Opinion Columns & Blogs

Parking meter profits, joining Macon airport with Atlanta’s are thoughts on his mind

Some bits and pieces:

The Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority has spent more than it has made on installing parking meters in downtown Macon. According to some news reports, the authority spent $405,000.00 installing the meters and has not generated enough revenue to turn a profit. I think that news is actually pretty stellar. The meters have not been in place for much more than six months. Of course, the costs are going to be more than the profit up front. But long term the potential is there for more and the profit will be used to improve downtown Macon.

A rumor circulating downtown is that some members of the Macon-Bibb County Commission want to exempt themselves from having to pay the meters. Such an effort should be opposed. The reality is that there is now available parking downtown. More people can go downtown. In fact, just from personal experience, the number of trips downtown my family takes has increased pretty significantly. We used to talk ourselves out of going downtown because of the parking hunt. Now I cannot remember the last week we avoided downtown. From Decadent, Your Pie, and Taste & See on Poplar to the Rookery and Travis Jean Emporium on Cherry, my wife, my kids and I are very likely to go downtown these days for more than church on Sunday. If you have not visited the restaurants opening along Poplar Street, you are missing out.

Georgia’s Legislature is thinking of taking over the Atlanta airport. It makes sense. The airport is the single largest economic engine in the state and it is wholly controlled by the mayor of Atlanta. Atlanta is blessed by a competent mayor. No one can argue that Mayor Keisha Bottoms is not a good steward. Though she and I may have political disagreements, she has Atlanta’s best interests at heart. But the airport affects way more than Atlanta and its control by a single politician in a single city should give us all heartburn.

I think the legislature should also take control of the Middle Georgia Regional Airport and put it with Atlanta’s airport into an airport authority. I have long thought the local government in Macon lacks the foresight and will to expand and improve the local airport, which could be a greater economic engine for Middle Georgia. I can remember, only a few years ago, Mayor Robert Reichert wanting to expand the runway and some of the council actually argued that most of the airport’s employees did not live in Bibb County, so why bother. While the mayor has been a great champion of the airport, both Atlanta and Macon could benefit by joint planning. The calls for another airport grow more loudly in Atlanta. There is no land in north Georgia really suitable at a decent cost. Atlanta and Macon having a combined airport authority would benefit us all.

Macon-Bibb County has a $2.3 million deficit and will take money from reserves. This is the fourth consecutive year the city will take money from reserves. We spent all this time and effort consolidating the two governmental entities. Perhaps we should take more time to really start the whole budgeting process over from scratch. It seems like we are missing some fundamentals in the process. We are not a billion dollar corporation, which has to provide analysts future earnings projections. But our government does have taxpayers to whom it must account. That accounting, right now, is rather doubtful.

Erick Erickson is host of Atlanta’s Evening News on WSB Radio.