The blog.


The Marietta Daily Journal | That’s not fair

MARIETTA — Ron Sifen, president of the Cobb County Civic Coalition, asked the county’s legislators last week to create legislation that would tighten the terms under which development authorities in the state give tax breaks to developers.

Sifen said taxpayers in the CCCC are not opposed to tax abatements, but they do not like the way development authorities have discretion over who receives a tax break. Sifen told members of the Cobb Legislative Delegation at the YWCA of Northwest Georgia on Tuesday that development authorities don’t always have criteria to follow in giving tax breaks.

“What we are asking the legislature to do is basically to require development authorities to adhere to the established criteria, and not just open the door to we’re going to give tax abatements to for no reason to whoever we want to give them to,” Sifen said.

The Development Authority of Cobb County has the ability to allow a developer to skip out on paying its full share of taxes by agreeing to a schedule, which usually lasts 10 years, during which the developer can pay only a portion, sometimes as low as 10 percent, of the property taxes it would owe to the county and the school system.

via The Marietta Daily Journal.


Dixie rising – James Hohmann – POLITICO

The Deep South has elected Republicans to every top office in the region. Now it wants to be sure that clout extends to the choice of the GOP’s 2016 presidential nominee.

Officials in five Southern states — Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas — are coordinating to hold their primary on March 1, 2016. Texas and Florida are considering also holding a primary the same day but may wait until later in the month. Either way, March 1 would be a Southern Super Tuesday, voting en masse on the heels of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

The joint primary, which appears increasingly likely to happen, would present a crucial early test for Republican White House hopefuls among the party’s most conservative voters. It could, in theory, boost a conservative alternative to a Republican who has emerged as the establishment favorite from the four states that kick off the nominating process. But one risk is that the deep-red complexion of the Southern states’ primary electorates would empower a candidate who can’t win in general election battlegrounds like Ohio and Colorado.

Republicans from the South say their states make up the heart of the GOP and that it’s only fitting the region should have commensurate say over whom the party puts forward to compete for the White House. Proponents are already dubbing March 1 the “SEC primary,” after the NCAA’s powerhouse Southeastern Conference.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who dreamed up the “SEC primary” branding, said he doesn’t care who the nominee ends up being. He just wants his state to be relevant in presidential politics.

“Hopefully, from a selfish perspective, it makes Georgia’s voice count, whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat,” Kemp said. “I don’t want to vote after the nominee is chosen. Other folks in the South feel the same way.”

via Dixie rising – James Hohmann – POLITICO.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 22, 2014

James Edward Oglethorpe was born in London, England, on December 22, 1696. He was elected to Parliament, where he worked on prison reform and had the idea of a new colony where “worthy poor” Brits could be sent. In 1732, Oglethorpe was granted a charter to create a colony of Georgia in the new world.

On December 22, 1775, the Continental Congress created the Continental Navy.

Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony premiered on December 22, 1808 in Vienna, Austria.

Governor George Gilmer signed legislation that prohibited teaching slaves or free African-Americans to read or write on December 22, 1829.

Martha Bulloch and Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. were married at Bulloch Hall in Roswell, Georgia on December 22, 1853. Their son, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. would later be elected President of the United States.

On December 22, 1864, General William T. Sherman wired to President Abraham Lincoln from Savannah, Georgia,

His Excellency President LINCOLN:

I beg to present you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about 25,000 bales of cotton.

W.T. Sherman,
Major General.

From the Savannah Morning News, an African-American perspective on Savannah’s role in the Civil War.

First Bryan Baptist Church, known as Third African during this time, was the only church sitting in the middle of the battlefield.

As citizens fled the city of Savannah out of fear, officers of First Bryan refused to close the church’s doors.

Alexander Harris, a deacon of the church, was a Confederate soldier. Deacon Harris understood First Bryan Baptist Church’s defenseless position and led officers of the church down to the Confederate defense line for the city at the Ogeechee Canal to request that the church be saved from destruction.

Dr. William Pollard, an officer of the church, lived on Bryan Street across from First Bryan Baptist Church. As Sherman’s army came down Bay Road, Dr. Pollard gave the captain one of the torches that was used for light in the front of the church.

The captain used the torch so the army could see their way into the city. Gen. Sherman summoned Dr. Pollard and gave him the assignment of contacting all Afro-Americans in Savannah to request that they gather in Greene Square on Jan. 1 for the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Garrison Frazier, a retired minister and First Bryan’s eighth pastor, was the spokesman for the leaders of the Afro-American churches and minsters who met with Gen. Sherman and U.S. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton.

