Sunday, October 30, 2005

The ABH: Not Progressive, Not Regressive, just kind of Gressive

It has to be tough to work for the ABH's editorial board sometimes. On the one hand you have the readership which, at least in Athens, tends to be fairly progressive, and just a little lefty. On the other hand (probably the right hand, if you get our drift), you have the newspaper's corporate ownership, Morris Communications, which also owns the Augusta Chronicle and Savannah Morning News.

It should come as no surprise that Morris is pretty darn conservative, as far as newspaper chains go. Heck, the Savannah paper even endorsed Pat Buchanan a few years ago. And, according to more than one of our sources who used to work for Morris, the corporate ownership has a tendency to pressure the local papers to take certain stands on certain issues.

So, you can see how the chasm between the ABH's readership and their owners can sometimes create certain problems. A really good example of that can be found on page A10 of today's ABH, in which the editorial board safely wades into the mushy middle on the Voter ID law.

Do we think that the ABH is writing nice things about the Voter ID law because the boss told them to? Unclear. Do we think that the ABH should oppose the law? Absolutely. But remember, this isn't the first time that the ABH has been mushy on what we see as clear Constitutional issues.

To recap, the law was passed, numerous groups, including the NAACP, ACLU, the League of Women Voters, and the AARP got all het up about it, took it to court. Said court granted an injunction prevented enforcement of the law, and said injunction was recently upheld on appeal.

If you want to read the myriad reasons why we oppose the Voter ID law as it currently exists, take a look at this. Check out the legal side of things here. If you've already read this stuff, then we'll sum up. If the giant brains in the GOP can't come up with a bill that doesn't violate your Constitutional rights, then they need to table the issue until they can.

Back to the ABH. The editorial inadvertently makes some good points, as far as revealing the Georgia GOP's real agenda. Y'see, the GOP congressional delegation wants to repeal Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which happens to be the part that requires federal approval of any redistricting changes, to make sure that said changes don't carve out districts that reduce minority voting strength.

If you thought the 2000 Democratic map was bad (and it was), wait until you see what the GOP is going to do to your Congressional districts if Westmoreland and his gang of Constitutional thugs get their way.

So, no, we don't know whether the editorial board took this stand because of pressure from above, or their actual convictions. But consider this. Attacking those folks who want to repeal part of the Voting Rights Act is a pretty safe issue. The Voter ID law is much more dangerous ground.


Friday, October 28, 2005

I-Day Celebration

As predicted, Libby has been indicted and has resigned. Read it about here.

Link correction

I'm assuming my partner in crime meant to send you here for the second headline.

The website about Fox News throughout history is hilarious, by the way.

Two unintentionally funny headlines

Hey kids. There's more serious political stuff on the next post down, but it's Friday and we wanted to lighten things up. Happy Indictment Day, everybody, and a merry Fitzmas to all.

It isn't often that we're blessed with two unintentionally funny headlines in the ABH, and these two might be the best since "Jefferson Water Affected by Taint."

Headline 1. (That's got to be either sexual or painful, but we aren't sure which)

Headline 2. (We knew she was a bit of a brown-noser, but this is a level of sycophancy that is purely re-donkulous.)

Also, a good and work-safe link to check out.

Political? Well the headlines aren't, but hey. It's Friday, and at least half of your crack editorial staff is punchy from being up all night working.

A Few Reasons to Celebrate

There's a party going on right here...a celebration to last throughout the year.


Several reasons. Today is possibly indictment day inside the Beltway. In fact, the NYT is reporting early that Libby is going to see the business end of a perp walk, while Rove will continue to sit on the hot seat. Read all about it here.

Also, moving from national to state politics, the Court of Appeals offers a great big "nuh-uh" to the Voter ID, and refuses to drop the injunction. Here's some electronically delivered dead tree.

And finally, we're happy to announce that this is the one-hundredth post here on Athens Politics. Seems like just yesterday we opened the doors and started bitching about politics to y'all. We'd like to thank out readers, and especially the folks who are kind enough to comment and argue about the tripe we post. And we mean that.

Backwards spit.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Miers Withdrawal

Just in case you hadn't heard yet, Harriet Miers withdrew her nomination today. Feel free to opine away. In any event, this is the story today, unless of course, Patrick Fitzgerald decides to hand down indictments this afternoon.

Also in the news, Congressman John Barrow is officially confirming what we've all known for months; he'll be moving to Savannah and running against Max Burns in the new 12th, which doesn't include Athens. According to the ABH, it sounds like he's got his eye on some pretty choice real estate down yonder as well. Kegger at Johnny B's for New Year's!

Also, he's getting divorced, but we don't have any kind of snarky comment on that. Things happen.

Anyway, two points to remember in this particular imbroglio. First of all, the GOP is going to start throwing around the hackneyed "carpetbagger" rhetoric, which might actually stick, if it weren't for the fact that he's been representing the majority of the new district for the last year or so anyway.

The other point to keep in mind is this. To all of our Athens friends with a eye for changing government and deep pockets to make it happen, do us a favor. Don't donate to John for the 2006 cycle. Here's why. Jonh Barrow, if he's ever been good at anything in his life, is good at fundraising. Don't believe us? Just run a search in the ABH. Plus, as an incumbent, he's going to be well-funded by the national network of party faithful. And finally, Savannah is next to only Atlanta in terms of political donations. To sum up, John isn't going to have any trouble raising money to beat Max Burns (who tended to rely on the GOP money machine for his own bucks, unlike John)

But hey, you know who is going to have trouble raising money? Whoever runs in the new 10th District against Charlie Norwood. And that's who you should support. Now, the conventional wisdom says that no Democrat is going to win against Norwood, and we'll agree that the chances are pretty slim. But wouldn't it be nice to see a real race, rather than just conceding this seat right now?

Of course, first we're going to need a candidate...anyone know what Becky Vaughn is up to these days?

Speaking of candidates, you might recall our much earlier post on Doug McKillip's race for House District 115? Looks like he might have some company in that race. More on that soon.


Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Flagpole: McCommons Declares War on Chasteen, Other Commissioners

This week's Pub Notes yields plentiful bounty for those who like to see the press take on the local electeds, as Pete McCommons does everything short of calling Tom Chasteen a raging douchebag for opposing the three-laning on Price Avenue. Pete makes short work of dismantling Tom's point about traffic diverting to Boulevard, and, in our humble opinion, does so in a pretty convincing fashion. (We had the same concern, still do actually, but to a lesser extent.) What's interesting about this piece to us is that for the first time in a long time on this issue, Pete has abandoned his more pedantic style and returned to the hell-raising, fire in the belly, full of piss and vinegar Pete that got us hooked on Flagpole lo those many years ago. Get 'em Pete!

The best stuff in here is where Pete calls out the "anti-progressive" Commissioners (McCarter, Sims, Carter) and gives the Chamber of Commerce a little what fer as well. This is the Pete McC we know and love, and we're glad to have him back. Somewhere, the ghost of the Athens Observer is smiling just a little brighter today.


First off, Flagpole's own Ben Emmanuel writes up the situation and in so doing, kind of puts the ABH to shame. Read it here.

Despite the recent withdrawal of the zoning request from next Tuesday's meeting, the flood of letters to the ABH about LPDS doesn't seem to be slacking off at all. The most recent controversy? Bashing Executive Editor Jason Winders for playing the race card in his Sunday column. Needless to say, Cedar Creek rushes to its own defense, and bends over backwards to prove that, as the cliche goes, some of their best friends are Latino. You can read for yourself here, and also here, courtesy of the gummint relations committee chair of the Cedar Creek Civic Association. In a related letter, stop picking on States. We would mention in passing that the ABH points out, correctly enough, that Winders didn't accuse Cedar Creek residents specifically, as they make clear in the editorial note at the end of today's letter from the aforementioned gummint relations committee guy.
Also in LPDS-world, people are beginning to isolate noise as the only realistic concern with respect to LPDS. Folks talk about that here and here. For what it's worth, noise isn't the only legitimate concern, in our opinion. One of the more rational LPDS opponents, who also happens to be a regular visitor to AP, is more than a touch concerned about the slippery-slopeitude of the zoning issues involved. We respect that, and certainly don't think that he or she is being alarmist, but we would submit by way of rebuttal that, if we've learned nothing else from this little imbroglio, the CCCA can certainly mount a serious challenge to anything they don't want in their backyards.

