Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Jane Kidd, lawsuits, yada yada yada

So, what do you guys think about Jane Kidd threatening to sue the state if they allow the redistricting to take place?  

To be honest with you, we don’t know what to make of the whole thing, but that’s never stopped us before.  So here are a few random musings.

First of all, whether or not you think a lawsuit is valid (we’ll get to that in a moment), we think that Jane Kidd is probably the wrong person to file this suit.  First of all, it’s going to be seen as political posturing, and it’s going to leave her open to be attacked on that front whether or not she is, in fact, posturing.  The GOP could well take the line that, instead of working for votes, she’s wasting her resources fighting the redistricting in court.  And, you know what?  There may be something to that argument.  There’s no doubt that Kidd may be being handed some electoral lemons here, but – well, you know the rest.  

Second point.  None of that stuff above necessarily means that no one should fight the redistricting in court – just not Jane Kidd.  But there have to be tons of advocacy groups just champing at the bit to get this one in a courtroom, right?

Which brings us to our third random musing.  Is there a case to be made here?  I don’t know from law (why do you think we keep DiDDY around?), but I’m not so sure that there’s a successful case here.  Perhaps our legal editor will kindly weigh in on this one and set me straight.

Also, as Hillary points out, if Sonny wants this thing to pass, he actually does have to sign it.  You see, in order to get this thing to DOJ for review, we’ve got to get it there before April 24.  Unfortunately, the 40 day window (in which any legislation unsigned by the Governor automatically becomes law) expires after April 24.  So, if Sonny doesn’t sign it, the bill doesn’t get to DOJ in time, and the whole redistricting is a moot point, at least for the 2006 cycle.  This is kind of interesting to us, since it effectively eliminates a lot of Sonny’s political cover.  According to the Governor’s camp, he still hasn’t made a decision.  We doubt that’s entirely true, but we also suggest that the Athens redistricting, as big an issue as it is here, is hardly on top of the Governor’s to-do list.  Rampant speculation on our part, but we’re guessing that the folks in Perdue’s office are really wishing that they could take a pass on this one – that would explain their hesitation.  We would speculate that he probably will sign the bill, in order to keep his allies under the Gold Dome off his case (and one thing you can say about Sonny Perdue is that he does take care of the folks who take care of him).  He’ll probably sign it at the last possible second he can, and try to get it out on a news cycle dump day (Fridays are good for that – ask the current White House press office) in order to minimize the fallout as much as possible.  Not that the fallout will be particularly overwhelming.  The ABH will bitch and moan, Pete McCommons will pen a clever and scathing column in Flagpole, and local blogs like us will raise holy hell for about a week.  None of that matters, because Sonny lost Athens by a significant margin and will probably do so again come the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November 2006.  

Finally, we would be remiss if we didn’t point out that as of now, Jane Kidd is only considering a lawsuit.  It ain’t a done deal.  We’d remind you that Kidd considered dropping out of the Senate race earlier and didn’t act on it – a good idea in our book.  So, we may be making much ado about nothing here.

So, to sum up.  Yeah, maybe somebody should fight it in court, although we’d rather it not be Jane Kidd, and we’re not sure how strong the case really is.  What do you think?

Related: Antidisingenousmentarianism: Hobbyhorse” 02/28/06
              Athens Banner-Herald: Kidd threatens suit over district plans” 02/28/06

Monday, February 27, 2006

Linky linky

New linky goodness to the right – in a sudden spurt of actual motivation, your crack editorial staff has linked to the five candidates for governor of the great state of Georgia.  You’ve also got a link to the politics1.com page for Georgia which has all the other statewide candidates.  We’ll put more up later.

Also in the linky goodness – two blogs that frequent contributor Patrick Armstrong runs – the Democracy for America: Coastal Empire Remix, and Hurricane Radio.  Just don’t forget to read AthPo too during all your blog cruising, bitches.

Satire, bitches

ATLANTA – Republicans in the General Assembly are gearing up for legislative action that will guarantee less state recognition and services for specific types of Georgia residents.

SB 3030, the “Getting Even With People We Don’t Like Omnibus Act,” targets gay evolutionist illegal immigrants who are opposed to oversized billboards featuring images of the Crucifixion and loudspeakers with looped recordings of Governor Sonny Perdue reading the Ten Commandments.  Gay evolutionist illegal immigrants who oppose Crucifixion billboards that play the Governor’s voice reading the Ten Commandments would be deprived of many state services, including driver’s licenses, health care, and public education.  They would also be charged an “oxygen fee” of $123.67 per liter of oxygen consumed in public areas.

“This is not an issue of discrimination,” said one Republican Senator who is backing the bill.  “These people are sucking up important state services from straight creationist Georgians who think gigantic religious billboards featuring the Governor reading Scripture are a pretty darn good idea.  And the oxygen user fee?  Give me a break!  It’s not like we’re charging them for breathing in their own homes, just public spaces where decent God-fearing Georgians need oxygen.”

One of the most controversial provisions of the new bill is a portion which also limits services available in the private sector.  If passed, gay evolutionist illegal immigrants will be unable to purchase movie tickets, high-octane gasoline, or DVDs featuring tractor pulls or ultimate cage fighting.  These provisions, however, only apply to gay evolutionist illegal immigrants, and the bill’s authors are quick to make that distinction.  “If you are not a gay evolutionist illegal immigrant who opposes ginormous billboards and the Governor reading Scripture, then your life will not be impacted,” said an aide to Governor Sonny Perdue.  “If you’re just gay, or just an illegal immigrant, then have no fear – we will merely continue to beat up on you in the ways you’re already familiar with.”  

Despite what some observers see as the overly draconian nature of the bill, supporters tout it as a model of efficiency.  “Sure, we could pass separate bills to persecute illegal immigrants, gays, evolutionists, and anyone liberal enough to support a wall between church and state,” said one Republican House member.  “But why would we?  This is a much better use of taxpayer dollars – we get ‘em all in one fell swoop.”

SB 3030 was introduced in the Senate Judiciary Committee at 1:37 a.m. Sunday morning, and committee members passed it only six minutes later – causing some opponents to cry foul and allege that the unanimous 436 – 0 committee vote was fraudulent.  

“There was plenty of time for all Senators to examine the bill closely, and the text of the bill was debated very thoroughly,” said one of the bill’s co-sponsors.  “Plus we had to wait for the committee chair to get out of the bathroom.  Otherwise, I think we could have gotten this one out of committee in under a minute.”

Following tomorrow’s vote by the full Senate, SB 3030 will be voted on in the House, where it is expected to pass by a margin of three trillion to negative 6 votes.  The bill will then proceed to Governor Sonny Perdue’s desk for his signature or veto.

Repeated calls to Democratic state legislators were not returned.  An intern with the Democratic Party of Georgia told reporters that Democratic legislators had been, “out to lunch since November 2002.”

