Category: Voter Registration

10
Oct

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for October 10, 2012

Squiggy (left) is a 15 pound Shih-tzu who is only available for adoption to experienced rescue organizations because he may bite.

Grace (center) is a 6-pound, five-month old female Chihuahua, who is very nice according to the volunteers and is available for adoption beginning Friday from Walton County Animal Shelter.

Artie (right) is a neutered male Pomeranian estimated at 2 years of age. He will be available for adoption beginning Saturday from Walton County Animal Shelter.

28020 is a strikingly attractive Golden Retriever mix with blue eyes and stand-uppy ears. If you adopt her, I promise you that people will stop you on the streets walking her to tell you how pretty she is. She is available for adoption beginning Saturday at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

RealClearPolitics, which aggregates polling data in an attempt to gain greater accuracy, shows Governor Mitt Romney leading President Obama for the first time this year.

With 27 days until the election, Romney’s lead at present is fragile — but significant in that the trend is going toward him, not Obama.

RealClearPolitics rolling daily average of national polls put Romney in the lead for the first time on this week, with the spread 0.7 in Romney’s favor.

GALLUP: Gallup’s poll out Tuesday of likely voters — Gallup’s first snapshot of likely voters this election cycle — puts Romney at 49 percent to 47 percent for Obama.

Romney’s lead in the survey, taken Oct. 2-8 (the Denver debate was Oct. 3) is not statistically significant, but it does highlight the “competitive nature of the election,” according to Gallup.

Gallup at this stage is focusing more on likely voters — rather than the bigger universe of registered voters — because the point now is to focus on voters who will actually cast a ballot.

In the same poll, registered voters preferred Obama 49 percent to Romney at 46 percent.

PEW RESEARCH: The Pew Research Center likely voter survey, released Monday, put Romney at 49 percent to Obama’s 45 percent. What a reversal.

Last month, Obama was ahead at 51 percent to 45 percent for Romney. Now more voters see themselves as Republicans — a switch.

Among registered voters, Romney and Obama were tied at 46 percent each.

SWING STATES: RealClearPolitics tracking averages show Romney gaining in the crucial battleground states.

Before the debate, almost every swing state survey gave the lead to Obama.

RCP tracking of the latest polls by non-campaign sources puts Romney ahead in Florida, 0.7; North Carolina, 3; Colorado, 0.5.

Obama takes the lead in Virginia, 0.3; Ohio, 0.7; Iowa, 3.2.

Romney campaign spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom was cautiously gleeful in an MSNBC interview.

I have said previously that the numbers in any single poll are not necessarily the most important thing, but the trends seen in repeat polls are what I look for.

If you’re interested in becoming a discriminating reader of polling data, note the differences in the “likely voters” and “registered voters” numbers in both the Gallup and Pew polls, where it is enough to change the outcome of the election ballot question. We’ll be discussing this at length on the website.Continue Reading..

9
Oct

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for October 9, 2012


Meet Cliff, who was born with a cleft palate and needs help for surgery to correct his birth defect. Most dogs born with a cleft palate die or are euthanized as puppies, but against the odds, Cliff has survived to adulthood. That’s not the only tough odds Cliff has faced; he was found abandoned, tied up to a tree and starving.

Lifeline Animal Project took Cliff into their shelter and paid for his care, eventually bringing him into an after-school program for high school students, and now he lives with a foster family. The fosters say he is a great, loving dog. Lifeline is asking for donations to pay for surgery to correct his cleft palate; without surgery his prognosis for long-term survival is grim.

To give for Cliff’s surgery, visit Lifeline Animal Project and donate online, designating the gift for Cliff in the comments. While you’re on their website, check out some of their other dogs and cats. You may also mail a donation to A New Life For Cliff, LifeLine Animal Project, PO Box 15466, Atlanta, GA 30333.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

After we released a poll showing Governor Romney increasing his lead among Georgia voters, Steve Perkins, a member of the Democratic State Committee, the State Executive Commite,  and a Delegate to the Democratic National Convention, posted on Facebook in response to a question about the poll:

Six lines of text that contain five misspelled words. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the leadership of the Georgia Democratic Party.

Speaking of polling, yesterday, Pew Research released new data showing a dead heat between Mitt Romney and President Obama among all voters, and a three-point Romney lead among likely voters.

Rasmussen moved the Ohio Senate race between Republican Josh Mandel and Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown into a dead heat as well.

Voter Registration and Elections

The General Election date is November 6th, 2012. The deadline for voter registration for the General Election is TODAY, October 9, 2012. Today would be a good day to email five friends with the following information, so they can make sure they’re registered.

To check your voter registration or view a sample ballot, please visit the Georgia Secretary of State’s office and use their MVP voter registration tool.

For questions about election dates, always check with the Georgia Secretary of State’s website or your local County Elections Office.

Advanced voting in person starts October 15, 2012here’s where and when to vote early in person in your county. More than 10,000 voters are marked as having already voted in the November 6th General Election, according to data from the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

As of yesterday, more than 126,000 Georgia voters had requested mail-in absentee ballot.

Floyd County added net voters to its rolls, reporting that in October 130 newly registered voters were added while 16 were removed for various reasons. Overall, voter numbers are down in Extreme Northwest Georgia.

As of Oct. 1, there were 224,197 registered in Floyd, Bartow, Chattooga, Polk, Gordon, Walker, Catoosa and Dade counties, according to the latest Georgia secretary of state report.

The Sept. 1 report showed 226,560 on the rolls — already a decrease from the 236,769 registered for the last presidential election in 2008.

A Get-Out-The-Vote ad filmed in Macon is now available for viewing online.

The ad appears to have an anti-Obama slant, and underneath the video on the website is the statement “America is hurting. We’re going into our 44th month with an unemployment rate above 8%. After being promised change, we haven’t seen it. This Election Day, your vote is the choice between a broken economy and a brighter future. Help make the difference–VOTE!”

State and Local Issues

Online shoppers will find a new item in their shopping cart: Georgia state sales taxes will now be collected in more online transactions.

With changes in the tax law that began to take effect last week, the state intends to begin treating some online retailers the same way it treats those with stores here: by collecting sales tax.

That means Georgians who avoid paying sales tax by buying online may now find that harder to do.

The amount of money people spend online is growing steadily and shows no signs of abating. In Georgia alone, a 2009 University of Tennessee estimate projected the state would lose as much as $455.5 million in uncollected sales tax from online purchases in 2012.

Collecting the tax from some web sellers that were not previously required to charge sales tax will add an estimated $18 million a year to the state’s coffers.

With the change, the state will collect just a portion of the missing dollars, but in Georgia and around the country, revenue shortfalls caused by the recession have added urgency to the push for more sales tax collections.

It’s also an issue of fairness for stores in local strip centers and shopping malls, which pay property taxes and contribute to the fabric of a community. A desire to put them on equal footing with online competitors has galvanized support to extend sales tax collections in many states. There is an expectation, too, that action by the states may lead the federal government to change laws regarding sales tax collections. Online-sales-tax bills are wending their way through the House and the Senate.

“It means a great deal to small business,” said Rick McAllister, president and CEO of the Georgia Retail Association. “It’s tough to start out the day at a mom-and-pop retail store when you’re at an 8 percent disadvantage before you open the door.”

Stores are only required to charge sales tax for online purchases in a state if they have a physical presence in that state: a Macy’s store at Lenox Square, for example, or a call center in Alpharetta.

Georgia has expanded its definition of a “physical presence” to get more online stores to collect sales tax from their customers.

Beginning last week, that included companies that use warehouses or offices in the state, whether they own them or not. At the end of the year, it will also include companies that have click-through ads on Georgia-based websites, known as affiliate relationships.

MARTA spent $144,000 on a psychological firm to assess the agency’s work environment.

Contracts showed $24,000 was to be paid to Dockery’s company in October 2010 for an initial assessment of MARTA leadership. The board agreed to pay the company and its minority partner, Optimism Matters, another $120,000.

“Interview feedback gathered from the Executive Management Team (EMT) and the board during September and November revealed numerous opportunities for performance improvement for Dr. Beverly Scott and the other members of the executive team,” the consulting group said in a November 2010 proposal to Tyler.

Jill Perry-Smith, an expert on organizational behavior at the Emory University, said businesses commonly hire outside consultants to try and determine what might be creating management problems, but such probes are generally are topical and not focused on the top executive.

“That is unusual,” she said. “It might suggest there is a problem with the leadership that needs to be addressed or it might suggest something else. It might send an unintended message that those commissioning it did not intend to send.”

MARTA has long battled criticism of its management and spending, with state lawmakers especially critical. State Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Atlanta, called the absence of a written evaluation from the Marietta consultant troubling.

“It’s a fairly extensive evaluation on an odd subject matter for which there appears to be no tangible result,” said Jacobs, who chairs the legislative committee that oversees MARTA. “I am going to ask questions about it. I would inquire into what was spent, how it was used and what the results were. I’m not going to prejudge the propriety of he expenditure but it certainly is questionable on its face.”

Maria Saporta accuses Jacobs of a bizarre conspiracy to takeover MARTA.

State Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-DeKalb) has been quick to critique MARTA in just about any way he can.

But now it’s time to turn the table on Jacobs. During the search for a new general manager for MARTA, Jacobs acted in a most inappropriate manner by inserting himself into the process.

So why would Jacobs insert himself into MARTA’s search process when he had no appropriate role to do so?

The possible answers are disturbing. Did Jacobs and Ferrell have some kind of deal to help the state gain control over MARTA? Would Ferrell have viewed Jacobs as his true boss rather than the MARTA board? In other words, was Jacobs hoping to insert Ferrell as his puppet at MARTA?

Remember, the State of Georgia provides virtually no financial support for MARTA, and as such, it has no right to try to call the shots.

Actually, because MARTA is a creature of the legislature through the MARTA Act, the legislature does have the right and responsibility of oversight. The MARTOC committee, which Jacobs chairs, will meet on Thursday from 9 AM to noon in Room 406 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building.

Local officials in Douglasville, which has a goofy system that pays per meeting attended rather than a salary, have agreed to pay back more than $24,000 in payments received for meetings that did not occur or did not meet the city’s guidelines for payment.

Of these 284 improper payments, 91 were improper $313 payments to former Mayor Mickey Thompson, for which he has been indicted on theft by taking charges. That leaves 193 payments that went to members of council since 2007, with some members being paid for more than 30 meetings at $125 each – meetings that did not fit within the ordinance.

That means that Thompson was paid $28,483 that the GBI deemed improper. City council members received $24,313 improperly – for a total of $52,796 paid that was outside what is allowable by law.

The illegal payments, were first uncovered by a series of open records requests by the Douglas County Sentinel and then verified by the GBI probe based on the newspaper’s findings. The issue resulted from the current pay-by-the-meeting compensation used for elected officials. Council members are paid $125 per meeting and the mayor is paid $313 per meeting. Every other municipality of a similar size in Georgia pays a flat monthly salary to elected officials.

[Current Mayor Harvey] Persons said that in some instances, payments were made based on approvals by the former mayor, even though the council members in some cases didn’t request the payment.

“In closing, let me point out the City Council on Oct. 1 unanimously adopted a resolution to change the method of payment for the City’s elected officials from a per meeting basis to a fixed monthly salary basis,” Persons said. “Currently, we are reviewing how to accomplish this in accordance with State election laws governing a change in the level of an elected official’s compensation level other than at the start of the term of office for those elected at the next regular municipal election in November 2013.”

“I have said from the day I took office in January that the City of Douglasville needed to change how its elected officials are paid. I remain committed to seeing that this is done, and all members of the current City Council are in total agreement with this statement.”

No court date has been set for Thompson. Court records show that he has waived an arraignment and indications are that a plea deal, which would include repayment, is being worked out on the charges.

Click HereRome City Commissioners met with their local legislative delegation to discuss the city’s priorities and position for the 2013 Session of the General Assembly.

“A lot of what you do in the legislature affects us; in the services we provide, in the way we get our money,” City Manager John Bennett said. “And sometimes there are unintended consequences to what you do.”

State Reps. Katie Demp­sey, R-Rome, and Barbara Massey Reece, D-Menlo, attended the session along with two Georgia Municipal Association staffers, then the group toured city facilities on the Toonerville Trolley. State Rep. Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, is on Georgia National Guard duty and state Sen.-elect Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, also was absent because of work obligations.

Rome City Commission members met with local lawmakers Wednesday to discuss priorities for the 2013 Georgia General Assembly session. Their No. 1 wish: Consider the hometown impact of every proposed action.

“A lot of what you do in the legislature affects us; in the services we provide, in the way we get our money,” City Manager John Bennett said. “And sometimes there are unintended consequences to what you do.”

