If you've ever browsed through Columbia County government's Web site, you know it's loaded with content.
You can find contact information for the people who operate the government, along with photos of most of them. There are agendas and minutes for meetings, information on upcoming events, details on all sorts of programs, and the mapping system where you can see how much your neighbor's house is worth.
I've always found it pretty useful, if a tad cluttered. But an organization that reviews government Web sites gives columbiacountyga.gov a rotten grade.
Sunshine Review (www.sunshinereview.org) scores Columbia County's site a D-minus.
The review says the county site lacks information on making public records requests, fails to disclose whether the county belongs to taxpayer-funded lobbying associations and contains no information on contracts or audits.
The review praises the county for posting some of its budget information, for listing all county meeting times, for providing officials' contact information and for providing information on permits and property taxes.
Maybe it's just my own familiarity with the site, but I'd give it a much better grade - at least a B. Check it yourself and see what you think.
Seeing as how the county is trying to get a big government grant to give us all free wireless Internet service, you might as well learn your way around their site. It could soon be your home page.
Abortion: Who's right?
On the heels of his enormously well-attended health care town hall meetings in Evans Monday, U.S. Rep. Paul Broun graciously agreed to pen a guest column on the topic in today's News-Times.
Also as a result of that meeting, Sonny McDowell, a Democrat, writes a letter to the editor today lamenting the tone of those sessions.
While there naturally are philosophical differences between the two commentaries, there's one specific issue on which they make opposing assertions: Abortion.
-- Says Broun: The Democrats' health care plan "allows for tax-funded abortions."
-- Says McDowell: "The health plan... does not include federal funding for abortion."
Figuring out who's right requires an awful lot of wading through the partisan swamps. As one fact-checker put it: The truth depends on whom you ask.
U.S. News and World Report columnist Dan Gilgoff says an amendment to HB 3200 "prohibits federal funds from explicitly subsiding abortion in the private healthcare plans to be offered. ... But it doesn't prevent 'the public health insurance option from providing for or prohibiting coverage' of abortion."
Meanwhile, Politifact.com says while "it seems that full abortion coverage would be permitted in the government-sponsored program, we didn't see anything in them that would put taxpayers on the hook for subsidizing abortions."
In other words, the bill doesn't directly fund abortion with tax dollars, but it apparently would allow abortions to be funded through the "public health insurance" option - e.g., the government's "universal" health plan.
But here's a larger question: If the plan doesn't allow abortion funding, wouldn't that pretty much undermine one of the aims of the national Democratic Party? Shouldn't the constituency feel betrayed if such funding is absent, much in the same way they should feel a little disappointed that President Obama still hasn't cleared the troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan and shut down Guantanamo Bay?
I suppose it depends on whom you ask.
I'm hauling the money and books donated for the Lincoln County Library to them on Wednesday, so if you'd still like to make a donation, bring it to my office before then. We appear to especially need books for children and youths; most of those donated so far are for older readers.
I'll also list the donors after that - and the number keeps growing. Thank you!
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail barry.paschal@newstimes online.com.)
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