Recently, I appeared before the Augusta Commission concerning the implementation of a county merit system. It doesn’t take an expert or a high level of brilliance to suggest or advocate a government system that, by its design, establishes a protocol for pay raises, promotions, demotions and evaluations. While I did receive positive feedback from commissioners Bill Fennoy, Bill Lockett and Wayne Guilfoyle, the same cannot be said for the other commissioners present that day (Alvin Mason and Grady Smith were absent).
The reason that I mentioned that is that, not two weeks later, there were several commissioners calling for performance evaluations on City Administrator Fred Russell and several other appointed officials who answer directly to the commissioners. Well, isn’t a merit system just what the doctor ordered?
It is not a question of if we should implement such a system, but rather, why haven’t we implemented this system? Do we really expect to achieve a level of efficiency by carrying out sporadic protocol? Maybe the answer is right before us. Maybe we don’t want a system that mandates fair practice within our government. Maybe we don’t want to establish a standard that can seriously curtail wrongful practices or perceived wrongful practices by department managers. Maybe we just want to keep a generic system in place that allows mismanagement and outdated procedures, and that allows slackers to receive bonuses and pay raises in spite of substandard job performance.
The ultimate blame in my mind, lies within our community. People in government act the way they do sometimes because they know they’ll probably get away with it. In other words, they realize that most citizens are not overly concerned. Hence, mediocrity thrives. There are young black males committing major violent crimes. This issue was brought before the commission and a summit was suggested, but they held a summit on hate crimes. In my mind, most elected leaders don’t have the knowledge to deal with core issues, or they have the knowledge but fail to take necessary action to rectify deep-rooted problems in our community.
Let’s have a summit on youth violence, Let’s begin holding negligent parents accountable for their delinquent children. Let’s implement a county merit system now, and move toward higher achievement. Let’s roll!
(The writer, a former Marine, is self-employed. He lives in Augusta.)