Saturday, May 31, 2008

A brief update

OCEAN ISLE BEACH, N.C. - Though I've still got two more days of sun, salt and sand ahead of me, I do have to say that it's pretty cool that the NBA Finals will have Boston and Los Angeles squaring off.

While K.G. and Kobe aren't anything Magic and Bird, it should still be fun to watch.

Plus, it's been a long time since the phrase 'Beat L.A.' meant anything in Boston.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Rare moments of clarity

While I completely sympathize with the agony that comes with implementing any cuts in spending - and the resulting layoffs, program cuts, etc. that come with such fiscal moves - this is getting pretty ridiculous.

I don't sit in the chair the commissioners sit in, so I'm not presuming to understand exactly how painful and difficult these decisions are, but, with all due respect, at some point you've got to make a plan and stick to the darn thing ... and that's why, quite frankly, I think Alan Reddish is right when he said ...

The commission should have thought of that Wednesday, when they went against his advice and did not add those positions back into the budget, Reddish said. All 1,500 employees shouldn't have to sacrifice because commissioners can't make tough choices, he said.

"I'm going to ask you to solve this problem," he said. "That's where we were last night, and you elected not to (save the positions), to my disappointment."

This is a tough choice and, well, it's time to man up. Though it's noble - and a sign of a well-intentioned and compassionate body of individuals - it's also mildly frustrating to watch this go on. At some point, you have to realize that you can't be everything to everybody, and that's a painful and disappointing reality.

In my mind, there were a few viable options in this debate ...

- Stick to the original proposed millage rate increase and fight for it, laying out why such an increase was necessary despite our weakening economy;

- Shave off a portion of the pay raises for the government's employees, working to catch them up down the road;

- Follow through with a difficult, but well-reasoned compromise which will diminish the proposed increase.

Now, I'm not sure what direction we're headed in. Are we going to restore three positions? And, if we do, what's going to be trimmed back? Or are we going to nudge up the millage rate a hair or two because an affected employee or two tugged on a heartstring?

I know this may sound some what cold, but sometimes that's what you need when you're called upon making business decisions for the community as a whole. It's unpleasant, uncomfortable and guaranteed to tick somebody off.

Still, making those tough decisions is a sign of leadership.

Who wants tomatoes and corn?

You've got dueling farmer's markets in our area for the next few weeks. Over at Bishop Park you've got the Athens Farmer's Market and Eagle Tavern in Watkinsville is hosting the Oconee Farmer's Market.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Music for the moment (going to beach edition)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Blogger wars

There's a big hullabaloo regarding who and how the Democratic National Committee selected individual state bloggers to join their respective state's delegations. My friends at Tondee's Tavern got picked, and good for them. They're arguably the premier Democratic blog in the state and are the most deserving one to go.

Still, while there were some obvious flaws in the process, it seems to me that the real issue was that not enough blogs were taken. Listen, everyone and their mother runs a blog now, and everyone and their mother thinks they're an expert on everything these days. I'm not immune from this little diagnosis, so I can't hurl those stones at that glass house in the distance, but on some level you have to kind of thing ... grow up. In the coming years, as online media continues to evolve and both political parties begin to understand its role better, you'll see the credential process change and more bloggers will be included (and, I suspect, less members of the traditional media credentialed).

In addition to giving Flack a backhanded compliment, Andre thinks we should look at race in this whole thing. And while I concur that it would be much nicer to have a more diverse blogging population present, I'd be curious to see the traffic numbers for the sites in question before jumping to any conclusions on this.

Neighborly advice

While I don't necessarily disagree with Robert Fanning's proposals - and, in fact, they're rather good ones - I see those steps as something to be done in concert with the establishment of an affordable housing fund. Plus, $93,000 is a little more than five percent of what needs to be cut if you want to trim back the $1.7 million in order to not raise the millage rate.

And, while I appreciate his concern, he does live in Colbert so it seems kind of weird that he'd be so eager to publically tell us what to do.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Who loves being a guinea pig?

My buddy Russ is working on his dissertation, and he needs to collect some data from the public for some of his work. If you loyal readers would be so kind to participate in his survey, I know he'd appreciate it.

Tourism at its finest

Seeing how I am all about completely random and preposterous museum experiences, I disagree with Rogue109 at Peach Pundit and feel that The Billy Carter Service Station Museum will absolutely rock.

There's got to be a whole room dedicated to Billy Beer! Come on people!

If he can partner with Roger Clinton and that other Bush brother, we'll be set.

Trimming back

I think this is a rather good take on this proposed budget cuts, though I have to question the Fourth of July fireworks being cut. While I agree it's something that is 'nice' to have, it also seems to me that it's possible to find $13,000 somewhere else.

