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The Monroe County Reporter
Forsyth, Georgia
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October 16, 2019     The Monroe County Reporter
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October 16, 2019
 

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& EDITORIALS "Declare among the nations, and publish, and set up a standard; publish, and conceal not." - Jeremiah 50:2 A 2019, 2018, 2017, 2OI6 winner: Editorial Page e ceJlence ~ 2019, 20111 winner: Besl Headline WrJtinfl 2019 winner: Beg Comrnunily Service 2019 winner:. Best Layout and Design 2019 winner:. Besf Serious Colurnn - Don Daniel ON THE PORCH by Will Davis e If someone tried to reach into your wallet once, you might whack them with your hand. If they tried it again, this being Monroe County, Ga you might introduce them to Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson. If they tried it a third time, well, let's just say that wouldn't be wise on their part. Yet that's what Monroe County is trying to do to its vot- ers in the election that's already underway and will culmi- nate Nov. 5. Your neighbors are already casting ballots on a referendum of whether government should take a bigger portion of your paycheck. Yet this may be the first you've heard about it. More on that later. Suffice it to say that for the third time since 2012, the county is seeking your permission to get into your wallets by raising the sales tax in Monroe County from 7 to 8 percent. Why? To pave more roads. They're calling it a T- SPLOST, or Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. State lawmakers tried this first in 2012, selling it as a regional approach to transportation whereby counties would get together and share tax revenues for area proj- ects. Voters across the state soundly defeated it. Georgians know that government already confiscates way too much money from families. In 2016 Monroe County tried again, this time with promises that more money would stay at the local level. Again, Monroe County voters wisely defeated the tax increase by a significant margin. Yet here we are again. Our elected leaders will not take no for an answer. And they've quietly scheduled this vote on an off-election year hoping to sneak it by the voters. I hope they fail. It was just one year ago that Monroe County taxpayers agreed to renew the county's 1-percent sales tax that will siphon $19 million out of our wallets. About $4 million of that will go to pave local roads. But government is never satisfied They always want more. Elected officials like to call this the penny tax to mini- mize its impact on local families. But think about this: the median household income in Monroe County is $50,666. It is true some things are exempt from sales taxes: Rent or mortgage payments and most groceries. But that's it. Let's conservatively assume that only half that income, $25,000, is spent buying taxable things each year. Under that example, this tax increase would cost the average family $250 per year. And they want to impose it for five years. So that's $1,250 taken away from your family. That leaves families without funds to pay for things like field trips, or new clothes, or medical care for their children. And then consider that once these sales taxes are imposed, they are rarely, if ever, repealed. The Geor- gia legislature first allowed school systems and county governments to impose 1 percent sales taxes in 1985, and Monroe County families have coughed up millions ever since. In the past, elected officials have sold this transporta- tion tax increase as a way to keep paving roads with local money, with the promise of matching dollars from the state. That was the carrot. But now county manager Jim Hedges is suggesting that if voters do not pony up, an increase in property taxes may be required to pay for road improvements. They try this tactic a lot. It's called the stick. I say call their bluff. I don't deny Monroe County roads could use improve- ment. But more important are Monroe County families and their budgets. Every dollar siphoned out of local fami- lies for government diminishes our ability to meet their own needs. Monroe County is a conservative county. We understand that the family and the individual come first. Government comes second. When government is already hitting families with property taxes, sales taxes, death taxes, income taxes and every other kind of tax, then Nov. 5 is a good time for Monroe County taxpayers to tell their elected officials for a third time: "No mas!" And maybe this time, they'll listen. www. MyMCR.net is published every week by The Monroe County Reporter Inc. Will Davis, President. Robert M. Williams Jr Vice President Cheryl S. Williams, Secretary-Treasurer STAFF Wi,Oavis Publisher/Editor publisher@mymcr.net Richard Dumas ~ News Editor forsyth@mymcr.net Carolyn Martel ~ Advertising Manager ads@mymcr.net Trellis Grant Business Manager business@mymcr.net Diane Glidewell Community Editor news@mymcr.net Amy Haisten Creative Director graphics@mymcr.net Official Organ of Monroe County and the City of Forsyth 50 N. Jackson St PO Box 795 Forsyth, GA 31029 Periodicals Postage Paid at Forsyth, GA 31029 POSTMASTER: Send address changes to: THE MONROE COUNTY REPORTER 478-994-2358 SUBSCRIPTION RATE: In County:. $40 Out of County:. $48 - Single Copy: $1 Deadlines noon on Friday prior to Issue. Comments featured on opinion pages are the aeatlon of the writers, the do not necessarily reflect the opinions oflhe Reporter management. Publication No. USPS 997-840 PEACH STATE POLITICS by Kyle Wingfield projections for metro Aflanta's growth over the next three de- cades point to some hard truths not only for people who live there, but also for people who live in Georgia's other major cities and its rural areas. The latest forecast comes by way of a new report fium the Atlanta Regional Commis- sion. The headlines from the report, which is updated every four years, have mostly focused on how metro Atlanta in 2050 will be much bigger - the popula- tion is projected to grow to 8.6 million, an increase of 2.9 million -- and much more diverse: 33% black, 31% white, 21% Hispanic, 14% other. A quick aside before I Continue: If you re won- dering whether I remem- ber that just last week I wrote about the difficulty humans have in predicting the future, the answer is yes. But I also noted we are good at seeing trends, just not anticipating disrup- tive change. Looking at the projections made me wonder whether we ought to seek some disruptive change to alter the trend. What really interested me, though, was the ques- tion of how much of the state's overall growth might be going to metro Atlanta vs. other areas. The ARC report didn't ad- dress