I have been privileged to attend the ongoing speaker series at Oglethorpe University put on by Dr. Joseph Knippenberg. Joe has put together a fantastic slate of speakers including State Rep. Fran Millar, State Rep. Mike Jacobs, State Rep. Jill Chambers, State Rep. Karla Drenner, State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, and Governor Sonny Purdue. The public is invited to these events and I encourage you to come hear one of the remaining speakers.
The speaker series began last week with Fran Millar. Fran is proof positive that the Republican Party is not beholden to the Religious Right. Fran is a fiscal conservative but is fairly moderate on social issues. Fran was a breath of fresh air with his candor. Fran wasn’t afraid to criticize fellow Republicans in the state legislature for “dumb bills allowing people to say ‘Merry Christmas'”. Whether or not you agree with Fran on the issues, his willingness and ability to buck the party line speaks well of the strengths of the Republican party. While Fran describes himself as a “dinosaur”, I think his common sense approach and rejection of fear-based politics is the future.
Also speaking last week was Mike Jacobs. Mike is my representative and is about as nice of a guy as you will ever meet. While Mike and I differ on many issues, I am proud to have him represent me and I will be helping his campaign this year. Mike spoke at length about the current debate over reforming the county government structure in DeKalb County. Mike has been under heavy fire from Vernon Jones and his cronies for this stance but I salute him for challenging those who would cling to power for power’s sake.
Mike also spoke about redistricting and how the state House districts created two years ago have helped created some very balanced districts in DeKalb County. Mike made a strong point for taking redistricting out of the hands of politicians who would draw lines to maintain power as opposed to serving the people.
Finally, Jill Chambers spoke yesterday at Oglethorpe. Jill spent much of her time discussing the corruption that she is working to uncover at MARTA. For some strange reason, Jill has come under fire for being anti-MARTA. But based upon yesterday’s talk and Jill’s record, mass transportation advocates couldn’t find a better friend that Jill Chambers. The entire audience was shocked by Jill’s description of widespread corruption at MARTA and MARTA contractors. Jill described high level MARTA officials who have spent thousands of tax payer dollars for their own benefit. She also described how MARTA has put money into non-transportation related endeavors such as risky hedge funds. Some of Jill’s critics are confused and think that MARTA has been hedging gas futures, which would be a smart financial move. While MARTA has hedged its fuel costs, they have also put a lot of money into many risky investment strategies.
Jill was extremely impressive with her knowledge of MARTA and her willingness to act as a watchdog against government corruption. Jill is proof that citizen legislators can be every bit as much if not more effective than professional politicians. As a small business owner, Jill has to deal with the consequences of her votes in the state legislature which I believe keeps her grounded in reality.
Kudos to each of these public servants for taking the time out of their day to speak at Oglethorpe. I know that Joe would like to get some more elected officials to speak, so please email him if you know someone willing to join this speaker series.