Tuesday, October 31, 2006

It's Halloween ... at work

Lest we not enjoy the spirit of Halloween at the workplace. Hillary and I did have this entertaining exchange involving the $4 strobe light I had purchased.

Me: What do you think will happen if you stare at it long enough?
Hillary: It will burn your brain.
Me: You think?
Hillary: (stares at strobe light ... looks back) Yeah, that's about right.

If you're wondering, I decided to dress up as Paul ... though he doesn't seem terribly enthused.

Hillary and Intern Lauren pose ... the former is a Hershey's bar if you're curious.

Intern Leslie, on the left, decided to come as Intern Leslie. Though Intern Katie opted for the U.S. Army approach.

I'll be honest, I have no idea what Lanora is ... but it made us all laugh.

Brenda handles our phone calls.

Couple of things

- Endorsements from me start tomorrow, hopefully.

- The Athens Banner-Herald begins its series of profiles on the mayoral candidates with a nice piece on Richard DeRose. He's a bit nutty, I'm not going to lie, but he seems sincere enough.

- Everyone say it with me ... atta girl Hillary.

- Speaking of Andy Rusk, Jason Winders posted his closing remarks from the Athens Press Club debate at his blog.

- I like Mac Rawson, but this seems a little bit unnecessary to me.

- This is a very good compromise regarding the University of Georgia's Fall Break. I loved having a week off at Thanksgiving under the quarters system, so I'm glad some folks will get to enjoy it as well.

- Discussion on this blog has now bled into whether or not I properly understand economic development. I think I have a decent grasp of it, but I'm sure others may disagree.

- Nicki put up her ballot for all to see.

Responsible discussion

After posting this, an anonymous poster responded with this ...

j, You're are a smart dude but WTF do you know about economic development. When Novartis refers to workforce, they refer to an existing and far superior bio technology program in the research triangle. It is years old and even if we didn't have a flake of a mayor, that plant was never coming here. Athens was used as a pawn to get NC to up the ante.

We need to get off out asses and stop sitting around waiting for the next Novartis.We aready for progress now. Our tech school is ready. Our residents are ready. The only person who isn't ready is our joke of a Mayor who spends 25 times more money on greenspace than getting jobs for residents.

She needs to go.

If that's not a backhanded compliment if I've ever seen one ... though thanks for the support of my intellectual abilities (except, of course, for my grasp of economic development).

While I may not be a world-class expert in local economic development, I also do understand the realities that face each situation. And one of those realities is that Novartis implicitly stated that this community lacked the necessary workforce to adequately handle those jobs. And, let's be honest, given the choice to bring a bio-tech company to either the Research Triangle of North Carolina or Athens-Clarke County (at the time the decision was made), it's perfectly understandable why such a decision was made.

Listen ... economic development is vital and essential to any community. I don't think anyone is arguing that here. However, for any company to locate anywhere they're going to want to make sure they have a qualified pool of applicants to draw from.

Now, dare I ask ... with a poverty rate above 25 percent, with high school drop out rates hovering in near 50 percent, with 30,000-plus students willing to work for lower wages and with a glut of service jobs which offer little to no advanced training outside busing tables ... are you really going to tell me that job training, social skills development and education in general isn't more vital in luring these jobs here versus how much money we do or don't spend on greenspace preservation?

I ask that question because I'm someone who does have considerable experience working with families in poverty ... and more often than not, when I go to different employment fairs and meet with different businesses, they all seem to tell us the same thing - it's this lack of a qualified worker base which is the biggest hindrence to this community's economic development.

It's easy, particularly in an election season, to say 'well the mayor wants to hug trees more than people' because that makes for a cool sound bite that can be repeated over and over again. Well, not only is it patently false on the surface, but it does a huge disservice to people trying to make an educated decision on who to vote for.

And, to be fair, this works both ways. If someone said 'elect Charlie Maddox and all of our trees will get clear-cut' that would be patently false as well (for a variety of factors ranging from my personal belief that, despite our disagreements, he just wouldn't do that as well as the realities of how the Athens-Clarke County Commission will look following Election Day).

So folks are coming in and slinging arrows at Davison, and it's getting late in the game and these things happen. Fair enough. However, when you say things like she doesn't care about economic development, than I'd like to see what you think we should do instead.

Super secret code for Hillary

You won't have to get used to anyone else sitting in my chair.

As an aside, I will probably be a few minutes late for work today.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Two things ...

- Novartis has been bantered around back and forth during this whole economic development 'what-have-we-and-what-haven't-we-done' debate, and I think it's important to point out that the primary reason the company didn't set up shop here isn't because of any lack of effort on the current administration's part, but rather the lack of a qualified, properly educated population to pull workers from. On a related note, the Athens Banner-Herald reported on the lack of a potential workers who possessed adequate social skills for job interviews earlier this year, and I think the two are releated. Again, these are the types of things Kelly Girtz addressed in the Athens Press Club debate. Now folks may have some qualms with Heidi Davison, and that's perfectly fine, but harping on Novartis as the shining example of any falsely perceived failed economic development policy is wrongheaded.

- We've got conflicting reports here ... did Andy Rusk have two beers? four beers? a whole six-pack? Andy, buddy, you've got to come to our rescue ... oh, and buy me that beer I've been asking for.

Couple of things

- I've generated some good discussion after recapping Charlie Maddox's less-than-stellar week, including some pro-Maddox prose which, quite frankly, is refreshing to see since it hasn't visited my blog yet. I'm not necessarily swayed or anything ... particularly by our anonymous poster who answered my criticism of 'lack of substance in the new release' by ... re-posting said news release.

- By the way ... this may be something supported by all candidates, but it was only officially requested by one of them. It just seems to me all this (recent) criticism by the anti-Heidi crowd that she hasn't done anything for poverty (and, thus the implication that others have) isn't grounded in much reality. I keep checking off things she's implemented and folks respond 'oh ... that was already going on ... I think' or 'oh ... they all want that' or 'oh ... I'm a uniter not a divider' ... all of it lacking much real critique. Does this mean the other candidates wouldn't take a serious approach to poverty? Of course not. What it does mean is that you can't create some intangible in your opponent that doesn't exist, particularly when there is considerable evidence to suggest otherwise.

- One of our anonymous posters said that we need 'better jobs' (again, sure) and that we don't need them in neighboring counties. Fair enough as I definitely want to see a diverse selection of employment opportunities in Athens-Clarke County, but if a resident of this community gets a good-paying job in, say, Madison County and commutes to and fro ... and said resident improves his or her lot and invests that money in this community ... is it really that bad? If you want to bring jobs and employers to this community, that's great and I'm with you. But if you want to bring them specifically to Athens-Clarke County as a poverty-fighting tool, than the argument is a tad more lacking, you see?

- Speaking of elections, I try to be Carnac the Great and pick what's going to happen in Congress this Election Day.

- Shocking!

- I asked John Marsh a question and he was kind enough to find us and respond, followed by GP offering some of his thoughts. I had penned a comment, but Blogger ate it ... so there's that. Needless to say, that I still think that it's not 'taxation without representation' anymore than asking a visitor to pay sales tax is. Though, I'm not really that big of a fan of the hotel-motel tax and the real point of my criticism was that I think it's wrong of Rep. Bob Smith (who doesn't even live in this community) to determine what is and what isn't an issue this community should debate and decide on.

- So be sure to bring your bullet-proof vest to the victory parade.

- OK ... I agree with the Athens Banner-Herald in this criticism, however where has this same criticism been for most members of the Republican Party when they use similar language? And, for that matter, considering how Democrats have struggled to connect with those very voters Mark Taylor is targeting - of which numerous columnists on that paper's editorial pages have already noted - why the need to criticize his reaching out to said group? Granted, I'm not a huge Taylor fan anymore, but still ...

The crystal ball ...

I've expressed my skepticism with Democrats sweeping into power in recent weeks, so I figured it was about time - as we are just a little more than a week away from Election Day - that I took a look at some of those races that are most hotly contested.