The Rev. Ulysses Houston, First Bryan’s ninth pastor, and officers of the church Deacon Andrew Neal and the Rev. Alexander Harris were in attendance.

The Rev. Ulysses Houston was elected to the Georgia Legislature while he still was the ninth pastor of First Bryan Baptist Church. He asked the legislature to establish Georgia State Industrial and Agriculture College, now known as Savannah State University.

First Bryan Baptist Church was constituted in 1788 is located on the oldest piece of land owned by African-Americans in the United States.

One Way to Give Today

After the murder of New York Police Department officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, the Silver Shield Foundation announced it would pay for the education of the two sons of Officer Ramos, as it has done for thousands of other children of Officers who died in the line of duty.

[Late New York Yankees owner George] Steinbrenner started his foundation in 1982 after seeing a news account of four children flanking their mother and folding an American flag at the funeral of their father, an NYPD officer who had been killed in the line of duty.

“Who’s going to take care of these kids,” Steinbrenner asked his friend, former Olympian Jim Fuchs, who would run the foundation until his death, also in 2010. “We are.”

The foundation, now run by Fuchs’ daughter Casey, has paid for the educations of thousands of children of fallen NYPD, FDNY, state police and Port Authority workers in the tri-state area, as well as 700 children who lost a parent in the terrorists attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

You can donate online to the Silver Shield Foundation.

Georgia Politics

My latest column in looks at the idea being promoted by Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp for a “SEC Presidential Primary” on March 1, 2016.

2016 Southern States Primary Corrected

More than just an SEC affair, it’s shaping up as a Southern Super Tuesday.

Eric Tanenblatt, a Republican strategist in Georgia who held leadership roles in Mitt Romney’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns and George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign, said, “an SEC primary in early March will definitely put the south in the national spotlight. However, as we have seen in the past, the field will be a lot smaller after the primaries and caucuses occur in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.”

After that winnowing process in the early states, on March 1, as many as 564 delegates from Texas (155) and Florida (100), Georgia (76), Tennessee (58), Alabama (50), Mississippi (40), and Arkansas (36) will be allocated among the remaining candidates. Based on 2012 Republican delegate allocation of 2286 convention seats, those states represent nearly a quarter of the delegates up for grab in the entire Republican primary process.

Under RNC rules, delegates in these states will be awarded proportionally among candidates according to each state’s rules. This too has implications for how candidates will campaign in these states.

“Given the new national party rules, an early March primary date will take away the guarantee of winner takes all primaries. There will be a lot of targeting done by campaigns as proportionality of delegates will be the name of the game,” said Tanenblatt.

Many within the socially conservative wing of the GOP see a Southern Super Tuesday as a way to put their own stamp on the eventual nominee. But it also means that no candidate can take all of the delegates by winning slim majorities in these states.

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that Sally Q. Yates, who currently serves as United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, will be appointed Deputy Attorney General of the U.S. Department of Justice.

In her 22 years as a prosecutor in Georgia, Yates has experience in a wide variety of cases, specializing in public corruption . She was the lead prosecutor in the Atlanta prosecution of Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph.

“She did a phenomenal job putting that difficult, complicated case together,” said former FBI director Louis J. Freeh, who worked with Yates on the Rudolph investigation and has known her for 20 years.

“She’s remarkably talented and has a solution to every problem,” Freeh said in an interview. “Her biggest fans are the FBI street agents, the DEA agents, the postal inspectors and the Secret Service. Everybody sings her praises. And she has no ego. She would rather be writing a sentencing memo than get up and have a press conference.”

Yates also oversaw the prosecution of former Gwinnett County Commissioner Shirley Fanning-Lasseter and former DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer; Yates personally tried former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell on federal corruption charges and led the investigation of former Fulton County Commissioner Michael Hightower that led to his pleading guilty to bribery.

Jack Kingston continued his farewell tour with a stop in St Simons Island to pin the Purple Heart on Staff Sergeant Jaime Perez.

As he has done numerous times, Kingston pinned a medal on Perez, in this case a Purple Heart awarded to Perez for his injuries suffered in Iraq when his convoy was hit Feb. 23, 2007, by rocket propelled grenades.

Kingston thanked Perez for the honor of letting him pin the medal on him.

“After another 22 years, I’m out of work,’’ Kingston told Perez. “To end my career doing this is one of the greatest honors you can give me.”

Kingston spoke of attending memorial services at Fort Stewart, the headquarters of the 3rd Infantry Division, in which Perez served. Generally, there are two or three families who have lost loved ones, he said.

“If you really want to see the face of war, see the faces of survivors,’’ he said.

With Perez’s wife, Melanie, and daughter, Yashira, watching, Kingston pinned the Purple Heart on Perez.

