What if a major developer wanted to build a large factory next to where you live? Or a commercial center? Or some other project that would dramatically affect local traffic or the environment in your neighborhood?
And what if all of that could be done in total secrecy with meetings behind closed doors between the developer and your city or county public officials? And what if those officials could also give away your tax money as inducements to that business, again in secret?
That is exactly what would happen if a proposed piece of legislation makes its way through the Georgia General Assembly unaltered.
SB159 would allow all local governments to shut all meetings and records related to any project they decided to label “economic development project.”
Not only could such projects to be done in total secrecy, the legislation would allow local governments to give tax abatements to developers and to commit to building roads, water and other infrastructure with tax money to accommodate development projects, again in secrecy.
Although the main sponsor of the legislation has said he would make changes, as of Wednesday morning, that had not been done. A committee meeting in the legislature on the bill was supposed to be held Wednesday afternoon.
Local state Sen. Frank Ginn originally signed on the bill as a co-sponsor, but late last week said he’d changed his mind and would not support the legislation in its current form.
He signed on the bill, he said, in part at the urging of a Barrow County Chamber of Commerce official. Although this legislation is apparently backed by the Barrow Chamber economic development VP Linda Moore, it hasn’t been a lack of secrecy that has been keeping industry out of Barrow County. Can anyone name one industry that didn’t local in Barrow County because of the current laws?
No, Barrow’s problem in industrial development isn’t a need for more secret deals, it’s a lack of quality leadership, difficult transportation problems that have been ignored for years, and workforce quality concerns. And despite an overzealous tax abatement plan that Barrow now gives away to developers, the county still has lagged in industrial growth under Moore’s leadership.
Secrecy here isn’t the problem.
If an industry wants to locate in a community using its own money, it can do so in all the secrecy it wants. Nobody’s stopping them.
But when a potential industry comes with its hands out wanting tax abatements and millions of dollars in roads or water and sewer, then that’s another thing. It’s tax money they’re asking for and taxpayers have a fundamental right to know about it before local officials give it away.
This proposed legislation is a solution looking for a problem — a problem that doesn’t exist and is being manufactured for political reasons.
The bill as written is anti-taxpayer and shouldn’t become law.
(For the full version of this editorial, see the March 9 issue of the Barrow Journal.)
Mike Buffington is co-publisher of Mainstreet Newspapers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on his blog at publisherbuffington.wordpress.com.
I don't see the what the fuss is about. Securite or not this is Barrow County
You want to run off a buisness, hire John Stell
You want to build a cracker box sub-division hire John Stell.
Even if the Zoning department is against it,
Even if the Zoning Board is against it,
Even if the every department in the County Government is against it.
The BOC, John Stell and the County Attorney will get it through or run it off no matter how much money it cost the County. They run the County regardless of its cost to the county. They have complete contempt for county's business owners, home owners and farmers that are not the "Good People".
I don't know if you havn't heard but "they (BOC) are not accountable to anyone" So, what if they have to do this in public or not. They have and will do what ever they want regardless of its cost to the county.