What a great column on annexation in Macon; and the message applies to so many cities: Are you in or out?
Oh woe, Mayor Robert Reichert has unveiled a plan to annex a 26-square mile area of Bibb County where 13,300 people live comfortably ensconced.
Some folks are going bonkers, and I'm surprised they're surprised. Mayor Reichert is doing exactly what he said he'd do during his campaign. Imagine that, a politician who actually tries to do what he said he'd do?
One quote in Friday's paper really puzzled me. State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, said he had heard from a "lot of people" and they were "overwhelmingly against" annexation. Peake said, "a lot are saying, 'we moved to the county to get out of the city.'"
If I had been Peake, I would have probed a bit deeper. I would have asked, "How can you get away from the city by moving to the county?" I wonder where those "lots of people" work, inside or outside city limits? I would have asked those lots of folks if they could survive without Macon's infrastructure? What roads would they drive on and where would they shop? And here's the biggie. How would the county attract business development without the city being here?
There are plenty of questions to ask, such as do they favor streamlined, efficient governments, ones that don't send trash trucks down one side of the street on one day and the other side of the street the next? I would have also asked: "What did they think of Warner Robins' growth? And did they realize annexation was the prime tool Mayor Donald Walker used to grow that city's tax base and in the process, lower taxes?
Some people who would be affected by annexation are now touting the values of consolidation/unification. Yes, consolidation/unification is what needs to happen, but residents have never been on that bandwagon. Until annexation talk fired up, consolidation was a nasty word hardly repeated in polite company.
A little consolidation history. There were two study groups in the 1920s, starting in 1923. Three study groups in the '30s, two each in the '40s, '50 and '60s, three in the 1970s, five in the '80s and three in the 1990s, the last being in 1998. Votes were taken in 1933, 1947, 1960, 1972 and 1976. They all failed.
State Sen. Robert Brown and former Bibb Chairman Larry Justice proposed consolidation measures to the Legislature. In 1997, then state Rep. Reichert, tried and failed. Though former mayor C. Jack Ellis mostly paid lip service to consolidation/unification, he finally got 'round to it and appointed Reichert co-chair of another failed 2004 attempt.
What's the definition of insanity? Why, oh why would Reichert want to face that buzz-saw again?
Enter annexation. If you can't eat the whole elephant, try to gobble little bits of the pachyderm.
The mayor has also drawn criticism for suggesting the state Legislature has the power to change the city's boundaries. It does. The Legislature has the power to exercise its will on every municipality in the state. The only time lawmakers feign powerlessness and proclaim "the people must vote" is when a hot potato issue lands in their laps, like annexation. They make other less controversial, but no less important, decisions every day, all in the name of the people they were elected to represent.
We've asked our new mayor to come into office and fix things. We all know the city needs to grow, and it needs to grow now. Reichert's motto, "Together we can," is not just a nice saying.
People in the county always complain about not having a real say in city politics. I understand, I'm one who feels disenfranchised. My mail comes to a Macon street address. I work in Macon and use its services. I don't tell people I live in Bibb County - "Where is that, they would ask." The only time I'm not considered a Macon resident is when it comes time to vote in city elections.
I don't care that city limits sign are a couple of miles away from my home. The fact is, if Macon were not there, I wouldn't be here.