Democrats hold 18 seats up for grabs, while Republicans have 15. According to the most recent polls, Democrats have a lock on holding 12 of those compared to seven for Republicans. Democrats hold slim leads in eight races with four being considered a toss-up and the GOP clinging to a lead in the Virginia Senate race between George Allen and Jim Webb.

What will happen? It's anyone's guess. A lot can shake out in the final week of the campaign, but here's my take ...

Democrats will probably take nine of those contested races, including gains in Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. As much as I'd like to see both Harold Ford Jr. and Webb win in Tennessee and Virginia respectively, it's a tough mountain to climb, and I think Republicans hold their ground there (which is a shame ... both Ford and Webb would make great senators).

That leaves Missouri, Washington and New Jersey as toss-ups. I'd bet for Democrats to take Washington and, more than likely, New Jersey as well. Republicans should hold on to Missouri.

That would give Democrats four pick-ups, bringing their total in the U.S. Senate to 49 (including independents like Joe Lieberman and Jim Jeffords).

As far as gains in the U.S. House, I'm less versed. As of now, Democrats stand to pick up 12 seats, though Sabato's Crystal Ball has 16 as toss-ups. That would mean Democrats would need to snag just three additional seats to grab a majority, which is more possible than them taking back the Senate.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The (Not-So) Best Week Ever

Well ... wow.

It may not be the worst ever in the history of bad weeks for Athenian politicians, but this past one has been quite a doozy for mayoral candidate Charlie Maddox. In the span of just a few short days, the following has happened ...

Blake Aued reports about the now-famous accidental position paper at the Athens Banner-Herald's 'In The Loop' blog, to which Jim Thompson's column today deals with and offers a link to the document in question.

At the same time, Jason Winder's column focuses on the splash made by Andy Rusk's farewell speech, and how that hurts Maddox.

With damage control in full mode, and the Maddox campaign eager to answer the criticisms being leveled at them (including the most frequently heard one of Maddox not actually fleshing out any specifics of what he'd like to do as mayor), the local media was forwarded this brand-spankin' new press release.

And, while I'm most appreciative of being included on the mailing of said release, I don't necessarily think it gives that much more detail and actually leaves me with some additional questions and concerns.

So here are some of my thoughts ...

- First off, let me say that I, for one, don't think that Maddox really is some pawn in an elaborate scheme by the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce to seize political power in this community. Honestly, I thought that at the outset of his campaign, but now I think it's fairly ridiculous to make that charge. What I do think is that he is quite sympathetic, by his own accord, to the views and positions taken by the Chamber of Commerce. He is his own man, and his own views regarding development and the like line up quite nicely with the Chamber's. Maddox is a sharp fella who means well, but we just disagree on some local issues.

- While he may be a nice enough guy, I do take some issue with the release's blatant misrepresentation of the current Commission's actions dealing with poverty. To suggest that Mayor Heidi Davison has done little address poverty in the past four years is, well, patently false. This administration has worked hard to increase public transportation options, lobbied for increased funding for non-profits, helped set up a committee to study how to best utilize the Community Development Block Grant and, most importantly, launched Partners for a Prosperous Athens. Now Maddox may not like the particular actions taken by this administration, but to say 'they've had four years to get this thing right' implies a lack of action. I can't think of a mayor who has done more for poverty in this community than Davison.

- I still don't see that much substance to this new position paper. I don't see that many more specifics, I'm sorry. I see a lot of generalities like 'get our priorities straight' or 'repair damaged relationships' but not a whole lot of how to go about doing that. Nothing like offering tax incentives to developers who build affordable-housing or the potential of freezing property tax rates ...

- I will give him bonus points for crack about the artist-designed bus shelters ... those things were pretty ridiculous.

- Using the phrase 'take back this city from those who are holding it hostage' is more than a tad absurd, but that's just me. Particularly considering that this government is more open and responsive than any I've seen in this state. You may not always like the decisions they make - I know I always don't - but you can't argue they haven't increased the avenues for you to express your concerns to them.

- One thing on this 'jobs is the cure' thing Maddox, and many others, use to combat poverty. Yes, he's absolutely right ... better-paying jobs with more potential for advancement are very crucial. However, we have a workforce that we need to develop and give the necessary, education, technological skills and social skills before we can begin to recruit the right businesses here. I think Kelly Girtz nailed that one in the debate last week when he said even though Novartis has passed us up, we need to make sure we get the necessary funding to handle the appropriate training at Athens Tech.

- It's a tad harsh, sure, but I think Jim's point here ...

Still, it's not so much what the document says that could hurt Maddox in the run-up to the Nov. 7 election. What's more worrisome is that a man who wants to lead this community can't even manage his own campaign staff.

... is partially valid.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Maddox press release

From the Maddox camp.

I intend to put up commentary about this a bit later on in the evening.

Who is with Charlie, who Charlie is with and why it matters to you

I am with those who are frustrated that Athens cannot attract well paying jobs Our government officials have acted irresponsibly in promoting economic development. Don’t let the smoke screen fool you. Poverty, housing and opportunity are explicitly linked to jobs and the current administration has failed miserably to pursue good, well paying jobs. While underfunding our job recruitment activities by hundreds of thousands of dollars, our current leaders have scared off opportunities for jobs coming to Athens.

As mayor I will fund job recruitment efforts in the manner needed. Moreover, I will repair the state and local relationships for job recruitment that have been destroyed in the past four years. Under my leadership we will focus on economic development to attract companies with the right characteristics for Athens. We will set ground rules for the protection of our environment, and we will consistently apply these rules so companies will understand what it will take to bring their business to our wonderful town.

Please understand, I am a life-long resident of this town. I will not support anything that will harm Athens or its citizens. But I will not sit idle as our current administration has done and allow our job situation to continue to deteriorate.

Major initiatives for economic development
1. Adequately fund economic development efforts

- Increase local contribution

- Rebuild partnerships with local industry

2. Focus and carry out business recruitment based on our strengths rather than waiting for industry to come to us:

- Hospitality

- Animal Health

- Media Arts

3. Repair damaged local and state economic development partnerships with:

- Adjoining counties

- Georgia Department of Economic Development

4. Set clear and consistent guidelines for those who choose to do business in Athens:

- Protect our natural resources

- Incentivize desirable business

- Attract clean industry with well paying jobs

I am with those who seek real answers to our city’s problems

Poverty is not a new problem. Too many Athenians have been suffering in poverty for decades. It is a shame that some only recognize poverty when the opportunity to gain or protect power is at stake. The one certain answer to resolving poverty is good, well paying jobs. We need jobs that pay enough to achieve a decent standard of living.

I have spent over three decades connecting people with good jobs. I know that we can no longer try to treat the symptoms of poverty while abandoning the honest search for the cure. We need jobs to bring economic stability to our most vulnerable citizens.

While I will happily embrace partnership with all who seek to alleviate poverty, I will not be content with inaction. The current administration has had four years to address poverty. I will not settle for their level of progress during my term as mayor.

The fact that any effort has been a priority for Athens’ elected officials above clean water, efficient sewage/sanitation and fire protection is utterly despicable. One should not have to live in an area that gets special attention to have maintained roads, sewage/sanitation and fire protection. We need to get our priorities straight. When our citizens are protected and supported with even the smallest amount of government service, perhaps then we can talk about artistically designed bus shelters and other luxuries. Not before.

The current administration has had four years to address housing and the only result is a bustling bureaucracy whose methods keep even public housing projects from proceeding. Government officials have pursued an agenda of no-growth and the result has been repeated frustration for those who could help develop affordable housing. It doesn‘t take a city planner to know that families of four are not going to live in lofts above coffee houses. The proposed solutions are impractical, improbable and probably don’t matter since, like many suggestions, they will most likely never mature beyond the committee stage.

As chairman of the Athens Housing Authority, I only sought answers to housing issues, I demanded action. The result was assistance in the University’s construction of the East Campus Village. The village got 1,200 students out of neighborhoods and apartments and put them on campus near facilities and resources. At the same time, we worked with private developers to help them get low interest financing to build family homes. I will find and implement real answers to Athens’ housing needs.

