Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Chamber Endorsements- Everybody sit down, it's a real shocker....

Press Release
Release Date: October 30, 2006
Subject: AACOC PAC Endorses Candidates for Commission, Mayor, GA House & Senate

One of the missions of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee (AACOC PAC) is to encourage and support candidates who understand the importance of business to the local community. Prior to making endorsements, the PAC requested that local candidates for Commission and Mayor provide written answers to questions submitted by Chamber members. The questions and candidates’ answers can be found on the PAC’s web site: www.AthensBusiness.Com. The PAC also sponsored forums and debates for candidates. After careful consideration, the AACOC PAC endorses the following candidates in the upcoming election.

Commission District 1: The AACOC PAC endorses James Garland. This was a difficult decision for the PAC because both candidates are supportive of our concerns. However, we recommend that our members support Mr. Garland. In his answers to the PAC’s questions, Mr. Garland displays a strong belief in private property rights and the value of businesses to the community. Over the past several years Mr. Garland has been a strong advocate for the free-enterprise system and less government. The PAC believes that Mr. Garland will be an uncompromised voice for business, lower taxes, and prioritized spending on issues such as roads, sewer service, and water lines.

Commission District 2: The AACOC PAC endorses Alvin Sheats. Mr. Sheats has years of community involvement, serving previously as a Commissioner, the Executive Director of the Hancock Development Center, and as a soldier in the Army National Guard. Mr. Sheats’ service in the Hancock Development Center provides him with first-hand experience in understanding the needs of economic development and workforce development initiatives. Mr. Sheats thoroughly understands that Government working with education and business can make a difference in economic development for our community. The PAC believes that Mr. Sheats will bring that experience and advocacy to the Commission.

Mayor: The AACOC PAC endorses Charlie Maddox. The business community is pleased that Mr. Charlie Maddox and Mr. Tom Chasteen understand the importance of business and industry to the quality of life in Athens. However, we believe that Mr. Maddox is the best candidate for our members. Mr. Maddox is a former small businessperson, a veteran, and a retired employee of the State’s award-winning Labor Department. Mr. Maddox has worked with Chamber member businesses over the years, and he will bring an understanding of our fundamental concerns to the Mayor and Commission sessions. Mr. Maddox understands that business friendly is also community friendly. Most importantly, Mr. Maddox will bring a fresh perspective to Athens Clarke County Government and can bring together our sometimes disparate communities.

GA House District 113: The AACOC PAC endorses Bob Smith. Representative Smith is an uncompromised advocate for education and business in our community. He is a strong supporter of Athens businesses at the state level and chairs important House committees that support economic development for the Athens-Clarke area. Mr. Smith has earned our support.

GA House District 115: The AACOC PAC endorses E.H. Culpepper. Mr. Culpepper is a long-time advocate for Athens-Clarke County, and he understands why the redevelopment of the 316 Corridor can assist Athens in its pursuit of the bio-tech industry, cleaner jobs, and higher paying wages for its citizens.

GA Senate Seat 46: The AACOC PAC endorses Bill Cowsert. Mr. Cowsert’s is a local small businessperson who has bold ideas for our local problems, such as ways to help businesses provide employees with health insurance. Mr. Cowsert is also a supporter of responsible growth and private property rights. We believe that Mr. Cowsert will be a fair and balanced advocate for the Athens area at the State level.

In addition to supporting each of these endorsed candidates financially, the AACOC PAC also asks that you vote for each of these individuals on Tuesday, November 7th 2006.


Michael R. Rainer, Chair
Athens Area Chamber of Commerce PAC, Inc.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Early Voting Today

Early voting starts today. Not that I need to tell anyone who reads AthPo about early voting, because you cats are the hippest, most in-touch, political geeks in the state. (Eat that, Peach Pundit!) So let this be a reminder to you, and maybe you'll remind a few of the unwashed masses. Early voting is a great thing.

In you live in Athens, you can vote at the Board of Elections, downtown on Washington St. (Just down from the City Hall.) In Oconee, you're over at the Courthouse in Watkinsville. (You can vote early from 9am - 5pm today through Friday, and yes, stickers will be available.)

Go vote, bitches.

Speaking of Mayors

Heidi is going to have an event, and if you're still undecided (word on the street is that a lot of folks are - not me, I'm voting for Eric Krasle), you owe it to yourself to take some of Al Davison's advice. Hie thyself out to Winterville and see Heidi, ask her a question or two, put her on the spot. It's cool, she don't mind.

Now, we've given Heidi a little grief around here in the past, and we'll continue to when we don't agree with her. But here's one thing that you can say about Heidi - ask her a question and she'll give you a real answer. And she'll tell you to your face if she thinks you're full of crap, although she's usually pretty nice about it.

