‘Real Deal’ is cutting state’s costs

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

● If you get a chance, go back and read Sunday’s front-page story on the Atlanta Public School’s cheating scandal. Read it from this perspective: When the perpetrators, the overseers and the opinion leaders — i.e., the business community — all have a vested interest in glorifying the achievements of the school system, who protects the interests of parents and children? Two lessons here. One is that the state should never again delegate the job of policing its responsibility — the integrity of its accountability testing system — to locals. The other is that the free press does have to remain, as Hosea Williams would have said, unbossed and unbought — meaning that local media doesn’t get so wrapped up in a desired-outcome narrative.

● The most remarkable political story of this decade in Georgia is the implosion of the party that controlled it all 10 years ago. This week, State Rep. Mike Cheokas of Americus, the last white rural Democrat representing South Georgia in the House, switched parties. That leaves just three: State Reps. Sistie Hudson of Sparta, Barbara Massey Reece of Summerville and Rick Crawford of Cedartown. Hudson’s replacement will be a black Democrat; Reece and Crawford will give way to Republicans — unless there’s a replacement Democrat as conservative as Reece.

● If Gov.-elect Nathan Deal succeeds in downsizing state government, he will be the Real Deal. Nothing left undone is more vital to Georgia in the coming years than getting its structural costs under control, which includes the salaries and health and retirement benefits that are strangling states.

● Alpharetta intends to play Santa Claus to corporations, agreeing to waive up to $25,000 in inspection and permit fees for new companies. Two points: One is that Alpharetta is dead in the middle of metro Atlanta’s growth zone, so it’s foolish to offer tax giveaways to development that’s virtually certain to occur anyway, even if slower. The other is that existing business should not be taxed to provide subsidies for the competition. Alpharetta, therefore, should cut property taxes by the amount it can afford to give away.

● No punishment prosecutors inflict on Ponzi-schemer Bernie Madoff could be as painful as the sentence imposed by son Mark. Let this family be. Except for Bernie, they all get my Christmas pardon. I note, too, the decency and classiness of Barbara Picower, the widow of Jeffry Picower, the largest single beneficiary of Madoff’s dealings. The scheme was deplorable, she said, adding: “I am deeply saddened by the tragic impact it continues to have on the lives of its victims.” Therefore, “we will return every penny received from almost 35 years of investing.” That’s $7.2 billion for victims.

● On a personal note: It’s been a down year for the nation, for sure — but for me, it’s quite the opposite. I was happy at the start and, having been given the opportunity in late January to be full-time nanny to a then weeks-old granddaughter, can honestly report that the year has been one of the happiest of my life. Take life’s toys elsewhere, Santa. The gleam of recognition in a little red-haired girl’s big blue eyes has already done Santa’s job for me.

● The year also brings fulfillment of a Southern boy’s long-time dream — the acquisition of a home place in South Georgia that, until the 2008 death of a cousin’s 95-year-old widow, had not been outside the family since the early 1840s. The land was a wedding gift from my great-great-grandfather to his daughter, my great-grandmother, in 1876. Six generations later, the tall pines that grow there will open the doors of college to a little red-haired girl just turned 1.

Merry Christmas.‘Real Deal’ is cutting state’s costs

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