Both Chamber of Commerce Chair Myrna Ballard and Lowndes County Manager Joe Pritchard say the VDT is inaccurate. The VDT took offense at Ballard’s assertion. Which do you believe? I believe I’d like to see the evidence, not just the VDT’s assertions. And this junior high school cat fight the VDT insists on is not helping fix the real problem with water and wastewater in Valdosta and Lowndes County: the widespread and longterm damage to our watersheds that turned a normal rain in 2009 into a 700 year flood, and caused another flooding of the Withlacoochee Wasterwater Treatment Plant this year. I’m all for investigative reporting, but I have not yet once seen the VDT investigate the real underlying issues of longtime clearcutting and building of roads subdivisions, and parking lots without adequate consideration of water flows.
The VDT front page today has yet another story attacking the City of Valdosta, Loan info from GEFA contradicts City: $11 million awaits disbursement, loan amounts don’t match. I can’t make much sense out of it, because while Jason Shaefer has dug up a lot of interesting information, he doesn’t include dates for much of the financial detail he attributes to GEFA. Let’s see the VDT publish the documents they are referring to. The city does publish its Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports. The VDT has a website, and could publish whatever records it got from GEFA, which after all were produced using our tax dollars, and are therefore public records. Or if the documents are somewhere on GEFA’s website, the VDT could publish links to the specific documents. The VDT did publish a timeline of correspondence with the City about loans, so it could just as easily publish the GEFA documents and its own page-by-page and chart-by-chart comparison so we could all see for ourselves.
The VDT prepended this blurb to its timeline:
It has come to the attention of the Times that the Chamber of Commerce has called a special meeting on Tuesday to address what COC Pres. Myrna Ballard terms as “damage to our community’s reputation” due to the stories that have appeared in the newspaper. The invitation for the 9 a.m. meeting at the Chamber office was extended to only a select group of Chamber members, no media, and states that Mayor John Gayle and City Manager Larry Hanson will explain the city’s financial status. The Times takes very seriously the implication that the newspaper has written anything that is “inaccurate,” as stated by the Chamber. As such, the Times has chosen to show the public the information provided to the newspaper in response to questions posed to the City, with no editing, to allow citizens the opportunity to see for themselves if what the Times has written is an “inaccurate” portrayal of the city’s financial status.
What was that again?
The Times takes very seriously the implication that the newspaper has written anything that is “inaccurate,” as stated by the Chamber.
How about as stated by Lowndes County Manager Joe Pritchard? In a letter from him to me of 29 January 2013 Pritchard stated:
The November 2010 “flyer” you referred to in your email was not created by or distributed by Lowndes County. The document you are referring to was a special section created by and distributed by the Valdosta Daily Times. Lowndes County provided a photo of myself and the “letter” that was included on the front page as well as the building design images. The graphic you are referring to on the right side of the document was created by the newspaper, not the county.
The graphic is the one on the right here that says the cost of the county’s Judicial and Administrative complex was “100% Paid by SPLOST” and “$0 Balance Owed”. Yet there are many millions still to be paid on outstanding bonds on those buildings, as Pritchard listed in another letter, in which he reiterated:
There is no paper trail leading to zero dollars owed on any of this debt, as the premise that zero dollars is owed is not correct.
LAKE has photographed most of those bond documents, and will be publishing them. Meanwhile, my further request to the county has not yet been fulfilled:
Yes, there are other documents I would like to inspect. Please provide copies of all correspondance between you or anyone else (elected or employed) in the Lowndes County government with the Valdosta Daily Times about the document that asserted “100% Paid by SPLOST” and “$0 Balance Owed”; this is the document you referred to in your email of 29 January 2013 as “a special section created by and distributed by the Valdosta Daily Times.” Please include the correspondance in which “Lowndes County provided a photo of myself and the “letter” that was included on the front page as well as the building design images.” Please also include any correspondance in which the Lowndes County government attempted to inform the Valdosta Daily Times or the public that “the premise that zero dollars is owed is not correct.”
So who’s inaccurate? The VDT, or both Chamber of Commerce Chair Myrna Ballard and Lowndes County Manager Joe Pritchard?
The VDT could help resolve that question by publishing its correspondence with the county about that “zero dollars” flyer.
- Tim Carroll’s 21 March 2013 presentation to WWALS Watershed Coalition, with videos and copious supporting documents, including some ideas about what to do.
- EPA’s recent assertion that Nonpoint Source Pollution is The Nation’s Largest Water Quality Problem,
- my presentation yesterday to Georgia River Network‘s Weekend for Rivers 2013.