The Union Recorder

February 1, 2014

Commissioners and Council members must respect the intellect of their voting constiuents

The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — Members of the Baldwin County Commission are slated Tuesday evening to discuss taking a vote on whether to allow local citizens to cast ballots on a unified city—county charter.

It’s been a long and bumpy road but now both city and county leaders have been formally asked to allow a vote on the measure. City Council was slated to discuss it at last Tuesday’s council meeting, but the meeting was cancelled due to the inclement weather.

Now the ball sits prominently in the county commissioners’ court.

Whether city or county elected officials agree personally or politically with the concept of unification, or more specifically with this charter and its language, they owe it to their constituency to afford them the opportunity to vote and decide for themselves.

The local charter writing committee, comprised of a diverse group of local citizens have put more than 12 months in developing this document. It has been noted during recent meetings that this group does not speak for nor share the opinion of every citizen in Milledgeville and Baldwin County; that the voice of this group is that of a select few. In reality no single group represents the opinion of everyone in the community. This group, however, does represent an opinion with an undercurrent that has been building momentum for the past several months and has been discussed widely in the community for years. This group has also voiced its opinion clearly and openly to local leaders.

Their opinion, just as the opinions of those who oppose unification and a vote, matters of equal importance. Which voice outweighs the other in this matter should be decided at the polls — not at a board meeting.

It has also been urged by opposition that we trust the leadership of elected officials on this issue and let them decide its fate entirely. Many on the opposing side feel that is what our leaders were elected to do. City and county elected officials were put in office to manage our form of government — not to decide the type of government we use moving forward.

Once it is agreed that the measure is to be placed on a ballot before voters then the education process becomes vital — for everyone — learning the details and specifics of the charter.

Once everyone is educated on the specifics every individual voter can decide with their own ballot one way or another. Then city and county leaders, just like every other citizen, will decide at the polls.

In the months leading up to a vote, those who agree and those who disagree can formulate their arguments and work to convince others on their thinking. They should have a strong enough argument that it is so convincing the other side concedes and they win.

That’s the way every election should work. That’s the democratic process. It’s the same process we use on issues such as sales tax referendums, charter schools and countless others. No one group, even if they hold elected office, decides for all of us — these measures are decided at the voting precincts.

So why should unification be any different?

Whether they agree or disagree is not the issue here. They have an obligation to the people. It’s an obligation as to whether or not they value enough the intellect of local voters — the very ones who placed them in office — to allow them to speak for themselves at the ballot box.