Friday, October 31, 2008

Saxon's on the air

Bobby Saxon has this radio ad up across the 10th Congressional District as the campaign hits the homestretch. Today's the last day of fundraising for all campaigns, so be sure to help some folks out.

In addition, The Commerce News endorsed Saxon and The Jackson Times did the same. Neither are bastions of liberal thought, mind you.

Oglethorpe County sheriff

Seeing how there is little coverage of Oglethorpe County, and their local paper isn't online, it's been hard to follow what has been a very heated race for sheriff between Mike Smith and Bill Fincher. Apparently, there's a significant drug problem in the county, and both candidates are grappling with ways to address it.

Fincher, running against the incumbent, proposed using seized drug money to fund the needs of the department. While definitely an outside-the-box proposal, I don't know if that's legal or not?

Anyone with a legal or law enforcement background able to comment on this? What happens to seized funds? Is it appropriate for police to keep the money and use it to their own benefit?

Gone fishing

Girtz on economic development

Safe As Houses favorite Kelly Girtz, the District Nine Commissioner for Athens-Clarke County, offered a comment regarding the proposed regional economic development initiative, and I wanted to share it with all ...

I just wanted to drop a quick note about concerns surrounding the Regional Economic Development proposal. No “melting down” seems underway, though media coverage has highlighted concerns from both Oconee and Clarke Commissioners. As you note, the initial step – pooling resources to better provide entry into local opportunities – is a no-brainer. I have not heard nothing but strong support regarding dedication of current economic development funding to a single entity by Oconee and Clarke.

The concerns that have been expressed are those about what happens in future iterations of the plan. It would not be entirely accurate to state that “nothing is mapped out” about future endeavors. More accurately, there are many details to be determined, but there are some specific recommendations, including that in 10-15 years funding comes from a variety of sources including “a dedicated portion of the millage for economic development purposes” (the report summary is available online).

It may be that this will be an ideal funding mechanism, but this should not be a foregone conclusion. What sometimes happens with multi-stage plans in large organizations is a momentum that is hard to re-direct after several steps have been completed, even when it has been explicitly stated that “the future is yet to be determined.” My own desire in asking questions now is simply to make sure that only the first phase is endorsed, and nobody is on the hook for the next steps.

Ideally, the first step will be wildly successful. Appropriate properties will be identified for development, successful businesses will be started, and there will be a high comfort level with expansion of the program. I am ready to vote for the initial phase ASAP, as I believe most or all of my colleagues to be.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Not sure about this

While we're piling on Katherine Harris ... er ... Karen Handel today, why not fully ridicule the pathetic nature of her response to criticism on extending early voting hours.

Of course it weakly hides behind the law and blames liberals and the media (and the liberal media) for this whole debacle, injecting partisan blame while all the while claiming to acting in a non-partisan manner (just like the Jim Powell thing).

She argues that Georgia law forbids her from extending early voting with approval from the Department of Justice - which, from what I've heard, is actually up for debate - thus we can't keep polls open longer. Of course, what is to stop Handel from calling the DoJ and making such a request and them approving that request in, oh, say a couple of hours?

The more Handel argues about how she can't extend voting hours, the more time she wastes. It's a self-defeating argument by her own logic.

Powell's on the ballot

It's gone down to almost the final day, but Jim Powell won (again) in his bid to stay on the ballot in the race for the Public Service Commission. Powell earned the right as the Georgia Supreme Court ruled in his favor today, pushing back the argument put forward by Karen Handel.

I had the chance to briefly chat with George Birchby, Powell's campaign manager, and he said they're pleased with the court's ruling and are eager to continue the campaign.

'It's just another victory for Jim Powell and another defeat for Karen Handel,' he said, referring to Handel's arguments being rebutted by an earlier appeals court.

More extensions

Early voting extended in North Carolina, but still nothing from Katherine Harris ... er ... Karen Handel.

Get it going

More nervousness regarding the joint economic development initiative, this time in Oconee County, though it appears to be over different reasons than some hesitation on the part of what appears to be a handful of commissioners in Athens-Clarke County.

I do think too much is being made of this notion that the agency will expand to include other counties. As currently proposed - and noted earlier - the initial agreement is for equal representation and equal funding from Athens-Clarke County and Oconee County, with the balance of the budget made up through private fundraising efforts.

When this organization is formed, it isn't as if one county will be paying more than another county or that one county will have more representatives than another. In the beginning, both Athens-Clarke County and Oconee County will equally divide responsibilities to get things rolling ... as it should be.

Regarding the future of the organization, including welcoming additional counties or changing the terms of representation and funding, nothing is mapped out yet. All that exists is one suggestion from a joint task force that has normally rational people completely melting down and jeopardizing the potential of the entire project.

The point being that the logical step would be for this equally represented and equally funded organization to get to work promoting the two counties and not necessarily worry about how they're going to handle Jackson County or Madison County coming into the fold 10 to 15 years down the road.

There's an immediate problem regarding economic development and economic recruitment, and the agency - once formed - can make the appropriate decisions regarding expansion. The report merely makes a suggestion (several of them actually), but follows with this wise but overlooked disclaimer - 'Phase I development will determine the appetite toward moving to this phase.'

The intent is to launch the agency based on the existing recommendations and then evaluate in the future. Holding out on not launching this initiative because of concerns that may occur many years down the road if the agency wishes to move in one particular direction is the equivalent of not hiring an employee because they may or may not leave the job 10 years later.

Martin in town

Jim Martin's "Road To Change" tour stops by in the area today with a visit to The Varsity at 2 p.m. He'll have some other local Democratic candidates from across Northeast Georgia joining him.

And get a Frosted Orange while you're there.

SoS insanity

Some national coverage of Karen Handel's refusal to keep early voting sites in Georgia open past 5 p.m., despite the fact that Florida, and its Republican governor, did just that.

Handel already ranks at the top of my list of least favorite and most inept elected officials, so I really shouldn't be stunned by this development. I've never understood why the early voting periods are open only during the standard work day and not extended to 7 p.m. to permit for folks getting off work. This extension, following the precedent of Florida, would have made sense ... particularly given the long lines facing voters throughout the state.

We're not talking about illegally voting, but rather making it more accessible for registered voters to vote. And Handel thinks this is some sort of conspiracy orchestrated by Democrats?


Is this a joke?

I thought you had to pay for advertising like that.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Inviting discussion

Can I get some feedback on the proposed amendments? I'm OK with supporting the first one, and I know I'm not crazy about the third one. Flagpole had to go an endorse the second which has now royally confused me ....

Any discussion on the proposed amendment dealing with TADs and local school districts? I'm flexible on this.

The endorsements

These are my endorsements for local races in Athens-Clarke County and Oconee County. Seeing that it's obvious who I'm backing for president and senator, I won't bother to waste your time.

Clarke County Board of Education District Two
One of a handful of no-brainers to me. Vernon Payne's service of 30 years, while noble, means that it's obvious his time has come and gone for the BOE. Not only was Payne one of the primary reasons it was borderline impossible to pass necessary and required ethics reform, it's time for a fresh start in this district. J.T. Jones brings with him a lifetime of experiences from the public and private sector, the military and a dedication to serving his community. Jones is an excellent choice for this seat.

Clarke County Board of Education District Six
A little less than a year ago, this would have been a difficult choice for me. During my days at the paper, I got to know Charles Worthy and considered him to be a solid choice to serve the community. However, he's provided ineffective leadership for the BOE, stonewalled ethics reform and, according to several sources, was the primary reason Tommy Craft was removed from Cedar Shoals. While I have some reservations about Jim Geiser, there's little question the experience and expertise he brings will benefit the local schools in a way that Worthy cannot.

Clarke County Board of Education District Eight
An excellent choice between two extremely qualified candidates. Chinami Goodie and David Huff both bring different perspectives to the BOE, and both of them are much needed for this body. Goodie, a stay-at-home mother with children in the school district, has been an active and vocal participant in a variety of school functions, including the local PTOs. In addition, she was a key figure in the community-driven movement to have a say in the hiring of the principal at Barnett Shoals Elementary School. Huff would bring a savvy business sense to the BOE, and I give him significant credit for supporting a flexible program to assist at-risk students, modeled after a program in Hall County. While folks would be hard-pressed to go wrong with either candidate, I think Chinami Goodie would be a great asset to the BOE.