Finally in LPDS-world, we've gotten a few emails about the whole Winders/racism thingamabob, and if you really want our opinion, here it is. Yeah, we think Winders was a little over the top in implying that race is the issue in LPDS. It isn't. Are there racists involved in the opposition, as Winders alleges? Probably so. The CCCA represents over 650 homeowners, by their math. Statistically, there's probably one or two that flat just don't like Hispanics. But that's not the issue here. So, while it appears Winders is on the same side as us, we are not on the same page on racism.


Pundit Extrordinaire Bill Shipp takes the easy road out in today's column, by writing two pretty self-referential grafs, and quoting one email for the other 11. Nonetheless, it's worth a read. Basically, Shipp gets accused of driving, or at least taking a ride, on the "Mark Taylor should drop out and run again for Lieutenant Governor" bandwagon. Old friend of Taylor's, responds, rehashes Taylor's talking points, Shipp is contrite.
This isn't anything new. Seems like any time you've got two Democrats in a primary, who are both pretty strong, one of the two starts the same old refrain. (The GOP, by the by, mostly handles this stuff out of the public eye and before candidates announce their intentions, making sure that the voters are usually only left with the party-approved example of steely-eyed faux conservative zealotry.) It might not surprise anyone that this has happened numerous times, even right here in the Classic City.
Nonetheless, it makes us respect Mark Taylor just a little bit more. Is he the most electable against Perdue? We don't know. But the thing is, neither do you, and neither does Cathy Cox (or her pollster). Early polls that test the strength of different primary candidates against an incumbent are not necessarily unreliable, but they are early polls, and any support is very soft.
Here's what we're gonna do. As we've mentioned before, we don't really have a dog in this fight yet. So we're going to take a close look at both candidates for the Democratic nomination and make up our own minds. We hope you'll take a good look at Taylor, and dismiss this "weaker candidate" crap as just that. The result of very soft early polling that the other candidate is using to their own advantage.


Speaking of the governor's race, we do have one thing to mention about the Cox campaign. As our regular readers might know, one of our frequent commenters, one Random Thoughts, took umbrage recently at two comments Cathy made (wearing the Secretary of State hat, not the candidate hat) that implied that Georgia poll workers were elderly and easily confused. (These comments were made in reference to the Voter ID Law). On our encouragement, RT posted a question about that on Cox's blog. Oddly enough, the comment never made it to the actual blog, implying (at least to those of us who have experience managing campaign blogs) that someone on the staff decided not to publish it. Here's what makes that little fiasco even better.
Your crack editorial staff (who has what we humbly think of as a divine mission to keep you informed on the goings-on of various campaigns) received a mass email recently from the Cox campaign. Sez Morton Brilliant, campaign manager, ""Grassroots" is a term you hear a lot of campaigns toss around. To Cathy Cox, it means building an open, accessible campaign..."

Yeah, not so much.

Here's how the Cox campaign should have handled it, in our humble opinion. There are a couple of options. The best and easiest, would have been to post and reply to the comment, and explain Cathy's position. You know, we're big fans of "open and accessible" campaigns that are actually open and accessible.
But failing that, a nice email explaining that this was from Cathy as SOS and not Cathy as candidate and giving an appropriate contact for the question, would have also probably worked.

But, censoring it? Just our guess here, but Cathy might have just lost a vote in the Democratic Primary.


The fine folks in charge of Athens Regional Medical Center aren't fans of three-laning Prince, sez the ABH. They cite the 35 or so emergency calls per week from ARMC to the downtown area. We wonder how three laning Baxter affected the same situation with St. Mary's. Anyone know?

Slack-ass Editors:

On a final note, we apologize from the heart of our bottom for taking a day off yesterday. We were busy, yo.

Tips go here, beeyotch.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Get on the bus, Gus; We've got a new plan, Stan.

As promised, here's a little bit on public transportation.

First of all, here's the ABH's story on the subject. Basically, Athens Transit has a shiny new plan, that isn't particularly shiny or new, in that it's more or less a compilation of the same things they've been trying to get the Mayor and Commission to pony up for for a few years now. Based on the somewhat limited coverage in the ABH, we're ready to say it's a good thing.

You know, if you listened to some folks around town (including us) you might come to the conclusion that the most important issues in ACC are the La Puerta del Sol zoning madness and the proposed three-laning of Prince Avenue. Those are important, to be sure, but take it from us, this trumps both of those issues.

You might remember about a month ago, when we lauded Super-Commissioner Elton Dodson for coming out swinging against poverty. Since then, he's been strangely quiet, perhaps in order to discourage States McCarter from leaving flaming bags of dog poo on his front doorstep. We hear those two don't get along. (We'd also point out that we sent him an email asking what he had in mind to combat poverty, but he hasn't responded yet. Must've been something we said.)

In any event, we humbly submit that if the Mayor and Commission is serious about tackling the problem and doing something to help the 28.6% of ACC residents that live below the poverty line (source here), then this would be a good first step. Is it the silver bullet? No, but have you seen gas prices lately? It's a good first step.

Not only would this be a good first battle in the war on poverty, it also helps out the more fortunate folks in ACC. Funding Athens Transit's requests according to the plan, combined with a campaign to encourage everyone to try the bus again, can cut down on traffic congestion, pollution, accidents, etc. That means safer neighborhoods all over Athens.

That's not to say there aren't problems with the plan as well. It could become a money pit. For whatever reason, and your crack editorial staff is guilty of this too, Southerners love driving places, and we sure haven't cottoned on to public transportation yet. Perhaps it's the lack of options, or the fact that Southern cities tend to be more sprawled out than other places. We're not experts, we don't rightly know.

There's this whole funding issue that we've got to address as well. First of all, the proposal in the State Legislature that would let cities besides Atlanta make their own transit authorities. We're in favor of that, assuming that the pols don't attach a bunch of silly riders on the bill as well. And we wouldn't mind adding an additional 0.25% sales tax to fund Athens Transit.

But we think it's worth a shot. So, as always, here's your call to action. Email your Commissioners, especially Elton D, who took a brave stand on poverty. Let 'em know how you feel.

Tips, scoops, gossip, unsubstantiated rumors? We're not picky. Send 'em here.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

More on LPDS

As promised, here are a few extra thoughts and a little more information about the La Puerta del Sol postponement.

Of course, the ABH writes it up, and you can find that here.

Here’s the thing about LPDS. Although the less-rational and more strident wing of the anti-LPDS movement will try to spin it this way, this is at best a Pyrrhic victory for States and his followers. Fact is, that this just proves that Bruno is for real. There were community concerns, and in response to those, he volunteered to incur the extra expense of more site changes (some of which were necessary, some of which are, in our opinion, just sops to the Cedar Creek folks), and postpone his project for another three months.

Would Lowe’s do that? Would T.G.I. O’Chilibee’s? Nope, they’d be mass grading in Oconee County before you could say, “smart development.”

For that matter, would most of our local businesses go to this much trouble to appease the Cedar Creek Civic Association? Probably not, and indeed, one of the sane LPDS opponents (who actually has real reasons for being opposed) mentioned the numerous problems caused by Cedar Pointe, who promised more than they’ve (so far) delivered.

In any event, this is a good thing for both Cedar Creek and LPDS. We can only assume that the new site plans, which are dramatic enough to require a second trip through the Planning Commission, will reflect the legitimate concerns expressed by east side residents. (Sorry Ms. Wood, changing the menu to a KFC franchise is not an option.)

