Friday, September 30, 2005

One more post on LPDS, and then I'll shut up (maybe)

As we come within a few days of the vote, I feel I've gotta touch on this one again, even though we've just about beat it into the ground. Here's a sample comment from the LPDS website that I wanna talk about:

"I first heard about La Puerta Del Sol in a newsletter that I received from my eastside commissioner. In the newsletter this commissioner was very strongly opposed to the project and was encouraging me to view the project in a negative way as well. I decided to take the time to get to know more about La Puerta Del Sol by attending a meeting and learning the details for myself. I went to the meeting and I discussed many of the concerns, that my commissioner was projecting on the project, with the actual developers and Bruno (the owner). When I left that meeting I was in complete support of the project and I could not understand why my commissioner was trying to convince me otherwise. I view La Puerta Del Sol as a wonderful asset to our community and especially to the eastside of Athens!"

Now granted, this is anecdotal evidence from the website promoting the project, so it's hardly conclusive or free from bias. It's entirely possible that there's just as much anecdotal evidence on the other side. My concern is that many of those opposed did not do the independent investigation that this individual did, and simply oppose LPDS based on the contents of States' newsletter. Given what was obviously a campaign by States to sabotage this thing, he certainly is in no position to criticize the legitimate PR efforts of the LPDS gang.

Elton, if you read this before the vote, I certainly hope you will consider this evidence when you are weighing the heavy opposition that you say the neighborhood associations have expressed.

As for this member of the crack editorial staff, I intend to be there Tuesday before 6, to see what these "Silent Supports" are all about. I'm sure that I will end up becoming one of them, whatever they turn out to be. Hope to see you all there.

Viva la puerta

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Here comes the judge?

Chief Justice Roberts having now been predictably coronated, it is time to discuss who will be ordained to replace O' Connor. One named being tossed about is Georgia attorney, professor, executive, etc., Larry D. Thompson. Thompson is senior vice president and general counsel of PepsiCo., as well as a scholar and trustee of the Brookings Institution. He has a distinguished legal career, most famously as a big shot at King & Spalding, as a U.S. Attorney, and more recently, as Deputy Attorney General in the Bush Administration. He reportedly retired from that post in 2003 to "return to the private sector" (he would flatly deny it, but I can't help feeling it had something to do with differences he had with Ashcroft). He was the main man in charge of anti-terrorism prosecutions. After he left the AG's office in 2003, he returned to Atlanta and his present post at Pepsi, as well as teaching a class at UGA Law School on Anti-Terrorism and Criminal Procedure (a class which, by the way, one member of the crack editiorial staff was in; we won't talk about the grade received).

One of the main reasons that his name is in the pot is, of course, the fact that he's one of a small (although not as small as it used to be) number of conservative minority candidates with the qualifications to be in the pot. And since Bush already picked a white man to fill the spot of one of only two women on the SC once, most are saying there's little chance he'll do it again (although this member of the crack editorial staff isn't necessarily convinced of that).

Personally, gleaning what I could from him as a professor, he would probably be a pretty good candidate, and would probably be much less of an idealogue than some of the Strictly-Constructed Constitution-thumpers on the list. However, that's probably a strike against him from the Bush administration's perspective, especially since Roberts turned out not to be that, at least not overtly (he gave all the right answers on recognizing a right to privacy generally and respecting the precedent of Roe and Casey, e.g.). They're gonna need a real right-winger to keep the base happy.

We'll be following this closely, especially if Thompson somehow ends up being the nominee. Stay tuned.

La Menage a Prince?

Hi kids.

Well, you may have noticed one local political issue that hasn't gotten much coverage here - the proposed three-laning of Prince Avenue, in all or in part, depending on who you listen to.

To be honest, we don't have a whole heck of a lot to say on the matter. It's being covered very well by other local nontraditional media gurus like Hilary and Jmac, to say nothing of the extensive coverage given to it by Flagpole.

Also, discussion on three-laning Prince inevitably turns to discussion on bike lanes, which tends to make that little vein on the crack editorial staff's foreheads start throbbing.

But, if you want our opinion, read this. We couldn't have said it any better ourselves.


Judgment Day, Five Days and Counting

For those of you interested in the La Puerta Del Sol issue, and who are not on the LPDS mailing list (Shame on you. We'll bet you haven't emailed your Commissioners yet either!), we humbly present the plan of action concerning the October 4th Commission meeting, as submitted by the LPDS folks.

We'll be there. We hope you will too.

Buenos Días [Good Morning],

We just wanted to send an important reminder to all our members about the upcoming Mayor and Commissioners meeting next Tuesday evening. We hope that you will join us in support of this unique project. We feel that we have worked extremely hard to ensure the community is informed about our plans, and that the facts surrounding this rezoning request make their way to the public.

It is true that some people do not support La Puerta del Sol, with particular emphasis on a single neighborhood, Cedar Creek (although many Cedar Creek residents have voiced their wholehearted support for this rezoning as well). However, we feel that such reports of opposition-and the reasons some people believe they should oppose-have been largely exaggerated and a great deal of misinformation has been conveyed within our community. Our personal experience has been that the overwhelming majority of those who are well-informed about this rezoning are also supporters. Furthermore, many community members who may have opposed this rezoning initially have shifted to support the proposal upon learning more about it.

We would like to encourage you attend this meeting, and make sure you voice is recognized to ensure that the the Mayor and Commissioners make the proper decision. We will be meeting outside City Hall at 6:00 PM on Tuesday. If you plan on attending try to make there a little earlier, so we can put a face to these email addresses! We would love to meet you and thank you in person. For those of you that might like to speak during the Citizen Input portion of the meeting we can use this time to help answer any last minute questions as well. If you do not feel comfortable speaking during the Citizen input, but would still like to show your support please come down to City Hall early, as we believe we have a unique way for Silent Supports to make a powerful statement (we hope this has now peaked your curiosity enough to get you down there by 6:00).

What: Mayor and Commission Meeting :
When: Tuesday, October 4th, 2005 - 7:00 PM (6:00 PM if your still curious)
Where: City Hall
Why: Mayor & commissioners meeting to vote for acceptance of La Puerta Del Sol rezoning request.

We sincerely appreciate the support you have demonstrated, and are looking forward to meeting you all Tuesday evening.

Regards... LPDS!


Cox Runs Radio Ads, Republicans, Democrats Cry Foul

The ABH editorializes today about the bipartisan bitching and moaning about Cathy Cox's decision to run radio ads about investment fraud targeted to African-Americans.

We don't really have a dog in the Democratic primary on that race yet. We like Taylor personally (who couldn't like the big guy?), but suspect that Cox is a little more electable.

Also, while both campaigns are consultant-driven, meaning that folks up in Washington, D.C. are deciding what you here in Georgia should know about each candidate, Taylor's is more off-putting because it is so slick. You can bet your bottom dollar that Taylor will have the best TV ads and mail pieces.

And, the response from the Taylor campaign (because we're betting that it's Taylor's folks that the ABH alludes to as, "some of the state's Democrats"), is typical of the consultant-driven campaign. Taylor's campaign has to say something, either on the record or not for attribution, because it's what's expected of them.

But, Cathy's radio ads don't really matter. Not this early, and, if they're running closer to time, they probably won't matter much then.

There's an art to designing a good ad. There's an even more arcane art in placing ads effectively. As campaign propaganda, these ads don't measure up in either capacity. In the first place, there's no direct correlation between the, "This is Cathy Cox, don't get screwed by fraudulent investment scams," message, and the "This is Cathy Cox, vote for me in 13 months," message that critics are trying to imply is implicit in the ads. Hell, we'd be surprised if 10% of any radio market you wanted to choose in Georgia, be it black, white, latino, or frat-boy douchebag rock, could even tell you the name of even one candidate for Governor. (Especially the latter category, but we digress).

Also, radio ads alone will not do much to drum up support in any community or demographic (Neither will TV or mail). Anything media-related is going to have to utilize the gamut of genres (meaning TV, radio, direct mail, and oneline communications). Then, it still has to be backed up by a good ground game.