Watkinsville: Big Timin'

Courtesy of Watkinsville City Councilman Brian Brodick, we learn that the bucolic hamlet of Watkinsville, jewel of the OC, now has it's very own entry in the New Georgia Encyclopedia. According to Brodrick, it's an all-around good piece, although it fails to mention Watkinsville's renaissance as an arts community, and implies that the local economy is still agriculture-based.

By the way, this is a good time to plug the NGE. If you don't know about it, it is your go-to online reference for all things Georgia.

Related: New Georgia Encyclopedia: "Watkinsville"
New Georgia Encylopedia Homepage

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Democrats: Try being a little less vigil-ant

Ok, so like any good liberal, I'm on the MoveOn.org email list. Because I am, I got invited to a series of "Constitutional Vigils" held yesterday in protest of the illegal wiretapping being conducted by the administration. Apparently, MoveOn members "from Charleston, South Carolina to Missoula, Montana" got together to mourn the murder of the Constitution at the hands of the Bush administration.

Are you f***ing kidding me? This, this right here, is why folks like DawgCorleone can't take us seriously. A vigil? Jeeeezus.

Look, I'm as opposed to this wiretapping thing as anybody; we've already had that discussion and everybody knows where I stand. But a vigil? Do you honestly expect that to make one iota of difference in anybody's mind that doesn't already agree with you? Can it do anything but make liberals look silly and clueless?

Do me a favor, MoveOn and other vigil-goers, if you really care about this and other liberal issues: get in the damn game. Get off your ass and get some Ds elected. Raise some money. Elect a D as President next time. This and only this will change any of it.

Now, in fairness to MoveOn, they are doing some of those things too, or at least trying to. But it's enough already with the vigils. They only hurt your other efforts. Seriously. Stop it. I mean it.

Boobs n Stuff a Trois

Argentine Playboy playmate Dorismar has been deported along with her husband back to Argentina after having lived illegally in Miami for five years. A crackdown on illegal immigration is all fine and good, but damnit people, let's keep the hot ones! Am I wrong?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Meet the Daily Douchebag

Here’s a new Athens blogger for you guys to check out.  AthPo friend GP has decided to join the blogging fun by putting out The Daily Douchebag.  Link in this post and to the right.


Roundup/Open Thread

Here’s what’s going on today:

Barrow and Vets agree:
Being a veteran kind of sucks, if you’re sick.  

SOS Candidate in town tomorrow:
Talking to the Clarke County Democrats, who are apparently hosting a fundraiser for Cathy Cox.  We wonder if there’s one in the works for Mark Taylor as well…  Nonetheless, go see Scott Holcomb.  If you were running for Secretary of State, he’d come listen to you.  (6 pm tomorrow, Clarke County Courthouse)

Just give it up already:
No matter which side you’re on, La Puerta del Sol is a done deal.  Opponents and proponents, please, I implore you – no need to keep this stuff stirred up in the papers when we have fraternities to persecute and traffic to calm.

Bars on crack (down):
As we were discussing recently, folks want to blame the “Athens Underage Drankin’ Epidemic” ™ on everyone and everything except – gosh, we don’t know – the underage kids who go out and get boozy.  We’re pragmatic, but cracking down on bars and liquor stores is not going to even make a dent in the “problem,” such as it is.  Hell, these students were smart enough to get into UGA, we’re guessing they’re smart enough to find someone to buy booze for them too.  Today in the ABH, letter writers want to blame the bars (see our recent post on drankin’ for why that’s less than correct), and the ABH itself for decrying underage drinking on the opinions page while showing a grown man, of legal age, drinking champagne on the sports page.  How dare they?  It’s all your fault, ABH!  You’re what’s wrong with our community.  Next step, Winders is indicted for Lewis Fish’s death while Jim Thompson turns state’s evidence.

Open Thread:
Do with it as you will.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

National Politics: Barrow, Veterans, and Labor

Your Congressman and mine, John Barrow, will be hanging out in Athens this afternoon.  Barrow will be kicking it with vets at the local VFW post on Sunset Dr. at 5:30 pm.  Tomorrow, Barrow heads south, to talk to vets in Waynesboro, Sylvania, Louisville and other towns.  

Y’all might recall the folks here at AthPo giving Barrow a little love some months ago for a bill he introduced to raise the mileage rate for vets who have to go to VA hospitals for treatments.  He’s probably going to talk a little about concurrent benefits, which is the golden goose of veterans policy.  

Anyhoo, as much as we bitch about Barrow for getting cozy with the NRA, voting for the Patriot Act, etc., he’s been a stand up guy on veterans’ issues.  It’s the right thing for the country, especially when you’ve got an administration that consistently cuts funding for the VA and other veterans’ benefits.  It’s also a smart move politically, given the large number of vets who live in the 12th District.  

Speaking of Barrow, I caught a little of him on the radio this morning.  He said some good things about the minimum wage, but he was a little vague on the whole having folks from the United Arab Emirates in charge of US port operations thing (he’s agin it).

Maybe the most interesting thing that Barrow said that I heard this morning, was in reference to the UAE port operations thing.  Tim Bryant mentioned that some folks are saying that Democrats are opposing this because the unions are pissed off about losing their high-paying port jobs.  

Said Barrow, “I don’t care what the unions think.”  

Hooboy.  Harsh words from JB, considering his hardcore kowtowing to the unions in 2004.  And we sort of speculate that, in retrospect, he’d kind of like to have that sound bite back.  It seemed that Barrow was a little flustered by Bryant, and not completely briefed on the whole port issue.  He might have engaged his mouth before his political instincts got into gear.  

Still, John Barrow could walk out and spit on Jimmy Hoffa’s grave (wherever that might be) without the unions getting mad at him.  The union leadership, politically impotent and toothless, just wants friends.  Of course, while the union leadership, especially in Georgia, is pretty bloated and corrupt, there are a lot of rank and file union members who actually care about labor, not about their own political agendas.  They might be a little irritated.  

Coming at some nebulous later date, we’ll talk about the sorry state of labor unions in the South, in Georgia, and across the country, why the labor movement is a good thing, spoiled by some bad folks at the top, and why labor has no juice anymore.  Feel free to get started on that below, if you’d like.

Monday, February 20, 2006


I was driving around today and listening to WGAU during the 9:00 hour.  The subject was drinking, which as we all know, has become the issue du jour in the last few weeks.  Host Elizabeth Dalton had a bevy of current UGA students on the show, and I’ve got to tell you folks, it’s really interesting to see how this issue has evolved, even over the last few weeks.

Right now, playing the blame game is all the rage.  Some folks in the UGA administration are blaming the local government for a lack of enforcement downtown.  Folks in the community are blaming UGA for not keeping their students under control, whatever that means.  People all over the place are blaming the bar owners downtown for serving underage drinkers – a position that is ridiculous, and probably exaggerated.  

