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Don't play politics with DOT appointment
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With the way Gov. Sonny Perdue and House Speaker Glenn Richardson are drawing lines in the sand, the state Environmental Protection Division might have to go to Atlanta to conduct an erosion study.

Politics has a cantankerous nature to start with, but it seems that this year the governor and representatives have had more than their share of disagreements. First there was a budget spat that escalated over the House’s unsuccessful attempt to send property tax payers a rebate check, followed by conflicting instructions to state officials on whether to follow the governor’s spending dictates or the Legislature’s financial blueprint. Richardson is now pushing to eliminate property tax in Georgia altogether, something Perdue is less than sold on.

The unresolved issue of whether Perdue exceeded his constitutional authority in directing how state officials should implement the fiscal year 2008 budget is likely to take the forefront of the 2008 General Assembly, which may make the ‘07 session look like the model of civility and cooperation by comparison.

In the meantime, it would seem that the residents of Georgia may witness a power play at every possible turn as summer grudgingly slides into fall. Take, for instance, the retirement of state’s transportation commissioner, Harold Linnenkohl, who will be leaving the job on Nov. 30.

Perdue quickly made it clear that he wants state Properties Officer Gena Abraham to fill the position, prompting Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, to withdraw from his pursuit of the post.

But Richardson is behind state Rep. Vance Smith, R- Pine Mountain, who is applying for the top DOT job after first seeking it nearly five years ago.

If this were just a case in which the governor made his preference known and the speaker did the same and may the best candidate win, that would be one thing. There are indications, however, that this will become another game of one-upmanship between the two branches of government.

The tug-of-war has already begun behind the scenes, with the governor lobbying for his candidate and at least one DOT Board member being reminded that appointments the Legislature makes can be taken away.

The transportation commissioner is chosen by the 13 members of the state DOT board. Each board member represents a Georgia congressional district, and DOT board members are appointed by the Legislature.

Everyone in Georgia has a huge stake in who is selected to be the next transportation chief. Every state road project and all the state funding for road projects go through the department. DOT has more than 5,500 employees and an annual budget of more than $2 billion. That is a lot of employees and a great deal of money, but both are in short supply when you look at the magnitude of a job that, for example, has to balance the transportation needs of metro Atlanta with a county like Worth.

What this should come down to is one simple question: Who is the best qualified person to be in charge of this critical state department? That should be the DOT Board’s only concern.

Politics, after all, should be played in the confines of the Gold Dome, not out in the middle of a state highway.


- The Albany Herald

Sept. 18, 2007



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