Thursday, June 26, 2008

Full disclosure

I had been intending to do this for the past week, but wanted to wait and see what all shook out with qualifying week here in town. Being the proprietor of a blog that covers a lot of things, but focuses on politics - specfically local politics - I feel that I should disclose that I am working in a consultary fashion for a variety of campaigns this year.

They include ...

Sherry Jackson (Georgia State Senate, District 46)
Tim Riley (Georgia State Senate, District 47)
Jonathan McCollar (Georgia State House, District 156)

And now, with this, I'm going to lend a hand to Mike Hamby's campaign for Athens-Clarke County Commission District 10. Mike is a close friend who I've known for some time, and I'm glad to assist him where I can.

As a result, I don't feel it would be appropriate for me to comment on those races this year. One of my biggest pet peeves was that Jerome Armstrong, one of the proprietors at MyDD, was a paid consultant for the Hillary Clinton campaign and turned that blog into a place to parrot talking points.

While I'm a good Democrat, I have a diverse readership, and I just don't feel comfortable offering my commentary on those races when I'm actively assisting them. I'll talk about other races, and I intend to put up Open Threads focusing on those races where folks can say whatever they want about them without me commenting.

Hamby seeks District 10 seat

Statement by Mike Hamby, candidate for Athens-Clarke County’s District 10 Commissioner

"I thought long and hard about taking this challenge on, but the challenge of running for this office is nothing compared to the challenges – and opportunities – Athens will face over the next four years. Athens is a good community made up of good people, and I want to be someone who serves this community in a positive and responsive way.

I’ll focus on helping to create a thriving, livable community for everyone in Athens, a community that continues the fight against poverty, promotes economic opportunities and looks to protect and preserve the resources that make Athens a special place to live.”

Mike Hamby, a resident of Athens-Clarke County since 1988, is a veteran of several state and local political races. He served as interim Executive Director of the Democratic Party of Georgia in 2007 as part of Jane Kidd’s transition team. Hamby, who lives off of Jennings Mill Road, is currently a small business owner in Athens-Clarke County.

Farewell WNEG

I have mixed feelings about this, though I tend to think it's much more good than it is bad. I just have some personal attachment to Channel 32 through my time working at the Athens Banner-Herald. I met several of my good friends there, including two I really consider close ones even we don't see each other all that much anymore.

My primary concern would be that the station not forget its Northeast Georgia roots. There is no primary outlet for news coverage for that corner of the state, and it did a wonderful job in promoting the local news scene and covering high school athletics ... particularly since the Atlanta schools dominated the coverage on their respective stations. I hope in addition to expanding coverage of events at the University of Georgia, it does continue to provide coverage for the local news and sports that endeared it to so many folks up there.

Airport rankings

I got this email sent to me by Kevin Mitchell concerning a ranking of regional airports in jeopary of losing service. I haven't followed much of the airport discussion to be honest, and I'm not familiar with this effort, but since it had a unique local angle I figured I'd stick it here ...

I'm writing to you as the Chairman of the Business Travel Coalition, and this morning we released a report detailing the top 100 regional and top 50 large airports that will lose service because of increasing fuel costs. Many of these airports may lose service all together.

Augusta & Savannah are on the list.

You can view the rankings and have your community take action at http://www.savemyairport.com.

Skyrocketing fuel prices have created a serious threat to the viability of the U.S. airline industry - and that threat has serious implications for cities of all sizes that rely on air travel for their own economic well-being, as well as local companies that need air service to do business. Studies indicate that at current fuel prices, one or more major airlines could be liquidated later this year, wiping out all their service to hundreds of cities overnight.

Congress and the Administration must take action to address the fuel crisis in the near term, including, eliminating manipulation of commodities markets; strengthening the U.S. dollar against foreign currencies; and incentivizing producers to increase energy supplies, refining capacity and develop new environmentally responsible aviation fuels. Stabilizing the airline industry by tackling the country's fuel crisis must become a national policy priority.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Flat out lies

There's a fundamental problem with Bill Shipp's column today, but you wouldn't know it if you read it in the Athens Banner-Herald. And that's not because the ABH did something wrong but rather, did something right.

Granted, Shipp's column is full of the usual generalizations and lazy reporting that has come to signify his work, yet that isn't the problem. The problem is that he's literally making stuff up, and only the ABH had the guts to properly edit it.

Take a look at this version in the Marietta Daily-Journal, which includes this rightfully omitted portion from the ABH ...

The following anecdote may best place in a nutshell Georgia Democrats' ineptitude. When the party opened an Athens office, no one bothered to notify the media to celebrate and draw attention to its presence. As a result, there was no news coverage to spread word to the locals that the Democrats were in town. After the gala opening without reporters, a Democratic functionary reportedly found the media invitations still waiting to be mailed.

Now, the problems with this are legion ...

- The Democratic Party of Georgia and the Clarke County Democratic Party are two separate entities, and the DPG holds no sway over determing when local parties open their headquarters, where they locate and how they promote said opening.

- We're a freaking Democratic bastion in this state - ranging from Yellow Dogs to hippies - so it isn't as if we need a gala event to announce we're here ... hell, we're always here.

- Though Shipp insists that a 'Democratic functionary reportedly' uncovered unmailed media invitations, that bang-up journalism fails because the actual people with the party say there weren't any invitations to mail. The opening was communicated via email to local media for dissemination to the public.

- Lo and behold there was notification in said local media here. Also the local party invited the public to attend a meeting discussing the planning of the opening and, shockingly enough, the media was there as Blake quoted DPG chairwoman Jane Kidd from the event.

So, let's see here ... Shipp's relying on someone who knew someone who may have seen something for his sources when a simple call to either the local party or the DPG would have quickly cleared any 'confusion.' And, supposedly the best political commentator in the state doesn't understand the basic structure of how local parties function and comes across more that he's miffed he wasn't invited.

Still, beyond all of that, he's just flat-out wrong. The media was invited and there was notification in the local press and there was coverage of it.

This type of laziness and poor work ethic gets normal people fired.

