Ever since voters approved plans to build eight new libraries and renovate others in 2008, Fulton County officials have struggled to figure out how to pay to operate them once they opened.
The county’s 2014 budget provides a partial answer: Fulton will cut hours, staffing and programming at its existing 33 branches.
That’s just one of the trade-offs in Fulton’s $625.4 million general fund budget, approved by the Board of Commissioners last month. The budget pays for countywide services such as libraries, courts, elections and social services. It offers a mixed bag for taxpayers, who will in some cases pay more and get fewer services in return.
The staff attorney is fired on suspicion that she was intoxicated on the job. The executive director is compelled to produce records by a federal grand jury. And it turns out the veteran lawyer brought in to right the ship was fired from his previous job for shoddy work and inappropriate behavior.
That’s been the order of business lately at Georgia’s ethics commission, the state agency charged with ensuring that politicians follow campaign finance laws.
And at every twist and turn – occasionally at center stage, more often just a shade too close to completely avoid notice – is the state’s top elected official, Gov. Nathan Deal. What might have been a simple, soon-forgotten reprimand for behavior during his days in Congress has – in part because of his staff’s subsequent actions — dogged Deal into his second run for governor.
More revelations could emerge this week, when proceedings may get underway in one of two lawsuits filed against the ethics commission by a pair of its former top leaders. They claim they were forced out because they looked too hard at alleged misdeeds by the governor.
Deal has denied that he or his aides engaged in wrongdoing. Although present and former commission staff members have been queried by the FBI and a federal grand jury, records don’t indicate that Deal or members of his team have been questioned in that probe. Last week, however, Deal and two key aides were subpoenaed in one of the whistleblower suits, which means the governor could have to testify under oath.
Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said, if called, the governor will testify but “he is not sure what pertinent information he would have in this civil case.”
Nearly five years after it began, the byzantine saga — with explosive allegations of document destruction and political payback — seems only to be gathering steam.
Richard L. Jackson, who built a temp empire in Atlanta that provides doctors and nurses for short-term staffing, may be new to the game of wielding influence at the state Capitol. But one thing he has is the price of admission.
On Oct. 2, Jackson held a fundraiser for Gov. Nathan Deal at his 47,000-square-foot mansion in Cumming, which includes 20 bathrooms, an 18-hole golf course in the yard and a movie theater modeled on the Fabulous Fox on Peachtree. Jackson and his family contributed $54,080 to Deal, state records show.
That same month, his family contributed $51,400 to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and then helped host a fundraiser for Cagle in November at the Alpharetta offices of Jackson Healthcare.
For someone who doesn’t know where to park at the Capitol, Rick Jackson, just a month shy of his 60th birthday, suddenly is a player.
What does this man want?
“I attack big things,” Jackson says. “You either go big or you go home.”
Jackson is attacking two big things, and he would bring radical change to both: first, he seeks to privatize most of the state’s child welfare/foster care system, and second, he would take medical malpractice claims away from the courts and send them to an administrative panel. The two initiatives may not pass — and, if not for Jackson, might not even have come up — but the health staffing executive knows how to reach the ear of the powerful.
A judge wants more evidence before picking sides in a case where Snellville’s mayor sued the city council.
After hearing arguments Friday, Judge Warren Davis scheduled a hearing for the week of Feb. 24 on the controversy, which could decide who the city’s top appointed officials are.
Mayor Kelly Kautz sued last month, after a dispute over the contract of City Manager Butch Sanders and attempting to hire a new city clerk. The city’s five council members have voted unanimously to continue acknowledging Sanders as city manager and Melisa Arnold as city clerk, saying that the mayor did not have the authority to fire either.
While Judge Davis did issue a temporary restraining order keeping the city from using Kelly Kautz’s signature without her permission, he wants to see evidence on allegations that the city continued to issue checks without her permission and that some council members met in an illegal meeting. The judge also waited to hear evidence on whether Sanders should continue as city manager, as the mayor contends that she never re-appointed him after his contract expired.
Two weeks ago, a gun bill that had lingered in the state Capitol’s gearbox for more than a year finally cratered over the issue of allowing concealed weapons on public university campuses.
But it is a testament to the influence and stamina of Second Amendment enthusiasts involved that a new, second draft is no mere shadow of its predecessor.
