Friday, April 27, 2007

Don't let the door hit you ...

Because sometimes things work out, Terry Holley has decided to withdraw from the special election to replace the late Rep. Charlie Norwood in the 10th Congressional District. Now, it's no secret I'm no Holley fan - he's self-centered, mildly arrogant, has no ability to run an effective campaign and couldn't raise money, so his leaving the race is a good thing in my book.

What's more weird to me is his inability to grasp reality, as revealed in this quote ...

"It needed to be one candidate, and lo and behold, they're bringing in people who don't live in the district, people nobody knows," he said. "A lot of people are upset in the Democratic Party."

A lot of people are upset? Really? Listen, this party is in the minority in this state, but with a new administration in charge, those people actually in the party are pretty excited. And that's a very good thing because without an enthusiastic base, it's hard to expand it.

So when Holley says 'a lot of people' what he really means is 'Terry Holley' because, quite frankly, a lot of folks in the party looked at him (and that sparkling 32 percent of the vote he grabbed in 2006 and the less than $30,000 he raised) and said ... 'gee, maybe there's a better candidate out there for us.' And that's exactly what happened as the overwhelming majority of the county parties in the 10th Congressional District voted on who they would support, and they liked James Marlowe.

I like Marlowe. He's a long-shot, but he's the right kind of candidate Democrats should be running in these races. He could make this an interesting race if he does the right things. Holley, as evidenced by his failures last year as well as his childish 'me-first' attitude, wouldn't be able to do that.

Let's be specific

Believe it or not, I've gotten to know Jeff Emanuel through discussions on blogs and through a few email exchanges. It's safe to say that we have massive, fundamental disagreements over politics and ideology, but he seems to be a nice guy who's mighty cordial to me.

Emanuel has been given a unique opportunity to be embedded, for a short period of time, with U.S. troops in Iraq, and he's started to write some about those experiences. His most recent column is a little odd to me because, well, it implies something which never actually occurred.

He argues that the work of the troops are 'winning over journalists.' Now, he acknowledges in his column that some - in fact most - of those embedded hold some sort of opposition to the war, so the troops are swaying their mind in the philosophical debate of whether or not we should be involved in this conflict. Instead, he argues that the journalists now, in essence, like the troops.

I'm not sure what this means because in order for this argument to work the journalists would have to have been vehemently opposed to the troops themselves ... which obviously isn't the case at all.

Kicking open doors harboring hostile individuals or standing guard over a building are dangerous things that - regardless of one's belief regarding the actual conflict - one has to say it takes a measure of courage to do. Likewise, spending large portions of time with any group of people in such dangerous conditions, sometimes resulting in some of them saving your life, will foster fond feelings of friendship between the members of said group.

That doesn't mean, however, they opinions of the war itself are any different.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

On the Happy Hour thing

As I've noted before, I'm a big fan of J.T. and the fellas at the Athens Banner-Herald's editorial board. However, this editorial is one of the most jumbled and confusing ones they've penned in quite a long time.

In order for the argument to work at the most basic level, not only would recent history have to be completely different, but also the very structure of the local government would have to be organized in a vastly different fashion.

It's logical to assume that eliminating hourly drink specials would have the effect of exerting some control on young people's alcohol consumption, by prompting them to buy fewer drinks. Although, in fairness to the commission's apparent shift away from this particular proposed change to the alcohol ordinance - as outlined in a Monday story in this newspaper headlined "Commission backs off happy hour ban" ...

This suggests the commission itself proposed these specific changes, which isn't the case. In fact, the commission hasn't backed away from anything. The Athens-Clarke County staff offered these specific changes without any instruction from the commission - as frequently happens in our system of government - meaning the commissioners were unaware of such far-reaching proposals (as noted at this blog last month by District 10 Commissioner Elton Dodson).

Also, I must disagree that the elimination of drink specials or Happy Hours would result in a decrease in student drinking. Again, this is a societal issue, and until we as a society teach young folks to approach alcohol consumption in a proper way, you're always going to have young folks drinking too much. Removing Happy Hours means they may (or may not) drink drink at a particular establishment, but it does mean they may opt to purchase an extra 12-pack of Natural Light and drink at their house.

What we need - and the commission has rightfully noted - is enforcement of existing laws and a crackdown on establishments which purposely violate the law.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Couple of things

- See, common sense does sometimes prevail. The Legislative Review Committee take a look at the staff recommendations and realized that enforcement of existing laws makes more sense than writing a bunch of new ones that hurt everyone, consumer and business alike.

