Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Crossed up on Crossover Day

Light posting this morning, but following up on last night's post and specifically regarding the failure of Sunday Sales to garner a vote ... does anyone else think it's pretty ridiculous that the comparable bill its supporters used to gauge its popularity in the Georgia General Assembly was one which permitted limousine carriers to sell alcohol to passengers?

I would think that a referendum on letting local communities determine what's best for them is dramatically different than, say, letting the guy driving your car around sell you rum and cola.

As an aside, Sadie Fields has no clue.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Common sense should dictate

Ah democracy and the free debate of ideas at work ...

The Senate's Republican leadership said they did not want to force a long debate on bills that likely would not pass.

"If a bill is going to take an hour or two to debate, that's a negative," Senate Rules Chairman Don Balfour (R-Snellville) said. "Obviously, we have controversial bills on the calendar, but why put something on if we know it could not pass?"

Isn't this argument enough to lengthen the amount of time the Georgia General Assembly meets? The fact that our elected representatives apparently don't have enough adequate time to debate and discuss important issues? Namely an hour?

So things like Sunday Sales, funding for faith-based organizations and many of Gov. Sonny Perdue's campaign pledges won't even be brought to the floor because there simply isn't time to talk about them. I'm sorry, but something just doesn't seem right about that.

Couple of things

- There's a nice wrap-up of pending legislation in the Georgia General Assembly. The accompanying story fleshes out the key issues a little more. Of particular note is the fact that there will probably be another vote on predatory lending after it tied 84-84 in the House last week (maybe Rep. Keith Heard will actually vote the proper way this time).

- The Sunday Sales issue is frustrating to me. This appears to be a no-brainer. As I've repeatedly said, it's not legalizing the sale of alcohol on Sunday. Rather it lets each community determine on its own what is best for its citizens. What bothers me is that, despite overwhelming support for this bill according to most statewide polls, there's been so much resistance to its passage based on the shenanigans of a vocal few. And this vocal few has made so much noise that many in the Georgia General Assembly don't even want to have a recorded vote on it. That, naturally, is ridiculous and is a sign of political posturing trumping common sense. The bill's a good one, it makes sense and it should pass.

- Sweet!

- Yesterday, I talked a little about ACTION's efforts to sell its property.

- I agree 110 percent with this editorial, but I just wished they had connected the dots a little better. That is, many of the proposals for the usage of the Naval School property mesh nicely with the needs Partners for a Prosperous Athens have identified. Coincidentally enough, IHN of Athens submitted a proposal for a child care center to the Local Redevelopment Authority. Now, it's pretty apparent the University of Georgia is gonna get the property, but the federal rules dictate that the area homeless providers get fair compensation in the form of property elsewhere or cash. It's the intent of our organization to take said compensation and pursue a child care center.

Masters memories

We're merely seven days away from the beginning of what is, for me at least, the greatest week of the year the practice rounds for The Masters kick off next Monday. Tiger Woods, despite shooting a one-over 73 in the final round at Doral yesterday, still held on to win by three shots and pick up some momentum heading into the first major of the year.

Woods has won four Masters titles, including the 2005 event which was punctuated by this incredible chip-in for birdie at the par three No. 16.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Clarity on ACTION

At last Thursday's Athens-Clarke County Commission meeting, the well-publicized proposed selling of the ACTION, Inc. property was again brought out as commissioners examined the recommendations of the Athens-Clarke County Planning Commission, which was to not approve the project.

ACTION, which is in a dire financial situation, is attempting to sell its property to a developer for $1.2 million. The organization, due to severe mismanagement, is roughly $1 million in debt, and this sale would all but erase their current fiscal problems.

This issue prompted an editorial by the Athens Banner-Herald and then some thoughts of my own. At the outset, I was cautious but tended to agree with the editorial's central thrust. However, a little bit of research and dialogue can go a long way and answer a lot of the questions I had.

- First off, let's by absolutely honest here ... it's solely because this concerns ACTION, an anti-poverty non-profit, that so much attention is going on here. If this had been a different structure occupied by a business that was opting to move, the recommendation to not approve the re-use of the property wouldn't be that big of a deal.

- Compound this scrutiny by the fact that one of the organization's board members is District Two Commissioner Harry Sims, meaning he's personally vested in this issue And, I have to ask with all sincerity, how is his participation in this discussion not a conflict-of-interest? I suppose in a small community you face this types of things all the time, so it's just not feasible to recuse one's self from all the debates you've had involvement in. Plus, that's not to say Sims is being inappropriate here. He's got legitimate and rightful concerns about the organization itself, and that's good to have in this discussion.

- Initially, I was critical of Amy Kissane's comment which - and I'm paraphrasing here - was something to the effect of the organization taking a lower amount of money for the property because this is a community decision. Again, on the surface that seems callous and prompted charges of elitism from the editorial. However, if you consider the context that quote was uttered in, it actually is more of a practical analysis of the situation. That is, the Oconee Street Building is currently zoned for a mixed-use purpose of commercial and residential. That's the decision the community made for that space to best mesh into its surrounding environment. As a result, the sale of said property must result in a use which fits that zoning. The exisiting proposal calls for a residential use only, which doesn't match up.

- Put more simply ... if someone came to me and said they were going to give me $750,000 for my property so they could stack up apartments on it, than I'd have the opportunity to sell my land for a ton of money. However, my land isn't zoned for that use, and nor should it be. As a result, I would have to go to the highest bid that features a plan that would utilize the existing zoning my house is currently under, and that could be considerably lower. So when Kissane talks about taking a lower amount ($900,000 has often been tossed around), that's reflective of the highest bid that featured a usage plan that matched the zoning.

- So, again, this isn't elitism. It's reality. Or, as Blake paraphrased from one commissioner ...

But, as Commissioner Kathy Hoard pointed out, the commission can only legally consider whether the zoning requests meet criteria set out in the county code and land-use plan, no matter what cause selling the land would benefit.

- The fact that one has to not consider the mission of the organization does not mean one is casting a blind eye toward its plight. The community - public sector and private sector - should work to help ACTION climb out of its debt, but it's obvious approving a usage of land which is contradictory to the existing zoning isn't necessarily the best way to do that. Particularly when it can still help by approving a use which does match the zoning and generates a large sum of revenue for the organization.

- Whether or not the new proposal calls for the demolition of the structure, I don't really have a stake in that yet. The building appears to be rather rundown, and it would cost a significant amount of funds to adequately renovate it for use. If it needs to be preserved, then perhaps the developer could find a way to work with someone like the Athens-Clarke County Heritage Foundation to do so. But, to me at least, that's a bit besides the point at this juncture. The primary issue at work here is proper zoning use, and the recommendation for disapproval is a legally appropriate one.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Two sports items

Haven't done much with sports lately, so here's this ...

- As usual, Spring Training is flying by me and Opening Day is just a few weeks away. And, it what is very welcome news, the Red Sox moved Jonathan Papelbon back to the closer role. I never understood why Boston wanted to move the best young closer in the game - a guy who has the potential to be as good, if not better, than Mariano Riveria - into the starting rotation. After the signing of Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Red Sox were able to assemble a rotation of three high-level starters in Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett and Dice-K, and Tim Wakefield's good for 12 to 15 wins each year. Moving Julian Tavarez into the starting rotation at the No. 5 slot isn't the ideal situation, but this is also a spot where Jon Lester could emerge later in the season if he regains his strength following his off-season battle with cancer.

- I was able to squeeze nine holes in at Lane Creek Golf Club yesterday afternoon with Matt, and, despite having not swung a club in several months, I played as well as I've played in years. I shot 51 which, arguably, isn't good, but it's pretty good for me seeing how I typically shoot 110 to 115 over 18 holes. The reason for such high scores is two-fold - I don't play regularly and when I do, my swing is a mismash of odd adjustments I've made over the years. Determined to seek honest-to-goodness help, fellow IHN of Athens board member Leo Scott (former Cedar Shoals basketball and golf coach) worked with me on a variety of things. As a result, I set out Friday afternoon to only use those things he taught me, knowing that, as he suggested, my score would probably be higher (if that's possible) since I would be fighting my old habits. My first swing of the day producing a beautiful drive right down the middle of the fairway. I had some struggles along the way, but even my bad shots felt better.