I am in favor of bike lanes, carpooling, efficient and reliable bus service and I am for all these things as they affect all Athenians. I want a partnership with local businesses to reduce the number of cars on the road. I want creative ways to fund and support a bus service that all Athenians will embrace. I believe in Andy Rusk’s idea to explore broadening sidewalks and I am not ashamed to say so. It’s a good idea and the current administration seems more concerned with who gets credit for good ideas rather than seeing good ideas implemented. I want the best outcome for everyone and I don’t need the credit.

Athens is a community. We share resources, opportunities and challenges. We are a community of neighbors and we should never consider a fellow Athenian to be anything less than a neighbor. It is the responsibility of elected officials to consider our whole neighborhood. Unfortunately and for too long, officials have prided themselves on what they can do for local constituents in the short term while community-wide projects that affect everyone linger and fester with no result.

I will vigorously defend the quality of life in our neighborhoods. I will seek to remove the disparity on ordinance enactment and enforcement. I will never support an ordinance that is not intended on being enforced uniformly in Athens and I will never support an ordinance that seeks to discriminate, separate or further divide this city. Athens is for everyone who lives here no matter who they are or who they know.

Major actions concerning quality of life
- Fully embrace and support the Athens-Clarke County mentor program.

- Remove fees for after school athletic programs for low income children.

- Create a priority list for infrastructure needs and begin action on the most dire.

- Affirm, support and partner with the Athens Housing Authority to attract and develop affordable housing through low interest loans.

- Implement the already passed Floating Homestead Exemption which will protect senior citizens against skyrocketing assessments and taxes.

- Comprehensively survey the city with regards to transportation needs.

- Host weekly meetings in which residents can “Meet with the Mayor” to give insight of their concerns.

I am with those who want to see the right thing done for the right reason I pledge to consider issues as they concern all Athenians. I will listen, learn and give weight to the faintest voice and the loudest cry because everyone deserves a good life in Athens. I do not and will not take public service lightly. I am proud to have been involved with those who have been serving this city for years:

Chairman, Athens Housing Authority
Director, Food Bank of Northeast Georgia
Advisor, The Salvation Army
Director, Samaritan Counseling Service
Director, Athens Area Habitat for Humanity
Director, Athens Neighborhood Health Center
Director, Athens Diversion Center
Director, Mercy Health Center
Court Appointed Special Advocate
President, International Association of Workforce Professionals (Georgia Chapter, 2 terms as president, 8 terms on board and State Representative at the national level)

I am with God
I am a Christian and an ordained minister, and I will make no apologies for it. I believe in the commandment to love each other and that how we treat the least amongst us is how we treat God himself. It is my mission to extend love and community care to all of our residents. I am unabashed in my belief that we all deserve fair and thoughtful consideration from our elected officials.

I am with Athens
I am an Athenian. I was born on Chase Street, lived in Broad Acres and played football and basketball at Athens High Industrial School. I have worked as a police officer, insurance agent, factory worker, bartender, waiter, and have worked for 32 years for the Georgia Department of Labor serving Athens.

I am with my family
I have raised four children and a great niece in Athens. My family continues to benefit from the recreational, cultural and quality of life enhancements Athens offers and it is my position that you and your family should have and enjoy these things as well. I want my children to have the chance to get a good job and raise a family in Athens, just as you would like your children to have the same option.

I need you with me
Take a quick look in the newspaper or on the Internet and you’ll see what I am up against. My opponents cannot stand on their records, so they have resorted to hype and innuendo. We need to take back this city from those who are holding it hostage. We need to release the small businesses that are strangled by the whim of this current administration. We need to give our impoverished kids more than talk and political acrobatics. We need to build a future for you and your children and me and my children.

I need your vote on November 7th. I need your support right now. I need you to raise the issues, speak out and be heard. November 7th is your chance. November 7th is our chance, together.


Charlie Maddox

A shot across the bow (apparently)

Awesome! An inside-baseball reporter/blogger war!

Yesterday, I made a joke at the expense of Athens Banner-Herald reporter Blake Aued, though to be fair, I don't think it was really all that funny, nor was it really that critical.

Aued, understandably, took offense and fired back at me.

Finally, JMac over at safeashouses doesn't particularly care for my debate coverage. I know he's been out of the game for a while, with his cushy 9-to-5 and whatnot, but you try distilling two hours of talk into 500 words and doing it in 20 minutes, with a curveball like Rusk's last-second announcement thrown at you to boot. Anybody who thinks they can do better is welcome to try.


Now he's right about some things ... I do have a 9-to-5, though I wouldn't exactly say it's 'cushy,' and it is hard to try and whittle down something like a lengthy debate into a mere 12 to 15 inches of copy. I may have been out of the game for a bit, but I've been on deadline before and, yeah, it kinda sucks. In fact, I actually pointed that out at the end of my sarcastic reply.

And, again, to be fair Aued did a bang-up job at the blog wrapping up the debate ... particularly the portion about the Charlie Maddox's criticism of Heidi Davison and the whole hullabaloo surrounding that (plus, Andy Rusk drank a six-pack of PBR ... wow) ... so, kudos. I spoke too soon, so here's my mea culpa.

I've only met Aued a couple of times, but he seems to be a nice enough fella, and he's done a pretty good job with the local government beat (plus he gave my little ole blog some love just a few days earlier, so I really do feel kinda sheepish now).

So, dude, seriously, no hard feelings ... I was just being a little sarcastic, that's all.

Hell, I'm just glad someone is reading.

Couple of things

- The Athens Banner-Herald put together a nice piece on the Senate District 47 race between Mac Rawson and Ralph Hudgens ... the latter looking more and more like a complete moron with each passing second. For the life of me, I really can't get how we're able to have an election that is based almost purely on the fact that Hudgens has so much contempt in his heart for the very city of Athens, that he felt the need to dilute its voting strength. Still, it's an uphill climb for Rawson no matter what.

- Speaking of politics, the Banner-Herald gives Andy Rusk some props.

- Hey, you know what? I used to work with this guy, and he was a lazy, terrible writer back then and now he's a full-fledged idiot.

- So does this mean they're not going to endorse in the governor's race? That seems odd to me if that's the case.

- This is a follow-up to a silly debate we had a few days back, but it appears that Michael J. Fox was on his medication for the ad.

- Again, this sounds good, but it depends on individual races at the local level rather than polls of the entire country.

- OK John Marsh ... does this you don't support the sales tax either? What if you own land in this community, but live elsewhere? I mean, it seems to me you could have a couple of rational reasons to oppose the hotel-motel tax but crying 'taxation without representation' is absurd.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Music for the moment (random favorites edition)

Bruce Springsteen
Favorite - Atlantic City
Close Behind - Darlington County, Youngstown

Shooter Jennings
Favorite - Fourth of July
Close Behind - Solid Country Gold

Waylon Jennings
Favorite - Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way
Close Behind - Luckenbach, Texas

Favorite - Going Under
Close Behind - The Only One

Favorite - To Live And Die In L.A.
Close Behind - How Do You Want It

The Fray
Favorite - Look After You
Close Behind - How To Save A Life

Dixie Chicks
Favorite - Long Time Gone
Close Behind - The Long Way Around

Marc Broussard
Favorite - Home
Close Behind - Where You Are

Good reads

Obsidan Wings had a nice piece on Barack Obama and all of the things he has actually done while flying low under the radar. It's a good read and kinda quashes a lot of 'Obama lacks the necessary experience' as he's actually done a lot of things in a short amount of time.

Also, I'm no fan of Rick Santorum, so I find Matthew Yglesias's criticism funny. It's not earthshattering by any means, just kinda made me chuckle.

Couple of things

- Blake Aued is a bit lacking in his reporting of the mayoral debate.* At least summarize what they talked about buddy. Andy Rusk, however, is withdrawing from the mayoral race.

- From what I heard from the Athens-Clarke County Commission debate ... about Alvin Sheats ... wow. He does appear to be the candidate with the most comic appeal. He really enjoyed not disagreeing with his opposition, not offering any concrete details and speaking in generalities and odd, over-enunciated cliches.

- Also, in the process of his closing statement, Doug Lowry went from being a conservative, as he claimed he was a few weeks ago, to being 'the Democrat in the race' to then, literally just a few moments later, being the independent in the race. Wow. That's a hat trick.

