Friday, January 20, 2006

Serendipity, Baby!

We love it when serendipity helps us create content.  Case in point, I was walking around downtown on my way to lunch yesterday and thinking about some local races, especially the campaign for the 9th district here in ACC.  (Tom Chasteen’s current seat, which he’s giving up to run for Mayor, if you’re scoring at home.)

I remember thinking to myself, dag, I wish Ed Vaughn would run for something.  And lo and behold, in the news today, we see this.  So, Ed Vaughn joins Alvin Sheats in the race for supercommissioner from District 9.

If you don’t know Ed, don’t judge him just by the fact that he ran as a Green back in the day.  In fact, Ed renounced his Green Party ties to us about a year ago.  Ed’s a good guy, and he knows the issues.  He’ll be a good candidate, and we think that he’ll end up impressing a lot of folks before this thing is done.  

Also in serendipity news is a little thing about the Chamber.  I was just mentioning to a friend who reads the blog that I thought the Chamber as a whole was getting a bad rap lately here on AthPo, due in large part to their backing of the redistricting.  Now, this runs counter to everything that you might expect to hear out of AthPo, but buckle your seatbelts – I’m about to kind of defend the Chamber.

The Chamber of Commerce is just like any other community group, at least in one respect.  You’ve got the members who pay their dues but don’t participate in much, and you’ve got those members that are hyper-involved – the ones who come to everything and usually bring baked goods too.  As the wise folks say, decisions are made by those who show up, and the case is no different here.  

The problem is, the people who show up do have a political agenda.  And they make sure that the decisions that they get to make reflect that agenda.  So, in our opinion, the Chamber itself has been hijacked by a handful of political activists who would rather spend their time and resources playing politics than practicing business.  They’ve brought in a paid staff who reflects those priorities as well.  

But do the views of the powerful handful of business owners who call the shots reflect the views of every member of the Chamber?  Not by a long shot.  In fact, we would imagine that most of the Chamber members don’t care one flip about politics, and they just joined the Chamber for the networking.  We would also imagine that there are quite a few members who are pretty disgusted with the whole thing, as the writer of today’s letter is.  

For those folks, we have to throw some of the blame on them as well.  You can get disgusted and walk away, or you can work inside the organization that you joined, and make it what you want it to be.  We would rather see the latter, but a number of Chamber members are choosing the former – perhaps not giving up their membership, but certainly disengaging themselves from the day-to-day business of the Chamber.

It’s unfortunate, because when you walk away, you’re just giving the handful of hijackers more power to determine how they want you, as a member of the group, to be seen in the community.  

There once was an alternative Chamber of Commerce in Athens.  We wonder what happened to that?


Dawg Corleone said...

Heard him on the radio Monday. Smart enough guy, but a bit out there.

gap said...

To disagree with Mr. Evans I don't believe that the Chamber represents "national chains and regional corporations" Most national chains in Athens are owned by franchisees anyway. I think that a core group of powerful and influential individuals who have been in ACC for a long time are piloting the ship over at the COC. They are not bad people but they are involved in politics and the COC is an arm to forward their agenda. From what I've observed, I don't think that their agenda is greatly different from the majority of the members.

Politics directly related to business issues are what the chamber is supposed to be involved in. However, politics for politics sake (splitting the district) will alienate some members.

Publius said...

Ed's good people, Dawg. He's very passionate, but he's not your typical "safe" politician. He says what he thinks, often to his detriment.

Leaving out for the moment that Ed is knowledgable and passionate, I also think the Commission would be a lot more fun with Ed's voice there.

Dawg Corleone said...

Fun? Definitely agree with that. I always root for--and somtimes vote for--the cranks and crackpots (no disrespect to Ed. He actually sounded a few themes that probably would be offensive to some local liberals. Re poverty he said creation of wealth and not redistribution of wealth was the answer).

DoubleDawgDareYa said...

How about a redistribution of the opportunity to create wealth? (just tossing this one out for everybody to jump on like little debate-vultures...enjoy).

I don't really know as much about Ed as my co-editor does, but I imagine it would have to be an improvement over Chasteen (although it would be little consolation for Chasteen being Mayor).

Anonymous said...

No doubt about it Ed is a sweetie, and more progressive than Alvin Sheats. Not that that's saying much. But I'm hoping and praying that Jim Ponsoldt decides to run again. I know his politics really well, and he is not a freak.
Hey, how bout that for a slogan? lol Seriously, Ed is well intended but just strange enough to really turn some people off, including me. He's very very aggressive, pushy, bossy, judgemental, loud (I think he has hearing problems) and driven, all traits which just might get him elected, even if they annoy the crap out of everone along the way.


monticello_pres said...

