What to make of our Fayette governments
First of all, the two local governments that seem to be working most efficiently and with the most careful stewardship of the taxpayers’ money are Fayetteville and Tyrone.
Fayetteville has made a science out of spending other people’s money (meaning taxpayers from Tyrone to Ty Ty and from Portland, Maine to Portland, Ore.) while assiduously looking after and spending as little as possible of Fayetteville taxpayers’ cash. With all that federal and state tax money, you get lots of new concrete sidewalks, brick pavers in downtown and Norman Rockwell streetlights. But Fayetteville taxpayers don’t get charged for those amenities. I suppose that means Fayetteville taxpayers are well looked after.
Most must think so, given that Fayetteville voter turnout for the last several city elections remains below 10 percent.
Tyrone went through a wrenching process in recent years to get a slate of council members whose vision more closely aligned with that of the town’s voters. But Tyrone’s newest budget shows a healthy surplus. Who can argue with surplus?
Three other local governments — the Board of Education, Fayette County and Peachtree City — seem less firmly anchored in current 2011 economic reality.
Budgets that will be adopted by all three in the coming weeks will demonstrate unmistakably whether a majority of those elected officials (and public employees paid with public tax money) reside on the same planet as the rest of us. The signs are not encouraging.
In fact, it seems to this private business owner who has had to lay off more than half his employees in the past four years that thousands of Fayette County government workers and their bosses, the elected officials, are deliberately ignoring the economic reality of late spring, 2011.
This privileged group — who talk much about “morale” and having to forego annual cost of living increases — seems detached from the economic realities that most of the rest of us have been run over by.
However late the arrival, economic reality will arrive even at public employees’ doors this year.
There’s a lot of smoke and many mirrors at the meetings of the Board of Education, the Fayette County Commission and the Peachtree City Council.
With the Board of Ed and Peachtree City, you hear the word “special” used a lot. Here’s a flash for those “special” folks: We cannot afford anymore for you to feel so “special.”
With the Board of Commissioners, you just have a lot of dumbness. I think I have never seen (and I have covered local governments in Georgia since 1969) such a gobsmackered gang of politically stupid elected officials as currently occupy three seats on the commission.
The incumbent-friendly Georgia recall law works against recalling stupid public officials, but it does allow for recalling an official for breaking the law. One commissioner has admitted doing that in front of a state court judge and was on probation for a while.
You recall one of the Gang of Three for an admitted drug offense and you have an opportunity to elect the third member of your majority on the commission. Why the West Bypass opponents haven’t moved on that warehouse-sized opening is one of the deeper mysteries of local political astuteness.
As to squelching the public comments, the Gang of Three will pay an electoral price — this year (if a recall is mounted) or next (if the West Bypass opponents are all talk and no action).
I’m wishing the current Peachtree City Council had a little more class than it showed with the trashy firing of a well-regarded leader, Randy Gaddo.
The council — even Eric “the Bubble” Imker — is staggering toward some recognition of economic necessity with a long-needed realignment of the city’s functions. They could not have picked a worse starting point than Gaddo.
Note to staggering council: It’s the Leisure Services functions that must be diminished, not its erstwhile leader. Somebody at City Hall must finally decide what basic government services are essential and what services are simply “special.”
We are willing to pay for those essential services, not so much for the “special” ones.
Note to Eric “the Bubble” Imker”: What happened to the Imker we elected? Are you still there, hiding somewhere under the special interests camouflage suit you wear so well these days? Or has a zombie-like bureaucrat virus overtaken your common sense?
[Cal Beverly has published The Citizen since 1993.]