics over truth. In other words, it is OK to lie if you believe that science could undermine religious dogma.

The science fiction writer C.S. Lewis, whose work Mr. Thomas references, held that a good enough reason to believe in the supernatural elements of Christianity is to want to. Fair enough as long as belief is recognized as a personal decision and practice. Science is the process that describes the world outside the personal "self" and is governed by truth, not wishes.

Whatever one's religion, the distortion and suppression of science is dangerous. At the very least, not to heed the voice of science is to retard human understanding and acceptance of the most basic tenets of life. I would have thought we would have learned that much from history. Doesn't anybody remember the lesson of Galileo?

W. Lorraine Watkins
Dawsonville

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