Archive for May, 2013

Expand Medicaid?

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act is all over the map. The Texas legislature just passed a bill to stop it. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is trying to force state lawmakers to expand access to it. In Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal says we can’t afford it. Today, a health care executive and two physicians debate the pros and cons of this controversial component of Obamacare.

Commenting is open below.

Help less fortunate, expand Medicaid

By Jack Bernard and Neil Shulman

In a fruitless effort, the radical Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have once again pushed through a repeal of “socialist” Obamacare — for the 37th time. This is partisan politics at its finest, since Obamacare is simply an update of Romneycare, a thoroughly Republican concept based on private insurance first introduced by former Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole in more reasonable times.

As health care professionals with many decades of experience, we do not …

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Traffic court mess

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

AJC reporter Rhonda Cook wrote recently about widespread inefficiency in the over-burdened Atlanta traffic court, where taxpayers are subjected to interminable waits, where eight municipal judges handled more than 165,000 cases last year, and where a citizen advocate found “apparent ineptitude” in a factory-like atmosphere.” Today, Atlanta’s city’s chief operating officer writes about the city’s attempt to remedy the problems. We also hear from one resident, representative of many, who had a miserable experience.

Commenting is open below.

Working on a traffic court fix

By Duriya Farooqui

When Mayor Kasim Reed took office in 2010, he made public safety his top priority. The Reed administration immediately began the work of rebuilding and reinvesting in the city’s police, fire, and corrections departments, as well as its judicial agencies. Sworn public safety employees received a 3.5 percent raise and we increased the budgets of the judicial agencies by …

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Lower threshold for drunk driving?

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Three columns today: The chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board writes about the NTSB recommendation to lower the blood alcohol content used to determine drunk driving. A Mothers Against Drunk Driving official says a lower BAC is only part of the fight, especially in Georgia, where ignition-lock legislation needs to be updated. And a transportation analyst writes that a lower threshold won’t necessarily reduce deaths.

Commenting is open below.

Stricter standard needed

By Deborah A.P. Hersman

On May 14 — the 25th anniversary of our nation’s deadliest drunk-driving crash, which killed 24 children and three adults in Carrollton, Ky. — the National Transportation Safety Board voted unanimously to issue recommendations to help this country eliminate alcohol-impaired driving.

The recommendations call for stronger laws, swifter enforcement and expanded use of technology for alcohol detection.

Bold actions are needed to achieve bold …

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Solar Power

Moderated by Rick Badie

A group of bipartisan lawmakers wants solar energy to be a regular, though voluntary, source of power for our homes. Read about their proposal, House Bill 647, as well as an energy expert’s assessment regarding sun power as a rate reducer.

Solar lowers rates, creates jobs

By Rusty Kidd, Tom Kirby and Terry Rogers

If you could check a box on your monthly electric bill that could save you extra money, would you?

You may soon have the chance, thanks to a new bill we introduced the last week of the 2013 legislative session: House Bill 657, the Rural Georgia Economic Recovery and Solar Resource Act of 2014. It creates a 100-percent voluntary program for customers of an electrical utility like Georgia Power to “sign up for solar,” even those who can’t install solar themselves. Customers simply choose to use more solar energy. They will see their rates reduced over time. because the sun never sends a bill for fuel.

Times have changed for solar in Georgia. For …

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Start-up capital, angel investors

Moderated by Rick Badie

Women and minorities face tougher hurdles when it comes to start-up capital and financing, according to research commissioned by the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy. Today, the researcher explains her findings, while the Georgia district SBA director outlines what that agency does to level the playing field. And we learn about “angel investors.”

SBA programs help level playing field

By Terri L. Denison

One of the biggest challenges small businesses experience is access to capital. Historically, this has been particularly true for businesses started and owned by African-Americans, Hispanics and women. Many studies associate this disparity in business lending with factors such as lower median household incomes and assets, reduced likelihood of entrepreneurial knowledge and experience through family-owned businesses, and lower credit scores and profiles. During the Great Recession, these groups were disproportionately affected by …

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MARTA, union at odds

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Today, the union that represents MARTA employees writes about its safety concerns and management’s alleged lack of response to them. The chief issue is bus safety; the union says too many vehicles each day are not passing muster. In our second piece, MARTA’s top official refutes the charges and outlines how the agency is addressing safety issues.

