Times are tough — governments need to check their priorities

Steve Brown's picture

When times get tough, you had better check your priorities.

When you view our economic crisis through the prism of what is truly important to our country, a lot of things can be thrown out while we should be truly fighting for others to remain.

The recent elections across the country are really about lost priorities. The senatorial race in Massachusetts was a resounding call for a federal realignment of priorities on a number of issues.

Because tax increases in hard economic times are taboo, there has to be an established order of importance when it comes to spending, but many of us would contend that priorities are important even in the years of plenty.

In Peachtree City, the mayor and council voted down a pay raise; that’s a darn good start in the realignment process.

I was infuriated when the Logsdon administration chose to make severe cuts to the library hours and elected to use comparable funds for 15 minutes of July fireworks.

I like fireworks as much as the next guy, but not at the cost of limiting a year-round venue that caters to a sizable and diverse cross-section of our population.

While other cities and counties were canceling their expensive fireworks displays last year or finding corporate sponsors, we hacked away at the venue which is the symbol of our city’s intellectual capital.

Priorities should be based upon principles. If do not stand for anything, you are liable to make some poor decisions. A prime example is the West Fayetteville Bypass and the empty new Rivers Elementary School adjoining it.

Reading where the Fayette County Board of Commissioners and the Fayette County Board of Education are sobbing about their budgets when they committed to massive wasteful spending projects demonstrates there are some core principles that need to be restored.

The poor decisions related to the bypass project are now having a domino effect with our county commissioners wanting to abolish the Ga. Highway 74 and I-85 interchange in order to give their feeble bypass some interstate access at Ga. Highway 92. It is the only way they can justify building their bypass.

Governor Perdue wants to begin siphoning funds out of the HOPE lottery reserve accounts to help balance the budget. Where are the principles or priorities in that disastrous ploy?

Our state Representative Matt Ramsey has listed his priorities in the newspapers for the last couple of weeks. Unfortunately, he never mentions ethics reforms as one of those priorities.

As the ruined House Speaker Glenn Richardson proved, the nasty allure of lobbyist perks and the lack of viable ethics enforcement in the legislature means the people of our great state are low on the priority list.

To quote conservative columnist Jim Wooten, “Legislators should make it illegal, too, for them or their staff to ask lobbyists to pick up tabs of any sum for any purpose. Money is only part of the influence problem.” Does anyone disagree that this matter should be a top priority for our representative in the legislature?

A year ago, no one in their right mind could have predicted a Republican would take over the Senate seat of the late Senator Kennedy in Massachusetts. Nevertheless, a perfect storm is brewing across this country where a depressed people are finding their priorities are not aligning with those of their elected officials or the lobbyists.

The average citizen has but one weapon against elected officials who go astray, a single vote, combined with the ballots of other disenfranchised voters, creating a rare political tidal wave, clearing the way for a new perspective.

In difficult times, politicians begin to sweat under the microscope of public analysis. Tolerance for misbehavior fades away quickly.

Smart politicians will check their priorities or suffer the consequences.

[Steve Brown is the former mayor of Peachtree City. He can be reached at stevebrownptc@ureach.com.]

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