I have known about Ed's existence for all of 11 1/2 hours, so I do not know much about him. Blake went out of his way to point out his ties (or former ties per AthPro) to the Green Party. And there are a few quotes.

Having said that, I do like his thoughts on creation of wealth as opposed to redistribution of wealth. Aside from the socialistic characteristics of redistribution, it's obvious really. I seem to recall some parable of giving fish versus teaching to fish. And it makes sense to me.

As for double's Rainbow-Push-Coalition-like comment regarding the "opportunity to create wealth" I don't even know where to start. Probably should start with a deep breath and another Bass. But I'll jump in at the point that our tax dollars go towards giving that opportunity through education.

Education is free, it's available, and it's right freakin' here. One must even physically jump out of the way to avoid receiving.

So we can sit around and debate the next wanna-feel-good-and-come-up-with-the-magic-potion idea. Or we can throw more tax dollars towards a particular school or school district. Or we can assign some arbitrary percentage of how those funds are spent in the classroom. Heck, let's also assign how the out-of-classroom dollars are spent. We need administrators (5%), counselors (5%), rent-a-cops (10%), lunches (10%), sports stuff (5%), and a few more fur coats for Linda Schrenko (5%). << I know that's 105% if you start from the magic 65% in-class money, but that's how I have perceived government to calculate budgets. >>

The bottom line is that if a student reads the pages their teacher assigns, if they do their homework, and if they show up 17 days out of 20 each month (without sleeping more than 10 minutes in each class), life turns out better than the alternative. Period. No matter how much money we spend.

Matter of fact, it's interesting that Georgia reportedly spends $16k per student. I heard that number in the Gold dome recently - so I assume it to be correct. My kids' private school receives between $4k and $6k per student and our first graders are outperforming A-CC 4th graders in reading comprehension and basic math skills. It's also interesting, to compare public-to-public scenarios, that Atlanta city spends $2k more per student than does Gwinnett County. Yet where do you suppose education is better received/absorbed/transfered?

You know, it really is amazing how well that personal responsibility arguement fits into so many debates.

(Footnote: As a member of the Chamber and having been to exactly 0 meetings in the past 2 years, I agree with Publius. It has been hi-jacked by a few politically active zealots and is running its course as such. And we... other members like myself... should get involved to try to break that momentum.)

Adrian said...

Yeah, a quick browsing through the online membership directory will reveal quite a diversity of people paying dues to the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce. Its president doesn't speak for its members any better than Heidi Davison speaks for Athens residents or Michael Adams speaks for students or employees at UGA.

Anonymous said...

You know, I was at that wee protest at the Chamber, and spoke to a local luminary at some length... he said exactly what you guys are saying, that it isn't the rank and file Chamber members that are behind this move, or were behind the Ralph Reed fundraiser for their pac. Why on earth aren't the artsy fartsy vegetarian some of my best friends are gay and black cool left wing members of the Chamber doing anything about these awful folks?
I know they can't change the Chamber at the national level, or even the state, but for goodness sakes, they ought to see by now that it's not okay to let these foks have the run of the organization. It's making them all look like right wing looney tunes!

DoubleDawgDareYa said...

Wow, that's the first time I've been accused of being Jesse Jackson-esque. Feels kinda weird, and I suddenly have an urge to speak in rhyming nonsense. I'll try to refrain, though.

Sorry that I led you to drinking.

Tax dollars go toward education! Holy shit! I'm glad you pointed that out to me, because I really didn't know how government worked or anything before you enlightened me.

Of course public school education is free and available, but it kinda sucks. We've gotta make it better if it's gonna prepare people to create wealth.

But what I was really getting at was the fact that it takes a certain amount of wealth in order to generate more. The best high school education, or even a college degree, won't enable you to start a business, e.g., if you have no start-up capital. You can't attain the wealth that comes from owning your own home unless you can make the down payment. You can't get the college degree in the first place to get the high paying job if you can't afford college.

I know that there are already government programs in place to address all of this issues (SBA loans, HUD loans, student loans), but they all involve, guess what, wealth redistribution. So my only point was that it sounds fine and dandy to say "create more wealth, don't redistribute it," but then you have to get into the nuts and bolts of how to do that. And more often than not, one finds you have to have money to make money.

hillary said...

Aside from the socialistic characteristics of redistribution, it's obvious really.

Hey now. Some of us don't see the s-word as inherently dirty.