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City must exercise fiscal restraint
Courier editorial
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Hinesville’s streets aren’t paved in gold. Dollar bills aren’t growing on the live oaks that dot the local landscape, so why are the mayor and city council spending money like it’s going out of style?
Taxpayers didn’t need another reason to be outraged at local representatives’ lack of fiscal leadership, but they got one Sept. 16 when the city council voted to self-publish a quarterly magazine for about $58,000 in initial costs.
Councilman Keith Jenkins voted against the magazine proposal, and he was right to do so. Given the already volatile economic conditions, it’s tough to imagine why anyone would agree with such an unnecessary expenditure, and the council’s recent spending record doesn’t help.
 In January council members voted themselves and the mayor 166 percent pay raises after reconvening from an executive session. They took the vote again in April after residents objected to the first vote being taken out of the public eye. The raises were upheld. However, after additional media attention and pressure from constituents, the council later voted to reduce the pay raises to 60 percent.
Right now eight city and county delegates are visiting Hinesville’s sister city, Yichun, China, as part of an economic development mission. When they return, the brand new, 48,000-square-foot, three-story city hall going up at a total cost of about $7 million will be 10 days closer to completion. The project was partially funded with $4 million in SPLOST funds.
The buck has to stop somewhere. Residents have been vocal in airing their displeasure with the city’s spending, and yet most council members and the mayor continue to approve more expenditures. It seems most council members refuse to put stock in what voters are telling them: stop spending tax dollars on things we don’t want or need.
And, like the first raise vote, the magazine proposal vote is questionable. There are five council members. The mayor only votes in case of a tie. One of the council members was absent from the Sept. 16 meeting and the District 2 council seat was vacant. Three councilmen were present; one voted for the magazine contract, one voted against it. The third councilman was silent, but the mayor said the councilman’s silence counted as an affirmative vote, therefore the vote stands. According to Susan Moore, legal counsel from the Georgia Municipal Association, a vote is considered acquiescence when a council member does not actively say “yea” or “nay” or “I abstain.” Thus, the mayor’s interpretation of the councilman’s silence is permissible.
It’s also disappointing when elected officials choose to spend tax dollars outside of the county at the expense of local businesses.
After learning of the city’s plan for a magazine at this year’s city-wide planning retreat on St. Simons Island, representatives of Morris Multimedia, publishers of the Coastal Courier, met with the mayor and public relations staff and offered several options to publish a Hinesville magazine that, in our view, would not pose a financial risk to the city.
If city officials feel a magazine is a necessity, they could at least make sure the city doesn’t take on all the financial risk.
Hinesville government officials must feel confident that voters either don’t care or will forget about these spending decisions before the next election. We don’t think they will.

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