U.S. Rep. John Barrow, D-Augusta, championed ongoing support for the Savannah River port expansion during a visit with constituents Friday.
Barrow spoke to a few dozen members of the Martinez-Evans Rotary Club luncheon at First Baptist Church of Augusta.
When asked about the port of Savannah, Barrow said, “I’m optimistic that we’re going to complete that thing if only because the state of Georgia has a huge investment in this already.”
Barrow, who represented Savannah before district lines were redrawn, said the state spent $44 million in 15 years settling lawsuits related to the port project, a contentious environmental issue.
The state has pledged its cost share of the expansion but federal funding is slowing progress and completion, he said.
“When I arrived on the scene, this was essentially a Savannah versus the rest of the state kind of thing,” he said. “Members of Congress from that area did not see the connection between business in Atlanta and trade in Savannah. But they see it now.”
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has said the state could shoulder more of the costs if Washington does not come up with its portion.
This sweet brown dog is a mother at ten months of age, and she and her puppies are destined to be euthanized tomorrow morning if no one steps up to adopt or foster. They are available for adoption immediately and transportation can be arranged. These dogs can be adopted or fostered individually and any not saved by 2 AM Friday will be euthanized.
There are a half-dozen other dogs in dire need before Thursday. Transportation for any of these dogs to the Atlanta area is available for free and we have sponsors who are willing to pay the adoption fee for any of these dogs. Email me if you’re interested in adopting and have any questions.
To save one of these souls, here is the contact information:
Megan706-260-5251 (daytime Tu,Th,F)(TEXT or call)
706-463-2194, TEXT messages only
If you are not able to save a dog at this time, you also may make a donation on behalf of one of the dogs or for a “hard to place” dog. To make a donation, simply go to www.paypal.com, click on the “send money” tab on the home page and enter the shelter acct, [email protected]. In the subject line, indicate this is a donation for the (brief descrip and/or ID # of animal or “hard to place dog”). IMPORTANT: Be sure to designate the payment as a “gift” or PayPal will take part of it.
Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections
The State Elections Board dismissed seven charges against the Fulton County Board of Elections in which voters did not receive mail-in ballots they requested. The SEB sent official reprimands and instructions for remedial actions on two charges.
“It’s good to hear these cases, because it’s building up for what’s to come,” [Secretary of State Brian] Kemp said after the meeting, referring to more than 100 complaints from this year’s presidential election, such as poll workers wrongly steering some voters to provisional ballots and denying those ballots to others.
“We are having a difficult time meeting our obligations for Medicaid as it is,” said [Governor Nathan] Deal. “I do not foresee a situation in which the state would have another 2, 3, or 4 billion dollars over the next ten years to dedicate to that purpose.”
Medicaid is the joint federal-state health program for the poor. The federal government has promised to cover the full cost of the expansion for the first three years, and about 90 percent thereafter.
Health policy analyst Tim Sweeney of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute said the expansion is a major opportunity for the state.
“If you look at in context, it’s about a one or two percent increase in total state spending which is definitely affordable in the long run considering the dramatic benefits we get from it,” said Sweeney.
How does the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute fail to understand that there is no such thing as “free money from the federal government”?
Senator Jack Murphy has endorsed allowing state voters to decide whether to allow Pari-mutuel betting on horse races. I personally oppose it despite the fact that I love horses and I love racing in almost any form. The problem is the disjunction between the romantic notion of horse-racing as a high-class sport undertaken in resort-like conditions.
Foxfield aside, commercial horse racing facilities become squalid and filled with desperate people quickly. They also create a large number of people who are dependent upon commercial gambling for their livelihood, which makes the next step into casino gambling all but inevitable, because most racetracks are not commercially-viable without some form of on-premises casino or electronic gaming machines.
State Representative-elect Michael Caldwell (R) is being lauded for returning excess campaign contributions on a pro rata basis.
Caldwell told the Tribune Wednesday he returned 13.8 percent of each donor’s contributions, an amount corresponding with his leftover funds after winning the House seat against Democrat Lillian Burnaman in November’s general election.
“We wrote the checks on Nov. 7, the day after the election ended, and they were mailed last week,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell’s website shows a balance of $444, money contributors told him to keep for his next campaign after he mailed out the checks.
“I’m not going to make that decision for them. That has to be up to them,” Caldwell said.
During his campaign, Caldwell did not accept money from lobbyists or out-of-state donors and recorded all monetary and in-kind contributions.
“The state requires that you disclose contributions of more than $100, but we did every penny. I think it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
Good news in education: more students are passing the writing test that is required for high school graduation.
93% of students passed the exam this year, up from 91% last year. State education officials started phasing out the high school graduation test last year. But they kept the writing test.
A higher percentage of African-American and Latino students passed the test this year, narrowing the achievement gap with white students. Cardoza says that’s significant.
“Closing that gap is very important because all students are going to go on from high school into either a career or on to college,” [Dept. of Ed. Spokesperson Matt] Cardoza says, “So, we have to make sure that all of those students are at that proficiency level.”
The Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia released a study showing that 100,000 Georgians depend on MARTA to get to work, a threefold increase over the past five years.
“If MARTA didn’t exist, those 100,000 jobs and the 80,000 they support would likely go away,” said Wes Clarke, one of the UGA researchers who prepared the study onMARTA’s economic role. “It shows the magnitude of the impact of being able to get people to jobs by way of a transit system.”
The availability of public transit has played a key role in attracting the 123, 515 jobs around the Perimeter Center in DeKalb County, said Yvonne Williams, president of the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts. The CIDs have four rail stations in the area serving medical centers, Perimeter Mall and office parks.
“Most of the major corporations that are here … have chosen the perimeter market for the assets of transit,” she said. “It draws employees from across the region and your high-profile corporations care about that employee footprint. We see it as a major competitive factor.”
I myself am a frequent MARTA rider, especially during the legislative session when it’s simply quicker many mornings than driving 4 miles through Atlanta traffic. Pro-tip for MARTA management: I’d probably spend three to five dollars a day on fancy coffee in the station if you sold it to me. And you could probably extract a couple extra bucks a week by opening pay toilets at the half-way point.
On Tuesday, some Paulding, Douglas and Carroll County voters will go to the polls to vote in the runoff in Senate District 30 between Bill Hembree and Mike Dugan. There will also be a special election between the winner *cough*Hembree*cough* and a
Librarian Libertarian named James Camp on January 8, 2013.
Talk about a 2014 challenge to United States Senator Saxby Chambliss have picked up.
A combination of factors has encouraged some Republicans to openly weigh a challenge. Chambliss has long faced criticism from tea party activists and other hardcore conservatives who dislike his role on the bipartisan Gang of Six, which backed a plan to reduce deficits by changing entitlement programs, make spending cuts and raising tax revenue.
“I don’t think it’s the taxes,” said Debbie Dooley, a Chambliss critic and co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party. “It’s based on that people want a fighter, they don’t want someone to acquiesce to the left.”
Chambliss’ longtime political consultant, Tom Perdue, said several members of Congress have said in the last few months that they would run for Chambliss’ seat if he did not seek re-election. And others indicated they might challenge the incumbent in a primary. Still others, Perdue said, are floating their names as a way of raising campaign cash and don’t intend to mount a real challenge.
Perdue faulted those who criticize Chambliss for working with Democrats.
“Now all of the sudden you’ve got some people, which is certainly their right — they do not think he should be working with Democrats,” Perdue said. “Well, it’s kind of hard to get anything done in Congress if both parties don’t work together.”
The Savannah Chamber of Commerce unveiled its 2013 legislative agenda at an “Eggs and Issues” breakfast yesterday.
Securing harbor deepening funds again topped the list.
But other topics mentioned at the Savannah Chamber of Commerce’s Eggs and Issues breakfast also would require state dollars.
Tybee Island State Representative Ben Watson wants more sand on Tybee beach.
“Tybee beach re-nourishment not only affects the tourism in the Savannah beaches or on Tybee Island,” Watson says. “But it also affects the City of Savannah, our region here and the whole state of Georgia.”
Chamber Chairman Bill Shira said he’d like lawmakers to extend a tax break benefiting jet-maker Gulfstream.
“What this tax exemption does is allow Gulfstream to be more competetive,” Shira says. “What this legislative agenda is meant to do is to extend these benefits for Gulfstream into the future so that we can remain competitive.”
Speaking of Savannah, the city is ranked as the 38th fastest-growing major metropolitan area in the nation.
Over the next five years, Savannah’s population is projected to grow 5 percent, 6,700 new households in total, at an annual rate of 1 percent.
That comes as no surprise to Bill Hubbard, president and CEO of the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce. In fact, he can sum up the area’s growing popularity in two words: baby boomers.
“Savannah’s ability to attract retirees is the fundamental piece that has driven our growth. Most baby boomers have weathered the recession with at least some of their wealth intact and, as they look to retirement, they are realizing that our area is a great place to live,” he said.
“Nearly 80 percent of the U.S. population lives within an hour of the coastline, and this is the most affordable coastline between Myrtle Beach and Jacksonville,” he said, adding that it doesn’t hurt that Savannah is a tourist magnet.
A memorandum of understanding spells out a plan for Kia Motors Manufacturing America to invest $1.6 billion over the next 16 years for expanding its model offerings, including additional tools, equipment and possible building expansions. Kia is asking the Troup County Development Authority to issue $1 billion in bonds and the West Point Development Authority to issue $600 million in bonds for the improvements, and would pay the county development authority $400,000 in compensation and West Point Development Authority up to $650,000.
Governor Nathan Deal lauded the investment:
“Kia has an exceptional track record of growth in our state,” said Deal. “The wave of economic impact created by Kia’s presence in Georgia goes far beyond the 10,000-plus jobs the company and its suppliers have created and will underpin the region’s economy for generations to come. Kia’s continued commitment to our state moves us closer to making Georgia the No. 1 state in the nation in which to do business.”
Being from Gwinnett County, I always understood that developers were supposed to send flowers and wine-and-dine government officials, but the Fulton County Development Authority thinks it works the other way. Take a minute to watch the video from Fox5Atlanta about $1100 monthly lunches and absorb the fact that it’s a Republican chairman and mouthpiece telling you that it never occurred to them to ask the price of the free government-provided lobster bisque that magically appeared at their monthly meetings.
More than two-thirds of the applications for disadvantaged business status under a Georgia DOT program included incorrect calculations, according to an audit of the program.
The findings of the audit raise questions about the disadvantaged business certification process GDOT had been using, but it’s not clear how many of the applicants reviewed went on to win contracts.
The “disadvantaged business enterprise” certifications give firms special consideration, since agencies set goals to award a certain percentage of contracts to disadvantaged firms.
The performance review completed earlier this year found GDOT’s Office of Equal Employment Opportunity did not accurately calculate business owners’ personal net worth in 27 of the 40 applications reviewed for the audit. The errors included omissions of ownership interest in other companies or the fair market value of stocks and bonds, according to the audit. In some cases, more information would be needed to make a determination.
What’s more, GDOT increased its cap on personal net worth from $750,000 to $1.32 million for airport concessions disadvantaged business enterprise certifications, even before the federal government issued its final rule making the change. The federal change has since been finalized.
The headline of the week comes from the Marietta Daily Journal for this gem: “Speeders, chickens get little love from council members”.
MARIETTA — Speeders and chickens got little support during the Marietta City Council’s committee meetings Monday.
The public safety committee discussed conducting a “Slow Down Marietta Week” after chairman Councilman Anthony Coleman called one street “the Kennestone 500.”
“We’ve been doing some ticketing,” Coleman said about 60 tickets issued in a recent three-day period. “I don’t think that’s (the police department’s) first option, to go back to writing tickets, but it does get people’s attention. I want a proactive approach.”
Coleman said speeders create a secondary public safety problem.
“People are not following the limit and they’re tailgating drivers going the speed limit. It causes a lot of tension,” he said.
Backyard chickens failed to garner support from the judicial and legislative committee, chaired by Councilman Phil Goldstein.
Backyard chicken advocate Kristen Picken, a Marietta resident, spoke to the Council as she did at its Oct. 10 regular meeting.
“I work with a group that wants to get the law changed in the city of Marietta and the county,” she said about the Backyard Chickens Alliance of Cobb County.To
Y’all helped save these four puppies this week, with more than $400 in contributions to Angels Among Us Rescue earmarked for them.
Braelynn, Bria, Brisa and Briley are Golden Doodle/Shepherd mix puppies who are now safe out of the shelter, but seeking foster and permanent homes through Angels Among Us. Foster applications and adoption applications are available on Angels’ website.
Duff is a tan-and-white mix of hound dog and whippet, who is about 6 months old, quick to learn, loves to please his humans and gets along with other dogs. He is listed as “URGENT” at Chatham County Animal Shelter.
Nyko is also listed as “URGENT” at Chatham County and is a lab mix less than a year old, who is very friendly, smart, and eager to please his humans. He loves to play and is a fast learner.
Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections
Advance voting is still open the rest of this week for next week’s General Election.
Patch.com brings us some stats on Early and Advance voting in Gwinnett County.
- 995,493 – Number of early votes cast in Georgia as of Saturday.
- 40,558 – Number of votes cast in Gwinnett County as of Saturday.
- 22,400 –Total votes cast at the Gwinnett County Elections Office in Lawrenceville in the first week of early voting according to Gwinnett County Communications Director Joe Sorenson.
- 7,600 – Total number of voters who went through the satellite voting locations throughout Gwinnett County.
- 4 – The number of satellite locations across Gwinnett County. They are Centerville Community Church in Snellville, Dacula Activity Building in Dacula, George Pierce Community Center in Suwanee and Lucky Shoals Community Center in Norcross.
- 45 minutes – Average wait time for voters standing in line outside the Elections Office Monday.
