Fayette County Ethics Board is looking to fill two alternate positions on the volunteer panel. The appointment have terms that end Dec. 31, 2015 and Dec. 31, 2016. Fayette Commissioners are accepting applications with resumes for the two positions.
A Forest Park city council seat that has been vacant for more than two years was filled this week. Dabouze Antoine is the new Ward 2 City Council member. Antoine won the seat in a runoff election against candidate Luke Gawel.
Atlanta — The final funding is now in place for reversible toll lanes on I-75 and I-575 in Cobb and Cherokee Counties.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx traveled to Atlanta to deliver news that the federal government will loan the state $275 million, about a third of the total cost of the 30-mile project.
“In this era of tight budgets and limited federal funds, we have to be just as innovative in how pay for projects as we are in how we build them,” he says.
The loan is part of the federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance Innovation Act (TIFIA). The state will repay the money at 3.79 percent interest over 35 years and will not have to pay principal for the first five years.
The attorney for indicted state Sen. Don Balfour, R-Snellville, will go before a judge at 9 a.m. Friday in an attempt to quash the state’s case and argue it is a violation of Georgia’s separation of powers for a member of the executive branch to prosecute a legislator.
In other words, attorney Ken Hodges is arguing that only the state Legislature has the power to punish the senator.
A day after Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens came under fire for implying that people with pre-existing medical conditions are at fault for their illnesses, his spokesman revealed that Hudgens himself has a pre-existing condition.
Hudgens, 71, underwent surgery for prostate cancer just over a decade ago and continues to get checked regularly, spokesman Glenn Allen said Thursday.
“He fully understands why it’s not somebody’s fault (he or she) has a pre-existing condition, because he has one,” Allen said.
Hudgens, in a talk to a Republican group last month, compared people with pre-existing conditions to wrecked cars and appeared to suggest that the chronically ill are to blame for their illnesses, just as drivers are for their accidents. On Wednesday, however, the commissioner said he’d used a “really poor analogy,” and said he did not believe it’s a person’s fault if he has a pre-existing condition.
Georgia Democrats, who circulated the videotape of Hudgens’ remarks, have slammed the commissioner, calling his comments “callous” and “outrageous.”
“You see the commissioner walking back his comments because there has been a firestorm of reaction to him,” state Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta, said Thursday. “He was speaking frankly and candidly to a group he clearly thought agreed with him.”
Orrock added that Hudgens has “done everything he can to stand in the way of this federal law.” The commissioner has said he will do nothing to help the law succeed.
An economy that sent more people to the workforce instead of the classroom, tougher requirements for financial aid, and a higher bar for admissions are among the factors that contributed to a drop in enrollment at the state’s public colleges and universities for the second year in a row.
MARIETTA — Most Cobb commissioners support Chairman Tim Lee’s denial of tax incentives for a wealthy developer’s $103 million project, but some are more hesitant to criticize property tax breaks handed out by a board whose members they appoint.
Real estate magnate John Williams is financing a mega-development, called Riverwalk, which will include 236 condos, 14 three-story townhomes and a 10-story office tower by the Cumberland Mall.
The development didn’t meet the county’s requirements of creating 25 jobs and contributing $500,000 to the tax digest and was denied a waiver of permit and licensing fees, but the Development Authority of Cobb County is moving ahead with a waiver of property taxes.
The committee that denied the fee waiver was made up of high-ranking staffers, including County Manager David Hankerson and Faye DiMassimo, director of transportation, along with Lee.
But in the same letter in which Lee denied the request for permitting waivers he encouraged developers to continue their quest for tax abatement from the Development Authority. That authority’s board is appointed by the commission.
“To that end, I want to express the county’s support of your efforts as they relate to working with the Development Authority of Cobb County as well as the Board of Tax Assessors to secure other incentives for this project as they determine are appropriate,” Lee wrote.
Lee said his letter was a “courtesy” and he doesn’t know what criteria the Development Authority used to judge the tax abatement it has promised.
“I don’t know what they looked at,” Lee said. “I wasn’t at the meeting. I have no idea why they did what they did.”
At least one commissioner says Lee wasn’t speaking for him when he suggested developers should seek property tax abatement from the Development Authority.
“We were never consulted about it,” said Commissioner Bob Ott, who represents southeast Cobb. “So I think it’s his opinion, I don’t know if it’s necessarily anybody else’s because we were never asked.”
