Thinking Right’s weekend free-for-all. Pick a topic:
● State legislators have signaled an unwillingness to continue subsidizing halls of fame in cities around Georgia. County commissioners in Macon respond by increasing the hotel-motel tax by a penny to 7 percent, which would raise about $400,000 for the sports and music halls of fame and for the Douglass Theatre. When something’s important to locals, they tax themselves. When it’s not, they tax the unrepresented. It ought to be illegal to tax those who cannot object, including future hotel guests and drivers of rental cars. But don’t want to go too far. Otherwise deficit-spending politicians who tax the unborn for current use could find their scams threatened.
● U.S. Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) has got to go. He allegedly found a lobbying job for the husband of his staffer mistress, was lobbied by him, and took actions to help the clients. Bye. Not 2012, when Ensign’s term expires. Now.
● Headline: “Bond ruling raises worry.” Not here. Not with taxpayers. At issue is a solid, unanimous Georgia state Supreme Court decision upholding a 2007 law that requires those shadow public authorities to get voter approval before issuing bonds. State Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Atlanta), concerned about the amount of debt they issue, introduced the legislation that the DeKalb Development Authority challenged. Pending legislation would clarify that it’s only aimed at those that directly or indirectly involve public debt. The Jacobs bill, plus the clarifying language in pending House Bill 203, should be taken statewide.
● Can any longtime Atlantan remember a major city problem that wasn’t alleged to be the state’s fault or responsibility? There’s even an expectation that the state should help fix the sewers and water pipes. And should we do that for Hahira and Snellville and Savannah and every other local government in Georgia with something that’s broken? How provincial.
● One wonders how it is possible at this late date for anybody not to know how AIDS is transmitted despite the extensive public awareness campaigns of recent decades. And then we read that Lawrenceville Mayor Rex Millsaps had no idea that voting to give city business to a company that employed him was wrong. It’s only been wrong since the beginning of time.
● Though metro Atlanta’s mired in traffic gridlock, strings attached to federal stimulus money require spending 3 percent, or $27.9 million, in Georgia on related projects, such as landscaping, welcome signs, benches, sidewalks and the like. Georgia will spend about $50 million. This is why Georgians should know precisely what they’re buying in terms of projects before approving a transportation tax increase. The risk is that all the interest groups will get together with the politicians and agree to fund each other’s wish list. Meanwhile, we get gridlock.
● One of the great tragedies of American family life is that young men grow up to kill or die prematurely fighting over “respect,” presumably never knowing of any way other than knives, guns and fists to earn it.
● Unless Atlanta and other public bodies fundamentally change their retirement systems for public employees from defined-benefit to defined contribution, they’ll all go broke. It’s too tempting for politicians to placate groups of disgruntled employees by giving them benefits that become due and payable on somebody else’s watch. Atlanta politicians, unwilling to stare down unions and disgruntled employees, most recently in 2001 and 2005, have about bankrupted the city. Atlanta is Washington, but without the printing press. The defined-benefit model can’t work in the public sector.
● Some residents of Austell blame city officials for failing to tell them that homes had been damaged in a 2005 flood. “Had we all known there was a flood before … we would have made some plans to get flood insurance,” said one. Local government officials should be required to wear a badge: “It’s my fault. I should have …”