CCJ Takeaways: Macon-Bibb Commission

Mayor Lester Miller breaks tie on Equitable, Diverse & Inclusive Community resolution which passed 5-4


Macon-Bibb County commissioners discussed only two items on Tuesday night’s agenda, but passed 10 other measures that received enough support in committee to be placed in a bulk consent agenda.

Equitable, Diverse, Inclusive

Commissioner Virgil Watkins’ resolution committing Macon-Bibb County to being an Equitable, Diverse & Inclusive World Class Community was the most controversial item on Tuesday’s agenda.

The resolution defines equity as all segments of the population having access to community conditions and opportunities to reach their full potential and optimal well-being.

It affirms the county’s commitment to implement its vision equitably, continue a dialogue about race and equity, identify disparities and gaps, and join the Government Alliance on Race & Equity to learn ways to advance racial equity.

Commissioner Mallory Jones continued the debate from last week’s Committee of the Whole meeting where he challenged the need for such a resolution.

“I’ve believed in equality all my life,” Jones said.

Since joining the commission in 2014, Jones said he believes the county has dealt with citizens equally and made extraordinary efforts to help people achieve success.

“Equity has become a buzzword to me that reflects political correctness,” Jones said. “Equity has become using government to distribute benefits according to what a group thinks it deserves, not what they earn.”

After studying the resolution, Commissioner Valerie Wynn noted there was no money allocated for it. She questioned who would keep track of the metrics needed to discern whether segments of the community are obtaining equitable outcomes.

“I’m just concerned that might come with a cost down the road,” Wynn said. “I’m worried about the future.”

Mayor Lester Miller said County Manager Keith Moffett would designate someone on staff and mentioned Charise Stephens, director of office of Small Business Affairs.

The task “interrelates with her job description on making sure we have good participation from small and minority businesses,” Miller said. If any additional funds are needed, a future request would be brought to the commission.

Wynn, Jones and commissioners Ray Wilder and Bill Howell voted against the resolution. Commissioners Watkins, Seth Clark and Paul Bronson co-sponsored the measure and approved it along with Commissioner Elaine Lucas and Mayor Miller.

COVID-19 funds allocated

Commissioners zeroed out the $1 million Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus funds in the latest allotment to allocate money for Meals on Wheels, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Heart of Georgia and Crisis Line & Safe House of Central Georgia.

In last week’s committee, Commissioner Valerie Wynn praised the efforts of Meals on Wheels and wished the county could give the organization $250,000 instead of the $100,000 proposed.

“It’s an agency to reach people,” Wynn said. “Some of these people don’t see anybody during the day.”

In the days before Tuesday night’s meeting, Economic and Community Development Director Wanzina Jackson totaled up unspent coronavirus funds that amounted to $102,900.

Commissioners Elaine Lucas and Wynn amended the resolution to allot those funds for a total of $202,900 to Meals on Wheels.

Lucas also wants the county to explore providing meals for members who pay dues at the senior center.

Big Brothers Big Sisters received $16,390 and Crisis Line was awarded $30,000 to care for victims of domestic violence who now have to be isolated in separate hotel rooms due to the pandemic.

Road repairs

The commission authorized the mayor to apply for a more than $2.1 million Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant for road work and set aside nearly $689,000 from 2018 SPLOST funds for the local match.

District 6 Commissioner Ray Wilder questioned how road projects are identified for funding as several in his area need significant work.

Wilder believes his district has a greater need than other roads across the county slated for repairs.

“Columbus Road is way far worse,” Wilder said.

County Manager Keith Moffett said commissioners submit problem roads which are evaluated and costs calculated.

“We try to spread it out and get the best bang for our buck,” Moffett explained.

Wilder voted against the resolution, but Mayor Miller called for a work session on the road repair process to educate new commissioners and the public on how it works.

Pleasant Hill speed breakers

A 7-year-old on a bike getting hit on Forest Avenue Monday evening prompted two women to publicly plead for speed breakers in Pleasant Hill.

When Helen Pratt learned about the boy getting hit this week, her memory flashed back to the ’70s when her 7-month-old sister was killed by a drunk driver coming off Pursley Street.

“What does it take for people to stand up and say something must be done?” Pratt asked.

Pleasant Hill resident Lucille Williams said cars race down the street from Vineville Avenue and Riverside Drive.

“It’s like they’re on a race track,” Williams said. “We really need speed breakers. I just said last week, ‘Nothing’s going to get done unless someone gets killed over there.'”

The boy hit Monday suffered a broken leg, according to the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office.

Mayor Lester Miller encouraged the women to meet with Mayor Pro Tem Seth Clark and learn how to gather a petition and get approval for safety enhancements in the neighborhood.

For more information, see this compilation of Tweets sent during the meeting:

-Civic Journalism Senior Fellow Liz Fabian covers Macon-Bibb County government entities and can be reached at [email protected] or 478-301-2976.