Commissioner Joe Allen has proposed reducing the number of County Commissioners from the current nine to five. His most widely stated reason is eliminating the arguing and rancor that we constantly endure with this elected body.
This would require a legislation change passed by our state government and approved by the governor. Is this a good move or bad move? Let us explore the current situations and the future predictions with a little civics lesson.
Every state government as well as our national government has two bodies that develop and approve legislation. In the federal government they are known as the House of Representatives and the Senate. Each body has a different number of members and their election cycles are different. This is called a bicameral system of government.
The reasoning behind the bicameral form of government for making laws is to provide checks and balances to prevent a runaway government. On top of this is the governor or the president. They have final approval or veto of legislation. It requires more than a simple majority to override a veto.
Macon-Bibb County does not have a balanced, bicameral form of government. We have one legislating body: the commission. Also, a mayor with a veto. Other than the mayor, there is no check against a runaway commission. This has been painfully on display with the repeated proposals that violate the Georgia Code of Ethics and pandering to favorite programs at the behest of special interests.
Just suppose Commissioner Allen’s change to five commissioners is approved. Any three out of the five will pass routine business. You now must require four commissioners to vote in favor of new spending plans and to override a mayor’s veto. If only three are required, I guarantee that you will have a runaway commission that does not care for the best interest of all the county, just their special interests or pet projects.
You can change the number of commissioners from the current nine and not remedy the problems Commissioner Allen alleges he wants to address. You cannot legislate civil decorum or stop bullying, name calling, racial slurs and temper tantrums thrown against another commissioner — all because someone dared to disagree with you!
If some of our commissioners are as brilliantly bright as they think they are, why does the Bibb County light bulb burn so dimly? Whether you have nine or 19 commissioners, bad behavior cannot be eliminated by laws.
The solution is not changing the number of commissioners. It is electing mature, civil and open-minded men and women to the commission. Men and women who, although elected from a district, have the courage to do what is in the best interest of all citizens of Macon-Bibb County.
Leave the charter alone. Elect new blood to fill the commission seats.
Mike Odom is a resident of Macon.