Defeat from jaws of victory
On June 10, the Technical Advisory Committee of the Bibb County Road Improvement Program met, and road engineer-community-friendly Walter Kulash was assigned to look on the controversial Houston Road project.
That recommendation was brought before the executive committee Wednesday for approval.
Then, boom. That panel kicked Kulash to the curb and told the TAC not to bring the Houston Road matter up again.
Earlier this year, Houston Road was approved for five-laning after initially being slated for slight improvements and turn lanes. CAUTION Macon, the community group that has been at odds with the roads program over several plans, was hot.
Since then, the projects have been looking up. A few weeks ago, the Houston Road project was delayed until September for a Department of Natural Resources historical review. Commission Chairman Larry Justice was sounding more conciliatory and the heat of the rhetoric between him and the community had abated.
The full Bibb County Commission, the road program's bosses, had voted on March 10 to have Kulash "immediately" hired to work on "all present and future projects."
Were bridges of trust being rebuilt between road officials and the community? I thought so, and assigning Kulash to Houston Road was proof. Then, boom.
Apparently, the commission's definition of "all," interpreted by the road program's executive committee, is as fluid as President Clinton's definition of "is." Remember that during the Monica Lewinsky affair Clinton said, "It depends on what your definition of 'is' is."
I think we all know what "is" is, and I think we know what "all" means, too. Just to be sure, I went to Webster's New World Dictionary for a definition.
When I opened the book, I heard a chuckle. The dictionary was laughing at me, "You want to know what?" it said. I told it again that I wanted the definition of "all.
"What school did you attend?" the dictionary asked.
I started trying to explain but it became too complicated. "Just give me the definition," I said.
"If I must, here it is" replied the dictionary. " 'All,' used as an adjective, means the 'whole quantity of.' Used as a pronoun, it means 'everything, every part or bit.' Used as an adverb, 'all' means 'wholly, entirely, all-inclusive.'"
With the dictionary's words in mind, I'm at a loss. What part of speech did the commissioners use that the executive committee not understand? Maybe they are having trouble defining "present" and "future."
The good will that had been built between CAUTION Macon and the roads program has crumbled again. Tom Moreland of Moreland Altobelli, managers of the project, said he didn't want to put Kulash on the Houston Road project so as to protect Kulash's reputation with the community. Moreland assumed Kulash's credibility would be ruined if, after studying Houston Road, he came back and agreed with the five-lane recommendation.
You know the definition of "assume," don't you?
Representatives of CAUTION Macon had said if Kulash came back with a five-lane recommendation, that it would accept it.
A state DOT representative stated that if the Houston Road project had not been contracted by a certain date, the money for the project could be lost.
Mayor Jim Marshall put a proposal on the table that would have given Kulash 60 days, enough time - inside the state deadline - to study the area. But by voting Marshall's proposal down, the executive committee snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
It demonstrated how to turn a win-win situation totally around to the opposite. It may appear to be a victory for the roads program, but at what cost? And a victory over whom? Whose side are roads program officials suppose to be on, anyway? If a lawsuit is in the offing, that will really put our pennies to work.
Charles E. Richardson is the public editor for The Macon Telegraph. Call him at 744-4342 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.