Friday, September 28, 2007

Why is government so depressing?

Because it's run by people, I imagine.

The Senate voted today to probe various war contracts.

The Pentagon said (a few days ago) that Iraq and Afghanistan contracts are under investigation.

What kind of person do you have to be to engage in profiteering?

Kazooing in Macon

Macon tried to break a record last night for the largest kazoo concert. The kazoo, as you may not be aware, was invented here.

The rain kept the city from getting the numbers it needed, but there was still a good turnout and we had cameras there. Liz Fabian set up a little "kazoo idol" that's kind of funny. It includes David "I can't but I tried" Cousino and Robert "I'm going to spend $50,000 to win this online competition" Reichert. They're Macon's "two" mayoral candidates in this November's city elections.

But the clear winner: Fire Chief Jimmy Hartley.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A perfectly reasonable post

Yesterday, saying he was thinking out loud, state Sen. Eric Johnson (R, Savannah, president pro tempore of the Senate) said it might not be so bad if Grady Memorial Hospital closed.

Today a bunch of folks called a press conference and jumped on Johnson's head.

In response, he issued the following statement:
“It is perfectly reasonable and responsible to ask the question whether health care delivery might improve if Grady ceased to exist. The marketplace can be a remarkable thing and there is a large amount of money at stake. Both the patients and the taxpayers may benefit from a hospital designed from the ground up without the baggage and bureaucracy associated with the existing Grady.”

It's not my job to say whether what Sen. Johnson said made sense. But when you're putting out statements to tell people that what you said yesterday was reasonable, well that might be indicative of a problem right there.

Tax reform: Doing math outloud

Dangerous for a Georgia grad, I know...

This post got me thinking about ways to assess how the Speaker's tax reform proposal would affect people.

I thought I'd start with my grandfather, Travis W. Fain, who passed away earlier this year. I live in his house now, so I opened the tax bill and was pretty shocked how low it was.

My grandfather, who retired after many years working for Southern Natural Gas, lived in a two-bedroom home in north Bibb County. He owned the home, an adjacent lot and two investment lots in Bibb County, which he was in the process of selling when he died.

His 2007 tax bill on his home: $374.47. On the investment lots: $552.13. Total $926.60.

He lived in unincorporated Bibb County. He had to pay extra for garbage pickup and recycling, but his property taxes helped fund:

- Public schools.
- The courts.
- The jail.
- Law enforcement from the sheriff's office.
- Various social services for the poor.
- Road maintenance (repaving, striping, grass cutting).
- All the other services of county government, which is a pretty long list when you think about it.

Now, let's say these property taxes go away. Forgetting any savings he may have realized by deducting his property taxes from his federal income taxes, that puts my grandfather $926.60 to the good.

But now there's a 7 percent sales tax (4 cents from the state, 3 cents in locally approved SPLOSTS and a LOST) on services. So to figure out how much in services he'd have to purchase before he pays the same amount in the new sales tax as he did in property taxes, we use this formula:

.07x = 926.60
x = 926.60/.07
x = $13,237.14

So as long as my grandfather didn't purchase more than $13,237.14 in services in 2007 he'd pay less in taxes than he did under the property tax system. He was frugal as hell, so I bet he would have been under that threshold. But there's no way to know.

Also - the big whammy for him and for other senior citizens - medical expenses. The man had a lot of doctors, and he would have hit that $13,237.14 threshold awful fast if medical services were included as a taxed service.

While I'm at it - and though it wouldn't have been relevant for my grandfather - would private school tuition be taxed? What about college tuition? Those would be big-time taxes for families if teaching is classified as a service.

One other thing: The total property taxes levied in Georgia in 2006 was $9.67 billion. Georgia's population is estimated at about 9.3 million. So that's an extra $1,032 in sales tax revenue for every man, woman and child in the state to make this thing revenue neutral.

Note I said "for" every man, woman and child, not "from." It's going to take someone a hell of a lot better at math than me to actually figure out how this thing shifts the tax burden for folks, but you can probably run the math on your own and guesstimate how it would affect you.

More than half

Did you know that more than 55 percent of the babies born in Bibb County in 2004 were born to unwed mothers?

Or that per capita income rose 40 percent in the county from 1995 to 2004?

Or that the average sale price of residential property rose from $90,000 to nearly $136,000 from 1997 to 2004?

The Georgia County Guide.

Run free reports for particular statistics.

How the hell do you win the future?

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is in my home county, Cobb County, today with his American Solutions for Winning the Future symposium.

I heard Gingrich speak once in Cobb County. Boy, he made the folks that lobbed supposedly tough questions at him look stupid. I mean he decimated them. It was clear he was far smarter and better informed than they were.

Too bad it was 1992 and they were high school kids.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Marshall on the SCHIP vote

U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall voted against the expansion of SCHIP (aka PeachCare) last night. He's getting slammed for that today by Georgia Democrats (at least some of the bloggers) who say they are more than a little tired of him voting against some core Democratic values.

Amy Morton

Tondee's Tavern.

At my request, Marshall's press secretary emailed us this statement from Marshall:
(Washington, DC) – Earlier today, the House voted to extend SCHIP’s authorization until the debate over the program’s expansion is resolved. There’s no question that I support expanding SCHIP. But I also have an obligation to the citizens of Middle Georgia to do everything possible to make sure that the program in its final form fairly distributes the burden and fairly distributes the benefits. Expanding SCHIP is among my highest priorities – and it should be among everyone’s highest priorities – but it’s also critically important that Congress and the President get this right.

That's a little short on details. I know there were some in Congress concerned about what sort of access illegal immigrants would have had under the expanded program, as well as the cigarette tax increase that would have funded it, and I believe Marshall to be one of them.

Anything that might be good for illegal immigrants isn't too popular in Middle Georgia, and neither are tax increases.

I'll add that Pres. Bush was going to veto this expansion anyway. I'd also bet dollars to donuts that Marshall votes for the final compromise bill, but we'll see.

But the level of hurt that comes through on some of the criticisms I've read of Marshall today is really palpable. Is it possible that Marshall, who spends so much time convincing people he's conservative enough for the 8th District, could have a problem pulling voters from his own party?

By the way, with the expansion stalled while a compromise is worked out, the House did indeed approve an extension of SCHIP as is as part of a larger funding bill.

