Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Don't you hate it when your mercenaries overcharge?

It's an older story, but I missed it earlier this month. From The Wall Street Journal:
WASHINGTON -- A government audit found that the State Department overpaid the contract-security firm once known as Blackwater Worldwide by tens of millions of dollars because the company failed to properly staff its teams in Iraq.
If you can't trust highly trained private armies, who can you trust?

By the way, Blackwater's new name is "Xe," so if you're in the market for mercenary services, don't get fooled by the name change.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Jay Roberts is the new House transport chair

State. Rep. Jay Roberts, R-Ocilla, who was previously House Republican Caucus chair, replaces Vance Smith as head of the committee, according to the speaker's office.

The case of the $18 million

When you pay sales taxes at the store, that money is sent to the state.

The state adds it all up, keeps its share and sends a portion back to cities, counties and school boards, minus a little extra the state keeps for its trouble.

But there’s usually some money that no one really knows where to send. It's just not clear what jurisdiction it belongs to for “a thousand different reasons," according to Bert Brantley, Gov. Sonny Perdue’s communications director.

For years, this money was divided among local governments via a formula decided on by the General Assembly. But the law that puts that formula in place quietly sun-setted at the end of 2007. It wasn’t put back into place until earlier this year, state Rep. Rick Austin sponsored a bill extending the formula through the end of 2011.

Now, here’s the question: What do you do with the $18 million or so collected in 2008 that doesn’t have a home?

If you’re the state, struggling through one of the worst economic slumps in memory, you keep the money and say the formula didn’t apply in 2008 because the new law wasn't passed until 2009.

If you’re a city, county or school board, struggling through one of the worst economic slumps in memory, you say the state should send the money back home. After all, local voters approved these taxes for specific local uses — not to line state coffers. And the law doesn’t say anything about skipping 2008.

But, practically, how do you force the state to see it your way? I suppose a local government could sue the state and let the courts decide. And lobbying groups, like the Georgia Municipal Association and Association County Commissioners of Georgia, are putting pressure on the state to send the money along.

We'll see.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Is anyone willing to run against Jim Marshall?

The National Republican Congressional Committee has been hitting my e-mail box pretty hard lately, bashing U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall.

Basically the message seems to be that Jim Marshall hearts Nancy Pelosi, and Nancy Pelosi hearts destroying everything good about America.

So who is it, NRCC, that the good people of Georgia's 8th Congressional District should choose to replace this freedom-hating hippie?

What's that? Why do I hear crickets?

Because they don't have a candidate. And the potential viable candidates aren't willing to risk the offices they've already got in the kamikazee mission that taking on Jim Marshall has become.

State Sen. Cecil Staton? Says he plans on seeking re-election to his own seat. State Rep. Allen Peake? Sent an email out this week specifically telling supporters he's not interested. State Rep. Jim Cole? A maybe at best, but I wouldn't hold my breath. State Rep. Austin Scott? Promises he's running for governor, no matter what the rumors say about him leaving that race for the 8th District.

Erick Erickson, of Redstate, Peach Pundit, Macon City Council and Supreme Court Justice David Souter Fan Club fame said he was approached about running. He declined.

The list goes on, but the bottom line is that it's June 25. By this time in the last three election cycles the Republican Party had a candidate.

Said Erickson:
I've been saying since 2003 that 2010 would be Marshall's first truly vulnerable year. It is a swing district and the party opposite the White House historically loses seats in off-year elections. The GOP has thrown so many candidates at him, though, that in the first year Marshall is truly beatable, they may not have a candidate. I suspect they will find someone to at least put a name on the ballot. I hear routinely that the state GOP is gun shy now due to Marshall's ability to turn out black voters. Georgia Republican Party officials routinely tell me they hope no one challenges Marshall in 2010 because of the potential Marshall voter turn out hurting the gubernatorial race.
At some point, the GOP will announce a candidate. Party officials probably won't use the phrase "cannon fodder." But, absent some major blow to Marshall's reputation in the interim, take their ballyhoo with a truckload of salt.

And bear in mind 2008, when Marshall beat retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Rick Goddard with 57 percent of the vote. Marshall even won Houston County, which is heavily Republican and where Goddard had been head of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center.

What did the NRCC say in May 2007, when it announced its support for Gen. Goddard?

"We consider him to be one of our best recruiting successes so far," committee spokesman Ken Spain told The Telegraph.

Austin Scott to walk through Georgia

State Rep. Austin Scott, the Tifton Republican running for governor, plans to walk 1,000 miles through Georgia starting June 27 in Chickamauga.

