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LETTER: Where is accountability for JDA?
Letters - OPINION

Dear Editor: 

In response to the recent letter, “Misguided activists…” I would like to offer a different perspective. The grassroots organization,, is a 3,500-plus member group that is gaining new members weekly. Those are mighty big hands to be, “only a handful.”

This grassroots group is made up of individuals like you and I that see that this is the proverbial square peg in the round hole. A manufacturing facility such as this does not fit in this area. This area is not an employment desert and it is not in dire need of redevelopment. It is however in direct conflict with the Morgan County’s and Walton County’s Future Land Use Plans and direct conflict with the zoning districts located in these Counties as well. I reference those two counties as that is where the majority of this 2,000-acre behemoth is planned. Ironically, the former chairman of the Joint Development Authority sold the majority of this property for this project. He was the chairman up until August, 2021. OK, he may not have participated in any votes but don’t you think he was well aware of the conversations?

I contend that if Rivian as a corporation has $14.92 billion in reserves, and I don’t believe they do, why did Governor Kemp gift them the largest economic incentive package ever in the history of the state? Mind you that is over $1.3 billion in tax payer dollars.

If they do, why didn’t the Joint Development Authority (JDA) disclose this in the bond documents?

If they do, why did they recently layoff employees at their only other manufacturing facility in Normal, Illinois?

If they do, why are they having difficulty supplying pre-ordered vehicles?

If they do, why did Ford, Amazon, and George Soros has recently dumped large quantities of Rivian stock at a loss?

Members of this group oppose this project for a variety of reasons. Some oppose it for the fact that our local elected officials feared the public outcry and opposition so much so the Governor’s Office stepped in and took control since state owned property is exempt from local zoning and permitting.  Therefore local elected officials would not be held accountable.

Some oppose it as these 2,000 acres is the primary ground water recharge area for the aquifer that supplies drinking water to the 1,000 plus wells within this region of Morgan, Walton, Newton, and Jasper Counties.

Some oppose it for the shear amount of corporate welfare coming from our tax dollars. This is simply a gamble on a corporation whose stock value is tanking daily and is not a recommended buy.

Some oppose it for the change in the quality of life that a 2,000-acre automotive manufacturing facility will bring to this otherwise quiet and serene area. Heavy industry such as this needs services, services that these rural, agrarian communities don’t have and cannot afford.

Some oppose it for how, in the cloak of darkness, this was completed without so much of a concern for existing residents or environmental impacts it will have.

I won’t go into the details of how the JDA attempted to circumvent Rivian paying their share of property taxes by claiming usufruct, you can read that in the Morgan County Judge’s ruling. But I will point out that the JDA Chairman even admitted that, “The JDA did not perform any analysis to determine the increased maintenance, infrastructure, and payroll costs incurred by each affected county due to the construction and operation of the Rivian project.” Furthermore, “The JDA did not conduct any analysis to determine if Rivian’s PILOT payments under the Rental Agreement would be sufficient to cover any additional expenses the local communities may incur as a result of the construction and operation of the Project.”

Where is the accountability for this Authority’s actions?

One thing I do agree with in the letter, “Something is terribly amiss.” When the Georgia Legislature resumes in January, I do hope they immediately find a way to hold Development Authorities accountable to the tax payers, for it is our money they are gambling with.

Scott Gaither

Social Circle