I own a vacation home in Dawson County - Big Canoe to be exact. Every year, we get a bill for property taxes, and it is paid promptly. If it wasn't, I am afraid someone in the tax office would post my name on the court house door and that my neighbors in Big Canoe would be so horrified they wouldn't make eye contact when I waved at them.
Big Canoe is a lovely place, but the locals get snippety about the rules. They tell you what color to paint your house (iridescent orange is taboo), what can go on the roof (tar paper is not an option) and what you can and cannot put in your yard (no plastic pink flamingos). You can imagine what they would do to a tax miscreant. They would probably tattoo a letter on your chest, although it wouldn't be scarlet. Scarlet is not a permissible color in Big Canoe.
Thank goodness, our House Speaker David Ralston doesn't live in Big Canoe because while the man looks like he never missed a meal, he seems to continue to miss his tax deadlines.
He has just paid about $1,300 in late taxes due on property in Dawson County owned by his wife, after the Atlanta newspaper contacted him about the outstanding bill. Local officials filed a tax lien in April for unpaid taxes, penalties and interest.
It turns out he has been late with his taxes on the property for the last four years. On top of that, he has had to pay the state government thousands of dollars for late payment of personal income taxes.
And he is a leader in state government? I will sleep well tonight.
Ralston also paid more than $400,000 in back taxes to the U.S. government in 2007. He blamed those problems on a bookkeeper who later pleaded guilty to embezzlement.
This time, he blamed his Dawson County tax problems on migrating fruit flies.
That is not exactly true, but it kept him from having to blame his wife, even though she owns the land and is responsible for the taxes. Blaming anything on your wife can get you beaten severely about the head and shoulders.
Frankly, I am not sure what my taxes are in Dawson County because The Woman Who Shares My Name keeps up with that stuff. My job is to hide the plastic pink flamingos in my yard and see if the Big Canoe authorities can find them.
Maybe the speaker and his wife need to come to a similar arrangement. He could pay the bills and she can hide the plastic pink flamingos. There is no penalty for hiding flamingos late.
I have this sense that Ralston really doesn't care much for my advice, if he even knows I exist.
That is because he has a horde of legislators and staffers and lizard-loafered lobbyists fawning over him and telling him how wonderful he is. ("Forgot to pay your taxes again this year, eh Mr. Speaker? Ha! Ha! Ha! You are a riot, sir. May I buy you breakfast, lunch and dinner and take you to a ballgame?")
Although we are neighbors in Dawson County, we have never howdied. Ralston has never asked me over to his place for buttermilk and cornbread, and he did not invite me on his lobbyist-funded "working trip" to Germany and the Netherlands this past Thanksgiving. Bummer.
On the other hand, maybe he is waiting for an invitation to visit us at Big Canoe for a free meal. I do believe the man loves a free meal. The Woman Who Shares My Name will prepare a lovely dinner, and he won't have to worry about eating broccoli. It is a known fact that at high altitudes, broccoli will explode. Broccoli can be hazardous to your health.
If the Speaker is interested, he can come to Big Canoe and head straight up the side of the mountain. He won't have any trouble finding our house. Granted, it is painted the same color as all the rest of the houses in Big Canoe - drab - but when he sees plastic pink flamingos peeping out from the septic tank, he will know he is there.
After dinner, we will sit on the porch, suck on some sweet tea and I shall explain to him why big-shot politicians who think their feet don't smell should pay their taxes on time like the rest of us. It will be a short conversation.
Dick Yarbrough is a North Georgia resident whose column appears Saturdays and on gainesvilletimes.com. You can reach him at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, GA 31139; website, www.dickyarbrough.com.