Perez, who came from Puerto Rico and now lives in Hinesville, spoke glowingly of what it means to be in the American commonwealth.

With his war done, Perez said the country can’t shrink from the battle.

“We can’t do this. We can’t back up,’’ he said. “If I had to do it again, yes. I would not hesitate.”

Our heartfelt thanks to Staff Sgt. Perez and his family.

A plan by the Chatham County Superior Court to handle major cases faster appears to have been successful.

Now as Karpf’s two-year term in the Major Crimes Division ends and he prepares to resume his duties in the other crimes division and domestic cases, Karpf said he is confident the plan adopted by the court is working as designed.

“I am always reluctant to claim victory, but I am satisfied we have accomplished what we set out to accomplish,” Karpf said.

For example, the recent trial of Norman Smart in the June 7 slaying of his wife at their Wilmington Island home was disposed of during the first week of December — an almost unheard of crime-to-disposition time frame.

“You never saw (such quick) trial of a case like that before,” Karpf said. “We’re trying them in a pretty timely fashion, and that is important.”

The Cobb County Board of Commissioners has asked the General Assembly for raises for themselves and about 20 other local officials, but State Sen. Judson Hill (R-Cobb) thinks the legislature shouldn’t be setting local salaries, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.

In Cobb County, about 20 positions have salaries controlled by the Statehouse, including judges, the Board of Commissioners and various staffers. On Thursday, the Board of Commissioners approved sending a resolution to the Legislature stating the county has budgeted for these positions to receive a merit-based raise of up to 3 percent in the coming year should the Statehouse decide to adjust those salaries.

“That item was a message to the legislators that there’s money set aside for the other elected officials that may desire to go after a raise that has to be administered through local legislation,” said Cobb Chairman Tim Lee.

State Sen. Judson Hill (R-east Cobb), chairman of the Cobb Legislative Delegation and the Senate Finance Committee, said it would be “wise” for Cobb’s delegation to review the process in the coming session.

“Many (members) of the Cobb County Delegation believe that it’s not our role to be approving or denying salary increases for a select group of county employees,” Hill said. “However, under old local legislation dating back 20-plus years ago, the Cobb County Delegation was required to do so, unlike, perhaps, every other county in the whole state.”

Hill said he doesn’t think the legislators should be the ones to make the decision for offices other than those required by the Georgia Constitution, such as the county’s sheriff or Superior Court judges.

“I don’t think it’s necessary,” he said. “I don’t think it’s the role of our delegation unique to Cobb County. If the Cobb County Commissioners want to provide pay raises for their employees, then I believe that they and those who supervise them are best suited to assess that, not somebody who’s distanced from the day-to-day operations of their agencies.”

Former State Sen. Hardie Davis was elected Mayor of Augusta in May, but takes office next month, meaning his predecessor has had a seven-month lame duck status.

“Having early elections, then not taking office until the following year complicated the issue of having individuals sitting in office knowing that they would not return,” Davis said. “I think the term is lame-duck status.”

Davis, who is completing his second full term in the state Sen­ate, said he expects the Gene­ral Assembly to tackle the issue by making start dates for the newly elected earlier after it convenes Jan. 12.

By then, Augusta will have inaugurated its first black mayor since the city and Richmond Coun­ty consolidated in 1996. (Ed McIntyre was elected mayor in 1981 before consolidation.)

Davis also has mostly avoided the local spotlight since the election and instead worked to assemble a transition team and committees to prepare for his term.

“We’re targeting a February timeframe to have all that work done and an associated report done toward the end of February,” he said.

His limited involvement in city government since winning the election has been stymied by the Augusta Commission, which declined to include his requests to fund additional staff and expanded office space on the remodeled Municipal Building’s second floor.

Davis said he hoped for further conversation with the commission about making “Augusta the best place it can be” in the new year.

Warner Robins municipal offices will be shuffled around as Mayor Toms decides how to use two buildings the city bought across the street from City Hall.

Bibb County offices are also moving, as the Macon-Bibb consolidation takes effect.

Georgia Charter Schools Association will begin a Charter School “incubator” to help prepare school administrators.

The charter school incubator, New Schools for Georgia, is designed to particularly assist charters in their infancy, often their most challenging time, by helping them establish effective governing boards, boost financial sustainability and develop clear missions.

“It’s (incubator) going to significantly help with the quality of our charter schools, which is good for kids,” said Lou Erste, associate superintendent for policy and charter schools at the Georgia Department of Education. “We need higher quality (charter school) applications if we want to have higher quality schools.”

