Category: Technology

6
Aug

Metro Atlanta Regional T-SPLOST Vote: A Choice Between NPR and Fox News?

Was the Metro Atlanta Regional T-SPLOST referendum vote a choice between NPR and Fox News? In a recent social data study by Arc 3 Communications of supporters and opponents of the Metro Atlana Regional T-SPLOST referendum utilizing Facebook’s Wisdom app, it was revealed that a cultural divide existed between the most ardent supporters for and against the Metro Atlanta Regional T-SPLOST referendum.

Many traditional polls had been taken showing a partisan divide among voters for the Regional T-SPLOST referendum. However, through the use of Facebook social data, Arc 3 was able to identify not only a partisan divide, but a cultural divide as well among the most ardent supporters for and against the referendum. This data shows a significant cultural divide on regional policy issues.

For the study, Arc 3 Communications examined the Facebook pages of the two most prominent campaigns for and against T-SPLOST, Untie Atlanta (Citizens for Transportation Mobility) and Traffic Truth (Transportation Leadership Coalition) utilizing the Facebook Wisdom app’s detailed demographic profile data and breakdown of page likes.

Arc 3 analyzed Facebook Wisdom Network data on basic demographics; political party identification and interests; sources for news; interests in music, movies and authors; sports favorites; and consumer choices. Among the key findings in each category:

  • Supporters and opponents of the T-SPLOST referendum were evenly divided along gender lines with variation among age and education level. Significantly more of  the opponents of the T-SPLOST were married than the supporters of the T-SPLOST.
  • Consistent with polling data, the T-SPLOST groups broke out along partisan lines with pro-SPLOST forces showing Democratic leanings and opponents of the T-SPLOST being Republican.
  • Supporters and opponents of the T-SPLOST relied on very different news sources. T-SPLOST supporters’ favorite news source was National Public Radio, while opponents preferred Fox News.
  • In area of entertainment tastes, T-SPLOST supporters and opponents differed in television, movies and tastes in book authors. T-SPLOST supporters’ favorite program was The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, while opponents program of choice was House on the Fox Network.
  • While a dichotomy existed in preference for sports leagues – supporters of T-SPLOST were NFL fans, while opponents were NASCAR fans- both groups agreed that the Atlanta Braves was their favorite sports team.
  • Both sides tended to agree in the area of prominent consumer choices, with both groups most favorite food and beverage product having been Chick-Fil-a, and favorite retailer having been Target.

The partisan divide between advocates and opponents of the T-SPLOST was clearly evident in this Facebook study as it had been in traditional polling. However the social data reveals a much deeper story showing the cultural preferences that were identifiers not only of partisanship but also attitudes toward regionalism and policymaking. T-SPLOST opponents clearly had cultural preferences indicative of more suburban living, while the T-SPLOST supporters had more urban cultural preferences. This may have been at the heart of the transportation policy debate over what the Atlanta region should look like.

Arc 3 Facebook Social Data Study Tables 

Basic Demographics

Untie Atlanta Traffic Truth
Male 60% 58%
Female 40% 42%
Married 49% 76%
Single 34% 20%
Average Age 36 49
College Education 58% 69%

 

Political Interests (Most Likes)

Untie Atlanta Traffic Truth
Political Party Democratic Party of Georgia Republican National Committee
Political Official Barack Obama Mitt Romney
Public Figure John Lewis Herman Cain

 

News Sources (Most Likes)

Untie Atlanta Traffic Truth
Media/News/Publishing NPR Fox News
Magazine The New Yorker Weekly Standard
News/Media Yahoo!News NewsBusters.org

 

Entertainment Interests (Most Likes)

Untie Atlanta Traffic Truth
Television Shows The Daily Show House
Movies The Hangover Atlas Shrugged The Movie
Favorite Author Maya Angelou Ayn Rand

 

Sports Interests (Most Likes)

Untie Atlanta Traffic Truth
Sports League NFL NASCAR
Sports Team Atlanta Braves Atlanta Braves
Athlete Michael Jordan Dale Earnhardt Jr.

