Weird coincidence last week: Steve Brown voted in favor of Columbia County's smoking ban. Two days later, Steve Brown voted for a smoking ban in Peachtree City.
Our Steve Brown is a county commissioner, of course. Their Steve Brown is the mayor.
Here, the ordinance passed 3-2, with Diane Ford and Lee Anderson voting against it because they think such regulations go too far. In Peachtree City, the one vote against the ban came from a member of City Council who doesn't think the ban goes far enough.
In Columbia County, only private homes and some hotel rooms are exempt, though private clubs likely will be grandfathered; Peachtree City's ordinance exempts standalone bars.
The latter exemption also is being considered in Augusta, which will probably study the issue to death rather than take action. But a bar-exemption wouldn't work out here -- because Columbia County doesn't have bars.
Patrons who've been in the Sidetrack or Little River Roadhouse may disagree. But Columbia County's alcohol ordinance is set up to allow alcohol consumption only in restaurants. The owners have to show a high percentage of food sales to keep their licenses, especially if they're open on Sundays.
So no bars, but plenty of bar and grills. And none of them are exempt -- unless we find out Commissioner Brown and Mayor Brown are the same person. Come to think of it, I've never seen them together...
Look west, partners
It's starting to look unlikely that Richmond and Columbia counties will join a economic development partnership, and it's mostly because Richmond County officials are balking.
Huh? It would be understandable if Columbia County wanted nothing to do with such a partnership. In fact, I have doubts about the potential success of any formal relationship with our Augusta neighbor. Our Chamber of Commerce already is working hard to stand on its own; this proposal looks like a turn in the opposite direction.
Yet it is Augusta officials who are inexplicably skeptical of the arrangement. You'd think they'd want to work more closely with the county that continues to steal their businesses and residents, at least to help put a Band-Aid on the bleeding.
It's magnanimous of Columbia County officials to keep the discussion on the table, but I'd rather see us look west and team up with Lincoln, McDuffie and Wilkes counties -- where our own growth will one day spread -- rather than climb in the sinking ship next door.
Spreading bad names
Some of my skepticism about involvement with Richmond County's Development Authority is that ex-state Sen. Charles Walker has been so much a part of the agency. Anyone think he would ever have Columbia County's best interest at heart?
Walker's 142-count federal indictment has made interesting news, but from my perspective as a newspaper publisher, it's also made me furious.
The FBI says Walker lied about circulation figures for his weekly newspaper, and then used the inflated numbers to jack up his rates to advertisers.
Such shenanigans, unfortunately, cast suspicion on other newspapers. (I'm afraid the reputation of politicians was already tarnished before he became one, so Walker can't be blamed for that.)
It isn't fair, either, that local CPA Kip Plowman has been sideswiped by the investigation. Walker's lawyers will likely try to make it look like Plowman "audited" those circulation figures, when Plowman did nothing of the kind -- and can verify it through documents the FBI will use in prosecuting Walker.
Like accountants, newspapers must rely on the customers' trust to stay in business. Walker hasn't done either profession any favors.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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