Archive for March, 2013

Voting rights at stake in DeKalb

By Eugene Walker

I am dismayed but not deterred following our setback in federal court  on Monday. I respectfully but wholeheartedly disagree with the judge’s decision, and I plan to continue to seek justice through the court system until this matter with the governor is resolved. This is why:
I was born in Thomaston, a small town in Upson County.  The indignity of segregation and racism was the backdrop of my youth.
I swore that I would stand up for my rights no matter the cost. I have not swayed from this self commitment, and virtually all my adult life has been dedicated to service to my fellow man, with a special dedication to education.
I preface this to explain, again, why I am obligated to engage the governor in the court system. It is morally abhorrent to sit idly by and allow the usurping of the one man-one vote rights that have been bought and paid for with the blood, sweat and tears of my generation.
It is imperative that public servants preserve and protect the …

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Education makes the difference

By R.K. Sehgal

As a naturalized citizen, I came here believing in the superiority of U.S. public schools.  My father believed the United States would equip me with the educational and life skills that I would need to be a success. And it did.
That is why it saddens me to see the current crisis in DeKalb County, which is a glaring example of how low we’ve set the bar for education in Georgia.
When I was Georgia’s commissioner for industry, trade and tourism, and in my prior career leading a global engineering consulting firm, I had the good fortune to meet with business and political leaders across the world. I was proud to be an ambassador for my adopted country and state.
I recall a conversation with the prime minister of Japan. My job was to talk up Georgia’s world-class airport, ports and infrastructure, along with the many other benefits of doing business here. The prime minister sternly explained that Japan would expand its business footprint in places that could provide …

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Make service a component of HOPE

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Fulfill HOPE with service stint

By Michelle Nunn

Georgia’s HOPE scholarship is one of the largest merit-based college scholarship programs in the United States, but it could be so much more. By rewarding both good grades and volunteer service, the HOPE scholarship could teach the rest of the nation how to produce educated, engaged citizens who know how to give back.

By requiring service, the HOPE scholarship would build on the legacy of the G.I. Bill, arguably one of the most successful and popular government programs in U.S. history. By the end of 1956, roughly 2.2 million World War II veterans used G.I. benefits to attend college. Giving veterans an education in return for their service helped create the “greatest generation,” building our country’s unparalleled economic strength and enriching our communities.

We recently increased the academic requirements for the HOPE scholarship in response to our state’s fiscal constraints. Today, high school …

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Alternative energy getting a fair chance?

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Does government have to play fair? A Georgia environmentalist says it’s not a level playing field when it comes to alternative energy getting the kind of government support traditionally offered to the fossil-fuel industry. A conservative writer counters that the mandating of renewable energy will increase our cost of living, even as air quality improves and natural gas energy catches on.

Commenting is open below.

Clean options merit some breaks, too

By David Kyler

It is often said that morality cannot be legislated, but that doesn’t keep people from trying. Yet the public issues most commonly portrayed in moral dimensions seldom if ever include job creation, technology and the use and protection of natural resources.

Our state and nation would benefit greatly by linking government policies to standards that balance moral goals such as fairness and honesty with other important objectives, including economic opportunity, education, public health and …

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Voting Rights Act

Moderated by Rick Badie

As the U.S. Supreme Court considers a challenge to the 1965 Voting Rights Act, we pose this question: Have Georgia and its sister states in the Deep South outgrown the need for the law, notably Section 5, which requires prior federal approval for any change that affects voting? Two congressmen from Georgia weigh the issue.

Voting Rights Act necessary

By Hank Johnson

The right to vote is the foundation of our democracy. The Supreme Court has upheld the Voting Rights Act four times. The law was recently reauthorized by anoverwhelming votes of 98-0 vote in the Senate and 390-33 in the House.

After listening to nearly 50 witnesses — federal and state officials, Republicans, Democrats, and civil rights leaders — at 12 hearings, compiling a record of more than 12,000 pages, the House concluded the Voting Rights Act and its Section 5 were still essential.

After an equally extensive set of hearings, the Senate documented the need for continued protections …

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Are tax breaks for corporations a good deal?

