Archive for September, 2012

Savannah port’s a river to prosperity

Ongoing efforts to secure approval and funding for deepening of the port and the Savannah River are vital to the nation’s fourth-busiest port and our state’s participation in the global economy.

By the AJC Editorial Board

Rivers are deceptive in that their unyielding flow masks the power and urgency moving just beneath the surface.

That’s certainly true of the 30-odd miles of river connecting the mighty Port of Savannah with the Atlantic Ocean. The river and its ports are a vital conduit, connecting Georgia and much of the rest of the U.S. with global trade flows. It’s among the shiniest of tools in the state’s economy.

We must keep refining and improving this asset. Thus, it’s encouraging that efforts continue unabated to push for a $650 million project to dredge the port and river.

That should be remembered this week when the expected resumption of labor talks pushes the port back into the news.

It’s also important to keep in mind that rivers run slowly, but surely. Sort of …

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Domestic partner rights at UGA

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

The University of Georgia still does not offer faculty members domestic-partner benefits such as health insurance coverage, despite repeated attempts by teachers to secure them. A UGA faculty member leading the charge explains that it’s the right thing to do and helps competitiveness through teacher recruitment. Last week we asked readers to comment on the request, a selection of which are printed in Friday’s printed paper. Commenting on Janet E. Frick’s column is open below.

By Janet E. Frick

Recently, I attended a banquet with a diverse group of accomplished University of Georgia faculty and administrators, all actively engaged in issues across campus. I mentioned that I was chairing a committee on University Council that was, once again, bringing a proposal to try to finally accomplish a long-sought goal: full health insurance benefits for domestic partners of UGA employees.

My colleagues stared at me in disbelief. “You mean we still don’t have …

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DeKalb School Board: Administrative process or closed meeting?

Moderated by Rick Badie

The DeKalb County School Board has a term for the process it adopted to respond to allegations of mismanagement by an accrediting agency: “administrative process.” The board chairman writes that the recommendation to name a team to draft a response to AdvancEd isn’t a private process. A media lawyer calls the response plan an attempt to exploit a loophole in Georgia’s Open Meetings Act.

DeKalb should open process

By Cynthia Counts

You would think you were watching a scene from “Alice in Wonderland” during a Sept. 5 meeting of the DeKalb County School Board.

First, as reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the board proclaimed that it desired to be as “transparent as possible.”

Yet it then announced that it would respond to a letter alleging mismanagement through a committee process that apparently will shut out the public.

Specifically, the board voted to approve a response plan and the creation of a “team” that includes two of the …

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Moderated by Rick Badie

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson has co-sponsored legislation to require federal lending agencies to consider a borrower’s expected energy costs when they underwrite mortgages. The SAVE Act has support from consumer groups and the housing and manufacturing industries. The mortgage banking industry says the profession is regulated enough.

By Todd Raba and Allan Merrill

For those in the housing industry, including home building and mortgage lending, the Great Recession was almost as hard a blow as the Great Depression. The home building and contracting sector — a key source of good blue-collar jobs — saw unemployment rates soar more than twice the national average. It will likely be years before the housing sector fully recovers.

There are signs of hope for home building. New legislation — known as the SAVE (Sensible Accounting to Value Energy) Act — would bring the cost of energy and the value of energy efficiency into the home appraisal/mortgage process. It …

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Ga. 400 transit options

Today’s lead column discusses how MARTA, Georgia Department of Transportation and local community improvement districts are studying heavily traveled corridors, such as Ga. 400, to find transit alternatives that can ease commutes. The trick is creating the public-private partnerships that will pay for them, since there is no state money in the post-T-SPLOST world. In our second piece, a highway engineer endorses a universal per-mile user fee as a fair way to fund new roads and bridges.

Commenting is open below Rod Fogo’s column.

By Tom Sabulis

If you think the thumping of the transportation tax referendum (T-SPLOST) on July 31 means that residents of north Fulton county are happy to stick to their cars, steadfastly uninterested in alternative transit methods, you would be mistaken – or at least not in attendance at recent meeting about the Ga. 400 Corridor Transit Initiative (Connect 400) at the North Fulton Chamber of Commerce in Alpharetta.

