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Send letters to Letters to the Editor; c/o The Gilmer Mirror; P.O. Box 250; Gilmer, TX 75644. Fax letters to (903) 843-5123
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I recently read a news report that concerned a college on the East Coast, but which has ramifications for colleges and universities nationwide. Carnegie Mellon University, located in Pittsburgh, Pa., had its president apologize for a papal parody.. It detailed the actions of a female Carnegie Mellon University student who got carried-away with excessive vulgarity during a Spring carnival parade.
Allegedly, the student chose to mock the Catholic Church by her donning a fake Papal Mitre, and robes that were cut-off at the waist. From the waist down, she was completely nude and had shaven her pubic hair in the form of a cross. As Americans, we need to protect "Freedom of Speech". However, even the vast freedoms of Speech, Expression, and Privacy are not launchpads for "anything goes".
It is illegal to cry "Fire" in a crowded movie-theater; it is illegal to utter words which threaten the U.S. President; and it is a criminal act of lewd and lascivious behavior for people to openly parade on a city street with their pubic hair visible (regardless of whether they are male or female). The female co-ed's behavior was a criminal act that violated Community Standards.
Too many people feel that they are at-liberties (bad pun) to "push the envelope". They are sadly mistaken. The female student offender should be given a monetary fine plus a short jail-term to impress upon her the seriousness of her actions. People in America (of all ages) need to regain an inner-compass that keeps them within due bounds of what is right, proper, and appropriate.
Outlandish behavior isn't "making a statement". That student's boorish choice of drawing attention to herself should offend ALL CHRISTIANS, not just Catholics, but Baptists, Pentecostals, Evangelicals, but also members of most mainstream Christian denominations.
I am no prude; but sometimes a "parody" can cross-the-line of what is acceptable in the public domain; especially where children and young people are present. It is simply stupid vulgarity that shouldn't be condoned, but the student offender should be punished to prove that adherence to the 'Rule of Law' is expected and law-breakers will face ramifications.
It seems that people anymore are inclined to protest anything on a whim. Granted: the Right to express one's own Opinion is constitutional; but one person's Right's "end" where they infringe on another person's Rights of personal-space and reciprocal Rights of privacy. Laws are "on the books" to be enforced. Illegal actions must have consequences.
James A. Marples, Longview
As the Chair of the Upshur County Health Fair, I would like to thank everyone who participated in this years event. Throughout the day we had over 200 attendees visit our 52 exhibitors. This year we had a record number of vendors who were on hand to discuss a variety of health related issues including home health, hospice care, diabetes education, long term care options and more.
I would especially like to thank ETMC Gilmer for their phenominal support of the health fair. The ETMC Gilmer Auxiliary volunteers were on hand to assist with registering attendees as they arrived. From there, attendees were invited to take advance of several free screenings offered by ETMC Gilmer.
During the event, the hospital administered 82 cholesterol and blood sugar screenings and 86 vascular carotid screenings. The value of these donated screenings was approximately $40,000 , a generous donation on the hospital’s behalf; all to support the health and wellbeing of the Gilmer community.
This year ETMC Gilmer also added an “Ask the Doctor” area and had physcians from ETMC First Physician Clinic on hand to answer health care questions and address concerns. “Ask the Doctor” was well received by attendees who appreciated the opportunity to speak with a physician without having to make an office visit.
Again, a big thanks to all of the exhibitors and volunteers who helped to make this year’s Upshur County Health Fair a great success!
Christine Jackson, Gilmer
Upshur Manor Nursing Home
Time to bring TEXAS GOLD back to our Lone Star State
For many, many years, I have advocated having various gold repositories of gold coins and gold bars, at other locations aside from Fort Knox, Kentucky. As big as the United States is, there is simply no need to put our financial eggs in one basket. I have recommended other locations or "Gold Storehouses" in places such as Kansas, Utah, Wyoming, and here in Texas.
It is a rare day when I can agree with Gov. Rick Perry, who has now jumped aboard this bandwagon. I highly suspect he is supportive of it for his own selfish political-reasons, but I do not care. The fact that he supports it, is a positive thing. Sometime ago, Perry floated the notion of 'Secession'. And, (whether 'real' or 'hypothetical') it lacked the pivotal element of sold-money within Texas's own borders. The Dallas Federal Reserve Bank already prints flimsy fiat-money (paper greenback dollars), but that paper could be near worthless overnight. Any historian can recall Germany's bad history with paper money that became near-worthless overnight.
Right now, many gold bars, with a value amounting to over $1 Billion dollars owned by the University of Texas Investment Management Company are now being held by the Federal Reserve. It is high-time to get that GOLD back within the borders of the Lone Star State.