Sweat's rebuke

Way to go to David Sweat. The first time around, you could possibly think that Jim Smith was making a point, a rather ill-advised and tasteless one, but a point nonetheless. To mention it a second time in such a blatantly childish and offensive manner is inexcusable, so good for Sweat in properly noting that such actions are petty and offensive.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Silliness

Obviously, I think James Dobson is more than vastly off-base in his criticsm of Barack Obama seeing how he's cherry-picking quotations from a speech that was warmly received by a vast majority of the evangelical community in 2006 and now, two years later when he just happens to be the presidential nominee for the Democratic Party, it's convenient to assail said cherry-picked quotations.

Part of my problem is that, in essence, Dobson is moving to shut down conversation solely because the debate that Obama tried to get going - that faith, particularly Christian faith, has a variety of dimensions and interpretations that need to be discussed, debated and respected - is one that runs directly contrary to the more exclusionary religion Dobson is preaching.

Updates

Charles Worthy qualified for reelection today to the Clarke County Board of Education's District Six seat, setting up a contested race between him and Jim Geiser.

No word on Susan Dodson's possible bid in the same district.

Also, does anyone know where to sign Kenneth Brown's petition to run as an independent for sheriff? Not that I'm coming down one way or another, but it would be good to see a contested race ... you know, democracy and all.

Rounding up qualifying

Speaking of the Clarke County Board of Education, we have three challengers in J.T. Jones (District Two), Jim Geiser (District Six) and Chinami Goodie (District Eight). I hear good things about Jones and Goodie, and some good and bad about Geiser.

My take on this ... neither Jones nor Geiser have kids in the school system. While I don't believe that's essential, I do think it would be refreshing to see some young parents get involved in this process. Susan Dodson is possible challenger who fits such criteria for District Six, but there is no word on her yet, though I think she'd be an excellent choice.

The qualifying for the Athens-Clarke County Commission also is underway. John Knight says he won't run for District Six, though both Ed Robinson and Red Petrovs said they would. Petrovs also said he wanted to cut spending and that 'as a businessman, I've never seen a budget I couldn't cut five percent ... it's just a question of having the guts and, in this case, the political will to do it.'

One can easily point out the logical fallacies in being one of the heads of a community-wide effort that is lobbying for substantially increased public spending toward poverty and then making such a call to cut spending, but whatever. Still I'm not sure such language will play as well as he thinks it will.

Elton Dodson ended speculation that he wouldn't run by making it official that he'd seek a second term for District 10, and I've heard a whole host of names of possible challengers, but nothing official yet. Word is that Regina Quick is sitting tight to see if anyone steps up to give Dodson a race, but that she is leaning toward qualifying.

CORRECTION: Geiser does have children in the school system. My error.

More info on BOE action

James Simms has decided to stay with the Clarke County Board of Education, and District Five representative John Knight asked that I share this statement which sheds some additional light on the actual policy changes as well as his thoughts on the matter ...

I am writing you because you recently took the time to write me as a member of the Clarke County Board of Education concerning interim Superintendent James Simms or the issues he raised in his letter of resignation. I realize that this response took some time for some of you and I apologize for that, but it would not have been appropriate for me to speak publicly regarding a pending personnel matter. I am elated to report that Mr. Simms has decided not to resign, and for our part, the Board has determined to officially pass as policy that which we already know -- the Board should not interfere in administrative matters.

For weeks now I have not spoken publicly, knowing that anything I said would seem self-serving, and my sole purpose is to work for the children and employees of this district. I will not be airing out my grievances in the local newspaper. After much thought, though, I feel that I owe it to the people of District 5 to make you aware of several facts. First and foremost, I want my constituents to know that I am not one of those people to whom Mr. Simms referred in his resignation letter regarding the anonymous accusations of wrongdoing on the part of Board members. Second, I voted tonight not to go into executive session because I am a public official, responsible to the citizens of Clarke County for an open, transparent process. Most importantly, as an attorney who practices education law, I am acutely aware of the different roles of Superintendent and Board Member, and I have at all times honored that distinction. I believed that James Simms was the best person for this position when I voted for him in August of this year and I am certain that he still is today. I am excited that he will continue to lead this district forward, I look forward to working with him, and I appreciate you very much for taking the time to write me to give me your views as well. I hope that you will continue to do so in the future.

Sincerely,
John Knight

Feeling Rand-y

Via Tondee's Tavern, Rand Knight is endorsed by the Georgia Association of Educators which is the second big union endorsement he's landed that 'should have' gone to Jim Martin. Knight's emerged as a top tier candidate in the Democratic primary based largely on his hard work in wooing these organizations, and it sheds more concern - for me at least - with regard to Martin.

And I spoke with a handful of Martin folks last night who were not thrilled about the endorsement and blamed the Democratic Party of Georgia for not having control over their surrogates (as if the AFL-CIO and GAE were on the payroll or something). Naturally, I think that's a misguided stance to take and the main reason Knight picked up that support is because - jokes about his accent aside - he worked his tail off and won them over fair and square. Martin apparently campaigned in a lackluster manner that assumed they'd get behind him, and it hurt him.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Qualifying updates

Passing on word from comments below and confirmation I've gotten ...

- Elton Dodson has qualified for reelection to District 10.

- Red Petrovs has qualified for District Six.

- I've heard a couple of rumblings about challenges to the Clarke County Board of Education, specifically to Charles Worthy in District Six. Nothing concrete to pass on yet.

Qualifying begins

Qualifying starts today, and though the Board of Education front is quiet now, I think we'll see some movement there pretty soon. I've heard from a variety of folks that the 'bloc' proposal that J.T. put forward is being mulled over by some possible candidates.

We'll also see some movement on the commission front too. Word is that Regina Quick is in to challenge Elton Dodson - if he even opts to run again - for District 10, while I got a tip that I scrambled to confirm last night but only got a 'maybe' on regarding Myra Blackmon and District Six. No word yet from John Knight, who discussed a possible run for that seat here, nor from Red Petrovs, though Blake says he's heard that Ed Robinson, who sought the District 10 seat against Dodson in 2004, is game for District Six.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Removed from the situation

While I appreciate any type of insightful reporting and commentary, I will say it is more than odd that a Chicago blogger with little to no connection to Georgia opted to randomly chastize our state for its water management (it's even more weird seeing how he openly asked 'Georgia readers' to help him with a few specifics and, in two instances, referred to the state capitol in Augusta).

