Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for November 27, 2012

Recently, the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter has taken in three litters of puppies, causing a space shortage. This means increasing euthanasia, and all dogs there are at risk. These three pit mix puppies are among those who are available for adoption today.

Also among the dogs at risk at Gwinnett County Animal Shelter are this German Shepherd baby boy with awesome ears, and a senior Pomeranian who deserves to live his sunset years in a loving home.

Between now and December 23d, all dogs and cats at Gwinnett County’s shelter can be adopted for the low cost of $30.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Newt Gingrich left the door open for another presidential run in 2016.

The former Republican presidential candidate and House Speaker said he has not ruled out running for president in 2016 — but first the GOP must take on a “very serious analysis” of what went wrong in 2012, Gingrich said.

“I have no idea at this stage,” Gingrich said, referring to another run for the White House.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed says that Georgia might become winnable for Democrats in 2016.

“Georgia is an achievable target for Democrats in 2016,” said Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, a frequent Obama surrogate during the campaign. “What you’re going to see is the Democratic party making a drive through the geography from Virginia to Florida.”

That will be easier said than done — particularly when the Democratic nominee is not Obama — but powerful forces in the region are eroding GOP dominance. The trends pose difficulties for a Republican Party shifting toward Dixie since the “Southern strategy” of the Nixon era, which sought to encourage white flight from the Democratic Party.

In Florida, the portion of all votes cast by whites this year fell to 66 percent, down from 73 percent in 2000. In Georgia, the number of white voters declined while African-American registrations increased nearly 6 percent and Hispanic voters grew by 36 percent.

Legislators who represent Clayton County are determined to ensure that their county remains the butt of late-night talkshow humor by defending Sheriff-elect Victor Hill.

From an article by Rhonda Cook at the AJC:

To remove Hill is “totally disrespectful to the voters of Clayton County,” said Sen. Valencia Seay, D-Riverdale. “Allow the judicial system to do what they do.”

Rep. Darryl Jordan, D-Riverdale, has drafted a letter asking the governor to leave Hill alone until the criminal case is resolved with a trial.

“It seems to me, governor, that when certain people can’t get their wishes at the voting booths, then they employ raw, unmitigated, egregious and flagrant attacks on the Voting Rights Act,” he wrote. “This is unconscionable. The people of Clayton County are tired of this shabby and condescending treatment from people who don’t even live here.”

From Jim Galloway’s Political Insider:

Once Hill takes his oath of office in January, Gov. Nathan Deal has the option of suspending Hill until his legal issues are resolved. The Georgia Sheriffs’ Association last week recommended the governor take that route, and even suggested a replacement.

[S]tate Sen. Valencia Seay, D-Riverdale. “I was appalled and taken aback when I heard the sheriff’s association giving a recommendation for a replacement of our sheriff-elect,” she said. “The voters were crystal clear when they elected [the] sheriff-elect. They were crystal clear when they rejected the former sheriff.”

Seay said the sheriff’s association had acted “prematurely,” and in “total disrespect to the voters in Clayton County.”

Expanding Medicaid would cost the State of Georgia “only” $2.5 billion dollars, according to a story in the Atlanta Journal-Consitution, while allowing the state to cover more residents and bringing in $33 billion in federal money. The only problem? Georgia can’t afford the $2.5 billion, which liberals call a “modest increase in spending.”

Gov. Nathan Deal has said Georgia can’t afford to expand the program, which is already facing a shortfall of hundreds of millions of dollars, even with the substantial federal help. Deal’s budget office pegs the cost of Obamacare and a Medicaid expansion to the state at $3.7 billion through 2022.

Deal has also expressed concern that the federal government — already facing a $16.3 trillion deficit — won’t hold up its end of the bargain.

Advocates of entitlement programs have long lowballed future costs to taxpayers, Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said.

“Regardless of whether the new costs are $2.5 billion, $4.5 billion or $6.5 billion, the state of Georgia doesn’t have the money to pay for it without a huge tax increase, crowding out all other spending or both,” Robinson said.

“For a modest increase in spending, we get a pretty dramatic increase in coverage,” said Tim Sweeney, a health care policy analyst at the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.

“Someone thinks it’s free money when it’s not,” he said. “If we go bankrupt, there’s no way to bail out the United States,” said Ron Bachman, a senior fellow at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, an Atlanta-based think tank focused on market-oriented proposals.

Last night, Common Cause held a public forum to discuss financing of a proposed new Atlanta stadium.

The Georgia World Congress Center Authority and the Atlanta Falcons have been negotiating a deal for a potential new stadium for the past two years. The facility, which would cost a minimum of $948 million but is expected to surpass $1 billion, would replace the 20-year-old Georgia Dome.

More than 100 people came to the Monday evening forum organized by Common Cause Georgia, which featured Georgia World Congress Center executive director Frank Poe on the panel.

“Our focus has been to try to get the best deal possible for the authority and the state of Georgia” for a new stadium, Poe said.

Common Cause Georgia board member Wyc Orr, a panelist, said more information is needed on what infrastructure or other costs the city of Atlanta, the state and Fulton County could be responsible for. “Those are critical details that we think should be known in advance,” Orr said.

Georgia Tech associate professor Benjamin Flowers, another panelist, called for more discussion on what the public could get in return for its investment.

A poll commissioned by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in July found that 67 percent of respondents oppose using hotel-motel tax money for the building.

Today, Georgia Power executives will appear before the Georgia Public Service Commission to update the agency on progress and expenses in the construction of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle.

