Category: Direct Mail

21
Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

In honor of “Black Friday” at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter, where all black or majority-black dogs and cats can be adopted for $30, a saving of $60, here’s your song of the day.  27459, a female lab, is one of the dogs who is eligible for the discount.

Rally is a Shepherd puppy from Walton County Animal Shelter whom we featured for several days. He was rescued by Pound Puppies ‘n Kitties, and we encourage you to consider donating to support their work saving dogs.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Rasmussen released a poll that indicates that 64% of Americans believe that too many people rely on government aid.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 64% of Adults think there are too many Americans dependent on the government for financial aid. Just 10% think not enough Americans are dependent on the government, while 16% say the level of dependency is about right.

Even most of those who say they are currently living in poverty (56%) feel there are too many Americans dependent on government financial help.

There are sharp partisan differences over this question, however. Eighty-nine percent (89%) of Republicans and 61% of those not affiliated with either of the major parties believe too many Americans are dependent on the government for financial help. But just 40% of Democrats agree. One-in-three adults (33%) in President Obama’s party believe the level of dependency in America today is about right.

Among all Americans, 34% rate government programs designed to help people get out of poverty as effective, while 59% say those programs are not effective. This includes just four percent (4%) who think government anti-poverty programs are Very Effective and 20% who feel they are Not At All Effective.

Only 13% of those currently in poverty consider the government programs effective, compared to 36% of those who are not poor.

Forty-nine percent (49%) of all Americans believe current government anti-poverty programs actually increase the level of poverty in the country. Only 20% think the programs reduce poverty, while just as many (20%) feel they have no impact.

So maybe it’s the mainstream media who are out of touch with Americans, not Mitt Romney. Who would have thought?

The Marietta Daily Journal opines that Romney should continue his discussion of taxes and entitlements.

Romney was 100 percent right to point out that a significant portion of today’s Americans — and especially those who typically support liberal candidates — are voters who see government as the answer to all problems. Too many such Americans have turned John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Speech admonition inside out. “Ask not what your country can do for you: Ask what you can do for your country!” has been dumbed down into “Ask not what I can do for my country: Ask what my country can do for me!”

It’s the difference between the “hand up” philosophy of conservatives and the “hand out” philosophy espoused by many liberals.

To his credit, Romney, as of this writing, has not backed off his remarks. Yes, it surfaced at an unfortunate (for him) time, as he and others were sharply criticizing the incumbent for his incompetent, bungled Middle East policy. But successful candidates play the hand that is dealt them and find ways to trump unfavorable circumstances. And that is what Romney must now do.

The candidate must keep hammering home the fact that Obama has driven the country off the fiscal cliff. He must remind people at every opportunity of Obama’s redistributionist policies and efforts to transform the United States from a free-people, free-market capitalist country into a government-centered entitlement society — an effort that probably has a tax-cutter like JFK spinning in his grave.

Romney is on the right track, as his comments Tuesday on Fox News showed.

Last night, Governor Nathan Deal took to the stage at a Gwinnett County Republican Party rally and spoke about Romney’s comments.

Deal said Romney’s recent comments about a growing percentage of Americans relying on government programs, with a shrinking group of those paying taxes, echoed concerns of political philosophers when this country was created.

“We’re getting outnumbered by people who don’t pay … The truth is the truth,” Deal said to a group of more than 100 GOP leaders. “It is something we ought to wake up and realize because it jeopardizes the country on many levels.”

Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers defended his acceptance of reimbursements for expenses paid by his campaign through his lawyer, Doug Chalmers.

“They were not campaign mailings, they were constituent mailings and had nothing to do with his election or re-election,” Chalmers said, who was hired by Rogers last week.

“It was proper for him to be reimbursed because he had loaned his campaign tens of thousands of dollars which were used to make these expenses in first place. There will be no double dipping—it’s perfectly legal,” Chalmers said.

Chalmers said Rogers has already taken steps to correct the matter.

“Even to avoid an appearance of impropriety, when the issue was brought to his attention, he cut a personal check to his campaign for $8,500,” Chalmers said.

Chalmers said that $8,500 check will be on Roger’s Sept. 30 campaign disclosure

But William Perry, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, said in an interview with the Tribune that Rogers could still face possible consequences.

“I think it could potentially be a problem because the senator notarized a document certifying that everything in the report is true,” Perry said. “I think it would raise a red flag that the campaign, if it was paying for the expenses, is against the law and swearing he paid for himself would potentially be a problem.”

Georgia law prohibits using taxpayer money to pay for campaign costs. Lawmakers can use state funding for newsletters and other printed materials intended to keep constituents informed about issues, which Chalmers said the funds were used for.

Perry said he did not think anyone was out to steal money, but because of lack of oversight, politicians become careless.

It is permissible for a campaign to pay for expenses incurred in the elected official’s performance of his or her duties. (OCGA §21-5-33(a)).

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Speaking of political direct mail, NPR has a story this morning about the barrage of direct mail that will start filling your mailboxes any day.

In the coming weeks, candidates will bombard your mailboxes with ads. It may seem old-fashioned, but the consultants who devise direct-mail campaigns have become sophisticated about knowing whom to reach and what to say.

“It’s almost because of the changing media landscape that direct mail remains relevant,” says Anil Mammen, who runs a small direct-mail shop in Washington, D.C.

“Direct mail is one of the few mediums left where you can go reach a voter and convince your voter to consume your information, without them having to choose to do it,” says Mammen, who works for Democratic candidates and campaigns. “It’s forced upon them.”

Mammen says direct mail is an ideal medium for negative ads. People are more inclined to believe what they read.

“You can show the citation. You can show the proof if there’s a court document. You can show the court document maybe not in its entirety but enough of it,” he says. “You can deliver negative messages that require a hurdle of believability. That’s what direct mail is really good at.”

Campaigns are spending about 15 percent of their ad budgets on direct mail, says Kantar Media/CMAG, a campaign-ad tracking firm.

Costas Panagopoulos, who teaches political science at Fordham University in New York, says direct mail — unlike broadcast media, TV and radio — is a great way to reach very specific targeted groups of voters

“Political campaigns can use the mountains of available data, demographic, psychographic data about, you know, who people are, what their gender is, what their occupations are, as well as things like what magazines they subscribe to or whether they have children or a pet at home or whether they have a gold [credit] card,” Panagopoulos says.

Like taxes, direct mail isn’t going away anytime soon. This year, campaigns are expected, Panagopoulos says, to spend more than $1 billion to get their messages delivered to your door.

I received the first mailpiece of the General Election two days ago from J. Max Davis, the first Mayor of Brookhaven, who will be elected in the November 6th General Election, though some city council posts will have to be filled in runoff elections.

Professor Alan Abramowitz (D-Emory) says that increasing polarization of the electorate decreases the advantage of incumbency, leading him to tweak his presidential prediction model, which tightens his predicted margin in favor of Barack Obama.

A Georgia business is making national news with its signs in opposition to President Obama’s reelection.

Businesses take a big chance by outing their politics, says Costas Panagopoulos, a political science professor at New York’s Fordham University.

“They need to weigh the risks against the potential benefits of making such a visible expression of their preferences,” he says.

But the owner of one Georgia business says response to his political missives has been mostly supportive.

At Premier Platforms Inc., which sells, rents and services various kinds of aerial platforms and forklifts, David Cooper uses his giant highway marquee to broadcast his politics.

He’s no fan of President Obama, as anyone driving along Interstate 75 near Byron, Ga., could tell: “Things could be worse. Re-elect Obama — he’ll prove it,” one recent message read, according to Macon newspaper The Telegraph. Cooper told the newspaper he could “count on two hands the number of complaints” he’s gotten; one person threatened to picket the business, but the threat never materialized.

Real Housewives of Campaign 2012? Sounds like a blockbuster reality show.