Friday, March 23, 2007

I Heard you voted wrong

I was already fairly disillusioned with him, but Rep. Keith Heard's support of the Predatory Lending Bill is absolutely infuriating to me ... partly because he's my representative and partly because he serves a large number of citizens who would be negatively affected by legalizing this practice again.

Kudos to the other representative from Athens-Clarke County, Doug McKillip, for opposing H.B. 163. Fortunately it failed by an 84-84 tie in the Georgia General Assembly.

Couple of things

- Ah Lynn Westmoreland ... doing his part to make sure Georgia's elected officials focus on the trivial rather than the substantive. Not only are his facts wrong (as Republicans pushed forward the piece of ethics rules he cites), but it's also pretty clear that the former Vice President of the United States doesn't fall into this category. If Westmoreland (falsely) raises concern over this, then it would only be logical that he'd call for any business leader which participates in the global economy to be barred from speaking on the House floor. Or that Rudy Guiliani's work in Mexico City would prevent him from speaking about homeland security. Or that L. Paul Bremer can't come talk about Iraq. Or that mission workers working overseas can't come speak about what they've experienced.

- I don't know a whole heck of a lot about this, but it would appear that the new fire safety marshall is merely doing his job by applying state and local fire codes in a consistent manner. It's unfortunate the capacities have been reduced, but it also seems those restaurants couldn't accommodate those folks anyway. I mean ... 78 people in Amici's? Were they sitting on the blades of the ceiling fans?

- I'd be really interested in seeing what would happen if the Local Redevelopment Authority actually decided to split the Naval School property in two, though I don't think that will happen. I'm also happen to see University of Georgia President Michael Adams recognize the university has a role in fighting poverty in this town. Two suggestions ... keep moving your wages upward and work to offer some free or inexpensive job training classes to those in need.

- Godspeed to the Edwards family. As someone who is all too familiar with seeing loved ones deal with a terrible illness like cancer, my thoughts and prayers go out to them.

- Minnesota? Really? Kentucky-to-Minnesota? I knew Tubby Smith was facing some intense pressure up there, but drop everything and go to Minnesota? Man, I'd gladly bump Dennis Felton aside and bring Tubby back here.

- Sweet merciful Mary ... we're gonna play this game Rick Spors? Who's more patriotic? Listen, Ed Tant baffles me more often than not, but it's ridiculous, childish and petty to get all caught up in the 'who loves America more' game?

- J. Paul Clark also wants to tell you the truth about Santa Claus and blow out all of the candles on your birthday cake.

Music for the moment

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Couple of things

- Well, Doc Elderidge opting not to run means Jim Whitehead has pretty much all but wrapped up the 10th Congressional District. We'll probably go to a runoff, but Whitehead's got the money, name recognition and Republican leadership behind him. He's also, if possible, more conservative than Charlie Norwood, which is amazing. And he's also probably the closest thing to a moderate out of the Republicans running, which tells you something about the rest of the candidates.

- The Democrats you ask? Well, there's roughly four of 'em, and they're going to be speaking at the Clarke County Democratic Party monthly meeting tonight.

- I'll be honest, I'm still not thrilled with their moving over there, but you also give credit where credit is due, and the boys from Kappa Alpha did something mighty kind right here.

- I offer an additional thought on District Eight, and the fellas from the Athens Banner-Herald do too.

- I don't disagree with Ray MacNair, but there are a variety of ways to push for a 'living wage' that don't involve regulation. One option is incentives for businesses. Another is governmental agencies doing so, thus encouraging private business to follow suit. Another is encouraging development of higher-paying jobs. Another is offering adequate training opportunities for low-income citizens so they can work their way up the economic ladder.

- Very odd, but it would seem to me this scenario is better suited for Alice in Chain fans.

- Let me just express my thanks for all of the positive, helpful and supportive comments I received regarding my posting on micro-lending. I must have gotten more than 20 emails from folks I know and some I don't, who expressed support and an interest in making this happen (and that includes a very kind email from State Sen. Bill Cowsert whom I had written to express my concerns with the re-legalization of predatory lending). I even fielded a phone call from a kind gentleman on Monday who, though calling for a different reason, began to discuss how to incorporate transitional housing into this equation. This could be a very worthwhile and constructive venture, and I'm going to do my best to keep everyone updated and involved.

One last thing on District Eight

In the special election for 2007, we saw only 1,200 folks to the polls in District Eight.

In the general election for 2004, a presidential election year, we saw more than 4,600 people go to the polls in District Eight. That year, States McCarter won by a two-to-one margin over Annette Nelson.

Granted there were a variety of circumstances at play then (partisan elections, McCarter's higher levels of popularity, etc.) and arguably the playing field has changed, but it makes you wonder if David Hamilton, who drew McCarter's endorsement, might be tempted to challenge Herod in 2008.

Not so much a prophecy

One of the newer, though not so new, stories floating around Barack Obama's campaign stems from the somewhat ridiculous backhanded compliment given to him by David Erhenstein from The Los Angeles Times who labels him 'The Magic Negro" in a recent column. The crux of theory being that Obama is an African-American candidate who is some prophetic figure with the ability to unite the races largely by being non-threatening to whites, and that it's his race which is driving the attraction from many white middle-class folks.

While I don't dispute the fact that race may play in a role in the decision-making of some, I'm more inclined to agree with Matthew Yglesias who argues a variety of other factors, namely Obama's opposition to the War in Iraq, have fueled this surge of interest in his candidacy.

I'd also suggest that Obama's presentation of a faith which embraces rather than shuns progressive politics is very appealing to numerous folks. My uncle and my father, both good moderate Republicans who embraced President Bush in 2000 because of 'compassionate conservatism' but feel somewhat used by the GOP leadership, are quite high on Obama based in large part because of this.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Herod takes the seat

I thought Andy Herod was going to pull it out, but I was surprised that he rolled to a victory during yesterday's light-voting turnout for the District Eight special election. Herod picked up 720 votes to David Hamilton's 456 in an election that only turned out roughly 20 percent of its registered voters.

How'd he do it?

- Name recognition was huge. From his service as president of the Federation of Neighborhoods president to his work on the Athens-Clarke County Planning Commission to his frequent forums and letters to the editor at the Athens Banner-Herald, Herod's name just seemed familiar to a lot of folks.

- Herod offered more depth on a variety of issues, and I don't necessarily mean that as a slap against a Hamilton. But, take affordable housing - Herod offered a sharp and clear understanding of the problem and suggested some practical solutions that were in place in other places, while Hamilton's answer was something more vague, such as 'let's look at this as a regional issue.'

- Contrary to what Hamilton told both me and Tim Bryant, I believe the endorsements of States McCarter and Ken Jordan, particularly, McCarter hurt his credibility. McCarter wasn't as popular in District Eight as Hamilton believed, and I spoke with more folks who said, rightly or wrongly, that the endorsement ultimately caused them to back Herod.

- Contrast that with Herod's endorsement from Mayor Heidi Davison, which probably gave him a late boost in the home stretch. That particular branch of progressives is the winning team right now, even in a more moderate district such as District Eight.

- Cedar Creek wasn't the deciding factor. Herod cruised to wide margins of victory in 8B and 8C, and narrowly lost in 8A, home to Cedar Creek. The perception of that particular neighborhood controlling District Eight's political destiny was shattered.

An(other) announcement

My apologies for the light posting the past few days. Was under the weather a little while back and then yesterday was jammed pack, including an enlighting doctor's visit yesterday morning where The Wife and I learned that, come mid-August, we'll add a baby girl to our household.

I was convinced we were having a boy, so I know owe more than one person five dollars for that.

