Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 4, 2012

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Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 4, 2012


These coonhound puppies have been vaccinated and are available for adoption from Floyd County Animal Control in Rome, Ga. To adopt one or all of the puppies, call Floyd County at 706-236-4545 or visit the shelter at 431 Mathis Road in Rome, GA 30161. Adoption fees are $40 per dog and includes vaccinations. Someone involved in animal rescue says that these puppies will be euthanized Tuesday if they aren’t adopted.

Dawsonville soldier dies in Afghanistan

Staff Sergeant Alexander G. Povilaitis of Dawsonville gave his life last week in Afghanistan, dying after he was wounded by an IED.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Senate Ethics Committee released a statement that “substantial cause exists to believe that Senator Balfour violated Senate Resolution 5 as it is further defined in the Senate Administrative Affairs Per Diem Policy and will seek to negotiate a settlement of the matter with Senator Balfour. If no settlement is reached, the Committee will hold public meetings on the issue.” Some commentators would evidently prefer that process and the rights of the accused be exchanged for summary judgment.

Senator Balfour replied in a statement printed in the Gwinnett Daily Post:

“I still have not been allowed to go before the committee and defend myself.”

“When I do, I am confident the committee will understand that a senator who gave up thousands of dollars in taxpayer-funded pension benefits had no intention of doing anything wrong in a matter of a few hundred dollars,” the statement read.


At the Gwinnett County Republican Party’s monthly breakfast on Saturday, Commission Chair Charlotte Nash said that because of the timing of former Commissioner Shirley Fanning-Lasseter’s resignation due to her guilty plea to federal bribery charges, the remainder of her term will be filled by Special Election based on the pre-2012 district lines. Presumably the Special Election will be nonpartisan.

The Republican Primary on July 31st and November General Election to serve a full term will proceed as planned and will be based on the new district lines.

Nash told the Gwinnett Daily Post that despite having a shorthanded Commission with the possibility of tie votes,

“We will deal with those situations one-by-one if they occur,” Nash said. “Bottom-line, we have to conduct the business of the county, and I am certainly going to do my best to ensure that we meet our responsibilities. I expect the other commissioners to be committed to doing the same thing.”

Nash herself took office after winning a special election following the resignation of former Gwinnett County Chairman Charles Bannister, who resigned to avoid being charged with perjury before a grand jury investigating land deals. Debbie Dooley said, “I think voters have a distrust in the BOC with all the recent developments,” she said. “Charlotte Nash is taking the right steps to restore that trust, but it will take time.”

Residents who knew Fanning-Lasseter from her years of public service were shocked and saddened by her guilty plea.

Gwinnett County’s Board of Commissioners released an agenda Friday that includes voting on the staff’s recommendation to reject the proposal to privatize Briscoe Field, but the bidder will ask for a delay in consideration until a full Board can vote.

At 2:30 PM today, Brett Smith, CEO of Propeller Airports Inc., will hold a news conference at Briscoe Field:

“Since the District 1 Commission seat is now vacant, no important issues should be voted on by the Commission until a new District 1 Commission representative is seated. It would be incredibly unfair to have a vote on a major issue affecting the whole county if that district is not represented.”

A sign vendor has agreed to offer discounted yard signs to GaPundit readers. One-color yardsigns on corrugated plastic with an included metal H-stand cost less than $3.00 each and two-color signs with included stands for less than $3.50 each. Shipping is not included but will be calculated before you order. Email us for more information.

Walter Jones writes that Georgia Democrats qualified this year fewer candidates than at any time since Reconstruction, and notes the growing number of party switchers at the local level in this year’s primary elections.

Is the Democratic Party going the way of the dinosaurs, loping slowly into the tar pits and permanent extinction?

Probably not.

For one thing, they’ll be aided by the dynamics of one-party rule.

First, there’s no one else to blame when things go.

“One thing the Republican right wing has continued to do is unite us,” said Roger Sikes, organizer for the Atlanta Jobs With Justice labor group.

Second, ideological groups traditionally sympathetic to the Republican Party will lose patience with the philosophical dilution that comes from having a tent so big that it includes nearly everyone.

In the meantime, Georgia is settling into the habits of a one-party state where the debates will be between the ideologues and the pragmatists on the same side of the aisle. Those issues will boil down to questions of degree rather than the bold innovations that come from broader diversity.

And Democrats, as the loyal opposition, will struggle to be heard.