PROMOTED FROM THE COMMENTS: This is my buddy Nick, who has a pretty level head for a liberal. It made me laugh out loud, though his anger over this is apparent:
A little short on details? You are being nice there Travis. This vote is ridiculous! I have no idea what he is talking about saying the interest of the citizens. The citizens are all for this! Orin Hatch is for this come on! This is not a radical vote it’s pretty simple either you support health insurance for poor children or you don't and Marshall obviously doesn't. Mark my words he will regret this vote. Because of the political position he is in, he has gotten a pass on some things, but with this what is the point in having him in office. I am trying to think on the major issues of the day how is he different (except for having a brain) than Mac Collins?

The C. Jack Ellis Youth Foundation

We've gotten a few phone calls and emails recently asking if Mayor Jack Ellis' foundation is indeed registered as a 501(c)3. It is, though it is registered under a larger umbrella organization called the National Heritage Foundation.

I've seen the certificate, with the tax I.D. number on it, and even called the foundation to confirm. So, if you'd like to write the foundation a check, it is tax deductible.

The foundation's stated goal is to help children with physical and learning disabilities in the U.S., Caribbean and Africa.

And before anyone starts jumping to conclusions about how Ellis is using this foundation, please remember he has one son with spina bifida and another with Down syndrome.

Tax reform: Thinking outloud

I'd love some feedback from folks about what YOU want to see as we continue to cover the Speaker's tax reform plan...

As I was reporting this story last night I came to the obvious realization that I've written or read essentially this exact same story every couple of days for the past three weeks or so.

So part of me just wants a moratorium on stories about the Speaker's property tax repeal plan until something changes. To that end, here are the questions I think are the most pressing:

- How will this shift tax burdens? I want anything I can get about how this will affect the timber industry, senior citizens, people who own just a primary home, people who own a vacation home, lawyers - any segment of society. So, if you know anyone who's kept every receipt for every good and service purchased in the last tax year, send them my way.

- What's the redistribution formula? State Rep. Larry O'Neal and others are working on this thing, I assure you. It probably won't come out until they feel really comfortable with it, and have run mathematical tests on it, I would imagine. But until it's ready, there are just too many questions about what governments get what money.

- How will this thing work in practice? Right now there's a lot of lobbying for state dollars. With all these hundreds of governments being dependent on the state for their funding, how are we going to keep that new lobbying from gridlocking the General Assembly?

- How much, and what type of, growth will this bring? If people and businesses flock to Georgia because of this new tax structure, are we sure that's a good thing, given our traffic issues and water scarcity?

Of course there are other questions, and maybe I'm missing some really important ones. The effect of a recession on government revenues comes to mind. Feel free to post other questions in the comments section, or to email me at For the moment, though, these are the questions that will drive my coverage on this issue.

By the way, over at Peach Pundit there's some talk about increases in local government spending over the years, mostly from a comment posted by state Rep. Earl Ehrhart (at least, presumably it's him).

I can't speak to Rep. Ehrhart's numbers, but certainly have no reason to doubt them. I would note, however, that when it comes to school board spending, there's a long line of teachers and school officials who would say the increases in local spending were forced upon local taxpayers because the state cut its own schools spending. These are often called austerity cuts.

Here are some of the numbers I've found, which are available from the Georgia Department of Revenue. AJC writer Jay Bookman spoke to some of these numbers in a recent column. He focused more on how much tax revenue would shift from being paid by industrial landowners to every-day Georgians.

Anyway - the total amount of property taxes levied by local governments since tax year 2004:

2004: $8.24 billion
2005: $8.85 billion
2006: $9.67 billion

Two things to note: These figures include the .25 mills in property taxes that actually go to the state, and these are figures levied, not collected. No one ever collects 100 percent, though, with property taxes, the rate is often in the mid-90 percent range.

Also - these figures are a little higher than the Speaker's Office figure of $8.2 billion, which may be a function of them using an actual collections figure, or from choosing a particular tax year.

That's a number that ought to be nailed down, as should the collection rate on these new sales taxes. If this thing is going to be revenue neutral you have to be pretty solid on how much revenue you have to replace and how successful you're going to be collecting the new tax.

By the way, here's a good baseline (it's only, like, 80 pages) on the current tax systems in place across the state.

It's from the Fiscal Research Center at Georgia State University, which offers a wealth of information about taxes.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ellis in The NY Times

Associated Press reporter Greg Bluestein, the hardest working man in the Capitol press corps, wrote a piece about Macon Mayor Jack Ellis. It'll probably run in a smattering of papers across the country tomorrow, but The New York Times has a version of it up now, though they cut Greg's byline out.

A bit more on Porter

I just spoke to state Rep. DuBose Porter, D-Dublin, who was on his way to the fundraiser mentioned below. He didn't say yea or nay on running for governor (which, of course, no one would expect him to at this point) but he said the fundraiser is for his campaign to retain his seat in the House.

He also said that "what we're going to talk about tonight is how the Democratic Caucus is now providing the stability in state government" as the top leaders in the GOP fight amongst themselves, which is a nice shot.

As for tax reform, Porter said he and his caucus mates need to see a finalized bill before committing to anything. But he continues to advocate an increase in the state Homestead Exemption (which cuts property taxes on a primary home only).

"We still think the priority ought to be on relief on your house. ... I'm not saying we're not for (Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson's full repeal of property taxes), we just don't know what it is yet."

I'm on my way to the GBPI's tax reform meeting in Macon now. Coverage in tomorrow's paper.

Checking in with Blog Macon

Erick Erickson, who will be sworn to the Macon City Council in December, hasn't let his new elected position affect his day job. No pulled punches here. Good for him.

Charlie Bishop v. Joe Allen.

The school board is using more expensive paper.

The Monty Python sketch could be a pretty dead-on parody of a lot of politicians. And real people, too, for that matter.

My favorite line: "Argument's an intellectual process, contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says."

I had to look up gainsaying, by the way. It just means denying.

Pandering? Hell no.

Saw this letter to the editor in yesterday's Telegraph. For the record, the word "heroes" appears three times.
Unfortunate impression

A recent letter to the editor, Re: "White House invite," left the unfortunate impression that we showed special treatment to the Atlanta Braves while overlooking the Warner Robins American Little League championship team. We want to underscore to the people of Middle Georgia our strong support for the Warner Robins American Little League team. The tremendous talent that led this team to grasp the title of 2007 Little League World Champions was a great accomplishment and fine display of sportsmanship and determination.