Here are the details on the event.
It's this Friday, November 3. Starts at 5pm ends at 7pm, at the Winterville Depot. Hot chocolate will be served, and so help me, Al if it's not good, it's on your head, pal! Capice?

Friday, October 27, 2006

Mayoral Mob Scene

So I went to the Melting Point on Wednesday to see the Mayoral candidates square off, expecting very little in the way of substance or surprise, and basically got what I expected...very little in the way of substance, but perhaps a bit more surprise.

First, I don't know why they call these things "debates" anyway. No one is "debating" anything at these forums. Instead, each candidate is trying to rush their views into a 60 second sound byte, some being more successful than others, but no one really being able to say enough to move a voter from one camp to another. The questions, while adequately posed by Flagpole, Banner-Herald and Red & Black, were standard "debate" fare; too much time on sewerage, not enough time on any "hot" topics like underage drinking or the smoking ban.

That said, my impressions of the candidates really weren't formed until the closing two minute statements. And by the time they were done, I was more confused than ever about for whom to vote on November 7th.

Andy Rusk dropped his withdrawal bombshell during his last two minutes. While having provided comic relief throughout the debate, Rusk had the audience cheering at the end, arguing he didn't want to split the "townie vote" with Mayor Heidi Davison, and that "discretion being the better part of valor" it was time for him to "take a powder". While he half-heartedly threw his support her way, he also praised the other candidates, especially Charlie, for being "great guys". I agreed with Heidi when she said "I hope you run again". With a little more seasoning (and a few fewer PBR's at the debate table), the dude's got a future in politics here.

Richard DeRose stuck to the same themes he's always stuck on/with. I still don't get DeRose, beyond his status as perennial mayoral gadfly, and I don't know if he threatens this every four years, but he said he was just about through with Athens and the University of Georgia, and that we "didn't have much time left". I'm still not sure I "got it", but it was certainly a strange campaign theme: vote for me or I'm leaving town.

Tom Chasteen was over-scripted, wooden, expressionless and stiff during the debate and during his close. I've seen Chasteen more animated at Commission meetings at 3am than during this debate, so I'm not sure what gives. With all the support and base he's built over the years in this town, he should be doing better than he is. I wouldn't underestimate that base, but as a candidate he's got to come off the script and speak more from the heart.

Charlie Maddox surprised me at the end. After offering up various platitudes all night regarding the issues, his closing statement was more revelatory than Rusk's. Voice cracking, pausing to gather his composure, Maddox let loose a seemingly heartfelt tirade on his being an independent, "own man" candidate, and not a stooge for the Chamber or Republicans. I don't know if he's done this kind of thing before (crocodile tears), but his "I'm unbought and unbossed" channeling of Hosea Williams was a powerful, dramatic moment in a "debate" that lacked any soul or interest up to that point. It definitely had several people exchanging "WTF?" glances at one another.

Heidi was Heidi. When she finally stopped scribbling long enough to look up and address the audience (I swear, she was writing on legal pads the entire time she sat at the debate table), she captured her passion from four years ago. Her closing statement reminded everyone in the room who voted for her four years why they did, and really made an impassioned case for another term. Her command of the issues was stellar, and she laid out a brief but comprehensive plan for the next four years, should voters give her that chance.

I agree with Pete McCommons when he wrote that Heidi can be "prickly" and not the most warm and fuzzy candidate you'll ever meet, but we're not electing a den mother, folks. This is Mayor. And while we have a weak Mayor system, you've got to have someone in the hot seat who can, when necessary, corral the other personalities on the Commission and bring some kind of order to the mess. Perhaps Tom Chasteen is that guy, and the robotics were just an act. Perhaps Heidi Davison deserves another four years to keep asserting herself. Maybe Maddox is his own man who wants be the candidate of everyone.

Try to attend the last "debate" if you can. You should meet your candidates and see them up close to form an impression. Me? I still don't know who I'm voting for. Maybe if we could get the leading three candidates to actually debate, I might be able to make up my mind.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Post Debate Open Thread

Coverage tomorrow. Probably.

Anyone there? What did you think? I hear the closing statements were um...interesting.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Master Debaters

Like I was going to pass that joke up.

Here's the skinny, cupcakes.

Debates. Athens Press Club. Tomorrow and Wednesday. Melting Point (at the Foundry Park Inn). Start at 7 sharp both nights. Also on the radio - 1340 AM. Most local and state candidates will be there.

Be there, or Ben Emanuel will leave a flaming bag of poo on your doorstep.

From the Davison Campaign

[Al was kind enough to take us up on our offer for some free space. Here's what he had to say. Previously posted as a comment, but moved to it's own post to promote comment and discussion.]

