A Tale of Two Counties

This editorial in the Rome News-Tribune is too good not to post the whole thing. I can’t find anything to cut. Please visit the paper’s website to patronize its advertisers. The paper also offers a link to e-mail the article to anyone whom you think might be interested.

Gwinnett strikes out
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09/17/08

LUCKY THEY don’t live here … that’s how the commissioners in Gwinnett County should feel. If they had Floyd Countians as constituents instead of suburbanite sheep, they’d already have been tarred, feathered and run out of office.

Rarely does one get to see a tale of two counties that so clearly demonstrates not only the difference in the way they are governed but also a difference in respect for the electorate.

Gwinnett and Floyd will shortly share a major asset: professional baseball of the Braves variety. Gwinnett is going to have the triple-A franchise whereas Floyd for a few years now has had the lower class A franchise. Both require new stadiums holding a playing surface of similar dimensions and seating not all that much different in numbers.

Floyd voters barely approved a special-purpose penny tax with which to build theirs after a very loud, contentious election. Hence, the $15 million structure is bought and fully paid for.

Gwinnett citizens didn’t get to vote on the prospect, instead having a $45 million structure rammed down their throats in a deal cut secretly. Now, the Gwinnett commissioners say an additional $19 million will be needed,

THEY’RE GOING to take it out of the county’s rainy-day reserve fund, so at least it doesn’t mean a property-tax increase … but. Apparently a “rainy day” doesn’t include hiring freezes and other cutbacks due to the general revenue dive as those continue in that county.

Floyd Countians have certainly learned to appreciate the added value to the community, in fun and visibility, of having a Braves team. Those sort of neighboring antics serve to give them new appreciation of having elected leadership that takes even high-risk, possibly unpopular decisions that involve wads of money directly to the people.

Indeed, there was another one on Tuesday in the $88 million SPLOST for continuing construction of new schools and classrooms. In Floyd County the voters have the final say when tons of money are going to be spent, not school board members or commissioners.

Just how beaten down Gwinnett citizens are by their county dictators was reflected in the published response to the latest stunt by one of them. Raising a fuss “wouldn’t make any difference,” he said, calling commissioners a “lost cause.”

WHAT A DIFFERENCE! Gwinnett is now going to get a stadium that costs roughly $59 million ($64 million with the land purchase figured in) and seats 5,500 while Floyd got one for $15 million, including land, that seats 5,100 — and that the voters, not just a handful of commissioners, decided would be of value to the community. Even of more value, which seems not entirely understood in many of suburban Atlanta counties, is the importance of relying on the democratic process to make the final decisions on the really big questions.

When this Gwinnett stadium deal first appeared, this newspaper commented that one could bet the secret spending wasn’t over yet … and it wasn’t. It also concluded, in words that bear repeating:

“Better still, Floyd Countians have local governments that trust their citizens and keep them in the loop. Having baseball is good, but having a leadership that knows how to play the game is even better.”

No secret deals and a voter-approved stadium. Looks like the Gwinnett Board of Commissioners’s excuse for secrecy is a farce. For more on the Rome experience, see Frank Stephenson’s post.

Thanks to Frank for the pointer.

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