Archive for July, 2012

T-SPLOST pros and cons

The transportation sales tax vote is two weeks away. An advocate of mixed-use, walkable communities explains how voters acting with a regional mindset can kick-start our economy. On the other side, a policy analyst says a sales tax is not the best funding option, and that transit expansion should not come at the expense of fixing our highway network.

Tom Sabulis is today’s moderator. Commenting is open below following Baruch Feigenbaum’s column.

By Jim Stokes

Living and working in Atlanta has been a wonderful experience for me. For some 40 years, my wife and I have called Atlanta home — raising our family, devoting ourselves to careers and volunteering in our community whenever we can. The city is part of our family fabric. I have watched Atlanta grow and evolve.

This year, I see metro Atlanta standing at a crossroads. Its evolution — potentially, its economic recovery — is the centerpiece of discussion this summer as residents contemplate a ballot referendum to increase …

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Sunday issue: T-SPLOST referendum

Hirers have the right idea

By the AJC Editorial Board

Metro Atlanta business leaders have drawn flak for urging employees and the general public to back the transportation sales tax. But if they don’t know the high cost of gridlock, who does? Read the three essays and comment below.

It’s impossible not to know by now that metro Atlanta faces a momentous choice. The marketing machine for the transportation sales tax is winding up as election day nears.

High-powered messaging on everything from yard signs to billboards has rankled some who complain that the business community is unfairly marshaling clout and dollars to overwhelm grass-roots opposition to the transportation special purpose local option sales tax, or T-SPLOST.

Business leaders have been criticized for using their bully pulpit to inform workers or, worse yet in the minds of opponents, urge employees to vote “yes.” Critics argue that amounts to coercion.

We’ll acknowledge the sincerity of these concerns. We also …

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Gift ban toothless?

Ethics debate

A nonbinding question on the July 31 ballot asks if there should be a $100 limit on lobbyist gifts to legislators. A conservative renews a call for officials to refuse perks, but an ethicist says the proposed cap only distracts from larger systemic problems.

Today’s moderator is Tom Sabulis.  Commenting is open below following Kay Godwin’s column.

By Andrew I. Cohen

The proposed lobbyist gift cap is a well-intentioned step toward more transparent state government. It has bipartisan support and watchdog groups love it. But it is a toothless measure that distracts from more fundamental problems.

This newspaper recently reported that total lobbyist gifts for public officials this year alone are nearly $1 million. Georgia is one of three states that do not restrict such gifts. Our public officials then curry public favor by pledging support for the gift cap.

Lobbyists treat some state officials to lavish trips abroad, expensive meals or pricey knickknacks. Meanwhile, …

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Two views on food stamps

Moderated by Rick Badie

More than one in seven Americans is on food stamps. The government wants more to join the safety net. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has wrapped up a campaign targeted at the elderly, working poor, unemployed and Hispanics. More than one in four who are eligible do not participate because, some say, they don’t understand requirements. Today, a guest writer says government should save money, not recruit participants. But a food bank executive says no child should go hungry.

Give a hand up, not a handout

By Debbie Dooley

It is very disconcerting to see the Obama administration marketing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in recent television ads. The ads attempt to glamorize food stamps and encourage people to apply for assistance.

In addition, states are paid “bonuses” for getting new people enrolled in the food stamp program.

This is creating the wrong mindset.

Food stamps, or any other type of federal welfare assistance program, should …

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Does law hurt or help banks, consumers?

Moderated by Rick Badie

The Durbin Amendment was designed to cap interchange fees, known as swipe fees, charged to merchants when a customer pays with a debit card. Banks profit from the fees. The intent was to lower the amount banks charge merchants who, presumably, would pass on savings to consumers. A consumer advocate says the law does little to help poor consumers. And the president of a think tank believes the regulation harms the lending ability of Georgia’s banks and hinders job creation.

Law cripples small banks, too

By Kelly McCutchen

Georgia has experienced more than 80 bank failures since 2008. That’s more than any other state in the nation.

A study released by the Georgia Public Policy Foundation finds a new wave of crippling regulations coming out of Washington, D.C., that threatens to cause even more failures, and harm this state’s ability to create and expand businesses and jobs.

In the wake of the financial crisis, the effort to protect against future shocks …

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T-SPLOST voter intimidation?

