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Grading on a curve?
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Politicians are nothing if not quick to toot their own horns.

That was the case Monday, when a breathlessly written press release from Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue’s office announced the state’s grade in the most recent Pew Center on the States and Governing Magazine.

In short – Georgia did good and Perdue was proud.

"We have made sensible, strategic reforms in Georgia to make government more efficient and more responsive to the needs of our citizens," Perdue is quoted as saying in the release. "As a result, Georgians are getting better value for their tax dollars and better service from their government, and we will continue to work to surpass every other state and become the best managed state in the nation."

Georgia was given a B+, the release said, one of the highest grades handed out in the country and the highest in the Southeast.

Here's more from the release: "The 2008 report emphasized the value and impact of improvements made by the Governor’s Commission for a New Georgia, an initiative Governor Perdue launched shortly after being sworn-in as Governor in 2003. The commission is made up of private sector business and community leaders who offer a fresh perspective on how to make government more efficient and effective.

"'In 2003, when Governor Sonny Perdue decided to set up his Commission for a New Georgia, it sounded like a recipe for one more unread manifesto doomed to gather more dust than interest. But the Governor meant business,' said the report. 'He ultimately pressed into service more than 300 private-sector representatives, promising to do everything possible to implement their recommendations. And since its creation, the commission has been slowly, quietly and deliberately infiltrating Georgia state government with best practices from private industry.'"

That's all well and good, though we wonder if the folks who did the grading bothered to come to Georgia.

If they did, either they’re grading on a heck of a curve or the rest of the U.S. is in much worse shape than we realized. It’s probably a combination of both factors – though to be fair there have been improvements in the way state offices handle customer service.

For example, renewing a driver's license is much easier thanks to the internet. What's more, Georgia's online presence is growing and allows anyone to go online to accomplish a variety of tasks, ranging from reserving a camping spot in one of the state’s many beautiful parks to registering a corporation.

But even with improvements, Georgia still fares badly in terms of management of both natural and man-made resources.

Lack of drinking water is becoming a real problem and if the drought and statewide growth continu unabated it will ultimately affect those of us on the coast. Georgia is already years behind in terms of building roads to keep up with the millions who have moved into the state and the DOT faces a funding shortfall of billions for road project currently on the books. What's more, under the Commission for a New Georgia schools have had to deal with yearly austerity cuts. That doesn't sound like sound management and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Our hospitals need help, we need more state troopers to keep order on highways and the folks charged with protecting the state’s natural resources are so understaffed they can’t adequately keep up with the growing push to develop heretofore unspoiled areas. If we were truly as well manged as the Pew report suggests, would we face such a multitude of issues – especially since so many seem self inflicted?

Politicians can pat themselves on the back (and they will) but this surely seems a case of grade inflation to us.

Bryan County News

March 5, 2008

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