From his Web site, it appears he'll stick near the borders of the state. From a campaign press release:
“I am bringing my campaign’s message of servant leadership and conservative reform to every corner of this State. This campaign is about Georgians, and that’s why it’s important for me to take my campaign on the road. While others are talking, I'll be walking with Georgians, listening and learning about their needs firsthand," Scott said.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to listen to Georgians in their hometowns. I want to hear what Georgians would do if they were governor for a day. This walk will give me an unmatched firsthand knowledge of our great State, and combined with 14 years of experience in the State House, I’m best prepared to govern from day one. I am going to win this race to serve Georgians,” Scott remarked.
Man. It's gonna be hot out there.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Gov. Sanford: I cheated on my wife

The governor of South Carolina is on CNN right now. Live coverage of this entire debacle available from The State.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Georgia Guardsman from Calhoun killed in Afghanistan

From the Georgia National Guard:
First Sergeant John D. Blair, a member of 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry of the Georgia National Guard was killed in action June 20 in Afghanistan supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. Below is the official Department of the Army announcement on this incident.

1st Sgt. John D. Blair, 38, of Calhoun, Ga., died June 20 in Mado Zayi, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when a rocket-propelled grenade struck his vehicle. He was an Army National Guardsman assigned to the 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry in Lawrenceville, Ga.
Stars and Stripes has a moving account of the attack and a portrait of Sgt. Blair from his men:
(Staff Sgt. Timothy) Bellinger felt the strike of a rocket-propelled grenade as it tore through the turret. He heard Blair’s gun cease firing. He saw the body of a man who always pushed his guys to do it right, slump lifelessly in the belt.

Bellinger did as he’d been trained.

He pulled the faceless body of a man he’d come to love out of the gunner’s belt and climbed into the turret to replace him.

S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford is... missing... kind of?

Someone in Atlanta lay eyes on Gov. Perdue just to be sure. If he's not around either, I'll go check the new fishing hole in Houston County.

From The State:
(S.C. Gov. Mark) Sanford’s last known whereabouts were near Atlanta, where a mobile telephone tower picked up a signal from his phone, authorities said.

First lady Jenny Sanford told The Associated Press today her husband has been gone for several days and she doesn't know where he is.

The governor’s personal and state phones have been turned off and he has not responded to phone and text message since Thursday, a source said.
Apparently he's taking a little mini-vacation on his own, and his wife is not worried. Still, someone put a bell on that guy or something.

The AJC looks at individual insurance

It seems like AJC bashing has been a pretty popular pastime over the last couple of years. But I don't know another organization in Georgia writing sentences like these:
The AJC reviewed more than 1,800 health insurance complaints filed between 2004 and 2008. Almost half — 45 percent — involved individual health insurance, even though only 8 percent of the state’s residents, about 460,000 Georgians, were enrolled in such plans.

Friday, June 19, 2009

And Iran will slip through his fingers

From AP via YAHOO:
TEHRAN, Iran – Iran's supreme leader sought Friday to end the deepening crisis over disputed elections with one decisive speech — declaring the vote will almost certainly stand and sternly warning opposition leaders to end street protests or be held responsible for any "bloodshed and chaos" to come.
Background on Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is altogether different from Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Kohmenei, of course, from The Washington Post.

State Rep. and Councilwoman Elaine Lucas' burned and damage in fire

Keep state Rep. David Lucas and his family in your thoughts today. A fire broke out at their home early this morning. Two grandchildren have been treated for smoke inhalation, but appear to be OK.

Another reporter just got off the phone with Rep. Lucas, who said the children were released from the hospital.
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CORRECTION: The children were released from the hospital Saturday, not Friday.
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The initial story, photo and video from the early morning fire on the main site.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Gov. Perdue names Planning Director

It's Todd "Who?" Long from GRTA, which is a transportation entity the governor's office has traditionally had much more control over than the DOT. From the governor's office:
ATLANTA — Governor Sonny Perdue announced today that he is appointing Todd Long as the Director of Planning for the Georgia Department of Transportation. The position was created by the General Assembly this spring with the passage of Senate Bill 200. ...

Governor Perdue also congratulated State Rep. Vance Smith on his appointment today as DOT Commissioner.

“We have worked closely with Rep. Smith over the years, during his service as an Administration Floor Leader and as Chairman of the House Transportation Committee,” the Governor said. “I look forward to working closely with the new commissioner and the new planning director as we address the transportation needs across the state.”

