Archive for June, 2012

Metro Atlanta firms as voter turnout machines

You may not know it yet, but if you work for a large company in metro Atlanta, you’re about to become part of one of the most unusual political campaigns this state has ever seen.

Most battles for votes are conducted through flyers that arrive in your mailbox, robocalls to your phone, or TV ads that wheedle or bully their way into your living room. And supporters of a new sales tax for transportation intend to use each of these standard-issue weapons.

But over the next few weeks, backers of the July 31 tax referendum will add a campaign instrument never before seen in Georgia, at least not on this scale: A boss who puts an arm around your shoulder and urges you to do the “right” thing.

More than 400 businesses, including most of metro Atlanta’s largest, have committed to turning out an extra 50,000 voters well-versed in the financial impact of traffic congestion. Their employees, in other words.

“There’s never been a campaign like it in Georgia,” said Paul Bennecke, a …

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U.S. Justice Department challenges Georgia’s runoff calendar

The U.S. Justice Department is threatening a legal challenge to the way that Georgia conducts federal – i.e., congressional — runoff elections, declaring that the state doesn’t give enough time for members of the military overseas to receive and return ballots.

Federal law requires that ballots be available to overseas personnel at least 45 days before the vote. That would require ballots for an Aug. 21 primary runoff to be issued by July 7 – or three weeks before the first round of voting.

Read the original notice, received last week, here. To make sure overseas votes are counted, the DOJ has proposed a consent order – click here to read it — that would require the state to hold off declaring official winners of an Aug. 21 primary runoff by seven working days, until Aug. 31. (A similar cushion would be added to any Dec. 4 general election runoff that involves federal office.)

Secretary of State Brian Kemp has declared he won’t agree to the DOJ demands, and implies that the …

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A small jolt: Gov. Nathan Deal announces new prison education program

On Thursday, Denis O’Hayer of WABE (90.1FM) was the only journalist who made it to Gov. Nathan Deal’s speech to a gathering of the United Negro College Fund.

And so he was the only one to hear the governor announce that he would ask state lawmakers next year to approve a major expansion of education programs in the state’s prisons.

Listen here. Said Deal:

”One out of every 13, I’m told now, of our citizens in the state of Georgia are either in jail, in prison, on probation, or on parole. One out of every 13. That is a statistic we need to change.”

Afterwards, O’Hayer asked the governor for details that clearly haven’t been developed yet. But Deal said he had reconvened the criminal justice commission that produced legislation this spring to divert non-violent drug and property offenders to treatment rather than hard time.

Said Deal:

”We’re going to continue to explore what we can do within the prison population to better equip them to be productive citizens once they are …

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Transportation sales tax opponents object to wording of ballot question

My AJC colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin on Thursday attended a state Capitol press conference held by opponents of the transportation sales tax, and sends this report:

Tea Party groups from around the state blasted the upcoming transportation tax referendum as a “scam from the beginning” and said advocates had corrupted the ballot process.

Opponents of the July 31 regional referendums said supporters gamed the process to add a preamble to the ballot question that unfairly and inaccurately touts the proposed tax’s potential impact. The ballot question for the Metro Atlanta referendum is preceded by an introduction that says the tax “Provides for local transportation projects to create jobs and reduce traffic congestion with citizen oversight.”

Tea Party activists Julianne Thompson and Debbie Dooley, as well as Jack Staver of the Transportation Leadership Coalition and Kay Godwin of Georgia Conservatives in Action said that preamble does not appear in the legislation that created …

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Introducing a new traffic mascot: Mr. Stan Still

The hard-sell TV campaign for the transportation sales tax in metro Atlanta begins next week, we’re told. In the meantime, the so-called educational side of the campaign is staking out some off-beat Internet territory with a series of lectures from a Mr. Stan Still.

Uh-huh. Watch here:

The press release from the Metro Atlanta Voter Education Network informs us that the video is funnier if you’re not a crusty old man:

With 40 days remaining until the Regional Transportation Referendum vote, MAVEN is continuing to educate voters across the region. The organization has partnered with COLLYDE and Green Tricycle Studios to produce a four-part series on Mr. “Stan Still”, a fictional Atlanta commuter helping metro Atlantans cope with our legendary traffic.