It is for this very reason we were proud to offer a resolution that unanimously passed the U.S. Senate on September 5, commending these heroes, their coaches and parents for their hard work. Last year, after the Columbus Northern Little League team won the series, Sen. Isakson and I arranged a meeting with President Bush to congratulate the team. This year, we have made the same request to the White House on behalf of the Warner Robins team. These young men are not only Georgia heroes, they are the nation's heroes and they indeed deserve presidential recognition.

Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson
U.S. Senate

Monday, September 24, 2007

DuBose Porter raising $$

Big fundraiser coming up for House Minority Leader, and Dublin state representative, DuBose Porter. Does that mean he's running for governor? Not yet. Maybe

"He's definitely thinking about it," said Matt Caseman, who sent out the release pasted below. "Seriously thinking about it."
Atlanta - House Democratic Leader DuBose Porter (D-Dublin) will be having a fundraiser tomorrow, Tuesday, September 25th from 5 -7 pm at Manuel‚s Tavern. The press is invited to attend.

Top Democrats hosting the event include Governor Roy E. Barnes, Chairwoman Jane V. Kidd, Attorney General Thurbert Baker, Commissioner Tommy Irvin, Commissioner Michael Thurmond, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, Senator David Adelman (D-Atlanta), Senator Robert Brown (D-Macon), Senator Tim Golden (D-Valdosta), Senator Kasim Reed (D-Atlanta), Representative Kathy Ashe (D-Atlanta), Representative Carolyn Hugley (D-Columbus), Representative Nikki Randall (D-Macon), Representative Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus), Representative Rob Teilhet (D-Smyrna) and Representative Don Wix (D-Mableton).

Friday, September 21, 2007

The session is all but here

And it's not all tax reform and transportation. And I know this because I read Fitzlew, which linked me to Vicky Eckenrode's stuff.

Changing the QBE formula.

Cable companies want what AT&T got.

Dealing with the prison crush.
Now, just a bit of analysis on that last one. Georgia sheriffs, for years, have wanted the state to kick in more money to defray the costs of holding state inmates in county jails. I'm not sure this extra funding really does that, but it is on the governor's desk.

There are other measures being discussed that would help defray the costs counties incur because of mentally ill people who commit crimes, and there's always the near-constant push to increase the actual per-inmate reimbursement from the state.

In the mean time the governor wants Georgia sheriffs, among others, to support his super speeders legislation.

Well this looks important

Big time transportation meeting coming early next week. From a DOT press release:
ATLANTA –The General Assembly’s Joint Study Committee on Transportation Funding will meet at the Capitol Education Center in downtown Atlanta beginning at 1:00 p.m. on Monday September 24 for a two-day meeting. ...

The meeting’s scheduled speakers include Governor Sonny Perdue, Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle and House Speaker Glenn Richardson. Also featured are several transportation leaders, including DOT Commissioner Harold Linnenkohl, State Tranportation Board Chairman Mike Evans, Georgia Regional Tranportation Authority’s Steve Stancil, and José María López de Fuentes, US Director, Cintra.

Cintra is a Spanish company that operates toll roads. I expect this meeting to cover concession financing, which is the process whereby a private company builds roads, etc., then pays for them by operating tolls.

Be interesting to see where everybody stands on this thing.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Perdue on Goddard, trauma and Grady

UPDATE: Our video is flowing again, so I'm putting the original back up and taking down the YouTube version.

Gov. Sonny Perdue was in Perry tonight for a fundraiser benefiting Rick Goddard's congressional campaign. I wondered if he was going to fully endorse Goddard's bid for the Republican nomination or leave the door open in case Mac Collins jumps into the race, as Collins has all-but-said he will.

Here's Perdue's quote. You decide:

"This is my home, Rick Goddard will be my congressman. ... If I have any credit left in your bank, put it to Rick Goddard's account."

So there you go. Perdue also used the phrase "my whole-hearted support."

After the event, the governor sat for several minutes with me and Joe Bishop from AM 1350, and I'm going to bullet some of his thoughts below. I was struck by how happy and at ease Gov. Perdue seemed tonight. It's like his eyes light up when he gets home to Houston County.

There was a player piano in the lobby of the New Perry Hotel and the governor clowned around a bit, pretending like he was playing it. I took a little video of it:

Anyway, a few newsy things:

- Perdue said there will be another push in the coming legislative session to find funding for trauma care. He said he thought his super-speeder legislation from earlier this year made a lot of sense since it would have given hospitals new funding for crucial emergency care as well as punish people who speed excessively. Speed "kills... maims... and it costs a lot," he said. The governor said he's been meeting with people to try and get them on board with the idea. He said it got "caught up in politics" at the end of this last session.

- As for Grady Memorial Hospital, which is a related issue but also a whole other ball of wax, Perdue said he favors a new business model for the financially ailing Atlanta hospital. Grady, of course, is perhaps the most crucial cog in the state's trauma care network and definitely the most important teaching hospital, but it's got a huge cash-flow problem. Perdue said he favors a "realistic corporate type structure" for Grady similar to the one state Sen. David Shafer has proposed.

- As for Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson's tax reform plan, Perdue essentially echoed his previous comments: there are a lot of questions, he would be "a little suspect" if the feds wanted to take over control of the state's tax revenue and redistribute it as they saw fit, etc. He also noted what Dr. Arthur Laffer told me last week in our interview - that the state already has a "pretty balanced" (Perdue's words) tax system. And, though Perdue believes Richardson's motive is "to try to do good" the first rule "is do no harm."

Goddard's Perry fundraiser

Rick Goddard, who's seeking the Republican nomination to face U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall in the 8th Congressional District, held a fundraiser at the New Perry Hotel tonight. Houston County Republicans gathered, including Gov. Sonny Perdue, who seemed happy to be home for an evening.

Here are some highlights from Goddard's remarks. I'm not putting anything in about how conservative this district is, or how he's going to outwork Marshall, or anything involving Nancy Pelosi. Trust me, you've heard it:

- When Mac Collins lost a narrow race to Marshall last year he under-performed "hugely" in Houston County, Goddard said. That's the difference this time: Goddard is "a Houston County boy." At least, ever since he moved there, he said.

- Goddard said he's "been assured" he'll get a seat on the House Armed Services Committee if he's elected, which would be good news for Robins Air Force Base.

