Who doesn’t desire clarity in everything? We want clean lines. We want to know right from wrong. We want to see distinctly where we should go. Ambiguity never feels like a welcome friend, does it?
[Full Story »]
Madison County will soon get five new vehicles for the sheriff’s office.
County commissioners voted 4-1 to approve the purchase Feb. 15. The vehicles will cost approximately $164,000. John Pethel provided the lone “No.” Lee Allen, Tripp Strickland, Theresa Bettis and Jim Escoe voted for the purchase.
New sheriff Michael Moore asked the board to consider buying the vehicles, noting that no police cars were purchased last year. He said some of the vehicles have logged over 300,000 miles and are no longer reliable. Commissioners in favor of the purchase say that they don’t want to see people in need of emergency help unable to be assisted because a vehicle breaks down en route. At a recent meeting on the matter, Moore said he rode with a deputy and the patrol car cut off four times.
Escoe asked how much jail expansion money was left over from the 2008 special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST). The expansion project has been completed, but Chairman John Scarborough said $72,848 remains in that account. However, he said that, by law, it should return to the general funds and not be spent on other sheriff’s items. Scarborough told the board members that they need to consider the leftover jail funds and SPLOST funds as separate issues, not related to each other.
The board took no vote on the leftover SPLOST funds. But the commissioners agreed to consider moving that money to the county’s general funds at their next meeting. Meanwhile, the group agreed to pay for the car purchases out of the county’s general funds.
Pethel said he couldn’t see how the board could afford to pay for new vehicles when the group will be in dire straits come budget time. In recent years, the county has faced revenue shortfalls in the $1 million range. Expenses continue to grow, while revenues remain stagnant. And the reserve funds have dwindled, leading to talk of a potential tax rate increase.
“We’re going to be sweating bullets come budget time,” said Pethel. [Full Story »]
The children from the Congo read from a workbook in unison in a Jubilee Partners schoolroom in Comer. In an adjacent room, a refugee from Burma sits with coins on a chart. She’s learning how to count money. In the preschool room, children gather around a table on a snack break. There are puzzles and toys. There are laughs and the typical fascination when a smart phone is brought to floor level and the kids can see their faces reflected back in the camera. A child pokes her tongue out at herself in the phone’s screen and giggles.
Jubilee Partners, a Christian refugee welcoming camp in Comer, has been open for 38 years. In that time, over 3,700 refugees from 33 countries have been to the quiet country setting for what is typically a two-month stay. The refugees have generally been through a two-year application process before arriving at the camp, which is only a temporary home, a place where refugees learn about America and how to be productive and healthy here, before moving elsewhere. They take English classes. They learn about American culture. The Americans learn about them. It takes five years before a refugee can officially become a U.S. citizen. And Jubilee helps get that process rolling for many hopeful new residents.
Brad Smith, who has lived with his wife, Jennifer Drago, since the mid 1990s and raised three children at Jubilee, looks at the van of three Congolese women returning from Kroger Thursday morning. He imagines the shock a big box store is for women from a rural area of Africa. He recalls the amazement a refugee once expressed about a dog-food aisle, that such a thing existed, a long row of cans for pet food.
“This is for your dogs?” Smith recalled the man asking with wonder, since he had never seen such aisles, even for people.
The refugees often come from truly harsh settings, places with violence, famine, political oppression.
Families are sometimes torn apart before arriving at Jubilee. For instance, a mom and child may go through the vetting process and be approved for asylum in the U.S., but a dad may not. And a woman must make the choice of staying in a bleak refugee camp and keeping the family together or seeking a new life, minus one.
Drago wanted to understand more about their lives before they arrive at Jubilee. So last year, she took a four-day trip to Thailand to the Mae La Burmese refugee camp to see what life was like.
“In the camp I visited, there were 40,000 people,” said Drago. “I was there for four days. It would be hard to stay there and not have any options, no future for yourself and so many uncertainties. I don’t really know what it’s like to have my child cry from hunger.” [Full Story »]
I was called a “spoiled, whiny child” recently in a letter regarding my column about President Trump, where I voiced concern that his impulsive Tweets are dangerous when it comes to international issues. I truly believe other leaders may act irrationally in response to Trump’s words and events could spiral toward war.
[Full Story »]