Valdosta Daily Times

January 11, 2008

OUR OPINION: South Georgia, the 51st state?

Georgia political columnist Bill Shipp recently wrote that South Georgia should separate from the rest of Georgia and become the 51st state.

He suggested South Georgia leaders urge Sen. Saxby Chambliss begin the congressional efforts necessary to create a new South Georgia state. Shipp proposed that Tifton could become the new South Georgia’s state capital.

We agree with Shipp. Well, we agree with everything except Tifton becoming the capital. We think Valdosta should be South Georgia’s capital city.

Shipp’s proposal may have been partially tongue in cheek, but the reasons behind it are deadly serious for our region. How long, he notes, will it take Gov. Sonny Perdue and other state leaders to realize it would be easier to simply take the needed water for Atlanta from South Georgia’s relatively ample supply rather than battle with Alabama and Florida over water rights?

Essentially, he writes, Atlanta will eventually take our water and literally suck South Georgia dry.

Meanwhile, Atlanta endeavors to proverbially suck us dry or ignore us.

House Speaker Glenn Richardson’s GREAT proposal would end some property taxes while giving the state power of all funding decisions. Can you imagine the process of going through Atlanta to fund the construction of a new city or county school or buy new police cars or any number of necessary things local governments have the power to currently fund? Imagine a South Georgia city or county trying to get its due with all of those North Georgia cities and counties wanting money from that same fund?

Several months ago, state transportation committee members visited South Georgia towns to discuss transportation issues. Their South Georgia visits were more about consolidating power for their Atlanta road construction proposals than a genuine interest in South Georgia’s transportation needs. Take care of Atlanta, they said, and the rest of the state follows. South Georgia knows differently through experience. South Georgia has seen that all roads often lead to Atlanta but very little seems to come back.

Meanwhile, we suggest Georgia Trend magazine rename itself Atlanta Trend. Its recent list of Georgia’s 100 most influential people mentions only one South Georgian: Sen. Saxby Chambliss, who is from Moultrie. Valdosta State University President Ronald Zaccari received a small notation. And that was about it for South Georgia.

Should South Georgia try becoming its own state?

Bill Shipp has a strong argument for the idea. South Georgia’s experience in dealing with Atlanta in the past and issues facing Georgia in the future should certainly give South Georgians pause for reflection.

But only a brief pause. South Georgia must take action because things that will affect us are happening and will happen quickly.

If not a state, South Georgia must work to become a more consolidated region within the state. South Georgia cities, counties, and legislators must work more closely together. They should identify mutual needs and consolidate into a political bloc dedicated to the protection and development of South Georgia.

And if need be, if Atlanta will no longer represent the interests of South Georgia, if Atlanta continues taking advantage of our region, perhaps, then, we should seek to become the 51st star in the Stars and Stripes.