Archive for June, 2009

Should feds bail out California (or Atlanta)?

California has a one-year budget deficit that exceeds the cost of operating the entire State of Georgia.   California’s deficit is $24 billion; Georgia’s 2010 budget, which goes into effect on Wednesday, is $18.6 billion. California’s population is 38.6 million;  Georgia’s is 9.6.

The question is:  Should the federal government ride to the rescue, as it did with the financial sector, including banks, and with the automobile industry?

California officials say they’ll make additional budget cuts, but want federal taxpayers to guarantee a portion their borrowings, which would bring lower interest rates.  California, like Atlanta, has been represented by  big-spenders whose short-sightedness has brought financial peril.  Politicians think in four-year cycles and what must be done by way of spending to give incumbents or the incumbent party election advantage.

Atlanta City Council did vote 8-7 on Monday to raise property taxes by about $240 per year for the average …

Continue reading Should feds bail out California (or Atlanta)? »

Politicians learn from drug dealers

We’d all better hope that U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is right. “This bill coming out of the House is going nowhere in the Senate,” he said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”  The bill he refers to is the Nancy Pelosi cram-down, with the support of eight wayward Republicans, of a cap-and-trade monstrosity guaranteed to raise the cost of living in America.

The eight House Republicans are: Reps. Mary Bono (Calif.), Michael Castle (Del.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Leonard Lance (N.J.), Frank LoBiondo (N.J.), John McHugh (N.Y.), David Reichert (Wash.) and Christopher Smith (N.J.). Forty-four Democrats, including U.S. Reps. Jim Marshal of Macon and John Barrow of Savannah, voted against the bill, which passed, 219-212.  This raises a question, but we’ll never know the answer:  Had their votes been needed to pass the bill, would Marshal and Barrow have voted yes.  Republicans in the Georgia delegation contend that the so-called “Blue Dog Democrats”  vote …

Continue reading Politicians learn from drug dealers »

School funds not courts’ job

Not bad to have a book published one week and be cited by the U.S. Supreme Court the next.

That is the case for veteran Atlanta lawyer Alfred A. Lindseth, co-author with economist Eric A. Hanushek of a valuable new book that should be required reading for judges tempted to substitute their opinions for legislators’ in school-funding cases. Hanushek is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Their book, “Schoolhouses, Courthouses, and Statehouses,” published last week, was cited Thursday in an Arizona education-funding case.

This book is relevant here, though Georgia is barely mentioned, because officials of mostly rural systems have sued for more state money. They pulled the suit in a bit of Fulton County judge-shopping, but it is certain to be back. Their complaint seeks “adequate” funding.

Thereupon they stand, on the slippery slope that inevitably propels activist judges into the separation-of-powers conflict and education policy quagmire.

The …

Continue reading School funds not courts’ job »

Double-deck the Connector

Thinking Right’s weekend free-for-all. Pick a topic:

  • DeKalb County District Attorney Gwen Keyes Fleming will bring criminal charges against the former Atherton Elementary School principal and assistant principal for allegedly correcting students’ answers on a state CRCT test. This is an important message to send to school officials statewide who might be tempted. Superintendant Crawford Lewis is wrong to treat it as occasion for the “family” to rally ’round the accused.
  • Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor resigns from an exclusive all-women’s club after some grumpy men raised questions about whether the membership’s appropriate for a Supreme Court justice. Her explanation, once commonplace among members of clubs that excluded minorities, was that to her knowledge no man had applied. And had any man meeting qualifications been at the club’s mobile admissions office in Hahira, Ga., at 2:16 a.m. on Dec. 25, 2006, when it was accepting applications from males, he would surely …

Continue reading Double-deck the Connector »

Avoid temptation; watch cap-and-trade tax

The temptation today is to return to South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s affair.  Undoubtedly, his chances of being the Republican presidential candidate in 2012 are nil as a result of his personal misconduct.  Even though his wife had asked for a trial separation over a period that included Father’s Day, his absence then will haunt any future campaign efforts.

Sad for his family, for the wife and four sons, for him and perhaps for the country that might have chosen him to be President of the United States.  Critics will gloat. For me, it’s deep disappointment.

