This Speaker looks to be the cure

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.

33 comments Add your comment


February 18th, 2010
8:55 pm


February 18th, 2010
9:39 pm

Supporting school zero tolerance policies in their current form is not a conservative belief. It is borne out of the same misguided thinking of excessive gun control.
Sending a well-behaved student to jail who unwittingly brings a common household object does not deter violent children. If punishment for murder does not deter, nor will the punishment for weapons possession.
Children are not responsible enough to have some objects unsupervised. However, harsh enforcement of weapons policies should be directed at cases where evidence exists of violent intent. Other cases deserve only a light punishment.
The current situation in Georgia is so bad that I would homeschool if I lived here. I would not want my children exposed to the risk of a felony conviction (which is as bad or worse as being killed in a school shooting, at least to me) over a mistake with a common household object (or worse, being set up, which is not hard).


February 18th, 2010
9:53 pm

Jim, I keep thinking (hoping) that you have retired!! Thankfully, your drivel today does not contain the typical name calling and “labeling” that is so typical of your posts. You never did answer – you were a UGA Journalism graduate??


Ragnar Danneskjöld

February 18th, 2010
9:54 pm

Good evening all. I have long advocated secession as the appropriate cure for abusive governments. Maybe Milton has such an argument as it has long borne the fiscal burden of a large dysfunctional county. Even a threat of secession may focus the minds of the country overlords.

Dr. Walter Williams occasionally reminds the reader that he, as a middle school student in Washington DC, was a member of the shooting club and once every couple of weeks carried his rifle to school. I cannot think of a reason students should not carry rifles to school. And even if I am overstating the case a bit, “zero tolerance” has a history of making school administrators appear to the world as total idiots. Ask me about Tweety Bird keychains. “Zero Tolerance” also means zero judgment; I would wish to think our school administrators capable of exercising some modicum of judgment, the history of curricula notwithstanding.

I think somebody has a yellow stripe down his back. Or a yellow belly. Can’t we all fight together?

I remind the horde that I oppose Congressionally-set immigration limits, on the grounds that Congress is incompetent to determine how many immigrants our economy needs. (Just as Congress is incompetent to determine how many lawyers we need.) That the governments of Cobb and Gwinnett play to the xenophobic crowds earns no respect from me; just tells me we have too many police and/or prosecutors with too little to do. Wasting their time and wasting taxpayer monies by interfering with market economies. I respectfully note that the correlation is high between “strength of the economy” and “immigration rates,” and I affirm the latter is causation for the former.

Abolish all government funded defined benefit plans; they are a cancer on the economy.

My guess – based on the quality of management of our government school systems – is that the cheaters will get raises for improving scores. As is the case with “zero tolerance” laws, we cannot seriously expect people in the government education industry to exercise good judgment.

Loan guarantees mean nothing. If Chauncey were serious about helping our energy independence needs, he would advocate legislation abolishing Federal District Court jurisdiction over license challenges.

Heron Bay Academy is proof that people in the government education industry are incapable of exercising good judgment.

Property tax reform – how about one tax rate for all land, without regard to use?


February 19th, 2010
5:37 am

So there you have it, folks. According to Dagwood Bumstead, the key to energy independence is to abolish Federal Court jurisdiction over license challenges. Who knew it something so obscure, so inane, something no one would even consider. At least it gave ol’ Dag a chance to insult the President.
This is a pretty benign column for you, Jim. Pretty reactionary, too. I have to agree w/Bummy that zero tolerance is just an chance for the administrators to take the easy way out. No thinking, no judgment, no consideration, just get rid of them. Our kids deserve better from them. Unfortunately, Dogwood Bealzebub can’t be taken seriously due to his what I’m sure he thinks is clever statement that all children should take rifles to school. Another modest proposal from an immodest nut.


February 19th, 2010
5:45 am

Bill – I’m sure glad Jim comes back to “lend a little color, to what otherwise has become a dull affair.” Yes, Jim is a UGA Journalism grad.

Mid-South Philosopher

February 19th, 2010
6:24 am

Good morning, Jim,

I am going to comment on several of your points this morning, my friend,…just like old times, LOL!

I like the notion of reconstituting Milton County. Government, a terrible yet necessary evil, is less evil when it is kept close to the people. The bigger it gets, the more impersonal it becomes.