State Reps. Katie Demp­sey, R-Rome, and Barbara Massey Reece, D-Menlo, attended the session along with two Georgia Municipal Association staffers, then the group toured city facilities on the Toonerville Trolley. State Rep. Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, is on Georgia National Guard duty and state Sen.-elect Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, also was absent because of work obligations.

  • Board members asked lawmakers to keep pushing to allow local collection of sales tax, instead of running it through the Georgia Department of Revenue.“We have a better idea here who’s paying and who’s not paying, plus we’d get a more accurate remission,” Mayor Evie McNiece said.The Commission also supports a sales tax on Internet sales, she said, because tax-free sellers are unfair competition for local merchants.
  • Commissioners also want the Legislature to stop redirecting fees collected for special funds — such as the solid waste trust fund, teen driver education and public safety training.The House passed a bill this year that would halt collections if the money isn’t used for its intended purpose, but it did not pass the Senate by the end of the session. Dempsey said she expects it to be resubmitted in 2013.
  • The elimination of the “birthday tax” on car tags and the sales tax on energy used in manufacturing also are expected to affect local budgets.Lost money from the car tags will supposedly be made up by a new tax on person-to-person car sales but Commissioner Jamie Doss said local officials across the state are concerned that the revenue projections won’t hold up over time.

Augusta City Council candidates Mary Davis (D3) and Donnie Smith (D7) lead fundraising in their respective races.

Davis, who once served as Mayor Deke Copenhaver’s campaign chairwoman, has raised the most of any of the 11 candidates for the five seats. She has collected $38,865 since starting her campaign and has $21,030 on hand.

United State Senator Johnny Isakson’s office will have a staffer available for constituent issues in Rome on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, from 2 to 4 PM in the conference room of the Coosa Valley Credit Union, 1504 Dean Avenue, Rome, Ga. 30161.

8
Oct

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for October 8, 2012

27950 (yellow) and 27951 (black) are little female puppies described as lab mix, who will be available for adoption beginning Wednesday from Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. If you look closely at the photo on the right, it looks like the yellow one is hugging her sister. You should go adopt both of them.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

The General Election date is November 6th, 2012. The deadline for voter registration for the General Election is TOMORROW, October 9, 2012. Today would be a good day to email five friends with the following information, so they can make sure they’re registered.

To check your voter registration or view a sample ballot, please visit the Georgia Secretary of State’s office and use their MVP voter registration tool.

For questions about election dates, always check with the Georgia Secretary of State’s website or your local County Elections Office.

Advanced voting in person starts October 15, 2012here’s where and when to vote early in person in your county. More than 10,000 voters are marked as having already voted in the November 6th General Election, according to data from the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

Statewide Poll of Georgia Voters shows Romney’s lead over Obama increasing
In the month between September 4th and October 4th, Governor Mitt Romney’s lead over President Obama among Georgia voters increased by between 5.8 and 7.6 points. While Romney’s lead in Georgia has long been accepted as insurmountable, the increase means that Republican candidates down the ballot will benefit more from the coattail effect.
What does it mean to say that the lead has changed by 5.8 to 7.6 points? It means that if the demographics of the electorate resemble those of the 2008 General Election, Romney has gained 5.8 points, and if they resemble the 2010 General Election, Romney is up by 7.6 points.
Adjusting poll results to bring the demographics in line with a set of assumptions is called “weighting.” Here’s a lot of information about the process if you’re completely obsessed with polling.
Pundits have been arguing over the question of whether the electorate will be like 2008, and it’s an important point, as we can see that it affects the outcome of the election.
The tables above show how this works in a simplified manner. One of the major factors that led to President Obama’s election in 2008 was the extraordinarily high turnout of younger voters; the difference between 25% of 2008 voters being 18-34 years old and less than fifteen percent in 2010 was important because Obama was more popular with these voters.
Ultimately, when I look at polls, what I’m looking for is not so much exact numbers separating the candidates, but the direction each is moving. And here in Georgia, Romney is moving up and Obama is slipping.
Romney is up in polls in swing states as well according to Nate Silver.
On Friday, Mitt Romney had his best day in state-level polling since at least the party conventions, something that very probably reflects improvement in his standing following the presidential debate in Denver on Wednesday.

Two automated polling firms, Rasmussen Reports and We Ask America, released polls in Ohio, Florida and Virginia on Friday. All of these polls were conducted on Thursday, the day after the Denver debate.

In the Rasmussen Reports polls, Mr. Romney trailed President Obama by one point in Ohio. But he led him by one point in Virginia and by two points in Florida.

These are very good numbers for Mr. Romney as compared with the ones we were seeing recently, although part of that is because Rasmussen has shown more favorable numbers for him in these states throughout the year. As compared with Rasmussen Reports’ previous polls of the same states, the margin in Ohio held steady, but Mr. Romney gained two points in Virginia and four in Florida, for an average gain of two points among the three states.

Georgia College Republicans were in Virginia this past weekend and will be in Florida next weekend. Georgia Young Republicans also are headed to Florida this weekend, where they will go door-to-door on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and phonebank on Saturday evening.

Georgia Political News

Senator John Bulloch (R-Ochlocknee) has been hospitalized for meningitis and appears to be improving.

The qualifications challenge against Democratic state house candidate Ronnie Mabra has been settled, as a Fulton County Superior Court judge denied an appeal to the decision by Secretary of State Brian Kemp that Mabra is a resident of the district.

The AJC reported extensively about the campaign by former Speaker Glenn Richardson (R-Paulding) to return to the Gold Dome.

Political signs are popping up in west Georgia. Campaign mailers are cluttering mailboxes. The race in the special election for the open seat in state Senate District 30 is off and running.

But Glenn Richardson, the once powerful Speaker of the House of Georgia, is still struggling at the starting line. By late-week, the man who once directed a quarter-million-dollar war chest and engineered a historic Republican takeover in the House, was still waiting to get his yard signs back from the printer.

There was a reason for the delay. “I had to have the money before I ordered them,” the Paulding County attorney said a bit sheepishly. “I’m not independently wealthy.”

In fact, he said, he’s pretty close to broke. Most months, he struggles to pay his mortgage. And campaign contributions are not exactly flowing in. What once was an endless stream of $1,000 donations is now drips and drabs of checks with one or two fewer zeroes.

While the bit about waiting until he could afford yard signs is a nice device for framing the hard-luck story, it’s no longer true, as Richardson had yardsigns available on Sunday.

The AJC writes further:

The Nov. 6 primary most likely will go to a runoff on Dec. 4, observers say, because there are four candidates, all with built-in geographical constituencies. More than half the nearly 1,000-square-mile, 90,000-voter district is in Carroll County and the other portions are in Douglas and Paulding counties.

Hembree, a Republican state rep with 18 years in office lives near Douglasville and has roots in Carroll. Naughton and Dugan both live in Carroll County.

Hembree has $49,000 in his election fund as a state rep but said he does not know it he can use the funds. In 2009, Richardson contributed $219,000 from his election fund to MMV Alliance PAC, a fund he started to elect Republicans. He said he cannot use the money for his election. Naughton, a successful businessman in his own right, is related by marriage to the Richards family, who owns Southwire, the cable manufacturing giant in Carrollton.

The two-month-long race, Hembree said, is a “100-yard dash at Olympic pace,” forcing candidates to eschew a slow, get-to-know-voters campaign and instead try to find them in groups whenever they can. Also, he hits the phones hard for contributions, making 100 calls a day.

“It’s a very grueling process,” Hembree said.

I think the AJC is wrong. We polled that district and found that Hembree leads with 38.7% to 10.2% for Richardson and both of the Carroll County candidates in single digits. I don’t see how Hembree doesn’t win outright on November 6th.

State Rep. Buzz Brockway (R-Gwinnett) was appointed to the legislature’s Joint Human Trafficking Commission by Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge).

“I look forward to working with the other members of the Study Committee on this very important issue,” Brockway said in a statement. “Human trafficking is a brutal crime and every part of our community can play a role in providing the victims the help they need.”

Republican Congressman Rob Woodall (R-7) will meet his longshot Democratic challenger in a debate on October 15th from 6:30 to 8:30 PM at Gwinnett Technical College’s Busbee Center, located at 5150 Sugarloaf Parkway in Lawrenceville.

Republican Chatham County Commissioner Helen Stone was reimbursed for mileage to attend political events, including her own reelection announcement.

After being questioned by a reporter, Stone agreed the mileage reimbursements were inappropriate.

“I am not perfect,” Stone said. “I will screw up from time to time.”

Stone said it was questionable whether the meet and greets she attended were ineligible for mileage reimbursements — since she was meeting her constituents — but she decided to refund the county for those expenses to avoid any possible impropriety.

“I would rather err on the side of caution and get it right,” she said. “At this point my integrity as a commissioner far outweighs any monetary expense.”

Stone maintained that reimbursements for attending the campaign events of other Republican candidates were legitimate because they gave her a chance to learn about their platforms and she may be working with some of them.

The Macon Telegraph profiles Republican State Rep. Matt Hatchett and his Democratic challenger.

“My platform last time was almost the same as it is now — trying to recruit jobs back to our community,” said Hatchett, first elected in 2010.

He proudly points to one tax change he helped pass earlier this year: eliminating the sales tax on energy used in manufacturing.

“That’s already helping to attract jobs,” Hatchett said. He thinks that proposal is part of why Dinex and Erdrich, a pair of European manufacturers, came to Laurens County in early 2012, both bringing about 250 jobs.

The incumbent supports further changes, including a proposal to shift the state’s tax levies, taxing incomes less and sales more.

“I’m definitely a consumption tax person myself. I think that’s one of the fairer taxes,” Hatchett said.

Redistricting and Voting

Greene County Commission districts will be redrawn by the Legislative Reapportionment Office on a “blind” basis that ignores where incumbents live or the districts they currently represent:

At least two commissioners, however, still believe it’s the wrong way to go, contending the latest action still exhibits racism.

A blind map simply means that those drawing up a new district voting map won’t be concerned about what districts incumbent commissioners now represent.

“This is the best way to draw up the new map,” Channell said, following a 3-2 vote by commissioners to have officials with the Georgia Reapportionment Office draw the map, as opposed to it being drawn, locally, by commissioners and members of the Greene County Board of Education. “It takes away all the arguing that we had in the past.”

Two members of the five-member commission panel, Commissioners Marion Rhodes and Titus Andrews Sr. don’t like the idea of the state drawing up the new map. And they expressed their views, raising concerns already addressed in a federal lawsuit that was brought against the county earlier this year by members of the Greene County Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

“I totally disagree with the whole process,” Andrews said, noting there were two existing maps on the table that already had been drawn up, locally. He said he couldn’t understand why commissioners couldn’t revisit one of those maps.

“Either one of those maps would be sufficient,” Andrews said.

“I feel the same way,” Rhodes said.

Commissioner Walter L. “Bud” Sanders said he didn’t believe either one of those maps would work, contending that the new map must conform to DOJ guidelines.

“It’s understood,” Channell replied.

Sanders quickly fired back, saying, “I don’t know if it’s understood or not by the state.”

Commissioner Gerald Torbert also weighed in, saying he favored incumbents not being considered when drawing up a new map.

Maps drawn up earlier by commissioners and school board members later were rejected by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The lawsuit by the NAACP followed.

Newnan City Council members will vote on new district maps for their own districts.

Newnan City Council is expected to vote Tuesday on new redistricting maps that will change how council members are elected and what districts voters live in.

The decision likely will mean council will have at least two sitting members in the same district and possibly three, meaning they will have to run against each other in the next election.

There are three maps under consideration, although one known as the “Butterfly Option” because of its shape, has little chance because it would dilute minority voting strength. And because the U.S. Department of Justice has to approve the new districts, there’s little hope it would pass their approval.

That option is the only one where none of the council members would have to run against each other. It would create six separate districts with voters in each district voting for one council member. The current makeup, which also includes six council members, splits the city into four districts and two super districts — voters select the council member from their district, as well as one super district representative.
Fulton County Elections Board member William Riley is said to have influenced his board fellow members to hire Sam Westmoreland.
When a panel of experts first rated candidates for the job, Westmoreland landed at the bottom of the list. Out of nine qualified applicants, he ranked seventh. But then William Riley, a board member and friend of Westmoreland, intervened and pushed for changes that allowed him to win the $105,000-a-year job.

The original scores were tossed out and board members themselves did another round of interviews. This time, Westmoreland ranked first. The board voted him in, choosing a onetime elections board colleague over competitors with years of election experience. Documents show it disregarded its own written hiring plan and failed to check his background or call his last three employers.

Riley said to blame him for giving Westmoreland an advantage is to give him too much credit.

