2018 In Review, or: Why You Should Send The Planet Money

December 29, 2018

This is the time of year when newspapers review their headlines and remind readers of the news they've delivered in the preceding 12 months. It is also the time of year when businesses look over their finances and ask themselves if they should go on, cut their losses, or jump out of a skyscraper. 


The Dade Planet is a combination of those two entities, an independent, for-(ha!)-profit newspaper run on a (frayed) shoestring, which depends on reader contributions as much as advertising sales to keep it away from that skyscraper window. Thus it seems proper to combine the two year-end occasions into one rollickin' editorial, to remind readers of what The Planet delivers, ask them to cough up some gelt if they want more of same or, alternatively, offer them the opportunity to assemble under the aforementioned window chanting JUMP JUMP JUMP!


But before the assault on your wallet begins, permit The Planet to show what a lot of nerve it has got by first announcing a week of PLANETARY ECLIPSE. Until Jan. 3, The Planet will run only contributed news such as press releases and obituaries, plus perhaps a few vintage features. This is because the end of 2018 finds The Planet lying on the rug with its tongue hanging out, suffering from a chest cold, burnout and dog grief, one way or t'other exhausted to the bone and badly in need of a few days to recharge.


The Planet apologizes humbly for the lapse in service, but hopes its days of darkness will remind readers what the local news scene would look like should a certain set of gaily-hued planetary rings sink below the western horizon, never again to rise the next morning to drench the east in their gaudy rainbow splendor...


Right. You wouldn't have to put with crap like that anymore. You'd be blessedly free of The Planet's deplorable excesses of hyperbole. You wouldn't have to dodge Shakespeare quotes every time a city commissioner's decision to quit her job in favor of matrimony catapulted The Planet into full-frontal Romeo and Juliet frenzy. And a certain long-suffering police chief might breathe a sigh of relief at never again being referred to as "Trenton's pulchritudinous police pontiff." Things around here would, like, regularize.


But while there might be less purple prose flying through the air like shrapnel, permit The Planet to remind you there'd also be a hell of a lot less actual, like, nooz. It's not just that The Planet provides the best, most thorough coverage of most local news, it's that The Planet provides the only coverage of a goodly portion of what goes on here at the center of the universe. 


Yes, The Planet offers you the same news dished out to the other outlets in town from local law enforcement and institutions (though The Planet prides itself on occasionally asking a few questions to fill out what's missing from press releases). In shaping itself into a full-service community newspaper, The Planet makes sure to supply you regular lists of who died and who was arrested, just like the other rags do.


But The Planet is the only local news outlet that goes into the community to interview interesting characters and provide you gossipy little features about what your neighbors are up to. It is the only news outlet to cover certain quasi-governmental bodies capable of spending public dollars and affecting your life for good or ill. It is the only news outlet in towns that sticks its beak into local issues and the only one that investigates anything.


But don't take The Planet's word for it! Instead, please follow The Planet on its eccentric orbit through the past year's headlines. It was difficult to choose just one or two stories from each month. Interested readers are invited to browse for themselves by selecting "Archives" from the navigator above.



What The Planet is pleased to call the Great Lake Debate--the county commission's controversial plan to build a reservoir on Lookout Creek--was already dominating ​​local chitchat as 2018 arrived in Dade County. The other nooz outlets mentioned it; The Planet wrote the novel! 


Interviewing Dade Water Authority manager Doug Anderton, rooting out a retired water company consulting engineer, and spending a Saturday morning in the library going through old newsprint in search of a certain Tennessee American Water ad, The Planet gave readers more reservoir background than anyone could eat at one sitting! You can get to that comprehensive Greak Lake coverage by clicking the above picture (though you might want to eat it in small bites, and remember to chew!).   



​​​Here's an example of feature-style nooz you won't get anywhere else:  Books New & Used is an important Dade link to civilization in that it's Trenton's only bookstore. Preserving civilization doesn't pay (as who should know better than The Planet?) and thus the bookstore teeters constantly on the brink of oblivion. The Planet in January ​​interviewed Brittany Doyle, who had bought the place to ​​rescue it the previous summer; and then in October current owner John Michael Currie, who had swooped in to save the day the month before. You can read either of their stories, and more about this seriously cool store, by clicking their pics. 




​​In February, election news began to heat up as the May primaries approached. Great Lake nooz continued to develop, and there was also talk of TSPLOST, the proposed transportation special purpose local option sales tax, notably one special called meeting of the Dade County Commission that turned into a Zombie Apocalypse Massacree. What was notable about that meeting (besides screamin', yellin' and the cops ​​comin') was that you could now watch the whole thing for free on Facebook.


