Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Shameless Plug

Pretty slow newsday, so here we go with the shameless plug. I'll try and keep the grandstanding to a minimum.

My Campaign Kickoff Party is coming up on Friday, January 6th at Tasty World. Music starts at 8pm, or so.

Adam Musick (from Southern Bitch), Heath Tolleson (of Last Picture Show), and Mother Jackson will grace the stage, as will I.

Look forward to meeting any or all of the regular crowd here at AthPo.

The short, bullet-point version of my platform goes like this:

- The smoking ban (the totalitarian local one, anyway) is bullshit. (go ahead and ask me why)

- The eastside needs more mixed-use development.

- Local enforcement of erosion-control ordinances at construction sites is abysmal, and MUST be improved.

- Improved mass transit and alternate transportation are neccessary to keep Athens growing within the boundaries of her land-use plan.

- Rental registration is un-American. If you can afford the rent, you get to live anywhere you want. That's freedom, baby.

- Students are people too. As are the nefarious, undesirable small business owners who generate millions of dollars in tax revenue selling alcohol downtown.( Too bad they make such great scapegoats.)

- The hospitality industry is a great way to bring money and jobs to Athens. Heavy industry is not.

- A minimum wage hike would do wonders for the working poor in ACC.

- We squander our civic moneys on brick crosswalks and fancy new green signs downtown. Meanwhile, the homeless shelter faces closure from a $60,000 shortfall. That's unacceptable.

- Money spent on art/music/PE/ etc. in k-12 education is money well spent. Sure, literacy is fundamentally more important, but school is fundamnetally boring. Any program we got that'll keep kids from sniffing airplane glue is worth its weight in... airplane glue.


Adrian said...

I guess a blog about politics in Athens is the place to ask it: Don't you think avoiding words like "bullshit" is a better way to be persuasive?

I agree with all points of your platform except favoring the hospitality industry over "heavy industry." The way I see it, hospitality involves a lot of restaurant servers, night auditors, and custodians who often make far less than a living wage. Manufacturing, on the other hand, often provides jobs with benefits that frequently pay over $10 an hour. Of course, plants have to be run in a way that doesn't seriously pollute, and I wonder if the whole stink over CertainTeed is a concern you have on this point. Really, though, it's a moot point because manufacturers are leaving Athens in droves and trying to find replacements would be a waste of resources. But if a manufacturer wants to locate or expand in Athens, we need to do all we can to encourage it (at no adverse cost to our community). The middle class in Athens is pretty weak, and the small number of manufacturers here is a major reason.

Jmac said...

Andy, I plan on being there at your kickoff bash.

Like Adrian, I wonder about using 'bullshit.' I know you're trying to be frank, but you're going to garner a handful of votes with that. It's the John McCain fascination - folks like a straight-talker until it's time to elect them.

And, I think only a handful of people would possibly disagree with the base of your platform (save, perhaps, rental registration and the smoking ban) - but my question is how are you going to do it? What is your plan, for instance, to further develop the hospitality industry? How are you going to increase the minimum wage in Athens-Clarke County ... and do you even know if local government has that power?

I don't mean to pose these questions in a harsh or negative way - and I imagine you're either working on developing plans of action or already have them - but it is important to know how to achieve your goals, as well as how to work with others (particularly in light of the commission) of how to achieve them.

hillary said...

Y'all two are a couple of pussies, you know that? Let Andy be Andy. If people don't want to vote for him because he uses an extremely mild expletive, they're probably not going to want to vote for him anyway.

Dawg Corleone said...

Hillary is right about bullshit, but then I would say that if anyone knows about bullshit, it is Hillary. :)

Neither Andy nor any other mayor can do much about the "living wage." Raising the minimum wage will, in fact, put more money in the hands of minimum wage workers--those who still have work, which won't be as many.

But I have to wonder about any economic policy that is based on catering to the minimum wage losers. How's about we base some economic strategy on faciliting the winners, or--God forbid--creating more of them or at the very least not punishing them. There's a candidate I'll listen to.