“I can’t pick him,” he said. “It takes three votes to do anything.”

Westmoreland, a real estate lawyer, would go on to oversee a sloppy job of adjusting precinct lines for redistricting, leading to a bungled July primary where 690 voters in Sandy Springs and southeast Atlanta got assigned to the wrong state Senate and state House races.

Riley, a Republican Party appointee to the elections board, strongly denies friendship was his motive, but acknowledged politics played a role.

While he was friends with Westmoreland and had him to his home for dinner on several occasions, he said he also believed he was the best person for the job. He said he had become concerned that the county’s Registration and Elections Department was morphing into an arm of the Democratic Party, and he intervened because he feared the panel’s top picks would be too politically biased.

Although Westmoreland is a solid Democrat and a former head of the county Democratic party, Riley said he had worked with him for years and trusted him to keep politics out of the job. “He was my professional friend more than he was any other kind of friend,” Riley said. “He was best suited for this job, better than any of the other candidates.”

Quote of the Day, from the Savannah Morning News

“I’m an undecided voter and no one has knocked on my door and asked for a vote. All I’ve gotten is solicitations for money and emails. Until someone knocks on my door I guess I’ll waste my vote on a Libertarian.”

Ethics

Click Here

Georgia candidates on the November ballot were required to file Campaign Contribution Disclosures with the State Ethics Campaign Finance Commission last week.

In Arizona, a State Representative pled guilty to accepting bribes in exchange for his actions as a City Councilman in Tempe before he was elected to the legislature.

Phoenix, Arizona – Arizona State Representative Paul Ben Arredondo pled guilty today in Phoenix federal court, admitting that he solicited and took a bribe in exchange for promises of official action both as a city councilmember and a state representative. Arredondo also pleaded guilty to mail fraud, admitting that he defrauded donors to the Ben Arredondo scholarship fund.

Arredondo pleaded guilty to depriving the citizens of the city of Tempe, Ariz., and the state of Arizona of his honest services as an elected official, and to committing mail fraud. He entered his guilty plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lawrence Anderson.

Arredondo, 65, of Tempe, was a Tempe city councilmember for approximately 16 years, until July 2010. In November 2010, Arredondo was elected to the House of Representatives of the Arizona State Legislature.

During his plea, Arredondo admitted that from February 2009 to November 2010, he solicited and accepted things of value, collectively a bribe, from representatives of “Company A,” a fictitious company operated by FBI undercover agents that was purportedly seeking to develop real estate projects in Tempe.

Arredondo took the bribe with the intent to be influenced in the performance of his official duties, first as a councilmember and later as an elected member of the Arizona House of Representatives. Arredondo admitted that the things he took included tickets to college and professional sporting events, some of which he caused to be mailed to his home, and tables at charity events with his choice of guests. [Emphasis added].

In exchange for the bribe, Arredondo agreed to take a number of official actions, including revealing confidential information to Company A – such as the price Tempe would be willing to accept for property and the best way to present a purchase proposal. He also agreed to use his position as a councilmember to influence the decisions of other Tempe officials in ways that were favorable to Company A; to contact various Tempe officials to facilitate and promote the company’s efforts to win support for its real estate project; and, following his election to the Arizona House of Representatives, to assure representatives of Company A that he would continue to support Company A’s project. Arredondo did not disclose that he had received anything of value from representatives of the company during any of his interactions with Tempe officials about Company A.

Arredondo pleaded guilty to one count each of honest services mail fraud and mail fraud. Each charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the amount gained or lost in the scheme. Sentencing has been scheduled for Jan. 22, 2013.

5
Oct

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for Oct. 5, 2012

The General Election date is November 6th, 2012. The deadline for voter registration for the General Election is October 9, 2012, you have THREE DAYS TO ENSURE YOU ARE REGISTERED TO VOTE. Today would be a good day to email five friends with the following information, so they can make sure they’re registered.

To check your voter registration or view a sample ballot, please visit the Georgia Secretary of State’s office and use their MVP voter registration tool.

For questions about election dates, always check with the Georgia Secretary of State’s website or your local County Elections Office.

Advanced voting in person starts October 15, 2012here’s where and when to vote early in person in your county. More than 10,000 voters are marked as having already voted in the November 6th General Election, according to data from the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

Dog Rescue

2210, 2238, and 2095 are black lab mixes who are available for adoption from the Floyd County Animal Shelter in Rome, Georgia.

27851 is a beautiful male German Shepherd, and is one of the dogs who is eligible for Gwinnett County Animal Shelter’s “Black Friday Sale,” where all black or majority black dogs and cats may be adopted for $30.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Governor Nathan Deal announced a sales tax holiday for this weekend, October 5-7th for Energy Star and WaterSense appliances and fixtures:

“I encourage everyone to play their part in maintaining our environment by participating in the tax-free holiday to save money and, ultimately, conserve Georgia’s resources,” Deal said.

The sales tax holiday will take place Oct. 5-7 and will apply to:

  • Dishwashers, clothes washers, air conditioners, ceiling fans, fluorescent light bulbs, dehumidifiers, programmable thermostats, refrigerators, doors and windows that have the ENERGY STAR label and a purchase price of $1,500 or less.
  • Bathroom sink faucets, high-efficiency toilets and urinals, showerheads, faucet accessories (such as aerators), and weather- or sensor-based irrigation controllers that have the WaterSense label and a purchase price of $1,500 or less.

The state and local sales tax exemption will not apply to items purchased for trade or business use, or items rented or leased.

Attorney General Sam Olens followed-up on his legal advice to his client, Dr. John Barge, Georgia State School Superintendent, in which Olens said that elected school board members cannot advocate for approval or rejection of election measures using public resources.

“We’re currently working on advice to the state school superintendent on what enforcement mechanisms may be appropriate or necessary,” Olens told journalists in a conference call Thursday afternoon. “Because that’s active, I’m not going to get into those details right now.”

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens said Thursday that he will have more to say, in the next couple of weeks, about whether local school boards violated state law when they approved resolutions opposing the charter schools amendment.

“We’re currently working on advice to the state school superintendent on what enforcement mechanisms may be appropriate or necessary,” Olens told journalists in a conference call Thursday afternoon. “Because that’s active, I’m not going to get into those details right now.”

Some supporters of the charter schools amendment have complained that Georgia Schools Superintendent John Barge and several school boards violated state law by using taxpayer resources to oppose the amendment. Barge wrote Olens seeking guidance, and on Wednesday the attorney general responded with a three-page letter citing the law against using taxpayer resources to participate in a political campaign.

Olens’ letter only addressed only school boards, not the actions by supporters of the amendment, which he said he was not asked to address. Some legislators have been active in supporting the amendment, and Gov. Nathan Deal has endorsed it in public speeches.

“Some questions, like whether certain groups have broken the law, I can’t answer because they are fact-intensive questions, and I don’t have the facts,” Olens said. “I’m not going to get into answering hypothetical questions about what does and doesn’t violate the law when I have an active matter on the issue.”

The MARTA Board voted to hire Keith Parker, currently head of VIA Metropolitan Transit in San Antonio as the next General Manager.

Board Chairman Fred Daniels said the board would be negotiating a contract with Keith Parker, who is currently the chief of VIA Metropolitan Transit in San Antonio.

Daniels noted that Parker was coming from a politically conservative area. He hoped that would serve Parker well in negotiations with Georgia’s GOP-dominated Legislature, which provides no funding for MARTA, if the Legislature “gives him a chance.”

“He has worked well with both the business community and the political community,” Daniels said. “He has a track record in San Antonio of working with both Republicans and Democrats. Same thing in Charlotte.”

Not having such a good relationship with Republicans is the MARTA Board itself, who rejected the advice of State Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-City of Brookhaven), Chairs of the legislature’s MARTA Oversight Committee.

In choosing Parker, MARTA’s board of directors rejected an internal candidate who had been favored by state Rep. Mike Jacobs.

“The decision the MARTA Board makes … may well determine in the very near term the direction of its relationship with the General Assembly. An internal candidate who is committed to doing the work that needs to be done to get MARTA’s fiscal ship righted could go a long way to shoring up and bolstering the relationship with the General Assembly.”

Parker was selected by a unanimous vote of 9-0, with one abstention – board member Wendy Butler. Butler served as Jacobs’ campaign manager in his 2010 bid for reelection to the state House, according to her vita on linkedin.com.

And then the MARTA Board poked the legislature with a stick by allegedly violating the state’s Open Meetings law.

In a complaint filed with the state attorney general, Republican State Representative Mike Jacobs of Atlanta is alleging MARTA’s search chair requested final decisions from each board member via emails dating back to September 13th.

Hollie Manheimer of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation says the email correspondence appears to meet the definition of a vote.

“When you go from one person to the next looking for some kind of consensus, that gets awfully close to the definition of a vote,” said Manheimer.

“Historically the AG [attorney general] has always said things like a rolling or walking quorum are violations of the law and I would very much expect Mr. Olens to keep on with that interpretation.”

But Holland & Knight attorney Robert Highsmith, who is representing the MARTA board, says the emails don’t break state law.

“If members want to inquire with each other how they intend to vote in a future meeting, that’s perfectly permissible and if the public wants to review those emails they are permitted to do so under the Open Records Act.”

If you’ve always wondered what Robert Highsmith sounds like, you can hear him in the WABE piece online yet again insisting his client did no wrong, or covering CCR’s “Around the Bend.”

The Georgia Lottery Board appears to be doing better in its search for a new Lottery President:

Debbie Dlugolenski Alford, who heads the governor’s Office of Planning and Budget and serves on the Lottery Board, is expected to replace Margaret DeFrancisco as president of one of the country’s most successful lotteries.

Fulton County Commissioners may want to work on their “people skills” as they may have to deal directly with state legislators after rejecting contracts for state and federal lobbyists.

In past sessions of the General Assembly, Fulton has spent tens of thousands of dollars on lobbyists to push back against Republican efforts to restructure the county’s government or to allow the northern cities to break off into a new Milton County.

For the session that opens in January, state Rep. Lynne Riley, R-Johns Creek, is expected to push for a tax cap that could see county taxes go down. House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey, who represents Buckhead, wants city governments to take over some county services — possibly libraries and senior centers — which could strain city governments that have their own tax caps and can’t raise taxes without referendums.

The lobbyist proposals ran into trouble Wednesday when Commissioner Robb Pitts accused county staffers of manipulating the bid process so that the spouse of the county’s current hired lobbyist would get the $160,0000 state-level contract. He called the proposed $85,000 federal contract “wasteful and useless,” and Vice Chairwoman Emma Darnell questioned why the county should pay a firm to communicate with members of Congress whom she bumps into in the grocery store.

Questions were raised about why the county should pay for outside lobbying firms when it also has an in-house Intergovernmental Affairs Division that’s spending more than $600,000 this year. It’s also part of the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, which lobbies for the state’s counties.

Click HereMarietta Daily Journal interviewed Cobb County legislators about the renewal of the hospital bed tax. Here’s the MDJ’s tally so far:

Senator Judson Hill (R) No
State Rep. Ed Setzler (R) No
State Rep. Don Parsons (R) Probable Yes
State Rep. Rich Golick (R) Undecided
State Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R) leaning No
State Rep. Sam Teasley (R) leaning No
State Rep. Elect Charles Gregory (R) leaning No
State Rep. Matt Dollar (R) Undecided

Cobb County Superior Court Judge Dorothy Robinson retires at the end of December after 40 years on the bench.

Georgia Polling Report

At noon today, we’ll release results of a poll of Georgia voters taken last night on the Presidential election. Stay tuned to the website. Media members working on deadline can email me for advance copies.

Mitt Romney was the clear winner of Wednesday night’s Presidential debate, according to polls of debate watchers. Also according to Mitt Romney.

CBS News, which as in past elections and presidential addresses used the GfK’s KnowledgePanel representative Internet panel to interview 523 uncommitted voters who watched the debate (with a reported margin of error of +/- 4 percent). Its sample included voters who were either totally undecided before the debate or who were leaning to a candidate, but said they may still change their minds.

Respondents were unambiguous about who won. By a 46 percent to 22 percent margin, the poll’s uncommitted voters said they thought Romney won. After the debate, 56 percent said they had a better opinion of Romney, 11 percent had a worse opinion and 32 percent reported their opinion was unchanged.

CNN, which polled 430 adults who watched the debate and who had agreed to be interviewed after participating in an earlier CNN poll, also found clear evidence of a Romney victory. The survey found that 67 percent thought Romney won the debate, while only 25 percent said they thought Obama won. Thirty-five percent of respondents said they were more likely to vote for Romney after watching the debate, 18 percent for Obama and 47 percent said neither.

