GOP leaders: ‘What’s ethics?’
Witnessing the breaking of our ethical bones, the splatter of our values and expectations, the utter hopelessness of the moment, it is difficult to tolerate the gang-like attitude of our Republican Party in Georgia.
Without a reliable leader, with few willing to take a stand, the party continues to ignore the average citizens. So weak-kneed are the party faithful that they will put up with nearly anything, claiming the ends justify the means.
Down goes the Georgia House of Representatives Speaker Glenn Richardson, but before you begin humming the old Wizard of Oz tune, “Ding dong the witch is dead,” please know the problem is much more systemic.
If you read my columns from the last session of the Georgia General Assembly, you will know I loathe Glenn Richardson. However, one man, no matter how cunning or ruthless, cannot continue his nasty ways without the consent of the majority in the Georgia House of Representatives, including our own from Fayette County.
The Republican majority in the state legislature who claimed to be the champions of ethics and values not only looked the other way, but they bowed down to the man whom they all knew was violating the public trust. And now the Republican legislators have the gall to plead ignorance. How disheartening.
Somehow every Democratic member of the state legislature knew what was going on years ago, but the Republicans did not? That is pure bull manure.
What the frightened Republicans in the state legislature refused to do, the Speaker’s ex-wife did.
One member of the majority had the backbone to challenge Richardson’s malevolent style of leadership. In the last session, Rep. David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) rose to the occasion, but his stand was rifled down by his fellow Republican legislators, too afraid to do the right thing.
Because of his stand in the name of fairness and civility on behalf of the citizens of our great state, Rep. Ralston bore the vengeance and retribution of Speaker Richardson, being stripped of his committee chairmanship and ostracized by the body.
Honesty and courage are rarely rewarded in politics. On the other hand, political cowardice, while advantageous in the political short-term, does little but breed contempt for the legislative process.
How depressing — we have a state legislature where the citizens cannot gain access to records and the legislators rule in the ethics claims against themselves, all by their design.
Please put this in perspective: those same attributes are also found in communist governments and dictatorships around the world.
Give credit to Democrat-turned-Republican Senator Jack Hill. As the Senate Appropriations Committee chairman, Hill has the guts to tell the truth. Countering all the Republican rhetoric about balancing their budget, Hill readily admits, “For all the criticism that’s leveled at the federal government [by Republicans], the state would be in much worse shape were it not for the $3.5 billion it received in the stimulus money” (AJC, 12-2-09).
Sen. Hill and Rep. Ralston, albeit a minority within the Republican Party, present an honest and humble approach which should be touted by the voters in Georgia. Unfortunately, the chest-thumpers, ruling with an iron fist, catering to the special interests catch the voters’ eyes instead.
The Republican-controlled legislature has successfully retained all of the negative characteristics they chided the Democrats on for decades.
You can count on one hand the members of the state legislature who have the moral fiber to stand up for what is right, willing to lift the veil of secrecy and be accountable to the citizens.
On the local scene, the Republican-led Fayette County Board of Education has been disastrous. After the empty Rivers Elementary School debacle, the Republican Party should excommunicate the board from the party for incompetence.
Our all-Republican Fayette County Board of Commissioners is just as bad. Chairman Smith refuses to resign from the board of the bank catering to local developers and homebuilders.
The gang of five commissioners continues to push behind the scenes on their $51 million West Fayetteville Bypass boondoggle, determined to build the meritless project, especially harmful at a time when local governments are looking for funds to provide essential services.
Chairman Smith wants to also bring mass transit to Fayette County. That would mean multi-millions of dollars in additional annual infrastructure costs for a county that says it will only have a total of 250,000 residents. Of course that build-out population estimate was created before Chairman Smith and his bunch got in office.
The communist Chinese manufacturing plant, Sany, received significant tax breaks from Chairman Smith and Mayor Harold Logsdon (now a Republican candidate for state insurance commissioner), but the number of jobs promised has plummeted. Should they keep the same level of tax abatement?
I would like the Republican Party to work, but the days of the Republican Revolution and the Contract with America are long gone. In fact, pundits from both parties miserably admit there is very little difference in the behavior of the politicians on either side.
The somber truth that the nastiest ones make it to the top in politics should not cause us to give up in despair. Rather, I think the pain these politicians cause could be the impetus for real transformation.
The ends do not justify the underhanded means. The party cannot carry a platform on the backs of dishonest brokers and those who lack courage. You have the power to change things in 2010.
[Steve Brown, the former mayor of Peachtree City, ran against and lost to Rep. Matt Ramsey for the District 72 post in December 2007. Brown can be reached at email@example.com.]