It isn't that I necessarily think he's terribly off-base - and I don't think his primary Georgia detractor in the comments is particularly on-base either - it's more that Perlstein insists on ignoring the perfect storm that resulted in our water crisis, preferring instead to transform the argument into a political and ideological one.

We're in this problem not because of one party's arrogance or shortsightedness, but rather because of a variety of factors ...

- Atlanta's explosive growth that kicked up demand for water, with much of it being needlessly wasted;

- Until the peak of the drought, there was no emphasis on educating the public on conservation and providing them with the resources to effectively do so;

- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers mandated that Lake Lanier release 3.2 billion gallons of water per day toward downstream populations that lack similar demands;

- And, oh yeah, a drought to end all droughts gripped North Georgia.

The big picture

The criticism of the Clarke County Board of Education rolls on ...

Today's editorial takes them to task for, naturally, holding the special-called meeting behind closed doors, Jason Winders calls out some board members and J.T. puts forward the notion of a bloc of candidates running on a unifying reform platform.

The latter is a particularly appealing idea, though, to be honest, we're probably all talking about this for nothing. When push comes to shove, as much as it disappoints me, I just don't see a rush of people moving to challenge to the sitting board members. Most folks are complacent and too content to adhere to the status quo, meaning the Chester Sosebees and Vernon Paynes of the world will remain in control, despite the fact they have no children in the school system and are oblivious to the dire situation we face.

I agree with Winders in phrasing that this is a defining moment ...

No sane superintendent will touch us. Accreditation questions, already a gathering storm, will intensify. Quality teachers, staff and students will continue to bleed out of the district. Economic development will sink further. Taxes will remain high as property values stagnate.

Yes, it's amazing what a well-run school district can do for a community.

Understand, the fate of this community hinges on the sober, reasoned actions of this beleaguered body on Monday night. God help us all.

To be honest, I'm not certain a productive evening bails us out of this mess, but I do know the consequences of continuing down our present self-destructive path.

This board, torn by incompetence, racial strife and an ever-expanding fissure opened by one of their own, must become a relevant force. It's time to set aside the petty turf wars and personal interests. Put the students, teachers and staff first.


I hope it happens and that beyond a constructive meeting on Monday, we see a rush of eager and enthusiastic candidates for BOE this year. I'm hopeful, yet I'm also not terribly optimistic.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Rumor-ville

It's been barely a day since Carl Jordan announced he wouldn't seek reelection for the District Six Commissioner for Athens-Clarke County, and the rumors are already flying about who's in the mix ... and not just for Jordan's seat, but also for the District 10 slot currently held by Elton Dodson.

While we all know Jordan is stepping down, Dodson hasn't said one way or the other what he'll be doing.

For District Six, current Clarke County Board of Education member John Knight indicated here that he would be interested in seeking the seat (of course, it was with the flattering addition that I seek his spot on the BOE). Red Petrovs has repeatedly indicated that he was considering running and, particularly with Jordan deciding to not run again, convential wisdom has to think he's now definitely in it.

(For clarification purposes, I've gotten emails and phone calls this afternoon asking if I was running since my name was mentioned a while back and I've expressed an interest, and the answer to that rumor is no).

For District 10, I heard today from a reliable source that Regina Quick might challenge Dodson if no one else steps to the plate. Quick ran as a Republican in the three-way race against Doug McKillip and E.H. Culpepper for the State House District 115 seat that McKillip would go on to win. She earned a lot of bonus points from traditionally Democratic Athens-Clarke County, and Quick does hold several progressive positions on key issues.

Of course, she was responsible for a large 'Dump Heidi' sign in her downtown office which would put her standing in District Five - and the rest of the in-town progressives who are crucial to that seat - in jeopardy.

David Hamilton, who sought the District Eight seat in a special election against Andy Herod a year ago, has also been mentioned by a few folks to me. As I said throughout that race, I like Hamilton a whole lot and thought that district would be served well by either candidate.

I've also heard Sean Hogan for that seat, but I've heard his name associated with a million different offices it seems like. I don't personally know Hogan, but I think he'd have a hard time winning Districts Five and Six (he'd probably get swamped in the former), meaning he'd need huge margins of victory that I don't think he could obtain.

I hear Bill Overend a good bit too, and I'd personally love to see him get in the mix. He'd pick up good-sized chunks of support in both District Five and District Seven, but I also hear that he's looking at a possible run for District Seven in 2010.

Now let's get into some ridiculous scenarios just for the fun of it ...

- Herod is up for reelection this year as he finishes States McCarter's term. Let's say Herod, who would win convincingly in District Five and District Eight, goes for District 10 and Hamilton runs for District Eight and wins that.

- Herod stays put, and Hamilton runs for District 10 where he would play well in Districts Six, Seven and Eight. Quick (who I was told lives in District Six) runs for District Six where her progressive views would play with traditional Democrats and her Republican credentials would enable her to dent what Petrovs brings to the plate.

- Dodson opts to run again and Quick (or Hamilton) challenges him putting District Five into a difficult predicament. There's been some visable friction between the in-town progressive crowd and Dodson, as there has been between Quick and that group. Seeing how those precincts traditionally vote at a ridiculous rate - something like 60 percent or more - they're critical to winning. Dodson has burned a ton of bridges in District Eight and, to a lesser extent, District Seven, which would indicate that Quick (or Hamilton) would play well there.

- Barack Obama picks a little-known progressive blogger from Athens-Clarke County as his vice-presidential pick. The latter could boost Obama's vote total here by 17 and possibly draw the votes of 39 personal friends in who normally vote Republican in heavily conservative Columbia County.

Just saying

While I would offer some caution toward anyone getting too excited about Barack Obama's chances to actually win Georgia, despite pulling within the margin of error in the latest Insider Advantage poll, I also find the denial party at Peach Pundit highly comical.

I still believe Obama has a better chance to win North Carolina and Virginia - and if he actually does win Georgia, he's probably pushing an electoral blowout on par with Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 and Ronald Reagan in 1984 - but conservatives shouldn't so casually dismiss the real ability of Obama to make Georgia competitive, but also to boost down-ticket races at the state level.