- 1 hour 30 minutes – The longest wait time of the day early Monday morning. Sorenson says he expects the wait times to grow as the week goes on.
This weekend, we will be “falling back” and resetting our clocks for the end of Daylight Saving Time, and Georgia Insurance and Fire Safety Commissioner Ralph Hudgens reminds you to change the batteries in your home and office smoke and carbon dioxide detectors.
“Last year in Georgia there were 72 fatal house fires and 67 of them didn’t have a working smoke alarms,” Hudgens said. “If you have a smoke alarm, make sure it’s in working order. Changing the battery at least once every year and cleaning dust from the device are easy ways to ensure continued protection of your family and your property. Having a working smoke alarm doubles the chances you will survive a fire in your home.”
Daylight saving time ends Sunday, November 4th at 2:00 a.m., when clocks are set back one hour.
We were about to change all the batteries in our smoke and CO2 detectors because somewhere in the house, one of the blamed things is chirping just often enough to drive me insane while I work from home, but not often enough to figure out which one it is.
Commissioner Hudgens is a great public servant for Georgia and we don’t get to say that often enough here because he seems to keep a pretty low profile in the media. Not what we’ve come to expect from that office.
Twenty members of the Georgia National Guard were sent with their CH-47F Chinook helicopters to assist in storm relief.
The two helicopters are to be used primarily to move groups of people in and out of areas. They each can carry at least 33 seated passengers, as well as heavy equipment such as bulldozers. Additionally, they each left Savannah with a 2,500-gallon water bucket for firefighting and a vehicle.
Leading the two crews are Chief Warrant Officers Timothy Ladson, 47, and Lance Brennan, 38, full-time pilots who said they are well-trained and prepared for whatever they may encounter. The unit served twice in Afghanistan and fought fires in the Okefenokee Swamp.
“Everybody is excited; everybody wants to go and help out,” said Ladson, a Groves High School and Savannah State University graduate, before deploying.
“Sometimes people hesitate a little bit to go to Afghanistan. But on a mission like this, when you’re going to help people on our home soil, there’s no hesitation whatsoever.”
Like many of the crew members, Brennan, a Liberty County native, has seen the around-the-clock news coverage of communities devastated by the large storm that made landfall in the northeast on Monday, leaving flooding, power failures and death in its wake.
“I’m expecting to see a lot of debris and a lot of water,” Brennan said.
“I expect the worst but hope for the best. If they send us on up, I hope to see a lot of people already coming back in and taking it upon themselves to not wait for us, but to start the clean-up process and then when we get there, to further assist them in the clean-up and rebuilding.”
By Monday night, U.S. Coast Guard aircrews and helicopters from Savannah and Jacksonville, Fla., had already arrived in Elizabeth City, N.C., to allow for faster response times following the storm’s landfall, the U.S. Coast Guard announced Tuesday.
The Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron, based at Cecil Field in Jacksonville, sent two MH-65 Dolphin helicopters and two pilots. Air Station Savannah deployed a third Dolphin helicopter, four pilots and six crew members.
Air Station Savannah executive officer, Cmdr. David Cooper, headed north as well to coordinate the Coast Guard’s aviation response for the storm.
Speaking at a press conference at his campaign headquarters following a visit to the Columbia County American Legion, Anderson said that any cuts he approved in Congress would not include the defense budget.
“The main thing we can do is get Mitt Romney in the White House,” Anderson said. “Then, with Joe Wilson’s leadership, we can make sure that our defence is the strongest Defense Department ever. We are totally opposite to what Obama and John Barrow want to do. We want to make the Defense Department stronger.”
When pressed on his opponent Congressman John Barrow’s stand against the looming economic sequestration and the effect it would have on defense spending, Anderson responded that to support the President was, in fact, supporting sequestration.
“He’s right,” Wilson said, “He (Barrow) supports Obama, the leader in the White House, the man who wants to cut our defense department. That’s the difference right there.”
Joe Wilson must be an honorable man, as he is a graduate of Washington & Lee University, one of the finest institutions of higher learning in our nation.
I received word that a bus of volunteers will head to Virginia this weekend to campaign for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in that swing
state Commonwealth. Maybe they’ll stop briefly in Lexington.
Another FREE trip to a swing state-VIRGINIA. Jack Smith “the Lion of N. GA” I call him, is heading up a bus to Virginia to walk neighborhoods for freedom. I told Jack, a herd of wild horses could not keep me from going on this trip. Like Mary, Jack has fun trips.
For this side of Atlanta our bus will leave from the Home Depot on Hwy 92, 200 feet off exit 7 off 575. Park on the far side of the parking lot were the plants are. (Home Depot is 200 West of exit 7)
Briefly, it will be four days, Thursday November 1 to Sunday, November 4. ALL-expenses paid, (transportation, lodging for 3 nights, and ALL meals)
Would you like to go? Would you like to make a difference? Contact Jack Smith,[email protected] or 706-635-3831
Jim Galloway brings us the news that white voters now constitute less than 60% of all registered voters in Georgia for the first time.
White voter registration, which stood at 63 percent in 2008, has dropped to 59 percent of the 5.3 million signed up to cast ballots in this year’s presidential contest. African-American registration stands at 30 percent, just as it did in 2008.
The difference comes from the growing pool of voters who decline to identify themselves by race, or describe themselves as something other than white, black, Asian-Pacific, Hispanic-Latino, or Native American. That group grew from 3.6 percent in 2008 to 8 percent today.
The decline of the white vote in Georgia has been slow but steady. In January 2001, whites made up 72 percent of registered voters; in January 2007, they were 67 percent. Blacks in 2001 made up 26 percent of the electorate, and 27 percent in 2007.
Statistics and political geeks are encouraged to check out the rest of the article, where Jim trots out some additional statistics that will be part of the forces driving Georgia politics in the coming years.
Also yesterday, Galloway noted that Erick Erickson has endorsed the reelection of Democratic State Representative Scott Holcomb (81) on the basis of severe bad judgment by Republican Chris Boedeker.
As the weekend began, Holcomb received this Tweeted endorsement from Erick Erickson of Redstate.com:
“I’m proud to support Democrat Scott Holcomb for re-election in the Georgia State House. Better an honest Democrat than a lying fool.”
Noting the statement by Boedeker’s Republican Primary opponent Carla Roberts, which we published yesterday, Galloway followed up with Roberts on whether that constituted an endorsement of Holcomb. Dr. Roberts replied, “I am not endorsing Rep Scott Holcomb. It would be hard for me to vote for Mr. Boedeker to represent my district and my state. I may have to leave that ballot choice blank on Nov 6, 2012.”
Pro-tip for politics: if the Marietta Daily Journal calls your candidate, you tempt the wrath of Dick Yarbrough if you don’t take the call. Just ask Doug Stoner.
My colleagues Joe Kirby and Bill Kinney reported in Tuesday’s Around Town that current State Sen. Doug Stoner (D-Smyrna) will not return calls from the media.
Let’s let that one soak in a moment. Stoner is fighting for his political life, having been redistricted into a new Sixth District that is heavily Republican and against a formidable opponent, Hunter Hill, of Vinings, who has all the right credentials: Graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, three tours of duty in Afghanistan, two Bronze Stars, bright, articulate and a family man. In my opinion, Stoner would have a tough time with Hill even without all the gerrymandering.
When AT asked why Stoner won’t return calls to the media, Melissa Pike, chair of the Cobb Democratic Party, informed them that the Senate Democratic Caucus is “very, very, very firm that they are going to be united, they’re going to give a consistent response and that consistent response is going to come through Liz Flowers.” Flowers is with the caucus and will return media calls to Stoner by asking what questions will be asked him.
Pike says she wishes the House would do the same thing so “we wouldn’t have 800 answers to the same question, which makes it so easy to pick off our legislators.”
Having been around politics before Pike and Flowers were potty-trained, I will say that is about as dumb a thing as I have ever seen or heard.
If Democrats are so simple-minded they can’t be trusted to answer a question properly from the media — which, by the way, is a pass-through to voters and constituents — then they are not qualified to hold public office.
Assuming Hunter Hill is going to roll Stoner like a cheap cigarette on Nov. 6, Republicans will have a super majority and Democrats will become even more irrelevant. Liz Flowers won’t need to worry about screening calls. Georgia Democrats will be full of sound and fury, signify nothing.
Power can do strange things to good people.
If someone from the Republican Caucus suggests screening your calls and blocking the media from talking to you, tell them to go microchip their body parts. You work for the constituents. Stay in touch with them.
In defense of screening calls for candidates, I note that it’s not unheard of for reporters to call just hours before deadline on a story that nowhere includes the words “breaking news” and a candidate who is, say, preparing for a televised debate, may not feel the same sense of urgency the writer wishes to impart. It also allows staff to ensure that the candidates has any facts, legislation, etc. available if he or she is going to be asked about it, rather than have to call back after shuffling papers or reviewing the subject of the story. Finally, in down-ballot races, ninety percent of the questions asked by reporters will be the same as have been asked and answered a dozen times. Allow us to send you written answers to these, and the candidate will have more time to answer fully and thoughtfully the specific and unique questions that may be specific to your media outlet.
The Cherokee Board of Elections will address today a complaint that presumptive District Three Commissioner-elect Brian Poole is not qualified to hold the seat.
After meeting in a called, closed-door session for two hours Oct. 24, the Cherokee County Board of Elections emerged to vote to authorize a motion for county Superintendent of Elections Janet Munda to challenge Poole’s qualifications and eligibility to seek and hold office and set a hearing on the matter. The controversy centers around whether Poole can legally hold office under the Georgia Constitution while owing unpaid taxes.
Another complaint issues out of Cherokee County, this one under the Open Meetings Act, alleging that Georgia Charter Educational Foundation, which runs Cherokee Charter Academy, failed to abide by notice requirements for two meetings and entered executive session improperly.
The AJC notes that enforcement of the state’s law against texting while driving appears to be low.
In the two years after a ban on texting while driving in Georgia took effect on July 1, 2010, state records reveal that fewer than 50 people a month have been convicted of the offense, for a total of 1,281 convictions as of Sept. 17. That’s a small fraction of the 22,500 people convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs during the same time frame. The Department of Driver Services (DDS) only tracks convictions, not the number of citations issued, DDS spokeswoman Susan Sports said.
Many law enforcement officers say the law is difficult to enforce. State troopers have only issued an average of 11 citations a month since the law took effect.
Lt. Les Wilburn, assistant troop commander for the Georgia State Patrol, said troopers have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone was texting at the wheel, and not merely dialing a number or talking. Most drivers simply stash their phone when a cop is in sight, he said.
To effectively prevent texting while driving, I recommend installation of something called a “spouse” in the passenger seat of your car. An alternative to that device is a “parent” or “tattletale sibling who receive money for reporting older brother/sister.”
Governor Nathan Deal will recommend that the state pony up another $40-50 million dollars toward the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project in next year’s budget.
Last week the federal government gave final regulatory approval to deepen the river to 47 feet, from its current 42 feet, at a cost of $652 million.
Georgia has already put up $181 million for its cost-share portion of the deepening tab, including $47 million last year. Deal, during a brief interview following the annual State of the Ports luncheon at the Marriott Marquis in downtown Atlanta, said he’ll probably request a similar amount from the General Assembly come January.
“We haven’t finalized our figure yet,” the governor said, “but it’s safe to say we’ll be in keeping with what we’ve given in years past.”
Savannah is the nation’s fourth busiest container port and moved a record 3 million containers the last fiscal year. Nearly 100,000 jobs in metro Atlanta alone are directly tied to the distribution of goods that come through Savannah and the port at Brunswick.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a final “record of decision” last Friday allowing 32 miles of Savannah river and harbor to be deepened so ever-larger container ships can ply the waterway. Foltz called the decision “really great news for Georgia and anyone in the Southeast who uses our port for commerce.”
With Hurricane Sandy closing major deepwater ports from Virginia to New York, a domino effect has delays stretching up and down the coast and into the nation’s heartland.
“This storm has definitely disrupted shipping along the Eastern Seaboard,” said Curtis Foltz, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority.
“Already, we’ve had a number of vessels that were scheduled to be in port by today either delayed or rerouted,” he said. “Ultimately, this is going to affect trade — unfortunately in the middle of peak retail season.”
The northeastern U.S. ports supply 170 million U.S. and Canadian customers with cargo goods. Disruption to these ports is also expected to have a significant impact on supplies like food and oil to the region.
CSX Corp. and Norfolk Southern Corp., the two main Eastern railroads, are telling customers to expect at least three days of traffic delays in the affected areas. For truckers, travel in the region will remain difficult, though some road restrictions are being eased as the storm passes through.
I’ll be in Savannah in December and would like to hear any recommendations for good bird-watching or train-watching in the area. Also, nominations for best seafood will be accepted, and a couple places may be reviewed.
Speaking of birds, Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds plays at the Strand Theater on the Marietta Square on Friday night, November 2d at 8 PM. Vertigo plays tonight at 9 PM and I may sneak out for the showing. Psycho and North by Northwest play next month. November is also Hitchcock month at the Plaza Theater in midtown Atlanta, with showings of Rope, Strangers on a Train, Vertigo and The Birds. I’m going to try to see as many as I can.
In honor of “Black Friday” at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter, where all black or majority-black dogs and cats can be adopted for $30, a saving of $60, here’s your song of the day. 27459, a female lab, is one of the dogs who is eligible for the discount.
Rally is a Shepherd puppy from Walton County Animal Shelter whom we featured for several days. He was rescued by Pound Puppies ‘n Kitties, and we encourage you to consider donating to support their work saving dogs.
Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections
Rasmussen released a poll that indicates that 64% of Americans believe that too many people rely on government aid.
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 64% of Adults think there are too many Americans dependent on the government for financial aid. Just 10% think not enough Americans are dependent on the government, while 16% say the level of dependency is about right.