MARIETTA — Cobb school board member Scott Sweeney called on parents at a Wednesday town hall meeting to deprive Gov. Nathan Deal of another term in office if he doesn’t give the school system more money.
“Gov. Deal needs to feel uncomfortable,” Sweeney said to about 100 parents gathered at East Side Elementary School. “He needs to think the people of Cobb County will not support him unless he writes in additional funding for education. It’s a fight for dollars.”
Board Chairman Randy Scamihorn and member David Banks, who were also at the meeting, agreed with Sweeney.
“The second largest school system in the state of Georgia is broke. That’s alarming,” Scamihorn said.
Instead of pointing fingers at the board members for failing to balance the budget, Sweeney told parents they should be on their phones with their elected officials, asking for state funding.
Sweeney said if constituents make enough of a stink in the coming year — an election year — the district might see some of those funds this year.
Superintendent Michael Hinojosa is projecting a $79 million shortfall for the 2014-15 school year, which begins in July.
Reserves, teacher furloughs, staff cuts?
The district has a reserve fund of about $75 million, said Brad Johnson, the district’s chief financial officer. Johnson said dipping into the fund again would be less than optimal, as he would like the district to maintain at least enough money in the fund to run the school district for a month, $71 million.
“We keep using one-time sources for solutions to recurring problems,” Johnson said.
Other options the board has to reduce the budget shortfall are to increase furlough days or cut teaching staff, which would increase class sizes. Both options, Hinojosa said, are bad decisions to make, but might be necessary to balance the budget this year.
Each furlough day saves the district about $3 million, Hinojosa said, but reduces the time students are in the classroom.
He did not address the possibility of cutting staff at the central office.
The state has offered the district less money each year since 2003, shorting the school district a total of about $500 million, Johnson claims.
Two years ago, the state withheld $72 million, and this year it has withheld $66 million, he said.
Board members say if the district can get that money from the state, they would be able to cover most of their expected shortfall for next year.
Your International Desk:
Nelson Mandela – Georgia and the World Pay Respect
He emerged from 27 long years in prison with a wisdom, a compassion, and a commitment to helping other people that was astonishing. His life was a triumph of the human spirit.
When he visited the Congress I was deeply impressed with the charisma and the calmness with which he could dominate a room. It was as if the rest of us grew smaller and he grew stronger and more dominant the longer the meeting continued.
His thoughtful, disciplined, but friendly and warm personality made him a leader who could define the right policies and the right behaviors.
Nelson Mandela was truly the father of an integrated, democratic South Africa.
He will be an inspiration for generations to come and an historic leader worth studying for as long as people want to learn about greatness in serving others.
Callista and I extend our condolences and our prayers to the Mandela family and to the people of South Africa.
Tonight, we honor his lasting legacy.
― Nelson Mandela
The world lost a selfless leader today, a hero for freedom and equality. May we always honor and celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela by living out the lessons of his remarkable life.
“Barbara and I mourn the passing of one of the greatest believers in freedom we have had the privilege to know. As President, I watched in wonder as Nelson Mandela had the remarkable capacity to forgive his jailers following 26 years of wrongful imprisonment — setting a powerful example of redemption and grace for us all. He was a man of tremendous moral courage, who changed the course of history in his country. Barbara and I had great respect for President Mandela, and send our condolences to his family and countrymen.”
Nelson Mandela was one of the greatest moral and political leaders of our time. His life story is a compelling and inspiringly profound political journey. An international icon and inspiration to millions, his appeal transcended race, religion and class. He was at once a leader of immense character and strength, and a man closely attuned to the needs of his people.
Your World Cup Desk:
This from NBC:
In a little over 24 hours the 2014 FIFA World Cup Draw will be held and fans of the 32 qualifying countries will learn who they will face in Brazil next summer.
Eight groups of four countries will shape the South American spectacle and in this article, we provide everything you need to know about tomorrow’s draw.
Let’s get stuck in.
WHEN & WHERE
Date: Friday, December 6, 2013
Time: 11:00am ET; 4:00pm GMT
Venue: Costa do Sauipe Resort, Mata de Sao Joao, Bahia, Brazil
TV: ESPN 2 11:30am ET
POTS & DRAW SCHEME
The 32 qualifying nations have been divided into four pre-draw “pots.”
