Two years ago, then-Columbia County Republican Party Chairman Alvin Starks caused a minor political earthquake by putting a dozen straw-poll questions on the GOP primary ballot.
Democrats were angry because, if they chose their party's ballot in the Aug. 25, 2002 primary, they wouldn't have input on the questions. Some Republicans felt Starks stuck in the questions without their input.
School officials were irritated at a question about electing the school
board chairman. Harlem and Grovetown residents were alarmed by a question about city-county consolidation. Chamber of Commerce boosters worried that the issue of splitting from Augusta was premature.
But guess what? Voters gave their opinions and the sun still rose the next day. The exercise was a big succes, with the turnout-boosting effect Starks hoped for.
Now, Republicans are seeking public input for ballot questions for this year's primary. Democrats plan to use all the empty space on their ballot for straw-poll questions, too, and want suggestions.
Questions can be sent via e-mail to the Republicans at
email@example.com, or to the Democrats at
The answers, please
While these guys look for new questions, this seems like a good time to revisit those GOP questions from two years ago, and see what, if anything, happened with them (some of the questions are edited for space):
Are you in favor of having the chairman of the Columbia County Board of Education elected by a countywide vote? This question passed by a huge margin, scaring the bejeebers out of the school board, which formed a panel to talk the idea to death. Unamused, local lawmakers are moving forward with the idea.
Are you in favor of Columbia County developing its own separate Chamber of Commerce? "Yes" by wide margins. Since then, the county has incorporated its chamber, moving toward autonomy.
Do you favor a system in which (fire) services remain private, but their fees are collected as a tax? "Yes" by 72 percent; commissioners enacted a fire tax late last year.
Should the stormwater utility fee be enforced countywide and paid from tax revenue? Voters said "yes," but the whole issue is tied up in court.
Should Georgia voters be allowed to decide the design of the state's flag? "Yes," by a huge margin, and last week they did - sort of.
Should Columbia County pursue the consolidation of the governments of Harlem, Grovetown and the unincorporated areas of the county? Voters said "no" by a sizeable margin, and the non-idea died.
Should Confederate heritage groups be allowed to erect a marker honoring Columbia County citizens who served in the Civil War? Voters said "yes," and such a a marker will be part of the Memorial Gardens behind the Justice Center.
Should the Columbia County Commission impose a moratorium on rezoning of residential property for commercial use? Voters said "yes"; developers said "Yikes!" Commissioners hid.
Should Columbia County further restrict the location of mobile homes within the county? Voters said "yes"; nothing has changed.
Should commissioners reject any and all attempts to open pornographic "adult" bookstores or video stores? An easy "yes," and no "X-Mart" has tried - yet.
Do you favor an ordinance that would offer additional protection for Columbia County's trees? In the months since, the county passed two ordinances to protect trees.
Should traffic and safety issues created by the Wal-Mart Supercenter on Washington Road take priority over all other existing traffic/safety issues? Voters said "no," but the nightmare corridor has received lots of attention from the Department of Transportation.
Not bad for a series of "non-binding" votes. So, what will be on the July 20 ballot?
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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