Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Pete McCommons reminds us why we think he might be, bar none, the best journalistic writer in Athens.
Bill Shipp thinks that Ralph Reed oughta just give it up already, and gives a nice background on Reed’s current and impending ethical baggage.
Local guy puts his money where his mouth is with regards to the homeless shelter.
And, as always, we’re still trying to fix this poverty thing.
Finally, anyone interested in doing some posting here for about a week in December? Looks like your crack editorial staff may both be out of commission for a few days then. Email us if interested.
Have a great day!
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Here at AthPo, we’re big fans of the partisan sniping, most of the time. Heck, it’s the bread and butter that keep political writers at the keyboards day after day. And going after the other guys is an important part of the two-party system. (The Libertarians and the Greens tend to go after everybody, but no one really listens.) When done in a professional yet spirited way, a little partisanship is a good thing; lots of times, it’s the best and only way to make sure the voters know what you’re about.
But sometimes, there are issues that cry out for both sides to work together for the greater good. This year, the growing cost of energy is just such an issue.
Up in Atlanta, the GOP is putting its thinking cap on, and mulling over ways to make sure that everyone in Georgia can afford to keep the heat on in the house. So are the Democrats. Problem is, they aren’t doing it together. So, as reported today, the GOP is talking about a variety of solutions – some good, some not so good. The Democrats are expected to do the same in a few days.
We have a different idea. There are fire-breathing partisan warriors on both sides. They don’t really figure into this fight, though. There are also legislators on both sides who can and will work together for the common good. Those should be the key players in this matter.
This is a golden opportunity for both parties to come out looking just a little bit better, and it’s a golden opportunity for the Governor to show some much-needed leadership on the issue.
One point to remember: for all of the partisan differences between the Republicans and Democrats under the Gold Dome, there is one very strong force that unites them. They’re politicians, and they want to get re-elected. Showing the statesmanship that comes from a bipartisan solution to an urgent problem looks really good to the voters in Dooly County, come November 2006.
Let’s get the Republicans and the Democrats together and get a bipartisan solution to the problem, and let’s do it right now. The weather isn’t getting any warmer.
For what it’s worth, the local electeds in Watkinsville get it. We hope that their colleagues on the county level pick up a few hints from them too.
Courtesy of a friend at the Chamber, (we know, don’t revoke our Democratic street cred, we do have friends in the Chamber) we received the following strongly-worded “nuh-uh!!” from the CoC. We won’t quote the whole thing, because man, the Chamber can be wordy at times, but here’s the gist:
“…this was not a fundraiser for Ralph Reed. He was invited to be a
speaker at our first Executive Lecture Series as a business owner. No
proceeds were to go to him, or his organization, or his political
“We do not endorse political candidates, nor use any portion of member
dues for political purposes. We do, however, have a separate PAC for such purposes.
“Finally, Chateau Elan is a Chamber member in good standing. It is our
long standing policy to only do business with Chamber members. In 2005,
we have used more than a dozen members to cater our events.”
So there you have it. Either the Chamber is engaging in some really fast damage control, or Blake flat got it wrong. For answers, we went to a source we trust, who also happens to be an active member of the Chamber, as well as having some pretty sharp political insight. Our source tells us:
“The truth, as usual, lies somewhere in between. Who would invite one of the nation’s most controversial businessmen and political candidates just to talk about leadership? And on top of that, a guy with nationally publicized ethics charges? So I have no doubt they were sucking up to him, and they are guilty of politics by association.
“But the reporter's job is to get the facts and tell the truth, and he
failed miserably. If he missed it that bad, I would fire him.”
It’s nothing new for the ABH to get it wrong. There are usually one or two minor facts that are off in just about anything they write. But this is a big screwup for the ABH, if true. And it brings up questions about the amount of research that Blake puts into his columns.
If you want our two cents, here goes. The Chamber got misrepresented in a big way by the ABH on this one. Blogging about the “fundraiser-that-isn’t” yesterday made us curious, for one of the very reasons that the Chamber’s response cites. Fact is, the Chamber does, as we mentioned, have a PAC, so any fundraisers would logically, and we imagine legally, go through them, not the Chamber itself. In retrospect, that was something we should have mentioned as well.
Our question now is, whither Blake Aued? Does he get a slap on the wrist from the editorial staff? Or will it be worse? Or, in typical dead tree media style, will the ABH just let this go away? We suspect that the answer to that question is wholly contingent on exactly how big a stink the Chamber decides to make about this issue.
Monday, November 28, 2005
Note however, that in the finest traditions of open government, this plan is not written in stone yet, and that’s why your attendance (and comments) at Thursday’s meeting are so important (if, that is, you live in the OC. If you don’t, they probably don’t care too much.)
Here in Athville, we tend to look down our noses at our neighbors in the OC; it’s a land of unfettered sprawl, where developers run free and feast on the milk and honey of large land parcels and zoning laws that are less stringent than Athens. Good land use is a good thing, and we applaud Watkinsville for taking some steps in the right direction to preserve the city’s unique character.
Hold on to your seats here, because we’ve got some shocking news. The Athens Chamber of Commerce is full of Republicans!
We know, we know. Watergate, this isn’t. But Blake mentions it in “In the Loop,” so we’ll touch on it here as well.
Seems that the Chamber is hosting a fundraiser for Lieutenant Governor candidate Ralph “I never hit on a soft 14” Reed, who, as it happens, is a Republican. Does this amount to an endorsement from the Chamber? Unclear. We’ll see if the Chamber also hosts a fundraiser for Casey Cagle or Greg Hecht, or even Jim Martin (Heaven knows he could use the help.)
