Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 20, 2012


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 20, 2012

“Zane” is a 5-year old, 63 pound German Shepherd who is available for adoption today from Walton County Animal Services.

Today will be a short update because my MacBook Pro has to go into the shop and I’m trying to get this out before I lose battery power. Because the earliest available appointment at the Lenox Apple Store Hipster Genius Bar is late afternoon, I’m looking to buy a used MacBook, preferably Pro, this morning for cash. If you have one and are in Metro Atlanta, email me.

Meet Stewart Cink tonight in Duluth

Gwinnett County voters can win a chance to meet professional golfer Stewart Cink tonight at a private meet-and-greet for Kathy Schrader, who is running for Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge.

“We wanted to offer another way for voters to meet Stewart and learn about our campaign, while reaching people who wouldn’t otherwise be on our invitation list,” said Kathy Schrader.

“Lisa and I are proud to announce our support for our friend Kathy Schrader,” said Cink. “We have gotten to know Kathy through our shared commitment to the Pregnancy Resource Center of Gwinnett over the past several years.  We have seen Kathy’s dedication to her family, our church and community and believe she should be the next Gwinnett Superior Court Judge” said Cink.

To enter, text “Kathy” to 28748 and the winner will be informed today.

Department of Corrections Department

How the T-SPLOST question got its preamble

There’s been a little buzz on Facebook about the preamble to the T-SPLOST ballot question, which reads, “Provides for local transportation projects to create jobs and reduce traffic congestion with citizen oversight.” Some people apparently belive that because Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office is responsible for the ballot language, the preamble represents Kemp’s personal viewpoint and an attempt to sell the T-SPLOST through misleading language.

I agree that the language might be misleading, so I called Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office and asked how they arrived at that. Here’s the statement they sent me:

I will attempt to explain to you the rationale and legislation behind the preamble that will accompany the T-SPLOST vote this coming July 31st.

During the legislative session of 2009, the General Assembly passed the Transportation Investment Act of 2010 (H.B. 277), which most people refer to as the T-SPLOST.  Pursuant to that Act, the local governments and any metro planning organizations within each region were directed to create investment lists based on criteria that comported with the investment policies set forth in O.C.G.A. § 32-2-41.1(a).  Specifically, the criteria in O.C.G.A. § 32-2-41.1(a) for the investments on the list consisted of the following:

(1) Growth in private-sector employment, development of work force, and improved access to jobs;
(2) Reduction in traffic congestion;
(3) Improved efficiency and reliability of commutes in major metropolitan areas;
(4) Efficiency of freight, cargo, and goods movement;
(5) Coordination of transportation investment with development patterns in major metropolitan areas;
(6) Market driven travel demand management;
(7) Optimized capital asset management;
(8) Reduction in accidents resulting in injury and loss of life;
(9) Border-to-border and interregional connectivity; and
(10) Support for local connectivity to the state-wide transportation network.

The legislation also called for the formation of regional “roundtables” to approve or reject the draft investment lists developed from the above criteria.  If approved, the roundtable was then required to provide a notice of each county election superintendent so that the call for the election could be issued.  In light of the involvement of each regional roundtable, I reached out to those groups for input on the preamble.

Ultimately, the language in the preamble is all referenced in the original legislation that was passed over three years ago.  The preamble language exists for this reason and this reason only.

I recognize that reasonable people can disagree on this matter and I hope that this note has been able to clearly express the reasoning behind my actions.

Brian Kemp

DeKalb County Reassesses Reassessments

Two weeks ago, DeKalb County sent out property tax reassessment notices and yours truly was shocked and remembering the Vernon Jones era fondly after receiving a notice that our assessment was up by more than 160%.

the county’s Board of Assessors agreed to send out revised property assessments in the next few days to a huge chunk of north-central DeKalb and a small area near Stone Mountain, acknowledging a mathematical error that calculated double- and triple-percentage increases in values there.

Chief Appraiser Calvin Hicks said his office expects to send out new assessments for up to 4,000 homes, including 1,500 in Decatur that are not yet ready to be mailed. The office also is examining individual homes and smaller areas to make sure the same computer glitch didn’t hit more of the 230,000 assessments mailed May 29.

“Mistakes will be made, but I assure you that as they are, we will work to correct them,” Hicks said. “I don’t want to put the burden on any taxpayer to have too high a bill.”