Problem is, no one is blaming the people who are actually at fault: immature, irresponsible college students.  The University of Georgia is not these students’ mommy or daddy.  Society presumes that if you make it through four years of high school and jump through the necessary hoops to get to college, then you’re supposed to be a reasonable, rational adult.  

The local government could do more for enforcement, to be sure.  But ask yourself this: Would you rather focus the limited resources of the ACCPD on keeping 18-year-olds from getting into the Allgood, or would you rather the men and women in blue be out on the streets keeping them from driving home drunk?  Perhaps (heaven forbid) the cops could even be doing something about the growing gang problem in ACC?  

And what about the bars?  Well, to put the bar owners on the gallows for serving underage drinkers is popular, but remember the first rule of economics.  Businesses enter the marketplace to increase profit.  Business owners may have a social conscience – many in fact do – but businesses themselves operate for profit.  It’s capitalism, and if you don’t like it, then move to North Korea.  

You want to make it harder for bar owners to serve the under-21 set?  Put more cops undercover and start handing out more fines.  Of course, if you do, then be prepared to sacrifice enforcement in other areas, like DUI.  

Even if you closed down every bar in Athens, you would still have incidents like the recent one with Lewis Fish.  If an 18-year-old wants to drink, he or she is going to find a way to drink, probably through the assistance of a friend who is legal.  

That same argument goes for every other straw man that gets thrown up for us to beat on.  The ACCPD could put every officer they’ve got at the door of every bar and liquor store in town and check the ID of every person who wants to walk through the doors.  It wouldn’t matter – you’d still have drunk 18-year-olds, and occasionally one of them will drink to excess and die.

The problem is not bar owners, or the local government, or the University.  It’s social, it’s cultural, and it isn’t going to change overnight.  It’s immature kids, a few months out of high school, on their own for the first time, and feeling invincible.  

So, when someone can come up with real solutions to the drankin’ problem, we’ll be more than happy to listen.  But until they do, we’re going to continue to write the “problem” off to a fundamental lack of personal responsibility, and something that isn’t going to change anytime soon.  And we’re going to keep saying, perhaps too bluntly, that everybody involved needs to grow up – including the Chicken Littles who think the alcoholic sky is falling in ACC.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

DA Turmoil Part II

Last week, the ABH ran an editorial about the problems in the DA's office, something we reported on about a month ago. The criticisms in the editorial have been echoed to us by sources in the local legal community. The consensus seems to be that Mr. Mauldin is a fine lawyer and prosecutor, but no so much with the administrative/managerial duties inherent in the job. That's unfortunate, since those duties are at least as important, if not more so, than the others. Generally speaking, only the most complex and high profile cases actually get tried by the DA himself, whereas managing the office is an everyday job and affects every case. I hope that Mr. Mauldin isn't micromanaging us out of an effective criminal justice system, but that's exactly what his critics suggest may be happening.

In a related story, Matt Karzen, the former chief assistant DA who is one of the three prosecutors who have left the office since Jan. 13, is apparently going to open up his own office here in town.

Friday, February 17, 2006

65% of crap is still crap

There’s a couple of education-related things in the papers this morning.  First, the much-discussed 65% Solution passed the State House yesterday; it’s headed back to the Senate for a couple of minor changes, then it’s off to the Gubner for a signature, following which, Republicans will pat themselves on the back while public schools continue to suffer and localities raise your property taxes.

As we’ve said, ad nauseam, this is one of those fixes than might look good on the surface, but it isn’t really going to help.  It might end up making the situation worse.  We like local control, personally, and we’re not sure what Sonny Perdue knows that local school district officials don’t know.  We’re really not sure what the CEO of overstock.com knows that education professionals don’t know.

Of course, the avowed point of the 65% Solution is to cut down on the money schools are spending on non-classroom expenses.  As we’ve pointed out before, non-classroom expenses also include necessities like guidance counselors, nurses, school buses and the gas that runs them, cafeteria food, and school libraries.  All of these would probably end up being cut.  But the target of the 65% Solution, the convenient straw man that every Republican proposal has to have, is the administrators, usually perceived to get paid a good amount of money for not much work.  Having too many administrators padding the overhead is the subject of another ABH piece today.  Seems that the Clarke County School District spends about 11% of its total budget on administration (school principals don’t count).  

Now, we were told there would be no math, but if you assume that the 65% Solution is going to become law, then you see that that leaves about 24% of the budget left over for the aforementioned counselors, nurses, buses, gas, sloppy joes, and libraries.  Given that the CCSD generally spends about $100 million per year, we’re looking at about $24 million for non-classroom, non-administrator expenses.

Here at AthPo, we’ve been on the record in the past as not being the biggest fans of the administration at the Clarke County School District.  But our take on this one may surprise you.  The fundamental question is: Is the CCSD spending too much on do-nothing administration?  Honestly, we don’t know.  On one hand, we’re spending a far larger percentage than other districts with similar numbers of students.  On the other hand, the percentage we spend is more or less in line with what other districts in the area spend, indicating that the expense may be a result of regional socioeconomic factors beyond our control.  

CCSD Superintendent Lewis Holloway points out that, in comparison with similarly-sized districts, Clarke County has substantially higher numbers of special-needs students, meaning special education, ESL, and others, as well as major problems with poverty and health care.  Holloway reasons, somewhat defensively if you ask us, that those factors mitigate the 11% of the budget spent on administrators.  Nonetheless, the man has a point.  

We’re pretty sure that there are areas in CCSD where some money could be cut, both from administration and other items. But the first rule of governmental economics is that governmental entities never operate on “good” economies of scope or economies of scale.  Government is, by its nature, wasteful and inefficient.  It’s also absolutely necessary.  Don’t like it?  Then don’t expect roads, bridges, police, or an educated workforce.  It is what is it, but we digress.  This isn’t meant to be a treatise on governmental economics.

So yeah, the CCSD is probably wasting some money on administration, but we’re not sure how excessive the waste is – whether it’s on par with normal waste for a public school district in an urban area with a poverty level in the high 20’s, or whether Holloway and company are really blowing money on administrators we don’t need.  Given our fondness for taking care of all students, we’re going to give them the benefit of a doubt, until we see evidence to the contrary.

These two stories, put together, make a very strong argument against the 65% Solution.  If the CCSD legitimately needs the 11% of the budget they are currently spending on administration, then as we mentioned above, we’re left with 24% of the budget for school buses, nurses, and Salisbury steak.  As Holloway points out, Clarke County is different from Walton County (even if Ralph Hudgens thinks Athens and Monroe are two peas in a pod), different from Troup County, Gwinnett County, and so on.  That’s why local control is so important, and why the 65% Solution is so wrong.  We can have the best curriculum in the state, designed to help these special needs students, but without people to coordinate the programs, they’re not going to do anyone any good.