Still, a girl. Very awesome. Very humbling.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Predatory lending and micro-lending

Jason Winders writes his best column in years, as he takes on predatory lending. Perhaps it's serving as a counterpoint to Willie Green's absurd column promoting H.B. 163, but it's right on the money.

Working with a non-profit that assists homeless families, almost all of them have experienced some sort of negative resulting from predatory lending. It's a form of economic servitude and nothing less. It perpetuates poverty, fooling its clients that a cheap-fix is right around the corner, all the while making them slaves to this new master. And, as Winders noted, it ignores the real issue at work here.

Maybe we need to look at the root causes for paycheck-to-paycheck living. Maybe we need to shrink the customer base for these businesses. Let's look at financial education for our kids, credit card management, bravely address living-wage issues.

I draw a very hard line with this particular practice. It offends me. It breaks people down rather than lift them up. The emergency cash they so desperately need comes with a list of hidden strings that push them deeper into a spiral of poverty.

This bill, as Green touts, charges a $15 per every $100 loaned, which seems reasonable right? However, this fee can go as high as 25 percent of a person's monthly income, which pushes aside money for rent, car payment, utilities, food, etc. As a result, the need for them to either default on one of those payments or turn back to the same lender becomes very real.

My concern over this issue is so great, that I have even begun to recently find ways to offer compassionate alternatives to predatory lending. The individuals who need this money, and come through IHN of Athens, often find themselves kicked right back down the ladder they've worked so hard to climb when something such as a broken-down car or unforeseen medical issue pops up. As a result, they fall right back down into the clutches of poverty they have so dutifully worked to the pull out of.

With this in mind, and adapting the idea put forth in Muhammed Yunnas's Banker to the Poor, I've been talking with some folks in the faith community and the non-profit community in town to develop a micro-lending program that would, at its outset, assist those folks who need emergency funds. In theory, we'd charge zero interest and offer small amounts of money to individuals who need it. We'd also work to offer financial literacy classes to those who need them.

Understandably, we've got lots of things to iron out, but I also haven't met one person who has felt this is a bad idea. And it's something I'm absolutely dead serious about starting. The idea is there, and now we're just going to set out to make this a viable solution in this community.

If you're interested, don't hesitate to send me an email and say so.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

And another thing on that

Julie DeSa Lorenz from Jefferson is all over Glenn Richardson, the Georgia General Assembly's Speaker of the House for his comments on the 'Brain Train.'

Why? Well, quite possibly because he possesses such a short-sighted vision of alternative transportation and such little regard for both Athens-Clarke County and the metro Atlanta area.

The Athens-to-Atlanta commuter rail is a bipartisan attempt to not only reduce traffic flow between these two cities, but also to encourage viable mass transportation opportunities through the Northeast Georgia region. While it is far from a perfect proposal, it's a positive first step in the right direction to not only alleviate traffic, but also accommodate the growth in this area.

It's also more than a tad disconcerting to read that he thinks it was 'great' to 'lay down pieces of steel and move an object back and forth across it' in 1807, but not now. Someone should tell the speaker that railways were not introduced in the United States until the 1820s.

All Richardson's comments proved was that we have an elected official in a leadership position who not only has little vision for the future, but also apparently no concept of our past.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Couple of things

- Ah yes. Should have figured something like this must have been in the works. I'm curious though, I thought those in the Republican leadership who opposed the bill apologizing for slavery were doing so primarily because we wanted to focus on the present and the future. I would imagine they'd naturally oppose this bill then, right?

- While I agree the overall process to review our current alcohol ordinances is a good thing, I would have liked to see the Athens Banner-Herald's editorial board come out against the whole 'banning-Happy-Hour' thing. As Hillary and I discussed yesterday, if you really just enforce the existing laws on the books, giving our law enforcement the necessary resources to do so, you'd probably see an improvement in what you're hoping to do.

- I absolutely love the concept of the editor's note.

- This is why we should all follow Bob Barker's advice.

Music for the moment

Music for the moment (Amy Lee edition)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Quick update on interviews

As was noted by a kind commenter in this post, and then later confirmed via email from Tim Bryant, both Andy Herod and David Hamilton have recorded interviews. Both will air on 1340-AM tomorrow morning, with Herod's going on at 9 a.m. and Hamilton's at 9:30 a.m.

Couple of things

- OK ... now you've done it. You're talking about screwing with Happy Hour. Listen, I've got plenty of concerns about this. For one thing, it sounds like you're beginning a dangerous dance toward price-fixing. For another, why should my ability to purchase a Terrapin for $2 at 5:30 p.m. be altered because the boys from Kappa Chi Alpha Theta want to slam down $1 Jello shots at Flannagin's at 1:30 a.m.? It would seem to me these are two distinctly different issues, though both appear as if they could be remedied without additional ordinances. And are we to believe that because one can't run drink specials that students will drink less? Or at least that much less? You're dealing with a cultural/societal/generational issue here - one that needs to be addressed, no doubt - but one that won't be easily fixed by overregulation. I ain't alone in talking about it either as Hillary's already there too.

- The Athens Banner-Herald leaps into the world of New Media as they post audio from both David Hamilton and Andy Herod.

- I think the bigger thing to take away from Glenn Richardson's interview is how little he really thinks of us as he claims a commuter rail connecting Athens to Atlanta would connect 'nowhere to nowhere' ... says the man from Paulding County. But in the past two days we've learned that the frontrunner for the 10th Congressional District thinks we should get rid of the University of Georgia because it's full of liberals and now you've got the Speaker of the House in the Georgia General Assembly who apparently doesn't believe we even exist (let alone possess short-sighted ideas regarding alternative transportation).

- Speaking of the 10th Congressional District, I came across Bill Greene's web site which is interesting and somewhat bonechilling all rolled into one. I had really thought that Athens-Clarke County's own Paul Broun Jr. had the market cornered on extreme conservatism, but Greene's giving him a run for his money.

- Back to the Happy Hour thing ... please don't take my criticism to this particular proposal to be criticism of the entire process. The article points out there's a Legislative Review Committee that will consider all of the proposed amendments to the alcohol ordinance and, as Mayor Heidi Davison rightly notes, some of these will be tweaked or even removed. I'm quite sure there are several productive and positive amendments to the ordinance, but there's just one that I think is kinda lousy that's getting all the attention right now. There are some mighty smart folks on the committee, and let's hope they approach this thing in the proper way.

It isn't right

In what can only be described as a truly disturbing turn of events ...

- I actually found the movie R.V. funny.

- I actually thought that pop singer-turned-actress JoJo was the best comedic actor in the whole thing.

Need to see?

I haven't had the chance to see it yet, but Russ has, and it turns out he's a big fan of 300. I agree that it looks pretty cool.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

District Eight forum redux

Just a few things worth noting here ...

- Blake's got an interesting read on last night's District Eight forum featuring Andy Herod.

- Also, as of now, David Hamilton has not committed to participating in a forum/debate with Herod on Tim Bryant's radio show. Herod agreed to do so and is taping an interview with Bryant this afternoon that will air tomorrow.

- Now, let me be clear - I like Hamilton. He's a great guy who works hard and means well. He's a pragmatic fella, and we need a lot more of that in this world. Like Blake, I think that 'Debategate' is a tad overblown. However, that isn't to say that I'm not disappointed that he opted to not participate in last night's forum, and it doesn't mean that I'm not disappointed he hasn't responded to the requests to appear with Herod on the radio. It's a condensed campaign which is a strain (something I've argued), but it's also half an hour or so the week prior to the election. The voters should have the opportunity to hear both candidates not necessarily argue with each other or bicker over sementics, but articulate their views and lay them out side-by-side with their opponent's.

- Flagpole has the money trail up. And I might differ a bit with something said in Blake's piece. He said 'much of the money (for Herod) came from outside of District Eight ...' which is technically true. A little more than $3,000 of more than $8,600 did come from outside the district. However, that still leaves more than $5,000 raised inside the district, which is still more than the total amount raised by Hamilton. Then again, I could be acting like 'that guy' ... which has happened before.