Jmac said...

I'll let Andy be Andy ... and watch him collect 17 votes if he's lucky.

I've got nothing against him saying 'bullshit' or whatever. It doesn't offend me in the slightest. I'm just saying that's not going to win him a lot of votes. More than four million voters stayed home in 2000 because George Bush was once arrested for a DUI, so people are that petty.

Plus, forgive me if I don't want to vote for a candidate who merely says 'the smoking ban is bullshit.' Well, yeah ... I feel exactly the same way, but I can articulate why I feel that way. My main contention is for him - or whoever - to tell me what you want to do about it and why you feel the way you do ... and you can do it in whatever language you see fit - be it swearing or speaking in iambic pentameter.

And Corleone ... must be nice to live in your ivory tower where people who look and act different than you are 'losers.'

Dawg Corleone said...

You are right. It is unfair to describe minimum wage earners as "losers." Some of them are merely "starters," and all of them are "workers." So shame on me.

My larger point remains: we shouldn't base our economic strategy on those folks.

chris hassiotis said...

But I have to wonder about any economic policy that is based on catering to the minimum wage losers.

The losers who are absolutely essential to just about every aspect of our current economic model, you mean?

Dawg Corleone said...

I mean exactly them. We should be focusing our policies on the people who hire them. Without job creators, there are no jobs at any wage.

monticello_pres said...

I think candidates like Andy - and I will add some small print that I don't know much about him other than his dad and this post - but candidates like my perception of him are good for the process. But he will only hurt his chances for collecting votes by using "bullshit" and rolling out "Southern Bitch" at the party. Doesn't offend me, but truth is truth.

As for minimum wage helping the working poor - it might help some. But it will hurt the others that become jobless. Costs are rising and this would push some employers over the edge. It would, quite frankly, force some to eliminate positions and make the workforce "lean".

As for the smoking ban, who has more rights? A smoker or a non-smoker? Check one.

Rental registration - seems a bit overreaching even if I like the intended outcome.

Erosion control - improvements would be good. How do we improve?

I'll read more when I'm off the clock. But I appreciate Andy's thoughts and civic involvement even if I don't agree with his entire platform. Nothing like keeping some folks honest and/or accountable, you know.

As a post script - I will vote for hillary... even knowing nothing of his/her political ideology.

Ned said...

I think we are plenty nice to 'job creators' in this state. We arrest 31 day laborers(These people make it harder for legal workers to get construction jobs), but we don't do shit to the contractors and developers who illegally hire foreign nationals to do work for them everyday. America also pays CEOs and management crazy amounts of money compared to other financially prosperous nations. Look at how much money all the Delta executives got paid while running the company into the ground. If you think 'job creators' here have it hard, you should look at other countries to see how good American business people have it.

And yet if you look at the working class in this country, they are much worse off than their European counterparts. As long as someone is working and is contributing to our society/community, we should treat them like a valuable member of our society. We are always going to need people to pick up our trash, mow our lawns and serve us food at restaurants. If we treat them with respect and dignity and pay them enough money so that they can have some nice things in life we will all be better off. If we pay people crap wages and exploit them, all of a sudden a life of crime doesn't seem too bad, and then we get to pay 40k a year just to keep them locked up.

Any business model that involves paying employees as little as possible isn't really a good business if you ask me.

hillary said...

Damn straight, Ned.

Also, yay! I have one vote toward my eventual socialist paradise.

First person who finds someone who wouldn't vote for Andy largely because he calls bullshit bullshit gets a cookie.

DoubleDawgDareYa said...

Awesome. A post thread littered with the words "bullshit" and "pussies". Bring it on, FCC bitches!

I don't have time to do a real post, so I'll simply respond to all of the above with the following:

I am in about 85-90% agreement with Andy and Hillary.
I am in about 30-35 % with Monticello.
I am in 100% agreement with Ned, and 0% with dawgcorleone (well, ok, maybe 1-2%; I agree with his admission that he shouldn't call the bulk of the American labor force "losers"; but then again he basically rescinded it one sentence later, so nah, still 0%).