Related: Athens Banner-Herald: School district spends more on administration” 02/17/06
              Athens Banner-Herald: House approves Sonny’s 65 percent” 02/17/06

Boobs n Stuff: The Deuce

Here’s a little bit of light news to start you off. What do Charlie Norwood, Johnny Isakson, Saxby Chambliss, John Barrow, Lynn Westmoreland, and every other member of Georgia’s CoDel - not to mention every other member of Congress - have in common?

They all get Hustler Magazine every month.

Boy, the perks you get as a Member of Congress, eh? Good parking places, a handy subway, gym, decent restaurant, Jack Abramoff-funded golf trips…and, um, porn, according to a story in yesterday’s Salt Lake Tribune.

Not by choice mind you. This is just an interesting and funny case of Larry Flynt exercising his Constitutional right to rattle the cages of his elected representatives. We’re sure most of the Congresscritters dump their skin mag (or have their staff do it) as soon as it arrives.

Brief aside. One of the best examples we’ve seen of Congressional staffers taking things far too seriously is found in this quote: “Interns for Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, are trained to distinguish the nudie magazine's envelope from the other mail and throw it away, says Chief of Staff Scott Parker.” Trained? Really? We wonder if those poor interns knew what they were in for. (“OK guys…this [dramatic flourish] is porn! The Congressman doesn’t care for it.”)

Ain’t representative democracy great, kids?

So, if you’d like to send some porn to your Congressman or Senators, feel free to do so. It’s not just Barely Legal, it’s 100% legal. By the way, we hear that Justice Scalia gets Creem every month, but he pays for it like everyone else.

Related: Salt Lake Tribune: Congress gets Hustler magazine, even if it is unwanted” 02/15/06
Antidisingenousmentarianism: Crack (or should that be cleavage) reporting” 02/09/06

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Hello...we're UGA....and we're alcoholics

Hi, UGA!

UGA Police Chief Jimmy Williamson is vowing to crack down on gameday drinking. Meetings are being held to address the "campus drinking culture". Meanwhile, Prez Adams sits on his high horse and calls gameday fans' behavior "despicable."

Is there a crisis here? Are things worse than say, I don't know, they've always been? Or is this just normal college town culture?

I'm not convinced either way. I think there is absolutely an epidemic of underage drinking, DUIs, and of course outrageous gameday behavior (by more than just students, btw), but I'm not necessarily sure that it's gotten any worse, or that whether or not it has, anything can be done about it on any kind of a permanent basis now, short of becoming a dry county.

Not to kill the PPA open thread, and if the comments there keep coming my co-editor should feel free to yank that back to the top of the page, but I would like to hear some thoughts on this. Tell us if you think there's a serious problem, and if so, what can be done about it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Radio Free Girtz

9th District Commission Candidate Kelly Girtz informs us that he will appear on Rick Dunn's program on WBKZ Radio (AM880)this coming Saturday - February 18, 2006 from 9 to 10am.

PPA Open thread. The AthPo think tank strikes again, we hope.

As mentioned yesterday, we do have an update on Partners for a Prosperous Athens, the poverty initiative spearheaded by local political, business, and community leaders.

The steering committee got together Friday for an organizational session, but the task of organizing what is shaping up to be a monumental undertaking has taken a little longer than they planned, and another session is planned for early March.  We’ll have more information then.

As it stands now, the organization is tentatively planning (meaning subject to change, so don’t hold us or PPA to this) to have subcommittee meetings once a month, probably at Clarke Central High School.

More after March 9.

Meanwhile, while we’re all remembering that patience is a virtue, your crack editorial staff would like to reopen last year’s very positive discussion on local poverty and steps we can take as a community to do something about it.  As was the case last time, try to keep the bashing of the poor nonexistent and focus on positive solutions.

Sometime before March 9, we’ll forward this discussion and the previous one over to Heidi Davison for her perusal and edification.

Frat boy, frat boy, whatcha gonna do?

Another thing we’ve been meaning to address in the last couple of days is last week’s approved moratorium on new fraternity and sorority houses.  As y’all know, the matter was introduced under the wire the day before last week’s meeting of the Mayor and Commission by District Five’s own David Lynn.  Some of Lynn’s constituents are understandably upset by the purchase of property on Meigs Street, and would like to have the local government and the stakeholders in the community weigh in before this thing is a done deal.

You may not know (we didn’t) that there’s a decent amount of oversight that goes into things like this before they hit the agenda.  Mayor Davison was on Tim Bryant’s show Monday and pointed out that she, and she alone makes the call about what gets on the agenda and what doesn’t.  At the meeting, she made it clear that she made the tough call.  

On Tim Bryant’s show (WGAU 1340 AM, if you’re keeping score at home), Davison expounded a little on the policy of setting the agenda.  In the case of the moratorium, Lynn called Davison early on Monday about the possibility of introducing the moratorium.  The Mayor indicated that she would consider it, but that before she could add it to the agenda, Lynn had to make sure the other Commissioners were at least on board with introducing the item under the wire.  He did, most were, and Heidi put it on the agenda.  So it isn’t as if David Lynn sprung this unannounced on everyone.

Now on to the moratorium itself.  We think it’s a good idea, actually.  The fact is that, in residential areas, fraternity houses are not good land use.  They can create major noise problems, major public safety problems, and major parking and congestion problems.  As Heidi pointed out yesterday on Bryant’s show, try getting an emergency vehicle down Bloomfield on a game day.  While we may decide that those problems are negligible, they do deserve some serious examination from all of the stakeholders involved before any problems arise.

The real problem though isn’t the local government, the residents of Cobbham, David Lynn, Heidi Davison, or even the upstanding young gentlemen of I Felta Thi.  The problem is sitting in his office on North Campus right now, figuring out new ways to screw undergraduates.  

Before you get us wrong, let us be very clear.  There’s nothing that UGA can do to prevent irresponsible behavior.  As Hillary points out, “If the possibility of dying didn't stop Lewis Fish from snorting whatever he could, I sincerely doubt the chance of getting booted out of school would've done much more.”  

But the fact of the matter is that Mike Adams, as an administrator, is a little – shall we say – high-handed.  There’s a fundamental lack of effective communication between the University and the local government, to the detriment of both the university and the community.  For instance, if Adams had sought a discussion with Heidi and the Commission before making the executive decision to foist the Greeks on the community at large, some of the ill will on both sides might have been avoided.  

