Can elected officials completely ignore the wishes of their constituents and escape being cast out of office?
Last week, despite overwhelming voter sentiment against the measure, citizens in neighboring Gwinnett County were slapped with a 21 percent increase in the county portion of their property taxes.
Earlier this year, Gwinnett taxpayers nearly revolted when commissioners proposed a 30 percent hike. Bowing to public pressure, the commissioners voted against the increase and vowed to cut the budget as needed.
Less than five months later, commissioners decided they should not have to make due with less money and proposed raising taxes again. This time, in a 4-1 vote, they did it.
Commissioner Kevin Kennerly, the most vocal proponent of the tax increase, was widely quoted as saying, "I’m asking everyone … to sacrifice for the county on (a) movie ticket and one Diet Coke (a month) to protect every citizen of the county."
A movie ticket and a Diet Coke?! He is assuming people still have money left for such frivolities in their budgets.
In a time when everyone else is being forced to cut back and live within their means, this group of politicians, in an unbelievable act of hubris, expects that citizens should just slash their budgets further so that the county does not have to do so.
The 2.28 mill increase means 63 percent of homeowners in Gwinnett County will pay approximately $168 more per year in property taxes. Another 30 percent will pay almost $300 in additional taxes.
Unfortunately for the citizens in Gwinnett County, three of the four commissioners who voted for the tax increase are not up for re-election until 2012. The fourth, whose term expires this year, claims he will not seek re-election.
The Barrow County Board of Commissioners may have its fair share of problems right now, but at least the members have not slapped the voters in the face the way their Gwinnett County counterparts have done.
We should not have to ask those in office to spend within their means. We should not have to ask politicians to refrain from placing an additional burden on taxpayers who are struggling as is. We should not have to ask politicians to abide by the same rules by which the rest of us must live. It seems as if these would be obvious expectations. Clearly, they are not.
Politicians, both locally and nationally, seem to be suffering from a collective delusion which leads them to believe they can get away with anything as long as it is far enough away from the next election.
Barrow County voters have already shown they have a long memory. I can only hope that voters in Gwinnett County and across the nation will likewise demonstrate such good powers of recollection during the next election. Though memories of current events may fade, hopefully voters will consider both the acts and promises of the incumbents when comparing their qualifications to those of the challengers.
It is time for our elected officials to be held to a higher standard. That will not happen unless the voters demand officials who truly represent the citizens and carry out their wishes.