Since August, Long has served as the director of all engineering, IT and business-related projects for the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority. Before that, he spent 18 years in various positions at the DOT, including serving as division director for the both the pre-construction and administration divisions. He spent seven years at the District One office in Gainesville, rising to the position of District Engineer, managing all DOT activities in Northeast Georgia. He is a registered professional engineer and a registered professional traffic operations engineer.

Long has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a master’s degree in civil engineering – transportation, both from Georgia Tech. Todd lives in Lilburn with his wife Kelli and four children: Drew, Evan, Jack and Rachel.
That District One Office in Gainesville, by the way, would be squarely in Casey Cagle country.

UPDATE: From Marshall Guest, spokesman for Speaker Richardson:
The speaker is pleased Gov. Perdue announced today his recommendation for DOT's first director of planning. We look forward to learning more about Todd Long's credentials and experience when the House Transportation Committee meets to discuss whether they will confirm this candidate.
No date's been set for the committee to meet, Guest said. Though I may have imagined it, I could have sworn Mr. Guest stressed the word "recommendation."

Glenn Richardson settles all family business

CHAIRMAN: Is it true that in -- in the year 1950 you devised the murder of the heads of the so-called five families in New York to assume and consolidate your nefarious power?

MICHAEL: That's a complete falsehood.


Ariel Hart says it's official: State Rep. Vance Smith is the new commissioner at the Georgia Department of Transportation.

So Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson's choice for the position will assume it, albeit 16 months after he'd hoped. Now we'll all wait to see who replaces Rep. Smith as head of the House Transportation Committee.

And whose name Gov. Sonny Perdue submits to that committee to become the state's new transportation planning director, as dictated by this section of Senate Bill 200:
There shall be a director of planning appointed by the Governor subject to approval by a majority vote of the House Transportation Committee. The director shall serve during the term of the Governor by whom he or she is appointed and at the pleasure of the Governor.
Remind me, who decides who gets to be on that committee?


Who's shaking Vance Smith's hand with a goofy grin and is the answer to that question? This guy.
Image: Liz Erikson, House Photography Office.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Stimulus construction costs "holy cow" low

Ariel Hart at The AJC had this story earlier this month. Apparently construction firms are so desperate for work that the DOT's stimulus funds are going to go farther than anyone expected:
For the 40 bids on stimulus projects taken from across the state so far, the winning lots totaled almost $56 million. In a likely windfall for more projects, that’s nearly $42 million less than predicted, an AJC analysis shows: 43 percent less.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Georgia Supreme Court: Lesbian sex with minor students OK

The Supreme Court is getting it done today:

CHASE V. THE STATE (S09G0139)
In a 5-to-2 vote, the Supreme Court of Georgia has reversed a ruling by the Georgia Court of Appeals involving the issue of consent and a teacher who was 28 when she was arrested for having sex with a 16-year-old girl. The Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s ruling against Melissa Lee Chase of Richmond County, who was convicted of sexual assault and sentenced to 10 years in prison followed by five years on probation.

“This appeal presents a straightforward question of law,” says today’s majority opinion, written by Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears. “The question is whether, in November 2006, consent of the alleged victim was a defense to the crime of sexual assault of a person enrolled in school. We have concluded that it was, as long as the student had reached the legal age of consent. Accordingly, the trial court erred in preventing the defendant from presenting a consent defense at trial…”

At issue in this case is Georgia law §16-6-5.1. In three subsections, the statute defines sexual assault against persons in custody, in a hospital, in a school or under a counselor’s care. Chase was charged under subsection (b), which states that “a supervisor of another person” commits sexual assault when he or she has sexual relations with a person who is enrolled in a school. Subsection (c) similarly states it is sexual assault for a psychotherapist to have sex with someone he is treating, or for a law enforcement supervisor to have sex with someone in custody. And subsection (d) prohibits employees of long-term care facilities from having sex with anyone admitted to the facility. Only subsection (c) adds this: “Consent of the victim shall not be a defense to a prosecution under this subsection.”

“The plain language of the statute does not in any way indicate that the General Assembly intended to remove consent as a defense to a charge of violating subsection (b),” the majority states. In Georgia the age of consent is 16, the opinion points out, meaning it is generally not illegal to have sex with a willing participant who is 16 or older. ...