Even most of those who say they are currently living in poverty (56%) feel there are too many Americans dependent on government financial help.
There are sharp partisan differences over this question, however. Eighty-nine percent (89%) of Republicans and 61% of those not affiliated with either of the major parties believe too many Americans are dependent on the government for financial help. But just 40% of Democrats agree. One-in-three adults (33%) in President Obama’s party believe the level of dependency in America today is about right.
Among all Americans, 34% rate government programs designed to help people get out of poverty as effective, while 59% say those programs are not effective. This includes just four percent (4%) who think government anti-poverty programs are Very Effective and 20% who feel they are Not At All Effective.
Only 13% of those currently in poverty consider the government programs effective, compared to 36% of those who are not poor.
Forty-nine percent (49%) of all Americans believe current government anti-poverty programs actually increase the level of poverty in the country. Only 20% think the programs reduce poverty, while just as many (20%) feel they have no impact.
So maybe it’s the mainstream media who are out of touch with Americans, not Mitt Romney. Who would have thought?
The Marietta Daily Journal opines that Romney should continue his discussion of taxes and entitlements.
Romney was 100 percent right to point out that a significant portion of today’s Americans — and especially those who typically support liberal candidates — are voters who see government as the answer to all problems. Too many such Americans have turned John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Speech admonition inside out. “Ask not what your country can do for you: Ask what you can do for your country!” has been dumbed down into “Ask not what I can do for my country: Ask what my country can do for me!”
It’s the difference between the “hand up” philosophy of conservatives and the “hand out” philosophy espoused by many liberals.
To his credit, Romney, as of this writing, has not backed off his remarks. Yes, it surfaced at an unfortunate (for him) time, as he and others were sharply criticizing the incumbent for his incompetent, bungled Middle East policy. But successful candidates play the hand that is dealt them and find ways to trump unfavorable circumstances. And that is what Romney must now do.
The candidate must keep hammering home the fact that Obama has driven the country off the fiscal cliff. He must remind people at every opportunity of Obama’s redistributionist policies and efforts to transform the United States from a free-people, free-market capitalist country into a government-centered entitlement society — an effort that probably has a tax-cutter like JFK spinning in his grave.
Romney is on the right track, as his comments Tuesday on Fox News showed.
Deal said Romney’s recent comments about a growing percentage of Americans relying on government programs, with a shrinking group of those paying taxes, echoed concerns of political philosophers when this country was created.
“We’re getting outnumbered by people who don’t pay … The truth is the truth,” Deal said to a group of more than 100 GOP leaders. “It is something we ought to wake up and realize because it jeopardizes the country on many levels.”
Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers defended his acceptance of reimbursements for expenses paid by his campaign through his lawyer, Doug Chalmers.
“They were not campaign mailings, they were constituent mailings and had nothing to do with his election or re-election,” Chalmers said, who was hired by Rogers last week.
“It was proper for him to be reimbursed because he had loaned his campaign tens of thousands of dollars which were used to make these expenses in first place. There will be no double dipping—it’s perfectly legal,” Chalmers said.
Chalmers said Rogers has already taken steps to correct the matter.
“Even to avoid an appearance of impropriety, when the issue was brought to his attention, he cut a personal check to his campaign for $8,500,” Chalmers said.
Chalmers said that $8,500 check will be on Roger’s Sept. 30 campaign disclosure
But William Perry, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, said in an interview with the Tribune that Rogers could still face possible consequences.
“I think it could potentially be a problem because the senator notarized a document certifying that everything in the report is true,” Perry said. “I think it would raise a red flag that the campaign, if it was paying for the expenses, is against the law and swearing he paid for himself would potentially be a problem.”
Georgia law prohibits using taxpayer money to pay for campaign costs. Lawmakers can use state funding for newsletters and other printed materials intended to keep constituents informed about issues, which Chalmers said the funds were used for.
Perry said he did not think anyone was out to steal money, but because of lack of oversight, politicians become careless.
It is permissible for a campaign to pay for expenses incurred in the elected official’s performance of his or her duties. (OCGA §21-5-33(a)).
Speaking of political direct mail, NPR has a story this morning about the barrage of direct mail that will start filling your mailboxes any day.
In the coming weeks, candidates will bombard your mailboxes with ads. It may seem old-fashioned, but the consultants who devise direct-mail campaigns have become sophisticated about knowing whom to reach and what to say.
“It’s almost because of the changing media landscape that direct mail remains relevant,” says Anil Mammen, who runs a small direct-mail shop in Washington, D.C.
“Direct mail is one of the few mediums left where you can go reach a voter and convince your voter to consume your information, without them having to choose to do it,” says Mammen, who works for Democratic candidates and campaigns. “It’s forced upon them.”
Mammen says direct mail is an ideal medium for negative ads. People are more inclined to believe what they read.“You can show the citation. You can show the proof if there’s a court document. You can show the court document maybe not in its entirety but enough of it,” he says. “You can deliver negative messages that require a hurdle of believability. That’s what direct mail is really good at.”
Campaigns are spending about 15 percent of their ad budgets on direct mail, says Kantar Media/CMAG, a campaign-ad tracking firm.
Costas Panagopoulos, who teaches political science at Fordham University in New York, says direct mail — unlike broadcast media, TV and radio — is a great way to reach very specific targeted groups of voters
“Political campaigns can use the mountains of available data, demographic, psychographic data about, you know, who people are, what their gender is, what their occupations are, as well as things like what magazines they subscribe to or whether they have children or a pet at home or whether they have a gold [credit] card,” Panagopoulos says.
Like taxes, direct mail isn’t going away anytime soon. This year, campaigns are expected, Panagopoulos says, to spend more than $1 billion to get their messages delivered to your door.
I received the first mailpiece of the General Election two days ago from J. Max Davis, the first Mayor of Brookhaven, who will be elected in the November 6th General Election, though some city council posts will have to be filled in runoff elections.
Professor Alan Abramowitz (D-Emory) says that increasing polarization of the electorate decreases the advantage of incumbency, leading him to tweak his presidential prediction model, which tightens his predicted margin in favor of Barack Obama.
A Georgia business is making national news with its signs in opposition to President Obama’s reelection.
Businesses take a big chance by outing their politics, says Costas Panagopoulos, a political science professor at New York’s Fordham University.
“They need to weigh the risks against the potential benefits of making such a visible expression of their preferences,” he says.
But the owner of one Georgia business says response to his political missives has been mostly supportive.
At Premier Platforms Inc., which sells, rents and services various kinds of aerial platforms and forklifts, David Cooper uses his giant highway marquee to broadcast his politics.
He’s no fan of President Obama, as anyone driving along Interstate 75 near Byron, Ga., could tell: “Things could be worse. Re-elect Obama — he’ll prove it,” one recent message read, according to Macon newspaper The Telegraph. Cooper told the newspaper he could “count on two hands the number of complaints” he’s gotten; one person threatened to picket the business, but the threat never materialized.
Real Housewives of Campaign 2012? Sounds like a blockbuster reality show.
See, just like our casts, these characters are hyper-competitive and more than willing to have it out in front of a worldwide audience. It’s like, “Who cares what they’re saying about us — as long as they’re talking about us! Consequences, be damned!” I mean, have you SEEN Romney’s secret video where he badmouths 47 percent of Americans? With those loose lips, it’s no wonder his ship is sinking!
Each has questioned the other’s credentials (along with jokes and jabs of birtherism and felony tax fraud) so often, that if you take out Wolf Blitzer and a debate stage and insert Andy Cohen and a “Watch What Happens Live” set, the drama is not as different, as you’d think. By the way, Andy, I can’t wait for the post-election reunion special. The ratings will be HUGE!
The race even has incredibly powerful women that are loved by their fans and feared by their opponents: Ann Romney and Michelle Obama. Each was cheered for having one of the best speeches at her convention. Each possesses a wardrobe many would love to call their own. And each can win over swing voters who may think that the Housewife’s husband is more “Desperate” than “Real.”
Former Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson was interviewed on a local Paulding County website, in which he suggests moving away from Georgia’s antiquated and uncivilized system of foreclosure sales literally on the steps of county courthouses, and into a process that allows homeowners being foreclosed upon a day in court. Given what we know about systematic fraud by foreclosing banks, wrongful foreclosures, robo-signing, and the impact of a foreclosure on families, I might support such a measure, and certainly think we should consider moving away from the status quo.
Samuel Westmoreland, the director of the Fulton County elections and voter registration office was jailed for ten days after his probation was revoked for failure to complete DUI school and community service, which were conditions of his probation for a 2009 DUI.
State Court Judge Wesley B. Taylor, in a July 16 probation revocation hearing, handed down an order postponing Westmoreland’s 10-day sentence until after the county primary elections in July “in order to prevent a potential hardship upon the voters of Fulton County.”
The elections board is scheduled to take up the matter at a specially called meeting that Matarazzo said is scheduled for noon Monday.
Westmoreland already was under fire from voters and election board members for an array of errors that occurred during the July primaries.
The missteps included the elections department assigning 690 voters in Sandy Springs and southeast Atlanta to the wrong state Senate and state House races. It also missed the deadline to certify election results by an hour and a half, leaving the county subject to fines by the state Election Board.
“He needs to be gone,” Commissioner Bill Edwards told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday. “It just goes to your character.”
Former Governor Sonny Perdue joined the Governors’ Council at the Bipartisan Policy Center, which seeks to bring a state perspective to national issues.
In Augusta, Lori Davis, a former candidate for Mayor, has endorsed Stanley Hawes for City Commission District One.
Former State Rep. Burke Day (R) has applied for an appointment to the Tybee Island City Council to fill the term of council member Frank Schuman who died in office.
Dockworkers unions have agreed to extend the deadline for negotiating a new contract with employers at East coast ports.
“I am pleased to announce that at the close of today’s productive negotiation session, in which progress was made on several important subjects, the parties have agreed to extend the collective bargaining agreement due to expire on September 30 for a 90-day period, (taking it) through Dec. 29,” said George H. Cohen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
After talks broke down last month between the ILA and the alliance, which represents management at 14 deepwater ports between New York and Texas, Cohen coaxed both sides back to the table in hopes of averting an imminent work stoppage
Environmentalists think that Georgia should deploy more wind turbines for power generation off the Georgia coast, but Governor Deal disagrees.
“Georgia has a little over 60 gigawatts (of wind resource),” said Jennette Gayer, advocate for Environment Georgia, which helped launch the report. “That’s like 75 average-sized power plants.”
Unlike 11 of the other coastal states, Georgia hasn’t joined the Atlantic States Offshore Wind Consortium, a federal program designed to coordinate and streamline wind development off the Atlantic coast. South Carolina and Florida are the only other hold outs.
But Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s spokesman Brian Robinson indicated via email that the governor is not inclined to support wind energy development now.
“When the markets and the technology advance further, we believe there will be a day when wind energy is a viable option for our state,” he wrote. “Georgia will start using wind energy when the prices are right and the technology is right for the unique nature of our wind energy off the coast.
“Studies show the current technologies available won’t work in Georgia’s environment. There is in fact wind energy potential in Georgia and we have every hope that improvements in technology will one day allow us to use this clean, renewable resource.”
Gov. Deal is correct. As we have seen with solar power, states that adopted utility scale solar power generation paid 3-4 times the current cost for photovoltaic cells, which generate electricity. Today, states considering implementing solar will benefit from dramatic cost reductions brought about through market forces, not goverment subsidies.
Plant Vogtle’s Unit 1 nuclear reactor is offline this week as it’s being refueled, a process that occurs roughly every 18 months.
Steel plates that reinforce concrete construction at the new reactors being built at Vogtle failed safety testing by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and have not been installed.
A more detailed investigation to determine the extent of the problem – and any potential effect on the project – will be completed by Nov. 6, the report said.
The inspectors and officials from Shaw Group, the company hired to build the $14 billion project, identified the issues before any plates had been installed, an NRC spokesman said.
In an Aug. 31 interview, Buzz Miller, the executive vice president of nuclear development for Georgia Power and Southern Nuclear, told The Augusta Chronicle that as many as 150 additional workers could be needed to bolster oversight programs that ensure materials meet strict nuclear standards.
In its most recent report to the Georgia Public Service Commission, the company said final projected costs for quality assurance, oversight, operational readiness and regulatory compliance rose from a projected $621 million in 2009 to $755 million in 2012.
Ends & Pieces
A World War 2-era B-17 bomber called “Memphis Belle” is receiving maintenance at Cherokee County Regional Airport until it continues its tour on Monday, but you can visit the plane until then and it will remain based at Cherokee for the next year.
Pen 231 at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter holds this cute Lab mix, who has been misclassified as a “Pibble.” She’s accurately described as playful and friendly.
Tomorrow, a fundraiser will be held for the Society of Humane Friends, who run the spay/neuter clinic at the Gwinnett Animal Shelter and support the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Operation Second Chance Jail Dogs Program. The event is Saturday, July 28th from 10 AM to 3 PM at Gwinnett County Animal Control, located at 884 Winder Highway in Lawrenceville, and will feature a raffle, bouncy house for kids, hot dogs, hamburgers, and soft drinks. Saturday is also the last day for discounted adoptions at the Gwinnett Shelter.
Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections
Owners of convenience stores tied to illegal gambling have contributed thousands of dollars to the campaigns of Muscogee County District Attorney Julia Slater, Muscogee County Sheriff John T. Darr, Marshal Greg Countryman and Municipal Court Judge Steven D. Smith among other candidates.
The contributions have raised questions as employees and relatives of campaign supporters — and at least one contributor himself — have been ensnared in a broadening Columbus police crackdown on illegal cash payouts from electronic gaming machines.