In addition, is it terribly wise to cut back on traffic enforcement on a Georgia football home game? These are the types of questions the commission wants to hear from the public, so let me encourage everyone to attend a public hearing at 6:45 p.m. on Thursday at the Governmental Building.

A bit of dissent

Perhaps some vendors opened up a little bit later, but I was underwhelmed in my visit to the Athens Farmer's Market because it felt a lot like a fair and less like a fresh produce market. There were some locally grown produce, but more crafts than I had anticipated. Not that it was a bad opening or that it's a bad venture by any means, but it wasn't exactly what I was expecting.

I'll definitely go back, but as for now, I'm still going to stick to the stands along Highway 441 going to Madison.

Some perspective

I think regardless of where one stands on certain issues of foreign policy, everyone can be pleased that we'll actually have two candidates running for president who represent two distinctly different visions. And that is something that really hasn't happened for quite some time as, typically, most candidates offer just varying shades of the same foreign policy.

This election - whether or not you agree with Barack Obama or John McCain - you've got a real debate, and that's a good thing to have every once in a while.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Kind of weird

I'm wrestling with this charter school proposal in Oconee County for, well, the same reasons that the Oconee County Board of Education is wrestling with it. My friend David Weeks wisely asks 'why' ...

With Oconee County public schools already outperforming others around the state in math and science, Weeks said he'll base his decision on what would be best for the county's students.

"If we can do it better with a charter school, then I'm all for it, but if we can do it better in the school system, then I'm for that," he said.

Hillary and I share some disagreements over charter schools, with she being opposed to them in principle while I take a much softer stance on the issue in that, well, namely I think that, if structured right, they can provide a strong educational alternative for their respective communities. And The Oconee County School of Math and Science appears to be just that, but I go back to Weeks's concern ...

The Oconee County schools perform very well academically and among some of the best in the state in a variety of categories, so it seems more than odd to set this type of charter school in an area that already features well-performing schools. This would, to me at least, appear to be a good model for Clarke County which features a very talented population of students, but also struggles with dropout rates, parental engagement and the like. Such a venture here might be very beneficial (then again, it might have the oppositie effect, who knows).

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Worth a read

Via Andrew Sullivan comes this high quality post noting the difference between 'appeasement' and 'negotiations'. He's undecided in the election and doesn't favor withdrawal from Iraq, but finds the talk of appeasement, rightfully, preposterous.

(As a sidebar, he has Paul as one of his blogs to read ... samll world.)

Sunday Morning Meditation

In the spirit of traditional Sunday School classes, which The Wife and I do our best to scramble to get to each Sunday morning, this is a new feature at Safe As Houses.

I'm not particularly a huge fan of the King James Version, primarily because sifting through Old English isn't what I want to be doing on most occasions. But, there are some certain instances where such language presents a telling point to ponder, and such is the case with the story of the vine and the branches in John 15.

When you read the newer translations, you find that one of my favorite words has been stripped from the Gospel and, while I'm not at all suggesting that's 'wrong,' what I am saying is that it takes away a key word which helps convey a deeper meaning to the passage.

In the first seven verses, the word 'abide' is used seven times, and in the New International Version it's amended to use 'remain' ... which is hardly an objectionable word, but one that doesn't offer the same sense of fellowship or community.

Technically speaking, to abide is to conform to or acceptp without objection, and I think that speaks powerfully to the type of relationship Christ was talking about in this passage. For me, to abide means to share the heart and vision that Christ had during his ministry. It means to not merely adhere to his teachings, but to work to develop and hone your relationship with him. And, if that relationship grows, it means your worldview will change.

It means that deep and personal relationship will, in some way, grow less personal in that it will shape how you interact with your family, your neighbors and the strangers you pass on the street. Walter Shurden, the great Baptist pastor and author, wrote in his landmark word The Baptist Identity: Four Fragile Freedoms of the concept of 'Soul Freedom' and he had this to say ...

This is no effort to minimize community. It is an effort to make faith meaningful. The theme of the individual in community is a cardinal biblical theme, present in both Old and New Testaments. But salvation is not church by church, community by community, or nation by nation. It is lonely soul by lonely soul.

It's a chain reaction ... as community stems from individuals working together, and individuals can work together stemming from their abiding in relationship with God.


He's had a rough year so far, but my boy Charles Howell III is in the lead at the AT&T Classic in Duluth, so that rocks. Being busy with some IHN of Athens and work stuff, I haven't had the chance to catch any of the tournament until watching some of Golf Central a few minutes ago.

(And, yes, my traditional weekend routine is to get up at 6:30 a.m. with The Kid, watch some form of fishing show - preferably The Mad Fin Shark Sheries - and then go back and forth between SportsCenter and Golf Central.)

