We hear every election about the need to vote. But citizens need to do more than just touch the voting screen.
It’s important to do some homework on each candidate. The potential representatives may keep their election-time promises. They may not. But if you don’t put some effort into learning what local candidates are about, then you’re breaking a promise, too, when you step into the ballot booth and throw your finger into the dark.
Personally, I think the most impressive candidates are the ones who speak in specifics, shying away from vague notions in favor of clearly attainable goals. I believe the healthiest voters are the ones who make judgments on a variety of issues, not making decisions rooted in a gripe or a potential favor. In our next two issues, we will publish written interviews with local candidates in contested primaries. We hope county voters will take the time to read candidates’ responses.
THE DECLINING DAILIES
I was sad to see The Atlanta Journal-Constitution drop Madison County, as well as 24 other Georgia counties, from its distribution list earlier this month. This is the age of layoffs and reduced coverage at many major American dailies. And we saw how Wall Street forces in journalism reached into Madison County this month as the AJC abandoned this area. So many dailies continue to shrink, embracing the “do more with less” mantra that is fueled by allegiance to shareholders, rather than communities. This cut and run economic strategy is a risky business over the long haul for big papers who continue to chip away at the value of their name.
A SIT-DOWN OVER TAXES
County commissioners scheduled a meeting for next Wednesday between the BOC, the board of assessors (BOA) and chief appraiser James Flynt. This was a good move. Each of these officials plays a major role in determining what your tax bill will be, with the chief appraiser and BOA establishing property values and the BOC setting tax rates. Now, relations between the BOA and the chief appraiser are sour as questions about the proposed 2008 digest (overall county land value) remain. Clear communications about the state of the county digest are needed and the BOC’s call for a sit-down is appropriate. On a side note, it was somewhat peculiar that the BOC called for the work session between the boards and chief appraiser after a lengthy closed session Monday. The lack of public discussion of the matter certainly left the impression that the BOC discussed the tax assessment situation behind closed doors.
NO DEMOCRATIC FORUM
It appears Democratic candidates for sheriff, incumbent Clayton Lowe and challenger Troy Asmus, won’t have the opportunity to participate in a political forum prior to the July 15 primaries. There are three pre-primary political forums, two Republican events — with the final one scheduled for tonight (Thursday) — and one for BOC candidates hosted by the Property Owners for Common Sense Growth. A low turnout is likely in the county’s Democratic primary, considering that all the action at the BOC table is on the Republican ticket, but that also means any Madison County voter who chooses a Democratic ballot on July 15 will hold considerable sway in the party’s nomination for sheriff. It’s unfortunate that Democratic primary voters apparently won’t have the opportunity to see the candidates square off, like in the Republican races. Also of note, any voter who chooses a Democratic ballot on July 15 is not obligated to vote for Democratic candidates in November. However, such voters would be prohibited from participating in any Republican primary runoff elections.
BASIC PROTECTION FOR OFFICIALS
The State Ethics Commission dismissed John Scoggins’ claim that Stanley Thomas violated the law by accepting county reimbursement for legal fees related to the failed recall attempt against him. Scoggins said the county’s payment to Thomas constituted a campaign contribution. It makes sense for county taxpayers to cover the costs of legal fees for recalls against officials that are deemed unmerited in court. Otherwise, any official could be financially bled out of office by any rich person with a grudge, no matter how reasonable or unreasonable the gripe. This is a basic protection the county should give to its officials. However, that protection should be pulled if the official is indeed recalled.
It’s a busy time in Madison County politics. I feel like I could go on and on. But I have a forum to cover.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.