On Thursday, April 4, the St. Paul AME Church will host a political forum in which Macon-Bibb mayoral and District 3 candidates provide an opportunity for voters to hear where they stand on various issues that are pertinent to the community.
The two-hour event is scheduled to begin at six o’ clock at 2501 Shurling Drive in East Macon.
Last summer, with more than 40 total precincts reporting, HB-1171–the Macon-Bibb consolidation referendum–passed with 19,193 votes and 56 percent of the overall vote.
Out of 84,000 registered voters in Bibb County on July 31, only 34,000 total voters bothered to vote. Most of those voters came primarily from North Macon-Bibb and are poised to come out again in similar numbers this year.
On November 6, the East Macon precincts were very active and the majority of the precincts met or exceeded the state average in regard to voting participation at 72%. This helped Barack Obama win Bibb County with approximately 60 percent of the vote.
The following is the voting participation rate for EAST MACON precincts on November 6:
61% EAST MACON 1
75% EAST MACON 2
74% EAST MACON 3
71% EAST MACON 4
73% EAST MACON 5
75% EAST MACON 6
However, the 2012 summer primary is where apathy and cynicism set in and the drop in participation was rather dramatic. The following is the participation rates on July 31, 2012– the day Allen Peake, Cecil Staton, Miriam Paris and Nikki Randall rejoiced when consolidation was able to pass with 56 percent of the vote with lower turnout:
The Republicans designed to have the vote in July rather than November after passing HR-1171 only three months earlier in the Georgia General Assembly…
The following is the voting participation rate for EAST MACON precincts on July 31:
26% EAST MACON 1
39% EAST MACON 2
39% EAST MACON 3
39% EAST MACON 4 (City)
39% EAST MACON 4 (County)
28% EAST MACON 5 (County)
47% EAST MACON 5 (City)
41% EAST MACON 6
East Macon can still have a huge impact in the future of Macon-Bibb moving forward. However, turnout will play a huge role in whether the Republican-led consolidation effort and attempt to reduce the electoral impact of African-Americans in Central Georgia’s largest and most progressive city– Macon– becomes a ‘full-circle’ reality for opportunistic conservatives such as State Rep. Allen Peake and State Sen. Cecil Staton.
For C. Jack Ellis, the re-development of East Macon has been one of his priorities in 2011 and 2013, and Ellis had made proposals to address this via a redevelopment plan.
The following is what Ellis said to WMAZ-TV back in June 2011:
“We have blight to our left. We have blight to our right. We have empty houses behind me,” Ellis said.
“When I’m elected mayor,” he said, “One of my first orders of business will be to establish a bicentennial commission.”
Ellis said the commission would be responsible for restoring East Macon, a move Ellis said would extend projects done during his two terms as mayor.
Ellis, a former two-term Macon mayor and a candidate for Macon-Bibb mayor in 2013 has the most executive experience than any of the current candidates which include the current mayor Robert Reichert who has been in office for nearly six years, Bibb County Commission chairman Sam Hart, community activist and member of the Macon-Bibb Planning Commission Al Tillman, former Bibb County Commission chairman Charlie Bishop and David Cousino.
East Macon precincts have supported President Barack Obama with overwhelming majorities in 2008 and 2012, but there have been a large number of East Macon voters — registered and unregistered and young and old– who decide to stay home in non-presidential years and opportunistic Republicans have been able to get the support of ‘compromised’ Democrats who signed onto HB-1171.
Every mayoral candidate who has declared — except Ellis– had supported HB-1171 which meant they supported reducing the electoral impact of African-Americans in local government, having the ‘top cop’ as the Bibb County Sheriff, jeopardizing the pensions of city-county government workers and having a two-thirds majority as the metaphorical bar in passing a local budget.
On a side note, it will be interesting to see if any of the mayoral candidates endorse the PROMISE NEIGHBORHOODS INITIATIVE publicly.
Local elections in non-presidential years really matter by electing local leaders who are willing to support President Obama’s initiatives in an effort to help impoverished areas of Macon and/or public schools in which test scores are low.
However, local governments and elected officials will have to apply for these grants and initiatives. And local Republicans such as Peake and Staton are attempting to make it more difficult for communities such as Macon-Bibb to truly address poverty and improve education.
If the current mayor and other pro-consolidation supporters get the majority of their support from Republicans and conservative local-precincts, then it becomes apparent where the stand and this is where the local voters and EAST MACON voters will ave to come out in larger numbers to make their voice heard.
The Promise Neighborhoods initiative was developed shortly Barack Obama assumed office in 2009
….”The Promise Neighborhoods Initiative is a federal program that supports community-driven, place-based efforts to improve educational and developmental outcomes for children in distressed communities. It is a key component of the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI), an interagency federal partnership focused on empowering local communities to develop and obtain the tools and resources they need to transform neighborhoods of concentrated poverty into neighborhoods of opportunity that support the optimal development and well-being of children and families….”
In a Macon Telegraph story back in January, the newspaper attempted to smear the Promise Neighborhoods program with popular Republican talking points and posing the question : is it worth it?
The short answer is yes, and in addition to Macon-Bibb mayoral and District 3 candidates, the community needs to hear from the Bibb County School Board, especially the ones who supported the Macon Miracle.
For the city of Macon and Bibb County– and East Macon specifically, we are at crossroads and sitting and observing from the sidelines and allowing the Republicans to reconstruct Macon-Bibb government and hijack Bibb’s public school system is something the citizens should be something willing to fight for… and for our mayoral candidates and school board members to explain where they stand–publicly.