Athens-Clarke County Commission District Six
In no race have I wavered back and forth as much as this one. Both Red Petrovs and Ed Robinson have some good qualities and some good ideas, but they also have some negative qualities and some bad ideas. Petrovs has been a visible and active leader in OneAthens and he would bring a much-needed business perspective to the commission, but his politics trend to the right a little bit and I've been troubled by some of his views of local non-profits for quite some time. Robinson has strong views on land-use policy and regional cooperation, but he simply hasn't impressed me much as a candidate (and the annexation discussion - even as a last resort and even as something that might only be possible 20 to 30 years down the road - troubles me). I can see myself agreeing with many of their decisions, but I can also see myself banging my head against a wall based on some of their actions. In the end, however, I have to break with several of my fellow progressives and back Red Petrovs for two main reasons - his committment to fighting poverty (even if it's through a different ideological prism) and his recognition that redeveloping blighted commercial areas, particularly big box shopping centers, is a crucial issue for the district.

Athens-Clarke County Sheriff
Another toss-up ... sort of. On paper, it's easy to gravitate toward Kenneth Brown. He's got a great resume, grew up in the same housing projects he now patrols and offers a fresh break from some of the frustrating debacles that have occurred under Ira Edwards's watch. Still, several folks have expressed to me concern over his ability to effectively manage the department, particularly in light of the impending decision on constructing a new jail. This race will probably be the closest local one, and I'm going to have to with my initial reaction which is to give the nod to Kenneth Brown.

Oconee County Board of Education Post Five
Not a bad race here either. Rich Clark and Tom Breedlove come from different business backgrounds and bring different ideological views to the table, but their common vision is the same. Breedlove's call for efficiency in spending is welcome news in tough economic times, particularly with the state desiring to lop more funding away from local schools. Clark has solid views when it comes to incorporating technology into the classroom and tapping into the resources through the University of Georgia. Lately, this race has been colored by Superintendent-Gate, and that's what pushes me away from my earlier consideration of Breedlove's fiscal responsibility to Clark. Breedlove initially seemed rather indifferent to the very serious nature of the BOE's secrecy, while Clarke immediately called for increased transparency and wasn't shy in expressing his disappointment with the board. As a result, Rich Clark is the best choice in this race.

Oconee County Commission Chairman
Um, yeah. I wanted Sarah Bell to win, so there's that. Melvin Davis is far from a dream as commission chairman, but Tom Leach, at times, appears to be flat-out nuts. So, it's kinda of a case-closed situation as Melvin Davis is the best of the lot.

Bell's new gig

Sarah Bell is preparing to launch a new project in Oconee County that is, apparently, going to be some sort of online news source.

Bell, you may recall, came within 100 votes of knocking off Melvin Davis in the Republican primary for the Oconee County Commission Chairman spot.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

More Georgia ads

Saxon on the offensive

Bobby Saxon's got a new web ad up attacking Paul Broun's military service. Not exactly the line of attack I'd be using, but it's not bad quality though.

Debate wrap-up

Blake's got his coverage from last night's debate, and I was able to get there in time for the discussion between Ed Robinson and Red Petrovs. Not terribly lively, but then again, when you start debating opportunity zones and land-use plans, I suppose it never really is.

Some observations ...

- Robinson did very well in discussing the overuse of Mitchell Bridge Road and Timothy Road as corridors that are designed for residential use but, due to increased development and increased traffic along Epps Bridge Road and Atlanta Highway, have become options for cars to cut through. Robinson noted that those roads aren't designed for such use, and there needs to be an effort to move traffic back to The Loop. I don't disagree.

- Both candidate disagreed with banning left-hand turns onto Atlanta Highway from Mitchell Bridge Road and/or Timothy Road.

- Petrovs was very strong, particularly with regard to focusing on ways to redevelop blighted, big box shopping centers. This is something I've harped on for years, so he has scored major points with me in recent days for discussing this. Robinson's answer was rather disappointing as he acknowledged it wasn't an issue he had given much thought to. I appreciate the honesty though.

- The typical NBAF discussion with both candidates supporting the project, though I think both missed opportunities on the second part of the question from Don Nelson - what have you learned from the opposition to this project. Petrovs did OK, but Robinson bluntly said that we just needed better education and better public relations. An honest position to be sure, but not the ideal answer.

- Neither candidate squashed the silliest question of the night, which was 'I haven't seen y'all at a lot of commission meetings, have you ever been?' They all played it safe and talked about when they did attend and what they've learned. This whole notion that you've had to sit in the audience to get a feel of what you'd want to do when on the commission is foolish to me, and it would have been nice to hear one of them say it.

Just one week left

Now that we're down to one week until Election Day, for no explainable reason I give you a random assortment of Alabama songs ...

Song Of The South by Alabama
High Cotton by Alabama
Mountain Music by Alabama
I'm In A Hurry by Alabama
Why Lady Why by Alabama

Monday, October 27, 2008


Here's everything wrong with today's Republican Party, and a large reason why traditionally conservative folks like my father and uncle are so upset with politics today ...

Everyone's distracted by economic news, (Tony) Hale said, and voters who are used to making decisions based on their values are no different.

"For most people right now, it's about the economy," said Jason Spinx, who was one of about 50 attending the rally. "People are distracted right now. ... It's a dangerous time."

It is nothing less than insulting and patronizing to label the economic hardships that folks are going through as 'distractions.' It's insulting to merely classify them as 'distractions' and fail to recognize that things like economic policy also are value-based issues for many people. It's insulting to the people who hold issues like abortion as key issues and call their viable concerns over the economy as 'distractions.'

It's a realization that while many of their base may adhere to a more conservative social issues worldview, they also line up center-left on many economic issues (which is why Mike Huckabee was the Republican candidate I was most concerned about ... followed by John McCain).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A familiar argument

Doc Eldridge makes sense ...

Splitting Clarke County between two districts could hurt Athens one day, though, because senators from outside Athens could potentially hold both seats, Eldridge said. Athens is the fifth-largest metro area in the state and should be guaranteed at least one senator, he said.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Economies of scale

I've received numerous clarifications from a variety of folks regarding the joint economic task force that point out that Athens-Clarke County District Five Commissioner David Lynn was either misrepresenting the nature of the proposal or didn't accurately comprehend what it would be.

The best one comes from a comment by Brian, so I've posted it here ...

Commissioner Lynn is not correct in this regard. The initial recommendation to establish this organization -- which has been explained to each commissioner in both counties -- is for the counties to first commit their existing resources to the effort. This is approximately $220,000 for each county which yields an equal split with equal representation; the private sector would be responsible for an additional $220,000 which is not currently being raised or utilized.

As currently envisioned, once the board is set up, it would drive the policy forward and develop future funding strategies. Many other regional economic development organizations do use a per capita method, but it is by no means set in stone.

As someone who served on the committee, I can state unequivocally that the initial recommendation is absolutely equal funding=equal representation from Clarke and Oconee.

The report notes that future growth, as Brian points out, is something that is dependent on the success of the two-county partnership and the private sector fundraising efforts. Likewise, there is no discussion of what the representation would be for each county in moving forward ...

This model also welcomes the addition of other counties. The task force believes that with some successes and greater appreciation for economies of scale, neighboring counties will want to join the effort. At this point, funding at a per capita basis per county and possibly a dedicated percentage of millage would provide a steady, long-term avenue for funding in addition to a strong multi-year, private sector fund-raising effort, similar to the Hallmark Campaign in Hall County. Phase I development will determine the appetite toward moving to this phase.

Fruit flies!

I mean, there are times when I think you really can't dream up stuff like this campaign.

Friday, October 24, 2008


Can someone with a better legal background than, well, me, point to an example of one county forcibly annexing a portion of another county? Preferably in Georgia?

Not that I doubt that such attempts haven't taken place or aren't possible, but I'd like to see some past examples.

Almost unbelievable

Insider Advantage gives Barack Obama slim lead over John McCain ... in Georgia.

Granted, they've been an outlyer of sorts, but other polls indicate a tightening in the race here. I'm not sure what to attribute this to outside of an increasingly level of comfort among swing voters and disaffected Republicans.

A hyper-local, non-reliable example would be my family. My grandmother, a die-hard Hillary Clinton supporter, has repeatedly said she wouldn't vote for either Obama or McCain (despite the requests of my mother and I). In the past week, however, she managed to talk someone in her Sunday School class into voting for Obama, and now she concedes she's likely to vote for him.

A more extreme case comes from my father, who leans conservative at the national level and was a big fan of McCain up until this election. He has repeatedly said the Sarah Palin pick 'offended' him and that he just wouldn't vote. But, again, in the past week, he's shown signs of growing comfortable with an Obama presidency and is considering casting his ballot for him.

Again, neither example is scientific by any means, but it's likely similar realizations are occuring among other undecided voters with waivering allegiances.

Partnership two-step

Speaking of regional cooperation, the first signs of trouble for the proposed economic development partnership between Athens-Clarke County and Oconee County ... and this is just the beginning.

They're valid concerns from Athens-Clarke County commissioners, namely why should one county pay significantly more but receive equal representation. Of course, the part of a partnership is to ensure equal representation from all parties, which is why I'd favor less financial investment from Athens-Clarke County.

