Moderated by Rick Badie
Vision matters when it comes to implementing the best policies and practices to serve the greater good. Today, a former Democratic state representative suggests current leaders lack the vision to return greatness to Georgia. The chairwoman of the Georgia Republican Party offers a counterpoint: The state, she writes, rests in capable hands.
State needs vision, not just care-taking
By Wyc Orr
Charles A. Reich’s 1970 book, “The Greening of America,” a paean to 1960s liberalism, never much took root in conservative Georgia. Yet the converse of its title describes Georgia government today: “The Browning of Georgia.”
“Browning” in the sense of fading growth. For decades there was a “greening” of Georgia, beginning with those same 1960s, precipitated by the progressive policies of governors Ernest Vandiver and Carl Sanders, Atlanta mayors William Hartsfield, Ivan Allen Jr. and Maynard Jackson, and continued under moderate, pro-growth governors. That era of vibrant leadership has passed in Georgia. The root causes of its erstwhile greening are clear:
* Embracing greater respect for civil rights and racial inclusiveness than seen in other Southern states. As historian Numan V. Bartley put it: That assured Georgia less “aimless violence than did numerous other states.”
* Supporting education, starting with keeping schools open against calls for reactionary closings in defiance of federal integration orders.
* Creating Atlanta’s airport and first-rate statewide transportation, an economic advantage over other Southern states.
* Maintaining a generally higher level of governmental ethics than many other states, thus avoiding major scandals.
The results of that era’s leadership are incontrovertible: Georgia leaped forward from the 1960s through the 1990s. Its per capita income and state budget outpaced other Southern states’. Business and education flourished. Atlanta became the pearl of Southern cities. Major league sports, Super Bowls and the Centennial Olympic Games followed.
Sadly, in the last decade, Georgia’s “leaders” have jettisoned that counsel and courage in favor of a harsher tone and regressive retrenchment:
* Replacing inclusiveness with exclusion that marginalizes those of a different heritage, masked as “immigration reform.”
* An unrelenting reduction of support for public education, with near-crippling results.
* Falling behind in transportation, and then abdicating to regional plebiscites that largely were defeated.
* Eviscerating the State Ethics Commission while ethical violations abound.
The results? Stymied growth. Lost competitiveness.
Vision matters. It has as far back as the Biblical admonition that without it, “the people perish.” Fear kills vision. Top Georgia officials today exude fear of the repercussions of leading. They prefer cautious care-taking. One wonders:
When might we see a return to some semblance of Georgia’s colonial founding as a sanctuary of sensibility, a “refuge” that “was not created simply to be” like other Southern colonies, as historian Phinizy Spalding observed.
When will the state motto, “Wisdom, Justice, Moderation,” be more than words?
When is the last time we heard any Georgia leader challenge us to greatness?
When will we see the greening of Georgia again?
Wyc Orr, a former state representative, is a Gainesville attorney.
Republican leaders’ vision is evident
By Sue Everhart
As our nation has spent the past four years mired in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, the lights have stayed on in Georgia, thanks in no small part to the guidance, vision and foresight of governors Sonny Perdue, Nathan Deal and the Republican leadership under the Gold Dome and across Georgia.
Georgia’s Republican leaders, time and time again, looked adversity squarely in the eye and made the tough, though not always politically expedient, decisions.
Georgia’s legislators opted not to raise taxes on the citizens of our state, but rather to tighten our belt and balance our state’s checkbook. Our Republican leaders worked tirelessly this year to bring zero-based budgeting to our state government to ensure effective use of taxpayer dollars and to eliminate wasteful spending. Due in large part to the fiscal conservatism of Republicans, Georgia has maintained our AAA bond rating, a testament to our state’s even-keeled leadership.
When faced with the impending insolvency of Georgia’s acclaimed HOPE Scholarship and Pre-k program due to shrinking lottery revenues, Gov. Deal reached across the aisle to craft “Enduring HOPE.” Enduring HOPE It has set the bar higher for the rest of the nation when it comes to supporting education.
Georgia has taken significant strides to create a business-friendly and pro-jobs climate. Last year, Deal launched the Georgia Competitiveness Initiative to ensure Georgia is competitive in the global marketplace for generations to come.
This public-private partnership has brought together the best business minds to attract, retain and grow jobs and investment in our state; the results have been immediate. Recently, CNBC ranked Georgia fourth among “America’s top states for business.” Chief Executive magazine named Georgia the fifth-best state for business, and an independent nationwide survey ranked Georgia first in the nation for labor climate, labor availability and workforce development.
As we continue to attract entrepreneurs, small businesses and corporations through our business climate and pro-growth incentives, our state’s fiscal outlook and economic standing will improve. Republican policies have kept Georgia open for business, even through these turbulent times, and have made our state the economic envy of the nation.
Not to be overlooked, however, is the fact that Georgia’s Republican leadership at the state Capitol has achieved remarkable advancements through bold reforms to our tax code, criminal justice system and illegal immigration enforcement, as well as a decisive victory in the tri-state water war. True leaders produce results. Our party’s leaders have delivered for the state of Georgia.
I am immensely proud of the accomplishments of Georgia’s Republican leadership, and the state of Georgia should be as well. The future of the Peach State is brighter than ever.
Sue Everhart is chairwoman of the Georgia Republican Party.