After keeping a relatively low profile since his trouncing at the polls in May’s Republican primary, Columbia County’s favorite political bomb thrower is back again, once more trying to get people to open up their eyes and see what a cesspool of corruption and inefficiency and waste Ron Cross’ Columbia County power structure really is.
In conversations, through websites and by purchasing newspaper ads, local builder Jim Bartley turned Cross-baiting into a hobby years before he tried to turn it into a second job by running against the popular commission chairman earlier this year, and now that his defeat has him back on the sidelines, he’s apparently decided that if he can’t take on Cross directly, he’ll do it indirectly by supporting Brett McGuire, a candidate whose anti Cross credentials are almost as strong as his own. McGuire, who lost to Cross for commission chairman four years ago, is now running in the special election to fill the District 3 commission seat vacated by Charles Allen last March.
It makes sense. Of the three other qualifiers, including Democrat Floyd Everett, McGuire is the most staunchly critical of Cross, and though he’s not running against Cross, he’ll need a current, concrete example of the establishment’s shortcomings to make the argument that only someone from the outside can bring a sense of balance back to the commission.
It appears that Bartley thinks he’s found McGuire just such an issue on Old Petersburg Road, where a worksite was shut down because the builder was unlicensed in the state of Georgia and also working without a permit.
Unlicensed contractors represent a serious threat to the building industry and to the people who hire them, and a community with as much explosive growth as Columbia County is bound to attract a good share of crooks and opportunists. And while county staff tries to monitor worksites to make sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen, the fact of the matter is, it relies heavily on industry self-policing, which tends to be pretty thorough, given how much everyone has to lose.
Local builders might squabble like brothers and sisters among themselves, but just like brothers and sisters, they band together when threatened by someone from outside the family.
In this case, the worksite was identified, and when the matter was brought to the county’s attention, the site was shut down. The builder is now looking forward to his day in court. In other words, the system Bartley likes to criticize so much worked.
Bartley, however, seems to be trying to make an even broader allegation by inferring that the media’s lack of interest in the story might just be some kind of pro-Cross conspiracy.
While no one would venture to say that the system is working perfectly, you can certainly forgive the local media for not wanting to immediately jump into this one, given Bartley’s reputation for ulterior motives. Taking journalism advice from Bartley is like taking a driver’s safety course from an ambulance chaser. Not giving him that story isn’t collusion, it’s not being played for a fool.