Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Funeral arrangements set for Mayor Walker

According to the Warner Robins Police Department, Mayor Donald Walker will lie in state Thursday from noon to 4 p.m. at McCullough Funeral Home in Warner Robins. Visitation will be from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The funeral will be Friday at 2 p.m. at the city Civic Center, which is adjacent to City Hall. Graveside services will follow at Magnolia Park.

An autopsy is complete, and the mayor's death has been formally ruled a suicide. Coverage on the main site.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Warner Robins Mayor Donald Walker has died

An absolute force in Middle Georgia politics has died today from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He was 60.

Image: The Telegraph.

Tuesday update:
There are still a lot of questions, all of which boil down to one question: Why?

We are trying to get answers, but may never be able to. We expect some information on funeral arrangements shortly.

For now, everything The Telegraph has published about Mayor Walker's death should be available here:
Walker's wife, Patricia, called 911 at 11:08 a.m. seeking an ambulance to the couple's home. She said her husband had shot himself in bed, Houston County Sheriff Cullen Talton said. She was the only one at home with the mayor when he was shot, said Warner Robins Police Chief Brett Evans, who did not think she witnessed the actual shooting.

Evans said he couldn't confirm yet what type of gun was used or whether it was Walker's personal weapon. He said he wasn't aware of any note. The police investigation is proceeding.
The autopsy was scheduled for today.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Tracking congressional transportation lobbying

The Center for Public Integrity has put together an interactive map showing transportation lobbyist spending as Congress debates transportation funding.

Says the Center:
Notorious for earmarks like Alaska’s “Bridge to Nowhere,” Congress’s funding of transportation is a broken process influenced by special interests, according to the investigation. Interest groups employed 2,100 lobbyists and spent an estimated $45 million to lobby lawmakers on transportation in the first half of 2009 – a spending pace on par with the amount spent lobbying on climate change, the Center found.
The center has done a lot of the heavy lifting, but due to some of the limitations of disclosure, researchers are asking for help from local folks familiar with specific transportation projects, and connections between those projects and lobbyists.

The map is here. They've included some research tips if you scroll down.

UPDATE: The map worked earlier, but it's having problems as of 5:45 p.m. The center says this may be due to updates being made. Give it a few hours.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Ox on Fox at 1:20 p.m.

From John Oxendine's campaign:
John Oxendine will be on Fox Business News live across America at 1:20pm EST today to talk about the floods. Please tune in.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Carter, Clinton, McCain and Marilyn

I watched CNN last night with my (LIBERAL!) girlfriend Marilyn, and now it's a blog post. Blogs are awesome and will totally replace newspapers due to this type of innovation.
"It seems to me that President Carter has earned his place as – if not the worst President in history – certainly the worst in the twentieth century.”
- Arizona Sen. John McCain

"At least he got to be president."
- Marilyn
Speaking of Pres. Carter, The Telegraph ran this pretty fantastic cartoon today, drawn by Robert Ariail.

Former President Bill Clinton was his normal fascinating self on Larry King last night. Worth most of the 24 minutes of your time. Clinton said he'd be "shocked" if some sort of health care reform doesn't pass.

The transcript is here, if you prefer.

Marilyn: You know, I met Clinton once. He didn't wink at me or flirt or anything. And I was like, 'Come on. Monica? Really?'

What things cost

I'm constantly amazed at how much things cost. Consider:

Gov. Perdue headed to Panama City

What happens in P.C. doesn't stay in P.C. It affects the fourth largest container port in the United States. From the governor's office:
ATLANTA – Governor Sonny Perdue will lead a state delegation September 23 – 26 to Panama to discuss Panama Canal Expansion and the proposed Savannah Harbor Expansion Project. Governor Perdue will be joined by senior leaders of the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) and the Georgia Department of Economic Development. The trip will include a meeting with the Panama Canal Authority and with Maersk, GPA’s largest customer.

“More than 72 percent of total trade moving through Georgia’s ports transits the Panama Canal,” said Governor Perdue. “The economic engine of the Port of Savannah is directly tied to the Canal. It is the lifeline that feeds our port by bringing jobs and prosperity to not only Georgia but the entire eastern half of the United States.”

