Members of Milledgeville City Council and the Baldwin County Board of Commissioners got a first look at a charter for city-county unification Tuesday evening. Now, local residents have the opportunity to do the same.
The full, 57-page charter can be downloaded from the website www.mbunification.com. The website also includes names and information on the local residents who have worked for more than a year now researching and putting this document together. The site also includes a link where residents can submit questions and view last night’s presentation by charter writing committee chair Ken Vance.
As city and county elected officials take time to digest the details of this charter, it is vitally important that local citizens take a closer examination of what the document contains as well. After all, it will be up to local voters to decide — giving final say on consolidation should legislation be introduced to place the measure on the ballot — not those elected to office.
Before the onslaught of questions begins, everyone must first become familiarized with the document. Only then are the questions warranted. Those who have already formed opinions about the charter, the process and, more specifically, about whether or not consolidation is right for Milledgeville and Baldwin County are doing so without equipping themselves with the most important piece of the puzzle — the details of the document itself.
This community is not the first to tackle consolidation of government and services, but there are unique pieces to this community puzzle. Even as Macon and Bibb County do their own dance with unification, consolidation efforts were completed in Athens-Clarke County in the early 1990s and similar efforts are underfoot in Dalton and Whitfield County in north Georgia.
This is also not the first discussion on local consolidation that has taken place, but we must all keep in mind that it is a different world now than the one Baldwin County faced the last time the idea was posed. The stakes are greater, and quite possibly the risks as well, which is why equipping ourselves with the most accurate information possible before casting a vote one way or the other is vital.
There is no cookie cutter approach, what works for one community may not be what’s best for another, but weighing all options and reviewing the charter before making an assessment is the only way to determine what works.
It never hurts to become knowledgeable on an issue before forming an opinion. Actually, it tends to work in one’s favor.
Take time to view the document, formulate questions and then form an opinion. Speaking first and asking questions later is not the right approach — not for voters, not for elected officials and certainly not for Milledgeville and Baldwin County.