If you take a gander at turnout rates, demographics and unregistered voters in certain districts, you start to see that there are some areas where you might find a surprise or two come the general election.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Carl's out

Carl Jordan has opted to not seek reelection for District Six.

I have decided not to seek re-election to the District 6 County Commission position.

Serving the residents and businesses of my district has been the most interesting, challenging, frustrating, and invigorating time of my life, and I am honored and grateful to have had the opportunity. I am also grateful to my Commission colleagues who have collaborated with me in the evolution of Athens into a healthier, greener, safer, and more-congenial home-place, and to ACC management and staff who have endured my schooling and persistent scrutiny.

But I also believe that government is energized by a turnover of personalities, ideas, and skills, and I hardly have a monopoly on knowing what is best for Athens, or determining how best to achieve it. Eight years is a good amount of time, and this is the right time for me to channel my energy differently. My intent is ideally to achieve greater balance in my life, and a release from a passion that has too often been all-consuming, and occasionally a distraction to the government.

Thus, as of the first of next year, I look forward to cleaning up my house and yard, perhaps even washing the windows, and spending more time at my Idaho cabin. I cannot imagine the boredom of retirement, so don’t expect me to fade away. My hope is simply to remain an engaged and valued voice in my adopted community, but without the constraints imposed by a government calendar or the obligations of an elected official.

----CARL JORDAN

Barr makes it close

According to Insider Advantage, Bob Barr's presence in the race has put Georgia in play. Crunching some numbers, particularly looking at turnout rates for African-American districts the past few years and then figuring that you'll see more than modest bumps in turnout with Barack Obama at the top of the ticket, it's more than feasible to see him make this competitive.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Where I'm at

Since I'm talking a lot about encouraging folks to run for the Clarke County Board of Education, it's only logical that I get the question posed to me - 'why don't you run for it?'

It's something I would consider, however John Knight is my representative (in fact he lives just down the street from me), he has two years remaining on his term and, quite frankly, I think he's done a pretty good job in his brief stint. If I lived elsewhere in the community where there was a seat up for reelection, I would give strong consideration to running.

Awesome

Despite my appreciation of Boston sports - particularly the Red Sox - this is pretty darn funny ... even more so since I just saw The Departed.

As an aside, that's a good movie too.

Daily BOE update

The hullabaloo over the Clarke County Board of Education is continuing to grow, as Sidney Anne Waters announces that she won't seek a fourth term for District Eight. In a letter to the newspaper, she proceeded to ridicule critics of her dismal performance by pulling a Glenn Richardson and daring them, as the ABH put it, to 'put their money where their mouth is' and run for her seat.

Of course, her race was the only one actually being contested as Chinami Goodie, the chairwoman of Barnett Shoals Elementary School's school council, announced her candidacy a month ago. Seeing how unpopular the BOE is right now and that Waters was probably heading for a loss (and that she refused to return phone calls seeking comment all day on Wednesday) I'm not exactly thinking that she's in a position to call others out for a lack of bravery.

The Athens Banner-Herald asks why the existing BOE members aren't outraged, and I think the answer's pretty easy - they're not accountable to anyone. They never face any challenges for office, refuse to speak about personnel matters and, according to Simms, and perfectly content going around and meddling in the affairs of individual schools with no recourse possible.

So, coupled with Waters's resignation, then good. That's one less obstruction toward getting good results on our local BOE, and we need more to step up to the plate and run for office. The even-numbered seats are up for re-election, and they need to face the appropriate scrutiny and debate this community and its schools deserve.

Well, it's not not true

Retief Goosen partially accuses Tiger Woods of faking his knee injury during his win at last weekend's U.S. Open, and while I won't completely agree with that I do think that Woods milked that injury for every bit of its PR worth.

Why? Because doing so was a win-win proposition. If he faltered on Sunday, thus becoming the first time he ever lost a major after holding a 54-hole lead, he'd have an easy excuse that would let him off the hook. If he won, as he did, all it does is add to the legend that he continues to build.

Make no mistake, aside from being the world's best golfer, he's also got one of the smartest promotional minds in sports. When he's ill or under the weather or injured, he always seems to be in a worse way than anyone else on the PGA Tour he deals with the same things, and that adds to the already intense media attention on him.

I've got no doubt Woods was hurt (he's having season-ending surgery for crying out loud), but also strikes me as the guy who likes to let you know he's hurt, thus building sympathy, understanding and support. That, in turn, generates a remarkable media buzz, and Woods is the star.

It sounds like Goosen, understandably, was kinda tired of the melodrama and called a spade a spade.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Coming up

Trying to think who I'm going to go see at AthFest, and I wish that Brantley Gilbert was playing at some time other than 5 p.m. on Sunday. Still, Alathea is on ahead of him, though I just don't think of good beer-drinking country music on a Sunday afternoon.

Well, then again, I guess I kinda do.

Hipness

An interesting story by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on the use of YouTube and other digital media avenues by the candidates vying for Saxby Chambliss's seat in the U.S. Senate. Josh Lanier, with four videos, leads the way.

You should also go to The Georgia Center for Continuing Education tomorrow night at 7 p.m. for a forum featuring all five Democratic candidates. Maybe Vernon Jones will even show up on time.

Progress?

This is a shame since I thought it was a smart, pragmatic idea to help small communities with rising fuel costs, even if it would be rather marginal and short-term. Hopefully we can see some progress on this front - or any front - during next year's session of the Georgia General Assembly.

Time to go

Well, it ain't good to be the Clarke County Board of Education in light of this damning resignation letter from James Simms. Among other things, he accuses the BOE of three specific instances of unethical behavior, including an unnamed board member contacting a principal at one school and pushing them to move school resources into the support of a non-school, community event.

While all three accusations are bad, this example is particularly unseemly since it potentially involves misuse of public funds. In fact, I think Simms should have named names, though I understand that he's trying to effectively blackmail them into letting him get his job back.

This school board is ineffectual and dysfunctional, and it's time of value to the community has long passed. I've called for it before, but it's time for some worthy and passionate citizens of this community to step up and hold them accountable through a engaged debate.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

News conference release

See, I pleasantly stand corrected.

From the DPG ...

