Hurry. Be the first on your block to have your very own copy of the charter of the Columbus Consolidated Government.
It’s a must-read. Your book club can discuss it. You take it to the beach or read it by the pool. Load it on your iPad or eReader.
Granted the charter, first published in 1970, does not rival the literature of a James Patterson novel or a John Grisham courtroom drama — though parts of it are as frightening as a tale by Stephen King. But if you’re interested in the mechanics of local government this document should be on your bookshelf.
Twenty-five citizens are currently reviewing and revisiting the charter and in the coming months they will consider a rewrite of the playbook that framed the original consolidated government.
The Charter Review Commission is established every 10 years, charged with the responsibility of modifying or modernizing our local Constitution. Chaired by stockbroker John Shinkle, this important panel has broken down into small groups so it can study the charter line-by-line and section-by-section.
It is an interesting group. The word diversity is overused, but this panel is diverse. When it first came together, introductions were in order because members are not the usual suspects, though former Mayor Bob Hydrick is always included to add historic perspective.
The commission grabbed an early headline by suggesting a fee that would insure every taxpayer in the county paid an equal fee for basic services such as public safety and garbage collection.
You would have thought the panel proposed something outrageous, like an expensive statue in front of the public library. (Oh, wait. That’s been done.) Actually, the idea of an annual fee is a throwback to the past when the county was divided into taxing districts. Residents in the panhandle paid lower taxes than people in the inner city since they did not receive the same level of fire or police protection.
Proponents of the Property Tax Freeze — a piece of legislation as sacred as the Ten Commandments — once again screamed about how such a fee would be a hardship to the elderly, as if only older people are affected.
Lost in the feedback is that this is only a discussion point. The commission will not make any concrete proposals for the better part of a year. Even then, there will be public hearings and a referendum on changes to the original charter.
The service fee overshadows other suggestions that are on the table. There has been a mention of uncollected court fees. There is talk of making the Internal Auditor a department head answering only to the mayor. There is the perpetual point that Columbus Council needs more at-large positions. There could be a pay raise for councilors.
But before you respond to anything the commission talks about, read the charter. Download your very own copy at www.columbusga.org/charter-review.
Keep it on your nightstand. It’s a sure cure for insomnia.