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Contribution still haunting

Posted: October 14, 2011 - 3:28pm  |  Updated: October 15, 2011 - 10:52pm

While some of those closest to him practically lose their minds when the concept is raised, there's no way around the reality that for state Rep. Lee Anderson, his farm-boy demeanor can be a hurdle in his campaign for Congress.

For the sole Republican primary opponent who so far has declared an intention to run, Rick Allen's greatest liability seems to be a single campaign contribution he made nearly 10 years ago.

Allen explains it this way: At that time, he was in a collegial, civic relationship with Charles Walker Jr., attempting like many before and many since to work toward better race relations in Augusta.

That's why when Walker, a Democrat, ran for Congress, Allen made a $1,000 contribution to Walker's campaign.

Young teachers, and those training to be teachers, are told a lot these days that they need to be very careful to avoid such things as getting a picture of themselves on Facebook chugging beer or acting wild at a party. It can be a serious professional liability.

It's for the same reason that Allen clearly regrets having made that contribution to Junior: He'll never live it down, and people will remind him of it constantly. And unlike those young professionals, he can't excuse it by claiming to have been drunk at the time.

There's no way for an opponent, at least openly, to go after Anderson in a campaign because of his aw-shucks personality and heavy Southern drawl, especially when so many voters in the 12th Congressional District have those qualities themselves. But you can expect that donation to Walker to continue to haunt Allen like a bad hangover.

At least he claims he inoculated with a little hair of the dog: Allen says in that election cycle he also donated to Republican Max Burns, the eventual winner.

Burns, from all accounts, isn't going to jump into the race; it seems the professor has his eye on a job as a college president. So that's one less headache for Allen, and for Anderson.

Incidentally, other Republican candidates now said to be considering entering this race include Ray McKinney, who lost last time to Democrat incumbent John Barrow, and local attorney Wright McLeod, whose Atlanta marketing consultant recently stopped by to say hello.

State Rep. Ben Harbin apparently is still thinking about running, but hasn't responded to two recent messages asking whether he's in or out.

Tax report

The Columbia County Tax Commissioner's Office each year produces an annual report full of nuggets of information about the county and its revenue sources.

For example, the number of "motor vehicle transactions" - which includes everything from cars to trucks to motorcycles - rose from 153,890 in 2006 to 163,655 in 2010. That would go a long way toward explaining that rush-hour traffic.

From those vehicle transactions, the county and state collected $9.3 million last year. That's about half a million dollars more than in 2006, but it's half a million less than 2008 because of the legislature's temporary freeze on valuations.

On the land side, the tax office notes that there were just more than 40,000 county residents in 1980, and the county was divided into 7,200 parcels. Now, there are 124,000 people, and the land is carved up into 52,543 parcels. That means while the county tripled in population during that period, the number of parcels grew by a factor of seven as big lots were cut into smaller ones.

During that same period, the assessed value of real and personal property grew from $340 million to more than $4 billion - or an increase by a factor of 12. (Annual inflation over that period was 3.51 percent. If no new property had been added during that period, the value of just the 1980 property would now be nearly $1 billion.)

Schools are the biggest beneficiary of nearly $90 million in taxes collected on all that property (which doesn't include the portion that goes to the cities and the state), and after that, public safety accounts for 55 percent of expenditures, according to the report.

One feature of the magazine, unusual because of the office that produces it, is that many of the final pages are devoted to an overview of the county's cemeteries and churches. It's interesting, but that's also property that is 100 percent tax free.

Follow me

Speaking of magazines, while I can't recall for sure, I don't think I've ever been voted for anything in Augusta Magazine's venerated Best of Augusta poll. I just ain't that special.

It was then surprising, and flattering, to find in the latest issue (the one with Lady Antebellum on the cover) that I'd been picked as one of the three top Augusta media people to follow on Twitter.

For information in small doses, and a little humor every now and then, follow me and see what all the excitement is about.

(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimesonline.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/barrypaschal.)

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