Democracy Corps, a Democratic firm, conducted a debate group with Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund, with 45 independent voters in Denver. Among the group, 42 percent said Romney won, while 20 percent thought Obama won, and 38 percent said neither candidate did. One-third said they were likely to vote for Obama, compared with 31 percent before the debate. Forty-four percent said they backed Romney, up from 27 percent pre-debate.

Nate Silver says the real impact of the debate won’t be seen in polls yet.

It’s just too soon answer the question of what impact Wednesday night’s debate in Denver, which instant-reaction polls judged to be a clear win for Mitt Romney, will have on the head-to-head polls.

For the time being, a better approach to estimate Mr. Romney’s post-debate bounce may be to compare the historical relationshipbetween instant-reaction polls of the debate with their eventual effect on the horse-race numbers. That technique would estimate Mr. Romney gaining a net of 2.2 percentage points on Mr. Obama. But this calculation has a margin of error as well — about 3.5 percentage points in estimating the change in the margin between the candidates.

The most likely range of outcomes, however, is Mr. Romney gaining from one and four points on Mr. Obama once the effects of the debate are fully accounted for.

Of course, there is a huge difference depending on where Mr. Romney might fall within that range. If he adds four points, the race will be very nearly tied.

If he gains just one point, conversely, the situation will look rather poor for him: he’ll have had what was almost certainly the best night of his campaign, and not gotten very much out of it.

The National Election Pool, which does exit polling for the AP and major television networks will not survey Georgia voters on November 6th. Georgia is one of 19 states that are excluded.

Voters in the excluded states will still be interviewed as part of a national exit poll, but state-level estimates of the partisan, age or racial makeups of electorates won’t be available as they have been since 1992. The lack of data may hamper election night analyses in some states, and it will almost certainly limit post-election research for years to come.

A growing number of voters casting early ballots has added to the complexity of carrying out surveys in 50 states, the District of Columbia and nationally. In more and more states it has become crucial to supplement in-person precinct polling with relatively costly telephone interviews in order to achieve representative samples.

This year, exit pollsters are set to carry out phone polls in 15 states, about half of all states covered, and increase the sample sizes of those polls by 32 percent, according to Merkle. Moreover, the continued rise in the number of voters using cellphones also bumps up the price of phone surveys, another challenge motivating the changes for 2012.

Here is a list of the states that will be excluded from coverage: Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Comparing this list with the election map, reveals how carefully the exit poll planners allocated resources. All 19 of the states with no exit polls are classified as either “solid Obama” or “solid Romney,” and there is only one “toss-up” gubernatorial or U.S. Senate race not on the list: the competitive North Dakota match-up of Heidi Heitkamp and Rick Berg.

The National Election Pool still plans to use phone polling in those states in which it will not be exit polling.

If you’re completely obsessed with interested in polling, you might be interested in my thoughts on weighting, a statistical practice that has come under fire as a source of perceived bias against Republicans by mainstream media polls.

4
Oct

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for October 4, 2012

The General Election date is November 6th, 2012. The deadline for voter registration for the General Election is October 9, 2012, less than one week from today. Today would be a good day to email five friends with the following information, so they can make sure they’re registered.

To check your voter registration or view a sample ballot, please visit the Georgia Secretary of State’s office and use their MVP voter registration tool.

For questions about election dates, always check with the Georgia Secretary of State’s website or your local County Elections Office.

Advanced voting in person starts October 15, 2012; here’s where and when to vote early in person in your county. More than 10,000 voters are marked as having already voted in the November 6th General Election, according to data from the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

Adoptable Dogs

Tomorrow is “Black Friday” at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter, where black or majority-black dogs and cats can be adopted for $30, which is a $60 discount over most days. 27763 above is an adult, female lab mix who surely qualifies. She is large and friendly and will make a great companion.

27778 is a young, male Border Collie mix, and I think he has enough black fur to qualify. The shelter volunteers rave about how good a dog he is.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Not shockingly, Cobb County Republicans who gathered for a debate watching party thought that Governor Romney won last night’s debate.

Georgia’s two U.S. senators, Johnny Isakson of east Cobb and Saxby Chambliss of Moultrie, declared Mitt Romney the winner in the first presidential debate between the former Massachusetts governor and President Barack Obama on Wednesday.

“I wanted to see the Romney that I hoped I would see, and I saw him tonight. He was very, very good,” said Isakson, who watched the debate from home.

Isakson said it was clear that Romney bested Obama in the Denver debate.

“Romney was clear in the definition of his vision, clear in what he planned for the future,” Isakson said. “President Obama was defensive on a lot of the issues.”

It was crucial that Romney perform as well as he did, Isakson said.

“I don’t think there was any question there were some questions out there in terms of where he was going to go,” Isakson said. “He was definitive. He was straightforward. He had a grasp of the issues, and I think he took on the president very well.”

Surprisingly, liberal NPR called Romney “dominant”. If you have nothing better to do with your time, here’s a complete transcript of the debate. And here are some experts deconstructing the body language and political communication skills on display by the candidates.

Georgia Democratic Party Chair Mike Berlon disagrees:

Democratic Party of Georgia Chairman Mike Berlon releases the following statement regarding the first Presidential debate:

“Tonight’s Presidential debate illustrated the incredible chasm and stark differences that exists between the policies of President Obama and those of Mitt Romney.

“Romney’s tax plan is not only unworkable but is nothing more than an absolute fantasy. His assertions that cutting taxes for the rich somehow equates to increasing revenue and benefits for everyone, including the middle class is simply impossible.

But whether he likes it or not, tax cuts do help create jobs or attract them to Georgia. Governor Deal has said that eliminating the state sales tax on energy used in manufacturing helped the state land Baxter International and Caterpillar, two recent economic development triumphs.

Click Here

Campaign contribution disclosures are due today for the period ended September 30th. If you find yourself having filing difficulties, here are some tips for what I would do while I’m waiting for the disclosure system to reload.
Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens wrote to State School Superintendent John Barge about whether local school boards can publicly oppose the Charter School Amendment. The entire letter is available for viewing as a .pdf file here. Here are the important parts:

Local school boards do not have the legal authority to expend funds or other resources to advocate or oppose the ratification of a constitutional amendment by the voters. They may not do this directly or indirectly through associations to which they may belong.

Counties may not use their resources to persuade voter to support or oppose a ballot question. Such electoral advocacy to voters is not permitted as an exercise of the general power to administer county government or otherwise.

The Georgia School Boards Association fired back:

Angela Palm with the Georgia School Boards Association says she wants more clarification from the Attorney General and is concerned the opinion could be in violation of the first amendment.

“If the intent of the letter is to say, no, you can’t talk about this in any way, then I think that’s a definite problem. If the intent is of the letter is to reinforce existing statute that says you can’t use public resources, okay we knew that, but thank you for the reminder, and it doesn’t change anything.”

 Maybe Ms. Palm didn’t read the letter, which addresses the First Amendment issue:
The [Georgia Supreme]Court acknowledged that [local elected officials] have the right, in their individual capacities, to support the adoption of [a] Constitutional Amendment,’ however they had no constitutional right of free speech to speak at county expense.

Republican state legislators will find themselves in a familiar place when they convene in January: caught between Grover Norquist’s no tax hike pledge that many signed, and local hospitals, who say that renewing the bed tax they pay is actually a good thing because the proceeds plus a federal match are used to pay for Medicaid patients.

Anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist, president of Americans For Tax Reform, recently told the Republican-dominated General Assembly in a letter that renewing the Hospital Provider Payment Program would violate the anti-tax pledges of about four dozen lawmakers.

Lawmakers adopted the tax in 2010 as state tax collections tanked because of the Great Recession. It uses tax money paid by the hospitals to generate an even larger pot of state and federal health care money that then flows back to the hospitals.

Hospitals with a large share of poor patients get more back in increased Medicaid payments – a government insurance program that covers the poor – than they pay in hospital taxes. Hospitals with a larger share of patients covered by Medicare or private insurance get fewer benefits than they pay out in taxes. Still, those hospitals get an indirect benefit. They don’t have to directly bear the costs of caring for the poor because the tax helps stabilize the budgets of hospitals serving poorer populations.

This may also present a leadership challenge for the new Senate leadership, as the 2010 bed tax vote is cited as a reason for the long-running feud between Lt. Governor Casey Cagle and the incumbent Senate leadership management.

State Rep. Mike Jacobs, who chairs the MARTA Oversight Committee, says that the MARTA Board failed to comply with open meetings laws, and is trying to derail an investigation by the Attorney General’s office.

State Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Atlanta, said he has evidence from other MARTA board members that director Barbara Babbit Kaufman falsified an affidavit he requested to show compliance with the Open Meetings Act during the search for a new General Manager.

“The problem is I’m being furnished documents that are false — they are being made up as they go along,” said Jacobs, who chairs the legislative committee that oversees MARTA. “I’m pretty red-faced angry about it. I’m dealing with a board that wants to create false documents to satisfy an oversight committee.”

Kaufman said she did not intentionally violate any law.

Jacobs wrote state Attorney General Sam Olens Wednesday to amend his initial complaint about possible MARTA board violations of open meetings, which focused on an email in which Kaufman asked board members to send her their “vote” on a new GM. Jacobs had also said the board’s search committee, chaired by Kaufman, failed to meet required procedures for meeting in private.

The Open Meetings Act requires a vote for a board to go into non-public session. It also requires a notarized affidavit by the committee chairperson stating the legitimate reason for the closure, such as to discuss candidates for a high-profile public job.

Jacobs’ latest letter to Olens essentially says Kaufman created that paperwork only after he complained.

Washington County State Court Judge Robert Wommack Jr. was privately reprimanded by the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission after a March 2012 guilty plea to charges of DUI and excessive speed.

In March, Wommack entered a guilty plea in Laurens County Probate Court. Wommack was sentenced at that time to 12 months probation and ordered to pay a $945 fine, according to the JQC report. His driver’s license was suspended for 120 days, and he was ordered to attend a DUI/risk reduction course, participate for 40 hours in an Alcohol Anonymous program and serve 22 hours of community service, the JQC report said.

It also said Wommack had promptly reported his arrest to the JQC and voluntarily disqualified himself from all cases involving DUIs that were then pending in state court. According to the JQC report, Wommack also discussed with the JQC the facts of his arrest and the resolution of the charges.

The Macon-Bibb County consolidation transition team is recommending that joint operations begin two weeks earlier than originally planned.

Macon and Bibb County governments were scheduled to cease to exist on Jan. 13, 2014, before the new merged government takes effect the next day, Jan. 14. But the committee unanimously decided Wednesday to recommend to the task force that the new government instead go into effect Jan. 1, 2014, said Laura Mathis, deputy director of the Middle Georgia Regional Commission. If the task force agrees, the state legislative delegation would be asked to legally change the official start date, she said.

Bibb County Commissioner Elmo Richardson, who made the motion for the earlier start, said waiting nearly two weeks into a calendar year to put the new government into effect could cause unnecessary inconveniences with everything from payroll, to accounting and insurance.

“From an accounting standpoint, it would be a nightmare,” Richardson said. “It’s just not a clean cut when you’re going to start the government on Jan. 14.”

Media inquiries prompted Augusta City Commissioner Grady Smith to pull a bid on providing plumbing services to the Sheriff’s department.

Smith, Super District 10 commissioner, said his company was building on a long-standing relationship with Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength when Smith Bros. Mechanical made a $24,000 bid last month to do plumbing work at the substation in south Augusta.

The move violated the city’s ethics code, which prohibits commissioners from substantially benefitting from city procurement contracts, unless they apply for an exception.

Smith said his company’s bid was the lowest by $12,000 and that he had an application for the exception on Monday’s finance committee agenda but withdrew the request Wednesday.

Savannah City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney is resigning, according to Mayor Edna Jackson.

Jackson asked for the resignation Sept. 25 after a flurry of management issues that included a $6 million backlog and complete staff turnover of buyers in Purchasing, a botched bid that could have led to a lawsuit and the termination of the emergency management director, a business associate of the city manager. Wednesday about noon, her supporters, dwindling but vocal, gathered for an impromptu press conference outside City Hall.

Chester Dunham, one of her more ardent supporters, said a “reliable source” had told him Small-Toney’s resignation would happen “before 5 o’clock.”

Dunham described Small-Toney as being “railroaded,” and supporter Marilyn Jackson said, “They just beat her down.”

Chatham County Democratic District Attorney Larry Chisolm and Republican challenger Meg Heap took questions from the audience at a joint appearance yesterday.

Heap cited an exodus of as many as 50 employees and the elimination of the elder-abuse prosecutor position as evidence that Chisolm does not deserve a second term. Instead, said the former prosecutor who worked under longtime DA Spencer Lawton, voters should choose her because of her passion for “bringing justice to people who have been victimized by crime.”