And that’s going to be a good thing for everyone concerned. Bruno continues to look like a responsible member of the neighborhood that so far still wants to deny him access, and, we hope that Cedar Creekians are going to see their input in the new plans.

And hey, if this thing doesn’t pass in February? Well, enjoy your vacant lot, east side. You earned it.

Coming soon, more on this (in a shock to absolutely no one). We’re also going to talk a little about this public transit thing.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Breaking News! LPDS off the M&C Agenda!

Breaking News…

Team LPDS has, as of this afternoon, withdrawn their request for a vote from the Mayor and Commission at the November 1st meeting.  According to what we know right now, there are going to be some revisions to the site plan which will necessitate taking the project through the ACC Planning Commission again.

More on this as we get some details, including analysis.  For now, let’s just let crazy, wild-eyed speculation run rampant.


Barrow Runs Right, Gets Cozy With the NRA

If you've been following the news lately, you might be aware that Congress passed (and presumably the Preznit will sign) a bill limiting the liability of gun manufacturers, essentially protecting them from the threat of being sued by victims of gun crimes.

This was, by the way, a top issue for the NRA this year.

You know what? Whatever. We're not even surprised enough to be pissed off anymore. Just a little sad that Barrow puts gun manufacturers' bottom line above victims' rights.

But we're really a little more interested in whether he thinks that stuff like this is going to:
A. Endear him to conservative voters in the new 12th.
B. Get him an NRA endorsement over Max Burns.

"The people don't want a phony Democrat. If it's a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time; that is, they will take a Republican before they will a phony Democrat" (Harry Truman, 05/17/52: Complete speech available here.)

Of course, there's also the possibility that Barrow legitmately believes that people shouldn't be able to sue gun manufacturers, and we admit that.

But, consider this. The guy made his bundle as a trial lawyer, and then proceeded to raise money for his campaign mostly from trial lawyers. And by trial lawyers, we generally mean personal injury types, just the guys who stand to make lotsa dough by suing gun manufacturers on behalf of victims. Perplexing why he'd support this (which to trial lawyers, amounts to a type of "tort reform"), since it threatens his livelihood and that of a lot of his donors, if this is the first step to serious national tort reform. Coupled with the bill limiting the liability of certain drug makers that also passed, we think it might be an incremental step towards tort reform.

So, we guess screwing your donors is worth it. As long as you're buddy-buddy with the NRA.

Related: The roll call
Text of the bill


UnhUh...No She Dinhit!

Holy crap. This is one of the most absurd comments I've heard in all of the LPDS debate. In Margaret Wood's letter today, she says the following: "The market for Hispanic food in the Cedar Shoals Drive area is already saturated by Mexicali Grille, La Fiesta and Taco Bell." That's like saying the market for American food has been saturated by McDonald's, Burger King, and AppleBee's, so who needs the Porterhouse Grill? Besides, all three of those are Mexican, and fast-food or TexMex Mexican at that, and not the South American fare that Bruno is known for. But, you know, I guess I'm splitting hairs to make that fine of a distinction (sarcastic grin).

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Caution: Legal Crap Ahead; Truth May Be Further Away Than It Appears

Ok, so I'm a legal nerd. Let me just get that admission out of the way in the beginning. In that vein, I have actually studied the decision cited by Buck, Alexander v. Mineta, 531 U.S. 940 (2000). Actually, that case is a one-sentence affirmation of a decision by the D.C. District Court, which is reported at 90 F.Supp.2d 35 as Adams v. Clinton (two cases were combined because they concerned the same issue).

It's always important when looking at legal precedent to understand the facts of the case. These two cases, for example, were suits by citizens of D.C. and the District itself which claimed that it was unconstitutional to deny them the right to vote for representatives in Congress. While the opinion is a fascinating treatise on that subject, it actually says very little that is on point to our current debate.

The relevant part of the case is the discussion on whether it is constitutional for a statute of Congress to limit a pre-existing right of D.C. citizens to vote for reps in Congress. The case held that the relevant statute, the Organic Act of 1801 that created D.C., did not do that, and that in fact the Constitution itself was the source of the D.C. citizens' disability to vote for Congress (the Constitution provides that citizens of the states will so vote, and D.C. is not a "state"). The opinion agreed that a statute could not have validly taken the vote away from them ("Thus, it was not the Organic Act or any cessation-related legislation that excluded District residents from the franchise, something we agree could not have been done by legislation alone").

Implicitly recognized, even by this decision, then, is a constitutionally defined right to vote. Whether and how a state can reasonably regulate that right has been the subject of numerous other decisions. The following represents a few:

"Once the franchise is granted to the electorate, lines may not be drawn which are inconsistent with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. That is to say, the right of suffrage is subject to the imposition of state standards which are not discriminatory and which do not contravene any restriction that Congress, acting pursuant to its constitutional powers, has imposed." (for example, the Voting Rights Act -ed.)
"We conclude that a State violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment whenever it makes the affluence of the voter or payment of any fee an electoral standard. Voter qualifications have no relation to wealth nor to paying or not paying this or any other tax. Our cases demonstrate that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment restrains the States from fixing voter qualifications which invidiously discriminate."
Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections, 383 U.S. 663 (1996) (ruling unconstitutional a $1.50 poll tax).

"A government unit may legitimately restrict the right to participate in its political processes to those who reside within its borders." Holt Civic Club v. Tuscaloosa, 439 U.S. 60 (1978).

"Cases invalidating governmentally imposed wealth restrictions on the right to vote or file as a candidate for public office rest on the conclusion that wealth "is not germane to one's ability to participate intelligently in the electoral process" and is therefore an insufficient basis on which to restrict a citizen's fundamental right to vote." Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976).

"[States have] unquestioned power to impose reasonable residence restrictions on the availability of the ballot. There can be no doubt either of the historic function of the States to establish, on a nondiscriminatory basis, and in accordance with the Constitution, other qualifications for the exercise of the franchise. Indeed, "the States have long been held to have broad powers to determine the conditions under which the right of suffrage may be exercised." Lassiter v. Northampton Election Bd., 360 U.S. 45, 50. Compare United States v. Classic, 313 U.S. 299; [***678] Ex parte Yarbrough, 110 U.S. 651. "In other words, the privilege to vote in a State is within the jurisdiction of the State itself, to be exercised as the State may direct, and upon such terms as to it may seem proper, provided, of course, no discrimination is made between individuals in violation of the Federal Constitution."
"We deal here with matters close to the core of our constitutional system. "The right . . . to choose," United States v. Classic, 313 U.S. 299, 314, that this Court has been so zealous to protect, means, at the least, that States may not casually deprive a class of individuals of the vote because of some remote administrative benefit to the State."
Carrington v. Rash, 380 U.S. 89 (1965)(striking down Texas law denying soldiers the right to vote in Texas).

All emphasis in the quotes added by me. Bottom line, yes, of course a state can restrict the right to vote to those who are qualified, but its means of doing so must be related to the qualifications and must not discriminate in violation of the Constitution. Putting aside and assuming for the moment that an ID requirement is rationally related to, as you put it, proving the person is who they say they are (and therefore a resident and citizen qualified to vote), the problem with the Georgia bill is whether it discriminates in violation of the Constitution against those who can not afford to purchase the ID (I realize you claim they are free, but I will incorporate by reference Jonathan's argument on that point).

I would have to do a whole separate post to talk about the Voting Rights Act, which I don't have time for and haven't done the research for, but suffice it to say for now that the test is whether there are "discriminatory effects" on the basis of race (and maybe class too? like I said, haven't done the research yet on that one). If there are (which isn't like, you know, outside the realm of possibility, considering the still-lingering correlation between income, wealth, and race, particularly in the South), then the bill may very well violate the VRA, even if it does not constitute an equal protection violation as set out above.

Sorry, folks, but the lawyer in me couldn't resist it this time.

We've got mail! Yaaaaay!!