Yesterday, I received my reassessment reassessment notice and the value had been changed back to exactly what it was for 2011. And the kicker? DeKalb County sent the notice first class for 45 cents, rather than using standard (“bulk”) mail, which might have saved nearly half the cost of postage. Nothing like county government for efficiency.

Deal not responsible for T-SPLOST threat/promise

Earlier this week, the Lowndes County Tea Party sent out a press release excoriating Governor Deal for allegedly compiling a list of elected officials endorsing T-SPLOST and promising to campaign for them.

Nolen Cox, Chairman of the Lowndes County Republican Party said “This is an unprecedented offer for a governor’s involvement in local elections. The majority of the Valdosta City Council run as Democrats, how would the governor fulfill his reelection support pledge? The impracticality of this offer makes it look more like a thinly-veiled threat to Republican anti-T-SPLOST members of city government, or possibly to provide cover for Mayor John Gayle who was originally against T-SPLOST when he was campaigning, but who recently switched his position after dining with Doug Calloway of the Chamber’s Transportation Alliance.”

Cox further stated; “It looks like Governor Deal has taken a page from Obama’s play book and is building an enemies list of T-SPLOST opponents and trying to use intimidation as a tactic for support. Or possibly Doug Calloway, the hired gun for the Georgia Chamber, has thrown Governor Deal – their biggest fundraiser – “under the bus” to save Calloway’s job and reputation in a failing effort to convince Georgians to vote themselves a tax during the worst recession in modern times. The people of Georgia deserve an explanation of this Quid pro Quo.”

Later that day, Jim Galloway wrote that all was not as it was being made out.

Somebody’s building a naughty-or-nice list. But it’s not Deal. Via spokeswoman Cindy Miller, a group affiliated with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce just claimed responsibility:

The Connect Georgia Campaign has had no communication with the Governor’s office regarding an accounting of the support by local elected officials for the upcoming TSPLOST vote on July 31.

As a matter of advocacy, our campaign is keeping track of advocates across the state, including elected officials, business leaders and community leaders. This is standard practice for an advocacy campaign.

If you think about it, and I’m sure you will, this makes much more sense. Threats of reprisal aren’t likely from Deal, given that as soon as the T-SPLOST campaign ends, a campaign to re-establish state authority to create charter schools begins.

On the other hand, Georgia’s business community is far more invested in the transportation sales tax than the governor, who always takes care to note that the vote was in place before he came into office.

Moreover, list-building implies that there is campaign cash to award and withhold. And that would be right up the alley of the Georgia Chamber, or its subsidiaries.

Senator Cecil Staton believes that Bibb County board of education elections should be held under the new maps just pre-cleared by the US Department of Justice.

State Senator Cecil Staton believes the candidates should re-qualify for the primary elections under the new lines.

Staton believes these are the maps best represent the people of Bibb County, and they are Georgia law. Staton says any Bibb County resident could contest the elections if the old maps are used.

“I think for our community we need to come together and do this in a positive way. There’s nothing negative about it. I don’t think anyone should be threatened by the new maps. They actually make sense and I think they reflect our community and that’s what the should be,” says Staton.

Staton says they’re still waiting on the department of justice to approve the new maps for the Bibb County Board of Commissioners, and the Macon Water Authority.

The federal court that redrew district lines for the Augusta Commission and Richmond County Board of Education declined to make any changes in light of public comments on the court-drawn maps.

In a 32-page opinion issued Tuesday, Hall declined to incorporate the changes requested by parties in a federal lawsuit filed after the General Assembly failed to implement a new district plan based on 2010 census data.

“I’m a little disappointed with the fact that he gave the plaintiffs and the commission an opportunity to review and submit what we felt were very relevant changes, and they were not considered,” said Augusta Commissioner Bill Lockett, who served on a local committee that developed a district map plan – known as 3R – which failed to gain approval in the Republican-dominated Georgia Senate.

In his opinion, Hall said making the suggested changes would disrupt the small deviations from ideal population size that his map accomplished.

The map includes eight single-member districts that deviate from an ideal size of 25,069 residents by less than 0.5 percent, and two super districts that deviate from an ideal size of 100,275 by 0.3 percent.

It meets the criteria of one person, one vote, Hall wrote, and the Voting Rights Act’s prohibitions against diluting minority voting strength or worsening minority populations’ opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. Because it is devised by a federal judge, the map does not require clearance by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Five of the districts in Hall’s plan are more than 60 percent black, while District 6’s majority black population is 52.43 percent black and 54.26 percent black or mixed-race. The south Augusta district has been represented by a white commissioner and school board members since consolidation.