Pot One: Argentina, Brazil, Belgium, Colombia, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Uruguay
Pot One nations are comprised of the world’s top seven seeded countries, according to FIFA’s rankings, who managed to qualify for the finals through their group stage finish. Also in this pot is Brazil, who qualify as hosts of the tournament even though they are currently outside the world’s top eight.
Pot Two: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Algeria, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chile, Ecuador
Pot Two contains the five qualified CAF nations as well as Chile and Ecuador. Note that Pot Two currently contains only seven teams, an issue FIFA will address during the first step of Friday’s draw (see below).
Pot Three: US, Japan, Iran, South Korea, Australia, Mexico, Costa Rica and Honduras
Pot Three is made up of CONCACAF and AFC nations, as well as other top finishers from Asia and the Americas.
Pot Four: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, England, France, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia
Pot Four is comprised of nine unseeded UEFA nations. During Friday’s draw one of these teams will be placed into Pot Two.
As explained by Pro Soccer Talk writer Richard Farley, this is how the draw will go down:
1. They’re going to solve that nine-team pot problem first. One ball will be pulled at random from Pot Four (the one with all of UEFA’s non-seeded qualifiers) and placed into Pot Two. Once done, the pots will be even (eight teams each).
2. The pots will be drawn sequentially, one through four, with team placed into groups sequentially, A through H.
3. Brazil will be the first team pulled out of Pot One. As hosts, they’ll go into Group A and play in the tournament’s opening game. The rest of the teams will be pulled out at random and placed in groups B through H.
4. Pot Two is drawn next, albeit with two caveats:
If the European team that’s in this pot gets slotted with another UEFA qualifier, they’ll instead be bumped down to the next group. For example, if Portugal is pulled from Pot Four, dropped in Pot Two, and is then pulled out to be grouped with Spain, they’ll instead move down to the next non-European group, with the following draw from Pot Two filling the place in Spain’s group.
Likewise … Pot Two’s South American teams can’t be drawn with CONMEBOL’s seeded qualifier, FIFA committed to spreading out a region’s teams as much as possible. With all non-UEFA confederations limited to one team per group, Chile and Ecuador can not be drawn with Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, or Uruguay. If that happens, they’ll be slotted in the next group instead, with the next ball that comes out of Pot Two set to fill the vacated spot. This guaranteed Chile and Ecuador will be grouped with two European teams.
5. Pot Three (CONCACAF and Asia) is drawn. No tricks here. If you’re looking for potential Groups of Pain, see if Japan, the United States, or (to a certain extent) Mexico get drawn with Chile and Ecuador.
6. Pot Four (the Europe group) is drawn, and because of the care taken to ensure Pot Two doesn’t bunch teams from the same region, each group will have (no fewer than) one or (at most) two European teams.
USMNT – “BEST” AND “WORST” CASE SCENARIOS
Life was good for the US in 2010 as the Yanks were drawn into a group with England, Algeria and Slovenia. Suffice to say, tomorrow’s draw will not be as kind to Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad.
Most would say the “best” case scenario for the US would be to draw Switzerland out of Group A, Algeria out of Group B and Greece, Croatia or Bosnia out of Group D.
Of course, drawing an unproven side like Belgium or Colombia out of Group A wouldn’t be horrible, even if those nations are dark-horses to win the tournament. If the US can’t pluck Algeria out of Group B, nations like Cameroon, Ecuador and Nigeria wouldn’t be bad either. And if the Greeks don’t come up from Group D, Klinsmann’s men would welcome a match against England, Russia or even underachieving sides like France and Portugal.
The “worst” case scenario would see the US pitted against a Group A nation like Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Germany or Uruguay, a Group B country like Ivory Coast, Ghana or Chile and a Group D team like Italy or Netherlands.
Note, however, that I put the words “best” and “worst” in parentheses. I did this because, for me, those terms don’t really apply to the US. There are difficult draws and not-so-difficult draws. But knowing the makeup of the USMNT – grinders, fighters, a team that loves to play the role of underdog and on any given day can beat anyone – the draw simply is what it is.
If paired with a dominant country like Spain, Brazil or Argentina, then the US has a chance of defeating one of the best nations in the world. Nothing better than that. Plus – as astutely noted to me by famed soccer producer Shaw Brown – being paired with a world-powerhouse also means that the other two teams in the group are likely taking losses, thereby improving the Yanks’ chances of advancing. I like that mentality.
So no matter who the US is paired with, keep things in context. The US are a plucky side, capable of astounding results. Like life, the World Cup Draw truly is in the eye of the beholder.