Just a quick secondary post that, for once, doesn't concern the Voter ID law or LPDS! (well, it does mention LPDS, but only in a peripheral manner)

ACC Commission hopeful James Garland wrote in to say howdy the other day. He's a regular reader of AP, and wanted to let us know that he's running for ACC Commission, District 1, a seat currently held by Charles Carter, who is retiring at the end of 2006.

Now, a lot of y'all may already know who Mr. Garland is. He's a regular writer of letters to the editor at the ABH, and did a political column for the short-lived Athens Weekly News.

Garland noted in his letter to us that he spoke out in favor of LPDS at the Planning Commission meeting and emailed his support to Heidi and the gang before the Oct 4 M&C meeting [post edited, because Mr Garland emailed us to clarify that he wasn't at the M&C meeting as we originally said]. (there's the only LPDS reference you'll get in this post), but what impressed us the most was the things he had to say about Charles Carter.

For background purposes, and for those who don't keep up with the whirlwind that is District 1 politics, Garland also ran against Carter in 2002. That was before the days of non-partisan elections, so we'll point out, in the interests of fairness that he ran as a Republican. Nonetheless, Garland has some nice things to say about the incumbent.

Sez Garland:

You are also correct in that Charles is stepping down, so it will be an open
seat. I ran against him in 2002. Actually, we both ran for the same seat
rather than against one another; everyone recognizes that Charles
is a nice guy...and it was an altogether collegial affair.

Thanks for writing in, James! Let us know when you've got your website up.
And, as always, feel free to comment anytime.


ABH Roundup

Letters, they get letters
  • Local attorney and REM connection weighs in on three-laning Prince. You know, we're going to have to blog about this eventually, but we're putting it off as long as we can.
There go the judge...
House Speaker Glenn Richardson (R) has gotten his panties all in a wad about the injunction filed against the Voter ID law. Richardson's solution? Term limit federal judges. Only problem is, that if Congress were to take a collective dump on 200+ years of judicial and Constitutional precedent, said changes would certainly be subject to judicial review. And who would be reviewing such a law...hmmm...hold on, it's coming to us...oh yeah! Federal judges! The douchebaggery that the GOP will emply in trying to beat this particular dead horse knows no bounds.
But our question is this: Why are the Republicans so afraid of having their little law upheld in a court of law? After all, if it were, wouldn't that validate the law and leave them with clean hands, politically speaking?
They're afraid because they know this thing is not Constitutional, but they've dug themselves into the hole now, so all they can do is rail against federal judges and throw around the same hackneyed "judicial activism" crap.

Just one LPDS thing today.
If we've learned nothing from the discourse here, it is that there are rational people with legitimate concerns about the project (who often get their rational comments drowned out in the public discourse.)
Friends, meet one of the drowners.
Adrian Fitzpatrick (not to be confused with local attorney Adrian Patrick, who is, as far as we know, a pretty stand up guy) writes in to the ABH today. The gist of his letter is, "I live nearby, and no one's opinion matters but mine and my neighbors' and all you folks on the west side who support this can go to hell!"
We respectfully disagree. This is a community issue, and our voices carry just as much weight as yours. The M & C have to weigh what the nearby residents (you, in this case) want, against what is best for the community at large (us). And, with all due respect, this stopped being a Cedar Creek issue when the Commissioner from Cedar Creek began airing his dirty laundry with the other Commissioners in the Athens Banner Herald. Also, we do have a vested interest in this. The precedent that the M & C set in this issue will go on to affect how things are done down the road in Cobbham, Five Points, Boulevard, and all over Athens.

Backwards spit goes here. Also, pissog and spoocs.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Voter ID Bill, some food for thought

Ok.  I've been taking a lot of heat on this one, so I want to strip away the rhetoric, and explain very clearly why I'm so opposed to this law.  Don't worry, I don't expect to convert anyone over, but I hope everyone who is reading, and the few who are commenting, are going to look at this with an open mind.

There are actually a number of reasons, but I'm going to limit myself to four; one social, one political, one civil libertarian, and one Constitutional.  That should be a wide enough spectrum for everyone to get good and irate.

The social reason is this.  For a lot of folks, it isn't as simple as traipsing down to one's local DMV and getting an ID.  In previous posts, I pointed out that the DMV in Athens isn't exactly accessible, unless you have a car, or someone to drive you.  Fact is, that here in Athens, we're fairly lucky in that we actually have a DMV in the county.  
Put yourself in the shoes of a senior citizen, who's living on a fixed income.  And by senior, I mean really senior.  You don't have a car; perhaps you're too old to drive, maybe you just can't afford one.  Doesn't matter, since the bus can take you to the doctor, pharmacy, senior center, grocery store, whatever.  
Who's going to take you to the DMV for that ID, if you don't have one?  Friends?  Family?  Don't count on it, because not everybody has that kind of a network.  I know from experience that there are folks out there who don't.
So again, who's taking you to the DMV?  And what if you live in a rural county and the DMV is 30 or 45 minutes away or more?
I can hear the scorn now.  I've created a hypothetical situation so narrow that, while it proves my point, it just isn't reflective of reality.  Fair enough, but ask yourself this.  It is possible that there might even be one person in Georgia in this situation?  If so, (and I think that's pretty likely), then you've got to ask yourself, if just one person is disenfranchised, then what kind of damage are we doing to our liberty and our representative democracy?  It’s a slippery slope, and one that I, for one, would like to stay far away from the precipice of.

Moving on to the political reason I oppose this.  I think, as do many others, that this law was entirely politically motivated.  If voter fraud was such a huge issue, why haven't I seen legislation to stop interest groups from handing out "tickets" or "sample ballots?"  (Such legislation, by the way, would create its own Constitutional issues, but I'll refrain from getting into that.)  For that matter, why no bills to stop the practice of circulating fliers around minority neighborhoods that state flatly that in order to vote you have to be paid up on your child support payments, or not be behind in utility bills, or some such nonsense.  I've personally seen those tactics employed in two cities in Georgia (neither was Athens).  The same folks who do that also occasionally flier neighborhoods giving the wrong day for voting, but if you're a citizen in a representative democracy you shouldn't fall for that crap, so I'm not going to give anyone a pass on that.  
Back to my point.  Both "sample ballots" and misleading fliering affect tens if not hundreds or thousands of votes.  At the most, voting under a fake name affects one vote.  If the GOP were serious about preventing voter fraud, why weren't measures to stop this kind of thing even suggested?  Attached as an amendment?  I submit that the GOP is very motivated by political ends in passing this bill.  And again, we know these fliers are going out, we know that "street money" (which I didn't mention above) is used, we know that "sample ballots," while legal, are certainly misleading.  But no noise about that?  

The civil libertarian argument.  I'll keep it short and sweet.  If you're part of the spectrum of people, from Bob Barr to the ACLU, who questioned or opposed all or part of the Patriot Act, then I expect you to be on my side on this one too.  Why?  Forcing people to get government issued ID cards.  I hear you out there.  Driver's licenses are required.  Yep, they sure are.  But here's the thing.  Driving is a privilege.  If you abuse the privilege (for instance by driving drunk), you lose it.  Voting is a right.  And, here’s another slippery slope argument to go along with this.  It’s a state-issued ID to vote today, what will we have to have one for tomorrow?  What basic right will be threatened next?

Finally, what I think is the strongest argument - the Constitutional argument.  Now, I'm no Robert Byrd, but like him, I do keep a copy of the Holy Bible and the United States Constitution within easy reach.  (Would that more of our elected officials would do the same!)  He keeps his in his coat pockets, mine are near the desk.  I'll let the Constitution speak for itself.  (Don't worry, liberal friends, I'll keep the scripture for another day.)
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
There you have it.  Key phrases here are, "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity," and "to form a more perfect Union."  I would submit that if even one person is disenfranchised by this law, we have failed to fully secure the blessings of liberty, and our union is less perfect as a result.
But here's the real meat of the Constitutional argument, your friend and mine, the 14th Amendment.
"But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice-President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime…"
Now before you get snarky, the "male inhabitants" part is of course, no longer operative.  
The operative part is the phrase about not denying the right to vote to anyone, unless they've participated in "rebellion, or other crime."  Last time I checked, being poor was not a crime.  Neither was failing to get a state-issued ID.  And the net result of this bill is that people will, through the bureaucracy that comes from stuff like this, be denied the right (and I cannot stress the word "right" enough) to vote.  In fact, it's probably already happened.