See, just like our casts, these characters are hyper-competitive and more than willing to have it out in front of a worldwide audience. It’s like, “Who cares what they’re saying about us — as long as they’re talking about us! Consequences, be damned!” I mean, have you SEEN Romney’s secret video where he badmouths 47 percent of Americans? With those loose lips, it’s no wonder his ship is sinking!

Each has questioned the other’s credentials (along with jokes and jabs of birtherism and felony tax fraud) so often, that if you take out Wolf Blitzer and a debate stage and insert Andy Cohen and a “Watch What Happens Live” set, the drama is not as different, as you’d think. By the way, Andy, I can’t wait for the post-election reunion special. The ratings will be HUGE!

The race even has incredibly powerful women that are loved by their fans and feared by their opponents: Ann Romney and Michelle Obama. Each was cheered for having one of the best speeches at her convention. Each possesses a wardrobe many would love to call their own. And each can win over swing voters who may think that the Housewife’s husband is more “Desperate” than “Real.”

Former Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson was interviewed on a local Paulding County website, in which he suggests moving away from Georgia’s antiquated and uncivilized system of foreclosure sales literally on the steps of county courthouses, and into a process that allows homeowners being foreclosed upon a day in court. Given what we know about systematic fraud by foreclosing banks, wrongful foreclosures, robo-signing, and the impact of a foreclosure on families, I might support such a measure, and certainly think we should consider moving away from the status quo.

Samuel Westmoreland, the director of the Fulton County elections and voter registration office was jailed for ten days after his probation was revoked for failure to complete DUI school and community service, which were conditions of his probation for a 2009 DUI.

State Court Judge Wesley B. Taylor, in a July 16 probation revocation hearing, handed down an order postponing Westmoreland’s 10-day sentence until after the county primary elections in July “in order to prevent a potential hardship upon the voters of Fulton County.”

The elections board is scheduled to take up the matter at a specially called meeting that Matarazzo said is scheduled for noon Monday.

Westmoreland already was under fire from voters and election board members for an array of errors that occurred during the July primaries.

The missteps included the elections department assigning 690 voters in Sandy Springs and southeast Atlanta to the wrong state Senate and state House races. It also missed the deadline to certify election results by an hour and a half, leaving the county subject to fines by the state Election Board.

“He needs to be gone,” Commissioner Bill Edwards told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday. “It just goes to your character.”

Former Governor Sonny Perdue joined the Governors’ Council at the Bipartisan Policy Center, which seeks to bring a state perspective to national issues.

In Augusta, Lori Davis, a former candidate for Mayor, has endorsed Stanley Hawes for City Commission District One.

Former State Rep. Burke Day (R) has applied for an appointment to the Tybee Island City Council to fill the term of council member Frank Schuman who died in office.

Dockworkers unions have agreed to extend the deadline for negotiating a new contract with employers at East coast ports.

“I am pleased to announce that at the close of today’s productive negotiation session, in which progress was made on several important subjects, the parties have agreed to extend the collective bargaining agreement due to expire on September 30 for a 90-day period, (taking it) through Dec. 29,” said George H. Cohen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

After talks broke down last month between the ILA and the alliance, which represents management at 14 deepwater ports between New York and Texas, Cohen coaxed both sides back to the table in hopes of averting an imminent work stoppage

Power Station

Environmentalists think that Georgia should deploy more wind turbines for power generation off the Georgia coast, but Governor Deal disagrees.

“Georgia has a little over 60 gigawatts (of wind resource),” said Jennette Gayer, advocate for Environment Georgia, which helped launch the report. “That’s like 75 average-sized power plants.”

Unlike 11 of the other coastal states, Georgia hasn’t joined the Atlantic States Offshore Wind Consortium, a federal program designed to coordinate and streamline wind development off the Atlantic coast. South Carolina and Florida are the only other hold outs.

But Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s spokesman Brian Robinson indicated via email that the governor is not inclined to support wind energy development now.

“When the markets and the technology advance further, we believe there will be a day when wind energy is a viable option for our state,” he wrote. “Georgia will start using wind energy when the prices are right and the technology is right for the unique nature of our wind energy off the coast.

“Studies show the current technologies available won’t work in Georgia’s environment. There is in fact wind energy potential in Georgia and we have every hope that improvements in technology will one day allow us to use this clean, renewable resource.”

Gov. Deal is correct. As we have seen with solar power, states that adopted utility scale solar power generation paid 3-4 times the current cost for photovoltaic cells, which generate electricity. Today, states considering implementing solar will benefit from dramatic cost reductions brought about through market forces, not goverment subsidies.

Plant Vogtle’s Unit 1 nuclear reactor is offline this week as it’s being refueled, a process that occurs roughly every 18 months.

Steel plates that reinforce concrete construction at the new reactors being built at Vogtle failed safety testing by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and have not been installed.

A more detailed investigation to determine the extent of the problem – and any potential effect on the project – will be completed by Nov. 6, the report said.

The inspectors and officials from Shaw Group, the company hired to build the $14 billion project, identified the issues before any plates had been installed, an NRC spokesman said.

In an Aug. 31 interview, Buzz Miller, the executive vice president of nuclear development for Georgia Power and Southern Nuclear, told The Augusta Chronicle that as many as 150 additional workers could be needed to bolster oversight programs that ensure materials meet strict nuclear standards.

In its most recent report to the Georgia Public Service Commission, the company said final projected costs for quality assurance, oversight, operational readiness and regulatory compliance rose from a projected $621 million in 2009 to $755 million in 2012.

Ends & Pieces

A World War 2-era B-17 bomber called “Memphis Belle” is receiving maintenance at Cherokee County Regional Airport until it continues its tour on Monday, but you can visit the plane until then and it will remain based at Cherokee for the next year.

20
Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for September 20, 2012

Midge (left) is a femal basset hound-labrador mixed called a “low-rider lab” who is about 3 years old and weighs 40 pounds. She will be available for adoption beginning Saturday at Walton County Animal Control.

Nabisco (center) is a two-year old, 60 pound male Brittany Spaniel who will be  available for adoption beginning Saturday at Walton County Animal Control.

Tipper (right) is a 2-3 month old black lab puppy who weighs 15 pounds and  will be  available for adoption beginning Saturday at Walton County Animal Control.

27849 is an adult male Rottweiler or hound mix who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. He is said to be very friendly and good on a leash. He’s likely eligible for the “Black Friday” special tomorrow where adoptions of black or majority-black dogs from Gwinnett County is discounted to $30 total. If you’re interested, please contact shelter volunteers through Facebook to express your interest. Gwinnett’s shelter is full and dogs are not being given very long before they’re euthanized.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

The voter registration deadline for the November 6th General Election is October 9th. You can check your voter registration status online with the Secretary of State’s website to confirm that your information is correct.

Mitt Romney was in Atlanta yesterday for a $1000 per person fundraiser.

Romney supporters who attended left the speech invigorated.

“He’s had some bad news lately and it was good to get fired back up and see him fired back up,” said Buckhead resident David Burge. “I’m ready to go back out and do what I’ve got to do to get him some more votes.”

“To continue empowering people to be reliant on government is not going to be what’s ultimately good for this country and I think that resonated,” said Cheri Combee of Suwannee.

“I certainly think he said it in a softer way today but he did not apologize for his remarks and I don’t think he should.”

Combee said a good portion of the speech focused on what it will take improve the economy and provide jobs for the unemployed.

“He made his case that he has the capacity to genuinely help this people in need versus Obama who provides a type of phony compassion that his programs are in fact going to hurt the people that are poor.”

State Senator Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, attended as well. He said Romney’s economic message should resonate will all Americans.

“The problem is this administration thinks that food stamps and welfare are stimulus and Governor Romney thinks that a pro-growth jobs policy that creates jobs in the private sector is real stimulus.”

