Category: Board of Education

11
Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections


Anna is a 49-pound, one-year old Pit mix who illustrates one of the heartbreaks of shelters across Georgia. Because she looks like a dog breed with a bad reputation, she’s much less likely to be adopted. She’s available today from Walton County Animal Shelter. Some shelters have developed a reputation for classifying any dog with a wide snout or any muscularity as a Pit bull and condemning them to death.

There’s something about the second picture of Anna that’s oddly compelling and convinces me she’ll make someone a great new best friend.

The Atlanta Underdog Initiative works on promoting responsible dog ownership, providing breed information on pit bulls and mastiffs, finding alternative solutions to breed specific legislation and working with communities to alleviate the pet overpopulation problem.

Their website also has links to other breed-specific groups that promote responsible ownership and information about these breeds. If you’re considering adopting a dog that is described as a Pit Bull or Pit-mix, a great first step would be talking with owners to learn more about the breeds, its temperment, and needs. I’ve received several emails in the last few days from proud and happy owners of Pit-type dogs, including a gentleman who says he trusts his dog to watch out for his grandkids.

Juno is a lab-mix who is estimated to be about six years old. She loves toys and children and is housetrained and gets along with other dogs. From the photo, I’m guessing she likes getting her belly rubbed. She is available for adoption from the Cherokee County Humane Society. You can email the foster home Juno is in if you have questions about her.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

One year ago today, the State of Georgia marked the tenth anniversary of 9/11/2001 with a solemn ceremony at the State Capitol.

“As a result of the attacks of 9/11, nearly 3,000 people perished, not soldiers on a battlefield, but civilians,” Deal said. “Men and women who had simply gone to work that day in New York City and Arlington, Va., became victims of senseless violence.”

“The tragedy would also claim the lives of many brave firemen, police officers and emergency responders. On this occasion, we recognize those who serve in our military, those who travel to dangerous places in the name of freedom and all those at work here in our nation to ensure our safety.”

WABE has a list of local commemorations.

Attorney General Sam Olens has asked the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals to consider lifting an injunction preventing enforcement of part of House Bill 87, Georgia’s Immigration law; the injunction was upheld by a three judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit and Olens is asking the entire Court to rule.

United States District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood, in the Southern District of Georgia, will allow the Navy to move forward with a submarine training range off the coast of Georgia and north Florida, despite concerns about the impact on endangered right whales.

Federal mediators will seek to broker a truce between the dockworkers’ union and employers at East Coast ports to prevent a possible strike that would affect Savannah and Brunswick.

Walter Jones writes about a survey we released yesterday showing that nearly a majority of Georgia voters favor the Charter School Amendment.

The results are the first made public of voter sentiment since the legislature put the amendment on the ballot. Both sides are raising funds for a campaign, although neither has begun advertising.

“With eight weeks before the General Election, I’d rather be in the place of charter-school proponents than that of the opposition,” said Sand Mountain pollster and political consultant Todd Rehm. “For opponents of the charter-school amendment to win, they have to either convince every undecided voter or win a substantial majority of those voters and convert some current supporters.”

Among every age group political party and gender, supporters outnumber opponents.

Gov. Nathan Deal has come out in favor of the amendment, saying it provides parents a choice besides sending their children to a struggling school.

State school Superintendent John Barge broke with his fellow Republicans and opposed it, warning that it would draw needed funding from traditional schools at a time when they face reduced budgets.

The question is on the ballot because the Georgia Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional a law that had created an appointed commission at the state level to grant operating charters to parents rejected by their local school boards.

Here is the full release, along with links to the frequency counts, crosstabs, and statement of methodology, if you’re into that. Charter School Amendment proponents should be careful to not allow opponents to define what the vague wording of the ballot questions means. T-SPLOST supporters probably had a poll showing greater support at some point and we know how that turned out.

Meanwhile, we’re asking you to vote in our online survey on the Charter School Amendment and to give us some insight to your reasons for voting for or against it.

Meanwhile, opponents of the Charter School Amendment are accusing supporters of bullying to force them into neutrality.

Angela Palm with the Georgia School Boards Association says one example involves a switch in position by the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.

“The main reason I think this is going on is to try and distract us and thwart us from moving forward with our campaign.” — Angela Palm, Georgia School Board Association

Until recently, the Chamber had been opposed to the amendment and planned to hold a fundraiser for supporters but has now adopted a neutral stance. Palm says her organization was told from a source that she declines to name that the chamber changed its position after meeting with members of the Gwinnett delegation. She says during that meeting state lawmakers threatened to take away funding for the Gwinnett School System, Gwinnett College and Gwinnett Technical College unless it changed its stance.

It’s also possible that legislators were concerned about the possibility that payments by the Gwinnett County Public School System to the Chamber that may have had the effect of subsidizing lobbying and “voter education” efforts by the Chamber.

Thelonious Jones has dropped out of the election for Augusta Commission District One.

Jones, who revealed his plans after speaking at a West Augusta Neighborhood Alliance candidates forum, said there was “too much division in the community and I don’t want to be a part of it.” He said he could probably do more for the community through his job than by getting elected “where people still have the mindset of yesteryear.”

Jones became the second candidate to drop out of the District 1 race. Harrisburg activist Lori Davis, who doubles as president of the alliance, withdrew from the race before the August qualifying, also citing division in the community.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office is investigating a voter’s complaint that she was placed in the wrong district in Cherokee County for the Primary election.

Secretary of State Chief Investigator Chris Harvey said the investigation will determine if there was a mistake and if it was a single incident.

“Cherokee County is not alone in this particular problem since redistricting,” Harvey said, noting that several complaints across the state are being investigated after the July 31 primary elections.

Harvey said findings would be considered by the state Elections Board, but it may be several months before the complaint resolution is available. He said the investigation would not affect the outcome of any election — elections must be contested in Superior Court.

“I have the data to prove we are almost 100 percent accurate,” [Cherokee elections superintendent Janet] Munda said. “We worked around the clock and weekends to get this done, and we are confident all voters were assigned to the right district.”

The problem with voting from an administrative point of view is that “almost 100 percent accurate” isn’t good enough.

A plan by Cherokee County to implement a fire district tax is running into questions from the Attorney General’s office.

Written by Senior Assistant Attorney General Warren R. Calvert, the opinion calls into question the city’s proposal to impose an ad valorem tax on real property.

That tax, which was slated to have a 1.25 millage, would have paid for the construction of at least two fire stations.

The council has since abandoned plans to implement a district and is mulling other options of raising the revenue needed.

Calvert noted in the letter it was “more than a little doubtful that Canton officials can levy an ad valorem tax for 2012 and thereby retroactively impose a lien as of Jan. 1, 2012, on property that was not located in the fire protection district then because the district had not yet been created.”

Calvert also addressed Dyer’s question about whether the millage would have been considered a tax or a fee.

Calvert notes a tax is “an enforced contribution” backed by the law “for the purpose of raising revenue to be used for public or governmental purposes, not as payment for a special privilege or a service rendered.”

A fee, he added, is a “charge fixed by law as compensation for services rendered.”

Hakim Hilliard, an attorney from the McKenna Long firm, will be the new Chief of Staff to DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis.

Government gadfly George Anderson is giving legitimate supporters of increased enforcement of ethics laws a bad name by showing up at the Snellville City Council meeting to again announce that he’s filed a complaint against Mayor Pro Tem Tom Witts. I know nothing about this matter, but when Anderson puts in an appearance, I assume (1) that the complaint is backed by political opponents of the complaint’s targe, and (2) that it’s so clearly deficient that those political opponents couldn’t find anyone with half a brain to file it on their behalf.

Witts said he consulted attorneys at the time and was told the back taxes [he admits to owing] were not an issue. Snellville City Attorney Tony Powell expressed a similar sentiment last month, saying there did not appear “to be a valid ethics claims that the council could act on.”

Anderson doesn’t agree. He said Monday that he has filed a complaint with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.

Here’s a pro-tip for politics: we know that your complaint is baseless when George Anderson files it you file it with a body that has no jurisdiction over the subject of the complaint and cannot do anything about it. In this case, the Campaign Finance Commission has no jurisdiction over Witt’s qualification to serve or the truthiness of any oath he took.

10
Sep

Will you vote for or against the Charter School Amendment?

Fill out my online form.

10
Sep

Results of statewide poll on Charter School Amendment

 

Press Release

For immediate release:
September 10, 2012

For more information, contact Todd Rehm

First publicly released poll on Charter School Amendment shows broad support, with nearly 50% of voters in favor

Todd Rehm, an Atlanta-based pollster and political consultant released the first public voter survey on the Charter School Amendment that will appear on the General Election ballot on November 6th, 2012.

The question, which uses the same language that will appear on the ballot, shows that 48.3% of likely General Election voters, defined as those who voted in the 2008 or 2010 General Elections, currently favor the measure.