Businesses raided for alleged gambling since 2008 have given at least $28,000 to local candidates over the past four years, including nearly $10,000 to Slater and about $6,000 to Darr, according to an analysis by the Ledger-Enquirer.
The officeholders said they had not considered returning any contributions after the gambling raids, noting the defendants haven’t been convicted. They insisted they have never given or been asked for preferential treatment in exchange for the contributions.
Atlanta Unfiltered writes that Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers is accused of working on mailings for casinos and phone-handicapping services after he was elected to the General Assembly.
Chris McClurg, soon to be unsuccessful candidate for Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge has been named as the biggest offender for political campaign signs in the rights-of-way.
Gwinnett code enforcement officers said the “biggest offender award” goes to Chris McClurg who is running for superior court judge.
Police said of the 150 illegal signs they picked up, 90 belonged to McClurg.
Secretary of State Brian Kemp ruled that Augusta Juvenile Court Judge Willie Saunders is eligible to run for Superior Court.
A formal challenge to Saunders’ candidacy was filed in May by Augusta attorney Jack Long. Long claimed that Saunders should not be allowed to challenge Chief Superior Court Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet for his seat in the Augusta Circuit because state law bars anyone who has defaulted on tax obligations from holding office.
Kemp, who has the final say in such election challenges, decided to adopt Judge Michael M. Malihi’s July 16 ruling, which said although Saunders owes federal taxes, his plan to pay the IRS under a Chapter 13 bankruptcy settlement meets the standard for a payment plan required by state law.
SOS Kemp also announced that his agency’s website will feature a new elections return tool for the primary elections.
“Our Agency’s new ENR system is a great resource for Georgia voters,” said Kemp. “Information will be distributed efficiently, be interactive, and be able to be broken down to the precinct level.”
Would-be state Senate candidate Garry Guan has dropped out of the race after his residency challenge. Senator Curt Thompson is now unopposed.
Kemp rejected residency challenges against Republican Carla Roberts in HD 81 and Brooke Siskin in HD 95, in both cases adopting the recommendations of the Administrative Law Judge who took evidence.
Ashley Fielding of the Gainesville Times writes about the Republican Primary in the Ninth Congressional District.
One calls herself a “firebrand.” Another repeats that he’s the only “consistent conservative.” And the third rarely sits down without mentioning the U.S. Constitution.
A seven-month campaign for the Republican nomination to run for the newest U.S. House seat in Georgia, which once drew five Republicans from three counties, culminates Tuesday with just three candidates on the Republican ballot.
Those left are a former state representative from Hall County, a retired principal from White County and a former conservative radio talk show host, also from Hall.
If neither Doug Collins, Roger Fitzpatrick nor Martha Zoller is able to garner more than 50 percent of the votes cast, the two with the most support will face off in an Aug. 21 runoff.
The winner of the election will face Democrat Jody Cooley of Gainesville in November’s general election to represent all or parts of 20 counties in Northeast Georgia in Congress.
Senator Miller said, “Shirley and I have known Catherine and Cecil Staton for many years. I don’t do this frequently, but I feel so strongly about this race that I wanted to let you know that I’m supporting Cecil Staton for re-‐election. I know a conservative champion when I see one.
Don’t let anyone fool you. Senator Staton is pro-‐life, pro-‐family, and pro-‐business. He is a tax-‐cutter, a budget-‐balancer, and a job-‐creator. We need him to keep fighting for our conservative values under the gold dome. I encourage everyone in the six counties of the 18th district to join me in supporting your Senator-‐-‐Cecil Staton.
ethics campaign finance complaint has been filed against Fulton Magistrate Judge Melynee Leftridge over campaign expenditures. According to the filer of the complain,
“The most troubling of these allegations is an apparent elaborate scheme to funnel campaign contributions to a company responsible for maintaining a website www.pirouettesexy.com … the Pirouette Dance Company, whose name was changed to Pirouette Company with the Secretary of State in February 2012, currently maintains a website featuring pictures of scantly clad women and a current schedule of dates and fees,” [complainant Charlie] Statdlander said in a statement.
Other clients of Pirouette include DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis, Democratic State Rep. Pat Gardner, State House candidate Ronnie Mabra, Gail Davenport, DeKalb County State Court Judge Dax Lopez, and Citizens for Transportation Mobility. Sound like a legitimate political consulting practice to me, but that does give me some ideas for my website.
Chuck Eaton, running for reelection to the Public Service Commission, is supported by Charlie Harper, editor of Peach Pundit.
Much of the decisions that the PSC makes are handcuffed by Georgia law and an increasing appetite for the General Assembly to regulate utilities via every more friendly regulations codified as state law. Senate Bill 31 continues to resonate as an example, with the legislature, not the PSC, deciding to pre-fund Georgia Power’s return on investment for two new nuclear reactors at plant Vogtle.
One of Chuck Eaton’s strong points is that he is intellectually curious. He is a person who is willing to admit he doesn’t have all of the answers, and solicits opinions regularly on topics that interest him.
He has a keen grasp on the various risks associated with coal as the EPA continues to push coal powered electric plants toward extinction. He understands that while natural gas prices are at historic lows right now, the history of the fuel is one of price volatility which could lead to wide variances in power costs. He understands that nuclear is cheap once the power plants are operational, but getting a plant built after 30 years since the last plant was built will present unique challenges.
Eaton prefers a balanced approach, with Georgia not putting all eggs in one basket. He’s generally pragmatic about the needs of the state, and balances the needs of Georgians with the requirements that those the PSC regulates are entitled to earn a profit as defined in state law.
While not someone I always agree with, Eaton is someone who can explain and is willing to defend his positions based on fact and underlying law. That’s a rarity in politics.
In short, I trust him. That’s also rare. He’s an incumbent that gets my vote. That’s getting more rare.
Eaton is also supported by Governor Nathan Deal, Congressman Tom Graves, Attorney General Sam Olens, and numerous other Republicans.
T-SPLOST opponents outnumbered supporters at a debate over the sales tax hike last night at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center.
Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, said her displeasure with the proposal came last year when the toll lanes were activated along Interstate 85. She said her inquiries into the issue, which actually increased congestion, caused her to realize the problem with the bureaucracy.
And, as far as the project list is concerned, she added that a proposal to convert Gravel Springs Road to an interchange angered her Buford constituents.
While debates in the Legislature lingered for years before the current Transportation Investment Act was adopted, Unterman said leaders would be anxious to take on the issue again in January if voters say no to the proposal.
“That’s the risk,” she said of politics intervening in the Legislature, “but I still say that risk is better than dumping billions of dollars into a system that is not working.”
Also in Gwinnett, T-SPLOST opponents are questioning whether county funds are being used to support the T-SPLOST.
Partnership Gwinnett, funded by businesses and government agencies, has won national acclaim for efforts to attract jobs to metro Atlanta. But on Thursday citizens groups questioned whether taxpayers are getting their money’s worth.
They also were skeptical of claims the Chamber of Commerce hasn’t used public money to support the transportation sales tax measure on Tuesday’s ballot.
Some Hispanic leaders joined Mayor Kasim Reed in supporting the T-SPLOST; a group called “Georgia Hispanic Republicans” are unanimously opposed to T-SPLOST. Make of it what you will.
Communist Lawyers Civil Liberties Union seeks to intervene in a lawsuit over Sumter County Board of Education district lines.
The Georgia Ports Authority is seeking to intervene in the federal lawsuit challenging the dredging of the Savannah River to improve access to the Port of Savannah.
The Georgia Ports Authority wants to intervene in a federal lawsuit challenging the $650 million deepening of the Savannah River shipping channel saying its contractual and economic interests are at risk.
The authority also asked a judge to block South Carolina’s Savannah River Maritime Commission from entering the suit, saying that would expand the action and simply bring in extraneous issues.
The authority wants the river shipping channel deepened to handle larger ships that will be routinely calling when the Panama Canal is deepened in 2014. It filed the motions on Wednesday and U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel on Thursday gave the other parties in the case until Aug. 6 to respond.
The lawsuit filed by environmental groups contends the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needs a South Carolina pollution permit before the deepening work can begin. The suit alleges toxic cadmium from river silt will be dumped in a dredge spoils area on the South Carolina side of the river.
The suit was brought by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Savannah Riverkeeper, based in Augusta, Ga., as well as the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League and the South Carolina Wildlife Federation.
Forsyth County Elections
Senate district 27 pits Republican Senator Jack Murphy against Forsyth County Tea Party founder Steve Voshall.
House district 26 is a contest between formers: former State Rep. Tom Knox and former Florida Marlins pitcher Geoff Duncan.
Walker Bramblett, the incumbent Chief Magistrate Judge meets former Chief Magistrate Barbara Cole. In 2008, Cole stepped down as she did not meet then-new requirements for years as a member of the State bar, but she now has enough time as a lawyer to mount a comeback.
The race for County Coroner features a retired medical examiner, a funeral director and a nurse, seeking to succeed Lauren McDonald, who is running for Sheriff.
The Republican primary for County Commission District 2 will decide whether incumbent Brian Tam or one of his challengers, Dennis Brown and Scott Padis, take a seat on the Commission, as no Democrat is running.
County Commission District 4 will also be decided in the Republican primary between incumbent Patrick Bell, and challengers Tim Hubbard, Charles Meagher, Cindy J. Mills and Bill Mulrooney.
One of those candidates for District 4, Cindy Mills, had an ethics complaint filed against her because she failed to list her role as an officer in the Forsyth County Parks Foundation on her Personal Financial Disclosure. She amended her PFD that day.
Holly LaBerge, spokeswoman for the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, said the complaint will not be pursued until after the July 31 election.
“If it was filed within 30 days of an election, we can’t do anything with it until the election is over by law,” LaBerge said.
State Rep. Mark Hamilton (R-Forsyth) was appointed chair of the Jekyll Island State Park Oversight Committee, on which he currently serves as a member. Tough duty.
A former Forsyth County deputy who was terminated during his probationary period claims his firing was because he posted on Facebook that he supports Duane Piper, who is challenging Sheriff Ted Paxton in the Republican Primary.
Ends & Pieces
Rocky Creek Solar Farm in Upson County is the first facility of its type in Georgia, and is now producing up to 1 megawatt, enough to power 300 homes. Georgia Power purchases electricity produced at the facility, with an additional 18 megawatts under development.
Effingham County Sheriff’s Office took second place in its division in a national law enforcement highway safety challenge.
Rome-based Bubba will compete in dock diving at the Summer at the Rocks event in Stone Mountain this weekend. The event runs today through Sunday. Bubba is a four-year old chocolate Lab who enjoys food, licking himself, and belly rubs.
Model High School in Rome is holding it’s annual band camp. This is not a one time occurence, but annual.
“Cat” and “Finch” are 12-pound female mixed-breed puppies, thought to be about three months old. $40 saves the lives of both of these pups, as Walton County Animal Services is offering them as a pair at a discount. They will come with their vaccinations, microchips (if you want them), de-wormed, and flea/tick treated.
Georgia Public Broadcasting has a list of some hotels that welcome dogs and cats, including the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, some of which include alfresco dining and canine cocktail hour.
Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections
Advanced voting continues this week, with some counties offering expanded locations. Check your county’s voting information on Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s website.
The Georgia Department of Education is freezing some federal funds to the Dougherty County school system because of accounting questions. The funds in question may include up to $10 million of the system’s $114.8 million budget.
The Judicial Qualifications Commission has reprimanded Willie Weaver Sr, who is the municipal court judge for Albany, Dawson, and Sylvester.
The JQC opened an ethics investigation following media reports of Weaver’s arrest on a charge of aggravated assault. Albany news reports stated that Weaver was charged with hitting his wife in the face with a beer bottle. According to news reports, Dougherty County District Attorney Greg Edwards said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation had been called in after Weaver’s wife was taken to a local hospital with facial cuts that required stitches following what the DA described at the time as an alleged incident of domestic violence.
According to the JQC report, a special prosecutor subsequently was appointed to investigate the charge, and Weaver agreed at the time to a suspension without pay pending resolution of the case.
But Weaver’s wife, Vester Weaver, last month convened a news conference with her church pastor to deny that her husband had ever struck her, although she acknowledged at the time that a protective order was in place that barred him from contacting her. Weaver told local news media at the time that she did not ask for the protective order and wanted it lifted.
According to the JQC report, Weaver eventually entered a plea deal that dismissed the assault charge. In return, the report said that Weaver agreed to attend marital and stress counseling.
In its report, the JQC said that it had “attempted to balance its responsibility to the public to insure an honorable and independent judiciary with its responsibility to deal fairly with a judge who understands that while the criminal charge was dismissed, the event, and the publicity which followed it, brought discredit upon the judge and the judicial system.”
Both Weaver and his Albany attorney, Mark Brimberry, consented to and signed the JQC report.
The National Journal lists Georgia’s Twelfth Congressional District as the 14th-most likely for an incumbent defeat in November.
“Republican state legislators targeted Barrow via redistricting earlier in his career, and he survived. The latest attempt planted the Blue Dog Democrat in a solidly conservative seat, though, and he’ll have a major challenge on his hands against whoever emerges from a bruising, contested Republican primary.
Centrist Democratic groups are already on TV in Savannah praising Barrow’s moderate record, but Republicans will counter in the fall with clips of Barrow claiming to have worked “hand in hand” with Obama during a tough Democratic primary in 2010.
That could be enough to unseat Barrow in a district where Obama might struggle to top 40 percent of the vote.”
Republican candidates in the primary to run against Barrow met in a televised debate last night.
Hall County Commissioner Billy Powell and his opponent in the Republican primary election, Eugene Moon, have different takes on Powell’s record.
As a commissioner for two terms, Powell, who is 55, is offering his record of no tax increases, his efforts in the construction of the new county jail and new parks and his role in moving county departments into the old Liberty Mutual Building as evidence of his leadership.
