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Commissioners, Macon-Bibb mayor take oath of office for new government

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On Tuesday, December 31, eight new commissioners along with the Macon-Bibb mayor were sworn in, as the city of Macon and Bibb County governments prepare to consolidate officially in January 2014.

The election between Henry Ficklin and Larry Scheslinger for District 2 won't be decided until January 14. This would decide the final seat to the nine-member commission.

Robert Reichert, the incumbent Macon mayor who will now lead the new Macon-Bibb government, told Central Georgia's largest television station, WMAZ-TV, that he is looking forward to a different tone in local government and to "develop by consensus with the nine commissioners a common agenda" that is "positive and productive, yet realistic and attainable."

Reichert had strong Republican support in North Macon and South Bibb and it propelled him to victory on October 15 in the mayoral runoff against former two-term Macon mayor, C. Jack Ellis.

On a cloudy, unseasonably cold New Year's Eve, Reichert urged the people of Macon and Bibb to get involved to support the new government.

Local Republicans, State Rep. Allen Peake and State Sen.Cecil Staton saw their vision come full circle in reconstructing local government as the electoral impact of African-Americans in local government shrunk by the design of the new consolidation law.

In most cases, a 5-4 majority would be sufficient in passing a budget, but under the HB-1171 (consolidation law), a 'supermajority' of the proposed nine-member Bibb County City Commission would be the only means of approving a budget.

In Section 26 of HB-1171, it says the following ...." the mayor shall submit to the commission at least six weeks prior to the start of the fiscal year a budget message and a budget report, accompanied by a draft of the recommended appropriations ordinance, in a form and manner as may be prescribed by ordinance, which shall provide for the appropriation of the funds necessary to operate all the various departments and to meet the current expenses of the restructured government for the next fiscal year. Such ordinance must be approved by a two-thirds' majority vote of the commissioners then serving."

What does this mean?

If a small cadre of Bibb County Republicans are able to replicate a local version of filibustering in regard to passing the budget, it would bring gridlock to Macon-Bibb government.

Budget cuts to services would be a likely reality along with major changes to employee pension plans.

Reichert told local media: "This is a new start. We gather to officially begin a new era."

On July 31, 2012, with 48 total precincts reporting, HB-1171--the Macon-Bibb consolidation referendum--passed with 19,193 votes and 56 percent of the overall vote.

The majority of registered voters in Bibb County stayed home and the Republican-sponsored HR-1171 became law as 34,000 total voters --mostly Republicans-- bothered to vote.

Macon City Council and the Bibb County Commission will be officially dissolved as the calendar turns to January 1, 2014.

On a side note, there will only be one woman serving among the nine commissioners-- Elaine Lucas.

Lucas was first elected to Macon City Council in 1983, and was elected in 1991 and has been on Macon City Council ever since and currently represents East Macon's Ward 1, Post 3.

The progressive Democrat had worked with Bibb County Public Schools in various capacities as an elementary school teacher and high school counselor at Northeast High School and retired after nearly four decades as part of the Bibb County Board of Education.

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