Hallelujah. The Metro Chamber has spoken. All it took was a two-by-four to get their attention, to finally get them to speak out in favor of fixing Augustas government.
Many times I have called the business community chicken for its wimpy refusal to criticize public officials and efforts that are not in the best interest of progress.
Leadership Augusta, an annual Chamber class whose members learn about government and leadership, heard this criticism during sessions with the media.
Each year, media representatives would serve on panels for a session with the group. Without fail, one of the topics from the adult students would be about how negative coverage or commentary scares new businesses from our community.
After repeatedly tolerating this baloney, I unloaded on these innocent-eyed Pollyan-nas two years ago. Does anyone really believe a multi-million-dollar industry is going to base its decision on whether to build a new plant in Augusta on coverage by local media? I asked sarcastically. Doesnt happen, I asserted to the students.
Business owners survey new locations based on costs, the physical environment they and their families would live in, on the availability of needed infrastructure, and on the predictability of government services. They dont review all those items and then say, Well, gee, wed love to build our new tin-can factory in Podunk, but the newspaper there is just so, well, mean.
Give me a break.
My mild tirade continued the following year. (That may explain why Leadership Augusta decided this year it no longer would hold Media Day.) And I eventually made it to my main point: jabbing the business community for its pants-wetting timidity.
In the face of downright corruption in Augusta government, the Metro Augusta Chamber lived in silent denial, maintaining its dont-rock-the-civic-boat attitude even as the boat was sinking.
My charge to Leadership Augusta was that the members understand that government is critical to an areas business climate. Bad government damages that climate, so business leaders must hold those political leaders accountable.
I seriously doubt my harangue had any real effect on the Leadership Augusta classes. Regardless, it is a happy day now that the Chambers leadership - perhaps awakened by cold reality splashing over the sides of Augustas sinking ship - is calling for reform in Au-gustas government.
Any change is a tremendous victory for state Rep. Sue Bur-meister, R-Au-gusta. And she should get the credit for finally moving the Chamber to action - not because of her legislation to change Augustas government, or her strong speeches advocating change:
Because of a little sticker.
Before the Chambers recent Augusta Day barbecue in Atlanta, the Leadership Au-gusta class visited the Capitol instead of holding Media Day here at home. Afterward, as they crowded into the Atlanta Depot for Sconyers barbecue and political conversation, they were greeted at the door by some of Burmeisters volunteers.
Those supporters handed out little red and white decals about the size of the end of a two-by-four. And like the proverbial board across the head of a stubborn mule, the stickers slapped a sharp message on the business suits of those assembled:
Hallelujah. It got the Chambers attention, and now, finally, the Chamber is getting the political leaders attention.
If those politicians fail to act, Burmeister undoubtedly has another two-by-four up her sleeve - and voters are ready to help her swing it.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barrypaschal@ yahoo.com, or call 863-6165, extension 106.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.