- If elected, Goddard, who is a retired Air Force general, said he'd have "more active duty experience" than anybody in Congress.

- He doesn't call it the "War on Terror." It's "The Global War on Islamic Fascism." Terror, Goddard said, is "just a tactic."

- Goddard has had a lot of military jobs, including head of the Robins Air Logistics Center. But he said one of his jobs was selecting targets in the nation's nuclear war plan. I didn't know that.

- You can debate the reasons we invaded Iraq. But Congress can't set arbitrary timetables to remove troops. Votes to do so are simply "political posturing." If Congressional Democrats were serious about stopping the war, they'd vote to cut off funding.

- If America pulls out of Iraq, Iran's troops will move in, Goddard said. Then Iran will control some 25 percent of the world's oil supply, he said. The bottom line, Goddard said: The reason America needs to be in Iraq is access to oil. (Let me note - I don't know that I've ever heard a candidate speak so frankly on this.)

- On health care: Goddard said we're at a crossroads, where Americans must decide whether they want socialized medicine or a consumer driven system. And you're crazy if you think socialized medicine will mean better care because it depends on "rationing" to control costs, Goddard said. America's health care system offers the highest level of care, but we've got to figure out how to reduce cost and demand, which means living healthier lifestyles and finding a way to lower the effects of litigation. Litigation, Goddard said, leads to billions in "defensive medicine" ordered by doctors looking to protect themselves against a suit.

- On immigration: So many businesses depend on immigrant labor, so there has to be a resident worker program. But there shouldn't be a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, Goddard said. And "You cannot do anything else... unless you close the borders," he said.

Now, I'm well aware there's no equal time here for Marshall, and that we probably don't do as good a job at The Telegraph of covering our sitting congressman as we do the campaign. So let me go ahead and promise to do my best to attend the next speech Marshall has in the district and give it this same treatment.

Also, the comments here are largely unvetted. That is, I haven't checked the numbers or the facts like I would try to do if I was writing a full-blown article

Forest Hill and the Bibb County Roads Program

It's odd out there right now. So much is going on, and yet it seems quiet. The moment before the moment, so to speak.

I wrote this a while back about Forest Hill Road, which is a big deal here in Macon, but didn't publish it until now:
One thing I'm trying not to do here is take sides. Objectivity — and better yet, fairness — is crucial in the newspaper business and I think I've got a reputation for both.

But sometimes an objective look at things leads to pretty obvious conclusions. Other times people are far apart. So what you do is look for things in common and use that as a starting point for negotiation.

Which brings me to Bibb County's sales-tax-financed roads program.

Yeah, there's a committee that makes decisions about what projects to do and when to do them, but the basic plan was set out in 1994, when the penny tax passed.

Folks, that was 13 years ago. Bibb County has changed. And road projects aren't about the traffic you have now, they're about the traffic you'll have in the coming years. So I think it's reasonable to suggest that the few projects left in the massive program be re-evaluated and a new list of priorities reached.

We've got huge new shopping centers opening in the Bass Road area. Do we really need to widen Forest Hill Road, if one of the destinations that widening is meant for is the Macon Mall?

People have been fighting over the Downtown Connector for years. Is it time to just kill that thing and use the money elsewhere?

The Northwest Parkway has been discussed for years, and it doesn't exist.

Now, to be fair, we've got good number folks at planning and zoning constantly re-crunching numbers. But, in that same sense of fairness, it's clear that there are reasonable questions about the validity of those very numbers — especially along Forest Hill Road. I'm not the only one asking them: CAUTION Macon's environmental watchdogs have been saying this stuff like a broken record.

Research I did for an article in March of 2006 showed wide variation in various traffic predictions along the road. But perhaps of greater concern was the fact that predictions on water runoff from the road project were figured differently than any other construction project in town. The road project was allowed to use a much larger area when figuring runoff than Wal-Mart or ACE Hardware would have been allowed to. That depressed the runoff figures.

Any way, we have elected leaders who were voted in to decide these things, and for now they're on board with Forest Hill Road and some of these other road projects. But the votes in various roads committees have been close, so there's a difference of opinion.

All I'm really saying is let's be careful about making major growth decisions based on old or questionable data. And don't treat environmental activists like crazy people when they suggest another way forward. Even if some of them are kind of annoying.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I see a flower there

If you would today, please take a moment to remember these people and their families. There are quite a few pages.

The logistics of tax reform

There are a lot of arguments against the Speaker's tax reform plan, just like there are a lot of arguments for it.

But sometimes we get so wrapped up in philosophical arguments that we forget to ask pretty obvious questions about logistics. And logistics, I've found, are often the thing that gets you.

So this most basic of questions comes from Camilla Mayor and Georgia Municipal Association President Jay Powell, who, along with a GMA contingent, met with The Telegraph's editorial board today. It's a paraphrase:
Under this plan there are no property taxes and instead the state collects an expanded sales tax and remits that money to local governments. How much those governments get is based on a formula, which hasn't been written yet. But there's something like 800 different cities, counties and school boards in the state, all of which will be looking for their slice of this pie. The Georgia General Assembly last year was barely able to agree on the state's budget. How are they going to sign off on 800 more during a 40 day session?

UF student tasered at John Kerry event

Ordinarily I'd be all for sending bolts of electricity through a University of Florida student. But something tells me there's going to be some UF cops looking for new jobs pretty soon.

Coverage from the UF student newspaper.
And the latest, he's out of jail.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Tax reform and the Georgia Constitution

I made a mistake in my Laffer interview story, saying Gov. Sonny Perdue would need to approve of the tax reform resolution for it to pass. Constitutional referendums need a 2/3 vote in the House and Senate, but not the governor's signature. In fact, the governor is specifically forbidden from vetoing an amendment referendum.

We'll run a correction tomorrow.

But I also came across this in reading Article X of the Georgia Constitution:
Paragraph II. Proposals by the General Assembly; submission to the people. A proposal by the General Assembly to amend this Constitution or to provide for a new Constitution shall originate as a resolution in either the Senate or the House of Representatives and, if approved by two-thirds of the members to which each house is entitled in a roll-call vote entered on their respective journals, shall be submitted to the electors of the entire state at the next general election which is held in the even-numbered years.

Though no one, to my knowledge, has officially said so (and there have even been some denials) some pundits believe the Georgia Senate will offer a competing tax reform plan. But since tax law is supposed to originate in the House:
Paragraph II. Bills for revenue. All bills for raising revenue, or appropriating money, shall originate in the House of Representatives.