Commenting is open below.

Officials ignore MARTA safety issues

By Curtis Howard

Lost in the discussion about privatization of MARTA is the fact that the agency, even with the “enlightened” leadership of Keith Parker, is behaving very much like private companies that seek to take over public properties: It is skimping on safety, putting unsafe buses on the road and ignoring its own safety rules, hoping that no one will notice.

The ATU has noticed that safety is not Parker’s top priority, that he is over-spending on equipment that doesn’t work, and that his motto seems to be “schedules before safety.”

Last year, …

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Gun control on the radar?

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Georgia has some of the least restrictive gun laws in the nation, particularly when it comes to keeping firearms away from children. Today, we hear from gun owners with different views: An Atlanta attorney writes that state legislators are more interested in expanding gun rights than protecting people, while a local real estate agent says the U.S. Senate’s background-checks bill was too vague for him.

Commenting is open below.

Still time to pass sensible gun law

By Halsey G. Knapp Jr.

It is not over. Just weeks ago, Americans were encouraged to see a national consensus emerging that enforceable, uniform background checks on all gun purchases, whether from retail stores or gun shows, would become a reality. Had the old mantra, “Guns don’t kill people, people do,” lost its sway? Were we finally facing the reality that too often, irresponsible people with guns kill other, innocent people?

One U.S. Senate filibuster later, our voices were drowned out, and …

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County comprehensive plans

Moderated by Rick Badie

Today, a University of Georgia professor and his graduate assistant offer research findings that show county comprehensive plans, mandated by the state, may create jobs in the long term. Meanwhile, an executive of a teen advocacy group implores us to take the lead in educating youth on financial matters.

By Jeffrey H. Dorfman and Jennie Allison

Long-range comprehensive plans are done by all county governments in Georgia thanks to a requirement in the Georgia Planning Act of 1989. Because Georgia’s history with mandatory planning is still quite short, and strong property-rights beliefs are held by citizens, plenty are skeptical of the benefits of such planning.

Comprehensive planning incorporates many types of planning such as land use, transportation, environmental, social and regional planning. Planning helps a community envision its future and decide the direction it takes. While the resulting plans look over a long period, comprehensive plans are …

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Job growers: Retail and food services

Moderated by Rick Badie

Looks like we will eat and shop our way out of the Great Recession. Partially, at least. The retail and food services industries led the nation’s job growth in April with 29,000 and 38,000 jobs, respectively, reports the U.S. Department of Labor. Atlantans love to dine. Here, fashion rules. Today’s guest columnists offer a regional perspective on the report.

Resilient restaurants a testament to the people

By Karen Bremer

Americans and Georgians alike may have recently been surprised by the employment figures released in early May by the U.S. Department of Labor. However, these numbers came as no shock to restaurateurs. In April, the job growth of the restaurant industry rose nationally by 38,000 people.

For all of 2012, the number of restaurant jobs in Georgia grew by 11,800. These numbers demonstrate the resilience and strength of the restaurant industry in job creation.

Our sector continues to grow as the average American dines out five times a week. …

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MARTA, streetcar wait times

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Last week, I wrote about my frustration with long wait times on MARTA and talked with agency officials who explained the cost of adding more service. Today, I visit with a Georgia Tech engineering professor who is trying to cut down on the inconvenience of waiting by introducing technology that will keep riders informed on how long it will take before their bus or train reaches their stop or station. In our second column, a transit consultant comments on the Atlanta streetcar system’s projected wait times.

Commenting is open below.

Aiding transit in real time

By Tom Sabulis

Given metro Atlanta’s transportation mess, it’s refreshing to find progressive thinkers who are looking to improve things within the existing infrastructure, at little cost to anyone.

Kari Watkins is an engineering professor at Georgia Tech who, while at the University of Washington, co-developed a computer application for Seattle transit called OneBusAway. The app taps into …

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