Perhaps one issue where Republicans can do a better job is in articulating that we truly are concerned about helping the poor and disadvantaged, but that we differ from liberals in our belief that a positive outcome for a client of government support services is self-sufficiency, not continued dependence.

The AJC continues the coverage of Romney’s Atlanta speech:

Gov. Mitt Romney pushed back Wednesday against claims that he’s written off half the country and said he, not President Barack Obama, can better improve the lot of poor Americans.

“The question of this campaign is not who cares about the poor and middle class. I do, he does,” Romney said, his voice rising. “The question is who can help the poor and middle class. I can, he can’t, he couldn’t in four years.”

“This is going to be an election of a very stark choice,” Romney said. “The question is going to be who is better equipped and has better direction in mind to help the people of America who so badly need help. We have a lot of people in trouble.”

Governor Deal, who introduced Romney at the fundraiser, said yesterday that he will work with Secretary of State Brian Kemp to retain the unscheduled public access to the state archives, which Kemp had earlier said would be curtailed to meet budget cuts. Kemp told Dennis O’Hayer that he had not discussed the issue with the Governor. Maybe discussing the issue privately before starting a frenzy of media hand-wringing would eliminate some of the drama next time. Just a thought.

Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers has been asked about reimbursements by the state that writer Jim Walls of Atlanta Unfiltered thinks duplicate expenditures by his Senate campaign committee. I’ll be writing more about this for tomorrow.

Ralph Reed is stepping up the religious right’s ground game by deploying consumer data to identify and mobilize evangelical voters.

Reed has taken data from consumer marketers and the Republican National Committee, mixed with his own files from the George W. Bush campaigns — when Reed helped Bush court social conservatives — and the Christian Coalition. FFC narrowed its efforts primarily to voters in presidential swing states. It will contact each of them between seven and 12 times – a text message, a call, an email, a postcard, a knock on the door.

When early voting begins in each swing state, FFC’s targeted voters will each get a text message telling them to vote, and the message links to a map for smartphone users showing them where their early voting site is.

“Not everybody in a church is going to vote Republican; not everybody in the most conservative evangelical church is going to vote Republican, for a variety of reasons,” said Sasha Issenberg, journalist and author of “The Victory Lab,” a new book about the science of campaigns. “So this type of politics is always a game of margins, we have just gotten a lot better. The most advanced tools have made us a lot better about shrinking the margins that you’re playing with.”

Samuel Moreland, director of Fulton County voter registration and elections was jailed for DUI on Friday, and his probation from an earlier DUI was revoked.

Westmoreland pleaded no contest last year and was sentenced to 12 months on probation, 40 hours of community service and $800 in fines and fees.

A member of the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections since 2004, and a two-time board chair, Westmoreland was appointed interim elections director in July 2011, and permanently took over the position in March.

His management of the department has garnered criticism, and his jail stint comes amid worries that his department won’t be capable of handling the November presidential election without foul-ups like the ones that happened in July.

At least one Fulton County commissioner, after learning of the arrest, is calling for Westmoreland to be fired.

The Secretary of State’s office currently has five open investigations involving Fulton elections, spokesman Jared Thomas has said, declining to elaborate.

In June, state Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) assailed Westmoreland for mailing 2,400 letters to registered voters telling them that unless their homes exist, they would be erased from the rolls.

Georgia DOT plans to extend the unpopular toll lanes up I-85, going further north to Hamilton Mill Road in Buford or Chateau Elan in Braselton. Expect Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) to have some strong opinions on this.

The Lake Lanier Legislative Caucus met Tuesday in Buford to organize their work for this year.

“In Georgia, we have the hunter’s safety course. One of the things I’d like to see is a (boating) safety card,” said Rep. Emory Dunahoo Jr., R-Oakwood, offering one quick suggestion.

And money raised from completing requirements for the card would go to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and “now you’re covering rangers and new equipment,” he said.

“I was impressed that enough legislators would make the effort to come (to the meeting),” said state Sen. Renee S. Unterman, R-Buford, after the meeting. “I think legislators have already been working on legislation.”

Unterman spearheaded creating the caucus, saying that in the past two years, lake “safety has become one of the overriding issues” in the state.

Nearly a decade ago, lawmakers had the “semblance” of a Lake Lanier caucus,” but after a time, that group faded away, Unterman said.

“We have had so many fatalities on the lake this year, but the seriousness of them seems to be much more than it ever was 10 years ago,” she added, before leading the group in a moment of silence.

The Chairman of an unsuccessful attempt to recall Hall County Commissioner Craig Lutz may be personally on the hook for more than $12,000 in legal fees incurred by Lutz.

Barring a successful appeal, Kevin Kanieski, chairman of the effort to recall Lutz, will have to pay $12,587.96 to Lutz’s lawyer, Paul Stanley, according to an order filed in Hall County Superior Court by Judge Tom Davis.

Stanley provided a copy of the order at the request of The Times.

The amount awarded is exactly what Lutz requested following a successful challenge to the petition last year.

Lutz requested Kanieski pay his attorney fees, citing discussions on Facebook in which members of the effort to recall the commissioner stated a desire to make the “entire process expensive and painful … personally” for Lutz.

In a hearing on whether Kanieski should have to pay the costs of Lutz’s legal challenge, Kanieski also said little more than he felt he was exercising his rights to free speech under the U.S. Constitution.

In a three-page ruling, [Judge] Davis does express a “concern about the chilling effect an award of fees might have on those legitimately exercising their right to seek recall of elected officials.”

But he also said that Kanieski, by choosing to exercise his rights to free speech through legal action, subjected himself to legal scrutiny.

In Forsyth County, a blogger was ordered to pay $5000 in compensatory damages and $25,000 in punitive damages for writing in an online forum that a Planning Commission Member was drunk and engaging in obscene behavior in public.
David Milum must pay Matt Murphy $5,000 in compensatory damages and $25,000 in punitive damages.Murphy resigned from the board in April due to increased work demands.Milum, who owned an online community forum at the time, posted his accounts of incidents that allegedly occurred during an April 2011 planning board meeting and in May outside his home.The first incident stated that Murphy threatened a fellow planning board member “with a physical altercation while using foul language,” according to the complaint.

The May post “said or implied that plaintiff Murphy engaged in public drunkenness” and participated in obscene behavior in a truck outside Milum’s home, the complaint states.

According to the initial complaint, Murphy filed suit in October after Milum would not retract the statements.

According to that complaint, “Milum maliciously published each of the aforesaid false, libelous and defamatory statements about plaintiff Murphy knowing said statements were all false.”
The self-styled political activist plans to appeal the ruling.“I didn’t say anything bad about Matt Murphy,” Milum said. “They turned something I did say in that article that had nothing to do with Matthew Murphy, but they linked it. They had no right to link it. I put on my private thoughts on there of what I thought was happening at the time.”Milum said he never got requests to remove the statements from the Web site until six months after posting them, which he said coincided with his research into Commissioner Patrick Bell, who appointed Murphy to the planning board.
This is at least the fourth suit against Milum for things he’s written online. Previous court losses related to his blogging have resulted in more than $200,000 in prior judgments against Milum.
City of Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt’s personal financial disclosures are the subject of a complaint filed with the Georgia State Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.
Robert Rorke of Cumming contends H. Ford Gravitt failed to document all of his property holdings in the 2010 election financial disclosure documents.

Rorke states in the complaint that Gravitt “indicated three properties (only) that he has direct ownership in” while he says “county property records notes seven additional properties with direct ownership by H. Ford Gravitt.”

Gravitt has until the end of this month to file a response.

Reached Tuesday, the mayor said it was an oversight.

“That’s one of the things that probably was just omitted in the [disclosure] return and that’s in the process of being handled,” he said.

“It just wasn’t filled out with my home and so forth on there and I’m in the process of amending my return, so that’s not an issue.”

