Last night at Macon’s City Council, the majority of Council opted to not have any period of public hearing on the issue of annexation. In fact, we bypassed the committee system altogether and went straight to a vote.
The argument was that the local delegation would call for a vote.
So I offered up an amendment specifying that we absolutely wanted a vote of those residents affected by annexation. To ensure I had enough votes I had to insert the language “both inside and outside the city limits of Macon.” Amazingly, some of these same Council members who did not want a public hearing because there would be a vote of the people, then voted against the amendment calling for a public vote. The argument was that we can’t bind the General Assembly. The effect was to avoid all opportunities to show we embrace the public’s role to decide for themselves if they want annexation. My amendment won out. Had it not, I would not have voted for annexation.
The amendment calls for a more expansive vote that what state law requires and I actually encourage the local delegation to embrace what we asked for to the maximum extent. The Mayor and some members of Council want a vote for voters inside and outside the city limits. Now, to be sure, they want it because they know that voters inside the city limits can overwhelm those outside the city limits and annexation can pass even if a majority of voters outside the city limits vote no.
I would encourage the local delegation to give the Mayor and these members of Council exactly what they want — but make sure a majority of residents inside the city limits must vote in favor of annexation and a majority of residents outside the city limits must vote in favor of annexation. If we’re going to hide behind disingenuousness, let’s go all the way.
This business of residents in the city voting on an annexation that does not affect them in any real negative way is a canard. One of the councilmen suggested to me that the people in the city will be affected because their “costs” will go up bringing people inside the city.
I take that as a clear admission that this while thing is really about money, which we all know it is. No point in dancing around it with “efficiencies of service.” This is about expanding the tax base. It’s actually a sound idea and I do favor annexation. And I do think, in the long run, that it will be of benefit to those who would be annexed.
Nonetheless, a lot of the arguments about the people to be annexed are silly. Several council members said that people in the county drive on “subsidized roads” and use Macon’s “subsidized infrastructure”, etc. etc. etc.
Let’s be clear: That is a crap argument. So is the argument that people in the county wouldn’t be there but for Macon.
It sounds good and I’m sure it reassures people who want to make sure city voters get a right to vote and need a way to justify for themselves a dodge around the argument that city voters voting is a just a way to undermine the vote for those outside the city limits.
It’s still a crap argument.
Here’s the deal: people in the county do drive on roads that Macon tax payers help pay for. But of course, by and large, the roads are fixed with sales tax dollars and not just property tax dollars. And we get federal dollars and state dollars too. And yes, some people live in the county and work in the city. And yes, but for the city, some people in the county would not be here.
That’s a great argument for consolidation. Not so much for annexation.
If we follow this argument to its logical extent, I say we need to annex Quebec, along with Monroe County, Houston County, Twiggs County, Jones County, Crawford County, and DeKalb County.
All the time I pass people from those places on our city roads — not just the interstate. They use businesses inside the city limits. They use the bathroom inside the city limits using our water. They breath inside the city limits. And a lot of them would not be here but for the City of Macon.
So we should annex the greater Macon Metropolitan Area along with Quebec and DeKalb County.
This is, admittedly, as absurd as saying we should annex all the areas we’re going to annex just because they deign to use services provided by the City while ignoring that the city also takes advantage of services subsidized by those outside the city.
The real point is that those outside the city are being asked to place on top of themselves a new layer of government many of them chose not to have on top of them. They will be asked to begin paying the salaries of city police, city bureaucrats, and city politicians. They will be asked to embrace a body of laws from dog tethering to God knows what else that do not apply to them presently. They will be asked to embrace a new police force.
And when we ask people not under a government to come under a government it is a constitutionally and historically defensible principle to ask those same people to approve it in a vote.
So you can dicker around and hide behind shoddy arguments about service delivery, but that is ancillary to the issue at stake.
The substantive issue, though we rarely think in these terms, is about embracing a new layer of government that comes with new politicians, new laws, and new taxing structures. And that is not, in the least little bit, relevant to the people who have already chosen, by moving into the city limits, to embrace that layer of government.
The arguments about service deliveries, subsidized roads and infrastructure, and whether or not people would be here if Macon was not here, are wholly ancillary to that.
You can feel free to disagree, but you are wrong.