Archive for September, 2009

Your morning jolt: Emory president hints at new, less charitable relationship with Grady

A state-of-the-university speech isn’t normally a source for political news, but in his address this week, Emory president Jim Wagner dropped several hints this week that his institution’s relationship with Grady Memorial Hospital is about to change.

The 46-minute YouTube clip can be seen here:

But if you don’t have that kind of time, at the 13-minute mark, Wagner a warning, and it wasn’t just for about-to-be furloughed employees. The Grady references are marked in bold:

”Spending from our endowment is entirely a short-term fix. In fact, it is an entirely unacceptable strategy for the long term. Instead, our strategy must be to come to a new financial level as soon as possible, that will allow us to go forward spending only a portion of the interest earned on that endowment…

“By developing new revenue, and reducing expenses, we must go forward on a financial base that is at least $60 million smaller annually than we had planned for from the endowment and our …

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Shirley Franklin: Put flood damage at $1 billion, not a paltry $250 million

Two days ago, state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine put the cost of damage caused by the flooding of metro Atlanta at $250 million.

But I just finished talking with Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, who said she’s been telling members of the Obama Administration that the final tally will be at least four times that high – beyond $1 billion.

That’s a big difference, especially when one is asking for federal help.

In assessing the damage to the city, Franklin said authorities have counted nearly 475 homes hit by the flood. “We know that 60 were destroyed, and over 200 were severely damaged,” she said.

If the average home has three residents, that’s more than 1,200 displaced. The price tag on the destroyed homes is estimated at $100,000 each, for the sake of quick math.

The hardest hit was the Lincoln Homes/Proctor Creek area.

Repairing the R.M. Clayton sewage treatment plant on the banks of the Chattahoochee River will cost between $60 million and $100 million, she …

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Shades of Katrina: A frustrated Sam Olens wonders if Washington knows how badly metro Atlanta is hurting

Updated at 1:45 p.m. Thursday: President Barack Obama has signed a disaster declaration for Cobb, Douglas, Paulding and Cherokee counties.

Original post:

A frustrated Cobb County Commission Chairman Sam Olens said Thursday that, after a morning conversation with the chief of staff to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, that he’s not sure that Washington is aware of the extent of damage caused by days of flooding in metro Atlanta.

Olens said the entire region growing impatient waiting for President Barack Obama to sign a declaration of emergency that would unleash federal resources for the area.

“It’s fair to say that we’re very frustrated. The storm started Sunday, with the real wrath Monday, and we frankly were thinking the presidential order would be signed Tuesday night,” Olens said. “Yesterday we were told that Cobb County had sufficient damage to merit the declaration – but the bureaucratic process seems to take too much time, while people are …

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NBC: Former DNC chair Paul Kirk to replace Ted Kennedy in Senate

NBC News has posted the following:

BOSTON – NBC News has confirmed that Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick will name former Democratic National Committee chairman Paul G. Kirk Jr. as the interim successor to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

The appointment will let Kirk, who was close friends with the senator, serve in the post until voters pick a permanent replacement in a Jan. 19 special election.

Kirk was the Kennedy family’s choice.
For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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A ‘broad’ apology to Sarah Palin

The Daily News-Miner in Fairbanks, Alaska, has published a front-page apology to Sarah Palin for a headline referring to the former governor’s speech in Hong Kong this week: “A broad in Asia.”

The apology, in part, reads:

There can be no argument that our use of the word “broad” is anything but offensive. To use this word to describe someone of the stature of the former governor — who is also the former vice presidential nominee of the Republican Party — only adds to the anger that many people appropriately feel.

The Wall Street Journal appears to have been the American news outlet with the resources to take Palin’s speech most seriously. Palin gave the plane no specific mention, but she may have taken up for the Marietta-made F-22 in one passage noted by the newspaper:

Speaking on China policy, the former governor criticized the Obama administration for cutting back on some defense spending, suggesting that it sends a worrisome signal to allies depending on …

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Revenue commissioner says local sales tax collection is a Pandora’s box of trouble

Monday’s column focused on the contention by House Democratic Leader DuBose Porter and Atlanta mayoral candidate Lisa Borders that the state was leaving sales tax money on the table – at the expense of counties, cities and school boards.

