Ministers group drops tax oppposition

Monday evening Rev. Joe Andrews looked Columbus Mayor Jim Wetherington in the eye.

Andrews, the president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance that represents more than 60 churches, had serious concerns about the mayor's proposed 1-percent sales tax. And he had expressed those concers about the inclusion of crime prevention programs in the tax revenue with Wetherington. Andrews and the black ministers in his alliance were threatening to come out against the tax, which will be in the July 15 ballot.

A hastily called meeting that included Wetherington, Andrews, Rev. Willie Hill, Rev. Wayne Baker, Rev. Rudy Allen Sr., state Rep. Calvin Smyre and political adviser to Yes for Public Safety Frank Myers was held at Metropolitian Baptist Church on Fifth Avenue.

There Wetherington gained the support of the ministers by giving them his word he would put meaning crime prevention programs in place if the sales tax passes.

Part of the reason Wetherington convinced the ministers not to campaign against the tax was what Andrews saw in the mayor's eyes as the sat in that conference room for more than two-and-a-half hours.

"I saw the trust," Andrews said.

And that trust was critical. Though the alliance had been asking for 10 percent of the sales tax revenue to go toward prevention programs, there was no dollar amount promised, Wetherington and Andrews said.

"Now, we have to trust people," Andrews said.

In a lenghty council meeting Tuesday morning, Andrews went public with the alliance's support of the sales tax, which is expected to generate $36 million a year that will used to add 100 additional police officers and add on to the Muscogee County jail.

"It has taken 10 years to get this tax to the table," Andrews told council. "For that reason we will not oppose it."