SOMEWHERE, Afghanistan, July 1, 2011 -- As a citizen of Gwinnett County (Norcross) who has been living and working in Afghanistan for more than a year, I feel compelled to comment on your editorial about our presence in Afghanistan.
First, your use of the term "rat hole" to describe this country is highly offensive.
I have lived and worked all over the world and Afghanistan and the Afghan people are truly amazing. The country is one of great physical beauty and amazing and ancient culture. The inhabitants of this country are some of the most resilient and stalwart I have ever seen.
I work for a Non-Government Organization (NGO) here and interview and hire Afghans all across the country for positions ranging from cleaners to environmental engineers and senior level value chain experts in the agricultural sector. (There are hundreds of NGOs here, Afghan, American, European and others.) I interview several hundred people a month from all parts of the socio-economic spectrum. As a result I see and experience Afghans from all walks of life and wide ranging life experience.
I also work closely with members of Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (the Afghan government) from the Kabul ministerial level down to a municipal mayor level in remote regions (those people you mention who are stealing from us.) And while there is certainly corruption here (as there is everywhere) most of the Afghan ministers and other officials I work with are highly committed, honest people, working at low salaries and tremendous personal risk to improve their country.
What I see here is a resilient, proud and committed population. A population who after having 30 years of war inflicted upon them, are still trying to push forward, trying to improve themselves and their country and often taking great personal risks in order to do so.
It is impossible to understand this country from the outside. Virtually every single thing I see written or spoken about Afghanistan and the situation here in the Western press is HIGHLY inaccurate and colored by the politics of the moment.
In spite of what is reported by the U.S. and other Western media, and the rhetoric we hear from politicians, there is tremendous progress being made here. Contrary to what is reported outside of Afghanistan, the average Afghan does not want us to leave anytime soon. They understand that all the progress they have made will be gone within six months of our departure when the Taliban returns, and that most of them will be hanging from lamp posts for having supported democratic government here.
Even if that were not the case, this land-locked piece of ground in Central Asia is critically important to America's well being. Bordered by Pakistan, a weak democracy with nuclear weapons, our continued presence in Afghanistan is critical to the stability of the region. If we leave, the entire region will explode, the Taliban will retake control of Afghanistan and the survival of Pakistan as a democracy will be very unlikely.
Would you like the Taliban to have nuclear weapons? I have personally witnessed the absolute brutality and ruthlessness of the Taliban and I can assure you that allowing them to regain any significant foothold in the region will bring about the most significant risk to our national security possible.
It is my opinion that current actions and activity by the Taliban here and in Pakistan, represent the frantic and dangerous attack of a dying and wounded animal. Their numbers are decimated by war and by attrition, as people walk away from them to jobs and families because conditions here are improving.
And while what is reported in the press is largely negative about our military progress here, I see the opposite. I travel to places now that six months ago, I could not go to because they were controlled by insurgents. And that progress is ongoing.
I was raised by an activist father who demonstrated against the Vietnam War, among other things. I have carried his views forward in my life. When I came here, I had absorbed all the rhetoric about the need for the Western military to leave and actually believed that the choice to come here in the first place was faulty.
not take long for me to realize how inaccurate and dangerous that thinking
JULY 1, 2011 -- Now that Judge Michael Clark has ruled the Gwinnett trash collection program constitutional, let's consider an alternate approach. It's similar, but with a twist.
It's the method of collecting for trash collection that the City of Buford instituted years ago, Bryan Kerlin, city manager, says. It works like this.
Buford charges its local residents $2 a month for trash collection. This fee is charged to customers on the utility bill that the city sends out each month. On this bill are the charges for electricity, gas, water and, yes, garbage collection. The city has between 3,200 and 3,300 utility customers.
Gwinnett County, when instituting its plan that it collects for waste hauling providers, does it a different way. It bills residents annually on their property tax bill, a year in advance. (The City of Lilburn has recently also instituted collection for garbage services in the manner which the county uses.)
If the Buford residents don't pay their utility bill on a timely basis, what happens? Their utilities get switched off. On average less than five percent a month Buford residents have to pay an additional fee ($75) for same-day restoring of these services.
The difference in the Buford system and the Gwinnett system is primarily concerning property rights. One of the criticisms of the county garbage fee plan was that it was not billed quarterly or monthly, but annually. That wasn't so much the problem as that if unpaid, it puts the real property, the residence, of the homeowner, in jeopardy. Homeowners who lived adjacent to one another, one in Buford, the other across the city limit line in the county, would face entirely different outcomes if they failed to pay their garbage bill on time.
