By Ed Brock
Springing up like mushrooms after a rainstorm, certain informative signs regarding a proposed Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax have some opponents to the tax smelling something rotten.
"They're all over the place," said Andrew Jacobson, a member of the Clayton County Libertarian Party.
The signs went up last week at various street intersections and other locations where money from the SPLOST, if it is approved in a Sept. 16 election, will be used to make improvements. They were put there by the Recreation and Roads Committee chaired by Lou Hisel.
"They're to let the residents know that the location is proposed for improvement," Hisel said. "These signs will only be up two weeks. We believe that it's valuable information that the citizens will need to make an intelligent decision on Sept. 16."
But Jacobson said the signs are planted on county-owned right-of-ways and are supposed to be removed. In fact, the county's own statutes require it to remove the signs, said Doug Craig, also a member of the Libertarian Party.
Instead, Craig and Jacobson said county officials are ignoring the signs while enforcing the ordinance against other offenders.
"We're just thinking everybody should follow the same rules," Craig said.
But there are signs in the right-of-ways all over the county, Hisel said.
"To my knowledge no one on the SPLOST committee did or encouraged planting of signs on right-of-ways."
The number of signs usually increases in the time before an election, said Wade Starr, administrative assistant to Clayton County Commission Chairman Crandle Bray, and it may be that some of the signs are in right-of-ways.
"That's something (Bray) and the commission will have to address," Starr said.
Starr's name appears on the signs and Starr said that is because he is the contact for members of the public with SPLOST questions, not a SPLOST advocate.
"The chairman (Bray) asked me to serve in the role to answer questions," Starr said. "I can appreciate that members of the Libertarian Party don't want to see those signs out there. I think candidates for probate court don't like seeing signs for their opponents."
Starr also said that the Recreation and Roads committee has an obligation to inform the public "about the implications of their decisions."
Hisel said the that not everybody can come to see the five-year Road/Street/Sidewalk/Infrastructure/Improvement Program that shows the plans for the $240 million the SPLOST is expected to raise for the projects.
"If the strongest argument the Libertarian Party has against the SPLOST is that there are a few informational signs in neighborhoods attempting to inform the citizens about what SPLOST is about then their arguments are very, very weak," Hisel said.
Hisel added that the SPLOST has been endorsed by the Morrow City Council, the Clayton County Development Authority, the county's Chamber of Commerce, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Southlake Kiwanis Club.
Craig also referred to a prior incident in which several pamphlets promoting SPLOST were handed out by teachers to parents at a school functions about which he planned to file a complaint with the Georgia Ethics Commission. Clayton County Schools attorney Gary Sams called that incident an "isolated mistake."
SPLOST would require an increase in the county's sales tax by 1 cent on the dollar.
If approved by the voters, the tax increase would remain in place for five years or until the $240 million is raised, with proceeds going to a road improvement program and construction of recreation facilities.