House Democrats call for immediate investigation into Department of Education

Democrats in the Georgia House of Representatives called on Governor Sonny Perdue to commission an immediate, independent, non-partisan investigation of the state Department of Education today, in the wake of statewide failures on the Criterion Referenced Competency Test (CRCT). It has been widely reported in the media that the Superintendent of Schools knew months in advance of the projected failure rate, yet the Department of Education failed to warn administrators, teachers, or parents of the coming fiasco.

"We're calling on Governor Perdue to appoint an independent investigator to collect information from Superintendent Cox and the Department of Education, analyze where the Department went wrong, and to prepare a detailed timeline of when the Superintendent knew about the problems, what actions she took, and why schools and parents were not warned in a timely fashion," said House Democratic Leader DuBose Porter (D-Dublin). "In short, we need the answer to one simple question: What did Kathy Cox know, and when did she know it?"

"The Superintendent and her Department have blamed the school systems, the principals, the teachers, even the students ," said House Democratic Caucus Chair Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus). "We know that the blame lies much closer to the top. Our teachers did their jobs, they taught their lessons to the best of their abilities, and have done much for our students. But when you have A and B students failing the test, the fault does not lie with the teacher, and Georgia knows that."

The Democratic legislators also called on Perdue to make funds available to school systems that have to bear the brunt of exponentially increased summer school enrollment due to the Department of Education's failure to warn schools. "We've got to make school systems whole again, and the last thing we should do is force more unfunded and unexpected mandates on a public education system already staggering under the weight of $1.5 billion in cuts over the past few years," said House Democratic Whip Carolyn Hugley (D-Columbus). "If the Governor is sincere in his commitment to education, he needs to come out to today and announce that he is committing the necessary funding to help school systems through this crisis."

Of course, it's not

While I think John Linder's editorial about domestic oil drilling is misguided, short-sighted and just exacerbates a problem rather than fixes it, what's most ridiculous about it is that one of its key lines of argument - that China drills off the Cuban coast - is it's completely false.

There is no evidence to support this claim - particularly since Cuba does not possess any refinery capabilities - yet Linder feels it necessary to parrot this falsehood to support his own flawed argument. There's a discussion to be had about domestic drilling - though I still feel it's a rather poor idea overall - but lying surely shouldn't be the way to actually advance the dialogue.

UPDATE: Of course, the other fatal flaw in Linder's argument is that the U.S. government already leases more than 60 million acres of federal land to the oil companies for exploration, but it's sitting idle right now. I'd be more inclined to examine new exploratory domestic drilling if the companies were, you know, actually exploring the land they already owned.

I can do that!

Apparently proving there is no office he won't run for, rumors are swirling that Brian Kemp will run for Secretary of State if Karen Handel opts to run for governor in 2010.

Let's see ... two terms as a state representative before deciding to embark on a sure-fire losing campaign for Agriculture Commissioner and then, on the heels of that, briefly declaring for State Senate until Ralph Hudgens figured he'd keep that seat which resulted in Kemp flirting with a primary challenge to Hudgens because he was mad and now this.

Can we toss his name into the mayoral hunt too? Perhaps an independent run for coronor? Maybe Public Service Commission?

Good point

Say what you will about him, but Rand Knight ain't afraid to throw a punch. I'm a Josh Lanier man through and through, but Knight has impressed me a good bit this primary season.

Just saying

I say again, how nice would it be to have a rich debate over local education policy and performance as they did in Oconee County last night?

Forest for the trees

I suppose you can chalk this up to intended consequences, but it really isn't that big of a deal actually. The field in question appears as if it will be built without any revisions to the tree ordinance, and both staff and the Athens-Clarke County Commission appear to be taking the necessary steps to offer any appropriate revisions to said ordinance.

At the most, it just needs a little tweaking and that's what's going to happen.

Just my two cents

I'm going to offer some bit of a contrast from my friends at the state party, as well as the Democratic leaders in Georgia's House of Representatives, but I just don't get what this will accomplish.

It isn't as if I necessarily disagree with them in suggesting that that Kathy Cox should offer some clearer explanations on why we're testing kids on things that don't match up with our curriculum, but I'm also a believer in doing more than just saying the other person's efforts stink.

I think it would be nice if at this media event that, in addition to rightfully drawing the contrasts with the Republican leaders, the Democratic leaders put forward their plan on how to address the situation. One of the refreshing elements of the presidential election so far is that you've got a pair of candidates with clearly different visions of what to do and, as a result, their exchanges are based over issues.

Again, I'm largely supportive of the steps taken by the DPG and the Democrats in the Georgia General Assembly, and I think they've taken a bunch of rather unfair hits over the past few months. Still, I'm just not clear on what this is going to accomplish aside from showing us being reactive and not proactive.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Call to arms

I started working on this brief post on Saturday after hearing the news of the resignation of James Simms - which, of course, is beyond disappointing - and let me second this notion made by the Athens Banner-Herald.

And that notion is that it's about time some folks put some heat on the Clarke County Board of Education. The departure of Simms can be chalked up to one thing and one thing only - shortsightedest and a sense of disconnect from the BOE. It's firmly their fault they've run off a more than qualified superintendent who was going above and beyond the call of duty in working to not only make our local schools better, but to also better integrate the goals of the schools with the goals of the local community.

It is beyond time to see some worthy challenges to so many entrenched board members who either are content with adherence to the status quo or lack the necessary vision to positively move our schools forward.

Vernon Panye and Sidney Anne Waters have each been in their position for more than a decade, with Payne holding his seat for almost 30 years. Charles Worthy and Allison Wright are finishing up their first terms, but also need challenges so this community can have a debate featuring fresh faces and new ideas on how to move forward.

And, if you want a startling contrast in engagement, consider the number of qualified candidates seeking spots on the Oconee County Board of Education. Note the the contested races in our neighboring county and remember that even if all the incumbents win out there, that community was afforded the opportunity to have a discussion about what kind of vision it desires for its school system.

It would be nice if we had that here.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The agony of defeat

Because reliving the pain is so rewarding, PWD at Georgia Sports Blog encouraged fans to rank the most heartbreaking defeats in Georgia football, and it's akin to going on a death march. Half the memories I had blissfully forgotten.