- Of course ... money and debates don't really matter. It's issues and connections with the constituents. If Hamilton raises $4 and deliberately skips all sorts of public functions, but the people in his district think he's the man for the job, then it doesn't really matter, does it?

Couple of things

- It's good to see proper enforcement going on regarding the pedestrian crosswalks, but I'm no fan of this particular crosswalk on Prince Avenue. It's right in the middle of two stoplights in front of The Grit and causes more headaches than alleviate ones. I'm probably out there on my own on this one, and that's fine. I still contend the crosswalks should exist, on this particular stretch, only at those two stoplights due to heavy traffic flow on Prince Avenue. That's the safest option for pedestrians and, unless the road is actually three-laned one day, the most viable one for automobiles.

- Nicki brought some attention to it, David Lynn used his time for input during the last Athens-Clarke County Commission meeting to ask for a meeting with Bill Berryhill to take a look at some solutions and now we've got a significant crackdown on the prostitution and drug problems on Barber Street. Good to see, and all should be applauded for helping getting things rolling.

- Flagpole doesn't have the complete money list up yet, but Blake does a brief report on the District Eight fundraising efforts and it appears that Andy Herod has significantly outraised David Hamilton. In other news, Pete endorses Herod, and Tim Bryant confirmed to me that he's trying to put together a joint appearance by both candidates on his radio program since they were unable to get together for a debate.

- If you want to not have fun, go to Lilburn. Their city council is gonna ban trivia, karaoke and other sorts of cheesy entertainment options at restaurants and bars. Seriously ... ban karaoke? What night out isn't complete without belting out a poorly sung rendition of Damn Yankee's High Enough?

- The Sunday Sales issue is creating some strange bedfellows as Republicans are criticizing Republicans, and I think Democrat Rep. Regina Thomas is absolutely wrongheaded on this (and more than a bit melodramatic). Still, in good news, the bill cleared committee and will go to a vote in the Georgia General Assembly.

- As an aside, please note Ted Nugent kicking in the door at 3:12. Easily the most awesome part of that video.

- Regular commenter and local political gadfly (because I wanted to use that word) Robert Mabry gets a letter in.

- I'm not disagreeing with Todd Sartain on this, per se, but his letter accomplishes nothing. By that I mean, the letter he references addresses the obvious contradiction between the actions of some Republican candidates for president and the party's strict adherence to its interpretation of moral issues, which emerged largely in response to its perception of some on the opposition. As a result, mentioning Democrats which fail his party's own standard for morality does little to prove anything.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Couple of things

- The Local Redevelopmenet Authority is taking the next step toward handing over the Naval School property to the University of Georgia, which isn't a bad thing ... particularly since they want a contingency plan laid out in case plans for the proposed medical school fall through. On a related note, I think my hometown is paranoid for no good reason. It's been explicitly explained that the expansion of the medical college will only increase opportunities for training rather than decrease enrollment at the Medical College of Georgia, and that such expansion is necessary due to the shortage of medical personnel and the demand for such additional avenues of training. The concern from Augusta seems to be that folks will want to stick around in Athens-Clarke County, and they're probably right. But this seems to be a pretty poor reason to justify not expanding in our community. If anything, it means there should be some efforts in Augusta to invest in its entertainment industry to make the city as marketable as Athens-Clarke County.

- There's got to be more to this story. I know Jose Boza, and I like him. It's seems a little puzzling as to why they would suddenly opt to dismiss him and only him ... particularly over the wishes of the existing superintendent.

- I think this is a good idea for two reasons ... first, it enables a core group of supporters to work to monitor progress in the community regarding the implementation of the recommendations from Partners for a Prosperous Athens and second, it sets up a foundation which could have the ability to distribute funds to non-profits in need.

- Rental registration is back ... kind of. I didn't like it then, and I don't like it now. And, in most encouraging news, our two new commissioners - Kelly Girtz and Doug Lowry - don't have strong feelings on it either way, with Girtz saying he'd rather focus on the behaviors and enforcement of existing ordinances then develop a new rental registration law.

- It's things like, say, blind allegience to Rudy Guiliani that make me question the whole process. This is someone who strongly disagrees with the Religious Right on practically every social issue out there, yet folks in the Republican Party are flocking to him.

Real work conversations

Carissa: (via email) We need official museum Vespas. That would be freakin' awesome!
Me: Is it just me, or does the possibility of Vespas also bleed into intro music? I mean, can't you picture yourself wheeling up on the Vespa, and then quickly spinning to the side for a screeching halt ... giving a big smile and wink with 'Carissa!' scribbled in text below? All to the theme from The Mary Tyler Moore show.
Carissa: That would be so exciting. It would have to be hot pink, and I would be in white go-go boots.


Me: For Halloween next year, you should definitely dress as B.A. Baracus.
Paul: How do I know that name?
Me: That's Mr. T's character from The A-Team. And you'd have to lead any scheduled tours in character too.
Paul: So I'll just call everybody 'fool' then?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Couple of things

- Habitat for Humanity is one of my favorite organizations, and Dorsey Village is a step in the right direction regarding affordable housing (as is, say, something like Fourth Street Village spearheaded by Athens Land Trust), but John Songster's letter focuses on micro-fixes to the problem, rather than a coordinated macro-fix.

- I put together a District Eight primer.

- We all jumped all over the statement released by Brian Kemp's camp on Friday night saying he's challenge Ralph Hudgens in the primary in 2008, but Blake got Kemp who said he was now just considering challenging him. I still say he's going to give it a go against him. The GOP leadership will probably line up behind him too.

- A nice forum regarding Partners for a Prosperous Athens by Red Petrovs and Steve Jones, and it helps set us up for the implementation phase of this project. The next meeting is Monday, March 19, and I'd encourage you folks to go check it out.

- Please ... anyone but Florida.

District Eight primer

Since we're a little more than a week away from the March 20 special election for the vacated seat in District Eight, I thought I'd put up a handy place where some of the most pertinent links could be located in one place ...

- Andy Herod's web site.

- David Hamilton's web site.

- Podcast with Andy Herod.

- Podcast with David Hamilton.

- Endorsement by the Athens Banner-Herald of Andy Herod.

- Athens Grow Green scorecard.

- Endorsement of David Hamilton by former commissioners States McCarter and Ken Jordan.

- 'What do eastsiders care about?' from Athens World.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Kemp plans to take on Hudgens

Peach Pundit picks it up from the Political Insider, but Brian Kemp's gonna challenge Ralph Hudgens in the 2008 primary.

So, with all due respect to the commenter in the previous posting regarding Hudgens deciding to stay put, there does seem to be some across-the-board discontent with the man.

Forgiveness and public office

From Pastor Dan at Street Prophets ...

But most of all, let us not forget that it's not Jim Dobson nor Jerry Falwell who offers forgiveness, but only Christ Jesus. We pastoral types are authorized to offer forgiveness in His name (who authorized Dobson again?), but the theology is pretty explicit on this point: the human instrument is fallible. Believers must work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. Given (Newt) Gingrich's serial problems, I'd say some folks have more work to do than others. You might say I'm wrong about that - but then, that's just the point. There's not one of us who can speak to the state of a candidate's soul, no matter how many of them come sniveling to the door seeking redemption. The best we can do is say that they are on the same road that all of us sinners are, and voters will have to interpret their records as they are, not as they might wish them to be.

... To clarify a little, if a Democratic candidate for president admitted to me in an interview that he/she had been unfaithful, I wouldn't comment on the state of their spiritual development at all. I'm not their pastor, and this is not the community they need to bring that concern to. If a candidate feels a need to work on his or her soul, he should take that to his or her pastor and their church. That's the proper venue, not in public with a media figure like Dobson.