There you have it.  A long comment, a social argument, a political argument, a civil libertarian argument, and a Constitutional argument.  To counter those, all I've heard is "people should just go get a stupid ID!  What's the BFD?"  I'd submit that's not good enough.  
I’d also point out that if you’re a woman or a minority, you haven’t had the right to vote for very long, historically speaking.  Over the course of history, people have fought for that right, in the streets of Boston and in the streets of Birmingham, and more places too numerous to mention here, and personally speaking, I can’t conscience any attempts to limit that right.  The right to choose our representation is one of the most basic rights we have.  
But hey, I'm realistic, and I don't expect to change anyone's mind.  I do hope though that people who read this will at least think about the points I've made, and realize that this is about more than just people being too lazy to go get an ID.

Thanks for reading.

Injunction Junction

A federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction blocking the enforcement of the Voter ID law until the pending lawsuit is decided. Read about it here.

Toss some backwards spit in our direction.

Whither La Puerta?

The ABH has precious little on LPDS today (actually, a quick scan of the online headlines netted nothing whatsoever for me; if I'm wrong somebody point it out to me). Perhaps this is a sign that everybody's talked out on this thing. I'm pretty sure that I am personally. I think we've pretty well hashed it out on both sides here (thanks for those who disagree with us for contributing). There's two weeks until the vote, and it seems like everybody knows where they stand and don't intend to change their minds; that is, except for the Commissioners themselves. Precious little is known about how most of them feel, and if anybody changes their mind on this issue in the next two weeks, it will be those Commissioners in the middle.

We will be watching the meeting in two weeks with much interest; not just because of our interest in the outcome, but because of our interest in the process as well. I am personally hoping that the number of "3 minute" speakers is fairly low, and that instead the Commissioners spend a lot of time hashing it out aloud. This may at first seem anti-democratic, but let me explain why I hope for this. As I alluded to above, Athens has heard from those for and against this; the positions are well-known and for most people they are fixed at this point. Although the number of speakers for and against may be somewhat instructive for the Commissioners on Nov. 1, I would certainly hope that they would not ultimately base their vote on that. What I want to hear at the meeting, therefore, is some discussion that enlightens me on what exactly does drive the votes; I want to know the process this Commission went through to make this decision, whatever it ends up being. I think that may be bigger than the decision itself, because it should provide insight in to how similar decisions would be made in the future. If nothing else positive comes out of this whole thing, it may be that a few more people at least will understand the importance of zoning decisions and of land use planning generally. Hopefully we will emerge from this thing with more people engaged with their local government; and that can't be a bad thing.

Monday, October 17, 2005

LPDS, Live Music, and Noise

As promised, the response from LPDS (in this case, Matt Casey) on the noise issue, specifically the live music issue. We’ve gotten a few comments about this, and of course there’s also a letter in the ABH today about it. Without further ado, here’s Matt.

I need to find some time to finish working on that FAQ's page.. I was planning on putting this up there among others. [We mentioned to Matt in our email that this might be a good question for the FAQ page on the LPDS website. Eds.]

Basically our response is that 80% - 90% of the time we will have piped in background Latin music both inside the restaurant and in the plaza to add to the ambiance and solidify the Latin concept. This music will be played at a level that will enable comfortable conversation to our guests, and not require them to have to shout over the music. On the occasions that we have live music it will primarily be kept in doors and consist of small groups of Latin artists. Again we do not envision this to be much louder then the background piped music that we will traditionally feature. We only plan on having moderate live music outdoors, and this would primarily be in the nature of a flamenco guitarist, or perhaps a traditional Peruvian flute artists

Again this would only be background in nature to add to the ambiance we would try to create.

Above all this we are working on revising the plans to possibly add a concrete wall barrier at the edge of the property, and believe that once the building[sic] that surround the plaza are complete the noise generated from the plaza will be contained for the most part.

And there you have it.

LPDS Mailbag

In the ABH LPDS Mailbag today:

The noise issue rears its ugly head.  It reared its ugly head on the blog last night too, so we’ve pledged to get to the bottom of this.  Late last night, we emailed LPDS to ask them what type of live music they’re envisioning.  We’ve heard anecdotally that they’re thinking strolling guitarists, many opponents are (legitimately) nervous about 9-piece salsa bands.  We’ll post the LPDS response here as soon as we get it.  This is a big concern for east side opponents, and as blatant LPDS partisans, we’re happy to help allay any concerns on this issue to the best of our ability.
Meanwhile, in the ABH, letter writer worries about noise too.  Read it here.

East side resident says it’s a small world after all, at least at Caliente Cab.  Makes good points on C-N zoning.  

And someone is less than gruntled about the whole thing, and for the first time, ties in the Prince Avenue medical center thingamabob.  Reaches a level of snarkiness hitherto unknown to us.  Thanks for writing in, Bub, but remember that the ABH doesn’t have a “sarcastic” font.  

Mr. T pities the fool that don’t tip off AP.  

Sunday, October 16, 2005

All politics is local

Y’know, one of the great things about writing about local politics as we do here, is that whenever you want to write about something beyond the pale of local politics, you can always just fall back on Tip O’Neill’s famous line, “All politics is local.”

We beg your indulgence while we do just that.  We’ll finish off the weekend with the blog equivalent of that last story on the evening news, about a “very special little kitten,” or some such fluffery.

Y’see, the fine folks over at NBC are doing something that has the potential to be really interesting or really lame, and we wanted to mention it.

If you’re a fan of The West Wing, as we are, you’ll know already that on the show, they’re in the midst of a Presidential campaign, pitting Republican Arnold Vinick (played by the incomparable Alan Alda, sans bathrobe) against Democrat Matt Santos (played by the incomparable Jimmy Smits.)

To that end, NBC has actually launched faux candidate websites, complete with (extremely poorly updated) blogs.  The NBC folks are also doing a live candidate debate for the November 6th episode.

This has the potential to be kind of cool, if NBC actually takes the time to do it right.  Right now, though, they really aren’t.  (C’mon guys, how much money does it take to buy two damn domains?)

Anyway, check ‘em out.  

Santos/McGarry                                   Vinick/Sullivan


ABH Roundup

Also in the news today:

  • John Barrow has lotsa dough.  If we were in the mood to be mean, we’d probably say something like this.  “Fundraising is the mother’s milk of politics, and donors are the teat from which the milk flows, and Lord knows, no one sucks like John Barrow.”  
But we aren’t in a mean mood today, so we’ll refrain.  We do idly wonder, however, if Karl Rove’s lawyer will be ponying up again.

  • The GLOW bus (Georgia Licensing on Wheels) roared into Athens this weekend and handed out a whopping 20 new ID’s.  (Hey, don’t laugh.  According to the story that’s about 10% of what it’s done statewide so far.)  We’ve made our feelings on the Voter ID bill pretty clear, so no need to belabor the point.  
Key statement to note:
“Lelia Tory was one of Athens' residents who wanted a photo ID Saturday. Her driver's license was revoked in 1999, she said. Tory said she is regular voter, and wanted a new card to ensure she could continue to vote.
‘I really need an ID,’ she said. ‘I've been using (the old one), but some places I can do it and some places I can't.’
However, highlighting confusion surrounding the system, Tory said she brought the wrong documents to the bus.”
  • Aued: Black people will vote entirely on race or NAACP membership, not ideas or experience.  Ok, well that’s how he makes it sound.  But, Blake also does some good writing here, highlighting the inequalities that (majority black) North Athens has suffered in services, noting as a good example the North Athens Fire Station v. new Five Points Fire Station controversy.