Sponsored by MARTA, in partnership …

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Domestic partner benefits at UGA?

Your thoughts?

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

We’re seeking feedback from readers and bloggers on the following news for publication on an upcoming opinion page:

Faculty members at the University of Georgia are once again requesting that university leaders extend benefits, such as health insurance, to domestic partners. The University Council’s Human Resources Committee recently voted unanimously in favor of the request. The same council passed resolutions calling for the Board of Regents to approve benefits in 2002, 2005 and 2007. But the Regents  so far have ignored repeated calls from faculty at UGA and other University System of Georgia colleges and universities.

UGA is in a small minority of major colleges that have not extended health and other benefits to unmarried partners, according to the committee’s research. Most of the “aspirational” universities UGA would like to be more like offer the same benefits to domestic partners as available to spouses, including state flagship …

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Health care reform: Risk of playing the odds

The federal health care reform act is the law of the land for the foreseeable future. Delaying action on implementing its key provisions could well prove a costly bet for Georgia.

By AJC Editorial Board

Gov. Nathan Deal is no fan of expanding gambling beyond the Georgia lottery. Yet he’s willing to play the odds by betting that Obamacare won’t be on the books long enough to be fully implemented.

That’s too risky a strategy for Georgia, even taking into account the health reform law’s unpopularity in many quarters. Politics shouldn’t trump prudent policy, even during a major election year. To do otherwise puts Georgians at risk of getting a worse deal than those elsewhere.

For the foreseeable future, the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the law of the land. And the rule of law should carry weight in a civilized society, even in these discordant times. The ACA has been tested by the nation’s highest court, and largely allowed to stand. Prospects for change, whether “repeal …

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Panhandling pressure downtown

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Failure has marked the city of Atlanta’s attempts to curb panhandling, particularly aggressive begging from repeat offenders. The latest proposal calls for stiffer penalties such as mandated jail time for a third conviction. Homeless activists say the measures criminalize poverty; proponents add that tougher laws are aimed at a small group of incorrigible mendicants. Below, a business leader writes how panhandling affects commercial life and civic pride, while an activist says laws don’t get at the root of the problem.

Commenting is open below Joe Beasley’s column.

By William “Chick” Ciccaglione

Underground Atlanta is a major attraction, welcoming millions of tourists, convention goers, residents and office workers annually. The property sits on 12 acres and spans six blocks in the heart of downtown Atlanta and was acquired by O’Leary Partners, Inc. in 1999.

The panhandling “issue” existed then and still exists today, with more frequency and …

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Expand Medicaid?

Moderated by Rick Badie

Gov. Nathan Deal has decided against expansion of  Medicaid, saying to do so would exacerbate the unsustainability of the program. His decision, writes the president of the Medical Association of Georgia, is no surprise given the deficits already facing the program and lack of resources to add patients. A health care advocate says policymakers shouldn’t spoil an opportunity to insure more Georgians and address comprehensive delivery of care.

By Sandra B. Reed

In my role as the president of the Medical Association of Georgia (MAG), the leading voice for physicians in the state, I wasn’t surprised when I heard that Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said that he has “no intention” to expand the Medicaid system in Georgia.

The simple truth is that Medicaid is flawed and unsustainable. And change notwithstanding, that’s going to be the case whether the state expands the program by hundreds of thousands of new patients or not.

That is why MAG has — as matters have …

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Food or fuel?

Moderated by Rick Badie

Gov. Nathan Deal and other governors want the EPA to waive requirements that a certain percentage of the nation’s energy comes from renewable fuels, notably corn for ethanol production. Why? Poultry and livestock farmers are paying higher prices for corn feed due to the drought. The debate: Should the nation’s corn crop, given the current market, be used to produce food or fuel?

By Mike Giles

The perfect storm that poultry and livestock producers have feared since the federal ethanol mandate was implemented in 2005 has arrived. The two elements of this storm are the Renewable Fuel Standard, which now devotes more corn to our gas tanks than to poultry, beef, dairy and pork combined, coupled with perhaps the worst U.S. drought since the 1930s.

For decades, the poultry industry has experienced up and down financial cycles. That is the nature of the poultry business, which contributes  more than $20 billion annually to Georgia’s economy. Poultry industry …

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