It's not the ideal solution by any means, but I believe each county needs to have an equal say. Likewise, each county needs to be able to invest its resources into the mix, and it's not fair for one community to contribute the bulk of funding but have minimal say in how those resources are allocated.


Forgive me, but this annexation talk is crazy.

I mean, really ... annexation.

Ed Robinson - apparently in a desperate attempt to give me further doubts about his candidacy following his lackadaisical approach to his Athens Grow Green questionnaire - raises the possibility of annexing parts of the surrounding counties that have different land uses and zonings than those that line Athens-Clarke County.

This whole thing starts off very rationally as Robinson rightfully argues that Athens-Clarke County officials should try to partner with its neighbors with regard to getting their land-use plans all on the same page (with presumably an emphasis on the borders). This is a very reasonable suggestion, but then it spirals off of the deep end by suggesting that if this doesn't happen, Athens-Clarke County will morph into an uber-blighted urban center that no one will find desirable.

And, if the talks break off, Athens-Clarke County should then enter into a protracted legal battle to forcibly take land from its neighboring counties.

Listen, I'm concerned about sprawl and overdevelopment, but this is lunacy.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Good choices

Far too often the past few years, I've felt I've had to make a choice between sub-par candidates who I'm rather lukewarm about and candidates who I, quite frankly, share little, if any, views with.

This year, however, has been so incredibly refreshing as there are numerous candidates running across the country who I genuinely like. So, unlike just having Jon Tester in 2006, I've got a slew of good pragmatic progressives running in what is shaping up to be a good year for Democrats across the nation.

I just figured I'd spotlight a few that I'd like to see do well on November 4.

Mark Begich

Darcy Burner

Debbie Cook

Kay Hagan

Scott Kleeb

Ronnie Musgrove

Mark Warner

Budget wonkiness and realities

Seeing how we're rightfully scrutinizing the statements and positions of folks running for the Georgia General Assembly, one of the issues dominating the discussion is that of the budget shortfall.

The typical response I've heard from most Republicans - and many Democrats too - is that we have to keep taxes low, control spending and wait for the resulting economic growth that will be a boon to our state revenues. This, of course, doesn't exactly add up for many reasons with the most prevailing one being the fact that Georgia, like most states, operates under a balanced budget.

Revenue growth, aided by tax cuts, is not a reliable strategy for covering shortfalls and balancing state budgets. In non-recession years, our revenue growth has averaged eight percent a year for the past 20-plus years according to The Georgia Budget And Policy Institute.

Let's say you had a shortfall of roughly $750 million, which about half of what we currently face. You'd need that eight percent growth to cover that plus any increases you'd see in educational enrollment or cost-of-living increases for teachers and state employees.

And that just focuses on the status quo ...

This 8 percent growth in revenues does not include inflationary increases for healthcare (Medicaid, PeachCare, State Employees Health Benefit Plan), new debt service to pay for infrastructure needs (schools, water and sewer, prisons, maintenance of state owned buildings including hospitals), increases in Department of Corrections budget due to growth in state prison population, or state employee retiree health plan obligations (OPEB).

You'd need revenue growth of more than 11 percent to cover all of this. On top of that, you'd need more to pay for any improvements or upgrades to things like education, mental health or child welfare.

The research notes that only one time in the past 20 years has Georgia had 10 percent revenue growth and, given that we're in the midst of the biggest economic crisis since The Great Depression, I don't see us eclipsing this mark any time soon.

More on the Payne endorsement

My old boss defends the endorsement of Vernon Payne, and it's an honest argument to be sure. I've got no problem in saying that it's a shame that J.T. Jones bumbled around while searching for an answer to an easy question.

Still, I have a hard time faulting him for one poor answer in one debate. Jones is a dedicated individual with a diverse resume that gives him a wealth of experiences to draw from. Payne, no doubt a good man, has served in his capacity for 30 years and watched as the graduation rates for Clarke County's schools fell and test scores dipped.

I just have a hard time rewarding Payne for those struggles during his tenure, but also for his stubborn refusal to adopt needed (and required) ethics reforms. In fact, the same editorial staff told the public to hold them accountable, but now they refuse to follow their own advice based on, again, one fumbled answer.

I probably shouldn't ...

Though I'm hurtling down a path I shouldn't traverse, this rant by local favorite Winfield J. Abbe is astounding ...

Wouldn't it be nice if our Georgia lawmakers would change the voting law to read: "No person is elected and no ballot or tax increase is passed unless a majority of the registered voters approve." This would end the tyranny of the minority that has dominated most elections for decadesin Athens and Georgia. Most of the time a majority of the registered voters does not even show up at the polls, let alone "elect" a candidate or "approve" a multi million or billion dollar tax increase for more "SPLOST" money for government does it? Also, in voting, there are three outcomes: One may vote "yes" or "no" or abstain. The abstention is just as fundamental a right as the right to vote "yes" or "no" on a candidate or issue. But the present prejudiced and unfair voting law tosses every abstention out the window and only favors those voters who have made up their minds. This is obviously done for the convenience of running government and nothing more. This is minority rule most of the time. Even in judicial bodies, one person cannot show up and dominiate the business of a meeting can they? Why should therefore a tiny minority (plurality) that happens to show up at the polls then dominate a multi million dollar tax increase just because they happen to show up at the polls while a large majority remained undecided for whatever reason? This is the tyranny of the minority. America was founded because of unfair taxation without representation. Yet, after over 2 centuries, the "best" our lawmakers could do was create a most unfair and tyrannical system not unlike the very system objected to by our ancestors that resulted in the Boston Tea Party and a violent revolution with England. All our officials care about is the ease which which government can be operated, not basic fairness. They learned nothing from history. Normally, if enough registered voters abstain or have not made up their minds, this prevents business from being transacted. This would be true majority rule, not the shame "rule of the majority who happen to show up at the polls", or tiny plurality, argument and law.

I don't even understand how this argument could be constructed. First off, registered voters have every right to go the poll and cast their ballots, so it would seem rather heavy-handed to pass legislation that would restrict how our government works based on voter apathy. Of course, by all accounts - and, yes, by even in the very story Abbe comments on - this election figures to have unprecedented turnout levels, which sort of makes such criticism seem silly.

Secondly, we operate under a representative democracy where we elect people to represent us at all levels of government. They may not do a bang-up job all the time, but that's what we've got. On other occasions, we have community-wide referendums that deal with things like SPLOST. Of course, that again goes back to the first point which is that, following his logic, Abbe's concern should be with apathetic voters and not a tyrannical government.

Football wonkiness


Though I'm with Rick Reilly ... I would have taken Adrian Peterson too.

Ah, memories

As a former resident of Athens-Clarke County's District Six, let me address some of Wally Eberhard's concerns, namely this passage ...

But a serious look at the district reveals problems and shortcomings. There is no safe public park (Anyone for a picnic at Ben Burton? Right.) There are no walking or bike trails. There are no ball diamonds for Little League or adult play. There is no community center or programs for citizens out this way. There's no branch library. The fire station is small and outmoded, though the firefighters are first class. We've never had a community meeting or districtwide attempt at two-way communication on our needs. I have heard of no plans to upgrade our civic amenities. What do you two propose to do about all this?

I just don't think much of this is accurate and, of what is, I doubt the feasibility of some of it. For starters, it begins with the premise that every district is due a park or baseball field or branch library. For a variety of reasons, these suggestions are economically viable. Let's take the library, why should there be a branch library located in District Six when the main library is just 10 minute drive from the district?

Let's take the fire station, while it's in need of some upkeep, it's still a serviceable and functional station, is it not? And, in case additional support is needed, there is a new station on Oglethorpe Street which can provide assistance.

I can concede Ben Burton Park's safety concerns, but it's still park that lies within the district lines and it's come a long way from where it used to be. It's still a strong resource that, with some increased investment, can be a great destination for families.

The community wide meetings? Well, why doesn't Eberhard get working on that (though, to be fair, I can't think of many districts which actually do this sort of thing)? The job of the commissioners is to be open and accessible, and I always found Carl Jordan willing to take my questions or concerns during my time there.

The Clarke BOE

David Huff is impressive in this article where he talks about modeling a program for the Clarke County schools after a successful one for at-risk students in Hall County. It's the type of solution that can go a long way in addressing the low graduation rates in Clarke County.

Which is why I don't agree with this endorsement of Vernon Payne. If you make the argument, as the editorial does, that Payne might just be part of the problem seeing how he's been in office for 30 years, then it's difficult for me to see how he's entitled to another four years.

J.T. Jones's resume speaks for itself, and there's no question that he's genuinely concerned about seeing the students in the district succeed. Not to say that Payne isn't - far from it - but, again, the record doesn't match the rhetoric.

