The Union Recorder

February 1, 2014

City Council and County commission compared to bickering teenagers

The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — If ordinary citizens could see behind the scenes of our local government, they’d likely be shocked and appalled.

Right now, behind the scenes, there’s so much dysfunction and distrust between the City Council and the County Commission that it’s nauseating. The bickering over service delivery and revenue sharing is an exercise in immaturity.

The power struggle between the City Council and the County Commission sort of reminds you of two teenage siblings bickering over chores and allowance money:

“YOU’RE supposed to be the one who does this! No way! YOU’RE supposed to be the one who does that!”

“This is MY money! No, you’re wrong! This is MY money!”

It’s almost as if our Council members and Commissioners view it as some sort of game, and it’s almost as if they’re so entrenched that they fail to realize that they play for the same team — the people of Milledgeville/Baldwin County.

Right now, this community is at a crossroads. Milledgeville/Baldwin County’s 25 percent reduction in its labor force since 2007 is off the charts. Very few counties/parishes in the entire nation can claim that 25 percent fewer people are working today when compared to six or seven years ago.

That’s why the time for silly games is over. The “us versus them” mentality that exists between the City Council and County Commission is making this community weaker and less viable by the day. Fortunately, though, there is an escape plan.

Consolidation. Unification. Whichever one you want to call it.

Consolidation/unification would create one sole body of local government, thus making it simpler for Milledgeville/Baldwin County to make moves and reshape our local economy. Plus, consolidation would eliminate the playground fights and the constant bickering between the City Council and County Commission. There’d be no more stalling and waiting, all the while getting left behind by other counties and communities.

Even if consolidation isn’t a great money-saver or proves to be revenue neutral, at least it would end the embarrassing and contentious relationship that currently exists between our City Council and County Commission. It also would speed up government and make it easier for investors to do business in Milledgeville/Baldwin County.

Some Council members and Commissioners already are hollering that consolidation is a terrible idea and a waste of time. This is a natural default response for many politicians in the wake of a consolidation effort. After all, above all else, a politician wants to be re-elected. It’s in their DNA. A politician is always thinking about election season. And right now, Council members and Commissioners realize that a consolidated government would mean fewer seats at the table, which would mean a greater chance of being beaten in an election and losing their job. It’s a risk they’d rather not take, so therefore they jump up and down and tell anyone who’ll listen that consolidation is bad news.

In the meantime, the local economy continues to dive deeper and deeper in the proverbial dumpster.

It’s very sad, and it makes you wonder if Baldwin County really is doomed, like so many people around here are saying right now.

Christian McKearney