Friday, August 27, 2010
Posted by James at 4:17 PM
Posted by James at 10:17 AM
Friday, August 20, 2010
Posted by James at 12:12 PM
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Posted by James at 8:19 AM
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
What did not get any mention was my suggestion that an audit of the Unified Government’s property be conducted. You know, a survey to answer such questions as: What properties does the local government own? To what uses does it put these properties? Could they be put to better uses? What are the plans for the properties going forward? Could any of these properties be returned to the tax base? Needlessly to say, all I got in response from the government paycheck types in attendance, both elected and appointed, was glassy-eyed stares.
Things went quite a bit better when I addressed the Overview Commission at its fourth public input session last Friday (06 August) at the Chamber of Commerce. Reflective of the meeting’s locale, the session began with a discussion of economic development topics. Having been on the Development Authority of the Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County for some years, I had a few thoughts in that regard. That discussion, in turn, segued into one concerning the bureaucratic and administrative hurdles faced by businesses and/or industries thinking of locating here which, in my opinion as one who has campaigned for office twice and been involved in local affairs for a good while now, are far more considerable and burdensome than need be.
Finally, I had the opportunity to comment on my reason for being there in the first place. My wife and I live in what is euphemistically termed the “general services” district. I say euphemistically because, when it comes to providing the basic services expected of a local government, we are conspicuously underserved by the Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County. This fact brings into sharp relief the discrepancy between City Hall’s obligations under the Charter and its actual practices. Simply put, the Unified Government employs systematic discrimination against those of its citizens who live outside the former city limits of Athens as a matter of policy.
That section of the Unified Government’s Charter quoted on the Overview Commission’s web site that repeatedly says “all” means just that; the residents of the general services district are entitled to just as many governmental services as the residents of in-town neighborhoods. After all, that was the explicit promise used to sell the idea of city-county consolidation the third time is came up for a popular referendum. Such promises were even written into the new government’s Charter.
Once city-county consolidation became an established fact, however, the rules began to change. For about the first decade under the Unified Government, residents of the general services district were treated with what amounted to benign neglect. Some improvements were made in terms of running water lines along a (precious) few main roads (but, as I recall, only after the Unified Government had been threatened with legal action in conjunction with chemical leakage from the landfill) and the outlying areas of the county did get Fire Stations 8 and 9 (but even that took many years after the new Stations 3 and 4 were built in areas that already had fire protection? – and by the way, Fire Station No. 6 has been closed for a year and a half and will remain so for some months more). And that has been about it. Our betters down at City Hall have made it abundantly clear that those other water and sewer lines that were promised and incorporated into the Service Delivery Plan are not going to happen.
Despite paying the same property tax millage rate and being subject to the same capricious reassessments as the folks in Five Points and Cobbham, we general services district folk might as well live in Oglethorpe County insofar as the provision of basic governmental services is concerned. When it comes to deriving revenue from us, however, the Unified Government regards us as being just as much a part of Clarke County as anyone else (see above), as imposition of the Stormwater Utility Fee proves.
So, the end result of my pontificating to the Overview Commission was three recommendations:
1. The Unified Government should actually abide by the provisions of the Charter (a radical concept I know)
2. Current or projected SPLOST projects should not undo or lead to the dismantling of previous SPLOST projects (as a taxpayer, I do not relish the thought of paying for something to be built, only to pay for then having it destroyed, and then paying for having it rebuilt elsewhere, i.e. the ball fields connected with the never-ending Tennis Center debacle)
3. The property of the Unified Government should be audited (what brought this back to mind is the concern expressed by some at the meeting about the suitability of the proposed location for new diversion center)
I appreciate the work being done by the members of the Overview Commission and thank them for their service to our community. Since the Overview Commission was appointed by the grand jury rather than the Mayor and Commission, even if it can do nothing but make recommendations, perhaps some good will come from its deliberations. Even if that is the case, those inside the rail have made it known that they intend to unilaterally amend the Charter so as to reflect their self-consciously "progressive" ideals - the rest of us be damned.
The purpose of the Overview Commission is to hold the Unified Government accountable. For two full decades, though, residents of the general services district have been treated to a staggering litany of denial, delay, sophistry, and obfuscation as pertains to full implementation of the provisions of the Charter. Thus, the Unified Government needs to held accountable.
Posted by James at 9:04 AM
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Posted by James at 1:24 PM
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Posted by James at 1:39 PM
Though my opportunities for blogging are fewer and farther between of late (though I hope to remedy that going forward), things are still happening that draw my interest. To wit:
Congressman Paul Broun caused something or a minor stir in the local blogosphere over his recent comments concerning the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States (see here, here, and here). Given his political philosophy, which I share by the way, his comments are not in the least unexpected. Besides which, he is entirely correct. The Sixteenth Amendment permitted the federal income tax, which thereby gave the permanent political class a steady and dramatically larger pot of money to fund their various schemes (oh, and never mind those promises that the income tax would never extend beyond about the highest 1% of income earners and that the highest rate would never be more than about 7%). The Seventeenth Amendment changed the manner in which Senators were elected. Under the original terms of the Constitution, state legislatures chose Senators, as their purpose in Washington was to protect the interests of the states (you know, that pesky concept of federalism in which the central government, the state governments, and the people were each represented). By switching the election of Senators to popular vote, thereby making them functionally equivalent to Representatives, the only difference with whom merely being a longer term, the states lost representation. The result of these two Amendments has been the inexorable growth in the power, cost, and domination of the national government over the those of the states and the people. Broun is correct to advocate their repeal.
Those of us who live in the euphemistically named “general services” district are about to get the double whammy. First it was, and now is again, the idea of divvying up the formerly unincorporated area of Clarke County and mandating that the residents thereof use the private trash hauler assigned to them (the idea is to reduce the number of such haulers through attrition over time). To that will be added the periodic inspection and pumping of residents’ septic tanks. What both of these issues have in common is that the Unified Government steadfastly refuses to provide such services to the formerly unincorporated areas of the county – the Charter be damned (and note that the point is access to services, not the manner of payment for said services). On the other hand, though, City Hall would be quite happy to regulate how and with whom I do business regarding these services, all the while charging me for the privilege.
Speaking of which, what about all of those complaints about the Unified Government not fulfilling the terms of the Charter? Our betters are bandying about the idea of simply rewriting the document to suit their own self-consciously progressive ideology. I am quite eager to see whether the Overview Commission’s deliberations result in any worthwhile suggestions for City Hall – and by that I really mean castigations – but I am not counting on it.
The Clarke County School District is touting its improvement in AYP scores and graduation and dropout rates (read the items for yourselves). So, we are still paying top dollar for results that, while they may be marginally “better” than those to which we are accustomed, remain astonishingly poor. And by the way, I still have received not the first word of feedback from that “open letter” to the members of the Board of Education and the powers that be over on Mitchell Bridge Road.
Also, a lawsuit has been heard in Magistrate’s Court concerning the Unified Government’s Stormwater Utility Fee, on which I will comment more when the verdict is handed down.
Finally, I had a bit of a brush with greatness a few weekends ago at a GSSF match in Dawsonville (I don’t get to shoot much these days and am horribly out of practice). Standing directly in front of me in the registration line was none other than Massad Ayoob, well known for his myriad articles in the “gun press” and as former director of the Lethal Force Institute. He was in Atlanta for a radio appearance and took the opportunity to bust a few caps while in the area. I thoroughly enjoyed our chat.
Posted by James at 9:55 AM