Athens wouldn’t be Athens without UGA, but it’s important to remember that UGA wouldn’t be UGA without Athens.  Sure, UGA would still exist, it would still play host to some 30,000 undergraduates that the administration can easily milk when it needs a quick $60,000 to redecorate the President’s office.  But it wouldn’t be the same, and we all know that.  The point is, that as elected officials, the ACC Government has to look out for the neighborhoods and for UGA, whereas Mike Adams got about the same number of votes in the last mayoral election as Larry McKinney.  Should UGA be subordinate to the ACC Government?  No, not at all.  But just as Athens as a whole is part of the UGA community, UGA’s administration needs to step up and be a partner in the Athens community as well.

Back to the moratorium briefly.  Waiting and soliciting community input is a good thing in this case.  Having a frat house in your backyard is a big deal, and as much as the Greeks and their supporters like to complain about the last-minute nature of the moratorium, it isn’t as though UGA bothered to check with the community before cutting the cord, and it definitely isn’t as though the fraternity bothered to work with the community before buying the land.  

Cleaning house: the King Funeral

We’ve got a little catching up to do on some stories that have fallen through the cracks of our personal busyness and ended up on the sticky, seldom-cleaned floor of unaddressed political issues.  Fortunately, we’ve got our paper towels of truth and the pine-scented cleanser of insight handy (not the mention the copious bucket of extended, useless metaphor) and we’re about to go to work.

The first thing we wanted to mention is the backlash from the funeral of Coretta Scott King.  This will be sure to elicit the snarky from many of our readers – but that’s how we roll.

Some people are all up in arms because some political figures, notably Jimmy Carter and Rev. Joseph Lowery, chose to make political remarks.  To that we have the following thoughts to offer.

Coretta Scott King was a political figure herself; her life and her life’s work was irrevocably intertwined with politics.  Her politics, and those of her many professional and personal friends, were progressive.  And yet, some people don’t believe that talking about Mrs. King’s life’s work is appropriate at a funeral.  Why not?

We didn’t see any members of Mrs. King’s family complaining.  Indeed, the only people complaining are the political figures whose ideology was roundly criticized and their supporters.  What’s the matter guys – can’t take a little heat without crying to Mommy?

It goes without saying that the bitch ‘n’ moan squad here are conservative Republicans, and it’s absolutely hilarious that by accusing Carter and Lowery of politicizing Mrs. King’s funeral, they are doing the lion’s share of the politicizing.  That’s a side issue though.  The real point here is that conservatives can’t stomach the fact that people disagree with them, often loudly, often vehemently.  Unfortunately, that’s a factor that they’re going to have to deal with more and more often.

The fact is, a small minority people out there have their panties in a wad because their dear leader had to sit uncomfortably on stage while others stood in front of him and said, “Your policies, your ideology, you worldview, is anathema to everything that Coretta Scott King stood for.”  So what?  Is George W. Bush so delicate that he has to be insulated from honest opposition?  We’ve always kind of thought that politicians should stand by their records, and Bush’s record runs counter to the things that Mrs. King worked for.

Now as to the biggest complaint – that politics has no place at a funeral – we call shenanigans.  Would you avoid talking about music at John Lennon’s funeral, or writing at Hunter S. Thompson’s?  (We’re not sure if the good doctor actually had a funeral, but you get our point.)  Of course you wouldn’t.  But hey, if you object to the tone of Mrs. King’s funeral, or Paul Wellstone’s memorial service there are two things you can do.  Don’t go to funerals where you might hear something that smacks of politics, and make whatever arrangements you feel are necessary to keep the politics out of your own memorial.  

And until then, just shut up and stop whining.

Monday, February 13, 2006

National Politics - briefly

What do these two men have in common?

Seriously, though.

The weird thing is: why did Cheney's staff/the White House keep this under wraps for almost 24 hours?

(by the way, the cat on the left with the kickin' mutton chops is Aaron Burr.

Rails to Rails

According to the county website, the Multi-Modal center is scheduled to open just east of downtown in March. However, the most important of the multi-modes will still be glaringly absent for several years to come: the Athens to Atlanta Passenger Rail line. Over 7 million in Federal and State funds were earmarked for the project in FY2005, but the project is still in the planning stages, with rights-of-way still needing to be negotiated on each end of the line with CSX. Several related studies have to completed first as well, each of which is supposed to completed by the end of 2006. According to the DOT page, the line has a startup cost of just under $400 million, and the project could be completed within 2 years of funding being made available.

We've got to get this done, people. The benefits are obvious: a burgeoning professional class spending their Atlanta dollars in Athens, accompanied by a reduction in sprawl and traffic deaths. An honest to God, functioning, efficient passenger rail system combined with smart, mixed-use development, and we might just have a fighting chance in the battle against unbridled growth (read about an adjacent county's current struggles).

But in the meantime, at least we'll be able to figure out how to get in to Dudley Park.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Jim Ivey

Jim Ivey is back in the news again today.  To sum up, the GBI is wrapping up their investigation into Ivey’s alleged mishandling of funds, and they’ll be meeting with folks over at Ken Mauldin’s office about potential charges to be filed.  

More interesting however, is the fact that Ivey’s own board is turning on him now, as you might expect.  The board wants Ivey out, so that they can re-organize themselves and hopefully turn over a new leaf.  Ivey is standing pat, more or less daring the board to depose him.  Of course, Ivey is innocent until proven guilty, but his refusal to step down thus far gives a lot of insight into who he is.

For Ivey, it was never about the veterans.  If it were, then he’d be off the board right now by his own initiative.  As the group’s founder, Vinnie Williams, acknowledges, any association with the group on Ivey’s part is going to obliterate the group’s chances of raising money.  If it were about community service, then Ivey should have already resigned and gone home to sit in a corner and think about what he’s done.  

For what it’s worth, here’s a little free advice to Williams and Don Norris, the board’s other member.  Fire him.  Loudly, stridently, and very, very publicly.  Then, let it go, and get back to work raising money for a good cause.

Related: Athens Banner-Herald: Vets’ group seeks new start, but fund chief stands in way,” 02/12/06

Whither Athens?

There was a stong anti-incumbent vote in Athens in 2000 and 2002. Yet there seems to be a lot of discontent with the "new Commission" and all of the "standard of life" ordinances and such that has come out of it. Where do we go from here? Do we elect something completely different? Do we go back to what we had before? Is there anything different running? (ahem...Andy Rusk). We'll see, I guess.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Will District 9 get "Hot for Teacher"?

Per Adrian over at AthensWorld and JMac over at his joint, we’ve got a new candidate in the race for ACC Commission District 9.  

Kelly Girtz is a history and government teacher here in Athens and has been for eight years.  

According to Girtz, he wants to take his work at the local alternative high school to the community at large, focusing on economic opportunity, land use, transportation options, etc.  He also throws a shoutout to Partners for a Prosperous Athens as, “a model of effective collaboration.”  True enough, at least we hope.