Meanwhile, the 44-year-old Moon is attacking some of those efforts, calling them a record of expanding government during a recession.
“He crows about all of his accomplishments. The things he talks about when he’s out stumping are all of the things he’s built in Hall County,” said Moon, with a sarcastic edge to the word “built.”
“What he is talking about is how he has grown government.”
For many, this issue is at the core of what it means to be a Republican in state and local government.
This past Saturday saw the state’s first Saturday voting, which appears to be a success for some voters.
Doug Collins and Martha Zoller have opened the money spigots in their race for the Republican nomination for Congress in the new Ninth District.
Collins … led the race to raise money, pulling in some $81,685 in contributions.
Collins also had the most cash left over at the end of the quarter.
Following behind him in the fundraising race, Zoller, a former conservative radio talk show host, raised more than $73,510; Fitzpatrick, a former White County school principal, pulled in some $11,811.
But Collins, a former member of the Georgia House of Representatives, also spent more than double the campaign cash he’s spent in each of the last two reporting periods.
According to his filing with the elections commission, Collins’ campaign spending last quarter neared $142,000.
In contrast, Collins spent less than $60,000 in the first three months of this year; and in the final quarter of 2011, the campaign reported spending $70,957.
Zoller’s campaign spending, reported at $72,062, was also the highest it’s been since she joined the race last fall.
Fitzpatrick, who filed his first campaign disclosure report with the FEC on Monday, reported some $6,200 in campaign expenses.
Spokespeople for both Zoller and Collins attribute the higher spending to last-minute efforts to garner voters’ attention.
If this race goes to a runoff, as appears likely, the first task for each candidate will be to top up their campaign accounts. If you’ve donated to one of them, brace yourself.
In Cherokee County, several weeks ago, anonymous robocalls attacking Janet Read went out using her cell phone number as the Caller Id.
While the usual election sign wars have many candidates up in arms, robo-calls seem to be causing even more concern as many local races heat up in the last weeks before the July 31 primary.
For School Board chair candidate and current School Board Vice Chair Janet Read, a couple of robo-calls that went out to voters have her calling for answers.
The first, which is said to have gone out from a phone number identified as one belonging to Grassroots Conservatives of Cherokee leader Bill Dewrell, told those receiving the call to contact Read at the Cherokee County School District offices.
The latest, though, not only gave Read’s home phone number for those who might want to contact her, but also appeared to originate from Read’s home phone. The call was so inflammatory that Read called for extra patrols at her home.
karma some tricksters struck back when anonymous robocalls targeting Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers transmitted the cell phone number of a political operative associated with Rogers..
If morale within the Hall County Sheriff’s Department kept coming up in a forum for the five candidates running to replace Sheriff Steve Cronic, maybe that means it’s currently an issue.
The factual part of the AJC article is that the taxes in question have been paid. In fact, the only taxes that David Doss had any liability for were paid some 8 years ago.
Unfortunately, this AJC article will now become new fodder for the Chuck Hufstetler campaign to distort and use in his negative smear campaign against me. Just like the attack mail piece from last week that was so slanderous, that Hufstetler campaign refused to put their name on it. The citizens of the 52nd District deserve more than this type of gutter politics from Chuck Hufstetler.
Among Savannah’s Democratic state representatives, it’s a split decision on T-SPLOST.
Four Democratic state lawmakers that represent the area took turns Saturday morning arguing for and against a proposed sales tax going before voters on July 31.
State Rep. Mickey Stephens and State Sen. Lester Jackson, of Savannah, voiced their opposition to the 1-percent sales tax, while Representatives Bob Bryant, of Garden City, and Craig Gordon, of Savannah, tried to convince about 30 residents of the proposal’s merits during a forum at the Savannah Arts Academy.
The Savannah Morning News endorses Bill Hitches in the Republican primary for house district 161, an open seat.
Mr. Hitchens, 65, has spent a lifetime in the military and in law enforcement, mostly with the Georgia State Patrol, where he rose to the rank of colonel. Prior to his retirement, he served as commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety and director of the Georgia Department of Homeland Security.
If elected, he immediately will become one of the go-to guys in the House on public safety, crime and security issues. Such expertise will come in handy. The legislature has limited tax dollars to spend, and crime and punishment can get expensive.
Jace Brooks, running for Gwinnett County Commission district 1, has received the endorsements of the Mayors and city council members in the district.
Ethics is an issue in Gwinnett County Commissioner Mike Beaudreau’s reelection campaign, not because of specific allegations against the longest-serving Commissioner, but because of problems he helped bring to the public’s attention.
“Any incumbent has got to defend himself. That’s OK,” Beaudreau said of the race, where he has fired back against robo-calls, mailers and other public accusations, trying to focus on his accomplishments and record. “The difficult decisions are not over. I’ve got plenty of experience in dealing with them.”
While his opponents have cast him in the same negative role as the commissioners who left the job in disgrace, Beaudreau said many of his constituents remember that he was the one who called attention to the land deals and asked for ethics reform before the problems came to light.
But Beaudreau was deposed as part of the scandal, pointed out Mike Korom, a Dacula man who emerged on the political scene to fight against the now-defunct proposal to add commercial flights at the county airport.
The election for DeKalb County Clerk of Courts is a lively race this year with five candidates. Even more lively is the Clayton County Sheriff’s election, as indicted former Sheriff Victor Hill is among the eight candidates.
The eight people running for Clayton County Sheriff include the incumbent and the man he unseated and six people who have worked for one or both of them…four of whom were fired.
There is little that is simple or uneventful about the office of Sheriff in Clayton County.
The residents of Clayton hope this election will bring some sanity and respect to the office that some believe has contributed to the “black eye” on the county for the past several years. A special grand jury is investigating local officials, including the travel of some of the county commissioners. The county school system is still smarting from Southern Association of Colleges and School decision to revoke its accreditation because of dysfunction on the school board.
“There is just a climate of corruption in the county,” said resident Dave Clark. “The whole thing is absolutely embarrassing.”
ly no one, Fulton County Elections is having trouble with redistricting and assigning voters to new districts.
Inaccuracies on precinct cards in Fulton appeared to affect more than 300 voters who had already cast their votes. The problem involved wrong precinct information printed on cards. “Due to database entry mistakes within the Fulton County Department of Registration and Elections, voters on some streets were placed in the wrong districts,” the department said in a statement Friday to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
As a result, some Fulton voters received incorrect absentee or advance-voting ballots that omitted a race they should have voted in. The department said new “corrected” precinct cards have been printed and mailed.
Officials were also sending new ballots to voters who cast absentee ballots and have asked those who voted in-person to come back and vote in the additional race.
The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer profiles the contested primary for Muscogee County school board district 1.
Local governments whose budgets exceed $1 million must now post online information, but only one-third of those required have done so.
“It’s a toothless law that probably needs to be adjusted,” said Jack Starver, chairman for the Northwest Georgia 9-12 project, an organization with roots in the tea party. “If these guys are lighting cigars with $5 bills, we should probably know that.”
Rep. Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta, who backed the law, said the goal was to make it easier for taxpayers to find budgets. He said he would consider trying to add penalties to the law if local governments do not comply.
“We went out of our way to make this not hard,” he said. “These cities, counties and school districts are doing a disservice to their own constituents. In the interest of open government, they need to step forward.”
DeKalb County, the cities of Buford, College Park, East Point and Lawrenceville and the Clayton County school district are among the local governments that still have not submitted their budgets for electronic publication.
“We erred,” said Burke Brennan, a DeKalb County spokesman. “We’re disappointed that we missed this one but we’re going to make it right.”
Maybe DeKalb County’s highly-paid lobbyist could have spent more time letting the county know which laws passed, and less time opposing residents seeking to incorporate the City of Brookhaven.
The Savannah Morning News lauds the decision to fast track the federal approval process for the deepening of the Port of Savannah.
The president may wrongly see government as the overriding force in making all businesses successful. But government does have a primary role in providing essential infrastructure, like ship channels for U.S. seaports. He deserves credit for putting Savannah’s port deepening project near the top of the list.
Here’s a thought for you all. If transportation infrastructure improvements are meant to increase economic development, moving freight is more important than moving people. Look back at all the economic development announcements made by Governor Deal this year and see how many of them mention access to Georgia’s privately-owned freight railroad network and to the ports, and see how many mentioned transit. The answers are (1) all of them; and (2) none of them. That’s your economic development lesson for the day.
Disney parks merchandise will now flow through the Port of Jacksonville, rather than Savannah,
Walt Disney Parks and Resorts is diverting 75 percent of its inbound cargo that used to go through the Port of Savannah to the TraPac Container Terminal at Dames Point.
The switch reduces transportation costs for the Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) division, while the new business at the Asian terminal is expected to add about 1,300 40-foot containers in volume annually. Top public- and private-sector leaders said the move is a win for the city, the Jacksonville Port Authority, the state of Florida and the company.
“It was about optimizing our supply chain and being able to minimize the cost associated with bringing freight here,” said Anthony Connelly, senior vice president and chief financial officer of the U.S. Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “So to us, it was about saving money and certainly we’re excited to be able to participate in growing Florida’s economy as well as Jacksonville’s economy.”
[Florida Governor Rick] Scott said Florida has a big economic opportunity with the state’s 15 seaports. More shipping will create jobs in related industries, such as manufacturing. The seaports will create a lot of jobs, but the state has to continue to build its infrastructure.
“We’ve put Florida on the map with regard to our seaports,” Scott said. “We have a big opportunity right here in Jaxport.”
Ends & Pieces
Jim Galloway has a great piece on the “late life conversion” of former Governor and US Senator Zell Miller. It’s worth reading in its entirety.
Sea turtles are beginning to hatch on Georgia’s coast.
A nest at North Beach began hatching Wednesday. Another nest, near 11th Street, hatched last night. It’s a record-breaking nesting season on the island, with at least 17 nests.
A restored Civil War flag originally issued to the 65th Georgia Infantry will go on display tomorrow at the Kennesaw Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History.
The flag is the only known surviving example of an Army of Tennessee flag that has both the unit and state designations sewn onto both sides. Following its donation in February 2010, the Museum sent the flag to a West Virginia company that specializes in the restoration of historic artifacts.
The bloodstained flag is riddled with 41 bullet holes that it received during the Atlanta and Tennessee campaigns. By the War’s end, the flag saw action during a number of battles, including Resaca, New Hope Church/Dallas/Pickett’s Mill, Kennesaw Mountain, Peachtree Creek and Atlanta.
Patsy (F) and Parker (M) are 2-3 month old puppies weighing in at about 11 pounds each. The are available for adoption for $40 each from Walton County Animal Services and have been vaccinated and de-wormed and will come with vouchers for discounted spay/neuter.
Gwinnett Urgent Care and Suwanee Station Dentistry in Gwinnett County have a therapy dog named Ruckus.
Ruckus, who will be 7 in July, is a chocolate spaniel who serves as a therapy dog for both sides of the office. The Perrys believe having Ruckus around fosters a more comfortable and family atmosphere that calms the nerves of anxious patients.
“When people come in they don’t feel well, that’s why they’re here, they’re sick,” Ron said. “If Ruckus will come in the room, their whole face just lightens up. They suddenly just start feeling a bit better.”
Gift, and her mother, Ashley, agree.
“He probably helps them feel better because they have somebody to talk to,” Myla said. “It makes it more fun that there’s an animal friend.”
Ashley Gift said Ruckus makes it easier for her daughter to visit the doctor’s office.
“She doesn’t dread coming here, she knows she gets to see him,” Ashley said. “It makes it more fun. She asks for him every time we come.”
Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections
Beginning next week, satellite early voting stations open in some jurisdictions, and this Saturday is the only Saturday early voting for the July 31st elections.
The Secretary of State’s website has “My Voter Page” where you can sign in and find advanced and early voting information, as well as your new districts for State House, Senate, County Commission and other offices. This page will help you find contact information for your county board of elections if you have questions.
Governor Nathan Deal stated his support for Chuck Eaton in his reelection to the Public Service Commission. Deal said:
“During his tenure on the Public Service Commission, Chuck Eaton has assisted my efforts for economic development and job creation in Georgia. Chuck Eaton shares my top priority to make Georgia the No. 1 state in which to do business. By working to repeal of the tax on energy used for manufacturing, Chuck’s strong, conservative record helps make this goal a reality.”
Attorney General Sam Olens and Congressmen Phil Gingrey and Tom Price discussed the aftermath of the US Supreme Court’s ObamaCare ruling with the Cobb Chamber of Commerce Chairman’s Club.
In Senate District 21, direct mail purportedly paid for by TrafficTruth.net is targeting Brandon Beach, the challenger to Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, while signs that say “Boot Chip – Are you better off than you were eight years ago” appear to have been paid for by Neighbors for A Better Cherokee.
Also in Cherokee County, the anonymous robocalls against Janet Read have continued, obviously paid for by a coward.
A group circulating a flier against Cherokee County District 2 Commissioner Jim Hubbard is in violation of U.S. Postal Service rules, postal officials say.
The flier was found taped onto mailboxes in the communities, which violates U.S. Postal Service rules, according to postal officials.
Postal Service spokesperson Michael Miles said it’s against postal policy to place anything on or inside mailboxes.
U.S. Code Section 1725 prohibits the distribution or mailing of items without paying postage.
“Many people are not aware that it is a violation of USPS policy and law to place items on or in a mailbox,” Miles said. “When this is brought to their attention, they usually refrain from this behavior and there is no need for further USPS action.”
If the violations persist, Miles said the postal service can then collect the mailers and determine how much postage is due to the service.
Once they are able to determine a cost, Miles said they can actually bill the originator for the postage.
