Simon Williamson, columnist with Georgia Voice

Simon Williamson: Our local governments need to get bold

On Facebook, I follow a philosopher here at the University of Georgia who often writes about how our local government doesn’t strike hard enough back at some of the hideous laws that are vomited out of our state Legislature. Irami Osei-Frimpong has many good ideas, but this is one of the easiest for me to repeat, and I feel it is something our local government should be doing: fight back harder against statewide laws that are basically crap.

Some of the excrement that comes at us from beneath the Gold Dome includes not being able to set our own local minimum wage laws. In spite of Republicans believing in local control of things, the minimum wage is something they consider the citizens of a locality too stupid to be able to decide for themselves. So, you just aren’t allowed to do it. What, asks Osei-Frimpong, is stopping our local reps from just doing it and making the state government take us to court so that workers can continue to be paid wages below a livable level? Make the state get off its ass and come and force people to live on food stamps.

It is not like there isn’t a show on the other foot. Conservative Americans throughout history have gone so far out of their way, particularly in the South, to delay or harm the implementation of federal laws pertaining to just about anything a critical mass of people didn’t want, like civil rights. There are still counties in this region where LGBT couples cannot marry someone of the same gender because an elected official required to sign off on the bizarre paperwork says no, in spite of it being a right declared by the highest court in the land.

But, cast your mind back to 2004. To Osei-Frimpong’s point, (this is also his example) Gavin Newsom, then mayor of San Francisco, walked straight into these waters with his staff out and told City Hall they would be conducting gay marriages. It did not last long – bureaucrats and bigots alike sued to stop the practice after a month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had multiple whines about it and the marriages were overturned. But, that did more to advance the rights of us to marry who we like because Newsom stood up for it and made the people who were against it sue to maintain their shitty points of view.

Osei-Frimpong is making an excellent argument here. Our local governments should represent us. The further up the chain you go, the further politicians staffing those seats are from the normal daily lives of the rest of us. Our local government should question the motives of our state government in the exact manner the state does of the federal government (well, maybe not Sec. of State Brian Kemp, who is currently out to prove himself the world’s largest Trump sycophant).

Our local governments should represent us. And if that means some legal fees for being sued over giving our people a living wage, then so be it. Make the state make its case for some of the terrible shit it forces upon the rest of us.

As Osei-Frimpong wrote earlier this month: “Pass the policies you think are right, and force the state to strike you down. That’s how this ball moves forward. If you are on the right side of the issue, you may even trigger a change in state politics. Newsom did in California.”