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Commission hears outcry from citizens

Some might say it's how the political system works when it's working well.

Based on a resounding hue and cry from the populace, Gwinnett Chairman Charles Bannister announced Thursday he would table the property tax rate hike proposal that is before the board.

Things were happening quickly and it seemed that the 25 percent increase in the millage rate - up to 30 percent for some - was on the fast track to become the law of the land.

By law, the county must hold three public hearings on a tax hike issue. To speed things along, the county scheduled two of those hearings in one day, one late afternoon and one early evening - difficult times for those who work during the day or would have to commute through heavy Atlanta traffic after work to get there. Also, these public hearings were scheduled on the day after a holiday. Despite the inconveniences, citizens turned out in heavy numbers and voiced their displeasure - in some cases, that's putting it mildly - about raising taxes when tough economic times have people looking for relief, not more burden.

The movement against the tax hike transformed into a movement against the five commissioners and raised the question of their political futures.

Even other politicians, Republican colleagues to the all-GOP commission, warned of a voting backlash. State Sen. Don Balfour went so far as to predict that voting for a tax hike now would spell certain defeat the next time these officials' names were on the ballot.

The uproar caught the commissioners' attention. District Commissioner Kevin Kenerly called for "Plan B" after hearing what the public had to say at this week's public hearing. (It should be noted that Kenerly interrupted a family vacation at Myrtle Beach, S.C., in order to drive home so he could attend the hearing.) Fellow Commissioner Mike Beaudreau also came out against the increase.

And on Thursday afternoon, Bannister, who had tried to educate the citizenry of the need for the tax hike put a hold on it to give the county more time to study alternatives. All this doesn't mean the tax hike is going away. It just means the county will take another look at the situation and not push the 25 percent measure through.

There's still a third public hearing scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at the first-floor atrium in the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. It will be another opportunity to let the commissioners know how you feel about the tax increase.

The good news is the citizens spoke, and it appears officials are listening - and that's exactly how it's supposed to work.

The unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the Gwinnett Daily Post. Columns, letters to the editor and cartoons reflect the opinions of the individuals who penned them. It is the policy of the Gwinnett Daily Post to correct all errors of fact. Corrections usually run on Page 4A.