 

Consumer Interests (Most Likes)

Untie Atlanta TrafficTruth
Food/Beverage Chick-Fil-a Chick-Fil-a
Retail and Consumer Merchandise Target Target
Hotel St. Regis Atlanta Chateau Elan Winery and Resort

Note: Untie Atlanta Facebook page analysis included analysis of Untie Clayton, Untie Cobb, Untie Cherokee, Untie Dekalb, Untie Douglas, Untie Gwinnett, Untie Fayette, Untie Fulton, Untie Henry, and Untie Rockdale Facebook pages

 

27
Jul

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forsyth County Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click Here

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

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

Ends & Pieces

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

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

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

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

18
Apr

Georgia Political News for April 18, 2012

“Smokey” is approximately two months old and weighs 5.6 pounds. A mixed-breed male puppy, he is available for adoption tomorrow from Walton Animal Control Services. If you’re looking for a female puppy or a pair, his sister “Stella” is also available.

Sponsored posts - Yesterday we announced that we will be accepting sponsored posts for the rest of the month to raise money for dog and cat rescue in Georgia. For $1 per word, you can place your message on our website and morning emails. Make a donation to a dog or cat rescue, send us proof of the donation and what you want to say. Sponsored posts will be clearly identified as such and we reserve the right to edit them. No attacks, please.

Bibb County Commissioners are considering building a new animal shelter with four times the space of the existing facility as part of a move to reduce the number of euthanizations performed.

Governor Deal signs bill strengthening Sunshine Laws

Governor Nathan Deal signed House Bill 397 by Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla) yesterday, which strengthens Georgia’s Open Meetings and Open Records laws by increasing the fines for violating the law, reducing the cost of photocopies of requested records from .25 per page to .10 per page, and updating the law’s language with respect to electronic records.

In a press release, Gov. Deal said, “This legislation toughens enforcement of our Open Records law by substantially increasing penalties for noncompliance, allows for civil as well as criminal procedures and requires that all votes take place in a public forum. We have crafted a document that makes it easier for Georgians to keep track of their government’s activities and to know their rights, and it clarifies the responsibilities of public officials.”

Republican Attorney General Sam Olens said, “The law signed today will enable Georgians to clearly understand their rights and assist governments in more effectively responding to citizens. Moreover, it provides my office the tools needed to properly enforce the law.”

Full text of the press releases is available on our website.

Georgia Democratic Party Political Director Faces Allegations

The background of Georgia Democratic Party Political Director Ali Rashad Richey and his future in politics are in question as Georgia Unfiltered writes:

Between 1998 and present day, Democratic Party of Georgia Political Director Ali Rashad Richey became very intimate with the DeKalb and Fulton county jails.

You see, Rashad Richey was arrested twelve times on a variety of charges including:

  • Burglary;
  • Driving with revoked license;
  • Battery;
  • Family violence;
  • Obstructing an officer; and
  • Violating probation.

Richey’s last arrest was in 2010.

This is likely to provide fodder in the ongoing struggle within the Georgia Democratic Party between supporters and detractors of Chair Mike Berlon.

Campaigns and Elections

The Gainesville Times notes that attendance at political events in their area appears to be increasing.

Congressman Jack Kingston has raised $1.25 million to defend his seat. His opponent, Democrat Nathan Russo has not filed with the FEC, stating that he has not raised or spent the $5000 threshold amount to trigger the reporting requirement.

Continue Reading..

17
Apr

How to fail at campaign websites and how to win

Step 1: require Flash in order to view your website.

Step 2: force mobile browsers into the mobile version without providing a way to view the desktop version.

Ryan Christopher may be the greatest conservative candidate in the history of the world, but I’ll never know. That’s the risk you run when you use Flash for your campaign website or restrict mobile browsers to your mobile page only.

So how do you win at the internet for campaigns?

Usabilla, a firm that researches usability for websites took a look at how people interact with politicians’ website.

Usabilla tracked the way viewers’ eyes move over a candidate’s website as part of their study. The findings are instructive. Here’s my takeaway from reading their report.

1. Emotional appeal, candidate likability, and trustworthiness can be conveyed visually to reinforce the message you’re putting out.

2. Clear navigation and clear titles on links are vital. “Meet Mitt” scored better for taking viewers to the biography section than “Why Rick?”