Saturday, May 17, 2008


I'll agree with my buddy Martin in saying that this just might be the best version of Ice, Ice Baby I've ever heard, though I'm also terribly impressed by the inclusion of something from Paperboy's musical stylings.


I think I disagree a little bit with Ed over the farm subsidies bill discussion. It isn't that I'm opposed to subsidies, but I am opposed to shameless political support for an idea that is somewhat outdated (our farm subsidies haven't been dramatically changed since the New Deal), as well as one that is expensive and probably has a negative impact on our overall ability to find more diverse ways to developing ethanol.

I'm all for supporting local farmers - particularly smaller family farms - but this piece of legislation doesn't exactly do that, with the vast majority of said subsidies going to help farms with incomes of more than $750,000. It also sets this year's commodity prices as the benchmarks for future subsidies, meaning it would artificially inflate the value of those payments since they would be based on the high prices for food we currently have.

And, though I'm not entirely clear on it, there's another provision that states any sugar purchased by the government would then be sold only for use as ethanol, which is an honest attempt to actually do something with this unsold product but there's a consequence as it will drive up the cost of a food product that isn't actually being used as a food product, but rather as a fuel.

I've long said that Democrats need to develop a comprehensive strategy with regard to agriculture, but this effort has me actually siding with the Bush Administration on most points.

Quality question

In his clarification, Blake wants to know where Elton Dodson is, which I think a lot of us have been asking that for some time as he's not a fan of returning emails or phone calls from his constituents.

Silliness, but not issues

Aside from a brief conversation with Flack yesterday, I really haven't followed this whole Keith Gross is or isn't a resident situation. Pretty much, from what I can gather, Mike Jacobs got nervous about actually running against someone in a district where most people think he's a traitor, and opted to get really petty and challenge Gross's residency.

Peach Pundit has followed up with some of the most circular logic and Keystone Cop antics I've ever seen, including speculating about how someone could own a restaurant in Maryland but live in Georgia. Needless to say, that after sitting on their hands for a few days, Gross appears to have cleaned everything up and, as it is rather apparent, there was nothing to the residency challenge aside from Jacobs's hysterical rantings about having to actually confront someone who might stand up to him in the general election.

Gross could have responded quicker - and he should have responded more forcefully - but this whole exercise is one of the lamer things I've ever witnessed (aside from SpaceyG's obsession with the Marta Girl/YouTube garbage).

Friday, May 16, 2008

Excellent points

This has been making its rounds around the internet the past few days, and it is high comedy. I'm not exactly a big Chris Matthews fan, and I rather detest these so-called 'talk' shows because no one actually discusses issues, opting to instead shout at each over and over again, but it's refreshing - and hysterical - to watch him absolutely humiliate conservative talk show host Kevin James.

Pretty much, James is an utter moron whose knowledge of history consists of sound bites he's picked up over the years from other utter morons. And Matthews's point stands ... Neville Chamberlain wasn't an appeaser because he talked with Adolf Hitler, but rather because he gave away half of a country he had no right to give away thinking it would satisfy a madman. His judgement was flawed because of what he agreed to and not because he sat down to chat.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

More focus on Barrow

Regina Thomas's challenge to John Barrow has picked up front page attention at Open Left, which labels Barrow as one of their 'Bush Dog Democrats.' While I still bristle at some of those classifications because I think they're not fulling understanding the delicate nature of some of these races and reflect a top-down approach to picking candidates rather than a localized one, it's interesting to see this getting prominent play at one of the 'big boy' blogs in the liberal world.

It should be a good race. As I said there, I've got some personal allegiances to Barrow with him being an Athens native, member of my church and all of that, though I do like Thomas (sans Sunday Sales), so it will be a fun one to watch.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The budget

Here's why Marc Bayo Salte is wrong. If you attempt to trim the budget by shaving $15,000 here and $90,000 there, you'll never reach your stated goal, and you'll leave some departments underfunded even worse than they already are.

If you want to trim the budget, you trim the proposed salary increases and then proportionally spread that across the body of employees. Again, it ain't the best option, but it's the only feasible way to approach this as the budget has already been scoured for possible cuts and there just aren't many to be found.

And here we go again

It seems to me that either the East Athens Development Corporation has no idea how the Community Development Block Grant works, or that we're headed for something which - once again - stamps out local control in favor of inefficient top-down management.

Though I've said it over and over again, those CDBG funds are designated for targeted census tracts, and the Athens-Clarke County Commission directed said funding to that tract. The only difference is that it didn't go to a pair of organizations which have not produced the desired results the community seeks.

Plus, is Diane Dunston serious? The commission frequently parts ways with staff on certain issues, and such is a part of how things work. It's why we have an elected government that is representative of our community.