Georgia has 115 charter schools, close to 4 percent of the schools in the state; five years ago, the number was 110. Charter advocates and state education officials say the number of charter schools should be higher.

“I’ve seen a number of charter schools that have opened and run for a few years and then just basically faltered because they were unable to focus on their mission and vision,” said Allen Mueller, executive director of the new incubator, who previously was director of innovation for Atlanta Public Schools where he helped authorize the creation of charter schools in the district. “They were unable to … focus on serving kids because they were too busy trying to figure out how to deal with facilities or how to run a board meeting or how to deal with open records requests or how to hire good staff.”

The AJC profiles “Travelin’” Joe Gerrard, the Brigadier General who will take over command of the Georgia National Guard.



Adoptable Georgia Dogs for December 22, 2014


43257  “Stripe” above and 43256 “Rover” below are senior Lab mix buddies who are very bonded to each other. They were turned in together by their owner. Both of these boys are sweet, calm, and playful, and they’d love to find a foster or adoptive home together. Stripe and Rover are available for adoption from Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.



Lokie is a Bluetick Coonhound male, sweet, friendly, and smart youngster as well and knows to sit and to stay when asked.  He was turned into the Cobb County Animal Shelter by his owners five days before Christmas and he’d love to find a new home for the holidays. His ID is 571557, he is in run 46, he is 1 year old, and weighs 44 lbs. Please, please, please stop by right away to meet this awesome doggie! When calling the shelter about a cat or dog, please use THE ID NUMBER, the names are oftentimes made up by volunteers.


Buddy is a Black Lab mix who was left at the Cobb County Animal Shelter on December 19th and would love a nice warm home in which to spend the holidays with a new family. The person who turned him in said he had him for a week and the owner would not come get him. The shelter contacted the previous owner who said he could stay inside for 12 hours w/o an accident and was good with kids and other pets. But apparently they aren’t coming to get him. Buddy is up to date on shots, and will be neutered, heartworm tested and microchipped when adopted. His ID is 571546, he is in run 807, Buddy is 6 years old and weighs 70 lbs. Please stop in right away to meet this very handsome boy!


U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston says goodbye to Glynn County after 22 years in office and confers Purple Heart on soldier |

ST. SIMONS ISLAND | In his last visit before leaving office at year’s end, U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., went out in a blaze of someone else’s glory.

That appeared to be the way he likes it.

First, Kingston found himself in an unfamiliar place, a seat in the audience at the Brunswick Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce annual Grits and Issues breakfast at Epworth by the Sea. Kingston smiled as others answered questions about their legislative agendas, including the man who will replace him, Pooler Republican Buddy Carter, and David Perdue, the Sea Island Republican who beat Kingston in a primary runoff for the Republican spot on the ballot in the U.S. Senate race and then Democrat Michelle Nunn in the general election.

Kingston left bearing a gift, a photo of the marsh taken by the late artist Mildred Huie, and was thanked repeatedly for his service.

After the breakfast broke up, it was time for Kingston to thank someone else for his service, Army Staff Sgt. Jaime Perez. As he has done numerous times, Kingston pinned a medal on Perez, in this case a Purple Heart awarded to Perez for his injuries suffered in Iraq when his convoy was hit Feb. 23, 2007, by rocket propelled grenades.

Kingston thanked Perez for the honor of letting him pin the medal on him.

“After another 22 years, I’m out of work,’’ Kingston told Perez. “To end my career doing this is one of the greatest honors you can give me.”

via U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston says goodbye to Glynn County after 22 years in office and confers Purple Heart on soldier |


Poll: GOP gets a bounce from midterm wins – The Washington Post

Republican victories in the midterm elections have translated into an immediate boost in the party’s image, putting the GOP at its highest point in eight years, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The spike in the party’s standing comes after Republicans picked up nine seats to take control of the Senate, raised their numbers in the House to the highest level in more than half a century and added new governorships to its already clear majority.

In the new poll, 47 percent say they have a favorable impression of the Republican Party, compared with 33 percent in the month before the midterm elections. An equal percentage have an unfavorable view, which marks the first time in six years that fewer than half of Americans said they saw Republicans negatively.

The improved standing reverses a lengthy period in which the public had given Republicans declining and, ultimately, historically low ratings. Successful elections often give political parties or candidates a boost, though sometimes those improved ratings prove to be a bounce rather than a sustained change.

via Poll: GOP gets a bounce from midterm wins – The Washington Post.


Fla Insider Poll: Those who know them best say Marco Rubio can’t compete w Jeb Bush | Tampa Bay Times

Nearly 80 percent of those surveyed for the latest Tampa Bay Times Florida Insider Poll said Rubio would be unable to raise enough money to mount a competitive campaign if Jeb Bush was also running. Only a quarter of them predict Rubio will actually run now that Bush is poised to do so.