- And, refreshingly enough, perhaps a little more common sense (though no thanks to our own Sen. Ralph Hudgens who voted for this thing back in the State Senate). This pipeline bill was a train wreck. It's a perfect example of the disarray that rules the leadership of the state GOP right now. After passing a law that restricts the seizure of private property to be then turned over to another private owner, they came up with this bill which, in essence, did that very thing.

- Speaking of that, Morris News Service put together a nice little article on the GOP confusion, and in it you'll learn to dislike Rep. Glenn Richardson that much more.

- Someone could answer this much better than me, but I think there are appropriate flag ettiquite rules regarding military deaths in an ongoing conflict.

Just sayin'

I know that April isn't even over yet, but sweeping the Yankees is always pretty cool.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Couple of things (catching up)

- I know, I know ... I said I'd be back sooner, but, again, kinda busy. Plus, sleeping an extra 20 minutes in the morning is kinda nice. I'll try to get back into the swing of things.

- Since I've been gone, Zach Johnson won The Masters. A lot of folks talked about how boring the tournament was due to the weather - and it was absolutely brutal on Saturday - and the tougher course conditions, but I thought the final round was the most exciting one in a couple of years. Five different players held the lead over the span of an hour early Sunday afternoon, and until Johnson birdied No. 16 and Tiger Woods was forced to scramble and save par at No. 15, it was pretty much anyone's tournament.

- Along with Matt, I was fortunate enough to go see Sen. Barack Obama speak in Atlanta. Very, very cool. Matt even got to shake his hand as he worked his way through the crowd. I don't want to be overdramatic and say it was life-changing or anything, but I was left thinking that an experience like that must have been what it was like for a Democrat in the 1960s to see Bobby Kennedy or a Republican in the early 1980s see Ronald Reagan. More than 20,000 people crammed Yellow Jacket Park at Georgia Tech to make it the largest crowd of his young campaign. As expected, the man gives a good speech so no surprise there. My favorite line was 'Too many folks today view politics as a business, and not as a mission.'

- I posted University of Georgia President Michael Adams's letter to the campus community regarding Virginia Tech.

- Posturing for the 2010 race for governor has already begun as Rep. Glenn Richardson attempts to distance himself from Gov. Sonny Perdue after the latter vetoed the budget (which, by the by, he should have done, so good for Perdue). First time in 40 years the budget has been vetoed. Wow. I don't know why we Democrats are considered the party that fights among itself. The Georgia Republicans are doing a fine job of grabbing that mantle.

- Well ... I actually somewhat agree with the Bush Administration here, though it's baffling to me why the District of Columbia isn't a state yet (or Puerto Rico). I suppose I could get really picky and point out that Virginia technically isn't a state either as it's a commonwealth.

- This is actually one of the most informative columns I've read in a while. My three crepe myrtles are awful looking after that cold snap.

Michael Adams letter on Virginia Tech

Letter to campus community in response to the tragedy at Virginia Tech

Michael F. Adams, President

As a community, we mourn for those who died in the senseless violence that took place on the campus of Virginia Tech, a sister land-grant university. In particular, we mourn the loss of Jamie Bishop, the holder of two UGA degrees, who was teaching German there and was killed. His family and the families of all the victims are in our thoughts and prayers.

The serenity of that campus was shattered by the sound of gunfire Monday morning. It is the worst possible sort of emergency – a deranged gunman stalking campus with the intent to kill as many people as possible. We have seen such rampages occur in post offices, in fast food restaurants, in office buildings, in shopping malls, at K-12 schools and, yes, college campuses. We live in an open society; in academia, we particularly value the openness of campus life. It is impossible to install enough barricades and security checkpoints to keep a deranged person from committing such acts of horror if he or she is determined to carry them out.

But we can prepare for such situations, plan for the response and train people to respond quickly and effectively. I have the greatest confidence in the planning that has already taken place at UGA for this and other emergency scenarios. Among the security measures in place are controlled access to residence halls and many of the newer facilities on campus. I would encourage students to understand that residence hall security is only as good as the people who use it properly; please do not prop doors open or hold the door open for people you do not know.

Crime prevention is a shared responsibility. I urge faculty, students and staff to be aware of and take responsibility for your own safety and that of others by being observant and reporting any suspicious or unusual activity.

The UGA Police, working with the Athens-Clarke County Police and state agencies, have protocols in place for responding to campus emergencies. I firmly believe that these protocols are well-conceived and that the officers are well-trained and prepared to carry them out in a moment of crisis. Additionally, the Office of Security and Emergency Preparedness, in conjunction with other campus and community response agencies, routinely plans for the types of large-scale emergencies that could impact the UGA campus.