I also don't believe that infidelity or divorce necessarily disqualifies a candidate from higher office. It's always been the hypocrisy of a fool like Gingrich that sticks in my craw.

Hudgens acts like Hudgens

Well now, this is pretty darn interesting - Ralph Hudgens deciding not to run for the 10th District Congressional seat vacated by the late Charlie Norwood.

The man has infuriated residents of Athens-Clarke County and Democrats in Northeast Georgia, but it's also pretty clear that's now he's got to have burned some bridges with the Republican Party. First, he comes out and says he's running for Congress only a few hours after Norwood had passed away, thus showing a lack of tact and drawing rebukes from folks on both sides of the aisle. The governor then goes and calls a special meeting with both Hudgens and Jim Whitehead in attendence in which they outline how the timeline for the special election will work so as not to lose both seats in the Georgia General Assembly in the middle of session.

And now he's not running after all ... thus blocking any attempt by Brian Kemp, widely known as one of the up-and-comers in the Republican Party, to actually jump back into politics. One of those grand conspiracy theories that has long floated around this community was that redistricting of Athens-Clarke County, engineered by Hudgens, was that it would enable him to run for Norwood's seat at the appropriate time, and then Kemp, with his home now newly redistricted into Hudgens's district, could seek that seat.

If there's any kernel of truth to that theory, it's impossible to execute now. If Hudgens sits out this time around, he's going to face an even steeper climb to knock off an incumbent in the 10th Congressional District in 2008. So ... what now for Kemp? Unless Hudgens retires his State Senate seat following this term, Kemp's options are limited in the immediate future. Would Kemp be so bold to challenge Hudgens next year in the primary for his State Senate seat? If anyone could knock out Hudgens, it would be someone like him.

You've got to think that Hudgens saw the writing on the wall ... his popularity had sunk among the party's leaders (including well-circulated rumors that he had fallen way out of favor with the governor) and Whitehead was busy locking up support from the conservative leaders in the district. I don't know if anyone asked Hudgens to not run, but he's also a savvy enough politician to know that he was facing an uphill battle.

For what it's worth, I'm not entirely alone in thinking some of these things as Jeff Emanuel articulates some of those views at Peach Pundit. As an aside ... this is the second time in three days I've sorta agreed with Emanuel on something. I was waiting for the world to stop spinning, but it's still moving ...

Friday, March 09, 2007

Couple of things

- When in doubt, turn to a Democratic Congress to get things done. In all seriousness, this is good. Though I still ask ... what in the world happened to all of that surplus money the governor repeatedly touted on the campaign trail?

- This is probably much ado about nothing. It would be nice to have someone from either Athens-Clarke County or Augusta-Richmond County on the Board of Regents, but it isn't as if the rest of the folks who are on it are going to suddenly forget about the state's flagship university or its only, full-service medical school.

- I've always supported official apologies for slavery, Jim Crow and segregation, so I've never really gotten why folks are so opposed to it. This isn't legislation being passed that affects our day-to-day living. Rather it's the elected representatives from across the political spectrum gathering together to say that, at one time, this governing body and/or state acted wrongly toward a segment of its population. I would think it would be our duty as citizens to officially say those actions were wrong and worthy of forgiveness. J.T. and the boys agree.

- Ah Newt ... how we truly have missed your double-talking, hypocritical ways. Now, if you could also change your mind to suit the political wishes of base, you'd be just like the rest of the Republican candidates for president.

Music for the moment

Been watchin'

- Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story - I had seen this a while back, but didn't pay much attention. I actually watched it a few nights ago, and it's pretty darn funny. In fact, what I found the funniest, was the dialogue between Gary Cole and Jason Bateman as the announcers for ESPN 8 ('The Ocho').

- V is for Vendetta - Eh. Lots of cool action, and Natalie Portman is good in it, but I found the actual anti-hero of the movie, V, to be unlikeable and somewhat hokey. The backstory of how Great Britain reached the point of a dictatorship was considerably better than the actual execution of the movie.

- Match Point - A whole lot darker than I thought it would be. Chris, our main character, is a moron and so insanely and unfairly lucky that I'm expecting him to be the guy holding the other unclaimed winning Mega Millions ticket. Still, Scarlett Johansson, so that's OK.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Couple of things

- Athens Grow Green's annual report is out, and the story is a good one. Just a few days ago, I harped on the fact that I'd like to see our local government make a concerted effort to replace its fleet of automobiles with energy efficient vehicles, such as hybrids, and Athens-Clarke County Heidi Davison said the first one has just been purchased. The entire report can be found here.

- People. Is this really worth it? Don't get me wrong, I like a Chic-fil-A sandwich now and then, but I ain't spending the night to get free food there.

- I just try to offer a little bit of clarity regarding the District Eight debate.

- Though speaking of that race, Hillary's getting restless.

- It's going to be an awkward conversation, but somehow I have to tell this nice man that he has my ticket.

- Adrian put together a nice look at the new Athens Cine.

- Though he arrives at a similar conclusion as I did via completely different methods, Jeff Emanuel doesn't particularly care for bills promoting 'academic freedom' on campuses. I will point this out though ... this bill supposedly 'promotes a foundation of a learning environment that exposes students to a variety of political, ideological, and other perspectives.' Fair enough. But the column, again of which I pretty much agree with the conclusion (the bill ain't good and sets us up on that slippery slope of thought policing), suggests conservative students are being exposed to liberal professors. OK, correct me if I'm wrong, but would this not be an example of a learning environment exposing its students to different political and ideological perspectives? Conservative professors teaching conservative views to conservative students doesn't seem much like 'intellectual diversity' to me.

- Matthew Yglesias looks at the GOP presidential contenders, and wonders, as I do, about the lack of love for Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. He's the one Democrats should be nervous about. Not John McCain or Rudy Guiliani or Mitt Romney. Man, I'd take any of those guys in the general election any day of the week.

- Well, does this mean the terrorists have already won?

Real work conversations

Hillary: (On phone) Consequences? If we could enforce consequences, this place would run a whole lot smoother.

Just a bit of clarity

I think the important thing to come away with from the whole District Eight debate debacle is that it really isn't that important at all.

Sure, it's fun political gossip, but I think the criticisms of his time management skills are a bit off, and I say that because, again, this is an insanely condensed election cycle in which the rigors of an entire campaign are lumped into a mere few weeks.

If you don't want to vote for David Hamilton, then don't vote for him. But do it based on reasons such as policy disagreement or differing ideologies, not because he couldn't make his schedule work for one particular forum. And this isn't an endorsement of the man by any means. I've noted before, but I happen to agree with Andy Herod's take on the issues a little more than Hamilton's.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

More on the forum

I've exchanged emails with both David Hamilton and Peter Gess regarding the District Eight forum.

Hamilton said due to the hectic schedule of a short election cycle, coupled with the lateness of the organizing of the event, made it impossible for him to attend the debate. He sent me the following email he sent to Gess, the secretary of the University Heights Community Association, at 10:26 a.m. on Monday:

However much I would welcome the opportunity to meet in a public forum, unfortunately the compressed time frame of the next two weeks makes it impossible. I have spent the past two days trying to juggle my schedule to free some time, but I just can't make it work. Our volunteers and supporters have helped coordinate activities between now and election-day. This, combined with my ongoing obligations to work and my various prior (non-campaign related) commitments, means virtually every hour is spoken for up to March 20th.

This is a completely understandable reason for declining any invitation. Running a full-fledged campaign in a condensed period of time doesn't sound like it's a lot of fun.

Gess has a slightly different version of the events. He said a fellow board member from UHCA contacted Hamilton on Feb. 19 via email, and that Hamilton responded the same day saying he thought this was a great idea and that he would contact Dan DeLamater, the past president of Cedar Creek Neighborhood Association, to see if their organization could assist with the planning and logistics. Gess said he contacted Herod as well at the same time.

Gess also said he never heard back from Hamilton or DeLamater regarding the proposed joint forum/debate.

