Guest Column by Rep. Mike Jacobs, Dist. 80
Every week during the legislative session, the members of the Georgia House of Representatives from DeKalb County hold a meeting to discuss state legislative issues affecting the county. These meetings are usually held on Mondays at noon in the Coverdell Legislative Office Building, across the street from the State Capitol. If you’re in the neighborhood, you should drop in and visit.
The DeKalb Delegation meeting that was held on Jan. 25 was an eye-opener. It included a visit from three of our county commissioners, members of the commission staff, and representatives of the CEO’s office, although not the CEO himself. The tension between the commission’s and CEO’s representatives was palpable, and it nearly grew into open hostility when the commissioners made their presentation.
There appears to be a turf war brewing between the county commission and CEO. My request to these elected officials is a simple one: knock it off. At a time that tax revenues at all levels of government are slumping, citizens are hurting financially, and the county is considering an ill-advised property tax increase to prop up a budget that became seriously bloated after eight years of Vernon Jones, the last thing we need is posturing from county politicians.
The not-so-subtle hostility between the county commission and CEO’s office appears to be related to a December proposal by the commissioners to completely eliminate the CEO position. Because it deals with the basic structure of the county government, that proposal would require the approval of DeKalb’s state legislators. It came out of left field and was not expected by the legislative delegation. If necessary, I will see to it that any such legislation is defeated.
The commissioners also are requesting that we give them the power to approve their own contracts with outside vendors, rather than working through the CEO. Not even the state legislature has the kind of contracting power they are requesting. It simply isn’t a legislative function, and it’s a power that is a breeding ground for cronyism and corruption. This, too, is a proposal that is dead on arrival.
In 2008, the General Assembly passed and the voters approved reforms that enabled the county commission to conduct and set the agenda for its own meetings. This completely removed the CEO’s involvement in those meetings and strengthened the checks and balances between the CEO and county commission. Any further reforms, however, should have the approval of both the CEO and commission before state legislators give them any consideration.
In the meantime, if the county commission is looking for a way to leverage the existing checks and balances that are already built into our county government, I have a recommendation: Defeat the CEO’s proposal for a property tax increase. Rather than posturing to gain a political upper-hand over the CEO, that’s a tangible action your taxpaying constituents will appreciate.
Jacobs (R-Brookhaven) can be reached at (404) 441-0583 or firstname.lastname@example.org.