- And, though I don't want to be, I become more and more impressed with James Garland. We're still light years apart from each other on several issues, but he knows his stuff, is firm in his beliefs, but also appears to be more than willing to sit down and hammer out a workable solution to problems.

- Kelly Girtz also impresses me very much. He performed very well last night and had the only closing statement out of the District Nine candidates that didn't make him sound like a robot.

- Listen, I'm torn on this thing right here because, from what I've heard from people who have worked with Terry Holley, he did appear to be a bit overwhelmed in this whole thing (and, to be fair, first time running for office and you do something like Congress, it's going to be overwhelming at times). But, even though he's going to get it handed to him by Charlie Norwood in the general election, how wise is it to air your dirty laundry less than two weeks before Election Day?

- I can't make any promises, but I don't think we'll sound like chipmunks in the latest The Cover Two podcast.

- I take a look at who gave what to what campaign, courtesy of Flagpole's reporting.

- Hi! My name is Bill Shurman! I enjoy talking about things I know nothing about!

- Hi! My name is Jeff Emmanuel! I enjoy talking about things I know nothing about!

*In reality, Aued was probably backed up on deadline and had to get his story in ASAP. Having been there and done that, I'm sure it was. But, hey, I wanted a cheap laugh and it would have been nice to have a bit more coverage, wouldn't it?

A hat tip

Andy good sir, we'll miss you.

I think you brought a good bit of positive attention to younger voters in this community, as well as being gracious enough to participate in several discussions at this blog and at Athens Politics. I hope you stick around and decide to give it another go down the road.

And anytime you'd like to buy me a beer, I'm up for that too.

It makes the world go 'round

Flagpole has released a full donor list for the area candidates for office, and it's mighty interesting.

A couple of things stand out ...

- I'm surprised that Tom Chasteen was able to raise more funds. He's got great name recognition and some political leanings you'd think would appeal to some of the moderate-to-conservative folks in town. Of course, it isn't that surprising when ...

- ... you see how much Charlie Maddox hauled in. It's obvious that those more conservative, pro-business, pro-development folks that Chasteen was hoping he could effectively court made their way to the Maddox camp. Staines Properties, Thornton Realty & Development, Chesser-Kennedy Builders, Lewis Shropshire, L.C. Fort & Associates all wrote checks to his campaign.

- By contrast, those who have differing views than those folks lined up behind Heidi Davison, like Bertis Downs, the guys from R.E.M., Alice Kinman, Louis McBee, etc. But she also drew from a good variety of people, including restauranteur Hugh Acheson, area broker Bob Carson Jr. and James Shrum, the administrator at Athens Regional Medical Center.

- Ralph Hudgens raised close to $190,000 ... and an overwhelming portion of it is from the insurance industry. That's not necessarily a bad thing depending on where you come down on your views of the insurance industry, but it's pretty interesting to see just how few individual donations he has.

- Also, both Jane Kidd and Bill Cowsert, though more Cowsert, got lots of money from other campaigns across the state. I've never really thought of campaigns trading money back and forth, but there you go.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Couple of things

- If things like this keep happening, I might be willing to push aside my disbelief and possibly consider that the voting public at large might actually give Democrats control of at least one of the branches of Congress.

- Neither one of these endorsements by the Athens Banner-Herald are terribly surprising. They endorsed Bill Cowsert over Jane Kidd last time around, so it's understandable they'd do so again. Likewise, the editorial staff was rightly critical of Ralph Hudgens during the redistricting efforts earlier this year, so it makes sense to endorse Athenian Mac Rawson.

Ralph Hudgens, the incumbent Republican in the state Senate District 47 seat, is the poster child for everything wrong with having a single party dominant in the state legislature. Such dominance creates an atmosphere in which legislators can, and will, do things just because they can. In this year's state legislative session, Hudgens proved himself willing to engage in just such shameless partisanship, as he sponsored legislation redrawing Senate District 46 and 47 for no reason other than to make them more Republican-friendly. That he did so with virtually no consultation with the area's local governments or citizens makes his heavy-handed action all the more execrable.

- Speaking of the elections, the first Athens Press Club debate was last night. I like Doug McKillup's idea of mimicking the federal earned income tax credit at the state level, but I also like Regina Quick's idea of targeting state funding for needy schools. And while what Bob Smith says about responsible parenting is quite true, I don't think teaching kids the Pledge of Allegiance is going to lead to a sudden rise in SAT scores.

- She's playing a big role? Shoot, the number of ads I've seen her in you'd think Mary Perdue was running for governor and not her husband.

- Revealing his love for all things Cal Ripken Jr.-related, Tim breaks down the Hall of Fame classes for the next few years. Though ... Harold Baines? Really?

- Matt Yglesias has a new site, and I think he makes good sense in this posting about personal experience and political determination and how Democrats often confuse the two, much to their own peril. However, I think he doesn't give Sen. Barack Obama much credit in this criticism, and the first commenter notes how Obama fended off attacks from Bobby Rush in a previous election.

- Will Ferrell is funny.

Because it's funny ...

Last night, The Wife and I had dinner with Matt and Caroline (at Maison Bleu, good meal for all though my actual entree was disappointing ... stuffed chicken with apples, pecans and Gruyere cheese), and we got to chatting about Will Ferrell's impersonation of Robert Goulet.

That has led to me posting this highly entertaining video of his bloopers at Saturday Night Live.

Coming soon

I don't want to call them 'endorsements' since, well, it's just me doing the endorsing. But I'll be writing up who'll I'll be supporting in the upcoming 2006 elections within the next week.

I suppose this will just keep you, the loyal reader, tuned in.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Couple of things

- I suppose the endorsement of E.H. Culpepper by the Athens Banner-Herald is its way of making amends to its conversative readers for endorsing Heidi this past weekend. Culpepper has lots of experience, but I don't accept the argument that because he's an independent he'll get more accomplished in the Georgia General Assembly. If anything, I think he'll receive pressure from the controlling Republican majority to declare his party affiliation, and until that happens not much will get done. The endorsement of Becky Vaughn is also surprising, though not really. It isn't as if Bob Smith has ever actually done anything for Athens-Clarke County, allowing his ideology to trump the wishes of his constituents time and time again.

- When your criticism results in you appearing as if you haven't the faintest idea how the office of the attorney general actually works, than you've got a long, uphill climb.

- An honest question for Mike Griffin, a conservative pastor seeking office who's very much anti-illegal immigration, how difficult is it to reconcile your Christian duty to love thy neighbor and watch over the poor with your desire to deny them even the charitable assistance from private, non-profit organizations when they cross the border?

- I regale you with tales and images from the weekend that was ...

- Al posted some of the going-ons from Heidi Davison's campaign over at Athens Politics.

- The trailer for Bobby is up.

- I started reading The Audacity of Hope by Sen. Barack Obama on Sunday, and it's very good. It's really, quote possibly, the first time I've ever read anything by a politician and thought 'I've been saying the exact same thing!' ... which, as I nudge The Wife to tell her these instances, she grows more and more annoyed. Anyway, here is an excerpt.

A two-day affair

Poor DAve forgot to charge his camera, so it's left up to me to post pictures from this past weekend's tailgate.

Good times. A few observations.

- Let the word go forth ... Josh is the master when it comes to thinking up trivia questions. Effortlessly weaving in observations from blogdom with absurdly random, yet fascinating historical trivia.

- Rule No. 3,214 ... anytime a Batman mask is involved, always a good time.

'What do we do when we fall down? We stay down and take a nap.'

- Rule No. 3,781 ... if you're not a regular visitor to our tailgate, yet proceed to eat 1/4 of our bratwurst count, please leave at least $5 in the tip jar.

- Fire pits definitely make any event that much better ... even if they typically involve Tim developing outlandish scenarios where we wonder how Scott would respond to having the firepit accidently flipped over on him.

Note how the darkness of the night, coupled with his black hair, makes Tim appear to be bald.

- OK ... pictures...

