Originally created 07/20/00

Republican straw poll reflects on city policies

The Richmond County Republican Party's straw poll on Tuesday's primary ballot shed some light on what voters think about city government, the party leader said.

"The poll gives the commissioners and the state representatives some guidance in their review of the consolidated government," said Dave Barbee, chairman of the Richmond County Republican Party.

However, voters might not have fully understood the first two questions, Mr. Barbee said.

On the first question, 2,819 voters said no to a change from the Augusta Commission's current rule requiring six votes for passage of an item to a rule requiring only a majority of those present and voting. Yes received 2,683 votes.

But an overwhelming majority - 4,337 to 1,066 - voted in favor of having the commission and the Richmond County Board of Education follow the same rules as to how an item passes. And the school board is run by majority rule.

So what does that mean?

"I feel that the first question of whether we should have majority vote or leave it like it is was very close, but the majority felt that the commission is fine the way it is," Mr. Barbee said.

"Question No. 2 was straightforward. Should the commission and the school board follow the same rules? The answer was yes. The way I interpret it is that the school board should have a six-vote rule also."

The third poll question asked Republican voters if they would support mandatory countywide garbage pickup if they were charged for it on their property tax bills. It failed with 2,914 voting no, and 2,730 voting yes.

Tuesday's straw poll showed that a large majority of the Republican primary voters favor using special purpose local option sales tax money to improve the Augusta water system. The vote was 3,806 for and 1,843 against.

Those totals were almost reversed on the question of using special purpose local option sales tax money to help fund medical care for indigent patients, with 3,538 voting no and 2,030 voting yes.

The special purpose local option sales tax money legally could be used to distribute more water, but it is illegal to support indigent care with tax dollars. However, that could be changed by the state Legislature, Mr. Barbee said.

The final question on the straw poll asked voters if they support the creation of a legal department with in-house staff attorneys to represent the commission in legal matters. It failed with 3,115 Republicans voting no and 2,323 voting yes.

The consolidation law calls for the city to have an in-house law department, but commissioners have rehired attorney Jim Wall on a contractual basis each year. Commissioners have been debating the issue and recently voted to hire an Atlanta lawyer to make recommendations on structuring an in-house department.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylviaco@augustachronicle.com.


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