Oh, no. House Bill 875, under the sponsorship of Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, not only includes a backdoor entrance for guns on university campuses, but would give concealed weaponry an unprecedented, protected spot right next to you – in bars, churches, libraries, senior centers, aquatic centers, at zoning hearings and city council meetings.
buttonsLast month, Capitol lawyers determined that university presidents couldn’t choose, campus by campus, where hidden, permitted weapons could be toted – killing an effort at compromise over the issue.
H.B. 875 simply decriminalizes the matter. Licensed carriers caught with concealed weapons on public campuses would not be subject to arrest, and would only face a civil fine of up to $100.
That’s a pin prick compared to the cost of speeding through a school zone.
Bars and houses of worship would be new territories for concealed weaponry, too. A state prohibition now applies to both. Under H.B. 875, establishments of both kinds would be able to prohibit weaponry – as would all owners of private property. But it would be a matter of criminal trespass that they would have to enforce themselves.
Some of the biggest names in Georgia religion argued against H.B. 875 this week: Catholic Archbishop Wilton Gregory, Rabbi Peter Berg of The Temple synagogue in Atlanta, and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, the senior pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church.
All were overshadowed by Mike Griffin, new spokesman for the Georgia Baptist Convention, who endorsed the measure on behalf of his denomination, its 3,600 churches and 1.3 million members.
“It’s a sanctity of human life issue, as far as I’m concerned,” Griffin said at a committee hearing on Thursday.
Your Georgia Desk:
Deal: Fiserv to create 500 new jobs in Alpharetta
Gov. Nathan Deal announced today that Fiserv, Inc. (NASDAQ: FISV), a leading global provider of financial services technology solutions, has selected a new location in Alpharetta for its Atlanta-area operations. The company, which currently employs approximately 2,000 associates across six locations in the metro Atlanta area, will add 500 jobs over the next five years. The company will also make an estimated capital investment of $41 million for facilities and equipment.
“Fiserv has had a presence in Georgia for more than two decades and has become one of the largest technology employers in our state,” said Deal. Continue reading
Your Georgia Desk:
Our Editor, Todd Rehm, included this story on Uber in our morning e-mail. It is worth a stand-alone post:
When I visited our nation’s capital city last year with my Republican Leadership for Georgia class, several classmates and I took a Lincoln Town Car from Reagan National Airport to our hotel for a total of about $9 per person, luggage included. It was the first time I ever used Uber, an iPhone app that helps you summon and pay a taxi, executive sedan or SUV.
Uber has since come to Atlanta, and like Tesla, has run into a regulatory regime that appears to discourage competition. Continue reading
Your Georgia Desk:
Our Editor, Todd Rehm, included this story on Tesla Motors in our morning e-mail. It is worth a stand-alone post:
Two Issues Worth Watching
Two issues before the Georgia General Assembly highlight the internal struggle within the Republican Party about the role of government in our economy and whether it exists to protect current businesses, or to foster innovation through deregulation and freer markets.
Tesla Motors hopes to win passage of legislation that would allow the niche automaker the ability to sell more cars in Georgia. From Urvaksh Karkaria at the Atlanta Business Chronicle, coincidentally a Tesla owner:
Unlike the rest of the auto industry, Silicon Valley-based Tesla (Nasdaq: TSLA) sells its $100,000 sedans directly to customers, bypassing franchised dealer networks. Continue reading
via Press Release:
Democratic State Senate District 42 Candidate Elena Parent Raises over $100,000 in January 2014
Atlanta, Georgia – Elena Parent’s campaign for State Senate District 42 announced today that it raised over $100,000 in just over three weeks for her campaign to replace Sen. Jason Carter (D). Sen. Carter is vacating the seat to run for Governor.
The financial disclosure report was filed today and covers all contributions received since the beginning of the year. Parent filed her intent to run paperwork and began raising funds for her campaign the second week of January.
“We received contributions large and small from Avondale Estates to Candler Park, from East Lake to Brookhaven, and from all over the district,” said Parent. “I am truly humbled by this groundswell of support and more dedicated than ever to fight for all the citizens of Senate District 42 at the capitol.”
Of the $100,364 raised last month, the campaign reports having $98,864 cash on hand.