OK, folks. I sorta promised I’d blog a little about Heidi’s campaign when I had a moment to catch my breath so, here is just a little. (Obviously I’m not going to tell everything.)

We are taking NOTHING for granted in this race! We’ve been busting our humps since the day Heidi announced. We knew we’d be leading from the moment she announced because of all the urgent pleas we were getting for her to run again. It seems that the more they heard from the other guys in the race, the more pressure they put on Heidi to run again. And, yes, it was completely true and sincere that she was not sure whether she wanted to do this job for another 4 years. It’s a life-swallowing job if it’s done right and “right” is the only way Heidi would ever do it. Finally, she decided that she had to do it because the other choices were just not acceptable. She loves this town and she couldn’t abandon it or trust it to any of the other announced candidates. It may sound cheesy or trite but, it’s just absolutely true that she’s running out of a sense of duty and responsibility.

We’re proud of all our endorsements. We’ve gotten endorsed by everybody who does endorsements – except the Chamber PAC and they have yet to announce. We’re starting to wonder if they are afraid to endorse their candidate (you know who I mean) since we’re seeing lots of signs (pun intended) that the Chamber and hard-core Republicans are getting nervous about how closely their candidate is being identified with them.

On that subject, I have to say that there is really nothing at all non-partisan about this race in actuality other than the missing party identification on the ballots. The vast majority of the local (and state-wide) Dems have lined up behind Heidi. The vast majority of the Deep Red Team has lined up behind one of the other 2 “serious” candidates. That is not to say that Heidi does not have support from a lot of locals who usually vote Republican – she does. It’s just not any of the rabid far-right crowd. Heidi has built some great relationships with folks who don’t really agree with her on a lot of issues but they trust her and they know that they can work with her so, they appreciate that she’s honest and will seriously consider their points of view even when they don’t necessarily agree. That’s all good because we can’t win without support from folks who disagree on some issues.

In fact, one of the most gratifying things that we’re discovering about Athens voters is that there are very few “single-issue” voters out there. There are also very few who vote along the lines of race or gender. I’m pretty happy at how savvy is the majority of the local electorate. In fact, I’m proud of us! I’m equally happy that this town still frowns heavily on negative campaign tactics. I truly believe that, in Athens, the first one to go negative loses. We will absolutely NOT go negative! It’s not just good campaign strategy, it’s the only way Heidi and I will ever run a campaign. We do expect some last minute desperation attacks because that’s been the style and tactics that we’ve seen from the folks who are actually running some of the other campaigns – not the ones who have their names listed but the real campaign teams. Good luck to them – it won’t stick to us but it will stick to them long after the election is over. My old football coach once told me something I’ll never forget: “you play the way you practice”. We plan to “practice” and “play” in ways that will never cause us shame even if we lose.

OK, what else can I tell you? I guess the main thing is that we’re doing all we can to win this thing on November 7th. I think I was the only person in town that thought this was possible up until recently. I always knew it could be done. I’m not predicting anything – I’m just saying that there are now a lot of pundits who agree that we might win without a run-off and I’ve not heard from any respectable pundit who thinks Heidi won’t win on either Nov. 7th or Dec. 5th. We aren’t going for a landslide – we don’t really care if we only win by only 1 vote. There are other candidates in this race that are decent folks with plenty of support so there’s no reason to think that Heidi is going to win unanimously. ;-)
I do hope that we don’t have to campaign through Thanksgiving, though. I can imagine that the voter turn-out on Dec. 5th will be one of the lowest on record (unless there is a run-off for Governor).

Good luck all the candidates! Keep it clean, keep it issue based and true – let the people decide and be happy with the results if you can. There is life after Election Day.


Friday, October 13, 2006

Candidates! Listen Up!

Want to guest blog and promote yourself on AthPo? Email us.


As everybody and their bartender knows, rumors are flying that the Commission has just about had enough of people going downtown to drink and listen to good music, so they're taking steps to make downtown Athens "safer."

Ok, before you guys get all over my ass, they're going to ask the state legislative delegation to do some legislatin' to ostensibly cut down on underage drankin'. Among the proposals:

  • Adding a bar code with DOB information to your driver's license.
  • Making it a crime to have someone else's ID if you're caught drinking underage.
  • Making doormen criminally liable for letting in underage people.
WTF? Now, I'm ok with the second point. Although, I would mention that there are plenty of legitimate reasons why you might have someone else's ID. Still, that doesn't really matter, since (as the local govt. wants the statute written) you've already been busted for drinking underage. So we'll hope that law enforcement and prosecutors use a little common sense if this law gets passed.

