Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 25, 2015

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 25, 2015

On June 25, 1788, the Commonwealth of Virginia became the tenth states to vote for ratification of the United States Constitution by a vote of 89 to 79. A committee was appointed to be chaired by George Wythe to draft a proposed Bill of Rights.

On June 25, 1868, the United States Congress provisionally readmitted Georgia to the Union following the Civil War with the requirements that they ratify the Fourteenth Amendment and never deprive any citizens of voting rights.

On June 25, 1876, Indians under the leadership of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse defeated the U.S. Army 7th Cavalry under Lt. Colonel George Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn.

On June 25, 1888, the Republican National Convention nominated Benjamin Harrison for President of the United States; Harrison’s grandfather was WIlliam Henry Harrison, ninth President of the United States.

On June 25, 1990, the United States Supreme Court released its opinion in Georgia v. South Carolina, a boundary dispute. From Wikipedia:

A… 1922 Supreme Court decision, also called Georgia v. South Carolina, 257 U. S. 516, also held that all islands in the river belong to Georgia, but that the border should be in the middle of the river between the two shores, with the border half way between any island and the South Carolina shore.

Since the 1922 case, a number of new islands were created in the river between the city of Savannah and the ocean, due to the deposit of dredging spoilage or the natural deposit of sediments. In some cases, the new islands were on the South Carolina side of the previously drawn boundary, and Georgia claimed that once a new island emerged, the border should be moved to the midpoint between the new island and the South Carolina shore of the river. In some cases, the state of South Carolina had been collecting property tax from the land owners and policing the land in question for a number of years.

When an island causes the border to leave the middle of the river, it raises the question as to how the border line should return to the middle of the river at each end of the island. South Carolina advocated a right angle bend at each tip of the island, while Georgia advocated a “triequidistant” method which kept the border an equal distance between the two shores and the tip of the island (resulting in a smooth curve.

Georgia Politics

Georgia has fallen to fifth place in the CNBC ranking of the top states for business. We fell in the Workforce, Infrastructure, and Economy categories and continue to be weak in Quality of Life.

After a recount, Sheri Gilligan still came up short in the race for House District 24, and a runoff will be held July 14th between her and David Van Sant, who came in second.

Carroll County will put a SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) on the ballot in November.

Leonard Church 628

I received this postcard in my mailbox yesterday despite living nowhere near Kennesaw. It was hand-addressed and stamped, and I suspect it means some larger number of these are being mailed to actual residents in Kennesaw. I hit the Google to see if it’s true, and it appears that Leonard Church was indicted in January for .

Recently, Kennesaw City Council members asked why Church is still serving on the council, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.

Addressing the council, Kennesaw resident Anthony Depaola, an Army veteran and student at Georgia Highlands College, asked “Why has Mr. Church not resigned?”

Mayor Mark Mathews told Depaola he would answer all of his questions, but that he could not direct questions to Church.

“Have you asked him to resign?” Depaola asked. “It looks like to me that you guys are in full support of this. For someone to sit there and make daily decisions for our city that has been charged of this kind of thing is unacceptable.”

City attorney Randall Bentley said he has researched the laws related to a council member resigning at the City Council’s request. Council members must be found guilty of a felony charge that relates to the performance of their duty to be forced out of office, Bentley said.

“You think what he did has no effect on his job?” Depaola asked. “You guys are all morally OK with it? It’s just like life goes on as normal. Let’s sweep it under the rug like nothing ever happened.”

Mathews said he and the council don’t have the power to remove Church from office.

“There are no penalties that we can do to each other. We can’t do anything to each other,” Mathews said.

As of 5 PM Friday, a sign moratorium becomes effective in Forsyth County following a recent decision by the United States Supreme Court.

As of 5 p.m. Friday, the county’s planning department will stop accepting sign applications.

In addition, signs won’t be allowed to be set up, with the only exemptions for expression signs and signs put up via permits applied for before the moratorium.

According to a news release from the county’s government, expression signs are those not otherwise specifically defined and permitted in the county ordinance and which express an idea. Those don’t require a permit and will continue to be allowed.

Dawson County Commissioners are considering an ordinance to outline parental responsibilities and liabilities for allowing underage drinking in their homes.

“As a parent, I feel like this is a basic step in helping us protect our children from people who may make decisions that would make decisions different than I would as a parent,” she said. “There’s a lot about kids making their own choices…but 21 is the legal age to drink. Everybody knows it. It is my responsibility as a parent to have my children understand and respect that law.”

If approved, the Social Hosting Ordinance would hold parents accountable for letting minors drink alcoholic beverages at their homes.

“I certainly don’t appreciate when other parents allow it to happen at their homes, provide a place, provide the alcohol,” Reed said. “This ordinance is just a good, basic step and a coverage to help me as a parent to have another thing to talk to other parents about and to talk to other school officials and other people in our community to let them know that Dawson County cares about our kids.

Representatives with Dawson County Family Connection requested that the board consider the matter.