Chisolm — who said turnover in his office has been comparable to that of his predecessor’s and that there were not enough elder abuse cases to deserve a single prosecutor — said voters should reelect him because he’s drastically cut down a backlog of cases and has achieved very high rates of felony convictions at trial.

Ends & Pieces

The Augusta Chronicle’s Editorial Board brings us the shocking news that liberal mainstream media edit what they say to present their views as backed-up by facts, and to make Republicans look bad.

Democratic pollster Pat Caddell recently said the media have made themselves “a fundamental threat to the democracy, and, in my opinion … the enemy of the American people.

“And it is a threat to the very future of this country if we allow this stuff to go on. We have crossed a whole new and frightening slide on the slippery slope this last two weeks, and it needs to be talked about.”

Democrat commentator Kirsten Powers, speaking on the Obama administration’s oddly changing stories on who was behind the U.S. embassy attacks – and the media’s relative disinterest in the scandal – says: “In this case, lack of curiosity on the part of the American media very well may kill more Americans.” How? By letting the Obama administration off the hook vis-a-vis questions on security.

Retired newspaper publisher Sam Griffin of Bainbridge, Ga., writes of today’s mainstream media: “Through acts and omissions both subtle and overt, they continually tell us what is fact and what is not, what is important and what is not, what is acceptable and what is not, who won and who lost in every instance of the political day – the aggregate effect of which is an attempt to create self-fulfilling prophecies.”

As we near the one-year anniversary of the spectacular failure that was Occupy Atlanta, some hippies in Savannah held an Occupy Savannah rally that attracted one dude in a dour black dress.

Florida wants more water from Lake Lanier to protect its Gulf Coast oyster industry. Maybe they’ll go in with us on the invasion of Tennessee to get more of our water back.

Local NPR affiliate WABE has the firsthand story of an Atlanta attorney who who put her now-19 year old son up for adoption through an open process and the relationship they now have. It’s an excellent was to spend six minutes.

An historical marker was recently unveiled commemorating the the Second Atlanta International Pop Festival at Middle Georgia Raceway in Byron. A documentary called “Alex Cooley Presents Time Has Come Today” includes footage of that event and two others produced by Atlanta’s Cooley. Another film called Hotlanta, The Great Lost Rock Festival made a debut screening recently and we look forward to seeing it in wider release.

2
Oct

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for October 2, 2012

CORRECTION: The General Election date is November 6th, 2012. The deadline for voter registration for the General Election is October 9, 2012, one week from today.

To check your voter registration or view a sample ballot, please visit the Georgia Secretary of State’s office and use their MVP voter registration tool.

For questions about election dates, always check with the Georgia Secretary of State’s website or your local County Elections Office.

Advanced voting in person starts October 15, 2012.

And while we’re at it, be skeptical of anything you read on the internet.

Dog Rescue

27847 might be a senior, and she’s definitely at least part Golden Retriever. She is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter beginning Friday.

If this Senior Basset Hound is adopted, he’ll almost certainly be named “Flash.” The senior male will be available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter beginning on Thursday.

Bibb County Animal Shelter’s new director started work this week.

Tenon was introduced as the new director of Bibb County’s Animal Welfare Department at a Monday morning meet-and-greet at the county courthouse. The Hawkinsville native, who turns 49 Tuesday, takes over the reins of the animal shelter after a sometimes stormy search for a new director.

“All I want is someone to come and adopt and give these animals a forever home,” she said.

Veterinarian Edsel Davis, who was on the search committee that picked Tenon, said at Monday’s gathering that the department “was in good hands.”

“I encourage the public to give her some time,” Davis said.

That committee also is looking for a site for a new shelter, which animal advocates say is long overdue. The county commission has allocated $3 million in sales tax funds for the new building.

“The old one needs to be bulldozed down,” said Linda Smyth, a board member for Central Georgia CARES, an animal advocacy group. The old shelter is near the county landfill and is “roach- and rodent-infested,” which is not good for the health of the animals there.

This good-looking black lab is one of the dogs in the Macon Animal Shelter that Ms. Tenon hopes to re-home.

According to his listing, “This dog is awesome.  He is so well behaved and is wonderful with kids.  won’t jump on little ones or knock them down.  He is very willing to learn anything you ask of him and is quite calm when he can be with you or just nearby.  Wants to be in a house with his people.  He is not however safe with cats from what we can tell.   He is HW positive with no symptoms and and already started on the slowkill tx recommended if he is adopted in the South.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

State Rep. Bill Hembree holds a significant lead among likely voters in the November 6th Special Republican Primary Election for Senate District 30, with 45% of likely voters saying they will vote for Hembree. We released the poll yesterday via the website. On election day, General Election voters who live in the 30th Senate District will either ask for or be offered a ballot for the Special Republican Primary Election, which is technically distinct from the General Election. Hembree will face independent James Camp, who previously ran for office as a Libertarian in a January 8th Special Election.

National Public Radio is covering the dispute over whether national polls on the Presidential election are skewed to favor President Obama. For those of you who are obsessed interested in polling, I’ve written up my thoughts on weighting and how it can introduce bias in polls. Even if you don’t read it, hit that link for a cogent analysis by Stephen Colbert.

A group of people from other states rode a bus to Georgia to pressure Governor Deal to ignore other people from out-of-state and put Georgia first. Who knew Occupiers could drive?

The PAC known as Patriot Majority USA has started a national bus tour to bring awareness to what they call the Koch Brothers’ ‘Greed Agenda. They rolled  through Georgia today, stopping at the state capitol to deliver a message to the governor.

The Patriot Majority USA delivered a letter to Governor Deal’s office, denouncing  the state’s affiliation with the oil-tycoon-billionaires. “We are here to deliver a letter to Governor Deal,” said spokesperson Mariah Hatta, “asking him, if possible, to separate himself  from the Koch Brothers and their agenda and to put the people of Georgia in first place.”

Here’s how I measure whether Deal has put Georgia families first: jobs. And Gov. Deal has delivered.

Gov. Nathan Deal announced [yesterday] that jobs and investment generated by the Global Commerce division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development jumped by almost a third during the state’s most recent fiscal year. The department reported that the 403 company expansions or locations with which it assisted created 28,776 jobs, an increase of 29 percent from last fiscal year, and $5.97 billion in investment, a 32 percent increase. These statistics reflect a trend of continued growth since the state’s 2009 fiscal year.

“These figures are more than numbers — they represent the growth of hope and opportunity for our citizens,” said Deal. “This tangible evidence of proactive company growth is a sign that not only is our economy on the path to recovery, but also that Georgia’s top-notch business climate has helped us stand out against our competition.”

The 403 projects worked on by GDEcD’s Global Commerce Division during fiscal year 2012, which ended June 30, 2012, also represented an 11 percent increase from the previous year. Of those projects, 36 percent were new locations, highlighted by companies such as Baxter, Caterpillar and Bed, Bath & Beyond. These three projects alone created 4,100 jobs. The remaining 64 percent were expansions by existing Georgia companies. The largest of these expansions were by Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia (1,000 jobs) and Home Depot (700 jobs).

Republican Congressmen Phil Gingrey and Tom Graves, and Georgia Speaker David Ralston, State Rep. Katie Dempsey, and State Senator-Elect Chuck Hufstetler attended a Rome fundraiser for Eddie Lumsden, who is running for State House of Representatives against Democratic incumbent Barbara Massey Reece. Lumsden served in the Georgia State Partrol and on the Floyd County Commission.

Deputies who stopped Bibb County Superior Court Judge Howard Simms when he was driving and found he had a blood alcohol content of .083, over the legal limit, did not follow department guidelines by failing to require further sobriety tests and showed “poor judgment” in following the judge home after releasing him.

Prominent T-SPLOST backers are now calling themselves “Republicans for Doug Stoner.”

[Incumbent Democrat] Stoner also was a backer of the TSPLOST— which made the eight-year veteran of the Senate a rarity among the Cobb legislative delegation.

Stoner is locked in a heated re-election campaign against Republican Hunter Hill of Smyrna, who did not take a position on the TSPLOST.

Hill told Around Town on Monday that some of the seven were surprised to see their names on the letter.

“Some of the people in the left column were not aware of the letter and told me they were very disappointed that their name was used,” he said, but added he had not talked to the entire list.

“I do not think this letter is going to call into question my credentials as a Republican nor the support that I’m expecting it will get from Republicans,” added Hill.

Some of those names also appeared on direct mail that landed in the mailbox of one of the most-consistent Republican Primary voters I know.

It appears that Stoner’s direct mail firm misspelled the name of Tad Leithead, one of the alleged Republicans for Stoner. Leithead is Chairman of the Cumberland Community Improvement District, which announced that it will spend $30 million to attract $150 million in state and federal funds for transportation improvements in the CID.

Leithead said the two CIDs are the largest economic engines in Cobb County. They are also the only two districts in the county this year that saw an increase in property tax assessments.

“We don’t believe that that’s a coincidence,” Leithead said. “We believe that by investing our dollars in our community and leveraging them against county and state dollars and federal dollars that we bring economic development and economic enhancement to our district.”

Leithead said he expects his CID will tackle the Windy Hill Road interchange at I-75 with the anticipated $150 million it intends to bring in over the next seven years in a proposal that would add the capacity for more traffic while at the same time improving the safety of the exit ramps.

The chairman said it was unlikely the Cumberland CID would be contributing a significant amount to the proposed $1.1 billion KSU-Midtown bus program recommended by the county’s alternatives analysis study.

“We’ll continue to monitor it and support it and remain in favor of it, but I don’t see us becoming big-time investors in the project because our dollars just wouldn’t go that far with a project of that magnitude,” Leithead said.

Georgia Democrats are threatening to sue to remove State Rep. Rick Crawford from the ballot after he said that he’ll switch to the GOP if re-elected.

The Democrats say Crawford should be disqualified because he’s declared himself as Republican and hence is no longer the party’s candidate.

At a press conference Monday, party Chairman Mike Berlon says Georgia law prevents Democrats from replacing a candidate at this point if he or she withdraws.

But he says, “In this case, our position as the Democratic Party is that Crawford has not withdrawn. He’s been disqualified. And there’s a legal difference between the two. We think based on the disqualification and the fact that we have taken away his ability to be the nominee of the party, we should have the right to replace him on the ballot.”

University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock says the move is unusual. Other Georgia politicians have switched parties but typically after an election, not before.

He also says Crawford’s decision is puzzling.

“The Democrats are not going to vote for him,” he said. “They may simply ignore this contest if his name appears on the ballot. And Republicans have already nominated someone else. So it looks to me that Rick may be a man without a country.”

Quote of the Day goes to Democratic Party of Georgia Chair Mike Berlon, via 11Alive.

“Man up! I mean, if you’re going to do this, do it, but do it in an intellectually honest fashion.”

Yesterday, we released a poll of HD 16 that shows Republican Trey Kelley with a solid lead over Crawford.

Pro-tip: Attorney General Sam Olens has a good sense of humor, but as the state’s top law enforcement officer, if you’re holding a charity roast of him, tread lightly, just in case.

Hundreds of people turned out to watch Olens take barbs from Cherokee County State Court Judge Alan Jordan; Cobb County Commission Chairman Tim Lee; Cobb Chamber of Commerce President and CEO David Connell; and John Wallace, Cherokee Republican Party precinct manager.

Connell used a photo slide show during his roast of Olens that showed the attorney general on the campaign trail and with his family, whom Connell said he consulted while preparing for the event.

“They all said the same thing: ‘Sam is not funny,’” Connell said.

Gwinnett County developer Mark Gary pled guilty to federal bribery charges, admitting he gave $30,000 worth of poker chips to buy a zoning vote from former County Commissioner Shirley Fanning-Lasseter. According to the Gwinnett Daily Post,

“Mark Gary’s been trying to do the best he can to help the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office clean up corruption in Gwinnett County,” Gary’s attorney Paul Kish said. “He wants a level playing field because he’s a really good developer, and wants to go back to being a good developer.”

Gary could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

“Today’s guilty plea shows that paying off a public official is a losing bet,” U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said in a statement. “Gwinnett County’s approval of competing real estate developments is not a game in which votes are for sale to the highest bidder. We will continue to aggressively pursue business people who corrupt the system by bribing public officials.”

The City of Sugar Hill is considering whether to join other Gwinnett cities in levying an excise tax on energy used in manufacturing, following the repeal of the state tax. Apparently these cities don’t want manufacturing jobs.

Lowndes County’s SPLOST is up for renewal in the General Election on November 6th. If it passes, proceeds will be split with the cities in Lowndes.