We’re betting that they won’t do that though. So, looking at this as a tacit endorsement, we’ve got to say that this is kind of a boneheaded move from the Chamber. In the first place, Reed is not exactly a lock to win the nomination, much less in the general. In the second place, the Chamber stands to gain exactly nothing from getting their thumbs in this particular pie this early.
If you want our two cents, here it is. The Chamber has been trying for a few years to become more of a player on the local and state political scene. They put together a shiny new PAC, spread some financial love around, and even put out a report card for our Commissioners. Needless to say, few of the M&C passed. Having been pretty much stymied on the local scene (as nearly as we can recall, none of the candidates they backed in 2004 actually won), the Chamber is trying to move into the more fertile (for Republicans) ground of state politics. This is just a case of jumping the gun, which just ends up hurting their credibility as a player on the political scene.
It’s like Kenny Rogers says, you’ve gotta know when to hold ‘em; know when to fold ‘em; know when to walk away; and know when not to have fundraisers for candidates who are not a shoe-in for the nomination.
Or maybe they just wanted to solicit some advice on how to build an Indian gambling casino in the Classic City.
We’re glad that Jason and the ABH posse are cottoning on to some of the real motivations behind this law. We just wish that they had had our back two months ago.
Look, it’s easy to dogpile a racist. But hey, if that’s the stimulus you need to oppose this law, then we’ll forget that you showed up late, and embrace the fact that you showed up at all.
Still, this shows what happens when you stake out your ground in the mushy middle.
One thing we really like from Winders’ column is this quote: “According to our early look at the state GOP playbook for 2006, undocumented Hispanics are the new black.” Nice double entendre, JW! We can hope that you’ll be bitch-slapping the GOP around on that issue in a month or two.
By the way, if you didn’t get the Lester Maddox joke above, click here.
Seems that folks are getting their panties in a wad because the ABH took exception to State Rep. Keith Heard (D-Athens, kind of) calling out the Mayor and Commission on the poverty issue.
For what it’s worth, while we think that Heard was right on in calling the Mayor and Commission out, we also acknowledge that the desire to avoid talking about raising the hotel-motel tax was at least one element in Heard’s sudden stand. We also would point out that, as a legislator, Heard has been, to say the least, passive on poverty. He’s made most, if not all, of the right votes, but he’s never really been proactive in pushing his own ideas through.
All of that is really neither here nor there, however. The real point is that the ABH, for all of its faults, isn’t motivated by race when they criticize Heard.
Shoot us some backwards spit.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Amazing what a little overt racism does to your position, huh?
Of course no one wants to be on Sue Burmeister’s side anymore, not since she got caught with her sheet down in front of the Department of Justice and the AJC. That’s why State Senator Cecil Staton (R-Macon) is getting it together to tweak the law just a little bit.
For what it’s worth, we think Staton is on the right track, sort of. If, for instance, ID’s were issued from local government offices (perhaps the local Board of Elections, which is usually centrally located, often in the county courthouse in smaller towns), and were made available for free (without having to go through the soul-crushing loss of dignity that signing a pauper’s affidavit would require), that would go a long way towards eliminating some of the problems that the opponents of this bill have with it. It also has the side benefit of making Staton look more bipartisan, and more interested in working with both sides to find solutions. It goes without saying that this is a quality sadly lacking in most Republicans in Georgia. It also goes without saying that having that reputation only helps in an election year.
Don’t get us wrong, though. The best fix for the law is to repeal the damn thing altogether. But we like compromise sometimes too.
One big question we have is whether this law will even be revisited at all during the 2006 session. The journey through the courts will probably last long enough to give the GOP some political cover, which is why the Democrats should make it one of their top priorities. And, as you know, the Gubner hath decreed that 2006 will be a quiet year under the Dome o’ Gold. (He’s gotta run fer re-election, yo.)
With respect to this law, we’d like to see three things, politically speaking, in the 2006 session.
- Staton introduces his changes.
- A Democrat (we’d suggest Vincent Fort [D-Atlanta]) introduces a measure to repeal the thing altogether.
- A Republican and a Democrat co-sponsor a resolution to censor Burmeister for her comments, which passes.
Monday, November 21, 2005
We've got to admit, we're glad that the community as a whole is starting to pay attention to the issue, and that it's finally getting some ink in the ABH. Patty Freeman-Lynde (the aforementioned ED of the aforementioned Network) offers the usual solutions, and she gets it right. Put succinctly, if you want to ameliorate poverty, you've got to either raise wages or reduce costs, or preferably both.
And, if we had one criticism to make of her op-ed, its that it makes it sound far easier than it is. But, let us tell you, she hit the nail on the head on one issue, and it's one that not many folks are talking about.
We've been saying for some time that affordable housing is going to be the sleeper issue in 2006, not just locally, but probably nationally as well. Will affordable housing drown out Iraq, the Warren Tara (TM), job loss, or the fact that 41.6 million Americans can't afford to go to the doctor? No, but smart candidates from both parties will be talking about it on the campaign trail.
Anyway, sounds like Patty Freeman-Lynde has gotten the poverty issue licked, so if the M&C would just listen to her, we could fix things and go back to talking about bike lanes and artsy-fartsy bus stops.
ATLANTA – In today’s edition, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution used a form of censorship to hide its own hypocrisy. The editorial page ran a lead editorial criticizing Governor Perdue for using tax and other incentives to lure 2,000 new jobs to Georgia – specifically, a significant expansion of Aflac’s operations in Columbus. They called the incentives “corporate welfare.”
The AJC solicited an equal time piece from the Governor’s Office to offer an alternative perspective – a perspective the Governor’s Office provided. The rebuttal pointed out that Cox Enterprises – parent company of the AJC – received millions in property tax incentives to relocate its corporate headquarters to Fulton County. That portion of the equal time piece was ordered deleted by Cynthia Tucker, the paper’s editorial page editor.