Charter School Amendment

Gwinnett County School Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks is now on the record opposing the Charter School Amendment on the November General Election ballot.

“I am very concerned that one of the pillars of America’s greatness is being shaken, and if we’re not careful it could be damaged,” Wilbanks said. “What I see is a national agenda to privatize, defund and dismantle public education as we know it.”

The district’s highest ranked non-elected official spoke during the September luncheon of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce. It was the business community’s yearly briefing on the state of education in Gwinnett. Part of Wilbanks’ speech, which lasted about 30 minutes, was directed at the Nov. 6 ballot question, which asks voters to decide whether the state can establish public charter schools.

As a prop, Wilbanks brought a poster board with the wording of the ballot question. He stepped aside and asked an associate to read the text: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?”

Wilbanks stepped back in front of the microphone: “Folks, we can already do that. It happens every day across the state. That is what I say to the voters … really look at what you’re doing here.”

“The real question here is whether or not you believe true local control should reside in the hands of parents, students and teachers or with central office administrators like (Superintendent) Wilbanks,” said Bert Brantley, with Families for Better Public Schools.

“Public charter schools such as Ivy Prep in Norcross spend less per student while outperforming schools in their district. Opponents should be less worried about who ‘controls’ schools and more worried about embracing educational models that work and save taxpayer dollars,” Brantley said.

Also opposed to the Charter School Amendment is the League of Women Voters of Georgia:

Elizabeth Poythress, president of the voting organization, is urging all its members to vote no on the issue.

“We believe this proposal is not in the best interest of the children of Georgia or the taxpayers of Georgia. It is unwise, wasteful, and not in the best long term interests of the State of Georgia,” Poythress said. “We believe it is bad public policy to create a duplicate school system that will, in the words of the Georgia Supreme Court, ‘compete with locally controlled schools for the same pool of students educated with the same limited pool of tax funds.’”

This past weekend I got a chance to learn about the whitewater run that’s being constructed on the portion of the Chattahoochee that flows through downtown Columbus, Ga. Interesting things I learned about the Columbus riverfront:

  • Bald eagles can be seen early in the morning along the Chattahoochee
  • Lake Lanier’s output will not affect the operation of Columbus whitewater
  • A wave-shaper being built in the river will allow changes to the waterflow to change the character of part of the rapids

The whitewater will anchor a master plan for the development and redevelopment of portions of the Columbus riverfront.

The 14-million dollar Whitewater Columbus facility is expected to draw nearly 200-thousand visitors each year. A contracted consulting firm recommends the community develop areas on the up side of the Chattahoochee River where visitors can view the whitewater run.

The goal is to make the riverfront a destination, with more bike paths and walkways as well as interactive fountains. Some suggestions for private development include a zipline, rock wall and vendor kiosks.

Douglas Smith, president of the consulting firm EDSA, recommends public-private partnerships to develop plazas along the river where people can view the whitewater run.

“Like interactive fountains, or feature fountains, art elements. We could do memorial garden-type spaces. There’ll be open lawn activity areas. There will be more heavily landscaped areas.

There will be a whole series of pathways, ramps and steps to navigate some of this terrain down to the riverfront. But the idea is really to draw people down to the river.”

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer has more in-depth coverage of the master plan, if you’re interested.

19
Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for September 19, 2012

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18
Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for September 18, 2012

27525 is a young, male, adult yellow lab who has found himself on the wrong side of the law and now waits to be bailed out and taken to his new home from the Gwinnett Animal Shelter. Volunteers at the shelter describe him as friendly and he becomes available on Saturday.

27459 is an adult, female black lab who will become available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter tomorrow. Pretty sure that’s a friendly dog right there.

27427 (above, female) and 27426 (below, male) are baby chocolate labs who are available today for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. These two are siblings and are both described as playful and friendly.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Opponents of the Charter School Amendment complain that the preamble to the ballot question includes misleading statements designed to entice voters to back the measure.

[O]pponents of a November ballot question are also crying foul.

They’re upset over the preamble wording for the Charter School Commission Amendment.

It reads, “Provides for improving student achievement and parental involvement through more public charter school options.”

The amendment vote was authorized by the Georgia Legislature in response to the previous Charter Schools Commission being declared unconstitutional by a court ruling.

Now voters will get to decide whether to recreate the commission.

Like T-SPLOST, it’s a hot issue that has non-partisan supporters and opponents.

Opponent Elizabeth Hooper told 11 Alive on Wednesday that she believes the Charter Schools Amendment preamble is also rigged to get “yes” votes.

“It’s absolutely biased,” she said, “Who wouldn’t be for improving student achievement?”

“To say that is going to happen is a lie,” she added.

Bert Brantley, spokesman for the pro amendment group Families for Better Public Schools, told 11 Alive News a recent study by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement proves they make a difference.

“I think it’s factual,” he said of the preamble wording.

“We’ve got proof that state charter schools perform better than the schools in the districts where those charters are located,” Brantley said.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who took heat for the T-SPLOST preamble wording, is distancing himself from this one.

Kemp spokesman Jared Thomas wrote 11 Alive that “The Secretary of State does not choose the Constitutional amendment ballot language.”

“That task falls to the Constitutional Amendments Publication Board…comprised of the Governor, Speaker (of the House) and Lt. Governor. Any language they choose must be approved by 2/3 of their board,” Thomas added in his statement.

Meanwhile, a recent poll by Republican Todd Rehm of GaPundit.com showed 48% support the amendment, while 26% oppose it.

Columbia County News-Times writer Barry Paschall argues that the Charter School Amendment will harm local schools.

Columbia County schools, like all public schools in the state, will be further damaged by the continued drain of funds toward private, for-profit schools. That’s why another analysis found much of the money behind the amendment flows from out-of-state private school companies hoping to reap millions if it passes.

Perhaps that also explains the recent commentary from an Arkansas professor boosting the amendment for the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

In it, Jay Greene crowed about charter school successes around the country – but failed, oddly, to mention any from Georgia. Could that be because a study last year showed charter schools in Georgia perform no better, and in some cases slightly worse, on testing than Georgia’s public schools?

Even with the eminent danger to our financially struggling but academically strong local schools, and with virtually no evidence to support the amendment’s passage, most Columbia County voters likely will stab their own school system in the back so they can say they voted for what they think is “school choice.”

The Gwinnett County Commission is back to its full complement of five unindicted Commissioners, as Jace Brooks was sworn in yesterday.

[Commissioner Lynette] Howard said she attended Monday’s ceremony to show Brooks support.

“He makes for more sound decisions in Gwinnett County, when you have five people making that decision instead of less than, and all parts of the county are represented,” Howard said. “And District 1 has their own representative. It’s good for the people in District 1 to have their own elected official.”

Brooks said the commissioners would begin work on the budget in November.

“Now it’s time to start doing what I talked about during the campaign,” Brooks said. “The slow process of trying to rebuild the trust. That’s really where it’s got to start.”

The Lake Lanier Legislative Caucus, including members from Gwinnett, Hall, Forsyth and Dawson counties, will meet publicly today at 4 PM at the Buford Community Center, located at 2200 Buford Highway, across from City Hall on Buford Drive.

Nerds patriots at Gainesville High School set up voter registration tables yesterday to mark the 225th Anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution by helping their colleagues register to vote.

The Augusta Canal National Heritage Area may lose federal funding this month as its funding sunsets.

[Augusta Canal Authority executive director Dayton] Sherrouse said it is possible – but not certain – that the “continuing resolution” that allows the government to keep operating under the previous year’s budget until a new one is adopted could preserve Augusta’s allocation for next year.

This year, that allocation was slightly more than $300,000, making up about 20 percent of the canal authority’s annual operating budget. Other funding sources include grants, sale of hydropower from the canal’s turbines, and revenues from boat tours and other activities.