The seventh cycle of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, on the ballot Nov. 6, will bring in at least $150 million during a six-year period to fund the new auditorium and library and other municipal projects if the referendum is approved by voters.

Problems in the City of Savannah Purchasing Department are more serious than originally thought.

Original reports from more than a month ago didn’t go into detail about the ramifications of the hundreds of bills that the city hadn’t paid for goods and services and how citizens might be affected if these lapses continued.

Upon closer inspection, they were serious.

As this newspaper’s City Hall reporter, Lesley Conn, outlined on Sunday, these problems potentially threatened the city’s water supply and the public safety of citizens and police officers who protect them. That’s not a bureaucratic headache limited to government paper-pushers. It’s a potential nightmare that could affect everyone.

No wonder why Mayor Edna Jackson and a majority on City Council asked City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney to resign last week. Her credibility is gone. The situation inside the Purchasing Department, which had been turned on its head, apparently at the city manager’s direction, was bad enough. But the more that’s uncovered, the worse it seems to get.

The latest findings underscore the need for a management change at the top of city government. They include:

• Concern from the head of the city’s water department. He was worried the city wouldn’t be able to acquire the chemicals it needed to make the water safe because its vendor would put it on credit hold.

• A worried email from the officer who supervised the metro police department’s armory. He was concerned about an order for 590 new Glock handguns for police officers, submitted months earlier. He was giving it “emergency” status.

The problems within the Purchasing Department were among the reasons the mayor and council reprimanded Ms. Small-Toney on Aug. 31. They asked for immediate improvement on her part within the next 90 days. Instead, things appeared to be deteriorating. So they asked her to resign by this Thursday’s City Council meeting, or be fired — a perfectly fair, reasonable and necessary option.

Ends & Pieces

The bacon shortage shouldn’t us affect much more than a slight increase in price, but I’m not taking any chances — I’ve stocked up with Benton’s Bacon from Madisonville, Tennessee, the finest I’ve ever tasted.

Good luck fitting into your parachute pants from 1984 as you prepare to relive the past at Saturday’s concert featuring Pat Benatar, Journey and Loverboy at Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood.

Fears about a scarcity of bacon swept across social and mainstream media last week after a trade group in Europe said a bacon shortage was “unavoidable.”

The alarm was quickly dismissed by the American Farm Bureau Federation as “baloney.”

“Pork supplies will decrease slightly as we go into 2013,” Farm Bureau economist John Anderson said. “But the idea that there’ll be widespread shortages, that we’ll run out of pork, that’s really overblown.”

25
Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for September 25, 2012

Cobb County Friends of Shelter Animals is raising funds to export 16 dogs to Minnesota, where apparently there’s a shortage of adoptable animals. Online donations are processed through Dogs on Death Row, who is matching all donations. It’s a dogpocalypse out there in the shelters, where most facilities are packed and receiving more animals every day. The only way to accomodate the influx is through aggressive euthanasia.

Gucci is a little lab mix puppy who is available for rescue or adoption from the Floyd County Animal Shelter in Rome. He should be considered in urgent need.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Robert Draper has written a long article in The Atlantic about redistricting that will be of interest to a broad audience, from those for whom it will be “Redistricting 101” to those who have been in the trenches, drawing maps with crayons on the back of an envelope, or with Maptitude. Draper was also interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air about his article, and it’s a good listen.

Redistricing led to some of the problems in Fulton County voting during the primary elections, including a precinct that reported 3300% turnout. Also a possible problem? An Elections director who thought he could serve ten days in jail without anyone noticing.

Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections has accepted the resignation of its embattled department director, Sam Westmoreland.

At a special-called meeting Monday where Westmoreland was expected to be terminated, the 5-member board deliberated in closed session for about 45 minutes before voting unanimously to accept his resignation. He sent his resignation letter Saturday while incarcerated at the Alpharetta jail.

Westmoreland just finished a 10-day stint for violating probation on a 2009 DUI charge, and he’s now awaiting transfer to the Laurens County jail, in middle Georgia, for failing to show up for court after a 2008 DUI there.

“After much reflection,” Westmoreland’s letter says, “I believe it is in the department’s best interest to have a leader that enjoys the full support of this board as we move forward toward this important general election.”

Several board members have said they were unaware their director had to serve time in jail until Sept. 19, five days into his incarceration [emphasis added]. Edmond said they knew he had received a Fulton County DUI, but thought his sentencing was complete. The board only learned of the Laurens County case last week, the chairman said.

According to the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office, a warrant was issued for Westmoreland’s arrest after he failed to appear in court there on Sept. 10 in connection with a Sept. 15, 2008, DUI charge in that county, also involving drugs.

Two pro-tips here: first, if you think you can get away with being absent from work for ten days without explanation, either your supervisors may be letting you get away with too much or you’ve already given up; second, if you fax in your resignation from jail, you can bet it will be accepted post haste.

Dennis O’Hayer has an interview with Fulton County Commissioner Robb Pitts about what kind of foulups issues we may look forward to in the General Election.

“I’m more confident today than I was last week, because of the actions that the  [Elections] Board took today, specifically bringing in an interim [director] and agreeing to bring in some outside consultants….and we will be taking advantage of the Secretary of State’s offer to help us.”

The AJC has more about the impending train wreck:

staffers will be adjusting to new leadership and directives as early voting begins Oct. 15. Fulton County has a recent history of elections difficulties and is currently part of nine open investigations by the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.

Georgia’s largest county, Fulton includes nearly 10 percent of the state population. Election problems in Fulton could affect the Obama-Romney race, casting the state and county in a negative light worldwide.

Fulton drew heat in the Obama-McCain election four years ago, when the office’s absentee ballot processing went so slow that the county had to hire FedEx to ship nearly 4,000 ballots to voters overnight, costing more than $300,000.

Then, after closing the polls, workers spent 53 hours in a warehouse counting absentee and provisional ballots. At the time, the results of a U.S. Senate race hung in the balance.

“Regardless of this unfortunate circumstance,” Secretary of State Brian Kemp said in a written statement, “Fulton County still has a legal obligation to provide safe and secure elections. Our office will work with them as closely as possible to make sure this takes place on Nov. 6.”

Serious policy proposal here for the General Assembly: consider whether there should be a mechanism for the Governor or Secretary of State to either suspend or remove local Elections Board members and administer elections where there is a history of botched voting administration and a reasonable basis to suspect the next election will be compromised.

Particularly topical given the issues in Fulton is a book signing tomorrow, September 26, 2012 from 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM, with former member of the Federal Election Commission Hans von Spakovsky and his new book, Who’s Counting?: How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk, at Capital Grille in Buckhead, located at 255 E. Paces Ferry Road, Atlanta, GA 30305.

Hans von Spakovsky is a former Chairman of the Fulton County Republican Party and served on the Fulton County Elections Board. He is a graduate of the Coverdell Leadership Institute and currently serves at the Heritage Foundation as Senior Legal Fellow, where he manages the Civil Justice Reform Initiative. Please R.s.v.p. to Kathryn Gartland.

Chalk one up for Georgia Republican Party Chairman Sue Everhart. Last week she called the Obama campaign’s print of a flag with the Obama campaign logo “utterly disrespectful and outrageous.” The Democrats called her and the GOP hypocrites

“I think this is desecration, just like over in Egypt and these places that are burning our flag, stomping on the flag.  This is a symbol of our country,” Georgia GOP Chairwoman Sue Everhart told Channel 2’s Lori Geary.

The Obama campaign is selling its print for $35.

“If ever a time we should be flying old glory is now, not coming up with some sales pitch to sell the Obama flag. Does he think he is the most important thing that has ever happened to the United States of America?  I’m going to start calling him ‘King Obama’ instead of ‘President Obama,’” Everhart said.

She has called on Democrats to denounce the campaign print.

Georgia Democratic Chairman Mike Berlon said….“I think it’s a little bit disingenuous to stand up and beat your chest and say, ‘Oh my God, this is an abomination,’ when the Republican Party has been doing it for years.”

But over the weekend, the flag print disappeared from the Obama campaign website.

A page where the flag was now returns an error page. A cached version of the website still shows the product but returns a error page when attempting to add the item to the cart. An Obama campaign aide says the item quickly sold out and that sold out items are automatically removed. However, a similar item to the flag print that was also sold out was not automatically removed and appears on the site with “out of stock” below it.

Former Dougasville Mayor Mickey Thompson has been indicted for 91 counts of theft, in an indictment alleging he took more than $28,000 in payments for the city for meetings he did not attend or for which he was not entitled to payment.

As a result of the [Douglas County] Sentinel investigation, we asked the GBI to investigate and that is what I presented to the grand jury,” [District Attorney David] McDade said. “He had submitted meetings and received payments for 91 meetings that he was not entitled to under city ordinance. The way it was set up, he was the sole arbiter in deciding what was paid and what wasn’t.”

McDade said that the meetings ranged from ribbon cuttings, luncheons, bus tours, swearings in of other officials and phone meetings that are not allowed by city statute.

Unlike every municipality with a similar population in the metro area, where a straight salary is paid to elected officials, the mayor and council members in Douglasville are compensated based on meeting attendance. Council members are paid $125 per meeting, with the mayor receiving $313 per meeting. The ordinance gives a very specific list of meetings that are eligible for payment. In addition to paying by roll call, elected officials can also turn in meetings that they have attended as an invoice for payment.

That ordinance was enacted in 1997 and clarified in 2007 and a provision that reads “In Sections One, Two, Three and Four, ‘attended’ means the elected official’s personal physical presence at more than half the duration of a particular meeting or session; ‘attended’ does not mean or include participation via electronic means.”

The GBI report found Thompson asked for and received payments for 91 meetings since 2007 that did not appear to be appropriate for payment under city statute. Many of those meetings were tele-conferences, that clearly do not fit criteria for payment.

The probe also found that every Douglasville elected official with the exception of current Douglasville Mayor Harvey Persons was paid for and kept payments for meetings that did not fit the city’s defined criteria. The payments ranged from one meeting for one current council member, to more than 20 for others, meaning that council members received from $125 to $2,500 they were not entitled to under the law that they were sworn to uphold.

The council members were not indicted because some had been told to submit anything that could possibly be a meeting and a determination would be made on payment. Others didn’t turn in the “illegal meetings” but were paid improperly nonetheless.

Mike Miller was locked in a tight primary race with Bob Snelling and Thompson for the newly created GOP House District 66 seat. He agreed that even allegations cause distrust, but stressed that these are allegations.

“Its kind of an interesting set of circumstances,” Miller said. “We put this to the voters because our campaign was aware of the situation with Thompson in the primaries and we believed it was important for our constituents to know. But as a lawyer, it’s important to trust our criminal justice system. That holds that those who are accused are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

You might recall that the Republican primary election saw some nastiness between Thompson and Miller; former State Rep. Bob Snelling won the primary runoff against Miller.

The Douglas County Sentinel, which broke the story, opines that the City should be reimbursed for all incorrect payments made to officials, and fix the goofy “pay per meeting” system.

Speaking of ethics, Governor Nathan Deal’s campaign is seeking attorney fees from George Anderson, who filed ethics complaints against Deal

On Sept. 20, Governor Nathan Deal filed for attorney’s fees against George Anderson, claiming that Anderson “filed unsubstantiated, as well as, frivolous accusations concerning payments to Southern Magnolia LLC, alleging kickbacks to Respondent, untrue allegations of personal profit from campaign funds, as well as, allegations regarding good friend and appointee Patrick Millsaps to the State Ethics Commission.”

Local businessman and concerned Gwinnett County resident Kenneth Stepp believes the complaint and others like it are indeed frivolous, and take up taxpayer money and time in the courts. He has launched a nonprofit called Gwinnett Ethics in response to what he sees as a series of frivolous ethics complaints by Ethics in Government Director George Anderson and others like him.

Stepp’s nonprofit is pursuing a change in law that would require an “under oath” amendment. The proposed amendment would require those who file ethics complaints to divulge who, if anyone, is paying them.

I guess we’ll file this one under “Ethics” too. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle says Republicans don’t have to cheat to win in November.

Members of the state Senate Republican Caucus and some of their very best friends will spend two days in Adairsville this week to play golf and display their expertise with shotguns.

One can pay $500 for a dinner-time chat, but the main events on Wednesday and Thursday are open only to those willing to give $2,500 to $10,000 to the caucus’ campaign arm, the Georgia Republican Senatorial Trust.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle has sent an email to Republicans to inform them, in very strong language, that he’s not going.

He has problems with the way $140,000 of caucus money was handed to an allegedly independent committee – based in North Carolina – to defend GOP senators from primary challengers this summer.

But most specifically at issue is the Trust’s decision earlier this year to put its cash in the hands of the independent political committee.