As home to the fourth largest U.S. container port in Savannah, the state of Georgia has a great interest in the Panama Canal Expansion. The Georgia Ports Authority has had a strategic partnership with the Panama Canal Authority since 2003, which provides economic benefits to both regions.

The Panama Canal will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2014 with the opening of a new set of locks. The new locks will double capacity and allow more traffic and longer, wider ships to go through the canal.

In preparation for the expanded canal and larger ships calling on the East Coast, the GPA is working diligently to gain approval on the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, designed to deepen the Savannah River up to 48 feet. With an estimated completion date of 2014, the deepened shipping channel will be able to handle the larger vessels that will transit the expanded canal.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The evolution of campaign finance

Both Secretary of State Karen Handel and Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine have used federal issues to generate voter interest in their gubernatorial campaigns recently.

For Handel it was voter I.D. For Oxendine it's been "Obamacare." They're both clever ways to draw people in. Your typical Georgia conservatives might not be worried about the 2010 governor's race right now, but they're very interested in health care reform.

They sign a petition, and the campaign collects a name and an email address, plus some geographic data on interest in that issue. The Oxendine campaign has taken things a step further today in asking for donations to help him "continue to oppose Obamacare and the Washington power-grab of healthcare in America."

From a campaign email blast:
If you are a doctor or a business owner you have a choice. You can send me a contribution today and I will go to work fighting the healthcare power grab or you can hold your money today and pay it to the federal government in higher taxes later. I hope you will send your most generous contribution to me today so we can save healthcare in America.
I'm particularly interested in this because the email blast makes no mention of Oxendine's gubernatorial campaign, except for the "Oxendine for Gov" mailing address included at the bottom.

Oxendine Campaign Manager Tim Echols said the gubernatorial campaign has spent quite a bit of money on color fliers for its anti-Obamacare campaign and is hoping to recoup some of those costs. He said an email blast like the one I'm quoting from above might bring in $3,500, which probably won't cover the cost of all the fliers.

I don't know what point I'm trying to make here, beyond it's an interesting strategy, and a potential gray area in this age of electronic campaigning.

Perdue: ACORN out in Georgia

From the governor's office:
"I want to thank Sen. Rogers and Reps. Graves, Keown and Setlzer for bringing the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (“ACORN”) contract to my attention. In July, I directed my office to review all consulting contracts the state has with outside vendors to look for budget savings; that review did not identify the ACORN contract, because it does not involve state funds. The State of Georgia will not renew the contract, which expires in 13 days. Further, I have issued an Executive Order that prevents executive branch agencies from doing business with ACORN in the future and calls for a review of any existing contracts with ACORN.”
ACORN. How come every time I ever hear about that group, it's something shady?

Wait. Did I just answer my own question?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Perdue gets flu shot, may start for Georgia

Gov. Sonny Perdue got his flu shot today. Check out the gun on that throwing arm. I wonder if he's got any eligibility left.

Image via governor's office.

That's state senator and doctor Don Thomas giving the shot.

The future of journalism: "..."

I did an interview Friday with former CNN president, and Macon native, Tom Johnson. We ran it today.
TELEGRAPH: So what is the future of journalism?

JOHNSON: I do not know. I think a great deal about that. I do not know. I am deeply troubled by the reduction of reporters at quality news organizations. The reporters are the — they’re the watchdogs of our society.
Folks, we really need to figure that out. And now back to posting all the best information I can find for free without pairing it with advertising.

Johnson leaving senate, focusing on gov's race

Update: I'd guess you're about to see Sen. Johnson out and about well away from Savannah more. Original post, with updates, below.
Not idea what it is. But not too many things qualify as major at this point in the campaign. From Sen. Johnson's campaign:
Senator Eric Johnson, Republican candidate for Governor, will be making a major campaign announcement on Tuesday, September 15th at 2 PM.
I'll update here when I can.

UPDATE: Sen. Johnson is leaving the Senate to focus on the 2010 governor's race. That also means he won't be bound by the no fundraising rule that prevails for elected state officials during the legislative session.

