Political Notebook: What’s wrong with this picture?

January 10, 2014 

There’s an extra smiling face in an official picture of the new Macon-Bibb County government. After one of their December meetings to get up to speed on preparations for consolidation, commissioners posed for a group photo at the Middle Georgia Regional Commission office. That shot is now at the top of the commission page on the new government’s website, www.maconbibb.us.

The photo includes 10 people, but there are just eight commissioners now in office. One of the extra people is not out of place: It’s Mayor Robert Reichert, who presides over the new commission. But also in the shot, between Commissioners Mallory Jones and Elaine Lucas, is former Macon City Councilman Larry Schlesinger.

What’s he doing there? Well, Schlesinger did win a runoff election for the District 2 commission seat by 26 votes, but fellow former Councilman Henry Ficklin successfully sued to get a third round of balloting due to several dozen voters being wrongly left out of that district. So Schlesinger isn’t officially a commissioner. Which one takes the seat will be decided Tuesday.

Ficklin is upset the photo is on the website.

“I really think it’s wrong,” said Ficklin, who told The Telegraph he left a message with County Manager Dale Walker. “I was there when that picture was taken. It’s giving (Schlesinger) the upper hand.”

Third time’s the charm

Macon-Bibb County District 2 voters will return to the polls from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to settle an election. The election, between Henry Ficklin and Larry Schlesinger, is a repeat of a runoff election that a judge voided because of election errors.

Want to verify your election district? Call the Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections at (478) 621-6622.

Information about the election also is available at www.macon.com/elections online.

Bell vs. tax assessors redux

Macon resident Martin Bell, who has crossed swords with the Macon-Bibb County Board of Tax Assessors before, took to the commission chambers at the Government Center on Friday to discuss his latest battle.

About three years ago, Bell contested the assessments on four of his properties, which he said were overvalued to the tune of about $357,000. When he tried to talk to assessors about the situation, he said, they told him he would have to file a lawsuit for them to try to work out the impasse.

Now, he said, the tax assessors office has finally agreed with him on the assessment values. But the office initially balked at paying his attorneys fees and court costs until recently, as Georgia law provides. Bell said he and his attorney, Randall Harrison, finally received $19,000, and Bell also estimated that the county spent about $40,000 defending the case. (Bell said he spent about $9,000 out of pocket in the fight.)

All that, he said, is a waste of taxpayers’ money and cost about $60,000 “for a vindictive attack on me.”

Chief Appraiser Andrea Crutchfield could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

Bell said he went to the lengths he did to protect taxpayers’ rights. He also said there’s a need for a taxpayers’ advocacy group in Macon.

Senate debate set for Macon

Georgia Republicans are planning a series of seven debates before the Republican primary election for a U.S. Senate seat.

One of those is set for 6 p.m. March 8 in Macon. Other details -- including the location -- have not been announced for the Macon debate.

The only debate with a confirmed location is the first one, at 6 p.m. Jan. 18 at the Cook County High School Performing Arts Center, 9900 Ga. 37, Adel. That’s basically a straight shot down Interstate 75, but it’s about a two-hour trip from most of Middle Georgia.

Do we need a committee on committees on committees?

The new Macon-Bibb County government has been in place for more than a week, and has held two formal meetings, but its committee structure has yet to be worked out.

As was the practice of the previous city and county governments, the full body broke up into committees to discuss legislation on specific topics: finance, public safety, government property, etc. But so far the new commission has only worked as a “committee of the whole,” since the number and orientation of individual committees hasn’t been decided. Settling on five-member committees is about as far as commissioners have gotten.

Much of the rest will be decided by a “committee on committees,” which is the only one that’s supposed to have three members.

But so far, our leaders haven’t even decided who’ll hold the third seat on that body. Mayor Robert Reichert and Mayor Pro Tem Bert Bivins take two of the spots.

Commissioner Elaine Lucas put in her bid to become the third member. If she’s not chosen, she said, Commissioner Ed DeFore would be a good choice.

“I think you ought to honor folks who have been in office that long,” she said.

Commissioner Gary Bechtel spoke up to nominate himself for the third seat. The long discussion that followed settled nothing.

Who blabbed?

When Mayor Robert Reichert quickly ran through the agenda for the new Macon-Bibb County Commission’s first regular meeting on Tuesday, he closed by warning commissioners against making sidelong remarks or anything else they don’t want to share with the public.

“Remember, your microphones are hot all the time,” he said.

Young Gamechangers program begins

GeorgiaForward began its second annual Young Gamechangers program Thursday, bringing together in Dublin 35 of the state’s promising leaders under the age of 40. This year’s goal is to re-envision the Dublin area as a vibrant 21st century community.

Participants’ careers range from government and law to business, education, arts and culture.

About half of this year’s participants have ties to Middle Georgia, including this year’s director, Kris Hattaway, director of place for NewTown Macon. A complete list of participants is at www.tinyurl.com/me9eso5 online.

Writers Oby Brown, Jim Gaines, Phillip Ramati and Mike Stucka contributed to this report.

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