If “zero tolerance” is the way to go in schools, let’s just get rid of all “judges” and make “zero tolerance” applicable to all offenses at all levels. Let a less costly paralegal preside over the court proceedings and if a defendant is convicted simply read the consequence out of the “Book of Zero Tolerance.”

NO elected “legislative official” (Congress, General ASSembly, County Commission, City Council, or School Board) should have a government sponsored pension for their “part-time” job. 401 K contributions should work nicely for them!

David Ralston is a good man. I have known him for years. We will see if he remains such.

Mark my words…there is going to be “tax reform” in this nation. The people are going to demand it. Also, there are a lot of Georgia officeholders at the state and local levels that are going to be “furloughed” come November! I can’t wait to pull the ballot against several of them!


February 19th, 2010
7:48 am

Zero tolerance policies are not in place to protect stdents. They are there to protect administrators from lawsuits over their judgment calls.

F-105 Thunderchief

February 19th, 2010
7:56 am

“More nuclear and more drilling are keys to energy independence.”

That’s true, as is wind, natural gas, solar, biofuels, etc.

Union City

February 19th, 2010
8:14 am

So what if the Metro Area thought Georgia wasn’t doing a good enough job taking care of its needs and being fiscally responsible? Can we ask congress to allow us to vote to be the 51st state. Absolutely Not. If you don’t like your government, elect someone else. I don’t get that luxury of creating a new city, county or state everytime the politics are different than mine. A state with more counties than any other in the country EXCEPT texas should figure out another way.


February 19th, 2010
8:58 am

……………….Meanwhile in reality, Georgia is the only state in the union that saw in increase in illegal immigrants, the General Assembly just went on vacation for two weeks after passing legislation for those soon-to-be installed microchips and abortion. Failing to have acted on transportation, water, education, and the budget. Republican-led counties in Henry and Spaulding are fighting Wooten’s School Choice, as did Gwinnett, and most government agencies have LONG got rid of defined benefit plans in favor of defined-contribution plans. Similar to that of 401(K)s. I thought this guy was retiring. It amazes me how the circus act of Wooten blatantly ignores these serious issues going on right here in Georgia. The cherry-picking has to be taking a toll on the guy.


February 19th, 2010
9:01 am

“…assuming they pay their share of Fulton County debt incurred before the split.”

Pull your head out of the sand Jim. North Fulton has carried the rest of the county on our backs for 30+ years now. A new improved Milton County is needed to replace the ineffective Fulton County & the crappy leadership that comes out of Atlanta & South Fulton. Good riddance


February 19th, 2010
9:03 am

Wooten forgot to inform you all that Milton County was annexed into Fulton when they went bankrupt. Ask John’s Creek and Milton how that secession thing is working out. Sometimes you get what you ask for.


February 19th, 2010
9:26 am

If you want to live in a small independent town, move there. I’m tired of these little fiefdoms. Whatever happened to “the will of the people” argument from these little secessionists? When they don’t like what the majority wants, they want to create their own little gated community which has been built by everyone’s tax dollars, and then continue to use things like the airport, interstates, etc. Build that wall and live, work, and shop inside it. The first time you want a $99 Airtran flight we might let you rejoin human society.

Nuclear Energy

February 19th, 2010
10:54 am

I liked how Wooten sorta gave the president credit for the Nuclear Power plant but not really.


February 19th, 2010
11:46 am

Milton city is much more functional that Atlanta. Let us not forget about the racist that is chairman of the Fulton County Commission who is desparate to keep Fulton County together so that he can continue sucking money out of North Fulton.


February 19th, 2010
12:46 pm


February 19th, 2010
12:51 pm

Jim, is that a newly touched up picutre of you? Great pic, not that many wrinkles and frown lines on that one! BTW how’s the dementia going? Getting any better….oh wait, I just read your column, I guess not. Sorry. :(


February 19th, 2010
2:34 pm

Oh boy the conservatives are meeting in Washington and they are going to bring us the new millenium: they say they are going to shrink the size of government — ummm didn’t Reagan promise that and he didn’t, didn’t George Bush and his sidekick Dicky Cheney promise that — ummmm they didn’t. So now you expect me to believe that the CPAC crowd are going to do it. You must take us all for fools. Won’t happen, and I promise you that.