However, if Keith Heard is actually motivated to, you know, do something and HUD opts to reverse the decision ... then how is that appropriate? How does that meet the justifications for CDBG which, quite literally, is chunks of federal dollars to be allocated by the local government. If the local government lacks the ability to actually do that, then why not have HUD manage the entire allocation process?

As blunt and perhaps cold as this may sound, this is nothing but sour grapes on the part of EADC. The organization should aggressively pursue diversifying its financial base (this argument that CDBG money helps them acquire certain grants is bogus and, speaking as someone who does this kind of a thing for a living, I know that to be bogus), refining its mission and begin proving the commission wrong. Changing the rules at the 11th hour is ridiculous.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The real solution

It seems to me that the only feasible way to not raise the millage rate would be by offsetting the projected $1.7 million shortfall by cutting back on the scale of raises and benefit adjustments for public employees. Yeah, it sucks, but that seems to be the only logical approach in this situation if you want to stick to maintaining the current millage rate.

Since it's a $4 million increase allotted for raises and benefits, scale it back to $2.3 million and adjust everything proportionally. Then, as the economy picks up again (hopefully sooner rather than later), you work to get the increases back on their usual path.

Again, it ain't perfect by any means, but trimming back on glossy mailers or scrapping a much-needed probation program only saves pennies.

It's either this or just accept that you'll pay a little more in property taxes.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Just seen

Juno - Rather brilliant actually. I thought it had clever writing, solid acting and was done rather well. I can see why Ellen Page landed an Oscar nomination for it (and probably should have won it). It was full of lots of pretty sweet moments and, I have to say, I'd kinda like it if the kid turned out a bit like Juno ... well, minus the whole teenage pregnancy thing.

Cloverfield - Um, yeah, the exact opposite. Easily one of the most disappointing movies I've seen in a while, and that's from someone who's seen the entire Blade trilogy more than once. Not only are you dizzy after watching people run around with a handheld camera, but it's maddening that you don't find out anything about the actual monster. Still, I can accept on some level that's what J.J. Abrams was going for ... but then, in your special features interview section, don't tell me the emotions of the monster 'cause if you wanted it to have emotions, then you'd drop in some backstory and a third-person narrative.

Friday, May 09, 2008


Kudos to Doug who got featured on's 'Campus Clicks' for his comparison of the 2008 Georgia football schedule with 30 Rock.

Easily one of the funniest and most spectacular posts I've seen in a long time.

More thoughts on governor

Trying to flesh out some more possible names for the governor's race in 2010, which is more wide open now that Johnny Isakson is going to stick to the U.S. Senate. For Democrats, the name that is drawing some confusion is Jim Marshall. Ed at Tondee's Tavern said that Marshall wasn't interested, but two other sources said they've always heard that the congressman had been eyeing the Governor's Mansion for some time.

Anyway, here's what I've got ...

Casey Cagle
Glenn Richardson
Lynn Westmoreland
John Oxendine (already declared)
Karen Handel

Thurbert Baker
Jim Marshall
DuBose Porter
John Barrow
Cathy Cox

Couple of thoughts on this ... folks will casually dismiss Oxendine, but he's got good name recognition and will have been in the race longer than anyone, which enables him to dominate the news cycle. While a Richardson or Cagle candidacy would give Democrats the best chance, I think the GOP will ultimately shy away from those two options and give Handel, Oxendine and Westmoreland hard looks (the latter would be a formidable candidate should he opt to run).

On the Democratic side, I'd sign up to help Cox today though I'm not sure she wants to get back into politics. I'm a big fan of Porter, but I fear he'd be Mark Taylor redux (then again, Porter's no Taylor and would employ a Georgia-based strategy rather than the D.C. pundit one that fueled Taylor's bid).

I tossed Barrow's name out there for two main reasons, the first being his success in tough, conservative-leaning districts and the other being the long, family legacy he has in the state. Barrow can frustrate me at times, but he can raise money and run a tough campaign so he'd be a good candidate.

Music for the moment

Expansion vs. Starting Over

Even though I don't necessarily disagree with the calls against raising the millage rate, I sympathize with the frustration in the community behind such a move. That said, David Cappi's opposition to the construction of a new jail doesn't reflect the reality of the situation.

That facility has received those facelifts and modifications over the past 15 years, and they've done little to remedy the situation over there. One wing lacks central heating and air, while the remainder of the building, due to poor circulation, is overrun with mildew and mold. Inmates are crowded in cells, typically going over the allocated space by two or three individuals. An additional wing or a few tweaks in the existing structure won't solve the problems there.

We need a new facility, and it's going to be expensive. It's not a great thing to devote $20 million to, but we have to start exploring the options.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Isakson's staying in D.C.

