Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 3, 2014


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 3, 2014

General George Washington took command of the Continental Army at Cambridge Common in Massachusetts on July 3, 1775.

On July 3, 1863, General George Pickett led a charge against Union lines at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

A 15,000-man strong column under General George Pickett was organized, and Lee ordered a massive bombardment of the Union positions. The 10,000 Federals answered the Confederate artillery onslaught, and for more than an hour the guns raged in the heaviest cannonade of the Civil War. At 3 p.m., Pickett led his force into no-man’s-land and found that Lee’s bombardment had failed. As Pickett’s force attempted to cross the mile distance to Cemetery Ridge, Union artillery blew great holes in their lines. Meanwhile, Yankee infantry flanked the main body of “Pickett’s charge” and began cutting down the Confederates. Only a few hundred Virginians reached the Union line, and within minutes they all were dead, dying, or captured. In less than an hour, more than 7,000 Confederate troops had been killed or wounded.

The Battle of Gettysburg was the turning point in the Civil War, costing the Union 23,000 killed, wounded, or missing in action. The Confederates suffered some 25,000 casualties.

On July 3, 1889, the Georgia General Assembly held its last session at the Kimball Opera House, located at the corner of Marietta and Forsyth Streets in downtown Atlanta before moving into a new Georgia State Capitol.

Happy birthday to Idaho, which became a state on July 3, 1890.

On July 3, 1913, the Georgia state Senate tabled a motion to allow the Georgia Women’s Suffrage Association to address the chamber.

On July 3, 1970, the Atlanta Pop Festival was held in Byron, Georgia.

Among the artists playing at Byron were the Allman Brothers Band and Jimi Hendrix.

Back to the Future was released on July 3, 1985. The good news from its sequel is that we’ll all have hoverboards this time next year.

On July 3, 1986, President Ronald Reagan reopened the Statue of Liberty after a two-year restoration.

Here is a list of local fireworks in Metro Atlanta celebrating the Fourth of July.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Democrat Jason Carter’s campaign received a “pants on fire” rating from Politifact for its claim that Nathan Deal has been the worst Governor for education.

The war of words in the governor’s race has been escalating.

And it recently came to this: “Gov. Deal has the worst record on education in the history of this state,” Matt McGrath, the campaign manager for Carter for Governor, said in a press release June 18.

A fundraising email went out the next day, repeating that statement.

Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia and a longtime Capitol observer, said the statement by McGrath is “the kind of campaign rhetoric that is false on its face.”

“Obviously, someone like Gene Talmadge who did three terms as governor did less for education than Nathan Deal,” Bullock said. “It used to be that the state’s budget went disproportionately for transportation; now most of it goes for education.”

The Carter campaign’s charge was incendiary — that the sitting governor has the worst education record in Georgia’s history. And we smell smoke.

We award it our lowest rating, Pants On Fire.

Also problematic for Carter when making claims about Gov. Deal is the fact that Carter voted for Governor Deal’s budget, including the level of education spending, every year that Carter wasn’t running for Governor.

“Every single year I have been governor, we’ve increased the education funding, and the first three years Jason Carter has saw fit to vote for my budgets that included those increases in k-12 funding,” Deal told reporters. “Only in this year when he decided he wanted to be governor, which included the largest single restoration of k-12 funding, did he vote against it. I think the conclusion is pretty clear: That is a political statement on his part.”

The State Bar of Georgia’s investigation into allegations of professional misconduct by House Speaker David Ralston ironically highlights some of the same problems with crafting ethics legislation – governance of professional association, local, and state government is a very small world where most of the players are at least acquainted.

For example, the lawyer charged by the Georgia Supreme Court with the investigation has been a donor to the Speaker’s campaign.

The State Bar of Georgia asked the state Supreme Court to appoint an investigator, known as a special master.