That has seemed to be a moot point.

Now the second cite seems to be clear - the word "all," like the word "shall," is a strong word in the law. But referendums aren't called by bills. They're called for by resolutions. Is there enough wiggle room in Article X's reference to Constitutional amendments arising in the House or Senate? Will it matter?

Insert me shrugging my shoulders and saying "I don't know."

Dorothy Olson is retiring

I met Ms. Olson once. She knows, basically, everything about the Georgia State Capitol. From Secretary of State's Office press release:
Atlanta- Secretary of State Karen Handel announced today the retirement of Dorothy Olson, the Capitol Museum and Tours Director. Dorothy has worked with the Tours and Museum divisions of the Office of the Secretary of State since 1991. Her last day will be September 28.

“Dorothy has truly left a lasting legacy that will be enjoyed by thousands for years to come,” Secretary Handel said. “We are thankful her for her dedication, determination and hard work and wish her all the best in her retirement.”

Dorothy began her career as a tour guide for Georgia’s Capitol and soon became the director of the Secretary of State’s Tour Program. Dorothy has served as Capitol Museum Director since 1991. In 1995, when the Capital Museum and Capital Tour areas were combined, Dorothy assumed responsibility for both.

Sadly, he may be right.

I got to talking politics with a friend of mine Friday night. He seemed pretty brilliant, particularly when he said this:

"You can't be a legitimate thinker and be president of the United States."

Then he made me watch footage of Congressman Ron Paul at the South Carolina Fox News debate, which it turned out I enjoyed. At the 7:15 mark, he says this:
Right now we're building an embassy in Iraq that's bigger than the Vatican. We're building 14 permenant bases. What would we say here if China was doing this on our country. ... We need to look at what we do from the perspective of what would happen if somebody else did it to us.

After that one of the moderators and Rudy Giuliani jumped all over Paul... for espousing the Golden Rule.

Hey, I'm not saying, I'm just saying.

Newton? Yeah, Fox News called. They said that whole equal and opposite reaction stuff is crap.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Lucid audio: Dr. Arthur Laffer

This will be on the main site this weekend, along with the story itself. But if you just can't wait to hear famous economist Arthur Laffer's thoughts on Georgia tax reform, click here to listen to the interview.

Surely there's no better way to spend a Friday evening. It's edited down to about 16 minutes. Sorry if it's jumpy. I'm new to editing audio.

If you listen to nothing else, listen from the 12 minute mark on through the end. His excitement about this thing is kind of contagious.

This just in: Jim Marshall still not liberal

The Republican Party's campaign to make voters believe that U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall is a liberal continues.

And why not? It's been such a big part of the last three unsuccessful attempts to unseat Marshall in a heavily Republican district.

This time, the National Republican Congressional Committee is calling on Marshall to give back a campaign donation he received from, which of course is the group that bought a full page ad in The New York Times referring to General David Petraeus as General "Betray Us."

From the NRCC's press release:
Will Jim Marshall unload’s campaign cash after they called General Petraeus a traitor? So far he hasn’t…

Will Jim Marshall, who has benefited in the past from over $3,000 in campaign cash from, do more than pay lip service to the group’s despicable behavior and give up the money MoveOn gave him? After all, he voted for Nancy Pelosi to become Speaker of the House, and now she seems to be working hand-in-glove with

Note the Pelosi reference. Hell, I thought Mac Collins was running against Pelosi instead of Marshall sometimes last year, he mentioned her so much.

Here's what the NRCC doesn't tell you: The MoveOn donation was made in 2000. You might note that's before Sept. 11, the Iraq war and Marshall's getting elected to Congress.

And Marshall's press secretary, Doug Moore, was more than happy to point out a television interview Marshall gave shortly after Gen. Petaeus' report on Iraq this week. Go here and scroll down to Marshall's segment. In it Marshall says he was "struck by how inappropriate" the ad was.

"(It was) not at all a fair characterization of the character of Dave Petraeus," Marshall said.

Marshall, of course, knows the General and is a veteran himself, so he gets to call him "Dave."

Marshall also said Iraqis should look forward to the day when they can take out newspaper ads that amount to "a vicious attack against a commanding general... without fear of physical reprisal."

As for the substance of Petraeus' report, Moore said Marshall found it "spot on."

Moore also said that is looking for a candidate to face Marshall in the Democratic primary. I tried to confirm that with, but they haven't returned my telephone message or emails.

Ken Spain, press secretary for the NRCC, said the group stands behind it's press release. He said Marshall should give back the money and speak out against Democrats who are jumping on Petraeus and calling his report to Congress less-than-accurate.

By the way, retired Maj. Gen. Rick Goddard, who is campaigning to be the Republican nominee to face Marshall in the 8th Congressional District, put out a statement about Petraeus report earlier this week. An excerpt:
... it’s clear from his testimony that the surge is meeting most of the military objectives. While we have seen measurable success, there remain significant challenges in achieving a stable Iraq government. The clear message is we are making progress and now is not the time to abandon the mission. It is imperative for the security of our nation and for our children and grandchildren that we do not allow Iraq to become a festering breeding ground of Islamic fascism. ...

There is no one better able to assess progress and future success than General Petraeus. ... Any effort to undermine the General or his mission is deplorable. ...

And finally, I found it utterly disgusting for to question General Petraeus’ patriotism when he has spent the last 40 years of his life defending this nation. may not support this war, but to call General Petraeus a traitor is cowardice and un-American.”

No word lately from former Congressman Mac Collins, who said he's considering another run against Marshall and would face Goddard in the primary.

The Libertarian Party on war

This press release from the Libertarian Party showed up in my inbox today. It's got a line that's hard to argue with, philosophically, if you're into that "though shalt not kill" stuff.

"The moral solution to Iraq is not more war."
"The President was correct when he stated that, 'there come moments that decide the direction of a country and reveal the character of its people.' At this moment, the people of our great nation are calling for a return to a moral foreign policy that begins with an end to the occupation of Iraq," stated Shane Cory, executive director of the Libertarian Party. "Rather than positively respond to the people of our republic, President Bush continues to see no fault in his decision to invade a nation that posed no risk to the United States and held no direct responsibility for the attacks of September 11, 2001. Instead, in order to justify an indefinite occupation, our Commander in Chief has reverted back to the same misleading, fear-mongering tactics that allowed for the military invasion of Iraq.