As far as this notion that Jones couldn't find one positive thing to say about the schools, I don't see why that's a legitimate concern. There are many things to be proud of in the Clarke County schools, but I didn't take Jones's non-answer to be either naivity or disapproval. Rather, it's fair to suggest that he's focused on the areas that need improvement and what he can bring to the table to fix them.

I'm a klutz

Back at the old house, The Wife would get on to me because, for no explainable reason, I'd comically and overdramatically slam shut our cabinet doors in the kitchen. Of course, after doing this for a while, I managed to split the wood on one, which got me in trouble with the missus.

Flash forward to the present at our new house where we've got tall cabinets with many shelves in our kitchen. While putting up dishes this morning, I apparently put too much stress on the door while either reaching up or pushing it open, but the center piece of the wood popped out and split down the side.

So here we have an honest accident, but I've managed to damage one of the doors of our kitchen cabinets ... again.

But, it was an accident. Y'all got my back, right?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Selective memory

As noted by Matt Yglesias, this story in The Moultrie Observer has what I find to be a curious prescription to the ongoing recession.

Saxby Chambliss wants to return to the commitment of the 1994 Republican Revolution and balance the federal budget, which is something I'm not necessarily opposed to. Of course, he ticks that off as something to cope with the current financial crisis.

The only way to achieve this balanced budget, of course, is by massive cuts to existing public programs (which folks depend on more readily during times of economic peril) and by increasing taxes in some areas (again, not good medicine in a bad economy).

To underline this sudden need for fiscal responsibility - something Chambliss willingly ignored during his previous six years in Congress - he's skeptical of another round of economic stimulus checks because he's worried about the deficit.

Of course, such long-term fiscal concerns didn't crop up a few weeks ago when he fully backed a $700 billion bailout package.

The Big Dog is coming

From the Jim Martin campaign, Bill Clinton is coming to headline a fundraiser for him on Saturday in Atlanta. Pretty impressive. We haven't seen this type of attention for a Georgia race, from the national level, in a long, long time.

Debating downsizing Epps Bridge Centre

A pretty informative piece by Adam Thompson on the proposed Epps Bridge Centre development, and it spotlights some of the lingering concerns I have with the project.

Now, in my earlier post on it, Brian and I had a good-natured disagreement regarding 'choosing your battles', but, following that logic, then don't you have to choose some battles ... so why not this battle?

I'm not arguing that the development shouldn't come (though I don't think it's entirely necessary, and I'm not interested in making any part of our region look like the mindless sprawl of Gwinnett County), but rather that the proposal seems completely out of line with the community's needs.

Yes, it suits the future land use plan. Yes, it's contingent on the extension of the Oconee Connector. Yes, additional retail space can bring a boon for tax collection.

But for all of those 'yes' answers, it was still given a thumbs down by the Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center.

This is a project that spans 70 acres inside The Loop and right next to a primary creek that feeds into the Middle Oconee River. It's one that will devote 38 of those acres to parking spaces, close to 3,000 spots in all. The runoff concerns from that are going to be rather significant, particularly if the state waives the stream buffer regulations.

I would have been much more comfortable if the Oconee County Commission had recommended that the developer work with Planning Commission to downsize the project and preserve, to the best of their ability, the impacted streams and wetlands. Given that the project can't move forward anyway until the extension is approved and built by the state, there's no harm, no foul on this front.

The commission, however, chose not to do that, and I think that's unfortunate.

Follow(ing) The Money

I'm just curious, but if you're supposed to be the 'anti-establishment' candidate, then what in the world are you doing collecting checks from Bridgestone Tires, Aflac, Georgia Power, Exxon Mobil, Textron, The Home Depot, R.J. Reynolds, Ford Motor Company, etc. and etc.? That seems, well, kinda establishment-oriented to me.

Also, $2,000 from Dana Rohrabacher just adds to the comedic level. Paul Broun gets lampooned for talking about eating cow patties, and he takes money from a guy who apparently dressed like a woman to visit with Sirhan Sirhan.

Follow The Money

Always entertaining, but here is Flagpole's 'Follow The Money' for 2008.

Faith and fear

This video is one of the more chilling displays from the Religious Right I've seen in quite a while. I honestly was very disturbed watching it.

As I see it, someone who adheres to a deeply conservative Christian worldview probably does have many reasons to oppose Obama based on abortion, gay rights, etc., so it's not shocking someone like this woman wouldn't back him if she values those issues at the top. Of course, there's no indication that she does. Instead, it's just a terrifyingly ill-informed, pre-determined decision to go with John McCain, come hell or high water, based on personal fears.

She quite simply says that she can't support someone named 'Obama' and says his faith isn't the same as her faith regardless of what he's said or what he's done. It's as simple as that, and her arrogance and condescending disapproval of her husband's struggle with the decision reveals a lot.

Faith should have a legitimate role in our public discourse and, yes, in how some folks evaluate their electoral decisions. But this type of illogical fearmongering is staggering to me.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Way too early for this

In an interesting, but honestly not terribly surprising development, Roy Barnes leads ridiculously early polling in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup with Karen Handel for the governor's race in 2010.

Barnes was a victim of a Republican wave in 2002, and he took hits for his education reform proposals and from the flaggers. Eight years later, however, would be a different story, particularly given the budget fiasco and economic hardships of the past few years. He'd be a very, very strong candidate.

I'm not sold that Handel runs, though. I think it's either Casey Cagle or John Oxendine for the Republicans.

Robinson in 2004

I had a nice email exchange with some folks from Athens Grow Green (honestly, a good one), where I expressed where I was coming from in my criticism and comments. And, truth be told, I dug through some previous questionnaires to take a look and Ed Robinson's responses in 2004 during his bid for the District 10 seat were insanely thorough.

Why he didn't show as much thoughtfulness this time around, who knows.

AGG issues a response

Beth Gavrilles from Athens Grow Green emailed me a response to my concerns over their endorsement process, and, as always, I appreciate it ...

I’m responding as a member of the AGGC elections committee. It’s true that Ed’s questionnaire responses were a lot shorter and less detailed than Red’s, but as we mentioned on the Web site we also considered information from the candidates’ Web sites and other public statements. As you know, our central issue is growth management and our decision was chiefly based on the different philosophies of the candidates on this issue. We believe that strong growth management policies are necessary to protect the environment, and based on a number of his statements, we felt that Red’s approach is too hands off. This is a fundamental issue for us, and although we were favorably impressed with a lot of what Red said, we just couldn’t get past that.

However, we do post everything and include the links to the candidates’ Web sites with the idea being that anyone who’s interested doesn’t need to take our word for it but can read and decide for him- or herself. We tried to be clear about why we made the decision we did.

I also want to add that we like and respect Red, and we support his work with OneAthens. It was not an easy decision for us.

And, again, I've always admired the work of AGG, and Beth is a loyal reader of this blog and good people all the way around.

Home sales trends

Thought this was interesting.

The Athens Area Association of Realtors sent out its monthly statistics, and home sales and sale prices continue to fall in our struggling economy.

In September, $11.75 million in home sales in the area, which is down by more than $3 million from August and more than $17 million from July. The median sold price in September was $124,000 compared to $152,000 in August. Homes were also, on the average, staying on the market longer by 36 days compared to a month ago.

BOE school funding

Food for thought

Had Oconee County's Superintendent-Gate happened in Athens-Clarke County, we'd be swamped with letters calling for their heads and editorials condeming deception, a lack of vision and poor fiscal management in a time of economic crisis.

30 years = No change

Well, that Scott Johnson makes a pretty good point.

Monday, October 20, 2008

AGG redux

Calling this a 'sham' might be too harsh, but it's insulting to delve into the endorsement of Ed Robinson from Athens Grow Green, and Blake notices this too.

Consider this from the endorsement ...

Environmental issues are a prominent aspect of his platform, including a stronger tree protection ordinance, expanded controls on mass grading, strengthening the transit system, reducing emissions from the ACC government’s vehicle fleet and facilities, and improving water conservation rates.

Um, how exactly did they glean this information from Robinson's submitted survey? If you go to Robinson's issues page you find a mention of some of these things, but nothing really in detail on any of the noted topics.

Listen, I've got no problem with AGG endorsing Robinson. I think he arguably lines up with their views more so than Red Petrovs does. I do, however, take issue with requiring candidates to fill out a survey that is supposed to illuminate the organization's membership on their views and then, by all appearances, ignoring those responses to endorse a certain candidate.

Why bother?

I've given Red Petrovs a hard time in some areas, but I've got to defend the poor guy here and, in a broader sense, roundly criticize Athens Grow Green for this.