Johnny Isakson won't run for governor in 2010, meaning the Republican primary just got a whole lot more interesting. I think we're headed for a Casey Cagle-Glenn Richardson death match, which could be fun to watch.

Aside from those two, John Oxendine is already in the mix, and I would imagine we'd hear some other names like Jack Kingston or Lynn Westmoreland or maybe even Karen Handel (though just one term as Secretary of State might make her a less appealing candidate).

Also, while this is still arguably a Republican state, it opens the door for a Democrat to be a little more competitive as Isakson would have squashed anyone. The list of possible candidates is still kind of short with only Thurbert Baker, Jim Marshall and Cathy Cox coming to mind as potentially viable ones (as of now), and the latter two seem to be only ones with the chance to push the GOP nominee.

Then again, if the Georgia General Assembly continues to be, well, rather ineffective, it could get even more interesting. Who knows ...

CDBG, I can't quit you

I really need to stop writing about this whole Community Development Block Grant situation, but this editorial is so full of disjointed logic and double-speak that I don't know where to begin.

Obviously the fact that the editorial concedes that both the East Athens Development Corporation and the Hancock Corridor Development Corporation are not providing efficiency in service delivery and show a pattern of missing stated goals and targets yet still says it's sad we didn't show them respect is confusing to me, but this notion of respect irritates me.

And the reason is because we're focusing on the organizations and not the community. The goal of this portion of funding, and the resulting partnership that emerged between the local government and these two organizations, is to provide much-needed services to an area in need. If these organizations are consistently not meeting their goals, thus meaning they are not providing efficient services to those communities, then the communities are not being respected by the organizations themselves and inaction on the part of the commission is disrespect toward the community.

We can talk about 'process' all day long - and, as I noted in my forum, I completely agree that the way this was done was probably not the best course of action, thus spurring me to offer a partial restoration of funding - but if the end result is not being delivered, and if the two agencies have ignored repeated concerns from staff, then at some point you have to say enough.

This chunk of funding has a mission, and that mission is to better the lives of the people living in those census tracts regardless of the agency working to execute that mission. Will the work of ACTION to repair homes for low-income citizens not make life better there? Will increased funding for ACT ONE to assist those in need in those areas not make their life better?

If we focus on the means rather than the ends, then we have lost sight of what it is we're trying to do.

Granted, there is ample reason for that lack of confidence. But what the mayor and commission should have done during the month between April's misguided vote and this month's similarly misguided vote is to have come up with a detailed proposal for how EADC and HCDC should be using the $285,000 in question, and challenged the two agencies to respond to that detailed proposal.

Actually, the commission shouldn't be in the business of dictating exactly how another organization should be striving to achieve its mission, and then micro-managing them in order to see they reach their goal. At some point, don't EADC and HCDC have to step up and take some responsibility for their actions? They've been receiving funding for more than 16 years, and as their own records show and the reports from HED indicate, they have been falling well below their own goals and standards for quite some time.

By the way there was a guy who claimed to have a plan to do just that. His name's Dodson, and I didn't see him offer a solution that night.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Wrapping up the CDBG debate

As noted earlier, the Athens-Clarke County Commission voted to restore partial funding in the form of $25,000 each to the East Athens Development Corporation and the Hancock Corridor Development Corporation. Here are some additional thoughts the following morning ...

- While I favor the method behind the compromise and would have indeed supported it, I do think Alice Kinman's recommendation that $25,000 go to each agency was a bit low. Granted my suggestion was only marginally higher at $40,000, but I would have favored seeing more funding returned ... particularly since all funding for Dudley Park was taken out.

- That said, kudos to Kinman for recognizing the backlash - right or wrong - against the funding of Dudley Park and stripping that altogether. The shifting of the bulk of the funding to the ACT ONE program was a smart move and one that should produce results too.

- The whole discussion had a surreal feeling to it in that, namely, those who favored Harry Sims's six-month benchmark plan with half of the funding restored couldn't make a compelling argument aside from the fact that either 'the process was wrong' or 'these are organizations which mean well.' For all of the statistics put forward by both Kathy Hoard, Heidi Davison, Andy Herod and Kinman, the only response George Maxwell could seemingly offer was 'look how nice those young people are who got help from EADC.'

- And that's what troubled me the most about this whole thing ... namely that this reconsideration was something that by its very nature wasn't operating by the normal rules we play by. The commission makes judgements based on the reports presented by the staff and, in this case, the partner agencies. Those reports were severely lacking and full of questions which both Hoard and Davison directed toward EADC director Winston Heard (and which he could not answer effectively). The more I heard about how this was awful because these agencies were blindsided or they served these communities or their missions had the right intent or how there was no transparency involved in the process, the more frustrated I got. The data in front of the commission - the data submitted by the agencies - revealed a pattern of missing their stated goals and inefficient service.