3. Viewers look for and respond to ways to connect using social media or to receive campaign information in the manner they choose, whether it be Facebook, email, or something different.

Tell me who you think is winning or losing the internet in Georgia politics and why.

12
Mar

Georgia Political News for March 12, 2012

Hannah is a five-year old female Golden Retriever who originally hails from North Carolina but is now in the custody of Adopt A Golden Atlanta, from whom she may be adopted. She is currently heartworm positive and AGA is seeking tax-deductible donations to help pay for the $500 heartworm treatment.

Since its founding, AGA has rescued 2694 Golden Retrievers and similar breeds at an average cost of $841 per dog. Their next adoption day is Sunday, April 1, 2012 at the Pet Set on N. Druid Hills at Briarcliff.

Legislative News

Today’s Senate legislative calendar is available here and you may watch the session online here beginning around 10 AM. Here is the Senate Committee Meeting schedule.

Today’s House legislative calendar is available here and you may watch the session online here beginning around 10 AM. Here is the House Committee Meeting schedule.

The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action is blaming Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams (R-Lyons) and Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) for working behind the scenes and against the NRA to kill an amendmentauthored by Sen. Don Balfour (R-Snellville) to his own Senate Bill 350.

Senate Leadership — more specifically state Senate President Pro Tempore Tommie Williams and state Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers — worked against the NRA’s efforts behind the scenes and helped persuade their colleagues in the Republican Senate caucus that the NRA’s employee protection legislation was too divisive of an issue and it was apparently more important to side with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the Georgia Association of Realtors than to uphold the rights of law-abiding gun owners throughout the state.

It is unclear on what basis the NRA makes those assertions against Senators Williams and Rogers.

Senate Bill 350 provides that firearms seized by law enforcement agencies that are not being used as evidence must be returned to their rightful, legal owners if the owner was innocent of wrongdoing.

The Balfour amendment would have protected employees who keep a gun locked in their car at their place of employment from being fired for that reason. The Georgia Chamber of Commerce opposed the Balfour amendment.

The Macon Ledger-Enquirer Telegraph editorial board writes that House Bill 811, which would require the state to spend earmarked user fees for the purpose the fees are intended, rather that simply being added to the General Fund, leaves the fox in charge of the henhouse, but at least gives the hens some protection.

Maggie Lee write in the Ledger-Enquirer Telegraph that a GOP legislative supermajority is possible in this year’s elections.

“If things break right, (the GOP) should be able to get a two-thirds majority” in the state House and Senate, said Charles Bullock, professor of political science at the University of Georgia and a student of state politics for nearly 40 years.

In my opinion, there is nothing magical about a legislative supermajority as the GOP caucuses seldom see unanimity on major issues, as illustrated by the difficulties in passing the Charter School Constitutional Amendment.

Juvenile justice reform legislation, which will emphasize treatment options for drug offenders designed to lower repeat offenses rather than strict jail terms, is before a joint legislative committee chaired by Rep. Rich Golick and Sen. Bill Hamrick. According to the Walter Jones of the Morris News Service:

Georgians overwhelmingly support the changes, according to a survey released last month by the Pew Center on the States.

In a telephone poll, 85 percent of the 600 likely voters questioned in January said they agree that the sentence didn’t matter as much as reducing the likelihood of a repeat crime.

Rep. Jay Powell and Attorney General Sam Olens wrote an op-ed for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution arguing that reforms to the state’s Open Records and Open Meetings acts further the stated intent that “Open government is essential to a free, open, and democratic society.”

The AJC believes that Democrats in the Georgia Senate, who hold 20 of 56 seats, have made themselves relevant by uniting against GOP measures that require a super-majority for passage. But UGA Political Science Professor Charles Bullock told the AJC, “Suddenly, [Democrats] have been exiled to Pluto or something,” Bullock said. “It’s rare the Republicans do need the support of the Democrats.”

Lobbyists on both sides of the Charter School Amendment have been spending money at a furious pace to influence the course of the legislation.

An Associated Press analysis of the bi-monthly reports that lobbyists turn in to the state ethics commission shows that charter school supporters have spent at least $7,800 since January on everything from breakfast to framed photos for state lawmakers. On the other side of the debate, groups representing teachers, school administrators, school boards and public school parents have spent at least $2,400 on lunch and coffee for lawmakers.

