Archive for January, 2013

The pastor and the inauguration

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Louie Giglio, the evangelical pastor of Atlanta’s Passion City Church, was originally selected to give the benediction today at President Barack Obama’s inauguration. But he withdrew after it was discovered that he once delivered an anti-gay sermon. Below, two members of his church denounce our culture’s unyielding political correctness, while a religion historian writes that the pastor made the right decision.

Commenting is open below Gary Laderman’s column.

When our diversity becomes intolerance

By Ruth Malhotra and Jennifer Keeton

We wish we could say we were shocked by Pastor Louie Giglio’s withdrawal from President Barack Obama’s Inauguration today. Giglio was invited to deliver the benediction based on his commitment to justice and inspiration to our generation, and we are certain that his prayer would have been characterized by grace, humility and wisdom.

We have been profoundly impacted by Giglio’s teaching and leadership and have witnessed …

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Poor priorities, recession both hurt Georgia

The following are excerpts from Georgia Democrats’ response to Gov. Deal’s State of the State speech:

By Sen. Steve Henson

On behalf of my colleagues, we commend Governor Nathan Deal for his ideas and proposals to help better manage the state of Georgia. There will be many opportunities for Democrats and Republicans to work with him on legislative and budgetary endeavors.

We are all proud of this state we call home, and we all desire to make Georgia the best place to live and work. Regardless of politics or party affiliations, Georgians are united in the belief that we want a stronger state economy, we need jobs that pay well, we want strong families and we want access to affordable health care.

For the past decade, we have watched Georgia’s economic condition face many challenges. State revenue projections missed the monthly mark for nearly half of 2012.

Simply, the Governor cannot continue to blame all of our state’s budget problems on the recession. Our state …

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State’s growing stronger in many ways

Following are excerpts from Gov. Nathan Deal’s Thursday State of the State address:

We have made communities safer, improved educational opportunities, provided for infrastructure improvements, driven workforce development, generated a better business environment and created jobs. Together, we have implemented innovative tax reform that incentivizes business growth, passed smart-on-crime criminal justice reform and saved HOPE.

This year, I challenge you to join me as we go forward with a focus on progress.

Just as Georgia is too big and too important to fall prey to Doomsayers’ pessimism, it is also too big and too important to be divided by race, geography or ideology. This year, let’s concentrate on the things on which we can all agree: The foundations that improve the lives of our citizens and undergird the bright horizons of tomorrow.

… Let’s capitalize on the success that we have already had in criminal justice reform, in which, last year, we crafted …

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Pursuing a bold, yet prudent path

Good times are easy. Tough times can force a cohesion that helps us all endure to see better days. Since the Great Recession slammed into Georgia, we’ve pined away for the former and struggled against the latter.

In our view, the days falling somewhere between these polar opposites will also greatly influence our shared destiny. They provide opportunities that, while challenging, should be heartily pursued.

This great state and its capital city now stand in the early light of a still-new year, seeking signs of what is to come. It is on the stage of this theater that Gov. Nathan Deal cast forth his vision for 2013 during last week’s State of the State speech.

Deal proclaimed that we continue to see signs of improvement in Georgia’s downturn-battered economy. The state is doing noticeably better on some key measures, we’d agree. We’ve got a long ways yet to go, but we’re gradually gaining ground.

For example, Georgians are returning to work in substantial numbers, …

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Uninsured cost us all

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

By Ricardo Azziz

What would you guess are the biggest threats to the health and longevity of Americans? Cancer? Infectious diseases? Heart disease?As top causes of death in the United States, these are certainly strong contenders.

What about lack of health insurance? It’s one of the biggest threats to our health as individuals, and to the health of our nation’s economy.

Some 48.6 million Americans lack health insurance, and millions more are under-insured, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. More than 19 percent of Georgians are uninsured, far exceeding the national average and placing us among the top-10 states for uninsured residents.

Georgia is among the top five states with the highest number of premature deaths due to lack of insurance.

