Macon-Bibb County is on a roll. Last November several events occurred that put the area on a different trajectory. The special purpose local option sales tax was approved, directly leading to the acquisition of Tractor Supply’s huge distribution center. That was made possible through funds in the SPLOST dedicated to economic development.
Mayor Robert Reichert was re-elected in a runoff with former Mayor C. Jack Ellis, providing a continuity of leadership, and there were changes in the makeup of our local legislative delegation. David Lucas stepped down from his long-held House seat to run for Senate. Lucas lost to now state Sen. Miriam Paris. Dr. James Beverly was elected to represent Lucas’ former district, ushering in a new level of cooperation.
All of that activity brought the area where it landed Tuesday. After more than 90 years of discussion, five failed attempts to get voter approval and a heated battle, full of truths, half truths and downright lies, consolidation will become a reality many thought would never happen before both governments sunk into insolvency. The one setback, not just for Middle Georgia but for most of the state, was the decision by voters in eight of the 12 regions to turn away an extra penny tax for transportation infrastructure.
The effort to defeat the T-SPLOST locally was spawned in Houston County where the measure lost by 48 points, while only winning in Bibb County by 4 points. This is a setback for those attempting to think regionally. Houston County has expressed its will to go its own way. That’s well and good, but, fences will have to be mended because there is a time coming when the region will have to work collaboratively to support Robins Air Force Base.
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Still, the victory in consolidation sets this community up for greater things in the future. Over the next 18 months planning will take place to assure a smooth transition into a single government entity. There were many reasons voters gave for approving consolidation. Some were looking for efficiency. Others are tired of the status quo because it’s not working anymore. Still others, realized they wanted a say in the direction of the community. The new government will have 10 members rather than 21. Hopefully this will bring new blood into the political process when the new board of commissioners are elected next summer.
We are sure some who attempted to protect their political turf will try to hold on to any fragment of power they have left. However, we suggest they suck it up, roll up their sleeves, and help make consolidation work. That will be more advantageous than sponsoring pity parties.
-- The Editorial Board