Tag: Anonymous Robocalls

23
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 23, 2012

“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.

Governor Nathan and Mrs. Sandra Deal serving guests.

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.

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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.

Then yesterday, 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.

Fifty-six state legislative candidates either owe or have owed back taxes to the government. State Senate candidate David Doss responded to his inclusion on the list.

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.”

Surprisingly 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.

Economic Development

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.

19
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 19, 2012

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.

Pro-tip: putting flyers of any kind on mailboxes is illegal.

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.

Bryant Cochran, the third-term incumbent Murray County Chief Magistrate Judge, and challenger Dwayne Hooper, are profiled in the Dalton Daily News.

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.”

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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.

20
Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 20, 2012

“Zane” is a 5-year old, 63 pound German Shepherd who is available for adoption today from Walton County Animal Services.

Today will be a short update because my MacBook Pro has to go into the shop and I’m trying to get this out before I lose battery power. Because the earliest available appointment at the Lenox Apple Store Hipster Genius Bar is late afternoon, I’m looking to buy a used MacBook, preferably Pro, this morning for cash. If you have one and are in Metro Atlanta, email me.

Meet Stewart Cink tonight in Duluth

Gwinnett County voters can win a chance to meet professional golfer Stewart Cink tonight at a private meet-and-greet for Kathy Schrader, who is running for Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge.

“We wanted to offer another way for voters to meet Stewart and learn about our campaign, while reaching people who wouldn’t otherwise be on our invitation list,” said Kathy Schrader.

“Lisa and I are proud to announce our support for our friend Kathy Schrader,” said Cink. “We have gotten to know Kathy through our shared commitment to the Pregnancy Resource Center of Gwinnett over the past several years.  We have seen Kathy’s dedication to her family, our church and community and believe she should be the next Gwinnett Superior Court Judge” said Cink.

To enter, text “Kathy” to 28748 and the winner will be informed today.

Department of Corrections Department

How the T-SPLOST question got its preamble

There’s been a little buzz on Facebook about the preamble to the T-SPLOST ballot question, which reads, “Provides for local transportation projects to create jobs and reduce traffic congestion with citizen oversight.” Some people apparently belive that because Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office is responsible for the ballot language, the preamble represents Kemp’s personal viewpoint and an attempt to sell the T-SPLOST through misleading language.

I agree that the language might be misleading, so I called Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office and asked how they arrived at that. Here’s the statement they sent me:

I will attempt to explain to you the rationale and legislation behind the preamble that will accompany the T-SPLOST vote this coming July 31st.

During the legislative session of 2009, the General Assembly passed the Transportation Investment Act of 2010 (H.B. 277), which most people refer to as the T-SPLOST.  Pursuant to that Act, the local governments and any metro planning organizations within each region were directed to create investment lists based on criteria that comported with the investment policies set forth in O.C.G.A. § 32-2-41.1(a).  Specifically, the criteria in O.C.G.A. § 32-2-41.1(a) for the investments on the list consisted of the following:

(1) Growth in private-sector employment, development of work force, and improved access to jobs;
(2) Reduction in traffic congestion;
(3) Improved efficiency and reliability of commutes in major metropolitan areas;
(4) Efficiency of freight, cargo, and goods movement;
(5) Coordination of transportation investment with development patterns in major metropolitan areas;
(6) Market driven travel demand management;
(7) Optimized capital asset management;
(8) Reduction in accidents resulting in injury and loss of life;
(9) Border-to-border and interregional connectivity; and
(10) Support for local connectivity to the state-wide transportation network.

The legislation also called for the formation of regional “roundtables” to approve or reject the draft investment lists developed from the above criteria.  If approved, the roundtable was then required to provide a notice of each county election superintendent so that the call for the election could be issued.  In light of the involvement of each regional roundtable, I reached out to those groups for input on the preamble.

Ultimately, the language in the preamble is all referenced in the original legislation that was passed over three years ago.  The preamble language exists for this reason and this reason only.

I recognize that reasonable people can disagree on this matter and I hope that this note has been able to clearly express the reasoning behind my actions.

Sincerely,
Brian Kemp

DeKalb County Reassesses Reassessments

Two weeks ago, DeKalb County sent out property tax reassessment notices and yours truly was shocked and remembering the Vernon Jones era fondly after receiving a notice that our assessment was up by more than 160%.

the county’s Board of Assessors agreed to send out revised property assessments in the next few days to a huge chunk of north-central DeKalb and a small area near Stone Mountain, acknowledging a mathematical error that calculated double- and triple-percentage increases in values there.

