State is in need of bold leaders

Solving the sizable challenges now facing Georgia demands elected leadership that’s up to the task. For this state’s problems cannot simply be neglected, wished, or ignored into submission. They’re not going away — not without decisive action.
That means this state’s lawmakers need to abandon their continuing practice of sidestepping, hurling into the future or hastily batting away too many of the toughest issues that loom over Georgia and its taxpayers.
We need a General Assembly that’s willing to stare down our challenges and act openly, decisively and forthrightly to address them. Doing so would help rebuild the tattered voter trust that’s influencing some of the decisions, and indecisions if you will, that are not serving us well.
On key issues lately, we’ve seen the opposite of the behavior outlined above. That’s unacceptable for a state as important as ours.
A current example of these avoidance tactics is the maneuvering by Gov. Nathan Deal and legislators to avoid a floor vote on using Atlanta-Fulton County hotel-motel tax proceeds to pay a minority share of the cost of building a new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons. Given that the Dome is overseen by the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, it’s mind-boggling that state officials want to push the matter of enabling the public portion of this public-private partnership onto the city of Atlanta, thus eliminating the need for an unpopular vote at the Gold Dome.
Another instance this year is the so-called “bed tax” levied on hospitals to help fill a $700 million gap in Medicaid funding. A plan by Gov. Deal to transfer responsibility for renewing the tax from the General Assembly to the Georgia Department of Community Health’s board sailed quickly through both the state House and Senate. This fast action removed a critical, if controversial, decision from the hands of elected leaders, at least for the next four years. That’s politically expedient, but it’s unlikely to help rebuild voter confidence in the current leadership at the capitol.
To his credit, Gov. Deal has been candid about his intent. During a recent interview with this newspaper about the stadium financing, he said that, “I’ve tried my best as you might have already gathered to relieve the members of the General Assembly from difficult decisions that they have to make because I understand the political consequences of it.”
Deal’s candor is striking, and at least he’s pushing to pragmatically work through some thorny issues. However, such workarounds should not become an acceptable way to conduct the public’s business. Doing so fails the tests of transparency and accountability to voters. Both lawmakers and citizens should recognize those commonsense points.
The legislature’s long-in-coming T-SPLOST fix offers another case study of leadership found wanting. GDOT, governors, individual lawmakers and most anyone else have long said that Georgia’s transportation infrastructure is  inadequate to the needs of our growing economic powerhouse of a state.
Yet rather than summon the political courage to legislatively enact a means to invest in needed work, the General Assembly happily kicked the problem to a restive electorate that wasn’t in the mood either for new taxes or willing to trust lawmakers with money the T-SPLOST could have raised.
As a result, the penny transportation sales tax was defeated in 9 of 12 regions, including metro Atlanta. And commuters here will continue to pay congestion’s considerable backdoor tax for the foreseeable future.
We must do better — all of us. Making government work reasonably well requires trust and a real partnership between the people and those we elect to represent us. It’s an arrangement that’s been battered and tested through the years, yet it has survived since the birth of the Republic.
The tenor of our current day is straining this relationship more than usual, both in Georgia and elsewhere, as political tumult and divisiveness seem settled in for the long haul.
Controversy and competition among philosophies, parties and factions is a cherished part of the American Way of civic life. Yet, at the end of the arguments, we’ve historically been able as a people and their elected leaders to reach agreement and actually get needed things done.
We need to renew our acquaintance with this politics of getting results. That’s where leadership comes in. We need it now, perhaps more than ever.
As recent polling by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows, voters are aware of  the  problems and, on issues like transportation, are willing to pay for fixes when they believe they can trust their public leaders.
Rebuilding that trust won’t be easy or fast, but it must be done. Georgia deserves no less.
The partnership of citizens and public officials must be repaired. Responsibility for our successes or failures is something we all share. For we are Georgia.

Andre Jackson, for the Editorial Board.

17 comments Add your comment

Shamehia

February 11th, 2013
1:00 pm

Expecting bold, decisive action from our state (and federal) leaders is about like expecting the Falcons to win the Super Bowl – not very likely.

As the late, not-so-great Herman Talmadge liked to say the first job of every politician is to get reelected. The way you do that is to not make waves.

MANGLER

February 11th, 2013
12:58 pm

You’re forgetting that now we can divert tax dollars from the State and funnel them directly into private for profit “charter” schools and call it a “scholarship”, and it doesn’t even matter if the kids receiving the scholarships were ever really going to attend a failing public school in the first place, which is the only requirement for the scholarship wealth redistribution system. Heck, we can do that and we don’t even need to have kids, or be related to the kids receiving the scholarships. To top it off, there isn’t even a system in place to track what kids from where to where or the graduation results because of it.
This will fix all of Georgia’s economic and trust issues! You’ll see.

woody

February 11th, 2013
9:47 am

Our legislature has been infiltrated by a fifth column of South Carolinians, who are slowly bringing down the government from within. I know many of you are convinced this has been the evil work of Alabama, but it is actually South Carolina operating. Arise, Georgians! the fate of our state is in your hands!

South Georgia Retiree

February 11th, 2013
7:21 am

I have lived in South Georgia all my life, except for four years in the U.S. Air Force, I went to public schools, a public university, then worked and retired in South Georgia. What we are seeing in state politics now is a “redo” of our long, painful political history—a few years here and there of enlightened thinking followed by long stretches of parochial words and deeds (our current mindset). With the present batch of leaders (and followers) in the capitol, we are in for a long, long period of reckless action, which has so far basically destroyed public schools and all other public services and mocked citizens who question this downward spiral of state government. It seems now, more than ever, our elected legislators are consumed by a lust for power and an obsessive drive to kill Georgia’s chances to emerge from this nightmare. I too question where the sane, sensible, and bold leaders have gone.

Ralph-43

February 11th, 2013
6:31 am

We thought we were elected a no new taxes government and they are piling it on. Another football stadium – psychotic in lean times. Instead of taking 33 billion kick-back from the federal government for Medicaid, we are being asked to help Deal try to sabotage the Affordable Care Act by anteing up an additional 700 million besides the federal tax. Now we learn all the small businesses who do not offer group health insurance but could have provided the expanded Medicaid Insurance, will have to add another fine of $2000 per employee. Time to stop with the personality conflicts and disorders expressed by Deal and his comrades. Make some tough business decisions, accept the will of the majority, stop being juvenile and silly, accept the law and enforce it.

Dave

February 10th, 2013
8:54 pm

Okay, I agree. Our leaders have no intention of leading. We have no basis to trust. Now what?

Bernie

February 10th, 2013
1:43 pm

A Bold Leader in Georgia is a OXYMORON! What Georgia needs is a political process that is free or neptism,cronyism,inside deals,political corruption and good ole boy back room deals! currently this is the oil that gets the squeaky wheel.

current examples in past few weeks : GPB hiring, dekalb county school super at $175K and no experience!