- Regarding this transparency thing, I think Herod rebutted Elton Dodson pretty well on that and in a way that, quite frankly, I hadn't even thought of. While it is true the actual vote to deny came rather suddenly, it isn't as if EADC and HCDC had not been made aware of their shortcomings by the local government. As both Herod and Kinman noted, staff had repeatedly listed several concerns involving the performance of both agencies and those concerns were communicated by the appropriate personnel to the organizations' staff. Now, both Kelly Girtz and Dodson argue the commission had a responsibility to 'help' both EADC and HCDC and echoed the blindsiding claim pushed by Sims, but I don't buy that. It is not the responsibility of the commission to communicate these concerns or 'help' them out, but rather the responsibility of the organizations receiving the funding to evaluate the concerns leveled by the A-CC staff and address them appropriately. It's obvious they did not.

- Also lost in this whole thing - and I knew it would be - was this money is not designated for EADC or HCDC, but rather to promote neighborhood revitalization, economic development and housing/job counseling in these targeted census tracts. Any organization which provides those services in those census tracts is eligible for funding, which is why this discussion spiraled out of control for me. The more the debate dragged on, the more apparent it seemed the real goal for some was not necessarily improving results in those neighborhoods but rather simply preserving the status quo by maintaining EADC and HCDC.

- Obviously, I found flaws with Sims's plan in that it didn't do anything to challenge the way those organizations do business which is why I had given the benefit of the doubt to what Dodson might propose. In the past four to five weeks, Dodson has emerged as one of the most vocal critics of how the vote was done and called for a reconsideration to be held. He was quoted in several media articles, wrote about in length at his blog and published a forum which loosely laid out his proposal, which would have followed a similar six-month plan for evaluation but challenged the organizations to dramatically change how they do business. Granted, I think Davison was right last night in stating that it's difficult to set parameters to accurately judge that, but I do think Dodson was moving in the right direction even if I disagreed with some of the numbers he was willing to throw out ...

- ... that said, why didn't he pitch his plan last night? Why express your outrage over the situation and then not put forward your proposal? Why spend the past five weeks developing what, by all accounts, would have been a more viable proposal that Sims's only to, well, not put it up for a vote? You had Carl Jordan and Doug Lowry eager to take a look at it - if not support it - and you didn't do it? I'm trying to frame this in a delicate manner since I do respect and like Dodson, but I'm having a hard time justifying this ... well ... lack of action after a lot of talk.

Re-vote on CDBG funding

Well ... that was painful, drawn-out and mind-numbing, but Alice Kinman's proposal to restore $50,000 in funding to the East Athens Development Corporation and the Hancock Corridor Development Corporation - $25,000 each - passed with Mayor Heidi Davison passing the tie-breaking vote.

A substitute motion made by Harry Sims which would have restored half of the funding to both organizations with a review being condcuted at the mid-point of the year failed by a 6-4 vote. Carl Jordan voted no on both motions, favoring Elton Dodson's proposal to restore funding in lieu of a massive reorganization of each agency, their infrastructure and their mission.

Why Dodson's proposal was not put forward, I'm not entirely sure since it would have reached the 5-5 threshold, though Davison probably would have voted against it.

More commentary coming tomorrow.

Is the end soon?

With Hillary Clinton canceling her public appearances and interviews for Monday, it'ss quite obvious she may have finally seen the writing on the wall.

A good night for Barack Obama. A big win in North Carolina and, with five percent of the precincts out - all in Obama strongholds - the chance of an Indiana upset remains possible. If nothing else, he seriously outperformed expections in the Hoosier state.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Honest question

While I do support a compromise to restore limited, partial funding to both the East Athens Development Corporation and the Hancock Corridor Development Foundation, I do have a question stemming from this rather nice examination of the budding economic relationships between Northeast Georgia and China ...

Why in the world were Winston Heard and Julia Menefield on this trip as representatives from EADC? I mean, this should be a legitimate question, particularly seeing how Heard has repeatedly said he was in China on this very trip when the vote to deny funding was passed.

I'm just not entirely clear on how this a trip to China is going to specifically bring jobs to East Athens, but perhaps I'm wrong.

Leave OPEC alone!

I agree with Matthew Yglesias in that Hillary Clinton's idea to break up the OPEC cartel is, well, kinda ridiculous. He's right in assuming that, um, I have no idea how you go about breaking up an organization that we're not members of, but that also it wouldn't really do anything.

Gas prices are incredibly high because demand for oil has gone through the roof. It isn't as if OPEC isn't producing at a peak capacity because they more they meet said demand, the more money they make ... and oil companies are making tons of money.

