Vision needed, not more delusions.

By David Kyler, Executive Director
Center for a Sustainable Coast
Saint Simons Island, Georgia

At a time when the future of Georgia requires clear thinking and insightful action more than ever, a few key leaders are presenting the state's citizens with some of the most delusional ideas in our state's history.

Two of the most glaring symptoms of this tragic wrongheadedness are, first, the most recent mutation of the state water plan and, secondly, the bizarre proposal to shift the burden of supporting the state budget from property tax to sales tax.

The politically-driven State Water Council has summarily recommnded that water planning districts should be described by the political boundaries of state "service delivery areas" a device for allegedely promoting orderly (and profitable) development - as if Georgia's water resources were nothing more than a commodity for serving economic motives.

This is like a farmer deciding where to plant his most important cash crops on the basis of access to the highway that leads to his market rather than an informed study of his land's soil fertility, crop rotation, water availability, wind exposure, and slope.

River systems, like successful farms, are governed by the laws of nature, not man, and both are ruined by willful but ignorant disregard of natural processes. The effectivenss of their management is determined by scientific understanding of what maintains the healthy balance of a complex community of ecosystem elements, from microbes to major plants and animals. To "manage" water as if drainage areas are less important than political boundaries is to profoundly contradict common sense, and undoubtedly will result in environmental decline as well as fiscal malfeasance.

Some may ask about the reference to fiscal consequences. Major blunders cost much more to repair than minor ones, and nothing is more mistaken than deciding to make water management decisions on the basis of politcal will and power. Damage to our rivers and aquifers caused by an engineered approach to natural resource management will surely be monumental. Thus, the Water Council's recommendations are irresponsible both environmentally and fiscally.

Compounding the unproductive bias in planning districts, under the Water Council's recommendations appointment to regional water planning councils would become completely political, and not based on balanced representation of all stakeholder groups. The governor, lieutenant governor, and general assembly leaders from each chamber would determine who serves. Party loyalists and major donors would then be determining how our waters are to be used.

Decisions based on the political needs of politically favored appointees will inevitably lead to unfairness in the allocation of water, a public resource owned by all citizens, to support the profit-making goals of the few at the expense of the many. Those goals do not encourage long-term thinking or responsible management supporting the public interest. As long as public interest is held to be served above all by maximizing economic growth, Georgians can be assured that their natural resources will be exploited to the detriment of future generations and to the least favored politically.

Which leads to the second symptom in this diagnosis of political self-delusion. Whatever the serious drawbacks of shifting from property tax to sales tax as the primary means of generating state revenues, one thing is certain: politicians promoting the switch are saying that it will help Georgia grow faster. Say what?!

Does any clear-thinking, informed citizen really think that Georgia isn't already growing fast enough? One does not need to be an economist to understand that, for many reasons and by various measures, moderate growth is far better in the long run than rampant growth. Indeed, it can be readily demonstrated that many of Georgia's most challenging problems, including water management, are being aggravated, if not caused, by excessive growth - at least in some dominant areas of the state, primarily metro Atlanta.

It's time to get honest and incisive in making decisions having such far-reaching implications. This means recognizing that Georgia's growth must be moderated and managed, not promoted, and that anyone who ignores the laws of nature does not deserve holding public office.
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