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Let Us Vote: By Sen. Brown and Staton | People

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Let Us Vote: By Sen. Brown and Staton
People, Politics

-Written by Senator Robert Brown and Senator Cecil Staton, Submitted by the Senate Press Office.

As the recession ends and we begin the long, hard period of re-growth, Macon and Bibb County are on the cusp of a potential new era. Many look forward to a time, as we saw in the late 1990s, where economic development projects brought people, industries and jobs to Macon. Private/public partnerships constructed shopping centers, riverside walk ways and museums. Downtown historic districts received long-needed facelifts.

It may not seem like it right now, but those days could return sooner than we might think – we just have to push them along a little.

Together, as one Democrat and one Republican, we propose a plan that has been in the works for more than 100 years: a restructuring of the Macon and Bibb County governments into one. Through this plan, we can combine government departments and offer smoother, better service with a 20-percent savings to the taxpayers.

 We know this song has been sung before, and many have doubts. First mention of Macon-Bibb consolidation came in 1909. The idea was studied more than 20 times – at least twice in each decade – since the 1920s, according to The Macon Telegraph. Voters shot down the idea in 1933, 1947, 1960, 1972 and 1976. Last year, City Councilwoman Elaine Lucas came up with a plan, as did state Rep. Allen Peake.

 So why is now different?

 Well, first, we have learned from the past. Senate Bill 274, sponsored by both of us, takes the best pieces of every previous plan. Additionally, Macon and Bibb County are poised for significant change. Right now, we are welcoming a new school superintendent. As our education system evolves, let us help our government evolve as well. If we move immediately, the referendum could be on the ballot in November 2012, a presidential election year. That means more people are likely to vote and a true cross-section of our residents will speak to this issue. Finally, this could be our fastest and best chance to pull ourselves out of an economic slump worse than we’ve seen since the Great Depression.

 If approved by the voters, Macon-Bibb consolidation means a fair and comprehensive local government that will be more responsive to economic growth and more responsive to the people. Although we don’t expect to please everybody, we do expect to create a more manageable government where all voices will be heard in a meaningful way.

As you may have seen in news reports the plan calls for an 11-member government council and a chief-executive mayor. Currently, there are 21. The mayor would appoint a top law enforcement officer and the elected sheriff would handle constitutional duties. All government departments and agencies would be merged to eliminate doubled efforts. Only the Macon Hospital Authority and Macon Water Authority would remain in tact as is. The Water Authority has already expressed support for a concept where it pays the new government a 6-percent franchise fee on revenue – about $3.2 million per year.

 This new lean government would place Macon and Bibb County in the perfect position to recruit new industry, and new jobs, to Middle Georgia. Let’s grasp this chance before 2011 becomes another footnote in the history of missed opportunities. Our efforts suggest we can come together and work to move our community forward.


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