Thinking Right’s weekend free-for-all. Pick a topic:
● If people in North Fulton want to reconstitute Milton County, so be it. The General Assembly should give them the chance — assuming they pay their share of Fulton County debt incurred before the split. I’ve come to believe that having a government that will listen and honor the will of the governed is reason enough to form new cities — or, when they’re viable, counties. And, likewise, when local governments get unable to support themselves, they should merge.
● Zero tolerance for weapons in the schools is a policy that doesn’t need fixing by the General Assembly. It’s amazing how much parents teach children that they’re right and the “system” is wrong.
● Oh, America. Get up off the therapist’s couch. Headlines: “Asians-Americans, MARTA reconciled. Tears, hugs, apologies as transit agency drops ‘Yellow’ as line’s name.” The tragedy of unintended insensitivity averted.
● Cobb and Gwinnett make a point of trying to enforce the law against illegal immigration. That, presumably, drives immigrants — those here illegally? — to seek “friendlier alternatives.” And the public policy wrong is … ? Not pretending that they’re here legally?
● A study by the Pew Center on the States finds that, in addition to a soaring federal deficit, the states have a $1 trillion shortfall in public retirement systems. There are two permanent solutions. One is to terminate the now-common defined benefit plans, which tempt politicians to buy labor peace today with tomorrow’s dollars, and to replace them with defined-contribution plans similar to a 401(k). Equally important is to get part-time elected officials — legislators, city councilmen and county commissioners — out of public pension plans altogether. It tempts them to game the system.
● School officials in 191, or 10 percent, of Georgia’s elementary and middle schools are suspected of cheating on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests. The bulk of those are in the Atlanta system. Cheating, which consisted of erasing wrong answers on students’ exams and replacing them with the right answers so that schools would get credit for teaching something they didn’t, is a septic form of public corruption. It should be a criminal offense; those found guilty should be fired and lose their public pension.
● The new Speaker of the Georgia House, David Ralston of Blue Ridge, looks like the cure to what was ailing that body. He’s solid and low-key with great instincts. Despite the constant pressure to raise taxes, he holds his ground, quietly and without drama. No hospital bed tax and no tobacco tax, says Ralston. Consider this a warm-up for the federal deficit and for a looming Medicare and Social Security bankruptcy.
● Welcome the long-overdue restart of the nuclear reactor construction program now that President Barack Obama has announced $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees for two at Plant Vogtle in Burke County. More nuclear and more drilling are keys to energy independence.
● It will be a long, long journey — such is the diehard resistance of the public education establishment — but one day the money will follow the child to the school of the parents’ choice. But first, the state must fight two more school districts — Henry County and Griffin-Spalding County — that have sued to block the approval of Heron Bay Academy as a state-chartered school in their area. Gwinnett, DeKalb, Bulloch and Candler counties and Atlanta have filed similar suits.
● I’m for property tax reform, too, with the understanding that the system can never be made “fair” from one end of the state to the other. Somebody’s always paying too much and somebody’s getting a MARTA ride.