Still, here's a list of mine, in no particular order ...

2005 Auburn - Forget the fact that Auburn converted fourth-and-a-million to set up their stunning win and jab the dagger deep into our hearts, but this really put a significant downer on one of the best tailgates ever. It was Tent City's first low country boil, my folks were in town and it was the second - and final - 'McGinty Father/Son Auburn Game.' To make matters worse, I had to get up at 5 a.m. the next morning to catch a flight to Boston.

2002 Florida - This one sucks more in hindsight because, after more than a decade of futility against the Gators, I honestly don't think we ever have a chance against them. Georgia was, however, ridiculously better than Florida that year and had absolutely no business losing that game (the QB rotation with D.J. Shockley promptly throwing an interception returned for a touchdown to kill the team's momentum for the entire game, Billy Bennett missing two easy field goals, going 0-for-13 on third down conversions, George Foster picking up the dumbest personal foul in the history of the game to negate a successful first down pickup, Tony Milton dropping a wide open pass to convert a pivotal fourth down and, of course, Terrence Edwards dropping the game-tying touchdown pass in the closing minutes). Lord, it's painful to think about now ... and it cost the Bulldogs a shot at the national title.

1996 Southern Miss - My first game as a freshman, and we lost to Southern Miss 11-7. Thanks Jim Donnan. Of course, as a side note, the come-from-behind win over Texas Tech just a few weeks later in the rain, which resulted in the student section going bonkers as if we had just won the SEC title was almost as heartbreaking in the sense as it made me realize just how pathetic the 1990s were.

The losses to Clemson in the mid-1980s - I really hated Clemson back then, and those bugged me big-time as a kid.

1999 Georgia Tech - Of course, this loss doesn't happen in today's world since we now employ instant replay, but I agree with most of the commenters over at Georgia Sports Blog in the sense that this game resulted in sheer, blinding rage and not necessarily disappointment. Doug nails it with 'I don't think it's really proper to call yourself "heartbroken" when your first instinct is to go out and commit multiple homicides, and that's what mine was. That game is pretty much the reason I hate Tech even worse than Florida or Auburn, even now; at minimum we have to stretch our current streak to 10 before I'll be satisfied.'

1992 Tennessee - Andre Hastings, for no reason whatsoever, opts to switch hands with the ball with no one within five yards of him and nothing but open field between him and the end zone ... and promptly fumbles. This was even more maddening because, as a freshman at Westside-Augusta, the exact same thing happened to my team in my first high school football experience just one night earlier. Georgia wins that game, and it plays Alabama for the SEC Championship and the right to take on Miami for the national title.

1993 Florida - Borderline enraging like the 1999 Georgia Tech game. The Bulldogs actually won the game, scoring with just a few seconds on the clock though the officials opted to accept a timeout from Florida that came right after the snap. Eric Zeier threw behind Shannon Mitchell in the end zone to end the game. And my dad and I watched the whole thing in the electronics section of Montgomery Ward.

1994 Alabama - I don't really have a ton of memories from this game, except that, until the Mark Richt era convened in 2001, this was the blueprint for how the vast majority of all Georgia football games went in the 1990s against favored teams ... play out of your mind the first three quarters and then make an inexplicable collapse in the final 15 minutes and lose.

Voices in the wilderness

I'm surprised it's taken this long for some one to finally come out and say it, but kudos to Eric Jones for defending conservative preachers merely because they happen to share his personal views of ideology and theology. It is, of course, a preposterous argument for him to make because, quite frankly, it's built around his own interpretations of Scripture and that makes it almost impossible for him to recognize any faults that someone like a John Hagee or Pat Robertson might have.

Granted, I don't share the theological views of either a Jeremiah Wright or a Pat Robertson, but I also don't bemoan them the right to study the Scriptures and work through them to the best of their ability. In Wright's mind, and in the mind of many in his church, the guidance and theological interpretations he offered were, as Jones argues for a Robertson, 'politically incorrect and yet biblically inerrant and morally prudent.'

That's why this is a silly little dance to have. Both Wright, as well as perhaps some other liberal pastors, and conservative pastors have said outrageous things, but they've uttered those statements believing they are interpreting the Scriptures properly.

Now, one can make legitimate arguments against their particular positions, and as I noted, I think both cases are a bit extreme, but they're all doing what is supposed to be done by true preachers, which is go against the grain of society and voice that which is unpopular yet they value to be true.

Friday, June 13, 2008

What you say isn't what you say?

Here's another example of John McCain believing in something but not actually wanting to run the political risk of telling you he believes in something. Yesterday, it was with regard to his beliefs on Iraq and today it's Social Security.

It's rather maddening. Listen, though I may have ideological disagreements with McCain's efforts to partially privatize Social Security, I can respect that it's a legitimate issue worth debating and discussing, and I can even concede that such a proposal isn't without some merit. However, it's disingenous to go around and say that you don't support privatizing Social Security when, in fact, you actually do.

I mean, McCain spent the first minute of that video portion saying he doesn't support privatizing the program, but then completely pivots to say that, yes, in fact he does support it. And, to me, you know, whatever ... that's fine. It's an issue to debate and discuss, but it's dishonest to say you don't favor that policy when you actually do. In fact, it's an intentional effort to mislead the voters, presumably because proposals to privatize even a portion of Social Security are very politically unpopular with senior citizens, a key voting demographic, as well as the general voting population of the country.

The even weird thing is that McCain himself said it was good policy, as evident in this video footage.

I like Matthew Yglesias's take on it ...

In short, he stridently denies that he wants to favor privatizing Social Security. He just favors policies that are the same as the policies that were called "privatizing Social Security" before the GOP found out that privatizing Social Security is unpopular.

Really?

In 'wow' category, Blake's got a Keith Johnson email up on his disagreement with cutting the fireworks from the Athens-Clarke County budget, and it's full of Johnson's usual, well, ridiculous commentary.

The money quote ...

I asked Keith whether fireworks were more important than affordable housing or any other poverty-related programs the commission kept. He responded, with unusual brevity, “yes.”

Awesome. The local president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization that is committed to human rights with a rich and noble tradition, values fireworks over fighting poverty.