"A free and stable Iraq is something that the world would benefit from. However, the Libertarian Party believes there are other ways in which to achieve this goal. The Libertarian Party recognizes that the invasion and occupation of sovereign nations is not the moral, appropriate or most effective way to bring liberty to the oppressed people of the world."

Cory continues, "President Bush paints opponents of his plan for staying in Iraq as people who are against freedom and American security. He calls for all political parties to come together to support his plan and says this plan is one that is appealing to everyone. Our president chooses to avoid reality and seeks shelter behind images of 'good and evil' while liberally quoting lines such as 'freedom is not free.' I'll personally choose to stand behind the words of General George Washington who wisely stated: 'Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.'

"The Libertarian Party renews its call to begin the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, which should be orchestrated by American commanders on the ground to ensure the safety of our troops. While we certainly respect General Petraeus' recommendations for Iraq, his suggestions are still based upon the premise that we should remain in the country. The time has come after four years of no substantial progress to finally admit that war is not the right solution to Iraq. Unfortunately, this is a realization that should have been made before more than 3,800 brave American soldiers lost their lives.

"The moral solution to Iraq is not more war. A free and prosperous Iraq is a very real possibility for the future. A free and prosperous Iraq will come when that society is ready for this liberty, but liberty will never flourish under the auspices of war."

Good. They needed something new to fight over.

From the Political Insider.

In other news, Gov. Sonny Perdue and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle agree it's daytime, though Cagle is advocating further study. Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson is going with night time. And he's sure. Damn sure.

Laffer on tax reform

NOTE: If you followed the tax reform posts yesterday, both of them have been updated, so you might scroll down and see them.
I just interviewed Dr. Arthur Laffer, the famed economist, about Georgia's potential repeal of property taxes.

I must say the man makes a strong case. I have never talked to anyone so passionate about economics, and yet look at this quote:
"To me it's the essence of my life. My dream is that we don't talk about economics anymore. We talk about literature."

Why would we be talking about literature? Because economics would be solved.

How nice is that? As for the Speaker's tax plan, Laffer, who helped put it together, says he is absolutely convinced that it will benefit everyone - rich, poor, landowners, renters, etc. Basically the argument boils down to a rising tide lifting all boats.

Worrying about winners and losers (i.e. the shifting of a tax burden) is relevant only in a static world, he said. And in the tax reform world there will be more wealth.

"It will really change the entire tenor of the state of Georgia," Laffer said. "And I really can't begin to tell you how much benefit you guys will get."

Anyway, the Q&A is coming this weekend in The Telegraph, and we're planning on offering a bit of the actual recorded conversation online.

If anyone would like to suggest an economist with an opposing viewpoint for me to interview, please do so in the comments section, or by emailing me at

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A new way to water your grass

Did you know that you can pump water out of a stream to water your grass, etc., without a permit? As long as you stay under 100,000 gallons a day, you don't need anyone's permission to pull water from a stream that runs on or adjacent to your property, according to Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

You don't need an EPD permit to pump it off your neighbor's property, for that matter. But he or she probably won't let you just run a pipe across their yard.

Just happened to find this out today, when I was talking to the EPD about something else. Apparently, because of the drought, they get this question quite a bit.

Beep! Beep! Beep! Back it up.

NOTE: several updates at the bottom, including an explanation of the alphabet soup I've contributed to here.
Or the tax reform p.r. game, part 3...

Right after writing the post below about the GMA, I came across this quote from Clelia Davis, who is the Speaker of the House's spokeswoman:
Clelia Davis, a spokeswoman for (Speaker Glenn) Richardson, said, "We understand people want more information and of course want to know how money will flow back to local governments. That information is coming. However, this plan truly gives local governments more control than they have now."

Now, I like Clelia, even though she's an Auburn fan. But she's going to have to explain how taking away city council, county commission and school board's abilities to impose property taxes is giving them more control.

As with the GMA, I've got an email into her. And I'm just going to stop reading things now.

UPDATE: Davis expands on her comments:
First and foremost, the state already collects sales and income taxes and redistributes them to local governments. It is not a new or untested concept. Secondly, local governments will still be able to raise funds using LOST, SPLOST, and ELOST, but under the GREAT Plan they will be able to spend that revenue not only on capitol improvements but also on maintenance and operations. This flexibility is something local governments have wanted for a long time. If local governments look at this plan objectively, we think they'll be very pleased with the options it gives them."

She also said the extra revenue generated from expanding the sales tax base (by charging it on services as well as goods) could generate more money for local governments. But I think that remains to be seen - I haven't heard a solid explanation of just where that money will go yet. And since the redistribution formula hasn't been written (or at least made public) it's hard to know who gets what.

I doubt many county commissioners, mayor's, school board members, etc., would agree this all amounts to more local government control. And spending SPLOST money on day-to-day maintenance and operations (like pencils and salaries) leaves the question of how you pay for capital improvements once that revenue is redirected.

Now, Clelia did say something I haven't heard: That there's a possibility the SPLOST law will change to allow local governments to charge 1.5 cents on the dollar (or some other non-whole number) as opposed to just 1. So maybe that's the answer there.

Anyway, feel free to ask your own local government official what they think about all of this.

And forgetting local government control for a minute, there is a mantra out there that the GREAT tax (I can't type that without thinking of Tony the Tiger) is the ultimate local control because it can only be implemented through a statewide referendum.

The line out of the speaker's office from the beginning has been that this reform will take away local government's ability to continually jack up taxes on people. To simultaneously argue that this reform will give local government more control, well the two seem at odds with each other.

Bottom line: The speaker's office is missing out by not funding a huge Tony the Tiger p.r. campaign.

Also, didn't anyone catch the Seinfeld reference in the subject line? I thought that was gold, Jerry, gold.

Of course, in Glenn Richardson's version, the two smarmy kids are played by Sonny Perdue and Casey Cagle.

UPDATE II: It occurs to me more explanation is needed.

GREAT plan - the speaker's plan to get rid of property taxes and replace the money by charging sales taxes on services, as well as good. It's explained in depth here. GREAT stands for Georgia’s Repeal of Every Ad-valorem Tax.

Ad-valorem tax - Fancy phrase that means property taxes. It means "for value" in Latin. Why would we use Latin instead of perfectly good English words that everyone understands? Ask a lawyer. It'll cost you $200 an hour to get an answer.