  • Also Aued: Andy Rusk hits the web.  This is news?  Sounds more like olds to us, since we tooted that horn some weeks ago.
One editorial note as well.  If anyone knows any other mayoral candidates who might like to get in touch with us, send them along.  We’re still waiting to hear from Keith Johnson, Charlie Maddox, and Tom Chasteen, as well as all of the candidates for ACC Commission.  What’s the matter guys, too big time for the AP?
  • On the editorial page, Jim Thompson leaves no education bill uncriticized.  (You know, we like Jim more and more each time he writes, and one day, we’re going to buy him lunch just to show our appreciation.)

  • Also, Bill Shipp warns us about the dangers of those tax and spend conservatives.  (It occurs to us that certain conservatives who read and post here are going to snark on about how the poor Republican majority only has to raise taxes to pay for the massive spending the former Democratic majority ran up.  Whatevs.)
Sssssh…it’s okay.  Tell us all about it, snookums.


LPDS, ABH, yada yada yada

The ABH gets all long-winded about La Puerta del Sol today. It’s a good piece, and Blake has obviously done the research on this one. Among the points Blake makes:

  • Opposition to LPDS comes mostly from the Cedar Creek folks, led by States McCarter. (“Opposition to the mixed-use development is largely centered in the Cedar Creek Civic Association, which represents the massive 650-home subdivision that's traditionally the apex of power on the eastside. Eighth District Commissioner States McCarter got his start in politics there, and like many other Cedar Creek residents, sees the rezoning battle as just one step in the struggle to keep businesses from encroaching into residential areas.”)

  • The C-N rezoning does not allow strip malls, which eliminates one bit of misinformation that has been making the anti-LPDS rounds lately. (“…Rubio now wants it once again rezoned from commercial-office, which allows offices and small retail shops, to commercial-neighborhood, which allows larger stores and restaurants, but not strip malls. The two types of zoning are kissing cousins.”

  • The LPDS proposal is much more in line with the existing C-O zoning than it is in opposition to it. Note however, that we also got it wrong as far as zoning changes in our post about the issue. We’ll assume that Blake (who actually gets paid for talking about this sort of thing) has the more accurate research on this. (“’A restaurant is really the only difference’ between commercial-office and commercial-neighborhood, Athens-Clarke planner Rick Cowick said. ‘The standards are pretty much the same.’")

  • LPDS is consistent with the ACC Land Use Plan. (“Although La Puerta del Sol would require a rezoning, it's consistent with the county's future land-use map, a plan for future development that guides local officials in zoning decisions. Clarke County residents and local officials decided in 2000 to designate Cedar Shoals Drive as ‘Main Street Business,’ a category that can include stores, offices and restaurants with residences above them, and encourages mixed-use and pedestrian-friendly developments. ‘We feel like it was compatible,’ Cowick said.

  • The opposition to LPDS is overrated by McCarter and others, and is mostly limited to two subdivisions. (“Rubio's support, though, seems to be getting stronger, or at least louder. Despite McCarter's claim that 90 percent to 95 percent of people in his district oppose the rezoning, La Puerta del Sol appears to have substantial support, especially among younger residents and people outside the Cedar Creek and Spring Lake subdivisions.”)

  • States McCarter can be something of a bully. (“Rubio tried to start a petition of his own to match the 700 signatures gathered by about 20 opponents in Cedar Creek, but was told by McCarter not to bother unless the signatures came from Cedar Shoals Drive residents, he said. ‘I could have got a lot of signatures from people who came into Caliente (Cab, his now-closed Tallassee Road restaurant),’ Rubio said. ‘I was getting lots of signatures in the beginning. But (McCarter) told me it didn't count, that anyone could come in and sign it.’

  • The petition used by McCarter and the Cedar Creek Homeowner’s Association is also somewhat suspect. (“The Cedar Creek petition, though, has also drawn suspicion. Some eastsiders who signed the petition told the Athens-Clarke Commission last week that they were duped into thinking the restaurant was going to be a nightclub, and actually support the project.”)
And there you have it.


Friday, October 14, 2005

Get your $20 ID from the bus, Gus

Ok, that was interesting, but for God's sake people, we had to start a new post sometime. So here goes. Relevant to the initial previous post topic (which is more than I can say for 90% of the 51 comments following it; but's that ok, it was entertaining) is ABH's report today that the "Georgia Licensing on Wheels" bus is coming to Athens on Saturday. The GLOW bus will be in the iron triangle from noon to 3. It's actually free to "indigent" voters (I'm not sure how they determine indigency for this purpose), or $25 for a 5 yr ID or $35 for a 10 yr ID for those who "can afford" it, according to the article. If you know someone who needs an ID, get em out there on Saturday.

Meanwhile, back in LPDSland, Margaret Johnston's letter grossly mischaracterizes the zoning issues. First, she states that Stuart Cofer wants "another bite of the rezoning apple". The request is as much, if not more, Bruno's that Stuart's. Next, she states that the rezoning would allow mixed-use, as if that's a bad thing. Then she suggests that LPDS's submitted plans were short of what is required for planned developments. Oh really? So the Planning Commission approved LPDS unanimously, even though the submitted plans didn't even meet their guidelines for consideration? Curious. She then suggests that LPDS will somehow "open the way for other property owners along Cedar Shoals Drive to obtain zoning permits even for strip malls, of which the eastside has an ample supply". Margaret, Margaret, Margaret. That's the everloving point! LPDS is MIXED-USE!!!!! NOT A STRIP MALL!!! Ahem, Sorry. If anything, LPDS will make it much more likely that you'll never see a new strip mall on the east side again. Instead, you'll probably see more and more of the very mixed-use development that you seem to deplore for some reason. For her last point, she does what I knew it wouldn't take long for some opponent to do: she uses Bruno's other lease issues as a reason he shouldn't get LPDS. I'll leave the debate on what's going on with those other leases to others, but saying he shouldn't get LPDS because of that is like saying...well, I don't know what's it's like saying, but it's ridiculous. The two things are apples and plaintains.

T to the I to the P to the S, yo.

ABH Miscellany

The Eds at the ABH dish out a heapin' helpin' of praise for local boy made good John Barrow today, and for once, we agree. At issue is Barrow's bill H.R. 4025, the "Disabled Veterans Fairness Act," which would peg the mileage reimbursement rate for vets going to VA hospitals to the mileage rate paid to government employees.

Now, as you good folks know, we haven't always been the biggest fans of Barrow here at AP, but this time, we're going to give him a laurel (and hearty handshake) for introducing this measure. Funding for veterans' programs traditionally gets short shrift from administrations of both parties (it seems like about every two years legislation to fix the concurrent benefits debacle passes Congress and promptly gets vetoed by the White House.)

Y'see, this is the kind of thing that freshman Congressmen should do. Pick an issue, work up some legislation, and get it out of committee. It helps if (like this one) it's an issue that no one else is really paying much attention to. We also idly wonder if it isn't a pretty smart communications move, to take the spotlight (such as it is) off Barrow's donations from Karl Rove's lawyer, and his mis-step on the whole flag-burning thing. Note that in our discussion of the latter, we mentioned a few days ago that "if you're really worried about [responding to the Visitations] go make some new news, instead of rehashing the old stuff."

Bike Lanes
Big ol' story in the ABH today about Prince Avenue. Putting aside the fact that the headline is a little confusing on the first read (who is this "Safety King," and where can I meet him?), Blake does a good job of rehashing the meeting last night. We're still making up our minds on this one.
One interesting phrase to note is this: "'You are trading in one type of accident for another type of accident, but it's a safer type of accident,' [ACC Transportation Director David Clark] said."
Trade in one type of accident for a safer type of accident. We think that might have been John Kerry's slogan last year.

One anti-LPDS letter in the ABH mailbag today. The writer implies the specter of spot zoning again. Writer also implies that by eliminating the existing spot zoning, the east side will explode into a frenzy of strip malls. Funny, we kind of already thought it had. Also launches a few ill-researched and unfounded charges. Find those on your own.