Y'see, it's Cathy Cox's job, her J to the O to the B, to protect Georgians from investment scams. And, the largest demographic groups to be targeted by scammers are, not African-Americans, and the elderly. (If you're elderly and black, you're super-screwed, but what else is new in Georgia politics?) An effective way to reach out to that demo is through radio. If the group most often falling prey to scams like this were young, well-educated, white males who make over $35,000 a year, then Cox would probably run banner advertising on the internet.

She's doing her job. We'll reiterate though, that Marky-Mark (and presumably his "funky bunch" of consultants) are also doing their jobs in complaining about it.

There is one way that these ads are effective beyond their intended purpose, and that's increasing her name recognition. Still, that's the same thing that Taylor does every time he makes a ruckus in the State Senate (man, we love his ruckuses, or is it ruckusi), or for that matter, the same thing the Gubner does when he randomly cancels school. (We are so topical sometimes, it hurts). It's all about letting folks know you're out there doing your job.

Tips, rumors, gossip.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Union Point
We're intrigued, in a morbid sort of way, by the whole Union Point political shenanigans from last year. Allison Floyd (in what we humbly thought was one of the best pieces we've seen her do) wrote up a nice story on it last year, which is worth checking out, if you have no idea what we're talking about. If you do have a clue as to what we're referring, then today's ABH has a little somethin-somethin about the state of affairs now. Still, we're troubled by this passage.

"Now, she's one of seven newcomers and long-time residents who are running for a seat on the Union Point City Council in hopes of re-invigorating the historic mill town and turning it into a tourist destination of the same caliber as Madison and Greensboro."

Madison and Greensboro? Madison and Greensboro? We'd be lying if we said we didn't almost spit-take a mouthful of Diet Coke (with Splenda, yummy) onto the keyboard when we read that. You've got a wide-open chance to remake your city, rebuild its political infrastructure from the ground up, and the highest you can set the bar is Madison and Greensboro? But we digress.

They're electing a bunch of new city council members. We reckon that's the main thing.

Andy Rusk
As mentioned previously, is up and running, with comment functionality. Pay him a visit, and again, we'll note that Andy (though he's been strangely silent recently) is the only mayoral candidate yet to reach out to AP.

Life is Different on the Other Side of the Border
Dig this piece on the proposed updating of the sign ordinance in Oconee County. You know that in ACC, that kind of proposal wouldn't even see the pitiful light provided by Carl Jordan's lighting ordinance. We've been meaning to talk a little bit about Oconee County politics, but to be honest, don't know a whole bunch about stuff over there, other than these salient points.
  1. They like development a whole lot more than ACC.
  2. Their local electeds are all Republicans.
  3. Becky Vaughn lives there. They didn't care for her last November.
  4. They didn't like Doug Haines very much either in 2002.
  5. They like development a whole lot more than ACC.
  6. They have a friggin' fantastic animal shelter, and one member of the crack editorial staff can back that up, because he got his puppy dog from them.
  7. The Oconee County Democratic Party, while smaller in number, seems to have its shit together when compared to the ACC Democratic Party. See this example.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Gubner Has a Little Gas Problem

The ABH is festooned with folks talking about the Gubner's decision to close school yesterday and today. In an article, the usual suspects from both parties weigh in. (For the record, while we agree with him on this one, Bobby Kahn's talking points blew.)

Interestingly, three of the four letters to the editor today talk about it as well, and surprisingly, no one there seems to want to shill for the GOP.

A guy from Comer sez, "
Never mind that buses are a form of mass transportation, which happens to be far more fuel-efficient than a parade of big ugly SUVs."

A first-grade teacher weighs in with some suggestions on alternate courses of action.

Our favorite comes from Mary Songster, who makes a good point. "
Even more disturbing is the thought that 50 kids who would have been on one bus to one destination are now being taken by 50 different cars to 50 different locations - not saving resources, but shifting the burden.[emphasis ours]"

She makes a good point. The Gubner is making himself look good on the backs of parents who actually have to shoulder the burden of his decision.

Also, far be it from us to argue with the highly-paid consultants who tell Cathy Cox and Mark Taylor what to do, but we think the message is wrong on this one. It's not about the Gubner's priorities on education (heaven knows there's better evidence than this to point out where Sonny stands on education), and it's not "leaving parents in a bind," as the article in the ABH puts it. It's about Sonny making a rash decision to make himself look good at the expense of parents. We think that message would resonante a little more come November of next year.

But what do we know?

We'd know more with your help. Send us your tips here.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Elton Dodson Writes In

Super-Commissioner Elton Dodson (insert your own "cape and tights" joke here) writes in this afternoon, to clue us in on his thoughts on the La Puerta Del Sol imbroglio and the upcoming (we hope!) War on Poverty.

He was also kind enough to send us advance copies of two letters he'll be sending in to the editors at the ABH. One concerns the LPDS jazz, the other his advocacy for public access TV in Athens. We hope that they'll both show up in the local paper tomorrow, although we have our doubts.

One point he makes it that both we and the ABH kind of got it wrong on interpreting his opinions on LPDS. In the grand tradition of political ass-covering, we would point out that the ABH was none too clear, and we appreciate Dodson putting us right.

To clarify, while Dodson is personally a fan of the LPDS project, he has been hearing a significant amount of criticism from the community. And, his decision on October 4 is not going to be influenced by worries about pissing States off. Sez Dodson:

"While Commissioner McCarter and I would find ourselves in a tense relationship if I vote for this proposal, that is in no way influential on my opinion in this matter. While I certainly give Commissioner McCarter’s options in his district careful consideration, my decisions are my own. Though as a citizen I am a regular customer and cheerleader for Mr. Rubio and his contributions to our community, my decisions as an elected representative must be consistent with the needs and demands of my constituents, especially where a proposed rezoning will directly impact surrounding neighborhoods. Rarely do so many neighborhood associations lend their collective voices to formally oppose a rezoning, as has been the case here. I would be derelict in my duty if I did not separate whatever personal feelings I have about this project from the public dialogue created by it. I have made no decision on this matter, and will not until public comment has ended during our voting meeting. At that time, I will make what I believe is the best decision for the 10th district. Whatever anger a commissioner may direct my way on any issue is irrelevant
where it is contrary to the best interests of our community. If a colleague chooses to
sever a relationship with me over a single rezoning, I believe the cost of maintaining such
a relationship is in any case too great an obstacle to effective representation and I
welcome the breach."

We're glad to know that Dodson is a supporter (at least personally) of Bruno Rubio's efforts. We hope that he will be supporting LPDS officially on October 4th. Meanwhile, it's important to note that he's doing what an elected official should do in a situation like this - listening to voices from the community who contact him. Problem is, that for all of McCarter's carping on Rubio's "spin", the pro-LPDS forces really haven't done a great job of rallying up and contacting their local electeds.

Commissioner Dodson has shown, by reaching out to us, and by and through a number of actions since he took office, that he is open to hearing new ideas (as well as coming up with a few himself from time to time). So, if you're pro-tostones like us, shoot him an email and let him know how you feel about it.

The Super-Commissioner sent us a bunch of stuff in his email to the crack editorial staff; more than we can use in one post. We were planning on doing some more public access-related posting in the next day or two, and will be including some his comments in that respect then.

So we'll leave it at this for now. But, before we go, map props to the Commish for writing in, and we hope that he'll continue to do so.

Local Legal Update

All law is politics, or so a professor once told us. One member of the crack editorial staff has decided to use his supposed expertise (at least that's what the big piece of paper on the wall and the bar card in his wallet say) to provide regular updates on the local legal scene. Every now and then, if he's feeling bold, you may even get some analysis.

