Archive for August, 2012

A discussion of state-built reservoirs

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

State-built reservoirs can damage environmental habitat through land-clearing, and corrode taxpayers’ trust and pocketbooks. An environmentalist writes that developers and other industries are not held accountable for exploiting water resources. A former state official-turned-lobbyist responds that state and federal regulations are tough enough. He cites the proposed Glades reservoir in Hall County as an example of a reservoir rejected as a development project but re-envisioned as a water-supply resource.

Reservoirs needed for drinking water

By Joe Tanner

Water supply reservoirs are a vital component of Georgia’s management of its precious water resources. Without the current system of reservoirs, millions of Georgians would be without drinking water for extended periods during the summer and fall.

Those who suggest that developers influence decisions as to when and where to build water-supply reservoirs are either not informed or chose to ignore …

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Spending reductions, recurring budget deficits

Moderated by Rick Badie

Many states reacted to the stalled economic recovery by cutting spending and services. Citing a still-slow recovery, Gov. Nathan Deal has asked state agencies to trim another $553 million through June 2014. It marks the fifth consecutive year department heads have had to find additional savings. Are spending reductions the best strategy to address recurring budget deficits? Our guest writers weigh in.

By Alan Essig

The numbers don’t add up for Georgia. They haven’t in years and they won’t any time soon unless the state takes a new path toward economic growth and job creation.

We need a change in course because state government clings to a system built to fail.

Experts call it a “structural deficit”: Year after year, budget after budget, money coming in from revenues isn’t enough to keep pace with increasing needs in education, health care, public safety and other essential services.

So far, the way state leaders have chosen to deal with this crisis …

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Georgia can’t afford fiscal cliff

Moderated by Rick Badie

Automatic spending cuts and potential expiration of the George Bush-era tax cuts have caused some businesses to pull back, while Congress stands divided. The state director of a small business association says the political impasse hinders Georgia’s economic growth. A personal finance writer explains the possible impact of the fiscal cliff on our lives and I talk with the president of a Marietta firm grappling with uncertainty. Comments are welcome below.

By Kyle Jackson

Political pundits and strategists are talking about what’s going to happen politically if President Barack Obama and Congress allow the Bush tax cuts to expire on Dec. 31, but I’m worried about what the looming “taxmageddon” is doing to Georgia’s economy right now. I was talking the other day with a business owner who said he’d put a $1 million construction project on hold because he’s afraid the looming $500 billion tax hike would hurt his bottom line.

This isn’t a hypothetical …

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GDOT and minority contracting

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

The Georgia Department of Transportation is getting criticism from all sides these days. Lately, it’s been taking heat for its lack of minority contracting on projects. The NAACP has asked Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate. Today, a former board member blasts GDOT for its failure to adequately engage disadvantaged businesses. The department’s commissioner says there is room to improve, but explains that minority businesses need to be able to compete and perform for taxpayers when they get the opportunity.

GDOT fails to share work equitably

By Brad Hubbert

The Georgia NAACP recently asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the state department of transportation’s contracting practices to determine if there is systematic discrimination against minority businesses.

I support the NAACP 200 percent and believe its request is long overdue.

As a former Georgia Department of Transportation board member, I have been a staunch critic of …

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Transportation referendum: New ideas, teamwork needed to move ahead

The T-SPLOST’s fate leaves this metro in search of a transportation “Plan B.” The 2-to-1 margin of defeat July 31 led us to turn over today’s page and add another to allow both leaders and average readers to address what’s next and how do we pay for it? We all have a stake in the answers.

Work toward solutions continues

By Nathan Deal

The rejection of T-SPLOST in the metro Atlanta region closes a chapter, but it doesn’t close the book on improving our transportation infrastructure. While voters showed there’s deep disagreement about the best way forward, there’s consensus that we must keep working to ease congestion and get Georgians moving more quickly.

The law that created T-SPLOST was passed before I took office, but I supported it as the best solution we had available to update our transportation corridors. The voters said decisively we should go another way, and we will.