Got a tip for AP? Email us here, and as always, all sources are confidential. Unless a federal grand jury gets involved.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Lest we forget...

Hey kids.

This is going to come as a shock to you, so you'd better sit down.


Hey, you know, there are other things going on in politics besides La Puerta Del Sol. Seriously. In fact, there's a story in the ABH today about another issue that we are very passionate about - namely the racist voter ID bill that was passed (by ethics guru and campaign finance law violater Bill Stephens) and the ensuing challenge in federal court.

Now this is important stuff. In fact, thousands of people's abilities to vote may be riding on it. The law is being challenged by the ACLU, AARP, and League of Women Voters.

And during a hearing yesterday, Cathy Cox (wearing her Secretary of State hat, not her candidate for Governor hat) testified. According to Cox, this law actually makes it easier to commit voter fraud, because no ID is required to vote absentee.

We should also point out that in our political opinion, this law is nothing more than a blatant attempt to disenfranchise minorites, the elderly, and poor people. Why so bold, Athens Politics? Because according to Cox, who as the state's numbah one election official should know these things, there have no cases of voter fraud by impersonation in Georgia.

Some hotshot Republican appointee to the State Elections Board told reporters that they had a list of "5,400 people [who] had voted who had names similar to those found on a database of dead Georgians."

Similar? Like what? John Smith? Robert Green? Professor Plum with a candlestick in the conservatory? Sorry, we digress.

Similar names do not convincing evidence make, pal. And unless you've got hard evidence that someone is committing voter fraud that the Secretary of State doesn't know about, then keep yer yap shut.

It's also interesting to note that when 13 Augusta voters were turned away under the new law for not having photo ID, only two returned to make their provisional ballot official. (Voters who don't have their ID are allowed to vote on a provisional ballot, and then by showing ID can make their votes count). That's hardly a representative sample, we know, but what if it is indicative of what's going to happen under this law?

Anyway, the federal judge is going to rule on this one "as soon as possible."

For more background on this law, we'd refer you to this post and this post.


LPDS: The ABH Mailbag

Three letters in the ABH over la Puerta del Sol today:

East side resident is 100% gruntled about McCarter's representation. Key quote: "I can only fervently wish other elected officials worked as untiringly as he in the interests of those he serves."
We couldn't agree more. For the people he actually serves (meaning Cedar Creek residents) States works very hard. But we only wish he would work as untiringly for everyone who lives in the district he represents.

Armchair economist lectures us about the market and capitalist theory. Problem is, the US (and ACC, by extension) isn't a pure capitalist society. Also, instead of reversing an existing spot zoning decision, we should just rewrite the whole land use plan. Tough to tell which side this guy is on, since he also points out that the arguments against LPDS based on traffic and noise are bogus too. Key statement: "I would also add that the government should not get into the business of bailing out failed businesses by rezoning their property."
Agreed. Of course, as we pointed out yesterday, the zoning that allowed Cofer's to build in the first place was the spot zoning. Not this.

And finally, in one letter writer's opinion, the kids are alright. Sort of.

Also, dig this. As postulated yesterday, there may be more to the Pollo Criollo story than originally thought. Jmac gets the scoopy scoop scoop.


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Pollo Oh No

According to the ABH, Bruno may have no Athens restaurants left if the LPDS rezoning is not allowed. He has apparently been given 60-day notice on the Pollo Criollo lease. Fortunately for those of us in love with Bruno's cuisine, he says that he plans to fight the eviction, look for another westside site, and if LPDS is shot down, another one on the eastside. The man is undaunted; gotta love it.

Meanwhile, look here if you want to see a more classic example of spot zoning. One which was approved, by the way, although not without some controversy of its own.

Out, Out, Damned Spot (Zoning)!!

If you’re following LPDS closely (and if you’re reading this, we’re pretty sure that you are), no doubt you’ve heard the phrase “spot-zoning” thrown around pretty regularly.  In fact, this is one of the more commonly-used arguments against LPDS, so we’d like to briefly address it here.  (We’ve never “briefly” addressed anything in our lives.  Ed.)

Spot-zoning is just what it sounds like, changing the zoning permissions for one particular piece of land while leaving the parcels nearby in their original zoning configuration.

If you want a more textbook definition, then defines it as: “a provision in a general plan which benefits a single parcel of land by creating a zone for use just for that parcel and different from the surrounding properties in the area.”

Spot zoning is, by the way, not always a bad thing.  For instance, putting a police substation in a residential area might require spot zoning.  Or a school, for that matter.  We’re big fans of the dog park over on Whit Davis Road, and we wonder if any changes in zoning were necessary to create the park there.  

(We also wonder if we couldn’t get something like that on the west side, but that’s a different post for a different day.)

Opponents of LPDS will tell you that spot zoning is necessary in order for Bruno Rubio to develop the land.  This isn’t actually the case.  

The Cofer’s property, which we’d like to see made into LPDS, is actually already spot-zoned.  LPDS merely seeks to reverse that existing spot zoning, and to return the property to its original zoning, under the existing land-use plan.

As it stands right now, just about the only thing that can go on that particular parcel of land is another lawn and garden store like Cofer’s.  Our understanding is that they had to request the rezoning in order to build their greenhouse.

With Lowe’s coming to the east side, and with already existing businesses like Charmar nearby, what are the chances that anyone would want to put another store like Cofer’s in that location?  Heck, Cofer’s went under in that location, so it doesn’t exactly lend itself to inspiring confidence in anyone else wanting to do the same thing there.

The fact is that the land was zoned commercial, as Super-Commissioner (and poverty warrior) Elton Dodson has pointed out.  Cedar Shoals Drive was intended, under the ACC Land Use Plan, to be a commercial corridor.  And nothing short of rezoning the entire area is going to change that.  

The question is then, what type of development do we want to see on Cedar Shoals Drive?  

We’ve been clear all along.  This is a good development; it’s a project that the ACC Planning Commission approved unanimously.  The Planning Commission, much like the residents, carefully considered the problems of traffic and noise, and found those concerns to be negligible.  (The nearest homeowner lives almost three football fields away, and the existing surface streets can easily handle the marginal increase in traffic volume, says the Planning Commission)

So if not LPDS, then what?  Another big box store?  Another cookie-cutter TGI O’Applebee’s restaurant?  An office park that turns into a ghost town after dark?

Or a destination with truly local flavor and truly local color, that contributes more to the local economy than any of the other options ever would?

The most important point is that this is not spot zoning.  It’s the reversal of spot zoning.

Email the crack editorial staff here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

LPDS Daily Dose

Several letters in the ABH on LPDS, most notably one from States himself, defending himself against Monday's editorial and other recent news of his behavior after the meeting last week and in misrepresenting the facts on LPDS. Next, there's one from Mollie Parry King, apparently an opposed resident of David Lynn's district, giving her preemptive I-told-you-so for when LPDS turns the east side into the Mos Eisley bar scene from Star Wars. Finally, there is a supportive letter from Caren M. Snook, an east side resident, which details once again most of the arguments for and against.

I want to thank the Cedar Creek resident who responded to my previous post. I responded to the editorial somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but after further thought and after reading that response, I think the editorial is absolutely right in one sense. States behavior makes it impossible for those who wish to express reasonable concerns, like that poster, to do so. While it is not very likely that my opinion will change at this late date on this issue, and equally unlikely that those opposed will have a change of heart, perhaps if the two sides engage in a reasonable dialogue, the best result for the east side and the community at large can be reached, with or without LPDS (hopefully with).

John Barrow - WTF?? (Part Deux)

After yesterday's post about John Barrow, we thought we'd be able to leave him alone for awhile. After all, he's up there in Washington, DC where, as a back benching freshman Congressman, he can't really hurt anyone.

But then, a friend sent us a note this morning about some other, non-flag-burning-related John Barrow stuff that we feel compelled to mention.

During his race last year, Barrow was as proud as a peacock about his fundraising prowess. He raised money from all over Athens, all over the state, heck, all over the country. Money from activists, other politicians, personal friends, and...