“Adults who supply alcohol to youth or knowingly allow underage drinking need to be held accountable,” said Tiffany Davis, coordinator for the organization’s Be the Key Campaign, which focuses on underage drinking prevention.

Proposed fines are up to $1,000 and 20 hours of community service for the first offense.

The Coweta County Board of Education approved a 2015-16 school year budget lower than the previous year.

The budget totals just over $229 million, $14 million less than the 2015 fiscal budget of just over $243 million. It includes an operational budget of $179,110,178, almost $7 million more than the previous year.

School System Assistant Superintendent for Finance Keith Chapman has reported to the board that the system is currently on track to avoid any use of budgeted reserves from the 2015 fiscal year because of operational cost controls and increases in state and local funding during the year.

Chapman also reported an improvement in state revenues for the upcoming fiscal year, and said that continued improvement in the local tax digest is expected.

The Gwinnett County Board of Education will consider finalizing the previously adopted tentative millage rate and two charter school applications today.

Two public hearings about the millage rate are also scheduled for 11:45 a.m. and 6 p.m. at the district office at 437 Old Peachtree Road NW in Suwanee. The School Board is also expected to adopt the millage rate of 19.80 mills for maintenance and operations and 2.05 mills for debt service related to the 2016 budget. The School Board tentatively adopted the rate last month.

Kudos to the Gwinnett County Commission for its decision to make Naloxone available to local law enforcement.

County commissioners voted unanimously late Tuesday night to let the county’s fire department sell doses of the anti-overdose drug Naloxone to law enforcement agencies which operate in the county. At the same time, however, county leaders expressed hope that the drug won’t be needed.

“It has proven itself to work in other circumstances, but we hate to even think about the need to use it,” Chairman Charlotte Nash said.

The commission’s decision opens the door for city police departments, the Sheriff’s Office and Georgia State Patrol units working within the county to gain greater access to the drug. The doses will come from a supply that the fire department has already purchased.

“Naloxone is a medication given to patients who have overdosed on narcotics to counteract the dangerous and sometimes fatal conditions, such as respiratory depression,” fire Chief Casey Snyder told commissioners.

Also known as Narcan, Naloxone is used by several law enforcement departments in Georgia, including Gwinnett County police, to reverse the affects of a heroine or other opioid overdoses. The drug stabilizes a person long enough to get he or she to a hospital where more permanent medical treatment can be provided.

The Peachtree City Council has made clear to staff that they expect no property tax hike, no raises, and a balanced budget for FY 2016.

Neighboring Fayetteville will see an uptick in the city budget.

At $11.54 millon in revenues, the general fund budget will see an increase of $1.228 million over the current $10.3 million budget adopted a year ago. Fayetteville’s evolving economy saw significant gains through increased tax digest values which City Manager Ray Gibson said grew at 6.4 percent. Also accounting for revenue growth were increases in sales tax revenues.

Mayor Greg Clifton said there is no expectation that the millage rate will increase, though the council will need to discuss the potential for a rollback given the additional revenues to be collected based on increased digest figures. Clifton said that if no rollback occurs, the council would likely use those dollars for things such as public safety staffing.

The proposed budget includes six staff positions totaling $366,835. Those include three positions in the police department, one position in public works, one position in planning and zoning and one part-time position in the fire department.

Grantville City Council is considering returning to itself the power to hire and fire the city attorney after last year granting that power to the Mayor.

“It’s about us having the negotiating power as a council body to hire and terminate, we need to take control of that,” [City Council member Leonard] Gomez said. “We need to have that power back to the council instead of the mayor. I don’t want to take it to administrative [session] … there is no need. We either decide right now to do it or just forget about it.”

Gomez’s change of heart was noticed by Councilmember Ruby Hines, who inquired about what could have changed in the span of one year.

“If it was good then, why do you want to change it now?” Hines asked.

Councilman Gomez responded he didn’t think it out in 2014. “Sometimes you make mistakes, and no one is perfect,” Gomez said. “Things change.”

Murray County Emergency Medical Services has acquired a four-wheel drive emergency vehicle through a program administered by the Georgia Forestry Commission’s Firefighter Property Program.

“It will not only make mountain calls a lot easier, but it will save some wear and tear on our other ambulances,” said Doug Douthitt, Murray EMS supervisor. “Some of the higher elevation roads are rough, and they are especially difficult in inclement weather.”

The Georgia Regents University Public Safety Director will leave his post June 30 after having been put on administrative leave June 1.

The Cobb County Board of Assessors has finalized the county’s tax digest, which shows a 6.9 percent increase in value for real and personal property.

Each of Cobb’s six cities saw its total digest increase this year, as well. Smyrna saw the biggest increase at about 11.6 percent, followed by Austell with 11.3 percent and Powder Springs with 8.3 percent. Acworth saw its net digest increase by about 7.4 percent, Marietta saw a 6.2 percent increase and Kennesaw saw a 6.7 percent jump in its net digest.

Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon said the increase in the city’s digest — and the corresponding increase in property tax revenue — will allow the city to give its employees a raise and add some new positions, all without a tax increase.