It’s interesting though, now that we’ve got three candidates in the race (with rampant speculation about a fourth), to think about which “coalitions” these candidates are going to try to build.

You’ve got Alvin Sheats, who has very close ties to anyone who is anyone in the black community, and who, as far as we know, has smoothed over his differences with the man that beat him, George Maxwell.

Ed Vaughn isn’t nearly as well-connected, but is a hard worker who, despite being a little off-the-wall at times, has some good ideas and isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.

And now – a new guy in the race as well.  We’re looking forward to hearing from him  (at least he knows that blogs do exist in Athens) and hearing more about him, so that we can, like all good political media, immediately pigeonhole him into a convenient category.

Heh, just kidding.  The media doesn’t really do that, do they?

Hey, by the way, tune in tomorrow at 10:30 am to hear Kelly Girtz talk about his campaign on WBZK 880 am.

Related: AthensWorld: Kelly Girtz announces candidacy for ACC District 9” 02/08/06
             Safe as Houses: Candidate in the 9th District” 02/08/06    

You want to buy what?

One thing we’ve been wanting to touch on lately is the School Board/SPLOST referendum thing.  As you guys probably know, the Board of Education wants to raise some $90 million, a penny at a time, for technology and construction.

Ok, no problem.  Around here, we’re usually pretty big supporters of SPLOST monies for our community.  Construction is important, so is technology.  Are there things we’d rather see the BOE spend our pennies on?  Absolutely, but we’ve been pretty clear on that issue in the past.  

So we, like many folks around town, don’t necessarily object to another SPLOST referendum.  What we do object to is the proposed timing – a special election, just for the SPLOST vote, that the BOE would like to have on September 19.

Just to get everybody up to speed, there are no other elections scheduled for September 19, unlike the ones we’ve already got on the calendar for July 18 (primary) and November 7 (the general election).  It’s a pretty safe assumption that we’ll also have runoff elections after at least the general, maybe the primary as well, but you can’t bet on it.

The point is, there’s no reason at all to have a special election just for SPLOST.  As the ABH points out in a recent editorial, the cost of having this special election (around $41,000) is roughly equivalent to the cost of educating four students for an entire year.

The question is: Why have a special election when you have two perfectly serviceable election dates already on the books?  The ABH speculates that Superintendent Lewis Holloway is concerned about “ballot fatigue” – that by the time voters make it through the races for Governor, Congress, Mayor, Commission, all the other statewide officers, etc, the voters will just give up and walk away.

With due respect, not exactly.

As has been noted in the ABH and elsewhere, special elections on SPLOST tend to garner a pretty pathetic turnout – 20% or less.  That’s just how the BOE likes it.  The folks who pay attention tend to support SPLOST, they go vote, and the referendum passes overwhelmingly, giving a false impression that the entire community thinks SPLOST is the greatest thing since sliced bread.  

Truth be told, there’s a lot of opposition to SPLOST floating around Athens.  It’s unorganized opposition, to be sure, but it’s there.  By making people come out especially to vote for this, with no other votes on the ballot, the BOE takes advantage of the lack of organized opposition.  

This is legally-sanctioned turnout suppression – plain and simple.  

To be fair, there’s an argument to be made that, at some point, people have to take responsibility for their own government, and that’s a valid point.  If you’re an American citizen over the age of 18, you have a civic duty to register to vote and to exercise that vote in every election.  If you don’t want 20% of the population deciding how to spend $90 million of your pennies, then show up and cast your vote.

But, back in the real world, people have jobs and kids and mortgage payments and prime time TV to worry about.  In addition, many people don’t read the ABH or listen to WGAU, and even if they were willing to get out and cast a vote, they might not even know about a random special election in the middle of September.  Of course, that’s just how the BOE would like it.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

LPDS Passes 8-2!

Can we just get all of our readers to join us quickly in saying…


Thank goodness that’s over.  Thanks to everyone who kept the comments alive here on AthPo during the meeting last night.  We don’t say that enough, but it’s nice to know that we actually have readers, and that they actually check the blog and discuss things during semi-breaking news.  (I would also point out that it was pretty obvious that none of you guys had a test at 8:00 this morning.)  

Now, here are a few thoughts on the LPDS stuff last night.

It’s been a long and arduous road for Bruno Rubio and his folks, and we’re thrilled that this thing has not only come to an end, but that it’s come to the conclusion that we would wanted to see.  

From watching the meeting last night (I stayed up for the vote, but just didn’t have the energy to blog about it at 2:00 am), the thought that I kept coming back to is this:

Everybody involved did their jobs.  For States McCarter, he remained a vocal – occasionally rambling, sometimes prosecutorial – opponent of the zoning change.  He did his job; he represented what he perceived as the will of his constituents.  While we question the accuracy of his 90% opposition number (which seems to have fallen since October), you can’t fault him for taking the stand he did.

For Elton Dodson, his job was more difficult.  Dodson himself said that the majority of his constituents probably support LPDS – even Dodson himself seemed to want to vote for the rezoning, all things being equal.  Instead, he did his job and represented what he perceived as the interests of the people most directly involved – again, the 8th District.  We’ve had our differences with Dodson in the past, and probably will in the future, but we respect his stand, and we definitely respect the obvious feeling and emotion that he put into his remarks.  There’s no doubt that this was a tough call for Elton, but we’ve got nothing but respect for the Commissioners that can make those calls.

For the eight yes votes on the Commission, they had a little bit of an easier task.  Our impression is that the majority of Athens - outside of the major subdivisions in District 8 – overwhelmingly supported the project.  Because their constituents weren’t directly involved to the extent that McCarter’s were, the other eight commissioners could, in good conscience, vote for the project.

Perhaps the best argument we heard was one that we heard for the first time last night.  Mike Morris, a local attorney representing most of the parties involved made note of the fact that there was no reason for the Commission to vote against LPDS.  The case law, and the relevant zoning law does not contradict the zoning change – a point echoed by District 5 Commissioner David Lynn and others.  We think that Morris put it a little harshly when he said that case law and zoning law are the only things the Commission should consider – not, for example the feelings of the commissioners who represent the district, or even the feelings of the residents themselves.  But the fact remains that he did have a point.  

Be careful though.  If the law and the best zoning practices were the only things that should be considered, then why have zoning changes up before the Commission at all?  Any proposed zoning changes could be considered and approved by a judge, an arbitrator, or even a decent computer program.  The thing is, other factors should be considered.  The feelings of the residents concerned should be taken into account, because at its heart, zoning is about communities, and about the neighborhoods that make up our community.

There wasn’t a single member of the Commission last night who didn’t consider the neighborhoods and the feelings that the opponents of the issue so vocally expressed.  Those concerns and that opposition were weighed against the needs and the desires of the community at large, and against the relevant law.  In the end, we believe the Commission made the right choice, and the east side will be a better place because of that choice.