“This is a form of censorship and it points out a major problem at the AJC. They are a liberal, blue state paper in the middle of an increasingly conservative red state,” said Dan McLagan, communications director for Governor Perdue. “What’s worse, they see themselves as the arbiters of truth, and in our judgment, eagerly omit facts and opinions which do not fit their world view.”
Whether consciously or subconsciously, Georgians have taken notice. The Newspaper Association of America recently reported that the AJC lost a larger percentage of its subscribers than any major daily newspaper, save one: the San Francisco Chronicle. The AJC lost more subscribers than the scandal-plagued New York Times, more than the Boston Globe. In a six-month period ending in September, 8.73 percent of AJC subscribers dropped subscriptions.
The following is the equal time piece in its entirety with the censored portion in italics.
Unbelievably, the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) is opining against jobs for Georgians. The AJC editorializes today that the state of Georgia should not spend taxpayer dollars to encourage businesses to grow in Georgia. When Cox Enterprises, parent company of the AJC, returns the $6.7 million in Fulton County property tax incentives it received to locate its headquarters in the county, then it will have the credibility to make such judgments.
Incentives are essential to bring and keep successful economic projects to Georgia. In a recent survey, Site Selection magazine, an influential trade publication, found that incentives are in fact the top determinant for companies picking a location.
Incentives are not always financial. They can include workforce training, such as that given by Georgia’s internationally acclaimed Quickstart training program. University research and development partnerships are highly valued, as are local tax abatements. Governor Perdue has put in place strict policies to ensure that if a company receives business assistance and doesn’t live up to its commitments, it doesn’t receive the assistance.
Georgia is considered in consultant circles to be very conservative with incentives. Other states are much more aggressive. What we look for is what every well-run business looks for: return on investment. And we think Aflac, as a longtime, native Georgia company, offers a good return on investment, not only in the way its successes reflect on and filter down economically to the people in the Columbus region, but to the state as a whole.
Since January of 2003, Georgia has announced 436 new business projects, creating 31,975 jobs, investing $5.6 billion dollars worth of investments into Georgia communities. We owe it to the citizens of Georgia to continue this trend, and not to stand by while jobs and economic opportunity slip away to other states.
Interesting side note. Gov. Perdue's press secretary, Heather Hedrick, is an Athens native. Just thought you'd like to know.
Sez Burmeister, “An Atlanta Journal-Constitution article citing a Department of Justice memo has erroneously misrepresented comments made by me concerning voter turnout in my district. While I do believe that voter fraud is rampant in our state, I in no way believe that African Americans in my district or around the state only vote when they are paid to do so. If the AJC’s misrepresentation has offended anyone, I apologize. However, I do not believe that these statements are accurate and they are in no way a reflection of my beliefs on this issue. I am equally offended by the newspapers blatant misrepresentation of the facts."
Notice how Sue Burmeister deftly tries to shift the blame away from her and over to the evil, liberal AJC. However, the AJC was merely quoting the DOJ memo (page 6), which says, "Rep. Burmeister also said that if there are fewer black voters because of this bill, it will only be because there is less opportunity for fraud. She said that when black voters in her black precincts are not paid to vote, they do not go to the polls." (Emphasis added)
So, the AJC got it right, based on the memo. It seems pretty cut and dried; the AJC repeats what the DOJ memo says. So if anyone misconstrued Burmeister's racism...err, we mean remarks, then it's the DOJ, right?
Or is it? Let's think this one through, kids. Who has more motivation to rewrite history, the career attorneys at the DOJ, or Sue Burmeister after getting caught with her sheet down?
This is, plain and simple, a case of a politician who said something extremely inappropriate trying to play the victim, with the terrible "liberal media" as the culprit.
You'll notice that the usual GOP spokes-suspects aren't exactly jumping to Burmeister's defense, and we think that's because they know that she screwed the pooch from a political PR standpoint, and would prefer to avoid the fallout from this one. Lesson number one in the GOP Guide to Playing Racial Politics: No matter what you actually think about black people, don't actually be dumb enough to say it in public. We're betting that, as far as the Republican leadership is concerned, this particular turd sandwich is Burmeister's, and Burmeister's alone, to eat.
By the way, before our more conservative readers jump on us, we should make it clear that we know that Burmeister's comments are not reflective of all Republicans, or even most Republicans in Georgia. That's why we're hoping that, among others, Brian Kemp will stand up and decry Burmeister's statements to the DOJ.
Regardless of all that, we're betting that there's at least one race in 2006 that the black community in Burmeister's district will be turning out to vote in. And we're betting that they won't require compensation of any kind.
Slip us the tippies, yo.
Friday, November 18, 2005
Come to think of it, that's pretty good advice for any legislation past, pending, current, or proposed. But we digress.
Following in the wake of yesterday's released DOJ memo (which we still want to see), more information trickles out, courtesy of Rep Burmeister. According to the Honorable Rep., blacks in her district only vote if you pay them.
We have no response to that, except to wonder if the ABH will be permitted by its corporate ownership to call her out for her racist statements. We know her hometown paper, the Augusta Chronicle won't do it. If there isn't a backlash like God's own fury in the media and from politicians of both parties to her comments, then we're going to be sorely disappointed.
One last thing. In the AJC article, it mentions that Congressman David Scott of the 13th district appeared at a press conference by 5 of Georgia's 6 Democratic congressmen. We wonder who skipped and why?
Still, the ACC version ain't going anywhere soon. Nonetheless, Hertwig's got an interesting take.
