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Guest column: DOT vote not as portrayed

POSTED: February 10, 2008 5:05 a.m.
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Georgia Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson, R-Hiram.

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As I read The Times editorial entitled, "Bullying the DOT," I was reminded that there are indeed two sides to every story. While The Times feels that Department of Transportation Board Chairman Mike Evans put good government over politics, I respectfully disagree.

It is no secret that Gov. Perdue and the House of Representatives supported different candidates in the search to fill the post of DOT Commissioner. As the DOT board's chairman, Mr. Evans was obviously involved in that process.

However, only one week before the board vote was scheduled to take place, Mr. Evans circulated word to both the legislative and executive branches that neither Gena Abraham nor Vance Smith had the votes to become the next DOT commissioner. Mr. Evans then offered himself as a compromise candidate for commissioner.

While he should have been educating himself about the qualifications and viewpoints of the two candidates, Gena Abraham and Vance Smith, and helping other members of the board he chairs to do the same, it became apparent that Mr. Evans was privately campaigning to get himself elected DOT commissioner. At the height of the decision-making process, one week before the vote, Mr. Evans was not focused on what was best for the Department of Transportation but focused instead on his own agenda.

This self-serving act proved that Mr. Evans was not interested in good government, but rather in good politics, politics that would most benefit his own career rather than the state of Georgia.

Every two years, citizens across this state go to the polls to vote for someone to serve as their state representative. The candidate with the most votes is elected, and is then charged with representing those citizens for the next two years. For as long as they are in office, that representative is accountable to his constituency for every decision he makes. If, at the end of the two-year term, the constituency is unhappy with the actions and decisions of their elected representative, they will vote him out of office.

The same is true for the DOT Board. The House of Representatives and the State Senate elect each DOT board member to a five-year term. At the end of those five years, the board members must again face the voters, their constituency, the members of the House and Senate.

I, along with Speaker Pro Tempore Mark Burkhalter and Majority Leader Jerry Keen, am disappointed with the way Mr. Evans tried to manipulate the situation to his own advantage. It is up to the representatives and senators in the 9th District to cast their vote, and they will have a chance to do so in January. If your local representatives lose their voice on the DOT board, your community loses its representation.

Regardless of the prior differences of opinion, Gena Abraham will serve Georgia extremely well as the new DOT commissioner. She is bright, capable, and brings a new perspective to a department charged with solving some of the most difficult problems in our state.

The editorial said, "The people of the 9th Congressional District need to let their local legislators know we're tired of the sort of political bullying exhibited by the speaker of the House."

I believe the representatives and senators of the 9th Congressional District need to let their DOT Board member know they're tired of the sort of political self-promotion he exhibited. All elected officials must remember who their constituency is and to whom they are accountable.

Of course, Georgia has far more pressing issues to address, and I am highly focused on increasing our high school graduation rates, fixing a broken public defenders system, creating water reservoirs across our state, funding a trauma care network and eliminating property taxes in Georgia.

Glenn Richardson is Speaker of the state House of Representatives. Contact him at Room 332 State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334; phone, 404-656-5020, fax 404-656-5644; e-mail, glenn.richardson@house.ga.gov



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