The wrapping paper is bagged up at curbside next to the overflowing yuppie-dumpster. The last of the eggnog is approaching its expiration date. And that regifted fruitcake still sits on the counter, still unappetizing and still untouched.
Yet with Christmas come and gone, there seem to be a few presents that failed to arrive. For that reason, and with tongue firmly in cheek, The News-Times helpfully presents our annual list of The Gifts That Santa Forgot.
(No batteries required.)
- For everyone: A settlement in the Marshall Square lawsuit.
Think there are high stakes in those No Limit Texas Hold'em tournaments in Vegas? That's chump change compared to the $57 million lawsuit the Marshall Square developers filed against the Columbia County commissioners - and, by extension, against every county taxpayer. The developers recently filed a motion for a summary judgment against the county; they aren't bluffing, and so far the county has shown pretty weak cards. Even if they fold, taxpayers are likely to take a hit - but the longer they play, the bigger the stakes get.
- For Delmonico Restoration and Development: A floating backhoe.
Two of the Atlanta construction company's backhoes sit mired in mud at West Lake's Bowen Pond. After one backhoe sank during a dredging operation, workers sent in a second one to rescue the first. Both machines now await rescue, or perhaps an unseasonal drought.
- For local school officials: Good budget news.
Santa probably didn't deliver this gift because it's as rare as fresh dodo eggs. The school board is on pins and needles awaiting the upcoming session of the Georgia Legislature, with the governor already telegraphing his intention to hack and slash his way through the budget. At least lawmakers could help by removing more of the strings dictating use of state dollars as they cut those funds, allowing local officials to set local priorities.
- For county government officials: Ditto the good budget news.
County government officials already are planning on budget cuts regardless of any state action, though their dependence on state funding is far less than the school system's. Commissioners this past week told department heads and division directors to find 5 percent to cut out of their budgets, which already were running reasonably lean.
Of course, when the discussion includes an order to review "non-essential positions," we might ask how any job these days could be held by someone who isn't "essential."
- For state lawmakers, a fresh start.
Philandering, ethically challenged Georgia House Speaker Glenn Richardson failed to kill himself with a cry-for-help drug overdose a few weeks ago, but he certainly came close to mercy-killing the Republican Party in the Legislature. It doesn't help that the party's leading candidate for governor keeps getting rained on by an ethical cloud.
The elevation of reformer David Ralston to replace Richardson is a good start, but the majority party is going to have to do a much better job of policing its own - or risk becoming the minority party again.
- For the unemployed: Jobs.
Columbia County has been blessed with a lower unemployment rate than surrounding communities, but even with an influx of jobs to the Savannah River Site and Plant Vogtle, the larger community is seeing steady erosion: Job losses at Kellogg's, the departure of Electrolux, the possible shutdown of Kennemetal. That stuff hurts. C'mon, Santa; rustle around in that bag and find us a little good economic news to help us out. We sure need it.
- For our friends at Columbia County Arts Inc.: A home.
The organization is trying to build a buzz for the establishment of an arts center in the county. The best bet: The Columbia County Convention and Visitors Bureau wants its headquarters to be closer to the travelers' hub of Belair Road and Interstate 20. If they could move, it would free up the Gatekeeper's Cottage at Savannah Rapids Pavilion, a perfect site for the visual arts. These two groups should partner up.
- And finally, for all the folks arrested in the Sheriff's Office prostitution stings: A clue.
C'mon, guys. Do you really think looking for love in all the wrong places is going to lead to anything other than an unfulfilling trip to jail? If you really want to trade money for sex, think big - run for office.
Merry Christmas to all, and best wishes for a happy new year.
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