Big business moving workers

We’re three weeks away from voting on a 1-cent sales tax to fund $8.5 million in transportation improvements in metro Atlanta. (Early voting is open now.) A conservative leader writes that Atlanta companies are intimidating their employees to vote ‘yes’ on July 31 and tax themselves. A Coke executive says better transit and roadways will help workers save time and keep local businesses humming.

Tom Sabulis is today’s moderator. Commenting is open following John Brock’s column below.

By Sadie Fields

Voter intimidation is wrong no matter who does it.

Voter intimidation can be as extreme as when members of the New Black Panther Party stood out front of a polling place in Philadelphia on Election Day 2008 wearing paramilitary garb, with one carrying a nightstick.

In our own backyard, voter intimidation is taking a more subtle approach as exhibited by the Metro Atlanta Chamber regarding the upcoming T-SPLOST vote. The business community is calling …

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We’re free to think freely

Our governance systems work best when citizens hunt down true facts and thoroughly analyze them to reach their own conclusions — which may, or may not, comport with the fads of the day. Read the commentary below and then comment yourself.

By the AJC Editorial Board

Even the brightest, fastest-rising Independence Day fireworks eventually arc over and tumble downward, fading into darkened skies.

Nations and regions can follow a similar trajectory. It can be avoided.

That’s worth considering even as we move beyond another Fourth of July. For independence is a powerful word. It summons to mind the best attributes of a people who’ve historically each made up their own mind and acted decisively on conclusions thus reached. That’s how Atlanta pursued, and captured, the Olympics. It’s what led us to plan for and build an airport when trains and buses were the most-popular travel modes. These and other spunky moves paid off.

This self-reliant streak has been in our national psyche …

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Water wars not over

Georgia wins, where’s the equity?

The Supreme Court recently let stand a federal appeals court decision that said water supply was a core mission of Lake Lanier, something legally disputed by Alabama and Florida. Today, a Florida conservationist writes that Atlanta may have won the battle but the war for equity goes on. Georgia leaders want to find a way to cooperate and forge a tri-state plan.

Tom Sabulis today’s moderator. Commenting is open following the column by Tad Leithead and Boyd Austin.

By Dan Tonsmeire

It certainly appears as though Atlanta won with last week’s Supreme Court ruling. Unfortunately, the prize is likely to be 10 more years of unproductive litigation and no end to the water wars between the states.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ unilateral interpretation of the Fish and Wildlife and Recreation authorizations will no doubt be challenged. The court did not address this authorization and left it up to the corps’ discretion. Georgia’s claim to all the …

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KKK highway cleanup

Free speech or aiding terrorists?

The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia has decided to represent the Ku Klux Klan in its battle with the state to join the transportation department’s highway cleanup program. The International Keystone Knights of the KKK applied to clean up part of Ga. 515 in Union County, a stretch in the North Georgia mountains that would be marked with a sign declaring the group’s participation. Today’s guest writers have their say on the issue.

Rick Badie is today’s moderator. Commenting is open following Tyrone Brooks’ column below.

By Debbie Seagraves

In 1976, the National Socialist Party of America applied for a permit to march in the village of Skokie, Ill., home to many Jews, including Holocaust survivors. Skokie leaders replied that the neo-Nazi group would be required to post a bond of $350,000, an impossible and unconstitutional requirement.

A long and bitter court battle ensued, and the result was a series of decisions that defined our …

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Chaplains for employees

Investing in your workers

Some corporations believe they need to deal with the whole person, not just the workplace issues of employees. They’re turning to on-site chaplains to care for staff, thinking a less-stressed crew helps the bottom line. Today, an Atlanta business owner touts the benefits of corporate chaplaincy. We also profile a chaplain executive about the role of assisting workers in good times and bad.

Rick Badie is today’s moderator. Commenting is open following Rilo Stephens’ column.

By Rick Badie

Shane Satterfield had been an ordained minister for 16 years when a friend told him about a business that offers the services of chaplains in the workplace.

“I didn’t even know such a thing existed,” he told me during a recent conversation at his Suwanee office.

Today, Satterfield serves as Southeast regional vice president for Marketplace Chaplains USA, a Texas firm that’s one of several U.S. providers of corporate chaplains.

In Georgia, Marketplace provides …

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