Chief Appraiser Calvin Hicks said his office expects to send out new assessments for up to 4,000 homes, including 1,500 in Decatur that are not yet ready to be mailed. The office also is examining individual homes and smaller areas to make sure the same computer glitch didn’t hit more of the 230,000 assessments mailed May 29.

“Mistakes will be made, but I assure you that as they are, we will work to correct them,” Hicks said. “I don’t want to put the burden on any taxpayer to have too high a bill.”

Yesterday, I received my reassessment reassessment notice and the value had been changed back to exactly what it was for 2011. And the kicker? DeKalb County sent the notice first class for 45 cents, rather than using standard (“bulk”) mail, which might have saved nearly half the cost of postage. Nothing like county government for efficiency.

Deal not responsible for T-SPLOST threat/promise

Earlier this week, the Lowndes County Tea Party sent out a press release excoriating Governor Deal for allegedly compiling a list of elected officials endorsing T-SPLOST and promising to campaign for them.

Nolen Cox, Chairman of the Lowndes County Republican Party said “This is an unprecedented offer for a governor’s involvement in local elections. The majority of the Valdosta City Council run as Democrats, how would the governor fulfill his reelection support pledge? The impracticality of this offer makes it look more like a thinly-veiled threat to Republican anti-T-SPLOST members of city government, or possibly to provide cover for Mayor John Gayle who was originally against T-SPLOST when he was campaigning, but who recently switched his position after dining with Doug Calloway of the Chamber’s Transportation Alliance.”

Cox further stated; “It looks like Governor Deal has taken a page from Obama’s play book and is building an enemies list of T-SPLOST opponents and trying to use intimidation as a tactic for support. Or possibly Doug Calloway, the hired gun for the Georgia Chamber, has thrown Governor Deal – their biggest fundraiser – “under the bus” to save Calloway’s job and reputation in a failing effort to convince Georgians to vote themselves a tax during the worst recession in modern times. The people of Georgia deserve an explanation of this Quid pro Quo.”

Later that day, Jim Galloway wrote that all was not as it was being made out.

Somebody’s building a naughty-or-nice list. But it’s not Deal. Via spokeswoman Cindy Miller, a group affiliated with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce just claimed responsibility:

The Connect Georgia Campaign has had no communication with the Governor’s office regarding an accounting of the support by local elected officials for the upcoming TSPLOST vote on July 31.

As a matter of advocacy, our campaign is keeping track of advocates across the state, including elected officials, business leaders and community leaders. This is standard practice for an advocacy campaign.

If you think about it, and I’m sure you will, this makes much more sense. Threats of reprisal aren’t likely from Deal, given that as soon as the T-SPLOST campaign ends, a campaign to re-establish state authority to create charter schools begins.

On the other hand, Georgia’s business community is far more invested in the transportation sales tax than the governor, who always takes care to note that the vote was in place before he came into office.

Moreover, list-building implies that there is campaign cash to award and withhold. And that would be right up the alley of the Georgia Chamber, or its subsidiaries.

Senator Cecil Staton believes that Bibb County board of education elections should be held under the new maps just pre-cleared by the US Department of Justice.

State Senator Cecil Staton believes the candidates should re-qualify for the primary elections under the new lines.

Staton believes these are the maps best represent the people of Bibb County, and they are Georgia law. Staton says any Bibb County resident could contest the elections if the old maps are used.

“I think for our community we need to come together and do this in a positive way. There’s nothing negative about it. I don’t think anyone should be threatened by the new maps. They actually make sense and I think they reflect our community and that’s what the should be,” says Staton.

Staton says they’re still waiting on the department of justice to approve the new maps for the Bibb County Board of Commissioners, and the Macon Water Authority.

The federal court that redrew district lines for the Augusta Commission and Richmond County Board of Education declined to make any changes in light of public comments on the court-drawn maps.

In a 32-page opinion issued Tuesday, Hall declined to incorporate the changes requested by parties in a federal lawsuit filed after the General Assembly failed to implement a new district plan based on 2010 census data.

“I’m a little disappointed with the fact that he gave the plaintiffs and the commission an opportunity to review and submit what we felt were very relevant changes, and they were not considered,” said Augusta Commissioner Bill Lockett, who served on a local committee that developed a district map plan – known as 3R – which failed to gain approval in the Republican-dominated Georgia Senate.

In his opinion, Hall said making the suggested changes would disrupt the small deviations from ideal population size that his map accomplished.

The map includes eight single-member districts that deviate from an ideal size of 25,069 residents by less than 0.5 percent, and two super districts that deviate from an ideal size of 100,275 by 0.3 percent.