Twice a year, the utility’s executives testify before the commission about the plant’s progress. On Tuesday, they will review expenses from January to June so the commission can determine if they are permissible and should be passed onto customers.

Georgia Power has already reported $900 million in possible cost overruns. But the expenses are the subject of a lawsuit so officials said there won’t be testimony about them Tuesday.

Commission chair Tim Echols says the hearings help decide who should bear added costs.

“Commissioners essentially become the risk-sharing mechanism for consumers,” he said in an interview. “We’re their eyes and ears on that board, making a decision whether things are passed along to them via their electric bill or whether those expenses are born by Southern Company and Georgia Power.”

Mark Williams is a spokesman for Georgia Power.

“The project is progressing well,” he said in an interview. “We are more than one-third of the way through with the construction. There will be some details about the costs — all the costs that have been expended to this point on the project.”

The United States Energy Department is seeking plans for a demonstration project to address nuclear waste storage. The SRS Community Ruse Organization is currently studying whether the Savannah River Site might have a role in a storage solution.

That study, to be completed early next year, is not specifically connected to the recent demonstration project notice, but would certainly explore the site’s possible role in projects involving outside locations or businesses.

“There is a potential that SRS could play a part of it, but we haven’t heard of anything specific to that proposal,” McLeod said, noting that such a demonstration project would likely require participation from a utility-owned, actively operating power reactor.

Walter Jones writes that energy production policy may be shifting at the Georgia Public Service Commission.

What happened is the Georgia Public Service Commission voted 3-2 to endorse efforts by a start-up company to overturn a law, the Territorial Act, that has divided the state for four decades into geographic monopolies for 94 utilities run by cities, rural cooperatives and the giant Georgia Power Co.

The upstart, Georgia Solar Utilities Inc., seeks its own monopoly as a generator of solar power with permission to sell to retail customers. Since it can’t produce electricity when the sun isn’t shining, it would always be dependent on other utilities for supplemental power as well as for transmission, billing and customer support.

The commission vote doesn’t guarantee General Assembly agreement, but it does provide a push.

The commissioner who sponsored the resolution, Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, had been in the legislature in 1973 and voted in favor of the Territorial Act.

“I was there in 1973 when the act — legislation was passed,” he said. “Solar wasn’t even in the dictionary, I don’t think, at that time, much less photovoltaic…. It was something that wasn’t anticipated at that time.”

He argued for removing obstacles to consumers who want access to more power generated from renewable sources.

McDonald wasn’t the only veteran policymaker whose vote demonstrated a change of position. Commissioner Doug Everett, a great-grandfather and conservative legislator in the 1990s, also supported McDonald’s resolution.

“You know, everybody in here realizes I’ve always fought solar because I did not think the technology was there for cost effectiveness. But it’s changed, technology has changed,” he said.

The cost of photovoltaic panels that convert sunlight into electricity has plummeted in recent years and by 30 percent in the first six months of this year due to a price war between Chinese producers. The result is solar is becoming competitive without tax breaks, mandates and subsidies from other energy sources, Everett said.

“But something else has changed that disturbs me even more, and very few people mention this. But this (federal) administration has said it’s going to destroy the coal industry,” he said.

The Dougherty County Commission voted to levy a 2% excise tax on energy used in manufacturing.

Votes by Georgia counties on the excise tax, which Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard stressed was a “continuation” of special-purpose local-option sales tax and local-option sales tax funds already being collected by the county, became necessary when the state approved 2012 legislation to phase out the 4 percent energy tax that the states collects from those businesses over the next four years.

“I’d like to reiterate that this is not a new tax on our manufacturers,” District 1 Commissioner Lamar Hudgins said. “We’re voting to continue collecting the local tax.”

Governor Nathan Deal previously said that repeal of the state sales tax on energy used in manufacturing was an important component in attracting new jobs from Caterpillar and Baxter International.

Former Gwinnett County Commissioner Shirley Fanning Lasseter will report to federal prison next month to begin serving her sentence for accepting bribes in association with rezoning votes.

Lasseter, who was mayor of Duluth for a decade before becoming a county commissioner, will begin her 33-month sentence for bribery Dec. 12 in a Marianna, Fla. prison, according to an order filed in federal court before Thanksgiving.

In the face of a lawsuit challenging Gwinnett County’s funding of Partnership Gwinnett with the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, the County Commission may double down with another payment.

This time, though, the county’s annual Partnership Gwinnett agreement — on Tuesday’s zoning hearing agenda — stipulates that the money must go to a new nonprofit set up for the economic development program, keeping the money from mingling with the chamber’s private donations.

“With the need for jobs and business investment, I believe that it is critical we continue to focus on economic development,” Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said Monday, lending her support to the program credited with bringing 12,000 jobs to the county. “I also believe that combining resources and efforts across community segments strengthens Gwinnett County’s position relative to other communities with which we must compete.”

Pat Robertson’s Regent University will continue to pursue federal intellectual property claims against a renamed Georgia Regent University in Augusta.

The University of Georgia wants to aggressively invest in research to move into the elite circle of national research universities. Georgia Tech has received $1.8 million in federal grant money to actually perform research into microbial diversity. Football loyalties aside, which approach do you think will be more welcome in the Appropriations Committee this Session?

For more news on Georgia education issues, visit www.GaNewsDigest.com and look for the Education heading. The website is updated throughout the day and also features sections on Politics, Energy, and Transportation issues.

