By Jeff Sexton
This past week at the Lee County Board of Commissioners meeting, a policy was implemented without it being on the Agenda – at least the online version of it, as it exists at the moment I type this, nearly a week later.
I’m working on getting the video right now – like I did with the Tifton Forum, my plan is to put the SWGAPolitics.com logo in the bottom corner, then cut it for upload to our youtube account – but one of the last items discussed at the meeting was use of the Opal Cannon Auditorium for candidates running for public office. Basically, the policy says (apparently, I haven’t seen a copy of it yet) that candidates running for public office can’t use the building – yet Nathan Deal did back in August! Per County Administrator Alan Ours’ comments during the meeting, the proposed (at the time) policy is “consistent with County policy for other buildings”.
As soon as Mr. Ours finished describing the policy, Commissioner Rick Muggridge tried to discuss it, but Chairman Ed Duffy noted that a motion and second was needed before discussion could be opened. Commissioner Dennis Roland made the motion to approve, with Commissioner Betty Johnson seconding it. Next, Commissioner Muggridge began discussing his concerns, saying that “If the Republican Party of Lee County or the Democratic Party of Lee County wanted to sponsor a debate, I think that would be a great venue for that.” Commissioner Muggridge noted that Deal had already used the facility before noting that even if a candidate came in that the Commissioners absolutely did not agree with, as long as they follow the rules, it should be allowed.
Commissioner Muggridge also noted “If I had a wish, I’d wish that more people would be involved in politics and understand what is going on. I think that by opening this venue up to politicians, which I don’t think is automatically a dirty word, that the public could have more access to those folks.”
After a bit more discussion about the end time of events, Commissioner Muggridge made a motion to strike the policy item in question that died for lack of a second. When the policy – with the item in question still in place – was then voted on moments later, all four voting commissioners voted to approve it, including Muggridge.
According to comments made to Carlton Fletcher Thursday, both Commissioner Muggridge and Chairman Duffy plan to bring this issue back to the Commission at their Jan 12 meeting, with Muggridge quoted as saying, “It’s important enough to the citizens of Lee County to bring up again not just because I support it, but because it opens up a lot of possibilities for the county.” and Duffy saying “I intend to suggest that we make county facilities available to political candidates of all parties, so long as they meet all other requirements. We just have to do it across-the-board.”
As many of you know, I am the chairman of the Libertarian Party of Southwest Georgia. I am also the South Georgia representative on the Libertarian Party of Georgia Executive Committee. Obviously, I have a vested interest in this issue – but my beliefs here are NOT partisan, as I genuinely believe ALL parties should have equal access to the public. Indeed, I started a Facebook group over the summer regarding ballot access where I put in the description “working to allow a level playing field for ALL political parties in Georgia.” Furthermore, my record running this site is proof of my claim, as the only comments we censor here are personal attacks and gratuitous profanity. As long as it remains political and decently clean, I honestly don’t remember Tom or I ever deleting a single comment.
I truly, genuinely believe in the “Top of My Lungs Principle” in regards to free speech. It states that, “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.” (Yes, it is a line from The American President.)
Apparently, the Lee County Board of Commissioners – outside of Chairman Duffy and Commissioner Muggridge – does not
Written by Jeff Sexton. Jeff Sexton co-owns the political blog SWGAPolitics.com and is a candidate for the Leesburg City Council.