In the county, the resident would face, eventually, losing a house, though this would be after an extended period of time, and after not paying for garbage service, but also not paying property taxes. But in the meantime, other utilities would not be cut off (unless they were not paid, too.)
It would amount to two different outcomes for the same "offense." It would also appear to be not just vastly difference, but much more drastic on the part of the county.
Gwinnett County serves 207,353 water residential and 8,526 commercial customers, says Neil Spivey of the Gwinnett Water Department. Some maintain that the county garbage fee would have been better collected by adding to the water bill. (The county also wholesales water to Norcross for all its needs, and partially supplies both Buford and Lawrenceville with water for them to distribute to their residents.)
Buford is using what appears to be a possibly better way to collect garbage fees. Gwinnett County might do well to change their format, and emulate the method that the City of Buford has adopted to collect garbage fees. It would seem less severe, eliminate the property rights question, and at the same time, be very functional.
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BE PART OF THE PROCESS. The state of Georgia is in the process of selecting a design for the new Georgia vehicle license plates. Online voting begins June 24, 2011 and ends July 8, 2011. The winning design will be announced July 15, 2011 by Governor Nathan Deal, Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle and State Revenue Commissioner Douglas MacGinnitie. Eight design finalists are now ready for citizens to help pick the winning design. You can vote online by going to this site and help Georgia pick the design for the new tag: https://etax.dor.ga.gov/TagContest.aspx.
The public spiritedness of our sponsors allows us to bring GwinnettForum.com to you at no cost to readers. Today's underwriter is The Gwinnett Center, home to three distinct facilities in Duluth: The Arena at Gwinnett Center, Convention Center and Performing Arts Center. The Arena at Gwinnett Center has had seven years of tremendous success hosting countless concerts, community and sporting events, which includes being home to the Arena Football League's Georgia Force, and to the AECHL hockey team, the Gwinnett Gladiators. Some past shows includes American Idol, The Cure, Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood, Kanye West, New Kids on the Block, SEC Gymnastics Championship, So You Think You Can Dance and Van Halen. The Convention Center offers patrons the opportunity to host or attend a wide variety of events; from corporate meetings to trade shows, to social occasions. The Performing Arts Center has an intimate capacity of 700 guests, which is home to many local events, family shows and even the occasional comedic performer. The Gwinnett Center also now handles booking for meeting space at the Hudgens Center for the Arts. For further information visit www.gwinnettcenter.com.
Editor, the Forum:
The tragic death of Rita Jones Westbrook last week leaves a huge void in the Duluth community, which has been her family's home for many years.
Although short and petite, she was a person of boundless energy, unrestrained love for her family and community, and had a zeal for service that will serve as a benchmark for those who follow after her.
Compliments abounded around Duluth as many recalled the deeds she did. My favorite characterization was that she had a "true servant heart," in part meaning that she went about doing good because she always seemed to put others far in front of her own interest. She had spent the past several years as caregiver to her ailing husband, David, who died in April. She was killed as she was going to take her mother-in-law grocery shopping, which seems only a fitting reminder of her unselfish life.
Rita crammed a lot in her 56 short years, and will be greatly missed by many, who will struggle to fill the void she left. We often hear it said that "she was loved by everyone," and in this case it is the truth, because she loved everyone first, as she modeled Christ for all of us to see.
Separatist movements have nothing to do with P'tree Corners
Editor, the Forum:
A recent Feedback writer maintains we should incorporate Peachtree Corners as a city because of the separatist movement in Quebec and Spain?
Surely the writer is not serious.
Retort to thoughts on proposed Peachtree Corners city
Editor, the Forum:
Here are views about comments made in a recent edition of the Forum.
Does the writer expect the proposed city government to control apartment construction? Don't you think that will lead to lawsuits with developers or the Justice Department? That also sounds a little racist, since so many lower income ethnic groups traditionally live in apartments, or so statistics show.
There is already a great deal of local control now. People from the UPCCA Board have usually been appointed to the Planning Commission. Lynnette Howard was there before she was recruited to become County Commissioner. Recently, Wal-Mart's effort to put a new store on Holcomb Bridge was voted down by the Planning Commission, after UPCCA voiced its aversion to the idea..