Jmac said...

Good clarification Corleone, and my apologies for my snark.

First person who finds someone who wouldn't vote for Andy largely because he calls bullshit bullshit gets a cookie.

Try either the membership rolls of a fundamentalist church here in town or any senior center. Again ... I'm not saying it's right to base your vote on that, but it's probably going to happen at least once. People base votes on surface judgements all the time, so it won't be a surprise if someone - someone - decides not to vote for Andy because of his language.

Silly? Sure. But that's the world we live in.

And Ned, I like what you say, but I do see some truth to what Corleone was suggesting. Fostering policies which encourage businesses to hire and pay their employees better wages, is a good thing ... as is punishing them when they break the rules.

Adrian said...

The platform position that "A minimum wage hike would do wonders for the working poor in ACC" could be recast in a more flexible, uncontroversial way. As much as workers deserve a minimum wage hike, I wouldn't touch that one because so many people are against it, and even if there was some kind of local minimum wage law then it would probably become applied very unfairly after all the loopholes that would have to be put in it in order to get it passed. This platform position may be more successful if cast as a goal of simply helping wages get raised generally, whether through a minimum wage law or other means. The truth is that a lot of jobs pay above minimum wage, but not enough to sustain a livelihood, and any version of a local minimum wage that would actually pass might get watered down with such a low minimum that it would hardly make a difference -- and in isolated cases an employer might lower some wages in order to raise others to the minimum. The truth is also that I would vote for someone who at least tries to get local leaders talking more about the wage issue. (I acknowledge that tempering your position too much and making it vague in order to please people also sounds like "bullshit.")

Let me tell you guys something about job creators -- there are all kinds. Depending on the industry and type of business, Corleone is right -- some do need the encouragement and freedom to firmly establish their businesses. But there are local business owners who own multiple homes and have millions in the bank but still balk at giving a loyal employee a $3000 raise just to put him over 30 grand a year, which is a small-scale reflection of the unreasonableness of large corporations in their compensation schemes.

hillary said...

Try either the membership rolls of a fundamentalist church here in town or any senior center. Again ... I'm not saying it's right to base your vote on that, but it's probably going to happen at least once. People base votes on surface judgements all the time, so it won't be a surprise if someone - someone - decides not to vote for Andy because of his language.

Dude. I really doubt he's counting on the votes of seniors or fundamentalists. The question is: would they have really thought about voting for him to begin with.

Ned said...

Jmac - I doubt you will find someone at a senior center or fundamentalist church who will vote for Andy. They will vote for the Status Quo and Andy is as far from that as possible. Does Andy's use of the word Bullshit bring in voters that would not normally vote at all? I'd have to guess that there will be people who didn't plan on voting for a Mayor casting votes for Andy when election time rolls around because he didn't water down his language.

I am all about fostering policies that encourage companies to pay their employees better. I am also very adament and punishing companies and business owners that break/skirt the rule of the law for their own financial gain. It makes it very hard for a construction company that uses local(legal) labor to build a house when competing against a firm that hires immigrant labor when the end result is a house that probably looks and functions the same regardless of who builds it, but the legal one costs 15-20k more.

Personally I don't mind the idea of migrant workers coming from places if the local supply of labor is not good, but we now have an additional burden of providing education and services for illegal workers who make it harder for legal workers and law-abiding companies to prosper. It would probably be very stunning to the residents of Athens if we were able to count the number of illegal workers in the NEGA region and look at how much tax revenue is lost because they are all paid under the table.

I don't know if a minimum wage hike will have the desired effect of increasing the quality of life for the lower income portion of Athens, but I do believe low income housing and other services to make life cheaper for poor people could do a lot to help. I'd like to see a part of town with small apartments(like they have in Japan), with free internet and free basic cable. $800 dollars isn't a lot of money, but with the right support it is more than enough to live on. We just need to build the right environment to support people making that kind of money.

