APS mess tars chamber leaders

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

● Firing those implicated in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal: costly. Not firing them: corrosive.

● The Atlanta business community’s failure, through the Metro Atlanta Chamber, to exercise sound judgment in separating parents’ and the public’s interest in the cheating scandal from its brand-protection efforts, does raise serious questions. Had they succeeded in protecting former Superintendent Beverly Hall and those below her accused of cheating, the culture of corruption in the system could have gone on for another generation or more. State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, this week called on chamber president Sam Williams to resign. In a scandal this seriously damaging to the community, a scandal that might never have been fully explored had the chamber’s efforts and advice prevailed, it is hard to see how its leadership survives.

● The U.S. Justice Department has given Voting Rights Act approval to a law that lets Gov. Nathan Deal oust members of local public school boards — specifically, now, Atlanta’s. On Tuesday, the state school board will recommend a decision to Deal. The cheating scandal and the evidence that a powerful segment of the community exercised poor judgment in protecting the wrong people should raise red flags to those who would overthrow the will of the voters. Ousting elected officials is their job. Deal’s new power should be used once in a generation, if at all, and not now in Atlanta.

● The decision by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Bensonetta Tipton Lane to allow videotaping of the execution of triple-murderer Andrew Grant DeYoung really does need to be heard on its merits. No right exists to videotaping, which is done, of course, to promote opposition to capital punishment.

● The Atlanta Regional Commission has cut the wish list for the transportation sales tax from $22.9 billion down to $12.2 billion, en route to a $6.1 billion final figure. The ARC list has 55 percent for roads and 45 percent for transit. An advocacy group wants 66 percent for transit. Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson, who chairs a group of public officials who will make the final project selection, says it’s targeting 40 percent to 60 percent for transit. Transit can be expected to carry about 5 percent of commuters and 2 percent of all travelers.

● One thing that should make us all nervous about the proposed regional sales tax for transportation is how much local politicians and niche-transportation advocates are relying on somebody in another county to pay for projects they can’t or won’t pay for themselves. There is nobody else.

● You get the feeling that the end of America’s space shuttle program coincides with the decline of America’s place in the world. I yearn for a president who isn’t content to preside over a debt-heavy, lead-from-behind nation entering its twilight years.

● There’s a world view expressed in the language of the bureaucracy that the generation of conservatives now coming to government service has to change. Background: Georgia set up a college loan program this year based on projections of how students would react to changes in HOPE eligibility. The assumption was that 15,000 students would apply for $20 million low-interest loans. Instead, it was 5,181. The state is considering opening the application process. “We don’t want to have any money left,” said Tracy Ireland, an official with the Georgia Student Finance Commission. It’s OK to have money left in the pot — even loan money. The notion needs to change that those who run government programs have to search for takers. It invites passivity and the expectation that government will bring them a solution.

Jim Wooten, an Opinion columnist, writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. His column appears Fridays. Reach him at wooten.jim@gmail.com.

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