It isn't a matter of pride nor ego. It is a matter of Texas property that belongs back here. It would give the general public solid, tangible evidence that the State of Texas maintains a reputation for being financially stable and secure. In a turbulent financial-world: That alone is priceless. Bring our Texas Gold, back to Texas. I personally feel it should be divided among the five quadrants of Texas: East Teas as well as North, South, West and Central Texas. By diversifying the store-houses of gold, the commodity could be guarded against a single heist. Plus, it would prove that Texas' wealth isn't centered in one spot like Fort Knox. I hope the plan passes the Legislature.
James A. Marples, Longview
I’m disappointed that Rep. David Simpson of District 7 voted for an amendment that would have gutted funding for water conservation.
Rep. Phil King’s amendment to HB 4, which thankfully failed 104-41, would have removed a requirement that at least 20 percent of state water funding go toward conservation and reuse projects.
The drought has underscored that we cannot continue with business as usual when it comes to Texas’ water future. Water conservation is the cheapest, fastest and most environmentally responsible way to meet our water needs. In every sector of water use, new technologies and better management practices can enable us to get more out of a gallon of water.
We can’t control when it rains, but we can control how we use water. State funding can help cut water waste, improve water conservation and steer Texas toward a more sustainable water future.
Mike Riggin, Austin
Field Organizer, Environment Texas
Upshur County is top heavy with county employees. Our county had to borrow $1,000,000.00 to keep up with expenses, payroll and pensions.
The county does not exist to provide an employment system for people seeking positions with benefits and pensions.
The decision to cut back on the number of employees was a thoughtful one.
Bill HJR No. 103, that David Simpson introduced in the House of Representatives, will ultimately provide people the opportunity to vote on the issues of reducing the number of JPs and Constables.
The commissioners were elected to get us back on a fiscal track to eliminate our big debt.
This is about running our county in a fiscally responsible way that benefits everyone in the county.
Jane Rinehart, Gilmer
Thanks for giving me the chance to respond to both Ms. Martin and Mr. Click. I do appreciate their letters and opinions.
As we have discussed, there is not enough room for me to answer their requests within the policy for the "Letters to the Editor" .
Please advise your readers that my reply maybe seen on my Facebook page or they may contact me and I will provide them with a copy of my "Facts" and responses. Respectfully,
Sherry Jewkes-Larsen, Gilmer
There was a very important letter in The Gilmer Mirror last Saturday that every Upshur County Taxpayer should read and understand. It was written by Ms. Sherry Jewkes-Larsen, a county employee; it is full of erroneous information, it is not the opinion of most hard working County Employees and it is a story of the tail wagging the dog.
But, there are sources of facts available to every citizen of the County. First of all the County must be run like a business. What else does she have in mind? No review of outdated service? No outsourcing for part-time need? No reduction in staff for a bloated payroll?
Listen folks, there are no guarantees for lifetime County Employment here! And, a well-respected local Citizen volunteered and did the Veteran’s aid work for six months for free and served one Veteran per week. How many $30,000 employees do we need for that? Ask your Commissioner about the cost for this Veteran’s aid position.
This propaganda that the Commissioners are trying to undermine Medical Insurance is bizarre. Citizens, please call your County Treasurer, Ms. Harris, and ask for an explanation of the County Self Insurance method. Also ask Ms. Harris if she is working with the Court to change the Self Insurance. There is not any way for the Employee Medical Insurance under the Federal Government Employee Insurance rules to be changed by the Court without the participation of Ms. Harris, Treasurer, Personnel Manager and County Employee.
And, as to cutting retirement benefits, why should Ms. Jewkes-Larsen receive one-cent retirement benefit more than any Taxpayer of the County? Most of us “retireds” are on minimum Social Security, which was reduced by the Windfall Rules instigated by Reagan but does not apply to Government Employees. Ms. Jewkes-Larsen is on Taxpayer funded Social Security plus Taxpayer funded double retirement plus an out of control Taxpayer funded deferred compensation for extra hours.
Call your County Treasurer or your Commissioner and ask for an explanation of matching benefits paid for by the Taxpayer. Also ask for an employment application so you can get in on the pork. And, call the Treasurer of any nearby county and see what they allow, which in nearly every case is much less than what the Taxpayers of Upshur County provide. And, do not let any County Employee tell you that they accept this benefit boondoggle because they accept low pay. A study of local counties puts our Employees’ pay at average; not way below, not way above, average.
The most bizarre claim made by Ms. Jewkes-Larsen is about Commissioner’s pay for a part-time job. Please, by all means, call your Commissioner and ask if he/she supports their vote for a substantial reduction in pay this year. I know of four County Employees who gladly accept less pay for their position than last year; three of them are current Commissioners. The fourth is not new Commissioner Paula Gentry as implied within the twisted logic of Ms Jewkes-Larsen’s letter.