Finally - as far as job creation is concerned, I feel like Athens really needs to step up as far as promoting the town as a good environment for people who can work anywhere. We have a relatively low cost of living and a great community. There are many people in this world who make decent money and can afford to work anywhere because of the internet. I'd love to see more people moving here and working for companies far away.

Anonymous said...

Wow - this is great, y'all. Keep it up. Sell tickets to an Athens Politics Grudge match wrestling contest. I like Andy and his dad. Been trying to talk his dad into running against Norwood for year.

Jmac said...

Sweet merciful crap ... we're overscrutinizing here ...

Dude. I really doubt he's counting on the votes of seniors or fundamentalists. The question is: would they have really thought about voting for him to begin with.

He may not be counting on the votes, but it's impossible to know if a fundamentalist or senior citizen would have not voted for him. There is a distinct possibility that someone might be turned off to the gruff language (just as someone, as Ned pointed out, might be more inclined to vote for him ... though I think the percentages of who would be are substantially smaller than those who wouldn't be). And the original question wasn't about the likely Andy Rusk voter, but the likely voter ... just saying.

Plus, Adrian's initial comment was whether or not such language was really that persuasive. If Andy wants to actually win the post of mayor - and I think he does - it would seem that he's going to have to reach out and build a consensus that is at least 35 percent of the voting population in order to force a run-off ... and that means being persuasive with some groups who are open to your positions, but not entirely sold on you yet. True enough, such straight talk may in fact win him over, but it also may very well turn them off.

Again, my whole contention is that we've gotten the surface of where he stands, but nothing of substance yet. He supports some ideas which are good in theory - less poor people, less government intrusion - but how are we going to get there. That was my original criticism, and I just echoed Adrian's comments in a purely political prism.

Jmac said...

I guess look at it this way ...

If Andy had a base of 60 percent of likely voters that was staunchy loyal to him, he could say whatever he wanted and not have to worry about it. But he's got a base of, being generous, possibly 10 percent of the likely voters (based on his age, name recognition and views). So Andy's going to have to reach out and persuade other groups in order to be competitive.

hillary said...

I just echoed Adrian's comments in a purely political prism

I know. It's not like I don't know where you're coming from, but a) this is a local race and hopefully subject to less scrutinizing and careful message formulating than national ones, and b) I happen to find it refreshing as fuck that there's a candidate who both has a platform (loosely defined as it may be right now, which was admitted up front) I kinda like and doesn't talk like my grandma. The first part of that is the important one. The second part is just gravy. But gravy is good.

hillary said...

So Andy's going to have to reach out and persuade other groups in order to be competitive.

Right. With policies. Not by ignoring who he is.

DoubleDawgDareYa said...

Yes! Now we've got "fuck" in the mix too! Now we just need someone to expose a breast briefly. Anyone?

I forgot to mention my approval % for JMac; hmmm....I'm torn between hillary and Jmac on the point that they're arguing about, so I'll say 80% agreement with JMac.

hillary said...

I believe there are plenty of nice ladies on the internet who could help you with that.

Anonymous said...

The smoking ban is a done deal. It's awesome. We can all actually go out for a drink or a game of pool and A - we can exercise the fundamental right of BREATHING and B our clothes don't smell like manure when we get home. By the way, the smoking ban is something (like many of Andy's other points) that the COMMISSIONERS vote on. The mayor is not Dictator of Athens. Sure, Andy is naive, but that's what we need, more idealistic naive folks to run for office.

ned said...

If the smoking ban is so awesome and everyone loves it, why didn't these people band together and open up bars and restaurants that were smoke free? There was more than enough opportunity using the free market to create non-smoking environments, but instead a no-smoking ban was forced upon everyone. I don't smoke and I don't plan on smoking, but I respect the right of a bar owner to allow patrons to smoke there, just as much as I respect the right of a bar owner to prevent patrons from smoking.

