WHEN THE people of the city of Augusta consolidated the city and county government seven years ago, everyone envisioned a more effective government, and certainly thought the taxpayers would receive some savings.
The vision of consolidated government never materialized and has had a train wreck. The effectiveness has given away to plain-old gridlock and no real savings have materialized.
The authors of consolidated government somehow perceive a better form of government would be by a commission with no checks and balances, and yet after seven years of watching the current form of consolidated government, it is now time for a change.
State Rep. Sue Burmeister, R-Augusta, has announced she will introduce a bill to correct the problems with the form of government of Augusta-Richmond County. The bill would change it to mirror our national government, based on the principles of the U.S. Constitution.
I AGREE WITH Ms. Burmeister that, "if this form of government is good for our nation, then this form of government is good for Augusta."
The bill would do the following:
It establishes an executive branch and a legislative branch.
It provides the mayor the authority to veto and establishes a veto override of seven commissioners.
It establishes a quorum for the transaction of business of the commission and provides for a negative vote to be recorded if a commissioner fails to vote or does not disclose a conflict of interest.
It establishes a standard of ethics in government.
It establishes the exclusive right of the county administrator to hire and fire directors and department heads.
This bill gives the checks and balances we need to break the gridlock of the commission with the establishment of the executive branch.
The bill addresses the issue of abstaining from voting by taking away the privilege to abstain unless a commissioner has a conflict of interest that is disclosed as part of the record.
The issue of hiring and removal of department heads would be addressed by placing the administrator under the mayor and would give the administrator the exclusive authority to hire and fire directors and department heads.
JUST THINK, if this was in effect today, we would have a fire chief, finance director and could be seeing some savings in our taxes.
Another important part of the proposal is that people must vote on the issue by having a referendum, and this referendum could be in November. The debate must be by the people and for the people. We should not allow a few people in Atlanta to make the decision for the citizens of Augusta without their participation.
Ms. Burmeister has introduced the most important piece of legislation for the citizens of Augusta that has been introduced in the past 10 years, and it is our time to do our civic duty. We must call or write our state representatives and our state senators and demand they join in this important debate.
THE CITIZENS of Augusta must make their voices heard because our future depends on it. The Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce, the civic clubs, Republicans, Democrats, people of color, whites and all others must be involved because the issue is the future of our city. Together we can make a better Augusta. Please support Ms. Burmeister's bill.
(Editor's note: The author is chairman of the Richmond County Republican Party.)