Democrat Lesli Messinger, who is running for Congress from the First District issued a press release stating that she is “The only woman running for a national office this election season in Georgia, she’s a lone coastal Democrat amid the state’s Congressional candidates.” Maria Sheffield (R-12) and Martha Zoller (R-9) might take issue with that, but I can see how the names “Maria” and “Martha” might be confusing on that point.
The Republican candidates in the Twelfth Congressional District met in a debate last night.
UGA Political Scientist Charles Bullock appears to be predicting defeat for the T-SPLOST.
“So although tons of money is being spent to encourage voting for the T-SPLOST and thesupport of the Chamber of Commerce, it looks like it will go down to defeat,” Bullock said in an analysis emailed to Patch. “We have the interesting phenomenon of disagreement between many GOP leaders and a group usually closely associated with the GOP (the Chamber).”
Bullock concluded: “With GOP leadership unwilling to step forward and reassure conservative, anti-tax voters that the projects to be funded with the T-SPLOST are meritorious, there is scant prospect for approval.”
Gun store owners might start lobbying for elections every year, as gun sales appear to be rising in advance of this year’s elections.
Gun sales are soaring nationwide and retailers say that’s not unusual to see during a presidential election year. “Basically the situation you have now is 2008 all over again,” said Steven B. Drew, Owner of Georgia Gun and Loan.
Analysts say the 2008 spike came from fear that new gun control legislation would make it more difficult to acquire firearms. ”People were uncertain what the new President and the new administration was going to do so there tends to be a upsurge in fire arm sales in general,” said Drew.
Four seats on the DeKalb County School Board are up for election this year, and all seats will be up in 2014. All twelve candidates for those seats will be at a forum tonight from 6:45 to 8:30 PM in the Arabia Mountain High School auditorium, at 6610 Browns Mill Road in Lithonia. RSVP to [email protected] or 770-875-0213.
In Cobb County, school board candidate Linda Hanson has accused incumbent David Banks of invading her childrens’ privacy.
Banks distributed his e-newsletter, David’s Grapevine, in which he wrote: “This week one of my opponents made it known through the Marietta Daily Journal that the Cobb County Associations (sic) of Educators had given their endorsement based on my opponents ‘activity’ in education. To determine the validity of this claim, I personally contacted the schools where their children had either attended or were presently attending and in no instance could I validate or substantiate any participation in school activities or organizations by either of my opponents.”
Hanson said she was “very concerned and most disturbed” by the newsletter.
“For him to go to my children’s schools for information for political gain is highly unethical and way beyond the realm of what a board member should be doing,” she said. “The parents in Cobb County Schools deserve better than to feel like their information, privacy is being encroached upon, regardless if it’s a board member or just someone off the street.”
Banks, meanwhile, called her concerns “silly” and insisted he did nothing inappropriate. Banks said he did not receive any records about Hanson’s children.
Gwinnett County developer Dan O’Leary still believes the casino gambling ballot question on Republican ballots will fail, and continues trying to distance his proposal for “video lottery terminals” in a casino-gambling style setting.
O’Leary believes the vote is destined to fail because of the ballot’s wording, and he’s been quietly working business crowds and boardrooms to uncouple his proposal with the outcome of the vote. His plan, he tells them, doesn’t involve a casino but video lottery terminals, which resemble a slot machine but would be operated by the lottery board.
“God as my witness, I had nothing to do with that question,” he said, arms held aloft, at a recent meeting of Gwinnett County business leaders in a cramped office across the street from the proposed site of the gambling resort.
Republican chairwoman Sue Everhart, who said she put the question on the ballot after years of urging from some GOP heavyweights, said the vote will measure the appetite for expanded gambling among Republicans.
If it passes by a clear margin, she said, it will force lawmakers to “seriously” consider the prospect of video lottery terminals. But if it fails, an outcome she expects, “it would send the message that Georgians don’t want gambling.”
“At some point the question has to be answered, and I think this will answer it,” Everhart said. “This will settle it so we can move forward.”
Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle would like to appoint Clark Howard to the citizen review panel if T-SPLOST passes, but Howard has said he might not have time for the commitment.
Cagle had hoped Howard’s membership on the panel would assuage worries about the money being spent properly. The state is divided into 12 regions for the referendum; each has its own project list for voters to consider, and each would have its own citizen review panel.
“Voters should have as much information as possible, and the citizen oversight committee is a key part of this process,” Cagle said.
Former Cobb County Commission Chair Bill Byrne picked up the endorsement of D.A. King and the Cobb Taxpayers Association in his quest to unseat incumbent Tim Lee.
D.A. King says he’s backing Bill Byrne for county chairman. King said his original intention was to remain neutral in the chairman’s race.
“When it became clear to me that the BOC was not going to move forward on saving jobs for American workers on taxpayer funded projects by taking the next logical step with the IMAGE certification, I voted for Bill Byrne for chairman by absentee ballot and proudly support him,” King said. “Bill, an old friend, was the only candidate to reach out to me and promise, without condition, to require all public contractors and subcontractors to become IMAGE certified. I believe him when he says that he understands that illegal immigration is not a separate issue from jobs, taxes, health care and education.
“Frankly, I haven’t heard anything from the other challengers. The current chairman, who I like very much, has been dealing with the IMAGE certification issue for at least 18 months and pronounced it a great move for Cobb when he signed the IMAGE agreement. The concept that the same requirement for public contractors needs more study time strikes me as absurd and transparent. State legislation, much of which I have worked on myself over the years is written, vetted and signed into law in a three month window.”
In House District 66 (Douglas and Paulding counties), Republican Mike Miller has out-raised and out-spent both his opponents.
Dr. Bernice Brooks is back on the ballot, running for reelection to the Carroll County Board of Education.
Coweta Circuit Superior Court Judge Jack Kirby signed the order, saying it would be “unjust” to leave the 12-year school board member off the ballot.
“Clearly this was an error, simply a mistake that was made,” Kirby said. “It would be incredibly unjust for Ms. Brooks to be knocked off the ballot.”
Kirby called the error a “scrivener’s error,” a clerical error made in legal documents. The hearing to address Brooks’ writ of certiorari, or appeal, was Tuesday afternoon at the Coweta County Justice Center.
Brooks was unanimously disqualified by the Board of Elections and Registration in a special hearing last Tuesday after it was discovered her house is in a different district that the district she is running to represent. While the majority of Brooks’ Villa Rica property can be found in District 1, her home and street address are actually in District 3 because of a technical error.
Computer problems aren’t the only problem facing the State Campaign Finance Commission and voters seeking to learn where candidates raised money.
whereas statewide candidates are required to file electronically, local candidates are allowed to file paper reports, and a processing backlog means they can be delayed indefinitely.
Kennesaw State University political science professor and former secretary of state advisory board member David Shock said it all spells out a “huge disservice” to voters with many contributing factors.
“The biggest reason is that, a year or so ago, a new state law kicked in that requires candidates to file with the state ethics commission. I think there’s still a lot of confusion among local candidates on what they need to do,” he said.
Many of the candidates who hadn’t filed their PFD as of last week said they thought the report had already been filed.
Before 2011, local candidates filed reports with their local election board. Shock said he believes the change was made to standardize the process, however, the increased workload on the ethics commission has stretched its resources and caused the backlog.
Other causes in the high number of late filers may be a lack of drive in collecting fines. Initial late fees have increased from $25 to $125, but may go uncollected for long periods of time.
“Voters deserve to know who is funding their candidates,” Shock said. “I don’t know what the solution is. There needs to be more people reviewing the reports. There is probably a need for more education as well for candidates on what needs to be done.”
President Obama announced the administration’s commitment to completing federal reviews for the Savannah Harbor Deepening Project, intended to increase river access to the Port of Savannah by dredging portions of the Savannah River. In fact, the commitment is that federal review will be finished by November 2012,
just in time for Congressman John Barrow to take credit for it.
Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections
“I know we live in a world where it doesn’t appear that the rest of the world appreciates the sacrifice that the United States of America makes on their behalf, as well as on our own behalf, but I can tell you in my travels, in my contacts with people around the rest of the world, they truly understand that the only real bastion of freedom, the only protector of liberty is the United States military,” Deal said to thunderous applause.
During his remarks, Deal called Gold Star Mother Jan Johnson, whose son Justin Johnson was killed in Iraq, to the podium where he presented her with a proclamation declaring June 16, 2012, Celebrate Iraq Veterans and Families Day in the state of Georgia.
“Justin is a Georgia hero; he is an American hero and his service will not be forgotten, nor will we forget your loss,” Deal said.
Deal used the occasion to make a plea for business leaders in the audience to remember that thousands of veterans have returned from Iraq, and many will soon return from Afghanistan, in need of a job.
The Rome News-Tribune also has video of the event.
On Friday, the State
Ethics Campaign Finance Commission had a full plate before it, but left some for July.
In 2007, Barnes was representing a client before a local zoning board and determined that the broad wording of state ethics law could determine that to be lobbying. He registered as a lobbyist, but before filing any disclosure reports he received an advisory opinion from the commission clarifying the law: He did not have to register. If he was not required to register, Barnes said, how could he have been required to file lobbyist reports?
Brady’s attorney, Stefan Passantino, said the state’s ethics law in effect at the time did not consider Brady’s expenditure on Ralston’s trip to be lobbying. He and the commission had a lengthy discussion about what constitutes lobbying as the law apparently limits it specifically to an attempt to influence an elected official about legislation.
Passantino said no legislation regarding mag-level trains was before the General Assembly at the time.
The Commission voted unanimously to find probable cause that John Oxendine’s campaign violated the Ethics in Government Act in 2010 when it accepted contributions over the individual contribution limit from a number of Alabama Political Action Committees whose funding originated with a single individual.
Oxendine attorney Stefan Passantino did not dispute that his client’s campaign accepted contributions from 10 political action committees and two Rome-based insurance companies that used the PACs in 2008 to funnel $120,000 to Oxendine’s campaign.
Instead, Passantino argued that the law placed an unfair burden on the campaign to know that the contributions were all linked to the same individuals and organizations.
Finally the Commission deferred taking action on complaints against Governor Deal and his 2010 campaign.
A second member of the Commission has referred to lawsuits by the former executive director and her assistant as “frivolous.”
Dunwoody City Council member Adrian Bonser will be the first public official charged before the city’s ethics board.
In a May 29 letter, Dunwoody City Council submitted a formal letter of complaint to the Board of Ethics against Bonser. The letter, signed by the mayor and the other five members of the council, alleges that Bonser violated sections of Dunwoody’s city charter and code of ethics, and lists as evidence the report of an investigation commissioned by the mayor.
“There should be a presumption of innocence and it has not been that way with certain council members [in this case],” Bonser said. “I think the entire investigation was a completely emotional and knee-jerk reaction and a poor use of taxpayer dollars.”
The council held executive sessions in late January and early February to discuss what is now known as “Project Renaissance,” a public-private partnership with John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods to develop 35 acres in the Georgetown area into homes, shops, parks and a possible municipal complex.
After information from the meetings was leaked to a blogger and a newspaper, Mayor Mike Davis brought in former DeKalb County District Attorney Bob Wilson to investigate the leak. Wilson’s report concludes Bonser and then-City Attorney Brian Anderson shared the information. Both have denied being the source of a leak.
Anderson resigned when faced with the threat of termination. On May 29, the council approved a separation agreement that provides him with two months’ severance pay.
Muscogee County Coroner Bill Thrower, who was bounced from the ballot after the check written by his wife bounced, is appealing the decision.
Supporters of the Fulton Science Academy contributed to Senator John Albers’s campaign, shockingly because he also supported Fulton Science Academy’s charter being renewed. This is seriously a news story, AJC? Tuck your agenda in, it’s showing.
Backers of Ron Paul for President will continue to show up to Republican events
until it’s actually time to elect a President in their quixotic quest for a nomination their candidates has given up on.
Ron Paul has given up on becoming president, but loyal supporters are promising to promote the libertarian-leaning Texas congressman’s principles at the Republican national convention this summer, a potential complication for Mitt Romney’s goal of a peaceful coronation.
Paul backers have taken over state Republican conventions Nevada and Maine, and had a strong showing this weekend in Iowa, aiming to increase their voice and clout at the nominating convention in Tampa, Fla.
“We want to send Ron Paul-inspired folks to that convention to show we’re not going away,” says Iowa Republican David Fischer, a top Paul backer in the state.
Georgia atheists are organizing a group to lobby the General Assembly. Now the term “godless lobbyist” can be used literally. In what I’m sure is pure coincidence, the Georgia Solar Energy Association will also be forming a lobbying arm.
A Minnesota case with the potential for revisiting Citizens United may be accepted for hearing by the United States Supreme Court.
More than half of the local governments that would receive more than a billion dollars under the T-SPLOST to be voted on July 31st have failed to produce plans detailing what they will do with the money, according to the AJC.
Austin Scott obviously has seen all the Terminator movies and understands the threat posed by SkyNet, as he is teaming up with Sen. Rand Paul to offer legislation to restrict the domestic use of drones:
“We’re not opposed to the use of drones. But their use has to be consistent with the established rules with regard to search and seizure. The same thing that you would have to obtain to use a wiretap, you would have to have for the use of a drone,” Scott said. “This has the potential to be a huge invasion.”
H.R. 5925 includes exemptions for border patrols, and emergency use by law enforcement or national security authorities. Ultimately, Scott said, the legislation could address privacy rules when it comes to the commercial use of drones as well.
In that story, Jim Galloway notes that Rep. Scott plays left-field for the Republican congressional team, while Rand Paul plays center-field. So this proposal literally comes out of left-field.
Scott Hammond was sworn in as Upson County Commissioner for district 3 on an interim basis until a new commissioner is elected in the July 31st Special Election.
The Sumter County Board of Elections removed two school board candidates from the ballot.
Brantley Wills, a former resident of Webster County, had moved to Sumter County and had changed his residency but not his voter registration.