But before you say, “It’s not my problem,” let’s take a closer look. Uninsured citizens depress our collective ability to grow the state’s economy – driving up the cost of health care, reducing the number of …

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Human trafficking

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

A recent AJC series on human trafficking questioned the claim that metro Atlanta is one of the nation’s leading capitals of child exploitation. But experts say the human trafficking problem still exists. Today’s contributors point out that the underworld nature of sex slavery and its powerless, often foreign, victims make it difficult to quantify. Yet great strides are being made to combat this growing evil.

There are three columns today. Commenting is open below Sharon Simpson Joseph’s column.

By Sally Quillian Yates

Last week, a local sheriff’s deputy made a routine traffic stop on I-20 for speeding. The 29-year-old driver had a 17-year-old girl in his car. Ordinarily, the deputy would have ticketed the driver, and the driver and young girl would have been on their way.

But the deputy had recently received training from the GBI’s Human Trafficking Unit and was attuned to indications of possible trafficking. The deputy separated the young girl from …

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Atlanta arts: World class or mediocre?

By guest moderator David Ibata

The Metro Atlanta Arts & Culture Coalition estimates the region’s 1,740 cultural nonprofit organizations generate more than $502 million a year in revenues; 15,000 related businesses employ 62,000 people. Yet many local arts organizations struggle. Ben Cameron urges art lovers to be activists. And cultural leaders address the strengths and weaknesses of the arts here.

Modern culture needs arts activists

The following are excerpts from a December keynote address to the Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund Luncheon

By Ben Cameron

In 2006, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation convened more than 700 artists, managers and administrators in 22 meetings in 14 cities to ask: What are the most pressing issues you face?

Two years before the economic downturn, we heard about audience erosion in every field – decline of subscription and single-ticket sales, rising churn and audience turnover, with as much as 75 percent of an audience being there for one event of …

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Banks and fair value reporting: Meaningful or harmful?

Moderated by Rick Badie

Today we discuss the mark-to-market, or fair value, accounting rule. It requires banks to record the price or value of a security, portfolio or account to reflect current market value. A guest columnist, who is not writing in his role as a bank executive, says the rule may have caused many banks to fail and should be suspended. I interview Jack T. Ciesielski, a Baltimore money manager who says the regulation improves transparency and shows financial weaknesses.

Fair value reporting is meaninful reform

By Rick Badie

Q: Explain the mark-to-market rule.

A: Adjusting the value of financial instrument holdings to market price is the accounting practice known as “mark-to-market.” It’s the same way workers preparing for retirement look at their 401(k) plans: They can do something only with what they’re worth at a certain point in time. It’s their current value that matters to their plans, not the amount they invested. It’s more accurate to call it “fair value …

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Riders talk GRTA Xpress

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

We should know Thursday the state’s plans for the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority’s Xpress bus service; that’s when Gov. Nathan Deal releases his budget. Last year, the state spent $5.4 million to maintain the service, which provides about 9,000 rides a day to long-haul commuters to and from the suburbs and Atlanta. But questions about the state’s commitment to the service continue. Today, GRTA riders share their experiences, and an environmental leader writes about what transit options and the GRTA service mean for the environment.

Commenting is open below, following Tedra Cheatham’s column.

Suburban bus riders on pros and cons

“I have been riding the Route 412 bus from Discover Mills (now Sugarloaf Mills) to Midtown since the route’s inception. It’s been great. I have not minded a bit that the fares have more than doubled since the start. The $4.50 I pay each way now is worth it, and I would pay more for the service. The bus is extremely …

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Tough times needn’t defer fixes for the future here

By Kelly McCutchen

Not everything is off limits to government in an economic recession. On the contrary, the challenge forces government to explore opportunities for fundamental reforms that improve efficiency and effectiveness in the long run. Below are ideas that, if implemented, could help position Georgia ideally for the future.
Build on the bipartisan criminal justice reforms enacted in 2012 by reforming the juvenile justice system and protecting innocent owners and their property rights by reforming Georgia’s civil asset forfeiture law.
Improve access to justice for victims of medical negligence with patient-centered tort reform. Georgia’s medical malpractice system works for trial lawyers and insurance companies, not for patients harmed by malpractice. A nonlitigious system would compensate more victims, reduce injuries and medical errors and could save Georgia taxpayers $1 billion a year.
Follow Florida’s successful patient-centered Medicaid reform for disabled …

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