Valdosta Daily Times

July 20, 2013

Winning SPLOST VII means winning the people

The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — In an editorial last Sunday, The Times asked people to weigh their decision, for or against, regarding SPLOST VII.

Despite its defeat last fall, SPLOST VII will return to Lowndes County ballots again this fall. Had the special purpose local option sales tax revenues passed last year, the majority of the funds would have been assigned to constructing a new library and performing arts center. If passed this fall, the majority of the City of Valdosta’s SPLOST revenues will go toward upgrading the flailing sewage infrastructure which came to public light earlier this year.

Though the editorial asked people to weigh their options carefully, The Times also offered a question on the newspaper’s website: “SPLOST VII will be on the ballot again this fall. How will you vote?”

Though SPLOST priorities have changed, a majority of people responding to our poll are against it. As of Friday morning, 40 respondents, or 7 percent, were undecided. Thirty-four percent, or 192 respondents, were for approving SPLOST VII. But 336 respondents, or 59 percent, were opposed to SPLOST VII.

While there is nothing scientific about our survey, it is an indicator of the public mood.

It is an indicator that county and city officials again proposing SPLOST VII must think as much, if not more, about winning the hearts and minds of the public as they do in how they would allocate SPLOST VII funds.

There’s no use counting chickens before they’ve hatched if the hens refuse to lay the eggs.

More importantly, if SPLOST VII is to pass, it may come down more to the folks who support it like the 34 percent in The Times poll. Given the anti-tax and anti-government mood pervading the nation and our region, oppositionists may listen more closely to their neighbors’ views for SPLOST than their elected officials’ endorsements. SPLOST proponents must do a better job explaining SPLOST and what’s at stake.

Minds can be changed. We’ve seen it time and again in past area referendums from increasing the number of county commissioners to alcohol sales on Sundays. Just because an issue fails once doesn’t mean voters won’t approve it the next time.

But that change takes work, discussion, honesty, vision. It takes clear explanations so the benefits are apparent and the consequences are understood.

If SPLOST VII does pass and it funds the construction of a new sewage plant, or funds the betterment of anything in our region, the dedication plaque should not contain the names of any official or board members. It should read simply: This project was funded by the will of the people of Valdosta and Lowndes County.

Because it’s going to take the people’s support to make SPLOST VII and all of the proposed projects a reality.