The bar code thing isn't going to solve very many problems, unless the ACC Commission or the state gummint is planning on providing scanners at little or no cost. If they don't, then this is just another unfunded mandate thrown on to bar owners. Also, I expect to see the tinfoil hat crowd go apeshit about this one. Please don't disappoint me.

Now, making doormen criminally liable for letting in the younguns? I'm not so sure about that one, to be honest. First of all, let's be clear. If a doorman is knowingly letting in the youth of Athens, then sure, bust them. But think about any crowded night downtown. When customers are stacked 8 or 10 deep at the door, and with fake IDs getting better and better, is it really good policy to hold door staff responsible for an honest mistake? The net result of a law like this is pretty clear - no doorman wants to get arrested, they'll move on to doing something else, and the bars downtown will have less doormen and less experienced doormen. And the crowd control problem grows.

Elton Dodson: The Voice of Reason
That's one I never thought I'd type. But Super-Commissioner Dodson (I assume he wears the cape and tights on his own time) has a point, and the ABH is wrong for calling him out in this editorial.

Let's give credit where credit is due - and Elton (along with County Attorney Bill Berryman) has a point. Other local bloggers are on this like white on rice in a snowstorm, so I don't have much to add. Here's Adrian. Here's JMac.

The Bar Owners are Peee-yossed!
So local bar owners are organizing. The leadership appears to be coming from the cats who own Walker's, but sources tell me that they had a very well-attended meeting on Wednesday evening with about 25 - 30 bar owners in attendance. The bar owner's association meeting covered a variety of topics, with one of the main things being why the Mayor and Commission keeps picking on them with skyrocketing property taxes (some bar owners have seen around a 300% property tax increase in the last four years), the extra excise tax on liquor drinks, the sidewalk cafe railings that make crowd control harder, and a handful of other issues.

This is a group that is going to get politically involved pretty soon, as I understand it.

There are two mindsets on this whole issue of how the Commission treats bar owners. Either the bar owners are legitimate business owners who deserve to be treated with the same dignity that the owners of other businesses get from the gummint; or they are ruthless merchants of sin and iniquity that happen to be a convenient piggy bank for those times when the general fund gets a little short.

Here's what I don't get. Many of our commissioners, and certainly our Mayor, talk a good game about being supportive of the downtown entertainment industry. I've seen Heidi downtown. Same with Elton, David Lynn, and a few others. But once they get behind the rail - well, I'm not ready to say that they are anti-bar yet. I will say that the bar owners have a couple of good points to make.

Not to sound too Donald Rumsfeld here, but you build a local economy on the businesses you have, not the businesses you wish you had. If you've lived here for a few decades, as I have, you might remember what downtown looked like a few months after Georgia Square Mall opened up. It wasn't a pretty sight. Bars and music venues kept downtown Athens from looking like any one of hundreds of blighted city centers. They also contribute a lot of money into the local economy.

In any event, it's a good thing that the bar owners are getting organized. The main problem between government and business in this town is a lack of communication.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Voter ID Letter

I wonder how many Athenians will be affected by this letter from the State Election Board:

"More than 300,000 Georgians have received inaccurate letters from the State Election Board telling them about acceptable forms of identification when they vote in the Nov. 7 elections. The one-page letter says the recipient is on a list of registered voters who might not have a driver's license or photo ID card. It requests those who do have licenses to contact the county elections and registrations office and let it know their IDs are valid. Driver's licenses aren't needed to vote, the letter continues, because voters can use five other photo IDs when voting.

"But the letter is wrong because a court ruling bars the state from enforcing the controversial voter ID law."

Presumably, these letters were mailed before the Voter ID Act was struck down (for the umpteenth time) by an "activist jerdge" in Fulton County.

Meanwhile, given our higher than average share of poor folks here in ACC, I can't help but wonder how many Athenians received this letter and are thinking they can't go to the polls in November.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Hi John

We see you looking. Thanks for visiting. (Realistically, it's probably a low-level flunky of course.) Either way, get Firefox like the rest of the bipeds, mmmkay?


From the Chamber's website:

It's popcorn, lemonade, peanuts and politics at the the bi-annual HOB NOB, Old-Fashioned Political Rally Wednesday, October 4th beginning at 6:00 p.m. at the Holiday Inn. Hear stump speeches from ACC Mayor and Commission candidates, State House and Senate Candidates and statewide candidates all in one big event.

Also, there is of course the mayoral debate on the east side mentioned in the comments.

Finally, kudos to Elton for dropping in and sharing a piece of his mind. No matter what you may think of him or the words he chooses to use to describe certain commission candidates, I think it's always positive when the candidates and officeholders choose to engage the public in general and us in particular. Heck, the guy even put his cell # out there. More guts than me.

Go and do likewise, gents.