And just so you know, before the ban even passed you could have gone play a game of pool at the Tate Center (no smoking there), and then you could have headed to a non-smoking bar(Hole in the wall was non-smoking, right?) to enjoy your evening. I'll steal a line from Andy in order to keep this comment section on topic: Nothing in a bar is healthy. And the smoking ban does hurt downtown bar owners financially, which is not nice to a group of people who make Athens a lot of fun to live in.

Anonymous said...

Been talking to Andy's dad for years about running for: State Senate, County Commission, State Senate again 2 years later, House of Reps, and then House of Reps again. Something tells me he's even less likely to jump into a congressional battle in the new 9th, but hey what do I know?

Xavier said...

Sounds good, Andy. I posted a link to your "shameless plug" on AthensStuff.com. Also, you're welcome to join us on the morning show sometime. You can get our contact info from hot1007.com if you're interested.

andyrusk said...

Good gracious. I go away and remodel a house for nine hours and look at what I come back to. I kinda feel like I abandoned my post, but geez, you folks sure got a lot of mileage out of what I had to say.

Reckon I can address some things, although addressing everything would take all night. Here goes:

1. Yeah, I use the word bullshit when describing some of the stuff our elected leaders come up with. Maybe it'll cost me some votes, but I call it as I see it.

Dick Cheney told a congressman to "f*** himself". At least I'm not that rude.

2. Heavy Industry versus Hospitality Industry.

Okay, a skilled technician working in a plant makes more money than a door guy at the Manhattan. But the Manhattan is locally owned and operated, as is virtually every bar and a good number of restuarants here. The hospitality industry is a rather level playing field; local small businesses can be competitive, and when they are, the money stays here in town. Profits don't get shipped off to a home office in Grand Rapids, or France.

Favoring Hospitality Ind. does not preclude Athens from allowing Hvy. Ind. as well, but tourist dollars are environmentally friendly, and get spread around all over town.

As for the Certainteed expansion, I don't like the idea. We live in the smallest county in GA. If ACC starts filling up with smokestacks, we'll have a lot more to worry about second-hand smoke.

3. Ditto Ned on the smoking ban. Where were all the non-smoking bars before the ban? I'm not going to debate the rights of non-smokers versus smokers. I'm more interested in protecting the rights of competent adults to CHOOSE.

There's also a business issue at hand- Under the current ban, bars with big outside seating areas have benefitted unfairly over those without. Again, the state ban was enough- why's we go so far?

4. I don't think my Dad's up for running for anything. He's got lots of fishing to catch up on.

5. Yeah, I know the mayor can't vote. That's cool. What the Mayor DOES have is the ability to speak and be heard above the din; unfortunately a rare thing in this country sometimes.

6. Southern Bitch is the name of the band. Take it up with them. Or Cheney.

7. Ditto Ned on minimum wage, too. Mostly.
Can we do anything about that locally? I'll get back to you on that. I was making the point to show where my sympathies lie.

The current M.W. is $5.15 or $5.25, something like that. It's been that much since I was 15, working for minimum wage. Minimum wage has got to increase with inflation. If it falls too far behind, well, the poor get poorer.

Virtually every industry sees COLA's. The low man on the totem pole needs 'em too.


As far as writing our fiscal policy around the "minimum wage losers"... certainly you don't suggest that they should be ignored? If everybody who makes less than $7.00 an hour just disappeared tomorrow, this country would grind to a halt.

Job Creators vs. the working man

It's that old "the chicken or the egg" chesnut.

Refer to the forward in Owen Wister's "The Virginian" for an excellent summation.

8. I couldn't begin to guess at what percentage of what demographic I appeal to.

Do I think I stand a chance at winning?

The odds are against me, and I recognize that. I'm running against career politicos with deep pockets.

All the same, not a day passes that I don't make the acquaintance of some stranger who heard me on the radio, or read about me in the paper, and liked what I had to say.

Do I think I can win? Absolutely, but it will be a hard fight.

Hey, I'm honest, I work hard, I show up on time and sober, I never went AWOL from the Texas Air National guard, I've never lied to Congress, and I do love this town.

