Originally created 11/10/05

A penny for their thoughts

This is what happens when the public and private sectors work together seamlessly.

This is what happens when voters are given compelling reasons to tax themselves.

This is what happens when individuals with passion come together for the greater good.

Richmond County's passage of the 1-cent special purpose local option sales tax Tuesday stands in stark contrast to the election a year ago, in which a more bloated $487 million sales tax package went down in flames. The difference? This year's vote reflects the fact that public- and private-sector proponents got together to propose a markedly scaled-back SPLOST of $160 million - and then worked tirelessly together to sell it to a skeptical public.

Led by local activist Janie Peel and Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Barry White, the private sector pushed hard for this tax - which is, in reality, merely a continuation of the current 1-cent SPLOST. Ultimately, Peel, White and others in the "Pennies for Progress" movement put together 26 supporting organizations. What a difference a year makes.

But their effort might never have gotten off the ground if city Administrator Fred Russell hadn't done an absolutely splendid job of putting together a practical and politically palatable roster of projects to fund with the extended tax. Chief among them are the new courthouse, new jail pods and a new exhibition and trade center on the river that will act as an economic and people magnet.

Russell didn't stop there, either. He worked closely with the private sector in artfully explaining the benefits of SPLOST and winning over a public that, only months ago, would chuckle at the mere mention of the word SPLOST.

They not only restored the word's positive and progressive connotation, they may have helped bolster Augusta's image of itself.

We'd say that's a penny, and a vote, well-spent.


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