Archive for January, 2013

Taking up where we left off at Gold Dome

The Georgia General Assembly comes to order Monday. Considering the landscape both ahead of and behind us, it’s tempting for lawmakers and citizens to both want to take a breather in 2013.
That’s understandable after a raucous 2012 that saw multiple major issues before the Legislature, among them a thorny budget, tax reform and transportation matters. Not to mention last year’s landmark elections.
By comparison, issues likely to come before this body in 2013 largely carry a lower profile. They are no less important to the future of this region and state, however. Lawmakers should not forget that. And they should summon up the wisdom and courage to act decisively and wisely on the business now at hand.
As a curtain-raiser of the next 40 legislative days, here is our starter list of challenges that stand in need of solutions:
Ethics
In coming weeks, we will hear much talk for another year running about the constitutionally mandated necessity of Georgia living within the prudent …

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Reasonable approach needed to improve Georgia

By Alan Essig

Should Georgia rely on nonprofits and charity hospitals to solve the state’s Medicaid budget problem?
That could be the long-term solution, according to some state lawmakers who will arrive at the Capitol this week. We must move away from unrealistic approaches to actual problems as legislators cope with declining revenue and increasing demand for services.
Georgia lawmakers have a real opportunity to turn things around during the 2013 legislative session. I’d like see the following challenges take top priority this year.
Educate and develop Georgia’s workforce. Georgia cut state funding for the university system since 2000 by almost 20 percent. Funding for technical colleges dropped by 11 percent. Steep tuition hikes predictably followed. Between 2003 and 2012, $5.6 billion was cut from K-12 funding, resulting in fewer instructional days and larger class sizes. This session lawmakers should:
Implement the recommendations of the State Education Finance Commission …

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Our violent culture

Bipolar culture shares blame

By David Gunn

There is one question that unites most Americans today: What’s to be done about gun violence in our country?

The liberals want to get rid of guns, and conservatives want more people to have them.

We may either ban assault rifles or arm teachers, but the winds of change do seem to be blowing.

But then again, we might get distracted by a scandal and forget about the whole thing.

Who knows?

I don’t believe it matters whether you ban or permit guns. It doesn’t matter if the government hands them out to everyone.

It seems to me we’re rather bipolar about the whole issue, which has led us to our current unhealthy state.

We send a mixed message concerning violence to our citizens, particularly to our young people.

We condone violence in all aspects of our society, then weep when it actually happens. We allow it to exist everywhere — especially in our movies, music and games.

Then, when someone actually commits the same act that we pay to see …

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When protective orders fail

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

An activist against domestic abuse says our justice system is ineffective with cases like that of Donna Kristofak, who was killed last month allegedly by her ex-husband after he was released from jail early for threatening her with a knife. Two judges respond that protective orders can work, but greater vigilance from agencies and the public are needed to protect victims.

Commenting is open below following the column by Stephen D. Kelley and Peggy H. Walker.

Waiting for the bad guys to do more

By Stacey Dougan

I read with anguish the article describing Donna Kristofak’s public pleas for help just two months before being murdered, allegedly by her ex-husband. In court last October, seeking protection from the man who earlier had tried to stab her in a Wal-Mart parking lot, Donna requested that the “record reflect” she feared for her life.

Cobb County Judge Adele Grubbs struck a sympathetic tone, responding that a protection order coupled with the threat …

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Energy Efficiency

Moderated by Rick Badie

Last year, President Barack Obama announced the Better Buildings Challenge, with a goal to make commercial and industrial buildings 20 percent more energy efficient by 2020. Atlanta city leaders and business community embraced the challenge, and now the city is considered a showcase for energy-efficient strategies. Today, a guest writer explains the Atlanta Better Buildings initiative, while a professor questions the data that supports the green movement.