The consolidation of two hospitals in the Albany area is before the United States Supreme Court as the Federal Trade Commission charges that the merger was anti-competitive.

The justices heard arguments in the federal government’s claim that two private corporations used a public hospital authority to complete a deal that left one company as the owner of the only two hospitals in Albany, Ga. The Federal Trade Commission says the deal violates federal antitrust law.

The question at the high court is whether an exception in antitrust law for actions taken by a state or its agencies — in this case, the hospital authority — shields the transaction from federal concerns.

Lower federal courts allowed Albany’s Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital to buy Palmyra Medical Center from Hospital Corporation of America for $195 million over the FTC’s objection.

Georgia DOT will try to use more small businesses as part of a federal initiative.

Beginning next year, the Georgia Department of Transportation plans to increase efforts to encourage and help small businesses in doing business with the department and its consultants and contractors, state officials said last week.

As part of a federal initiative designed to foster increased nationwide small-business participation in government contracting, DOT plans to promote opportunities for eligible small businesses though its acquisition of materials and professional and technical services, as well as transportation consultant and construction contracts.

The goal of the program will be to facilitate such opportunities “of a size and scope that can reasonably be performed by competing small businesses,” including Disadvantaged Business Enterprises, states a press release from the DOT.

The AJC writes that massive overtime payments to MARTA employees raise safety concerns.

MARTA Police Officer Jeremiah Perdue puts in massive work weeks protecting the transit-riding public. He worked enough overtime to more than triple his pay, taking home nearly $163,000 in the 12 months ending in June.

Perdue, who earned $108,000 in overtime in one year , wasn’t alone in working excessive hours. About 130 police officers and 90 bus drivers boosted their salaries by 50 percent that fiscal period, with 55 officers and 20 drivers nearly doubling their pay. A handful, like Perdue, earned more in overtime than they earned in regular salary, according to records obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

While some might applaud such a work ethic, the overtime logged by MARTA bus drivers and police officers raises serious financial and safety concerns for the nation’s ninth-largest transit agency.

MARTA rules allow those employees to work 16 hours straight, but sleep deprivation experts say such schedules impair judgment and make drivers, police officers and others who work in potentially life-threatening situations a danger to both themselves and the public.

I suspect State Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-City of Brookhaven), who chairs the legislative committee that oversees MARTA, will raise financial concerns about this as well.

The City of Dunwoody added starting its own school system to its list of legislative priorities for 2013.

“It’s not about the city of Dunwoody and our school system,” said Council [Member] John Heneghan. “It’s about local control and our school system. When you work at the capitol it’s not about a municipality, it’s about what is best for the general populace of the state of Georgia.”

Meanwhile, the left-behinds in North DeKalb are exploring creating yet another city.

The new Briarcliff Woods East Neighborhood Association (BWENA) sponsored the information-only meeting at Oak Grove Methodist Church.

“People underestimate how complicated it is,” former legislator Kevin Levitas, who hosted the meeting, said. “It takes a couple years to get a city up and running. People have to understand they are in for a very long haul, with some heated discussions.”

State Sen. Fran Millar, state Rep. Tom Taylor and former state senator Dan Weber described the process Dunwoody went through before it was incorporated.

The Cobb County Commission will figure out how to dispose of an $18 million dollar surplus; Commission Chair Tim Lee proposed “a plan to allocate the additional money includes paying off debt, rolling back the county’s millage rate by .2 mills and technology upgrades to the county’s court system.”

A wildfire in North Georgia has closed the approach trail for the Appalachian Trail in Georgia.

Ogeechee Riverkeeper Dianna Wedincamp is stepping down to start her own environmental consulting firm.

“She hit the ground running and has gotten us in good position,” said Don Stack, an attorney with Stack & Associates, which represents the Riverkeeper. “She probably decided it’s an appropriate time to take a breath and have a normal life.”

When I read a Savannah Morning News headline that “The hunt is on at Bethesda Academy,” my first thought was that I thought the hunting season for high school students started in December.

Over the last three years students enrolled in the historic school and home for boys have helped clear pine thickets, planted native grasses and converted 400 acres into a lakeside sanctuary for wild birds and the hundreds of quail they raise each year.

Now the public can book guided quail and pheasant hunts at the Bethesda Sanctuary.

They’ll even train your dogs to hunt.

“We’re talking about sporting dogs,” said Tom Brackett, director of the Wildlife Management Program at Bethesda. “We can’t train your French poodle.”

True fact: poodles were bred to retrieve waterfowl.

Former Gwinnett Commissioner Shirley Fanning Lasseter to report to prison next month

The fact that the feds asked to delay another defendant’s sentencing to follow up on issues related to his cooperation suggest there may be another shoe yet to drop.

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Former Gwinnett County Commissioner Shirley Lasseter will report to a Florida prison next month to begin serving a 33-month sentence for bribery.

Meanwhile, the sentencing date for a developer who admitted bribing Lasseter may be pushed back as federal prosecutors seek his assistance in an ongoing corruption investigation, court documents filed this week show.

Last May Lasseter admitted she accepted $36,500 from an undercover FBI agent posing as a businessman seeking her vote for a Boggs Road real estate development. She pleaded guilty to a bribery charge, and in September U.S. District Court Judge Charles Pannell Jr. sentenced her to 33 months. Since then, she’s been living with a friend and waiting to report to federal prison.

All three defendants have cooperated in the federal corruption investigation, secretly recording conversations with unnamed people as part of the FBI investigation.

