Fulton County tax bills to stir protest | www.myajc.com

Fulton County property tax bills will arrive in mailboxes in coming days amid a swirl of controversy that will make this tax season more memorable than most.

County officials mailed the bills last week even as two lawsuits seek to overturn the 17 percent tax increase approved by the Board of Commissioners in August. If a judge eventually rules the tax increase is illegal, Fulton might have to refund some of what it collects in coming weeks.

Even if it’s legal, the tax hike won’t be popular with many homeowners. The Fulton tax hike, combined with tax increases for other governments and rising property values in some areas, will put a bigger dent in some property owners’ wallets. Just ask Don Horton.

via Fulton County tax bills to stir protest | www.myajc.com.

Campaign season heats up early this year in Georgia | www.myajc.com

Loosened restrictions on outside spending, combined with Georgia’s most competitive governor’s and U.S. Senate races in more than a decade, have brought an endless campaign season — deluging voters earlier than normal.

“My mind is so adamantly made up, so it’s just a waste of time at this point. It’s tiresome. And it gets annoying when the ads attack a candidate I’ve chosen — especially when I find them unfair,” said Jennifer Simmons, a 52-year-old Alpharetta accountant. “It just cements my opinion that much stronger, that I’ve made my choice.”


Simmons and those like her end up as collateral damage as the campaigns and their allied political action committees seek impressionable voters who are paying only passing attention to politics. The battles atop Georgia’s ticket have attracted national attention and money to an unprecedented degree this early.


Outside money has surged most into the U.S. Senate contest, a key race that could decide which party controls the chamber next year.

via Campaign season heats up early this year in Georgia | www.myajc.com.

Fulton cuts deal on judges’ travel reimbursements | www.myajc.com

Fulton County and its judges cut a deal Tuesday on the judges’ travel reimbursements, after the judges backed off a threat to jail two Fulton administrators.

County Commission Chairman John Eaves, Superior Court Chief Judge Gail Tusan and other officials hashed out an agreement in a closed-door meeting Tuesday. Under the agreement, Fulton’s 30 elected Superior and State Court judges will follow the same rules as other county employees when it comes to getting paid to travel on public business, at least through the end of this year.

In the meantime, county officials agreed to review the reimbursement process to make it easier for the judges and other employees while still holding them accountable for verifying they’ve properly spent public money, Eaves said after the meeting.

The judges have said they don’t have to abide by the county’s policies for getting reimbursed. County officials have said they do. Tusan had threatened to jail County Manager Dwight Ferrell and Finance Director Patrick O’Connor as the dispute escalated.

via Fulton cuts deal on judges’ travel reimbursements | www.myajc.com.

Government nepotism | www.myajc.com

Gwinnett County lets one elected official be the boss of his own girlfriend. An Atlanta city councilman votes on government spending that funds the paychecks of his brothers and sisters.

In Clayton, your brother can be a co-worker, and your dad — the County Commission chairman — can be your boss’s boss’s boss’s boss.

In the last three years alone, five area city and county governments hired at least 770 relatives of current employees. Those hires took place as thousands of metro residents struggled to find work, raising questions about whether family ties trump good government.


Many more family members were already on government payrolls. About 1,700 employees of six governments examined appear to live together, judging by home addresses; most share the same last names. In one DeKalb County division, one of every 10 employees has a co-worker who is a relative, the AJC found.

It’s nearly impossible to determine how many other local government workers have family ties. No one consistently tracks them, and safeguards to protect taxpayers are limited and outdated, the newspaper found.

via Government nepotism | www.myajc.com.

DeKalb County leaves door open to abuse | www.myajc.com

For years, DeKalb County elected officials have been free to run up expenses on their purchasing cards and issue check after check.

The county had no one spot checking the bills. No one demanding receipts. No one poring over invoices or quizzing vendors.

No one even asking questions when red flags were flapping in plain sight.

So DeKalb taxpayers were stuck with a $1,880 bill for Commissioner Stan Watson’s “website development” — although the website listed on the first page of each invoice he turned in was called PoliticalStan.com and he was running for re-election at the time.

Taxpayers shelled out tens of thousands of dollars for then-Commissioner Elaine Boyer’s fake legislative consultant — even though she already was having the public pay another man $1,500 a month to consult for her on legislative issues. She admitted guilt Tuesday and may face federal prison time for fraud.

via DeKalb County leaves door open to abuse | www.myajc.com.