Penultimately, we’d point out that the Special District Overlay is not going to go anywhere.  While the tone of this post is, hopefully, conciliatory, that is one thing that States McCarter and others mentioned last night that caused us to raise an eyebrow.  The SDO is good business, and it’s a measure that almost everyone supports.  To imply that approval of LPDS is the death knell for the SDO is a little disingenuous.  Furthermore, if Cedar Shoals Drive proceeds down the slippery slope that LPDS opponents fear it will, we have no doubt in our minds whatsoever that the residents and associations can rally up to put the kibosh on that, tout suite.  LPDS didn’t open the door for more development – it slammed the door in the face of any developer who isn’t willing, from the getgo, to put the time and effort into working with the community that Rubio did.  And that’s a very good thing.

Finally, we’d like to extend our most sincere congratulations to Bruno, to Matt Casey, and to all of the LPDS crew.  (And, since we’re pretty sure Bruno doesn’t read AthPo, anyone who knows him, please relay this to him.)  This was a long time coming for you guys, and most folks would have given up by now.  Thankfully, you persisted, and the east side, not to mention Athens as a whole, will benefit.  There’s no doubt that Athens would be an even better community than it is if we had more business owners and developers with Bruno Rubio’s drive, passion, vision, moral compass, and willingness to work with the communities they affect.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Mid-Commission Mini-Update

It’s going to be a long one, kids.  Two and a half hours in and we’re about to start item 6 (out of 22).  Consider this the first (maybe last) of periodic M&C updates throughout the meeting.

The two biggest issues thus far have been transportation monies and a moratorium on fraternities and sororities purchasing/improving property.  To be honest, I missed a lot of the first two and a half hours of the meeting, but as near as I can tell, Carl Jordan talked a lot, Mayor Davison caught a grammatical error in a proclamation thanking Harry Sims for serving as Mayor Pro Tem, and many wealthy white fraternity alums are kind of mad at the M&C.  Also, bike lanes came up again.  Huh.  Who’d a thought it?

This moratorium seems to be a pretty interesting issue.  It was placed on the agenda as Item 22, apparently very late this afternoon.  Indeed, it isn’t even on the agenda available on the city website.  I’m sure that folks who paid closer attention will correct me/fill in the details, but it appears to be designed to stop Greek organizations (think Josh and Hunter, not Zorba and Pytheas) from buying up property.  The development that appears to have sparked this is the purchase of some property on Milledge Ave, which appears to have some folks in Cobbham all up in arms.

Concerning the transportation issues, the biggie tonight is re-engineering the intersection of Atlanta Highway and Commerce Boulevard out on the west side.  Now if you don’t travel out that way much, let us tell you, traffic out there is a nightmare, and accidents are only going to get worse.  

Ok, enough for now.  Back with LPDS news, if I haven’t fallen asleep.  (It’s been a long day.)

Feel free, anyone who’s following along, to add your own running commentary in the comments section.

LPDS: Kickin' it old school with one last email push

You know, despite our silence on the issue until yesterday, your friends here at AthPo are still big proponents of the La Puerta del Sol project.  Since the vote is tonight, we’re going to put out one last call to action – just like in the good ol’ days.

Now, sources who are all up in the Commission’s grill tell us that the picture may not be as bleak as we predicted last night, and there’s a decent chance that this thing actually passes.  Our friends also tell us, however, that the anti-LPDS contingent is doing a much better job than us at communicating their feelings to the lawmakers.  In fact, only a handful of LPDS supporters have been heard from lately, compared with a growing barrage of letters opposing the zoning reversal.

So, get crackin’, kids!  For old times’ sake, you’ll find the relevant email addresses below.  Email your Commissioners (Fill in the blanks: everyone has ______, just like _______), and then, just for grins, email someone else’s Commissioners too.

It looks like the persuadables are Maxwell, Kinman, Lynn, Jordan, and Hoard, not to mention the Honorable Heidi D.

Last push, everyone.  Now get to work.
Mayor: Heidi DavisonDistrict 1: Charles CarterDistrict 2: Harry Sims (no email. Boooo!)District 3: George MaxwellDistrict 4: Alice KinmanDistrict 5: David LynnDistrict 6: Carl JordanDistrict 7: Kathy HoardDistrict 8: States McCarterDistrict 9: Tom ChasteenDistrict 10: Elton Dodson

Monday, February 06, 2006

Last Call for LPDS

As many of our dedicated readers already know, the ACC Mayor and Commission is getting together for its regular monthly hootenanny tomorrow.  Among the items on the agenda is one that you haven’t heard too much about lately – La Puerta del Sol.  (It’s issue number 12, if you’re keeping score at home.)

Back in the old days, LPDS was the story, but the vitriol and anger has died down on both sides lately.  Our sources who are all up in the Commission’s shizzle tell us that the volume of phone calls, emails, and for all we know, carrier pigeon deliveries to the individual commissioners is significantly lower than it was back in September and October.  One source estimates the volume as being about 10% of what it was back when LPDS was being discussed daily on this blog and others.  Heck, the ABH hasn’t even done anything on it lately, with the exception of Don Nelson’s column Sunday.  (He supports it.)

Why the dampening of the LPDS parade?  Well, there are a number of factors at play here.  First of all, there’s probably an element of confidence on the part of the LPDS opponents.  They figure (rightly, in our opinion) that their side has the votes.  If they’re right, then making a big ol’ stink would probably have negative repercussions, like stirring up the hornet’s nest of LPDS supporters around town.  The result: even if it doesn’t change a single vote (and it probably wouldn’t), it would still stir up the same kind of mudslinging and acrimony that we were seeing back in October, and that kind of acrimony should really be reserved for other political battles – for instance, when Ralph Hudgens decides to introduce legislation to make himself Defender of the Faith and Lord Protector of Oglethorpe County.

You’ve also got the fact that people are just plain tired of the issue.  Heaven knows, we trumpeted the gospel of LPDS from the highest rooftops, but as you may have noticed, we’re kind of tired of the issue too.  

And, unlike this time a few months ago, there are (gasp!) actually other things to talk about.  You’ve got wacky Republican hijinks under the Gold Dome, and wacky Chamber of Commerce hijinks here at home.  And, if that’s not enough, more people are starting to pay attention to the Mayor’s race.

The real question is this: has the relative silence on LPDS given any of the Commissioners enough political cover to vote for it?

Honestly, probably not.  The problem with LPDS - the problem that existed from the very beginning – is that the people who oppose it wield much more political power in ACC than the people who support it.  The opponents of the zoning reversal control the neighborhood associations.  Many of them have the time and interest to be regular communicants with their elected officials.  Some of them go even farther in the political process and write checks or volunteer their time.  Agree with them or not, you can’t fault them for taking part in the process.  