Hillbilly Deluxe

February 19th, 2010
3:01 pm

If people in North Fulton want to reconstitute Milton County, so be it.

Milton County was formed in 1857 from parts of Cobb, Cherokee, and Forsyth Counties. Rather than form a new county wouldn’t it make more sense to fold the are back into the 3 counties it came from.

It’s amazing how much parents teach children that they’re right and the “system” is wrong.

When a kid is sent home for drawing a picture of a weapon or pointing their finger at somebody and saying bang, the system is wrong. The problem with the zero-tolerance policy is that they use zero common sense in applying it.

It should be a criminal offense; those found guilty should be fired and lose their public pension.


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.

The property tax system is outmoded and impossible to apply fairly. Why not replace it with something else?

John Birch

February 19th, 2010
3:37 pm

There’s a little law called ERISA that protects pensions. I suggest fire, tar and feather, and run out of town on a rail but let them keep their pensions.


February 19th, 2010
6:59 pm

DebbieDoRight – so you just make personal insults, rather than trying to make intelligent comments on the topic? See if you can come up with just one next time, I’m sure it will be a first for you, but YOU CAN DO IT!


February 20th, 2010
9:16 am

Good column Jim. I see you have changed on a couple of issues over the years. And you actually paid a compliment to Obama. Wow!

You correctly outlined the biggest threat facing the nation – “a warm-up for the federal deficit and for a looming Medicare and Social Security bankruptcy.” And the frightening part is that this did not just pop up on the horizon, we have known about it for 30 years. But for 30 years we have elected to pretend it was not there. Now it is about to bite us in the ***. And as of today. 2/20/10, we are still ignoring the issues. But we all have our 10 & 30 second sound bites down pat and the American voter continues to fall for those sound bites.


February 20th, 2010
11:16 am

The way it’s looking, the collapse of Social Security and Medicare will occur shortly after Obama completes his second term, assuming he gets one. This will likely leave a Republican in office to take the heat and the the historical blame for generations of inaction on the problem.


February 20th, 2010
11:39 am

THIS Administration and THIS Congress are accelerating the push to a Social Democrat nation, ignoring the Constitution and the will of the people – all for power and to compensate their supporters from prior elections.

To cite the failures of Reagan and Bush to control the size of government as an example of the reason no Congress will in the future is to also ignore the will of the people. Two Departments, Energy and Education, are prime examples of wasted money that has produced nothing of value in return. “Jimmuh Cahter” promised the Energy Department he created would bring us instant energy independence and 30+ years later there has been nothing accomplished.

Revolt at the ballot box in November can bring change. When those in Congress realize the Tea Partiers and others have voted them out and the new Members also realize they must produce – then change will come. We simply need a better breed of politician, a politician who realizes the purpose for Congress is to serve the people and not line their, and their supporters, pockets. This should be a bi-partisan effort to kick all of the incumbents to the street.

Put the power back in the hands of the people by forcing the Congress to represent the people and reducing the power and size of government. We are in the economic mess due to the interference of Government in the economy and Government lust for power. To Congress, more laws means more power.

How do you explain a Congress voting against COL increases for Social Security and giving themselves $12,000 to $15,000 annual raises? One word – arrogance. The Members of Congress believe, as a result of November 2008, that the people are uninformed and ignorant of their actions. The voters elected a POTUS with no history, no college classmate who remembers his attendance, nothing whatsoever to recommend him for the job other than catch-phrases and lofty promises. And this POTUS has broken virtually every promise!

We have been blessed by the election of 2008 simply due to the awakening of the American people to the years of abuse pouring down upon the electorate as if the largest sewer pipe in the world emanated at the Capitol building. Fire these bums and fire them in November 2010! Then fire the rest in November 2012, along with the most incompetent person to ever sit in the Oval Office. Send them all home and elect anyone from any party who will vow to uphold the Constitution and reduce the size and scope of the Federal government while focusing on securing our borders, language and culture.

That will do for now.


February 20th, 2010
12:54 pm

Please be reminded that schools did not cook up the idea of the zero tolerance LAW for weapons possession. Nor did we define weapons as they are so defined in the current law of Georgia. Schools do not send kids to jail. Law enforcement, district attorneys, and judges make the decisions that lead to the incarderation of juveniles. The law prescribes that school officials notify the local law enforcement for any weapon fitting the definition as defined by the law. Personally, as a school principal, I think the legislature should revisit the law and provide a little room for judgement at the school level.

