On Wednesday, September 16, Central Georgia Technical College’s (CGTC) Milledgeville campus hosted an “Eggs and Issues” event which provided proponents and opponents of Milledgeville-Baldwin County consolidation to present their ideas to a local audience. There are only seven weeks remaining before Baldwin County voters will go to the polls on Tuesday, November 3. Supporters of Milledgeville-Baldwin consolidation have continued to tout that consolidation will not cut jobs despite recent evidence here in Macon that consolidation would indeed cut jobs but may come in the form of early retirements — voluntary or involuntary.
There is a political power struggle between the more affluent, politically conservative voters mainly from North Baldwin (Lake Sinclair) and everyone else in Baldwin County which includes the City of Milledgeville and the Hardwick community. However, State Rep. Rusty Kidd with an endorsement from the Republican-dominated Chamber of Commerce along with the majority-conservative Baldwin Board of Commissioners have turned a deaf ear to Milledegville residents and are on the precipice of reconstructing Baldwin if voters do not step in and put a halt to this proposed referendum.
In January 2015, the majority of the Milledgeville City Council voted in opposition to consolidation and had sent multiple correspondences expressing their position to Kidd. Jeanette Walden from Milledgeville City Council who had been acting mayor for a few months had said the following about consolidation earlier this year: “I don’t see that it would be beneficial to the city of Milledgeville at all,” says Walden. Furthermore, Walden says the plan should not even be before the legislature. “They need to have the elected officials on board,” she explains. “Because they put us in the spot to represent them, and we are their voice, and they should listen.”
Gregory Barnes, head of the Milledgeville-Baldwin County NAACP spoke to WMGT-TV and said the following: “There’s a difference between flexibility and traveling in the unknown. we’re traveling in the unknown,” Gregory Barnes with the Committee Opposing Consolidation said. Barnes further explains, “The fact that an entity wants to change a complete government without doing any type of financial projections is amazing to me,” Barnes said. “How do you know, how can you say there will be no tax increases if you have no projection?”
Higher taxes and people losing their jobs through forced retirements, attrition or budget cuts is a problem, but what about the higher likelihood of a significantly less diverse Baldwin County government?
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.
Henry Craig spoke about the potential of fewer minorities being represented in elected government in Baldwin.
“We continue to ensure that our minority voters are represented in about the same capacity as they are now and the same percentage they are county wide right now,” Craig said.
If consolidation passes, there is a strong probability that there will be only one African-American on a new five-member commission in a county in which African-Americans comprise 43 percent of the Baldwin population.
Despite opposition, Republican Henry Craig from the Board of Commissioners has continued to supported the consolidation effort and is dismissive of any criticism. Back in February 2014, the Baldwin County Board of Commissioners voted 3 to 2 to approve a resolution asking the local delegation (Rusty Kidd and Bert Jones) to introduce the unification charter to the General Assembly.
County commissioners Henry Craig, Sammy Hall and Johnny Westmoreland voted for the resolution, but Emily Davis and Tommy French voted against it.
Residents will vote on the Milledgeville-Baldwin County Unification Charter during the November 3rd general election.