The defeat came as a surprise to Mayor John Gayle but not to Lowndes County Commission Chairman Ashley Paulk, who said he warned the mayors of the five municipalities that if they continued to argue over LOST, the local option sales tax, that voters would turn against SPLOST in retaliation.
“I told them at the beginning if they didn’t stop arguing over a few percent of the LOST and refused to leave the numbers as is by taking the county’s offer, that taxpayers were going to turn against the SPLOST,” said Paulk.
“Voters are disenchanted with the way their local governments have gotten greedy and they’re tired of the arguments over money. They voted SPLOST down because they don’t trust us with their tax dollars, and it’s a real shame.”
I would agree bickering over the LOST pie was one of the reasons SPLOST lost, and add to that the opaque back-room processes by which the SPLOST VII projects were selected. While the library needs updated and expanded facilities, the lack of documented decision process for the architect and lack of adequate explanation for that probably didn’t help, either, nor did the county’s puzzling lumping of the library in with Parks and Rec. which they later tried to clarify. Perhaps the voters are tired of seeing transparency be a constant source of tension. And I’m using the library as just one example. I could equally cite the project for a farmers market under the overpass, which I think is a bad idea because the farmers market already has a fabulous location at the historic Lowndes County Courthouse, and so far as I know none of the vendors who sell there were even asked if they wanted a new location, much less the public who buy there.
At the public-not-invited SPLOST VII kickoff speeches the last speaker said they were not there to debate what projects were in SPLOST VII. Well, now there’s time to debate and discuss what projects should be in SPLOST VII before it goes back to a vote next year. Meanwhile, as the VDT pointed out today:
The current SPLOST VI collections continue through next year and won’t end until Dec. 31, 2013.
Will the powers that be in Lowndes County actually go for public discussion this time? Maybe even public hearings? Or will they do what the Mayor of Valdosta seems to be suggesting:
Gayle said he was worried about putting SPLOST on the presidential election ballot due to the larger number of voters.
Sure and they could put it on a city council primary ballot next year and try to sneak it through like CUEE tried school “unification”. That might work about as well as it did that time (“unification” lost 4 to 1).
Or they could follow another path that maybe is what Mayor Gayle really meant:
“There are a number of people who don’t seem to understand what SPLOST is,” said Gayle. “We didn’t do a very good job of selling it.”
How about doing a better job selling it by having citizens involved in the process of selecting projects?