The court chose Mark F. Dehler of Hiawassee. Dehler is a longtime attorney married to Cathy Cox, a former Democratic secretary of state and gubernatorial candidate who is now president of Young Harris College.

Records show Dehler contributed $500 to Ralston’s re-election campaign in 2010, and Cox contributed $250 in 2013.

Dehler told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he looked at his contribution records last week after being appointed and found that he’d given about $30,000 to political candidates over the past decade.

“If I thought I was biased (for contributing), I wouldn’t have accepted the assignment by the Supreme Court,” he said.

Common Cause of Georgia, one of the loudest proponents of ethics legislation has also decried Dehler’s appointment in the investigation.

Leaders of Georgia’s Common Cause watchdog group said it may be nothing more than perception, but no matter how qualified Dehler is, the fact he will act as a judge in the case and has also been a campaign contributor, doesn’t sit well for them.

“There’s definitely a public trust issue when you have an investigator giving money to the person he is supposed to be investigating,” Ryan Splitlog of Common Cause Georgia.

The Marietta Daily Journal editors have endorsed Tim Stultz for reelection to the Cobb County Board of Education.

Georgia Tech graduate Stultz, an engineer by profession, is an unabashed conservative who has fought to steer the system away from the excesses of Common Core.

Regardless of how it plays out, the fact remains Stultz has already proven his strengths and abilities as a board member. He was a strong supporter of hiring Chris Ragsdale as interim superintendent over the strong objections from those on the board who complained that he comes from the operations side rather than the classroom.

And Stultz promises to keep pushing for conservative approaches on both fiscal management and other measures, and is a strong supporter of charter schools as well. At this point, the board’s future direction would seem to be riding on the outcome of the Post 2 runoff and election. Will it continue down the path toward a stronger board with more accountability demanded not just of board members but of the superintendent and others in the system as well? Or does it revert back to the era in which the superintendent ran the show and the board jumped through his hoops?

A vote for Stultz is an important step to assure the board keeps going in the right direction.

I’m supporting Tim Stultz, and you can too.

Cobb County moves toward yet another SPLOST vote

In advance of November’s general election, when the latest version of a Cobb County Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum goes to the voters, local elected officials are deciding how they would use the funds, if the SPLOST passes.

Cobb County Commissioner Lisa Cupid says that sidewalk construction is a priority for her district.

Cupid says spending $25 million on building more sidewalks is her top priority.

Cupid said she wants to place an emphasis on making her district as pedestrian-friendly as possible.

She listed sidewalks, streetscaping and making the area friendly to bicyclists as steps she would take toward realizing the goal. The amount of funds set aside for sidewalk projects in the last round of SPLOST was not enough to keep up with the area’s need for roadside walkways, Cupid said.

“What I’ve seen offered from DOT for sidewalks in the district is still not going to meet the already-stated demand,” she said, “let alone new demand that’s probably going to come up in the next six years.”

Cupid said the county had set aside $12 to 15 million for sidewalks across all districts, with just $5 million for her district.

Commissioner JoAnne Birrell would prioritize a new police precinct in her district.

There isn’t a police precinct in District 3, and Birrell hopes this will change with the coming SPLOST vote.

“My consideration is to put a police precinct at the Mountain View complex, where it’s surrounded by county facilities,” Birrell said.

“My preference is to put a police precinct where Mountain View Elementary is,” she said.

Birrell estimates the new precinct would cost $4.5 to $5 million. It would become Cobb’s sixth police precinct.

Birrell said police response time isn’t necessarily lacking now, but she thinks it will be more efficient to have a police precinct in the area, rather than having officers come from Lower Roswell Road, where the nearest precinct is located.

Under a SPLOST, municipal governments receive part of the sales tax proceeds. In Kennesaw, Mayor Mark Matthews has his eye on one specific road improvement.

Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews said the bulk of the $30.6 million his city would receive under a renewed sales tax program would go toward improving conditions along busy or dangerous streets.

