What is it with Democrats and their "listening tours"?
Hillary Clinton made the phrase popular when she traveled around New York in preparation for running for the Senate.
Then, when it came time for reapportionment of Georgia's legislative districts after the 2000 Census, the Democrats took a page from Hillary's book to conduct "listening tours" around Georgia.
One of these tours came through Augusta. Members of the committee, mostly Democrats with a few token Republicans thrown in, heard citizens around the state say they wanted their communities kept intact during redistricting.
The Democrats ignored every word of it, drawing tortured districts designed to postpone their loss of leadership posts. That arrogance backfired when voters threw incumbents out in record numbers, and the courts then threw out the unfair districts. Those lonely Republicans on that "listening tour" -- including our own state Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Evans -- are now closing their ears to the Democrats whining about losing power.
Look for plenty of whining on the newest "listening session," as it's being called, coming Friday.
Augusta Democrat Reps. Henry Howard, Quincy Murphy and Alberta Anderson want input on "the impact of cuts in Gov. Perdue's proposed $17.4 billion budget and the effects they will have on the delivery of services to the community."
Expect the usual we-want-a-handout crowd to tell the Democrats what they want to hear: Republican Perdue's cuts bad, money from the Sugar Daddy government good.
Here's what they ought to hear: Perdue is on exactly the right track to get state government off auto-pilot, forcing every agency to justify the existence of every program.
If Howard, Murphy, Anderson, et. al are worried about the "impact" of such changes, they need to have their favorite state agencies make the case for why they can deliver their services better or more efficiently than the private sector.
Above all, they need to make the case for why their services are needed at all, a question Perdue is constantly asking after years of Democrats turning a deaf ear.
Columbia County commissioners may have seemed like they weren't listening to Chimney Hill homeowners when they approved commercial rezoning of property at the subdivision's entrance.
Many of these folks haven't gotten over the opening of Wal-Mart in their backyards. Now commissioners will allow commercial use of another piece of property owned by the same family who sold the land to Wal-Mart.
Al Gray makes the case that he's done a lot to help those residents and feels stabbed in the back by an anti-rezoning petition many of them signed. He's also been unfairly blamed for drainage problems caused in part by county machines crossing his property.
But Gray hurt his case when he took advantage of the property's residential zoning to bulldoze every tree; the county's tree-protection ordinance doesn't apply to residential property. Only after wiping the land clean did Gray seek commercial zoning.
County officials took a Solomon-like approach by splitting the request. Gray gets the zoning he wants on part of the land, making a piece of property he owns next to it easier to develop. The rest of the land stays a residential-zoned greenspace buffer.
"This is the best these people are going to get," said one resident who accepted the compromise. It's also a pretty good deal for Gray -- who now spends much of his time on a Lincoln County farm, far away from the development he's helping build here.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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