That cooperation led to a bribery charge against Duluth developer Mark Gary, who admitted last month he paid Lasseter and Fanning $30,000 in casino chips in exchange for Lasseter’s 2009 vote for a $4 million waste-transfer station Gary planned to develop off Winder Highway.

A sentencing hearing for Gary is scheduled Jan. 3. However, on Wednesday prosecutors asked Pannell to delay Gary’s sentencing by at least 60 days “to facilitate matters related to the defendant’s cooperation.”

Prosecutors have said their investigation is continuing but have not said whether it will lead to additional charges.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for October 2, 2012

CORRECTION: The General Election date is November 6th, 2012. The deadline for voter registration for the General Election is October 9, 2012, one week from today.

To check your voter registration or view a sample ballot, please visit the Georgia Secretary of State’s office and use their MVP voter registration tool.

For questions about election dates, always check with the Georgia Secretary of State’s website or your local County Elections Office.

Advanced voting in person starts October 15, 2012.

And while we’re at it, be skeptical of anything you read on the internet.

Dog Rescue

27847 might be a senior, and she’s definitely at least part Golden Retriever. She is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter beginning Friday.

If this Senior Basset Hound is adopted, he’ll almost certainly be named “Flash.” The senior male will be available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter beginning on Thursday.

Bibb County Animal Shelter’s new director started work this week.

Tenon was introduced as the new director of Bibb County’s Animal Welfare Department at a Monday morning meet-and-greet at the county courthouse. The Hawkinsville native, who turns 49 Tuesday, takes over the reins of the animal shelter after a sometimes stormy search for a new director.

“All I want is someone to come and adopt and give these animals a forever home,” she said.

Veterinarian Edsel Davis, who was on the search committee that picked Tenon, said at Monday’s gathering that the department “was in good hands.”

“I encourage the public to give her some time,” Davis said.

That committee also is looking for a site for a new shelter, which animal advocates say is long overdue. The county commission has allocated $3 million in sales tax funds for the new building.

“The old one needs to be bulldozed down,” said Linda Smyth, a board member for Central Georgia CARES, an animal advocacy group. The old shelter is near the county landfill and is “roach- and rodent-infested,” which is not good for the health of the animals there.

This good-looking black lab is one of the dogs in the Macon Animal Shelter that Ms. Tenon hopes to re-home.

According to his listing, “This dog is awesome.  He is so well behaved and is wonderful with kids.  won’t jump on little ones or knock them down.  He is very willing to learn anything you ask of him and is quite calm when he can be with you or just nearby.  Wants to be in a house with his people.  He is not however safe with cats from what we can tell.   He is HW positive with no symptoms and and already started on the slowkill tx recommended if he is adopted in the South.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

State Rep. Bill Hembree holds a significant lead among likely voters in the November 6th Special Republican Primary Election for Senate District 30, with 45% of likely voters saying they will vote for Hembree. We released the poll yesterday via the website. On election day, General Election voters who live in the 30th Senate District will either ask for or be offered a ballot for the Special Republican Primary Election, which is technically distinct from the General Election. Hembree will face independent James Camp, who previously ran for office as a Libertarian in a January 8th Special Election.

National Public Radio is covering the dispute over whether national polls on the Presidential election are skewed to favor President Obama. For those of you who are obsessed interested in polling, I’ve written up my thoughts on weighting and how it can introduce bias in polls. Even if you don’t read it, hit that link for a cogent analysis by Stephen Colbert.

A group of people from other states rode a bus to Georgia to pressure Governor Deal to ignore other people from out-of-state and put Georgia first. Who knew Occupiers could drive?

The PAC known as Patriot Majority USA has started a national bus tour to bring awareness to what they call the Koch Brothers’ ‘Greed Agenda. They rolled  through Georgia today, stopping at the state capitol to deliver a message to the governor.

The Patriot Majority USA delivered a letter to Governor Deal’s office, denouncing  the state’s affiliation with the oil-tycoon-billionaires. “We are here to deliver a letter to Governor Deal,” said spokesperson Mariah Hatta, “asking him, if possible, to separate himself  from the Koch Brothers and their agenda and to put the people of Georgia in first place.”

Here’s how I measure whether Deal has put Georgia families first: jobs. And Gov. Deal has delivered.

Gov. Nathan Deal announced [yesterday] that jobs and investment generated by the Global Commerce division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development jumped by almost a third during the state’s most recent fiscal year. The department reported that the 403 company expansions or locations with which it assisted created 28,776 jobs, an increase of 29 percent from last fiscal year, and $5.97 billion in investment, a 32 percent increase. These statistics reflect a trend of continued growth since the state’s 2009 fiscal year.

“These figures are more than numbers — they represent the growth of hope and opportunity for our citizens,” said Deal. “This tangible evidence of proactive company growth is a sign that not only is our economy on the path to recovery, but also that Georgia’s top-notch business climate has helped us stand out against our competition.”

The 403 projects worked on by GDEcD’s Global Commerce Division during fiscal year 2012, which ended June 30, 2012, also represented an 11 percent increase from the previous year. Of those projects, 36 percent were new locations, highlighted by companies such as Baxter, Caterpillar and Bed, Bath & Beyond. These three projects alone created 4,100 jobs. The remaining 64 percent were expansions by existing Georgia companies. The largest of these expansions were by Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia (1,000 jobs) and Home Depot (700 jobs).