SPLOST - Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. It's the penny sales tax counties can charge if voters approve them in a local referendum. Currently they can only be used to fund capitol projects, such as building a courthouse.

LOST - Local Option Sales Tax. Similar, in that it's a local penny tax, but it doesn't take a referendum to reauthorize it every few years, and local governments can spend it on regular day-to-day operations. In Macon the city and county split the revenue. In Houston County it goes to the school board.

ELOST - Educational Local Option Sales Tax. Just a SPLOST that pays for new schools or other educational projects.

GMA - Georgia Municipal Association. Lobbying arm for Georgia's cities. They don't like the GREAT tax.

Tony the Tiger - Cartoon tiger who serves as the mascot for Frosted Flakes cereal.

Auburn - Alabama based "university" that considers an Eagle named Tiger, a Tiger named Aubie and some idiot in a "Plainsman" costume their mascots. No one knows why.

The p.r. game, part 2

UPDATE: The Georgia Municipal Association changed its Web page to reflect the changes in the speaker's plan. Good for them. Never let it be said that the GMA is intractable. Or that I actually know what intractable means and am using it correctly.
I picked this up from Peach Pundit this morning. It's some of the Georgia Municipal Association's pitch against Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson's tax reform plan, which I basically refuse to call the GREAT plan:
Introduced toward the end of the 2007 Legislative Session by Speaker of the House Glen Richardson, HR 900 would eliminate all forms of state and local taxation (other than sin taxes) and replace them with a 5.75% flat income tax and a 5.75% value added tax (consumption tax) on goods and services. The resolution provides for a local revenue guarantee", meaning that a local government will get the same proportion of total revenues collected statewide that was received by the local government in 2006.

Now, technically, that's true. House Resolution 900, introduced at the end of the last session and still available on the General Assembly's Web site, does indeed call for the 5.75 percent taxes. But that's not the plan anymore. The plan is for the same 4 percent state sales tax already being charged, plus the local taxes, which typically total another 3 cents in SPLOSTS and LOSTS, to stay in place. Income taxes remain where they are, for now. Property taxes, except the ones in place to retire debt, would be wiped out.

The way this thing makes (allegedly) enough money to replace property taxes by expanding existing sales taxes so they're charged on services as well as goods. So instead of just paying sales tax when you buy a stereo, as you would now, you'll pay sales tax when you get the stereo worked on.

The GMA is full of smart, savvy people. They know all about the current plan, and they keep referring to it as the not-so-GREAT plan. That's a play on a moniker that didn't even exist back when the plan called for the 5.75 percent taxes.

So why is the GMA describing the old plan instead of the current one during its drive to defeat this thing? I don't know. But I did leave a message this morning for their spokeswoman.

UPDATE: From Amy Henderson, who handles the press for the GMA:
The only written document we have to go by is HR900, so we have to start our discussions there. Obviously, the plan has changed - and continues to - and we're trying to keep our membership up to date. Too, we started talking about this back in May/June, before the plan began morphing, so by referring to it as HR900, we're letting our people know that yes, this is that same thing. Only totally different now. Except, of course, for that getting rid of property taxes and local control part, that is.

So there you have it. I guess. Sort of. Bottom line? Same as it ever was. Be wary of motive when people describe things to you.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Tax reform and the p.r. game

A little free-flowing analysis, wild guessing, etc., etc. on tax reform...

Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson almost can't lose on this deal. He's pushing the state to get rid of property taxes, and he's got his name attached to it even though there are plenty of other state leaders who support the change and who contributed to the methodology on it.

Hell, even Democrats are calling it "the Glenn tax," and I keep writing "Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson's tax reform plan" in the paper. It's never a bad idea to have your name right next to the phrase "tax reform."

If this thing passes, the speaker has pushed through the most sweeping statewide reform since, what, desegregation? If it fails, that's almost better. He gets to say he tried. Of course, if it succeeds and everything goes haywire he's got trouble. But at this point I'd say it's got a long way to go to pass.

Anyway, "I tried my best" is not a bad platform for a Republican to run for governor on. Though, personally, I don't think the speaker will run for governor, choosing instead to become a long-lived speaker and avoid the microscope that comes with a statewide campaign.

Meanwhile Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle is forced into something of a media backseat. He was the big news last year as the first Republican lieutenant governor, and because he was driving the bus on education reform. But now tax reform is everyone's top issue. Gov. Sonny Perdue still wants his income tax cut for senior citizens and Cagle seems to be leaning toward a push for income tax reform (though you kind of have to read between the lines on that - Cagle's public comments seem really non-committal to me).

Where this all will go, and how much in-fighting it leads to, is anyone's guess. Richardson seems to be asking the Senate and the Lt. Gov. and the Gov. to work with the House early. Still, tax reform could gridlock the session this year.

Which brings me to another potential big winner in all of this: Dublin state Rep. DuBose Porter and the Democratic Party. Richardson's plan needs a 2/3 vote to pass, which means the Dems are going to be wooed. Porter has been pushing for a while to fully fund the state's homestead exemption, which would take a big bite out of property taxes - but only on a family's primary home.

The easy spin on that: You give "ordinary Georgians" a tax break, but not the big, bad rich folks who own large tracts of land.

Now, that's not a bad compromise if your goal is to give homeowners tax relief. Of course the Republican leadership probably won't want to cede the high ground on tax reform to the Democratic Party, particularly since Porter may very well run for governor in 2010.

So take all that for what it's worth. And remember, what I don't know could fill a warehouse.

State Rep. Tony Sellier

Rep. Sellier, R-Fort Valley, seems to have come through his surgery well yesterday. He is recovering at the Medical Center and awaiting some tests on the tumors that were removed from his lung.

This is from an email from a family friend, Howdy Thurman, which I got through Peach County Commission Chairman James Khoury (yes that's complicated, but you can trust it):
Judye's overall reaction was that things were much better than expected and she was very upbeat - keep up your prayers that the other biopsies will also come back clear and Tony will have a quick and complete recovery.

Judye is Rep. Sellier's wife.

UPDATE: I spoke to Mrs. Sellier and she confirms all of this. She sounded a little tired, but very happy. I think she said "We are so blessed" a half dozen times in three minutes. And she meant it every time. Good deal.

Get your activisim on

A lot of stuff going on in Macon tomorrow.