Likewise, this why the suspension of the gasoline tax won't accomplish anything. Companies will maintain the prices because the market has shown it can withstand such high rates, and the removal of the tax will do nothing to decrease demand and, if anything, it might actually increase demand, thus driving the price up even more.

A few final thoughts

As folks know, despite holding firm in my assertion that the denial of funding was the proper course of action to take, I do support a compromise to restore partial funding for designated functions by both the East Athens Development Corporation and the Hancock Corridor Development Corporation.

That's why I think I feel it's important to address a couple of things mentioned in this story and in light of tonight's Athens-Clarke County Commission meeting.

Folks keep talking about housing counseling, but focusing on that misses the point altogether. According to conversations with past and present staff at EADC, housing counseling services cost only $30,000 per year and are supplemented by outside funding. In essence, this is one function that can be denied funding and other emphasis needs to be shifted toward the neighborhood revitalization and economic development efforts.

That's why restoring full funding, or even 50 percent or more funding, is wrongheaded. The large sums of money that were unaccounted for at both agencies under those two categories needs to be addressed, and the most appropriate course of action at this stage is to offer reduced sums of funding ($40,000 each) that is designated specifically for one of those functions. As I've said before, ACTION's efforts with home repair meets the census tract's requirements for neighborhood revitalization meaning the focus should be on economic development by the two groups.

Remember, the money is not designated solely for EADC or HCDC, but rather for those census tracts, and any service provider who assists those areas and meets the stated requirements can seek funding. ACTION can meet one requirement, while EADC and HCDC can meet another. In the future, I'd like to see a variety of service providers obtaining funding to serve those communities and not just one or two agencies.

Savannah politics

Flack has a good take on Regina Thomas's challenge to John Barrow in the 12th Congressional District, so it's definitely worth a read. I don't really have much of a take on it. I mean, Barrow has frustrated me on a lot of votes, but, at the same time, he's a rather safe Democrat in a tough district.

Thomas has frustrated me on a good number of votes in the Georgia General Assembly and is a less viable candidate in the general election. Seeing how the GOP really dropped the ball on finding a good challenger this go-round, I'd hate to see Thomas bump Barrow out and then get hammered in the general election.

Tales from the Grand Jury

So here is what I was doing the first 13 Wednesdays of the year, and, yes, I do back that report saying we need a new jail (particularly, well, since I wrote most of it).

The Grand Jury experience was very eye-opening in a variety of ways. Some were obviously negative as, on a weekly basis, we heard stories of domestic violence, robbery, financial extortion and the like. But there were many positives, including the chance to get to know some of the dedicated men and women who make up our area's law enforcement agencies.

Here is the report, though the funny thing is that I wasn't able to actually sign the presentment because I had to miss the final week of service, which is kinda frustrating particularly since I had served as the foreman for the final five weeks in the absence of the elected foreman.

Good news

Good for Chinami Goodie. More folks need to run for things like school board or tax assessor or coroner. They're not glamorous positions in government, but necessary ones that all too often face little competition.

In the family

Monday, May 05, 2008

Worth a read

One of the better new blogs to focus on Athens-area business is The Athens Inbox, and they've got a post up talking about the closing of Barnett's.


Well, I was wrong with the Tony Zirkle-speaking-at-Nazi-rallies-is-a-lot-like-a-story-from-The-Onion ... because, truly, this belongs in that satirical magazine.

Spectacularly awesome. Particularly the belief that the election of either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama will result in a surge of young people purposefully trying to contract the AIDS virus.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Couple of things

- Um, you run over my foot in a careless fashion, and you'll be lucky if the only thing I do is kick your bumper.

- My forum, as well as some additional explanations, on the funding of the East Athens Development Corporation and Hancock Corridor Development Corporation for your reading pleasure.

- J.T. was nice enough to publish said forum, but I'm torn on his piece on the 'insensitivity of the mayor and commission because it doesn't approach it from the 'this is the perception of this community' angle, but falls back on the 'four commissioners live close to Cobbham and Five Points' angle. I just don't see how that makes for a compelling counterargument to the increase in the millage rate. While I think Don raises some good questions by focusing on the property reassessments, J.T.'s column feels more disjointed to me in the sense that he's trying to connect some issues which are related. I get his larger point, even if I don't necessarily agree with it, but it seems hard to say that the millage raet increase isn't an economic issue when, in fact, it really is one.

- That said, I agree with this.

- Isn't labeling Jimmy Carter an 'angry man' kinda, well, completely wrong? You may not like Carter's views or actions, but to say he's some angry, bitter person in the vein of either Zell Miller or Jeremiah Wright only suggests to me that Bill Shipp needed a few more paragraphs to fill out his column.

