Archive for March, 2011

A dire warning: When budget cuts meet wildfires

Down in southeast Georgia, the town of Ludowici is threatened by wildfires – one of several blazes cooking in the area. About 300 residents have been evacuated.

On Feb. 28, Robert Farris, head of the Georgia Forestry Commission, went before a House panel and testified about the impact of a 31 percent reduction in his budget since mid-2008.

You can watch his entire testimony before an economic development subcommittee here, but here are a few slices of a rough transcript:

”We’re estimating a $650,000 reduction in federal funds. Eighty-nine percent of those funds are fire-control funds….The forestry commission has been restructuring to meet the economic crisis. Since the first of ’09, we’ve eliminated state funding for 94 positions.

“Forty-nine of those have been fire control positions. We’ve closed 16 fire control offices statewide. We’ve expanded supervisor span of control, going 12 districts down to six districts….We’re reducing fire suppression vehicles …

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Tim Echols: ‘Let’s privatize handling of nuclear waste’

China is subjecting Japanese tourists to radiation tests, and Germany has sworn off nuclear power. But Tim Echols, a member of the state Public Service Commission, has a more interesting response to the nuclear debacle in Japan: Increased privatization.

From his op-ed piece in today’s Athens Banner-Herald:

The nuclear plant crisis in Japan threatens to chill any nuclear renaissance in the United States. One reason is that it appears the Japanese have procrastinated with regard to the disposal of nuclear waste, just as we have in this country.

I believe it’s time to demand that our government turn nuclear waste management over to the private sector. As Heritage Foundation nuclear expert Jack Spencer recently testified, America’s disposal strategy has failed…..

This country has more than 60,000 tons of high-level nuclear waste stored at more than 100 sites in 39 states. The country’s 104 commercial reactors produce approximately 2,000 additional tons of used fuel annually. …

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Your morning jolt: Like Atlanta, D.C. approaches racial parity

Atlanta isn’t the only major U.S. city approaching racial parity. From this morning’s Washington Post:

The number of African Americans residing in the District plummeted by more than 11 percent during the past decade, with blacks on the verge of losing their majority status in the city for the first time in half a century.

According to census statistics released Thursday, barely 50 percent of the District’s population was African American in 2010 — a remarkable shift in a place once nicknamed “Chocolate City.”

The black population dropped by more than 39,000 over the decade, down to 301,000 of the city’s 601,700 residents. At the same time, the non-Hispanic white population skyrocketed by more than 50,000 to 209,000 residents, almost a third higher than a decade earlier.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Atlanta’s population of 420,000 is now 53 percent African-American. The city is deciding whether or not to appeal the population figure – which is …

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Herman Cain on drinking the ‘white’ water in a segregated Atlanta

A nicely done Herman Cain video, explaining – in a phone interview with a reporter from the Daily Caller – what it was like to grow up in segregated Atlanta:

Said Cain, while on the road in Iowa:

“We were at the bargain basement at the department store one day, and my Mom was looking on a rack to get some stuff for us. We asked her if we could go get some water. She said yes. And Mom specifically said, ‘Now, y’all make sure y’all drink out of the “colored” fountain.’

“Being typical young boys, we got over there and looked at those two water fountains, and we kind of looked around. And we kind of went, hmm, nobody’s looking.

“So my brother went first, while I stayed on the look-out, to sip the ‘white’ water. Then he was on the look-out while I sipped the ‘white’ water. Then we both sipped the colored water. We looked at each other [and said], ‘The water tastes the same. What’s the big deal?’”

Cain, by the way, recently said he intends …

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Who are you going to believe — me or your lying eyes?

Jason Pye, the Libertarian blogger, has posted this video of today’s state Capitol protest against state legislation to tighten down on illegal immigration:

My AJC colleague Jeremy Redmond says law enforcement put the crowd at 4,000:

Protesters gathered on Washington Street, chanting in Spanish: “Yes, we can!” Several carried posters and banners that declared: “We will not leave” and “No Human Being is Illegal.”

Capitol Police Sgt. Jack West said 4,000 to 5,000 were present at the demonstration, where the Indigo Girls performed. One of the organizers said more than 5,000 attended and that the protesters came from across the state, including Athens, Dalton, Gainesville, Macon and Statesboro.

Numbers are always a point of contention in demonstrations. Here’s the cutting response from Republican sponsors — among them Matt Ramsey of Peachtree City and Rich Golick of Smyrna — of the House immigrant legislation. They were not impressed by the outdoor display:

Continue reading Who are you going to believe — me or your lying eyes? »

Jimmy Carter to make a return trip to North Korea?

