Archive for February, 2013

Georgians teeter on personal financial cliffs

Moderated by Rick Badie

Georgia has endured tough economic times and continues to struggle in the post-recession recovery. A recent report by a nonpartisan think tank offers some perspective on the deep damage incurred to the financial health of our state. I highlight the report’s findings, while two policy analysts outline solutions for greater prosperity.

Georgians: Broke and living paycheck to paycheck

By Rick Badie

Many Georgians are practically broke, living paycheck to paycheck.

Too few of us save for our children’s college education, much less retirement.

And God forbid an emergency slaps us, given that we’re already teetering on a personal financial cliff, just getting by. Many Georgians are one emergency away from financial ruin. So says the Corporation for Enterprise Development, a Washington-based, nonpartisan think tank that focuses on household finances and solutions for low- to moderate-income earners.

The organization recently released the 2013 version of …

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Private fixes for MARTA?

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

MARTA privatization is the focus of House Bill 264, currently in the General Assembly. State Rep. Mike Jacobs writes about cost savings the private sector could bring to the strapped transit agency. But the transit union argues the bill will mean lost wages and jobs.

Commenting is open below Curtis Howard’s column.

Private-sector fixes needed for MARTA

By Mike Jacobs

It’s no secret that MARTA, metro Atlanta’s flagship transit agency, is in dire financial shape. If necessary changes are not made, MARTA will continue to run an annual deficit of about $30 million, and costs are projected to outstrip revenues every year through at least 2021.

MARTA provides some services that are worthy and essential but carry an astronomical price tag. For example, MARTA’s paratransit bus service picks up and delivers the disabled and elderly. But at a cost of $50.43 per trip per rider — compared to the $4 fare actually charged each passenger — the price is …

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Refocus all of DeKalb schools’ assets toward student achievement

 Former state Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond brings a great wealth of experience as a manager and attorney to his new role of interim superintendent of the DeKalb County School District. However, he doesn’t bring a background in education.
He’s already getting good advice on how to shore up that deficit. At his first public appearance last week, one resident told Thurmond, “Student achievement must be the focus.”
School board member Nancy Jester offered, “Things don’t teach children. Programs don’t teach children… . Nothing can replace the gentle hand of a teacher reading and rereading a passage in a book and encouraging a child to think beyond herself, beyond today and imagine the possibilities of a full future.”
To overhaul DeKalb, the state’s third-largest district and, of late, one of its most troubled, Thurmond ought to heed another piece of advice: Don’t confuse the DeKalb County school system with the DeKalb County Board of Education. Don’t …

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Determined to meet challenges ahead

By Michael Thurmond

The citizens of DeKalb County have placed great trust in me. They are looking for solutions, and I am determined to meet the challenges that face us. Those challenges are great, but our opportunities are greater.
Many have asked if one person can make a difference. This isn’t a job one person can accomplish alone. We must come together as a community and commit our energies and resources to restoring full accreditation for the DeKalb County School District. This must be our prime objective.
Our students have worked hard to win acceptance to some of the nation’s finest colleges and universities. They have qualified for admission to top-flight technical colleges and military academies. Others are graduating directly into the world of work. No “adult made” obstacles should stand in their way — especially when the threat of losing accreditation has nothing to do with their hard work and academic achievement.
All of us, in north DeKalb and south, …

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DeKalb schools face complex path ahead

By David Schutten

Michael Thurmond is a proven and accomplished leader who has undertaken a daunting, difficult and perilous job as interim superintendent of DeKalb County School System, a system that appears to be in a tailspin.
Much like the passengers on US Air Flight 1549 crashing into the Hudson River, I feel as if I am on DeKalb Air Flight 2013 crashing into the granite face of Stone Mountain. In the midst of the tailspin we have switched pilots.
Thurmond faces many daunting tasks. The first is leading the school board and the school system off of probation. To accomplish this, he must have the full cooperation of the nine board members. I heard each of them testify before the state Board of Education that they would and could work together to move the system off of probation. However, three weeks later, they were unable to muster a simple majority to elect a chair.
Employee morale is at an all-time low. We are hemorrhaging good teachers and administrators to other …

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Juvenile reform needs update

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Hold kids accountable but protect their rights

By J. Tom Morgan

If we expect our children to respect the law, we need to create laws that hold them accountable while protecting their rights. For more than 40 years, prosecutors in Georgia have worked with a patchwork quilt of juvenile law that hurts the interests of our society and our children.

