Our governing class gives us more reasons to distrust them

Two weeks have passed since voters across most of Georgia rejected their region’s T-SPLOST proposals in a display of distrust in government. Unfortunately, that’s plenty of time for members of our governing class to provide new reasons to be wary of them.

The most egregious of the new bad examples comes courtesy of an organization whose project became a lightning rod during metro Atlanta’s T-SPLOST debate: the Beltline.

The 22-mile loop of trails, parks and transit ringing Atlanta’s urban core is supposed to herald yet another renaissance for the city of perpetual rebirth. Instead, a series of investigative stories by the AJC’s Greg Bluestein has uncovered an all too familiar sight: flip disregard for the public, this time in the expense reports of Beltline employees. These workers might not be public officials in the traditional sense, but they do have access to tax dollars.

And my, how they’ve used that access. Wedding gifts, a parking ticket and a dry cleaning bill, and pricey hotel stays, dinners and drinks from sea to shining sea: The public has been awfully generous to the Beltline staff, thanks to the Beltline staff.

Beltline executives, including CEO Brian Leary, filed for taxpayer-funded reimbursement of these and other expenses. Now that they’ve been caught, they’re repaying the public for some inappropriate ones. So far, taxpayers have recovered $750. Yet to be repaid, among other things, is a $2,100 charge for foods and drinks for “staff development” at a Braves game.

Who do these guys think they are, state legislators? Were all the lobbyists out of town?

Seriously, though: While the dollar amounts associated with these purchases may be relatively small, the attitude they reveal — a parking ticket? really? — bears the same sense of entitlement and disdain for taxpayers we’ve come to expect in many public, ahem, servants.

I like the Beltline in principle. But its inclusion as a project to alleviate metro traffic congestion, to the tune of 10 percent of the regional funds to be raised by the 10-year T-SPLOST, was unjustifiable. Don’t take my word for it: Take the words of T-SPLOST defenders who, when challenged about the project’s ability to ease gridlock, tended to change the topic to economic development or more popular road projects.

Now, the tradeoff for a shot at more than $600 million and a speedier building of parts of the Beltline may be the perception among suburbanites that Atlanta wanted them to subsidize its newest toy train. When it should have been working to repair its image, the Beltline now faces the task of living down its staff’s high living.

Speaking of living on high, ivory-tower types struck a blow for themselves last week when the Board of Regents of Georgia’s university system named a consolidated school after … the Board of Regents.

Georgia Regents University is the new name of the colleges formerly known as Augusta State University and the Georgia Health Sciences University, itself known until recent years as the Medical College of Georgia. This name has the benefit of appealing to the 17 regents who voted for it and, as near as I can tell, not one other person on the planet.

A branding survey conducted by Kennesaw State University for the regents, first obtained and reported by the Augusta Chronicle, found “Georgia Regents University” wasn’t even on the original short list of names. When it did appear in a second survey, it ranked fifth out of seven choices, besting only “Georgia Excelsior University” and “Bartram University,” while trailing the likes of “Georgia United University” and “Georgia Eastern University.”

(That unimpressive list of choices and the hideous new license plate leads one to conclude our government certainly can’t be trusted when it comes to creative endeavors.)

“Georgia Regents University” allegedly was chosen to avoid the regionalism that might have come with a name including “Augusta,” but three to four times as many people surveyed nationally thought “University of Augusta” better reflected the words “national,” “excellence” and “prestige.”

The Chronicle reported the president of the combined university, Ricardo Azziz, “says the name Georgia Regents University recognizes that it is the first research university established by the Board of Regents.”

If you’re not a regent and that thought either occurred or matters to you, congratulations: You’re qualified to join Georgia’s governing class. Keep that attitude, and you’ll go a long way here.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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113 comments Add your comment

Thomas Heyward Jr

August 16th, 2012
7:20 am

Good job Greg Bluestein.
.
It would also probably be intereting to see recent property deeds on the proposed Beltline route.

Curious George

August 16th, 2012
7:41 am

Why is the Social Security Administration secretly hoarding millions of rounds of hollow-points designed to shred a human being’s internal organs?

Chris Sanchez

August 16th, 2012
7:44 am

So much of this sort of thing taking place and yet the voters of Georgia continue to send the same people back to their respective offices. If We the People want to send an unmistakable message to those who would hold public office, why not simply send a different group of people? Clearly our current crop of elected officials feel so safe in their positions that they continue to behave in ways that most of us find unacceptable.