Using the Georgia Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office as his technical adviser, Hall said he created a map that minimally changed existing district lines, preserving at least 74.19 percent of the “core constituency” of each district.

Senator Chip Rogers and Republican Primary challenger Brandon Beach will face off in a cage death match debate sponsored by the Cherokee County Farm Bureau and the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring a political forum at 6:30 PM Thursday at Cagle’s Family Farm, at 362 Stringer Road in the Hickory Flat community.

Cherokee County Board of Education member Janet Read is considering filing an ethics complaint about a robocall claiming that board members have voted to raise property taxes.

“The message presents misinformation, including the false claim that Cherokee County School Board members have voted to raise taxes for each of the last eight years,” [Board spokesperson Barbara] Jacoby said in the release.

The transcribed version of the call states: “Attention conservative voters: Not every candidate calling themselves a Republican is actually a conservative.”

After blasting Read, the message goes on to provide the district’s main line telephone number and says those receiving the message should call the school board vice chair.

Read said she was bothered that whoever made the calls would not call her and speak to her about the issues, since her home phone number has been on the CCSD website for the last eight years.

“I’m not surprised that already a smear campaign has started against me, but it is pretty pathetic that somebody wants to hide behind a robocall instead of addressing the issues with me,” Read said.

As for accusations she is not a conservative, Read said her record speaks for itself.

“I consider myself a true conservative,” Read said. “When I voted to increase the millage rate, it was because there were no other options.”

As far as an ethics complaint against the source of the robocall, Read said she is exploring her options and investigating as to what violations may have occurred.

The source of the call has not been identified, as the call does not state its source of funding.

I’m not going to speculate here on who placed and paid for the call. Anyone who has a recording is invited to email me. Anyone who want to know who I think is responsible is also welcome to email.

Soon-to-be former State Rep. Elena Parent, who is the most passive-aggressive politician I’ve ever spoken to, told the Brookhaven Patch that she will “absolutely” run for office in the future after stepping down rather than face fellow Democrat State Rep. Scott Holcomb. Brookhaven voters may want to reconsider supporting cityhood if it means she may one day be mayor.

Gwinnett County Commissioner John Heard has said he will abstain from voting on a proposal to build a hotel on county-owned land because of his consulting relationship with the party bidding, though he has not worked on the project in question. This abstention, coupled with the vacancy caused by former Commissioner Shirley Fanning-Lasseter’s guilty plea to federal bribery charges and resignation from the Commission are leading some Gwinnettians to call on the Commission to reject the project and rebid it.

Burglaries and fires in the offices of doctors who testified against the fetal pain bill may dissuade citizens from addressing the General Assembly.

Two burglaries and two fires at Atlanta-area women’s clinics and a burglary at the the main office of the Georgia Obstetrical and Gynecological Society are being investigated by the FBI as possible acts of domestic terrorism or civil rights violations.

Four of the five offices targeted are run by doctors who had voiced concerns — sometimes publicly, sometimes privately — about the so-called fetal pain bill, which shortened to 20 weeks the time frame during which women can have an elective abortion.

“These are despicable acts and if there is some relationship between these acts and the legislation, then it’s even more outrageous,” said House Speaker David Ralston. “I’m concerned that Georgians might have some fear of coming to the Capitol and voicing their opinions on legislation. Obviously, that troubles me.”

Four physicians interviewed by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, some of whom declined to be named, said they suspected — but could not prove — that whoever targeted their clinics was exceptionally well informed about their activities in the Capitol during the 40 days of the session. Even those activities that occurred out of the public eye.

“The circle of people is not that large,” said John Walraven, a lobbyist for the Infertility and Perinatology Consortium of Georgia. “That’s what’s creepy about it.”

The bill’s passage was a milestone victory for abortion foes. The restriction’s most visible backers, Georgia Right to Life, has condemned the arsons and burglaries as “abhorrent.” The group’s spokesman said the group is cooperating with the FBI investigation.

“We are an organization that has never not worked with the FBI against domestic terrorism,” Georgia Right To Life President Dan Becker said Thursday. “We have a zero tolerance policy for any kind of acts of violence against abortionists, or anybody related — patients or doctors.”

Doctors who headed to the Capitol to testify said they do not perform abortions, but they were greatly concerned with the impact the bill would have on women with troubled pregnancies. The doctors said some conditions fatal to a fetus cannot even be diagnosed until after 20 weeks.

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