This is me and my cousin Stephen ... who's 6-foot-5, weighs 275-plus pounds, has blondish hair and is Republican ... so he's, like, the exact opposite of me. Still, he's family, so I'll keep him.

Is it just me, or does John appear to change his shirts at least three times during the course of a tailgate?

A picture of me and DAve, which the latter said was 'artsy.'

Meims, Carrie and a mysterious, floating can.

What happens when a lot of people spend the night at your place after a tailgate? You get a fridge full of the beer that time forgot.

Monday, October 23, 2006


Considering anything with Lindsay Lohan makes me rightfully skeptical, I was nervous about Bobby, which should come out in a month or so.

Fortunately, my fears - at least based on the trailer - appear to be unfounded.

From the shelves

Ultimately, though, I believe any attempt by Democrats to pursue a more sharply partisan and ideological strategy misapprehends the moment we're in. I am convinced that wheneve we exaggerate or demonize, oversimplify or overstate our case, we lose. Whenever we dumb down the political debate, we lose. For it's precisely the pursuit of ideological purity, the rigid orthodoxy and the sheer predictability of our current political debate, that keeps us from finding new ways to meet the challenges we face as a country. It's what keeps us locked in "either/or" thinking: the notion that we can have only big government or no government; the assumption that we must either tolerate forty-six million without health insurance or embrace "socialized medicine."


They are out there, I think to myself, those ordinary citizens who have grown up in the midst of all the political and cultural battles, but have found a way - in their own lives, at least - to make peace with their neighbors, and themselves. I imagine the white Southerner who growing up heard his dad talk about niggers this and niggers that but who has struck up a friendship with the black guys at the office and is trying to teach his own son different, who thinks discrimination is wrong but doesn't see why the son of a black doctor should get admitted into law school ahead of his own son. Or the former Black Panther who decided to go into real estate, bought a few buildings in the neighborhood, and is just as tired of the drug dealers in front of those buildings as he is of the bankers who won't give him a loan to expand his business. There's the middle-aged feminist who still mourns her abortion, and the Christian woman who paid for her teenager's abortion, and the millions of waitresses and temp secretaries and nurse's assistants and Wal-Mart associates who hold their breath every single month in the hope that they'll have enough money to support the children that they did bring into the world.

I imagine they are waiting for a politics with the maturity to balance idealism and realism, to distinguish between what can and cannot be compromised, to admit the possibility that the other side might sometimes have a point. They don't always understand the arguments between right and left, conservative and liberal, but they recognize the difference between dogma and common sense, responsibility and irresponsibility, between those things that last and those that are fleeting.

They are out there, waiting for Republicans and Democrats to catch up with them.

- Sen. Barack Obama, 'The Audacity of Hope'

Couple of things

- Let's just say that I'm getting my resume together.

- In what was a surprising (and, to me, welcome) sight, the Athens Banner-Herald endorsed Heidi Davison for re-election to Athens-Clarke County mayor. I was convinced they were going to opt for either Tom Chasteen or Charlie Maddox, probably Chasteen. The editorial actually had rather strong words of criticism for Maddox:

If there is one candidate in this race who is proving to be something of a disappointment, it's Charlie Maddox, who is billing himself as the one candidate who will represent all of the people of Athens-Clarke County. The trouble is, Maddox seems a bit short on ideas as to just what he would do in the mayor's office to make sure the wide variety of voices in the community are heard.

- The Banner-Herald endorses Doug Lowry in District One and Kelly Girtz in District Nine. I'm not entirely sold on Lowry, but I think Girtz is a pretty good choice.

- Listen, don't blame big business or the media for the glorification of high school athletes ... they're merely following the precedent set by local businesses, some unscrupulous teachers, win-at-all-cost coaches and area boosters, as shown in the book Friday Night Lights. I, fortunately, never encountered any of the like during my time covering high school athletics, but my conversations with coaches, parents and colleagues helped show me that such attitudes did exist in other parts of the country.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Couple of things

- There's some hullabaloo over the Oconee Fall Festival, with the original offer of a $25 gift certificate to Chicken Express being hysterical to me (I'd probably have accepted the offer for what it's worth ... you get gravy with your order). Oconee County isn't exactly a friendly territory for Democrats, but I just don't buy the 'you-can't-put-signs-up-you-dirty-liberal' argument the area Democrats are putting out there. I mean, sometimes when you say you don't want signs of any politician up it really means you don't want signs of any politician up.

- Some stuff happened last night, such as a vote to build a four-lane parkway parallel to Atlanta Highway. I don't completely agree with the no votes of Elton Dodson, Alice Kinman and Carl Jordan, however I do think the trio raised two good points in expressing concern over use of sales tax money as well as questioning just how necessary is this road now. The way I see it, traffic flow is worse in the city along places like Lumpkin Road and Baxter Street rather than Atlanta Highway. Also, in an area in which I have little knowledge, the commission is poised to reconsider putting a forced main sewer line along Whit Davis Road and instead use a gravity line.

- Hillary disagrees with me over the Fox Sports ads for the World Series in which fans of other teams are encouraged to watch even if your team isn't playing. I think they're pretty clever and countered by saying that you watch college football even if it's not Georgia playing. Her response was that she's hoping that the team ahead of Georgia loses, which helps the Bulldogs out. All I know is that the Mets lost last night, and I would have rather watched a Tigers/Mets matchup than one featuring the St. Louis Cardinals. Still ... go Tigers.

- Wow. Can this article instead read 'Chamber of Commerce out to recruit College Republicans' since that is a tad more appropriate? Here's my thing ... sure we need to balance environmental interests with business interests (creating good-paying jobs for our community is very important to combatting poverty), however why is it either-or? Why does 'creating jobs' seem to automatically mean to pro-Chamber folks 'cut down lots of trees and build big-box shopping centers which will be vacant in four years?' Furthermore, isn't there a viable way to combine the need to preserve the environment and pursuing new greener technologies with economic development?

- James Garland (sort of) took up the offer of Athens Politics and submitted some of his thoughts in the comments. He also said nice things about me, so thanks man.

Worth noting

Theology is the study of God and His ways. For all we know, dung beetles may study us and our ways and call it humanology. If so, we would probably be more touched and amused than irritated. One hopes that God feels likewise.
- Frederick Buechner, 'Wishful Thinking: A Seeker's ABC'

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Couple of things

- See, this is something where, hopefully, the Athens-Clarke County Commission will take a look at the smoking ban and say 'well, we didn't intend that, and make the appropriate changes. Because, obviously, it's wrong of the enforcement officials to interpret, you know, an outdoor patio as an inside structure. But, rather than everyone get all up in arms, this is a perfect example of how something which is relatively small should be fixed.

- There's a satiric video of Heidi Davison floating around on YouTube these days. Now, being a Heidi man, I think it's more than a bit misleading ... however, it's kinda funny, and I think she'd even agree with that. Adrian has it too.

- Speaking of Davison, she was kind enough to pass on the League of Women Voters Explanation and Analysis of the 2006 Ballot Initiatives.

- As you have probably discovered, we had massive quality control failures with our most recent The Cover Two podcast ... so Scott put up the streaming audio as well as the downloadable mp3 for this week's installment.

- James Garland has been a regular commenter in these parts, so I'd like to give a plug for a meet-and-greet he'll be hosting at the Winterville Depot next Monday. You may not agree with James, but he's open and kind and will be more than willing to talk to you.

- You know why I kinda like Carl Jordan? Because you absolutely never know what you're going to get ... case in point, his proposal to do away with insurance for family members of government employees. I'm not really on board with that idea, per se, because I think there are a lot of issues that would have to be worked out with this.

- Julie at the Athens Banner-Herald gives the ole musee some love.

- There's an intern edition of 'Real Work Conversations'.

- Interesting story on party crossovers from The Washington Post which is probably half due to frustrations with today's Republican leadership and half due to political opportunism.

- Well, ok, thanks for writing.

Ballot initiatives this fall

The League of Women Voters of Georgia just put out their explanations and analysis of several proposed ballot iniatives for this fall's election. This piece lists both pros and cons of each amendment as they interpret them, and then distributes them for free to the voters.

As always, it's mighty informative and thanks to Mayor Heidi Davison for passing it on to me.