The county will still run the local schools, so the trailers will stay in the new city. Read the Charter! By the way, I am very proud of the job of our county schools, which have built schools as fast as they can. We just grew too fast. One out of ten Georgians are educated in our county. Mr. Wilbanks and Mr. Steele have done a great job.
Look up the meaning of "red herring." The property taxes and fees are quite real. In fact, go to Dunwoody's budget on its website. In 2011, from a net 1.47 mills from 38,000 residents, it expects about $6 million. The total revenue will be about $20 million. It will get $3.1 million in franchise fees. (That's stuff that appears on your monthly bills, like telephone and cable TV.) Using Dunwoody's ratio, my best guess is about $7.5 million will be sucked out of our local pockets, yet there will be no new services. No herring of any color here. Read the Charter!
No one wants to annex my house or yours, except UPCCA. It's a losing idea for any city. I hope others see it's smarter to leave things the way they are. Since Peachtree Corners voted this idea down in 2005, I guess we should look at the no vote as the incumbent vote.
Duluth's City Council has adopted a 2011 tax millage rate of 5.991 mills, which means no property tax increase for city residents.
The FY2012 City operating revenue is budgeted at $15,639,610, a decrease of 6.3 percent from last year. This budget will maintain current levels of service. Mayor Nancy Harris noted that property tax revenue was down about 9.13 percent from last year. "The council was very aware of the depressed economy," Harris said. "City staff and the council worked very hard not to increase the tax burden on our citizens."
One of the recommendations from the FY2011 Citizens Budget Committee was to implement a stormwater utility, which has been set up for FY2012. A fee will be added to this year's property tax bills to fund stormwater infrastructure throughout the city.
also instituted a Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) which will allow
the city to lower health insurance cost by setting aside funds to reimburse
medical expenses paid by participating employees.
A new exhibit at the Kudzu Art Zone in Norcross is called Velocity and it's all about trains, planes and cars. Or it could be the artist's perception of velocity. In our fast-paced world see what artists portray as speed, favorable or unfavorable.
The exhibit opens on Friday July 1 and runs through July 30. Kudzu will have its Opening Reception on Friday July 8, from 7 to 9 p.m. It's free and open to the public on with food, wine and an opportunity to meet the artists and discuss their work. Kudzu Art Zone is located in downtown Norcross at 116 Carlyle Street. Hours at the gallery are Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Commission OKs first utility contract on Highway 316 project
County Board of Commissioners have approved $1.4 million in funding for
water and sewer relocation work for the upcoming Georgia Highways 316-20
intersection improvement project. The approval followed an action by the
Gwinnett County Water and Sewerage Authority.
of July holiday will be filled with picnics, barbeques and parties - all
festivities that usually includes fireworks. However, fireworks can quickly
turn a celebration into a tragedy if they aren't handled appropriately.
Consumer Product Safety Commission reported two deaths and 9,000 injuries
of individuals that ended up in the emergency room because of fireworks
in 2009. Almost half of those injuries involved children 14 years and
Georgia Gwinnett College's foundation president is retiring
Gordon Harrison, one of Georgia Gwinnett College's original cabinet members, will retire July 1.
Harrison came to GGC in January 2006 after being appointed by the chancellor of the University System of Georgia to serve on the management team overseeing the college's creation.
President Daniel J. Kaufman says: "Dr. Harrison was one of three employees at the beginning of GGC's history. We had a budget of less than $1 million and the challenge of founding a new college. Today, we have 750 employees, almost 6,000 students and a budget of $60 million. He has contributed in many ways to the growth and success of this institution, and we are very grateful for his good work."
As the college grew, Harrison settled into his duties as vice president for Advancement and soon was elected by the Board of Trustees of the GGC Foundation as that organization's charter president. He has been responsible for the development, public affairs and external affairs functions, as well as the growth and management of the foundation. This involved developing legal, fiduciary, research and fundraising functions, board operations and events, as well as managing cash assets and real estate holdings in excess of $350 million.
Harrison's career began in northern Florida as a biologist for the Florida Game and Fish Commission. He later was with Governor George Busbee's team, eventually becoming liaison to the White House and the U.S. Congress. He has been at most previously in senior positions at Kennesaw State University. He will retain status as an assistant professor in GGC's School of Business and will teach two courses in the fall 2011 semester. He also will be a part-time assistant for External Affairs to President Dan Kaufman.
Harrison holds two bachelor's degrees from the University of South Florida, one in microbiology and the other in English literature. He earned his master's degree from Kennesaw State University and his doctorate from Georgia State University.