Karl Rove's lawyer?


It breaks down like this. Robert Luskin, Rove's personal attorney, and his law firm Patton Boggs, are decent Democratic donors. Patton Boggs bunded some cash to Gore in 2000, and Luskin himself shelled out $2,750.00 to Democratic candidates last year, including a total of $1,000.00 to Barrow.

You know, we're not in the business of being apologists for any politicians here. If they screw the pooch, we call them on it.

But, there's not much of a story here, unless its the one about Karl Rove being so desperate for good legal counsel (not that Luskin is doing a particularly bang-up job in our opinion) that he forgets to check donor records.

In fact, most of your big time trial lawyers support Democrats. Why? Two words.

Tort reform.

The only trial lawyers who tend to support the GOP are the ones who defend the companies named in litigation, but that's a relatively small number.

Anyway, the only big question here is, how big are the legs on this story? We're guessing that they really aren't that big.

Of course, please check yesterday's post for evidence on the Barrow communications staff's proclivities to make press molehills into press mountains.

Still, having one's name mentioned on Wonkette is something of a status symbol in Beltway politics (translation: Hollywood for ugly people), and we're betting that Barrow is a trifle peeved that his first mention had to be in the same post with Karl Rove.

Here's a few related links from Wonkette and Petrelis.


Vote for us!

Right here.

While you're at it, put in a good word for AP friends Safe as Houses, Antidisingenousmentarianism, and the Day Jobs.

Monday, October 10, 2005

LPDS (no creative title this time)

Another editorial in the ABH on LPDS. It does a good job of laying out once again all of States' ridiculous shenanigans last week and how silly he looks. However, it basically ends up saying that this behavior is bad for his constituents because he can't be taken seriously on the LPDS issue, and that therefore he can't do his job for them (which apparently, in the opinion of this editorial, is to keep LPDS from happening). Using that rationale, I'd say he's doing his constituents a great service by ensuring that the LPDS opposition can't be taken seriously.

Way to go, Lameduck Yosemite.

John Barrow - WTF??

If you happened to read Blake Aued's column on October 2, then you would have seen an interesting piece about the band the Visitations, who apparently paid a little visit to our Congressman, John Barrow. Seems the band had some concerns about Barrow's disdain for the 1st Amendment (or perhaps his disdain for losing his re-election campaign next year).

To be more specific, the band was hacked off (rightfully so, in our opinion) about Barrow's support for a Constitutional amendment that bans burning the U.S. flag.

According to Blake's column, the band was told that the Republicans are making Johnny B hate the 1st Amendment, since redistricting his made his district more conservative.

Also according to Blake, the Congressman (or more accurately, a member of his staff) promised the band a flag that was flown over the Capitol.

Today, Barrow writes in to the ABH to set the record straight.

Sez Barrow:
"I have never knowingly presented a flag to any group or individual who intended to desecrate it, nor would I ever. They are not going to get a flag flown over the U.S. Capitol. Not from me, at any rate."

Our question is this. Why?

Why make an issue out of this at all? Are you really that worried 13 months before the election?

John Barrow has smart folks working for him, and there's no denying that. But sometimes, Barrow's beltway brain trust is just a leeeeeeeeetle too smart for their own good. This is a good example.

Living in the fishbowl that is beltway politics does strange things to a person. There's a certain mindset that folks get into in DC, and part and parcel of that mindset is the unshakeable belief that the folks back in your district are watching every move you make and grading you accordingly.

Not exactly. And that's why the folks up in Barrow's DC headquarters kind of blew it.

Y'see, most folks had already forgotten about this particular story, especially in Athens, where politically, we have much bigger fish to fry right now, politically speaking. (Hey, you guys heard anything about this La Puerta del Sol thing?) So, the thing is, we aren't really paying that much attention to Barrow, and it's pretty much accepted as gospel that he's trying to run to the right, in order to avoid being labeled with the dreaded l-word.

But, by writing in, Barrow (and his communications staff) have turned a one-day story into a minor campaign issue. Left alone, this story doesn't go anywhere. Heck, we're not even sure that Max Burns (Barrow's ostensible opponent next year) would have picked up on it. And, even if ol' Maxie and the RNC did pick up on it, they've got better things to use against Barrow than this. The best thing to do was to let this go, and if you're really worried about it, go make some new news, instead of rehashing the old stuff.

Instead, though, Barrow chose to respond, and in a matter that was more defensive than statesmanlike to boot. As a result, what was a one-day story now has more legs. Granted, if Barrow's folks don't talk about it any more, then chances are the story dies now. Of course, there's always the chance that the Visitations might decide to respond now, and suddenly a story becomes a Story.

Worse though, is that a response actually makes Barrow more vulnerable to attack on the issue, because we've got a news story that says Barrow (via his staff) promised the band a flag, then, one week later, a letter from Barrow denying it. And what's the favorite epithet thrown at Kerry by Bush, and by extension at Democrats everywhere by Republicans everywhere?


And whether this is a flip-flop or not, Barrow just left himself wide open to have it thrown at him.

You might think that this is a lot of ink for one minor misstep. And you'd be right. Except for one thing. This is really symptomatic of why Barrow is going to be in trouble. Because what's logical in DC is just silly back home.

Eeeerbody in the club gettin' tips. Including us.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

ABH puts its stank on LPDS

The ABH was all over LPDS like brown on fried rice today. There were three pieces on the issue. In the main editorial, ABH points to how divided the community is on the issue, meanwhile debunking all of the stated rationales for opposition. Next, there was an editorial piece in the business section by Don Nelson, pointing out how foolish it would be to pass up this opportunity to let Bruno work his magic on the east side, and also addressing the weakness of the reasons for opposition. Finally, Blake Aeud’s In the Loop piece paints a vivid picture of the internal struggle of the Commission over the issue, and how it played out last week.

Word has it there was also an ABHer snooping around the 2 p.m. Sunday informational meeting at Pollo Criollo; good chance we'll see additional ABH coverage soon.

All of this bodes well for LPDS, with States and the rest of the opposition looking sillier every day, and the real facts finally getting around.

Friday, October 07, 2005


Hi kids.

Hey, sorry we took an unannounced day off yesterday. You know how it is with work and all.

Anyway, just a few things to note (or "Note" with a capital n, if you're one of those little snots at ABC News.)

Safe As Houses hits the nail on the head, as far as multi-use pathways go. (You know, they're wider than sidewalks, got room for bikes, Athens should love 'em). Anyhoo, Jmac has been all over this one, like Britney Spears at the WalMart Back to School Sale.

Speaking of Jmac, in the same post, he explores an interesting angle on LPDS (and no, we will not shut up already about that. You've got less than a month, deal with it), that, frankly, we wish we would have picked up on. We'll send you over there to read it, but here's a hint. It involves States McCarter and Harry Sims.

And speaking of La Puerta Del Sol, you should know that there are going to be not one, but two informational meetings coming up this weekend. Both are going to be at Pollo Criollo (try the empanadas, they're delish!). One is today (Friday) at 5:30 p.m., the other is Sunday at 2 p.m. Rumor has it that following the second meeting, the LPDS crew is going to round up some volunteers and take it to the streets over on the east side.

One other piece of LPDS news, or really, it's more like analysis. We'd like to extend a laurel (and hearty handshake) to District 1 Commissioner Charles Carter. Charles never really says much about things like LPDS, but in the meeting Tuesday, he stood up (figuratively) and gave ol' States what fer as far as McCarter's sketchy polling methods. We approve so highly, that we're going to refrain from calling him Foghorn Leghorn for at least a week.

Finally, Georgia Democrats probably won't be challenging the new congressional districts in court, sez the ABH. John Lewis is less than thrilled about that, but as far as political money goes, every dollar we spend on a lawsuit is a dollar that we can't spend on winning races.

Of course the new districts are really going to screw local politico John Barrow. Of course, he wasn't going to win anyway. More on that at some nebulous later date.