First up is a heads-up from an anonymous source that a really big products liability trial will be coming soon to a courtroom near you. Namely the Athens-Clarke County State Court. Pending some possible procedural hurdles (the case is technically still up on interlocutory appeal of some pre-trial issues), the court is planning to begin trial on November 14, 2005. The trial is expected to last 4-6 weeks. The case involves a woman who was killed when her 1985 Mercury Marquis was hit from behind by a truck, and the fuel tank exploded. The suit alleges several product defects against both Ford Motor Co., the manufacturer of the vehicle, and Draw-Tite, Inc., the manufacturer of a trailer hitch that was installed on the vehicle and is alleged to have contributed to the fuel tank explosion. The law firm handling the plaintiff's case routinely gets multi-million dollar judgments in similar cases.

The crack editorial staff urges any of you who have the time to spend a day or part of one watching this or any other trial in the local courthouses. First of all, once you get past all of the preliminary stuff, it usually makes for pretty good theater (except it's not made up, it's people's lives). But more importantly, the judicial branch of our government needs to be monitored by its citizens just like all the others. Like voting and jury duty (and emailing your M & C), this is another way to be a good citizen.

More legal updates soon...


Hi everyone!

Hey, just a quick note that is up and operational.

Check it out!


More Politics Than You Can Shake a Stick At

Hey everyone! How was your weekend? Great!

Hey we're glad you're back, because man, we've got a lot to talk about.

So much in fact, that we pulled an all-nighter (not by choice, mind you) and put a bunch of posts together from what was a pretty brisk news weekend in the Classic, as well as some early Monday stories that you'll be seeing. There are, in fact, so many new posts today that, in retrospect, we would have been well-served to break it down Hobbyhorse-style like Antidisingenousmetarianism. But we tend to talk more than Hilary, and besides, we ripped her off unwittingly already on the Senator Tankerbell/States McCarter thing, so we'll stay the course with individual posts, accompanied, as always, with our insightful commentary.

In order to help you navigate, here's what's new today on the ol' blog.
It's a lot of news, a little analysis, and tons of snarkiness, and we encourage you to read it all.

Got rumors, tips, gossip for us. Send it here, we'll keep your name out of it. Unless we get subpoened. Prison frightens us.

Mark Your Calendars - SOS Candidates Coming to Oconee County

October 6th, all three current Democrats running for Secretary of State are heading to Watkinsville to debate.

"Oh, but crack editorial staff, who cares about the Secretary of State? I'm a busy person, and I don't have time to watch them debate!"

Really? Maybe Diebold won't have time to count your ballot too. Because, as we all know, the SOS is the numbah one election official in the state.

So, who's going to be there? Well, the three candidates of course: Shyam Reddy of Dublin (although he actually probably lives in Atlanta, seeing as how he works for a big law firm there, but who are we to judge?), Carol Jackson of Cleveland (she was a State Senator), and Angela Moore of Decatur. Interesting story about Angela Moore. Part of the crack editorial staff stopped in at the Atlanta Highway RaceTrac station some weeks ago for a fillup and a 44 ounce Mountain Dew, and happened to notice some Angela Moore literature on the counter. So at least she's getting around.

Also, Jim Thompson of the ABH is part of the panel.

So, head on out to see these folks debate. By the way, even though they won't admit it, most campaigns hate debates. Not because they're stressful, but because they're a colossal waste of a campaign's time and resources, especially this early and in a statewide, down ballot race. So let's at least make it worth their while to show up.

For more information, visit the Oconee County Democratic Party's web site.

By the way, the debate is sponsored by the Democratic Parties in Oconee, Greene, Madison, and Oglethorpe Counties. Where was the Clarke County Party on this one?


Updating the La Puerta Del Sol Whip Count

Per a story in Sunday's ABH.

In Favor: 0
Leaning favorable: 2 (Dodson, Chasteen)
Undecided/Unknown: 5 (Carter, Sims, Lynn, Jordan, Hoard)
Leaning unfavorable: 1 (Kinman)
Opposed: 1 (McCarter)
Out of Town: 1 (Davison)
Abstaining: 1 (Maxwell)

We're chalking up Dodson and Chasteen as leaners instead of supporters right now, because, according to Blake's story, they support LPDS, but may not want to piss States off. Really guys, he's a lame duck, go ahead and piss him off.

We'd also be willing to bet that David Lynn is leaning favorable too, but can't confirm it. For now, pending confirmation from one of you folks out there, we'll leave him at undecided.

As always, here are the email addresses for you to do some lobbying of your very own.

(Not voting) Mayor: Heidi Davison
(Unknown) District 1: Charles Carter
(Unknown) District 2: Harry Sims (no email. Boooo!)
(Not voting) District 3: George Maxwell
(Leaning Against) District 4: Alice Kinman
(Unknown) District 5: David Lynn
(Unknown) District 6: Carl Jordan
(Unknown) District 7: Kathy Hoard
(Opposed) District 8: States McCarter
(Leaning Towards)District 9: Tom Chasteen
(Leaning Towards)District 10: Elton Dodson

Let us have it. Right here.

Mayoral Candidate Johnson: Goodbye Unified Govt.?

The Sunday ABH reports (we couldn't find a link, did the ABH deliberately snub Blake?) that mayoral candidate Keith Johnson has advanced one of the biggest new ideas in the election so far. Ok, actually, the biggest, no question. Possibly doing away with the unified government model and going back to separate city and county governments.

We're not so sure about this one. Now, Johnson's reasoning - that rural (mostly living on the north side of the county) residents are still not getting equal access to water, sewer, and garbage service - is sound, and we agree with him that it needs to be fixed yesterday. And don't get us started on the whole fire protection issue over there. (Did five-points really need a new station worse than north Athens needed one at all? Oh, and your clock tower looks like a phallus) We're glad that Johnson is actually talking about this issue, and we'll hope that if he's elected, he'll do more than pay lip service to it.

But, we're not so sure about scrapping the unified government to accomplish it. Unified government is not the issue here. The issue is the ACC Commission which seems to care more about smoking bans, rental registration, and playing politics with the local judiciary than it does with the real quality of life issues that affect residents outside of Cedar Creek, Five Points, Boulevard, and Cobbham. To be really blunt, perhaps one issue is their representation on the ACC Commission. Harry Sims has been there for a few terms, he was just re-elected last year. We know he's one voice out of eleven, and he can't do anything unilaterally, but we wonder why after his time on the Commission, this issue is still largely unresolved. We like Harry, and we don't want to question his effectiveness or his integrity (which is very strong), but it does make one wonder.

The problem here, as we see it, can be solved from the inside out, without resorting to upending the entire structure. As one of our friends here has pointed out, the office of mayor isn't super-powerful, but it's a great bully pulpit. If Johnson is elected, we hope he'll lend his voice and his pulpit to the people who are trying to advance sewers over surveillance cameras, and city water over smoking bans.

Still, we'd like to give Keith Johnson some props for being one of two candidates who are talking about issues. (The other being Andy Rusk.)

Somewhere between unassailable fact and unsubstantiated rumor lies our email address.

A Few Choice Quotations

In RE: La Puerta Del Sol.

"The negative comments came from my constituents who have studied all the issues involved and contacted me.
I believe Commissioner Dodson is getting the same vibes?[emphasis ours]" (States McCarter, email 09/01/05)

"Again, Commissioner Dodson and I discouraged you folks in every way possible..." (States McCarter, email 09/01/05)

"Understandable, but Commissioner Dotson [sic] and I have to be concerned about the total picture in regards to Eastside development.[implying that Dodson did not support the La Puerta Del Sol project]" (States McCarter, email 09/01/05)

"If I vote for this, States and I are through." (Commissioner Elton Dodson, who according to the ABH, "likes the concept," as quoted in the Athens Banner-Herald, 09/25/05)

We're just saying.

Tell us all about it.

The Sunday ABH Roundup (and Monday)

In which we comment briefly on some of the stuff on the editorial pages of the Sunday and Monday editions of the Banana-Herald.

Monday's ABH has a editorial on public access TV coming to ACC. (look for "Late Night With Athens Politics" coming soon! Check your local listings) We deal with that madness here.

