Archive for October, 2012

The new normal: disciplined shoppers

Credit card debt has dropped here and in other regions. Likewise, consumer borrowing has dipped. Is this the emergence of the disciplined consumer, the “new normal” in spending habits? For now, yes, writes an Equifax executive. A psychology professor laments that we still rely too heavily on plastic. And a state retail expert gives a holiday sales forecast.

Moderated by Rick Badie

The new normal for now

By Trey Loughran

After significant heart-related issues in 2010, President Bill Clinton swore off his beloved cheeseburgers and doughnuts and turned to a vegan diet. Much like our 42nd president, the American economy experienced a dramatic health crisis during the last four years, putting it into a financial version of intensive care. As the U.S. economy navigates a slow, gradual recovery, American consumers seem to be adopting a financial diet of their own.

But is this an indication of a new normal where disciplined consumers can (or will) be able to sustain that …

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GDOT’s small fixes

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Think tanks, politicians, community leaders and regular commuters all have their opinions on what the next step should be for a regional transportation plan. Today, Brandon Beach, a GDOT board member from North Fulton, discusses specifics on the Ga. 400 corridor, and a former Atlanta mayor talks about the leadership required to fix our metro-wide gridlock in the post T-SPLOST environment.

Commenting is open below Sam Massell’s column.

By Tom Sabulis

When it comes this summer’s failed transportation tax referendum, Brandon Beach won’t even go there. “It’s over. The people have spoken loud and clear,” said Beach, president and CEO of the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce. He prefers to look forward, at the ways GDOT is stretching lower fuel tax revenues to improve traffic, and about long-term challenges facing north Fulton County:

New roads: “We need new capacity on Georgia 400. We’ve done a lot of the smaller fixes that we can do. We opened those …

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New spiritual paradigm?

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Commenting is open below.

By Gary Laderman

A recent Pew survey indicating that one in five Americans now identify as religiously “unaffiliated” is getting a lot of attention. It confirms previous surveys that show the “nones” is the fastest growing segment of the religious landscape, and commentators and prognosticators are trying to figure out what this all means.

The political implications are noted: the religiously unaffiliated are now a majority in the Democratic Party. So are the theological implications: not simply atheists or non-believers, a majority of “nones” still believe in a God, or gods, or something spiritual. Perhaps most significant are the demographic implications: a third of people under 30 identify as unaffiliated.

According to some, there can be only one conclusion: Religion has no future in America. More important, it seems that Christianity and other minority traditions in America with very small numbers — like Judaism, Islam, …

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Letter to MARTA’s new CEO

To: Mr. Keith Parker, CEO
VIA Metropolitan Transit
San Antonio, Texas

Dear Mr. Parker:
Congratulations on being named MARTA’s next CEO. We’re sure you’ve done homework into what awaits you here. Even so, we wanted to respectfully offer our estimation of items that should top your To-Do list.
First, to succeed here, you will need to excel at management, evangelical leadership, political diplomacy and visionary innovation. .
MARTA, its employees and the region it serves need tough love. As importantly, we need a vision of what public transportation can be in the 21st century. We’ve had trouble with that vision thing in recent years.
Your experience in the state governed by Rick Perry should serve you well here politically. If you haven’t already, please quickly introduce yourself to members of MARTOC, your legislative oversight committee.
It may strike you as odd that MARTOC has purview over MARTA, given that the Georgia General Assembly doesn’t fund the agency you will soon …

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Listening, changing will help MARTA

By Steve Brown

As one of the more energetic opponents of the T-SPLOST, I believe the recent news on MARTA should give us the expectation that our urban transit situation can improve.
First, we are identifying the significant problems with MARTA. That’s a good start. We now must address those problems, or continue to fail.
Outgoing General Manager Beverly Scott has always been forthright on MARTA’s financial woes, but the answer lies outside the traditional central planning transit box. Likewise, I agree with Rep. Mike Jacobs that it would be very wise to look at privatizing certain components of MARTA.
We need to find ways to make MARTA a serious, lean contender in various segments of the transportation marketplace or allow private operations to fill the void.
Metro Atlanta currently has some private transit bus operators who have worked certain niche sectors quite well.
The Atlanta Public Sector Alliance is demanding a “regional transit system that is just and equitable,” but …

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MARTA, critics focused on issues

By Frederick L. Daniels Jr.

