Allen speaks from the heart about consolidation

July 2, 2012

Well, you can feel the tension. Rhetoric is getting heated, voices are being raised, attacks are becoming personal. Yes, it’s election time.

And the referendum on July 31 to consolidate Macon and Bibb County is in the middle of the fight.

I need to share my heart with you, so bear with me as I do away with “political speak” for a moment.

I have heard all the arguments against consolidation: 1. County is bailing out the city; 2. Property taxes are going to go up; 3. Sheriff shouldn’t be the Top Cop; 4. Public employees, including all law enforcement, will lose their pensions; 5. Black vote is being diluted; 6. The same old politicians will still be running things. I’ve seen yard signs saying “Vote No. Do you trust your politicians?”

All these arguments are being raised with misinformation and bias from those who want to defeat this initiative.

To directly address the arguments:

1. As our city goes, so goes the county, and if you don’t believe that, you are sticking your head in the sand. Population loss in the city affects both job opportunity and quality of life for all county residents.

2. While other consolidated communities like Athens/Clarke, Columbus/Muscogee, and Augusta/Richmond have not seen immediate decreases in their property taxes, according to a study done by the Carl Vinson Institute, the rate of growth in government has been less in consolidated communities than in those same governments before the consolidation. In addition, the new charter for the consolidated government would require a 20% reduction in the budget over five years, which can only be overridden by a super-majority of the new commission. Smaller budget = less taxes.

3. The simple logic of making the Sheriff the top cop was that this position is required by the Georgia Constitution. So, if we are striving for smaller, more efficient government, then why not have the one that is already required by law anyway, and is answerable to the people of the County, instead of having two top law enforcement officials?

4. Regarding pensions. This line is directly from the lawyer who drafted the charter – “You asked about the effect of the new consolidated charter on public employees’ pensions. Section 25 of the Act preserves the pension rights of city and county employees and makes the consolidated government responsible for funding the pensions. Further, as a public retirement system, the pension system would be subject to the provisions of Chapter 20 of Title 47 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, the Public Retirement Systems Standards Law, which requires a certain minimum level of funding and generally protects the integrity of the pension system.” To be clear – all pensions are GUARANTEED!

5. The delegation looked at voting patterns in our county and found that 55% to 56% had voted Democrat over the last 10 years. We wanted maps that fairly reflected the demographics and voting patterns. The county is 52% black, 43% white, and 5% other. Five of the nine new districts are majority black and will most likely be held by Democrats. That is 55.5% controlled by Democrats. I’m not sure you could ask for a more fair and balanced representation than that.

6. Yes, the existing politicians will have the chance to run for office in the new consolidated government, but there will be TERM LIMITS! Plus, we will go from 21 elected officials to 10!! And you want to vote no because you don’t trust the politicians??? Where’s the logic in that?? Please, wake up! If you vote no, you will be stuck with the same politicians for sure!! Is this what you really want for our community? More of the same??

Folks, the bottom line on this consolidation vote is this: If you are happy with where you are now, and content with our county losing population and jobs, then vote NO.

But if you believe we can have a brighter future; if you believe that we can turn this sinking ship around, and if you want economic opportunities for your family, your children, and your grandchildren, then this is your chance. Vote YES on July 31! We have so many positives in our community, and if we can just get past the gridlock and stagnation that has been our pattern for the last 40 years, there are no limits to how prosperous we can be.

So, please join me by voting YES, and let’s start moving the community we love in the right direction.