“We have done without some things that we just could not afford over the last five or six years,” Bacon said. “We’re happy to see (the digest) stabilize, and maybe next year it will continue to be at a level pace. For me, it means there will not be a tax increase, a millage increase, and there’s a couple positions we needed and we really just couldn’t afford. And those were added back to the budget.”

Peachtree Corners Mayor Mike Mason will deliver the State of the City Address at the

Flag Battle

Governor Roy Barnes spoke to WABE yesterday about the Georgia flag.

It’s been 14 years since former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes had the Confederate battle cross removed from the official Georgia state flag. He still considers that decision a major factor for his 2002 re-election loss.

“If I had to do it now, I’d do it all over again,” Barnes told Rose Scott and Denis O’Hayer on “A Closer Look.”

Barnes, a Cobb County Democrat, has also called for the end of Confederate Memorial Day as an official Georgia state holiday as well as the removal of the Confederate emblem from state-issued license plates.

On a Georgia Public Broadcasting show, “Two-Way Street,” that will air Saturday, Barnes talked more about the 2002 election.

Barnes took stock of his 2002 election defeat to Republican Sonny Perdue. Angst from teachers about his education reform and plans for a new exurban highway contributed to his defeat. But he said no factor played a bigger role than his decision to shrink the Confederate battle emblem on the state flag.

“I don’t think I would’ve been defeated if not for the flag. Just look what happened. Teachers didn’t get a raise for seven, eight years – why didn’t they get mad about that and beat an incumbent?” he said. “I attribute it to the flag. I don’t have any doubt about it. I had boys that generally went deer hunting on election day make sure they voted against me first.”

He added: “The third rail in Southern politics is race. And we don’t seem to have learned anything.”

Congressman John Lewis (D-5) wants to go further and purge Washington of any signs of the Civil War as well.

Atlanta Democratic U.S. Rep. and civil rights legend John Lewis said it’s high time to take a look at the statues under the U.S. Capitol dome, starting with one of Georgia’s.

“I think it should move, be removed,” Lewis said in an interview Wednesday. “I think there will be other symbols, not just from Georgia but other parts of our country [that are removed]. … It’s the beginning of a movement that will help us move toward the realization that we’re one people, we’re one nation and we have to be sensitive to our own history.”

A marble statue of Stephens sits in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall. Each state gets two statues in the building. Georgia’s other honoree, Crawford W. Long, was a 19th-century physician who was the first to use ether in surgery.

The Stephens statue has been in place since 1927. Typically statues are only removed if the state chooses to install a new statue to replace an obscure honoree. This year Arizona put up a Barry Goldwater statue, evicting World War I veteran John Campbell Greenway.

Energy News

Southern Power, a division of Atlanta-based Southern Company, has surpassed 400 megawatts of solar power in Georgia.

The last agreement covering federal loan guarantees for the construction of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Voglte has been finalized, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Federal loan guarantees totaling $1.8 billion were approved for three subsidiaries of MEAG, according to a DOE news release.

In February 2014, negotiations were completed with Southern Co. and Ogle­thorpe Power for a $6.5 billion loan agreement to finance the first two nuclear reactors licensed in the U.S. in more than 30 years.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, in a news release, said the Vogtle expansion project has diversified the nation’s energy infrastructure and paved the way for more nuclear construction.

“As we move towards a low-carbon future, the department’s loan guarantees will play an important part in expanding the role of nuclear energy as a part of our all-of-the-above energy strategy,” Moniz said.

MEAG owns 22.7 percent of the two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors under construction. Georgia Power owns 45.7 percent, Oglethorpe Power has a 30 percent stake and Dalton Utilities owns the remaining 1.6 percent.

The first of the reactors is scheduled for completion in 2019, the second in 2020. Construction is about three years behind schedule, and independent monitors for Georgia have cautioned that the project could see more delays.

In Stevenson, Alabama, Google will convert a shut-down coal-fired power plant into a data center.

When it’s completed, the Alabama data center is expected to create about 100 new jobs, Gov. Robert Bentley said Wednesday.

The data center will rely solely on renewable energy, helping to minimize the pollution created by the power demands of rows upon rows of computer servers running around the clock. Two other Google data centers in the U.S., located in Iowa and Oklahoma, already run entirely on wind power. Google is taking over an outdated power plant on a 350-acre site owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority in Stevenson — about 60 miles northeast of Huntsville. The utility’s board of directors decided to close the plant earlier this year after the Environmental Protection Agency drafted tighter financial and environmental regulations for coal-fired plants, according to TVA officials.

Bentley said Google will use the plant’s existing electric transmission lines and work with TVA to incorporate renewable energy into TVA’s electrical grid. Google expects the Alabama data center to run on solar or wind power, or a combination of both.

Google Inc. sees potential to redevelop other industrial sites as it looks for other places to build data centers, said Gary Demasi, the company’s director of global infrastructure.

Perhaps there are some sites in Georgia that would be perfect for this kind of project.

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