Other than a border, Columbia County has something in common these days with McDuffie County.
Our voters are being asked to approve renewal of the sales tax and a bond referendum.
Their voters already have.
While Columbia County's referendums are thrown into the mix for election day - a misnomer when voters now can actually cast ballots on 31 different days - McDuffie set their vote aside in a special election.
Typically, special elections for such things are a cowardly way out for politicians. With drastically lower turnout, officials hope they can count on highly motivated supporters of a proposal to carry the day.
Rather than waiting until the Nov. 4 general election, McDuffie set their election for one of the state's mandated special-election days: Sept. 16. Turnout was correspondingly light; an elections official told me barely 25 percent of voters trekked to the polls. That's far less than half of what they can expect in the general election.
McDuffie's sales tax referendum passed with 63 percent of the vote. County and city officials expect it to bring in $25 million, with a little less than half of it going to build a new city-county government center.
They'll get money right away to build that center by floating bonds, which will be repaid by sales tax receipts. Voters in McDuffie were a little less excited about that part of the project, though; the bond referendum passed by only 51 percent.
The votes were a victory for the Thomson-McDuffie SPLOST V Committee, which published a color, eight-page tabloid insert in The McDuffie Mirror in support of the projects.
And they were a defeat for the Citizens Against Wasteful Tax Spending, which produced a smaller, but slicker, eight-page brochure asking voters to vote no.
The arguments in favor, driven by the county's chamber of commerce, are things everyone has heard before in every other sales tax referendum, ever.
The arguments against are very similar to the ones I'm hearing in regard to Columbia County's two referendums - much of it questioning big-ticket spending by government at a time of economic uncertainty.
In that regard, the feds' big Wall Street bailout could have a somewhat unexpected collateral impact on Ronald Reagan Drive.
Not only did McDuffie County likely suppress turnout by holding a special election - they also luckily got the votes in the bag before the recent financial upheaval hit.
Unless the Wall Street turmoil is settled long before election day, I will not be surprised at all if voters aren't scared off. Let's face it; I'm already willing to bet the bond referendum for the swimming pool and tennis facility is dead. In fact, I'm certain that's why it was taken out of the sales tax vote and set up as a separate referendum in the first place.
Not only does that keep it from weighing down the sales tax vote, but it also allows commissioners to have clean hands if voters strangle it.
Even so, pool boosters appear to be strangely consigned to let it happen. They often claim their numbers are legion, which would indicate a heavy voting bloc for the project. Yet for all their supposed support, they haven't made a public peep to try to win approval from the rest of the voters.
Thus far, the only real cheerleading for the facility came Thursday, when Columbia County's Convention and Visitors Bureau issued a tepid, two-paragraph press release in support.
Where are the swim leagues? Where are the tennis leagues? For that matter, where are the "Citizens Against Wasteful Tax Spending" on the other side?
I suppose we'll find out when they count the votes Nov. 4.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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