To clearly illustrate how the dysfunctional Dougherty County School Board should operate, you need only look to our northern neighbors in Americus/Sumter County. They, too, are searching for a school superintendent, but are conducting the search in a proper fashion open to the public.
After receiving applications from all interested candidates, they have invited the three finalists to Americus for a second interview and public meetings. If two of the finalist names sound familiar: Brooks and Lee, they also applied in Dougherty County, but saw the fix was in, and there was no need to pursue the opportunity in Albany.
This is a no-brainer. If you are working for the people who elected you, of course you would want the public invited to be part of this process, asking questions, then giving your advice to your board on who they think should take on one of the most important positions in the county, and the most important position in the School System.
But not in Albany’s case if you are forcing through a friend, supporter, and business associate, someone who just follows the will of the board.
Have you even had a chance to meet and ask questions of the one candidate forced on Dougherty County? Not a chance. The board knows you would discover he is inexperienced and unqualified.
The Sumter County process should have taken place here, but it will not, due to the improper actions of board members James Bush, Velvet Riggins, Milton “June Bug” Griffin, and Anita Williams-Brown.
Gutless legislators nix tobacco tax hike
We’re in the middle of the worst state budget crisis in recent memory. Despite deep and painful spending cuts, leaders still can’t balance the budget. They have no choice but to find ways to increase revenue. Yet many hard-headed Georgia lawmakers refuse even to consider one easy option that most Georgians support.
A bill to increase Georgia’s tobacco tax appears to be going nowhere. Our state has one of the lowest cigarette taxes in the country, 38 cents a pack. The national average is $1.38 per pack. A proposal to increase the tax by a dollar a pack could raise several hundred million dollars in new revenue a year. It may also have the added health benefit of convincing some Georgians to stop smoking. And it doesn’t affect everyone. If you don’t want to pay the tax, don’t buy cigarettes. But even the representative who introduced the bill says it won’t pass.
The reason is simple. Too many lawmakers don’t have the guts to make a tough decision. They want to go home and tell their constituents they didn’t raise their taxes. What many of those same lawmakers won’t tell you, however, is they are voting to increase all sorts of fees. Those increases aren’t as transparent as a cigarette tax hike, and they get less attention. Even if lawmakers vote for them, they can still technically say they didn’t raise your taxes.
Nobody likes to pay taxes, but they are necessary. Certainly, nobody likes tax increases, but in extraordinary times they may be necessary too. If we’ve got to raise taxes, a tobacco tax hike is the way to go. It’s time our state lawmakers mustered the courage to get it done.
Written by Jim Wilcox, general manager of WALB.