Curious George

August 16th, 2012
7:44 am

Is 0bama JiveTalker going to declare Martial Law on the day after his election when he loses, or declare Martial Law the day BEFORE the election to hold onto his power?

The Ruling Class

August 16th, 2012
7:51 am

Question: I just searched online and was unable to find this:

What is BeltLine CEO Brian Leary’s annual salary? If the Beltline is a nonprofit, shouldn’t that information be posted somewhere?

I am just wondering how much he earns that we have to pay for his dry cleaning and parking tickets.

JDW

August 16th, 2012
8:05 am

So now we are going to get all wound up over a couple thousand dollars worth of expense account padding…. :roll:

Come on folks get a clue. I have been approving expense accounts in the corporate world for more than 20 years and this is nothing. I am not saying its right only that its irrelevant as a news story. Let the auditors to their job and spend time on real issues this is a waste.

antinewt

August 16th, 2012
8:09 am

Curious G: Seriously, dude, get help.

independent thinker

August 16th, 2012
8:09 am

Sure would like to see Nathan Deal and Ralston’s expense accounts. I expect Kyle is working diligently on getting those- can’t wait.

Curious George

August 16th, 2012
8:12 am

Kyle,

Why isn’t the AJC reporting extensively on the National Weather Service & the Food & Drug Administration stockpiling on bullets on ammunition like the Social Security Administration or the tanks and military hardware the Department of Homeland “Security” & the NSA is stockpiling out in the American Southwest desert…

…just in time for the fall Presidential Election?

Just saying..

August 16th, 2012
8:14 am

George: You ARE curious…

Curious George

August 16th, 2012
8:14 am

antinewt = 0bama 2012, 2016, 2020, 2024…

Ayn Rant

August 16th, 2012
8:15 am

… and just who elected all those untrustworthy jackasses to public office? … and who’ll vote the same old jackasses into office in November?

Stop whining about untrustworthy public officials; they represent you! What do you expect from a bunch of Republican politicians who campaign on the premise that government doesn’t work, and are anxious to demonstrate it?

Thulsa Doom

August 16th, 2012
8:19 am

JDW

August 16th, 2012
8:05 am
“So now we are going to get all wound up over a couple thousand dollars worth of expense account padding….”

You just don’t get it do you?

“I have been approving expense accounts in the corporate world for more than 20 years and this is nothing.”

This isn’t the corporate world and its not private money. This is the taxpayer’s money. Is there something about this that you still don’t understand?

Bob Loblaw

August 16th, 2012
8:24 am

Kyle, a survey was held and you, along with every Georgian, were eligible to go online and choose from several different choices for the license plate. So those you insult regarding the plate? Yeah, the folks that read your column.

JDW

August 16th, 2012
8:28 am

@Thulsa Doom…”You just don’t get it do you?”

I get it just fine…people are getting wound up over an extremely minor issue that should be handled by auditors and is not news. This is the very definition of down in the weeds and serves to do nothing but distract from real issues.

iggy

August 16th, 2012
8:32 am

Uh no JDW. Its not the amounts of theft in question its that the thefts took place, period. And isnt it interesting that just days after a resounding TSplost defeat, this story comes to light.

The Beltline is just another Atl City Boondoggle.

kayaker 71

August 16th, 2012
8:32 am

Just like it was in Germany…… give someone a hat with a logo and a rubber stamp and they think that they own the world. Its not the dollar amount….. its the attitude. Kyle is right. Trust in those in charge, especially when it come to public funds, is in the tank. And it really doesn’t make a damn bit of difference whether they are or R or D.

1961_Xer

August 16th, 2012
8:37 am

So now we are going to get all wound up over a couple thousand dollars worth of expense account padding….

Yes, we are. This is the same bunch who, just three weeks ago, wanted $600 million of taxpayer money to fund their economic development in the name of easing transportation gridlock. This shows the same disdain for taxpayers as is shown by MARTA, SRTA, Fulton County, Dekalb County, the GDOT, and half the over county and local governments in Metro Atlanta. And it wasn’t just a few minor employees who cheated on their expenses. This corruption begins right at the top.

If you want to be trusted with MORE taxpayer money, you have to show that you are CURRENTLY a good steward of the money you have been entrusted. Don’t expect fringe, donor counties to the TSPLOST to finance your corruption.

JDW

August 16th, 2012
8:38 am

iggy…”Its not the amounts of theft in question its that the thefts took place, period.”

Yeah right…find ANY organization anywhere public or private that has employees on an expense account that has not faced a situation where expenses are questioned. There isn’t one. You want to blow something like this up into an example of government gone wrong and its not. This is a simple inherent issue in managing people on expense accounts and it is neither exceptional nor newsworthy.