Also Monday, someone is pissed about States McCarter dropping out of the mayor's race, but not for the reasons you'd expect. Come to think of it, we agree. More productive things to do? Such as trying to stifle the development of a certain proposed local eatery? 'Cos that doesn't look like its going too well for States either. Also, frequent AP commenter and politico-a-go-go Andy Rusk gets some love.

Last week we snarked at Executive Editor Jason Winders for his views on the living wage. This week, he kind of gets it right in his column about the gay-straight alliance club at Madison County High School. Good for Winders. Our favorite part: "For those of you scoring at home, that's roughly 99 more folks than who turned up to protest the county's SAT average lagging the nation." (Referring to the 100 or so people who showed up to speak out on the issue at a school board meeting)

Putting aside the somewhat suspect organization of the sentence (sorry Jason, but seriously, get an AP Style Guide!), he makes a good point, and one that we wished we would have made.

So, mad props to Jason on this one.

Speaking of ABH editors that are in our good graces, we'd like to extend a laurel (and hearty handshake) to Jim Thompson. Jim's a good guy, and unlike most editors, he'll actually admit when he's wrong. Remember the whole biking to work thing? We do. More props to him today for admitting he dropped the ball on

At last, a letter attacking the anti-living wage d-bags.

Finally, Bill Shipp unmasks the secret to the Gubner's success. Hint: if someone asks him, "Workin' hard or hardly workin'?", he answers the latter.

Feed the rumor mill here.

ABH: Bill of Rights Sucks, Athenians Too Stupid to Make Up Their Own Minds

The Editorial Board over at the Banana-Herald blows it big time on this one.

One issue that we've been meaning to talk about for a few days now is public access television. You see, ACC is working on renegotiating its cable franchise contract with Charter Communications. As part of that contract, some folks, especially Super-Commissioner (we assume that he only wears the cape and tights for private use) Elton Dodson, want Charter to include a real public access channel, where anyone with a concept could conceivably get their own public access show.

The ABH is somewhat less than fond of this.

Their biggest concern is that public access could be a broadcast outlet for programming that is, as the ABH puts it, "odious and unsettling." That's probably true. If you give folks free airtime, chances are, some of the stuff out there will be bad, objectionable, possibly even unsettling.

As examples, the ABH cites some instances where white supremecists have used the public airwaves to advance their agenda.

That's a very real concern. We wouldn't want to see that on the tube, and we're not going to make light of the possibility of that happening. There are racist douchebags everywhere, and lots of them love the cameras.

Most of all though, the ABH seems afraid that folks will see our public access programming (if it contains shows that are objectionable) and assume that Athens is a city full of racists (for instance). We disagree. People understand that public access is all about free airtime for people who want it. Sometimes they're racist d-bags. Sometimes, they're just plain nuts. Most times, they're boring and a leeeeeeeetle too self-enamored. Sometimes, they produce quality, informative programming that benefits the community. (Look for "Late Night with Athens Politics", coming to a public access station near you.)

Here's what we'll say. The First Amendment (the same one that keeps us and the Banner Herald in business, remember) protects free speech. You can, within certain broad Constitutional limitations, say what you want in this country, and no one, not us, not the Athens Banner Herald, not the Supreme Court, not even Karl Rove, can stop you.

And, as we all know (and, to their credit, the ABH points this out as well), Athens is a community that, we humbly believe, is home to some of the most creative people in the world. They deserve this.

Also, for younger, more impressionable viewers, there's always the parental controls on your cable box. And for older viewers, there's the classic, time-honored choice. Don't watch! Heaven knows that there are far more "odious and unsettling" things to see on the internet, yet most people don't, of their own accord, visit the white power websites (to continue the ABH's example). Should we assume that once that message hits the airwaves (if indeed it even does, we have our doubts), people will flock, lemming-like, to racist d-bag rhetoric and suddenly become a city of brain-dead racist zombies? Come on, ABH. Athens, and Athenians, deserve much more credit than that.

Heaven knows that there are plenty of options for the end user or viewer to self-censor without forcing the government in on the action.

But you know all that already.

Finally, we'll say this. For a newspaper to be criticizing, even obliquely, the First Amendment is, to us, at least borderline "odious and unsettling" as well. Especially the unsettling part.

Questions, rumors, tips, hate mail? Send it all here.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

School's out!

But why? As everyone out there knows, the Gubner decided to shut down the schools for Monday and Tuesday to conserve gas. (Press release here)

Now, hindsight is 20-20, but after a weekend in which we learned that the refineries weren't too badly hit, and in which the gas prices at our local fuel stop remained virtually unchanged (we highly recommend, by the way, the RaceTrac on Atlanta Highway, just past the mall. Cheap gas and friendly staff), we've got to question the wisdom of this move.

It seems that the end result of this executive order was: 1. a lot of pissed off parents (they have to go to work, and find daycare), and 2. a little mini-panic on Friday. We saw gas lines begin to rear their ugly heads again, albeit not as badly as we saw immediately after Katrina.

The Gubner's got to realize that executive actions have major repercussions. We believe, and have heard no credible evidence to the contrary, that the Gubner's suspension of school probably caused folks to believe that there was much more of a problem than was actually the case, precipitating a run on gas stations across the state. Fortunately, supply wasn't interrupted and prices stayed under control.

We think we know why the Gov did it though. As we noted a few weeks ago, Bill Shipp had some pretty laudatory things to say about the Gubner and his post-Katrina response. Maybe he was going for a second act? We think so.

Too bad this one has backfired so far.

By the way, a word to the wise for candidates Cox and Taylor. The Gubner, despite this, is establishing his credibility on gas prices. Shouldn't you guys be saying some stuff about that too?

Tip whores and rumor sluts are we. Give us our fix here.

Call for sources

Hey, any of y'all out there who teach in the Clarke County School District, or who know someone who does, and would like to answer just a few questions off the record, and in strict confidence, please email us here.


Navy School Rumors

So what's going to happen with the Navy School? Well, other than the obvious facts (1. It's going to close, 2. But not anytime soon) we've been just as in the dark as everyone else. As we've previously mentioned, there's a certain heirarchy for bids on the property. The federal government gets first dibs, followed by the state, then local government, then, if no one else wants it, the property is opened up to bids from the private sector.

We didn't think it had a remote chance of making it to the private sector part (sorry ARMC!), figuring that UGA would snap it up. Now however, an anonymous source with good Navy School connections informs us that there's a good chance it might not even go that far.

Seems that the federal government might have an eye on the NSCS campus after all. According to our source, the Centers for Disease Control are taking a hard look at Athens for expansion purposes.

Now, that's pretty much all we know on the CDC thing, and it is pretty early to start speculating. But hey, that's never stopped us in the past, has it?

We don't really know what to think yet on this one. On the one hand, there's the distinct possibility that we could be stockpiling anthrax or something within shouting distance of the crack editorial staff's houses (we both live near the NSCS). But, just because it's the CDC doesn't mean that we're necessarily talking about super-secure lab facilities here. In fact, we're biased of course, but in our humble opinions, Athens would be just about the worst place for a facility of that type, and there's no way the federal government is that dumb, right? (Don't answer that.)

More likely, the CDC is going to use this for benign purposes, for instance, teaming up with certain departments at UGA. (Fun fact: the UGA College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences is home to quite a few of the country's top experts on bio-terrorism and food security) Or the campus, if used by the CDC could just be used for administrative functions.

Our biggest question is: how will any proposed CDC development impact the local economy, and especially the job market? Again, too soon to tell, but we'll leave it at this for now. Of course any CDC to community lobbying that will go on will stress the number of jobs that the new facility will create. We just want to make sure that those jobs are going to folks who live here, and not folks being transferred from existing facilities.

Tip us off here.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Because it's Friday

Because it's Friday, and we're feeling extra chipper, we'd like to make a quick plug for two things that relate to Athens' other passion (besides politics), and that's music.

