Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 14, 2014

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 14, 2014

General Sherman’s army prepared for the March to the Sea on November 14, 1864. The March to the Sea began on November 15, 1964.

The planned route for the 17th Corps was to march from White Hall to Stockbridge, McDonough, Jackson, Monticello, and Gordon and encountered Confederate regiments from Kentucky at the Battle of Stockbridge. To the west, one or two Kentucky regiments engaged the 15th Corps in another skirmish.  [E]arlier that morning, Maj. Gen. Henry Slocum had led the 20th Corps eastward out of Atlanta with instructions to follow the Georgia Railroad eastward to Decatur, Lithonia, Covington, and Madison, tearing up the railroad along the way.

With three of his four columns on the road, Gen. Sherman remained in Atlanta with the 14th corps to oversee the destruction of anything with possible military value to the Confederacy. The next day, they would then proceed east on the road to Lithonia, then in a southeastern direction to Milledgeville, where the 20th and 14th corps would reunite in seven days.

On November 16, 1864, Sherman left Atlanta in smoking ruins.

A 2010 Wired article argues that Sherman’s rampage through Georgia and the Carolinas changed modern warfare.

Vengeance aside, the real objective of Sherman’s march was to cut the Confederacy in two, cripple Southern industrial capacity, destroy the railroad system and compel an early Confederate surrender. It was also intended to break Southern morale — in Sherman’s words, to “make Georgia howl.”

Sherman was vilified for his barbarism, but the Union commander was a realist, not a romantic. He understood — as few of his contemporaries seemed to — that technology and industrialization were radically changing the nature of warfare.

It was no longer a question of independent armies meeting on remote battlefields to settle the issue. Civilians, who helped produce the means for waging modern war, would no longer be considered innocent noncombatants. Hitting the enemy where he ate and breaking him psychologically were just as important to victory as vanquishing his armies in the field.

Sherman grasped this and, though he wasn’t the first military proponent of total war, he was the first modern commander to deliberately strike at the enemy’s infrastructure. The scorched-earth tactics were effective. The fragile Southern economy collapsed, and a once-stout rebel army was irretrievably broken.

Meanwhile, the marshals of Europe watched Sherman’s progress with fascination. And they learned.

On November 14, 1944, the Constitutional Convention working on a revised document for Georgia reversed its position on home rule that had been adopted the previous day on the motion of Governor Ellis Arnall

Three astronauts with connections to Georgia – Eric Boe, Robert Kimbrough, and Sandra Magnus – were aboard the space shuttle Endeavor when it lifted off on November 14, 2008.

Earlier this week, a new monument commemorating the beginning of Sherman’s March to the Sea was placed on the grounds of The Carter Center in Atlanta. Walter Jones of Morris News brings the details.

The Georgia Historical Society is to unveil its latest monument today in a small ceremony on the grounds of the Carter Presidential Library, a quiet, tree-studded sanctuary that was the site of Union Gen. William T. Sherman’s departure from Atlanta along a nearby road. He had seized that city after a series of summer battles and then systematically destroyed its factories, banks and railroads to prevent their continued use in support of the Confederate army. His next destination would be Savannah, but Southerners didn’t know that at the time because he divided his troops and sent some toward Macon and others toward the munitions factories in Augusta to hide his true target.

Cities along the way that resisted were destroyed as Atlanta had been. Those that surrendered peacefully were spared.

The campaign would become the subject of songs, family tales, history books and military instruction. Modern commanders would copy it in the bombings of Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima and Hanoi for its demoralizing effect on civilians.

“What scholars have discovered is that the families along the route of the march, and those who feared they were along the route of the march, wrote to their husbands and said ‘come home,’” said Todd Groce, president of the Historical Society. The resulting flood of desertions crippled the crumbling rebel army.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Perhaps Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee is pursuing a divide an conquer strategy, publicly apologizing to one critic, while seeking the removal of a member of Cobb County’s Ethics Board.

The Marietta Daily Journal brings news of an open letter from Tim Lee in which the Chairman takes a conciliatory tone.

While everything we did was legal, I am troubled by the criticism regarding a lack of transparency and that we could have done a better job of communication to eliminate genuine concern or confusion over how the project came about. Some have ascribed the worst motives to me and everyone involved, and I believe much of that criticism is politically inspired or is being used as a subterfuge to attack the Braves project merely because they disagree with the decision.