Kelsey Thomas, for the University of Georgia’s Georgia Political Review, writes:

Is the Democratic Party of Georgia dying? For now, it appears that the party is extensively weakened, and it remains to be seen if it can recover. If Georgia Democrats cannot pose legitimate challenges to Republican incumbents and lose ground in the state legislatures and local offices, there’s a good chance that Republicans could experience a level of the deeply rooted control over state politics that Democrats enjoyed after Reconstruction. This is because voters who become used to voting for a party – particularly at the local level – are more likely to develop the habit of voting for that party. In politics, habit quickly becomes loyalty, allowing one party to usually secure a person’s votes for their entire lifetime after they gain their support in just a few elections.

The 2012 elections could seemingly do one of two things for Georgia’s Democratic Party: it could provide them with a comeback opportunity in which they could recover a few seats and move forward to 2014, or it could allow the Republican Party to become so ingrained in the state as to ensure GOP success through post-2020 redistricting and possibly beyond.

Republican Public Service Commissioner Chuck Eaton faces two Democrat opponents; Steve Oppenheimer is running as a Democrat against Eaton in the General Election, and Matt Reid qualified as a Republican, despite having voted in Democratic Primaries from at least 2000 through 2010, and having donated $250 to Obama’s presidential campaign.

Governor Nathan Deal has before him a short list of nominees to the Supreme Court released by the Judicial Nominations Commission.

Cynthia “C.J.” Becker, a DeKalb County Superior Court judge and a finalist for a Supreme Court opening in 2005;

Keith Blackwell, a Court of Appeals judge who chaired the “Lawyers for Deal” committee during Deal’s gubernatorial campaign before Governor Sonny Perdue appointed him to the bench in the fall of 2010;

Elizabeth “Lisa” Branch, a litigation partner at Smith, Gambrell & Russell and a finalist for an opening on the state Court of Appeals last year;

Michael Brown, co-leader of Alston & Bird’s government & internal investigations group and a former federal prosecutor;

William Ray II, a Gwinnett County Superior Court judge who was on the shortlist for a 2009 Supreme Court vacancy;

Tilman “Tripp” Self III, a superior court judge in the Macon Judicial Circuit;

and Benjamin Studdard III, chief judge of the Henry County State Court and a finalist for the 2009 Supreme Court vacancy and last year’s Court of Appeals opening.

Liberal group Georgia Watch has released an analysis of Supreme Court justices:

“In 2011, the Georgia judiciary wavered back and forth between expanding and constricting the protections afforded to Georgia consumers in today’s turbulent marketplace. From an unsettling interpretation of the Fair Business Practices Act to bolstering consumer remedies in foreclosure actions, 2011 was a busy year,” said the report’s author Matthew Massey.

For example, the justices ruled in favor of consumers facing the possibility of foreclosure but against them in a lawsuit when customers relied on what a sales representative promised beyond what the contract called for.

State Rep. Doug McKillip (Opportunist-Athens) and his Republican opponent Regina Quick, are arguing over whether support for McKillip’s “fetal pain” bill is a requirement for being Pro-Life. Some Atlanta Dems think the issue is not how pro-life you are, but simply beating McKillip, so an Atlanta fundraiser for Quick featured Democratic Rep. Kathy Ashe (Atlanta) and Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (Decatur), as well as former Atlanta City Council member Panke Bradley Miller and Bob Smith, a Watkinsville Republican. In April, Athens Mayor Nancy Denson, a Democrat who holds nonpartisan office, gave $500 to Quick.

Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols will tour the state with a fleet of alternative-fueled vehicles to promote his own political aspirations non-gas fueled alternatives. Once scientists develop a car that runs on hot air, Echols will no longer need external fuel sources.

The tour kicks off next Monday in Atlanta, with vehicles on display in the Lenox Square parking lot from 10 a.m. until noon and the roundtable scheduled in the nearby University of Georgia Terry College of Business location on Lenox Road.

Later on June 11, the tour will make one of its two stops in Northeast Georgia, with the vehicles coming to the Winder Community Center, 113 E. Athens St. in Winder, from 4-6 p.m.

The tour will be back in this part of the state on June 19, when the show sets up from 10-11 a.m. at Road Atlanta, 5300 Atlanta Highway in Braselton.

No word on whether Georgia Power will be showing its Tesla Roadster, or when I will get my overdue test drive of that Tesla.

Tommy Lee, a Republican candidate for Carroll County Commission chair, is profiled in the Times-Georgian:

First, I’m committed to open and accessible government,” he said. “As a community, we can’t always get everything we want, but you should be able to voice your opinions and concerns to someone who will listen to you and weigh them against the needs of our district and county as a whole. If I can help you, I certainly will and if I cannot, then I’ll explain why. Either way, you’ll have my ear.”

Lee pledged to work to keep a balance between the county’s rural heritage and economic growth.

The Georgia Department of Community Health is considering whether to turnover management of the state’s Medicaid program to private care management organizations in order to control increasing costs.

Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, said the department has taken the right approach by analyzing its options. Lawmakers would not need to approve the proposed changes.

“Unsustainable costs are the driving forces behind the state’s Medicaid redesign,” said Deal spokesman Brian Robinson, “but beyond that, Gov. Deal wants reforms that will focus on higher-quality outcomes for recipients.”

The president of the Medical Association of Georgia, Dr. Sandra Reed of Thomasville, said about half of her practice deals with people using Medicaid. Physicians in fields dominated by Medicaid patients have said the program’s low payments and red tape force them to spend more time focusing on claims and less time on patients. If the state increasingly uses for-profit companies to manage care, doctors said it could put more financial pressure on them.

Reed, for example, said she has added cosmetic services to her practice.

“We just can’t keep our doors open if all we do is run our practice on what we make from practicing medicine,” she said.

Local governments may be dragging their feet on implementing revisions to the state’s Open Records and Open Meetings laws, according to Walter Jones of Morris News Service.

About half the cities, counties and school districts have yet to comply with a state law designed to make it easier for taxpayers to see how their money is being spent.

The law requires local governments with budgets over $1 million to submit electronic copies of their tax and expenditure data to a division of the University of Georgia called the Carl Vinson Institute of Government.

The governments have until the end of this month to comply. So far, 169 of 180 school districts, 76 of 159 counties and 117 of 535 cities have submitted materials.

Some of those not complying may be exempt because their budgets are below the threshold.

A second candidate in Augusta has been challenged on allegations that he owes federal taxes and it thus ineligible to run for state office.

The Georgia Constitution states that anyone who doesn’t pay his or her taxes in full or file a payment plan to repay the full amount is not eligible to run for public office.

Candidates sign an affidavit when qualifying that states, “I am not a defaulter for any federal, state, county, municipal, or school system taxes required of such office holder or candidate.”

It adds that in the cases of those who are, “such ineligibility may be removed at any time by full payment thereof, or by making payments to the tax authority pursuant to a payment plan of under such other conditions as the General Assembly may provide by general law (pursuant to Ga. Const. Art. II, Sec. II, Paragraph III).”

Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson may be on thin ice, but not because of politics; the mayor and her staff will attend a free public skating event this afternoon.

Being criticized for supporting tax increase makes you more like Ronald Reagan according to embattled Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee.

Lee compared himself to a Republican icon, defending his move by saying the board made tough decisions, also reducing the county’s budget and number of employees, while maintaining a AAA credit rating with all three major agencies, one of only 37 counties in the country to make such a claim.

“Whereas no one wants to have a tax increase, Ronald Reagan, one of those put forward as being one of the best of the best, first year in office did a tax increase to address the issues he inherited,” Lee said. “Our state legislators did a tax increase three years ago by removing your homestead exemption. Sometimes you have to make the tough decisions to make sure that you’re financially secure and make sure that you have what’s in front of you to move forward. No is not an option.”

Hall County meetings about the T-SPLOST kick off tonight from 5:30 to 7 PM at Oakwood City Hall, 4035 Walnut Circle, the first of four.

Complaints that the Forsyth ethics board failed to follow its own rules have been dismissed.

Visiting Senior Judge Robert Struble ruled that the board’s meetings in question “were proper, fair, and not in violation of any ethical standards.”Visiting Senior Judge Robert Struble ruled that the board’s meetings in question “were proper, fair, and not in violation of any ethical standards.”

Republican Congressional Candidate Wright McLeod (CD12) admitted to filing incomplete campaign disclosures.

“Why we didn’t break them out and put their names in, that is a perfectly valid question,” McLeod told Augusta’s Channel 26. “Certainly in hindsight, we should have.”

The Savannah Morning-News opines that McLeod’s handling of the allegations is doing the candidate more harm than the allegations alone did.

He could make many of his worries go away with some straight talk. And — as seems appropriate in at least one instance — he could simply own up to reporting ommissions and amend his FEC report.

Voters likely wouldn’t hold it against a rookie candidate that he or his supporters botched a disclosure form.

McLeod recently acknowledged in a TV interview that the recipients of payroll items should have been identified, and he has done so.

But there are no plans to file an amended report with the FEC unless it requests one, Croft said.

It’s hard not to suspect that the McLeod campaign may be trying to run out the clock.

The best evidence that DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis is spending like an out-of-control drunken soldier is that the County paid $4000 to put up eight 4×6 signs touting Ellis in connection with government tax spending projects while Ellis is in the midst of a reelection fight.

After Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed took to the nation’s airwaves to defend Obama attacks on Mitt Romney’s history with Bain, Matthew Cardinale of Atlanta Progressive News notes that Reed hired other former Bain consultants for top jobs in his administration and lavished praise on the company:

Reed neither disclosed nor explained why, if he thought Bain Capital was so horrible, he hired two high-level employees–former Chief Operating Officer (COO) Peter Aman and current Deputy Chief Operating Officer Hans Utz–immediately after the two had been working at Bain.

Aman, a Partner at Bain & Capital, took a two-year leave of absence from Bain, in order to work as COO, which is essentially a Deputy Mayor position, under Mayor Reed, from the beginning of 2010 to the end of 2011.

When Reed announced his intention to hire Aman, shortly after being elected in November 2009, he spoke positively about Aman and Bain in a public post on his Facebook page.

“Mr. Aman is currently a Partner at the global business consulting firm Bain & Company, where he has helped transform and turnaround dozens of large and complex multinational media and industrial companies.  He has also held several leadership roles in Bain’s Atlanta office, including those in the areas of recruiting, staff allocation and professional development, facilities and information technology operation, risk management and professional standards,” Reed wrote at the time.

“Mr. Aman’s deep involvement in the City of Atlanta began in 2002 when he led a pro bono transformation effort by Bain & Company that lasted for three years, providing $7 million of donated consulting services.  The work by Mr. Aman and the Bain team revealed what was then a substantial gap in the city’s operating budget and designed a series of corrective actions, including the development of a comprehensive turnaround plan, a benchmarking of city cost and employment levels versus other comparable cities, the creation of an economic development plan, and a deeper understanding of tax and fee affordability of the city,” Reed wrote.

In addition, last year, Reed pushed a Bain-style pension reform proposal which included a hard freeze on pension benefits for current employees, so that only accrued benefits were left in place, during the pension compromise debate of 2011.

Freezing pension benefits is just one of the things that Bain typically does when it takes over a company.

Ends & Pieces


Norfolk Southern ran employee appreciation specials behind the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum’s ex-Southern Railway steam locomotive 630 on Saturday and Sunday. The specials departed NS Spring Street operations center, and ran to Forest Park and back. Norfolk Southern is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the merger of the Norfolk & Western Railway with the Southern Railway, and will run public steam excursions in June.

Georgia DOT spent the weekend “upgrading” the bridge at Ashford-Dunwoody over I-285 to a “diverging diamond” designed to confuse out-of-towners facilitate better traffic flow. The other name for diverging diamond interchanges is “Charlie Foxtrot”.

Gregg Allman returned to The Big House in Macon, where the Allman Brothers Band liver from 1970 to 1973, and which now houses the Allman Brothers Museum, to promote his new book, My Cross to Bear, and raise funds for the museum.

Peach County is celebrating its namesake fruit this week, as the Peach Festival continues through June 9th. If you get a chance this week,Eat a Peach.

Forget the zombie apocalypse, I’m worried about Biblical plagues. Anecdotally, it appears that there are very high numbers of copperheads in Metro Atlanta yards, Newnan is seeing larger than usual numbers of snakes, and in Macon, overgrown brush along local creeks is leading to large numbers of water moccasins. Hit that last link for an out-loud laugh.

there are good snakes that eat rodents and other pests. But I don’t care if they teach Sunday school and fight communism. I hate snakes.

If you want to avoid chemicals and go green, [Jarrod Yasenchok, owner of Affordable Wildlife Eviction in Columbus] said, you can use a garden sprayer to spray liquid garlic or coyote urine.

Coyote urine?

“Yes, coyotes eat snakes,” he said.

So what do you do? Catch a coyote and put him in the yard with a 12-pack of Bud Light?

“You can order it online,” Yasenchook said.

The Times-Herald in Newnan gives some options for handling snakes in your yard. Surprisingly, neither “flee,” “grab your shotgun,” nor “cut its head off with a hoe, dredge in flour and fry, then wear its skin on your cowboy hat” appear on the list. Snake-handling preachers who survived last weekend cheered the news.

The second-ever recorded nesting site of a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle in Georgia is attributed to Tropical Storm Beryl.

While Beryl brought an interesting visitor, the storm was also responsible for high tides that destroyed about 2 percent of the 453 sea turtle nests recorded so far this season on Georgia beaches.

“Overall, we don’t expect the storm to have a significant effect on hatching success although we may see slightly lower hatching and emergence success on a few of the southern beaches,” Dodd said.

Tybee saw its first loggerhead sea turtle nest of the season on May 22. With four nests now recorded and a possible fifth being investigated, turtle watchers are feeling optimistic.

“Tybee has not had four nests in May before,” said Tammy Smith, Tybee Island Sea Turtle Coordinator. “This may mean we will have a really high season.”

Sea turtle nesting typically begins in May and continues through July.

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