Monday, June 25, 2007

Impertinent Observations

This letter to the editor concerning the local stormwater utility fee prompts a couple of musings on my part.

The first is that those who live outside the old city limits have been rooked since city-county unification. As I noted on my former campaign web site: “A decade and a half after the fact, the explicit promises of city-county government unification remain conspicuously unfulfilled for residents in the peripheral areas of the county.” See sections 8-115 and 9-103 of the Charter. For about the first decade or so after unification, residents of that area were treated with what amounted to benign neglect. Over the past few years, however, rural residents have been systematically deprived of their property rights, while at the same time being subjected to oppressive ordinances and spiraling taxes and fees. The stormwater utility charge is merely a case in point. Thousands of residents are neither connected to the county’s sanitary sewer lines nor located anywhere near a stormwater drain, but pay the fee nonetheless.

A second is that once government expands into a given area (regulations, subsidies, taxes, fees, etc.) it is there forever, regardless of how good or how poor its performance. Unification will never be undone. FWIW, I supported unification. I thought that having overlapping, though separate, city and county bureaucracies in a geographic area as small as Clarke County was insane. Unfortunately, unification has not worked out as advertised.

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Anonymous said...

Was it necessary for the Justice Department to approve consolidation of A-CC under provisions of the voting rights act related to annexation?

Also could you summarize briefly the manner in which rural residents have been deprived of their property rights? It is curious to me how rural land in Clarke is often less (much less!) expensive than in some neighboring counties. It seems to me that land is depreciating in rural Clarke county. Not sure about the taxes, though I bet they are going up as always!


Anonymous said...

Anybody else sell their property in Athens yet continue to be billed for stormwater?

james said...


I was not politically active at the time so I cannot say from memory if Justice Department approval was needed for city-county unification. Perhaps it was not needed for the process of unification itself, but my assumption would be that such approval was required for the new commission districts. Since district lines for the old county and city governments were being abolished, to be replaced with new county commission lines, I’m sure that the provisions of the Voting rights Act designed to ensure adequate minority representation were applicable.

Regarding property rights, I am mulling over a lengthy post concerning the Unified Government’s land use policies that would go a long way toward answering your question. So, on that point I am going to beg your indulgence for a while as I get my thoughts in order.

I would not be the least bit surprised if rural land in Clarke County was cheaper than in neighboring counties; zoning ordinances passed over the last few years have served to dramatically reduce the potential uses of that land and thus have reduced its value.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. You've got a great blog. I look forward to reading your thoughts on Clarke County's current land use policies.

It seems pretty clear to me that you are right -- rural land owners are getting shafted in Clarke County. The benefits of these new land use policies to Clarke County, collectively, may outweigh the costs to rural residents. But if this is true, then it should be the case that rural residents could and would be compensated in some way. I don't see that happening. In fact, it seems to me that rural residents are not only getting shafted, they are paying extra for the privelege.


Winfield J. Abbe said...

Since the "unified" government of Athens Clarke County, with the exception of Winterville, is one government, not only is this treatment of rural citizens , lack of bus service, lack of sewer service and even water, lack of sidewalks in subdivisions, overly restrictive zoning rules preventing development while downtown expands every minute, etc., these unfair activities and treatment of citizens outside the bypass is illegal, but the corrupt Georgia Attorney General and U.S. Attorney won't force the corrupt Athens government to comply with the equal protection clause of the Georgia Constitution, while friends and cronies downtown receive favors all day long. The law in Georgia is a corrupt joke favoring friends and cronies of the commissioners and mayor. If you question this conclusion just take a look at the $5.5 million Five Points fire station and then drive around Georgia and look at what a real fire station looks like, usually a $50,000 metal building.