Republican Congressmen Phil Gingrey and Tom Graves, and Georgia Speaker David Ralston, State Rep. Katie Dempsey, and State Senator-Elect Chuck Hufstetler attended a Rome fundraiser for Eddie Lumsden, who is running for State House of Representatives against Democratic incumbent Barbara Massey Reece. Lumsden served in the Georgia State Partrol and on the Floyd County Commission.

Deputies who stopped Bibb County Superior Court Judge Howard Simms when he was driving and found he had a blood alcohol content of .083, over the legal limit, did not follow department guidelines by failing to require further sobriety tests and showed “poor judgment” in following the judge home after releasing him.

Prominent T-SPLOST backers are now calling themselves “Republicans for Doug Stoner.”

[Incumbent Democrat] Stoner also was a backer of the TSPLOST— which made the eight-year veteran of the Senate a rarity among the Cobb legislative delegation.

Stoner is locked in a heated re-election campaign against Republican Hunter Hill of Smyrna, who did not take a position on the TSPLOST.

Hill told Around Town on Monday that some of the seven were surprised to see their names on the letter.

“Some of the people in the left column were not aware of the letter and told me they were very disappointed that their name was used,” he said, but added he had not talked to the entire list.

“I do not think this letter is going to call into question my credentials as a Republican nor the support that I’m expecting it will get from Republicans,” added Hill.

Some of those names also appeared on direct mail that landed in the mailbox of one of the most-consistent Republican Primary voters I know.

It appears that Stoner’s direct mail firm misspelled the name of Tad Leithead, one of the alleged Republicans for Stoner. Leithead is Chairman of the Cumberland Community Improvement District, which announced that it will spend $30 million to attract $150 million in state and federal funds for transportation improvements in the CID.

Leithead said the two CIDs are the largest economic engines in Cobb County. They are also the only two districts in the county this year that saw an increase in property tax assessments.

“We don’t believe that that’s a coincidence,” Leithead said. “We believe that by investing our dollars in our community and leveraging them against county and state dollars and federal dollars that we bring economic development and economic enhancement to our district.”

Leithead said he expects his CID will tackle the Windy Hill Road interchange at I-75 with the anticipated $150 million it intends to bring in over the next seven years in a proposal that would add the capacity for more traffic while at the same time improving the safety of the exit ramps.

The chairman said it was unlikely the Cumberland CID would be contributing a significant amount to the proposed $1.1 billion KSU-Midtown bus program recommended by the county’s alternatives analysis study.

“We’ll continue to monitor it and support it and remain in favor of it, but I don’t see us becoming big-time investors in the project because our dollars just wouldn’t go that far with a project of that magnitude,” Leithead said.

Georgia Democrats are threatening to sue to remove State Rep. Rick Crawford from the ballot after he said that he’ll switch to the GOP if re-elected.

The Democrats say Crawford should be disqualified because he’s declared himself as Republican and hence is no longer the party’s candidate.

At a press conference Monday, party Chairman Mike Berlon says Georgia law prevents Democrats from replacing a candidate at this point if he or she withdraws.

But he says, “In this case, our position as the Democratic Party is that Crawford has not withdrawn. He’s been disqualified. And there’s a legal difference between the two. We think based on the disqualification and the fact that we have taken away his ability to be the nominee of the party, we should have the right to replace him on the ballot.”

University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock says the move is unusual. Other Georgia politicians have switched parties but typically after an election, not before.

He also says Crawford’s decision is puzzling.

“The Democrats are not going to vote for him,” he said. “They may simply ignore this contest if his name appears on the ballot. And Republicans have already nominated someone else. So it looks to me that Rick may be a man without a country.”

Quote of the Day goes to Democratic Party of Georgia Chair Mike Berlon, via 11Alive.

“Man up! I mean, if you’re going to do this, do it, but do it in an intellectually honest fashion.”

Yesterday, we released a poll of HD 16 that shows Republican Trey Kelley with a solid lead over Crawford.

Pro-tip: Attorney General Sam Olens has a good sense of humor, but as the state’s top law enforcement officer, if you’re holding a charity roast of him, tread lightly, just in case.

Hundreds of people turned out to watch Olens take barbs from Cherokee County State Court Judge Alan Jordan; Cobb County Commission Chairman Tim Lee; Cobb Chamber of Commerce President and CEO David Connell; and John Wallace, Cherokee Republican Party precinct manager.

Connell used a photo slide show during his roast of Olens that showed the attorney general on the campaign trail and with his family, whom Connell said he consulted while preparing for the event.

“They all said the same thing: ‘Sam is not funny,’” Connell said.

Gwinnett County developer Mark Gary pled guilty to federal bribery charges, admitting he gave $30,000 worth of poker chips to buy a zoning vote from former County Commissioner Shirley Fanning-Lasseter. According to the Gwinnett Daily Post,

“Mark Gary’s been trying to do the best he can to help the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office clean up corruption in Gwinnett County,” Gary’s attorney Paul Kish said. “He wants a level playing field because he’s a really good developer, and wants to go back to being a good developer.”

Gary could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

“Today’s guilty plea shows that paying off a public official is a losing bet,” U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said in a statement. “Gwinnett County’s approval of competing real estate developments is not a game in which votes are for sale to the highest bidder. We will continue to aggressively pursue business people who corrupt the system by bribing public officials.”

The City of Sugar Hill is considering whether to join other Gwinnett cities in levying an excise tax on energy used in manufacturing, following the repeal of the state tax. Apparently these cities don’t want manufacturing jobs.

Lowndes County’s SPLOST is up for renewal in the General Election on November 6th. If it passes, proceeds will be split with the cities in Lowndes.

