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Public shows confidence by staying home

Posted: May 6, 2012 - 12:03am

From the general sound of public dialogue, it might sometimes seem that government budgets rank as one of the hottest topics.

If that were the case, however, it would be hard to explain how Columbia County commissioners could hold a public hearing to present next year’s budget, and no one from the public attends.

As in: No one. Just a few government employees and members of the media were there Tuesday when county Finance Director Leanne Reece provided an overview of next year’s plan for providing government services in the fast-growing county.

County Administrator Scott Johnson suggests the empty room was an expression of confidence in the local officials’ leadership, and he’s got a good point.

For all the griping, ours occasionally included, the idea that Columbia County runs anything other than a tight fiscal ship just doesn’t hold water. It’s especially hard to make that case when commissioners are planning, again, to cut the county’s tax rate.

If anything, the biggest worry is that the county has built up such a large surplus fund. Rather than provide for emergencies, it instead exists so the county can borrow money at lower interest rates. Wouldn’t it be better to pay down the debt, or give more of the money back to taxpayers?

It’s also time for commissioners to market and sell their part of Marshall Square. The county bought the property to settle a lawsuit with the developers, and the stated plan was to wait until the economy improved and recoup the investment. Its usefulness as parking for Evans Towne Center Park shouldn’t delay that process, and construction on other parts of the property suggest the project is ready to sell – and for returning it to the tax rolls.

Still, in the great scheme of things, such issues are minor. Perhaps that’s why the public doesn’t feel the need to sit through a budget meeting to hear about the details.

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Comments (12)

Craig Spinks

CCC Meetings

How much media attention is devoted reminders regarding the date, time, place and agenda for each of these meetings?

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

Riverman1

What's Actually the Case...

What's actually the case is the public knows it can depend on the CCNT and the internet to examine the budget in detail. They obtain much more information with their computers and from the CCNT. Times have changed. One day we'll even have virtual Commission meetings where the Commissioners stay home and many in the public view the meeting and ask questions in a chatroom type format. I can hear Ron Cross now. "I'm going to clear this room if y'all are not quiet." I'm sure Riverman would be the first person to be ejected from the virtual county commission meeting. By the way, nice suck-up statement by Scott Johnson. That's okay, I've said things like that to my bosses a lot in my career, too.

Barry Paschal

Schedule published

Mr. Spinks: The News-Times published complete schedules of all the budget sessions, and this particular session was held 30 minutes before a regularly -scheduled commission meeting.

soapy_725

commission meetings

On my last visit, a standing room only crowd was told if they did not behave, the then approaching, armed, deputy would be involved. Despite the admonition, when it came time to vote, one commissioner walked out preventing a quorum.

Barry Paschal

Question for soapy_175

Please clarify, because I must assume you are talking about another government agency, not the Columbia County Commission. I attend every meeting, and to my knowledge we have never had a commissioner walk out and prevent a quorum (actually, three would have to leave for that to happen), nor has the audience ever been threatened with a deputy.

Riverman1

I Doubt Soapy is Accurate, but...

Ron Cross did warn the audience with banishment at the infamous Magnolia Trace meeting. Heh.

Barry Paschal

I was there...

...and do not recall Cross threatening any such thing. Just the opposite, in fact: several people in the audience acted like horse's rears and SHOULD have been thrown out, but weren't even so much as admonished.

Riverman1

The Crowd Was Raucous, But...

Oh, I don't dispute the crowd got out of hand. But didn't Cross say he would clear the room if they didn't quiet down? That was said early on. Heck, I may have heard it wrong, but that's what I thought I heard. I glanced over at the deputy when Cross said that wondering exactly what he would do. I'm not saying he was wrong, by the way. It was a raucous bunch.

Barry Paschal

I guess if you need clarification....

....you can look up the video of the meeting on the county's web site.

Craig Spinks

We citizens need...

to look our elected representatives "in the eye" as they conduct public business. More importantly, our representatives need being "looked in the eye" to increase the probability that they would act in the public interest.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

Riverman1

22:47 Point of Commission Meeting

Barry, I followed your suggestion and viewed the video of the meeting. Cross did make a specific threat to clear the room at the 22:47 point of the meeting.

Riverman1

Ooops

Ooops, dubs.

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