Unless specifically stated, LWVGA does not have a position on the amendments or ballot referendums appearing on the November ballot. LWVGA provides explanations, pros and cons as part of our mission to educate Georgia voters on candidates and issues that will appear on the November ballot.

Constitutional Amendments:

1) Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to prohibit the use of eminent domain by certain nonelected authorities and to prohibit the contested use of eminent domain except for public use as defined by general law? (HR 1306, passed in 2006)

EXPLANATION: Confines the government's use of eminent domain to public use only and it would prohibit nonelected authorities (such as local development authorities) from exercising the power of eminent domain, thereby ensuring that only elected officials are vested with that authority.

PROS: Provides stated protections for private property owners in the state Constitution to limit the power of eminent domain specifically to instances relating to redevelopment projects deemed for “public use.”

CONS: The state Constitution already restricts the use of eminent domain powers. If further protecting private property rights is the goal, this amendment may be too weak to achieve the protections it promises as it allows the definition of “public use” to be redefined by the General Assembly at any time.

2) Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide that the tradition of hunting and fishing and the taking of fish and wildlife shall be preserved for the people and shall be managed by law and regulation for the public good? (SR 67, passed in 2005)

EXPLANATION: Provides formal recognition of hunting and fishing as traditions in the state.

PROS: Constitutionally recognizes hunting and fishing as traditions in Georgia and could be interpreted or used in future instances to mandate funding for wildlife resource management to preserve these activities.

CONS: Georgia law already provides funding for wildlife resource management for hunting and fishing and it is unknown what impact or additional protections may be offered if these activities are constitutionally recognized.

3) Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to authorize the General Assembly to provide for special motor vehicle license plates for stated purposes, including dedications for the ultimate use of agencies, funds or nonprofit corporations where it is found that there will be a benefit to the state? (HR 1564, passed in 2006)

EXPLANATION: Empowers the General Assembly to provide for several new special motor vehicle license plates for optional purchase and authorize our lawmakers to dedicate some or all of the revenue from the sale of these special tags for programs relating to the plate’s subject. The dedicated revenue may go to an agency, fund, or nonprofit corporation for the ultimate use of a nonprofit corporation if found to be a benefit to both the state and the nonprofit.

PROS: Raises funds and visibility for many important causes and the organizations that address those specific causes with legislative authorization only. Currently, each license plate proceeds have to be enabled with a statewide referendum.

CONS: There would be little flexibility to amend the list of special interest license plates and their beneficiary organizations. Further, many groups on the list represent only one side of an issue or problem. The LWVGA encourages voters to view the full list of approved plates and the organizations that will receive funds from their sale (see below). Finally, in instances where the state places earmarks on dedicated funds it also has the right to remove those earmarks, as was the case with the Hazardous Waste Trust Fund.

LWVGA Position: The language that will appear on the ballot does not give voters all the information such as what tags were approved by the General Assembly or what organizations will receive funds raised by the tags. The incomplete language on the ballot does not offer the voter full information on what the elector is ratifying. Further, the League opposes earmarks on dedicated funding. A complete list of the special tags that were approved by the General Assembly and the organizations that will receive funds from the sale of the plates is available at www.lwvga.org or at www.legis.state.ga.us, search HR 1053.

Statewide Ballot Referendums:

1) Shall the Act be approved which provides a homestead exemption for the full value of the homestead with respect to all ad valorem taxes for the unremarried surviving spouse of a peace officer or firefighter who was killed in the line of duty? (HB 81, passed in 2006)

EXPLANATION: Exempts the unremarried surviving spouse of a peace officer or firefighter who was killed in the line of duty from all ad valorem taxes. This will not affect any special assessments assigned to the property, however, and the exemption will have to be applied for in person.

PROS: Provides a generous benefit to those whose spouses serve in the public interest and sacrifice their lives serving the community as firefighters or peace officers.

CONS: Very narrowly tailored with a small impact on Georgians overall. The referendum is potentially difficult to enforce as written because it does not specify if the benefit is applicable to officers and firefighters in other states if the surviving spouse moves to Georgia and related scenarios. Further, if the widowed spouse remarries, he/she will not be eligible for the exemption even if he/she is raising the children of the fallen firefighter or officer. Any other employee of the state or local government who is killed in the line of duty is not given this benefit.

2) Shall the Act be approved which provides that, with respect to base year assessed value homestead exemptions, the surviving spouse of a deceased spouse who has been granted such a homestead exemption shall receive that exemption at the same base year valuation that applied to the deceased spouse so long as that surviving spouse continues to occupy the home as a residence and homestead? (HB 81, passed in 2006)

EXPLANATION: Allows the surviving spouse to retain the homestead exemption which the couple had while the other spouse was still alive. Overall, the surviving spouse would not incur any increased tax liability due to an increase in assessed value.

PROS: Exemption requirements are based on age, income and disability. The taxpayers this would benefit are the younger spouses who may not qualify for the exemption on their own because they have not met the age requirements.

CONS: This referendum only provides this benefit to a very select group of the population and could have additional implementation ramifications. Further, the fiscal impact on state and local budgets is unknown.

3) Shall the Act be approved which expands the ad valorem tax exemption for veterans organizations to include certain additional nonprofit veterans organizations which refurbish and operate historic military aircraft for educational purposes? (HB 173, passed in 2006)

EXPLANATION: Expands the ad valorem tax credit already in place for veterans’ groups with 501 (c)(3) tax-exempt status to those which have been organized for the purpose of refurbishing and operating historic military aircraft acquired from the federal government or other sources, to make such aircraft airworthy, and putting the aircraft on display for public educational purposes, i.e. the Commemorative Air Force.

PROS: Provides for an ad valorem exemption to a nonprofit veterans organization which refurbish historic military airplanes.

CONS: This referendum is very narrowly tailored and is an example of special interest legislation. The fiscal impact is estimated to be less than $500,000 statewide.

4) Shall the Act be approved which grants an exemption from ad valorem taxation on property owned by a charitable institution which generates income when that income is used exclusively for the operation of such charitable institution? (HB 848, passed in 2006)

EXPLANATION: Clarifies current law in that the ad valorem exemption applies to 501 (c)(3) tax-exempt charitable institutions so that the exemption can apply to real estate or buildings owned by the charity so long as the income used from the property supports the operation of the nonprofit.

PROS: This exemption would foster and promote growth of nonprofit charitable organizations by providing a generous tax exemption.

CONS: Represents a slippery slope as groups could potentially use the nonprofit organization as a way of avoiding normal taxation. It could also encourage other entities to seek 501 (c)(3) status in order to benefit from the exemption and may take many parcels of property off the tax rolls and have real fiscal impacts on local and state revenue.

5) Shall the Act be approved which provides a homestead exemption for senior citizens in an amount equal to the actual levy for state ad valorem tax purposes on the homestead? (HB 848, passed in 2006)

EXPLANATION: This referendum would allow taxpayers 65 and older to be exempt from state ad valorem property taxes. This exemption is independent from senior exemptions already in place and would have no bearing on the county, city or local school tax revenue.

PROS: Tax exemption for senior citizens, many of whom live on a fixed income.

CONS: This credit is very small, one quarter of a mill or less than $15 per year on a home valued at $150,000. The state revenue loss is estimated at $6.8 million in FY08 and $7.3 million in FY09. This population is expected to double by 2030. Further, the income of the homeowner is not considered when providing this tax exemption.

6) Shall the Act be approved which expands the ad valorem tax exemption for agricultural products and equipment to include certain additional farm equipment held under a lease purchase agreement? (HB 203, passed in 2005)

EXPLANATION: Expands eligibility for the existing tax exemption for farm equipment to also cover any equipment held under a lease purchase agreement.

PROS: Provides expanded tax exemptions for farmers financing certain farm equipment through lease purchase agreements and treats the users of the same type of equipment the same, whether owned or leased.

