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Editor's notes: Taxes, traffic and us citizens of the world
Jeff Whitten

I know, the Crips versus the Bloods, it ain’t.

But this sudden public spat over taxes is an eye-opener. It’s certainly a different direction after a recent history in which various local government figures seemed to go about figuratively holding hands and proclaiming Kumbaya stuff like “One Bryan.” Thus, all these intergovernmental meetings, and focus groups and task forces and bingo nights, and I applaud the effort to get along.

I’m just not sure too many people outside those who make up the slogans actually buy into all this one big happy Bryan family business.

At least, I know a good number of people who don’t. The live in both Bryans.

I’ve heard it wished by regular folks in Pembroke that Richmond Hill would go join some other county, and I recall when a small group of loudly opinionated South Bryan-ers tried to get the county seat moved to their end where they thought it rightfully belonged. I know people from Richmond Hill who’ve never been to Ellabell and have no plans to go, and people from Black Creek who would rather get a colonoscopy in broad daylight from a convenience store clerk using a Coca-cola flavored Icee than drive in Richmond Hill during rush hour.

You get the idea. That idea is “One Bryan” my left foot. There are two Bryans, and there have been since Fort Stewart came along and chopped the place in half. So what’s wrong with that, exactly? There are lots of good things that come in twos, like eyeballs.

In the meantime, thanks to this tax dispute I’ve had more facts and figures thrown at me in the last few weeks than an accountant gets in a year and I’m probably more lost than ever.

But at the end of the day, I think it boils down to this: Why should a man who owns a $200,000 house or million dollar business in Richmond Hill pay less in county taxes than a man who lives in a $200,000 house or owns a million dollar business in Pembroke or somewhere out in the unincorporated sticks, all things being equal.

That’s the county’s argument in a nutshell, I think.

They provide these services, and it’s unfair to charge some people more and some people less for the same thing.

The most obvious answer is Richmond Hill officials believe all things aren’t equal. So it looks like it’s going to take lawyers and judges to decide who’s right. And it might not even be about the taxes, just so you know. This sometimes seems as much about positioning for an upcoming tussle over who gets to do what to who.

Onward: I knew it’s not just me who thinks traffic is nuts and development is off the chains and barking mad around here. County commissioners got a bit of an earful at Tuesday’s meeting from folks opposed to more houses in Buckhead East.

That was after Phil Richardson asked the county to come up with a traffic solution where he lives, which is not in a Buckhead but in Wiley Woods over off Highway 17.

There’s a street there called Ponderosa Road which is surrounded by motels and fast food restaurants and includes a median cut between the north and south bound lanes of 17.

That median cut is used by thousands of drivers a day either to make a U-turn or for thrills, who knows. In short, it’s kind of like every other stretch of asphalt from Rincon on down the Georgia coast. Scary.

The county reminded Richardson that 17 is a state highway and Ponderosa Road is inside Richmond Hill city limits, which seemed to irk Richardson, who took his complaint to Richmond Hill city council members last month.

They told him they agreed with him and then sent him to the county, so he said he hoped maybe the county could be the middleman and bring everybody together so he wouldn’t have to do all the leg work.

At some point, Richardson, an Air Force veteran who retired from Gulfstream, also said he didn’t know whatleisurely pace of life county people were talking about on Bryan County’s website because it wasn’t leisurely in his view.

Later, a gentleman named John Tanner (I think) got up to give his two cents about continued development (among other things, including too many signs in right of ways).

Tanner forcefully told commissioners he didn’t like it. He said it used to take him about 10 minutes to get to Richmond Hill from his South Bryan Home on 144 and now it takes 20 minutes or half an hour, and that’s when District 4 County Commissioner Brad Brookshire had maybe the best line I’ve heard in a while when he looked over at Richardson and said “there’s your leisurely pace,” or something close to it.

In case you wondered: A lot of times we get press releases in which local officials refer to their constituency as citizens. Unless it’s in a quote, I tend to change that word to residents because’s it’s probably one of the few lessons from J-school that has stuck with me over a 23,000-year career in community newspapers.

And that lesson is? We’re citizens of a country. We’re residents of a state, county, city, etc. And if that doesn’t convince you, look at it this way.

Unless you’re born in the U.S., you have to take a citizenship test to become a citizen, but you can move down here from Ohio and proclaim yourself a Georgian anytime you want, should the urge hit you to do so. You don’t even have to take a test. Or drawl.

It might be irksome to some unreconstructed Southerners who wonder why the heck all these Ohio State and Michigan fans are suddenly in front of them in the checkout line at Lowes complaining about the traffic, but there’s no citizenship test required to move from state to state, or from up north to the South, or from South Bryan to North Bryan. Yet.

Finally, this week editorial writers around the country are reminding readers about the importance of newspapers and a free press.

Please consider yourself reminded.

Whitten is editor of the News.

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