“Our hope is that our Gen X / Y peers will catch wind of this comedic series and help push the satire virally- not just for laughs in their inboxes, but more than anything, to spur the younger generation to be a part of critical …

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Birmingham-Atlanta-Jacksonville rail line ‘economically feasible’

Chances are, this isn’t what people had in mind when they ask about Plan B. From the Associated Press:

A consultant’s study for Georgia transportation officials found that high-speed passenger trains connecting Atlanta with Jacksonville, Fla.; Louisville, Ky; and Birmingham, Ala.; would be economically feasible.

Morris News Service reports that consultant HNTB presented the study’s findings to Georgia’s State Transportation Board on Wednesday.

The study identified possible train stations in Griffin, Macon, Savannah and Brunswick on the route through Georgia.

Officials say the feasibility study was the first of many steps in setting the final course of the train routes and securing funding.

The routes discussed Wednesday were studied after an earlier study showed the feasibility of a route from Atlanta to Charlotte, N.C. That project is now in the stage of estimating the environmental impact of possible paths.

The original article by Walter Jones of Morris News Service can be …

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The transportation sales tax as part of a United Nations plot

If you’ve been shopping for a sizable reason to vote against metro Atlanta’s transportation sales tax next month, but have been unable to find one that’s XXL or larger, try this on:

The tax and the people behind it are part of a United Nations plot called Agenda 21.

Laugh if you like. The topic is now center stage in Cobb County, as part of the debate over the penny sales tax, and the contest for chairman of the county commission as well.

Those who aren’t hardcore GOP will need a bit of background. Agenda 21 is also known as the “Rio Declaration on Environment and Development,” and was adopted in 1992 at a conference in Brazil.

In most languages, the report is a vacuous U.N. document that declares the need for a “sustainable” world environment. But to a certain segment of those who speak Republican, it is a secret declaration of war.

At the state GOP convention in Columbus last month, delegates overwhelmingly condemned Agenda 21 as an attempt to “outlaw private property and …

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The ARC and transit as playthings of the United Nations

The somewhat peculiar question on the table last night – and I’ll admit to being the one who placed it there – is whether the transportation sales tax and the Atlanta Regional Commission are an extension of United Nations-endorsed ideology.

The location was Marietta. The event was the last of three candidate forums hosted by the Cobb County Republican Women’s Club, and the featured attraction was the race for chairman of the Cobb County Commission. Yours truly served as moderator and inquisitor.

The challenge to GOP incumbent Tim Lee is closely tied to the fortunes of the transportation sales tax vote in that county. Running most strongly against Lee is Bill Byrne, the former commission chairman — a definite “no” vote on the tax. Financial consultant Michael Boyce and retired businessman Tim Savage are also in the contest.

On Sunday, the Marietta Daily Journal had quoted Byrne as saying that the ARC – the primary planning agency for metro Atlanta — was adhering to the U.N.’s …

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The chill on conversation at the state Capitol

Possibly, you’ve already seen this piece by me and my AJC colleague Andria Simmons:

Metro Atlanta physicians who participated in the General Assembly’s debate on new abortion restrictions say they warned lawmakers that they were being targeted for reprisals. And they are skittish about returning to the state Capitol next year when the topic is all but certain to come up again.

Lawmakers, too, say they’re worried.

Two burglaries and two fires at Atlanta-area women’s clinics and a burglary at the the main office of the Georgia Obstetrical and Gynecological Society are being investigated by the FBI as possible acts of domestic terrorism or civil rights violations.

Four of the five offices targeted are run by doctors who had voiced concerns — sometimes publicly, sometimes privately — about the so-called fetal pain bill, which shortened to 20 weeks the time frame during which women can have an elective abortion.

“These are despicable acts and if there is some relationship between …

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Your morning jolt: 25 business groups pin down candidates on transportation tax

The Metro Atlanta Chamber is coordinating an effort to identify legislative candidates on the July 31 primary ballots who support – or oppose – the transportation sales tax that will be decided the same day.

A letter sent over the names of 25 business groups and chambers of commerce – many of which can be counted on for regular campaign contributions through their political action committees – opens with these paragraphs:

Your response is kindly requested to better inform these and other businesses, organizations and voters as they make decisions about which candidates to support during the 2012 election cycle.

We believe the regional transportation referendum is the only option available to address metro Atlanta’s traffic congestion problem. We also believe the project selection process was an open and collective effort by local elected leaders and thousands of citizens across our region. We believe this is our best opportunity to improve and expand our transportation …

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