The question we face together on SPLOST and E-SPLOST is: Will we choose to make our city and county more competitive by making it a more accessible, safer, better educated and more livable community – or will we choose to fall behind other communities and counties in Georgia and become less competitive, retrenching and muddling through tough times rather than planning and building for a brighter future?
Indeed, this is the only question that will be decided by the SPLOST and E-SPLOST votes.
I write as one who was attracted to this community because of the farsightedness of its residents and its leaders. This is a future-oriented community. You can see that in the many projects that such sales-tax revenue has supported in the past.
Imagine this city without the Mike Daniel Recreation Center, the Troup County Government Center, the new health department, Callaway Elementary School or the new addition at LaGrange High School. All of these were funded by SPLOST revenues.
As we consider this one question, let’s be very clear about another question that will most definitely not be answered on Tuesday: We will not be deciding against more government and for less government. No matter how much the factions aligned against these proposals would like to have this vote perceived to be about that subject, it will not have any impact on that issue.
By law, the SPLOST votes are fully democratic ones. They allows us as citizens to decide directly whether, as owners of our own futures, we wish to raise money to invest in improving the city, county and schools in which we live and work and learn – and which we will hand down to our children and grandchildren. By law then, this is not and cannot be, as its opponents have mischaracterized it, a vote against a big, evil government that has imposed in the past or wishes to impose in the future an unfair tax on its residents.
This is a vote by and about us and our future, period.
Certainly, one can understand why opponents have chosen to try to make this about an evil “them,” a faceless government taxing us without our say and then squandering those resources, against an ever good “us,” the plain, common-sense type folk like you, me and our neighbors, who are mere pawns in large, complicated processes. This sentiment is, after all, the driving force behind the fury at the government that has fueled the Tea Party and the anger at big banking that has fueled the Occupy Wall Street movement.
It is well-known among those who engage in politics that directing anger at a faceless “them” is not only a reliable way to turn people out on election day, it is also a convenient tool for changing the subject from the real question at hand. So let’s be clear: Whether the SPLOST proposals pass or fail will have no effect on big government. It will simply be a choice about the quality of our shared future.
As we go to the polls, let us remind ourselves that the very government leaders now being derided by anti-SPLOST forces as “they” – the county commissioners, city councilmen and school board members whom we elected, as well as the responsible employees (teachers, policemen, firefighters, etc.) they have hired – are themselves part of “us.” There is no “they” here. Only “us.”
Let us also remind ourselves that these two special option taxes that have done so much for us in the past were approved by “us,” the citizens, with full knowledge beforehand of the cost and the projects the funds would support, just as they are before “us” today.
Once we have pulled ourselves back from the edge of this destructive us/them rhetoric, let us also remind ourselves of the many goods that will come from the passage of these proposals. Imagine how much better we’ll be if we continue to pave and improve our roads and transportation system, upgrade worn-out fire trucks, build a much-needed library and put interactive white boards in more school classrooms. All of this will help us to remain a future-oriented community capable of competing into the future.
Finally, as to the exact number of dollars raised from non-residents, there is no question that every penny collected locally will be augmented by funds from people who are not residents of Troup County but who do business here. In other words, this is unquestionably an opportunity to make every penny raised locally yield more than that penny in revenue. We can multiply our investment in our community as we seek to make it better.
I view SPLOST and E-SPLOST as opportunities to get others to help us be a more competitive community. I see the projects outlined in each as vital proposals that can be funded no other way. What choice is left?
These proposals will help “us” move forward toward a better future for all. Please join me and vote “Yes, Yes” on Tuesday.
President, LaGrange College