The seventh cycle of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, on the ballot Nov. 6, will bring in at least $150 million during a six-year period to fund the new auditorium and library and other municipal projects if the referendum is approved by voters.

Problems in the City of Savannah Purchasing Department are more serious than originally thought.

Original reports from more than a month ago didn’t go into detail about the ramifications of the hundreds of bills that the city hadn’t paid for goods and services and how citizens might be affected if these lapses continued.

Upon closer inspection, they were serious.

As this newspaper’s City Hall reporter, Lesley Conn, outlined on Sunday, these problems potentially threatened the city’s water supply and the public safety of citizens and police officers who protect them. That’s not a bureaucratic headache limited to government paper-pushers. It’s a potential nightmare that could affect everyone.

No wonder why Mayor Edna Jackson and a majority on City Council asked City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney to resign last week. Her credibility is gone. The situation inside the Purchasing Department, which had been turned on its head, apparently at the city manager’s direction, was bad enough. But the more that’s uncovered, the worse it seems to get.

The latest findings underscore the need for a management change at the top of city government. They include:

• Concern from the head of the city’s water department. He was worried the city wouldn’t be able to acquire the chemicals it needed to make the water safe because its vendor would put it on credit hold.

• A worried email from the officer who supervised the metro police department’s armory. He was concerned about an order for 590 new Glock handguns for police officers, submitted months earlier. He was giving it “emergency” status.

The problems within the Purchasing Department were among the reasons the mayor and council reprimanded Ms. Small-Toney on Aug. 31. They asked for immediate improvement on her part within the next 90 days. Instead, things appeared to be deteriorating. So they asked her to resign by this Thursday’s City Council meeting, or be fired — a perfectly fair, reasonable and necessary option.

Ends & Pieces

The bacon shortage shouldn’t us affect much more than a slight increase in price, but I’m not taking any chances — I’ve stocked up with Benton’s Bacon from Madisonville, Tennessee, the finest I’ve ever tasted.

Good luck fitting into your parachute pants from 1984 as you prepare to relive the past at Saturday’s concert featuring Pat Benatar, Journey and Loverboy at Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood.

Fears about a scarcity of bacon swept across social and mainstream media last week after a trade group in Europe said a bacon shortage was “unavoidable.”

The alarm was quickly dismissed by the American Farm Bureau Federation as “baloney.”

“Pork supplies will decrease slightly as we go into 2013,” Farm Bureau economist John Anderson said. “But the idea that there’ll be widespread shortages, that we’ll run out of pork, that’s really overblown.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for September 19, 2012

Rally is a 5-month old, 30# Shepherd mix who was dumped on a dirt road in Walton County. His situation is extremely urget at Walton Animal Control. Friendly and playful, he does not deserve to be euthanized.

These six lab mix puppies are available for adoption from the Savannah Humane Society.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Carl “Skip” Cain and John Fanning, who were involved in selling the vote of former Gwinnett County Commissioner Shirley Fanning-Lasseter, were sentenced to prison, but the real story of their sentencing may come from hints of more to come:

 Fanning’s attorney, Bill Thomas, said his client had provided evidence against “significant individuals.”

Asked after the hearing about his comments to Pannell, Thomas declined to name targets of the probe, saying it would be unfair to them if they are never charged with a crime.

But Thomas said: “You can imagine that in any sort of investigation like this you’re not dealing with run-of-the-mill individuals … This wouldn’t involve some low-level bureaucrat responsible for trash collection.”

Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway attended Tuesday’s hearing. He said the defendants’ behavior “has had a tremendous cost to Gwinnett.”

“It’s left a bruise that is going to take a long time to heal,” Conway said. “It makes me angry for someone to violate the public trust like Shirley Lasseter and John Fanning did.”

Georgia Democrats are still delusional hopeful of carrying Georgia in November.

Local and state Democrats on Tuesday convened at the Hilton Savannah DeSoto Hotel to announce their plan to “get Georgia to go blue.”

With Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson and State Sen. Lester Jackson, Democratic Party of Georgia Chairman Mike Berlon said the party has a plan to flip the state in favor of President Barack Obama in the November election.

That plan, he said, centers on convincing rural and urban voters to support the president. Savannah, with its strong Democratic base — Obama received about 57 percent of the vote in Chatham County in 2008 — will play a major role in that effort.

“We already know that in metro Atlanta we have done the very best that we can in terms of producing the Democratic vote and it’s not going to get any better there,” Berlon said. “So, the only way that we’re going to be able to win is to take advantage of (metro Atlanta) and develop the areas where there are more Democratic voters. A permanent office here in Savannah is a start to that.”

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Rick Thompson & Associates notes that all 2012 candidates and Political Action Committees that have spent more $25,000 in contributions to or on behalf of candidate have an upcoming September 30th deadline for campaign contribution disclosures and that the grace period runs out on October 5, 2012. We have seen this year that the severely overtaxed Campaign Finance Commission disclosure website tends to bog down and become unusable the last days of the filing period, so please start your disclosures early so that you can file on time.

After November’s elections, voters in Habersham will have fewer polling places, as County Commissioner voted to reduce the number from 14 to 2.

“Are some citizens going to be upset with it?” [Interim Interim Elections Board Chairman Pete] Davitto said. “Of course. Are some citizens going to have to drive a little farther to vote? Of course. I’m one of them. I live in Batesville, and we’re recommending the Batesville polling location be eliminated.”

