Monday, September 26, 2005

Mayoral Candidate Johnson: Goodbye Unified Govt.?

The Sunday ABH reports (we couldn't find a link, did the ABH deliberately snub Blake?) that mayoral candidate Keith Johnson has advanced one of the biggest new ideas in the election so far. Ok, actually, the biggest, no question. Possibly doing away with the unified government model and going back to separate city and county governments.

We're not so sure about this one. Now, Johnson's reasoning - that rural (mostly living on the north side of the county) residents are still not getting equal access to water, sewer, and garbage service - is sound, and we agree with him that it needs to be fixed yesterday. And don't get us started on the whole fire protection issue over there. (Did five-points really need a new station worse than north Athens needed one at all? Oh, and your clock tower looks like a phallus) We're glad that Johnson is actually talking about this issue, and we'll hope that if he's elected, he'll do more than pay lip service to it.

But, we're not so sure about scrapping the unified government to accomplish it. Unified government is not the issue here. The issue is the ACC Commission which seems to care more about smoking bans, rental registration, and playing politics with the local judiciary than it does with the real quality of life issues that affect residents outside of Cedar Creek, Five Points, Boulevard, and Cobbham. To be really blunt, perhaps one issue is their representation on the ACC Commission. Harry Sims has been there for a few terms, he was just re-elected last year. We know he's one voice out of eleven, and he can't do anything unilaterally, but we wonder why after his time on the Commission, this issue is still largely unresolved. We like Harry, and we don't want to question his effectiveness or his integrity (which is very strong), but it does make one wonder.

The problem here, as we see it, can be solved from the inside out, without resorting to upending the entire structure. As one of our friends here has pointed out, the office of mayor isn't super-powerful, but it's a great bully pulpit. If Johnson is elected, we hope he'll lend his voice and his pulpit to the people who are trying to advance sewers over surveillance cameras, and city water over smoking bans.

Still, we'd like to give Keith Johnson some props for being one of two candidates who are talking about issues. (The other being Andy Rusk.)

Somewhere between unassailable fact and unsubstantiated rumor lies our email address.


Jmac said...

Johnson is one of those unusual candidates. I've always admired the focus he brings to issues like poverty, service for North Athens and the rural areas, etc. But it seems like the prescriptions to remedy the problems are a bit out there.

Scrapping consolidation? There are plenty of places where the unified governments are quite cumbersome (see Augusta-Richmond County), but not here. If he really wants to restructure local government, perhaps something to give the mayor a little more clout rather than being the tie-breaking vote.

Anonymous said...

Keith Johnson consistently provides at least 2 forms of entertainment:
1) listening to him butcher the English language and trying to count the rapid-fire errors in diction

2) trying to figure out which side of the issue he was on when he finishes speaking

The debates are going to be truly interesting with Andy Rusk and Keith Johnson! At last, a reason to listen to politicians - entertainment!

Adrian said...

The strong-mayor form should be considered if one wants to talk real governmental change. And if you want to benefit a rural, lower-income district, then splitting up the tax bases is the COMPLETE OPPOSITE of what you want to do. Some of those supposedly over-represented neighborhoods are also outside of the old city limits -- would Johnson want to draw new ones?