On Thursday, July 25, State Rep. Allen Peake told Middle Georgia’s largest newspaper, The Macon Telegraph, criticism was inevitable in regard to the abrupt reversal from partisan to non-partisan elections– months after the 2012 consolidation referendum was passed in last year’s summer primary.
Peake and other Republican members of Bibb County’s legislative delegation changed language from HR-1171 that introduces nonpartisan elections for the new Macon-Bibb County consolidated government back in January 2013.
An unrepentant Peake said to the local newspaper, “I would do it all again”.
Peake spoke in front of more than two dozen members of the Macon Exchange Club, boasting about the nonpartisan special election which is set for Sept. 17.
The movement to reconstruct Macon-Bibb government has been the main focus of Peake for years and the recent efforts to go back within months to change HB-1171 highlights their original intention of an’all or nothing’ mindest.
Among the five Republican members who comprise the eight member local delegation for Bibb County, four of those Republicans live outside of Bibb County.
State Sen. Cecil Staton lives in Monroe County, State Sen. Bert Jones lives in the city of Jackson in Butts County, Rep. Susan Holmes is from Monticello in Jasper County, Rep. Robert Dickey is from Crawford County and Rep. Bubber Epps is from Dry Branch which is located in Twiggs County.
So this political effort to restrict electoral impact of Democrats and African-Americans specifically is intentional and is reminiscent of the Jim Crow South in which laws were enacted such as poll taxes and literacy tests.
HR-1171, the Macon-Bibb consolidation referendum, was quickly passed and forced onto the ballot during the summer of 2012 when many of the details were still concealed.
Thre African-American Macon-based legislators – Rep. James Beverly, former State Sen. Miriam Paris and Rep. Nikki Randall went along with Allen Peake’s vision of consolidation without little resistance and signed their names to this deceptive and flawed piece of legislation.
On Saturday, July 20, WMAZ-TV aired the CLOSE-UP broadcast which is a thirty-minute public affairs program which featured Republican Rep. Allen Peake.
Peake reiterated that consolidation was a ‘passion’ and made references that he was tired of the old guard and how it resulted in population loss.
What does Peake mean by the ‘old guard’?
These comments are not targeted toward white Democrats or Dixiecrats, but African-American Democrats who supported the Voting and Civil Rights Act of the 1960’s and were included into local government for the first time.
The first African-American was elected to Macon City Council in 1975– nearly 40 years ago.
The prospect of African-Americans participating in local government contributed to some whites– not all– to participate in a social phenomenon called ‘white flight’.
Private schools were built in response to integration and Peake, a graduate of First Presbyterian here in Macon– was a part of a segment of the population who were the original ‘old guard’ that supported Jim Crow policies and fought integration.
It is safe to say that Peake was delighted and ready to move forward with the Macon special elections when news of the Supreme Court striking down provisions of the Voting Rights Act became a reality in late June.
Peake told WMAZ-TV that he is “ready for a new beginning”.
It is sad to see Beverly, Randall and Paris (who received money from Peake during her state Senate run) side with Republicans for their own personal reasons and sacrificed principle and their constituents.
On the CLOSE-Up program, Peake said Nikki Randall done a great job and credits her independent leadership. and says her work with (transition committee) “hidden gem“.
The operative word is “hidden”. Randall was missing in action throughout the whole consolidation process and when interviewed she chose not to divulge to the public and her constituents about what was in the bill and to this day is in the background.
One detail which was hidden until the bill had passed is the super-majority requirement to pass a budget in this new consolidated government.
In essence, if there were five African-American Democrats on the new nine-member commission it would not be enough to pass a budget.
This would be the local version of a filibuster, and many are familiar about how Senate Republicans in Washington are fighting President Barack Obama in blocking legislation.
This is what these African-American Democrats (Beverly, Randall and Paris) signed their names to.
Peake had described Beverly as a brilliant guy and has a lot of great ideas and supports his idea of a development authority that focuses on poverty.
Keep in mind, Peake has voted to cut public education, subject welfare recipients to drug testing in Georgia and has actively circumvented the Voting Rights Act, but yet sign Beverly signed his name to HR-1171.
In 2011, Peake was one of more than ninety Republicans to originally support Waycross Republican Mark Hatfield’s measure in the majority-Republican General Assembly to keep President Barack Obama off the 2012 presidential preference primary in an effort to challenge his birth certificate and citizenship status.
Peake did quietly erase his name after more people became aware of his support, but for him to put his name on this bill should send a chilling message about what he thinks about President Obama.
Beverly knew this. Paris knew this. Randall knew this. However, this didn’t influence them in aligning with the Republicans to reconstruct Macon-Bibb.
Macon-Bibb got issues, but capitulating to local Republicans is not leadership.
By helping local Republicans/Dixiecrats turn back the clock as if it was 1960 in which African-Americans had a minimal electoral impact and were ‘seen, but not heard’ is not progress.
Unfortunately, the actions of Randall, Paris and Beverly personified an era in which they are satisfied to help reconstruct a Macon-Bibb government in which we are seen, but not heard– and in essence can’t get absolutely nothing done.
The ability to pass a budget becomes exponentially more difficult in a community in which African-Americans are the majority.
Yes, the Republicans outnumber Democrats–right now. However, Beverly had an opportunity to take a stand, but chose to remain silent when this flawed, unconstitutional bill passed.
If one would look at the commission district maps, one could see how the majority-black districts were chopped up and configured or gerrymandered in the shape of a ‘snake or dragon’.
Beverly and others were not bound to stay silent when consolidation was being debated.
Just days after President Obama was re-elected in November, State Sen. Cecil Staton provided an immediate indication that non-partisan elections would be on the table for 2013 via a public statement.
At that point , legislation was in the works to hijack the majority-Democratic, majority black Macon-Bibb government.
Republicans could get their way in September, but according to Peake , more is in store.
Peake told WMAZ’s Randall Savage on the CLOSE-UP program that there are future plans to reconstruct the local Board of Elections along with moving the local election year from a presidential year (2016) to a non-presidential year (2017).
There is an old adage the ‘devil is in the details’ or look at the fine print and it is clear the Republicans are focused on exploiting those details even if it means circumventing the Voting Rights Act moving forward.