“Jeb still has the heart and soul of grassroots Republicans in Florida. There’s no room for two or three Florida candidates. Marco knows that,” one Republican said.

The Insider Poll of political consultants, lobbyists, fundraisers, political scientists and a few recovering political reporters is an unscientific and, almost by definition, biased exercise. Why? Because any list of top Republican political talent in Florida is guaranteed to be packed with former Bush staffers and money-raisers.

“Jeb has proven he’s ready for prime time time and time again. Marco I believe will learn from one of the criticisms of Pres. Obama not having executive experience and will run for Governor,” another Republican said.

via Fla Insider Poll: Those who know them best say Marco Rubio can’t compete w Jeb Bush | Tampa Bay Times.


Hunter AAF-based guardsmen return in time for the holidays |

Moments after stepping off a large charter bus in the parking lot of the Georgia Army National Guard’s Hunter Army Airfield hangar Thursday, Sgt. 1st Class James Tucker wrapped his wife in a huge embrace.

Ten months after leaving the Savannah Army post, the National Guardsman was home, just in time for Christmas.

“I’m ecstatic,” Tucker said, holding hands with Tanya, his wife. “There’s really no other words.”

Tucker, of Richmond Hill, was one of about 40 soldiers with B Company, 1st Battalion, 169th General Support Aviation Battalion to return after the deployment that included nearly three months of training at Fort Hood, Texas, and seven months in Afghanistan conducting combat operation support and retrograde missions during the final months of Operation Enduring Freedom.

via Hunter AAF-based guardsmen return in time for the holidays |


PortSide: Container growth continues at GPA | BiS | Business in Savannah News

“We are taking the steps necessary to expand capacity to 6.5 million TEUs by increasing our fleet of ship-to-shore cranes to 26, adding a major new truck gate and maximizing the use of our container yard space,” Foltz said.

At last month’s meeting, the authority board approved an expenditure of $10.2 million for construction of Gate 8, which will serve as a third major truck interchange at Garden City Terminal. At an earlier meeting, the board approved expenditures of more than $8 million to relocate some gate activity and expand storage capacity in the area.=

“We have prepared Savannah’s landside infrastructure to handle the influxes of cargo delivered by super post-Panamax vessels,” said GPA board chairman James Walters. “And now we have entered the construction phase of the harbor expansion, which will deepen the river to 47 feet, allowing today’s larger, more efficient ships to transit the channel with heavier loads and greater scheduling flexibility.”

via PortSide: Container growth continues at GPA | BiS | Business in Savannah News.


Good news for supporters of medical marijuana in Georgia |

McLaughlin & Associates, whose clients include nearly ever statewide-elected Republican in Georgia, conducted the poll Nov. 23-24. It asked 400 likely voters a variety of questions about legalization of medical marijuana. Among the key findings:

•  80 percent of Georgians support legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, even if the drug includes higher levels of THC, the ingredient in marijuana that produces a high.

•  27 percent support full legalization of marijuana for recreational use.

•  17 percent oppose any legalization of marijuana.

•  85 percent support legalization of marijuana if the medication “would not get a person high.”

The poll was paid for by Surterra Holdings, an Atlanta investment firm interested in the business possibilities of medical marijuana.

Surterra CEO Jake Bergmann and chief operating officer Wes Van Dyk have met with Peake and a host of other state lawmakers to encourage the General Assembly to tap the economic potential of legalization. If the bill passes, Bergmann sees the potential of $200 million a year in new state revenue as companies are created to grow, cultivate, process and sell the new medications.

Even they were surprised by the poll results.

“We knew it would poll over 50 percent,” Bergmann said. “We were shocked. Our pollster was shocked.”

Bergman and Van Dyk, who have hired the high-powered lobbyist firm McGuire Woods, said the poll shows support for medical marijuana extends beyond what Peake proposed this past legislative session. That bill, which died in the session’s final days, would have only legalized an oil derived from marijuana to treat certain seizure disorders.

This time, however, the pair is advocating for a broader bill that would also allow the use of medical marijuana to help patients with cancer, glaucoma, chronic pain and other conditions.

Peake has pre-filed his bill for 2015, but it’s merely a shell at this point, with few details. Peake, who led a legislative study committee on the subject over the summer, has not yet said how broad his final bill will be. But he appeared to endorse most of Bergman and Van Dyk’s proposals at the study committee’s final meeting earlier this month.

via Good news for supporters of medical marijuana in Georgia |