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Taking salary hike is, well, gutsy

It’s been a busy week for us at The Press with state investigators raiding a local doctor’s office known far and wide as the spot to obtain prescription pills pretty painlessly, the fast approaching Sesquicentennial party and county fair, and the death of a youth pastor whose good works here will not be soon forgotten, all on top of the more routine happenings that we cover week in and week out.

What I hope, for a number of reasons, doesn’t get lost in this week’s edition is the article about the potential salary increase for the county’s elected officials per a convoluted state formula with the underlying premise that those elected deserve more money if they represent more people.

First, it’s worth noting that county commissioners, constitutional officers and the school district’s leaders, all up for the raises, don’t sign their own paychecks, so to speak, as it’s often said that politicians line their pockets any chance they get. Rather, the salary changes originated from up on high in Tallahassee, which also insulates local officials from defending their salary levels.

The salary adjustments fluctuate from year to year, moving a few dollars one way or the other with population shifts, often not garnering much attention.

But this year the move upward, based on the county breaking the 27,000 population threshold in 2010, involved a few hundred dollars more, sparking the interest of an anonymous caller to our office wondering why the county could afford raises for elected officials, but not the jobs of two laid off administrative employees.

It’s often because of such calls that we become aware of stories we otherwise may have missed, or arrive at too late for it to be relevant. Would so many of the elected officials polled this week about whether they intended to accept or reject the extra compensation, have chosen the latter had The Press not come calling?

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County’s 150th will turn out just peachy

Several people, two of them involved as organizers, commented the past week that no one seems to know about the upcoming Sesquicentennial Celebration on September 24.

Maybe that’s because so few of us attempt to pronounce the word (Cess-kwa-centennial) and thus have pushed the one-day event back in the nether regions of our consciousness.

No, it’s not a celebration of some primitive era when the dinosaurs roamed. It means Baker County is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding in April, 1861, a month when there wasn’t much going on — except, oh, for the shelling of Fort Sumter and the start of the Civil War.

Talk about being overshadowed by events. It’s on par with choosing December 7, 1941 (or 9/11 for that matter) as your wedding day.

Why aren’t people talking about the Sesquicentennial?

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The renaissance of Ground Zero

The surviving Double Check statue.The massive construction site that is Ground Zero has been shrouded from the public view for some time as workers rebuild the World Trade Center.

But a fascinating program series produced by Stephen Spielberg called Rising: Rebuilding Ground Zero has given viewers an inside look at the work being done to reclaim and renew the site of the greatest terrorist disaster the United States has ever known.

Two perfect square recessions, each an acre in size and descending 30 feet below the surface of the earth mark the location where the Twin Towers once stood.

Referred to as “the footprints,” each granite-lined cavity has begun to murmur with the constant rush of flowing water, making them the largest man-made waterfalls in the world.

The waterfalls are the centerpiece of what will be Memorial Plaza. When the plaza officially opens on September 12, visitors will see bronze panels that surround the falls containing the names of employees, firemen, policemen and visitors who were present when the Twin Towers came down.

They will see names of passengers and crew of American Airlines flight 277 which crashed into the Pentagon, the names of passengers and crew on United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania and the six people who lost their lives when the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993.

Hundreds of swamp white oaks will surround the waterfalls creating a tranquil green space for visitors and the employees who will eventually again inhabit Freedom Tower and other buildings still under construction.

On a recent evening I stood outside of Ground Zero where even at night, scores of people work amid the whir and clank and grind of massive machinery, determined to bring the World Trade Center back from the grave.

 

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Things we haven’t learned since 9/11

Anybody see the interview Sunday evening with former President Bush (2) on National Geographic Channel? The subject was 9/11 and he spent an hour reflecting on what that day was like for him.

It didn’t break a lot of new ground, but the ex-prez has some thoughtful recollections on what must be the most memorable day of his life. He did a good job — and not a Teleprompter in sight.

We’ll be bombarded the next week with “anniversary” telecasts, panels and, yes, newspaper columns on the decade mark of that fateful day. I’ve never met anyone over the age of 15 at the time who doesn’t remember exactly what they were doing when they heard the news. Don’t believe I ever will.

The Bush interview prompted (not teleprompted) me to ruminate on what we have learned since September 11, 2001. Many of us believed in the days following the attack that something good would come out of all that death and destruction. The nation — indeed all the nations of the world that value freedom over barbarism — would have a unity of purpose that in the end will magnify the best.

We didn’t do that so much, did we?

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