Is one really better than the other?
Some folks think that because there are more five-man boards in Georgia than single commissioners that Walker County should follow the crowd. I’m not sure about that.
While trying to choose between two options, the first thing I consider is “what do I know that I know?” followed by “what do I know I don’t know?” and then of course there are things that “I don’t know that I don’t know.”
Here are some things I know:
· Walker County had a five-member board from 1873 until 1940.
· The Walker County grand gury on August 1939 reported: “We find our county in a deplorable financial condition…we believe that our bad financial condition is due to the system under which we are operating.”
· The grand jury could not find any fault with any individual board member, but recommended that the county’s legislative delegation introduce an election to vote for a change from a five-man commission to a one-man commissioner. The Georgia Constitution says we can do that. It is the only state in the union that grants the voters that right. Note: the voters must decide this issue, and not an elected official.
· On Sept. 6, 1939 the voters of Walker County voted by almost 2-1 to have a single commissioner as opposed to a board. The board membership can be any number from three to 11 as long as the number is odd.
Here are some things I don’t know:
· How expensive will a five-man board be? I heard the candidate running on the five-man board platform say that $10,000 per year is the most a board member can make.
· What are the qualifications for a board member, and why would anyone want to take a job making less than $200 per week and incur such potential liability. After all, kids flipping hamburgers make more than that.
· Would the county have to furnish liability insurance, health insurance, transportation to and from the meetings? Other counties furnish their members with cars to drive, I am told. I guess this would be something the board members would have to vote on once they were seated. How much would that cost?
· Who will the board hire to run the county? And will he or she do a good job? How much will you have to pay him? $100,000? $150,000? Good help is not cheap, and surely he would make as much as other managers of this type. Then there’s a car, insurance, expense account, etc. I guess all this would be decided by the board. I don’t like guessing about all this, but at this time that’s all I can do.
· How will the county be carved up into districts for each board member to serve, and who decides what this districting will look like? The state maybe? Grand jury?
· How will I know who to vote for board membership in other districts of the county, or will I just vote for the person in my district and not have any say in the rest of the county’s board members. Probably just as well, I wouldn’t know them anyway.
· How good would this board be at getting things done? Will they be responsive to the county’s needs in a timely fashion, or will it be grid-locked like Washington, D.C., unable to agree on the time of day?
Going to a new form of government (five-man board) for Walker County with all these unknowns for me is like looking at a blank sheet of paper. I need a lot more information before I could vote for a change in our present system. I think the only way to know how much a five-man board would cost and how good it would be is after the fact, not before.
Mac Hise, LaFayette