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Our Views: Bullying the DOT
Richardson seeks vendetta against board chairman
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It is unfortunate that the terms "good government" and "good politics" are not always synonymous. But truth be told when it comes to the Georgia General Assembly, the two concepts are frequently at odds.
Mike Evans is the chairman of the state's Department of Transportation board. He is the representative of the 9th Congressional District, which includes Hall County.

In October, Evans cast a vote for good government, and now faces a threat of retribution that can only be called bad politics. In breaking a 6-6 tie on the DOT board, Evans cast the deciding vote to name Gena Abraham as commissioner of the state Department of Transportation. Of the two candidates being considered for the job, Abraham was clearly the better qualified, and had the support of both Gov. Sonny Perdue and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.

But the other candidate for the post, state Rep. Vance Smith, had the support of House Speaker Glenn Richardson. Further cementing his growing reputation as a political bully, Richardson has embarked on a mission to remove Evans from the DOT board when time for his appointment rolls around in January.

DOT board members are appointed to five-year terms by a majority vote of the state representatives and senators from the congressional district they serve. The DOT board then selects its chairman.

Richardson wants a majority of the 9th Congressional district's legislative caucus to vote against Evans, even though there is no indication at this point as to what other candidate might emerge for the seat. As far as the speaker is concerned, it doesn't matter.

As speaker, Richardson has enormous clout with members of the state House. He determines who gets powerful committee appointments. He plays a major role in which pieces of legislation make it to the floor for a vote. He can make life difficult for those lawmakers who aren't willing to line up behind him when he dictates they must do so.

And, sadly, some representatives from the district have already indicated they will support anyone other than Evans in order to keep the speaker happy.

Evans has done a good job as a member of the DOT board. He has brought to the body fresh ideas and new energies. He has proven himself willing to try to take transportation in the state beyond the days when political connections overrode logic in making transportation decisions.

Abraham has strong credentials for the job she now holds. She was appointed state property officer by the governor in 2006, is a former chief engineer for the Georgia Building Authority, a former assistant professor of construction engineering at Georgia Tech (from which she has a doctorate in civil engineering) and has managed construction projects in private business across the nation.

But she isn't a member of the legislative fraternity, as was the speaker's candidate for the job. Transportation in Georgia is in bad shape, largely because that same fraternity has for years exerted control and influence over the DOT board and commissioner. Some in state government are more than happy with the status quo, even if it means problems that threaten the state's future never seem to be resolved.

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. Those lawmakers who would vote to remove Evans from the DOT board as a means of proving their loyalty to Richardson would do well to ask themselves if their decision is based on good government, or good politics.

And if the answer is the later, they should be ashamed.

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