The Stale Cartoon is hosted by a friend of ours, and is your go-to resource if you're a fan of punk, hardcore, or ska music, especially the local scene. (We're don't know beans about any of that, but the blog is great anyway.)

Northern State is not from Athens. But we wish they were.

Happy weekend.

Updating the LPDS Whip Count

Thanks to an anonynous tipster, we've managed to learn that District 4 Commissioner Alice Kinman is leaning towards "no" on the Oct. 4 vote.

Our tipster explains that Kinman (who is a pretty decent sort of Commissioner, and has some faboo ideas about sidewalks) likes the idea, but is hearing mostly opposition from the community. That could mean we are in the minority here, or it could mean that we're not doing our jobs and contacting the M&C with our side of the story.

Either way, it sounds to the crack editorial staff like Commissioner Kinman is not fully decided, and could be persuaded, if she sees some support out there for this.

So fire up the emails! Hit her with some blog-lobbying (or blobbying, if you will) right here.

The current whip count:

In Favor: 0
Leaning favorable: 0
Undecided/Unknown: 7 (Carter, Sims, Maxwell, Lynn, Jordan, Hoard, Chasteen)
Leaning unfavorable: 2 (Dodson, Kinman)
Opposed: 1 (McCarter)

Thanks again to our anonymous source. Be like that, give us the good stuff here.

Let's Talk Living Wage

Once again, the free marketeers are at work in the ABH.

Today's LTE writer is a lot of fun. Apparently, the reason that wages are so low is because of...get ready now...illegal immigration!

Ok, so to date, we've blamed poor people and foreign people. We're hoping someone can write in soon and blame the IRS (or Tom Daschle). That way we can get the full Republican scapegoat trifecta.

Now, in some ways, this guy makes a decent point. Too bad it's all clouded up with a complete misunderstanding of politics and policy. To be sure, there are a lot of illegal workers here in America, and quite a few in Georgia. There's probably more than a handful right here in Athens. And, there's some truth to the point that (disgusting racial stereotyping aside), illegal immigrants will work for less. Of course, it isn't their choice to do so, any more than it would be your choice to work for less than minimum wage.

But to assume there's some magical way to suddenly seal up the borders is just fatuous.

We can't. If we could have, then the xenophobes in the Republican Party would have done it by now, and Tom Tancredo could be home stroking his Wookie instead of trying to run for President like a real politician.

So, since there's no magic bullet to keep all of the scary brown people out of the country, what have we been left with? Things like this. All of them have the end result of making it harder for immigrants (legal or otherwise) to become citizens.

Break that down a little more, though. They're already here, and more to the point, they're not going to stop coming. So, shouldn't we be making it easier for people to become citizens, not harder?

There's another reason too. America is, or was, the land of opportunity. We'll spare you the usual, "We're all immigrants" rhetoric. But think about it, at least.

In any event, we're not going to rant about how restrictive immigration politics hurt the nation. Instead, we'd like to point out a major fallacy that seems to pop up in just about every anti-living wage argument we've seen. For illustrative purposes, we'll use a quote from today's letter to the editor.

Sez the writer, "Price controls do not work well in a free economy."

Here's the fallacy. The United States is not, repeat not, a free economy, if you mean, as we presume the writer does, a free-market economy.

"But we're in America, not Soviet Russia!!! We've got a free market economy!!!"

Oh yeah? Tell it to the SEC, the FDA, the EPA, etc.

We're not going to descend to that which we made fun of Jason Winders for doing by playing armchair economist. But to assume that the US is a bastion of free-market economics is silly, and it underscores a certain tendency to listen only to the talking points that you want to hear.

Sure, we are a freer market economy than Soviet Russia, or present-day Cuba, or China. But we aren't a pure free-market economy, and to pretend otherwise is fatuous.

Athens certainly isn't a free market economy. If it were, we wouldn't have a smoking ban, a mass grading ordinance, the protections against over development that we do, and our police and fire protection would be either non-existent or privatized.

What the pro-business, anti-living wage tyes won't tell you is that a fair wage will lower certain aspects of the cost of business. Health care premiums, even taxes (because less people will need government assistance) will go down if we raise wages. Again, we're not going to play armchair economist and try to figure out how it balances out. We don't know. The anti-living wage crowd loves to make dire predictions (c.f. Dave Cappi, Jason Winders, et al), but they don't know either. Doesn't matter to them, they're going to raise prices and blame it on wage hikes regardless of whether it ends up costing them more or not. (c.f. gas gouging in Athens, Rolling Stones tickets, Papa Johns' new delivery fee)

One final thought. We don't know how much money any of these letter writers makes (judging by the time it took us to get a table at Dave Cappi's joint when we used to eat there, we can make a guess about the size of his wallet), but were guessing that none of them make minimum wage. Neither do we. Perhaps we just haven't forgotten that the world doesn't revolve around the well-to-do.

Got the skinny? Hand it over.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

We are terrible people (and other mishmash)

Not much posting today, unfortunately. Your crack editorial staff is still nursing something of an intellectual hangover following yesterday's mammoth post about La Puerta del Sol and States McCarter.

But, since you asked, there are a few things on our minds today.

First of all, we're terrible people. Local blogger and potential ACC Commission Candidate Jmac has been a regular AP commenter, and has been saying some pretty nice things about us over at his blog. Somehow, we forgot to add his link to the ol' blogroll. It should be up now, and we apologize for the oversight.

Speaking of States and LPDS, there's been some speculation on the ol' blog here that States' opposition might be, shall we say, racially motivated. For the record, we think he's got an agenda, but it's not that agenda. Now you are entitled to your own opinion, and we're glad people are talking about this. While we don't think there's a racist angle here, there is no doubt that, to paraphrase Andy Rusk, race is the two-ton elephant in the room, as far as local politics go.

We think that States just has a bad case of NIMBY-itis, and call us idealistic, but we'd like to think (we hope at any rate) that he'd be just as stubborn and cantankerous if it was a guy named Wilhelm wanting to open up a multi-use schnitzelgarten. Or a guy named Hamish, wanting to crank up an all-you-can-eat haggis bar.

The final point on the LPDS stuff for the night is this: If you haven't emailed your commissioners (two, just like boobies), then you're letting them off easy, regardless of which side of the issue you're on. And apropos of that, we're considering keeping a very unofficial whip count here on the ol' blog of how the votes are going to fall come October 4th. To that end, the first person in each district (district 8 doesn't count, for obvious reasons) who emails us with a response from a Commissioner indicating how they're leaning, will earn our undying gratitude. We're also looking into getting some AP swag (or possibly tchotchkes), so that might be in the offing too.

The current LPDS whip count is:

1 opposed (McCarter)
1 presumbly opposed (Dodson, based on McCarter's email)
8 unknown

Help us out here.

We'd also like to extend a laurel, and hearty handshake, to the fine folks who have been keeping us in the anonymous source business. Thanks!

Ok, that's it for now. We'll post some more tomorrow. Look for an exciting new investigative report from DiDDY entitled, "What's Really in David Lynn's Lint Trap?" (Hint: It's not Carl Jordan's lighting ordinance)

Should be a good news day.

Tip us here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

More on La Puerta del Sol

We've received a copy of an email from States McCarter to Matt Casey (Casey, by the way, is the consultant who is helping Bruno Rubio on getting the LPDS development sheperded through the various government entities in ACC). We note that States CC'ed the email to all of the members the Commission and the Mayor, and that it seems to have made the rounds among folks who are involved in this particular shitstorm.

Now this email is long, but we hope that you'll take the time to read it through and see what the other side is saying. We've also taken the liberty of responding ourselves to some of the points that McCarter makes, although it is by no means an exhaustive point-by-point rebuttal.

