Five years ago, state Sen. Joey Brush, R-Appling, began plugging away at what had become an incestuous practice in state government: Politicians currying favor by naming things after other politicians.
Brush produced a bill with a simple proposal: Dont name any state-owned public property after anyone who is still alive.
Lawmakers treated Brushs bill like the proverbial skunk at a garden party. Not only did the mere mention of limits make them turn up their noses, but the pace of naming anything and everything after other politicians picked up.
Thus, Georgia got the Cynthia McKinney Parkway and a handful of projects named after then-House Speaker Tom Murphy. State Sen. Horacena Tate even managed to name a freeway after her father.
It had gotten so out of hand in the last few years that it had become a political payoff instead of an honor, Brush laments. But he kept plugging away, reintroducing his bill each year as participants in the name game derailed it.
This year was different. On the evening of the last night of the session, Brush managed to pass Senate Bill 73. Gov. Sonny Perdue has since signed the bill into law.
Just like that, the name game is over.
Its not exactly what I wanted when I started looking at it, says Brush, But its a good compromise.
Brushs original bill would have prohibited naming state-owned property - buildings, roads, bridges, parks, anything - after anyone who was still alive. That would prevent politicians from paying each other off with government money by naming stuff after each other as ego-boosts.
The version of the bill that passed is still good. It restricts naming to deceased persons, or those who have at least departed public life for five years or more.
The latter provision sets a ticking clock on former state Rep. Jack Connell, D-Augusta. Connell retired last year, and some Augusta politicians immediately tried to rename River Watch Parkway after him. Brush, along with state Sens. Don Cheeks and Randy Hall, managed to kill the effort.
Now, Connell wont be eligible for such an honor until at least 2007, or until he passes away.
Thats the way it ought to be. Such a permanent designation should only be bestowed upon those whose legacy stands the test of time, allowing us to distinguish between fond memories and true historical relevance. Local examples include William Few Parkway, Pierce Gordon Blanchard Memorial Highway and Dyess Parkway.
Brushs dogged effort ensures that politicians will have to put at least five years of history between a fellow office-holders public service and private life before slapping their name on an overpass.
And yes, there really is a Cynthia McKinney Parkway in Atlanta - a lasting monument to exactly the kind of political stupidity that Brush has finally defeated.
In appreciation, wed suggest naming a bridge after Brush - but hell have to wait a few years!
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.