JDW

August 16th, 2012
8:41 am

1961_Xer…”This shows the same disdain for taxpayers ”

:roll:

This is no more distain for taxpayers than flying to the moon…it’s an expense account audit that has uncovered very MINOR issue.

iggy

August 16th, 2012
8:42 am

Think what you want JDW, however, every person who voted against TSplat is saying “Yep, we told ya so”.

Like it or not this is the nail in the coffin for the next TSplat vote. People dont forget this type if behavior.

HA HA!

ktbl

August 16th, 2012
8:43 am

In the military there is the Chain-Of-Command, over that command is the Commander-In-Chief that make’s things move whenever it has too. Government has it own way of doing things to its citizens whenever it want’s to. TSPLOST or whatever it is called was a secret to make up the money that has been loss. Not only the beltline, there will be more about things that we have not been told; and perhaps the beltline would never have surface if that TSPLOSt would have pass; because the lost money they the staff spent would have fundle into that pot as well. I have never seen such a greedy government taking advanage of it s people while its people starve, left in the cold, dirty highways, slums, vacant run down buildings and yet, they want more taxes paid from your payacheck! TSPLOST can still move forward; the people of Georgia can demand that all of the stockpile of money be used to whatever the 7 or 17 Billions of your tax dollars was going to do for the next 10 to 20 years. They stockpile of money have earned a lot of interests so they can use it to start what projects they wanted your dollar to pay for! By the way, they left ou the New Georgia Dome with the retractable roof, the parking decks that will have you come in at the level seating of your purchase ticket. You have to pay for parking if you go to one of the events at the nee dome, and other items at a much higher price. So now you know why your vote was important to say yes, to the TSPLOST!

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

August 16th, 2012
8:45 am

Workers in Colombia at General Motors Plant Sew Their Mouths Shut to Protest Backbreaking Labor Conditions

Think this kinda protest might work to stop the production of more of those license plates?

JDW

August 16th, 2012
8:48 am

@iggy…”Like it or not this is the nail in the coffin for the next TSplat vote.”

O’ goodie lets shoot ourselves in the foot yet again…you would think we would learn.

iggy

August 16th, 2012
8:50 am

How much theft is acceptable theft? A dollar, a dime? $10.00, $100.00?

JDW, name your price…

Curious George

August 16th, 2012
8:51 am

Would the AJC be covering, with heavy skepticism, all the secret stockpiling on ammunition our government (believed to be working FOR us, not against us) is doing if it were all still happening under the 42nd President’s watch?

iggy

August 16th, 2012
8:51 am

“Workers in Colombia at General Motors Plant Sew Their Mouths Shut to Protest Backbreaking Labor Conditions”

Considering we just “bailed out” that loser industry these discontented employess can get back to work or be fired. Im hoping for the latter.

Curious George

August 16th, 2012
8:53 am

What exactly does the National Weather Service need with their newly acquired 300 million rounds of “cop killer” bullets that shred through bullet-proof vests and body organs?

JF McNamara

August 16th, 2012
8:54 am

These types of things happen both in government and in private business. There’s just no oversight in private business, and when there is the punishment is levied with no publicity.

We have to stop demonizing government when 95% (or greater) of it is not corrupt. We should keep pressure in areas where we think things are wrong, but we should have trust in our elected officials to do the right thing. Otherwise, we should vote better. We are picking them.

@@

August 16th, 2012
8:57 am

Small potatoes compared to the waste and abuse taking place at the federal level.

The records document a string of trips, costing more than $5,000, that Beltline staffers took around the nation for conferences and networking events. Officials say those trips help boost support for the project.

They travelled AROUND THE NATION to gain support for a local project?

What…is that the government’s way of finding a shortcut home?

Curious George

August 16th, 2012
8:57 am

Kyle,

Are you afraid of getting put on 0bama’s Secret Kill List for “ax-ing” the tough questions?