Live-streamed gummint was a brand-new thing in Dade! The Planet began wondering (with mixed feelings) whether the function of the local newspaper was fading into history. But the whole shebangs also brought up the whole issue of how, in ​​an increasingly computerized world, local politicians were engaging--or not--with their constituents. Read The Planet's contemporaneous musin's on that point by clicking on the smiling face behind the above Margarita. Or scan the February archives for the news articles.



In March, neighboring Fort Payne began allowing stores and restaurants to sell alcoholic beverages on Sunday. It wasn't a Dade story--really Fort Payne is a little far south even to qualify under the general heading "Rising Fawn Metro Area." But The Planet brought you that news as it has every snippet about Dade County's long and torturous journey from Temperance to modernity in the booze department. That journey is still ongoin', and so will be The Planet's coverage (skyscraper windows not withstandin'). 



March is the beginning of the spring, which makes this a great ​​time to remind you that while The Planet brings you other great local columnists who are also run in the rival nooz outlets, it is the only rag to feature the mighty master gardener Ann Bartlett. Read Ann's piece on Saturdays for info on all things horticultural!

(Click on pics to go to stories. The Planet is sick of saying that but it applies to the rest of the pictures in this article.)



The proposed one-penny transportation special purchase local option sales tax had become such a monster issue by spring that The Planet began spelling it T. Splost like the dinosaur. The Planet couldn't go 45 seconds without hearing someone screaming TSPLOSTTSPLOSTTSPLOST, to the point sometimes The Planet just lay on the floor and twitched. Read about the April commission meeting, over which T. Splost loomed menacingly, snapping trees like matchsticks and biting the heads off the local press, by clicking on T. Rex (The Planet really needs to stop saying that).


TSPLOST failed in May, but a legacy left by the controversy was that local historian Donna Street finally put the kibosh on SPLOSH, interrupting the debate on whether to add another penny to SPLOST with a correction on how to pronounce it. “Splosh is something you do in a pool,” she said. District 3 Commissioner Robert Goff kept that in mind as he reported on SPLOST at the April commission meeting, saying: “I try to put a T on the end--sometimes it just don’t come out.”


The Planet hated the sloppy pronunciation about as bad as anybody, but now sometimes finds itself missing it, in much the same way it misses the old men in overalls who used to hang around outside the hardware store, and other vestiges of Dade's rural past. 


Not to spend too much time in April, but here's a story about some pipe bombs and some alleged pipe bombers. The trial never uncovered the reason two denizens of Dade manufactured bombs or what precisely they aimed to do with 'em, but The Planet covered the trial among others in Dade Superior Court in April as it always does. It is the only local outlet news outlet that does so, and the only way you know what's going on in the courts unless you sit in.



Those who have followed recent Dade news know that the way the Dade County Commission finally came up with the $500,000 needed to buy acreage along Lookout Creek for its controversial reservoir was to get $400,000 of it from the board of directors for the Dade Water Authority, or so called water board. The water board got the money from a low-interest GEFA loan it had applied for in May "in case the grants don’t fall through" to pay for the land, as it was explained at the meeting.


Interest in the Great Lake Debate was fierce, and the water board was intimately concerned with the reservoir. Why, then, was the local media not all over the water board? Those with sensitive ears may want to cover them for a minute while The Planet screams: Because it meets at 8 a.m. on Friday mornings, that's why! But somehow The Planet always managed to attend, alone and palely loiterin' behind its coffee cup, perhaps, but there just the same.


By the summer, the water board began conducting all its business behind closed doors in executive session, which was frustrating but anyway made The Planet feel important.



It was hard to choose one story from June but here's one about a bizarre burglary that had the distinction of leading to a jailbreak attempt. Surprise: Apparently, drugs were involved.


The Planet picked this one out to highlight its coverage of the Dade Magistrate Court. In preliminary hearings, local police officers testify about the sometimes scintillating, sometimes depressing, but always interesting calls they get, crimes they investigate, and perps they bust. And The Planet is generally there to pass the proceedings faithfully on to its readers. Again, no other media outlet does.




In November 2016, Dade voters passed a referendum saying yes to liquor by the drink. But the first liquor license was not granted in the county until July 2018. This may have been because there were too few entrepreneurs in the county interested in serving alcohol, or it may have been because the alcohol ordinance passed by the county commission after the referendum was restrictive enough to more or less nullify it. One way or the other, alone among the local media, The Planet was there to chronicle the event as the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, or so-called "beer board," granted Geneva's Mtn Top Cafe the right to sell beer and wine. 



On Aug. 7, a high-speed police chase out of Alabama ended in a crash just off the Trenton town square (right). Two miles before that, the suspect driver had run down Dade County Sheriff's Office Maj. Tommy Bradford, depriving him of one of his legs and traumatizing the entire community. The Planet covered the harrowing events of Aug. 7 and the ensuing galvanization of Dade behind its fallen hero along with all the regional media .   


​​But what all the other regional outlets do not cover, and The Planet does, is the doings of the Dade Industrial Development Authority or IDA.