The university has a number of emergency notification systems already in place including outdoor warning sirens, building telephone trees, emergency pagers by building and the ArchNews campus-wide e-mail system. We are currently evaluating an emergency notification system with the capability to send messages to cell phones and land-line numbers submitted by students, faculty and staff.

Counseling and Psychiatric Services in the University Health Center (706.542.2273) is always ready to assist students in need of such professional services.

At the appropriate time, we will look to our colleagues at Virginia Tech for what they have learned from this tragic event, and we will evaluate our own plans and processes based on those lessons.

In closing, I have been touched by the outpouring of support from the UGA campus to the Virginia Tech campus, especially the many ways that students have reached out to try to help those known and unknown to them. The spirit of the UGA family is a powerful force for good, and I am honored to be a part of that family.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Still here

Hello all ... I'm still around, but have just been mighty busy the past two weeks. Last week I was, as you probably know, gone to Augusta to see The Masters, and this week I've been tied up with work and IHN duties, so my apologies for zero blogging.

Hopefully I'll get some free time this weekend to write a little bit since there are a few things I want to comment on.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Grassroots fundraising

Per Darren's request, I'm more than happy to share a few brief thoughts on Sen. Barack Obama's impressive fundraising in the first quarter.

Quite simply, it's incredibly more impressive than the other candidates because it's a close second to Sen. Hillary Clinton's $26 million and that large sum comes from an astounding number of individual donors (more than 100,000 reported donors, which is unheard of in primary politics). Clinton relied on collecting large donations.

Clinton’s campaign often solicited the $4,600 donations, while Obama’s campaign focused on recruiting small dollar donors. In the coming months, he can return to those donors and ask those who haven’t maxed out to give more.

Compound this by the fact that Obama has said he doesn't desire to take contributions from lobbyists or political action committees and the fact that he raised $25 million is jaw-dropping ... and a testament to the movement he's building.

I've given him $25 three different times, and what's impressed me is that two of those gifts were unsolicited. The one that was solicited resulted in the caller telling me that Obama wanted to focus more on the number of individuals who had the ability to give, and not how much they would give. He said - in a first in political fundraising for me at least - that if I could give just $10 that would be great. Now, I've sifted through a number of calls from different candidates and political action committees, and they typically ask for $100 right off the bat, and - if I'm interested in giving - I have to talk them down to $25.

(I have a funny memory of The Wife getting in an argument with a representative from the DCCC in which she was repeatedly refusing to give money for this particular cycle, and the caller kept reading through the script about how 'Republicans want to do this and this and this ...' She finally said 'listen, you don't to sell me on any of that, but I still ain't sending you another check.')

Anyway, I like Obama's approach to fundraising. I'm quite sure that, as the campaign heats up, he'll be forced to solicit those larger donations. However, it's refreshing to see such a concerted effort for small giving as a means of vocal support rather than running to the biggest donors or PACs.

Time to go

Admittedly, I'm not the biggest Terry Holley fan in the world, but his comments in this story and elsewhere have somewhat baffled me. The short account of what happened is that a majority of Democratic county parties in the 10th Congressional District opted to endorse James Marlowe.

Holley, the candidate in 2006 against the late Rep. Charlie Norwood, was miffed and has since proceeded to completely reinvent reality. Now, my contention is pretty clear ... Holley is a weak candidate (was then, is now), and he's acting like a child regarding the endorsements of Marlowe (who, though facing a considerably uphill battle, is a stronger candidate). To make matters worse, Holley is attempting to run as the establishment candidate and anti-establishment candidate all rolled up in one. It's ridiculous sense he fails short in neither.

His two main claims is that he 'earned' 56,000 votes in the last election, thus meaning he has set base of support. This is misleading because Holley 'earned' those votes largely because he was the guy on the ballot not named Norwood. Loyal Democrats in the region - myself included - knew they didn't share Norwood's ideological vision and backed the Democrat in the race. Plus, this will be a special election so no matter how much focus is put on it, you're still going to see a lower turnout.

His other charge is that he claims this base of support will result in fundraising, but that's wrongheaded and suggests a complete revision of history. Holley, in 2006, raised something like two percent the final total of Norwood. It was one of the weakest fundraising showings for a Democrat in recent history in that district, regardless of how conservative it is. Coupled with the fact that most other county party leaders are now behind Marlowe (as well as several other Democrats are running), Holley's ability to raise funds are going be severely limited.

