Thursday, October 25, 2007

Impertinent Observations

Here is a story from about a week ago concerning the projected economic impact on Hall County of a Brenau University medical school (in the neighborhood of $100 million). Brenau already offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in nursing. I’m sure that officials at UGA have taken note with regard to redeveloping the NSCS property as a medical school.

Both Jim and Jason over at One Press Place think that the Commission wastes too much time on minutia and tries to micromanage staff far too much. Though their comments concern local government’s response to the ongoing drought, I’ve been making that same point in a more general way for how many years now?

My hometown SCHS Indians have moved up to #3 in the latest AJC AAA poll after beating Oconee County last Friday. Oddly enough, the various pages on the AJC site give the score as 45-0, though in reality the score was 49-28. Nonetheless, a win is a win. The Indians are idle this week; the team plays current AAA #9 Hart County on 02 November. Hart County plays Oconee County this week.

Finally, from what I hear former District 8 commissioner States McCarter sold his house in Cedar Creek a while back and relocated to Oconee County. Others may have known about this, but I found out only a few weeks ago. Though we differed strongly on a few issues, we agreed just as strongly on some others; I have the utmost respect for States and wish he and Jane well.

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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Both Jim and Jason over at One Press Place think that the Commission wastes too much time on minutia and tries to micromanage staff far too much. Though their comments concern local government’s response to the ongoing drought, I’ve been making that same point in a more general way for how many years now?"

Er, but you know if they let something through that the public, press, et al don't like then they're the ones on the hook, being elected officials and all. Aren't they elected to do the public's bidding, and if they want to be there till 3 o'clock in the morning, so what? WOuld you rather have a bunch of unelected bureaucrats making all these decisions?

james said...

The problem is that the Commission does not operate unto itself. Those decisions being made in the wee hours of the morning (taxes, utilities, ordinances) have demonstrable effects on the lives and livelihoods of the people who live here.

The “Powers of the Commission” are detailed in Section 2-105 of the Unified Government’s Code. What is given is not a long list of enumerated powers; though there is some specific authority mentioned as to governmental operations, most of the power given to the Commission concerns the “promotion and protection of the safety, health, peace, security and general welfare.”

That being the case, shouldn’t there be a middle ground between micromanaging commissioners on the one side and unelected bureaucrats on the other? A reasonable balance between the Commission and staff can be achieved; the responsibility of commissioners is to enact policy in the broad sense, not to get mired in the details of specific issues to the point of absurdity, which I think happens far too often.

Having said that, I will certainly admit that our local public officials will be castigated by someone no matter what they do (I’ve certainly contributed my share of criticism on policy grounds). However, while they are elected to conduct the public’s business and are accountable to the public through elections, it is as representatives of the people, not as their vassals (and I fully understand that commissioners have to perform a balancing act in that regard).

The point is that, in my estimation, the Commission consistently errs on the side of micromanaging staff and issues (and over-regulating businesses and property owners). This trend began years ago, but as the Commission has become more self-consciously “progressive,” and hence more activist, it seems to be accelerating. Others will doubtlessly disagree or even defend this activism as a positive development, but mine is a perfectly defensible position nonetheless.