CONS: Traditionally, ad valorem tax is levied based on ownership. The language on the ballot is very vague and does not offer voters an explanation of what “additional farm equipment” could include or the potential fiscal impact on the budget. Also, the agricultural industry pays almost no taxes for crops cultivated or animals raised, no sales taxes on purchases for use in agriculture and have very favorable property tax treatment for the first 2000 acres. All but 2% of farm land is controlled by corporate entities in Georgia.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Real Work Conversations

Intern Leslie: I know you're going to make fun of me and how I eat at commercial chain restaurants, but I ate at Chili's for lunch today.
Me: Leslie, come on.
Intern Katie: We've got to get you a list of local restaurants.
Intern Leslie: It's awful, I know.
Me: There are plenty of good ones around you can eat at.
Intern Katie: I can forgive you for Chili's ... but Applebee's? Absolutely not.


Me: Is it wrong of me to like that new song by Diddy?
Intern Leslie: Which one is it?
Me: It's called 'Come To Me.'
Intern Lauren: Perhaps if you sang it for us, we could help you out.
Me: I'm not singing a Diddy song.
Intern Lauren: You sang 'Ignition' by R. Kelly yesterday.
Me: That's different.
Intern Lauren: Apparently there's an R. Kelly mood?
Me: Anytime is an R. Kelly mood.

Podcast (really)

There was some sort of error in uploading our The Cover Two podcast, so Scott has been gracious enough to host the most recent episode until the problem is worked out.

For streaming audio, click here.

For a downloadable mp3, click here.

Couple of things

- I mean, this is nice to see as a Democrat, but I don't think it's going to happen. Not because the public isn't upset with the current Republican leadership, but rather because national opinion surveys actually reveal very little about local and state races. In strongly conservative areas, the voters, at this day and age, are going to back Republicans pretty much regardless. So, while I think Democrats will gain seats and have an outside shot of taking control of one half of Congress, I think it's rather ridiculous to say they'll sweep into power. Plus, looking long-term, I'm not sure it would be the best thing if Democrats did take both sides of Congress two years out of a presidential election. The good thing about being a minority party is, for the most part, you're able to politically portray yourself as the outsider.

- The mayoral candidates continue to fight for votes, and perhaps Charlie Maddox heard me as he (sort of) offered more details on his plans (i.e. pledging to spend local taxes on local poverty ... though, to be fair, that probably would impact other services as well). Both James Garland and Doug Lowry said they wouldn't extend services to rural areas ... with the latter's opposition adding another layer to the oddity that is his campaign.

- We've got the latest podcast ready to go.

- Sam Nunn gets a lot of flack from those who are more left than myself, but I've always really liked the guy ... and his common sense on the North Korean crisis is a small example of why.

- Really ... would you expect anything else from someone with the name Chester Mingledorff?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Music for the moment

Couple of things

- Charlie Maddox's people shared some of his answers to the Federation of Neighborhoods survey, and I share those with you.

- Speaking of Maddox, I let you know why I'm troubled by his candidacy.

- Clarke County School District buses are going to start checking out biodiesel, which is pretty cool. It's expected to be the same cost-wise and mileage-wise, but should help (understandably) with that whole pollution thing.

- Speaking of Maddox (again), Hillary has a copy of States McCarter's endorsement.

- Listen lady, I'm all for free speech, even if your definition of free speech is a rather unfunny bumper sticker. But, the citation was dismissed and the law was overturned in 1991 ... so why wage this unusual fight? It seems hard to me and my novice legal mind to understand how your constitutional rights were violated when the actual violation has been thrown out.

- The University of Georgia should work on this, but I think saying it's shocking the students didn't know their professors were tenured is a bit much. I'm not entirely sure that's the first thing on their mind. I mean, if I follow the recent logic of the editorial board, all those crazy kids should be interested in is illegally consuming large quantities of liquor.

- I was going to write this letter. By the way ... why does everyone keep saying we haven't been attacked since 9/11. If I remember correctly, October 2001 was dominated by an anthrax attack, while later the same year some idiotic kid with sympathetic views to al-Qaida slammed a small plane into a high-rise in Florida.

... it's the new 'thing'

The Athens Banner-Herald did a nice story on the impact that poverty is having on this year's local elections this past Sunday. As someone who works with an organization that helps homeless families and deals with these types of issues on a daily basis, this is most refreshing. Serious community discussion and involvement is needed to combat this problem, and the more the candidates pay attention to it, the better it'll get.

And, again, I like what Heidi Davison said and I feel comfortable and pleased with the leadership she has offered this community with regard to Partners for a Prosperous Athens and poverty.

Now, earlier I said that despite our disagreements and differences, I had the utmost respect for the folks who work with Charlie Maddox's campaign. They're good people who are fair and very talented, and though I don't know Maddox, I imagine he's just like the people he surrounds himself with.

However, being a nice person and being the right man for the job are two different things. So allow me to offer some criticism and briefly articulate why I think electing Maddox as mayor is, quite frankly, a bad idea for Athens-Clarke County.

Maddox has been one of the longest declared candidates for the mayoral seat, however I probably know the least about him. This used to be a criticism I reserved for Tom Chasteen, but the commissioner has done a very good job in fleshing out his thoughts and his opinions and his beliefs over the past few months. He and I don't see eye-to-eye on many of the issues, but he's come a long way with regard to expressing his vision to the community.

Maddox, on the other hand, is an enigma. I honestly have absolutely no idea what his grand plan is. He speaks in simplistic sound bites, all designed for him not to say too much and not to get into too much trouble. The less you say, the less your opponents and the media can pick apart.

The problem is this does an absolute disservice to the voters. For instance, on poverty, his brilliant response regarding a plan was that he 'knows Steve Jones' and he'd 'like to implement those recommendations' that PPA brings forth. Fair enough. Steve Jones is a good man doing good work, but this, to me, appears to be a rather naive answer to a very complex question.

And that's typically how most of his answers are. They come in all sorts of generalities, while the answers from Davison and Chasteen dive into more details.

And here is what I find troubling about politics today ... that we love the guy who's 'just like us' ... one who doesn't have all the answers and speaks in non-threatning language. The penalty in doing that is you elect someone who is possibly overmatched for the position and you don't have the foggiest idea what they actually stand for.

Think I'm making this up? Consider the number of moderate Republicans who have come out with harsh criticism in the past few years over President Bush, a man who they thought was one of their own. In 2000, Bush ran as a 'Compassionate Conservative' yet no one really knew what that meant

Now, as Xon would agree, Bush is far from an actual tried-and-true conservative. However, my point is that he ran as a very vague something, and then turned out to be a not-so-vague something else.

And because of his success, folks from both parties try to duplicate that. We had a Democrat in the Montana Senate primary who refused to say he was a Democrat to avoid offending anyone. We have a Republican governor in Georgia who got elected, partially because he said he didn't appreciate how our flag was changed, and then proceeded to do ignore the wishes of a very vital constituency which put him in office.

And now, here in Athens-Clarke County, we have a nice enough guy seeking the mayoral office, quite possibly because some people who have very defined opinions about how to do business in this community told him to, and we're mighty puzzled to what it is he really wants to do.

We know that he wants to 'balance' the different interests in the community and that he wants to 'evaluate' where we are as a government ... but we don't know how he intends to go about doing that.

Good intentions, for sure ... but details to accomplish your plan are essential.

Maddox's FoN responses

I was a bit slow in getting this information up, so my apologies to the folks who sent it over to me. I'm not at all in agreement with Charlie Maddox's plans and/or vision for Athens-Clarke County, but the folks with his campaign are good people, and I appreciate them keeping me in the loop.

Here are some of Maddox's answers to the Federation of Neighborhoods mayoral candidates survey:

What do you consider to be the single most important issue affecting constituents in the 8th district? How do you intend to address this issue?

I believe the single most important issue affecting constituents in the 8th district is the same that is facing all of Athens-Clarke County. That issue being the Quality Of Life. Athens citizens (All of them) deserve access to and opportunity for good jobs, equal protection by our public service divisions, well maintained infrastructure where it exists and improved infrastructure where there is none or less than adequate. All of our communities deserve to be supported equally and in a responsible manner by our government.

I will not support the creation of ordinances which are not intended or enforced uniformly throughout all of our communities. I will support good common sense approaches to this issue.