Congratulations to State Rep. Joe Wilkinson on the birth of his first granddaughter, Ella Grace Wilkinson, who weighed in at eight pounds. Regarding the fact that Ella Grace was born in Columbus, Ohio, Rep. Wilkinson said, “Just because a cat has her kittens in the oven doesn’t mean that they are muffins. She must be a Southerner because she had the good manners to wait to be born on a day that her Dad had off from work.”

Executive Branch

Attorney General Sam Olens accepted $815 million on behalf of Georgia from banks accused of robo-signing to foreclose on homes in Georgia. Approximately $82 million will be paid to homeowners affected by the fraud at the rate of $2000 per homeowner. Homeowners retain the right to sue for wrongful foreclosure. $104 million will go directly into the state’s general fund and Gov. Deal is asking the legislature to direct at least part of that into the rainy day fund.

GOP District Conventions

Governor Nathan Deal addressed the Cobb County Republican Convention on Saturday, highlighting state successes since his taking office in January 2011.

Meanwhile, Ron Paul supporters were busy disrupting and delaying conventions across the state.

The Texas congressman’s forces took over the DeKalb County delegate-selection convention in eastern metropolitan Atlanta. The mostly young, well-educated and well off Paul partisans nearly did so in Cobb County in northern metropolitan Atlanta, Republican convention participants in the state told The Washington Times.

Party regulars called the Paul supporters’ efforts a “hijacking.”

The Paul brigades’ strategy was to try to outlast the party regulars at the county conventions, raising unexpected issues and delaying long enough for the regulars who were unprepared for the delays to throw up their hands and leave the convention sites to fulfill other obligations.

“It was absolute bedlam and chaos,” Forsyth County physician and activist Brent Meadows said. “Our county’s convention didn’t end till 6:15 p.m.”

Previously, the Daily Beast wrote about the plans of the Paulbots:

The Paul campaign has rigorously organized its volunteers to attend the mass precinct meetings that took place all over Georgia. It has been instructing supporters on parliamentary procedure and state Republican rules. It is also giving advice on convention etiquette. In an e-mail to supporters, Charles Gregory, Georgia State Coordinator for Ron Paul 2012, wrote:

“It is my personal recommendation that you dress professionally and not overtly identify yourself as a Ron Paul supporter. Your position should simply be: “I’m here to send Obama home, that’s all I care about.” If asked who you support—just say you ‘haven’t made up your mind yet but they’re all better than what we’ve got now,’ etc.”

One longtime Gwinnett County Republican activist wrote on Facebook that, “It was disgusting how disruptive they were at our convention here in Gwinnett!” and another from coastal Georgia wrote, “Funny how the Paul bots are so critical of the political parties, and the political process, yet so eagerly game the system in an attempt to steal delegates for their candidate after the voters so soundly rejected him.”

It was bad enough at the DeKalb GOP convention that I attended that I now believe that the state GOP should adopt rules either requiring a loyalty pledge to support the eventual nominee as long as his name is not “Ron Paul,” or a verified record of voting in Republican primary elections that could be waived by local conventions on a case-by-case basis.

Presidential Election

Speaking of the Alabama and Mississippi primaries on which Newt Gingrich has placed all his chips, Emory University Political Science Professor Merle Black told NPR, “Santorum presents a direct challenge to the electoral coalition Gingrich put together in Georgia. If Santorum wins either of these states, he destroys the rationale for Gingrich’s candidacy.”

Georgia-based GOP political consultant Joel McElhannon told NPR, “It’s almost like Newt Gingrich losing Georgia. It’s a death knell. There’s [then] no legitimate argument for him to stay in. That doesn’t mean he won’t stay in. He’s Newt Gingrich.”

Nate Silver, who writes the FiveThirtyEight column for the New York Times says that geography is the best predictor of which candidate will carry a state’s primary or caucus.

Silver notes that Santorum carried Kansas and three adjoining states and that all his wins were in contiguous states, while Gingrich’s only wins were in the Deep South states of Georgia and South Carolina and Romney is strongest in urban and suburban counties.

