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Community Forum: Increased fee may limit public records access
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I have read with interest the article "Hall loaded with records requests" (Jan. 11) which related that Hall County commissioners want to double the copying fee from 25 cents to 50 centers per copy for a citizen to get copies of Hall County records that are subject to public review per Georgia law.

It seems on the surface something is going on behind the scene. Could it be the tax assessors' GBI inquiry that recently occurred has brought up this "movement" to double copy costs for open records requests?

Why would Hall County commissioners bring up such a matter without even being able to provide the total number of open record requests that were received in 2008 or how many hours Hall County officials spent preparing the information requested by interested citizens and organizations? I was surprised that Hall County did not even keep a log or record of open record requests that were submitted during the supposedly "loaded" year of 2008.

It it evident this is a thinly veiled attempt to discourage citizens from filing open record requests and finding out what their government is doing and to limit the sun from shining in on the inner workings of local government and exposing waste and corruption.

Hall County officials should be encouraging citizen participation rather than limiting access to records legally open to the public. It appears Hall County commissioners have developed an intolerant attitude toward individuals and organizations who are simply seeking the truth.

Why should the copy fee be increased to 50 cents per copy when the actual retail cost for a copy at any of the local copying services in Gainesville does not exceed 9 cents per copy?

Commissioner Bobby Banks is in error when he says "it's just not enough for the time (clerk Heather Bennett) takes. It takes more than 25 cents a page. I think we should be compensated properly."

Commissioner Banks should be made aware that Hall County is compensated fairly in that it receives the 25 cents as well as hourly reasonable labor cost for searching, retrieving and other direct administrative cost for complying with an open records request. If sensitive documents are requested that requires the higher paid employee to handle the request rather than a clerk, the county has the authority to charge the individual making the request the higher the hourly fee.

It appears the commission has not read the following statement, on page 2 of the Association of County Commissioners open records guidebook, stating "Ease of access to meetings and records of local government and other public agencies is one of the keys in fostering trust. In support of that concept, Georgia's open meetings and open records law make it clear that the citizens of Georgia have a right to observe the process by which local officials make decisions affecting their pocketbooks and their daily lives."

Shame on the Hall County commissioners for trying to sneak this one by the citizens.

Lyman A. Martin

Government was part of the problem in '80s
In his Feb. 13 Other Views column, Mitchel Wallerstein lays the blame for the supposedly weak state of government service on Ronald Reagan's 1981 assertion that government was part of the problem rather than the solution.

In 1981, the statement was accurate: Government was not just a part of the problem, it was a big part of the problem.

Inflation was imposing a crippling tax on people, especially the poor and the elderly. The Consumer Price Index was running over 13 percent; at some point that year mortgages were running at more than 16 percent. This inflation was putting people out of work; unemployment was 8 percent.

What caused this devastating inflation? Big government spending on The Great Society converging with growing spending in Vietnam ignited it back in the mid-1960s.

Government was indeed part of that problem. (The inflation was aggravated by the oil crises of 1973 and 1979.)

The inflation was ended by the Fed's tight policies, which President Reagan supported at great political cost. Yes, government was part of the solution here, but government created the problem in the first place. Reagan supported Federal Reserve Chairman Volcker's efforts: Conservative believe one of our government's basic duties is to keep our money sound.

Government is better when it is limited to what it is supposed to do. Its record is spotty at best, often terrible, when it expands into things it should not be doing.

Beyond the Great Society's contribution to this peace-time inflation, it caused other problems. Urban renewal undercut tens of thousands of healthy black businesses, either directly or by splitting up neighborhoods.

Detroit is a case study. Through the judicial system, government gave us forced school busing, a woeful social experiment on children, whose unintended consequences included weakening parents' involvement in neighborhood schools. Their own children weren't there anymore; they were bused somewhere else.

This is a short list of what in reality is a very long list of problems caused by the government leading up to 1981 - a well-meaning government, but the problems were no less devastating because of good intentions. Short as it is, it makes clear that President Reagan was on the mark in asserting that government was indeed part of the problem.

Kerry Cook
Flowery Branch

Economy punishes all despite our actions
Recent events have brought back memories of gym class back in the 1970s when one of my classmates would get caught slacking off while running the bleachers or doing fingertip push ups. The end result would always be additional reps for the entire class. All were subjected to punishment due to the actions of the few.

Recent legislation passed in Washington is punishment for all. Most of us Americans have worked hard, struggled and lived within our own means. We did not always go on the vacations we wanted, drive new cars or live where we wanted to live. We put money away for the future, kept our credit cards paid and looked ahead, the whole time trying to teach our children there are rewards for sacrifice.

We all knew that those who did not follow this lifestyle would someday pay the price. After all we reap what we sow, right?

Unfortunately life is like gym class as there is no justice in this matter, only punishment for all.

As a consequence of individuals, government and corporate America not living within their own means all of us are watching our home values decline, our investments diminish and our jobs disappear. Sadly the only solution the majority of our leaders can come up with is to spend more money that we don't have.

Some folks just never learn. God Bless America!

Darrell Bozarth

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