Augustans turned out in large numbers for Augusta Day in Atlanta on Thursday, and of all the topics being discussed, "fixing consolidation" ranked as No. 1.
The enthusiasm was in high gear for a change, but if Augustans go back to their dens and think the battle is won, then it's lost for sure. The pressure must be kept on legislators to quickly come to a compromise on House legislation that would repair a broken city government.
How broken? Consider that prior to consolidation, the city of Augusta was broke. Consolidation was supposed to fix that by eliminating redundancies between county and city departments.
But six years later, the city is nearly broke again, and is having to raise property taxes and is even planning to raise the hotel-motel tax to keep afloat some departments that are larger than they were at consolidation.
The government has gotten fatter, not leaner, even though the population has remained almost flat in the past 10 years and industry has slid away to other pastures.
Some of the blame can be placed at the feet of commissioners who are known to micromanage city affairs. The worst offenders are Marion Williams, Andy Cheek and Lee Beard, who use their roles as commissioners to get involved in the day-to-day running of the city.
They can meddle because the city charter does not allow the city administrator to be the boss. Commissioners have all the authority and they use it to protect workers from being fired or laid off. The administrator has to manage a situation in which he has no authority but gets all the blame. City employees want this situation fixed so they will not be strongarmed by commissioners who want favors.
If Augusta Day was the peak for pressure on legislators to fix the city charter then Augusta is in trouble, because many representatives would rather run out the clock than take meaningful action.
The pressure must not only continue, but be doubled to get our state representatives to take action before the end of this session.