I mean, what the hell? Ed Robinson's answers to their questionnaire are sufficient to garner an endorsement? It's embarassing - and borderline disconnected from reality - to read such a full-throated endorsement of Robinson based on such scant answers that are, in some areas, superficial and, in other areas, littered with typos. The lack of depth in the answers to a five-question survey is rather staggering.

And to land the endorsement? Robinson may very well be the more green friendly candidate, but I don't think you get a clear sense of that from the questionnaire. Perhaps he worked behind the scenes as candidates (rightly) do, but why then even bother with a survey?

And what about Petrovs? He obviously took the necessary time to contemplate the questions posed to him and present what he felt were honest and thoughtful answers. Sure, I have some areas of agreement and disagreement with him, but they were surely more thorough than Robinson's.

I've spent a good bit of my time, particularly in 2006, defending AGG - and, make no mistake, the organization lobbies and fights for sound and noble environmental standards - but this is almost inexcusable. If it was determined to endorse Robinson from the outset, which now seems apparent, then the organization ought to seriously reconsider how it makes it endorsements. Perhaps a closed-door meeting with the group's leadership would make more sense because this doesn't make any.

Always next year

Well, two world titles in four years is pretty good too.

And, got to say, the Rays came to play. They've got enough solid young pitching and clutch hitting to beat anyone. Tampa Bay went out on the field, overcame a pair of late losses in the American League Championship Series and fended off three straight rallies in the final three innings by the Red Sox to reach their first World Series.

My hat's off to 'em.

For Boston, nothing to be worried about. This was an unusual collection of players, cobbled together following the mid-season trade for Manny Ramirez that left David Ortiz largely unprotected in the lineup and a rash of injuries that kept players from performing at their top level. Seeing how they took a vastly superior Tampa Bay team down to the wire makes me think this is Terry Francona's best managerial job yet.

Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell and Ortiz will mend in the off-season. Jon Lester, Dice-K and Beckett still form one of the more formidable rotations in baseball. There's ample young talent from top to bottom in the lineup that will only continue to get better. And Boston's got the money to go out and land a slugger to give Ortiz the protection he needs in the lineup.

I'm torn who to pull for the World Series, though. The Rays are a great story, but I've always liked Ryan Howard.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Slow news day?

Slow news day in Atlanta? I mean, six protesters merits a story?

Failure of leadership

The more I ponder Superintendent-Gate, the more bothered I am by the whole situation.

And this story helps puts a lot of those problems into the proper context.

This is a failure of leadership because proper leadership would not have rewarded the superintendent with a contract extension and then, just a handful of weeks later, force him into retirement over 'philosophical differences.'

Furthermore, there's no polite way to say this, but the board has ultimately lied to the public for the past half a year regarding this situation. It's a lie to claim that this was a good-natured depature based on health reasons when, in fact, you reveal down the road that you had these differences with him and forced him out. It's a lie when you said that Tom Dohrmann approached you and asked to retire when, in fact, you approached him and told him to step down.

I mean, that's the fact of the matter. An elected body of officials has been brazeningly lying to its constituents on this matter, and it did so during a contested election cycle with two of its current members vying for reelection.

Compounding the problem is Tom Breedlove's indifference to this situation. Along with Rich Clark, Breedlove is one of the last two candidates seeking a spot on the board (and, considering he's got an 'R' next to his name on the ballot, he's all but assured to win). One would think that Breedlove would recognize the seriousness of this issue, but he doesn't and says 'it's not a huge thing to me.'

Um, deceiving the public isn't a huge deal? Wasting money on an additional salary for a non-active employee during a budget crisis isn't a huge deal? Showing poor judgement in re-upping, then dismissing an employee isn't a huge deal?

What in the world is a huge deal to Breedlove?

That type of indifference is what helped created this problem, isn't it?

Listen, if the board had a legitimate difference of opinion with Dohrmann, then they are within their right to remove him from his position. But to renew his contract and then force him out a few weeks later, to mislead the public for half a year about the nature of the split and keep an additional superintendent's salary on the books at a time when you're having to cut funding for necessary services for the district is a monumental failure of leadership on the part of the Oconee County Board of Education.

Criticizing for criticizing's sake

I think this is overreaching, no? In some ways, isn't this how government should work? Shouldn't it respond to the concerns and questions of the community it represents? I mean, surely the Athens-Clarke County Commission could have moved forward in a more tactful way on some of these issues, particularly the faulty trash franchising proposal, but to fault them for recognizing the public's concern over the proposal and making the appropriate amendments is foolish.

Furthermore, this passage was off-base ...

And all of this comes after some commissioners tried earlier this year to unilaterally strip federal grant funding from a couple of social service agencies that had been fixtures in the black community for years.

Well, to put it mildly, that was the problem. These organizations had become fixtures and, as the data has shown, they weren't fulfilling their obligations to provide the service and support needed to the African-American community. Again, it can be argued that the commission acted somewhat heavy-handed in making the change, but the change was absolutely necessary.

The funding was not dedicated for those social service agencies, but rather dedicated for benefitting the community. And it was very clear the community was not be served in an effective manner by either organization, thus the recommendation to remove funding from those agencies.

This editorial is a criticism of style, not of substance ... because the substance shows that the commission, however clumsy it might have acted, responded to the criticism and took the appropriate steps to make amends.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Calling a lie, well, a lie

Apparently Saxby Chambliss's re-election messaging strategy is to simply make stuff up to suit the political winds, including blatantly lying about Democrats not regulating subprime mortgages.

I mean, seriously, this is an argument that is wholly ignorant. It's so completely divorced from reality, that I don't know how to seriously process it. Democrats have repeatedly called for more oversight with regard to subprime mortgages, as noted here and here.

I mean, honestly ...

Updating the map

North Dakota.

Looks like we've got a potential map-changing election on our hands here, which is pretty interesting. It's refreshing to see both Barack Obama and John McCain airing TV ads in Georgia, which hasn't been the case in our state for roughly 16 years.

Contrary to's assertions, Ohio and Florida aren't essential to an Obama victory. Currently, Obama has 264 base electoral votes, including New Mexico where he holds close to an eight-point lead.

This base does not include the following states ...

Virginia, 13 EVs (Obama up 6.5)
Colorado, 9 EVs (Obama up 5.7)
Florida, 27 EVs (Obama up 2.4)
Ohio, 20 EVs (Obama up 2.3)
Missouri, 11 EVs (Obama up 2.3)
Nevada, 5 EVs (Obama up 2.3)
North Carolina, 15 EVs (Obama up 1.7)
North Dakota, 3 EVs (Obama up 1.7)
West Virginia, 5 EVs (McCain up 0.7)

Judging by these numbers, McCain could win both Florida and Ohio, and Obama could still have a path to 270 outside of those two states. Surely the former needs those states, but he's also got to pretty much run the table in the rest of them too.

I'm not ruling anything out. In fact, I expect McCain to close the deal on a good number of these states. But I also expect Obama to take Nevada and at least one other state, which is all he has to do. It's not the time to take the foot off the pedal by any means, but it also shows what a well-managed, well-funded national campaign can do.

Strategy or scared?

Speaking of challengers with military backgrounds running against incumbents who don't want to debate, I'm scratching my head over John Linder's refusal to participate in a series of debates against Doug Heckman. Granted, Linder's got the political cover of opposing the bailout and is an entrenched Republican in Georgia, but it's more than weird for Linder to ...

- Decline an invitation from WSB-TV to take advantage of a five-minute recording to be played for viewers in the district, becoming the only major candidate to do so

- Refuse to participate in the United Peachtree Corners Civic Association public forum

- Refuse to participate in the Atlanta Press Club's debate televised by Georgia Public Television

Again, Linder's arguably the favorite in this thing, but it's crazy to simply refuse to share the stage with your opponent at all. I'm not sure why this is such a common practice for so many of the House Republicans in Georgia.

Just saying

The only thing really worth taking away from this article on polling and fundraising in the 10th Congressional District race is that Paul Broun, for all of his talk about fiscal responsibility, doesn't exactly know how to employ it with regard to his own ventures.

Soaring through your taxpayer-funded congressional budget in half a year, and then having a similar amount of cash on hand as Bobby Saxon who, admittedly, has struggled with fundraising this year, doesn't full me with confidence. Seems like he talks a good game, but can't really walk the walk.

As far as the poll numbers, I put Broun probably ahead 15 percent right now. A lot can happen though, particularly if Saxon's able to get some ads up on radio.

Looking close at the BOE races

The headline may have focused on the sheriff's race in Athens-Clarke County, but the real interesting discussions involve the candidates for the Clarke County Board of Education. And it's interesting because we're starting to sort through the views and rationales of the candidates vying for office.

A pair of challengers - Jim Geiser and David Huff - broke ranks with the other four candidates on stage during last night's debate and said the local schools have more than enough funding, which is a perfectly legitimate position to hold.

