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Giving out the election year goodies
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WHILE I UNDERSTAND the outrage of many local taxpayers at the recent proposal by City Council to give city employees a two percent raise in the middle of a slipping economy, it was perhaps naive to expect anything different.

It's an election year. The City of Savannah is one of the largest employers in the... well, in the city.

And City of Savannah employees vote just like everyone else does. So do the math.

In the old days this was referred to euphemistically as "patronage" or, if you didn't approve, "machine politics." Spreading around the goodies in a bid for votes isn't anything new. What is somewhat newish is the idea of government employees as a key voting bloc.

At the national level, federal employees have become an irreplaceable constituency for some politicians. The addition of labor unions makes the formula even more political.

The fact that government employees are heavily unionized brings up an interesting conundrum: If the natural enemy of a labor union is management, what is the natural enemy of a government employees' union?

That would be the taxpayers, of course. Us.

But spotting government interest groups isn't always as easy or obvious.

Georgia has 159 counties. While our counties are more numerous and much smaller than counties in other states - look at how much area Jasper or Beaufort counties in South Carolina take up, for example - guess what?

Each of those 159 Georgia counties, no matter how small, has its own county commission.

See where I'm going with this?

That's why one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Georgia is the state association of county commissioners - not a labor union per se, but certainly a very powerful interest group.

Back to Savannah. The fact that the City -- which by the way has its own internal interest groups, chief among them the local chapter of the National Forum for Black Public Administrators -- is handing out figurative candy on the eve of an election tells us how important this particular election is in some quarters.

There are people in local government with a lot riding on this one. Not only in terms of future power - but, given the remarkable number of scandals lately, possibly in terms of making sure past malfeasance doesn't see the light of day (flood payments, cough-cough).

The Democratic old guard, or "machine" if you're not a fan, has its mayoral candidate in Edna Jackson, largely perceived to be the intended successor to Mayor Otis Johnson.

Also in the mayoral race is an assortment of longtime Democratic-leaning politicians hoping to bleed off some of her support, and other candidates hoping to channel public outrage against any and all incumbents.

But there is little doubt that Alderwoman Jackson is the frontrunner at this point. Don't deceive yourself into thinking otherwise.

Always, always remember: What outrages you doesn't necessarily outrage everybody else.