Interview with Doc

In this week's Flagpole, former Athens-Clarke County mayor and current Athens Area Chamber of Commmerce president Doc Eldrige gives an interesting interview that examines the difficulties in trimming the government's budget and how, in actuality, there are some things involving government that simply can't be run like a business.

It's a good read, definitely worth it.

Music for the moment

It's on

Well, this is good news since it's nice to have fireworks on the Fourth of July since I can see them from my backyard, though part of my could do without the Classic City band after this rather shameless plea from the mother of one of the band members to raise money to pay them.

In the grand scheme of things, though $13,000 is a drop in the bucket out of our entire budget, this is the type of thing that might flourish if it was privately sponsored. In fact, with the appropriate amount to round up sponsors it's feasible to raise $30,000 and make this an even bigger event.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

KA moves forward

Kappa Alpha is chugging along with its redevelopment of property along Hancock Avenue, and is reducing the parking spaces from 10 to seven and adding some greenspace. The building is down the road from the IHN of Athens offices, so I've been trying to keep a closer eye on their progress, and it's a weird building.

Weird in the sense that it doesn't look like a fraternity house to me, but rather a UGA administrative building. I think it's a good-looking structure all things considered, but just not what I would expect for a Greek living space.

Can I also take a moment to bring up some old business and restate that I was greatly disappointed by the fact that the fraternity was forbidden from participating in a community-wide charitable event solely based on the demolition of the buildings? That just baffles me, and, on some level, is absolutely infuriating. I can completely respect that some people might think disagree with how things went down, but to arrogantly deny them the right to participate in a charitable event is ridiculous.

Lanier responds

video

Josh Lanier followed up Saxby Chambliss's attack by being considerate enough to translate what Chambliss really meant for all of us. Got to say this, Lanier doesn't shy away from a fight.

And, in another Lanier note, he was kind enough to email me and discuss some of his reasons for adhering to principle of not accepting any contribution that isn't from an individual or larger than $100, doing so because he believes in the proposed Fair Elections Now Act and said legislation has this principle in it.

That's refreshing

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

More Nunn talk

The New Republic makes the case for Sam Nunn for vice-president, and I'm all aboard that train. He's my frontrunner for the VP slot, followed by Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, former Gen. James Jones and Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

Clarifying for the worse?

Joshua Marshall has an excellent and fair critique of John McCain's statement this morning that, to him, 'it's not too important' when U.S. troops return from Iraq, and I agree with his assessment.

McCain attempted to spin this as Democrats taking his words out of context, but that isn't the case at all. The Arizona senator's clarification proves that, as he notes that he is rightfully concerned about lowering the casualty rate in Iraq and that when we bring our troops home isn't as important to him because he believes they should be there for 100 years or however long he feels necessary.

And, though it may not sound like it, I'm not intending to criticize McCain's position on the matter, Despite my disagreement with it, I think it's a perfectly logical position to hold given McCain's views on foreign policy, Iraq, etc. The problem as I see it is exactly what Marshall notes, which is that in a political campaign this position is pretty unpopular with the vast majority of the American population so attempting to spin this as Democrats taking his words out of context is ridiculous.

The problem for the McCain campaign is that he keeps stumbling into clear statements of his actual policy, which is close to lethal since the vast majority of Americans disagree with his policy and Iraq is virtually the only thing he's running on. The context the McCain campaign keeps trying to put forward after the fact is what they wished he'd said rather than what he did. And even that, when you push deep, isn't that different from McCain's actual policy, which is that he doesn't think we should be leaving Iraq for years to come, most likely decades.

McCain meant every word he said, and he has a sincere belief in his views on Iraq. And, to be clear, that isn't a bad thing. In fact, it's quite refreshing if he would actually hone up to it because, again, it could afford us the opportunity to watch an actual debate over contrasting policies.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan gets it too and offers up his own quality take on this discussion. Again, this is refreshing. If McCain believes we should be in Iraq forever with 60 permanent bases, then more power to him. If Obama disagrees with that notion, more power to him as well. Let's have an actual debate on issues like this and sort out the direction we want our country to go.

No likes it

Over at Peach Pundit, even the Republicans think Saxby Chambliss's attack ad is pathetic and, quite frankly, it's why I think that Josh Lanier could make this a race if he was the nominee.

It's a long shot, and I'll concede that, but with some money Lanier could make some noise. Of course, in my own personal opinion, I think his laudable ethical approach to the campaign is hindering him. Lanier is refusing money from PACs, which I like, but won't accept campaign contributions that are greater than $100. I can respect the notion behind the latter, but it's going to kill him financially and, with more well-funded Democratic opponents and a substantially more well-funded Republican incumbent, it's hard to see how he can keep the playing field somewhat level.

From what I hear, he's got a good grassroots campaign going, but with Jim Martin and Vernon Jones sitting at the top of the Democratic heap, Dale Cardwell enjoying some name recognition and Rand Knight picking up the AFL-CIO endorsement and the organizational benefits that come with it, Lanier is in jeopardy of getting lost in the shuffle.

Which is a damn shame since, like Flack, I think he's far and away the best candidate.

Also ... I don't get the love for Martin. He seems uninspired, lethargic and, let's face it, he would get hammered in the general election. On some level, it's disappointing that so many folks flocked to him when he said he'd run and left the other candidates who had been working hard for so many months. Again I don't dislike Martin, and I supported him in the general election for Lt. Governor last year, but I'm just baffled by the support for him.

That's a good move

This is a good idea and smart, pragmatic policy coming from Jackson County. While a consolidated government like Athens-Clarke County may not be able to employ these cost-saving methods, neighboring counties like Oconee, Oglethorpe and Madison coudl benefit from them.

Not right now

I can't say that I blame the Oconee County Board of Education for turning down the proposed charter school, primarily because it doesn't seem there is an apparent need and, as David Weeks noted, there really wasn't much of a organized group of support for it (though please correct me if I'm wrong loyal readers).

Again, this isn't to say that I'm not a supporter of charter schools in principle, as I think they're efficient methods of developing strong educational options (of course, the problem has been, in many cases, exclusionary policies which benefit a small percentage of the student population of a particular county and not the entire community). I'm never one to think this is taking money away from certain schools though, or at least I don't think that would be the case here seeing how Oconee County is growing steadily and will have to add additional schools down the road.

