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Columns & editorials for Thursday, Feb. 11, 1999

Snub of MATS advisory panel was unwise

I  f a government body has a citizens' advisory committee, it should hear out that panel before rejecting its ideas. And the decision not to discuss shouldn't be determined by someone who is not even supposed to have a role in making it.

Apparently it seems otherwise to Bibb County Commission Chairman Larry Justice. As chairman of the Macon Area Transportation Study's policy committee, he let a nonvoting member cast the key vote rejecting an immediate meeting with the advisory group. It had recommended a moratorium on 12 controversial Bibb County Road Improvement Program projects.

Justice is also chairman of the road program's executive committee. Lately he's been giving short shrift to pleas by groups such as CAUTION-Macon that certain projects be delayed pending further public input.

The advisory committee memo came out of a meeting with that advocacy group. "All y'all are trying to do is delay the road program," Justice said in rejecting it. So their concerns went unvented.

We can understand the impatience that the chairman and his colleagues must feel as they push to complete the roads program.

It has already absorbed years of major political, design and construction effort. Sometimes stridently expressed citizen concerns must seem willful attempts to bog down the wheels late in the day. Changes in one project could be expensive and affect others. Some state or federal funding could be jeopardized.

But tying down a safety valve is unwise. MATS controls federally funded parts of the road improvement program, which grew out of its long-range plans. But any perceived deafness to citizen concerns, given Justice's dual role, further decreases public trust in the whole road improvement program.

Ed Corson/For the editorial board




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