In a July email to their fellow senators, three Republican senate leaders – Rogers, Bill Cowsert of Athens, and Greg Goggans of Douglas – explained that they had given the committee not just the cash, but the message to voters that they wanted delivered, and a list of the incumbents to be protected.

“This is completely legal and does not violate any finance campaign laws,” the three wrote.

Cagle apparently thinks that there’s a high probability that they’re wrong.

In a surprise to no one, campaign signs are being stolen everywhere in Thomas County.

Did you hear the one about when the Savannah City Council tried to hold an illegal meeting  but messed up and inadvertantly complied with the law?

SAVANNAH CITY Council got lucky last week. Each of its members could have been nailed with up to $6,000 in fines if state officials determined that the local group violated Georgia’s open meetings law on Sept. 2

But because one council member was late in arriving on that date, a quorum wasn’t present. Hence, no technical violation occurred, according to the Georgia Attorney General’s Office.

Yet that Sept. 20 finding from the state is of little comfort. Just because city officials attempted to hold an illegal meeting, and failed, is inexcusable considering City Hall’s history.

And it hardly “affirmed” the city’s actions on that date, as City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney said.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Stefan Ritter spelled it out in plain language in his Sept. 20 letter to Ms. Small-Toney. “From this Office’s review of the materials provided by Mayor Jackson, it is evident that an attempt was made to hold a meeting in violation of the Open Meetings Act, since a meeting was called without notice or an agenda and without making it open to the general public.

“Were this meeting to have occurred, it would have been a serious violation of the Act, potentially subjecting the City, yourself, and the council members to fines up to $6,000. It would also have been a substantial breach of the public trust, since the public and the press rely on transparency in government to know what their officials are doing.”

He stated the attorney general’s office was willing to accept the city’s claim that, though five council members attended, they were not all in the room at the same time. “Thus, under the circumstances, an illegal meeting was narrowly averted only by happenstance, not by plan,” Mr. Ritter wrote.

A group of solar advocates and vendors has proposed a solar utility that would set up a solar farm and sell electricity directly to end users via the interstate electrical grid.

To proceed with its long-range plan of developing 2 gigawatts of solar power, the start-up, Georgia Solar Utilities Inc., wants to start by building an 80-megawatt “solar farm” near Milledgeville as soon as it gets a green light from the Georgia Public Service Commission.

“There are obstacles. There’s no question there are obstacles, but you have to look at the rewards,” GaSU President Robert E. Green said at a Capitol news conference. “We don’t know what it’s going to take, but we are prepared to go through legislative action if necessary.”

Legislative action is indeed likely to be necessary, according to observers. A 40-year-old law divides the state up and gives regional monopolies to Georgia Power, the electric-membership cooperatives and nearly 50 cities.

GaSU could build its solar farm without action by the legislature or the PSC, and existing federal law would require Georgia Power to buy its electricity. But it would only pay GaSU an amount equal to what it could buy electricity from its cheapest, wholesale supplier.

The start-up wants instead to sell its electricity directly to retail customers who would be billed by Georgia Power or the other existing utilities, similar to how natural gas is marketed here. GaSU would pay the utilities for the use of their wires in the electric grid and any profits would be shared with customers like a cooperative.

Not mentioned in the article are requirements that electric power producers register with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Commission (“SkyNet”).

Polling Report

Polling analyst Nate Silver of the New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight blog was referring to competing polls that showed contradictory findings:

I’d just seen a Marquette University poll of Wisconsin, which put President Obama 14 points ahead of Mitt Romney there. This came after a Rasmussen Reports poll of New Hampshire, published earlier that day, which had given Mitt Romney a three-point lead in the Granite State.

but he could easily have been speaking of the Peach State, where local “pollster” Insider Advantage showed Romney with a 21-point lead over President Obama, while a competing poll by YouGov showed only a 6-point Romney lead.

A little over two weeks ago, we released our own polling on the Charter School Amendment. At the time, we did not include the Presidential Ballot question that we asked in the same survey, but our results at that time were Romney 50.7% to Obama with 42.2%, and Librarian Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson 4.2% and Undecided 2.7%. I’m not convinced that Undecideds are that low, but I think the Romney-Obama matchup is plausible. If you want the question wording or statement of methodology, email me.

So, what’s going on when different “scientific” polls show vastly different results? Silver has one set of plausible explanations.

There are also going to be some outliers — sometimes because of unavoidable statistical variance, sometimes because the polling company has a partisan bias, sometimes because it just doesn’t know what it’s doing. (And sometimes: because of all of the above.)

The San Francisco Chronicle has an article out that discusses factors that may explain differences in polling outcomes.

At this time of year, the difference between poll results can be explained by everything from who is being surveyed (are they “likely” voters or just “registered”) to how many cell phone users (who are generally younger and from more diverse backgrounds) are contacted to how the questions are worded.

And while top pollsters try to adhere to common standards and best practices, there is a lot of room for interpretation in the way each constructs their universe of respondents.

“It’s a mixture of magic and science and research – and there’s more magic now because we have less science to guide our decisions,” said Oakland pollster Amy Simon, who is a leading expert in public opinion on same-sex marriage.

They also have suggestions for how to interpret polls, given the variance that is out there.

Consider the respondents: “Likely voters” are more credible, as they’re, well, more likely to vote. “At this point, don’t look at anything from registered voters,” said Oakland pollster Amy Simon. See if the poll includes cell phone users, who tend to be from more diverse backgrounds, younger and more likely to live in urban areas.

Examine the wording of questions: UC Berkeley Professor Gabe Lenz often teaches his students about a poll from the 1970s where 44 percent of Americans said they would not allow a Communist to give a speech, but only 22 percent would “forbid” it. The difference: Many people are often reluctant to sound harsh to a live interviewer, which “forbid” implies.

Treat a pollster like a movie critic: “Pick a poll and follow it,” said Michael Dimock of the Pew Research Center. “You can follow its nuances and learn its tendencies.” Others, like Lenz, said peace of mind can be found with those who aggregate the major polls and incorporate them into a trend, like Nate Silver of the FiveThirtyEight blog and RealClearPolitics.com

At the end of the day, here’s my recommendation for public consumers of polling data. Take the Olympic scoring approach, where you toss out the highest and lowest numbers, and average the rest based on the sample size. In statistical terms, you’re removing the outliers, and broadening the sample size. That’s not precisely correct, but it’s a pretty good back-of-the-envelope method that might help you make some sense out of competing polls.

24
Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaign & Elections for September 24, 2012

27586 is described as a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, which is a relatively rare breed, but I’m more inclined to think this puppy is a mix of something like a Golden Retriever or lab with some kind of low rider like a basset. Whatever her heritage, she’s a beautiful puppy, friendly and playful, and will be available for adoption tomorrow, September 25, 2012, from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.

27581 is a pocket puppy, a female Chihuahua, who also is described as friendly and playful and who will be available for adoption beginning tomorrow, September 25, 2012, from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.

128036 is a male Golden Retriever who has landed in the lockup in Augusta and is available for adoption there. He’d be a great candidate for one of the Golden Retriever Rescues in Atlanta, and if someone wants to transport him, email me and I’ll put you in touch with the great folks of Adopt A Golden Atlanta.

Finally today, we have 125540, nicknamed Johnny, a yellow lab male who’s available for adoption from Augusta Animal Shelter. From the collar and the fact that he has a name, I’d guess he’s an owner turn-in, which typically means no mandatory hold time at the shelter.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Republican Public Service Commissioner Chuck Eaton has written an Op-Ed arguing that the cost of solar panels have come down enough that it may now be considered on its own merits, without government mandates or subsidies.

The bad name solar energy has in Republican and conservative circles is based on the way it’s been over-hyped and oversold by the left and, in some cases, by those with a financial interest in the technology.

In Republican politics, solar energy is synonymous with failed big government policies, in part because of money schemes like Solyndra and taxpayer-subsidized automobiles.

I believe that solar technology is not inherently liberal; it’s the way in which it is implemented that marks solar programs as liberal or conservative.

With the cost of solar installations falling dramatically, some say as much as 75%, we can now discuss deploying solar power without the subsidies, waste, and cronyism that seems to pervade government solar initiatives. The only way we can responsibly implement more solar power is to require that it does not increase rates, and that solar programs include competitive mechanisms to ensure the lowest cost.

As we have seen with the repeal of the sales tax on energy used in manufacturing, which the members of the Public Service Commission supported, and Governor Deal signed into law, lower energy costs not only benefit families, but can help Georgia attract more new jobs.

Speaking of government incentives for energy technology, Hall County’s ZF Wind Power is learning what happens when you run out of government money.

“The timeline to install new turbines is about six months and so … you can do the math,” said Elizabeth Umberson, president of 1925 New Harvest Drive, off Calvary Church Road.

The approaching deadline has had a “chilling” effect on orders, causing them to drop dramatically.

“We were supposed to be at full production levels, with a staff of 250, and we’re at 160 today,” Umberson said. “And we’ve capped that.”

The expiring tax credit gives wind manufacturers 2.2 cents for every kilowatt hour produced, said Jennette Gayer of Atlanta-based Environment Georgia.

“It assumes that wind (energy) is going to be a little bit more expensive, so to help encourage manufacturers to build turbines and feed into the (electricity) grid, it gives a small incentive per kilowatt hour to do so,” she said.

So there we have the perfect contrast: one approach to energy production that relies on competition and one that relies on government mandate and other peoples’ money.

Speaking of this year’s repeal of the sales tax on energy used in manufacturing, Gwinnett County is looking at ways to make up for the revenue it “lost” in the repeal.

County officials will discuss next week implementing a new tax to replace funds taken away by a state-mandated exemption.

The law, adopted by the General Assembly earlier this year in an attempt to create a more business-friendly environment in Georgia and draw jobs, would give manufacturers a break on state and local sales taxes on energy resources, including electricity, natural gas, oil and other types of fuel. A phase out of the taxes will begin next year and be complete in 2016.

But to make sure that local governments didn’t suffer from a loss of revenue, legislators agreed to allow counties and cities to impose an excise tax on energy equal to the amount of money lost in local sales taxes, according to information from the Association County Commissioners of Georgia. The association said the excise tax can be used for any purpose, unlike sales taxes, which must be used for capital projects.

Today’s theme is voter registration. You can check your voter registration status online with the Secretary of State’s website to confirm that your information is correct. You may also download and print a voter registration form or absentee ballot application to fill out and mail.

The Savannah NAACP is putting the drive in voter registration drive, offering prospective voters a ride to the elections office to register to vote. According to WTOC’s story,

The deadline to register for the upcoming election is Oct. 9. The Savannah branch of the NAACP is offering rides to the Chatham County Voter Registration Office to obtain authorized identification. The rides and the IDs are free. No documents are needed to acquire an ID. Call the Savannah branch of the NAACP at 912.233.4161 for more information.

I don’t believe that last part is correct about not needing any documents to get a voter ID is correct, as the website for Secretary of State Brian Kemp says:

To Receive a voter identification card, the voter must provide:

A photo identity document or approved non-photo identity document that includes full legal name and date of birth

Documentation showing the voter’s date of birth

Evidence that the applicant is a registered voter

Documentation showing the applicant’s name and residential address

The Gwinnett County Republican Party had a voter registration and propaganda information booth at the County Fair last night, and reported that business was brisk all through the weekend. The fair continues this week at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds, where you can get your fill of corn dogs, fried oreos, and fried twinkies, before picking up your Romney-Ryan yardsign for a small donation. I didn’t take that photo above, but I did take this one:

Speaking of Gwinnett Republicans, they will be holding a barbecue on Sunday, October 13th at Bethesda Park in Lawrenceville from 11 AM to 2 PM featuring Hal’s Barbecue. Click here for advanced tickets online here. Advance tickets are $12 per person, or $20 per couple. Tickets at the door are $15 per person, or $10 for college students with valid ID. Children under 6 are free. Advance tickets must be paid online in order to receive the discount.

Alice O’Lenick has been named to the Gwinnett County Board of Elections as a Republican nominee for the Board.

Alice O’Lenick will replace Keith Shewbert, who resigned to run as a candidate for the Norcross City Council. [Gwinnett GOP Chairman Bruce] LeVell said he plans to re-appoint longtime member Joan Zellner upon the expiration of her term at the end of the year.

Both major parties have two seats on the elections board, with a fifth independent member chosen by commissioners.

O’Lenick, a Dacula resident, has worked as a substitute teacher as well as has many years experience on the financial side of Gwinnett-based companies. Zellner has served on the elections board for nearly 20 years and was co-founder of the Greater Gwinnett Republican Women’s club.

