Gabe Sterling Enters Race For Fulton County Chairman

Sandy Springs City Councilman Gabriel Sterling has entered the race to become Fulton County Commission Chairman. The current Chairman, John Eaves, is running for Mayor of Atlanta. Sterling joins longtime Fulton/Atlanta politico Robb Pitts in the quest to replace Eaves.

Of note, this sets up a partisan contest for control of the Fulton County Commission. Continue reading “Gabe Sterling Enters Race For Fulton County Chairman”

Former South Georgia Mayor Arrested…Again

A former mayor of a South Georgia town has been arrested. Again.

Linda Harris, the former mayor of Meigs in Thomas County, was arrested Tuesday after the sheriff discovered she gave false statements in court documents filed on March 16.
Continue reading “Former South Georgia Mayor Arrested…Again”

HB 615 & SB 292: Proposal For A Walker County Board Of Commissioners

Proposed Walker County Commission Districts as drawn by the Legislative Apportionment Office

Senator Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), with SB 292, and Representatives Steve Tarvin (R-Chickamauga) and John Deffenbaugh (R-Lookout Mountain), with HB 615, are moving legislation to bring the opportunity to give citizens in Walker County to decide if they want to keep the current sole commission form of government or opt for a multi-member board.  The district commissioners would be part-time drawing a $12,000 annual salary with the full-time drawing a salary of the highest paid elected county official plus an additional $500 with an amount that doesn’t exceed $100,000 per year.

This has been a touchy issue for the past 6 or so years with people from LaFayette seeming leading the charge.  Under the law as proposed (which will probably end up passing by Sine Die), voters would directly elect a commissioner from their district and the at-large, full-time commission chairman.  Currently, voters in Walker County directly elect the sole-commissioner thereby having a 100% affect on their local government.  If the proposal is approved in 2018, voters would cede 60% of their current power in favor of directly electing 2 out of 5 members of county government in order to have a more representative county government.

Continue reading “HB 615 & SB 292: Proposal For A Walker County Board Of Commissioners”

Norwood Leads Crowded Field In Atlanta’s Mayor Race

Mary Norwood, attempting another try to becoming Atlanta Mayor after falling just short 8 years ago, leads a crowded field according to a WSB TV poll by Landmark Communications/Rosetta Stone. (i.e, Mark Rountree & John Garst)

Norwood leads the field of 8 with 28.6 percent, just edging out “undecided” at 28%.  No other named candidate is in double digits.

Several candidates are grouped in the high single digits, including Vincent Fort (9.3%), Keisha Lance Bottoms (8.6%), and Ceasar Mitchell (8.0%).  The next tier includes Cathy Woolard (6.1%), Kwanza Hall (5.8%). Further down, John Eaves is at 3.8%, and Peter Aman at 1.8%.

Also polled was the race for City Council President, which has almost half of those polled undecided (49.2%).  Of those having a preference, Felicia Moore is leading at 23.7% with C.T. Martin close behind at 21.8%.  Alex Wan is a distant third at 9.5%.

You can see the breakout of the poll here.

My Friends All Drive Porsches; I Must Make Amends

For forty years, Mercedes Benz USA (MBUSA) has named roads after itself. Typically, these streets surround MBUSA facilities. In Vance, Alabama, where the company manufactures GLE and GL-Class SUVs, the GLE Coupe, and the C-Class Sedan, roads leading to the facility include Daimler-Benz Boulevard, M-Class Boulevard (“M-Class” is the former model for Mercedes SUVs), and Mercedes Drive.

As part of relocating their headquarters to Sandy Springs from Montvale, New Jersey, MBUSA proposed renaming Barfield Road, named for a family that once farmed in that part of Sandy Springs, to Mercedes Benz Drive.

The neighbors on Barfield Road aren’t fans of the proposed name change. According to the Sandy Springs Reporter, the Atlanta Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), which has called Barfield Road home since the early 1980s, will oppose the name change, which is on the Sandy Springs City Council’s agenda for their meeting on March 7.

According to metro Atlanta LDS spokesman Bill Maycock,

The Mercedes-Benz brand is known for prestige and luxury and class status and all that sort of thing. In the Atlanta Georgia Temple of the church, we don’t do any of that…It’s not what the Atlanta Temple is. It’s not what the Atlanta Temple teaches its members. I think it’s mostly the concept of being forced to use the Mercedes-Benz brand. The teachings of the church and the practices of the church [are] a non-materialistic view of life as taught by Jesus and the New Testament…[and a view of] equality, that we are all equal as God’s children.