Geiser fumbled the particulars, claiming that Clarke County pays $1,000 more per pupil than they actually do and failing to recognize that such a sum is built from an average that includes higher-than-average costs for a large special-needs population and gifted population.

Such details, however, while important, aren't terribly crucial to this discussion. What is crucial is sorting out the worldviews, and it seems more and more as if Geiser and Huff adhere to more conservative philosophy seeing how 'ample funding' is an argument put forward by many Republicans in Athens-Clarke County.

I discussed Huff's race here, and I noted that he appeared to lean Republican based on his voting history. It should also be pointed out that Geiser spoke at the Clarke County Republican Party earlier this week, though Flagpole notes that he's received funding from prominent Democratic backers in town.

Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not arguing that a Republican can't do a fine job for a community at the local level, and, in fact, I count several Republican local officials as my friends. While we've got a few differences of opinion, I do believe they do fine jobs in their respective positions and serve their communities well, which is the most important thing.

My point in all of this is that Athens-Clarke County is, by in large, an overwhelmingly Democratic community. It's an island of blue in a sea of red here in Georgia, and the voters ought to know how ideology shapes one's worldview.

I'm all for non-partisan elections, but I'm also all for honesty in your campaigning. If choosing Huff or Geiser is the direction it wants to go, then that's something the community should make with as much information at their fingertips possible.

Getting serious

In difficult budget times, I'm definitely in favor of making prioritized and targeted cuts in certain areas, but the glee shown by some Republicans when it comes time to hack away at our state budget is not only sophomoric, but also not viable.

Arguably we've got to make some tough decisions - particularly since Republicans projected a 2.5 percent increase in revenue, despite gloomy economic forecasts, and we got stuck with a $1.5 billion or so shortfall - but senseless across-the-board cuts in areas where investments have the real potential to spur future economic growth doesn't add up to me.

If we're cutting, why aren't we cutting the $30 million for 'Go Fish' or taking another look at the more than $100 million in special interest tax breaks or tax credits for donations to private schools or the litany of small local projects which, while many of them no doubt are necessary, they aren't imperative to our immediate needs?

And why aren't we looking at raising the cigarette tax from one of the lowest in the nation at 37 cents per pack by $1 to help generate $500 million in immediate revenue that can be targeted to make up the shortfall (as well as have a benefit on the public health and, ultimately, long-term savings in health care spending)?

Since Republicans love to talk about tax reform, why aren't we actually getting serious about it? Our state income tax system hasn't been properly reformed since the 1930s, meaning the top income tax bracket is $10,000 (for married couples filing jointly).

These are all serious questions, and they deserve serious answers. As of late, it just doesn't strike me as if the Republicans in Atlanta are all that serious about addressing them.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Not sure why Joe The Plumber would care about any sort of tax plan since, well, he doesn't like to pay taxes anyway.

Ineffective arguments

Reading this Oconee Enterprise article on Superintendent-Gate doesn't make me feel any better about this thing.

Listen, I know David Weeks, and I really like the guy. He used to coach at Oconee County, and I loved chatting with him back when I worked at the paper. And we've stayed in touch over the years and, all in all, I think he's going to do a fine job as the chairman of the Oconee County Board of Education.

Still, he's completely fumbled this thing.

First of all, his math doesn't add up and his logic doesn't make any sense. How in the world was the board able 'to save the taxpayers pretty significantly' in this whole thing? You're paying for two superintendent salaries right now, and you've only got one of them working for you. At a time when you're being asked to cut $350,000 or so from your budget, I would think an additional $90,000 is something that taxpayers should be upset about.

Secondly, who cares if the Clarke County Board of Education had, at one time, three superintendents? They don't right now, do they? Listen, I've got plenty of complaints about that board, and I'm optimistic we'll see some new blood over there soon enough, but this is a weird attempt to merely change the discussion by saying 'well, gee, we're not as bad as those guys.'

This whole thing was clumsy, and they should rightfully take some hits for it. It's poor leadership to renew an employee to a three-year extension and then, just a few weeks later, change your mind and force him to retire. On top of that, you keep it quiet that you're paying for two superintendents and have the nerve to ask the schools to cut back on training, transportation and building maintenance.

Very disappointing

This is pretty troubling.

And it's not troubling in the sense that I think there's some nefarious plot afoot at the Oconee County Board of Education, but it's troubling in that those involved exercised poor judgement in not only trying to hide this situation, but also that they got themselves in it to begin with.

It's not necessarily my place to say whether or not Tom Dohrmann was or was not the right man to implement the board's vision, but I do think the board erred in making the decision to force his retirement when they did.

For starters, the board should have recognized that Dohrmann would have been willing to retire one year later because it would have given him the required amount of time to be eligible for full benefits. The board also should have never agreed to renew his contract for an additional three years and then, just a few weeks later, inform Dohrmann they had 'philosophical differences' with him and force him out.

It just seems there was little leadership or common sense employed in this manner. As someone who serves on several advisory and managerial boards, as well as one who offers consultation to them, I know all too well that the vision of staff and the vision of a board can differ. And, in those cases, it is sometimes best to move on.

But you've also got to be pragmatic about things like this and forcing Dohrmann out a year before his retirement - thus putting you on the hook for close to $100,000 for an employee who literally doesn't do anything on top of an additional $150,000 or so for an interim superintendent - isn't pragmatic at all.

Further complicating this is that the board attempted to keep this expenditure quiet from the taxpayers of this county while, at the same time, coping with more than $350,000 in state-mandated cuts. When you consider that Oconee County, like most other counties during these tough economic times, has had to trim its expenses and that means instituting a hiring freeze and cutting back on maintenance and training, it's becomes somewhat appalling to process this.

To top it all off, this went on during a contested election cycle, meaning those who signed off on such a course of action weren't held accountable. That's rather insulting to the voters of this county, and I say that as someone who thinks very highly of the individuals serving on the board.

I'm very, very disappointed in the board's actions, particularly given the circumstances of this election and the challenges with regard to funding.

Proof of insanity

Think I'm crazy about this Southern California thing?

Not so much.

One lap to go

Thank the Lord the debates are finally over.

And, say, does anyone know a good plumber?

UPDATE: Apparently, no one is getting my joke regarding the now-infamous 'Joe The Plumber' who got referenced a million times last night ... particularly since two friends have kindly emailed me the names of plumbers they prefer to use. And don't worry, I'm sure I'll need one eventually, so I'll hold on to their numbers.

Shameless Daddy moment

Now that she likes to walk around everywhere, The Kid has also become quite a fan of music. And this morning, while driving her to day care, she kicked her feet and bobbed her head to Luke Bryan's I'm A Country Man.

Needless to say, it was pretty darn cute.

That's all.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Try logic

By all accounts, I find Erick at Peach Pundit to be a nice enough guy who, by in large, has been respective of my views.

Still, labeling John Lewis a race baiter is the sort of backward logic that he, as well as the many other modern-day Republicans who currently have their party in a stranglehold, love to employ.

Lewis's comments were directed at the language and rhetoric being leveled by many surrogates of the McCain campaign, including John McCain and Sarah Palin. When you say that Barack Obama 'pals around with terrorists' you're equating him with terrorists. When you ask 'who is the real Barack Obama?' on top of all that, it's only logical that some nut in the crowd is gonna holler 'terrorist!' or 'Arab terrorist!'

If we're supposed to hunt out and kill terrorists, then how in the world is it responsible for any campaign to permit that type of language to exist? Even if it comes from the nuts who populate these rallies?

Lewis may not have been artful in his criticism - and he surely wasn't - but for someone who stood down the billy clubs in Selma, Ala., to say this type of incendiary language (which has been denounced by prominent conservatives across the board and, most recently, by McCain himself) can potentially foster a climate of hate and violence to be labeled a race baiter is to turn rational thought on its head.

A bunch of rallies are held and the opinion is pushed forward that Obama isn't 'one of them' and accusations of him being a 'terrorist' or 'traitor' or 'Arab' aren't challenged, but actually encouraged. A man who fought for civil rights draws a clumsy, albeit effective historical analogy.

And he is the race baiter?

Apparently, up is down to some folks.

It's us now

More proof of the tightening race in Georgia, as we're the story now. Let's face it, seven pick-ups in the U.S. Senate seem very likely for Democrats now, and an eighth can be had in Minnesota if Al Franken can knock off Norm Coleman. The ninth seat - and 60th vote - can be found in Georgia.

We're under three weeks now, and Saxby Chambliss hasn't gone negative yet, his message is disoriented, he's losing his base and his ads are awful. Jim Martin, by contrast, has a crisp and on-point mesage, the political benefit of opposing the bailout and solid ads which are connecting with independent voters.

It'll be close. I still think advantage Chambliss, but it's going to be much closer than I ever thought.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Flack attacks

Our boy Flack has a TV ad on the air ...