(Our comments are in blue)

Mr. Casey:
I feel obligated to respond to your latest e-mail concerning the Cofer's redevelopment petition. Let me say at the beginning that this is the strangest, most convoluted, and unorthodox petition that has come our way in case of the Eastside since I have been a commissioner and before. The way this proposal has progressed is unprecedented in
Athens-Clarke County. In fact, every rezoning proposal (several of which involved commercial) that has come our way (Ansonborough, Cedar Pointe, Tower Place, Geogetown Square (primarily Chick-Fil-A), Lowe's, Athens Offices East, Clarke Federal Credit Savings, etc.) has been accepted by our eastside (not that everyone was happy with all of them) without any big controversy.

Notice that he didn't mention WalMart. That one, if memory serves, was pretty controversial, as are most WalMart invasions. We would also mention that this implies that Rubio, Casey, et al created the controversy, when that's not really the case. In fact, most of the "controversy" was created by McCarter's somewhat spurious straw polls (more on that later), and his generally bull-headed response to all of this. After getting what appears to be a pretty hostile reaction from McCarter, Rubio and his team did what they should have done in that situation - tried (successfully, it seems) to generate support in the community for the project.

Neighborhood community meetings has preceded several of these. This should serve to demonstrate that neither the community out here nor I am inherently anti-business as some in your petition group have stated. The Cofer's redevelopment proposal is entirely different. Despite your spin, I can assure you that the majority of folks out here do not want the rezoning (although they would welcome the restaurant at a number of other locations). The reasons against the rezoning are legion. You have read them. I am attaching my July newsletter in case you missed it. The negative comments came from my constituents who have studied all the issues involved and contacted me. I believe Commissioner Dodson is getting the same vibes?

A few points here. First, it's pretty obvious that neither States McCarter nor the community at large is anti-business, but McCarter's position on this, and his consistent refusal to listen to the other side raise some questions as to why he appears to be only opposed to this particular business. Now, as far as the "despite your spin" comments that pop up here and there in this email, McCarter himself is hardly spin-free. In fact, this whole email, despite being somewhat curmudgeonly in tone, is merely McCarter's spin on the issue, and being spin, is no more credible that Casey's spin, or our spin, for that matter. Finally, we believe that Commissioner Dodson should speak for himself.

Since you continue to give your spin, I feel obligated to write an orderly account of what has happened up to this point. This will not be short. I doubt that everyone will read all of it. However, it will be totally accurate and I feel that it is necessary or I would not take 2 hours of my time to do it. It will serve as a record of what happened. Commissioner Dodson will certainly verify what I will say is entirely true (at least the part in which he was involved). Ask him if you have doubts. Here is my account. In most cases I have not indicated dates, but I have everything thoroughly documented in writing should that be needed.

Nothing to add here, except to reiterate that this is spin too! Matt Casey and Bruno Rubio hardly have a monopoly on spin, and it's duplicitous of States McCarter to pretend otherwise. Also, the whole thing about taking two hours of his time? That's just whiny. Don't bitch and moan about doing your job. And again, Commissioner Dodson should speak for himself.

My first contact concerning this development was with Designer Ken Beall. Mr. Beall requested that I meet with him to discuss "redevelopment of the Cofer's property". Of course, I agreed to do so immediately as I have always done. I suggested that the meeting should include Commissioner Dodson. He agreed and later requested that you, Mr. Rubio, and Mr. Garland also be invited. I immediately agreed. You will recall our first meeting on the Eastside. At that meeting, you and Mr. Rubio were mostly silent. Both Commissioner Dodson and I told all of you that we believed the proposal would not be received very well by the community. Of course, we were talking about the "community" that will be affected by the rezoning. However, we made the offer to contact area neighborhood groups to get their reaction. I agreed to make the intial contact with the Cedar Creek Civic Association (CCCA) to get their response. I followed through on this commitment, presenting the proposal (the copy that you provided) in an objective way to the entire board of the CCCA. In short, the idea was not well received. The next day I contacted Ken Beall telling him about my experience with the CCCA. I indicated to him a possible alternative site for the restaurant and gave him a telephone number of a contact. I learned later that the contact was never made. Still, I made the offer to Mr. Beall to set up a neighborhood meeting (standard practice out here) to let the petitioners make their case. I did not hear anything further from Mr. Beall.

This makes us wonder. First of all, we wonder why it appears that McCarter's own subdivision was the only one he reached out to? What about the areas farther down Cedar Shoals Drive (which would, we presume, be more directly affected by the traffic), or for that matter, the people at Tivoli, which is right across the street? Second, doesn't it seem that if, as we suggest, McCarter already had his mind made up about the project, that having him present your proposal to the CCCA is a leeeeeetle but like letting the fox guard the henhouse? Third, McCarter is trying to imply that the LPDS folks should have pursued other locations for development, after hearing second hand from McCarter about a proposal presented by him to a group of folks he knows well. Nothing could be farther from the truth. If the LPDS team chooses to pursue a rezoning on that location, there is nothing to stop them from doing so. So far, they have done so through the appropriate channels, and with courtesy and professionalism. To imply that they should have taken McCarter's blowoff and gone their merry way to a less desirable location is just disingenuous on the Commissioner's part. Finally, you can't blame Beall and the rest of the team for deciding not to take advantage of McCarter's somewhat spurious offers of help. (With friends like these, etc...)

The next event was an e-mail from you to the mayor and commission (M&C) and others that was presented in a "lobbying" sort of way. I wrote the M&C suggesting that they wait until they got all the facts concerning the proposal before responding. I know that at least some of them continued to be lobbied by you and later by Mr.Stuart Cofer.

Isn't asking the M&C to hold off on making a decision also lobbying? Just like his somewhat nebulous concept of spin, McCarter's concept of lobbying also looks be a little more specific than is actually the case. More importantly, since when is it a crime for a business owner to proivde information and ask the M&C for their support? FInally, why shouldn't the M&C be allowed to make up their minds this early? As his comments here make very clear, McCarter had already done so.

I was so puzzled by your e-mail and its contents that Commissioner Dodson and I requested a second meeting. As I recall, the same group of folks as the first time were present. Mr. Cofer was not present. Again, Commissioner Dodson and I discouraged you folks in every way possible, knowing of the opposition we had already heard. On one occasion Commissioner Dodson said (jokingly, I hope) "I am hearing a lot of opposition from people of all ages, not just from cranky retirees like States". I thought this should be a clue to you. However, you did not accept our assessment of the situation.

Again, the folks at LPDS are under no compunction to accept their "assessment." There is a process by which people want the government to rezone can go about acheiving that goal. Nowhere in that process does it say that they have to give after being discouraged by a disgruntled Commissioner who may or may not have an agenda here.

In both meetings you and Mr. Rubio stressed that you folks did not want to move the development forward if folks out here (I presumed that you meant folks who would be affected by the development) did not want it. At the second meeting Mr. Beall indicated that he felt like he represented both you/Mr. Rubio and the property owner (a claim that Mr. Stuart later denied; I am puzzled). I stress the following. Again, we offered to set up a legitimate neighborhood meeting (that involves all affected neighborhoods). We never heard a word back from you folks regarding such a meeting. I know that you now indicate that there was some confusion about who was to contact whom. However, this was the third time that we made the offer. You may remember that I finally found you in Israel to arrange the second meeting.

Given McCarter's behavior up to this point, we're not at all surprised that LPDS decided to handle their own affairs.

Your alternative approach was to set up your own neighborhood promotional meetings to try to convince others that folks on the Eastside really want this development. In fact, they were nothing more than promotional meetings that involved very few of those who will be directly affected by the rezoning. One constituent called the events "the party". One problem. Most of the 250 or so folks who attended the two gatherings were not those who will be affected by the rezoning. The events were staged for obvious reasons. I attended both events at the Cofer's site. Nice parties!.

Now here, we'd like to borrow a page from McCarter's playbook and admit that we are baffled. McCarter is spending one of the largest paragraphs in his email essentially railing against the fact that the LPDS meetings Now we know that McCarter is only a local pol, but we're willing to bet that he has hosted a few "promotional meetings" his own self. They're called fundraisers.