Continue reading “My Friends All Drive Porsches; I Must Make Amends”

FBI Raids Atlanta City Hall As Bribery Probe Deepens

According to WSB TV, FBI agents have targeted the City of Atlanta’s procurement office this afternoon and are questioning the City’s procurement director Adam Smith.  Presumably, they’re looking for the invisible hands behind a pay for play bribery scheme that has already netted two guilty pleas by city contractors, but none for City of Atlanta officials.

Much of the attention media has given this case surrounds Mayor Reed’s former campaign official turned city employee Mitzi Bickers. The AJC had a team of reporters do a profile of Bickers’ recent personal and professional history that’s worth a read to understand the lay of the land here.

This is the same investigation that the City and Mayor Reed decided to be quite cute with open records requests, pretending that printing electronic records (many of which were illegible or blank pages) and putting them in bulk in a room would satisfy the public.  It only served to anger the press, who continues to ask “What is the city hiding”.

Now, the FBI is asking Adam Smith.  Hopefully he’ll be able to shed some light on to who, exactly, was involved in the city’s part of this division of labor to engineer payment from contractors to guarantee city business.

Former Clayton County Commissioner Pleads Guilty To Ethics Charges

From a press release:

Attorney General Chris Carr today announced that Wole Ralph, former Clayton County Commissioner, entered a guilty plea to filing false campaign disclosure reports in violation of the Ethics in Government Act and received 24 months of probation. The court sentenced Ralph under the First Offender Act.

“As elected officials, we have a duty to be stewards of the Rule of Law and ensure our offices operate with the utmost transparency,” said Attorney General Chris Carr. “Mr. Ralph knowingly violated the Ethics in Government Act, and for that, he must face the consequences.”

Ralph was required to file campaign contribution disclosure reports with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission listing the amounts of campaign contributions received and expended. Continue reading “Former Clayton County Commissioner Pleads Guilty To Ethics Charges”

Walker County Commissioner Shines Light On Large Debt

Walker County Commissioner Shannon Whitfield had his first official meeting as Walker County’s sole commissioner Thursday night.  In an article by The Chattanoogan, he had some bad news to tell county taxpayers.

The bad news: former Commissioner Bebe Heiskell left the county with around $800,000 in the bank and two bond payments, totaling $1.2 million, coming due later this month.  On top of that, $3.5 million in money owed by the county is due, and Walker County doesn’t have the money.  The silver lining to this is that the Bank of LaFayette is aiding by initially agreeing to a $2 million loan to the county government after Commissioner Whitfield laid out a plan to right the ship.  That amount was increased to $4 million after a bank board meeting this past Wednesday.

The debt is from Tax Anticipation Notes, a short-term loan for local governments.  The purpose of those notes are to help smooth out the time between when expenses are to be paid out and when the actual tax revenue is collected.

Unfortunately, the state of Walker County finances goes beyond just debt obligations. From The Chattanoogan:

Commissioner Whitfield said he found there is no money left in the SPLOST (tax levy for special projects) account and, in fact, the county was having to shore it up because collections were $600,000 short of the outlay.

He also said that money coming in from taxes this year will be less than last year because Ms. Heiskell cut the millage rate. That brought a reduction of $654,000. He said appeals on the reappraisal cut another $275,000.

The Commissioner said that he doesn’t know the extent of Walker County’s total debt.  He is trimming the budget where he can.  He has already cut $660,000 from the annual personnel budget and studying other areas to cut.

It’s going to be tight this year, especially with a lower amount of revenue that’s anticipated due to the former Commissioner’s tax break, so I’m expecting Commissioner Whitfield will have to make adjustments on both the expense and revenue side of the equation.

Tornadoes and Bureaucrats Are Keeping Kids from Eating

While Atlanta eyes changing political currents and prepares for an NFL playoff game, children in Southwest Georgia have gone a month without enough to eat.

The governor declared a State of Emergency after tornadoes ripped apart Albany and other towns in the area, but the extent of the damage is not widely known outside the region. Half of Dougherty County is still without power.

