Madison County Opinion...

NOVEMBER 5, 2003


Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
November 5, 2003

Frankly Speaking

The big gov’t way vs. the ‘Southern Redneck’ way
There are two ways to approach public works programs, the big government bureaucracy way and the Southern Redneck way. Atlanta has been using the big government bureaucracy system for their water and sewage system and it is a total mess. Now they want to bill the rest of Georgia for $1 billion to help straighten out their mess. I am one Georgia taxpayer who objects.
Before we start giving Atlanta our money, we should require them to take a look at the redneck way of doing things.
The big government bureaucracy way: Design the most elaborate system possible. Add on every kind of cost boosting option you can find. Run the price up as high as possible. When you have your plan, demand that the working taxpayers cough up the money to build the system.
The Georgia redneck way: Look around and see what resources you have to devote to the problem. Then design and build the best system you can with the resources available to you.
The big government bureaucracy way: Spend all your money on unimportant “symbolism,” leaving important stuff, like clean water and sewage disposal, at the bottom of the list.
The Georgia redneck way: Fix the major problems first, and then use anything you have left to reduce the tax burden on working people. Let the egotistical politicians finance their own back patting projects.
The big government bureaucracy way: Go out of your way to insult the people you most need to help you pay for your mistakes.
The Georgia redneck way: Approach everything and everyone with the attitudes of country ladies and gentlemen. Be especially considerate of those you expect to ask for help.
What should Atlanta do about their crumbling water and sewage system?
First, they need to redesign their proposals to cut out unnecessary programs. Second, they need to re-think their entire approach. Do they really need a billion dollar tunnel under the city and one giant water processing plant? Would it be more cost effective to construct a ring of smaller sewer systems around the city and treat the dirty water where it is being produced?
Next, they need to recognize that the rest of Georgia is still angry over the city’s leadership in robbing them of their beautiful, distinctive state flag. If the city thinks they can convince their victims to help pay for their years of mismanagement, they have their heads in the sand.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is frankgillispie@charter.net.

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Column
By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
November 5, 2003

In The Meantime

One rope worth walking
There’s often the man or woman at some meeting who reminds county or city leaders that growth is coming, whether we like it or not.
It’s as if he’s reminding us that a train is miles down the track — and, oh yeah, you’re standing on the track.
In the growth-is-coming-and-you-can’t-stop-it phrase, I recognize both a fact and an emotional hurt.
Yes, I know “growth is coming.” I recognize the logical truth.
But the emotional truth is a heartfelt wish that things would just stay the same.
This county is clearly in a tug of war of thinking when it comes to growth.
Fact is, so am I.
Who cannot feel sorrow in seeing their homeplace change? I grew up in Macon and when I go home to see my parents and drive through familiar areas, those places are no longer what I knew. There is a line in a song I like that says “the malls are our soon-to-be ghost towns” and when I see the commercial growth in the north Macon area, I think of how depressing old stores look as hollow buildings in other parts of town. I drive down the cluttered Tom Hill Boulevard and wonder how long it will be before those businesses follow the way of the dinosaur. I think about how the land will never go back to what it was.
I drove to a Madison County football game in Duluth a couple of weeks ago, noting how nice the Northview facilities were, how much tax money must have gone into that, but I was thankful to get back home to Madison County later that night, back to the rural quiet and out of the strip-mall scene.
These are my feelings. And I know I’m not alone.
But does my emotional want for the sameness of a rural landscape outweigh a logical consideration for the economic well-being of the county?
Honestly, sometimes yes, sometimes no. I am not wholly on a pro-growth or anti-growth team.
In all of our longing for sameness, we can’t dismiss this equation: increased population, plus no revenue growth, equals reduction in service.
The pro-growth side of our county has a compelling argument to make here. But frankly, I’m burned out on the most common mantra that more revenues are needed to offset the property tax burden. This is true.
However, many county property owners are willing to bite the bullet with occasional tax hikes as long as things stay the same.
So think about it this way. Are you willing to accept more tax payments for worse services for everything you get: the condition of your roads, your schools, your police force, your ambulances, or the countless other things that your community is supposed to provide for you?
If people move in, but businesses don’t, that’s what’s ahead for this county — not the status quo, but a decrease in the quality of services.
If we stamp out business growth, we’ll pay more for less.
We will never appease everyone in dealing with difficult growth issues. This was obvious in the recent rezoning debate concerning a proposed shopping development by the Hwy. 98 and Hwy. 172 intersection. Those who opposed the development had a point when they said that the county should follow its comprehensive land use plan and that the proposal was not in line with the overall plan. But it throws a wrinkle in things if we consider this: how do we define the land use plan? Is it a document that requires absolute adherence? Or is it merely a guide to help leaders make a wise decision? Have we not seen it defined as both in years past?
I find it interesting that the proposed shopping center is near an industrial park where rolled hay dots the landscape, offering a curious juxtaposition of a rural and commercial area.
In years to come, we will have to find the right ways to live as both — rural and commercial.
It is surely a tenuous balance, but one rope worth walking.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.


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