I made a point of determining who from my own subdivision attended (I know practically everybody in Cedar Creek). I counted (and asked others to verify) that about 21 Cedar Creek folks attended (I presume that written, mailed invitations went to all?). I received an invitation by mail. Remember, there are more than 600 homes in Cedar Creek. Of the 21, I know for a fact that 17 oppose the development. Some others offer "weak" support. Opposition is growing now that folks are getting all the facts. The proponents (fewer by the day) are those who are simply pro-business to the extreme, know the Cofer's in some way, know Mr. Rubio for the fine person and accomplished businessman that he is and want to support him, or think that we simply need more good restaurant choices on the Eastside.

Here's our favorite part, the uber-scientific McCarter straw poll. We can almost picture him calling his trusted constituents (the ones that stay in touch with him, he's not calling random voters here) and asking them if they support LPDS. Problem is, we're not going to accept his results until he shares his methodology. Did he get a representative sample of the folks in his district? Probably not. Did he get a representative sample of the mostly white, upper-middle-class, well-educated folks who live in Cedar Creek? Yeah, probably. Well hey, we can play that game too. We asked a few of our friends what they thought about the whole thing, and we have 9 supporters and 1 opposed (Latin food gives her gas.) A related Athens Politics poll shows that 90% of respondents think that States McCarter is just being cantankerous for no reason. Man, we love scientific opinion research.

I am sad to have to report that there is also a little politics mixed in with all of this.

This from the guy who is throwing around the words "spin" and "lobbying" like Rush Limbaugh after a bad batch of oxycontin?

I personally would like to see Mr. Rubio bring his restaurant to an appropriate place on the Eastside.

NIMBY alert! NIMBY alert!!

The Cofer's site is simply not the appropriate place for a business complex. Folks out here have fought long and hard to keep Cedar Shoals Drive (CSD) as a non-commercial corridor. There are a lot of "quiet" things already in place on CSD.

For instance, Tivoli, Barrington, and Cedar Shoals High School? (Especially on Friday nights in the fall, or whenever the marching band practices, or before and after school?) All of these places are very close to the proposed LPDS site, and as to the noise factor, well, they ain't exactly the local monastery.

In a telephone conversation with me, Mr. Stuart Cofer suggested to me that, in fact, all of Cedar Shoals Drive should be commerical and in the same conversation accused me of being anti-business. The facts will show a different picture. I visited with the Cofers (Hal alone one time and Stuart and Hal on another occasion). Mr.Stuart Cofer seems to have a passion to sell the property regardless. Understandable, but Commissioner Dotson and I have to be concerned about the total picture in regards to Eastside development.

Interesting. In the last sentence, McCarter implies that anyone supporting LPDS is not concerned about Eastside development. Besides being consecending to the extreme, this also higlights exactly how stubborn McCarter is being on this issue. It isn't that people aren't concerned, it's that they are concerned, and feel that this development is appropriate and would be beneficial. It's okay to have different opinions here. It's what representative democracy is all about.

The picture changed and the lobbying increased when Mr. Stuart Cofer entered the picture. When this happened and he contacted me, I again tried to contact you to determine relationships. Again, I found you in Israel and essentially you did not want to talk to me. In a later e-mail you said that I should direct all contacts to Attorney Michael Morris. I later learned that Mr. Stuart Cofer hired Mr. Morris to represent him. Perhaps you can see why I am confused by this whole affair.
Finally, Mr. Cofer concluded that a "genuine" neighborhood meeting would be useful. I tried to arrange one before the Planning Commission considered the preliminary plan on July 11. However, you folks were not available so the meeting was scheduled on July 25 at Fire Station #7 to accomodate your schedule (and mine to some extent as I was off to Scotland on July 11). The neighborhood folks could have met before the Planning Commission meeting. By that time, the picture was so tainted that I would not consider the July 25 meeting to be a very "objective" meeting. Still, considerable opposition was evident.

Ok, leaving aside all of the nitpicking over meeting scheduling, we're left with the Commissioner's allegation that the meeting wasn't "objective." By whose standards, we ask? It seems by the tone of this email that McCarter thought the meeting was "tainted" because LPDS made efforts to influence public opinion (much like McCarter has in his newsletters). We believe what's good for the goose is good for the curmudgeonly, angry gander as well.

I was in Scotland during the Planning Commission meeting on July 11. When I returned some constituents who were there to oppose the development complained because Mr. Stuart Cofer approached some Planning Commission members in an off-room informal setting before the official meeting. I reported that appearance of impropriety to Attorney Holly Hilton and later to Attorney Bill Berryman.

If there's actual impropriety there, then we're not going to defend it. But the best McCarter can do is the "appearance of impropriety." So we'll content ourselves with wishing he'd stop whining when he doesn't get his way.

The proposal goes before the Planning Commission tonight and will come before the M&C in October. You have sent out a call for action on behalf of the proponents. I would be more impressed if you would circulate a petition through subdivisions that would be directly affected to get a count of those who support the proposal. The CCCA is currently circulating such a petition. I understand their volunteers have spent hundred of hours walking with the petition and have already gotten nearly 500 folks to sign the opposition petition. Again, I (and I bet Commissioner Dotson) will agree to meet with you a third time if you believe that would be productive. I wish you would simply return to your original position "we won't come if folks out there don't want us".

Here, we'll note the that Planning Commission unanimously recommended that the rezoning be approved. The petition idea is not bad, and is a good call to action for both sides. Again though, the Cedar Creek focus disturbs us. Last time we checked, States represented a whole lot more than just Cedar Creek, but throughout his email, he has provided no evidence that he has looked beyond his home turf for support or opposition to this. As to his parting salvo, there's no proof that people don't want LPDS, other than the previously addressed McCarter straw poll.

PS. Yesterday, a highly disturbed constituent delivered a business-like card produced by you and Mr. Rubio announcing the arrival of Puerta Del Sol on the Eastside. She naturally assumed that the M&C would simply rubber-stamp your proposal. Not so fast! We take zoning changes seriously. I am giving a copy of the card to the mayor and each commissioner for information. Please pass this along to Mr. Rubio and to anyone else you wish.

Again, McCarter seems to have a huge problem with public relations when he's not the one doing it.

Whew!!! Tired yet? We know we are. But hey, thanks for reading this far down. Unlike Commissioner McCarter, we're not going to piss and moan about how we just spent two hours writing this thing up. We wouldn't do it if it weren't important to us. We hope it's important to you too.

Now, put that compuer to work for more than reading AP and looking at porn.

Here's your email addresses. Go forth and lobby and spin to your heart's content, McCarter be damned.

Mayor: Heidi Davison
District 1: Charles Carter
District 2: Harry Sims (no email. Boooo!)
District 3: George Maxwell
District 4: Alice Kinman
District 5: David Lynn
District 6: Carl Jordan
District 7: Kathy Hoard
District 8: States McCarter
District 9: Tom Chasteen
District 10: Elton Dodson

We'd also like the thank the anonymous source who sent us the email. Be like him or her. Tip us off here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Suit Filed on Voter ID Bill

The ABH reports today that the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, the ACLU, the League of Women Voters, and a boatload of other groups are filing suit in federal court to challenge the Voter ID bill that passed the state legislature last session.

If you want some background on the bill, look here and here.

Far be it from us to criticize, but in addition to being the most draconian voting law in the country, this bill is just plain stupid.

One reason why: Georgia is already under pretty strict scrutiny from the Justice Department, as are most other Southern states, as a holdover from the civil rights movement. So given that history, we should obviously try to enact laws that have the end result of disenfranchising lots of minorities, right?

Also, if the fine Republican folks who wrote this law think that it will actually cut down on voter fraud, then they really are out of touch. First of all, let us reiterate. There were no allegations of voter fraud reported to the Secretary of State in 2004. None.

Also, the bill says nothing at all, as far as we know, about absentee ballots, which, in other states, have proven to be a far easier mechanism for committing fraud.

The Justice Department passed on this one, which is really disappointing, but not shocking, given who's in charge over there. Hopefully, a federal judge will be more discriminating. (in the proper way, not the Bill Stephens way.)