Worse still, school has not resumed since Christmas break. That’s more than a scheduling inconvenience and an annoyance for parents. Georgia’s 2nd Congressional District has the highest rates of “food insecurity” in the nation– people, especially children, who go to bed hungry. Around 12,000 students in Dougherty County alone, 80% of the district’s enrollment, qualify for free and reduced lunch. For far too many of these children, the breakfast and lunch they receive at school is most of the nutrition they receive.

Dougherty County School District hasn’t held classes since December 16th. Classes won’t resume until Monday, January 17th. That means children will go a month without the food they need.

Fortunately, there are groups in Southwest Georgia tackling these problems. Second Harvest of South Georgia partners with the USDA to run “kid cafes,” after-school programs where students can get a snack, help with homework, and a hot meal for dinner. On the weekends and in the summer, these kid cafes load a child’s backpack with enough food to last them several days.

This is vitally important to communities and the lives of children. You can see what a crisis the school’s closure poses.

Second Harvest of South Georgia needs the resources to care for children in the meantime. While they usually follow a “congregate feeding” model– the children come to a single location and are provided meals– that’s not possible when the buses they rely on aren’t running. In response, volunteer bus drivers have been organized and the Dougherty County School System has offered the use of their buses. All they need is the resources the state allocates for this purpose to feed these children.

They haven’t gotten it.

Red tape from the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning’s “Bright from the Start” program, which utilizes US Department of Agriculture pass-through funds, has slowed the process down to a crawl. Second Harvest hasn’t been able to establish a timeline yet. “We were looking at an innovative solution bringing in multiple community partners, but we can’t get the answer from the state to make it happen” says Eliza McCall, Chief Marketing Officer for the charity.

Obviously this bureaucratic nightmare needs to be remedied as soon as possible. But in the long-term, “there should be a contingency plan to deal with situations like this” says McCall. Southwest Georgia legislators like Senator Freddie Powell Sims, beloved in Albany and working tirelessly to address the disaster, should be able to find partners in both metro Atlanta and the Republican Party to develop exactly that.

In the meantime, help Second Harvest of Southwest Georgia if you can. Their staff has been moving vigorously to address the situation, even though many of them have been affected by the disaster themselves. The Red Cross has already stumbled across other devastated communities in places like Calhoun, Early, and Miller counties, personal tragedies for hundreds of families that barely make a blip in larger media markets.

The state needs to respond to community groups sooner rather than later. Those of us in Metro Atlanta need to demand it, and then help out as best we can ourselves.

Marietta Post Office Named For Fallen Local Marine Skip Wells

Legislation was signed today officially naming the Marietta Post Office on Sandy Plains Rd in honor of Cobb County native Lance Corporal Squire K “Skip” Wells. Wells was one of five service members murdered in a terrorist attack at the Naval Reserve Center in Chattanooga, Tenn in July of 2015. He was a 2012 graduate of Sprayberry High School, located approximately one mile from the U.S. postal office that will now bear his name following the enactment of H.R.5612.

Following high school graduation, Wells studied history at Georgia Southern University before enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps in 2014. His family has a long tradition of military service and Marine Lance Corporal Wells felt called to defend his country.

We have received the following statements on the naming, which was co-sponsored by the entire Georgia Congressonal delegation:

Senator Johnny Isakson:

“It is gratifying to have signed into law this honor for a true hero from my own hometown,” said Senator Isakson, who is chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “The book of John, Chapter 15, verse 13 reads: ‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ Skip Wells laid down his life for all the people of the United States of America, for his family and his friends. As we did at that time, we continue to ask God to bless and bring mercy to his family and friends.”

Senator David Perdue:

“The legacy left by U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Skip Wells is one of the highest level of bravery,” said Senator Perdue. “This hero’s willingness to answer the call of duty will never be lost on the people of Georgia and our country. I join all Georgians in commemorating the life of Skip Wells and lifting his family and friends up in prayer.”

Congressman Tom Price:

“Today, we are extremely pleased and grateful to announce that this Marietta Post Office will be renamed in honor of Marine Lance Corporal Squire ‘Skip’ Wells,” said Congressman Tom Price. “We can never repay the immense debt that we owe Skip Wells and his family, but we should do all we can to honor his memory and the memory of all those who have given their lives for our nation. It is our hope that the Marine Lance Corporal Squire ‘Skip’ Wells Post Office Building will stand as tribute to a true American and Georgian hero, so that all future generations may learn of and honor his heroic sacrifice. Skip Wells will never be forgotten.”

Our prayers continue to be with the Wells family, and we thank them for his service and their sacrifice.