Madison County Opinion...

NOVEMBER 27, 2002


Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
November 27, 2002

Frankly Speaking
Perdue should reduce number of state offices
So, Sonny Perdue has asked all state department heads to submit their resignations and reapply for their jobs. I can buy that. As a new governor, with a new party in charge, it makes sense that he would want to put in new department heads. What surprises me, sort of, is the number of people involved.
According to press reports, at least 80 department heads were sent the message to resign. What? Georgia has 80 departments of government? What do all those people do?
If Georgia’s government has 80 departments, each with senior and middle management, secretaries, aides, field agents, report writers, and hundreds of other functionaries, it is no wonder that we the taxpayers are soaked so heavily to pay for state government.
With 80 different departments, each writing new rules and regulations, it is not surprising that we cannot even blow our noses without violating some rule. I bet the orthopedic surgeons in Atlanta are kept busy repairing all the injured legs from the state capital. With that many people, they can’t help but trip over each other every time they leave their offices!
Now you know why it takes so long to get an answer from the state government. When you send a request to the state, someone has to figure which of the 80 departments it should go to. (They probably have an agency to do that.)
Here is my suggestion to the new governor. While all these department heads are resubmitting their resumes, have them also submit a form showing why their departments are necessary. Make them prove that they are needed. Have them each describe in detail what their department does, and make those documents public so we the people can see what our money is buying.
I strongly suspect that such documents will reveal massive duplication in state agencies. I suspect that we would find that one well managed department could easily replace three, four or five current agencies with fewer people, less expense, and better results. We may even find that many state agencies have no real value and should be closed.
So add to my list of things the legislature needs to undo in the next session the overblown state bureaucracy. Rather than looking for more ways to spend our money by creating even more bureaucracies to solve non-existent problems, the Georgia legislature needs to reduce, consolidate and eliminate offices and bureaus. Then draw up clear lines of authority and specific duties for those that remain.
The Georgia legislature has a chance to prove that less is more. Fewer, better organized agencies can provide faster government services at less cost. We the people deserve this.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at www.mcga.net. His e-mail address is frankg@mcga.net.

Column
By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
November 27, 2002

From the Editor's Desk
BOC did the right thing on conservation subdivisions
Talk of “sprawl” sounds like a B horror flick, “The Blob” perhaps, a shapeless mass enveloping a region in unsightliness as masses run away in fear.
There are two modes of thought in Madison County: one being those who see such horrors as mere fiction for the county, an “aw, that won’t happen here” mentality. Then there are those who find truth in the foreboding Vincent Price monologues of sprawl resistant citizens, the “it’s coming and we can’t stop it” crowd that fervently preaches that we at least need to “do something to control it.”
The latter faction won Monday, or suffice to say, they won at least one battle to “preserve the rural integrity of the county.”
For weeks commissioners have talked — albeit tediously at times — about giving developers the option of planning conservation subdivisions, which allow homes to be clustered tightly together so that more land can remain undeveloped. On Monday, the board approved a zoning amendment to open the door for such subdivisions.
Some argued that the conservation option is just another way for the government to infringe on private property rights, a way to tie the hands of future generations and keep them from developing land. But others said it actually gives land owners more freedom to do what they want with their land.
Developer Gerry Burdette said Monday that he expects planners will use the option as an intimidation tool against developers, a way to steer them away from traditional subdivisions by only granting approval if they take the conservation route.
There are particulars that may prove troublesome and planners could, in fact, use strong arm tactics toward developers regarding conservation subdivisions. But, of course, can you ever eliminate the potential for political play in zoning matters, regardless of what rules and regulations you have?
Fact is, the broad intent of the conservation plan is solid.
Commissioners are correct to take a proactive stand on securing undeveloped land. Naturally, developers aren’t going to react with glee to any zoning framework that potentially reduces their developable area.
But face it, money is the lesser of two greens in long-term land planning. We value the farm, the open air, the beauty of the land.
The BOC’s action only helps sustain those things for the community over the long term.
County leaders will get some flak from some developers for their action Monday.
But they did the right thing. Conservation subdivisions should never be mandated. But they are a viable option for developers.
There may, in fact, be no way to barricade the door on that “blob,” that “sprawl,” that so many flee.
But at least county leaders are looking ahead, creating an avenue that could help funnel the flow if that encroaching mass comes our way.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.

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