The Senate midterms: Why the Democrats will probably lose | The Economist

Not all the major polling models give Republicans a clear edge to capture the Senate this autumn, but most do. The New York Times’ “The Upshot” puts the chances at 65%, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight most recently called it “in the neighborhood of 60-40” and the Washington Post’s “Election Lab” gives the GOP a 51% shot. Sam Wang of the Princeton Election Consortium is the outlier, giving the Democrats a 70% chance of holding the majority. The obvious reasons for the GOP’s advantage are technical, as we wrote earlier this month. More vulnerable Democrats are up for re-election this year than vulnerable Republicans. The GOP needs to take away six seats from the Democrats, and is already nearly assured of winning three; of the six or seven competitive races (depending on who’s counting), Republicans must win just three to gain a majority. Add in Barack Obama’s low approval ratings and the fact that the out-of-power party generally does better in midterm elections, and you have a nice bloodless political-science description of the Republican advantage.

Yet the technical factors don’t quite explain why Democrats feel so listless this autumn. Democratic spin doctors trying to get upbeat media coverage are resorting to state-by-state descriptions of specifics that play in their favour. It is true that things look better for Democrats at a granular level, which is why Mr Wang thinks they will hold the Senate. And the Democrats’ technology-driven ground game, which added a percentage point or so to Barack Obama’s vote total in 2012, may do so again this year. But when Democratic flacks promote these sorts of inside-baseball stories, it only highlights their lack of a persuasive overarching political narrative. This autumn, it is simply not clear what the Democrats want, or what they are promising to do for the people they want to vote for them.

via The Senate midterms: Why the Democrats will probably lose | The Economist.

Michelle Nunn holds narrow lead in Georgia Senate race: poll – Washington Times

The race for a Senate seat out of Georgia remains a tight one, according to a new poll that puts Democratic Michelle Nunn about 2 points ahead of her Republican opponent, businessman David Perdue.

Republicans need to gain six seats to retake the majority of the Senate, so red-state Georgia should be an easy pickup.

But Ms. Nunn, the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn, is polling well with women, which could be enough to explain her 45-43 percent lead in the poll commissioned by WRBL News 3 television, The Ledger-Enquirer newspaper and PMD Broadcasting radio and executed by GaPundit.com.

“Her campaign is designed to do better among women,” GaPundit.com Editor Todd Rehm told WRBL News 3 Tuesday. “She was chosen and promoted partly to do better among women.”

via Michelle Nunn holds narrow lead in Georgia Senate race: poll – Washington Times.

Tesla Fight Erupts in Georgia as Dealers Seek Sales Ban – Bloomberg

Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA), which has fought U.S. dealers over its direct sales of electric cars, faces a new challenge in Georgia where auto retailers want the Peach State to bar distribution of sedans from the company’s store.

Tesla [allegedly] sells vehicles in violation of the state’s rules limiting the annual volume of cars it can sell directly to the public, the Georgia Automobile Dealers Association said in a petition filed with the Georgia Department of Revenue.

The group, which represents 500 dealerships, asked that Tesla’s license be revoked and the agency block sales of Tesla’s Model S sedan at its shop in Marietta, near Atlanta.

The carmaker’s license in Georgia allows it only to sell vehicles made “in accordance with custom design specifications of the customer” and retail fewer than 150 a year, the group said in the petition. Tesla sold 173 sedans at its suburban Atlanta outlet, its only store in the state, from October to June, according to the petition, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg News from the revenue department.

via Tesla Fight Erupts in Georgia as Dealers Seek Sales Ban – Bloomberg.

Will Tailwind Carry Republicans to Senate Majority? – Bloomberg View

Republicans have the advantages of a friendly turf, the history of this political cycle — which favors the party that doesn’t hold the White House — and the waning popularity of President Barack Obama, who sometimes seems indifferent.

Democrats hope to minimize losses as stronger candidates face a few gaffe-prone opponents, and by benefiting from a superior ground game or voter turnout machine and the waning popularity of the Republican brand.

As the nine-week home stretch starts, Republicans have a tailwind. They are solid favorites to capture three seats of retiring Democrats: Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia. Then, of the eight races both sides agree are very competitive, Democrats are defending six. A half-dozen states — Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana and North Carolina — were carried by Mitt Romney two years ago; Colorado and Iowa went Democratic then. There are only two Republican-held seats subject to serious challenge, Georgia and Kentucky, where the party’s Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, is almost as unpopular as Obama.


Democratic strategists [] believe that in a number of states their candidate will outperform polls by a point or two because of a superior voter targeting and turnout apparatus, building on Obama’s campaign infrastructure. Unlike the last midterm elections, in 2010, when Republicans dominated, they predict respectable turnouts from black voters, Hispanics and unmarried women.

Republicans counter that their voters are more enthusiastic and thus more likely to turn out. They acknowledge that the party’s brand name is worse than it was two or four years ago, though they argue that this midterm contest is overshadowed by the president’s negatives.

via Will Tailwind Carry Republicans to Senate Majority? – Bloomberg View.