As mayor, my initial focus will be to evaluate where we are fiscally and operationally as a government and to insure that we are being good stewards of the resources that we, as a government, are charged with managing. I would then focus on restoring relationships with state and community partners that can assist us in dealing with this issue.

2. What can the ACC Commission do to help preserve the quality of life in 8th district neighborhoods?

The Athens Clarke County Commission can come together with the other partners within our community to assist in providing resolutions to the issues that face both the 8th district and the University of Georgia. It is incumbent upon the leaders of our government to find, reconcile and use partnerships of all involved parties to address the quality of life issues that are particular to the 8th district. We can no longer afford to criminalize the effects of being a University of Ga. Student and living in an Athens-Clarke County neighborhood. It is imperative that we as a government find solution to bring us to resolution about things that negatively affect our citizens rights to a high quality of life. Good jobs, land use, education and individual responsibility needs to be considered by and for all who have a shared interest and desired benefit within our community.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Couple of things

- If this is overturned, won't that absolutely wreak havoc on the fall elections? You know, the ones less than a month away?

- Vanderbilt beat Georgia, but we still tailgated dadgumit!

- You know, the answers to the first two questions are actually yes ... though I'm sure J.P. Clark was trying to be more cynical and opt for no.

- A commercial one, eh? Very odd good sir ... very odd.

Not pretty, still fun

So Georgia lost to Vanderbilt 24-22 ... that disappointing fact didn't put a damper on the festivities at Tent City as we enjoyed our first full week of fame and fortune ... well the former at least.

In honor of the Commodores, on tap this weekend was a nautical/Lionel Ritchie theme ... though, apparently, neither turned out to work out for the Bulldogs.

If you're wondering, no one took us up on the autograph offer (Photo courtesy of DAve).

We've forever banned any future references to The Commodores.

Still, it was a big week for us.

- We had a triumphant return of door prizes, with Tovrog picking up the bag of Dri-Gel.

- Speaking of triumphant returns, the low country boil was back for its first appearance since last year's Auburn game. Of course, Georgia lost that game too ... so, there's that.

Yes sir (Photo courtesy of DAve).

- Speaking of not-so-triumphant returns, after the drama that was "Cherrishinskigate 2006" ... the Cherrishinskis failed to come through again. Though there's plenty of blame to go around now, as even Doug admitted to having one.

- OK ... some random photos.

The Wife tries out that 'corn bean bag game' ...

Meimi takes a swing at John.

Oh Cherrishinski ... so tempting, so wrong ... so bad for Georgia football (apparently).

DAve, The Wife, me, Scott and Meimi pose in a picture that features several layers of unintentional comedy.

Check out DAve's photos at Flickr.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Couple of things

- They get on these runs every once in a while, and this latest editorial by the Athens Banner-Herald continues their new tradition of me disagreeing with their views ... or, in this case, their interpretation.

But if they are, no thanks will be due to Commissioner Elton Dodson, a lawyer, and County Attorney Bill Berryman, who contended at Tuesday's meeting that legislators and the legislature's counsel office might have some problem in crafting those goals into workable laws that will pass constitutional muster. Here's Dodson, as quoted in a Thursday story in this newspaper on the push to get some underage drinking enforcement laws on the books: "I don't want to assume that the lawyers in Atlanta and the legislature will take care of this for us. That's not a safe assumption."

A worthwhile concern, of course, but it makes the rather arrogant presupposition that because a couple of local lawyers can't see a way to get a workable law written, it's unlikely such legislation can be drafted.

That's hardly the attitude that needs to prevail as this community - particularly its government, its bar and club owners and the University of Georgia - works to find reasonable approaches to keeping underage people within the law. Dodson and Berryman would do well to display some forbearance on the issue, reserving comment until they have a piece of proposed legislation in front of them for review and comment. After all, they're not the only lawyers in the country.

I think the problem isn't that Dodson and Berryman don't wish to address the problem in a reasonable manner, but rather that they have concerns that a politically conservative majority in the state legislature will address the issue in a way that a predominantly politically progressive community will truly appreciate and desire ... as well as saying that this is a problem the community should want to tackle and not pass off to the Georgia General Assembly. I didn't see anything inflammatory in Dodson's statements, so it looks as if the Banner-Herald just wanted to pick a fight for no good reason.

- There's another candidates forum at 7 p.m. on Monday at East Friendship Baptist Church.

- Forget Gov. Sonny Perdue and Mark Taylor ... the gloves are off in Michael Adams and Vince Dooley feud. The former Georgia football coach fired off a letter to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution defending his record. Awesome.

- Speaking of the governor's race ... gosh, I sure am glad we're actually debating the important issues of the day (as an aside, there are way too many Disney references going on in this thing).

Thursday, October 12, 2006

More on Ed Vaughan's candidacy

Who knew there was such passion surrounding Ed Vaughan's bid for the Athens-Clarke County Commission? My comments elicited some clarifying emails in support of Vaughan, as well as others that said the Athens Grow Green Scorecard reaffirmed their more negative positions of the man.

What I've heard in support of Vaughan ...

That his statements regarding the openness of local government meetings were taken out of context and that he was actually referring to the consent agenda ... which is passed without public comment. And that Grow Green focuses solely on one issue, where those elected to office have to deal with numerous issues ... often meaning they have to find a balance between strict allegiance and downright indifference.

What I've heard against Vaughan ...

And this is sort of a direct rebuttal to the first point supporting Vaughan (and I had thought this was protocol anyway), but that public input is permitted before taking a vote on the actual consent agenda ... and that commissioners are allowed to remove any item from the consent agenda prior to the voting meeting.

Couple of things

- I don't know why students would be upset over this. A three-day weekend for the Florida game and then a week off at Thanksgiving? Shoot, I wish UGA employees had a schedule like that ... it would rock!

- As if this show needed any more attention.

- This is very tragic and really, really odd. I'm with a lot of folks wondering how in the world can any aircraft penetrate New York City airspace these days.

- The fifth podcast will be up very soon, and Tim and I tackle the most burning issue in the sports world ... 'Cherrishinskigate.'

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Couple of things (afternoon edition)

- Over a beer last week, Publius and I chatted about the blue collar initiative that Ed Vaughan has been pushing. The former had heard of something similiar, and a little bit of research shows that the concept of Economic Gardening is where Vaughan's idea has some roots. Littleton, Col. has been doing this for a while, so it's worth the read.

- The money reports are out, and I'm shocked by two things (one pleasantly and one not so pleasantly) ... on the good side, Jane Kidd is doing a bang-up job, outraising Bill Cowsert by close to $30,000 to pull even with him in the fundraising race. It's a tough seat to win, so kudos to her. On the down side, what in the world is up with Mac Rawson? $14,000?! That's it? I've met Rawson, and I even helped his campaign out a little bit of help back in the early days, and I can't figure out what the problem is. He's got a decent shot at knocking off Ralph Hudgens if he ran a smart race and if he worked hard to raise the needed funds. He obviously isn't doing the latter, and that's disappointing.

- This is part craven pandering to his base and part revisionist history ... both are disappointing coming from John McCain, who I at least respected and admired back in 2000, but those feelings are all but gone now.

- I take a look at Grow Green's scorecards.

- This editorial is, quite frankly, patently stupid ... and I happen to like the guys who write 'em over at the Athens Banner-Herald. So you blame local government for not having the ability to change federal policy regarding its grant? Am I the only one wondering that if the local government had opted for this suggested course of action, another editorial probably would criticized them for doing so. It sets up a can't-win scenario ... particularly when you concede the mayor did all the right things.

- I asked him to do this, so please check out Russ's comparison of Krystal's and White Castle's.

- I'm very much proud to be a Democrat, but I hate these kinds of arguments. Some particular individuals in both parties may have questionable moral behavior, but to make a blanket argument accusing one of being more moral than the other ain't going to accomplish anything.

- OK, as I continue to criticize some of the arguments of my fellow party members, dude ... it's free speech. The signs are going up in a public area which permits their display, so quit taking 'em down. Few things irritate me more than people taking down campaign signs ... as if their removal or destruction will secure victory for your candidate.