Colquitt County Democrats held a voter registration drive featuring some of their candidates this weekend.

While the presidential race is always the biggest draw on a ballot, local voters will decide races for Colquitt County sheriff and county commission District 2. They also will cast ballots in races for District 171 state representative, for state Public Service Commission and in a referendum on granting the state more power in establishing charter schools.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are holding a nationwide HBCU Challenge to increase voter registration among students.

Rep. John Lewis, a Democrat from Georgia and a civil rights icon, said he and some other caucus members will host voter registration and education projects in their districts Tuesday to “dramatize the issue once again.”

“It’s not just a Southern thing,” he said, noting that Pennsylvania is among states with new voting requirements. “A lot of people think, ‘Oh, it happened in Alabama. It happened in Mississippi, in Georgia, in North Carolina in South Carolina.’ But what is going on in Pennsylvania is a shame and a disgrace and an affront to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, to the democratic process.”

Earlier this week, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court sent the fight over the state’s new voter ID law back to a lower court.

A group I’ve never heard of called The Advancement Project has released a report saying that the requirement for voter ID and other barriers to illegal voting may prevent up to ten million eligible Hispanic voters from exercising their right to vote.

In an analysis based on government data, civil rights group The Advancement Project identified legal barriers that could deter voter registration and participation among eligible Hispanics. In some of those states, the group’s researchers said, the number of voter-eligible Latino citizens potentially blocked by those barriers exceeds the margin of victory in the 2008 election.

“Like African Americans, Latinos have experienced decreased access and correspondingly lower levels of voter registration and participation than non-Hispanic whites,” said the report, which was being released Monday.

According to census data, there were more than 21 million Hispanics of voting age in 2010. They comprised roughly 10 percent of all eligible voters and 8 percent of registered voters in the U.S.

Among eligible Hispanics in 2010, 6.3 million said they were not registered to vote, and 10.8 million — about half of those of voting age — said they did not vote, the report said.

By comparison, the report said, there were 172.4 million non-Hispanic white citizens eligible to vote in 2010, with nearly 18 percent unregistered and 38 percent who said they did not vote.

There are three significant barriers to Hispanic voter participation, researchers said: citizenship-based voter purges, proof of citizenship requirements and photo identification laws.

A report by the Secretary of State’s office indicates that Northwest Georgia (also called “Extreme Northwest Georgia” by some denizens) has lost more than 10,000 registered voters since the 2008 election, and the state voter rolls have grown by only 6,517 people.

A total of 226,560 voters were registered in Floyd, Bartow, Chattooga, Polk, Gordon, Walker, Catoosa and Dade counties as of Sept. 1, according to Georgia secretary of state records. That’s 10,209 fewer than the 236,769 who registered for the 2008 election.

Georgia has 5,205,488 people on its rolls, compared to 5,198,971 registered, eligible voters four years ago.

Anyone who voted in the July 31 primary is good to go, but Floyd County Elections Supervisor Evon Billups said would-be voters who didn’t cast a ballot in the 2008 or 2010 elections should check their status.

“And if you are registered but you’ve changed your address, you have to update that in order to get the correct ballot,” she said. A name-change also must be registered, since a picture ID is required to vote.

The AJC reports that more than 36,000 newly registered voters have been added to the rolls betwen August 1st and September 1st of this year.

County election officials said interest is high since both political parties held their nominating conventions around Labor Day, with many predicting a registration surge into next month.

Georgians have until Oct. 9 to register to vote in the general election, although the first ballots went out Friday to voters casting absentee ballots by mail. Many groups, partisan and nonpartisan, will press to get people’s attention over the next two weeks.

“We win if Republicans and independents get out to vote. We lose if we stay home,” Georgia GOP chairwoman Sue Everhart said. “They say bumper stickers are worth 10 votes. My goal is to put a million bumper stickers on cars in Georgia.”

Secretary of State Brian Kemp, like his peers nationwide, has declared September National Voter Registration Month to encourage participation and increase awareness of state requirements and deadlines for voting.

And although it will come too late for November, Kemp plans next year to enable online voter registration.

According to the National Association of Secretaries of State, despite record-breaking registration and voter turnout in many states for the 2008 presidential election, six million potential voters did not cast a ballot because they missed a registration deadline or did not know how to register.

In an OpEd published in the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Chris Johnson makes the case for trimming the voter rolls of not just people who lack the legal right, but those too stupid or otherwise impaired to vote.

• If you have watched more than five minutes of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” then you aren’t allowed to vote.

• If you rail against “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” but have seen most of the shows, you’re a hypocrite, which means you aren’t allowed to vote but are surely qualified to run for office.

• If you have ever been featured in an episode of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” you’re not allowed to vote … or procreate.

• If more than half your backside is showing outside the top of your pants, then you’re not allowed to vote – not that it has anything to do with the political process, but I don’t want to stand behind you in line.

• If you know the name of any droids other than R2D2 and C3PO in the “Star Wars” movie franchise, you aren’t allowed to vote but are allowed to work on my computer.

Carroll County will add a second early voting location for the November election.

Voters will have three weeks to cast early ballots in the election, with extended hours during the final week.

In addition to the Carrollton site at the elections office on College Street for the entire three-week period, advance voting will also be held during the final week at the Powell Park Arts Center in Villa Rica.

“We added the Villa Rica advance voting site to help voters in the northern part of the county,” said county Elections Supervisor Becky Deese.

Advance voting begins Monday, Oct. 15. During the first two weeks, voting will be held only at the Carroll County Elections Office in Carrollton, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each weekday. The Saturday voting day will be Oct. 27 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Carrollton office only.

During the final week of advance voting, Oct. 29 through Nov. 2, advance voting will be held at both the Carrollton and the Villa Rica sites, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Powell Park Arts Center is at 424 Leslie Drive in Villa Rica.

Deese said the state now uses the term “advance voting” for all early voting instead of the previously used “early voting” designation.

Eligible Carroll County voters will also have an opportunity to vote in the Special Election to fill former Senator Bill Hamrick’s seat. With Carroll County voters representing aroung 55% of votes cast in the last two elections for Hamrick’s seat, the additional early voting site may help a Carroll County candidate force Republican Bill Hembree into a runoff.

Governor Nathan Deal has appointed State Rep. Christian Coomer (R-Cartersville) as one of his Floor Leaders, replacing State Rep. Doug Collins, who will be elected to Congress in November.

Robert Williams, the Editor of the Blackshear Times likens Charter School proponents’ cry of school choice to Marie Antoinette’s “Let them eat cake.”

Despite enacting extreme budget cuts forcing average public school class sizes to grow by substantial numbers, despite underfunding the state’s obligation for “adequate” public education, the typical response by Georgia’s top politicians to our state’s education problems has been “Let them have choice!” Political leaders, including Gov. Nathan Deal, want to divert dwindling resources from neighborhood public schools to help corporate interests privatize education in our state.

The Gold Dome crowd wants Georgia voters to believe charter schools, operated by for-profit companies, will be the magic bullet for improving education. That, despite numerous studies showing charter schools perform no better than other schools in improving educational achievement.

Like most issues embraced in our state Capitol, it’s all about money. To be specific, it’s about one of the Capitol  crowd’s favorite pastimes, opening taxpayers’ wallets to private business interests.

Even if we had the money to afford to set up charter schools across our state, that leaves one important unanswered question: What happens to those kids in our community who don’t get into a charter school and are left in the even more woefully underfunded older public schools?

Gov. Deal and his pals have their answer: Send them to the cafeteria and let them eat cake.

The congressional office of Rep. Tom Graves (R-Upper Left Hand Corner) was burglarized last week but the Congressman’s hair remained perfect.

The items taken from Graves’ office were two laptop computers. Reports state someone kicked in the door to the office to get inside. Cooke said there’s no evidence the thieves were solely targeting the congressman.

“U.S. Capitol Police, along with local authorities, are investigating the incident,” Graves spokeswoman Jennifer Hazelton said in a statement.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) has endorsed the reeleciton of Democrat John Barrow to Congress from the Twelfth District.

Barrow’s opponent, Republican Lee Anderson will have some high-profile help, as House Speaker John Boehner will visit the district to boost Anderson’s campaign.

Anderson made the announcement at Saturday’s GOP breakfast at Fatz Cafe in Evans.

“Oct. 15th, we will have the speaker here,” Anderson said.

“Speaker Boe­hner will be here in Columbia County, helping me, helping us take over District 12. We’re excited about it.”

In remarks to a group of about 30 people, Anderson continued to question why his Democratic opponent will not publicly declare that he is voting for President Obama in November.

“My opponent has not yet to say that he is going to vote for Obama,” Anderson said. “I’m here to tell you, I’m going to vote for Mitt Romney.”

Democrat Lesli Messinger has no chance at all of unseating Republican Congressman Jack Kingston.

The GOP vote in the new 1st, according to figures from the legislature, averaged 58 percent in 2010 statewide contests.

Just two Democrats, gubernatorial nominee Gov. Roy Barnes and attorney general nominee Ken Hodges, broke 40 percent.

Justifiably, we hear a lot about how new boundaries work against incumbent Democrat John Barrow in the neighboring 12th District.

Indeed, statewide Republican candidates also averaged 58 percent there in 2010.

So Barrow, who carried the old district with 56 percent of the vote in 2010, is correctly viewed as vulnerable.

So picture the plight of a novice Democratic candidate running on turf with similar 2010 election results. And against a veteran GOP incumbent who’d banked $1.24 million as of mid year.

At least Barrow has the good political sense to distance himself from President Barack Obama, a political albatross in Georgia. In contrast, Messinger boldly supports him. Can you say kamikaze run?

Also having zero chance of being elected are the two people running against Republican Congressman Phil Gingrey in the new Eleventh District.

Chatham County District Attorney Larry Chisholm will open his campaign office tonight at 6:30 PM.

Jasper County School Board member Pamela Williams took the local Democratic Party to task for attempting to control the way elected officials vote once in office.

Williams has represented District 8, which includes Hardeeville, for nearly four years. In August, after a correction, the county election commission said Williams actually lives in District 9, the Levy precinct.

She said she approached County Council because she was asked to attend a meeting of the Democratic Party of Jasper County in the spring by Alex Pinckney, president of the Democratic Club. She said after preliminary introductions, Democratic Party chairman Arthur Murphy and Pinckney put her candidacy in no uncertain terms.

“They stated that they determined who would be elected and run for office,” Williams said. “They further stated that the reason they wanted us [Williams attended with another board member] to attend was because they wanted us to vote with the other members of the school board, even if we disagreed behind closed doors.”

“I informed them that I was highly insulted, for them to even suggest this,” said Williams, who is the wife of a county magistrate judge.

Williams said she questions the Democratic Party’s motives with the school board and the correction of her district, suggesting that the correction seems to be a way for the Democratic Party and the school board to get rid of candidates.

Murphy denied that anyone in the party told Williams how to vote as a school board member.

Cherokee County voters can attend two informational forums about the Homestead Option Sales Tax on the November 6th Ballot.

The first educational forum will begin at 8 a.m. Tuesday [September 26th] at the Northside Hospital-Cherokee Conference Center.

Another forum is slated for 6 p.m. Oct. 4 at the Chambers at City Center in Woodstock. Both forums are sponsored by Cherokee Bank and the Cherokee Tribune.

“The HOST Referendum is difficult to understand for the average voter. There is no better experience than to hear an informative presentation and have an opportunity to ask questions,” said Dennis Burnette, Cherokee Bank president.

It’s actually not hard to understand. We have the HOST in DeKalb County. The voters will have an opportunity to levy an additional penny sales tax, the proceeds of which will be used to offset part of the property tax bill for county operations. It works very well in DeKalb, limiting both our property tax bills, and generally speaking, the rate of growth of county government.

Cherokee’s HOST referendum has two questions on the ballot:

The HOST is expected to generate about $30 million per year, of which 20 percent can go for capital expenditures, according to the law structuring the tax; however, the commission plans to approve a resolution that would dedicate the entire amount of the revenue toward a property tax rollback.

“The HOST’s primary objective is to eliminate property tax, period,” said Post 4 County Commissioner Jason Nelms. “We need to give that information to people.”

There are two questions regarding the matter on the ballot: One asks if the HOST should be imposed and the other asks if up to 100 percent of the proceeds should go straight to reducing property taxes.

Ends & Pieces

Bridget Mary McCormack teaches at the University of Michigan Law School and is running for her state’s Supreme Court. She also has a web video that gathered most of the liberals cast of The West Wing to discuss the issue of voters choosing a party’s straight ticket and neglecting to vote for nonpartisan judicial offices. Pretty cool for $5000, assuming she doesn’t have to disclose the in-kind contributions of the actors at their day rate.

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.

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.