None of that is to say proponents of LPDS are apolitical or uninvolved.  Many are.  For instance, your crack editorial staff often emails their Commissioners (everyone has two, just like boobies) about the pressing issues of the day.  It should be noted in the interests of snarkiness that your humble author’s representatives have yet to bother to write back.  (We’re talking to you, Mr. Bow Tie.)

But a neighborhood association is a powerful and many-splendored thing.  Sure they don’t control the votes of everyone in the barrio, but they do control a bigger bloc than you might think, just because neighborhoods tend to attract a fairly homogenous group of folks.  And in any reasonably homogenous group of folks, there are going to be people who are political, and people who aren’t.  And they talk, and the apolitical types tend to be influenced by the political types.  (“Hey, Gary has a minivan and 2.3 kids.  So do I.  Well, Gary thinks Tom Chasteen is a pretty stand up guy, so I guess I’ll vote for him too.)

More importantly, the neighborhood associations offer a candidate a means of reaching a large number of voters in a more efficient fashion, as well as the credibility of having neighbor Gary driving you door-to-door in the minivan with his 2.3 kids.  If the neighborhood association likes you, that is.  Without their imprimatur, that entry is exceedingly more difficult.  Ask Bruno Rubio and Matt Casey.  

So it isn’t in any politician’s best interests to hack off the neighborhood associations.  And, it’s out speculation that the neighborhood associations are perhaps the only interested parties still paying very close attention to this matter.  And pay attention they will.  And woe betide the commissioner who votes against them.

If you want a prediction, heck we don’t know from predicting.  Ah, what the hell?  We’ll say it fails 6-4.  For what it’s worth, we think that there are actually enough votes to pass it, but those commissioners, while they support it, will yield to the probably unanimous opposition among the two commissioners directly concerned.  (At this point, we feel it’s safe to speculate on “no” votes from both States McCarter and Elton Dodson.)

Friday, February 03, 2006

Charlie Maddox: New Website?

Folks around town are telling us that Charlie Maddox may have a new website up soon.

You may remember that Maddox’s website caused a small uproar in the local blog community a month or so ago, after disclosure reports showed that he spent some $2,400 on a website that was, to put it mildly, subpar.  

Related: AthPo: The Money Story” 01/11/06
              Safe as Houses: The Blogosphere Strikes Back” 01/23/06
              AthensWorld: 2500 bucks for three webpages” 01/13/06     

Heidi After Dark

If our email is any indication, Mayor Heidi Davison was burning the midnight oil last night, asking everyone she knows to contact Sonny Perdue about vetoing the redistricting bill.  Of course, as far as AthPo is concerned, Heidi is preaching to the choir on this one.  Still, we’re going to join the chorus and entreat you to give the Gubner a piece of your mind.  (Link below)

We would also point out that Heidi has been a pit bull on this issue, as we’ve mentioned before.  Like her or not, you have to applaud the mayor for fighting as hard as she has on what has pretty much become a legislative fait accompli.  That’s what you want in a mayor, in our opinion.  It’s been a tough fight, and we’re going to be very surprised if Sonny Perdue vetoes the new maps.

Heidi’s work on this issue (coupled with her recent high-profile poverty stuff) has engendered a lot of goodwill towards her in the community.  You know, we predicted a few months ago (too lazy to find the post, sorry) that Heidi’s base has eroded somewhat since 2002.  Obviously, the mayor has kept mum on her plans to run for re-election, but if she’s leaning in that direction, we think that standing up on this issue has probably re-energized some of her supporters who might have strayed from the fold.  Best of all, Heidi stood up on this issue and she didn’t piss anyone off who wasn’t already pissed off at her to begin with – namely Ralph Hudgens, Larry McKinney, and the COC-squad.

Compare that to Tom Chasteen, who is the big loser in this whole mess.  You see, Chasteen is the only person who didn’t win – hence the definition of Chasteen as loser.  McKinney and the COC-squad get their second senator, Ralph Hudgens gets a chunk of Athens to represent (and some more fat corporate donations), and as mentioned above, Heidi gets some recognition for the hard work she’s done and maybe pulls some supporters back over to her side.

Tom Chasteen, however, has gained nothing, and lost a good bit.  His “heroic” stance in voting against the resolution condemning the redistricting was anything but heroic.  It might have been a brave stand to take, if it accurately reflected his views – but his comments prior to the meeting show that he appears to be as opposed to carving up Athens as his colleagues are.  So, it was pure politics – amoeba politics – for Chasteen.  

But whither now, Tom Chasteen?  In his mayoral run, Chasteen is banking on votes from two groups: local Republicans (who mostly consider him the lesser of four evils), and his traditional Democratic base.  Problem is, the Republicans were probably going to vote for him anyway (they sure weren’t voting for Heidi!), and many of his District 9 base were against redistricting from the get-go, and angry about Chasteen’s no-so-heroic stand.  Add to that the undecided voters, who may not be happy with Heidi, but aren’t big fans of Chasteen.  The undecideds would have probably fallen fairly evenly had Tom followed his conscience.  Now, however, we’ll have to see how they react to a politician who always sticks his finger in the wind before he opens his mouth.  Any way you slice it, the result is a net loss for Tom Chasteen.

Realistically, Tom’s not beaten yet.  Indeed, if Heidi decides not to run, he becomes the frontrunner, barring another high-profile local candidate jumping in.  Even with Heidi in the race, Chasteen probably still makes a runoff with the mayor.  He’s going to be well-funded, and we’re sure his direct mail will be damn purty.  

Nonetheless, we’ll bet he wasn’t up at 1:30 this morning rallying up support for anything.

Related: Contact Governor Sonny Perdue.  

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Redistricting moves to Governor's desk; Perdue places it under his Savannah snow globe for safekeeping

Just in case you’ve been under a rock for the last couple of days, we thought we’d remind you that SB 386, the redistricting bill covering ACC, passed the State House 100 – 69 yesterday. It already made it through the Senate, so now it’s off to the Governor’s desk for his signature.  

Yesterday’s gubernatorial sanity notwithstanding, there’s pretty much no chance that Sonny Perdue vetoes this. Why would he? The only folks pissed off about the bill live in Athens, which went for Roy Barnes over the Governor by a margin of about 60% - 40%, and they aren’t voting for him this time either, probably.

So, where does this leave ACC? Well, Ralph Hudgens and the COC-squad get the gold mine, and if you know your country music you can finish the thought for yourself. Don’t bet on this thing wasting very many of your tax dollars in the courts, either. In all the discussion over redistricting, we’ve yet to hear any cogent legal argument against this plan.

So, on the redistricting front, ACC is at a crossroads. We can sit around and talk about how unfairly screwed we were (and we were!), or we can figure out how to win some elections and move forward. Chances are, we’ll have more than enough of the former, not enough of the latter. Such is politics.