On March 2, Gess met with members of staff from Flagpole to discuss the newspaper's possible involvement in the forum, thinking having their inclusion would help generate interest in the forum, and they agreed to lend a hand. Gess said he secured Cedar Shoals High School's auditorium as the venue that morning, and promptly left messages for both participants. He said he spoke with Herod first, who agreed to participate.

He said Hamilton returned his call around 5:30 p.m. that afternoon and expressed interest, but said he did have a very jam-packed schedule. Gess told him if he could know something by noon on Saturday, March 3 that would be fine for their planning purposes. Another primary reason for the deadline was so to meet Flagpole's deadline for this week's issue.

Gess said he never heard back from Hamilton and also said that phone calls made by staff at Flagpole to Hamilton were also unreturned. Gess said he's not angry over Hamilton's decision to not participate, but that he was disappointed in his decision.

What to make of this? Who knows. In the grand scheme of things, I don't think this really means a lot ... outside of being entertaining political news. Would Hamilton have been served well by participating in a debate sponsored by a neighborhood association that, according to rumor, is appearing to have many of its residents leaning Herod? Possibly not, though Gess said a large number of voters were undecided and were hopeful to hear him speak.

The battle, I still think, will be won in Cedar Creek. Herod's starting to spread his influence outside of that gigantic neighborhood, but Hamilton still has to be considered the leader in that particular neighborhood. It's his backyard and where he serves as the president of its neighborhood association. He should take a majority over there, but it's becoming apparent he might have to turn out an increasingly larger number of folks in Cedar Creek to help put him over the top.

Regardless ... Hamilton won't be present for the debate. He encouraged me to remind folks to visit his blog which he updates fairly regularly and where he fleshes out some of his thoughts on particular issues. And, in shameless self-promotional efforts, he did record a lengthy podcast with me.

District Eight debate (sort of)

I just received the following press release ...

March 7, 2007

Contact: Peter Gess, 706-XXX-XXXX; XXX@XXXXXXXX.com


ATHENS, GA—The University Heights Community Association is sponsoring a forum with Andy Herod, candidate for the Athens-Clarke County Commission District 8 seat. The forum will be held Tuesday, March 13, at 7:00 p.m., at Cedar Shoals High School auditorium and is free and open to the public.

Herod will share some of his ideas and goals for District 8 and will answer questions from the audience. The other District 8 candidate, David Hamilton, declined the invitation to participate in a forum or debate featuring both candidates.

The special election is Tuesday, March 20th, with early voting beginning March 12th. The winning candidate will replace States McCarter, who resigned on February 7th.

Interesting that Hamilton declined to participate, particularly in a short election cycle.

Couple of things

- So ... Norm Weatherby? Yeah, apparently he's a fugitive who's been fleeing the law for some time after being indicted on charges of rape and sexual assault of a minor. That's right. That Norm Weatherby.

- Ben from Flagpole shows the Athenian blogosphere some love in his District Eight piece. He gives a mention to my podcasts which, for those who are interested, can be found here for David Hamilton and here for Andy Herod.

- Reading this and this. Banging head on the proverbial table.

- I talk a little about the ACTION building.

- First she breaks up The Beatles, and now she halts the screening of a John Lennon documentary.

Good read

I failed to point this out the past few days, but Blake's piece on the housing market, our overbuilding of residential units and the lack of affordable housing in the area was very interesting. It covered a lot of good points that I'd like to be able to go into in greater detail later on.

The main point for now is that we're built out through 2013, have more than 1,300 existing vacant units and still are seeing condos going up that folks have the audacity to charge $250,000 to live in ... despite the fact they have no buyers willing to fork that kind of money over.

Mother of ...

I knew he was crazy!

It turns out that Norm Weatherby was also a fugitive! And not even Norm Weatherby!

So not only did the Larry Bess (aka 'Norm Weatherby') enjoy insulting the poor, predicting doom-and-gloom following last year's elections, misunderstanding the complex issues of poverty and labeling all Muslims as killers, but he also really got a kick out of hiding from federal authorities.

And why was he running? What crime had he committed?

Bess was indicted in November 1989 on charges of rape and gross sexual imposition of a minor - a crime similar to aggravated sexual battery in Georgia - according to Wilson.

Bess also was wanted on a 1999 federal warrant charging him with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

Ohio prosecutors allege Bess raped his stepdaughter over a six-year period, 1983 to 1989, beginning when she was 6 years old. The assaults happened in North Royalton, a suburb of Cleveland, officials said.

So not only was he somewhat crazy, he's also a bastard.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

ACTION is needed

Earlier this morning, Stanicek emailed me to ask my thoughts on the Athens Banner-Herald editorial regarding the fate of the ACTION building. I never got a chance to email him back - or do any meaningful blogging - this morning, so here are a few thoughts on it.

He took the editorial to be very critical toward the Athens-Clarke County Heritage Foundation, and I didn't take it that way. I thought the editorial was, quite frankly, honest in its assessment of the situation which was that opposition to the sale of the property can be perceived as something that is slightly out-of-touch. However, with that said, it's only because it's a non-profit that assists individuals living in poverty that this is getting this much attention. If this was some average joe who wanted to sell the building and watch it get bulldozed then, yes, the whole community would say 'well, there's got to be a better way.'

This is a very specific case of a non-profit that does a tremendous amount of good mired in a dire financial crisis. Selling this property for $1.2 million will erase said financial worries and put ACTION back on the proper path. The problem then is not with ACTION for rightfully desiring to erase its debt (which is why I think the editorial was correct in criticizing Amy Kissane's comments), but rather with the plans submitted by the developer.

As a result, this becomes more of a project for the Athens-Clarke County Planning Commission to resolve. There needs to be diligent work between all interested parties in developing a workable solution that enables ACTION to resolve its financial crisis and permit the sale of said property. There are smart people on the Planning Commission, and they'll work hard to find the right answer to this problem.

Where I think the editorial fell short is in not calling for the speedy implementation of our historic downtown designation, which would assist (I would imagine) with instances like this. I think the editorial rightly suggested the community, spearheaded by organizations like the Heritage Foundation, identify a list of buildings which need to be preserved and work to protect those structures.

As an aside, I'm actually quite a fan of the Heritage Foundation and the work of Kissane. I've never met her, but I've always respected and admired her take on certain things and her committment to historic preservation. It just so happens, in this particular case, that I disagree with her take on things.

Taste of Athens

The annual Taste of Athens will be held on Sunday, March 18 at The Classic Center. It's a good time, and it benefits a good cause in Community Connection.

The folks who put it together are looking for a few volunteers, and being a volunteer means you get in for free (and that's good). Just click on the above link and scroll down for the appropriate contact information if that's something you'd like to do.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Couple of things

- I'm taking a much-welcomed day off today to catch up on some necessary yard work at the house, so this may not be the most thorough 'Couple of things' you'll ever see ...

- In District Eight news, Athens Grow Green released its scorecards and endorsed Andy Herod. Not to be outdone, former commissioners Ken Jordan and States McCarter endorsed David Hamilton.

- I took a little look at the use of insulting language in political dialogue.

- I also saw The Worst Band In The History Of The Known Universe on Friday night.

- Ladies and gentlemen ... welcome to a non-issue. I have never - never - been in a class when a professor has suppressed a student's political views. I have been in a class where a professor has outargued a student of opposing political views (in fact many times ... sometimes a conservative professor and sometimes a liberal professor). The latter, however, is not the suppression of academic freedom. And another thing ... just because you hear a professor state his ideological positions on some things doesn't mean its the suppression of academic freedom. In fact, I would imagine being exposed to a variety of ideological arguments is, actually, a good thing. Though I do love David Kirby's argument ... 'well, I heard it happened, like, once or twice ... Bobby, who's friends with Jaimie had a guy who said he saw it happen.' For what it's worth, Nicki nails it.

- Speaking of Nicki, she's been dealing with a pretty serious crime problem over in her neck of the woods regarding prostitution and small-time drug dealing. She's got a good post up on it at her blog and is looking for some help.

