Opinion Columns & Blogs

ERICKSON: Indictments waiting to happen

Members of the Macon-Bibb County Commission want the mayor to give each of them $1 million to oversee the removal of blight from their districts. The mayor had a different idea. The mayor wants to pool the money in concentrated areas, particularly along the Second Street Corridor, and eradicate the most visible blight in the community.

Letting each commission member directly control a million dollars is an FBI investigation and indictment waiting to happen. It will make the days of C. Jack Ellis look sane and lawful.

On top of that, have you been to north Macon? My wife and I have an older friend and lifelong Maconite who once remarked that she was sure a recently deceased friend had taken up residence on the “north side of heaven.” Rich, third-generation Maconites make sure their yards are in pristine condition and pray for the day the Junior League asks to tour their kitchens.

The blight in north Macon is an electronic billboard too bright at night or the wrong shade of white painted on someone’s house. North Macon does not need a million dollars to tear down blighted properties. To their credit, the two north Macon commissioners, Mallory Jones and Gary Bechtel, voted against creating nine Third World slumlords in need of an FBI investigation.

But the rest of the commission saw dollar signs and they want the money. To be fair, in their hearts, I am sure they think they will spend the money wisely. They are sure they will tear down the right properties. Never mind they happen to be related to the people who want their property cleared at your expense. Never mind they happen to be recipients of campaign dollars from local slumlords wanting sudden taxpayer-funded improvements in their neighborhoods.

The whole thing is asking for national headlines, perp walks and charges of racism when the indictments come down. We may get a Lifetime movie out of this that could premiere at a future Macon movie festival. It’ll be a chance for an up and coming new cast of Hollywood actors to practice fake Southern voices. Whoever masters the mayor’s righteous indignation and “I told you this would happen” fury will be guaranteed an Emmy.

And the mayor is right, by the way. Economic development does tend to start from a core area. As the tourism builds and the commerce builds, it begins to spread. Focusing the efforts in a blighted area that is destined for renaissance is the logical way to start. Concentrate on and improve that area and the improvements begin to spread.

Just head downtown to Cherry Street on a week night. There are actually people there who are not homeless. They have homes, but they have driven down there to eat. Parking at night is now as big a pain in the rear as parking in the daytime. It is already happening. Concentrating on the Second Street Corridor makes sense.

Unfortunately, seven members of our commission are blinded by Dr. Evil like thoughts of one million dollars of your money to spend on their aunt’s old house. At the end of the Lifetime Movie, we will see the future. Terry O’Quinn, who played John Lock in “Lost,” will be sitting on the steps of the Government Center and, in his best Robert Reichert impression, will stare forlornly down Cotton Avenue and his voice-over will say, “One day we will turn this area around. And maybe this is what it took for that commissioner to meet his new husband in Hancock State Prison.”

Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.