Moderated by Rick Badie

Legislators often say they must cut spending while they simultaneously reward big corporations — the job creators — with tax breaks and incentives. Today, a former state budget analyst questions this practice, while a state chamber executive cites its economic benefits.

Commenting is open below.

Some tax breaks might not work

By Alan Essig

The 2013 General Assembly is considering giving special tax treatment to encourage mobile home sales, help Georgia’s aircraft maintenance companies compete against their counterparts in other states, and lower the cost of zoo construction projects.

The tax breaks on the menu would diminish state revenues by tens of millions of dollars if all became law. That would be on top of the nearly $300 million in corporate tax credits for economic development Georgia now hands out each year.

This should raise eyebrows even if state budget cuts to education weren’t still causing teacher furloughs and layoffs across the state, …

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Maglev test line for Atlanta?

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

One of our guest opinion columnists has an out-of-the-box idea for a transportation experiment in the city – a maglev line running from MARTA’s Arts Center station to the Atlantic Station area. What do you think?

Commenting is open below.

By Dave Henson

After the failure of the metro Atlanta transportation referendum last year, Gov. Nathan Deal said it “slams the door on further expansion of our rail network any time soon.” Despite this understandable sentiment, I think commuter rail can get back on track.

It’s important to remember that the governor supported the referendum to the end, nobly going down with the rickety ship he inherited. The business community was grateful for his support, but other pro-transit groups undercut him by loudly opposing the plan. I believe a business-backed rail initiative could still pique Deal’s interest.

In addition to benefiting the business community, new rail would have to serve a large number of potential riders …

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Rome – I-75 connector battle

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

The Rollins family, the pest-control company clan, has been fighting the Georgia Department of Transportation over the state’s chosen route for the U.S. 411 Connector, which will connect Rome to I-75. Today, an attorney representing the Rollins ranch calls for a compromise route, while GDOT responds.

Commenting is open below Russell McMurry’s column.

A better road to Rome connector

By Henry Parkman

The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) is so out of touch that it has no problem spending more than $100 million to save drivers a tiny bit of time — 24 seconds, according to studies — on a trip from Rome to Atlanta. GDOT apparently has not learned much from the defeat of T-SPLOST last summer.

The U.S. 411 Connector was the centerpiece of the T-SPLOST list of northwest Georgia projects totaling $1.4 billion. The primary beneficiaries of the 411 Connector, Floyd County residents, overwhelmingly voted against T-SPLOST, even after GDOT touted the …

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Changes overdue in Fulton tax lien sales process

Some degree of citizen trust in government is essential to a well-functioning free society.
Public officials and their agencies should always behave in a manner which earns and maintains that trust. When that’s not the case, the public good suffers and government eventually becomes hampered in its conduct of essential work.
This widely understood cornerstone of civic knowledge has not penetrated the walls of Fulton County Tax Commissioner Arthur Ferdinand’s offices. As reporting last week by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows, the office’s practices around sales of tax liens raise troubling questions about whether the public’s best interest is being served.
Such concerns about the pursuit of a key governmental function — tax collection — should not be the case, especially in a county already riven with political strife. All of Fulton  deserves better.
The AJC’s reporting shows that Ferdinand’s office has run a brisk business in selling tax liens — in effect, privatizing …

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Everyone’s expected to pay taxes

By Arthur Ferdinand

If everyone paid their taxes timely, all would benefit. Unfortunately, about two percent of property owners do not. Lien transfers were a practice in Fulton County before I became tax commissioner.
Prior to 1997, my first year as tax commissioner, the collection rate was less than 89 percent with millage rates rising. At $204 million, the delinquent tax roll was more than the 20 percent of collectibles. That $204 million delinquent amount is on par with Detroit today, a city in decay with a collection rate of about 50 percent, where tax payment is voluntary and services are virtually nonexistent. In 1997, we boosted the collection rate to 96 percent and began an unprecedented run of no millage rate increases in Fulton County. The collection rate is now 99 percent, even during the economic downturn.
The scrutiny our office is under seems to be from critics of our work who have a personal agenda and not a public one. The perennial sponsor of bills to curtail …

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