“It’s too early to say that the Charter School Amendment is likely to pass, but it does appear to have a head-start,” said Rehm. “With eight weeks before the General Election, I’d rather be in the place of Charter School proponents than that of the opposition. For opponents of the Charter School Amendment to win, they have to either convince every undecided voters or win a substantial majority of those voters and convert some current supporters.”

While nearly a majority favor the measure, those who did not indicate they would vote for it are evenly split, with 26.2% saying they will vote against it, and 25.5% undecided.

“When you drill down into the results, two things become apparent,” said Rehm. “First is that the measure enjoys widespread support among most of the demographic categories we looked at. Second is that the only group among whom the measure doesn’t receive more support than opposition is voters who don’t identify with a political party, who are primarily undecided on the Charter School Amendment. But with Georgia’s electorate being highly partisan, there aren’t enough of these voters to make the difference on their own.”

Rehm noted that the ballot question is very generic and doesn’t give voters much to go on.

“If you don’t know about the Charter School Amendment before you look at the question, it’s hard to know what it’s intended to do or what effect it will have. That may make that the preamble to the question very important for the ultimate results.”

###

The survey was conducted on September 4, 2012 and includes 1331 respondents who answered all the questions. Respondents were drawn from people who voted in either the 2008 or 2010 General Election, with commercially-available phone matches appended. The margin of error is +/- 2.68 points at the 95% confidence level. The technology used was Interactive Voice Response, (IVR) which is commonly referred to as a “robopoll”.

Results of the survey may be downloaded here.

A statement of methodology is available here.

10
Sep

Charter School Amendment survey results – sneak peek

 

1. Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?”

Press one if you would vote for this amendment. Press two if you would vote against this amendment. Press three if you are undecided.

27
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 27, 2012

Pen 231 at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter holds this cute Lab mix, who has been misclassified as a “Pibble.” She’s accurately described as playful and friendly.

Tomorrow, a fundraiser will be held for the Society of Humane Friends, who run the spay/neuter clinic at the Gwinnett Animal Shelter and support the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Operation Second Chance Jail Dogs ProgramThe event is Saturday, July 28th from 10 AM to 3 PM at Gwinnett County Animal Control, located at 884 Winder Highway in Lawrenceville, and will feature a raffle, bouncy house for kids, hot dogs, hamburgers, and soft drinks. Saturday is also the last day for discounted adoptions at the Gwinnett Shelter.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Owners of convenience stores tied to illegal gambling have contributed thousands of dollars to the campaigns of Muscogee County District Attorney Julia Slater, Muscogee County Sheriff John T. Darr, Marshal Greg Countryman and Municipal Court Judge Steven D. Smith among other candidates.

The contributions have raised questions as employees and relatives of campaign supporters — and at least one contributor himself — have been ensnared in a broadening Columbus police crackdown on illegal cash payouts from electronic gaming machines.

Businesses raided for alleged gambling since 2008 have given at least $28,000 to local candidates over the past four years, including nearly $10,000 to Slater and about $6,000 to Darr, according to an analysis by the Ledger-Enquirer.

The officeholders said they had not considered returning any contributions after the gambling raids, noting the defendants haven’t been convicted. They insisted they have never given or been asked for preferential treatment in exchange for the contributions.

Atlanta Unfiltered writes that Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers is accused of working on mailings for casinos and phone-handicapping services after he was elected to the General Assembly.

Chris McClurg, soon to be unsuccessful candidate for Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge has been named as the biggest offender for political campaign signs in the rights-of-way.

Gwinnett code enforcement officers said the “biggest offender award” goes to Chris McClurg who is running for superior court judge.

Police said of the 150 illegal signs they picked up, 90 belonged to McClurg.

McClurg also has a voting record that includes 2004 Democratic Primary and Primary Runoff elections, and the 2008 Democratic Presidential Preference Primary.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp ruled that Augusta Juvenile Court Judge Willie Saunders is eligible to run for Superior Court.

A formal challenge to Saunders’ candidacy was filed in May by Augusta attorney Jack Long. Long claimed that Saunders should not be allowed to challenge Chief Superior Court Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet for his seat in the Augusta Circuit because state law bars anyone who has defaulted on tax obligations from holding office.

Kemp, who has the final say in such election challenges, decided to adopt Judge Michael M. Malihi’s July 16 ruling, which said although Saunders owes federal taxes, his plan to pay the IRS under a Chapter 13 bankruptcy settlement meets the standard for a payment plan required by state law.

SOS Kemp also announced that his agency’s website will feature a new elections return tool for the primary elections.

“Our Agency’s new ENR system is a great resource for Georgia voters,” said Kemp.  “Information will be distributed efficiently, be interactive, and be able to be broken down to the precinct level.”

Would-be state Senate candidate Garry Guan has dropped out of the race after his residency challenge. Senator Curt Thompson is now unopposed.

Kemp rejected residency challenges against Republican Carla Roberts in HD 81 and Brooke Siskin in HD 95, in both cases adopting the recommendations of the Administrative Law Judge who took evidence.

Ashley Fielding of the Gainesville Times writes about the Republican Primary in the Ninth Congressional District.

One calls herself a “firebrand.” Another repeats that he’s the only “consistent conservative.” And the third rarely sits down without mentioning the U.S. Constitution.

A seven-month campaign for the Republican nomination to run for the newest U.S. House seat in Georgia, which once drew five Republicans from three counties, culminates Tuesday with just three candidates on the Republican ballot.

Those left are a former state representative from Hall County, a retired principal from White County and a former conservative radio talk show host, also from Hall.

If neither Doug Collins, Roger Fitzpatrick nor Martha Zoller is able to garner more than 50 percent of the votes cast, the two with the most support will face off in an Aug. 21 runoff.

The winner of the election will face Democrat Jody Cooley of Gainesville in November’s general election to represent all or parts of 20 counties in Northeast Georgia in Congress.

Former Governor Zell Miller has endorsed the reelection of state Senator Cecil Staton, according to a website owned by Cecil Staton

Senator Miller said, “Shirley and I have known Catherine and Cecil Staton for many years. I don’t do this frequently, but I feel so strongly about this race that I wanted to let you know that I’m supporting Cecil Staton for re-­‐election. I know a conservative champion when I see one.

Don’t let anyone fool you. Senator Staton is pro-­‐life, pro-­‐family, and pro-­‐business. He is a tax-­‐cutter, a budget-­‐balancer, and a job-­‐creator. We need him to keep fighting for our conservative values under the gold dome. I encourage everyone in the six counties of the 18th district to join me in supporting your Senator-­‐-­‐Cecil Staton.

An ethics campaign finance complaint has been filed against Fulton Magistrate Judge Melynee Leftridge over campaign expenditures. According to the filer of the complain,

“The most troubling of these allegations is an apparent elaborate scheme to funnel campaign contributions to a company responsible for maintaining a website www.pirouettesexy.com … the Pirouette Dance Company, whose name was changed to Pirouette Company with the Secretary of State in February 2012, currently maintains a website featuring pictures of scantly clad women and a current schedule of dates and fees,” [complainant Charlie] Statdlander said in a statement.

Other clients of Pirouette include DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis, Democratic State Rep. Pat Gardner, State House candidate Ronnie Mabra, Gail Davenport, DeKalb County State Court Judge Dax Lopez, and Citizens for Transportation Mobility. Sound like a legitimate political consulting practice to me, but that does give me some ideas for my website.

Chuck Eaton, running for reelection to the Public Service Commission, is supported by Charlie Harper, editor of Peach Pundit.

Much of the decisions that the PSC makes are handcuffed by Georgia law and an increasing appetite for  the General Assembly to regulate utilities via every more friendly regulations codified as state law.  Senate Bill 31 continues to resonate as an example, with the legislature, not the PSC, deciding to pre-fund Georgia Power’s return on investment for two new nuclear reactors at plant Vogtle.

One of Chuck Eaton’s strong points is that he is intellectually curious.  He is a person who is willing to admit he doesn’t have all of the answers, and solicits opinions regularly on topics that interest him.

He has a keen grasp on the various risks associated with coal as the EPA continues to push coal powered electric plants toward extinction.  He understands that while natural gas prices are at historic lows right now, the history of the fuel is one of price volatility which could lead to wide variances in power costs.  He understands that nuclear is cheap once the power plants are operational, but getting a plant built after 30 years since the last plant was built will present unique challenges.

Eaton prefers a balanced approach, with Georgia not putting all eggs in one basket.  He’s generally pragmatic about the needs of the state, and balances the needs of Georgians with the requirements that those the PSC regulates are entitled to earn a profit as defined in state law.

While not someone I always agree with, Eaton is someone who can explain and is willing to defend his positions based on fact and underlying law.  That’s a rarity in politics.

In short, I trust him.  That’s also rare.  He’s an incumbent that gets my vote.  That’s getting more rare.

Eaton is also supported by Governor Nathan Deal, Congressman Tom Graves, Attorney General Sam Olens, and numerous other Republicans.

T-SPLOST opponents outnumbered supporters at a debate over the sales tax hike last night at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center.

Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, said her displeasure with the proposal came last year when the toll lanes were activated along Interstate 85. She said her inquiries into the issue, which actually increased congestion, caused her to realize the problem with the bureaucracy.

And, as far as the project list is concerned, she added that a proposal to convert Gravel Springs Road to an interchange angered her Buford constituents.

While debates in the Legislature lingered for years before the current Transportation Investment Act was adopted, Unterman said leaders would be anxious to take on the issue again in January if voters say no to the proposal.

“That’s the risk,” she said of politics intervening in the Legislature, “but I still say that risk is better than dumping billions of dollars into a system that is not working.”

Also in Gwinnett, T-SPLOST opponents are questioning whether county funds are being used to support the T-SPLOST.

Partnership Gwinnett, funded by businesses and government agencies, has won national acclaim for efforts to attract jobs to metro Atlanta. But on Thursday citizens groups questioned whether taxpayers are getting their money’s worth.

They also were skeptical of claims the Chamber of Commerce hasn’t used public money to support the transportation sales tax measure on Tuesday’s ballot.

Some Hispanic leaders joined Mayor Kasim Reed in supporting the T-SPLOST; a group called “Georgia Hispanic Republicans” are unanimously opposed to T-SPLOST. Make of it what you will.

The American Communist Lawyers Civil Liberties Union seeks to intervene in a lawsuit over Sumter County Board of Education district lines.

The Georgia Ports Authority is seeking to intervene in the federal lawsuit challenging the dredging of the Savannah River to improve access to the Port of Savannah.

The Georgia Ports Authority wants to intervene in a federal lawsuit challenging the $650 million deepening of the Savannah River shipping channel saying its contractual and economic interests are at risk.

The authority also asked a judge to block South Carolina’s Savannah River Maritime Commission from entering the suit, saying that would expand the action and simply bring in extraneous issues.

The authority wants the river shipping channel deepened to handle larger ships that will be routinely calling when the Panama Canal is deepened in 2014. It filed the motions on Wednesday and U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel on Thursday gave the other parties in the case until Aug. 6 to respond.

The lawsuit filed by environmental groups contends the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needs a South Carolina pollution permit before the deepening work can begin. The suit alleges toxic cadmium from river silt will be dumped in a dredge spoils area on the South Carolina side of the river.

The suit was brought by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Savannah Riverkeeper, based in Augusta, Ga., as well as the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League and the South Carolina Wildlife Federation.

Forsyth County Elections

Senate district 27 pits Republican Senator Jack Murphy against Forsyth County Tea Party  founder Steve Voshall.

House district 26 is a contest between formers: former State Rep. Tom Knox and former Florida Marlins pitcher Geoff Duncan.

Walker Bramblett, the incumbent Chief Magistrate Judge meets former Chief Magistrate Barbara Cole. In 2008, Cole stepped down as she did not meet then-new requirements for years as a member of the State bar, but she now has enough time as a lawyer to mount a comeback.

The race for County Coroner features a retired medical examiner, a funeral director and a nurse, seeking to succeed Lauren McDonald, who is running for Sheriff.

The Republican primary for County Commission District 2 will decide whether incumbent Brian Tam or one of his challengers, Dennis Brown and Scott Padis, take a seat on the Commission, as no Democrat is running.

County Commission District 4 will also be decided in the Republican primary between incumbent Patrick Bell, and challengers Tim Hubbard, Charles Meagher, Cindy J. Mills and Bill Mulrooney.

One of those candidates for District 4, Cindy Mills, had an ethics complaint filed against her because she failed to list her role as an officer in the Forsyth County Parks Foundation on her Personal Financial Disclosure. She amended her PFD that day.

Holly LaBerge, spokeswoman for the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, said the complaint will not be pursued until after the July 31 election.

“If it was filed within 30 days of an election, we can’t do anything with it until the election is over by law,” LaBerge said.

Click Here

State Rep. Mark Hamilton (R-Forsyth) was appointed chair of the Jekyll Island State Park Oversight Committee, on which he currently serves as a member. Tough duty.

A former Forsyth County deputy who was terminated during his probationary period claims his firing was because he posted on Facebook that he supports Duane Piper, who is challenging Sheriff Ted Paxton in the Republican Primary.

Ends & Pieces

Rocky Creek Solar Farm in Upson County is the first facility of its type in Georgia, and is now producing up to 1 megawatt, enough to power 300 homes. Georgia Power purchases electricity produced at the facility, with an additional 18 megawatts under development.

Effingham County Sheriff’s Office took second place in its division in a national law enforcement highway safety challenge.

Rome-based Bubba will compete in dock diving at the Summer at the Rocks event in Stone Mountain this weekend. The event runs today through Sunday. Bubba is a four-year old chocolate Lab who enjoys food, licking himself, and belly rubs.

Model High School in Rome is holding it’s annual band camp. This is not a one time occurence, but annual.

24
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 24, 2012


“Joelle” is the dark brindle mixed breed shown with her best friend. She is spayed, up-to-date on her shots, house-trained and knows how to use a doggie door. She weighs about 40 pounds and sheds very little. She is available to foster or adopt through Angels Among Us Rescue.

Ethics

Yesterday, the AJC reported that Governor Deal’s 2010 campaigned settled all outstanding complaints before the Georgia Campaign Finance Commission. Their initial story reported that two major issues remained unresolved, but they eventually updated it eight hours later to reflect what actually happened – the “major” charges were dismissed including those related to private air travel, and the campaign paid administrative fees for filling out some paperwork incorrectly.

The Gainesville Times, in an AP story written by Errin Haines, correctly notes:

A commission investigation concluded that the law on the aircraft fees issue was vague, and staff attorney Elisabeth Murray-Obertein said she did not feel a violation of the rules had occurred.

Check out how the mainstream media works and fails to acknowledge its role in a witch hunt against a popular Governor. From the AJC yesterday:

But it was the complaints regarding the campaign’s air travel and Deal’s legal bills that had brought the most attention over the past several years.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in September 2010 that Deal’s campaign had paid a company that he partly owned $135,000 for the use of an airplane. Rome-based ethics watchdog George Anderson later filed an ethics complaint that accused Deal of financially benefiting from campaign expenditures.

But the ethics commission unanimously said Monday that there was no probable cause to believe Deal violated the law that prohibits such a personal benefit.

Ten months ago yesterday, I wrote 2500 words that analyzed the law applicable to Georgia campaign finance and concluded that the laws the AJC cited in its article did not apply, and even if they did there was no violation.

Richard Halicks, an editor with the AJC then came onto the website where I originally published my analysis and claimed that I got some of my facts wrong. Pot, kettle. I refuted point-by-point that editor’s claims and he never replied again.

Now the Campaign Finance Commission has dismissed the charges related to aircraft, and the AJC’s initial reporting was wrong. Is anyone really surprised anymore?

So let’s review the AJC’s behavior on this issue:

  1. Run a story claiming some nefarious misdeeds because you don’t understand what’s going on.
  2. Report on some subpoenas that were supposedly prepared but never issued and that no one but the reporter and the staff who allegedly prepared them have seen and do not release copies of the alleged subpoenas.
  3. Whitewash any criticism on blogs.
  4. Report yet another baseless complaint by George Anderson of Rome as though he doesn’t have a history of filing baseless ethics complaints and refer to Anderson as a “government watchdog.”
  5. Leverage the unconfirmed subpoenas into allegations that the staff members who allegedly prepared them were fired over the content of the subpoenas.
  6. Misstate for hours the outcome of the case when the complaints are dismissed and take no responsibility for the year-and-a-half witch hunt you prompted.

Click Here

From Lori Geary at WSB-TV, we now have an idea where the millions of dollars of wasted money being spent on the T-SPLOST campaign are coming from: corporate coffers.

Documents show Stockert’s group has raised $6.5 million so far, including $250,000 each from the Georgia Association of Realtors, Georgia Highway Contractors Association, Georgia Power, The Coca-Cola Company, Yancey Brothers and Cox Enterprises, the parent company of WSB-TV.  Clear Channel donated $300,000 in billboard space.

Opponents of the sales tax claim big business and contractor who stand to gain from the road and transit projects are pumping money into the campaign.

Stockert told Geary about 20 percent of the money raised came from contractors who would benefit directly from the projects, but he disagrees about their motives.

“They’ve been decimated along with the rest of the construction business in this region with the financial downturn. They’d like to put people back to work,” Stockert said.

Take note: Cox Media, which owns the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, gave a quarter-million dollars to pass the T-SPLOST.

But you won’t learn where all the pro-T-SPLOST money comes from because the “education” component of the tax hike campaign doesn’t have to disclose that:

While the pro-T-SPLOST advocacy effort revealed its 685 donations on Monday, some donors to a separate education effort may remain secret.

Organized as a 501(c)(3) under federal tax laws, the Metro Atlanta Voter Education Network is not legally required to disclose its contributors. Under federal law, the group — called MAVEN — cannot specifically call for residents to vote for the T-SPLOST. Instead they have called it “one solution” to metro Atlanta’s traffic woes.