A quarter of Georgia’s regions, convinced that the benefits outweighed the costs, will benefit from …

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Two views: Affirmative action

Supreme Court case on tap

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

There may be health care-like interest in the U.S. Supreme Court when it convenes in October to hear the case of a spurned college student who’s challenging race-based admissions at the University of Texas. In today’s commentary, leaders at Emory and Syracuse universities argue that schools need to consider the whole person and not forsake the education of an increasingly diverse work pool. A Mercer law professor writes that the next step toward constitutional color-blindness will be cause for celebration.

Commenting is open below.

By Earl Lewis and Nancy Cantor

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear yet another and strikingly similar case about affirmative action at a flagship public university (Fisher v. University of Texas) and many of us are having a Yogi Berra moment.

It’s déjà vu, all over again, considering the compelling interest of not leaving behind a growing proportion of the nation’s talent pool, particularly as we …

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Panhandling: A real issue?

Moderated by Rick Badie

Atlanta City Councilman Michael Julian Bond wants to sweep the streets clean of aggressive panhandlers, though not necessarily the homeless. He has proposed an ordinance that calls for repeat offenders to serve a mandatory six-month incarceration after the third arrest. But homeless advocate Anita Beaty, who calls the law unnecessary and discriminatory, suggests the city should provide adequate services for the poor, not run them off.

By Michael Julian Bond

Just as Vine City, Inman Park, Polar Rock, Loring Heights and West End are communities that make up the diverse fabric of our great city, so does downtown. And just like all communities around Atlanta, downtown is also dealing with a variety of concerns.

I receive requests on a daily basis from citizens asking me to address myriad issues. Whether it is an abandoned and vacant property being used as a crack house, a broken sidewalk, a pothole or a high water bill, I am expected to respond, and I …

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A time of crisis for food production

Moderated by Rick Badie

Because of a record drought, some experts say we could pay from 3 percent to 5 percent more next year for poultry, beef, dairy products and produce. A UGA professor says more should be spent on agricultural research to increase production, which helps keep food affordable. A food bank executive outlines the role charities play and how grocery inflation affects those living on the edge.

By Octavio A. Ramirez

Drought is gripping American farm country. Most of the Midwest and much of Georgia is withering under what could be the worst drought in 50 years. More than 60 percent of U.S. farms face abnormally low rainfall. Despite the sobering statistics, food prices shouldn’t increase as much as you might think. The United States Department of Agriculture’s food inflation forecast remains steady at 2.5 to 3.5 percent for 2012 and predicts 3 to 4 percent increases for 2013. By comparison, food inflation last year was 3.7 percent and a whopping 5.5 percent in …

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Managed arterials, anyone?

Two views on more tolls

Moderated by Tom Sabulis.

In the wake of the failed transportation tax, Gov. Nathan Deal has declared the door slammed shut on rail expansion. Georgia’s likely future seems to be for roads, roads and more kinds of roads. A think tanker below talks up tolling arterials such as Roswell Road. The Sierra Club, which helped defeat the T-SPLOST and its rail component, doesn’t believe this is a good idea.

Commenting is open below Mark Woodall’s column.

By Robert Poole

When transportation experts compare Atlanta’s congestion problem with that of comparable large urban areas, one major difference leaps out of the data. Atlanta relies far more on its expressways to handle rush-hour traffic than comparable areas.

In Orlando, major roadways called “arterials” handle more traffic than expressways, and Denver’s arterials handle nearly as much as its expressways.

By contrast, Atlanta’s arterials handle only one-fourth as much traffic as its expressways. That’s a major …

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Metro area must find
 unity on traffic plan

By the AJC Editorial Board

The people have decisively spoken. And that will prove the easy part, as strange as that may sound in the aftermath of the beatdown of the transportation sales tax last Tuesday.

The hard work comes starting now. For something must come next. It must come if 
metro Atlanta expects to remain what we have been, let alone rise to what was projected for coming years when millions more new residents are expected to arrive. Condemning the T-SPLOST to doom was, in hindsight, not difficult. Most everyone could find fault with the tax, especially the 62 percent of voters who said “No.” Even ardent supporters conceded it was a flawed plan.

Yet, shortcomings and all, the Transportation Investment Act was all we had.

Now we need something better; something more effective at hacking down traffic congestion. That means Atlanta must once again corral smart people around a common goal, devise an innovative game-changer of a new plan and enact it as quickly as …

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 unity on traffic plan »