Madison County Opinion...

JULY 21, 2004


Column
By Frank Gillispie
The Madison County Journal
July 21, 2004

Frankly Speaking

We must eliminate state financed primaries
How many of you are frustrated over Tuesday’s election? Did you go to the polls with a list of people you wanted to support only to find out that if you voted for one, you could not vote for the other?
Suppose you wanted to support Herman Cain for senator and Chip Chandler for board chairman. When you went to the polls, you found that to support Cain you had to vote in the Republican primary, and to support Chandler, you had to take a Democratic ballot. The poll worker said that you have to choose one or the other but not both.
Why is this so? Why can’t you vote for all the candidates you want to support? The answer is that the voting last Tuesday was not intended to elect people to public office. It was an exercise that allows major political parties to choose their candidates for the general election in November.
Now here is the problem. The state of Georgia has, for some reason, decided to take over the candidate selection process from the political parties.
State election laws determine how the parties make that choice. They determine who is qualified to run, when the primary will take place and what options the losers have. Then they take money from our pockets to pay for primaries for the major parties, even if we prefer to remain independents.
Finally, state election laws make it almost impossible for a minor party or independent candidate to gain ballot access. If you want to run as an independent candidate, you have to collect a significant number of signatures from eligible voters within a narrow window of time. You will spend most of your money and energy just to get on the ballot. If, by some stroke of luck, you gain ballot access, you have no money or energy to stage an effective campaign.
If you want to compete for elective office, you are forced to become either a Democrat or Republican to have any chance at all. Then you have to run in a state operated primary under state rules just to gain a slot on the general election ballot.
I object to this system. In order to have a government of the people, the selection of representatives must be conducted by the people, not the state.
We must eliminate state financed primaries. We must open the general election ballot to any one who can demonstrate minimal support. We must make all local elections non-partisan.
Do you know why so few Georgians vote in the elections? You hear it every day as election time approaches.
“Why bother; they are going to do whatever they want anyway.”
That is a true statement. And it will remain a fact of political life until we take the election process from state bureaucrats and the big political parties and give it back to the people.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is frankgillispie@charter.net. His website can be accessed at http://frankgillispie.tripod.com

Column
By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
July 21, 2004

An the Meantime

The roots of growth are spreading
Madison County’s Industrial Development Authority (IDA) lives up to its name. It works aggressively to develop business in this county. This is either a blessing or a curse, depending on how you feel about growth.
And while the county debates the merits of a planned shopping complex at the intersection of Hwy. 98 and Hwy. 172, county residents shouldn’t lose sight of what else is happening — the IDA has this county on an infrastructure fast track.
And this will affect Madison County’s future as much — if not more — than that controversial shopping center proposal.
The authority is laying water lines down like nobody’s business. They’re rapidly expanding the South Madison Water System. They’ll open bids next week on a separate $1.7 million water expansion project that will essentially link Madico Park, Colbert, Danielsville and South Madison water systems with 12 miles of mostly 12-inch water lines.
They’re looking in every direction for water sources, water line funding, anything that will keep the pipework moving, the water flowing and businesses and subdivision developers interested in this county.
If you haven’t noticed, we’re well on the path to a county-wide water system and well on the path to major change, because of activity by the IDA in the past couple of years — not the BOC.
Notably, the IDA is doing all this without sales tax funding. Remember, the commissioners planned to tag approximately $3 million in sales tax funds last year to infrastructure, but as the SPLOST ticket items were being discussed, the board learned of a legal snag — a failure to secure an intergovernmental agreement between the county and municipalities for infrastructure — that derailed the SPLOST water line plans.
Many would assume this mistake at the commissioners’ table would have put county infrastructure development on a five-year waiting list until the next sales tax renewal.
But the industrial authority has juggled numerous expenses with a wide variety of revenue sources, including state loans, grants, a one-mill hike in property taxes, revenue from new water customers and a deal for nearly $1 million made in private with a pipeline company that polluted a portion of land off Hwy. 29.
Sit in on one of the IDA’s meetings and you get the sense that many of the most crucial growth decisions — the truly big-buck items that carry the most risk — are made by an unelected board in relative obscurity. (Hardly anyone ever goes to their meetings.)
In that old courthouse Monday, I looked behind the IDA’s large meeting table to a bumper sticker against the wall that read, “I’m pro-business, and I vote.” Next to that sticker was a bird’s eye shot of the county.
This juxtaposition of bumper sticker and aerial view seem to symbolize the grand aims of the authority. The water lines the IDA is putting in will stretch for miles and miles — like a vein network of life-giving blood for those who love the idea of more places to shop and more houses on the market, like a cancer for those who want things to stay the same.
Yes, the shopping center proposal is monumental, with both pro-growth and anti-development groups seeing the proposal as a crossroads for the county’s future.
But don’t forget, the roots of many other homes and businesses are being installed beneath us by business-minded men who rapidly turn up the soil with county growth in mind.
Whether you’ll see flowers or thorns sprout from all their work...well, that all depends on what type of green you value most.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.

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