What's also interesting to note is that Holley has little connection to Athens-Clarke County, which any Democrat would need to maximize in order to be viable. Marlowe has already started to make inroads here, and there's no reason to believe Holley has learned his lesson from 2006 when he fielded little to no effort in our community and performed weaker than other Democrats on the ballot (Jim Martin, for example, finished with 270 more votes while Jane Kidd and Mac Rawson each outperformed him by 1,269 votes).

Listen, if Holley wants to run, then whatever. However, running for the office and whining about someone else picking up endorsements are two different things. No is suggesting Holley can't run, but I think it's pretty clear he shouldn't run if he wants to see a Democrat have a somewhat decent chance at getting into a runoff.

That was fun

You want an example of how not to make a closing statement (or articulate any sort of argument/viewpoint) at an Athens-Clarke County Commission meeting?

Just tune in for the late replay of Jon Williams's final remarks from Tuesday's meeting. In one fell swoop, he managed to completely ruin a strong effort to push toward a compromise concerning the special use request for the Oconee Street property of the Boys and Girls Club.

In it, he managed to threaten the commission, refuse a cordial request for withdrawal (proposed so as to grant him a fresh start and ample time to sort through the very things he was already trying to achieve), show an unwillingness to understand what compromise actually means, pretend to feign innocence when it comes to properly engaging the impacted neighborhoods for a special use and, quite frankly, completely lie. By the end of it, he had managed to fragment his feeble coalition of support and drew a sharp (and, might I add, very appropriate) rebuke from Mayor Heidi Davison.

The lying, however, was the one of the two most outrageous things that occured. Somehow, Williams had the audacity to stand before the commission and claim that the Athens-Clarke County Planning Commission expressed 'no opposition' to his original proposal. This, of course, flies in the face of the most basic logic seeing how the planning commission actually recommended denial of the project for the developer's inability to address any of the contradictions to the land use plan.

The other outrageous thing? The obvious contempt shown by some of those who backed the project - including some past board members of the Boys and Girls Club - for not only the entire Oconee Street neighborhood area, but the actual people they stressed they were trying to help. To hear one gentleman vehemently disparage Fourth Street Elementary in such an open forum was unsettling, as was another who lectured the commission about hordes of homeless citizens rampaging through Oconee Street.

Contrasted with the very positive and constructive comments offered by supporters such as Red Petrovs and Ed Benson, it was one of the more bizarre meetings I've seen in a quite a while.

Though I would have voted to deny - particularly in light of Williams's absolutely ridiculous final comments which suggest he must have temporarily removed himself from reality - I sincerely hope the developers build on the positive steps they took in their 11th-hour submission to the commission. They've got 40 days to build on that, and if not to consider to withdraw the request and use additional time to come with an adequate compromise that rewards both parties.

If I'm with the Boys and Girls Club, however, I'd politely request that Williams avoid the microphone at all costs.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

One more thing on that

I know it appears that I'm obsessing over this, but I think it's worth pointing out that Amy Kissane's letter, while full of valid points, also doesn't address the central issue ... which is, again, that this is a zoning issue. Whether or not the building is preserved, as of now, is completely beside the point.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Shifting the argument

Couching your support for a special use rezoning of the Oconee Street property behind the argument that two other multi-use properties have failed so obviously we don't need anymore is setting up a straw-man if I've ever seen one. I mean, just because one subdivision doesn't completely fill up doesn't mean we should never build any other homes in Athens-Clarke County, does it?

As have been pointed out before, there are some site-specific reasons why the Gameday condos have struggled (parking, visibility, etc.), but others are starting to make progress (Ansonborough, for instance, is starting to show some signs of sustainable progress).

This is merely a weak attempt to shift an argument from the practical (the fact that the property is zoned for one particular use that is non-complient with the proposed use) to the emotional (assisting the agencies in need). Again I say ... no one is arguing not to help the organizations, but rather that this one particular proposed use doesn't mesh with the existing zoning.

All is well

Been away for about a week now, and I apologize. We had some minor medical issues to resolve last week, but everything is perfectly fine now. I will, however, be heading to Augusta for The Masters tomorrow which means, aside from some sporadic blogging today, it'll be kinda light here for a bit. I'll do what I can to feed the masses, but no promises.

So here's a sports-related thought ...

Is it just me, or is it somewhat ridiculous that Ohio State and Florida are playing for the national title in basketball, after just squaring off for the football title just three months ago? Particularly when the Buckeyes really aren't that good? That Greg Oden fella is kinda overrated (if I'm an NBA team, I'm taking Kevin Durant over him any day), and their perimeter play is spotty at best.

The only team which stood a chance of beating the Gators was North Carolina, but the Tar Heels stumbled down the stretch against Georgetown which means ... Florida will continue to serve as our collegiate athletics overlord.