Update 2: By the way, this is pretty awesome flamethrower language, from The AP:
Johnson said he did not resign because of concerns about limited fundraising opportunities during the legislative session or because of any other candidate's plans.

"The other candidates are either slowing or have peaked," he said. "We believe we're the only one that is accelerating, both financially and in organization."
But, Lucid Idiocy suggests you read Dick Pettys' coverage to better understand the Johnson and Deal campaigns.

Friday, September 11, 2009

August revenues: Not good

Worse than July, in fact. From the governor's office:
ATLANTA – Governor Sonny Perdue announced today that net revenue collections for the month of August 2009 (FY10) totaled $1,052,466,000 compared to $1,259,631,000 for August 2008 (FY09), a decrease of $207,165,000 or 16.4 percent.

The percentage decrease year-to-date for FY10 compared to FY09 is 13.1 percent.

Sept. 11

I know I've noted this before, but it sticks with me that the Statue of Liberty isn't standing there holding a torch. She's striding forward.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cong. Joe Wilson: It was passion of the moment

He's interviewed here by a McClatchy reporter.

"I think people appreciate, even if they disagree with me, that I did, um, uh, contact the president right away, uh, and let him know that, um, I look forward to a civil disagreement."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I feel I should put something up about healthcare

Folks, Lucid Idiocy is not a good place to get information about health care reform. That was probably obvious already.

Your leaders deserve good parking

UPDATE, 10:15 a.m.: Albert Abrams, a Macon State vice president, local school board member and general stand-up guy, reports that the signs have been taken down and the parking lot opened to students.
I'm on Macon State College's campus today for a meeting of the Board of Regents, which sets budget and policy for the state's university system.

Like any growing college, Macon State has a parking problem. I was driving around looking for a space and there were students parking along curbs, making do where they could. And then I noticed a half-empty lot near the building where the Regents are meeting.

It was guarded by a Bibb County sheriff's deputy idling his patrol car and playing solitaire on his county laptop. You can see the car on the far right.

For the record, I parked in this lot. If you pay taxes or college tuition in Georgia, you are also about to fund a cup of coffee for me.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Chapman on gov's race: I needed to get involved

I just spoke to the state's newest gubernatorial candidate, state Sen. Jeff Chapman. This will be in The Telegraph's political notebook tomorrow:

Brunswick area state Sen. Jeff Chapman surprised some folks this week when he threw his hat into the ring for the Georgia governor’s race.

He’s the seventh Republican to announce, and there are five Democrats, a Libertarian and a handful of folks who have filed paperwork to run but haven’t shown any significant fundraising or other signs of campaign life.

But Chapman said he felt like he needed to get involved. He’s in his sixth year at the legislature and is perhaps best known for taking on state leaders and powerful business interests over the remake of Jekyll Island.

“With all due respect, I can do a better job representing the people’s interest (than the current candidates),” Chapman said Friday.

Chapman recently wrote a piece on state water usage, calling for a more aggressive push to fix leaky pipes in the metro Atlanta area, state tax credits to help people retrofit their homes with more efficient appliances and a review of existing reservoirs and dams to make sure they’re providing as much water as they can.

“We can run out and say, ‘We need to start digging holes in the ground’ (for new water storage),” Chapman said Friday. “But that takes years. ... You land the planes closest to the airport first.”

Chapman is a former Glynn County commissioner and has been a major advocate for Jekyll Island, which the state is helping a private developer remake with a $50 million state bond issue. Chapman has complained about a lack of openness in that process and pushed back against the need for public funding.

Said Chapman: “That same line of thinking (I used on the Jekyll Island deal) I would use on all issues: Accountablity. Openness of government. Fairness.”
A few other things:

Sen. Chapman said this isn't an attempt to screw up Eric Johnson's campaign, which I imagine some folks will assume. He also resisted my labeling him "the environmentalist Republican" in the race. He said he's a "Teddy Roosevelt conservationist."

He mentioned that his grandfather, when he was in the military, would shower by getting wet, then turning off the water to soap up, then turning it back on to rinse off.