But in his dissent, Justice George Carley disagrees, writing that the majority “remarkably misinterprets” the law. He disagrees that the language about consent is limited to subsection (c). “Although the majority accurately quotes many rules of statutory construction, it fails to apply them correctly, and the result is disturbing,” says the dissent.
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How much you want to bet the General Assembly jumps on this next session? Other interesting opinions from the court today:

EXPEDIA, INC. V. CITY OF COLUMBUS, GA (S09A0567)
In a split 4-to-3 decision, the Supreme Court of Georgia has ruled in favor of the City of Columbus in its lawsuit against Expedia, Inc., an on-line travel company. Today’s opinion, written by Justice Robert Benham, upholds a Muscogee County court’s ruling that the local government has the right to impose a tax on the total amount Expedia charges customers to book hotel rooms in Columbus. The case is similar to others recently filed in Georgia and elsewhere.

MONGERSON V. MONGERSON (S09F013)
The Georgia Supreme Court has thrown out part of a Fayette County court’s decision that prohibited a divorced father from exposing his children to his gay friends.

MANLOVE ET AL. V. UNIFIED GOVT. OF ATHENS-CLARKE CO. (S09A0118)
In another split decision, the Georgia Supreme Court has upheld by a 4-to-3 vote a Clarke County court’s dismissal of two University of Georgia students’ lawsuit challenging the local noise ordinance for making them turn down their music. The students claimed the local law is unconstitutional because it violates their First Amendment right to free speech.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Hunstein new chief justice

From the state Supreme Court:
Atlanta, June 12, 2009 – Presiding Justice Carol W. Hunstein has been unanimously elected as the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia. She will assume the position July 1, 2009, succeeding Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears, who is stepping down from the Court June 30.

The Court has also unanimously elected Justice George H. Carley to become the new Presiding Justice.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Porter: Perdue a do-nothing governor

2010 gubernatorial candidate and state Rep. DuBose Porter, D-Dublin, released this yesterday, but I neglected to put it up. I believe the upshot is that he doesn't think much of Gov. Sonny Perdue and his policies:
Sonny Perdue has declared that Georgia's drought is over, and that watering restrictions are now lifted. What happened to the "Culture of Conservation" he promised a few months ago?

The hallmark of the Perdue Administration is always the same: when confronted with any problem, first, deny it, then when denying won't work any longer, claim that you are solving it. Then just forget all about it, and wait until your term ends.

Georgia is going to have another drought. Sonny Perdue is leaving us no more prepared for the next drought than he prepared us for the drought that has just mercifully ended. There are proven cost-effective policies, conservation incentives for one that are readily available.

Sonny's "Culture of Conservation" has always been just talk. Actually conserving is left up to local governments, and he has tied their hands with a state law that won’t let them impose more stringent rules than the state has imposed.

Georgians have shown that they are eager to do the right thing to assure that they have enough clean water. They want to plan for a future that anticipates, instead of reacts to droughts. But Sonny has set up a water planning system that is designed to promote conflict among water users. Instead of logically following the river basin lines, Sonny has drawn political lines across river basins that guarantee conflicts among regions.

If water policy were the only area of policy in which Sonny Perdue's strategy is to make empty talk and hope no one notices it would be bad enough, but this has become the entire Perdue program on water, transportation, education and the economy: "Do nothing. Promise much. Wait until the term is over."
That's some good rock throwing from the minority leader.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Monday, June 8, 2009

State Supreme Court: Georgia left turn law unconstitutional

This is kind of interesting. From the Georgia Supreme Court today:
MCNAIR V. THE STATE (S09A0487)

The Georgia Supreme Court has come down on the side of a motorist in reversing a lower court decision and ruling that Georgia’s law governing how to make a proper left turn is unconstitutional.

Today’s ruling stems from a 2007 incident in Whitfield County in which Todd Christopher McNair made a left turn onto a four-lane road, turning into the outer, right-hand lane of the two lanes heading east. A Dalton police officer pulled McNair over because he claimed the law required McNair to turn into the inner, left-hand lane closer to the oncoming traffic. McNair was arrested, tried and found guilty of breaking the law, Official Code of Georgia § 40-6-120 (a) (2). The law states that the approach to a left turn must be made from the extreme left-hand lane. Then the statute says: “Whenever practicable, the left turn shall be made to the left of the center of the intersection and so as to leave the intersection or other location in the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the same direction as such vehicle on the roadway being entered.”

The word “leave” in that sentence makes the statute subject to two “diametrically-opposite interpretations,” the Court finds, with one interpretation requiring the driver to move into the right lane and “leave” the extreme left-hand lane available to other traffic, and the other interpretation requiring the driver to “leave” or depart from the intersection and move into the extreme left-hand lane.