Campaigns and Elections

Congressman Paul Broun will debate challengers, but not for a couple months. Opponent Stephen Simpson, running in the Republican primary, had previously challenged Broun to a series of five debates.

Republican challenger Stephen Simpson, a businessman and retired military officer from Milledgeville, challenged Broun last month to a series of five debates.

The University of Georgia College Republicans are organizing a debate in late March or early April, chairman Jamie Jordan said. The Georgia College and State University chapter will host a debate in Milledgeville May 22, Simpson said.

But Broun spokeswoman Jessica Hayes said the congressman won’t debate until after the candidate qualifying period ends May 25. No date has been scheduled, she said.

Republicans are lining up to beat their heads against a wall challenge Democratic Congressman Hank Johnson. Chris Vaughn is a pastor and hosts a cable show and has been endorsed by Georgia Conservatives in Action and Henry County Commission Chair B.J. MathisCatherine Davis, who has previously challenged Johnson announced at the DeKalb GOP Convention on Saturday that she is running again.

Alan Shinall has resigned as Chairman of the Cherokee County Elections Board in order to run for a new house seat in district 23. Shinall has chaired the elections board for 10 years and joins Mandi Ballinger and businessman Troy Welker, who previously announced for the seat. All three candidates are running as Republicans.

Businessman Jerome Edmondson will challenge incumbent DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis in the Democratic Primary.

Chief Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet of the Superior Court for the Augusta Judicial Circuit will run for reelection this year in Burke, Columbia and Richmond counties.

Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength will retire from the office he has held for 11 years and is not seeking reelection after 35 years with the department.

The City of Cornelia, in Habersham County, is headed to an April 3 special election runoff for Mayor between J.C. Irby, Jr. and Ernie Garrett.

Local News

Dawsonville Mayor Joe Lane Cox, who served since 2004, died Friday. “Our city is in mourning,” said Councilman James Grogan. “Our prayers are with his family.”

The Gwinnett Daily Post reports that approximately 20 percent of cars using HOT lanes in Gwinnett County are not paying the required toll.

Solar Power

The director of the Energy Institute at MIT warns that distributed production of solar power added to the existing grid may destabilize the distribution of electricity.

“That reflects what an amazing machine this is, spread out geographically, always having to balance demand and supply because electricity is not stored,” he says.

Every day, with the flick of a switch, millions of Americans tap into the electricity grid. It’s a web of power stations, transformers and transmission lines that span the continent, distributing electricity like veins and arteries distribute blood.

Electricity has to keep flowing all the time. Grid operators constantly match what power plants are producing with what people and their TVs, microwaves and air conditioners need. It’s the world’s biggest balancing act.

So what happens when you add in unpredictable sources of electricity, like wind or solar power?

“The operator does not have control of when to turn it on and off,” Moniz says. “It’s a new challenge that we just have to meet, and we’re not doing it at anything like the pace that I think we need.”

“We have to have a backup,” says Steve Berberich, the grid’s CEO. “There are times when Mother Nature decides to bring in clouds and turn off the wind, but I think everybody in that case still wants to have power.”

Oops – twice this morning I mistakenly referred to the Macon Ledger-Enquirer, when I meant to write Macon Telegraph. I blame it on 5 AM today really being 4 AM in my head.

4
Mar

Technology in politics and government

Classroom technology

Last year, some Georgia legislators proposed replacing books with iPads in Georgia schools. It was suggested that the measure might save money on the cost of books while lightening the load carried by students. I wasn’t convinced that it would improve education if they were simply being used as book replacements.

But now I’m learning about some neat educational initiatives using iPads as more than just a book substitute, but to add something to the classroom.

A Virginia teacher used Skype to enable guest lectures and a visit by the author of a textbook used in his class.

Another teacher used Skype to allow a girl who was home sick to participate in classroom discussion.

And here’s a list of ten ways to use Skype to enhance the classroom experience. One of the ways mentioned in that list is to allow students to practice foreign languages with native speakers.

iVote

In November, I wrote elsewhere about Oregon’s use of iPads to help elderly and disabled voters cast their ballots. NPR had a story on the pilot program, and a follow-up by Politico.com suggested that state officials considered the program a success:

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