In any event, don't look for a resolution on this any time soon, given the crowded dockets in most federal courts, and the glacial pace of big litigation like this.


Monday, September 19, 2005

Andy, We Hardly Knew Ye...

Ok, not really. But an anonymous source (whose name starts with "h", ends with "y" and has an "ilar" in the middle - visit her blog, she's not mysterious like us) was kind enough to shoot this photo to us over the weekend.

(Andy is the one on the left, pointing diffidently, which is kind of how we've always pictured him anyway)

You know, here at the ol' blog, your crack editorial staff have become fans of Andy Rusk. We like his plain-spoken style, and his willingness to say what he thinks about things. We're also kind of glad that we aren't working on his campaign, because that style that endears him to us here on AP is also the same style that tends to give campaign managers ulcers. Most of all though, we like the fact that he is using the "blogosphere" (man we hate that word!) to reach out to the voters. We don't want to toot our own horns here, but it's a smart move. Chances are, the folks reading about Athens politics more than a year before an election are also the folks most likely to get involved in a campaign as volunteers. Would that some other candidates were as savvy.


And this picture, which comes from a rehearsal of Sam Shepard's Buried Child, shows that he's been involved in the arts community around town, which is certainly an important thing to consider when picking a mayor.

So, we like Andy. But we're still going to publish funny pictures of him. Enjoy!

The crack editorial staff at AP is like Drudge, except liberal and with nicer asses. Tip us off here.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Someone buy this guy a dinner at DiPalma's!!

Athens Banana Herald Doucheb...err...Editor in Chief Jason Winders weighs in on the Living Wage movement here.

Read it, really. He makes a few good points. Well, he makes one good point. Raising wages will (get ready for some Pulitzer-worthy economic analysis here) cost businesses more money!

Well, it wouldn't be Sunday unless ol' man Winders was all het up 'bout something. But, you can't fault him for writing this one. Jason Winders knows which side his (and the Banana Herald's) economic bread is buttered on.

After all, waitresses, dishwashers, and cashiers don't buy ad space in the ABH.

Our favorite nugget of Winders' nonsense is this:

Now I know supporters will trot out a study backing living wages, pitting it against other studies debunking it. I also know a guy who did a study in attempts to convince me the Earth is only 2,500 years old.

So I don't put full faith in studies.

In other words, "Don't argue with me. I won't listen to evidence because I know I'm right."

Now, to be perfectly fair to Winders, he also makes the point (inaccurate in our opinion) that the problem isn't low wages, it's the sky-high poverty rate in Athens-Clarke. we aren't economists, and we didn't stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but we're still pretty sure that poverty is a direct result of...surprise...people not being paid enough!

Still, it gives him the opportunity to lose some of his Scrooge cred by pretending to be concerned about poverty. Perhaps he really is. In any event, we'll thank him for at least using his column to (however briefly) pay lip service to what we honestly believe is the biggest problem facing this city.

But unfortunately, it doesn't change the fact that he has a d-bag position on the living wage.

Man, we miss Joanna Soto Carabello. A wise old man once told us, "Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel," but its still worth it to let the ABH know how you feel, here.

By the way, according to, the average salary for a Senior Editor in Athens, GA is $73,347.00.

So, he could probably afford to pay a little more for his burrito.


Abre la Puerta!

Continuing coverage on the La Puerta del Sol story...

As you no doubt know, local blogs like AthensWorld and the most Antidisingenuous blog we know, have been doing the dead tree media's job in publicizing Bruno Rubio's quest to bring some culinary diversity to the East side.

Of course, we're on la Puerta's email list, for which you can sign up by visiting their website. (You have been to the website, haven't you?)

Thanks to Matt Casey and Bruno for providing us, via the email list, these fine talking points (below) which you can use to create your very own letter to the commissioner (or commissioners) of your choice.

It's important to do this now, because after picking up a unanimous vote of confidence from the ACC Planning Commission, la Puerta's request to build is going before the ACC Mayor and Commission on October 4th.

If you're a regular reader, it goes without saying that the biggest opponent of Rubio's new enterprise sits right on the commission. We don't know how many of his colleagues agree with him, but your letters could help turn any anti-la Puerta tide that might be rising.

So, act now, be a citizen lobbyist, and write your commissioners (remember everybody has two, just like boobies!) and help a local entrepreneur create a local business that will put more money in the local economy while beautifying something of a local eyesore. It's local, get it?

Here are your talking points:

* La Puerta del Sol would be a tremendous enhancement of the Eastside
community, fostering unprecedented positive cultural learning, experiences,
upscale dining, and interaction for the residents who live and learn on the
Eastside of Athens.

* Full and extensive searching to identify a possible location for La
Puerta del Sol was conducted by Mr. Rubio, and Cofer's remains the only
possible site on the Eastside where he could purchase and own, rather than
lease, his project space.

* Considered traffic and noise to possibly affect homeowners have been
proven negligible, as no homeowner's community directly borders with La
Puerta del Sol, and the area's roads were recently expanded and are
well-equipped and well-prepared to seamlessly integrate this minor to
moderate increase in flow already.

* This project fits perfectly into the long-term land use plan for
this corridor, and is an environmentally friendly adaptive re-use of an
existing vacant property. No trees would need to be removed for the site
preparation, and many new trees will be incorporated.

* La Puerta del Sol would lend desirable character, sophistication,
and true community appeal that will attract upscale consumers and lead to
increased revenues in sales taxes that will be beneficial to our community
as a whole.

* Having La Puerta del Sol, a quality community "anchor" establishment
in our neighborhood, will generate interest and positive recognition to the
Eastside. It may attract families and add value to real estate in our area
just as Five Points and other desirable Athens areas attract notoriety and
maximum property values based upon their unique neighborhood assets.

* Community support for this rezoning is overwhelming, and includes
over 200 original petition signatures, and over 200 additional attendees to
community meetings who nearly unanimously support the rezoning. Furthermore,
a consistent majority of speakers at every commission meeting have spoken in
support of the rezoning. The community members that spoke in support of the
project were different at both commission meetings, while the opposing
speakers were largely the same individuals with very few additional

* La Puerta Del Sol was unanimously supported by the planning staff
and planning commission, and received a 8-0 vote of acceptance during the
September 1st, 2005 planning commission meeting.

* Many community members who may have opposed this rezoning initially
have shifted to support the proposal. Of the community members concerned
about the rezoning who have signed up to be fully and accurately informed
about the La Puerta del Sol proposal directly from its source, 98.64% of the
accurately informed constituents strongly support the rezoning, while 1.36%
oppose it (statistics were compiled based on the total of 75 individuals who
presented interest in viewing the complete proposal personally online and
submitted data and feedback on their interest). Of the total informed group,
over 50 are confirmed as Eastside residents, nearly all of whom have
submitted testimonies of support. This statistic would also indicate that
beyond the minority 2.86%, no recorded opposing constituents have sought to
stay informed via the actual plans by viewing and/or responding to the
original, actual proposal from its source.

Here's your email addresses.

Mayor: Heidi Davison
District 1: Charles Carter
District 2: Harry Sims (no email. Boooo!)
District 3: George Maxwell
District 4: Alice Kinman
District 5: David Lynn
District 6: Carl Jordan
District 7: Kathy Hoard
District 8: States McCarter
District 9: Tom Chasteen
District 10: Elton Dodson

While all commissioners have an equal vote here, the ones to really lobby, in our humble opinion, are McCarter and Dodson, because the proposed development is in McCarter's district and Dodson's super-district. Come to think of it though, you should probably also make sure to email Tom Chasteen. After all, he's running for mayor, and should at least grant anyone politically active enough to email him about a local issue like this the courtesy of an open mind and a reasoned reply. We wouldn't expect anything less from him anyway.

By the way, if you email your commissioners, and they clue you in on how they're leaning, let us know. We're planning on trying to keep a whip count here at the ol' blog.

Tips go here. So does other stuff.