Seriously, it's always kind of been our opinion that the Community Advisory Council exists solely to provide a PR boost to ARMC and show that, on the surface at least, ARMC is walking the walk on involving community input. But does the Advisory Council have any input into policy? Can they even stop ARMC from doing anything that ARMC wants to?
Well, maybe they can, it turns out. Y'see, the advisory council has grown to be more than just a slick PR move. They're getting ink, and it isn't the ink that ARMC might like to see. Could a bunch of busybody Boulevardians tame the 800 pound gorilla that is ARMC? We'll just have to see.
Also in Normaltown news, suggestions abound as to what to do with the Navy School in a few years. We'd like to see it stay a school of some kind, or maybe go mixed-use. But what do we know?
Under the Gold Dome, the Gubner is flexing a little political muscle and trying to keep the steely-eyed zealotry of the GOP to a minimum for the 2006 session, sez Jones. Y'see, while a safe Republican in a 70% GOP seat (like Jerry Keen, for instance) can introduce whatever crazy nonsense they want to, knowing they'll get re-elected. The Gubner, on the other hand, has to run statewide, and would prefer that the more wacko members of the GOP keep it to themselves this year. (Did you hear that, Sue Burmesiter? More on her in a subsequent post.) The upshot is that we won't be hearing about funding education with a sales tax. But something tells us, given the legislative bloodlust that the GOP showed last year, that this session won't be as quiet as Sonny wants it to be. Our question is, what lengths will he go to to keep his safe seats quiet?
(Also, according to Jones, the state is evenly split between Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. As Democrats, we appreciate the compliment, but question the numbers.)
A bi-partisan push in DC saves Even Start. Alisa Marie DeMao writes it up here. This is good news for ACC, Georgia, and the U.S. Now if only we could get some more love for Head Start and the rest of these No Child Left Funded unfunded mandates.
Now, depending on the Commissioner in question, "fine-tuning" could mean many things. From certain Commissioners, it means we might actually get an improved plan. For others, it means we're going to stall and stall until improving public transportation is a lost cause, and the precious status quo is maintained. After all, we wouldn't want those smelly poor people to be too mobile, else they might end up in our neighborhoods. (We're not naming any names though. We'll leave that for the comments, but seriously, the lengths to which some Commissioners will go to protect the status quo surprises even us.)
For Carl Jordan, we're betting that he wants to make sure the buses don't have headlights.
The point (or one point at least) is this. We've been going round and round here at AP about poverty in ACC. There are certain things the government can do to alleviate poverty. This is one of them. It's also environmentally friendly, good for neighborhoods and traffic congestion, and keeps the roads safer.
If Athens Transit has failed in any aspect of their push for more funding, it's in failing to act on those facts and build a coalition of advocates for the poor, advocates for the environment, and advocates for neighborhoods to rally up support from the M&C. Strength in numbers, especially when you're playing interest group politics.
Oh yeah. Blake writes it up here. Also some zoning and stuff.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
For those of you out there who are ok with this law, but might still have an open mind, read the piece carefully, because the DOJ lawyers did a fine job of laying out all of the problems with the bill, as well as a pretty good number of fixes, of which we wish the WaPo had mentioned more.
We would love to get our hot little hands on the actual August 25 staff memo.
Still, according to the piece, Athens has a pretty enviable unemployment rate: 4%. But then, we figured out (at about the same time as one of our alert readers) that this brings up some really interesting and disturbing extrapolations.
Now, we were told there would be no math, but if you look at the numbers, Athens has about a 28% poverty rate. Accounting for statistical errors (and to make the math easy), we'll call it 25%. So one out of every four people in Athens lives in poverty.
And then you have the rosy news from Walter Jones that 24 out of every 25 folks in ACC who need a job have a job.
So, if out of every 100 Athens residents, only 4 need a job, but more than 25 are poor, what does that say about the state of the local economy? Suddenly, it doesn't seem as rosy after all. But that's what you get when you have a service economy. Low wages, high turnover, high poverty.
Meanwhile, as referenced before, both the local government and the state legislative delegation have been less than proactive. In fact, images of ostriches doing what they do best come to mind.
We still believe that the onus is on the local government. That means that somehow, the M&C have to declare a cease-fire with the Chamber of Commerce and actually work together. (It also means that the Chamber is going to have to grow up and stop acting like spoiled three year olds every time the M&C pass something they don't like.) The key words here are economic development. Should Athens turn into a manufacturing town? No. Should we be able to get better, higher-paying jobs here? Yes. But until the M&C and the CoC start taking economic development seriously, then we're never going to grow past being a service economy.
[Edited because I forget to put in the linky goodness. P]
In Craig v. State, A05A2300 (10/21/05), Judge Lawrence of the State Court was affirmed in Mr. Craig's conviction for leaving the scene of an accident. The Court of Appeals found that the positive identification by the victim was sufficient evidence of identity, that Judge Lawrence didn't err when he read an entire statute instead of only the applicable section in jury instructions (or even if he did err, that it didn't harm defendant because no evidence was introduced on the extra sections), and that the State proved he was driving on a "public highway" because everybody in Athens knows the "loop" is a public highway.
In Moore v. State, A05A1201 (10/21/05), Judge Stephens was affirmed in denying Mr. Moore's motion to correct, modify and/or strike his sentence of life w/o parole on his '91 armed robbery conviction and his motion challenging his '74 sentence on a guilty plea to armed robbery. Because he was a juvy when he committed the '74 robbery, Mr. Moore claimed juvenile court should have jurisdiction over that conviction, and therefore that it shouldn't have been used as a prior to sentence him as a recidivist for the '91 robbery. The Court of Appeals didn't see it that way, since juvy court transferred the case to superior court back in '74 (since Mr. Moore also committed a murder with that one), and since the statute back then gave juvy and superior court concurrent jurisdiction over the crimes for which he was charged.