Decades ago, great political minds began noticing that agriculture in the South was dwindling, and to opine that manufacturing jobs must be imported if rural areas were to prosper. The idea of incentivizing manufacturers to relocate to the Southern countryside was born. Fast-forward to now, when states and even tiny counties like Dade pay out taxpayer dollars to mystery manufacturers for the pleasure of their company, granting free land, tax immunity for the foreseeable future, and million-dollar cash grants, all in the name of economic development.


Around us, as corporations suck up incentives, then belch and leave town, other local governments are beginning to suspect that Ec-Dev has mutated into a cynical confidence game and a mean joke on taxpayers. But in Dade, that suspicion never seems to arise--except in The Dade Planet, which is, incidentally, as mentioned above, the only local media outlet to cover IDA. At Dade IDA meetings you will hear, "We must bring more jobs at any cost!" and "Our employers are having a terrible time filling their job openings!" two breaths later, without a trace of irony.


You can read The Planet's account of IDA meetings from the monthly archives in the navigator above. Sometimes, if there wasn't much news, they've been included in a Trenton Runaround rather than in freestanding articles. What's clickable from the above IDA board pic is The Planet's August editorial comments about IDA. It must have been an important piece, because it was enough to get The Planet slut-shamed from the podium at the September meeting.



​​For September, here's something else you can't get anywhere but The Planet: The Trenton Runaround! Named for the once threatened roundabout at Trenton's problematic central intersection, and for county leaders' quaint pronunciation of same, the Runaround dishes up coming

events plus odds, ends and snippets of nooz too small for a whole article. Sometimes pictures of burnt-out letters in CVS's lit-up signs, sometimes photos of what the

 trendy school super is wearin' these days, sometimes disclaimers like: You want real nooz? Hey! Make The Planet's day! Go out and commit a heinous crime. Then we'll get some headlines around here!


Click the Runaround header for a September edish. Click the pic of Tibetan monks if you've ever wondered what the hell they're doing in the Runaround!



Here's a feature from the October archives of The Planet. A feature is a news story not about breaking hard news but about some local institution, object or person in the community the rest of the community may find interesting. This feature (click pic to read it) was about Sand Mountain's Anthony Goins, who is fixin' to build a house out of tires and has promised The Planet photos of his progress. The Planet felt impelled to give a definition of "feature" here because nobody else seems to run them anymore. The newspaper world is shrinking. But you will find features about people in your community in this space as long as there is breath in The Planet's body. 



In the week or so before Thanksgiving, it seemed that not just every day but every hour brought news of another fatality on Dade interstates. The Planet hates to even remind you, but November was such a horrific month for interstate accidents it would be disingenuous not to mention it in this yearly review. Anyway, The Planet was there with you, faithfully passing on reports from the Georgia State Patrol and from The Planet's favorite cop, Sgt. Chad Payne, public information officer for the Dade Sheriff's Office.


On a brighter note, here's a November feature about an art gallery tour from The Planet's November annals. In a tight economy, the arts community is always the first to suffer; and in a shrinking newspaper world, it doesn't get that much ink, either. But The Planet tries, and hopes that not only will there always be newspapers in Dade, there will also always be art, whether or not either of 'em gets any respeck!




Which brings us back to now, with your humble narrator lying on the rug with her tongue hanging out after the trials, tribulations and 6 million local gummint meetings of 2018, wonderin' whether to leap up and charge into the new year with renewed journalist fervor or give up and find herself a skyscraper with a window that will open.

But I had my annual Margarita last night at 3 Amigos and I still get a certain satisfaction from being able to buy one in Dade County. They're made with white wine there and not all that alcoholic, but you know, a Margarita is a girly, sody-pop type drink and you don't really want it to be. Still, it cheers me up that Trenton is finally rewriting its booze ordinance after its referendum last year and maybe next December I can have one with tequila. 


I don't have Margaritas often because they cost more than beer and money is not thick on the ground for your independent newspaper operator. Which brings me to the point of this article, which is: You give money!


Seriously, if you enjoy The Planet, and you want it to stay in orbit, Paypal buttons are one thing that is thick on the ground in this space. Why not find one, press it, and contribute what you can? Or send a check to P.O. Box 173, Trenton, GA 30752.


One of my favorite literary characters is Alfred Doolittle, Eliza's daddy, from George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion. He begs for money, assuring beggees that if they give it to him he'll spend it all on liquor rather than using it to educate himself, better his lot and thus reform the unfair social order.


I promise nothing of the kind. I don't know what effect, if any, The Planet's reporting or editorializing or endless crusading has had on booze laws or any other local issue, but contribute to The Planet and I'll use it to keep on trying. 


So please help save The Planet! The going gets tough sometimes but I'm game if you are. And skyscrapers are in any case hard to find in the Rising Fawn Metro Area...

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