Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Of Promises Not Kept

I find myself of two minds about the proposed expansion of the current landfill operated jointly by Athens-Clarke County and Oglethorpe County – a proposal that is a fait accompli for all intents and purposes. For details of the expansion, see here and here.

Like most others, I think that expanding the current landfill is far and away the best option available in terms of practicality and expense. The alternatives, namely those of constructing another landfill elsewhere (good luck with that one) or transferring our waste to some other government’s landfill, are problematic to say the least.

That said, however, is there not a more important issue involved? I cannot help but note that, once again, an explicit promise made on behalf of the Unified Government to those living in the peripheral areas of the county has proven to be completely worthless. By expanding the landfill, City Hall will break an agreement concerning its construction reached among the mayor of Athens-Clarke County ("chief elected official" in the nomenclature of the time), the chairman of the Oglethorpe County Commission, and the area’s residents made back in 1992, just a year after city-county unification.*

What strikes me is that the promise being broken was not an afterthought or appendage to the agreement, but rather its single most important feature, as revealed by its unmistakable prominence. Those interested can read the agreement for themselves here, courtesy of the Banner-Herald (see section 1.1).

The issue is not that of a local legislative body, or mayor as the case may be, limiting the actions of their successors; I fully understand the O.C.G.A. prohibition of that practice and agree with it’s rationale. The issue is not whether the agreement was legally binding. The issue, rather, is the trustworthiness of government in general and the Unified Government in particular - and by that I mean the conspicuous lack thereof. My point is that government’s reneging on this promise is much bigger than the specific case of the landfill.

Residents of the formerly unincorporated area of the county are going to get shafted - again. Yes, I know that I harp on this point with annoying regularity, but the folks down at City Hall keep providing me examples, as when they strip sewer lines out of the Service Delivery Plan (this has already happened to the Shoals Creek line and is about to happen to the Sandy Creek line), limit development in one house per ten acres in the AR zones (thereby reducing property values), charge the stormwater utility fee (to residents who are not connected to the sewer system and don’t live anywhere near a stormwater drain), take the better part of two decades to build much-needed fire stations (years after existing in-town stations were rebuilt, and in the case of Station #3 elaborately so), etc.

I concede that the current Mayor and Commission cannot win on the particular issue of the landfill – there is simply no good option available to them. But to the residents directly involved, and by extension the other residents of the formerly unincorporated areas of the county, does that really matter? They have seen this song and dance too many times before.

*As an aside, though I cannot verify it at the moment, my recollection is that several of the terms of the agreement were included so as to stave off a threatened lawsuit by the area’s residents concerning leakage and environmental damage causes by the county’s old landfill, which was located nearby.

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1 comment:

Micah's Mom said...

Seems there is a wise and concilatory way for the Athens Clarke County/Ogelthorpe governments to try and maintain a sense of integrity with their hazardous waste landfill operations. As you can read, it will require leadership and knowledge of solid waste management alternatives which are being achieved in California and Texas. I think it will also require them to stop ignoring the residents who have been historically abused for three decades.

jill mcelheney