NeSmith said the Georgia Secretary of State is emphatic that a candidate cannot seek office in a district in which he does not live or is not registered to vote.
Linda Wright was seeking to run in District 1. When she presented herself to qualify for election, she was told that she actually lives in District 6. She said she and her family had been voting in District 1 for many years. However, she paid her qualifying fee for District 1.
NeSmith reiterated the Secretary of State’s position that it doesn’t matter where a candidate has been voting, even if it’s erroneous, but that she can’t seek office in a district in which she does not live.
He said the road on which Wright lives splits Districts 1 and 6.
“It’s the candidates’ responsibility to go to the map and make sure they live where they think they live because there can be clerical errors … “ NeSmith said. “The Secretary of State’s Office says if she’s been voting in the wrong district, this should be corrected immediately.”
The Sumter County Boards of Elections and Education are also defendants in a federal lawsuit challenging the school board district lines.
The contest for sole County Commissioner in Murray County turned personal as both candidates have close relatives who are employed by the county and traded charges.
[Challenger Brittany] Pittman charged that [Commissioner Greg] Hogan hired his daughter, Sarah Hogan Brindle, in the county’s 911 department, with Hogan responding that he had not — it was the department head (Peggy Vick) who had done the hiring. Hogan then countered that if Pittman were elected, she could arbitrarily give her husband — Parks and Recreation Director Anthony Pittman — a $20,000 raise if she wanted to.
Hogan also fielded a question from the audience about why he changed parties, from running as a Democrat during last year’s special election to fill the unexpired term of David Ridley to running as a Republican this year. Pittman is also running as a Republican.
“I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me,” he said. “There are certain things morally that I don’t believe in, like gay marriage. I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman.”
The statement received applause from the audience.
Snellville Mayor Democrat Kellie Kautz denies that she planned to propose banning firearms from parks.
Hispanic voters have the potential to change the direction of electoral politics in Georgia, according to political scientists.
“(Georgia) is one of the states that has a lower registration rate,” said Matt Barreto, a political scientist at the University of Washington whose research is referenced in the center’s report. “I think that poses a significant challenge to Latino empowerment.”
The Center for American Progress report suggests that some 88,200 Hispanics are eligible to vote in Georgia but not registered.
And if another 120,000 Hispanics in the state who are eligible to become citizens start the process and become active voters, their voting power could sway a Republican state in favor of Democratic candidates in the future.
“I think I can honestly say that Georgia’s not exactly thought of as a swing state (in national elections), but at the same time, there’s a substantial new bloc of people that could end up really putting it into play,” said Philip Wolgin an immigration policy analyst at the Center for American Progress’ left-leaning Action Fund.
“Of course, the question is, are they going to register? Are they going to naturalize and vote?”
Rock-em, sock-em robots in CD 9, 12
The AJC writes that the Republican Primary between State Rep. Doug Collins and radio talker Martha Zoller will provide fireworks as each tries to distinguish their record from an opponent with whom they share much ideology.
Not surprisingly, the 12th District Republican Primary to challenge Democrat John Barrow is also becoming a brawl.
Consider Brittany Best, an executive assistant with Mullins Management in Evans.
Official records show Best, 24, has only voted once and never donated to a federal or state-level campaign in Georgia. Until this year, that is.
Her boss, Joe Mullins, is big backer of Republican Wright McLeod, an Augusta attorney seeking to oust Democratic U.S. Rep. John Barrow.
Last Nov. 10, the 12th Congressional District hopeful’s campaign finance disclosure shows, Mullins gave $2,500 — the most the law allows. Joann Mullins, for whom McLeod’s campaign listed the same address as Joe, also gave $2,500.
Until recently employed at the local Pizza Joint in addition to working for Mullins, she apparently isn’t wealthy.
But records show that on March 30 — the day before the end of the reporting period — she, too, gave McLeod $2,500.
On the same day, so did Heather Fehr, also an executive assistant to Mullins. Like Best, Fehr had never before donated to a federal campaign.
Fehr didn’t return three phone calls, but I reached Best, who said she was “very uncomfortable” discussing her donation.
For now, of course, there’s no proof that anyone did anything illegal.
But a lot of things still just don’t add up.
Added to legitimate questions about McLeod’s devotion to the Republican Party, and his truthiness, further bad news may irreparably damage his campaign.
Ends & Pieces
Lawrenceville will celebrate the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 today
The Philadelphia Winn Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution will host an event, “Ring the Bells for 1812,” at 11:30 AM
[O]ne lesser-known story is that of Captain James Lawrence, the namesake of Lawrenceville. Lawrence gave one of the most famous naval cries in history — “Don’t give up the ship!” — when he was mortally wounded in battle, a press release from the DAR chapter pointed out.
During Monday’s event, at the gazebo in Lawrenceville’s Courthouse Square, Lawrenceville Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson will sign a proclation in recognition of the historic day, and the public is encouraged to bring a bell to ring as part of the ceremony.
Dredging the Savannah River to allow deeper access to the Port of Savannah will benefit Middle Georgia as well as the coast.
“It’s possibly the highest benefit-to-cost of any project the Army Corps of Engineers has ever done,” Curtis Foltz, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, said last week.
No study has attached a prediction of new jobs to the port project, but economic development officials along the corridor of Interstate 16, which runs from Savannah to Macon, say they will be in even better position to recruit new industry, especially logistics companies and distribution centers.
“I can’t even guess the numbers of jobs, but this could have a tremendous impact,” said Pat Topping, executive vice president of the Macon Economic Development Commission.
A recent economic impact study estimated Georgia’s deepwater ports accounted for one of every 12 jobs in Georgia in 2011 — or about 352,000 full- and part-time jobs. More than 20,000 jobs in Middle Georgia were found to be port-supported, with most of them in five counties — Bibb, Houston, Washington, Laurens and Baldwin.
Glynn County public schools were ranked among the worst school system bargains in the country.
Kevin McCoy, a former world champion, won the Georgia state disc golf championship in Augusta and was given a green hoodie.
The Brookhaven Bucks, part of the wooden-bad summer development Sunbelt League play the Berkley Lake Tides tonight at the Oglethorpe University campus, and the Atlanta Crackers on Wednesday.
“54312” is a one-year old, 57# male dog who is said to be good with children and other dogs. He has been in the Cobb County Animal Shelter since being dropped off by his former family on Friday and is available for adoption now. Dog and puppy adoptions cost $110 and include vaccinations, heartworm testing and treatment and spay/neuter/
To adopt him or any other animal from Cobb County, call Cobb County Animal Shelter, at (770) 499-4136 for more information or visit at 1060 Al Bishop Drive Marietta, Georgia 30008, and be sure to have the animal’s number available.
We will be featuring animals from Cobb County all week as they prepare for their adopt-a-thon on Saturday, May 19th from 10 AM to 4 PM. Visit Friends of Shelter Animals for Cobb County on Facebook for more adoptable dogs.
Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections
Senator George Hooks (D-Americus), one of the longest-serving members of the State Senate, will not run for reelection. In 22 years in the Senate, after being first elected to that body in 1990, Hooks served ten years as Chairman of the Appropriations Committee as Georgia achieved a AAA Bond Rating, the highest in the nation. The Americus Times-Recorder has a good local perspective on what his service has meant to his district through the years.
President Obama returns to Atlanta on June 26th to
hoover up all the Democratic campaign cash for a series of fundraisers. No word on whether Democratic Party of Georgia Political Director Rashad Richey will receive security clearance for the visit.
Republican blogger Andre Walker has filed a response to Richey’s lawsuit that alleges Walker libeled him when he published true facts about Richey’s criminal background. The main defense asserted by Walker is that the assertions were either true, or were protected political opinions.
R.J. Morris is running against incumbent Arthur Ferdinand for Fulton County Tax Commissioner, the highest-paid state office, which earned the incumbent $347,000 last year. Cherokee County Tax Commissioner Sonya Little faces challenges from Kenny Phelps and Wade Wilkie.
Raymond Gunnin, who has served as Cherokee County Fire Chief will run for County Commission Post 2 against incumbent Jim Hubbard in the Republican Primary.
Former State Rep. Clint Smith, who is running for State House District 9, held a successful fundraiser with special guest Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, who gave an interesting talk on their service together in a Republican minority under former Speaker Tom Murphy. You can watch a biographical video of Clint Smith here.
On Friday, May 18th, Govenror Nathan Deal will speak at the kickoff for the Special Olympics on the Washington Street steps of the Georgia State Capitol.
Rumor has it that State Rep. Debbie Buckner (D-Junction City) has two potential primary opponents.
Whitfield County Coroner Bobbie Dixon is running for reelection as a Democrat.
Common Cause of Georgia and Jim Walls of AtlantaUnfiltered are hosting an event on the Georgia Transparency Project on Monday, May 14, 2012 at PeopleTV, located at 190 14th Street in Atlanta. A reception runs from 6 to 6:45 PM, followed by taping.
The Paulding County Republican Women’s Club will sponsor a debate among the Georgia District 31 Senate Candidates on June 5, 2012 at 7:00 PM in the Becky and Hal Echols Room at the Paulding County Chamber of Commerce Building located at 455 Jimmy Campbell Parkway, Dallas, Georgia. AJC Political Insider, Jim Galloway, will moderate. The announced candidates are Senator Bill Heath (I), Bill Carruth, former Paulding County Commission Chair, and Jason Rogers, chief investigator for the Cobb County Solicitor General. The debate is open to the public and everyone is welcome to attend.
Forsyth County Sheriff Ted Paxton will debate challengers Lauren McDonald and Duane Piper at 7 PM tonight in the county administration building, in an event sponsored by the Forsyth County Tea Party Patriots Alliance. The next debate on May 24th will feature candidates in the Ninth Congressional District.
The Greater Columbia County Republican Women and the Columbia County Republican Party are holding a forum for candidates in the Twelfth Congressional District on June 30th at 10 AM at the library in Evans, with Phil Kent moderating. That’s the first time “Phil Kent” and any form of the word “moderate” have appeared in the same sentence.
The Augusta Chronicle has a review of the history of the Twelfth Congressional District.
Most of our other congressional districts date back more than a century and a half. The 2nd and 3rd, like the 1st, were present at the creation of the Republic.
Others got added — according to the constitutional formula — as Georgia’s population grew.
Not until 1913 did that growth spawn the 12th, which then elected Hughes, a Twiggs County farmer. Only the 13th, created in 2002, and the 14th, born in 2010, have shorter histories.
[A]fter the 1930 census, we lost the 12th — and the 11th, too.
Renewed Peach State population growth led to the resurrection of the 11th — which used to include part of Savannah — in 1993. Anyone remember Cynthia McKinney? Oh, well; forget I asked.
It took until the 2000 census for the numbers to revive the 12th.
The Forsyth News has more on the challenge of Sen. Jack Murphy in District 27 by local businessman and tea party activist Steve Voshall in the Republican Primary.
Voshall said his disappointment with Murphy is what inspired him to run for office.
“He was in the position on the Banking and Financial Institutions Committee to have helped the [bank failure] situation and instead that didn’t happen,” he said. “I think the people in this county are seeing through that now,” he said.
“I’ve had a great deal of interested people who contacted me and asked me to consider running … I looked into it, put a lot of thought into it, did a lot of research on Jack and I didn’t like the things I saw and I heard.”
Murphy said he will be running on his experience in the state legislature, adding he will “look forward to any debates that we may have and will be glad to put my record up for what I’ve done for the county and the state over the past 10 years.”
Tommy Hunter will campaign as a Republican for Gwinnett County Commission District Three against incumbent Mike Beaudreau, in what is shaping up to be a “clown car primary.”
“This is a wonderful district that I have loved my entire life, it deserves a County Commissioner who has an open-door policy toward constituents,” the Republican said in a press release. “I will offer that open door if I am fortunate enough to serve you in this office. I will not forget who my boss is when elected, which are the residents of District 3.”
State Rep. Rick Jasperse has announced his campaign for reelection in the Republican Primary to continue representing Pickens County and parts of Bartow and Gordon counties.
Carrollton businessman Marty Smith will challenge incumbent Carroll County Chairman Bill Chappell in the Republican primary.
There is a dirty little process called reapportionment that occurs every decade when the latest census statistics are released. The process is a raw display of power politics. While the framers of our Constitution invented this exercise to insure adequate representation for every American, it has been bastardized to decide which party will do the representing. When Democrats hold the wheels of power it is their prime directive to draw district lines to make sure they win and Republicans lose. Same thing happens if Republicans hold power.
The Savannah Morning News editorial board is declaring war on four South Carolina legislators whose actions allegedly threatened the future development of Port Jasper.
Here are the names of four area lawmakers who recently supported a bill that would have killed the proposed Jasper port on South Carolina’s side of the river.
Voters should make note of this gang of four:
• State Rep. Bill Herbkersman, R-Bluffton.
• State Rep. Andy Patrick, R-Hilton Head Island.
• State Rep. Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort.
• State Rep. Curtis Brantley, D-Ridgeland.
Last week, these port killers voted for a bill that would have essentially shut down the Jasper Ocean Terminal Board. That’s the board of appointees from South Carolina and Georgia that has been diligently working for several years to make the Jasper port a reality and bring much-needed jobs to one of the poorest areas of the Palmetto State.
Instead, this quartet supported a bill that would have put South Carolina’s Jasper appointees under the thumb of the Savannah River Maritime Commission. That’s a separate S.C. panel that’s trying to kill Savannah’s port deepening project, at the behest of backers of Charleston’s port.
With four “friends” like these, the Jasper port doesn’t need enemies.
This weekend’s AJC brought dueling editorials on ethics and T-SPLOST.
Jet Toney, a long-time professional lobbyist and President of the Georgia Professional Lobbyists Association traces Georgia’s establishment to lobbying by James Edward Oglethorpe of England’s King James II, and argues that professional lobbyists play an important role in the running of the state legislature.
