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Georgia editorial roundup

May 1, 2019

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

April 29

The Augusta Chronicle on Georgia and SC’s abortion legislation:

Not this year, apparently.

It would have been nice to have seen a powerful one-two punch delivered by state legislators in both Georgia and South Carolina in defense of the most vulnerable of human lives.

At least this year, it looks like it’s only going to be Georgia to have a new state law that would prohibit abortions after a heartbeat is detected in the womb, which can be as early as six weeks. If it already isn’t signed into law by the time you’re reading this, Gov. Brian Kemp will pick up his pen very soon.

“I ran the last two years on these issues, and I got elected with the largest number of votes in the history of the state of Georgia, and I’m doing what I told people I would do,” Kemp said a few weeks ago.

In South Carolina it’s a different story. Last Wednesday that state’s House passed its version of the “heartbeat bill” firmly along party lines. House Democrats were arguing that Republicans push abortion legislation every year “for a soundbite” at the expense of other issues, according to The State newspaper in Columbia.

“This waste of time is sickening to me,” grumbled South Carolina Democratic Rep. David Mack.

Shall it be said, then, that the distinguished legislator from the 103rd District is on the record as referring to protecting the lives of children in the womb as “a waste of time”?

Now the bill is in the state Senate, and with just days to go before the legislative session ends, supporters of the bill simply don’t have the votes. Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, a Republican from nearby Edgefield, told The State that “a lot of interest in trying to push it next year, ... it’s a math question right now. We didn’t have enough (votes) last year, and we have fewer votes this year.”

Massey also sees a replay of last year’s debate. Last year Democrats did with a days-long filibuster, and they’re threatening the same thing now. Republicans have it tough enough just trying to scrape up the sufficient number of votes.

If Senate Republicans have an incentive this year, it’s that they’re all up for re-election in 2020. And every single respecter of human life in the Palmetto State is potentially a foot soldier in this fight - ready to overwhelm senators with phone calls, emails and other social media campaigns to prod them into pushing the bill through.

If they don’t the failed abortion bill might become the one issue that determines who these people vote for next year - and don’t think the senators don’t know it.

With their political lives at stake, politicians need to think about the lives of unborn children.

In Georgia, the bill on the governor’s desk states plainly that “unborn children shall be worthy of recognition as natural persons ...” And the premeditated killing of a human being is murder. It couldn’t be simpler.

If the battle for South Carolina’s heartbeat bill can’t be won this year, we advise lawmakers to immediately start stockpiling their ammo for next year. Who knows how many lives are at stake?

Online: https://www.augustachronicle.com


April 28

The Daily Citizen-News on sales tax proposal:

Odds strongly favored passage of the $100 million Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referendum in March, yet it failed despite an intense pro-SPLOST communication effort. The six-year, 1 percent sales tax would have funded a number of projects throughout Whitfield County and its four cities.

In an April 7 Daily Citizen-News column, commissioners Greg Jones and Barry Robbins shared their perspective on messages heard and lessons learned from that failure. They committed to ”... listen more, work harder and engage with you more effectively.”

We applaud that commitment.

Honestly evaluating the effectiveness of current community communication processes won’t be easy, and it would be a shame if the focus is simply on winning the next SPLOST vote versus using this opportunity to improve how commissioners communicate with the public.

A good start was made this past Monday when our Floyd County neighbors attended the commissioners’ work session and discussed how they actively engage citizens when a SPLOST is under consideration. In short, they use a power sharing process. A volunteer citizens group engages throughout the entire SPLOST process, livestreams their meetings and gets the final say on projects. Commissioners, city councils and citizens are collaborators.

The ineffective counterpoint was Whitfield’s “tell and sell” communication strategy led by the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce. It’s a cheerleading approach without constructive feedback loops. A couple of community meetings seeking project input when the big decisions have already been made discourage broad stakeholder engagement and damage credibility.

But let’s move beyond just revamping a SPLOST communication strategy. How can commissioners foster ongoing productive community engagement? What communication methods optimize transparency and trust?