J. M. Henson was a major contributor to the development of southern gospel music. In 1921 he and a group of other musicians and businessmen formed the Southern Music Plate Company of Atlanta. Henson and his partners engaged in a wide range of activities to meet the needs of the flourishing field of gospel music in Georgia and other parts of the country. They published music theory books and songbooks featuring the seven-shape notational system, a staple of vintage southern gospel music.
They formed quartets to travel around the country conducting singing conventions, presenting concerts, and selling their songbooks. And they organized a school in which they taught music theory, sight-reading, ear training, voice culture, harmony, composition, and the methods of teaching and conducting music. Henson eventually became sole owner of the firm.
James Melvin Henson was born in Gordon County on August 23, 1887. In 1910 he graduated from Eagle's Normal Musical Institute of Clanton, Ala., where he studied gospel music that he later taught in his own school. He soon became a prolific songwriter. In 1937 a gospel-music trade magazine reported that he had penned more than 2,000 compositions. An acquaintance said that Henson "writes a song as easy as writing a letter." Henson found inspiration for his songs in the people and events he encountered in his daily life.
An incident he observed while on a train trip led to a song entitled Will Your Next Stop Be in Heaven? Among his best-known compositions is Watching You, a longtime favorite at revival meetings. The song was inspired by one revival service in particular that Henson attended. The revival leader told a group of young boys whose unruly conduct had been the source of trouble at previous services, "We're expecting order here and you had better be careful, because there's an all-seeing eye watching you tonight." That eye belonged to the county sheriff, who was at the meeting by invitation. Henson, reflecting on the parallel between the sheriff and the Lord, wrote a song in which the "all-seeing eye" is God's.
Henson sold his music business in 1961 but remained with the new owners in an advisory capacity until his retirement in 1967. He died on April 22, 1972. One of his contemporaries described Henson as "the only person in America, and probably in the world, that could write the words and music to a song, set the type, make the plate, print and bind the book, play the music on piano or organ, and sing the song."
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"When I am abroad, I always make it a rule never to criticize or attack the government of my own country. I make up for lost time when I come home."
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(NEW) Prelude to the Fourth: 7:30 p.m., July 3, in Lawrenceville on the grounds of the Historic Gwinnett Courthouse. This year's event is centered around the free production of Aurora Theatre's presentation of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Following the two hour presentation, the fireworks finale will take place.
(NEW) July 3 fireworks events: in Auburn, Duluth, Norcross, Lawrenceville, Snellville and Sugar Hill. (See city Web sites for details.)
(NEW) July 4 celebrations: in Braselton, Lilburn and Stone Mountain, plus Chateau Elan, Coolray Field, Lake Lanier Islands and Mall of Georgia (see Web sites for details.)
Concert: 10 a.m., July 8, Gwinnett Historic Courthouse. Scott
Douglas Steel Drums on the Historic Courthouse lawn, crazy hair, face
painting, bounce house. There is no admission fee.
(NEW) Bark at the Park: 10 a.m., July 13, Rabbit Hill Park, Dacula. Spend the day with your pooch, meet the park staff and enter drawing for prizes (no admission fee.)
Brown Bag Lunch
in Duluth's Town Green Park: Noon to 1 p.m. on July 14 and
July 28. Among entertainers will be Puppeteer Peter Hart, Magic
Debbie, Juggler Ron Anglin and Solo performer Craver, presenting an upbeat
party rock concert. For more information call 678-475-3512.
Recreation: 6:30 p.m., July 15, Dacula Park Activity Building,
Dacula. This is a specialized and inclusive program for those with special
needs. Ages 6-up. Cost is $6 ($8 for non-residents of Gwinnett.)
(NEW) National Hot Dog Day: 10 a.m., July 23, 10 a.m., Bay Creek Park, Grayson. Bounce House, vendors, games, face painting/tattoos and food vendors (no admission fee.)
(NEW) Intercamp Games: 10 a.m., July 28, Bogan Park, Buford. Competition between all the Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation summer campers.
(NEW) Splash and Bash: 1 p.m., July 30, Rhodes Jordan Park Pool. Enjoy wacky games, prizes and cool treats. Regular admission fees apply
© 2001-2011, Gwinnett Forum.com is Gwinnett County's online community forum for commentary that explores pragmatic and sensible social, political and economic approaches to improve life in Gwinnett County, Ga. USA.