And, as to Commissioners’ income outside County employment, all of our County Employees do this. You can hire yard work, roofing, hay baling and painting from them. Or you can buy candles from them out of their desk during work hours, but nearly all of them are using County presence to obtain extra income.
I am okay with this until they begin to badger the public for what others are getting. Does Ms. Jewkes-Larsen mean to say that no County Employee can have an after-hour job? What about selling candles? I’d bet that the County Employees who bale hay after hours wish that Ms. Jewkwes-Larsen would drop this bizarre complaint.
And, yes, we are losing employees, but there is no shortage in employees. They came as fast as they go. And, to suggest that this is somehow the fault of the Court is ludicrous. This loss may be entirely within the Sheriff’s Department, so please call the Sheriff and ask him if he thinks he is still able to protect us. I’d bet he says yes he can.
Call your Commissioner and ask if there is a study of pay scale in adjoining counties. There is; and the notion that we are behind in pay is bogus. This is not the Court and Taxpayers’ fault.
As for secret meetings, our Commissioners have begged Citizens to attend open meetings on budgets, salaries and many other issues. This is now editorialized as secret meetings, a bizarre claim. But, more to the point, where did Ms. Jewkes-Larsen get her information without secret meetings and with whom?
Here’s the real problem: Oil and Gas revenue rule our Tax and Spend operation. Years ago we were flush in Gas Revenue and a well-meaning Court, urged on by well-meaning County Employees, bought new cars and trucks and computers and Library stuff and hired employees and promised lavish benefits, as in the Gold Rush days.
Now Gas Revenues are down and we are still paying for the excesses, but she is complaining about the excesses not being enough excesses, so let’s bad mouth the Court to get more excesses.
A lot of our future is ruled by the Keystone pipeline; if it goes IN local gas revenue may drop lower; if it goes OUT local gas revenue may go back up – either way we should not allow Ms. Jewkes-Larsen to badger the Court into more excesses.
It is true that County Employees should speak up about unethical behavior. But my main County complaint is about County Employees leaning over their desk to gossip about Political Candidates and peddle a personal-benefit agenda. Talk about unethical behavior!
Porter Click, Taxpayer, Big Sandy
This letter is in response to the ignorant tirade bashing the Commissioner’s court written by Sherry Jewkes-Larsen in the March 2, 2013 edition of The Gilmer Mirror.
First and foremost, it shows little character to talk about “them”, “those two”, “one of”, “some”, “their”, etc. without having the courage to name names and state facts.
She said that as a taxpayer, she felt our taxes should afford us good roads, etc. As a County employee, I feel sure that she knows our County is broke (much like the Federal Government). I know she was against reducing the County’s 2 for 1 match in their retirement program when the Commissioners and many of the taxpayers tried to get a reduction in that amount during last year’s budget proposal. County employees are also guaranteed a 7% return on their money. How many of you get those kinds of benefits? I haven’t made a 7% return on my money in several years. If this, as well as other spending trends continue, the county will end up in bankruptcy.
As far as the school taxes affording our children the best education, money alone will not solve those problems. If it would, she should spend her time convincing the school districts to create a legal fund to hire legal personnel to look into the potential windfall from our West Texas school land minerals recently discussed by our hard working Commissioners. We have children in the schools that have had little parental involvement and practically no discipline. How do we expect our teachers to teach when so many of the children need discipline and structure and yet the teachers are not allowed to do anything with them except put up with whatever they want to do in the classroom.
If our deputies and jailers are leaving in droves, perhaps there is a reason that might not have anything to do with money. The Gilmer police dept. has not had any turn over in a year and a half, and they are paid on par with Upshur County deputies. Then again, you can’t blame them if they are able to make more money some where else, such as in the oil and gas industry. People have been changing jobs to make more money forever. Maybe Ms. Larsen should try it?
I can’t speak for each of the Commissioners as to how many hours they spend sitting in their offices. However, I can say that I know for a fact that Frank Berka has his calls transferred to his car dealership and that he often has more people in his office at the dealership talking about county business than he has car customers. I understand that this is the same for Mike Spencer at his place of business. Also, if Ms. Larsen will recall, Mr. Berka campaigned about the fact the Commissioner’s physical duties are part time now that we have a unit road system and administrator. Therefore, he and two other Commissioners requested and received a substantial reduction in the salary position. Paula Gentry, who did not seek a reduction, was none the less required to do so because of last years accepted budget. In the office of JP, I understand that each of the four of them work about 4 hours a day and have not asked to have their salaries reduced, even though they are at a higher level of compensation than the Commissioners.