Georgia state lawmakers depend on a limited number of research staff and committee aides. Professional lobbyists educate officials and staff with information, expertise and perspective that is not always readily available.
Lobbyists also serve as filters of new ideas, pointing to flaws and unintended consequences.
The Founding Fathers made quite clear in the U.S. Constitution that freedom of speech and the right to seek redress from the government are protected.
All citizens should embrace these rights to advocate for his/her beliefs and values. If they do, the role and impact of professional lobbyists will diminish.
Until then, lobbyists will continue to serve as primary participants in public policy discussions, whether it is over a plate of barbecue in the legislator’s hometown or in the starkly clinical setting of a government building.
Toney questions whether a gift ban or limit will improve the results of the legislative process.
Before this is seriously considered, one should look to states where legislators are prohibited from receiving any gift or entertainment, even a cup of coffee.
Are the laws passed in those states more effective than in Georgia? Do the legislators there make better decisions because they’ve interacted less socially with professional policy advocates?
An opposing viewpoint is presented by Don McAdam, who argues that lobbyist gifts to legislators create a perception of conflicts of interest that are damaging to our state government, even in the absence of actual wrongdoing.
This mere perception of a conflict is doing great damage to the integrity of our legislative process. It is maddening to endure the denials of our state’s political leaders. This is why we must toughen lobbying and campaign finance laws. We should have every confidence that laws are considered based on our best interest.
As it is, there are substantial questions regarding the priorities and policies considered by theLegislature, but its leaders refuse to acknowledge that anything is wrong. Unfortunately, their corruption may be correctable only through removal from office.
McAdam points to tax reform that does away with the yearly ad valorem in favor of a sales tax that is called a title transfer fee as an example of what goes wrong when lobbyists wield influence.
[D]id citizens in mass contact their legislators to petition for a tax that would include private car sales? No legislators said that was the case. Although many Georgians cheered the end of the ad valorem tax, questions remain about the influence of lobbyist gifts on the swap that replaced that tax with a broader-based fee.
The fact that auto dealers lobbied for a tax on car sales between individuals and greased the axle of passage with $24,000 in campaign contributions should have prompted lawmakers to pull the emergency brake.
Legislators should have rejected the gifts and campaign contributions. But the “relationship” between auto dealers and our legislators has been cultivated over many years. Legislators and dealers both benefit. The former receive meals, sporting event tickets and election funds, and the latter get favorable treatment.
Of course, that’s not how our legislators see it. Said Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers: “Overall, I know of no impact that any donations had on the tax reform measure.” Most of us don’t believe that, and for good reason. We were not clamoring for this new fee; only auto dealers were.
Kari Storla is a student at Georgia State who writes at the Common Cause Georgia blog, and raises an insightful point.
Think of it this way: Let’s say you’re a college student and you go to the same meeting every week for free food. Eventually, odds are you’re going to start talking to somebody. Maybe you’ll go to a volunteer event or help out with something else because people are starting to recognize you as a regular. If you don’t help them out, you’re not getting any more food and it’s back to ramen. You make a few friends. You agree to pass out flyers and you go to social events because there’s even more free food and free tickets to a concert and what kind of idiot is going to pass that up? And then all of a sudden you’re standing in front of your class, making an announcement promoting the group or organizing a campus rally.
That’s sort of what it would be like to be a legislator dealing with lobbyists. It’s not that you’re the Big Bad Legislator who’s morally corrupt, like a two-dimensional villain in a kid’s cartoon; it’s that you’ve formed relationships. It’s not the one lunch here or there that’s a problem, it’s the months or years worth of lunches that we’re concerned about.
Maybe we shouldn’t even say that legislators are being “bought.” Legislators aren’t commodities to be bought and sold at auction to the highest bidder. They’re people who can make their own decisions. But like all people, they can be influenced. So can legislators be influenced for a lunch? I’d have to see some research on that, but my guess would be it depends on a whole bunch of different factors.
Ever wondered why things never quite go the way you EXPECT at the capitol? Its because the public rarely INSPECTS what actually moves legislation. WHO PAID YOUR LOCAL LAWMAKER”S LUNCH? Find out!!
There is good reason for cities to embrace transit. It’s increasingly clear that the workforce of the 21st century desires walkable urban living instead of being forced to drive everywhere. One recent study found that from 2001 to 2009, the number of miles driven by young Americans (age 16-31) fell 23 percent, while miles traveled on transit increased 40 percent and bicycle trips increased 24 percent. Georgia needs to attract these workers in order to attract their 21st century jobs.
Meanwhile, Atlanta’s proposed response to this national trend — the July 31 T-SPLOST — remains stuck in the past. While the tax would fund initial segments of some popular transit projects like the Beltline, every new track-mile of light rail built would be matched by 16 lane-miles of road expansion — enough asphalt to cover Turner Field more than 200 times. Despite talk of the tax “transforming” metro Atlanta, in reality this plan is largely a business-as-usual approach.
Of course, we can’t fix our transportation woes for free. But as opposed to a punitive “parking tax” or a brand new “multimodal gas tax,” a one-penny sales levy actually helps offset the fuel we waste and valuable time we lose stuck in traffic. That “congestion tax” costs the average metro commuter $924 a year. The one-penny sales levy can reduce the congestion tax over time — and most consumers won’t come close to spending $924 in additional sales tax (that would require annually buying $92,400 worth of stuff).
As for the Sierra Club’s criticism that the project list is a “hodge-podge of conflicting priorities,” we’re proud that it doesn’t reflect the priorities of one group with one agenda. Instead, it reflects the voices of more than 200,000 people who participated in compiling the project list — some of whom wanted more roads and others who wanted greater mobility through transit. The project list reflects the needs of the people of metro Atlanta.
Tea Party Patriots oppose T-SPLOST because they believe it will create a large new bureaucracy that takes local control from counties and invests in transit projects that will have a low return on investment.
T-SPLOST… will be the largest tax increase in Georgia history if it passes all regions. The T-SPLOST also creates a regional mass transit entity that will oversee mass transit in each region, instead of leaving that to the counties. The T-SPLOST will take local control over transportation projects from counties and give it to a region.
The Metro Atlanta T-SPLOST is just an expansion of MARTA in counties that have already voted it down years ago. 85% of the tax dollars will go in a regional “pot” that is distributed to projects for the good of the region..
We don’t have an issue with mass transit itself. We have an issue with its funding mechanism. Mass transit is very heavily subsidized by the tax payer and further expansion of an entity that is hemorrhaging red ink is fiscally irresponsible. Only 5 – 10 % of the taxpayers in the Metro-Atlanta area ride mass transit, yet the other 90-95% of the taxpayers are being asked to pay for it.
Ends & Pieces
Cherokee County foreclosures are up for May, after a decline in April.
Dalton has a thriving railfan community and celebrated National Train Day on Saturday.
Harold’s Barbecue has fans as far as Athens.
But y’all! Harold’s can’t be allowed to close. They do barbecue right.
They offer succulent pork, slow-cooked for hours, along with ribs and Brunswick stew that I easily deem fit to eat — and I don’t endorse many folks’ Brunswick stew.
The atmosphere at Harold’s is what the atmosphere should be at an authentic barbecue place — especially one in a big city.
By that I mean that it is unpretentious. They don’t put on airs.
They serve white bread with their pork, and blue-collar workers and men in $500 suits sit elbow to elbow.
“Ludwig” is a cross between a Golden Retriever and a Basset Hound, who is one year old and will be available for adoption through Angels Among Us Rescue after a short quarantine and vetting period. He is very friendly and great with children and has worked with special needs kids in a program through the shelter where he was an inmate. Angels Rescue spends about $150 per dog for vetting and is asking for online donations and foster homes.
Real ID Act requires proof of identity for driver’s license
Beginning July 1, 2012, Georgians seeking or renewing a driver’s license will have to present additional evidence of their identity and immigration status under Georgia’s Secure ID implementation of the Federal Real ID program.
“This program will give Georgians the most secure IDs we’ve ever issued in this state,” said Deal. “It is our duty to protect our residents’ identities to the best of our ability.”
The new documentation requirements mean you must prove (1) you are who you say you are; (2) social security number; and (3) your home address. A list of acceptable documents and FAQs is available on the Georgia Department of Driver Services website.
Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections
Republican Danny Dukes will seek election as Chairman of the Cherokee County School Board. Dukes pledges to “eliminate all teacher furloughs by reducing a bloated central office, take every step possible to cut the County dropout rate in half, and never vote for a tax increase.”
“During the last few weeks, I have discovered a groundswell of support for a true conservative as Cherokee County School Board Chair. Parents, teachers, community leaders and citizens share my sincere passion for the children of our county. We all deserve a School Board with positive, collaborative energy and an effective leader who works for solutions based on conservative principles,” said Danny. “We can have the highest performing school system in Georgia if we put students first and pledge to work with other elected leaders to solve problems. And we can do all this without raising taxes.”
Join David Ralston, Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, and Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black tonight at 5 PM to support the reelection campaign of State Rep. Steve Davis (R-Stockbridge). $10 gets you a steak and potato dinner and kids eat free.
Federal court vacancies on the bench for the Northern District of Georgia and 11th Circuit Court of Appeals are straining their ability to handle cases and will be worsened when an additional sitting judge takes senior status.
Georgia’s Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of three year property tax assessment freeze by Effingham County that sought to help address the flood of foreclosures.
The Effingham County Chamber of Commerce heard from the Georgia Ports Authority on the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, while the comment period on SHEP has been expanded by 15 days by the US Army Corps of Engineers to June 5th.
South Carolina’s Savannah River Maritime Commission hopes to limit the dredging that will allow better access to the Port of Savannah to 45 feet, rather than the 47 feet recommended by the Corps.
Savannah and Macon prompted some of this year’s revisions to Georgia’s Open Records and Open Meetings laws, according to a discussion by Republican Attorney General Sam Olens at the Atlanta Press Club.
The US Chamber of Commerce is buying ads in four states and will likely enter into Congressional races in Georgia.
“I applaud Governor Deal, not just for signing the bill but for his leadership in voluntarily implementing zero based budgeting,” Shafer said. “This tool is already being used to identify unnecessary spending and ensure that tax dollars are being used wisely.”
Gwinnett County Commissioner Mike Beaudreau is considering proposing a 1% county sales tax to replace property taxes in funding county government operations. I’m sure it’s completely unrelated to his reelection campaign and choice of political consultant.
Ruby D. Jones is seeking reelection to the Savannah-Chatham County School Board.
Philip Johnson is running as a Democrat for Newton County Commission District Five.
Robert Stokely is running as a Republican for State House District 71, to replace Billy Horne, who is not seeking reelection.
Republican Jon Heffer will run for State House District 28 in Banks, Habersham, and Stephens Counties.
Susan D. Brown announced her candidacy for Hall County Probate Judge.
Randy Evans, a retired police officer, is running for Whitfield Magistrate Judge.
The Rome City Commission has appointed Detrick Redding to the Ward 2 vacancy on the Commission..
Republican Dick Perryman is running for District Attorney in the Alapaha Judicial Circuit, which comprises Atkinson, Berrien, Clinch, Cook, and Lanier Counties.
Carroll County Commissioner Kevin Jackson is seeking reelection as a Republican.
Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) joined Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) in discussing recent metal theft legislation passed by the Georgia General Assembly.
Fulton County Commissioner Liz Hausmann asked her colleague Emma Darnell to stop insulting North Fulton residents.
Bibb County Board of Education members will discuss reapportionment maps passed by the General Assembly at 6 PM on Thursday.
Peachtree Corners is making progress as Georgia’s newest city.
Forsyth County is re-running the election announcement for T-SPLOST after messing up the wording the first time.
Tomorrow night, Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta) will hold a fundraiser at Manuel’s Tavern from 6 PM to 8 PM.
Ends & Pieces
Alan Abramowitz of the Emory University Department of Political Science discusses the role of SuperPACS and Merle Black has a short history of “Nasty Politics” and negative advertising.
The Board of Regents has released names for two institutions resulting from the merger of predecessor colleges. According to GPB, North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega and Gainesville State University will become the University of North Georgia, while Middle Georgia State College is the new name for the merger of Middle Georgia College in Cochran and Macon State College.
Porsche Cars North America, headquartered in Atlanta, released April sales figures that show 911 sales up 69% over the previous April and the best April ever for the company.
Georgia Tech will receive federal funding for research into nuclear power production and scholarships under the Nuclear Energy University Program, part of a $47 million program by the US Department of Energy to spur careers in nuclear power.
Georgia Power will testify before the Public Service Commission today that it is still under budget for the construction of Plant Vogtle’s new nuclear reactors, though overall costs may increase.
Seven cases against alleged Masters ticket scalpers were dismissed.
Mary Echols, daughter of PSC member Tim Echols was named Prep Player of the Week by the Athens newspaper after leading Athens Christian to a third state track-and-field championship and winning four individual and relay titles. That’s a pretty amazing performance.
Political partisans may choose not to accept facts that clash with their strongly held beliefs.
On a range of issues, partisans seem partial to their political loyalties over the facts. When those loyalties demand changing their views of the facts, he said, partisans seem willing to throw even consistency overboard.
The politics of pro-Walker and anti-Walker are so advanced in the Badger State now that relatively few voters remain persuadable. And the depth of that divide is expected to remain, regardless of the outcome on June 5.
The divides of our era seem to be deepening. Consider the big margin by which North Carolina adopted a constitutional amendment this week that denies legal standing to civil unions and domestic partnerships all in the name of banning gay marriages that were already outlawed in the state.
And consider the drubbing Indiana gave to six-term Senate icon Richard Lugar in Tuesday’s Republican primary, which state treasurer Richard Mourdock won with 60 percent of the vote.