Moving forward

Some folks may be a little puzzled by my forum in that they'll think it was a change of opinion for me regarding the funding of both the East Athens Development Corporation and the Hancock Corridor Development Corporation. In actuality, it's more of a compromise put forward that I hope people will accept as a good faith effort to move beyond the misguided and polarizing debate that has been swirling around this particular vote.

I felt that maintaining funding for both ACTION, Inc. and Dudley Park was necessary because it will introduce more competition for funding into these census tracts, hopefully spurring all interested parties to be efficient in service delivery. But reintroducing a small amount of funding for both EADC and HCDC was important to me not only for the fact that it will show a positive step forward to address the concerns of some, but also in the sense that it focuses the designated money into specific areas of need.

Some might ask why I didn't opt for housing counseling, and the primary reason is through conversations with past and present employees at both organizations - particularly EADC - housing counseling is actually a small portion of the pie (roughly $30,000) and can be/is maintained by outside grants. This means the crux of the concerns rests with the efficiency of economic development and neighborhood revitalization by the two groups. Seeing how ACTION, Inc. will be funded to repair homes and meet the neighborhood revitalization angle, a smaller amount of money targeted for use only in those census tracts toward micro-loans, economic development, etc. puts the burden on EADC and HCDC to perform.

My suggestion ain't perfect, and I'd be curious to hear yours, but what I wanted to do was offer a positive step foward rather than dwell on the existing discussion which served no one.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Music for the moment

The Kid turns nine months old today and, in doing so, makes me realize that The Wife and I must ramp up the baby-proofing efforts around the house. She can't crawl in the technical sense, but she's got the military crawl/scamper-like-an-inchworm thing down pat. And given her penchent for putting anything she gets her hands on in her mouth, some baby gates are a must-purchase very soon.

So take this music for the moment in honor of Emma Kate ...

It's A Great Day To Be Alive by Travis Tritt
All-American Girl by Carrie Underwood
Daughter by Loudon Wainwright (at 2:36)
Who I Am by Jessica Andrews
Drive by Alan Jackson

Miles with the millage rate

I understand there's a lot of frustration involving the Athens-Clarke County Commission's upcoming vote to raise the millage rate (a quick glance at today's editorial page at the Athens Banner-Herald reveals that), particularly since we're getting bogged down in a recession and costs for fuel and food are rising. The economic situation isn't pretty by any means, and an increase in the property tax, however modest, is never a welcome thing.

Still, I'm not sure what else can be done. And by that I mean, the commission and the staff have spent the past few months scouring the budget for places to trim costs and save money, but the reality is that those rising costs for fuel impact every facet of the government to do business and, also forgotten in this, it impacts the the quality of life of the employees of the city government.

While I might suggest something like only a two percent cost of living raise rather than a three percent one and urge the commission to evaluate if there are positions there to cut, it's also important to note that all of these 'pet projects' mentioned on the letters to the editor aren't really things that can be cut. We still need to fund the jail and sheriff's department and water department and planning department and so forth and so forth.

But they stink!

I suppose two observations regarding Erick's post on Rashad Taylor ...

- I'd take with a grain of salt the tip regarding Taylor, particularly since more reliable sources quickly clarified the situation. There are a lot of folks - and some of them run blogs - who just won't be happy with the Democratic Party of Georgia until they are the ones drawing the paychecks from said organization.

- Um, you try recruiting viable Democratic candidates in one of the most conservative states in the country. It's probably like finding viable Republicans in Vermont. Regardless of the fact that some polls suggest that the Georgia General Assembly is rather unpopular, a generic Republican still beats a generic Democrat. Compounding the problem is that said candidates will have a very tough time raising money no matter who the Democratic nominee for president is.

Also, why should it be the responsibility of the state party to recruit candidates for office? I mean, wasn't the whole problem with Jim Martin that he was recruited? It sounds like the critics have trapped themselves with their language.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

'Obama is essentially right'

Just to clarify

The fundamental problem with Rob Robertson's argument is that it's blaming the Athens-Clarke County Commission for rising property tax rates when, in fact, it's the Clarke County Board of Education that controls half of the millage rate and has kept it rather high the past few years. The commission, rather, has not raised the millage rate in 16 years and is being forced to do so because of rising costs across the economy.

While tigher controls on spending need to be in place in all avenues of government, throwing the commissioners under the base is misplacing one's frustration. If folks are really concerned about their property tax bills they'd cast an eye toward the people who get elected to the school board year in and year out with no opposition.

UPDATE: Apparently a buddy of mine has me in his RSS feed since he promptly, and wisely, pointed out another component to this thing ... and that's the fact that the state has been underfunding the QBE for years now. Even though the funding from that level may shrink, that doesn't mean the student population declines or the need for services falls off. As a result, local boards all over the state have raised millage rates to pick up the slack.