Nicely done good sir, and best of luck in the final weeks.

If you're so inclined, give him some coin.


In the awesomely weird category, we've got a Bobby Poss letter dealing with kids who low-ride their pants (even more awesome if you imagine it being read by Bobby Poss).

Top that off with an insanely non-related rant from Winfield J. Abbe as the first comment dealing with governmental operations ... as if that had anything to do with the letter.

Can we get those two to sit side-by-side and just talk? Maybe stick Keith Johnson in the middle of them? It would be tremendous.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Just saying

You can talk all you want about a lack of an anti-Georgia bias in the college football world, but you then explain to me how a one-loss Southern California team that lost to Oregon State is ranked four spots higher than a one-loss Georgia team that lost to the No. 2 team in the country.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Georgia polls

An Insider Advantage poll has John McCain up only 49-46 over Barack Obama in Georgia, which I take to be an outlyer. Again, sure I'd love to see a huge upset here, but it's a big longshot.

For starters, I still don't think Obama's winning North Carolina, and he'll win there before he wins here. Regardless, the electoral map is still very favorable to Obama as he holds comfortable leads in enough states to give him 271 'base' electoral votes. And, if you review that list, the only one I'd be concerned about him losing would be Virginia.

That would put Obama at 258 in solid electoral votes, and that's without Florida or Ohio. Plus, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada are off that table. Out of those six states, he stands a very, very good chance to win at least two of them, which would get him to 270.

Last night's debate

A reader's observation on the local races and the debate last night ...

(Mike) Hamby did great – he didn’t need to field those questions, but everyone appreciates his participation, and his comments about Elton (Dodson). He will be great commissioner, and I am really glad to have him behind the rail.

Ed (Robinson) and Red (Petrovs), honestly, Ed did a lot better than I expected. He was focused and direct, and sounded really confident. It was a tough format to really separate yourself from your opponent given the one minute answers and no rebuttal ... I’m curious what they will do to try and differentiate from each other over the next few weeks. Other than delivery style, I didn’t hear a clear distinction between the two. I mean, yes, we all want economic development. Ed seemed to talk a little more about environment and Red talked a little more about education.

Anyone else there last night with observations on any of the debates?

Sad news

This is some pretty sad news. A friend of mine said the accident occured just down the street from her office, and that she had waved to Deputy David Gilstrap each morning. Just an awful shame.

Keep his family in your prayers, and if I found out where you can send memorials I'll post it here.

Tougher drought restrictions

Athens-Clarke County is gonna go to Level Four restrictions, and so is Oconee County.

The Athens-Clarke County notice is below ...

Modification to Outdoor Water Use Restrictions

(Athens, GA) – Despite recent rains, Athens-Clarke County is still experiencing drought conditions. The County has had nine straight months of below average rainfall this year. The Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority and Athens-Clarke County are being cautious regarding outdoor water use to ensure that water sources will be at appropriate levels to meet fall and winter water needs. The Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority has established a policy that outdoor water use restrictions would change back to only hand watering if the Bear Creek Reservoir dropped to 70% of its capacity, which it did this week.

Beginning Monday, October 13, 2008, outdoor water use restrictions in Athens-Clarke County will be consistent with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s Level 4 restrictions and allow ONLY hand watering, according to the odd/even schedule that is in place. Hand watering is defined as one person with one garden hose with a spray nozzle attached that shuts off automatically when it is released. Outdoor watering of plants or lawns by any other irrigation method is prohibited.

Odd addresses – those ending in a 1, 3, 5, 7, or 9 – are allowed to hand water on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays before 10:00 a.m. for 25 minutes per day.

Even addresses – those ending in a 0, 2, 4, 6, or 8 – are allowed to hand water on Saturdays, Mondays, and Wednesdays before 10:00 a.m. for 25 minutes per day.

All outdoor watering is prohibited on Fridays.

These modifications apply to all residential, commercial, governmental, and institutional customers of the Athens-Clarke County public water supply system. Private water supplies, such as wells, are currently exempt from the outdoor water use restrictions, but conservation is encouraged as groundwater supplies have also been impacted by the drought.

Restrictions and permits for other outdoor water use under Level 4, such as newly installed landscaping and pressure washing by permit, are still in place. For additional information, please visit, call 706-613-3470, or visit the Athens-Clarke County Public Utilities Department located at 1865 W. Broad Street, Suite C.

The Athens-Clarke County Public Utilities Department urges citizens to follow all outdoor water use restrictions and conserve water indoors whenever possible. Authorized Athens-Clarke County personnel will be enforcing the restrictions, with surcharges of $1000.00 and/or termination of water service for violating the outdoor water use restrictions.

Remember to Think at the Sink about all water use and visit for additional water conservation information.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Well, maybe

This post projects a victory for Barack Obama in Georgia, and while his numbers certainly seem quite plausible, I still think it's a longshot.

Carl chimes in

Carl Jordan offered his endorsement to Ed Robinson for the Athens-Clarke County Commission District Six seat, which isn't terribly surprising, but should provide a boost to the latter's campaign.

This is gonna be a close race. Red Petrovs arguably has strong name recognition via his work with OneAthens, but Robinson is racking up solid progressive endorsements and things like that matter in Athens-Clarke County.

'Fixing' for fixing's sake

Can I note how pathetic this suggestion is? I mean, is the governor just trying to find ways to undercut education at every turn?

There's absolutely no logical reason to do this. The Teacher's Retirement System is financially sound, is a long-term investor and is funded by the money put into the system by the teachers. It's 94.7 percent funded at its last valuation, and financial experts will tell you that anything more than 80 percent is sound.

It's getting serious now

Though die-hards like Buzz will try to tell you otherwise, I'd be pretty wary if I was one of the establishment Republicans who's still standing with Saxby Chambliss. Jim Martin's Daily Kos endorsement and subsequent addition to its 'Orange to Blue' program is a big deal with regard to his ability to garner some much needed resources in this state.

In less than 24 hours, he's raised close to $20,000 alone from small donors and the DSCC is now giving this race a real hard look. I still think Chambliss is in the driver's seat in this thing, but he's pretty unpopular and Martin's hitting all the right notes in his campaign.

And a new poll from Strategic Vision shows Martin within three points and Libertarian Allen Buckley gaining steam too. This will be a lot closer than folks expect, particularly if Martin capitalizes on the anger over Chambliss's vote for the bailout and African-Americans turn out at 30 percent or higher, which I think is very likely.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Conan's wisdom

Keep throwing the anvils ...

Bobby Saxon
Jim Martin
Ronnie Musgrove (Mississippi)
Orange to Blue

Obligatory baby photo

Just because ...

Bring on the traffic

The Oconee County Commission approved the rezoning of the Epps Bridge Centre last night by a 3-1 vote with only Margaret Hale voting against. While I wasn't terribly shocked they didn't particularly care about the environmental impact and relocation of mitigation credits from here to Greene County, I was somewhat surprised there was some discussion of traffic impact but no revisions suggested.

A little disappointing, to be sure, and it will lead to a massive strip mall being built roughly a mile from my house ... on top of the other strips malls we already have lining Epps Bridge Road. This thing has the potential to be a nightmare for motorists commuting to and from Athens-Clarke County via 316 and out from Oconee County.

It's a shame the commission ignored the negative report from the North Georgia Regional Development Center and opted to move forward regardless with what appears to be a rather reckless project.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Economic development? Needs work.

The regional economic development report is out from the Oconee County and Athens-Clarke County Regional Task Force, and it's pretty interesting. Not terribly surprising in the initial findings is that, well, we could do a good bit more in terms of partnering with all of our neighbors and do more in attracting and creating well-paying jobs.

The executive summary notes that a perception exists that their is a 'dysfunctional, factional economic development effort in this region.'

Some of the challenges that are noted in the report include ...

- a fractured economic development structure, which includes multiple chambers of commerce, government economic development agencies, development authorities and University of Georgia divisions. This prevents a cohesive marketing effort and creates confusion among prospects;

- lack of “product,” including pad-ready sites, spec buildings, government controlled “mega” sites, industrial areas with water and sewer along growth corridors;

- negative perception among some key state government and business leaders and the statewide developers network;

- overreliance on the University of Georgia in some areas and underutilization in others; and

- limited meaningful working relationships with top government and national and international business leaders compared to those in other areas of the state.

I'll be reviewing this and will post more.

Epps Bridge vote

Be sure to check out Lee Becker's take on the proposed Epps Bridge development as that project is up for a vote tonight by the Oconee County Commission.

It's expected to be approved, but let if you live out in The OC be sure to let your commissioners know your thoughts. Me? I'm skeptical of it for a variety of reasons ...

