Wednesday, September 29, 1999
Fayette gives kids stones for bread

Contributing Writer

In the Holy Scriptures, Jesus once asks rhetorically, “What parent, if their children asked for bread, would give them a stone?”

Well, I now have found the answer to that question.

The ones who live in Fayette County.

These cold-hearted, unfeeling, uncaring, ideological Neanderthals who live in Fayette County — one of the richest and fastest growing areas of the state — would obviously give their children a stone instead of a loaf of bread.

For, that is exactly what they did in the recent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum.

They rejected the plan proposed by the county school board to raise $90 million through the use of a SPLOST to fund some mightily needed improvements.

Fayette County Board of Education Chairman Debbie Condon was, well, embarrassed.

She was embarrassed at the turnout — just 20 percent of the county's 54,000 registered voters — and she was embarrassed at the fact that she lives “in one of the wealthiest counties and we don't care about our children or their education.”

So am I.

Several years ago, I worked for a newspaper in Fayette County, covering at various times the county school board and the county commission (as well as other county bodies and groups).

During that tenure, I got to know some very fine people — not very many native Georgians, to be sure, and very, very few who would even admit under their breath that they might have voted for a Democrat on occasion — but some generally upstanding individuals.

One of my favorites was Debbie Condon, then just a member of the Fayette County Board of Education.

And, my wife and I enjoyed seeing her and her family when we went to the summer concert series in Peachtree City (Our seats were just a few rows apart, so we got to visit a little.)

Without fear of dispute, I can say that Debbie is one of the sincerest and most hard-working individuals I ever met.

She may be wrong on occasion, and she may make mistakes.

But, she is concerned and caring.

And, I know now that she is hurting.

Hurting with embarrassment.

And, that is exactly what all the rest of those tax-cutting ideologues in Fayette County ought to be: They ought to be embarrassed.

After all, neither Debbie nor the other members of the county board of education could be called “big-spending liberals” by any stretch of the imagination.

There are no closet Democrats on that board.

They are all card-carrying members of the Republican Party and after looking at all the other alternatives available, they determined that the SPLOST was the one which made the most sense and the one which would be the least painful for county taxpayers faced with the needs of a school system busting at its seams.

Yet, the obviously concerned citizenry of Fayette County, who care so much about their children and their children's future — spoke out loudly and firmly: “No!”

Other counties across this state — including most of the very conservative, Republican-voting ones, like Cobb and Gwinnett — have found this method of gaining new revenue to fund the service they want and need more palatable than raising property taxes.

Indeed, every other county which voted on the same day as Fayette endorsed their calls for a SPLOST.

But, in their wisdom, our neighbors in Fayette voted against the SPLOST.

In doing so, they gave their children who were begging for bread, a pile of stones.

Maybe the folks in Fayette County need to consider another verse of Scripture: “Let them who have ears to hear, listen and do.”

It is apparent they did neither when they entered the voting booth recently.

[Lee N. Howell is an award-winning writer who has been observing politics and society in the Southern Crescent, the state, and nation for the past 25 years.

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