I reckon that makes me moderately electable.

Anonymous said...

it's not the policy and platform statments or even the word bullshit that present the biggest problems for Andy - it's his lack of understanding of the role of Mayor.

it don't matter a truckload of bullshit whether the Mayor likes the smoking ban or rental regulation or mandatory pink flip-flops on Tuesday afternoons - it's the commissioners that decide all that so, he really just looks kinda silly at this point.

Anonymous said...

Yes all should take of clothes and have a downtown fuck party.yes fuck like wild pigs to save the land.

hillary said...

Dude. Why isn't "Anonymous" running for mayor?

I think Andy understands the role of the mayor just fine. He's made it clear multiple times that it's largely a figurehead position with the power to bring certain issues to the attention of the commission.

Dawg Corleone said...

Maybe Anonymous. Maybe it's Keith Johnson, or Tom Chasteen or even Heidi Davison.

Though my guess would be it's Rick DeRose.

Adrian said...

The mayor does vote in the case of a tie. There are ten commissioners. The mayor presides over meetings, which influences agenda setting and debate. (The mayor decides whether Carl Jordan gets to speak for additional time.) Who's naive?

Jmac said...

One of my favorite headlines which never happened - and probably wouldn't have happened if he had won - but should have was, if DeRose won ...

'Smelling like DeRose'

It was insanely funny on deadline for some reason.

Of course, when Perdue won I lobbied strongly for 'Whoa Sonny!' primarily because we were all shouting it in overly gruff voices and because we had a ridiculous picture of Perdue with a slightly crossed eye and a goofy smile.

Needless to say, I lost on both.

gap said...

Thanks for talking about the Hospitality industry in Athens Andy. The industry (at least on the Hotel side) is growing very rapidly and creating good jobs. Millions of dollars are created from Occupancy tax that go to the general fund and support above minnimum wage jobs at the Classic Center. Hospitality jobs in Athens pay well over the minnimum wage. I would say close to 50% higher based on my last (informal) wage survey. It is also a good industry to take people with marginal or entry level skills and allow them to advance and become successful in a field that will always have demand. The commission has recently discussed raising the Occupancy tax in Athens to 8%, making it the highest tax rate in the state of Georgia. This proposed tax increase is supposed to fund capital improvements and maintenance for the Classic Center. Dealing with this issue first hand, I am opposed to it. Where do you stand Andy?

andyrusk said...

I don't honestly know much about the Occupancy Tax issue. I will say this about the Classic Center, though; it's a helluva nice facility, staffed by some very competent folks (in my experience anyhow) they have some great events there (The Classic Film Festival for one), and raise a pile of their own money selling tickets to those events. Could the Classic Center be self sustaining? Probably not. But, allow me to draw an analogy from the hotel business; every hotel/motel room that stands empty at the end of the day is money lost. Maybe what the classic center needs is more activity to raise the needed funds.

In short- I'm not a big fan of robbing Peter to pay Paul, which is what we're doing if we tax hotels just because they're hotels, and we need money elsewhere.

It's like the 3.5% Excise tax on liquor drinks: The city needed some dough to clean up the mess left on sidewalks Fri/Sat nights, and also for the PD, who handles all the drunks. Never mind that the mess is principally BEER bottles, and these drunks are getting drunk on a lot more than mixed drinks.

It was easier to throw a blanket over one group of businesses and hit them up for money arbitrarily than it was to find a truly creative solution to the problem. Like taxing every drop of alcohol sold, PERIOD.

But then, you hit a whole new speedbump.

Restuarants serving beer/wine don't pay the tax. Neither do liquor stores.

They taxed the barmen cause they could get away with it; nobody went to bat for 'em. Try taxing restaurants and liquor stores, too, and the M&C would've hit some serious opposition.

The storm water utility fund goes the other way. Everybody with a roof and a driveway gets taxed just a little, based on square footage, rather than heavily taxing those properties that pose the greatest environmental impact threat. What gives?

