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  full story
Another shot in the foot



charles richardsonCharles Richardson

M y bubble has burst. It has splattered all over the place and so early in the new year. I didn't have room for all of the area's New Year's resolutions on Tuesday, and one of my wishes for the new year has already bit the dust.

I was hoping for a more congenial atmosphere between government representatives and the citizens who pay and elect them. It is not happening.

On Tuesday, the Bibb County Road Improvement Program pulled out a revolver and shot itself in the foot - again - and that's only one half of the problem. It doesn't know it's been shot yet.

The wound is deep, but the pain hasn't reached the brain - if there is still a brain.

We may harken back to the first week in January as the end of trust between citizens and their governments. It will be difficult, at best, to get citizens to agree to another tax to build anything - particularly infrastructure - unless the plans are in detail prior to the ballot question. We will all come from Missouri (the show-me state) from now on.

How do you know what to believe? It seems our roads program is more concerned with how much concrete it can pour than with the wishes of the citizens who are paying for part of the pouring. At least before 1998 ended there seemed to be some semblance of collaboration. Now, nationally recognized roads expert Walter Kulash has thrown up his hands in disgust and said to hell with it all. No, that's not a quote; it's a translation.

He talked about the vision of the roads program and specifically Houston Road. Kulash said if you want wide roads and strip malls the plan for Houston Road isn't bad. And that if that's what we want, he would rather not participate. I don't blame him; he isn't paid enough to go through the hassle of dealing with people who want to go that way. That is not what he does.

Our area naturally distrusts anyone not from here who may have a different set of ideas and standards. So we end up consuming ourselves from the inside out because our vision stops at the county line.

Kulash only came here as a favor to Macon Mayor Jim Marshall. Do you think the paltry sum we secured him with is his normal retainer? Now Kulash can spend his time and make lots more money elsewhere without the headaches. He can deal with people who actually want him there.

The attack on Kulash's credentials on Tuesday was just ego. You don't like the messenger, so attack him. Problem: The taxpayers trusted the messenger. Ultimately, citizens will extract retribution. Unfortunately, it might be on an unrelated deserving project.

It's a Bibb County taboo to look at what effect something will have 10 or 20 years down the (pardon the pun) road. So we end up spending money just because we have it, not because of real need.

Who cares if we destroy the fabric of our communities? So what if our sections of the city are blighted by five-lane highways and retaining walls? So what if trees and other shrubbery take decades to replace? So what if we still can't move from one end of the city to the other?

What we have is a clash of ideologies. Classic road builders (wider and faster) on one side, and new era (neighborhood friendly) on the other side.

I have always been told "don't just talk about a problem, offer a solution," so here goes. Stop, halt, cease. The projects need to be put on hold until a comprehensive plan (one has been talked about but not seen) is developed - or revealed.

The plan should use up-to-date traffic counts and information. Kulash should be involved in the formation of this plan or - if it exists - its review.

Secondly, county commissioners, along with the mayor, should accept their responsibility and cease abdicating it to the present executive committee. Maybe they will have an ear not plugged by ego.

Trees don't grow back quickly and retaining walls are built to last and will be constant reminders of an expensive screw-up.

Charles E. Richardson is the assistant to the editor for The Macon Telegraph. Call him at 744-4342 or e-mail to crichardson@macontel.com. His column appears every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.


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