- Substantially increased traffic to accommodate a boom-and-bust development
- Recommendation of denial from the North Georgia Regional Development Center
- Concerns over mitigation efforts of existing wetlands

I'd like to see significant conditions imposed by the commission if they opt to move forward, though I'd rather than say 'no thanks' to the project.

The other side of the story


Who knew there was so much drama surrounding Jon and Kate Plus Eight?

Apparently Aunt Jodi's sister has a blog detailing how the former was booted off the show. Complete with a video from Aunt Jodi!


We're reaching the banal part of the election, and I'd suggest that we'd all do better to heed the advice of Bob Bowen III. Particularly since the final 20-or-so days are going to look like those preposterous chain emails you see now and then.

Fear, bigotry, distrust, ignorance and tinged racism is all one campaign has left, and it's very sad.

Will it work?

We can all pray it won't.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The perils of TLC

There is something incredibly weird and marginally creepy about the family on 17 Kids and Counting. Unlike Jon and Kate Plus Eight, who seem to be a lot like The Wife and I ... only with seven additional children.

The former, though, well ... wow.

That is all.

Um ...

In a pretty cool move, Esquire opted to make an endorsement in all 400-plus federal races across the country. The 10th Congressional District in Georgia you ask?

Paul Broun.

Why? Medical marijuana.

Sooner than later

A third poll shows Jim Martin tied with Saxby Chambliss, meaning we've really got a race no our hands.

It also digs into the changing voter demographics of the state, with close to 800,000 new voters added to rolls since 2004, and an overwhelmingly large number of them Democratic or African-American.

Give Martin some coin, and let's toss Saxby an anvil.

Church and state

One of the best takes on the role of religion in the public spectrum, in my assessment, comes from Rev. Beth Long in this article on Rev. Jody Hice's endorsement of John McCain ...

It's important for us to weigh in on public policies and their implications, but not on particular candidates. I don't do it because of our (tax- exempt) status, but I also don't do it because I have members in this church from all across the political spectrum, and I love each of them. I want them all to feel at home here.

And that's about right. I don't understand the rationale that churches should completely avoid politics, particularly seeing how much of the great social movements in our history have been spurred by religious activism (women's suffrage, civil rights, etc.). If people of faith are called to not accept the way the world is, then they have a responsibility to voice their concerns over the pressing issues of the day.

Whether or not that translates into the direct endorsement of a candidate is another thing, largely for the reasons Long laid out, but also for one she did not ... and that's because there aren't any 'perfect' candidate to be endorsed. While one may feature issues on, say, poverty that reflect one minister's interpretation, another might have views on the economy that are more closely in-tune.

And this is why advocacy for individual issues is more acceptable.

Martin gaining ground

There's considerable word that a couple of polls are going to come out this week showing that Saxby Chambliss and Jim Martin are, for all practical purposes, tied with less than a month to go to Election Day.

Peach Pundit is rebelling against Chambliss and most of its most ardent conservative posters are planning to vote for Martin or Libertarian Allen Buckley.

Again, Martin is running a superior campaign to Chambliss to date. He's on message and recognizing that Chambliss has upset his base on numerous occasions the past couple of years, most recently with Chambliss's support of the bailout plan.

Friday, October 03, 2008

More thoughts

It should be clear that, well, I'm not clear on where I stand on the newest bailout bill. Arguably it's better than Paulson's blank check, but it seems marginally worse than the one that failed earlier in the week.

The saddling of the bill with random pork projects is regrettable, but to be expected. Lord knows I don't care for not including additional protections for homeowners. And I'm still bothered they didn't give bankruptcy judges the ability to adjust mortgages.

That said, the Republican counter-proposal championed by Paul Broun and others in the House of Representatives, seemed to be fatally flawed to me.

I was bothered by the tone of the discussion (namely that we had to do something), but then again I was also persuaded by the very real economic crisis at hand. While Wall Street certainly did screw this whole thing up, it's imperative to note that the personal investments of millions were taking vicious hits for something they didn't do wrong at all. And the long-term, much bigger problem was that credit would stay frozen, businesses couldn't make payroll and we zoom toward skyrocketing unemployment and banking collapses.

This thing ain't pretty, and I ain't terribly happy with it, but it seems to be what we're stuck with now.

A cow patty, it ain't

Blake has Paul Broun's letter, and to say it's gibberish and nonsensical is to suggest that Sarah Palin has a Ph.D. in physics ...

The United States is now a year into one of the biggest economic crises of its history. All over the news and radio the talking-heads are ‘explaining’ what caused the problem. Too much regulation! Too little regulation! Republican policies! Democrat policies!

Historians and economists will be debating possible causes of this crisis for decades, but the American people need help now. The final bailout bill has a lot of raisins in it, but it’s not a cookie.

I refuse to vote for a plan just because Secretary Paulson and President Bush say so. America currently has trillions of dollars of debt and Congress needs to explore every single possibility before even considering using $700 billion of taxpayer money.

The Bible, God’s holy word, says in Psalms 30:5, ‘weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.’ The first thing we must do is recognize that this crisis will not last forever.

I don't really get it. Broun acknowledges that we must act now, but then does nothing?

And we're using cookie analogies now rather than animal feces?

Georgia GOP votes no

The third version of the bailout has passed, and all seven of Georgia's House Republicans opposed it, including Paul Broun.

Their joint statement ...

We cannot preserve our free-market economy by sacrificing the very principles that underlie it. Over the past week, we have heard loud and clear from many of the almost 5 million Georgians that we represent — and they are not convinced that this approach is the right one. They want to preserve our financial system, but demand that we think more about the taxpayer in developing the solution.

No word yet on if Broun will or will not eat the cow patty. Rumor has they put a cherry on top to go with the marshmallow.

Saxon on the bailout

Bobby Saxon has come out in favor of the newest version of the bailout plan and is challenging Paul Broun to support it ...

October 3, 2008

Honorable Paul Broun
2104 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Congressman Broun,

Vote Yes.

I urge you to put aside partisan bickering and act in the best interest of your constituents. The downward spiral of the stock market combined with the tightening of the credit markets can not continue. Too many people are hurting and many more will be added to the list if Congress fails to act in a bipartisan way to do what is best for America.

This bill is not about Wall Street. It’s about Main Street.

It’s about Main street in Augusta, Athens, Evans, Toccoa, Hartwell, Elberton, Clayton, Hiawassee, Cornelia, Lavonia, Homer, Jefferson, Crawford, Watkinsville, Washington, Eatonton, Madison, Greensboro, Lincolnton, Thomson, and Danielsville. It’s about Main street in every city in our district. Your constituents need you to feel their pain and vote in their best interest.

90% of the businesses in the 10th district are small businesses. Small businesses are especially hit hard by the credit crunch. Lines of credit are disappearing causing them to delay or cancel orders for needed supplies, cancel expansions, layoff employees, and in some cases go out of business.

Many retired people have lost thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars in the last week. Decades of wise investing have been wiped out. It most likely will be much worse if you and the rest of Congress fail to act in a bipartisan way to solve this problem.

Small businesses, retired people, home owners, realtors, building contractors, community banks, and many others are being harmed by this crisis. Unlike Wall Street, they have done nothing wrong and you must vote to ensure they are not punished for believing in the American dream.

This is Main street in the 10th district. This is your home, my home, and the home to nearly 700,000 people that need you to be on their side.

You must act in a bipartisan way and you must vote Yes.


Bobby Saxon
Congressional Candidate
10th Congressional District

Palin and Hartnett


Arguably a unique way to go about voter registration, but good for this effort. The article's comments are, well, what you'd expect as they call for the enforcement of non-existent laws.

And that's the real point here. If there is no law forbidding certain members of the jail's population from voting, then they have every right to cast a ballot. If poor judgements barred us from voting, we wouldn't have Paul Broun in office, would we?

Put the Kool-Aid down

Erick's take ...

Sarah Palin just field dressed Joe Biden like a moose. She was awesome. She connected with the people. She had fun. She was relaxed. She was awesome.

The rest of America might doubt how 'awesome' she was.

CBS poll ...

Forty-six percent of the uncommitted voters surveyed say Democrat Joe Biden won the debate, compared to 21 percent for Republican Sarah Palin.

CNN poll ...

The CNN/Opinion Research Corp. said 51 percent of those polled thought Biden did the best job, while 36 percent thought Palin did the best job. ... On the question of the candidates' qualifications to assume the presidency, 87 percent of those polled said Biden is qualified and 42 percent said Palin is qualified. ... Which team would be the better agent of change, and Biden came out on top of that debate, with 53 percent of those polled giving the nod to the Delaware senator while 42 percent said Palin was more likely to bring change.

A pair of 'awesomes' and a moose reference. Why didn't he just shoot for the trifecta, call her 'hot' and be done with it?