Ethics Advisor

August 16th, 2012
8:57 am

Sadly, the problem began with the Boomers and I can say it because I am one. The loss of decency and consideration for others began in the 1960’s with the Hippie generation and has continued to accelerate to the present. The Boomers will be remembered in history as the “Bust generation” unless serious changes are made in how all of us choose to live our lives.
WE know that we cannot count on the governing leaders of our Federal and respective state governments for leadership, discipline, vision and necessary action to resolve the nation’s problems. I do understand that there are some men and women of great integrity and patriotism in elected office. Unfortunately their voices are drowned by the selfish, self-absorbed, shallow and strident voices of the majority of our elected class, which is what they see themselves as; a superior Class who preside over the masses, not, We, the People.
The media reports what it wants to, not what it needs to; another loss of integrity. Where does the normal, hard-working middle class to turn and how do we come together as a group to effect change. The Two Party system is a failure at present. Neither one is interested in America anymore, just their party’s personal agendas.
How do you choose to help the poor and have to support Baby Killers; the real poor need help, not those who want to be tied down by a minimal amount of money so they don’t have to lift a hand to support themselves. How do you choose to save the lives of babies and support a platform that in general supports only those who make over a half-million dollars a year.
The middle class comprises some 78% of the voting population, this wonderful group of all races can determine every election, but we are separated by class warfare, mistrust, demagoguery, racial politics on both sides of the coin from our leaders, but mostly by the simple fact that we have the hardest time just trying to do the right thing and pay our bills and make sure that our children have more than we did.
The Middle Class can no longer be taken for granted by either party. We must make ourselves into a voting block as solid as Black Americans who are mostly part of the 78% Middle Class. We have been brainwashed into believing that unless you continue electing the same person, your district will fall behind because you will have no seniority for your elected officials to bring home the bacon. This is a large part of why Our Country is in the poor fiscal shape it faces.
I appeal to all of you who are hard- working Americans, do you think that your elected officials and the party you support care about you. Wake up America! Both parties take us for granted and address US as the masses not We, The People. Give them two chances in elected office, no more, then give someone else a chance. Our elected class is not a lifetime job, don’t let them continue to take us for granted.

iggy

August 16th, 2012
8:59 am

As stated yesterday…little by little, inch by inch.

http://www.electoral-vote.com/

FL moves from light blue to light red.
VA moves from light blue to tossup.

HA HA!

JDW

August 16th, 2012
8:59 am

@Iggy…”How much theft is acceptable theft? A dollar, a dime?$10.00, $100.00?”

As I said earlier, it’s not right it’s just not news. What should happen is that the auditors do their job, which they are, and the money in question is resolved, which it will be.

As to the question of materiality…it depends on the situation and a couple thousand out of a budget of hundreds of millions is not material.

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

August 16th, 2012
9:03 am

I tend to agree with the second comment, and it is on topic kinda, who authorized a government expenditure for the purchase of 174,000 rounds of .357 SIG hollow points for the Social Security Administration? When is somebody gonna unpack all of the implications within this little jewel?

And answer the question of who does our current administration really see as the enemy?

quick work break

August 16th, 2012
9:05 am

Glad the sunlight hit them early. Maybe they’ll get their affairs in order knowing the microscope is on them. I walked the Eastside trail this weekend from Irwin to Monroe. A brisk 40 minutes of great walking exercise and seeing the potential for a circular park–not just seeing the transit element. It’s not even open, and people are already enjoying it with bikes, dogs, kids. It’s really the only thing I see positive about Atlanta in the next few decades. I hope more people get engaged, and I hope the handful of employees take this to heart as they grow.

Not Blind

August 16th, 2012
9:07 am

The problem is that there is absolutely no repercussions when they get caught. It’s like letting a bank robber give the money back and go free. Make the guilty person pay back 2x or 3x the amount of the theft and then you would start to see improvements made in their honesty.

MiltonMan

August 16th, 2012
9:12 am

No mention of Mayor Reed??? The clown who promised to change up Atlanta is being exposed as the clown that he is:

(1) His support of TSPLOST that went down in flames was a much needed slap in the face
(2) His cronies at the airport are being investigated by the FAA & probably will be de-certified
(3) His buddies on the beltline socking it to the taxpayer

The once Golden child of GA democrats looks like nothing more than a lap dog.