Atlanta is a leader in energy efficiency

By Lauren Dufort

The buildings in which we work and live have some hidden costs. Today, office and residential buildings use more than 40 percent of the total energy in the U.S. economy at an annual cost of over $400 billion and account for a large amount of water use. It takes nearly one gallon of water to generate the electricity needed to run the typical desktop computer for 6.5 hours. Multiply that figure across the thousands of computers citywide, and it’s …

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Georgia seaports: Closing them is not an option

Moderated by Rick Badie

The union for longshoremen along the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico agreed to a 30-day contract extension to avert a strike that would have crippled Georgia’s economy, notably the Savannah and Brunswick seaports. Today, a Georgia Ports Authority official explains the impact a strike would have here, while a retail executive provides a global view. A former union rep praises dockworkers for seeking their slice of the American pie.

Ports supply jobs, fuel our economy

By Curtis Foltz

Anyone who has walked along River Street in Savannah has undoubtedly seen an enormous cargo ship stacked with containers heading into or out of the Port of Savannah. Every day, thousands of dockworkers, truck drivers, stevedores and others efficiently load, unload and otherwise provide excellent service to shippers coming and going from Georgia’s front door to the global marketplace. The port moved 2.98 million containers of imports and exports in 2012; we expect to exceed 3 …

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GDOT’s challenges

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

The Georgia Department of Transportation is all about doing more with less these days, as gas tax revenues stagnate and the failed T-SPLOST fades into history. There will be more emphasis on improving existing infrastructure in small but meaningful ways — such as diverging diamond interchanges and variable speed limits. At a recent AJC meeting, GDOT officials also were asked about spending precious state funds on beautifying the Downtown Connector. Their response is included below, and community leaders also defend the downtown gateway project.

Commenting is open below the column by A.J. Robinson and Kevin Green.

By Tom Sabulis

The new leaders of the Georgia Department of Transportation — both engineers, which they say is a first — acknowledged in a recent meeting at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that their department is a big reason why the public has little confidence in state government. In a 90-minute session with editors and reporters, …

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Harness energy, ideas of youthful leaders in 2013

A new year should bring with it fresh thinking and tactics for use against old and new societal challenges.
And in that regard it’s hard to beat the enthusiasm, energy and intellect of smart young people already known as high achievers. That’s why the Georgia Forward Young Gamechangers program is channeling young ideas toward ways to improve our state.
We asked a few members of this year’s class to write about their views of government, its role and what it should be doing to help Georgia prosper in 2013.
Their essays are below.

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Georgia should say yes to Medicaid expansion

By Janet Cummings

In 2013, Gov. Nathan Deal has an opportunity to improve the health of 650,000 low-income Georgians and bring more than $33 billion of federal money into our state over the next 10 years by saying yes to one program: the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, slated to begin in 2014.
The expansion would reduce the number of uninsured Georgians by more than half. By doing so, not only would thousands be able to access preventive services, primary care, and other needed medical treatment while avoiding more costly care in our emergency rooms, but lives will be saved. A recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that deaths declined by 6.1 percent in states that voluntarily expanded their Medicaid program compared to neighboring states that did not.
Many of those on the front lines of our health care delivery system — physicians, hospitals, and health clinics — strongly support the expansion. The Georgia Chapters of the American College of …

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Government, business are in this together

By Jefferson Davis IV

Government is all of us, me and you. It is as trustworthy as the people we choose to represent us, and I believe our elected officials are as accountable as we hold them.
Politicians get a lot of grief from cynics, but in Georgia, we are blessed with public servants of both parties who see the “big picture” and are committed to doing what is best for the prosperity of our state, regardless of politics.
The cooperation between Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed to ensure the continued vitality of the Port of Savannah is a shining example that should make us all proud.
While I am a political conservative, I believe there are many services the government must provide and other arenas in which it is rightly involved. Law enforcement, an open and just court system, and the common defense are bedrock necessities of any civilized society.
Along with churches and faith-based institutions, the government should maintain the strength and integrity of the …

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