Yonhap News Agency, a South Korean service, reports that former President Jimmy Carter will “likely” make a return visit to the hermit nation of North Korea:

“It is highly likely that ex-President Carter will travel to North Korea in about a month as the North Korean mission in New York has been arranging for the visit,” said the source, who requested anonymity.

Carter is expected to be accompanied by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and other prominent figures who are ready to be middlemen in U.S. relations with the impoverished but nuclear-armed state.

Carter visited Pyongyang in August and brought back Aijalon Gomes of Boston, who had been sentenced to eight years in a labor camp and fined about US$700,000 for illegally entering North Korea months earlier.

A spokeswoman for Carter said this morning that she could not confirm the report.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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Your morning jolt: Sales tax on groceries, Girl Scout cookies abandoned in Tax Reform 2.0

At 2 p.m. today, House Republicans are set to unveil a revised attempt at tax reform that drops two of its most controversial provisions – a return to the state sales tax on groceries and on goods sold by non-profits.

In other words, Girl Scout cookies and Boy Scout popcorn would remain tax free. As would a can of pork and beans.

Details are yet scarce, but here are the changes we hear are in the works for a bill engineered to build a majority for House passage:

– A new sales tax on the casual sale of automobiles and boats would remain;

– A sales tax on car repairs stays in;

– The sales tax on satellite TV and other communication devices, such as cell phone, also survives;

– Any thought of a sales tax on legal services has been abandoned;

– An energy sales tax disappears, but would remain on coal – an important point to Georgia Power;

– The state’s personal income tax would drop from 6 percent to somewhere in the 4 percent range.

– The corporate income tax remains the …

Continue reading Your morning jolt: Sales tax on groceries, Girl Scout cookies abandoned in Tax Reform 2.0 »

A census speeds Atlanta toward racially neutral ground

The home where Coretta Scott King raised her four children after the assassination of her husband is still neat and tidy. The yard even has a splash of begonias.

But opposite 234 Sunset Avenue, within what was once the most famous middle-class black neighborhood in America, is a row of frame houses sporting “for rent” signs outside nearly every other door.

And if you travel just a hundred yards north on Sunset, across Joseph E. Boone Boulevard, you enter — quite literally — a kind of no man’s land.

Tract 23 is ground zero in the depopulation of black Atlanta, a place where plywood windows are all the rage. In 2000, census takers counted roughly 2,700 people in the neighborhood. Last spring, the U.S. Census Bureau tallied 1,476. That’s a 45 percent decrease.

More than half the housing in Tract 23, in an area a stone’s throw from the Georgia World Congress Center, stands vacant.

Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau released the 2010 figures for growth-hungry Atlanta. …

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Pennsylvania Avenue? Call it ‘D.C. Statehood Way’

From the Associated Press:

Washington — D.C. residents have spoken, and they don’t just want to rename Pennsylvania Avenue to call attention to their lack of full representation in Congress. They want to rename two other historic streets as well.

D.C. Council member Michael Brown now plans to introduce a bill to ceremonially rename Pennsylvania, Independence and Constitution avenues.

The new names were drawn from responses to an online survey. Brown says the majority of participants favored renaming all three streets.

Under one proposal, Pennsylvania Avenue would be dubbed D.C. Statehood Way. Independence Avenue would be Let D.C. Vote Way, and Constitution Avenue would be Free D.C. Avenue. A second proposal would switch the new names for Pennsylvania and Independence avenues.

Brown also wants to note D.C.’s lack of representation on highway gateway signs.

The plan is for the original street names to remain, and hang the statehood monikers underneath.

But if “D.C. Statehood …

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Tommy Irvin hospitalized after car wreck

From the Gainesville Times:

Former state Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin is in intensive care at Habersham Medical Center recovering from injuries suffered in a Thursday car accident.

“We’re continuing to get good reports every day and he’s progressing right along,” said his oldest daughter, Londa Irvin Wilson, this morning.

Irvin, who retired last year after serving in the post since 1969, was driving alone when he was involved in a two-car accident in Toccoa, she said.

He was then taken to the hospital in Demorest. He is in stable condition, according to the hospital.

Further details about the accident weren’t immediately available.

Until he retired, Irvin was the longest-serving agriculture commissioner in the United States. He’s 81.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter, or connect with me on Facebook.

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