Meanwhile, in the big trial here, Plaintiff will start evidence today with a couple of fuel system experts.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
We'll be following this trial and giving updates.
Monday, November 14, 2005
Those two things, rather than Norwood's health, are what we'd like to briefly address. First the money. Norwood or not, any Democrat who wants to run in this district is going to have to raise some serious cash. In fact, the money chase is one of many reasons why this district is seen as such a solid Republican lock. You might be not at all surprised to know that the Democrats haven't even come close to matching Norwood's fundraising totals since 1996 (David Bell was the D that year, if you're keeping score at home.) Not saying that this is a super-competitive seat, but we are saying that we'd like to see what would happen if Norwood were challenged by a Democrat who had the gumption and persistence to sit on the phones for months, raise seven or eight hundred thousand, and make a real race out of this.
The good news for either candidate is that, as far as Congressional races go, this is a fairly cheap district to run in. TV isn't too expensive here, unless you try to be an utter bonehead and run ads on the Atlanta affiliates (totally unncessary), so the dominant medium is direct mail, which has the dual advatages of being both less expensive and more targetable. Additionally, the district is far more compact that the 12th, and reasonably more compact that the 9th, which means a candidate can see more voters in less time, if they've got a mind to.
As far as Bullock's input is concerned, he makes a good point. If Norwood drops out, the race gets more competitive. Kemp says he wouldn't run, but would Doc Eldridge? Notice that Blake either didn't ask Doc, or Doc didn't give him anything to use. On the subject of Bullock, we wonder how long we'll have to stay at this before the ABH asks us to say things that are essentially common sense for publication.
Should Norwood's health become a campaign issue? Absolutely, as long as it's presented in the right way, and addressed in the right way by Norwood himself. His health is tied directly to his ability to effectively represent the citizens in his district.
Friday, November 11, 2005
Thursday, November 10, 2005
To sum up, the exchange went a little something like this:
Heard: "Lots of people in Athens are poor. You should totally do something about that."
Davison: "Nuh-uh! We're like, all busy with bike lanes and stuff. You do something about it."
Heard: "It's your city, yo."
Davison: "I talked to the Chamber and the University and the School District, and they're busy too. Besides, it's your job, yo. Go to Atlanta and make everybody less poor."
We note that, while the pols discussed poverty, there were no actual poor people involved in the meeting.
If you want our two cents, here goes. Heard and Kidd are hampered in trying to do anything, seeing as how they're part of the minority under the Gold Dome, and the majority is far more interested in beating up on illegal immigrants. And, to distort an otherwise apropos phrase, charity begins at home. (Not that helping lower the poverty rate is charity, but you've got to act locally.)
Heidi and her posse have been in office for three years now, and the state of poverty in ACC is no better, indeed, it's worse than it was under the Eldridge administration. In fact, no member of the Commission, including the Mayor, even had anything to say about the poverty rate (beyond the usual platitudes) until enfant terrible Elton Dodson brought it up a few months ago.
It's great that they're at least finally acknowledging that (gasp!) there are poor people in Athens. But actions trump words every time. Now that our M&C have finally acknowledged that poverty is a persistent and pervasive problem in Athens, we need bold solutions. Athens is home to the state's flagship university. We'd bet (although we're biased) that Athens has more smart people per capita than any other city in Georgia. It's time to put those resources to work.
A good place to start, by the way, would be with public transportation, to which the M&C consistently gives short shrift. Or how about after-school programs, to keep kids out of trouble and save the parents a little bit on child care? Those don't have to funded or provided by the school district, by the way. Parks and Rec could do it too.
Bottom line is this. Heidi and the Commission (which would also, by the way, be a fantastic name for a band) have managed to sidestep the poverty issue for far too long. They're not going to get the help they need from Atlanta, at least not while the GOP is in power, and probably not even if the Democrats ran the show again. We have to be proactive on a community level before our state and federal governments will step in. It's a shame, but it's also the reality of the situation.
By the way, Heard hit the nail on the head when he said that there's no plan, no coordination. There are, as Heard mentioned, tons of groups - both governmental and NGOs - fighting poverty in Athens. But without coordination, they won't be as efficient as they can be. That's the job of the local government.
Finally, we'd make this point. Perhaps she was misquoted, perhaps she was misinterpreted, but for Heidi to imply that ACC can't do anything about poverty until the State Legislature gets its act together is disingenous, and we appreciate Keith Heard calling her out on that.
(No actual poor people or Commissioners were harmed in the writing of this post.)
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Just a few extra thoughts on yesterday's somewhat comprehensive analysis of Election 06. We got a few emails, and thought we'd just lump 'em all together.
Concerning Keith Heard's seat, we hear from an anonymous source that Piedmont College professor Holly Ward is considering a run if Heard steps down. Ward is very involved in the community (ACC Multicultural Task Force, Interfaith Hospitality Network, etc), but this would be her first run. She's also, given her background, probably pretty strong on education.
Insurance guy David Hamilton, who is running for States McCarter's seat, writes in to tell us (politely) that he's nobody's man but his own. Hamilton took some umbrage at our characterization of him as States' hand-picked successor. Fair point, but sometimes, all we know is what we read in the paper. In this case what we read in the paper was,
"McCarter still plans to resign his commission post at the end of 2006, and lined up a candidate, insurance man David Hamilton, a resident of the same subdivision, Cedar Creek, that McCarter lives in, to run in his place.
