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A rare opportunity for commissioners

McDuffie County Commissioners have a mulligan.

And there's no reason they shouldn't use it.

In golf, a player can use a mulligan as a do-over to erase a bad shot. That's a perfect analogy for county commissioners' approach to the prospect of a business license program.

Their first effort was a terrible shot. Now they have the opportunity to get the next one in the fairway and do what's best for McDuffie County.

The issue of business licenses has arisen several times over the past 10 to 15 years. A majority of counties in Georgia have such an ordinance in place, especially ones that are growing and want to grow. Even the City of Thomson and the Town of Dearing have business license programs in place. Shouldn't McDuffie County?

Apparently not, according to some county commissioners.

On March 2, Commissioners Darrell Wester and Bob Farr voted against the idea altogether. Their votes, coupled with Rev. Fred Favors' abstention, left the commission deadlocked on the issue and McDuffie County floundering without a business license program.

(And, just for the record, Rev. Favor's assertion that he was "ambiguous" on the issue just doesn't fly. Commissioners shouldn't be ambiguous when it comes time to vote.)

Dr. Wester, who usually stands as a reasonable devil's advocate on the board, said during the commission meeting that he couldn't see how the measure would benefit businesses -- including his veterinary clinic -- in any way.

Maybe Dr. Wester knows something we don't, but in other communities, business license programs help look after legitimate businesses while weeding out many illegitimate businesses. Even Sheriff Logan Marshall threw his support behind the ordinance, saying his deputies would know when a potential problem-causing business opened.

But the real reason for business licenses has very little to do with the actual businesses. The licensing system is set up to protect the interests of local consumers and citizens, according to County Manager Don Norton. And that should always be at the top of the commission's priority list.

The commission's vote also sent a clear message to Planning Director Fred Guerrant. His months of research and work on the shuttled ordinance were essentially for naught. Plus, commissioners robbed county coffers of much-needed revenue by attempting to shoot down the license plan.

So, let's recap: Here's a plan that protects legitimate business, watches out for citizens, raises revenue for the county, and provides a tool for law enforcement. Where's the problem there?

On Tuesday, commissioners have a chance to right their wrong and approve the business license program -- an idea whose time is long overdue, both for the benefit of local businesses and residents.

It's not often you get a mulligan -- in golf or in government. Let's hope county commissioners put this one to good use.



Web posted on Thursday, March 10, 2005











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