Colonnade Editor, I read the recently published opinion regarding Milledgeville-Baldwin County Unification and I have several thoughts I would like to share regarding the statements made by the writer. I will quote the each statement and respond accordingly.
“Consolidation is a lengthy process and may take years to implement. Along with time, money must be spent in order to merge city and county services, such as creating a new police department.” -Yes, Consolidation will take time. In order to keep transition costs low, it is best to implement in phases rather than all at once. There is no need to create a new police force as the charter places all law enforcement powers in the Sheriff’s hands. The Sheriff is mandated by the Georgia Constitution and the highest law enforcement authority in the county.
“While the charter states that there will be no job losses, Macon-Bibb County serves as a prime example in which consolidation proved to be more expensive than originally thought. Macon-Bibb County had to cut the budget every year since implementation, resulting in numerous lost jobs.” -Macon-Bibb made the mistake of requiring a 20 percent budget reduction as part of their charter. If you cut one-fifth of your budget, you have little choice but to eliminate jobs and services. This is NOT the case with MBC Unification.
The Charter for Milledgeville-Baldwin County specifies that no full-time employee will lose their job as a result of Unification. Their salaries, benefits and pensions are all protected.
“Milledgeville currently has 12 elected officials, including the Mayor, city manager, five city council members and five county commissioners.The proposed Unification Charter calls for only seven elected officials, making it more difficult to represent the views and voices of the residents of Baldwin County, including Milledgeville.” -The city manager is not an elected position. -Unification actually means greater representation for more than half of the population of Baldwin County. At this time, county residents only get one vote – their County Commissioner. City residents have three elected officials to vote for: Commissioner, Councilmember, and the Mayor. After Unification, every citizen of the Baldwin County will be able to choose a Representative, a Vice Mayor, and the Mayor of our community. I spoke to a woman last week who has lived here for over 50 years and never once been able to have an elected voice in Milledgeville. Bringing more of the community into the process is a benefit.
“This also removes the “watchdog” mentality that the city and county use in order to practice the checks and balances system, which could lead to even further corruption within the government.” -The people are to be the watchdogs of democracy. There is not a system of checks and balances, just two political bodies fighting for the same limited resources – your tax dollars. Having two governments means having someone else to blame. Some say “this is a city issue,” or “no, it’s a county issue.” There’s no such thing. Every issue in Milledgeville and Baldwin County is a COMMUNITY issue. If you put everyone on the same team, you can eliminate the finger pointing and passing the buck. One unified government will be responsible to make sure the business of the people is handled, if they fail, then we know who is responsible.
“The Unification Charter not only threatens to discredit the hard work of former Bobcats, but also hinders future student involvement with the local community.” -Any ordinance that was previously in place will continue to be in place under the new charter. The new government isn’t going to wipe out all of the previous agreements made to create the college friendly, downtown environment that we have.
“Because of the initial expenses of consolidation, college students would bear the brunt of the transition, resulting in higher prices for housing, food and entertainment.” -This is just an outright fallacy. Please explain your logical progression to this end. Unification will not cause housing, food or entertainment costs to go up for students or anyone else.
“The Charter will encompass all residents of Baldwin County, which diminishes the student’s voting impact.” -There are almost 6,000 students here. No matter where they vote they could change the outcome of an election. Less than 2,000 people voted in the last city council election. Students live all over the community and, if they organized and ran candidates or helped support good candidates, they could most certainly make an INCREDIBLE impact. Nothing could diminish the influence of such a large group IF they are organized. If anyone is interested to know the truth about Unification, I’m happy to sit down and talk. I’ll go through the document with you and answer any questions you have.