At 11 a.m. and again at 1:30 p.m. folks from the Georgia Deptartment of Community Health will be in town to go over benefit changes for state retirees. The meetings are at Central Tech Auditorium H 111, 3300 Macon Tech Dr.

At 3 p.m. the validation hearing on the convention center hotel bonds will be before Judge Bryant Culpepper at the Bibb County Courthouse.

And, throughout the morning, the Georgia Senate's committee on the doctor and nurses shortage will be meeting at Mercer. I've got a press release on that one:
Sen. Cecil Staton (R-Macon), Chairman
Sen. Seth Harp (R-Midland)
Sen. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville)
Sen. Steve Henson (D-Stone Mountain)
Sen. Horacena Tate (D-Atlanta)
Sen. Don Thomas (R-Dalton)
Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford)
Sen. David Adelman (D-Atlanta), Ex-officio

Mercer University School of Medicine Auditorium, 1550 College Street, Macon

9:00 - 9:30 AM - Welcome and Introductions
Senator Cecil Staton, President Bill Underwood and Dean Martin Dalton

9:30 – 10:15 AM - Challenges to Doctor and Nurse Workforce in Georgia
Undergraduate and Graduate Medical Education in Georgia
Ben Robinson, Georgia Board for Physician Workforce

10:15 – 10:30 AM - Break

10:30 – 11:00 AM - Economics of Healthcare and Investing in Medical Education
Dr. Joe Sam Robinson, Georgia Neurosurgical Institute

11:00 - 11:30 AM - Residency Programs in Georgia
Dr. Fred Girton, Department of Family Medicine, Mercer School of Medicine and Medical Center of Central Georgia

11:30 AM – 12 PM - Discussion, Questions and Conclusion

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Charity on Sept. 11

I'm well aware that I'm not the only person who can find Yahoo! News online.

But I thought this was nice.

Cagle, others in Macon today

The Georgia Chamber is having its legislative update session here today. EPD Director Carol Couch was here this morning, as was Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. I'll have more later today on the main site, but here's 3 minutes of video with Cagle.

Not much new, but you can hear it straight from him. The questions go:

The situation with the Georgia Association of Realtor's campaign finance violations -> the potential of campaign/lobbying reform -> health care -> tax reform.


I looked down at one of those digital phones this morning and it listed the date: 9/11 TUES

Will there ever be a time that doesn't hit you in the face?

Sunday, September 9, 2007

No, that's... that was Mongolia

I started out to show that pretty much every one can find the United States of America on a world map. That to suggest otherwise was ridiculous, the Miss South Carolinas of the world aside.

Sadly, I was wrong. This is the story. And here's the video, shot and edited by Ryan Gilchrest here at the paper.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Sept. 11

Gov. Perdue will order the state's flags to half staff Tuesday, to mark the 6th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

From the executive order emailed out to media:
Ordered: That on Patriot Day, September 11, 2007, the American Flag and the Flag of the Great State of Georgia shall be flown on all state buildings and grounds throughout the State of Georgia, at half-staff until sunset.

I was thinking the other day: For the first time since the attacks, Sept. 11 falls on a Tuesday this year. Somehow, that makes it hit home a little bit harder.

Shouldn't this have been announced in August?

ATLANTA – Governor Sonny Perdue today announced September as National Preparedness Month in Georgia. He encouraged Georgia citizens to take simple steps to make themselves and their families better prepared for emergencies.

“Federal, state and local officials, along with the volunteer community and the private sector continue to work hard to prevent and respond to emergencies,” said Governor Sonny Perdue. “I encourage every Georgian to support these efforts by developing a family disaster plan that best suits their needs.”

My own snarky joke aside, this is good advice. Nothing like knowing where you, and your family, are going and what you're doing when things go wrong.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Gov. in Bibb County

Gov. Sonny Perdue was here today for the opening of the new Atlantic Southern Bank headquarters.

I'd never heard anyone pray for a bank before, and today's ribbon cutting featured two. But, then, I don't attend a lot of bank openings.

Anyway, I talked to the governor briefly about the speaker's tax reform plan. He didn't say much, except that we've got to be careful with such a major issue, and that he will be "extremely involved" in discussions. A short story is up on the main site, with more coverage to follow in tomorrow's paper.

I got some interesting stuff from Houston County Commissioner Tom McMichael about his coming meeting with the Lt. Gov. on the subject, for instance.

There were an awful lot of local politicians and big-wigs on hand for the bank opening. For example, here the governor, recently elected judge Tripp Self and Middle Georgia Ambulance Service owner Ben Hinson compare ties. I gave the win to Self, because he's wearing a red and black Georgia tie.

Said Hinson: "He beats me on ties every time."

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Linnenkohl retiring

I'm sure this will be in most of the state's papers tomorrow. Harold Linnenkohl, the top man at the Georgia DOT, is retiring. From the press release:
ATLANTA – Harold E. Linnenkohl, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation since September 2003, has announced his retirement, effective November 30, 2007. Commissioner Linnenkohl was appointed to his position in 2003 by majority vote of the State Transportation Board, capping a 39-year career at the Department. ...

“I am proud,” stated Linnenkohl, “to have worked with the wonderful employees of this Department -- they are true public servants. It has been my privilege to work for quality transportation solutions during this exciting time in Georgia, and I appreciate the guidance and help of Governor Perdue, the members of the State Transportation Board, the General Assembly and the traveling public toward our goal to provide a safe and efficient transportation system for this state.”

It's longer than that, with a lot of positive things about Linnenkohl. But of course the more interesting issues are:

- What will he do now? Former commissioner Tom Moreland, for example, went on to run Moreland Altobelli Associates, Inc., which is one of the DOT's busiest, if not the busiest, contractors.

- Who's going to replace Linnenkohl? And what will his or her philosophy be?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Jack Ellis farewell gala

And, no, it doesn't have anything to do with Steve Wilson's "Hit the Road Jack" countdown.

I'm going to have something short in tomorrow's paper, but wanted to link the actual letter here.

Write your own caption.

My buddy Danny Gilleland, a photographer here at The Telegraph, put some political pictures up on his blog the other day.

I liked this shot of 2007 Unnamed Political Tournament winner, state Sen. Cecil Staton, plotting his next major unnamed political victory.

And, yes, I still owe him a trophy.

Yeah, Travis? Your blogs are awesome. Except for today. Today has sucked.