statewide growth, but its projections for the region are in line with state estimates. The current forecast by the state Office of Planning and Budget is for metro Atlanta to continue to get the lion's share of growth. Whereas the 21 -county metro area ac- counted for 56.5% of the state's estimated popula- tion in 2017, it's expected to be 62.4% in 2050. The inverse of course is also true: The other 138 counties will account for a smaller proportion of the state's total population. Some 55 counties are projected to lose popula- tion over the next few decades. We are accus- tomed by now to seeing rural counties on that list. What's striking is how many of Georgia's other urban counties join them: Richmond (where Au- gusta is located), Muscogee (Columbus) and Bibb (Macon). Could those counties simply be losing people to their own suburbs? In Augusta's case that's true: Neighboring Columbia County will more than make up for Richmond County's losses. But metro Columbus is expected to lose about 41,000 people by 2050, and metro Macon about 8,500. The Albany metro area is also projected to shrink, by more than 22,000 people. Among the state's other metro areas, only Adl~n~ and Savannah are forecast to grow faster than the state average, though nei- ther is expected to keep up with metro Atlanta's pace. Areas including Brunswick and Dalton figure to grow, but slowly For me, all these data boil down to two essentials. First, reviving rural Georgia will be nearly impossible if the state's sec- ond-tier cities are stagnant or shrinking. Southwest Georgia needs a strong Al- bany to be its regional hub. The same goes for middle Georgia and Macon, west Georgia and Columbus. At the moment, that's not how things are shaping up. Second, it's in metro Atlanta's own interest for the rest of the state to grow more quickly than the cur- rent trends. The population declines in some counties may mostly be about deaths outpacing births. But in many, maybe most, cases, one big factor is the con- tinued migration toward the state's biggest city. That shift puts a strain on their resources, but also on metro Atlanta's. For the declining coun- ties, depopulation means a smaller tax base to maintain vital services. For metro Atlanta, such rapid population growth will be difficult, if not impossible, to accommodate with infrastructure, from roads to schools. I'm not suggesting Albany or Dalton will, or should, challenge Atlanta's status. The big city is going to get bigger. But more balanced growth would alleviate some of the inbound pressure Atlanta faces, while also better distributing the burden of maintaining state services and functions. The trick, naturally, is how to do that. But acknowledging how much worse the imbalance stands to grow is a neces- sary start. The president and CEO of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, Kyle Wingfield's column runs in papers around the state of Georgia. BACK 'N' FORTH by Bill Weaver ffmoere are 16 handicapped arking spaces outside the nt doors of the westem- ost entrances to the Walmart and Ingles stores in For- syth- eight reserved parking spaces at each store. More times than I can remember I've walked by cars parked in those spaces and grumbled in disgust because some of the people I've seen going to or from their vehide looked pretty spry and hardly looked handi- capped at all. SOMETIMES THE vehicles in those spaces didn't seem prop- erly permitted. Either they didn't have a tag hanging from their rearview mirror or they didn't have the wheelchair symbol on their license plate, or both. BUT IT'S not like I live in these parking lots to know ff this is a big problem. How could I know? those spaces during that hour. Of the 22 vehicles, I counted only three that didn't have a hang tag or a designated license plate. Over at Ingles, the eight spaces were never full. Only 13 vehicles used them during the hour I was there. Only one vehicle without a handi- capped tag or plate used a space, and that driver didn't get out of the car but apparently was picking up some- one. All other vehicles using those spaces had the hang tag or the license plate. SO, TO my surprise and delight, the vast majority of people using these parking spaces had the tag or plate auth rizing them to park there. That's a good thing, so con- gratulations Monroe motorists. The more difficult part of this "research" was determining if the people getting out of those vehicles were the "handi- capped" people for whom the permits were issued. SUNDAY AFTERNOON I spent an hour parked in the Walmart lot watching those eight handicapped parking spaces, then spent an hour watching the eight spaces at Ingles. My hour at Walmart was from noon to 1, then I went to Ingles for the next hour. Herds some of what I observed: THE WALMART parking spaces were rarely emp . When one opened up someone else quickly took it. I counted 22 different Vehicles using OF COURSE, not all handicaps are visible, but based solely on my observation RI guess only about 60 percent of the people were the permit holder. The other 40 percent might have been using the permit for their own parking convenience, not as a convenience for a handicap. MY CONCLUSIONS from this simple little exercise were these: MOST PEOPLE are honest about not using the spaces without a visible handicapped permit. It was much better than IU imagined. Many people park where the permit allows even though the permit holder isn't present. It was worse than Ikl imagined. IS THIS a big deal? Not to us able- bodied shoppers, but it is if you are handicapped and need those park- ing spaces because of your limited mobili . WHAT CAN be done? Those who can walk, should, and they should leave the parking spaces for those who can't. Also, if Forsyth police officers are on routine patrol they would encourage compliance if they simply drove by, stopped, got out and checked a few vehicles. The mere threat of getting a ticket would be a deterrent. THOSE OF us who don't need these parking spaces should be thankful we don't. We owe those who do the courtesy of our compliance. Bill Weaver lives in northern Mon- roe County. He can be reached via email at billweaver81 l @gmail.corn. Back in June, Monroe County paid $2,765 for an investi- gative report into a county empiol~'s allegation that commissioner Larry Evans harassed her for not hiring his "niece". But commissioners have refused to let the who paid for the report, see if. They've kept it hidden from public view. Only District 3 commission- er John Ambrose supports letting the public see it. If you think you have the right to see the report, tell your commissioner or call the office at 994-7000 and let them know. Meanwhile, we will count days y've he their constit e in the dark until itS, eosed. ,