On the other hand, it is clear to me that some of the criticism about how we handled the project is very sincere. I have faced so much criticism from political adversaries about this project that I unfortunately forgot some people like Mr. Cheek may be zealous in their opinions, but not wrong in their motives. In the case of Mr. Cheek, while I may disagree with his charges, I believe he is sincere in his contention we could have handled the situation differently. To the extent I have suggested his motives are not sincere, I apologize.

In hindsight, I realize it would have been helpful to provide more information at the time of the public announcement about the private phase of the discussions before the deal was made public. For example, I could have provided a written summary to Commissioners and the public regarding the timeline and process of my discussions with the Braves. To the extent I could have done things differently and better communicated our actions, I sincerely apologize.

The critic, Tom Cheek, does not consider the matter closed.

Cheek has said multiple times in the past he would withdraw the complaint if Lee apologized, even writing in his original ethics complaint filed in August he “would drop the complaint if the Chairman publically apologizes for his actions and pledges to be more careful concerning using outside advisors in place of the Governing Authority — the full Board of Commissioners.”

After reading the letter, however, Cheek said he would not back down.

“It does not address the Open Records Act issues in my complaint, so I’m not going to drop the complaint,” Cheek said.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution brings word of questions being raised about whether a Cobb Ethics Board members should recuse herself from considering a complaint against Lee.

Lee switched attorneys, and his new counsel is the ex-husband of ethics board member Angeline Fleeman Mathis.

mails obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution show attorney Ben Mathis, chairman of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, notified the ethics board Nov. 4 that he has taken over Lee’s defense of a complaint that alleges the chairman improperly hired attorney Dan McRae to negotiate the preliminary stadium deal with the Atlanta Braves, then used private email accounts to skirt the open records law.

Ben Mathis’ email says his ex-wife should “consider and decide whether she can recuse herself.”

Depending on her decision, it may be necessary to file a motion for recusal, which will require a board decision and appointment of a new member,” Mathis wrote in the email.

Former DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer has been reprimanded by the DeKalb County Ethics Board.

The DeKalb County Board of Ethics voted unanimously Thursday to reprimand former Commissioner Elaine Boyer for using her taxpayer-backed charge card for personal gain.

Boyer will agree to the reprimand and admit that she violated ethical rules, said her attorney, Anne Lewis. Boyer didn’t attend the Board of Ethics meeting.

The reprimand was negotiated between Lewis and the Board of Ethics, and it avoided a formal hearing and the potential for harsher penalties. It will become final upon Boyer’s signature.

Boyer acknowledged the violations in a response to the board Wednesday. Boyer also pleaded guilty [in September] to charges that she bilked taxpayers out of more than $93,000.

Ethics complaints are still pending against each of DeKalb’s five remaining commissioners.

Questions about the propriety of actions by a DeKalb County Superior Court Judge continue, leading to the Quote of the Week,

Prosecutors are asking for [Judge C.J.] Becker’s removal from the case because her impartiality could be questioned, according to legal documents filed Wednesday afternoon.

The motion filed Wednesday by the district attorney’s office seeks Becker’s removal from Lewis’ case, saying her recent actions call for her to be disqualified. The motion also requests that “an impartial judge” decide the question of whether Becker should be removed from handling Lewis’ case any further.

Becker said in a statement Monday she plans to resign, and she confirmed she’s under investigation by the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission.

“Judge Becker revealed the JQC investigation, and that’s her right,” said Lester Tate, chairman of the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission. “I cannot talk about the substance of that, but I can say that a press release does not stop an investigation by the JQC.

Ending Sexual violence and Human Trafficking

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is kicking off a campaign to end sexual violence after a dramatic increase in reports.

According to the Atlanta Police Department’s most recent crime report, the number of reported rapes has increased 44 percent from this time last year, with 127 rapes reported in 2014.

Atlanta Police Chief George Turner said more than 80 percent of those attacks occurred between acquaintances: “People who know each other, or at least they think they know each other.”

He attributes part of that to the rise of social media apps as a way to meet romantic interests.

“From the data that we’ve received, it’s clear to us you have a wide variety of things taking place. People literally order up an individual to participate with sexually or (place) an advertisement on social media that they are available. And then things don’t work out,” he said.