Let’s get the conversation started.

. During the SPLOST campaign, commissioners held meetings in different parts of the county. Should that be the norm for regular commission meetings to broaden opportunities for dialogue with constituents?

. Use of Municode, a service that helps connect governments to their communities, should be evaluated. The city of Dalton uses this service. One feature of obvious benefit allows citizens to receive advance meeting notifications along with complete agenda packets through email. There is a cost for Municode, but we believe it’s a wise investment for the county.

. The commission meeting format discourages productive citizen engagement. Comments are time restricted and are the last agenda item after voting is complete. Questions, while politely received, may not be answered. The commission must efficiently conduct its business, however, format upgrades could encourage citizen participation.

There are a few easily fixable issues that nag. For example:

. Now that commission meetings will be moved out of Administrative Building 2, consideration should be given to use of existing quality venues. Why not Dalton City Hall, the Dalton Convention Center or the Whitfield County Courthouse jury assembly room?

. Data, especially financial data, should be presented in audience friendly visual formats such as charts and graphs rather than type written documents almost impossible for attendees to read.

. Transparency was called into question when a special called meeting for April 11 listed a single agenda item: “Consideration of a proposed lease.” Lease of what? This, of course, was the consequential meeting resulting in the Wells Fargo building lease for county offices -- a very good option for taxpayers that negates the need to spend most of the proposed $34 million in SPLOST dollars on county buildings -- and likely a meeting of interest to many had they known the topic.

The commissioners get thumbs up for inviting Floyd County officials to educate them and the public on a radically different and proven approach to involving citizens in multi-million dollar SPLOST decisions. We’re also rooting for a more comprehensive communication strategy upgrade. Please join the conversation.

Online: https://www.dailycitizen.news


April 27

The Savannah Morning News on issues facing the Savannah community:

Quite often in recent months, someone in this community will pull a member of our editorial board aside and whisper a question: What is Beacon?

The cryptic answer matches the dictionary definition — a beacon is a guiding light, meant to show the way forward. That explanation also applies to the subject of the hushed queries, the Beacon project.

The Beacon project debuts today with its first issue of a quarterly magazine dedicated to examining the most pressing issues facing the Savannah community. Print home deliver subscribers will find the magazine inserted in their newspaper. Additionally, Beacon content will be available online at www.savannahnow.com/beacon.

The first topic is infrastructure, an increasingly concerning issue in a 300-year-old city that has grown in fits and starts and not always with the same care and planning as General James Oglethorpe showed during the city’s founding. The inaugural Beacon covers connectivity from multiple angles, livability and economic impact foremost among them.

The work started with a question: As our demographics change, our population grows and technology rapidly changes our lives, do we have the infrastructure to support where we need to be in 2033? That question led to more questions.

Publisher Michael Traynor and Executive Editor Susan Catron tapped the knowledge and expertise in our community to identify opportunities to improve our city and region. From there, a talented group of journalists sought out solutions.

You won’t necessarily find definitive answers in Beacon’s pages, but the hope is the stories present ideas and food for thought as we make choices for Savannah’s future.

Therein lies the goal — to get Savannahians thinking beyond the next infrastructure project, the next election, even the next half-decade and talking about innovative ideas to better this community. We hope to foster an ongoing dialogue, and one Savannahians can keep tabs on through the Beacon website. News items and commentary that touch on Beacon topics will be posted on the site as well.

Future Beacon issues will explore other important topics, such as housing affordability, homelessness, jobs and the workforce.

The Savannah Morning News established itself as “the light of the Coastal Empire” many decades ago. Every day, our news team digs into the people, events and decisions that impact our community, shining a spotlight on life in and around Savannah.

Beacon builds on that notion and reputation. This news organization’s role is enlightenment, and the Beacon project allows us to focus on and illuminate both the challenges this community faces along with potential solutions.

What is Beacon? Pick up the magazine or visit the website and find out.

Online: https://www.savannahnow.com