“We agree with McNair” that the statute is “unconstitutionally vague,” states today’s unanimous opinion, written by Presiding Justice Carol Hunstein. “The law is well established that a statute violates due process if it is so vague that persons of common intelligence must necessarily guess at its meaning and differ as to its application.”

May revenues: state down 10 percent ytd

These actually came out Friday. From the governor's office:
ATLANTA – Governor Sonny Perdue announced today that net revenue collections for the month of May 2009 (FY09) totaled $1,262,136,000 compared to $1,473,892,000 for May 2008 (FY08), a decrease of $211,756,000 or 14.4 percent.

The percentage decrease year-to-date for FY09 compared to FY08 is 10.0 percent.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Three Guardsmen killed in Afghanistan

From the Georgia National Guard:
The following is the official Department of the Army notification of the deaths of three Georgia Army National Guard Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 108th Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition (RSTA)Squadron currently supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

The Department of Defense announced today the death of three Soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. They died June 4 near Kapisa, Afghanistan of wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device and small arms fire. They were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 108th Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition Squadron, 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the Georgia Army National Guard in Calhoun.

Killed were:

- Maj. Kevin M. Jenrette, 37, of Lula, Ga.,
- Staff Sgt. John C. Beale, 39, of Riverdale, Ga.
- Spc. Jeffrey W. Jordan, 21, of Rome, Ga.
"Their deaths occurring so early in the deployment of the 48th Brigade underscores the very real challenges facing our Soldiers and the inherent risks of the mission," Guard Maj. Gen. Terry Nesbitt said in the Army release. "We extend our heartfelt condolences and support to the families of these brave guardsmen."

Gov. Sonny Perdue also released a statement, saying it is the responsibility of all Georgians "to do all that we can to comfort these families and all of the families with a loved one in the line of duty."

The Gainesville Times has a story up about Maj. Jenrette. He was married with three children, according to his father, a colonel in the United States Army.

The Rome News has a piece about Spc. Jordan. He was married, with a 1-year-old son. He worked at the local prison, and had a "goofy smile."

11 Alive spoke to Staff Sgt. Beale's parents.

I don't mean to insult anyone's intelligence, but "wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device and small arms fire" means someone set off a bomb. Then they came with guns to finish the job.

The Gainesville story says a fourth soldier, nationality unreported by the Army, survived with injuries.

Judges, Perdue reach budget agreement

Perdue: You gotta cut the budget.

Judges: OK. But we want you to say please. And that we're cooler than you, because of these sweet black robes.

From a Georgia Supreme Court press release:
Atlanta, June 5, 2009 – Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears and Gov. Sonny Perdue have reached a compromise on his demand to reduce the judicial branch’s budget by 25 percent. The Governor has agreed to withdraw his demand, while the Chief Justice and the state’s judges have agreed to withhold 25 percent from their June budget allotment by deferring some current obligations and expenses until the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. The understanding is that some of those expenses would then be requested during the Fiscal Year 2010 Amended Budget process.
Budget confrontations between the executive and judicial branch present interesting hypothetical arguments, but generally boil down to a need to just work together.

I've covered a couple of judge-mandated court orders requiring counties to build new courthouses, and you could argue whether the county could actually afford to do that. Those orders tend to languish for years.

A 1996 Houston County order demanded a new courthouse be completed by the summer of 1998. It opened in the fall of 2002.

Judges can file court orders. The executive branch directs law enforcement. The legislative branch handles appropriations. If one of these disagreements ever gets to the enforcement stage, who shows up with a gun to take someone to jail?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

State judges to hold closed meeting on budget cuts

As The AJC reports, a council of judges will meet today to discuss Gov. Sonny Perdue's budget cuts, in what amounts to a constitutional conversation over whether he can force them.

The meeting will be largely closed to the public, per Jane Hansen, spokeswoman for the Georgia Supreme Court:
Chief Justice Sears, who chairs the Council, has determined that tomorrow's meeting will be closed. The reason is that possible litigation could be discussed. Following the meeting, however, the Chief Justice will make a statement.
If I may tell lawyers and judges how it goes, I do believe they are supposed to meet initially in open session, vote to close the session, discuss items they are allowed to discuss under the Georgia Open Records Act, then re-open the session for any votes.

Not unrelated, The Georgia First Amendment Foundation could use your help, and you can donate by credit card online.