State Revenue Commissioner Bart Graham has taken issue with the amount – $1.6 billion annually – cited by one Georgia Municipal Association official, and with the wisdom of the concept of letting cities and counties collect their own taxes.

Read his entire letter here. But this is the gist:

We previously provided the $1.6 billion figure in the Joint House and Senate Appropriations Budget Briefing on January 21, 2009. It is actually the total amount of all delinquent tax accounts of all tax types dating back to 1988. Senator Chip Rogers (R) is correct that “there is no way” there is $1.0 billion of sales tax annually which goes uncollected.

We will always agree that more collectors will always collect more money. If the solution …

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Roy Barnes: ‘I’d be a Bull Moose or Whig — if they had a party’

Don’t look for Roy Barnes to emphasize his Democratic label in next year’s 2010 contest for governor.

The Gwinnett Post noted this tall talk from the former governor on Wednesday, in a county where he attracted just over a third of the vote in 2002:

“This is not an election about Democrats and Republicans as it was last time,” he said. (Perdue’s win made him the first Republican since Reconstruction to move into the governor’s mansion.) “It’s about leadership or no leadership. We’ve got to get this ox out of the ditch.”

Barnes is the most high-profile among a large field of Democrats, which includes Attorney General Thurbert Baker. Republicans vying for the office include Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, who lives in Duluth, Secretary of State Karen Handel and Congressman Nathan Deal, among others.

To the crowd of community and business leaders, Barnes said he would focus on three issues as governor: water, education and transportation. But he also talked about politics …

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Your morning jolt: John Lewis asks IRS to ease off flood victims

Every member of Georgia’s congressional delegation has made sure he’s been seen doing everything he can up in Washington for those in metro Atlanta who have lost their homes to the flood.

But there are constituent services, and then there are constituent services.

U.S. Rep. John Lewis might have made the biggest impression with this letter to Douglas Shulman, commissioner of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service:

I am hopeful that, upon declaration by the President of a state of emergency, the IRS will act quickly to postpone certain tax filing and payment deadlines and waive certain deposit penalties for taxpayers who reside or have businesses in the affected areas.

I am concerned that affected taxpayers may have payroll tax deposits or income tax returns that are due in the next few weeks. In addition, I request that the IRS provide some guidance on what taxpayers should do if they have suffered a casualty loss for property that was damaged or destroyed.

Jack Hill, …

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A Strategic Vision poll — and a letter of censure

Strategic Vision, the Republican-oriented polling firm based in Atlanta, came out this morning with another statewide poll on the governor’s race and health care.

John Oxendine and Roy Barnes still lead in their respective Republican and Democratic primaries, and most Georgians don’t agree with Jimmy Carter on the topic of race and Barack Obama.

We’ll get to those details in a bit.

First, it must be noted that, earlier today, the American Association for Public Opinion Research, a kind of brotherhood of pollsters, publicly censured Strategic Vision for its failure to cooperate in an investigation into voter surveys conducted during the 2008 presidential primaries.

New Hampshire was the main focus – you’ll remember that Democrat Hillary Clinton surprised everyone with her win there. Twenty-one organizations were asked to provide their statistical internals in order to help figure out what went wrong.

A final report was published in April. One finding: Techniques for …

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A clarification on taxes from Lisa Borders

In politics, a clarification is an attempt to repair the damage caused by a candidate’s previous statement – before the latter takes hold.

So eyebrows jumped when the Atlanta mayoral campaign of Lisa Borders put out a morning press release today: “Borders Clarifies Statement on Taxes.”

On Tuesday night, the four major candidates for mayor of Atlanta engaged in a debate at Trinity Presbyterian Church at Buckhead. Here’s the YouTube clip of the part that matters:

In the clip, the questioner — Dick Williams, of “Georgia Gang” fame — notes that the Atlanta City Council passed a property tax increase as an emergency measure aimed at ending police and fire furloughs. Williams asks the candidates: Would you like to end your first term as mayor by rolling back that tax increase?

Each candidate rose and responded in turn:

“Yes,” said Councilwoman Mary Norwood.

“Yes, I would pledge to roll back, but after we [fill] reserves,” said Borders.

“I would not commit to a …

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