Citizens jonesing to vote in the July 20 primary got their chance starting Monday at the Columbia County Board of Elections office when early and absentee voting began.
Officials say 37 people did so Monday.
Most Columbia County voters likely will choose the Republican ballot because there are no locally contested Democratic races. Voters choosing the Democrat ballot won't be able to vote in the race for county commission chairman, for example.
The expectation is that only diehard Democrat voters will choose a Democrat ballot. In the last off-year primary, in 2006, only 26 percent of local voters did so.
That also means only a relative few voters will see the Democrats' seven straw-poll questions. And those who pick a Democratic ticket might have seen a couple of these questions before.
Should developer impact fees be structured to require new buyers to pay the costs associated with the increased demands on county infrastructure?
In 2004, 86 percent of Democratic voters said yes; the same question received 78 percent approval in 2006. I suppose a third vote could at least establish a trend.
Should Columbia County provide public transportation in order to ease traffic congestion, decrease use of petroleum products, and transport residents?
Democrats answering that question in 2008 said yes by 90 percent, though that year the poll specified "senior citizens" rather than "residents." Incidentally, Columbia County already HAS a transit system, operating large passenger vans. Just guessing, but I bet none of the Democratic leadership writing these questions has ever ridden it.
Other questions on the Democrats' ballot this year are new, however:
Should the Columbia County Commission demonstrate appreciation of the American Armed Forces by enacting contracting policies that favor companies owned by Disabled Veterans? (This reminds me of a Thomson company busted for fraud when they put a subsidiary in the name of one of their black laborers so they could get minority-preference contracts.)
Should the Columbia County Board of Education be prohibited from consolidating schools solely to make property available for sale to commercial developers? (They're talking about the proposal to close Bel Air Elementary and have its population absorbed into newer, larger Evans and Martinez elementaries. The plan is for greater efficiency; surplusing the property is a side benefit at best.)
Should education in Columbia County focus on preparing students for successful competition in a global market rather than focusing on test taking preparation? (Are those the only two choices?)
Should the Board of Commissioners develop and publish a Growth Plan in preparation for the next 20 years of road and highway expansion in Columbia County? (Sure, and while they're at it, they should pick the winner in next year's Super Bowl. In a county growing as fast as ours, the current 10-year Growth Management Plan is about the best that can be expected.)
Ah, but all these are a prelude to the question you've been waiting for, the one I referred to in Sunday's column as "among the more jaw-droppingly idiotic ever":
Should any Columbia County Planning Commission meetings and deliberations, other than personnel issues, be conducted in a manner that is open to the public?
The writer of this question should be embarrassed.
First, planning commission meetings already are open to the public. By law.
Second, the planning commission has no "personnel issues." That's because it has no personnel. It's an advisory board, with five members appointed by the county commission. Each vote it takes is merely a recommendation to be ratified or rejected by the elected county commission.
No one of rudimentary intelligence who has attended a planning commission meeting would have penned this question. The Democrats should check one out to see.
It's easy: The planning commission meets at the Evans government auditorium at 6 p.m. on the first and third Thursday of each month.
I'm sure the Democrats can find it. They meet in the same room on the first Monday of each month.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow at twitter.com/barrypaschal.)
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