It seems you couldn’t avoid the splashy MARTA headlines and “gotcha” sound bites last week. But those reports rarely capture the full story. As Chairman of the MARTA board, I want to straightforwardly discuss some major issues we are facing – and what we’re doing to address them.
MARTA is fully committed to transforming the way we do business in the months and years ahead while working diligently to improve the transit services we offer. Granted, our transit agency faces enormous challenges. That’s why the MARTA Board is being proactive in improving our financial standing, productivity and effectiveness.
The marked progress we’re making in serving our customers and being prudent fiscal stewards of tax dollars is often overlooked. For example:

MARTA’s on-time rail performance stands at 98 percent, which has consistently been one of the highest in the nation among our industry peers.
Although MARTA is facing significant financial hurdles, we …

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Nonprofits: resilient, smart and frugal

Moderated by Rick Badie

Charities are struggling to fulfill missions in an economy that has created a greater demand for their services. Today, the president of the region’s United Way writes that nonprofits must be resilient, smart and frugal. Citing thin resources, the former chairman of a South Georgia charity that had to close calls for more collaboration among groups that strive to help people.

Nonprofits must remain resilient

By Milton J. Little Jr.

Lester Salamon, a noted expert on nonprofits, recently published the second edition of his work on American nonprofits. His visit last week to Atlanta for the Nonprofit Issues Forum prompts me to reflect on the state of local nonprofits.

For the second year in a row, charitable giving barely increased — by 0.9 percent — after inflation in 2011, according to a “Giving USA” report. Predictions are that it may take up to 10 years for the nonprofit sector to pick up the full steam that propelled us before the Great Recession. …

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Georgia: Hollywood of the South?

Moderated by Rick Badie

A popular film industry tax credit has led some to call Georgia the Hollywood of the South. The director of the state film office calls the tax incentive a necessity in a competitive market. A tax analyst suggests it’s time for all states to roll up the red carpet and end subsidies for such a profitable industry.

Tax incentives fuel filmmakers’ interest

By Lee Thomas

Last week, the Georgia Department of Economic Development released the state film office’s fiscal year 2012 economic impact numbers for the film industry — $3.1 billion. The state is currently hosting 32 film and television shows, from home improvement shows to scripted dramas and major feature films.

In February 2007, we had one project filming here: the MTV reality show, “Yo Momma.” The economic impact for that fiscal year was $244 million. How did the state’s film and television industry grow over 1,100 percent in five years? First, by having a proactive legislature and governor who …

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Openness, ideas can get Georgia rolling

By Kelly McCutchen

To get transportation policy back on track, Georgia must embrace projects with clear impact and broad support, rebalance infrastructure spending and rebuild public trust.
Rebuilding trust involves transparency and reform. Simply streaming Georgia Department of Transportation meetings online, as do many state agencies, will open them to the public. Reform begins with addressing the common complaint of the “alphabet soup” of agencies; consolidating some could simplify governance and cut costs.
Georgians also need to understand how individual projects fit into a long-term vision. For example, Georgia has an opportunity to cut congestion in Atlanta by investing in projects that will divert through traffic away from the metro area. Estimates suggest this could reduce truck traffic in Atlanta 30 percent to 60 percent. This helps improve our freight network and is far more affordable than adding capacity inside Atlanta.
Technology, too, can maximize the value of …

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A first step toward ‘Plan B’ solutions

Given the T-SPLOST’s drubbing by voters, it’s tempting to shove dialogue about our ongoing congestion problems into a far corner of the civic closet and leave it there for a long time to come.
That shouldn’t happen. Our transportation troubles didn’t disappear with the closing of the polls July 31. That makes all the more notable the new proposal, “Getting Georgia Moving,” by the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. Unveiled at the group’s recent legislative forum, it deserves broad attention and full consideration, particularly by the elected officials who now seem loath to even utter the word “transportation.”
This latest concept isn’t a telephone book-thick “Plan B” of the type generated many times through the years, and that’s good. It’s instead a thumbnail sketch that can hopefully get our community’s minds thinking once again on this critical issue. Specifics can, and should, come later, but the conversation should begin now around the broadest of themes. Such grassroots …

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