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Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald - August 18, 1999

Check out Scouting
I'm going to bend one of my self-imposed rules this week. Usually, I don't use this space to promote any group or event that I'm personally involved with. It's just bad form.
But this week is an exception to that because it involves a program, Scouting, that has an impact both locally and across the nation. That program also attempts to fill what many believe is a cultural vacuum around young boys.
If your son comes home in the next few weeks wanting to join a Scouting group, I encourage you to give it some thought. In many local schools, Scouting leaders are distributing information and getting boys signed up for the new Scout year.
I got reintroduced to Scouting last year after our oldest boy expressed an interest. Prior to that, it'd been over two decades since I'd been around Cub or Boy Scouts. As a third-grader, I'd walk across the street from Jefferson Elementary School to the home of Mr. And Mrs. Floy Bullock for weekly Cub Scout den meetings. Later, the Boy Scouts, under the leadership of Jerry Huff, met in the basement of the old house which used to stand next to the First Baptist Church. (As a side note, Jerry is a newspaperman who has long since moved away from Jackson County. Over the years, our paths have crossed several times at professional meetings.)
But in the years since my childhood, Scouting has evolved and grown. There are now programs for younger boys and the focus has been updated as new issues have come to the fore. There is much more emphasis now on child protection concerns and environmental issues have been a natural fit in the Scouting program.
But the real strength of Scouting is the tradition and structure it brings to young boys. Scouting teaches self-reliance in a society that largely emphasizes weakness and dependency; it teaches respect in a culture that cheers disrespect; and it promotes good citizenship in a nation of people who too often forget that rights and responsibility are connected.
Those and other values are taught in Scouting through a combination of overt and subtle programs. The use of uniforms, for example, is a subtle way to emphasize both the value of neatness and the camaraderie of friendships. The use of patches and awards is a way of encouraging dedication and rewarding achievement. Camping is a fun way to teach self-reliance. And the structure of meetings is a way to instill self-discipline and respect.
Other parts of Scouting are more direct. Various programs emphasize respect and caring for the flag and patriotism is a strong current in the Scouting programs.
I'm a strong believer in the value of habits. Good habits change the way a child thinks and acts and is a key part of how children develop their overall character. The habits of parents largely determines the values their children will have. The same is true of peer habits and cultural values at large.
Scouting is an attempt to surround young boys (and girls in the Girl Scouts) with habits that will have a positive influence on their values and ultimately, their character as adults. It isn't the only factor and certainly isn't a cure-all answer for all the ills society faces.
But the Scouting program, in all its various incarnations, is one way to help parents reinforce important values in a setting that is both fun and instructive.
If any of that is important to you, then see what your local Scouting program has to offer. It'll be time well-spent.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.

The Jackson Herald
August 18, 1999

A kiss for Water Wise
Jackson County leaders should pucker up and plant a big kiss on Jerry Wickliffe. Not since the end of the annexation disputes in the early 1990s has anyone done as much for Jackson County as Wickliffe and his firm, Water Wise Inc.
But it's not exactly what Wickliffe and his company set out to do. That firm's move was a business decision, an action designed to fill a void in Jackson County infrastructure by providing sewer service to unincorporated areas.
But in the process of pursuing what looked to be a good business deal, Wickliffe proved an old theorem, the law of "unintended consequences." Rather than filling a void, Water Wise did things no one else has been able to do, to wit:
1. Water Wise pushed the county government into doing something it should have done 20 years ago - get into the sewage business. That may be water down the drain now (no pun intended), but without Water Wise the county would have likely continued to balk at providing sewage service in some unincorporated areas of the county.
2. Water Wise created more unity in county government than any erstwhile peacemaker could have ever done. The public is generally critical in its perception of county leaders, a perception that's not without some foundation. But by being a common threat, Water Wise managed to unite the county government, the county water authority and the City of Jefferson into a working group. That has never happened before and without Water Wise, it may not have happened at all.
3. Water Wise may, in the long run, have saved county school system taxpayers a bundle. The biggest problem the county school system has is an unbalanced tax base. Most of the system's taxes come from homeowners and landowners and not from industrial and commercial developments. Those developments have, by and large, taken place in infrastructure-rich Jefferson and Commerce where two other school systems exist. By pushing the county to get into the sewer business, there will now be some chance for unincorporated areas along I-85 to attract industrial and commercial developments, thereby putting some balance into the county school system's tax base.
4. Water Wise has exposed a weakness in state law by vividly demonstrating the kind of issues that would come up if a private, unregulated firm had the power to condemn land. State leaders are now aware of the problem and there may be some legislative action next year to fix that problem.
5. Water Wise has also exposed a weakness in how some EPD permits are handled. Had it not been for the outcry from county leaders, Water Wise would have had the permit given long ago. Perhaps the EPD should do a mandated review of all permits when a facility is sold to another owner.
Somehow, either by settlement or the courts, the Water Wise issue will end someday. But while that issue may be a dark cloud now, the silver lining is that the company did us all a favor by opening our eyes to our own weaknesses. And for that small favor, we should be grateful.

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