On Monday, August 17, the chairman of the Baldwin County Democratic Party–Quentin T. Howell — talked with the Macon Examiner about the looming consolidation referendum which will happen in November. The city of Milledgeville which is approximately forty miles northeast of Macon could be the next Central Georgia city to consolidate and conservative independent Rusty Kidd and other local Republicans may get their way in reconstructing Baldwin County via merging with Milledgeville, a city of approximately 18,000 residents. Howell has expressed that consolidating Milledgeville and Baldwin County would be a terrible idea because he believes consolidation will raise various taxes and will cost more local government workers their middle-class jobs.
Recently, the legislative architect of the Macon-Bibb consolidation effort — Republican State Rep. Allen Peake of Bibb County– visited a Tea Party event in Milledgeville and told attendees that consolidation was a great idea and encourage Baldwin residents to vote for the measure on November 3.
After fifty years after the Voting Rights Act and the fight to advance the Civil Right Movement, will Milledgeville’s black community let apathy win out? By underestimating the legislative efforts of the Republicans has left the door open to turn back the clock if voters just sit home in November and not take this upcoming consolidation vote seriously. Rusty Kidd and the Republicans are hoping this is the case. Only time will tell.
Conservative estimates suggest it may take at least 4,000 votes in order to reject consolidation in November. In mid-June, over 2,000 total voters voted in a three-way mayoral special election. Subsequently, about 2,200 total voters decided a close mayoral runoff with Republican Gary Thrower (1134) defeating Democrat Floyd Griffin (1099) by just 35 votes. Overall, there are 6,000 registered voters in Milledgeville and approximately 20,000 in Baldwin County.
Additionally, a consolidated Milledgeville-Baldwin County would mean a less diverse county commission with fewer African-American representatives. In Macon, the 15-member majority-black City Council gave away to a nine-member, majority-white and conservative Bibb County Commission after consolidation passed here and become official in early 2014. There are currently two African-Americans who are on the five-member Baldwin Board of Commissioners– Emily Davis from District 1 and Tommy French from District 2. And there are three African-Americans on Milledgeville City Council: District 1 Dr. Collinda J. Lee, District 3 Denese R. Shinholster and District 5 Richard Mullins, Jr.
However, will there be efforts by local Republicans to ‘pack’ African-Americans into one district and in essence dissolve the second majority-black district by redrawing the election map to make it more difficult for an African-American to win even a second district seat on this newly proposed five-member Baldwin County Commission?
In essence by sometime next year, the number of elected African-American representatives could conceivably be cut to just one if consolidation passes in Baldwin County. Another issue which hasn’t been talked about very much is that the Baldwin County Sheriff would become the top cop and a less diverse Sheriff’s Office would take over all law enforcement duties with the Milledgeville City Police Department being phased out.
People will lose their jobs and a disproportionately this consolidation effort will impact African-American workers and the families the most? However, will people allow November 3 be just another day while Republicans strategically move forward in reducing the electoral impact of minorities in Milledgeville which had been a majority-minority city over a decade ago?
Kidd told Milledgeville’s local newspaper, The Union Recorder, the following about his plan to push consolidation: “If we pass that bill, we can get it all done in 2015. And the new officers would take over in January of 2016.”