Dr.Dawg

August 16th, 2012
9:12 am

Down here in South Georgia we are GOOBers. We hope you will see the light and join us. GOOBers are Government Off Our Back ers. We believe that all of the pols in Washington and Atlanta need to go home and enjoy the INCREDIBLE pensions we are going to provide for them (after they arranged that). They did a lousy job and deserve to join the ranks of the unemployed that they are responsible for creating. Since no pols will vote for term limits, we must take the initiative and vote them out ourselves. When John McCain ran for pres, he said ” There is corruption in Washington, and when I am president I will name the names.” He didn’t get elected, so he didn’t name the names… why not? He has access to a microphone on the Senate floor any time he wants it.
Those who say the amounts of theft don’t matter encourage more of it. Either you follow the rules or you don’t. Put another way, how you do anything is how you do EVERYTHING. All the pols out spending on our dime HAVE GOT TO GO. Otherwise the theft and rape of our taxpayers will continue and accelerate.
Vote the incumbents out in November, or pay the consequences, It is foolish to think that the same guys who got us in this mess will get us out of it. At present, they spend $300 Billion a month, but only take in $180 billion. The rest is borrowed, mostly from China. And their plan is to do MORE spending. Every time I hear Obama say ” We need…. ” I think “WE” who? You and who else? He seems to live in a world where he must decide where all of our tax money should go, and somehow the answers are always take from everybody and give it to my friends. When he is spending $500 million a year to ride around on Air Force 1, and insists that we have to pay higher taxes, does REASON ever enter into the decision making process? Taking 650 of Michelle’s friends to India? A separate jet to take their Portuguese Water Spaniel to Martha’sVineyard? Sending 2200 assault rifles to Mexican drug dealers without their government’s knowledge, then telling us we aren’t allowed to know about it? I don’t know how arrogant you can get, but I suspect these pols are at the upper end of that spectrum.
The voters did well to reject TSplost! Don’t let these guys have any more of our money.

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

August 16th, 2012
9:14 am

I can’t believe that this current government of ours would even CONSIDER double tapping grandma with a couple Hydra Shocks when she comes to complain about her missing SS check.

Where’s the outrage?

MiltonMan

August 16th, 2012
9:14 am

“As I said earlier, it’s not right it’s just not news. What should happen is that the auditors do their job, which they are, and the money in question is resolved, which it will be.”

Wrong. The auditors are not doing their job – this was uncovered by the AJC and not the auditors who are asleep behind the wheel.

JamVet

August 16th, 2012
9:18 am

Small potatoes compared to the waste and abuse taking place at the federal level.

This, in a nutshell, is the biggest problem in our state.

Blame Washington for everything and the GOP leaders in Georgia for nothing.

This is exactly how we ended up with one of the awful and uber-corrupt Nathan Deal and his ethically challenged gang ruining (not a typo) the show…

With sentiments like

iggy

August 16th, 2012
9:28 am

Markets open in T – 2 minutes…

elif

August 16th, 2012
9:32 am

So? $750 sounds like it was maybe one person. A parking ticket? If I had to park illegally for a work function, I’d expense the ticket too.

$2200 for a braves game for the staff is a reasonable business expense. Getting a team to be friends increases performance dramatically. If it makes one person 1/15th more productive it was a wise investment.

Just because they work for us doesn’t mean they are slaves, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t do what any other business would to be reasonable and fair to its employees.

This post is utter crap. You proved your pettiness by juxtaposing your concern with the superficial concern of branding. Who cares about the name of some new university?

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

August 16th, 2012
9:34 am

I wonder what obozo and his third world stooges think the purpose of the National Guard is? Do they not trust the National Guard? Has the National Guard informed these thugs that, no, we will not be bombarding innocent Americans in the street because you don’t have the money to pay your bills or don’t like the results of a recent election?

JohnnyReb

August 16th, 2012
9:37 am

According to conversation on the “Georgia Gang” Sunday show, the much beloved by the Left Atlanta Mayor insisted on the Belt Line being on the project list.

The City was also to be the benefactor of something along the line of 127% return on TSPLOST taxes.

The two above examples are general indicators of the Democratic attitude – their hands constantly in somelses pockets (isn’t that some kind of sexual violation?). Atlanta will not again be a great city until it is run by Republicans. The alternaitve is Detroit.

Matz

August 16th, 2012
9:37 am

My sources tell me that Governor Shady had erased nearly all of his $4mil debt… in less than one term…. on a $135K/yr salary! Ramen noodles every night? Carpooling? Thrift shops? Hmmm… Either Gov. Shady is not to be trusted, or he needs to be holding free personal money-management seminars for the people of this state.

East Lake Ira

August 16th, 2012
9:37 am

Curious and I report: It’s not being covered because it’s not a story – it’s a twisted misleading pile of crud being pushed by a guy who thinks 911 was an inside job.

Are y’all Truthers?

Either way, you are making fools of yourselves, please stop.

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

August 16th, 2012
9:37 am

Anybody else notice the similarity between the manner in which Assad’s Syrian Regime deals with civil unrest and obozo stocking all of his federal agencies up with jacketed hollow points?

East Lake Ira

August 16th, 2012
9:41 am

More important issue: Who will Deal appoint to run the Lottery?

I’m guessing it’ll be some crony who “helped” him with the settling up with his creditors.