Chief among the mayor’s concerns is the Sardis Street overpass, a juncture at which two roads and a railroad converge.

“For the city, No. 1 (priority) is probably going to be our Sardis Street overpass, which is over the railroad, and which will help the very dangerous intersection at Cherokee and Main,” Mathews said.

The proposed project would “create a new overpass and new access to Main Street, without being bogged down by the train and the very unsafe crossing.”

While the city has set aside $6 million in proposed SPLOST funds to complete the proposal, Mathews said CSX, the railroad company operating on the tracks, would coordinate with the city on the construction of the bridge.

CSX would pick up some of the project’s tab because such an effort would give the company “a pretty substantial stretch of uninterrupted track,” Mathews said.

The mayor said his next priority would be to tackle the county’s storm water problems. Kennesaw would pay $3 million to upgrade its citywide storm water infrastructure, which includes addressing drainage problems.

If the SPLOST passes, Austell Mayor Joe Jerkins will apply the city’s portion to smaller projects.

The Austell City Council is expected to finalize a $6.5 million project list during a July 7 meeting.

Though Jerkins said the city has no major projects, the revenue brought in from local sales taxes is a huge benefit to Austell.

“It’s very important to us,” said Jerkins, who was first elected in 1989. “We’ll be getting a million dollars a year altogether. Our property taxes aren’t much more than a half a million dollars a year.”

The largest line item overall is $1.1 million for road repaving. Jerkins said it’s not always exciting to talk about repaving projects, but citizens are very concerned with the condition of roads.

“This gives us a chance to pave a lot of roads that wouldn’t be paved for a long time otherwise,” he said. “I get a good many comments about the roads that we are resurfacing.”

In a letter to the editor of the MDJ, a fellow named Joe O’Connor makes several points in opposition to the SPLOST.

At my house, a special purpose is when the pipes break, the electricity goes out or the phones go dead. Meanwhile, like many homeowners, I have needs such as repainting the house, putting in new carpet or buying a new car someday. Clearly, there are meaningful and major differences between needs, wants and Special Purposes.

[SPLOST] was originally created for Special Purposes and has since lost its way. Sadly, the SPLOST has slowly evolved into a sort of fixed or permanent tax that the voters can’t seem to stop. It looks like our county has no intention to let it end and view it as a continual tax base for revenue.

Also, why does Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee keep trying to shove a BRT down everyone’s throat and put it on the SPLOST list when it’s pretty obvious that the only people interested in the BRT are his friends and supporters at the Cobb Chamber of Commerce and him. They keep putting lipstick on the BRT but regardless, it’s still a pig.

I agree with Mr. O’Connor’s point that SPLOST has become a permanent part of local government budgeting, but I’m okay with that. At least voters have a chance to decide periodically, which beats the alternative of a permanent tax put on by elected officials.

Congratulations to our newest citizens

Congratulations to Laura Cathy Williams, long-suffering spouse of Buckhead Young Republicans Chair Greg Williams, who joined our nation as a naturalized citizen after years of work to pass the test and wend her way through the bureaucracy.

Michael, Cathy, & Ron SM

GAGOP First Vice Chair Michael McNeely and Second Vice Chair Ron Johnson were among the friends and supporters who joined the festivities as our newest crop of citizens took the oath at Turner Field.

Taking the Oath SM

Laura Cathy Williams, who took the Oath of Citizenship at Turner Field, said, “I am so happy and proud to become an American citizen today. My heart now has two countries I love!!! Thanks to all my friends and family who came to share this moment with me!  The American Dream is alive and well and I am grateful to have the opportunity to call the United States my home!”

Laura Cathy’s husband, Greg Williams, said “Its symbolic that the Legal Way, the Right Way, the Honorable Way to achieve the American Dream is celebrated the same week of America’s Birthday.  I was excited to see so many new Americans waving the Flag today and chanting USA, USA, USA.  It was truly an unforgettable moment.”

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