What will it take to awaken taxpayers?
Broken, inefficient, and even corrupt government does not just happen. It is an evolutionary process that stems from public apathy, an attitude of helplessness, or a deferral of the problem to “someone else” (the guy in line behind me will fix it) mentality.
It has taken almost 30 years for Albany and Dougherty County to slip into this abyss of a failing government, corruption, excess taxes, a faltering education system, spiraling crime rates (5X the CNN Money magazine average of best cities), and above all, a regional and statewide image of another collapsing economic and social infrastructure, the likes of East St. Louis, Detroit, and now Memphis, all of which are cities which are dominated and comprised of minority citizens.
We have in Dougherty County approximately 15,400 ad valorem-taxpaying citizens, many of whom are retired without school-age children, bearing the tax burden necessary to support services for 97,000 citizens, a classic case of taxation without representation, since this small “minority” of citizens are outvoted at the ballot box each year, effectively nullifying any control or purview over the re-distribution of “their” wealth, much of which is funneled into a failing, scandal-ridden public education system.
A perfect example is the recent illegal selection process of an inexperienced, unqualified school superintendent, not unlike Don Buie, who has been subject to credit warrants and three personal credit judgements exceeding $15,000, and yet he is expected to oversee a $200 million public education budget. Unchecked insanity prevails as a four-member black school board majority, dug-in (for reasons unbeknown to us other than his race) to appoint him, thumbing their noses (in retribution) at the statutes and courts, and the taxpaying (minority) having little or no voice in the process.
How can this injustice happen time and time again with little or no recourse from the people who fund this “system” (Joshua Murfree is now destined to become the new DCSS superintendent).
It happens because this new minority of taxpayers has lost hope, given up, and is sleep-walking around each day thinking that someone will eventually fix it. Many of the loudest complainers are not even registered voters, yet they complain and moan while too busy to attend a one-hour meeting to even become a part of the solution.
This past Thursday evening, the Dougherty County Taxpayers’ Association provided a free, open-to-the-public property taxpayers workshop, complete with two attorneys who donated their time, tax return forms, and all affidavits necessary to appeal an illegitimate assessment imposed on its citizens in 2007, many of whom continue to pay taxes on property assessed at 20 percent to 50 percent above fair market value. The court system and your elected officials have turned a deaf ear to our requests. Citizens were contacted by email , all media outlets and word of mouth, yet only 190 concerned citizens (most existing members) showed up to represent or fight a battle for over 15,000 affected citizens that were too busy to attend.
We have a broken government and school system because only a hand full of citizens show up or want to get involved, or care enough to run for office. This lethargic or defeated attitude of “someone else will fix it” (or fight my battles for me) renders the inept leadership(?) that pervades our government today, creating even more public apathy — exactly what an inept government has to have to flourish, that is professional bureaucrats who are totally out of touch with those taxpayers who control a disproportionate share of the county’s wealth, resources, technology, and, I dare to say, intelligence, willing to voluntarily surrender it, with out a
fight, to inept bureaucrats who have little or no “skin in the game,” other than keeping their jobs. In the wake of this failure, those who own property not only suffer from excess taxes, but loss of market value of their assets and property because few productive people want to live here, and even fewer consider moving here. (Your property and assets are worth less.)
What is it going to wake up the sleepwalking, taxpaying citizens of Dougherty County before it is too late? It is the bottom of the ninth inning and liberty is at bat. We need players, not cheerleaders and complainers, and our few hundred members cannot win this battle alone.
(Thomas co-chairs the Dougherty County Taxpayers’ Association.)