MAVEN is funding education efforts as well as some get-out-the vote activities, Atlanta Regional Commission Chairman Tad Leithead said.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Secretary of State Brian Kemp has ordered the removal of two state house candidates from the ballot for failing to meet qualification requirements.

Kemp’s office announced Monday that Anne Taylor, a Democrat from Mableton, does not meet the residency requirement to run for the District 39 seat in the House of Representatives. That means Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan will be unopposed in the July 31 primary election.

Kemp also decided that Richie Smith, a Democrat from Lake, is ineligible to run for the District 151 seat in the House. Smith failed to appear at a legal hearing after he was accused of owing taxes.

The City of Blythe will vote on Sunday sales next Tuesday.

The owner of Mack’s Country Store on Georgia Highway 88 said he’s losing $1,500 to $2,000 each Sunday to the competition only a mile and a half away.

Because customers want to buy their gas, cigarettes, beer, wine and other items at one time, they’ve been taking their business to the nearby CITGO station, which lies outside the Blythe city limits in Richmond County and can sell alcohol on Sundays.

“It would mean a whole lot for my business. I need it approved,” Rose said. “Good customers of mine tell me that is exactly what they’re doing on Sundays. I hope that the people in the city of Blythe will understand and vote yes when it comes time to vote it in.”

Mark Hatfield released a YouTube video asking:

In the race for the 7th state senate district, Tyler Harper tells voters that he can be trusted to protect our “Christian, Conservative values” in South Georgia. But given Tyler’s close association and involvement with a company that has received multi-millions of taxpayer dollars in AFFIRMATIVE ACTION contracts from the federal government over the years, how conservative can Tyler really be?

Jim Galloway writes of the video:

the video ties [Hatfield's opponent] Harper to a Bloomberg report, published last February, on white businesses that tapped more than $1 billion in preferential federal contracts by creating minority fronts. Among the individuals cited were “two Ocilla, Ga., modular-building sales companies that had different minority owners with the same white managers:”

Speaking of Jim Galloway, he also noted some shenanigans involving robocalls.

Earlier this month, a Republican candidate for chairman of the Cherokee County school board found herself the object of some underhandedness. From Rebecca Johnston and the Cherokee Tribune:

For School Board chair candidate and current School Board Vice Chair Janet Read, a couple of robo-calls that went out to voters have her calling for answers.

The first, which is said to have gone out from a phone number identified as one belonging to Grassroots Conservatives of Cherokee leader Bill Dewrell, told those receiving the call to contact Read at the Cherokee County School District offices.

The latest, though, not only gave Read’s home phone number for those who might want to contact her, but also appeared to originate from Read’s home phone. The call was so inflammatory that Read called for extra patrols at her home.

However, the political signs in Read’s front yard and that of her neighbor were torn down, neighbors said, and thrown in the street where they were run over repeatedly.

Somebody apparently thinks turnabout is fair play. Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers on Sunday posted the following on via Facebook:

Today, my opponent’s campaign sunk to a new low. We have received calls this afternoon confirming that my opponent’s campaign is making robo-calls against me and claiming to be from Grassroots Conservatives. They have even pirated the cell phone number of innocent 3rd party to make these calls. Bill Dewrell is now taking the extraordinary step to call voters and alert them to the Brandon Beach phone call scam.

It’s not an election season until folks in politics are throwing around threats of defamation suits, this time in Cherokee County.

Cherokee County politics continued to heat up Friday when a political consultant sent a scathing email to a local political action committee and its chairman, which was subsequently published on the group’s website.

Robert Trim, whose clients include Sen. Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock), wrote the email to Board of Education Chairman Mike Chapman, who is also chair for Neighbors for A Better Cherokee, a PAC working for pro-public education candidates in Cherokee County.

In Thursday’s email, Trim writes: “I’m pretty busy these days as a professional in my field, and although I thoroughly enjoy crushing amateurs as a hobby… right now I’m busy enough that paying attention to you will be more annoying that you are worth (sic). For that reason, and that reason alone, I’m giving you a warning shot across the bow instead of grinding you into concrete like a bug.”

Chapman said Trim sent the email to the Neighbors for A Better Cherokee Gmail account Thursday morning.

He said the webmaster for the group then responded with an apology explaining that it had been removed. Trim responded with the final email, making threats directed toward Chapman.

“The bottom line is, we immediately did what he asked and we apologized,” Chapman said. “My beef is not with Robert Trim, it’s about getting the facts out. We changed the verbiage he requested we change immediately.”

Trim goes on in the email to say that if Chapman plans to accuse him of law breaking, Chapman “better be sure” he has committed a crime.

“In my case, I haven’t…and your site is defamation per se,” Trim wrote. “Check with your lawyers…you aren’t protected by NYT v. Sullivan and can no more accuse me of crimes than I can set up a website and start identifying you as anything other than a failed candidate.”

Trim’s reference to the New York Times v. Sullivan case is referencing the 1964 lawsuit that established actual malice must be proven to be considered defamation and libel in regard to press reports about public officials and public figures.

Other silliness related to campaign season? More questionable robocalls.

Robo calls over the weekend claiming to be associated with the Oconee County GOP are not related to the organization in any way, Chairman Jay Hanley said in a news release Monday.

The news release came in response to “numerous reports from citizens” saying they had received calls regarding the Georgia House District 117 race.

Callers were told the polling came from “Elaine from Watkinsville Republicans” and it asked them to respond to a question about the primary race between incumbent Doug McKillip and challenger Regina Quick, the release noted.

Respondents who chose McKillip’s name heard negative information about him, but if they selected Quick’s name, the caller was reminded to vote in the primary election on July 31.

The following post on Regina Quick’s Facebook page states the campaign is not responsible for the calls.

“There is someone making autocalls from a 719 exchange saying they are a ‘Watkinsville Republican.’ Let me assure you, its not our campaign. If you hear about it, please let your friends know.”

The Cherokee Tribune profiles four candidates in the election for House District 23.

Those vying to be the first state representative from the new district include Mandi Ballinger, Dean Sheridan, Alan Shinall and Harold Welchel.

and covers the contest between State Rep. Sean Jerguson and his challenger Scot Turner.

US Attorneys have asked to delay the sentencing of Shirley Fanning-Lasseter for accepting cash in exchange for zoning votes so that the government can “facilitate matters related to the defendant’s cooperation.” I suspect that last phrase means that more arrests will follow based on SFL’s cooperation.

That might make it difficult for Tracey Mason Blasi, a candidate for Gwinnett County Superior Court to explain how she was Shirley Fanning-Lasseter’s personal “zoning judge” when Lasseter was Mayor of Duluth.

Tracey Mason Blasi, an attorney practicing in Lawrenceville, has been appointed assistant municipal judge for Duluth.

Duluth has established a zoning court, and Blasi will hande strictly zoning issues.

“This is really her forte,” said Mayor Shirley Lasseter.

Two candidates for Hall County Board of Education peg the system’s problems as related to budgets that continue to shrink while student numbers swell.

Ends & Pieces

The story doesn’t mention whether he said, “hold my beer, y’all watch this,” but a Richmond County man has been hospitalized after a bet.

Video surveillance from Alley Katz, off Washington Road, shows two men approaching William Bonner Jr., throwing a shot of alcohol on his head and lighting it around 1:30 a.m. Friday.

Richmond County sheriff’s Lt. Blaise Dresser said no criminal charges will be filed because Bonner admitted to investigators that he had agreed to the act.

If her dad was the “Godfather of Soul,” his eldest daughter appears to be a lost soul.

James Brown’s oldest daughter is wanted by North Augusta Public Safety after she was accused of stealing a car from St. Stephen Ministries in Augusta and injuring her boss outside a bank in North Augusta when the boss tried to get the car back, authorities said.

[a witness] reached into the car to try to take the keys, but Brown quickly accelerated, dragging Campbell into and over the hood of another vehicle parked in front of the Suburban, according to Thornton. The extent of her injuries was not released.

Brown drove away and was last seen headed into Georgia across the 13th Street Bridge.Brown is charged in warrants with possession of a stolen vehicle, leaving the scene of an accident and first degree assault and battery.

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Jul

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

Patsy (F) and Parker (M) are 2-3 month old puppies weighing in at about 11 pounds each. The are available for adoption for $40 each from Walton County Animal Services and have been vaccinated and de-wormed and will come with vouchers for discounted spay/neuter.

Gwinnett Urgent Care and Suwanee Station Dentistry in Gwinnett County have a therapy dog named Ruckus.

Ruckus, who will be 7 in July, is a chocolate spaniel who serves as a therapy dog for both sides of the office. The Perrys believe having Ruckus around fosters a more comfortable and family atmosphere that calms the nerves of anxious patients.

“When people come in they don’t feel well, that’s why they’re here, they’re sick,” Ron said. “If Ruckus will come in the room, their whole face just lightens up. They suddenly just start feeling a bit better.”

