Remorseless Political Factionist

On September 13, 2012 the Georgia Secretary of State issued the following press release:

The Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget has instructed the Office of the Secretary of State to further reduce its budget for FY13 and FY14 by 3% ($732,626). As it has been for the past two years, these cuts do not eliminate excess in the agency, but require the agency to further reduce services to the citizens of Georgia. As an agency that returns over three times what is appropriated back to the general fund, budget cuts present very challenging decisions. We have tried to protect the services that the agency provides in support of putting people to work, starting small businesses, and providing public safety.

To meet the required cuts, it is with great remorse that I have to announce, effective November 1, 2012, the Georgia State Archives located in Morrow, GA will be closed to the public. The decision to reduce public access to the historical records of this state was not arrived at without great consternation. To my knowledge, Georgia will be the only state in the country that will not have a central location in which the public can visit to research and review the historical records of their government and state. The staff that currently works to catalog, restore, and provide reference to the state of Georgia’s permanent historical records will be reduced. The employees that will be let go through this process are assets to the state of Georgia and will be missed. After November 1st, the public will only be allowed to access the building by appointment; however, the number of appointments could be limited based on the schedule of the remaining employees.

Since FY08, the Office of the Secretary of State has been required to absorb many budget reductions, often above the minimum, while being responsible for more work. I believe that transparency and open access to records are necessary for the public to educate themselves on the issues of our government. I will fight during this legislative session to have this cut restored so the people will have a place to meet, research, and review the historical records of Georgia.

Last year, the administration of Georgia Governor Nathan Deal cut the Archives staff from over sixty to ten. This year they are going all the way and shutting it down. In the past 24 hours, many of my friends in the archives and library professions have tried to rally support for the Archives. They’ve put up a Facebook page and started a petition. One of my oldest friends is a life-long Republican, and like me, has been an archivist for over 30 years. She emailed me today disparaging social media and said that she was going down to the Secretary of State’s office to “talk to him upfront and in person.” She asked if I would go with her. I told her that she was an old fuddy-duddy and that social media was the quickest way to get the word out and garner support for any cause. I said that I wouldn’t go with her because I’m a left-winger, and she needed to take some of her fellow Republicans along. I would just get mad and tell the people running our state government what I thought of them. She said that it was not a political issue, but a taxpayer dollar issue that was beyond party lines. My answer is not printable in a family newspaper, but since Like the Dew is not a family newspaper, what I said was – Bullshit! All taxpayer dollar issues are political. The Democrats want to spend our tax dollars on some things and not others, and the Republicans have an entirely different list of priorities. If Democrats were running this state, I guarantee that the Archives would not have been cut to 10 employees last year, and this wouldn’t be happening this year. She called me a remorseless political factionist and told me to have a nice weekend.

The issue is deeper than politics. It’s a societal issue. The United States is the only Western country without a cabinet-level Ministry of Culture. I worked for the National Archives for thirty years and saw that when budget cuts were made, the politicians cut cultural agencies not to the bone, but to the marrow. I saw it with Reagan, and saw it again with Clinton. There was no Cabinet Secretary to fight against these cuts so cultural agencies took it on the chin. Now I’m seeing it on the state level here in Georgia. The Secretary of State admits it in his press release when he says that he has “tried to protect the services that the agency provides in support of putting people to work, starting small businesses, and providing public safety. “ He sure hasn’t tried to protect the State Archives.

Image: from the Georgians Against Closing State Archives facebook page taken by Courtney McGough and used under creative commons license.
Bob Bohanan

Bob Bohanan

Bob retired as the deputy director of the Jimmy Carter Library in 2008.  Since then he's been doing some writing and enjoying the good life in Decatur, Georgia.