En route to the 1996 Republican convention in San Diego, I spent 2-3 hours seated with then-Congressman Sanford and his wife, Jenny.  In the years since, I’ve watched his sons grow via the informal family portait on each year’s Christmas card.  From that conversation, from the political commitment he honored to abide by term limits, and from his ability to articulate sound and consistent conservative positions, I …

Continue reading Avoid temptation; watch cap-and-trade tax »

Governor’s absence is no crisis

In the midst of a season where national unemployment is pressing against 10 percent, where GM is about to eliminate 4,000 white-collar jobs,   where the number of mass layoffs (50 or more employees from a single employer) is at record levels, where a new President “sharpens” his rheotric on Iran but is powerless to do more, where Congressional Democrats attempt to cram-down radical legislation  on energy and health care and where crises loom large and small, this question captivates national attention:

Where was South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford for four days? He was spotted in Atlanta.  He was believed to be on a “secretive Appalachian Trail hike.”   Or in Argentina. He may have been somewhere writing, clearing his head, or otherwise relaxing after the close of the tough legislative session.

His whereabouts nevertheless prompted pundit speculation on the network news that the getaway seriously damages his chances of winning the Republican presidential nomination in …

Continue reading Governor’s absence is no crisis »

South (mostly) remains in bondage

The U.S. Supreme Court should, I suppose, be commended for exercising judicial restraint in declining to declare a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 unconstitutional — while signaling the belief that it is.

At issue is Section 5, a discriminatory provision  of the act that holds Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, most of Virginia and a number of counties and towns in seven other states, in bondage to the Civil Right Division of the the U.S. Department of Justice.  In theory, jurisdictions that have no record of discrimination are allowed to be exempted.  That “out,” however, is a sham.  In more than a quarter century, 27 years, only 17 of 12,000 jurisdictions have been allowed out.

The reality is that Section 5 gives every incentive to those who wish to keep jurisdictions under the thumb of the Justice Department’s civil rights division to find “evidence” of intentional discrimination by state and local officials. 

The …

Continue reading South (mostly) remains in bondage »

Commuter tax? Don’t count on it.

Oh, my, here we go again.  Another mayoral election looms in Atlanta, a city of padded payrolls and excess spending and what’s the cure candidates are embracing?  Finding money from somebody else.

Candidates were asked for their views on a commuter tax.  Here’s the answer from candidate Mary Norwood:  “We could break this logjam if — assisted by a forward-thinking governor — we could make a commuter tax not about Atlanta but about equalizing burdens throughout the region; net daily destination jurisdictions should get some kind of contribution from net daily sources of employee outflow.”

Admittedly, her embrace of a commuter tax is more nuanced than most.  Typically, a commuter tax is seen as a way to punish those “suburban” dwellers who work downtown, where they drink water, flush toilets, pollute, cause garbage and cry out for police protection.  That’s the 1970s view that lingers. 

The reality is that a commuter tax would be a policy disaster.  There are no …

Continue reading Commuter tax? Don’t count on it. »

‘Do you believe in me?’

Before I go, there’s one more story to tell.

It’s about a military guy who served his country for more than 20 years in the U.S. Navy, the last time at the Naval Submarine Base at Kings Bay, Ga.

As retirement loomed in 2006, Al Daniels approached his wife, the former Melaneise Wood of Newnan, whom he’d met in the Navy, with a rather strange proposal. Strange in that he and “Mel” had two children, 12 and 13 years old.

Her initial reaction was that of a normal wife and mother.

Think about it, he said.

About 2 a.m. on a Monday morn, he awoke. “I woke up in my sleep and said, ‘I am going to do it.’ ” He awoke Mel.

“Mel,” he recalls saying, “I’m donating my retirement to charity.”
After further conversation and on the promise that the family home would never be put at risk and they’d never go hungry, she agreed.

Her faith and future was thus vested in the post-retirement earnings potential of a man who had worked as a Domino’s pizza delivery man between high school and the military …

Continue reading ‘Do you believe in me?’ »

Taxing services, closing schools

Thinking Right’s weekend free-for-all. Pick a topic:

  • The state should take over testing for, say, three to five years in any school where any individual in authority is suspected of cheating or allowing students to cheat on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, as was the case at Atherton Elementary School in DeKalb, Parklane Elementary in Fulton, Deerwood Academy in Atlanta and Burroughs-Molette Elementary in Glynn County.
  • The Georgia General Assembly needs to act to make certain we don’t get a back-door sales tax on services. At issue is a 4-3 state Supreme Court ruling on a tax-grabbing suit by Columbus against Expedia Inc. Expedia, like most other Internet service companies, takes the base room price a hotel is willing to accept, taxes and all, and adds a service charge. Columbus wants occupancy taxes on the room plus the service charge. Four justices agreed. Legislators should make the law clearer: No tax on services.
  • The U.S. Government Inc. is on the verge of …

Continue reading Taxing services, closing schools »