Gift, and her mother, Ashley, agree.

“He probably helps them feel better because they have somebody to talk to,” Myla said. “It makes it more fun that there’s an animal friend.”

Ashley Gift said Ruckus makes it easier for her daughter to visit the doctor’s office.

“She doesn’t dread coming here, she knows she gets to see him,” Ashley said. “It makes it more fun. She asks for him every time we come.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Beginning next week, satellite early voting stations open in some jurisdictions, and this Saturday is the only Saturday early voting for the July 31st elections.

The Secretary of State’s website has “My Voter Page” where you can sign in and find advanced and early voting information, as well as your new districts for State House, Senate, County Commission and other offices. This page will help you find contact information for your county board of elections if you have questions.

Governor Nathan Deal stated his support for Chuck Eaton in his reelection to the Public Service Commission. Deal said:

“During his tenure on the Public Service Commission, Chuck Eaton has assisted my efforts  for economic development and job creation in Georgia. Chuck Eaton shares my top priority to make Georgia the No. 1 state in which to do business. By working to repeal of the tax on energy used for manufacturing, Chuck’s strong, conservative record helps make this goal a reality.”

Attorney General Sam Olens and Congressmen Phil Gingrey and Tom Price discussed the aftermath of the US Supreme Court’s ObamaCare ruling with the Cobb Chamber of Commerce Chairman’s Club.

In Senate District 21, direct mail purportedly paid for by TrafficTruth.net is targeting Brandon Beach, the challenger to Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, while signs that say “Boot Chip – Are you better off than you were eight years ago” appear to have been paid for by Neighbors for A Better Cherokee.

Also in Cherokee County, the anonymous robocalls against Janet Read have continued, obviously paid for by a coward.

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

A group circulating a flier against Cherokee County District 2 Commissioner Jim Hubbard is in violation of U.S. Postal Service rules, postal officials say.

The flier was found taped onto mailboxes in the communities, which violates U.S. Postal Service rules, according to postal officials.

Postal Service spokesperson Michael Miles said it’s against postal policy to place anything on or inside mailboxes.

U.S. Code Section 1725 prohibits the distribution or mailing of items without paying postage.

“Many people are not aware that it is a violation of USPS policy and law to place items on or in a mailbox,” Miles said. “When this is brought to their attention, they usually refrain from this behavior and there is no need for further USPS action.”

If the violations persist, Miles said the postal service can then collect the mailers and determine how much postage is due to the service.

Once they are able to determine a cost, Miles said they can actually bill the originator for the postage.

Democrat Lesli Messinger, who is running for Congress from the First District issued a press release stating that she is “The only woman running for a national office this election season in Georgia, she’s a lone  coastal Democrat amid the state’s Congressional candidates.” Maria Sheffield (R-12) and Martha Zoller (R-9) might take issue with that, but I can see how the names “Maria” and “Martha” might be confusing on that point.

The Republican candidates in the Twelfth Congressional District met in a debate last night.

UGA Political Scientist Charles Bullock appears to be predicting defeat for the T-SPLOST.

“So although tons of money is being spent to encourage voting for the T-SPLOST and thesupport of the Chamber of Commerce, it looks like it will go down to defeat,” Bullock said in an analysis emailed to Patch. “We have the interesting phenomenon of disagreement between many GOP leaders and a group usually closely associated with the GOP (the Chamber).”

Bullock concluded: “With GOP leadership unwilling to step forward and reassure conservative, anti-tax voters that the projects to be funded with the T-SPLOST are meritorious, there is scant prospect for approval.”

Gun store owners might start lobbying for elections every year, as gun sales appear to be rising in advance of this year’s elections.

Gun sales are soaring nationwide and retailers say that’s not unusual to see during a presidential election year. “Basically the situation you have now is 2008 all over again,” said Steven B. Drew, Owner of Georgia Gun and Loan.

Analysts say the 2008 spike came from fear that new gun control legislation would make it more difficult to acquire firearms. “People were uncertain what the new President and the new administration was going to do so there tends to be a upsurge in fire arm sales in general,” said Drew.

Four seats on the DeKalb County School Board are up for election this year, and all seats will be up in 2014. All twelve candidates for those seats will be at a forum tonight from 6:45 to 8:30 PM in the  Arabia Mountain High School auditorium, at 6610 Browns Mill Road in Lithonia. RSVP to [email protected] or 770-875-0213.

In Cobb County, school board candidate Linda Hanson has accused incumbent David Banks of invading her childrens’ privacy.

Banks distributed his e-newsletter, David’s Grapevine, in which he wrote: “This week one of my opponents made it known through the Marietta Daily Journal that the Cobb County Associations (sic) of Educators had given their endorsement based on my opponents ‘activity’ in education. To determine the validity of this claim, I personally contacted the schools where their children had either attended or were presently attending and in no instance could I validate or substantiate any participation in school activities or organizations by either of my opponents.”

Hanson said she was “very concerned and most disturbed” by the newsletter.

“For him to go to my children’s schools for information for political gain is highly unethical and way beyond the realm of what a board member should be doing,” she said. “The parents in Cobb County Schools deserve better than to feel like their information, privacy is being encroached upon, regardless if it’s a board member or just someone off the street.”

Banks, meanwhile, called her concerns “silly” and insisted he did nothing inappropriate. Banks said he did not receive any records about Hanson’s children.

Gwinnett County developer Dan O’Leary still believes the casino gambling ballot question on Republican ballots will fail, and continues trying to distance his proposal for “video lottery terminals” in a casino-gambling style setting.

O’Leary believes the vote is destined to fail because of the ballot’s wording, and he’s been quietly working business crowds and boardrooms to uncouple his proposal with the outcome of the vote. His plan, he tells them, doesn’t involve a casino but video lottery terminals, which resemble a slot machine but would be operated by the lottery board.

“God as my witness, I had nothing to do with that question,” he said, arms held aloft, at a recent meeting of Gwinnett County business leaders in a cramped office across the street from the proposed site of the gambling resort.

Republican chairwoman Sue Everhart, who said she put the question on the ballot after years of urging from some GOP heavyweights, said the vote will measure the appetite for expanded gambling among Republicans.

If it passes by a clear margin, she said, it will force lawmakers to “seriously” consider the prospect of video lottery terminals. But if it fails, an outcome she expects, “it would send the message that Georgians don’t want gambling.”

“At some point the question has to be answered, and I think this will answer it,” Everhart said. “This will settle it so we can move forward.”

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle would like to appoint Clark Howard to the citizen review panel if T-SPLOST passes, but Howard has said he might not have time for the commitment.

Cagle had hoped Howard’s membership on the panel would assuage worries about the money being spent properly. The state is divided into 12 regions for the referendum; each has its own project list for voters to consider, and each would have its own citizen review panel.

“Voters should have as much information as possible, and the citizen oversight committee is a key part of this process,” Cagle said.

Former Cobb County Commission Chair Bill Byrne picked up the endorsement of D.A. King and the Cobb Taxpayers Association in his quest to unseat incumbent Tim Lee.

D.A. King says he’s backing Bill Byrne for county chairman. King said his original intention was to remain neutral in the chairman’s race.

“When it became clear to me that the BOC was not going to move forward on saving jobs for American workers on taxpayer funded projects by taking the next logical step with the IMAGE certification, I voted for Bill Byrne for chairman by absentee ballot and proudly support him,” King said. “Bill, an old friend, was the only candidate to reach out to me and promise, without condition, to require all public contractors and subcontractors to become IMAGE certified. I believe him when he says that he understands that illegal immigration is not a separate issue from jobs, taxes, health care and education.

“Frankly, I haven’t heard anything from the other challengers. The current chairman, who I like very much, has been dealing with the IMAGE certification issue for at least 18 months and pronounced it a great move for Cobb when he signed the IMAGE agreement. The concept that the same requirement for public contractors needs more study time strikes me as absurd and transparent. State legislation, much of which I have worked on myself over the years is written, vetted and signed into law in a three month window.”

In House District 66 (Douglas and Paulding counties), Republican Mike Miller has out-raised and out-spent both his opponents.

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

Dr. Bernice Brooks is back on the ballot, running for reelection to the Carroll County Board of Education.

Coweta Circuit Superior Court Judge Jack Kirby signed the order, saying it would be “unjust” to leave the 12-year school board member off the ballot.

“Clearly this was an error, simply a mistake that was made,” Kirby said. “It would be incredibly unjust for Ms. Brooks to be knocked off the ballot.”

Kirby called the error a “scrivener’s error,” a clerical error made in legal documents. The hearing to address Brooks’ writ of certiorari, or appeal, was Tuesday afternoon at the Coweta County Justice Center.

Brooks was unanimously disqualified by the Board of Elections and Registration in a special hearing last Tuesday after it was discovered her house is in a different district that the district she is running to represent. While the majority of Brooks’ Villa Rica property can be found in District 1, her home and street address are actually in District 3 because of a technical error.