'I don't know him all that well, but I've been impressed with him,' McCarter said." [ABH, McCarter walks away from race, 9/13/05]
Again, a fair point from Hamilton, but the article does make it sound as though he was expressly recruited by States. Of course, never underestimate the ability of the Banana-Herald to distort or misquote. And of course, we'll reiterate that having States on your side in that race is a good thing, considering the political power that Cedar Creek can wield.
Lots of speculation about why Kemp is throwing his State Senate career down the tubes to run for Ag Commissioner. Here's our two cents. Kemp is making a pretty bold gamble here, and if his gamble pays off, you're going to be seeing a lot more of Kemp in the next few years. Y'see, Georgia's top industry is agriculture. Big farmers in Georgia have money, and representing their interests in Atlanta could lead to major donations for a future run at Lieutenant Governor (2010), Governor (2010 or 2014), Congress (whenever Norwood retires), or U.S. Senate (if Chambliss retires). In addition, if Kemp is looking at a future statewide run, then a statewide run on a down-ballot race like this is good practice. Finally, we'd point out that the Ag Commissioner's role in regulating the fuel industry could lead to some good campaign fodder for a statewide race. To sum up, Ag Commissioner is a better jumping-off point for a larger statewide run than State Senator from Athens is. Of course, Kemp's gamble is contingent on him winning, and with a pretty decent sized primary, plus a general election against the man who has been Ag Commissioner since farming was invented, that isn't exactly a sure bet.
Keep the tips rollin' in, kids. Email us here.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
- We'll start with an easy one. George Maxwell, David Lynn, and Kathy Hoard will win, even if there is opposition.
- In District 8, States McCarter has already hand-picked his successor (David Hamilton), and there's no one else in the race, although we expect that will change. Anyone know what Annette Nelson is up to these days? A smart candidate would be talking to the La Puerta del Sol folks and making some inroads into that organization, and we would predict that zoning is going to be the issue here. But Hamilton is the prohibitive favorite, since he'll be bringing the teeming masses of Cedar Creek along with him to the polls.
- District 9 is a toss-up, since there are no announced candidates yet. C'mon people, get it together.
- District 1 is going to be interesting. You've got James Garland (by the way, Blake, the elections are non-partisan, so should you really broadcast the candidates' party ID's? We're just sayin') who has been a consistent thorn in the Commission's side, as well as a frequent writer of letters to the ABH, and a former columnist for the now-defunct Athens Weekly News. To be honest, we don't know much about his opponent, Doug Lowry. If you do, drop us a line. Right now, we believe that this race is going to break for Garland. He's got experience as a candidate, connections within the community, and, even though the election is technically non-partisan, Garland will have the ACC Republican Party on his side. (Think the ACC Republicans are a joke? Think again. They pushed the nonpartisan elections referendum through, while the local Democrats sat around trying to increase Jane Kidd's majority.) Considering the ongoing moderation of District 1, as well as the non-partisan factor, we're predicting Garland wins by 5 points.
- In Mayoral action, no one knows whether Heidi Davison will run again or not, which makes making a prediction pretty tough. If she runs, we think she'll find that her base has, shall we say, eroded in the last four years. We're betting she knows that already, hence the hesitation to run. If Davison runs, look for a similar outcome to 2002, with a runoff between the incumbent and a challenger, with the incumbent losing. If Heidi bows out, it's anybody's guess. Tom Chasteen has decent name recognition, but also has managed to alienate the progressive, politically active base that he would need for a win. We don't know much about Keith Johnson or Charlie Maddox, although a friend of ours speaks very highly of Maddox. And that leaves us with Andy Rusk. Andy's the wild card in this race. He could be a spoiler, and say what you will about his "from-the-hip" style, he's got ideas and he's not afraid to use them. If Andy gets the right folks helping him out, folks who understand how to win on a shoestring and use grassroots action, then he has a shot at this thing.
- In State House District 115, incumbent Jane Kidd is stepping down to run for State Senate. (More on that later.) This is a safe Democratic seat, so the battle is in the primary between Doug McKillip and...well, maybe no one. Former state Rep. Scott Dix is mulling over a challenge, and minister Dan Maxey was in and then out. Democrat wins, but which Democrat is anybody's guess.
- In State House 114, things are starting to get interesting. Rumors abound that Keith Heard may retire, and confirmation abounds that if he does, former ACC Commissioner Alvin Sheats is running for the seat. Interesting dynamic to note: Sheats and current ACC District 3 Commissioner George Maxwell are not exactly buddy-buddy, so the normally taciturn Maxwell should be strongly courted for an endorsement by anyone who wants to run against Sheats. Of course, all of this is contingent on Heard's retirement. For what it's worth, unless he's got some skeletons that are about to pop out of the closet, we think he'll run again. If he does, he wins, and the status quo is preserved.
- In State Senate action, Jane Kidd, as mentioned above is running, as is her 2004 opponent for State House, Bill Cowsert (R). Here's the thing on this race. Kidd is a good legislator, but kind of a lackluster campaigner, and in this race, she doesn't have the luxury of ignoring the swing votes. The numbers in this district are neutral at best, possibly even leaning Republican, given Oconee County's high turnout. For what it's worth, we hope she will get a bump from a hard-working candidate for Congress (more on that later), but it probably won't be enough. Our prediction, Cowsert in a squeaker.
- Two Congressional races to watch, although only one represents Athens. We're concerned about John Barrow's chances in the new 12th Congressional District. The GOP wants the seat back, the Democrats want to keep it, but the new districting makes it lean a little more right (albeit still slightly Democratic) than in 04. Problem is, in a district that went about 55% Democratic, Barrow only got 51.8%. This could cause him some angst come next November against Max Burns. Right now, we predict Burns in a close one.