She is also insinuating that some of the commissioners are having unethical meetings and private agendas. That seems rather slanderous to me. How many times does she attend Commissioners Court to find out what is going on in the county? Perhaps she should spend more time in court and less on “rumors”. Great people think and talk about ideas. Average people talk about things. Small people talk about other people.
As far as county employees not being considered worthy of decent pay or benefits, I would venture to say that most of them make more and have better benefits than most of the people in this county.
As a Taxpayer and County employee I feel that I must write to make the other Taxpayers of Upshur County aware of what is happening to our County.
I was recently told by one of the Commissioners that as a taxpayer, I had a right to say anything, but as a County employee I should watch what I say.
I begged to differ with him and said that if things were being done that were unethical or to hurt the County, I had a responsibility to speak up.
As Taxpayer, I feel that our county taxes should afford us good roads, the best law enforcement protection and the most polite, educated/knowledgeable service in all the other departments within the county.
Our School taxes should afford our children the best education.
I know everyone is feeling the financial crunch, but remember school boards/districts set the rates and receive the money for their taxes. The county only collects them. The Commissioners set the rate for county services only. So when you consider your tax bill, please remember the smaller portion of your taxes go toward the biggest expenses—the County Services.
It is a very disturbing trend we are having in the county—we are losing our Deputies and Jailers in droves. Our Sheriff's Department is the lowest-paid law enforcement agency in the county and they have the biggest area to protect. We all have gone almost seven years without a pay raise, and most have not complained and have continued to serve the taxpayers as a duty to better our county. Now there are some on our Commissioners Court that want to take away or reduce the bulk of our insurance and retirement benefits. As a result, we are losing good, well-trained, caring people, as well as all the money the county has invested in their training and education, to other counties and agencies.
There is also a push to continue to reduce this county from four (4) JPs and Constables down to two (2), thus further reducing our law enforcement protection.
Why does it seem that some of our commissioners want to lessen the protection and services to the taxpayers? What service do the Commissioners provide? Exactly how many hours do they actually work to earn their pay? They want to keep reducing the services provided to the taxpayers, and yet expect the taxpayers to pay the same amount?
They have outsourced this county in many aspects and their plan is to do even more. Upshur County cannot afford this. We do not have taxes coming in on oil and gas like Smith County or Industry like Gregg County.
Instead of these men having what some would consider, unethical meetings and private agendas, why are they not spending their time on Economic Development?
Paula Gentry is the only commissioner, that I know of, who is actively working an 8-hour day in her office, fielding calls, checking on problems, forwarding requests, checking back on things and researching ways to help improve the County.
Could it be that she is working this hard, because this is her ONLY job? Her ONLY focus? Unlike the other three who have other businesses that come first?
The County cannot be run like a private business, though we must be financially responsible, we MUST keep in mind - we are a service provider to the Taxpayer. Because of things the Commissioner’s Court have done, are doing or wanting to do, we the taxpayers are being short changed and being put in harms way and getting a lot less for our tax dollars.
Our Veteran’s now have to go to other counties to be served - this is a disgrace!!!! They ,of all people, should be able to be served where they live - not only because they are taxpayers, but because of what they have given to keep us free. It upsets me that no major outcry has happened because of the way we are treating the very people that protected our rights.
We are sending our tax dollars to other counties for the 911 and IT services. They now want to do way with more services by getting rid of half the JP's and Constables. They would like to get rid of our Fire Marshal's position and if rumor is correct our Public Library will also be cut and our County Tax Office. I say rumor because, instead of doing things in a clear manner by putting it on an agenda and getting direction from the court - a couple of them hold "get together’s" and seek out like minded people and exclude those who might disagree. Though this may not be illegal it is by far unethical. They should be able and should want to present their ideas in the open - to not only the others on the Court but to the taxpayers and County employees. But that is not what is happening.
Because of the their private agenda's, lack of forethought and foresight, they are ruining the County for us, our children and grandchildren. If allowed to continue without some sort of accountability OUR County will be ruined for years to come and at what cost to the taxpayer to repair? If you or your family end up hurt or in need of law enforcement protection or services and it does not come in time or at all - please do not blame the Sheriff or his dedicated men and women, blame your Commissioner's. If your other services suffer because of shorthandedness or because they have gotten rid of the experienced ones - the Commissioner’s are the one's to blame they do not consider us worthy of decent pay or benefits.
With the exception of one or two on the Court, they treat the County employees like they are dirt and are of no consequence- while they- with the exception of one- gladly accept a larger salary than most other elected officials and only work part time.
There is so much more I could write to tell the taxpayers that I feel they should know, but there is a word limit for these letters.
Sherry Jewkes-Larsen, Gilmer