“It is our belief that we can serve the citizens of Habersham County in an effective and efficient manner and most probably we’ll be able to get them through the voting line in less time than some of them may be experiencing in today’s environment,” Davitto said.

Michael Carroll, former member of the board of elections, spoke to the commission as a representative of the executive committee and treasurer of the Habersham County Democratic Party.

“We support the move reducing the number of precincts to two if at all possible,” Carroll said. “The benefits of reducing to two are very obvious because of the cost of personnel. Also, of the current 14 precincts, a number of them are not ADA compliant even now and so if we continue to use them sooner or later the county is going to be cited. It’s just a matter of time.”

Commissioner Sonny James said he had heard from several people who wanted the county’s current 14 polling places to remain in place.

“We know that that’s not possible because of the Americans with Disabilities Act,” James said

Failed Hall County Commission candidate Eugene Moon also failed to file his lawsuit contesting the result in a timely manner, leading the judge to dismiss it.

Moon and his attorney released a statement Monday afternoon in response to Adamson’s ruling. The content of the statement is as follows:

“Today our court case was dismissed over a technicality. We witnessed today that legal policy will prevail over legal right. Georgia Election law requires that you have 5 days from certification of election to file a complaint against the elections board and we missed the window by 2 days. Saturday and Sundays and legal holidays are included in this window we found out. The only proof of this certification in court this morning was done verbally by Charolette Sosbee, your Elections Director and that was good enough for the judge.”

“We did make a motion to enter our evidence, regardless the outcome but were denied this also. We wanted answers as to why there were 460 missing votes, why people in Clermont were voting in elections for Oakwood, why people in Gillsville were voting in city of Gainesville elections, why were the approved maps not followed? These are things for which we the voters may never know the answer.”

The Carroll County Board of Education will oppose the Charter School Amendment on the November 6th General Election ballot.

Each of the seven board members voiced approval of charter schools Monday night, but believe the amendment takes away local control over the founding and running of a charter school.

Superintendent Scott Cowart proposed drafting a resolution speaking out in favor or against the amendment and was met with unanimous approval to send out drafts via email this week before Thursday’s meeting, when the board plans to formally publish the resolution.

“I am against it, and I have no problem saying it,” board member Denise Askin-Pate said. “I don’t think taxpayers will have any representation in it. They say that it’s all part of the same pie, but I think this is going to make the pie and our piece from the pie smaller.”

A majority of the Douglas County Board of Education is also publicly opposed to the Charter School Amendment.

Withe four BOE members united against the amendment and School Board Member Mike Miller in favor, attention turned to drafting a resolution on the issue that may include an official BOE stance.

Schools Superintendent Dr. Gordon Pritz handed out sample resolutions from other school systems around the state as examples, along with information from the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and a question and answer form. The PTA has also stated its opposition to the amendment, which would restate the state’s authority to approve charter schools rejected at the local level.

Board member D.T. Jackson suggested that the process of drafting a resolution be expedited as there are only around 50 days left before the vote. It was not decided at the meeting if an official stance will be taken by the board, but the BOE’s attorney will begin researching and forming a resolution to put before the board.

Miller, the lone supporter of the amendment, took issue with some sample resolutions.

“I am seeing complete untruths in these resolutions,” Miller said. Among these was what Miller called a claim that charter schools are private, for-profit schools, and also claims that the vote will divert money from existing public schools.

Officials from the accrediting agengy AdvancEd will review DeKalb County’s school board, citing alleged mismanagement.

Accreditation — or the lack of it — affects graduates’ chances at college acceptance. A loss of accreditation, as happened in Clayton County in 2008, can also lead to an exodus of parents. Two years ago, when AdvancEd came calling in DeKalb, the local chamber of commerce expressed concern about property values, job retention and the ability to draw businesses. The chamber helped establish a group to vet candidates for school board, and was still making endorsements this year during the primary election.

The alleged mismanagement could have a direct effect on the classroom. The school board is accused of wasting money — such as $50 million in legal fees over five years — that otherwise could have been spent on teachers and students, Elgart said. He said there are allegations that school board members pressured for the hiring of friends, which, if true, he said, could affect the caliber of the staff, plus morale.

The half dozen or so investigators will promise confidentiality and confirm claims with more than one source, Elgart said. Anonymity is necessary, since staffers will be asked to be honest about the elected officials who oversee the system and hired their boss, the superintendent. “You’d be surprised,” Elgart said. “In a confidential environment, most people are willing to talk.”

The investigative team will make a recommendation on accreditation status. DeKalb is “on advisement,” which is less than full accreditation. The team could recommend a range of accreditaiton options.

Well, at least we didn’t elect a Sheriff with 37 outstanding felony indictments. So we’ve got that going for us in DeKalb.

Yesterday, I misspelled Barry Paschal’s name, and he took to twitter to bemoan the lack of respect I showed him. I’m now following him on Twitter where he live tweets meetings of the Columbia County Commission. For up-to-the minute coverage of local Columbia County politics, there’s a great source.

The race card is getting thrown around in the election for Augusta Circuit Chief Probate Judge.

The appointment of a white juvenile court judge to the Augusta Judicial Circuit and the terms of black incumbents Ben Allen and Wil­lie Saunders not being renewed last week set the stage for a question that had black Democratic Probate Court Judge candidate Harry James playing the race card and white Republican rival Carleton Vaughn bristling during a forum at Williams Memorial Church on 15th Street.