- In the 10th Congressional District, Charlie Norwood seems unstoppable but we're not so sure. We'll submit a comment that we posted earlier today to give you our take. Right now, it's Norwood's to lose, until a Democrat jumps in.
To answer the question a few comments ago, as to why Democrats should run far away from that particular district, I can tell you that the numbers aren't very encouraging, even with the addition of Athens to the district.
You've got two major metros in the district, Athens and Columbia County. While Athens is solid D, it usually breaks about 60-40, which isn't nearly enough to balance the votes coming out of Columbia County (suburban Augusta), which usually breaks about 75-25 for the GOP. That means that any Democrat running in the 10th will have to do extrememly well in Athens, and clean up un the North Georgia rural counties just to have a chance against the Columbia County GOP base. On top of that, add in the 10,000 or votes that are going to come out of Oconee County, and you can see why it's a daunting district for Dems.
Which isn't to say that the District isn't winnable by a Democrat. But, to win, the Democrat would have to be well-funded. I'd mention here that, from a fundraising standpoint, Norwood has not had serious competition since 1996 (David Bell was the Democrat then). His last challenger, Bob Ellis, raised a paltry $113K, which was the most anyone has raised since that 1996 race. In 2002, Norwood's challenger raised less than $20 (if memory serves), and in 98 and 2000, his challenger raised significantly less than $100,000.
So, show me a Democrat who is committed to spending hours every day for 11 months asking strangers for money, and I'll show you someone who can win that district, or at least make it interesting.
That's it for now, except to say this. If you are a candidate, or you know a candidate, put them in touch with us, ok?
Tom Tancredo would love Georgia right now, especially if he got to spend a few minutes with certain Republicans in the state legislature. We say all of that, because of this letter, which was in turn inspired by a rash of anti-immigrant bills (which probably won't be more than a panacea) that we'll be seeing under the Dome of Gold next year.
Look, it's easy to hate on illegal immigrants. The GOP (as well as more than a few folks in the other party) have done a good job of demonizing them. But that day laborer hanging out at Home Depot, or the mother of two who is cleaning chickens or cleaning hotel rooms is not the cause of our state's budget problems, and that's clear.
Just something to think about. Another thing to think about is this. We don't want to rehash the whole "We're all immigrants" rhetoric, because it's stale and getting hackneyed. But we would mention that we should be making it easier for people to become citizens, not harder.
Monday, November 07, 2005
We've lived in Athens all our lives, and indeed, one of your crack editorial staff lives in the district that Logan represented on the ACC Commission, but we're a little embarrassed to admit that we didn't know that Logan had also served in the State House.
The political history of Athens lost an icon yesterday.
Sunday, November 06, 2005
And there's some stuff going down in Oconee County and surrounding areas. The ABH writes it up here and here.
Also of note on a national scale, New Jersey Senator Jon Corzine looks poised to win the governor's chair in that state, and in Virginia, Democrat Tim Kaine has been surging close enough to Republican Jerry Kilgore to make it a down-to-the-wire race.
We'll be keeping an eye on those too.
Friday, November 04, 2005
"Dan Maxey has decided not to run. Now stay tuned for information on one Ron Dix, former State Rep from Lilburn, who was redistricted out. He's a recent convert to the democratic party, and has (according to rumour) moved here to prepare for a run in the 115th.
Repeat, Dan Maxey is NOT running, ignore those invitations to the kick off he's no longer holding on the 13th of November. He has family issues that are a priority right now, and will be around in a couple of years to see how whoever we elect is doing.. and maybe he'll run then."
Hey speaking of candidates, and all, here's a nice article about a candidate we like, Senor Andy Rusk. Pay special attention to Tom Chasteen getting all huffy. We're almost tempted to say, vote for Andy just to piss Tom off. Hilary hearts Andy (number 8 on the Hobbyhorse), and so does the R&B.
If we were going to make fun of Andy, in a friendly way, we'd make some comment about hoping that we have a police officer and an Indian chief running for Commission, so that we'd have the whole Village People set in our local government. But seriously folks, you'd better listen up to what Andy is saying. You'll find that it makes a lot of sense.
ABH letter writer drinks the Fair Tax Kool-Aid. My book is more credible than Barrow's study, sez he. Also from our Kool-Aid drinking friend, "Having read 'The FairTax Book,' it wasn't difficult for me to nail Barrow on each of his points."
Really? We thought Barrow's points, as you enumerated them in your letter were pretty sound. We notice that you didn't choose to publish your rebuttals to them.
Whatever. We tend to disagree with Barrow about as often as we agree with him, but this time he's right. The Fair Tax is anything but fair.
We're in the Money:
Athens rakes in a cool mil from the Agriculture Appropriations Bill. We're usually pretty loath to praise the GOP around here, but we call 'em as we see 'em, and Isakson and Doucheb-....err...Chambliss did well in bringing home the porky goodness.
Rumor has it:
That we might have a candidate running against Norwood soon. We know who it is, but we ain't telling, because they haven't decided.
Reality has it:
That Doug McKillip is going to get some primary challenge from one Dan Maxey. Details are still forthcoming, but apparently Mr. Maxey is fairly seasoned in the political arena, and is a retired Methodist minister.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
So now, is Kathy Hoard the animal cruelty Commissioner? We're not being snarky here. It's good to see her out there taking a stand, and we're pretty sure that this happens far more frequently than folks admit here in ACC. Good on her!
She writes about it here.
And, oh yeah. If you beat your animals, you're a douchebag. No ifs ands or buts. And you should go to jail, where a large man named Tony will make you into his bitch.
The ACC Commission, it occurs to us, is marginally progressive, at least in (campaign-season) words. But when it comes to action, they show a remarkable affinity for the status quo. Discuss.