Republican candidate in the Twelfth Congressional District Lee Anderson has declined the Atlanta Press Club debate against Democrat John Barrow. Barrow has said that he’ll go if Anderson does, but will not attend to debate an empty podium. I wonder if they’ll air 30 minutes of dead air.

“Lee Anderson will consider sharing the stage with Barrow once he stands in front of a local television camera and confesses his politically disastrous secret – he’s voting for Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi,” [Anderson spokesman Ryan] Mahoney said in a statement.

Former Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill has asked the court to dismiss 37 felony counts included in an indictment against Hill, claiming they were politically motivated. Walton County District Attorney Layla Zon called the claim by Hill “ludicrous”. Hill’s lawyers make an interesting claim that if resolved may affect campaigns going forward:

He also is accused of diverting money from his failed 2008 re-election campaign to himself.

“He is essentially taking from himself and therefore cannot be guilty of a crime,” Frey argued.

Zon, the district attorney for Newton and Walton counties was appointed special prosecutor in this case.“It’s not his money. The fact that he keeps arguing the campaign money is his is absurd,” she said.

She said she found it incredulous that Hill would claim it was his to do with as he wished.

“The campaign belonged to Victor Keith Hill. He can’t steal from himself,” Frey answered.

In news to no one, people are complaining about robocalls.

Political robocalls and automated calls from charities, or informational robocalls, such as an airline calling about a flight delay, are exempt from the ban. But those exemptions are being abused, too, with consumers complaining of getting calls that begin as a legitimate call, say from a charity or survey, but then eventually switch to an illegal telemarketing sales pitch.

Robocalls can be highly annoying to consumers because they’re hard to stop. Fraudsters use caller-ID spoofing so that when a person tries to call back the robocaller, they get a disconnected number or something other than the source of the original call.

The best thing people can do when they get an illegal robocall is to hang up. Do not press “1” to speak to a live operator to get off the call list. If you do, the FTC says, it will probably just lead to more robocalls. The caller will know you’re there and willing to answer, and may continue to call.

Your County Commissioner could be costing taxpayers between $180,000 and $500,000 each year to run his or her office, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The data show that even Cobb, with its reputation for austerity, spends about $180,000 a year for each of its five commissioners. Gwinnett commissioners spend about $190,000, while the chairman’s budget is about $296,000. In DeKalb, each commissioner spends about $387,000. Clayton spends $240,000 per commissioner, or $1.2 million. But the actual money that Clayton spends on commissioners is much less. The County Commission’s budget includes the county manager and clerk and those employees. Additionally, Clayton commissioners, who earn $22,000 annually, do not have individual staffs and discretionary budgets.

By comparison, each state senator in Georgia cost taxpayers $200,000 annually to run his office. State senators serve about the same amount of constituents as commissioners and are likewise tasked with one specific job: to plan and approve an annual budget.

“Our phones ring off the hook,” said Fulton Commissioner Liz Hausmann, whose $398,000 budget is the county’s smallest. “The majority of it is constituent issues, problems dealing with county departments.”

Georgia’s “show your papers” provision from HB 87, which allows law enforcement to check immigration status for people who are suspected of committing certain crimes and do not have ID, is on hold as the Eleventh Circuit US Court of Appeals decides whether to re-hear the case.

Forsyth and Cherokee county sheriff’s deputies are among those now putting off training and other planning to enforce the law. It doesn’t make sense to start drafting a policy for it, Forsyth Sheriff Ted Paxton said, when the legal battle is not over.

“We are simply just in a holding pattern,” Paxton said. “Until [the legal case] is resolved, it is very difficult for us to craft any type of policy because there are a lot of unknowns.”

State officials were planning to teach the new law to officers Monday, but they postponed that training after learning the law will remain on hold.

“If I talk about it in class, officers may walk away thinking they can do it,” said Wally Marchant, supervisor of the legal training section at the Georgia Police Academy. “And I don’t want that to happen.”

In the days leading up to the latest tie-up in court, other police agencies indicated they were not ready to begin enforcing the law. Gwinnett police, for example, said this month that they could not say when or how they would apply the law until the county’s Law Department has “reviewed the complete bill after all issues have been resolved from the state.”

“Once that has been done, we will review the final law and determine if any of our current policies and procedures will change,” said Cpl. Edwin Ritter, a police spokesman.

DeKalb police said this month that they were developing a policy on how to apply the law. And now that the law is on hold again? Police spokeswoman Mekka Parish said: “We will continue to monitor legislation and plan accordingly.”

Some police emphasized that doing immigration status checks is optional under the law.

“The provision authorizes, but does not require, the department to investigate the immigration status of individuals who cannot produce adequate identification to prove citizenship,” Atlanta police spokesman Carlos Campos said, “provided probable cause exists that the individual committed a crime.”

In Alabama, a similar measure has caused enough problems that some local jurisdictions are choosing not to enforce it.

[Clanton, Alabama] Chief Brian Stilwell said that measure — which critics call the show-me-your-papers law — has made immigrants afraid to report crimes and burdened his officers with hours-long investigations. The chief was so troubled by the law that he apologized to a young mother who was turned over to immigration authorities after committing a minor traffic infraction in town.

Supporters of the year-old law point to Alabama’s falling unemployment rate as proof it is working and preserving jobs for U.S. citizens, though not everyone agrees there is a correlation. Alabama state Sen. Scott Beason, one of the law’s architects, says it is also aimed at protecting his state’s taxpayer-funded resources and boosting public safety.

While Beason and Stilwell — both Republicans — have staked out different positions on the law, they agree on one thing: Georgia authorities should use caution when they start enforcing a similar measure.

Stilwell, Clanton’s police chief, has concluded the law is unenforceable, partly because state lawmakers this year repealed a provision authorizing police to arrest motorists for driving without a license. He added it sometimes takes hours for federal authorities to respond to his officers’ queries about the immigration status of suspects. Worrying that such prolonged stops — without an arrest — could violate people’s constitutional rights, Stilwell said his officers stopped enforcing the law last summer.

In Tuscaloosa, police officers are releasing suspects when it appears it will take too long to confirm their immigration status and if they have no lawful reason to detain them, said Sgt. Brent Blankley, a police spokesman. Like Clanton police, Tuscaloosa officers have been reaching out to Hispanics since Alabama enacted its law. Blankley indicated those efforts have paid off and that Hispanic victims are continuing to report crimes to police.

My fellow word nerds and I will be in Midtown on Thursday evening for the taping at the Fox Theatre of NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me…” WABE’s Dennis O’Hayer interviewed the show’s host. O’Hayer also interviewed GBI Director Vernon Keenan on the state’s progress in combatting sex trafficking.

State Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) is holding a fundraiser tonight with Lt. Governor Casey Cagle in McKoon’s district.

Governor Nathan Deal and Attorney General Sam Olens will be featured at a Campaign Rally at Wild Bill’s in Duluth on Thursday night sponsored by the Gwinnett County Republican Party.

13
Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for September 13, 2013

Alvin is a 47-pound, 2-year old Golden Retriever mix boy who is available for adoption today from the Cobb County Animal Shelter.

Alvin will be neutered, tested for heart worms and micro-chipped when adopted. He is in run 107 and his ID# is 548132.

When calling the shelter about a cat or dog, please use THE ID NUMBER, the names are oftentimes made up by volunteers. This beautiful pet and many others need a forever, loving home and are available for adoption from the Cobb County Animal Shelter, 1060 Al Bishop Drive Marietta, Georgia 30008, call (770) 499-4136 for more information.

Corky is a black lab mix and the volunteers at Cobb Animal Shelter say he’s the sweetest boy, and about 1-year old and 55 pounds. He is in run 25 and his ID# is 548038. Just look at that cute face and big pink tongue.

Nat and his brother Geo are 2-month old, 15# Shepherd mix puppies who are available for adoption today from Walton County Animal Shelter.