Mid-South Philosopher

February 20th, 2010
5:28 pm

Oh, my, Tony,

You are getting dangerously close to making sense. That will never do among the legislators and bureaucrats that we enjoy in Georgia today..that will just never do!

Thinking Left

February 21st, 2010
10:50 am

If we could pull Milton further away from Atlanta we would. We still smell the stinch from here. Just below Chattanoga would work.

JW's worst nightmare

February 21st, 2010
2:07 pm

Wooten? You will alienate your conservative following with your comments! Not allow children to bring guns into schools? Don’t you guys think that EVERYONE should carry a gun EVERYWHERE?


February 21st, 2010
3:20 pm

David Ralston is hardly the cure for what ails the Georgia House (and Senate). Chief among the problems at the Capitol is ethics (or the lack thereof) and the new Speaker could not get to the table fast enough to begin enjoying the largess from a long line of lobbyists. Mr. Wooten has been deluded by the words of the Speaker. Ralston and the rest of the Legislature must be judged on their actions not on what they say. No Georgian who is reasonably sober expects any changes for the better at the Capitol.


February 21st, 2010
5:54 pm

Zero tolerance is in place because of PARENTS! You see, each parent of Little Johnny thinks HIS kid “didn’t mean to” or “it was just a little knife”, and thus merits an exception of the rules. THIS is what got us zero tolerance–overall unwillingness to have Little Johnny (anyone’s little Johnny) from accepting responsibility for his actions.

If the legislature (and especially Speaker Ralston) has a nonstop buffet set out for them, why do they get almost $200 in per diem? Set up a dorm and let them stay there. I hear Morris Brown has some empty space.

On the possible cheating: It is highly unlikely that it was teachers who changed answers. They do not have time alone with the tests. Those who are blaming on teachers need to get educated about the testing protocols.

If not property tax, then what? Property tax hits everyone (except the dead in church cemmetaries and those who live in cardboard boxes under the overpasses.) Homeowners pay it; renters pay it. Income tax, on the other hand, is avoided by too many people (the poor, those working under the table, the rich with exemptions and deductions). So, pray tell, where will the money come from? “Not me” isn’t a viable answer.

We should watch the legislators very carefully. There are many more Glen Richardsons in positions of power.


February 21st, 2010
5:57 pm

The Yellow Line. People sick of being abused. Elton John’s Satanic verses variation about Christ, (oh brother). Tiger’s apology. (wince) Ann Coulter’s misfire at a slam dunk event. (she’s spent). Conservatives trying to distant themselves from conservatism. (Running from their own shadow?)

We are set up for something really new, and really great and really all encompassing. People are angry, but only at their own lives and their choices. The media is trying to tap into the anger, but can’t, at least not consistently, because the anger is too diffuse to generalize it into a photo-op or a sound bite or a really clever slogan. And slogans are finally passe. America is maturing. We want truth, and the question now is what is truth? Christ couldn’t answer that one so don’t feel bad if you cant either.

We are at a crossroads, and everybody agrees that a leader is needed, but nobody trusts anybody. It may be someone we know. It could be Huckabee. Suddenly, he’s coming across as a really decent, appealing guy. I like him a whole lot.

If the economy starts providing jobs, then that leader will be Obama. Why? Because people are so shallow, that they associate good times with the incumbents. If we get a spring rally in the markets and in the job market, then the democrats will stay in power for decades, like during the 1930’s and 1940’s, and the GOP will go the way of the whigs, the know nothings, and the People who got hanged after the failure of the whiskey rebellion in 1791.

It’s all up to the capricious whims of the mysterious economic cycle, which nobody has ever figured out, despite the claims of the economists and the historians and the gamblers.

Nobody knows squiddle poo, and that’s the truth. We’re all sitting ducks for what’s coming. ANd nobody ever see’s what’s coming.

Nobody. Whoops, gotta go. (Parent over shoulder).


February 25th, 2010
7:10 pm

Jim, knowing your approximate age – similar to mine, I am certain you would have gone to school with a pocket knife with never a 2nd thought – or danger of being a felon. But now you support ruining young people’s lives over an innocent things. Shame! And not conservative.