Then again, while I like charter schools, I'm much more a fan of magnet schools and, quite frankly, that's what this proposed academy appeared to be.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Georgia in play?

Well, this is kind of interesting. While I think John McCain still has significant advantages over Barack Obama, electorally speaking of course, in Georgia this fall, it is stunning to see the latter holding close to a two-to-one advantage in fundraising.

Of course, there are logical reasons for this - increased enthusiam on the Democratic side and a significantly longer primary process, but it also leaves the door open just enough to make you ponder if this could be a tight election, and that's because of three main reasons ...

- As noted in the Peach Pundit posting, many younger adults - who are backing Obama strongly - don't have landlines for their phones, which is how most polling is conducted. As a result, the poll could be skewed somewhat.

- Obama intends to launch a massive voter registration drive, including targeting what his campaign claims are 500,000 unregistered African-American voters in the state. Coupled with increased registration by younger adults and recalling that President Bush took Georgia by 500,000 votes, it's possible that the gap could narrow.

- The presence of Bob Barr, who is still popular in traditionally conservative portions of the Atlanta suburbs, could pull votes away from McCain.

Georgia has been targeted by the Obama campaign as a state they want to compete in, and it'll be fun to see how it plays out.

Georgia on the radar

The battle for Saxby Chambliss's seat in the U.S. Senate is getting some press as MyDD notes that it's become the new GOP firewall for losses this fall and it's featured in by Daily Kos in a roundup of races. It's nice to see the race getting some national recognition, and it's also refreshing to see that it's referred to in realistic terms seeing how it's a long-shot for whoever the Democratic challenge to knock off Chambliss.

That's not to say it can't happen or that I don't want it to happen, but it's interesting to see Georgia mentioned as a firewall. Democrats figure to pick up five seats in the U.S. Senate and figure to tack on two to three others (probably in Oregon and then either Minnesota or Mississippi). There's been a lot of talk of Elizabeth Dole losing in North Carolina, but I honestly feel as if Democrats have a better pickup opportunity in Missisippi seeing how their candidate is a popular former governor.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Couple of things

After receiving a gentle prodding that my blog was on 'life support' here's some updates ...

- Apologies for being away for so long. I was out of town for a week at the beach, which absolutely rocked. Not much luck fishing (in fact, all I caught was a clump of oysters), but lots of enjoyment relaxing and watching the kid scamper in sand. Upon return, I've been extremely busy with work which is, well, good since Daddy's gotta get paid.

- Since I've been away, Barack Obama finally clinched the Democratic nomination for president and that too absolutely rocks. I'm not sure who he settles on for vice president, and most indications are that he'll probably wait a bit before making a decision. From what I can gather the most frequently heard names include Hillary Clinton (obviously), Jim Webb, Kathrine Sebelius, Joe Biden and Sam Nunn. While I understand the electoral appeal behind tabbing Clinton, I'd lean toward Webb and Nunn.

- Also while gone, Georgia clinched its third berth in the College World Series in six years, and Sunday's ridiculous bashing of North Carolina State was fun to watch (particularly Gordan Beckham's blast in the seventh inning). Then again, drawing No. 1 Miami for your first game isn't the best way to kick off the NCAA Championship.

- Understandably, I think Gene Baldwin puts forward a silly argument. I mean, for starters Athens-Clarke County commissions would have to be forcibly taking over private industry in order to really be pushing a socialist agenda. I didn't realize allocating what is, in actuality, a very small portion of the budget toward establishing an affordable housing trust fund and expanding bus service meant we were marching toward a Leninist state.

- Granted, I'm frustrated with Bruno Rubio dragging his feet with regard to developing the old Cofer's property, but I think this editorial goes a bit too far. I don't think the local government should be in the business of defining the intent of what a particular property owner wants to do with his or her land. In actuality, if Rubio just wants to sit on that piece of property and do nothing for the next 30 years, he's entitled to do so ... and if then he'd like to build La Puerto del Sol, he should be entitled to do that too (barring drastic land use changes along that corridor).

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Sorting this out

Andre is all up in arms over the 'lack of diversity and experience' at the Democratic Party of Georgia, but it's a rather silly complaint to be putting forward.

The main crux of his argument is that a few years back the staff was more diverse, which I suppose is marginally true. However, the evidence he offers is an outdated staff directory and the fact that a white woman and black woman are leaving the DPG. Of course, he fails to note that the DPG just hired two African-Americans to head up field operations in Middle Georgia, as well as he fails to note that staff turnover is a pretty good thing in that in means individuals are receiving the necessary experience and training to move out and participate in other ventures. Rather than be a negative, I view such turnover as a sign of a healthy organization.

Furthermore, Andre conveniently ignores the fact that the party officials are very diverse from a racial and gender perspective. The chairperson is Jane Kidd, a white woman, while the vice-chairperson is Michael Thurmond, a black man.

Regarding experience, I just don't get his criticism. Matt Weywrandt, the DPG's executive director, worked for both Jim Martin and Shirley Franklin, while Martin Matheny, the DPG's communications director, served on Doug Haines's congressional bid, a variety of local races and worked for Dick Gephardt's presidential campaign in Iowa back in 2004. That's in addition to a variety of individuals who possess experience on a variety of local and state races.

Speaking quite frankly, a lot of the criticism sounds like sour grapes, particularly on the heels of his complaints regarding his then-denial of blogger credentials for the Democratic National Convention (he subsequently earned credentials later). I don't know Andre personally and I presume he's a nice enough fella, but these latest rants are tiresome (particularly when you're going to spout empty talk about of lack of diversity and aim your fire at Democrats).

Don't get me wrong, it isn't as if I don't have some criticism of the DPG. I'm not thrilled they now charge candidates for their voter files, and I do think that 14 employees with such a financially strapped budget is a bit excessive. However, despite those concerns, I understand the reasoning behind them, and I also recognize that you can't make everyone happy (and nor should you try).

To me, if you're going to be actively involved in the political process and you want to be a politically active Democrat (or Republican if the shoe was on the other foot) in this election, at some point you ought to, you know, actually get on board wtih the team in charge.