It meets the criteria of one person, one vote, Hall wrote, and the Voting Rights Act’s prohibitions against diluting minority voting strength or worsening minority populations’ opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. Because it is devised by a federal judge, the map does not require clearance by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Five of the districts in Hall’s plan are more than 60 percent black, while District 6’s majority black population is 52.43 percent black and 54.26 percent black or mixed-race. The south Augusta district has been represented by a white commissioner and school board members since consolidation.

Using the Georgia Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office as his technical adviser, Hall said he created a map that minimally changed existing district lines, preserving at least 74.19 percent of the “core constituency” of each district.

Senator Chip Rogers and Republican Primary challenger Brandon Beach will face off in a cage death match debate sponsored by the Cherokee County Farm Bureau and the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring a political forum at 6:30 PM Thursday at Cagle’s Family Farm, at 362 Stringer Road in the Hickory Flat community.

Cherokee County Board of Education member Janet Read is considering filing an ethics complaint about a robocall claiming that board members have voted to raise property taxes.

“The message presents misinformation, including the false claim that Cherokee County School Board members have voted to raise taxes for each of the last eight years,” [Board spokesperson Barbara] Jacoby said in the release.

The transcribed version of the call states: “Attention conservative voters: Not every candidate calling themselves a Republican is actually a conservative.”

After blasting Read, the message goes on to provide the district’s main line telephone number and says those receiving the message should call the school board vice chair.

Read said she was bothered that whoever made the calls would not call her and speak to her about the issues, since her home phone number has been on the CCSD website for the last eight years.

“I’m not surprised that already a smear campaign has started against me, but it is pretty pathetic that somebody wants to hide behind a robocall instead of addressing the issues with me,” Read said.

As for accusations she is not a conservative, Read said her record speaks for itself.

“I consider myself a true conservative,” Read said. “When I voted to increase the millage rate, it was because there were no other options.”

As far as an ethics complaint against the source of the robocall, Read said she is exploring her options and investigating as to what violations may have occurred.

The source of the call has not been identified, as the call does not state its source of funding.

I’m not going to speculate here on who placed and paid for the call. Anyone who has a recording is invited to email me. Anyone who want to know who I think is responsible is also welcome to email.

Soon-to-be former State Rep. Elena Parent, who is the most passive-aggressive politician I’ve ever spoken to, told the Brookhaven Patch that she will “absolutely” run for office in the future after stepping down rather than face fellow Democrat State Rep. Scott Holcomb. Brookhaven voters may want to reconsider supporting cityhood if it means she may one day be mayor.

Gwinnett County Commissioner John Heard has said he will abstain from voting on a proposal to build a hotel on county-owned land because of his consulting relationship with the party bidding, though he has not worked on the project in question. This abstention, coupled with the vacancy caused by former Commissioner Shirley Fanning-Lasseter’s guilty plea to federal bribery charges and resignation from the Commission are leading some Gwinnettians to call on the Commission to reject the project and rebid it.

Burglaries and fires in the offices of doctors who testified against the fetal pain bill may dissuade citizens from addressing the General Assembly.

Two burglaries and two fires at Atlanta-area women’s clinics and a burglary at the the main office of the Georgia Obstetrical and Gynecological Society are being investigated by the FBI as possible acts of domestic terrorism or civil rights violations.

Four of the five offices targeted are run by doctors who had voiced concerns — sometimes publicly, sometimes privately — about the so-called fetal pain bill, which shortened to 20 weeks the time frame during which women can have an elective abortion.

“These are despicable acts and if there is some relationship between these acts and the legislation, then it’s even more outrageous,” said House Speaker David Ralston. “I’m concerned that Georgians might have some fear of coming to the Capitol and voicing their opinions on legislation. Obviously, that troubles me.”

Four physicians interviewed by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, some of whom declined to be named, said they suspected — but could not prove — that whoever targeted their clinics was exceptionally well informed about their activities in the Capitol during the 40 days of the session. Even those activities that occurred out of the public eye.

“The circle of people is not that large,” said John Walraven, a lobbyist for the Infertility and Perinatology Consortium of Georgia. “That’s what’s creepy about it.”

The bill’s passage was a milestone victory for abortion foes. The restriction’s most visible backers, Georgia Right to Life, has condemned the arsons and burglaries as “abhorrent.” The group’s spokesman said the group is cooperating with the FBI investigation.

“We are an organization that has never not worked with the FBI against domestic terrorism,” Georgia Right To Life President Dan Becker said Thursday. “We have a zero tolerance policy for any kind of acts of violence against abortionists, or anybody related — patients or doctors.”

Doctors who headed to the Capitol to testify said they do not perform abortions, but they were greatly concerned with the impact the bill would have on women with troubled pregnancies. The doctors said some conditions fatal to a fetus cannot even be diagnosed until after 20 weeks.