Me, Sue Everhart, the GOP and the 2002 governor's election

Or, I've been waiting to say "I told you so" since 2002...

I wanted to call attention to part of state GOP Chairman Sue Everhart's statement about Gov. Barnes joining the 2010 gubernatorial contest.
Since 2002, solid and responsive Republican leadership has a proven record of making Georgia a better place. Today's entrance of former Governor Roy Barnes into the Governor's race underscores the ongoing lack of direction of Georgia Democrats as well as their inability to listen to the people. If the Democrats wish to put forward a candidate whose own record as Governor was marked by radically gerrymandered voting districts, blaming teachers for his failings in education, strong-armed fundraising tactics, and over-taxing Georgians, then we look forward to facing that candidate in the 2010 General Election.
Note that she does not mention the flag, smartly.

When Roy Barnes lost the governorship I was in Warner Robins, Georgia, covering local government. Which is to say I knew only what I read about state politics.

I always felt Gov. Barnes could have participated in two of three things and won, but all three happened: Education reform, the Georgia State Flag change and redistricting.

Remember that redistricting drug (dragged?) on well past 2000, and Republicans TOOK OVER state government in 2002. Obviously Democrats tried to draw the lines to their liking. The effort was not successful and I wrote a story titled "Sonny Day" the day after the election.

My point is this: You seldom hear redistricting mentioned as a reason for those election results. Perhaps Chairman Everhart and I would get along well.

Larry Walker resigning from the state DOT Board

Former state Rep. Larry Walker, the DOT Board's current vice chairman, has announced his resignation from the Board effective June 30. His letter to the governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the house and other state officials was emailed this morning.

Initial coverage is up on the main site. His full letter follows:
Dear Friends,

I will be retiring as the elected representative on the Georgia Department of Transportation Board from the Eighth Congressional District effective midnight, June 30, 2009.

The reason for my resignation, and the only reason, is the probability of other opportunities that are incompatible with my being on the Board of the Georgia Department of Transportation. While I am somewhat reluctant to leave the Board, I am looking forward to other service, which I feel will be fulfilling and rewarding.

At the end of June, I will have been a member of the GDOT Board for 30 months. Obviously, the last two and a half years have been very challenging and difficult times for the Georgia Department of Transportation and its Board. The Board and the Department now have before it the requirement of incorporating a Planning Director into the Department. This will not be an easy task, but I am confident that the Board will work in good faith to make Senate Bill 200 a workable reality.

As most of you know, the Department and the Board are also confronted with serious financial difficulties. I hope and trust the relief from serious financial restraint will be forthcoming in the near future, so that GDOT can continue what I perceive to have been in the past very good service to the people of Georgia.

In leaving, I would like to commend Bill Kuhlke for the excellent job that he has done as Chairman in the last year and under very difficult circumstances. I would also like to commend the excellent staff of GDOT and, in particular, our Interim Commissioner, Gerald Ross, who, in my opinion, has performed in an exemplary manner in his new capacity, just as he did when he was our Chief Engineer. Also, I would like to comment on the good, solid service and sound legal advice rendered to us by our Attorneys, Chris Tomlinson, and Sandra Burgess. Then, there are my District Engineer, Thomas Howell, and the District Preconstruction Engineer, David Millen, who have done their job in a commendable fashion and have extended many courtesies to me. There are many others, too numerous to mention.

In closing, I want to thank the legislators from the Eighth Congressional District who honored me beyond my capability to describe when they elected me to the GDOT Board. Also, I want to express my appreciation to my fellow Board Members who have accorded me so many courtesies during the past 30 months. Thanks to all of you.

I look forward to working with the Board and staff through June, and thereafter. I hope to see all of you, often, and trust that you know that you can call on me at any time I can be of service to you in any way.


Larry Walker
UPDATE: In a short telephone interview, Rep. Walker said he's not ready to say what the opportunity is, but it's not a run for elected office, and it's not a full-time job. He reiterated that his decision to leave the board has "nothing to do" with the problems at DOT.

"I'm not one to run from problems. ..." he said. "I think I'm going to have an opportunity to do something I enjoy a lot more."

Vernon Jones says something... I think UPDATE: Apparently he might run for governor

Having no real idea what to make of this, I'll just cut and paste this email from former DeKalb County CEO and senatorial candidate Vernon Jones:
Dear friend,

The dust has long settled following my bid for the U.S. Senate and I wanted to take the time to thank you once again for your past support. I was so honored and humbled by those of you who gave of yourselves and volunteered, made donations and went to the polls to vote for me.