"I've been showering like that since I was 8 years old," he said.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Johnson on commuter rail: Eventually we'd probably need dedicated tracks

State Sen. Eric Johnson, a GOP candidate for governor, stopped in Macon on Monday. He was mum about who he met with, but I know of at least one prominent local fundraiser he visited. This is a summary of the issues Sen. Johnson discussed during a stop here at The Telegraph:

Commuter Rail: Generally, "if it improves traffic flow then it's OK to subsidize it because we subsidize roads, too." He's OK with the state subsidizing infrastructure costs, but operations are the concern.

And since existing tracks are already used for freight, it's going to be difficult to put a lot of passenger traffic on the lines. In the long run, he said, we'd probably need dedicated tracks.

Education: Yep, he's the voucher candidate. Johnson, who led the push to allow disabled students to get vouchers to attend private schools in 2007, said he said he likes anything where the money follows the student.
"(I support) well-funded public schools, charter schools, home schooling and, yes, vouchers. ..." he said. "We have cut (public) education more than I would prefer, but money is not the solution. ... Free market competition for that child ... will do more for that child than more money will."
On an inland port: We need one, the senator from Savannah said. Where it should be "the free market will determine" and then state and local leaders should help make it happen.

UPDATE: I ran into former (short time) Speaker of the House Terry Coleman, D-Eastman, today. He said it's "too early" to handicap the governor's race, but said former Gov. Barnes obviously has an edge on the Democratic side.

For the GOP, he mentioned Johnson:
"Eric Johnson is a regional candidate, but a candidate I think they have to watch because he's working really hard. ... I really don't see anybody on top in (the GOP nomination) race."
John Oxendine might remind you he's led in every poll I know of, but then it's September of 2009.

UPDATE: State Sen. Jeff Chapman's entrance into this race changes the math some for Sen. Johnson. The question is, how much?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Austin Scott to walk again

At the Governor's Fish Fry Saturday, Tifton area state Rep. and GOP gubernatorial candidate Austin Scott said he's going to do another walk through Georgia.

This one will include U.S. 41, he said. Of course that means he goes through Macon and Warner Robins.

Image: Austin Scott for Georgia gallery.

Deal brewing on transportation funding?

It looks like the House and Senate have the basics of a potential compromise deal in place on transportation funding.

House and Senate leaders, and particularly House Majority Leader Jerry Keen and Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams, have been meeting on the issue. They're basically talking about splitting the difference.

Voters would be asked to approve a half penny sales tax for a statewide transportation plan, like the House wants, and to OK another half penny for regional (or individual county) TSPLOSTs, like the Senate has wanted.

It would take one vote to authorize the two half pennies, then separate votes to actually start charging the second half in individual communities.

"This is middle ground and I think we can get there. ..." Sen. Williams said Monday evening. "I think we can get it out of the General Assembly."

Of course, with the legislature, it could all fall apart. But state Sen. Eric Johnson, a GOP candidate for governor, was in Macon yesterday. He said the pressure for the Republican majority to pass a new transportation funding plan is going to be big-time in the next session.

Bottom line: He said the majority can't afford to not get it done.

"This is not a done deal. ..." said Johnson, adding that he's not actively involved in the negotiations, but is of course aware of them. "But what it does do is re-enforce my prediction that (we'll get it done next session)."

I'm waiting for comment from the House leadership. I'll update when it comes.

UPDATE, From Marshall Guest, spokesman for Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson:
Conversations between the House and the Senate are ongoing to find a transportation funding solution that will address the state's needs.
Thanks, Mr. Speaker, that's helpful. Next up, the speaker's stance on working for the people of Georgia to make this a better place to live. I hear he's for it and thinks Georgia's a really swell state.

UPDATE 2, from the governor's office:
Governor Perdue proposed the split penny concept during the last session as a compromise position.

Since then, SB 200 has passed and we are currently in the midst of creating the state’s first ever strategic transportation plan, which is due by the end of the year. The plan will identify what we can afford with our current resources, and what is possible through additional resources. So, while discussions are certainly continuing on transportation funding, our focus right now is on completing the transportation plan which will lay the foundation for Georgians to clearly understand what value we could receive from any additional resources.