Recently, House Bill 67 passed through Georgia legislature and was signed by Governor Nathan Deal. HB67, more commonly known as the Milledgeville-Baldwin County Unification Charter, is an important bill that requires scrutiny from residents of Baldwin County.
The consolidation of the city of Milledgeville and Baldwin County will have serious consequences for all residents, but especially for college students.
Consolidation is a complicated process and many people do not fully understand what it means and how it works. According to the National League of Cities, a consolidated city-county is a merger between the city and the county, in this case, Milledgeville and Baldwin County. This creates one unified jurisdiction in which newly elected officials will govern.
There are currently less than 40 consolidated city-counties within the United States. Georgia leads the nation with eight unified governments. These include Athens-Clarke County, Augusta-Richmond County and, most recently, Macon-Bibb County.
There are many pros and cons, both perceived and real. Because of the lack of in-depth case studies and empirical evidence, it is difficult to verify the positive after effects of city-county unification.
Proponents of consolidation cite streamlined services, better communication between departments and attracting business as some reasons to follow through with the proposal. While these predictions for a unified city-county government seem positive, it also spurs negative consequences.
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. 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. This will have a direct impact on the economy of the city and county.
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. 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.
Every aspect of consolidation will affect the students that live and learn here, including Georgia Military College and Central Georgia Technical College Milledgeville campus.
In the past, students worked closely with the city of Milledgeville to craft compromises that allow us to enjoy the college life we now experience. More specifically, the issues of ending police harassment, lowering property costs, and the establishment of Greek housing were debated and decided upon. These compromises have allowed students to further enjoy the unique, safe and low-cost environment that Georgia College provides.
The students who worked closely with the city in 2009 were able to establish the policies that students now consider necessary, as well as leave a legacy of leadership within the community. The Unification Charter not only threatens to discredit the hard work of former Bobcats, but also hinders future student involvement with the local community.
The proposed charter has the potential to completely eradicate the aforementioned policy issue compromises that the student body worked diligently to achieve. 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. The Unification Charter also calls for consolidation of police departments, diminishing the positive relationship that college students have with the Milledgeville Police Department.
The Charter will encompass all residents of Baldwin County, which diminishes the student’s voting impact. It is easy to see that the involvement of college students within the community has had a direct and positive impact for commerce, especially in downtown Milledgeville.
There will be a referendum on the Unification Charter on November 3, 2015. In order to participate in this vote, residents of Milledgeville and Baldwin County must be registered before Fall 2015. There are also other issues that require community participation, including the vote for a new mayor in June. You must be registered to vote before the May 18, 2015 deadline in order to cast your vote in the mayoral election.
The passage of this Bill directly affects college students and our quality of life. We have the power and the influence to make a difference. Register before May 18th in order to have your voice count.