Squandering taxpayer’s money appears to be a specialty of this County Commission. Last week, at a candidate forum, incumbent Chairman Pete Liakakis not only defended the $75,000, three-month Health and Wellness program for county employees passed this month, he’d like to put the employee’s families in a program as well.
Excuse me? Since when was it OK to use citizen’s tax dollars to pay for an extravagant diet for county officials and staff that includes three meals a day, private trainers and nutrition coaches?
Meanwhile, the thousands who use Lake Mayer a week, exercising of their own volition, have nothing more have a stinking Port-a-Potty in one of the parking lots, and playground equipment so old and sad that it tells the complete story of what this County Commission cares about — or rather doesn’t.
The County Commission says they do care about environmental issues. They call curbside recycling a “top priority,” yet when I asked Liakakis about a timeline for such a program, he said they needed to study the issue more.
After passing the resolution to become the “greenest county in the state,” the Commission handed over the task, along with $50,000, to the Chatham Environmental Forum, a group of business, government and environmental interests.
Members of the forum represent the Southern Company, the Chamber of Commerce and Savannah Economic Developmental Authority.
According to the National Association of Counties, the best practice for establishing a countywide green plan is to create an intergovernmental “green team” made up of existing county staff members and departments. It saves taxpayer money and provides the necessary structure.
The next Chatham Environmental Forum meeting is this week at the Georgia Power offices. A light dinner will be served, most likely compliments of Chatham County taxpayers.
But who’ll serve the best interests of the citizens?
In four years, the county budget has increased 42 percent, from $350 million in 2004 to $502 million in 2008.
If the things that people care about were not funded — bike paths, sidewalks, playgrounds, clean, efficient buses, another arborist, recycling — where did all the money go?
A big one is the jail expansion. The cost will total $110 million, or $142,000 per bed. But other jails in other counties are costing half that.
Cobb County spent $67,000 per bed on a jail expansion. Alabama, New Jersey, and Florida jail projects are coming in at $58,000-$73,000 per bed.
Chatham County is spending double the amount of other communities!
Chairman Liakakis’ challenger, John McMasters, said the County budget shortfall next year will be between $30 and $40 million. Impact fees on new development could stem that shortfall by $3-4 million, McMasters claimed.
Strangely, Chatham County is the only government body in the area without some sort of impact fees, and Liakakis wants to keep it that way. The developers and real estate agents are “real negative” about them, he said.
The majority of communities in this country with a population over 25,000 use impact fees. They take the onus off the taxpayer for funding capital improvements and puts a fee on new construction paid by the builder.
Of course the builders and developers in Chatham County don’t want impact fees. But someone has to pay for expanded roads, sewers and water lines.
In the face of a world economic crisis and a potentially large county budget gap, the County Commission must increase efficiency. It can start by canceling the Health and Wellness program for county employees. Instead they can send staff to Lake Mayer to walk and run with the rest of us. It is free and has no perks — not even a proper place to pee.
Today I read about the city issuing citations for underage drinking at Chili’s, Applebees, and Wild Wings. Now, I have stated before that I am all for cracking down on the underage drinking.
But when Locos was busted, the City Council tried to revoke their liquor license and forced them to no longer have live music. That was after receiving their second citation.
Wild Wings just received their third in less than a year, yet they still had live music over the weekend.
They were busy (I went there for lunch on Sunday) and still served me a beer without asking for my ID (I do not look close to 21 though).
It just goes to show that Van Johnson was trying to settle a score based on some lemon pepper wings rather than actually address the problem he masked it with.
I know this is a dead horse, but the issue is bigger than the infractions. In such a crucial election year it shows us that even local politicians will always put their own self-interests first.
If this city really cared about the perceived “underage drinking problem” they would punish the kids doing the drinking. They won’t, however, because then they will have to answer to parents, SCAD officials, and in some cases military leadership.
This would more then likely lead to them not getting re-elected. And let’s be honest about this, most politicians’ biggest concern is getting re-elected.
What our local politicians seem to be missing lately is that our economy in Savannah is suffering too. If a business the size of Wild Wings, Locos, Applebees, or Chili’s loses their liquor license, they will most likely go out of business. If this happens, there will be less jobs available and a whole lot less tax revenue to the city.
I understand the jobs may not be a skilled labor or a “great job”, but the unemployment rate is approaching six percent nationally.
Keeping any job should be important to our elected officials.
If I had $700 billion, or even $18 billion like the Wal-Mart heirs, I’d know how to make my next billion. I would design, build, market and sell an American-made, environmentally friendly car, either electric or solar. I would put Americans to work at this new company building the best most environmentally-conscious cars in the world.
Americans are patriotic people instilled with nationalism from our youth, and the idea that buying these cars could bankrupt Al Quaeda, create American manufacturing jobs, and help reduce our carbon footprint all at the same time would sell these cars in an instant.
I want one of these cars already. Paul Allen, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett -- you are philanthropists, and kings of capitalism. Make an investment in the future that will change the world... please!
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