The world changed in 2008.
Beginning today, we'll find out just how much the Augusta Commission realizes that.
All across the country, companies, families, states, counties and cities have all had to cut back, do more with less -- and in many cases stop doing things altogether. The money just isn't there anymore.
Yet, some Augusta commissioners are balking at the city administrator's alarm bell, which is saying as loudly as it can: We've got to rethink the way we do business in Augusta government!
Administrator Fred Russell has worked for months on a plan to restructure the government to make it more efficient and sensible, and to make it more reflective of today's economic realities.
The plan calls for shuffling departments and managers and eliminating several dozen positions. It's painful, certainly, but hardly catastrophic or even radical. It's simply what needs to be done.
After years and years of doing things because that's the way they've always been done -- and of treating the city government as an employment agency -- the good times are over.
Russell will try to make that clear at a presentation to commissioners at 9 a.m. today.
Commissioners will need to man up like never before.
They'll need to give Russell their blessings to do some difficult things in order to right the city's ship. They'll need to make some politically uncomfortable decisions about what the city can afford to keep doing in today's world. They'll have to check their egos at the door, make the big policy decisions and then allow Russell and others to carry out that vision.
They'll need to stop combing the city charter to find out why this or that can't be done and, instead, find ways to accomplish what they can with what they're given -- or move to change the city charter as needed.
The list of things a government could do is infinite; the list of what it should do, or is truly able to do, is infinitely shorter.
It's time that reality dawned in Augusta.
It's time to stop being dogmatic and start being practical and adaptive.
The good news is that this commission, if it takes bold action now, can set the table for future commissions -- by streamlining the city government and making the tough calls now, rather than kicking them down the road for others to deal with.
We believe in this group. We know these men, and we know they have the city's best interests at heart. We trust that they will rise up to the occasion and do what needs to be done to ensure the long-term viability of the city government, while keeping taxes low on an overburdened electorate.
That path forward starts with the first step today.