These past few months I have been spending time with my family, attending a lot of graduations and catching up with friends. But, I'm still aware of and concerned about the challenges facing our community, the state of Georgia and America. I share the same disappointment as many of you that Georgia's elected leadership has failed to address critical issues like transportation, helping small businesses and farmers, and putting Georgians back to work. Although for now, I'm a spectator in the stands, I'm still watching the political game.

I encourage you to remain vigilant and let your voices be heard in the political process. I really believe what makes us great is our willingness to go to bat for each other; to help one another; to do whatever we can to make life just a little bit better.

The final chapter of my political career has yet to be written. Your input and advice are important to me as I contemplate my future and how we - together - can make a difference.

Again, thank you so much for your continued support.

Sincerely,
Vernon signature
Vernon Jones
So... you're not running for anything that we didn't think you were running for, but you might eventually. Noted.

UPDATE: Apparently, I have been filling Mr. Jones' e-mail box lately, begging him to run for governor. This e-mail just arrived here at The Telegraph:
Hello.

I'm Camille Kesler, Communications Director for Vernon Jones.

Vernon Jones has been getting a lot of email from you about running for Governor. I agree with you, Vernon would make a great Governor. You recently heard from him reiterating his passion for Georgia, especially regarding addressing critical issues like transportation, education, air and water quality, and creating jobs for Georgians. Vernon is considering all of your feedback and will make a wise decision that's best for him, his family and all Georgians.

Vernon thanks you and welcomes your continued input. You may reach him at vernonjones@georgia.usa.com or by calling 404.419.6034.

Sincerely,
Camille Kesler
By the way, I myself have been getting a lot of e-mail lately suggesting that I go work for The New York Times. I appreciate it. There are a lot of important issues that need coverage, and I'm going to make a wise decision that's good for me, and for the American people. I'll let you know what I decide.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Roy Barnes will eat your planet

UPDATE: As usual, Mike Luckovich says it best.
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That's not a joke about his jowls, I promise.

Former Gov. Barnes' announcement that he'll run again in 2010 has elicited a lot of response from the other candidates. How much of it is an attempt to say "We're still relevant," do you think? And does it simply confirm that Gov. Barnes is now the lead dog in this race?

Former Georgia National Guard Commander (and Macon native) David Poythress:
"Roy Barnes’ announcement today does not change my plans or campaign to be the next Governor of Georgia. Know this: I am in this race to win it, period."

The full statement available online.
House Minority Leader DuBose Porter, D-Dublin:
"I am not running against Roy or any other candidate, I am running for Georgia. I have a vision and a bold plan to rebuild our economy. I plan to take our state from the bottom 40 to the top 20 in our rankings in education. My transportation plan will get Atlanta out of gridlock and make rural Georgia attractive to industry. For 27 years and as House Democratic Leader I have worked to bring people and policy together to drive projects forward. Bringing people together creates working solutions. That is my leadership style. It is what Georgia needs and separates me from the other candidates in this race and why I will win the primary."
State Sen. Eric Johnson, R-Savannah:
"Roy Barnes is a formidable opponent, and his entry into the race only emphasizes the need for Republicans to nominate the candidate best able to appeal to voters across the state in the General Election. Eric Johnson is the right man for the job because he is tested, proven, and ready to lead. Eric was instrumental in giving Georgians a choice between principled conservative policies and the heavy handed mandates of the Barnes administration. He has gone toe to toe with the Barnes machine in the past and is confident that voters will make the same decision they did in 2002 when they trusted Eric and his colleagues to govern Georgia."
Congressman Nathan Deal, R-Ga.:
“Roy and I served together in the state senate and I consider him a friend. I am sure that he is as focused on getting his party’s nomination as I am on mine. Today, I wish him well.”
And the hands-down winner, from Tifton area state Rep. Austin Scott:
“General Sherman was the last person to march all over Georgians the way Roy Barnes did with his hatchet man. Our campaign will redefine servant leadership by walking with Georgians in all 159 counties to resolve the issues of this state. Stay tuned for more on The Walk of Georgia.”
Nothing yet from Karen Handel or John Oxendine's campaigns. I haven't been in contact with Attorney General Thurbert Baker or GOP candidate Ray McBerry recently, so they may not be sending me stuff.

Barnes: We're gonna send a message to those lobbyists, down there ...

Former Gov. Roy Barnes has obviously made it official today: He will run for governor.

