Bad governing has local addresses
Since there are plenty of words about gun control this week available nearby, I will postpone Part 2 of my attempt at logic, “Guns and governing philosophy” for another week. (Is that cheering I hear?)
This week, I need to do some catching up on local issues.
First off, despite a painful exchange at a City Council meeting this month, Peachtree City has settled into an uneasy peace, pending mayoral candidate jousts sure to be forthcoming.
I want to bring back to your attention a matter of some constitutional import, since that notion seems much in the news these days.
I’m referring to the blatant and still unadmitted legal and constitutional violations committed by four members of the Peachtree City Council last summer.
That was when members Eric Imker, Vanessa Fleisch, George Dienhart and Kim Learnard enacted a constitutionally prohibited bill of attainder in which the council majority docked the pay of Mayor Don Haddix to repay a legal expense incurred by Haddix in his mayoral function.
Haddix threatened to sue, attorney negotiations ensued, the council majority backed off, and the council voted to restore Haddix’s back pay. The majority’s excuse for running up the white flag was that legal defense of their actions was prohibitively expensive.
Ironic, to say the least.
However good it may have felt to the council majority and some vocal anti-Haddix partisans, the council action cutting the mayor’s pay was nakedly illegal.
Not one of them has acknowledged to this day that illegality. In fact they have displayed no indication that any one of them has since read either the U.S. or Georgia constitutions regarding bills of attainder or the city charter, which specifically prohibits the very action they undertook.
That’s either a very prideful or a very ignorant stance, or both, to disregard core principles that govern our nation, our state and our city.
The continuing problem is that their prideful ignorance may lead them to further such lawless and stupid adventures in the future.
This should not be read as an endorsement of the reelection of Mayor Haddix. Indeed, Haddix has demonstrated levels of poor judgment equal to his adversaries and continues to indulge a pathological need to justify himself publicly ad nauseam.
At this point, faced with a ballot choice for any one of the five, I would write in the AFLAC duck.
Are there any low-ego, low-maintenance, no-tax-increase, no-political-ambitions fiscal conservatives inside the city limits who would sacrifice themselves for a four-year term to bring adult behavior back to the council?
I yearn for some adult who will cast votes based not on personalities and peevishness but on reining in local government excesses — and there are multitudes of excesses, and many fat, sacred cows overdue for the butcher block.
I catch glimpses of actual leadership now evident on the Fayette County Board of Education and in the excellent choice of the interim superintendent.
At the county commission, some guys are finding governing to be more complicated than protesting. Example: handling the ethics violation charges against lightning rod Chairman Steve Brown.
The new bunch has continued some practices they reviled in their predecessors. Don’t like the outcome of an ethics hearing? Call a meeting and change the rules.
And last-minute items added to the agenda — with no supporting documentation or explanation — seems to have continued in the new regime, just like in the old.
Plus ça change, etc.
I draw your attention to a story in this edition about the levels of debt being incurred in Peachtree City, debt that used to be decided by a voter referendum. Now, both state and local governments have set up a variety of legal ways to get around that messy referendum requirement for capital expenditures and to borrow money to fund a variety of pet projects that might not pass strict voter scrutiny.
Do you know how much money you, the taxpayer, are on the hook for — not nationally, but locally — in projects you probably don’t even know about?
Read, and remember that many of these debts are being repaid out of taxes levied on your property. And what happens when you add a thousand or two to your trusty personal credit card? Your monthly payment goes up.
Be careful your local tax rates don’t do the same.
[Cal Beverly is editor and publisher of The Citizen.]