Know I've strayed a little off topic, but ask yourself, who will go to bat for the hotels/motels in town?

"When they taxed the barmen, I didn't speak up cause I wasn't a barman. When they taxed the hotel owner, I didn't...."

Just my thoughts on the subject for now. Shoot me some info about the Occupancy tax if you want. andrewrusk@hotmail.com

andyrusk said...

Been thinking about it, and I imagine the reasoning behind the plan to raise the occupancy tax went like this:

"We need money to turn the Classic Center into a real nice convention center that's going to make a lot of money. Where can we get the dough? Well, who's gonna benefit the most when the CC starts really drawing 'em in? Hmm.......I got it- Hotels! Let's raise their taxes so we can make the neccessary improvements. They'll thank us in the end!"

Kind of a circular argument. Especially since making it more expensive to lodge conventioneers in this town might keep said conventions away, even if the Classic Center becomes a real top-of-the-line facility.

Just my .02.

gap said...

The Classic Center is a great facility and your point about the added expense of tax does drive conventioneers away. If we could find a way to find funds for the long term growth for the Classic Center without over taxing the occupants of our Hotels it would be ideal. By the way, I'm spending Christmas in Alaska and there is no indoor smoking!

andyrusk said...

Great part of the country! I was born in Anchorage and lived in Nome 'til I was five. I'll bet you a strong cup of coffee that there's smoking in the bars in Nome, although you still don't have to check your pistols at the door.

JB said...

I think I'm just might vote for Andy Rusk. Unlike Mrs. Davidson, Andy Rusk listens to people. Something as simple as that could make or break an election. I met the mayor, and I though she was a snob to my proletariate blood. Proletariate I might be, but I vote and I lot of time to wark on any campaign I want. Proletariate I am, but I know people, and I have great people skills. On of my best friends is Dan Mathews, who is the Chair of the Occonee Democratic Party, a person who never snobs anyone.

Intrepid said...

Just catching up with all of this...an interesting discussion, to be sure. I'd like to add two things, and I'll try to be brief.

First, whoever is the next Mayor needs to clean up the incredibly incompetent and corrupt Athens Police Department. It's really out of hand. Given what I know about these matters, I'm surprised that the Feds haven't stepped in to clean house. These people work for the citizens of Athens and report to the Mayor, and thusfar Mayor Heidi has shown that she simply doesn't have the political or moral will to stand up to them. There's some very serious shit going on, and has been for years, and it's time for it to stop. If people knew the truth, most everyone would be outraged, regardless of political affiliation.

Second, Athens-Clarke County needs to lay off pot smokers. There, I said it. I'm talking about simple possession, first offense type situations, in which no other crime is involved. Do people realize that these days in ACC, if you're lucky, that'll get you one entire year of supervised probation, 75 hours of community service, over 1000 dollars in fees and fines, multiple DUI-type classes that are completely irrelevant to the "crime" at hand, and multiple urine tests? Again, this is if you're lucky. Do people realize that most of these penalties are outsourced to a private company called "Maximus" (I kid you not), which has been in major trouble in other states for improprieties? Do people realize that Maximus is a publicly traded, for-profit company, and that "justice" is being administered through them? The county's contract with Maximus is a closely-guarded secret, as is much else in this county that should be a matter of public record. Now, I realize that it's not within any Mayor's power to "legalize it," but just as with the police situation, a leader with a strong political will could make a major difference. Get rid of Maximus, reduce the penalties for first-time simple possession to a ticket and a fine and let the county keep the money instead of paying it back out to Maximus. It would free up the police, those that aren't corrupt as hell anyway, to concentrate on real crime and genuine drug problems, and would free up the Municipal Court for other business. It would also put money in the county coffers. This is no longer a liberal/conservative issue...it's a matter of common sense, and practicality, and in fact many, many true conservatives are all for legalizing at least some currently illicit drugs.

Any positions on these matters, Andy? Sorry to be so long-winded.