From a campaign press release:
Former Governor Roy Barnes announced today in Marietta his intentions to become a candidate for governor in 2010 by promising to restore Georgia to its leadership role in education, job creation, and “returning government to the people and out of the hands of the special interests." ...

“Listening is something I didn’t do enough of when I was governor. I tried to do too much, too fast. My heart was in the right place but I was impatient and didn’t consult enough different people outside the Capitol.”

Much of his criticism was aimed at special interests that won too many battles in Atlanta at the expense of working people, families, and children. “The lobbyists in their tassel loafers with their eel skin briefcases have too much influence on our lives, how much we pay for electricity and how well our children are educated in the public schools.”

“The special interests get the bailouts and our people get higher taxes and the crumbs that fall from their banquet table. Georgia needs somebody to balance the scales, to stand up for them,” the former governor said.

He said there was plenty of blame to go around and referred to Democrats, Republicans, and again, the lobbyists who have too much power.
Damn lobbyists. We elect all these politicians to make decisions, we pay government employees to implement policies, we have multi-billion-dollar media corporations to hold them accountable, we hold elections every two years and those damn lobbyists still manage to screw everything up.

There must be some kind of magic in those tasseled loafers.


This episode gets more relevant every day.

The president heads to Cairo as Roy Barnes announces for governor

I would love to head down to Cairo, Georgia, today to interview people there about the president's visit and U.S. relations with Islamic countries. I bet that would produce some comedy.

As it is, I'm traveling to Cordele for a different story. Have a happy "Roy Barnes is Here to Save Us All Day" today.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Handel: Building a database, bringing things on

Someone is pretty brilliant over at Handel for Governor, where apparently things can be brought.

Secretary of State Karen Handel is using flamethrower language over the U.S. Justice Department — excuse me, President Barack Obama's Justice Department — doing away with her office's citizenship check program.

Though her gubernatorial campaign Handel is trying to get 10,000 signatures on a petition to tell the president "that thousands of Georgians support citizenship verification for voter registration."

The petition literally tells the president of the United States to Bring It On: "Think illegal aliens and non-citizens should be able to vote in Georgia, Mr. President? I don’t. Bring It On."

And what information must you give to sign the online petition? Your name, zip code and email address. How quickly do you think those folks will get a fundraiser email?


Bring it on.
Oh, I'll bring it.
Good then, it will be brought.
You're damn right, 'cause I'm gonna bring it.
Good then. Bring it. On.

Georgia Supreme Court nominees

From Judicial Nominating Commission Chairman Michael Bowers office:
Cynthia J. Becker, Michael P. Boggs, Stephen Louis A. Dillard, C. Wilson Dubose, Bruce Edenfield, Stephen B. Farrow, Barry A. Fleming, Thomas D. Harper, Patrick H. Head, Garland Hunt, James P. Kelly III, John K. Larkins Jr., Jeanette L. Little, Zena E. McClain, J. David McDade, Yvette M. Miller, David E. Nahmias, James R. Osbourne, Samuel D. Ozburn, William M. Ray II, Craig L. Schwall Sr., Ken J. Shigley Sr., Mary E. Staley, Benjamin W. Studdard III, Richard S. Thompson and Peggy H. Walker.
That's 26 folks. Nominations are due Thursday to Bowers' office, then the commission will interview folks, then they'll forward a short list to Gov. Sonny Perdue, who will name a replacement for retiring Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Lord, please forgive my moron enemies

We print a "Prayer For Today" every day on our letters to the editor page. Today's is a doozy:
Dear Lord,

Please forgive contributors to the Viewpoints section of The Telegraph who make such vituperative attacks in such a vitriolic manner to express their political anguish in an un-Christian like attempt to vilify our new president. Give them peace in their hearts and anger against no one as they begin their ascent to the Pearly Gates. However, Lord, if you should decide to send them in the other direction, please don’t assign them to my pod. Thank you, Jesus.

— H.T. “Booger” Aaron
Booger, you're a comedy genius.

DOJ shoots down voter citizenship checks

The Insider has a copy of the DOJ's letter:
Our analysis shows that the state’s process does not produce accurate and reliable information and that thousands of citizens who are in fact eligible to vote under Georgia law have been flagged...
And Secretary of State Karen Handel is not too happy in her news release:
This decision provides a specific example of the inherently illogical and unfair nature of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. It is a sad day for the rights of our state and for the integrity of our elections. I remain committed to continuing the fight for citizenship verification. In the coming days, I will consider every option available to the state, including the possibility of legal action.