The Debate on Regionalism is Heating Up
Last month, grassroots volunteers attended a forum on regionalism sponsored by the AJC and PNC Bank. The panel featured Steve Brown, Eva Galambos, Tad Leithead, and Ellen Mayer. A number of you attended, wore Repeal Regionalism buttons and handed out information flyers which directed people to the www.RepealRegionalism.com website. Our presence and website got a brief mention in the next day’s AJC paper.
Last Sunday, the AJC ran an editorial that featured a summary of the panels comments. You can read that here: http://www.repealregionalism.com/index.php/close-enough-or-too-far-apart/
We were contacted Wednesday to write an op-ed for today’s AJC Atlanta Forward opinion page. The following was our contribution. There’s a link at the bottom to read the other opinions in favor and join the debate on the AJC blog. We need to keep informing citizens about the dangers of regionalism. If we stand on principle and continue to be persistent, we can win the debate.
Thanks for your involvement and support. Stay engaged…
Regional control isn’t local
April 25, 2013
By Field Searcy
The nice thing about local government is that citizen voters can control it. People know who their local city councilmen and county commissioners are because they live nearby, and they were elected. If citizens do not like local government decisions, they simple elect someone who will serve them better. Now, try asking your neighbor, “Who serves on the board of our Regional Commission?” and watch the puzzled look on their face. Most citizen voters are unaware who is serving in these positions of authority because the members are either appointed or don’t run for the position.
Regionalism as implemented in Georgia is an unelected and unaccountable form of government that dilutes the power people have over government decision-making. The U.S. Constitution guarantees each state a republican form of government, which means sovereignty rests with the people, and representatives are “chosen by the people.”
Regional governance lacks these checks and balances because regional commissions are in essence appointed by an operation of law. For example, 15 of the 38 members of the Atlanta Regional Commission are appointed citizen members who have absolutely no accountability to voters. Also, most of the elected officials on regional entities have no accountability to your county or city. You can’t control the actions of regional governments, because you can’t control most of the regional board members.
Many of the appointed members have their own agendas.
The rise of regionalism, like what we get from the Transportation Investment Act (TIA), comprises another layer of government between the local city-county and state government. This new layer of bureaucracy diminishes the local control and authority of city and county governments for self-government through “home rule” as provided for in the Georgia Constitution. Local control is further buttressed by the founders’ belief, “That government closest to the people governs best!”
Creating a regional tax base or regional equity is a form of central planning. The problems created in one county are paid for by taxpayers from another. The Georgia Constitution requires that state-level taxation be uniform and equal across the state. Citizens across the state will be furious when they discover their tax dollars — $8.6 million so far — are being used to subsidize bus fares for Georgia Regional Transportation Authority Xpress service that serves metro Atlanta commuters.
Regional cooperation is necessary, and flexible solutions need to be developed to allow counties to work together to solve problems of mutual interest. However, regional governance and taxation as implemented in Georgia means more bureaucracy, more taxes and less accountability. The majority of metro Atlantans and voters across the state said they don’t like regional power grabs or mandated regionalism. Regional taxation and governance needs to be repealed.
Field Searcy, a Cobb County resident, represents www.RepealRegionalism.com, an education campaign by the Transportation Leadership Coalition. The coalition led the grassroots effort against the Regional Transportation Tax (T-SPLOST) in 2012.