Also available from Walton Animal Shelter are Duncan, Davie and Darla, who are three months old and weigh about 7 pounds each.


These three puppies were turned in by their owner, which typically means no mandatory hold time, and they are immediately at risk of euthanasia, especially during this time of the year when shelters are overflowing.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Please take a moment to vote in our online survey on the Charter School Amendment. We ask how you will vote, and give you an opportunity to state why you are voting for or against the Amendment. We’ll be running some of the responses when we release the results. If you have any problems with the online vote, email me.

Former Speaker of the Georgia House Glenn Richardson qualified yesterday for the Special Election in Senate District 30, which was vacated when Bill Hamrick was appointed to the Superior Court.

“So why would I want to go into this?” said Richardson, 52, asking the question many are wondering. “I’m at peace. I think I can sympathize with people more than ever. I’ve struggled.”

Richardson, the one-time back bencher who became the first Republican state speaker since Reconstruction, admitted he was a bit nervous as he walked passed his old office for the first time in three years. He will have a tough primary election ahead of him. He faces a field that includes state Rep. Bill Hembree (R-Winston), a popular legislator who has been at the state house for 18 years.

“It’s a perfect fit,” said Hembree of the west metro Atlanta senate post he is seeking. “I’ve represented Douglas County and Paulding County, and I’m a native of Carroll County.”

Hembree, a self-proclaimed “social conservative,” served under Richardson in the House and represented a neighboring district. Hembree, 46, said he hasn’t spoken with Richardson since 2009, adding the former speaker’s decision to run was “somewhat surprising because it’s just three years since all the events that occurred in his life.”

Hembree said he would not get into dissecting those events. “I’m going to have a grassroots campaign and contact as many people as we can,” he said. “I’m not going to get distracted.”

Jim Naughton, a Carroll County businessman, also qualified.

Bill Hembree also qualified yesterday, although you wouldn’t know it from the AJC’s non-coverage.

From the Neighbor Newspapers coverage:

Richardson said he wanted to seek the seat because “this just came up and under such rare circumstances.”

“It seemed like an opportunity to seek a leadership position. I feel like this was the time to do it,” he said.

Richardson said it is “not my job to say if people have forgiven or forgot” the events which led to his 2010 resignation.

“I had to step up when I saw an opportunity,” he said. “I may achieve it and I may not.”

Hembree, a Winston resident, served a total of nine terms in the House. He resigned his House District 67 seat last week to seek the vacant Senate seat.

In a prepared statement, Hembree said, “We need a leader we can trust to be on our side. Like you, I am tired of the politicians who put the special interests above the interests of the taxpayers they represent. Too many politicians let us down and embarrass us.

“I’m running for Senate with a simple promise: you have my word that I’ll be on your side. I’ve got your back, and I’ll represent you. While I won’t make promises I can’t keep, I’ll do everything in my power to slash wasteful government spending, stop tax increases and attract new jobs to get our families back to work,” he stated.

Hembree lost a 2010 bid for Speaker of the House to current Speaker David Ralston.

I predict Bill Hembree will be elected. We ran a poll in that district a couple weeks ago with the names of the three candidates who had announced at the time and Hembree had a substantial lead.

Bill Hembree  36.6%
Glenn Richardson  13.1%
James Camp 12.1%

Because the Special Republican Primary Election will take place November 6, at the same day as the General Election, it’s likely to have higher turnout, which likely benefits Hembree more than Richardson.

The Times-Georgian writes:

Hamrick ran unopposed for re-election to the District 30 state Senate seat in the July 31 Republican primary. No Democratic candidates ran for the seat in the July 31 primary.

“Since no Democrats qualified during the original primary, the law requires that only a special Republican primary be held on Nov. 6,” said Jared Thomas, spokesman for the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.

Thomas said the law also requires that a special election for the District 30 seat be held on Jan. 8, with a runoff election on Feb. 5, if needed.

On November 6th, voters within the 30th Senate District who show up at the polls will be offered an opportunity to vote in the General Election and the Republican Primary. According to a spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s office:

Poll workers will be instructed to ask eligible voters if they would like to participate in the Special GOP Primary in addition to the General Election, or just the General Election.  The Special and General can be included on the same card.  In addition, sample ballots will be posted.

Qualifying for that election continues today from 8 AM to 5 PM and tomorrow from 8 AM to Noon. To qualify as a Republican, you will go to Qualifying for the Republican Special Primary Election shall be held in Room 341 of the Georgia State Capitol, 214 State Capitol, Atlanta, 30334, and your qualifying fee of $400 must be paid by certified funds. To qualify as an Independent for the Special Election on January 8th, you will go to the Elections Division of The Office of Secretary of State, 2 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, SE, Suite 802 Floyd West Tower, Atlanta, 30334 during the same time period.

Here’s how that works: the winner of the November 6th Special Republican Primary Election (runoff will be December 4th if necessary) will be on the ballot again on January 8th in the Special Election, even if no independent candidates qualify. If enough candidates qualify as independents to force a runoff in the January election, that runoff will be held February 5th, 2013.

So the best chance at winning that election if your name is not Bill Hembree might be to try and ambush him in January 8th by qualifying as an Independent. Turnout will be much lower on that date, and a candidate with a small but loyal following might have a snowball’s chance, but probably not.

Micah Gravley [note spelling], the Republican candidate for House District 67 to succeed Bill Hembree is off to a strong start.

Micah Gravely said he was unsure about seeking a chance to run for a Douglas County legislative seat until he got a call from two people in high places: House Speaker David Ralston and District 68 state Rep. Dusty Hightower.

“I thought, “This could be an opportunity to serve our community,” he said. “[Wife Heather] was very quick to say, ‘I’ll support you 100 percent.’”

Gravely, 38, was named by the State Republican Party Executive Committee last week to replace District 67 State Rep. Bill Hembree, R-Winston, as the Republican nominee for Hembree’s House seat. Gravely will face Democratic nominee Leigh McMutry of Winston in the Nov. 6 general election.

[Gravley] served as a staff member for former Georgia U.S. Rep. Bob Barr and former Gov. Sonny Perdue. He also served as the Paulding County coordinator for both the Mike Huckabee and John McCain presidential campaigns in 2008.

He said he was approached by “several folks in the community” to consider the post and counts among his supporters Douglas County District Attorney David McDade and Paulding County District Attorney Dick Donovan.

Gravely recently has worked with the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association as the statewide grassroots director.

He also serves as president of Paulding Public Safety Appreciation Inc., which organizes the annual Paulding Public Safety Appreciation Day in October. He awarded the county’s three law enforcement agencies and fire/rescue department $1,000 each to begin their own benevolent funds for survivors of those killed in the line of duty last week, Gravely said.

He said he planned to be an advocate for public safety workers and wanted to work closely with the school boards in Douglas and Paulding counties.

Pro-tip for writers: spellcheck will often suggest a that you change a surname to something else when the surname spelling is close to that of a regular word. Double check last names like “Gravley”. In fact, go back and triple-check that one right now.

Former Executive Secretary of the State Ethics Commission Stacey Kalbermann continues to live in a fantasy world in which her firing was the result of a vast right-wing conspiracy against her, rather than because of budget cuts that hit the Commission with the same severity as most of the rest of state government, including the Governor’s Office.

In my opinion, Kalbermann is likely responsible for the outages and lack of capacity that plague the Campaign Finance Filing System for failing to recognize that job one of the Commission is receiving and making public campaign disclosure.

In an amended complaint in her whistle-blower suit against the state, former commission director Stacey Kalberman claims that former commission chairman Patrick Millsaps contacted Randy Evans about campaign work while the commission was investigating Evans’ client, Gov. Nathan Deal. Evans also served as an attorney for Gingrich.

Kalberman’s new complaint was filed Friday in Fulton County Superior Court.

