With absentee ballots already available, voting in the July 15 primary has begun in Columbia County.
In local elections, not a single Democratic candidate is on the ballot, so the July 15 Republican primary will decide who wins most races.
We'll offer opinions in those races later. Either party's ballot includes a staple feature of primaries: Straw poll questions.
Voters will see five questions if they choose a Republican ballot, or seven questions on the Democratic ballot. None of the results of the questions are binding. We'll list the questions here, recommend a vote and explain why.
1. Should property tax increases be limited to the rate of inflation? NO
Property taxes are based on the value of property. Property values aren't limited by any artificial number, including inflation. Besides: In government, a "limit" also means a mandatory minimum - meaning each year we would be guaranteed a tax increase.
2. Should the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) be abolished and the current federal tax system replaced with a progressive national retail sales tax (Fair Tax)? YES
Notwithstanding the economic ignorance that would call a sales tax "progressive," the FairTax is a flavor-of-the-month reform proposal with no chance whatsoever of passing. Still, it's fun to fantasize about abolishing the IRS.
3. Are you in favor of raising local taxes to fund the construction and operation of a Convention/Civic Center in the county? NO
No one has suggested raising taxes for such a purpose, so it must be assumed that the writer of this question wants voters to think such a move is afoot.
4. Are you in favor of utilizing local taxes to fund a marketing program to develop and recruit upscale Adult Retirement Communities (i.e. Sun City)? YES
A good idea, if "local taxes" are the existing hotel-motel tax.
5. Should candidates for the Board of Education run in partisan elections (Republican or Democrat)? YES
Those who believe making races non-partisan takes the "politics" out of them are delusional. Partisan races help voters understand the philosophies of candidates, and involving the party apparatus helps in candidate recruitment (this year's dearth of local Democrats to the contrary).
1. Should Columbia County build a permanent recycling center? YES
Not just one, but several, in conjunction with private haulers - a project in fact already underway thanks to Columbia County Clean and Beautiful. Current options are literally all over the map, and would be enhanced with multiple recycling dropoff sites.
2. Should non-partisan elections be used to select the members of the Planning and Zoning Board thereby making the process more open to the public? NO
Nonsense, from top to bottom. The planning and zoning board is purely an advisory body whose decisions are not binding unless ratified by the elected county commission. P&Z recommendations should be based on the county code - not with any eye toward re-election.
3. Should seat belts be mandatory for all Columbia County school buses? NO
Emotionally popular, perhaps, but prohibitively expensive and of little value in improving safety.
4. Should an evening court system by implemented in Columbia County to ease the backlog of court cases? YES
Done. The county's magistrate court already holds evening hearings - not because of a backlog, but to improve convenience for those who find regular court hours difficult.
5. Should construction contractors with a record of completing projects late be prohibited by law from being awarded future contracts? NO
A similar measure, proposed by state Rep. Ben Harbin, was proposed more than a year ago. While useful as an effort to "do something" about frustrating delays - Harbin's bill was spawned by the slow construction of Furys Ferry Road - contracts should instead simply include incentives for early or on-time completion.
6. Should public transportation be made available throughout Columbia County to help ease traffic congestion, decrease the use of petroleum products and help transport senior citizens? NO
Public transportation already is available throughout Columbia County (call 706-556-0807), and will even deliver passengers, door to door, to sites of the rider's choice in part of Richmond County - including Augusta Public Transit bus stops. Would taxpayers want to spend the millions necessary for a more comprehensive system? Hardly.
7. Should our elected representatives take measures to better protect Columbia County water rights? YES
Presumably, the question hinges on "inter-basin transfers" - which, in Georgia, is defined as Atlanta trying to get water from the Savannah River. No lawmaker in the Savannah River basin would even think of allowing it.
The most important question for either ballot is whether to pick one up. That answer, obviously, is yes. Do your civic duty by casting an informed vote.
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