- Forget the historical building argument in this whole thing ... we want to replace these buildings with 100 townhomes? Really? That's almost a non-starter for me right there seeing how we're, you know, up 1,800 units in this community and feature enough housing to last us until 2013. We could use some office and retail space fellas, so why not take a look at that.

- Ladies and gentlemen, earlier I gave you a non-issue ... now I present the most shallow reasoning in the world by Michael Carter. Says Carter ... 'Her ill-informed assertion is absolutely erroneous. I've had the opportunity to speak to some of our troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and they unanimously support our president's actions in Iraq.' Wow. Unanimously. I'm just going to go on a limb and suggest that Carter's sample features a wide margin of error.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Athens Grow Green scorecards

Athens Grow Green has released the scorecards for Andy Herod and David Hamilton. And, much how the endorsement for Hamilton from States McCarter and Ken Jordan was a positive note for him, the folks with AGG are all about some Herod.

He received four stars and scored 12 points out of a possible 14 for his questionnaire answers compared to Hamilton's two stars and one point. To be entirely fair, I think AGG was a bit hard on Hamilton ... and I say that as someone who honestly liked Herod's answers a little better. It was kinda unreasonable to even think that the organization would back Hamilton, particularly in light of McCarter's endorsement ... just as it would be unreasonable for the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce to back Herod. These organizations, understandably, have some allegiances to particular ideologies, and that's fine enough.

Some thoughts ...

- I particularly liked Herod's ideas for more mixed-zoning usage, and I think this idea possibly ties into the goal of increasing the opportunities for affordable housing in this community. A mixture of lot sizes, as Herod notes, would play in hand in limiting sprawl and mixing families of varying incomes.

- The notion of using incentives rather than regulation was panned by AGG, and I think that's a bit unfortunate. Not to suggest that the organization doesn't value the concept of using market incentives to encourage activity (because it does), nor to suggest that I'm opposed to regulation in certain capacities (because I'm not), but rather because it seemed so absolute. For instance, while I appreciate and agree with most of Herod's ideas regarding increasing the supply of affordable housing, I'm not entirely sold on his 'linkage fees' proposal. I think we need to find a way to encourage developers to create mixed-use areas and affordable housing, and I think there are a variety of ways to do that (and Herod touches on one when he mentions the concept of 'Katrina Cottages').

- I do agree, however, with AGG regarding compensating property owners for rezoning issues. This is a mighty slippery slope to traverse down, and Herod rightly points out that some of the actions of rezoning on private property ultimately results in the increased value of that very property. This isn't to say that mechanisms, such as TDRs, aren't appropriate things to employ and benefit private-property owners.

- Both candidates gave strong answers regarding alternative transporation, though I think Herod's was very well done. It's an absolute necessity, in my mind, that we develop an agreement with Oconee County (and other neighboring counties) that expands our bus service to those outlying counties, and I was very glad to see that at the top of Herod's list. And I was equally as glad to see him plugging the concept of 'Complete Streets' as No. 2. Again, both candidates played it well, but I think Herod knocked it out of the park.

- Neither candidate mentioned something I told Hillary about last week, but I'd like to see an move by the Athens-Clarke County Commission to, over the course of a certain period of time, shift the fleet of its automobiles to more energy efficient vehicles (such as, say, hybrids).

McCarter reappears ... is that good?

Not that it's terribly shocking since States McCarter did, during the first time he flirted with resigning his seat as District Eight commissioner, originally endorse David Hamilton ... but he's officially done so now. As has Ken Jordan, who served the district prior to McCarter.

Dear 8th District Resident:

The two of us, Ken Jordan and States McCarter, have represented the 8th District since unification of the Athens-Clarke County government in 1991. We hope that we have served you well. Both of us are asked frequently which of the two candidates we support in the upcoming election (on March 20th). Believing that we have more than an average level of understanding of what is required in the job, we feel compelled to share our views on the matter. This letter is the vehicle to accomplish that objective.

We are of the very strong opinion that David Hamilton will continue to provide the kind of leadership needed in the 8th District and beyond. David has been heavily involved in the community, serving as vice-president of the Cedar Creek Civic Association in 2006 and president this year. He is currently serving as the neighborhood representative on the Steering Committee appointed by the mayor to oversee the 10-year rework of the Land Use Plan. David is also a graduate of both the A-CC Citizens Police Academy and the Community Emergency Response Team program. We urge you to support David Hamilton by voting for him on March 20th.

The outcome of this special election will likely be determined by voter turnout. We urge you to go to one of the local area polling places (Gaines School, Cedar Shoals High School, or Fire Station 7) and vote on March 20th or go to the Board of Elections on Washington Street if you vote early (the early voting period is from 12th to the 16th of March). There should be no wait at either place as this is the only issue on the ballot. You can get an absentee ballot by calling 706-546-9083.

Whether or not McCarter's endorsement is a good thing or not depends on some of your political views, I would imagine. In Cedar Creek, it's understandably a good thing, though Hamilton probably already has that area locked up pretty good seeing how he's currently the president of the neighborhood association.

But how does that play in the rest of the district? While Cedar Creek may be the largest neighborhood in District Eight, one must look outside that area as well.

In 2004, McCarter won reelection by defeating Annette Nelson 3,171 to 1,431. Those results, despite McCarter's still relatively high popularity at the time, are misleading because of that 'R' that was stuck next to his opponents name. Folks in Athens-Clarke County, even in supposedly more moderate-to-conservative districts, still don't vote Republican en masse.

Examining the results of last year's mayoral race offers a little more light, but not entirely since the candidates' ideologies don't necessarily match up. While it's safe to say that Andy Herod lines up nicely with with the views of Heidi Davison and her supporters, it's much harder to put Hamilton, who did vote in the Republican primary in both 2002 and 2004, into a comparable category with either Charlie Maddox or Tom Chasteen. Hamilton is moderate-to-progressive on most local issues, and local politics matter in local elections.

In the 2006 runoff between Davison and Maddox, with the latter earning the endorsement of McCarter, Davison cruised in District Eight with 67 percent of the vote (812). In the 2006 general election, despite Chasteen and Maddox splitting the 'anti-Heidi' vote, Davison still won by a slim margin (1,149 votes to a combined 1,122 for Chasteen and Maddox).

Of course there are obvious factors to consider here as well. Davison had the luxury of having the incumbent status, while Maddox didn't have as many strong ties to the eastside as someone like Hamilton would.

McCarter's popularity across the community as a whole has declined, though he still enjoys favorable reviews by the majority of the residents of Cedar Creek.

Does McCarter's endorsement help? While it's a nice thing, ultimately what will help either candidate more will be their ability to work the streets and the phones and connect with the residents of District Eight.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Because I might as well ...

So Ann Coulter said something ignorant, and downright offensive, about John Edwards. Here are some thoughts ...

- Seriously, it's Ann Coulter. Again, the fact that she said something vile and offensive isn't terribly shocking to me. I mean, she's homophobic, a tad racist, a hypocrite and desperate for attention. This lady might very well cut off her mother's thumbs on national TV if she thought it would garner her some book sales.

- It may be Ann Coulter, but this is a little different in the sense that she was introduced by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney at the Conservative Political Action Convention's annual meeting where all the other GOP candidates were speaking. It would seem to me that the logical (and morally decent) thing to do, particularly for Romney who also was endorsed by Coulter after the event, would be to disavow her comments.

- I'm not one to play the media bias card, but I do find the incredible lack of coverage of this somewhat ridiculous. Despite the fact all of the Republican presidential candidates and accompanying national media members were at CPAC, you can't find any stories focusing on this. Not at MSNBC which has this story detailing the GOP's chances ... or at CNN where we find this article where the candidates court the faithful. The only coverage you find is at Fox News, and one has to wonder if that is done with journalistic integrity in mind or if it's merely something to fire up the base.