Now Georgia’s General Assembly has a solution before it that can solve that problem. The Juvenile Justice Reform bill (HB242), introduced last week by Rep. Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, represents years of work by numerous statewide organizations and volunteers, including parents, prosecutors, family attorneys, judges and scholars. More than 260 lawyers conducted more than 300 interviews to determine how to create a model law for Georgia. These preparations have been inclusive and transparent; many who want the best for our children had a hand in crafting the proposals. Their effort deserves support from …

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Will the Boy Scouts allow gays?

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

The Boy Scouts of America said last week that it would delay until May a decision to reconsider its policy of barring openly gay people, a policy the U.S. Supreme Court upheld in 2000. Today, a Scouting activist endorses an end to the national ban. But a Christian leader argues that the moral absolute of Scouting has been put up for sale

Commenting is open following Jerry Luquire’s column.

Provide Scouting’s best for all families

By Gary B. Roberts

I am fortunate to work at an organization that values inclusion. I attend an Episcopal parish that is open and welcoming to all “sorts and conditions” of people. I am also an Eagle Scout and the father of an Eagle Scout. I’ve been a Cub Scout leader and an assistant scoutmaster at times in my life. I fully support the Boy Scouts of America.

For the past 10 years, I’ve been working with the Boy Scouts as the host for Merit Badge University at Kennesaw State University. This is an annual event where …

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Reshuffling the Fulton County Board of Commissioners

Moderated by Rick Badie

Three white commission districts. Three black. That’s what a redistricting proposal, proffered by a legislative delegation, effectively would create for the Fulton County Board of Commissioners. Today, a supporter of the proposal says it ensures equal representation for north Fulton. But the two commissioners who would wind up in the same district deem the reshuffling an abuse of political power. Read all three essays, then post your comments.

Politics and power have been abused

By William “Bill” Edwards

Power and politics go together like hand and glove. While responsible leaders balance power with justice, fairness and ethics, others use politics and power like blunt weapons to strike out at their opponents.

In Fulton County, a political power shift occurred in our General Assembly delegation. Last November, 64 percent of Fulton County residents voted for a Democratic president. Voters have also supported Democrats for countywide races in recent …

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The myth of the hotel-motel tax

Moderated by Rick Badie

Debate continues regarding the use of partial public funding — money derived from the hotel-motel tax — to pay for a new Atlanta Falcons stadium. Today, an economics professor suggests that it’s a myth to say only out-of-town visitors pay this fee. And two Georgia Chamber of Commerce executives consider the sports venue a wise investment for the state.

Local residents pay hotel-motel tax, too

By J.C. Bradbury

Public funding of a new Atlanta Falcons stadium has focused on the hotel-motel tax, but it’s myth, repeated much lately, that such a tax is paid entirely by out-of-town visitors.

Taxing visitors seems like a winning move because residents get a new project while someone else gets the bill. But putting the responsibility on hotel guests to pay the tax doesn’t mean the revenue it generates comes solely from the pockets of nonresidents.

Economists have long known the burden of a tax is not determined by who pays the tax. The relative …

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2012 Traffic fatalities

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Initial traffic fatality figures for last year show a jump in bicyclist and pedestrian deaths on Georgia roads. A cycling advocate explains that the city’s lower speed limits and an increase in bike lanes have made Atlanta safer, while the state has made moves to embrace all-user safety on its roads. A state transportation official writes that progress is being made.

Commenting is open below Meg Pirkle’s column.

Georgia makes slow climb to bike safety

By Rebecca Serna

The year 2012 was a banner one for bicycling in Atlanta, with the opening of the Beltline Eastside Trail and the 5th Street green bike lane and increases in bike counts. The city is on track to become a truly bicycle-friendly community in a few years.

The state of Georgia didn’t fare so well.

Bicycle fatalities rose last year. Nineteen Georgians died in bike crashes, according to the Georgia Department of Transportation, up from 13 in 2011. And pedestrian fatalities increased to 168 …

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