Savannah Alderman Tony Thomas’ no good, very bad day has morphed into a no good, very bad couple of years. Last week, while the rest of us were distracted by Montana Congressman-elect Greg Gianforte treating a reporter very badly (or, more accurately, physically assaulting said reporter) for asking questions he didn’t like, Thomas too treated a reporter very badly for asking questions he didn’t like. Unfortunately for Thomas, the Savannah City Council has less tolerance for bad behavior than the U.S. House of Representatives. Like that guy in Montana, Thomas comes with a string of controversies leading up to his latest escapade.
The current problem for Thomas began well before last Friday, when some of his neighbors called animal control about his unlived-in house being overrun with cats. The Savannah Morning News had previously published a legal ad on May 11, 2017, listing the house as a foreclosure. WTOC got wind of the animal control call and sent a reporter to investigate. It may seem like the worst that would happen to the average elected official would be the public embarrassment that would stem from one’s house being in foreclosure and overtaken by presumably feral cats.* But this is Thomas, so he managed to make it much worse.
Poultry enthusiasts and property rights advocates thought things would be different with the election of Commission Chairman Mike Boyce, but it seems they thought wrong.
Cobb County Commissioners voted Tuesday evening to reject a zoning variance which would have allowed a family to keep three chickens on their family property in a Cobb subdivision.
Natallia Vilchenko presented her case by way of PowerPoint Tuesday night due to a language barrier (see the complete powerpoint here), but she told Commissioners that her family, for a number of reasons, was not able to have other animals in the house, and instead decided to have chickens as pets. They purchased three chicks, considered to be domesticated birds, and named them Ryaba, Grey, and Polka Dots.
During the 1980’s, the Director of Georgia’s Cooperative Extension Service Tal DuVall published a study on “Two Georgias”, highlighting the growing disparity between a prosperous and growing metro Atlanta, and a mostly rural “other Georgia”. It was not well received by then Governor Joe Frank Harris. Enough so that Mr. DuVall wasn’t around long enough to publicize his ideas. That credit is generally given to Doug Bachtel.
It’s never been politically popular to acknowledge that there is more than one Georgia. Whether standing in downtown Atlanta on Peachtree Street, a farm outside of Dublin Georgia, a beach on Tybee Island, or tying up to a dock in Blue Ridge, we’re all presumed to be politically equal. From the perspective of those that govern us, we are all equal in the eyes of the state.
Economically and politically, the various regions of Georgia can only be considered equal when viewed through the distortion of a political lens. The economic disparity can be proven through statistical data of income and sales tax receipts, and through the distribution of Medicaid and SNAP dollars. The political disparities often change with the topic, depending on how the legislators within each region choose to caucus on an issue.
Georgia politics is not the same as it was thirty years ago when we debated and pretended to ignore that there were two Georgias. We’re now a state of ten million people and growing. We’re the eighth largest state in the country, and in less than a generation we’ll likely be the fifth. The political party in power in statewide offices and with near super-majorities in the legislature is different.
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.
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.
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%.
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.
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.
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.