District attorney, state court solicitor and probate court candidates were asked what they thought about the recent juvenile court appointments. James lambasted Chief Superior Court Judge Carlisle Overstreet, saying the appointments were horrible and unfair and implied they were racially motivated. He said of all the judges in the judicial circuit, there were only two blacks.

Vaughn prefaced his remarks by telling the audience, which audibly agreed with James, that they weren’t going to like what he had to say.

He said that in his time as acting judge in the probate court, “I have never based a decision on what color you are. Every decision I made was made after I had all the facts. You are making a decision on only one fact. You are always saying we need to come together and heal the racial divide. What you have just said is more divisive than anything I have ever heard.”

The City of Bowdon is asking the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look into allegations of misappropriations.

The mayor said the latest probe started Sept. 10 after City Clerk Stacy Folds “notified city administration of misappropriated funds.”

“City administration immediately notified City Police Chief [Mark Brock] and on the same day, the case was turned over to Georgia Bureau of Investigation,” Crawford said in his released statement. “The GBI is now in full control of this case and, due to this investigation, the city can no longer comment on this matter.”

In the earlier Bowdon case, Patricia Bentley, a former employee of the city of Bowdon clerk’s office, was charged Aug. 1 with felony theft by taking. This came after a GBI investigation, which began June 20, found $159,000 in city funds that were taken in but never deposited into city accounts.

Wayne Smith, a special agent in the GBI’s Columbus office, said Tuesday that the funding source in question in the current case is different from the earlier case.

“The other case involved funds in the general operating account, while the current case involves a separate account to process fines and court-levied fees,” Smith said. He estimated the current missing funds at $20,000 to $30,000.

Some in Douglas County see the repeal of the state sales tax on energy used in manufacturing as a continuation of a theme in which the legislature cuts local revenues while piling on more mandates.

“It sounds like, as is typical with the General Assembly, we are impacted but we don’t know to what extent,” said Mulcare.

HB 386, a bill well-known for ending the ad valorem tax on vehicles, also carries a tax exemption for energy used in manufacturing. The bill, passed by the Georgia General Assembly this year, affects revenues not only at the state level, but in local governments as well.

However, counties and cities can implement their own new energy tax in order to make up for the lost revenue.

Some officials at the meeting said this amounted to a kind of catch-22 for local officials, who have to deal with either lost revenue or negative press through actions not of their doing.

“This leaves the legislature holding the white hat and we are holding the black hat,” said Douglas County District 3 Commissioner Mike Mulcare.

One point of confusion is how the tax exemption will be measured. Per the law, it applies only to the use of energy in manufacturing, such as in producing cars or carpet. It does not apply to the sale of energy for purposes like heating and air conditioning.

“How is it determined which energy is used for products?” asked BOC Chairman Tom Worthan.

Douglasville Chief Assistant City Attorney Suzan Littlefield said the Georgia Municipal Association has not said how to divide the exemption.

Emma Jean Thomas, wife of former state Senator Dr. Don Thomas, died Monday after battling lung cancer for five years. Visitation for the Thomas family will be today from 4-8 PM at the Julian Peeples Funeral Home and services will be on Thursday, September 20th at 2PM at the Grove Level Baptist Church (across the street from the funeral home).

Yesterday was the service for former state Senator Oliver Bateman, who flew for the Army Air Corps in World War 2 and the Air Force during the Korean War. Senator Bateman ran as a Republican in 1964 and was elected Senate Minority Leader in 1968. In 1970 he entered the Governor’s race against Jimmy Carter, but withdrew before the election. Gov. George Busbee appointed him Chairman of the Georgia State Ethics Commission, where he served from 1980-1985. He chaired the 1980 Georgia State Convention, which was instrumental in the election of President Ronald Reagan. He was a mentor and close friend to the late U.S. Senator Paul D. Coverdell, and still credited by many as the first Conservative leader in Georgia.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for September 6, 2012

Welcome to our new “Black Thursdays,” where we will feature black or majority-black dogs and cats from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in advance of the greatest “Black Friday” sale ever. Because of the difficulty in adopting out black animals, known as “Black Dog Syndrome,” the shelter is selling these guys for 67% off – dogs and cats that normally cost $30 adoption fee plus $60 vet fee can be had for $30. Can’t think of a better bargain on a new best friend.

27064 is a female lab mix puppy. $30 out the door!

27044 is a young terrier mix.

27014 is a gorgeous baby female who is described as a hound, but I’d call her a likely lab mix.

 




People often email to ask me why I don’t post cats more often, and the answer is simply that I don’t have time to do it all. I spend about two hours a day on this newsletter and it’s unpaid time. But today, in honor of Gwinnett County’s Black Friday sale, I’m posting these guys and girls. In honor of Shadow, a black cat that was a great companion to my mother for about sixteen years, I’ll pay the $30 fee for the first person to adopt a black or majority black cat from Gwinnett County tomorrow who can provide me proof of purchase.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

While some cats and dogs are hopefully leaving their cells over the weekend, another Gwinnett denizen is headed to a new cell. Former Duluth Mayor and Gwinnett County Commissioner Shirley Fanning Lasseter was sentenced to 33 months in a minumum-level federal prison, followed by three years on probation. According to the Gwinnett Daily Post, “[s]he will be in custody for all 33 months, as there is no parole in the federal system. She will remain free on bond for the next four to six weeks until she’s notified by federal prison officials.”

Also in federal court yesterday, Gwinnett County developer and former Planning Commissioner Mark Gary was charged with attempting to bribe Lasseter with $30,000 worth of poker chips.
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