Computer problems aren’t the only problem facing the State Campaign Finance Commission and voters seeking to learn where candidates raised money.

whereas statewide candidates are required to file electronically, local candidates are allowed to file paper reports, and a processing backlog means they can be delayed indefinitely.

Kennesaw State University political science professor and former secretary of state advisory board member David Shock said it all spells out a “huge disservice” to voters with many contributing factors.

“The biggest reason is that, a year or so ago, a new state law kicked in that requires candidates to file with the state ethics commission. I think there’s still a lot of confusion among local candidates on what they need to do,” he said.

Many of the candidates who hadn’t filed their PFD as of last week said they thought the report had already been filed.

Before 2011, local candidates filed reports with their local election board. Shock said he believes the change was made to standardize the process, however, the increased workload on the ethics commission has stretched its resources and caused the backlog.

Other causes in the high number of late filers may be a lack of drive in collecting fines. Initial late fees have increased from $25 to $125, but may go uncollected for long periods of time.

“Voters deserve to know who is funding their candidates,” Shock said. “I don’t know what the solution is. There needs to be more people reviewing the reports. There is probably a need for more education as well for candidates on what needs to be done.”

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President Obama announced the administration’s commitment to completing federal reviews for the Savannah Harbor Deepening Project, intended to increase river access to the Port of Savannah by dredging portions of the Savannah River. In fact, the commitment is that federal review will be finished by November 2012, just in time for Congressman John Barrow to take credit for it.

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

“Liberty” is a lab/bassett mix who needs a foster home in order to live to see next July 4th. Visit Angels Among Us Rescue to donate for Liberty or email [email protected] to foster her.

MISSING DOG!

MacCallan is a black lab mix who wears a red collar and was lost last night when he jumped the fence at his home. He is mostly black with a white chest and friendly disposition and he answers to “Mac” or “Pig” and may be skittish around strangers. Last seen leaving the Candler Park MARTA station after apparently riding a train. Seriously. In addition to his owner’s gratitude, there may be a reward from MARTA for information leading to his arrest for fare-jumping.

If you see Mac or capture him, please call Will at 706-977-8947 or email him.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The grace period for the campaign disclosure report that is currently due ends Monday, July 9th, and yesterday we heard multiple reports that the State Ethics Campaign Finance Commission website was bogging down as people were logged in working on their campaign disclosure reports. One incumbent legislator reported that it took 90 minutes to get the system to accept a report showing two contributions.

“The backlog in the State’s filing system appears to be exclusively for ‘candidate’ filers as we are not experiencing the same difficulties filing ‘lobbyist’ reports,” says Rick Thompson the senior partner of R. Thompson & Associates a compliance reporting firm.

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“Don’t panic,” says Thompson, whose firm is responsible for filing a number of disclosure reports for candidate filers.

“There are 5-days left and I expect the Commission to get the issues resolved. As a candidate, your best course of action is to get started now. Document your filing efforts, including screen shots of the system and its delays, so in the event you do not file in time you have solid evidence to present in your appeal. You are going to have to be patient. Off peak hour filing is not making a difference. Our firm is experiencing many of the same challenges with reports we are submitting during the day as well as reports we are entering in the overnight hours.”

Additionally, it has been suggested that people having filing difficulties keep a log of the failures, and document their problems in a letter to the Commission and to the individual Commissioners.

What appears to have happened in the past is that the Commission has fined late filers and allowed those who received fines to ask the Commission to waive the fines if they had technical problems.

As recently as Wednesday, the fines ranged from $125 for council candidate Marianne Bramble to $2,750 for mayoral candidate Dick Smith. Buelterman, as well as council members Frank Schuman and Wanda Doyle, also faced fines of $1,375, according to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission’s website. Council member Kathryn Williams, who is not running for reelection, had been fined $2,750.

On Friday, all the fines had been reduced to $125.

That still did not sit right with Doyle, who said she made sure to file her reports by the deadline.

“I don’t even think I should have to pay the $125,” Doyle said.

Most of those who have been fined deny filing late and say the fines were levied in error. But the head of the state agency charged with regulating the reports says it is the candidates who fouled up.

Candidates throughout the state have experienced problems filing, said Amy Henderson, spokesperson for the Georgia Municipal Association. The issues are a result of state computer glitches, candidates having to learn a new process and the understaffed commission, Henderson said.

The commission is being overwhelmed by filers and the number of questions they are getting, Henderson said.

The candidates’ appeals will be submitted to the commission for consideration at their next meeting, for which a date has not yet been set, LaBerge said.

LaBerge could not be reached Friday to find out why the fines has been reduced.

If past experience is any guide, you will also have trouble getting in touch with the Commission by phone as the deadline approaches. If this is the case, record also the times you attempted to call, and the disposition of the call, whether it was a busy number, you left a message, or you spoke to someone. I’d call from my cell phone to create a record of your calls, and take screenshots from the phone showing the calls.

Getting fined by the Commission is only one of the problems a candidate faces when they’re unable to file. The second issue, highlighted by the above story, is negative press related to the Commission website showing that your filing is late.

If one of my clients faces this problem, here’s what I suggest: contact the local reporter(s) and editor(s) covering your race, explain that you’re currently working on filing your papers, but are having problems due to the Commission’s filing system. Offer to share with them screenshots showing the problem, or ask them if they want to come over and see how the system is (not) working while you’re trying to file. Be open and honest and keep them in the loop.

By getting out ahead of the story, you increase the chance that a story, if written, carries the headline “State computer system problems delay ethics filings” rather than “Candidate fined by Ethics Commission for missing reports.”  This is much easier done if you start talking to the reporters before the grace period deadline and establish that not only are there problems with the system, but that you didn’t wait to the last moment and then try to blame the Commission’s system. And obviously the first headline does less damage to your campaign than the second.

Today from 11:30 AM to 3 PM, the Cobb County Republican Party will hold a barbecue at Jim Miller Park, located at 2245 Callaway Rd SW in Marietta. Adult admission is $15 and kids’ admission is $5 each. Williamson Brothers will be providing barbecue. If you see me there, say hello. Click here to go to our Events Calendar listing that includes a Google Map. If you’re on an iPhone, you can then click on the map and it will take you to the iPhone maps app where you can get directions.

While you’re at the Cobb GOP Barbecue, you can expect to hear about Sheriff Neil Warren’s endorsement of Josh Belinfante in the Republican Primary for State Senate District 6. Belinfante’s press release read:

Sheriff Neil Warren urged fellow Cobb County citizens to join him in his support of Belinfante. He stated, “Josh is the best candidate for the job. I know Josh personally, and we need his leadership and expertise at the State Capitol for a strong and safe Cobb County. Please join me in supporting Josh for State Senate.”

Tomorrow, July 5th, Florida’s United State Senator Marco Rubio will be autographing copies of his book An American Son: A Memoir at NOON on July 5that the Books-A-Million at 5900 Sugarloaf Parkway in Lawrenceville, GA 30043 [Click for a map].

A Commission appointed to advise Governor Deal on whether to remove Velvet Riggins from the Dougherty County School Board has recommended that Riggins be removed until the felony indictment against her has been resolved.

Riggins was indicted on April 25 by a Dougherty County grand jury on two counts of theft by taking, public record fraud and providing false information to obtain free school meals for a child.

The indictment stems from two 2011-12 free or reduced-cost school lunch applications filed for her children at Robert Cross Middle Magnet School and Lincoln Elementary Magnet School. Riggins is accused of falsifying information on the applications.

Riggins term on the school board expires Dec. 31, but she is running unopposed for a new four-year term in the November election.

Ends & Pieces

The Norfolk Southern has assembled its entire heritage locomotive fleet for “Family Portraits” at the North Carolina Transportation Museum. Among the locomotives are those painted in livery honoring the Southern Railway, Central of Georgia, and Savannah & Atlanta.

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Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 3, 2012

“Jeremy” (left) is a 5-year old Black Lab who has been neutered, microchipped and fully vaccinated who is available for adoption today from Walton County Animal Services. A Georgia licensed rescue that pulls him from the shelter is eligible for $310 in donations that have been pledged.

“Dora” (right) is about 5 weeks old and weighs six pounds. She’s an Australian Shepherd mix with a docked tail and full vaccines. She’s also available for adoption from Walton County.

In Macon, two puppies were rescued from being tied outside without shelter, food, or clean water in 100+ degree temperatures.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal is leading a trade mission to Canada through July 10th.

The mission will include Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal, Chris Cummiskey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, and Steve Brereton, Consul General of Canada in Atlanta.

Deal will meet with prospective businesses and with companies that have existing Georgia operations, including Bombardier and CAE. In Toronto he will address a business investment luncheon hosted by PNC Bank and the Canadian-American Business Council. Later that day Deal will throw out the first pitch of the Toronto Blue Jays v. Kansas City Royals baseball game at Rogers Centre.

The governor and delegation will also attend, as honored guests, celebrations of the U.S. Independence Day hosted by the U.S. consulates in Montreal and Toronto. Georgia-grown products will be showcased during the Independence Day celebration in Montreal.