Reed’s administration partnered with smartphone app-based companies Uber, a ride-sharing service, and Circle of 6, an app aimed at preventing sexual violence, for the campaign. Circle of 6 allows users to quickly reach select friends with an alert message for help. Smartphone users can order a ride from Uber through an app.

“We thought, because of the extraordinary platform that Uber has, we really could help the women in Atlanta always have the ability to let somebody know that they are in danger and transportation to get out of there,” Reed said.

I like the idea of using new technology to seek help in fixing crime, especially where technology appears to be related to some of the crimes in question. But as an aside, does this mean indicate anything about the City of Atlanta’s position on Uber’s car sharing service? Remember a couple months ago, when taxi services sued Uber in Fulton County Court over an Atlanta municipal ordinance.

In the Fulton County Superior Court lawsuit, the drivers say Uber is violating a city ordinance that makes it illegal for a taxicab to operate without a city-issued certificate of public necessity and convenience.

“Uber has been operating in Atlanta with little concern about the safety of their passengers and zero concern for the laws that protect them,” Scott McCandliss, one of 13 cabbies and owners who filed the suit recently, said in a statement. “Our incomes have steadily dropped since Uber started and legally licensed drivers are leaving the business.”

The City of Brookhaven has joined a campaign against Human Sex Trafficking and State Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) and Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens (R) joined the City Council in an announcement.

Brookhaven just became Georgia’s first city to join a task force combating child sex trafficking. At a Nov. 10 press conference and ceremony, city officials signed a “Not Buying It” pledge and joined the Georgia Task Force on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children.

City Councilman Joe Gebbia, who helped bring the initiative to Brookhaven, said the city is eager to lead by example.

“It was a great opportunity to bring an educational program to our citizens, to our businesses, to our schools, to the HOAs,” he said. “We had no problem on council; we had 100 percent agreement. The mayor got on board and we made the commitment to be the first city to certify and be the example of what other cities need to be doing, not just sign a piece of paper. The importance of what we did is what happens from this point forward.”

Speaking of Brookhaven, on Wednesday, John Park was sworn in as the new City Council Member from District 2.

Finally, to close out the Brookhaven section of today’s report, the City has it’s own four-legged General Sherman – a beaver is causing problems in the Drew Valley part of the city.

It appears a Beaver has again decided to dam up the Outlet Control Structure in the Drew Valley Detention Pond.

During this past summer, Brookhaven’s Stormwater Department completely removed all of the debris – both in the Outlet Control Structure and in the pond itself.

For a period of time, the pond drained well and remained dry, until the Beaver decided a water feature really tied his master plan together.

So, he dammed it up again.

A glimpse at the Governor’s agenda

As a follow-on to a two-part criminal justice reform that Governor Deal worked to pass, an additional initiative aimed at reforming the state’s misdemeanor probation system may be headed for the General Assembly.

At the direction of Gov. Nathan Deal, a panel of criminal justice experts has been studying the state’s misdemeanor probation system and is expected to make a slate of recommendations.

“Transparency and oversight are probably the two key catch phrases that are driving what we’re doing,” said Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Michael Boggs, co-chair of the governor’s Criminal Justice Reform Council.

A highly-critical state audit released earlier this year found widespread failures in many courts that place thousands of Georgians a year on probation for traffic offenses and other misdemeanors.

Members of the council have reviewed dozens of recommendations included in the blistering audit and have also met with the system’s stakeholders — judges, probation companies, attorneys representing people on probation and state employees who monitor probation offices around the state.

The audit found that some courts did not have proper contracts with their probation providers and did not properly oversee the work done by the probation offices. The audit reported a list of shortcomings in the way probation offices handled people on probation, sometimes failing to hold them accountable and other times subjecting them to improper up-front charges, excessive reporting requirements and improper extensions of probation terms.

About 80 percent of Georgians on misdemeanor probation are supervised by for-profit companies. Many Georgians are placed on probation simply to give them time to pay off traffic fines they couldn’t afford on the day they went to court.

The state audit recommended some action by the General Assembly, but many of its recommendations called on the courts to improve the situation themselves. The Community Corrections Association of Georgia, which represents probation providers, is supporting ideas for new standards, including those covering warrants and making sure contracts are clear when it comes to reporting requirements and how payments are allocated.

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