Consolidation must wait for another time - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Consolidation must wait for another time

December 5, 2006

Albany --  Many Dougherty County voters aren't happy that the commission bypassed them in making a decision on government consolidation.   They aren't the only ones. The consolidation study committee which spent years researching the issue, says the whole thing was mishandled. Tonight, one of the commissioners who voted against it says he was elected to speak for the people and a public referendum on the issue isn't necessary.      

The recommendations of two study committees fell by the wayside when county commissioners failed to adopt the charter.  "The commission effectively has short circuited that process and at this point, the voters don't have any recourse," said Charter Commissioner Don Kea.

Don Kea served on both the consolidation study commission and charter commission. He researched, studied and traveled to communities that were consolidated and is amazed that the process came to such a sudden stop.

"I was stunned, absolutely stunned that they could do such a thing," Kea said. "It was obvious that the people are the ones to decide on issues like this, and for the commission to decide that they know better than the thousands of people who are registered voters in Albany Dougherty County is absurd to me."

Art Searles, who voted against the charter, says he's better informed than the voters and he should be the one making the decision. Searles says, "You start talking about, 'Let's let the people decide.' We live in an apathetic society. Those folks that live in my district elected me to make these kinds of decisions. Now if that's arrogant, I'm sorry."

City Commissioner Bo Dorough says he's sorry too. Sorry that the people won't get a chance to vote on the charter, nor will the city commission.  "As a citizen I feel very disappointed. As a commissioner, I feel it is an injustice in so far as a great deal of money has been devoted to the study, volunteers their time and participation in the process."

He believes that regardless of how a commissioner feels about consolidation that they should let the charter go to the people so they can decide. Dorough says, "Once the referendum was presented to voters, then those commissioners would have had the opportunity to express their opinions, and even call on their constituents and supporters to oppose consolidation."

But the possibility of consolidation is still alive. Any of the commissioners who opposed it, can ask that it be placed back on the agenda.   "Now that it's defeated, I don't want to touch it anymore."

So will he make changes and put it back on the table? "Oh no. No, no, no. I'm done with this, I hope."

But Kea hopes the three dissenters will re-consider and that the issue will come up for a vote again.

Art Searles says he's mainly opposed to consolidation because it would require changing the charter which would call for non partisan races, off year elections and low pay for commissioners.    

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