Evans said Kalberman’s charges amount to a “fantasy,” while Millsaps said it is “absolutely a false allegation, and the more that she amends her complaint, the more frivolous the lawsuit of a disgruntled employee becomes.”

The AJC’s PolitiFact confirms the obvious that a poll tax and a voter ID requirement are not actually the same thing.

The ACLU newsletter labeled the new voter ID requirements as a “modern day poll tax.”

The historical poll tax emerged in parts of the U.S. in the late 1800s as a blatant effort to restrict voting. Primarily aimed at minorities, these laws — along with literacy tests — disenfranchised many black, Native American and poor white citizens. The poll tax was outlawed in federal elections in 1964.

The poll tax portion of the ACLU claim, as a historical comparison, does not hold up.

The claim that the voter ID laws are the functional equivalent of a poll tax is difficult to prove.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has not definitely settled this debate, although its 2008 decision in the Indiana voter ID case suggests that the poll tax claim faces an uphill battle,” said Edward Foley, executive director of an election law center at The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law.

In that case, the high court found that Indiana’s requirement that voters present government-issued photo IDs did not violate the Constitution. Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the main opinion in the 6-3 ruling, which said, “The application of the statute to the vast majority of Indiana voters is amply justified by the valid interest in protecting the integrity and reliability of the electoral process.”

We rule the ACLU’s statement Mostly False.

In Stephens County, Debbie Whitlock emerges as the winner of a County Commission seat after two recounts, including hand recounts of mail-in absentee votes2. The final total shows Whitlock with a two-vote win out of more than 3000 votes cast, though the first recount showed a single-vote margin.

The hand recount of the mail-in absentee ballots took place as the result of a consent order reached this week by the candidates and Stephens County to deal with Willis’ challenge in Superior Court of the election results.

In that challenge, Willis requested a manual count of the mail-in absentee ballots.

Willis said he wants to be clear as to why he requested the hand count.

“The electronic scanning machine that is used to count the ballots gave four different sets of numbers when the ballots were scanned,” said Willis. “There was never any consistency in the results. Therefore, we had no reliable vote results. As the electronic scan device was not reliable, the only way to obtain an accurate tally of the paper ballot votes was by a hand count. Be sure that this hand recount of the votes had absolutely nothing to do with my opponent, Debbie Whitlock. It had everything to do with making sure that the voting results are as accurate as possible.”

He said he thinks the state should look further at the process for counting mail-in paper absentee ballots.

“I think this incident should send a clear message to the Secretary of State’s Office that their electronic paper ballot scanners are not reliable,” said Willis. “Something should and must be done or else no one who votes using a paper ballot can ever be guaranteed that their vote is counted properly. For the secretary of state to ignore this type of problem in our election system would be a great disservice to myself, Debbie, and every single voter in the state of Georgia.”

The Cobb County Board of Education voted 4-3 against moving forward to censure one of its members, David Banks.

Erratum: yesterday, I incorrectly cited the case in which the Supreme Court of Georgia declined to review part of the 2005 Tort Reform that allows attorney’s fees to be recovered from a plaintiff. The correct citation is to Great West Casualty Company et al. v. Bloomfield et al., in which the Georgia Supremes denied cert. That’s what I get for trying to think too early in the morning. Sorry.m

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for September 10, 2012


George is an English Bulldog, and is currently available for adoption at the Cherokee County Humane Society after first doing a stint behind bars at the Cobb County Animal Shelter. He came in as a stray and has neither been claimed nor adopted.

George has had some medical issues, but with good veterinary care, it appears he’s getting over his problems. He is six years old, weighs sixty-six pounds, and would like nothing better than to watch football games on television from a comfy dog bed (or sofa) in his new home.

According to his guardians, George is a typical laid back lazy boy. He loves getting his belly rubbed!  He loves loves loves his squeaky toys!  He is crate and housetrained. He seems fine with other dogs and oblivious to the  cats but suspect George would be quite happy as an only child and the center of attention.  He may get a tad fussy about having his face messed with but we suspect that has more to do with discomfort of his eyes.  Since we do not know his history, a home without small children is what he seeks!!  George is neutered, heartworm tested negative ( yay) and microchipped!

George has also racked up about $700 in vet bills, which the Humane Society is asking for help in paying. If you’re unable to adopt George, you might wish to donate online in honor of your favorite football team, or your favorite team’s nemesis.

All the dogs on this page are listed as “Urgent” at their shelters, which generally means impending euthanasia.
Just look at this cow-looking dog named Boomer.He’s a young, random-breddog who is 6-8 months old and weighs 36 pounds. Boomer is on the shy, submissive side, so he should fit in well in a home with other established dogs. He’s still a young guy but catching on to the leash thing! Boomer is available for adoption today from Walton County Animal Shelter for the low, low price of $40.

Next up is Bermuda, also at Walton County.

Bermuda is described as a Pit Bull, but in the animal shelter context, that often means nothing more than “he/she has a wide head and we don’t know anything else about it’s ancestry.” She is 7 months, 36 pounds and available Monday.

Pits are highly controversial, but many people believe they’re the best dogs, loyal and smart with fantastic temperments. If you’re interested in adopting a dog described as a Pit, my advice would be to judge the dog as an individual and speak to people who deal extensively with Pit-types. Get good advice, and train your dog well. As always, it is the dog owner’s responsibility to ensure that their best friend is not a menace to society.

But just look at Bermuda’s face.


Next up are three puppies, Nat, Geo, and Fluffernutter.

Nat and Geo are male Shepherd-mix puppies who are about three months old and weigh fifteen pounds each. They were found stray and will be available for adoption on Monday. Fluffernutter is a six-month old puppy who weighs about twenty pounds. She’s described as a “Retriever mix” and I’m thinking she looks like a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. Tollers are an uncommon breed and I’d be surprised if a purebred puppy ended up in a shelter. But if Fluffernutter were my dog, I’d probably be able to get away with calling her one. She is also available for adoption beginning Monday.

Finally, we have Rusty, a male Retriever mix guesstimated to be about a year old, and weighing in at 62 pounds. He is said to be very friendly.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

The Charter School Amendment may have to provide much of the campaign excitement this year, as most state offices are not up for reelection.

While both commission incumbents, Republicans Stan Wise and Chuck Eaton, face challengers, the absence of TV advertising tends to leave political editors, reader commenters and the average gadfly uninterested. Besides, the fact that incumbents historically win re-election more than 95 percent of the time suggests that Wise and Eaton are unlikely to be deposed.

So, a lowly ballot question is providing most of the fun for the next two months.

Thank the Georgia Supreme Court and Gov. Nathan Deal. That’s because the court struck down as unconstitutional a law that created an appointed commission to grant operating charters to schools started by parents — sometimes acting on behalf of management companies — over the objections of the local board of education. To remedy it, Deal called for putting on the general-election ballot an amendment to make it constitutional.

“Georgia’s parents want more options, and it is my duty as governor to see that they have them,” he said in May when he signed the legislation. “These schools help students trapped in underperforming schools and aid communities that want to invest in new and imaginative ways of learning for their children.”

[T]he committee organized to campaign for the amendment, Families for Better Public Schools, reported to the state ethics commission that it had raised $487,000. More than 95 percent of that money came from out of state, including from companies that have their own financial interests because they operate charter schools here.

We will be releasing poll results on the Charter School Amendment on our website this afternoon, and providing some analysis tomorrow morning.

Former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman and Democratic State Rep. Calvin Smyre co-authored an op-ed in the Augusta Chronicle about Plant Vogtle’s two new nuclear reactors.

Any financial adviser will tell you that the best way to ensure solid long-term returns on your investments is to diversify your investment portfolio. Putting your financial eggs in multiple baskets allows you to capitalize on the higher-yield potential of short-term opportunities, while also taking advantage of the sure growth of longer-term, predictable-yield investments.

