Columbia County Commissioner Steve Brown, barrelling headlong toward the end of his single term and getting grumpier along the way, penned a letter the other day criticizing my analysis of an Augusta State University study of consolidation.
Brown correctly noted that the ASU study had conflicting information. The summary at the beginning of the student-run study incorrectly reports that 49 percent of the survey's respondents oppose consolidation, while 35 percent are undecided; the detailed results of all the questions, printed at the end of the survey report, flip-flops those numbers.
As Brown observes, I repeated the incorrect results of the summary, rather than the correct numbers from the report's detail.
The point we agree on is that just 16 percent of those responding say they'd vote in favor of consolidation. Wishful thinking won't push that number higher. Whether Brown is willing to admit it, consolidation still flunks in public appeal - and a bottom-scraping approval rate is proof.
Good idea or not - and I haven't decided it's either - commissioners didn't help their case for consolidation when they started the discussion of a $40 million bond referendum.
Their consolidation sales pitch had focused on the positives, including access to franchise fees that could then be used to pay back bonds for a variety of worthy projects. Detractors heard that part of the pitch loud and clear, and accused county officials of just looking for money.
When it became clear that consolidation had died at the door of the legislature, the county started working on a bond referendum that would use a property tax hike to pay for those same projects.
Thus, commissioners cemented the public perception that consolidation wasn't about the principle of the thing; it was about the money.
One more point: In correcting my error, Steve Brown made one of his own. He said the ASU study pulled half of its respondents from Harlem and Grovetown.
Actually, 49 percent of the residents surveyed live in the 30814 and 30813 zip codes, which encompass an area far larger than the two cities' limits.
Columbia County's campaign season officially began Thursday with candidate debates in Grovetown. The Republican Party deserves praise for putting these together quickly.
The next debate between County Commission chairman candidates is at 7 p.m. June 22 at Lakeside High School.
Test your DNA
Just when you thought you'd totally overdosed on Da Vinci Code poppycock, along comes a group called The True Jesus Organization claiming that the novel is true - and that their members are descendants of the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
You, too, may be a descendant, they say. To find out, just go to their Web site for a "free, 4-minute, on-line, state of the art, DNA test" using "sound, not tissue."
This "DNA test," the site helpfully tells us, uses "the electro-magnetic energy in the vibrations of sound" produced by a "99th generation descendant" speaking four words. Anyone who likewise is a descendant, upon hearing those words, will experience activation of "the wondrous spiritual energies of the 'History Gene' in the pineal gland's DNA."
While they're at it, maybe these folks can find a "math gene." Or a "geography gene."
If you want a full dose of this goofiness, go to www.thetruejesus.org. But you might want to wear a tin-foil hat to block that "electro-magnetic energy," unless you want to get invited to a family reunion of bat-crazy whackos.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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