Congratulations to Canadia. It’s not every day that a minor US state gets an official visit from Georgia’s Governor.

Congratulations to Fayette County’s Sheila Studdard, who was reappointed by Gov. Deal to the Board of Commissioners of the Superior Court Clerks Retirement Fund of Georgia. Condolences to Gwinnett County Chair Charlotte Nash, Henry County Chair B.J. Mathis, and Douglas County Chair Tom Worthan, whom Deal appointed to the GRTA Board.

Fulton County became the state’s largest charter school system on July 1st, which will allow the system to apply for waivers to some state regulations.

The State Board of Education has set a hearing on July 18 to review the Board’s recommendation that the Governor remove members of the Sumter County Board of Education following the loss of its accreditation from SACS.

Gwinnett County’s would-me casino magnate Dan O’Leary is predicting that the Republican ballot question on whether to allow casino gambling will fail.

O’Leary said the question on the GOP ballot is flawed. It reads: “Should Georgia have casino gambling with funds going to education?” The Democratic ballot does not contain the question.

“To truly gauge public sentiment on the issue of gaming, the real question is: Are voters in favor of the Georgia Lottery expanding with (video lottery terminals) games in a single controlled environment to save the HOPE scholarship? This question gets to the heart of the issue. It’s not about casinos; it’s about saving HOPE,” O’Leary said in a statement, referring to the HOPE Scholarship, where lottery funds are used to fund college scholarships and Pre-K programs.

While video lottery terminals look like video slot machines, O’Leary said they are more similar to scratch-off lottery tickets and funds would go solely to the Georgia Lottery.

O’Leary said he did not lobby for the question to be on ballots.

“Given that this ballot question does not accurately portray our project, we fully anticipate that the voters will vote against it,” O’Leary said.

I disagree that the casino gambling question is doomed. We wrote yesterday that casino gambling scored a narrow victory in Hall County GOP straw poll, and have seen other signs that Republicans may not disapprove overwhelmingly of casino gambling. Of course, the Personhood Amendment may bring out culturally-conservative Pro-Life voters, who appear to strongly oppose casino gambling. Over-under for approval of casino gambling is set at 48.

House Democratic Leader Stacey Abrams spoke with Dennis O’Hayer and responded to Majority Leader Ed Lindsey’s statement on MARTA’s leadership and the 50-50 funding split, saying that she’s open to discussing the issues, but that Lindsey’s proposal is unworkable.

The Transportation Leadership Coalition is considering a legal challenge to the preamble language for the T-SPLOST on the July 31st ballot [pdf].

On behalf of TLC, Atlanta attorney Pitts Carr has taken the necessary initial action to protect the Georgia state ballot from political interference.

Today’s formal inquiry from attorney Carr directs Secretary of State Brian Kemp to cite the legal authority for adding the language “Provides for local transportation projects to create jobs and reduce traffic congestion with citizen oversight.”

Carr’s letter in part reads:

“Secretary of State Kemp concluded that the preamble “is referenced in the original legislation”.  Nowhere does that language appear in O.C.G.A. 48-8-240 et seq.”

Jack Staver, TLC chairman [said,] “The chaotic and contradictory statements made by Kemp and his office are characteristic of someone getting caught with their hand in the cookie jar, or in this case in the taxpayers’ pocket. I understand why Kemp is running around like a chicken with his head cut off.  There is a real possibility that the secretary of state could be held personally liable for the cost of reprinting the ballot.”

Ten days ago TLC issued a public call for Governor Nathan Deal to intervene and protect the integrity of the ballot.  Governor Deal, one of the biggest supporters of the Referendum 1 tax increase, has not responded to these requests.

Yesterday, Republican Public Service Commissioner Stan Wise released a YouTube video raising the issue of his opponent’s truthiness, ethics, and adherence to Republican principles.

Davidson, running on an ethics platform, is taken to task for claiming education degrees she has not earned, lobbying for green energy subsidies at the expense of higher electricity rates, endorsing a Democrat after she lost the PSC Republican Primary in 2008 (despite signing the GOP Loyalty Oath), and a series of ethics lapses….

On July 31, voters in Bibb County will vote on whether to consolidate Bibb County and the City of Macon. State Rep. Allen Peake supports consolidation and writes,

Folks, the bottom line on this consolidation vote is this: If you are happy with where you are now, and content with our county losing population and jobs, then vote NO.

But if you believe we can have a brighter future; if you believe that we can turn this sinking ship around, and if you want economic opportunities for your family, your children, and your grandchildren, then this is your chance. Vote YES on July 31! We have so many positives in our community, and if we can just get past the gridlock and stagnation that has been our pattern for the last 40 years, there are no limits to how prosperous we can be.

So, please join me by voting YES, and let’s start moving the community we love in the right direction.

Incumbent Republican State Representative Jimmy Pruett faces challenger John Clements in the Primary for District 149.

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Incumbent Javors Lucas has served 31 years on the Macon Water Authority Board and faces challenger Regina Lucas in the Democratic Primary. Surprisingly, Lucas’s tenure is the second-longest on the Board to Chairman Frank Amerson.

Houston County will elect two school board members.

Stockbridge Mayor Lee Stuart admits to reading the emails of five city employees:

Stuart said he suspected his own city e-mail account was being monitored, as well, but he did not say by whom.

“I wanted to see if they [those he wanted to monitor] are the ones monitoring my e-mails,” said Stuart. “I had complaints from city employees that their e-mails are being monitored. In any e-mails that I sent to city employees, they would get questioned by Gibson [when he was employed earlier this year] about e-mails I would send them.”

Stuart, as Stockbridge’s chief executive officer, has the right to view e-mail accounts for employees in the city. However, Milliron said Stuart, in May, made a request to monitor employee e-mails, without the knowledge of employees.

“Quite frankly, unless there is an exemption in the state’s public access laws, we presume that all of our e-mails are open to inspection by the public,” said Milliron. “But I would not expect the mayor, or any other elected official, to have secret access to my, or any other employee’s e-mails, unless there was a city policy that informed employees that they had no expectation of privacy with respect to their e-mail communications. There is no such policy in place.

“The mayor always makes broad, sweeping statements that he has received complaints,” Milliron continued. “Everyone, with respect to the mayor, is always nameless and faceless. His request to secretly monitor employee e-mails does nothing but undermine the working relationship that we have here at City Hall.”

The ongoing feud in Snellville took a turn stayed nasty as Democrat Mayor Kellie Kautz criticized the council’s action:

A 4-2 vote pushed through an amended budget proposed by Mayor Pro Tem Tom Witts, one that does not include a $426,022 budget line for road projects through the Livable Centers Initiative. The LCI project… was the crux of debate among the mayor and council and the primary difference between Witts’ $9.61 million budget and that proposed by Kautz.

Kautz called the project’s non-inclusion, and the budget in general, “sloppy,” “a mess” and “unprofessional.”

Witts said it was not included in the budget because he didn’t believe it should be factored into tax calculations. He said it should be handled with money received following the service delivery dispute with the county.

“I don’t feel that’s something we should be taxing our people for,” Witts said. Councilmen Bobby Howard and Dave Emanuel voiced their support.

Jan Burke, the city’s controller, did not support Witts’ budget. She called the omission of the LCI project — as well as $16,900 for gazebo repairs at Briscoe Park — a “material misstatement.”

“Those are material expenses,” she said. “They have to be budgeted. We obviously are going forward with those projects.”

Because nothing screams “professional” like name-calling.

Events Calendar

The Lamar County Republian Debate Committee will host a debate among the three candidates for Third Congressional District, namely, Congressman Lynn Westmoreland and two other guys. The event begins at 7 PM tonight at Lamar County School’s Fine Arts Center, at 126 Burnette Road in Barnesville. Doors will open to the public at 6 p.m. For more information, contact Julia Heidbrink at 678-588-1619 or by email at [email protected]

The Towns County Republican Party will celebrate the Fourth of July on the Seventh of July with a barbecue and forum for Ninth Congressional District candidates at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds.

On July 10th, the Cobb County Civic Coalition will hold a forum for candidates for County Chair.

The Council for Quality Growth will host Congressman John Mica, Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee at lunch on July 13th for a Regional Transportation Referendum countdown.

Republican Women of Muscogee and Harris Counties will host a primary candidate dinner on July 17th featuring Q&A and opportunities for candidates to speak.

You can register today for Grilling with the Governor in Gainesville on July 21st.

On August 4th, the Eighth District Republican Party will host the annual Fish Fry in Perry at the Georgia National Fairgrounds.

Ends & Pieces

Atlanta Tim Hornsby qualified for the 2012 Olympics in sprint kayak. WABE has a story on Hornsby.

The Georgia Aquarium has applied for a permit to bring 18 Beluga whales to the United States, but they wouldn’t necessarily be housed in Atlanta.