- What we do have is an article concerning Sen. Hillary Clinton's 1969 college thesis as well as one on the fact that a distant white ancestor of Sen. Barack Obama once owned two slaves. This, somehow, is more newsworthy than a prominent conservative commentator addressing a collection of prominent conservative supporters, freshly introduced by a presidential candidate, using a homophobic term to describe a presidential candidate from the opposition party.

- But not as newsworthy as, say, a TV actor using the same word.

- The ability, and somewhat eagerness, of some on the right to dive right into such vehemently personal attacks never ceases to amaze me. Now I'm not saying such venom doesn't exist on the left, but it would seem to me that this type of behavior - where one works to make the opposition less of a person, almost sub-human and downright evil - is more prevelant, as of late, on the right. And these personal insults are usually devoid of any sort of policy or ideological disagreements, but are rather quite banal in their nature and get passed down throughout the ranks. For instance, my conservative uncle will tell me he dislikes Edwards because he's a 'pretty boy ambulance chaser' and not for any other real reason other than that.

- What is the cause for such personal attacks? I think, quite frankly, one major reason is that public opinion, particularly on domestic issues such as education or health care, lines up more or less with popular Democratic positions. Knowing it's an uphill fight, some on the right switch the terms of the debate so they can personally tear down the opposition through tremendous exaggerations or outright falsehoods, creating such doubt in the minds of the voters of their opponent's basic humanity that they, by default, appear to be the only possible choice.

- Another key reason might be some sort of pyschological hang-up. There's been much written on how the Bush Administration's top officials, including the president himself, are suckers for using demeaning nicknames to keep people in check (for instance, how the president lovingly refers to Karl Rove as 'turd-blossom'). Perhaps it's some sort of extension of that.

- I think such types of negative characterizations are juvenille, insulting and have no place in political dialogue today coming from either side of the aisle.

Shotguns not for recycling

When this day began, I didn't realize it would end with me suffering through an hour-and-a-half long set by The Worst Band In The History Of The Known Universe.

Seriously ... when you cover I Like My Women A Little On The Trashy Side by Confederate Railroad, Cocaine by Eric Clapton, Tubthumper by Chumbawumba, What I Got by Sublime, Running With The Devil by Van Halen, Sympathy For The Devil by The Rolling Stones, I Can See Clearly Now by Johnny Nash, Trick Loves The Kids by Trick Daddy and the theme to The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air - all in the same show - you're kinda reaching.

Kids, just because you can play all of those songs doesn't mean you can play them terribly well ... and it doesn't mean you should try.

And something recorded by Confederate Railroad in 1992 isn't 'old-school country.' It was all I could do to not rush the stage and strangle the lead singer when he dropped that pearl of wisdom.

So, the lesson to take from this is that if someone presents with the following choice - 'hey man, let's go hear Recycled Shotguns rock out' vs. 'hey man, let's run our tongues through a food processor' - opt for the latter.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Couple of things

- This story reveals the struggle families in poverty face, and I ask for you folks to help out.

- The endorsement letters keep rolling in ... Beverly King likes Andy Herod, while Edward and Nancy Roberson like David Hamilton.

- I was actually agreeing with Norm Weatherby ... until I read the last paragraph where he couldn't resist lambasting the media, Hollywood and Muslims all in one fell swoop.

- Here's the problem with this bill ... isn't this, to some extent, following along the lines of that whole eminent domain debate that everyone was all up in arms about a while back? Or are we only serious about protecting private property rights when the oil companies aren't involved? I mean, this bill sounds awful for a variety of reasons ranging from visionary ones (because makes ourselves remain dependent on non-renewable fuels) to practical ones (letting non-governmental organizations and businesses seize private property in order to do what they so desire).

- I can understand why the city manager lost his job, though that doesn't mean I necessarily agree it. What I can say with absolute certainty is that Rev. Ron Saunders of Lighthouse Baptist Church in Largo, Fla., does not speak for the Good Lord with regard to this specific personnel matter.

- I like public investment in things like education, social services, etc. But I also like to get some bang for my buck ... and spending $8.3 billion on our public education system to finish in the bottom half of a report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on educational effectiveness isn't delivering that. Maybe if we started giving the local communities more control in these types of things, something I though the governor was all about, we might see a better use of our monies.

- I like the concept that we allow technologies developed at Georgia research institutions to stay in Georgia, but this does seem a little bit like micro-managing, doesn't it? It would seem an incentive-based system, rather than one built around mandates, would be the best option.

Music for the moment

Breaking stereotypes

This is a nice piece of reporting by Blake. Not so much for its depth or anything, but because it underlines one major point which rebukes much of the criticism that comes across the Athens Banner-Herald editorial pages pretty frequently ... and that's by showing that the homeless people living Athens-Clarke County are ones who actually have jobs.

The results of the study defy the stereotype of a homeless person as a downtown panhandler or someone from out of town who was drawn to Athens by its social services, (Evan) Mills said.

Instead, the typical homeless person is more likely to be an Athenian, indistinguishable from a non-homeless person, holding a minimum-wage job changing oil or working in fast-food restaurants that don't pay enough to afford housing, he said. At night, they sleep under a bridge or in another dangerous place, he said.

"Three out of four homeless folks you see have some source income, yet remain homeless," he said.

I bring this up for some partially shameless solicitation, but solicitation that goes to a pretty good cause. As folks here probably know, I'm the vice president of the board of directors for the Interfaith Hospitality Network of Athens, which is a group of more than 15 area congregations that work together to assist homeless families in the area.

We need to take in around $7,500 a month to help meet our costs, and February closed with us taking in less than $3,000. So, as I'm heading over there this morning to drop off a check, I'd like to encourage you folks to do the same (or if you're uncomfortable with my shameless solicitation, check out the links on the right for an organization that helps out).

If you can give, give what you can.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Couple of things

- Folks, this thing has run-off written all over it. Nine people are running? And we haven't even gotten answers from Doc Elderidge, Willie Green and the potential additional Democratic candidate to Terry Holley. Plus, some of these folks are mighty conservative. Don't get me wrong, the 10th Congressional District is a solidly Republican district for now, but I mean some of these fellas tow the line something fierce.

- One of the most influential minds in modern day liberal thought has died as Arthur Schlesinger passed away last night. Schlesinger composed the two most definitive biographies of both John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy out there, and was a policy advisor and speechwriter for both Kennedys and Lyndon Johnson.

- Here's why the Rev. Aaron McCullough's argument is absurd and borderline irresponsible ... because he focuses on Sunday. If he honestly feels so strongly about safety regarding Sunday Sales, then it's only logical that he would oppose any sales of alcohol on any day of the week. And what's infuriating is that so many in the Georgia General Assembly are actually accepting this shallow arguments (particularly someone like Regina Thomas who has the audacity to question the faith of anyone who supports that radical concept of letting local communities determine what they can and can't do).

- I probably don't have the necessary experience or appropriate skill set they're looking for, but I'll be the president of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce for a mere $60,000.

I know famous people

In a truly weird turn of events, Dwight Pope, an old high school buddy of mine, is going to be competing on Pros vs. Joes tonight at 10 p.m. on Spike TV. Dwight was pretty athletic back in high school, being an All-State catcher and all.

But this isn't the first time he's been on national TV for his athletic achievements. A few years back he was one of a handful of amateur golfers who defeated John Daly in a long-drive contest on ESPN 2 and won a ridiculous sum of money.

So watch him tonight ... if he's got to play hockey, it should be pretty funny.

Birthday bounty

Thanks to all for the warm birthday wishes. I picked a couple of monetary gifts from family, which will be very helpful as I purchase some sort of PDA as well as a video camera.

Two gifts worth noting, both from The Wife ...

- The Lee Brothers Southern Cookbook - I had asked for it earlier, and she delivered. Arguably the biggest cookbook I now own.

- Germs Are Not For Sharing - Ah yes, a charming book I can read to my child and teach my handwashing ways ...