Re Barry Paschal's May 10 column, "Consolidation gets F in study": I must express my bewilderment at his lack of analysis of the Augusta State University survey on consolidation.
First and foremost, 49 percent were not against consolidation as he indicated. According to the students who conducted the survey, there was an error on the front summary page listing the percentages; but if you read the entire report and look at the actual data in the report, you would see that half (49 percent) of the respondents were undecided. The report stated that "most residents remain undecided about the proposed consolidation of Columbia County."
Another, more positive way to view the survey is to consider that 65 percent of the respondents were either in favor of consolidation or undecided. Does this indicate that it definitely would have, in Paschal's words, "gone down in flames" if state lawmakers had sent the proposal to voters in November?
It is also important to look at the sample composition, which Paschal accurately pointed out. Of the 268 people surveyed, 131 people (48.8 percent) resided in Harlem or Grovetown. These two cities make up less than 10 percent of the total population of the county, yet made up almost half of the total respondents for the survey.
It also shows us that the people of Harlem and Grovetown may not be opposed to consolidation as previously advocated by Paschal and state Rep. Barry Fleming. The summary indicates that 19 percent of respondents from Grovetown and 14 percent from Harlem were in favor of consolidation. Also, with so many residents from the two cities represented in the sample and the high percentage of undecided voters, it would seem that the people of Harlem and Grovetown, as well as others in the county, are keeping an open mind. Perhaps Paschal's personal bias influenced his objectivity in reporting the results of the survey.
So what did this survey tell us? It clearly tells us that almost half of the people have not made up their minds on consolidation. Obviously, people have the intelligence to listen, read and write, but prejudice can precede translation of fact. It also tells us that the county needs to strengthen efforts to educate the community on the issue of unification. One major responsibility of a county commission is to propose governmental changes to the voters to reduce future levels of bureaucracy, unnecessary taxation and inefficient use of resources.
To say that we got an "F" in the study is a bit of a reach. What grade would Paschal give himself on his understanding and comprehension of the study? Maybe Hillary and Bill need a good pollster?
Stephen W. Brown, Vice-Chairman
Columbia County Board of Commissioners
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