25
Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 25, 2012


Today, we have four lab mix puppies from two different litters who are available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. 25271 and 25352 (top row, l to r) are baby girls, while 25066 (lower left) is a girl and 25066 (lower right) is boy; I think that’s just kibble crumbs on 25066′s face. The Gwinnett Animal Shelter is closed on Mondays, but open Tuesday through Saturday from 8 AM to 4 PM and Sunday from noon to 4 PM and is located at 884 Winder Highway in Lawrenceville.

Today might be the day for Obamacare decision from US Supreme Court
At yesterday’s Fulton County Republican Party Barbecue, Attorney General Sam Olens discussed the impending Obamacare decision by the United States Supreme Court that may be handed down today. Here’s a video shot while Sam was in Atlanta between court days during the appeal before the Supreme Court in which he discusses the lawsuit.

Olens makes three main points about the lawsuits. First, in terms of the structure of our government, “The case is about whether the court is going to view the Constitution the way the founders viewed it, which is that the federal government has limited, enumerated powers or whether Congress can pass whatever Congress wants.”

Second, there is not only the individual mandate at stake, but also the expansion of Medicaid. “We already know that (fewer) doctors will accept Medicaid. What happens when we have a 35 percent increase in the number of Georgians that are then on Medicaid?  It is an additional $2.5 billion cost (to Georgia) over the decade.”

Finally, the results will be more complex than a simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down. Either the individual mandate or the Medicaid expansion could be held unconstitutional, but the issue of severability will determine whether the rest of the Obamacare act is thrown out or retained.

I’ll be hanging out watching the live blog at Scotusblog by Scotusblog.com which many consider to be the definitive source for news of Supreme Court decisions.

The Supreme Court is also considered likely to hand down a decision on Arizona’s immigration reform law, which might have consequences for Georgia’s immigration reform statute, HB 87.

I’m not sure what I think about Sam’s new NASCAR sponsorship look, but below is a banner from one of our sponsors, R. Thompson & Associates, LLC, who specialize in filing solutions for candidates and elected officials. Please tell them I sent you.

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

NPR ran a story this morning on Georgia’s cross-state lines insurance sales law, noting that no providers have applied to sell out-of-state insurance in Georgia. Sponsor State Rep. Matt Ramsey thinks that insurers are waiting until an Obamacare decision before making plans.

Friday evening, the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta held a nonpartisan “Stand Up” rally against Obamacare’s health care mandates as applied to religious institutions.

Also at the Fulton County GOP Barbecue yesterday, a straw poll was held on T-SPLOST. The results were 53 “No” votes, 7 “Yes” vote, 2 “Undecided” and 2 “Hell No!” That’s nearly an 8-to-1 advantage for opponents of the tax increase.

Last week, the United States Department of Justice sent a letter to Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, taking issue with Georgia’s runoff laws and threatening a lawsuit.

It claims violations of a federal law that requires absentee ballots to be sent to military and overseas residents at least 45 days before federal elections, including runoffs.

The letter threatens a lawsuit if the matter isn’t resolved quickly.

Georgia’s state primary runoff is scheduled for three weeks after the state primary election, and Georgia’s general election runoff is scheduled for four weeks following the general election.

Secretary Kemp fired back in a statement sent out late Friday:

If the DOJ was earnest, they would have previously contacted us about their concerns rather than sending a notice of a lawsuit a month before the Primary Election.  Georgia is literally in the middle of the 2012 Primary. Currently, ballots have been printed and absentee voters (military and overseas included) are voting, while the DOJ is attempting to twist the State’s arm into agreeing to a consent decree, the terms of which would place unnecessary stresses on the elections administration process, before even filing the lawsuit.

The DOJ has not previously expressed concerns about Georgia’s compliance with the MOVE Act, or Georgia’s ability to transmit absentee ballots to UOCAVA voters.  In fact, the DOJ approved Georgia’s timing for run-off elections in 2005 after the General Assembly altered prior election laws.

Representative Mike Jacobs, (R-Brookhaven) notes that the deadline to appeal your property tax assessment in Fulton County is June 28 and DeKalb County is July 13. While deadline may be different in other Counties, the write-up Jacobs has on how to appeal your property tax assessment is excellent and should be applicable everywhere.

Hall County is one of the last counties that still elect a County Surveyor; this year the only candidate for the unpaid job is Republican Jason Lourie.

Cherokee Sheriff wore KKK robe, mask to party 25 years ago

WSB-TV reports that they have been given a photo of Cherokee County Sheriff Roger Garrison wearing what appears to be a KKK robe and hood to a costume party in about 1987, and that Garrison says he never had any connection to the Ku Klux Klan.

http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/local/sheriff-says-kkk-costume-stupid-mistake/nPcqp/Photo from WSB-TV purported to be Cherokee County Sheriff Roger Garrison circa 1987

“I don’t deny it wasn’t stupid, looking back now, but there again I say what 21- or 22-year-old in this world hasn’t made some stupid mistakes?” Garrison told Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer, who obtained the photos from a source who wished to remain anonymous.

Garrison is up for re-election this year, and is facing primary opposition next month.

“It’s purely political,” he said, “This is just the lowest of the low to infer whatever they’re attempting to infer there.”

Garrison said he and a friend were dressed as characters from a scene in the movie “Blazing Saddles” and that he has never espoused any of the KKK’s beliefs.

“I don’t think anyone who knows me is going to think anything of this, but it’s just sickening and it hurts my family,” said Garrison.

“Everybody knows everything about my life. I would just ask that they look at my honor and my integrity and the things we’ve done for this sheriff’s office,” said Garrison.

WSB notes that Garrison’s opponent in the Republican primary says he was made aware of the photo but chose not to make an issue of it, and his opponent was not the person who brought it to their attention.

Garrison’s opponent, David Waters, said someone showed him the photos a year ago, but he chose to ignore them and focus on his own campaign.

“It is a bad judgment call, and (that) type of clothing represents hate, and I certainly don’t want any part of that,” said Waters.

Waters was not the source who provided the photos to Channel 2 Action News.

I’m not sure what I think about this yet, but I’ll offer a few points.

First, as far as Garrison’s opponent, I think it was a good call on his part to not make an issue of something that Garrison did 25 years ago before he was Sheriff. In 1987, I was 16 years old and a normal, stupid, 16-year old male. Probably did some things I wouldn’t do now, and I think most people are like that as they mature.

Second, here’s my rule of thumb with respect to negative information about political opponents: if it happened in college or earlier, I probably wouldn’t use it if they’re, say, 40 years or older, unless it was rape, murder, or something of that level.

Third, as a voter, I give less weight to past actions that were simply in bad taste or bad personal choices, the further in the past they are. Garrison’s point about judging a stupid thing he did 25 years ago against his long career in public service is apt.

On the other hand, if it was twenty years ago, and Garrison has been Sheriff 20 years with a law enforcement career before that, it’s likely that the event occurred while he was a law enforcement officer professionally. That makes it a little bit more appalling, but doesn’t diminish the above points.

Finally, I note that in 1987, in the counties north of Metro Atlanta, and at that time, I don’t think Cherokee would have been considered part of Metro Atlanta, the KKK had recently been in the news in Forsyth County.

In January and February, violence erupted in Forsyth County when KKK members confronted a march led by Hosea Williams, and later staged a counterdemonstration to Williams’s follow-up march.

Given the political climate at the time, it would have been hard for any law enforcement officer wearing a Klan robe and hood for any reason to not be making an overt political statement.

[I also want to note that it appeared at the time, and still does, that most of the people actively causing trouble in Forsyth County in 1987 were not from there. According to the U.S. Census, Forsyth County is estimated in 2011 to have had 175,511 residents, of whom approximately 4563, or 2.6% were black, and there racial tension doesn't appear to be worse than anywhere else.]

Events

Join the Gwinnett Republican Party on Monday, June 25th from 7-9:30 PM at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center auditorium for a free Judicial Forum. Candidates in each race will answer questions posed to them by former WGCL TV reporter Mike Moore. One suggestion if you’re attending: ask the candidate how long they wrote on their qualifying papers they have lived continuously in Gwinnett County. You’ll be shocked at one of the answers.

Fundraiser for Senator David Shafer, with Governor Nathan Deal, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle and Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, on Tuesday, June 26th from 5 to 7 PM at St Ives Country Club in Johns Creek.

On Wednesday from 5 to 7 PM, State Rep. Mike Jacobs will hold a fundraiser at Uncle Julio’s Mexican Restaurant at Perimeter, 1140 Hammond Drive (at Peachtree Dunwoody) in Sandy Springs.

Ends & Pieces

Chandler Massey, the son of former Georgia Secretary of State Lewis Massey and grandson of longtime poultry industry lobbyist Abit Massey, won a daytime Emmy award for his role on “Days of Our Lives.”

This weekend marked the 40th Anniversary of the release of the film “Deliverance,” which introduced North Georgia’s rivers to audiences nationwide. When rafting, remember to keep an ear out for banjos, and if you hear them, paddle faster.

Transformers losers lovers gathered in Savannah this weekend for a convention.