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
But either way, be advised that, if three-laning passes and works, we will take credit for being in favor of it all along. If it passes and is a miserable failure, then we will ride the "I told you so" train.
It's a grand journalistic tradition, really. Don't say we never learned anything from the ABH.
Seriously, there have been good and compelling arguments on both sides of this one. And while right now, we're leaning against the three-laning, we're convincable. So convincable, in fact that this post was initially in favor of the three-laning, until we read safeashouses this morning. So feel free to try to convince us. Not that we have a vote or anything.
We'd also like to mention the really smart political move by the Chamber of Commerce. (We believe in giving credit where credit is due.) This is in reference to the insane amount of money that it's going to cost ACC to take over the Milledge-Pulaski corridor, and the Chamber suggests that instead, we take the money and devote it to public transportation. Smart political move from the Chamber, and that would have convinced us, except that we know that the M&C is teh suck when it comes to funding the Bus. Now that the Chamber is on record as such strong supporters of public transportation though, we do hope they'll continue to fight the good fight.
Of course, as any follower of Athens politics (the concept, not the blog) knows, now that the Chamber is in favor of public transportation, the M&C must violently oppose it.
Did the folks opposing the bill do a little venue shopping in order to find a friendly judge? Probably, yeah. Is Judge Murphy any less qualified, and is his court any less proper for the case? No.
Now I'm more than willing to let our legal editor address the legal arguments about judge shopping, but you should know that it isn't just a Democratic tactic.
Here's what's really disturbing. Faced with a court challenge, the proponents of this law have mounted an impressive public relations campaign. They've gone to great lengths to get their pundits and their talking heads, and their elected officials on television, on the radio, and in the print media. The approach has been fantastic, but the message leaves something to be desired.
You see, instead of taking the high road and giving their bill the type of issues-oriented defense that some of the more rational proponents believe it deserves, the GOP has taken to the airwaves to start a smear-bombing campaign against the judge, the appeals court, the groups who oppose the law, and apparently, the judicial system in general.
Here's the thing. If the GOP had actually attempted to defend their bill to the masses instead of attacking the judicial system and the judge that granted the injunction, they might have changed some people's minds. Instead, they made the conscious choice to come across sounding like a bunch of whiny toddlers after someone takes away their G.I. Joes. C'est las politics.
Hey Republicans, if your law is so good, then why can't it stand on the merits? Why the sleaze? Why the smear campaign?
We think we know the answer to that. As as been explained exhaustively in previous posts, the law doesn't have a Constitutional leg to stand on. The big brains in the GOP know this, and expecting the law to be struck down, they're doing a little pre-emptive damage control. If the law goes down in federal court, then they get one more notch on the GOP's anti-judicial bedpost (blame the activist judges), and a little more ammo to use in their continuing fight to emasculate the judicial system.
Sigh. Maybe the GOP has a point though. If only there were a way for them to have Judge Murphy's decision reviewed, in case he was biased, or if he granted the injunction on frivolous grounds...
Oh wait, there is. It's called the Court of Appeals, and you lost there too.
One has to wonder when the GOP attack machine is going to start laying into the 11th Circuit Judges that denied their appeal. Since said attack machine might have taken the weekend off to go to the Florida game or something, we're going to go ahead and do their work for them. These three appellate judges, all of them raging liberals, possibly even Socialists, really. Let's take a look at them. Judge Stanley Birch, appointed in 1990 by George Bush. Judge Joel Dubina, appointed in 1990, by George Bush. And of course, Judge Frank Hull, who actually was appointed by a Democrat (Bill Clinton in 1997). Of course, given how bad the GOP was at the time about stonewalling Clinton's nominee's, we have to assume that Hull was at least marginally palatable to the Republicans.
So there you have it. In fact, the background of these three judges, who ruled on the injunction, totally negates the point made by Walter Jones and the GOP, that politics have somehow played a role in this whole imbroglio. While the injunction was granted by a Carter appointee, it was upheld by two Bush appointees and a Clinton appointee. Or did the Clinton appointe work some sort of crazy Democratic judicial mind-control spookery on the other two? We're just waiting to hear that talking point.
Now speaking of Walter Jones, we also wanted to address some of his wackjobbery. Specifically, we wanted to talk about his somewhat subtle implication that if only our judges were elected, then venue shopping would just *poof* magically disappear. Now to those of us who live in the world of reason and logic, nothing could be more divorced from the truth. For instance, assume that you wanted to try a voting rights case in state court (not federal court as in this matter). And further assume that you had a choice between doing so in beautiful Athens, GA which went about 60% for Kerry, or beautiful Oconee County, which (to put it succintly) didn't exactly cotton on to Kerry. (FWIW, presidential performance is as good a way as any to get a rough idea of ideology in this situation) If you're trying to uphold voting rights, which will you choose? The answer's pretty obvious. If anything, it will make it easier to venue shop, by cutting down on the research one has to do. Of course, we already elect most of our local judges, and venue shopping is just as prevalent on the local level as on the higher levels, if not more so.
This is Republican politics at its finest. And the thing is, it shouldn't be political at all. The groups and people who oppose this law have, for the most part, tried to keep this thing where it belongs - in the courts, and off the front page, until a decision is made. The opponents will comment, but they aren't whoring themselves out to the media like a Bill Stephens or Glenn Richardson. (Friends under the Gold Dome tell us that the most dangerous place in Atlanta is between Glenn Richardson and a camera.) No, unfortunately, it's the Republicans who have chosen to make this into a political issue. It's the Republicans who won't debate on the merits, and insread choose to go into attack mode. And it's the Republicans who should be ashamed of themselves.
Just business as usual in the GOP.