Americans would do well to apply this counsel to our energy investments. That’s why we’re so pleased to see Georgia taking important steps toward helping the U.S. diversify its energy portfolio.

The NRC’s decision to grant construction and operating licenses for the new reactors at Plant Vogtle also marks a moment of tremendous opportunity that offers Georgians access to clean, affordable energy; more well-paying jobs; a much-needed economic boost; and a reliable source of energy long into the future.

[N]uclear power is a clean, affordable form of energy. Nuclear power plants operate without producing harmful emissions, making nuclear one of the most prolific sources of clean energy. In fact, nuclear power accounts for 63 percent of the carbon-free energy produced annually in the United States. We believe that the nuclear energy’s expansion is critical to our nation’s ability to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years.

[B]uilding and operating the two plants will provide a strong source of jobs for Georgians now and in the future.

The new reactors also will provide a powerful boost to the state’s economy.

Congressman Tom Graves (R-Ranger) will have to do more with less as his office budget is being cut 6 percent this year.

[Graves] has $1,325,000 to work with this year. According to spokeswoman Jennifer Hazelton, that’s 6.4 percent lower than the $1.4 million office budget last year, and the 2011 Members’ Representational Allowance is 5 percent down from 2010.

“Tom has been one of the ones leading the charge on that,” Hazelton said. “Since he’s been on the Appropriations Committee, they’ve cut the available money by 11.4 percent.”

“It’s a hard-and-fast allowance, but every district is different,” Hazelton said. “Who’s in it, the terrain, the distance from Washington D.C. … It all has to be taken into account when you’re determining the best way to serve your constituents.”

The campaign for the Twelfth Congressional District between Democrat incumbent John Barrow and Republican challenger Lee Anderson may ultimately hinge on whether Barrow successfully distances himself from President Obama, or Anderson’s attempt to tie him to the top of his ticket succeeds.

Even before a challenger was named, national GOP groups were focused on painting Barrow and Obama as political soul mates in a race being closely watched as a chance for Republicans to knock off a Democratic congressman.

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6
Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for September 6, 2012

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

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

27044 is a young terrier mix.

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

 




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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

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

Also in federal court yesterday, Gwinnett County developer and former Planning Commissioner Mark Gary was charged with attempting to bribe Lasseter with $30,000 worth of poker chips.
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5
Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for September 5, 2012

Jessie and Woody are sister and brother Pointer mix puppies, who are 6-8 weeks old and weigh eight pounds each. Dixie is a 2-year old, 45-pound pointer mix female. Each is available for adoption from Walton County Animal Services today. The two puppies were owner surrenders, which means there is no mandatory holding period, putting them at immediate risk of euthanasia.

Autumn is female, approximately two months old, and weighs ten pounds. She will be available for adoption beginning Friday.

Lola is a year-old, 60# black lab mix. She’s said to be very sweet and friendly, and “wags her whole butt back and forth.” Bailey is a six-month old, 30# black lab mix turned in by her owner, again meaning no mandatory hold, at risk of euthanasia. Finally, we have what is described as a Beagle, but looks to me like a Beagle/Basset Hound mix, estimated to be one-year old and 25 pounds. These dogs are all available for adoption today from Walton County Animal Shelter.

This is the happy ending for the black lab formerly known as Gwinnett County Inmate 26397, who was featured here a couple weeks ago. He was adopted by a reader, who has also adopted a yellow lab who was featured in our emails. So I guess that means I’m stuck doing these every morning until there are no more dogs in need.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

If there isn’t already a word for when satire becomes reality, there should be.

Jim Galloway brings us this: speaking of Republican criticisms of President Barack Obama, the Rev. Joseph Lowery said,

”I think people recognize that it’s not good to change horses in the middle of the recovery stream. I think the closer we get to the election, the more people are going to recognize that what [Republicans] are talking about is rather dangerous. And we don’t want to risk it.”

[citing audio recorded by Jamie Dupree]

Aside from the laughability of the idea that we’re in the middle of an economic recovery stream, it reminded me of  “Wag the Dog”, starring Robert DeNiro and Dustin Hoffman, where the fictional candidate’s slogan became “Don’t changes horses in mid stream”.

Andre Walker at Georgia Unfiltered asked whether Georgia Democratic Party Chairman Mike Berlon is better off today than he was four years ago and found one indicator that he isn’t.Continue Reading..

31
Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for August 31, 2012

Thelma and Louise are pit-type sisters who were terrified, emaciated, and abandoned across the street from a dog rescue group, where they are now living, waiting for a permanent home.

The girls have quickly learned their routine and are very obedient. Louise enjoys training, learning good manners and tricks while Thelma prefers to receive love. The girls require a special home with people who understand their breed and have no other pets. They will be the most grateful, loyal and loving companions!

Louise is white with brown spots and Thelma is brown with white spots. In the first picture, the girls are demonstrating their polite “sit.” The second picture is of Louise “praying” which is a complex trick one of our camp counselors taught Louise.

Many folks are apprehensive about Pit-type dogs, and an equal number think they’re the best breed around. I don’t know that there is a truth about these dogs other than to suggest you consider each one as an individual, and with any breed, it can be helpful to adopt from an experienced rescue organization that has spent time with your prospective dogs, and is able to advise you about their individual temperment and behavior.

Yesterday I received two emails from readers wondering how many of the dogs we feature get adopted. I don’t know, but here are a couple of things I do know. The yellow lab featured yesterday got rescued. The daughter of a reader was prepared to pick up Monday’s lab mix but the shelter was closed; the dog was rescued but I’m not sure by whom. Riley received ten inquiries to the rescue group from the mailing list and three completed adoption applications.

So I believe that including these dogs makes a difference in some of their lives, and I believe that seeing so many beautiful dogs will encourage some others to rescue rather than buy when they are ready for their next dog. But the scale of the problem is huge, with an estimated 300,000 dogs and cats euthanized each year in Georgia. That’s not acceptable. Next week, we’ll highlight some folks who are working to reduce the number of abandoned dogs and cats by raising money to fund low-cost spay and neuter in Georgia.

 

 

 

As a bonus, here’s Louie, a 17 pound 3-4 month old lab/border collie mix who is available for adoption from Walton County Animal Services. He and his brother Huey were turned in as strays, and Huey’s been adopted, but Louie here is still waiting to find his home.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Texas has had a rough week in the federal court system. First, a three-judge panel in Washington rejected their redistricting maps for Congress and the state legislature. Now, the state’s voter ID requirement has been struck down.

A three-judge panel in Washington unanimously ruled that the law imposes “strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor” and noted that racial minorities in Texas are more likely to live in poverty.

Thursday’s ruling almost certainly prevents the Texas law from going into effect for the November election, but state Attorney General Greg Abbott said he will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court “where we are confident we will prevail.”

In the Texas case, the Justice Department called several lawmakers, all of them Democrats, who said they detected a clear racial motive in the push for the voter ID law. Lawyers for Texas argued that the state was simply tightening its laws. Texas called experts who demonstrated that voter ID laws had a minimal effect on turnout. Republican lawmakers testified that the legislation was the result of a popular demand for more election protections.

[Judge David] Tatel, writing for the panel, called the Texas law “the most stringent in the nation.” He said it would impose a heavier burden on voters than a similar law in Indiana, previously upheld by the Supreme Court, and one in Georgia, which the Justice Department allowed to take effect without objection.

The decision comes the same week that South Carolina’s strict photo ID law is on trial in front of another three-judge panel in the same federal courthouse. A court ruling in the South Carolina case is expected before the November election.
The ruling comes two days after a separate federal three-judge panel ruled that Texas’ Republican dominated state Legislature did not draw new congressional and state Senate district maps “without discriminatory purposes.”

Secretary of State Brian Kemp has certified all the primary and primary runoff results for state races, but certification of federal races remains open until August 31st because of federal requirements for overseas absentee voting.

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