Deal’s Appointment Another Reason To Consider “No” On T-SPLOST

Today’s Courier Herald Column: 

Governor Nathan Deal has enjoyed a general level of policy success during his first two years in office in a way that would not necessarily have been predicted during a long and often bitter gubernatorial campaign.  He has formed coalitions within his own party and across the aisle.  He has worked with Democratic Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed to fund a port expansion in Savannah and fix the transportation grid in Atlanta.  He was able to bring key Democrats on board to push through reforms to the HOPE Scholarship program, Georgia’s third rail of politics. 

He’s implemented sentencing reform and tax reform.  He’s set the state on a course to build new reservoirs for Atlanta while racking up legal victories protecting the state’s right to water from Lake Lanier.  On most decisions of policy, the governor has pleased the partisans and won tacit approval from many Democrats.  By most measures, the Governor has had a successful first two years in office.

Where the Governor continues to fall flat, however, is over the subject of cronyism.  Governors certainly have the prerogative to appoint the people of their choosing.  It would be unnatural to expect a Governor to appoint his adversaries, though Governor Zell Miller once did that by appointing his former opponent Johnny Isakson to head the State School Board.  Generally, however, Governors will appoint those close to them who have exhibited loyalty and trust.  This is nothing new.

Deal’s use of appointments and re-appointments has thus far exhibited that “independent boards” is an oxymoron.  Longtime Republican activist Warren Budd was not reappointed to the state’s Department of Natural Resources board after he openly complained that the location of reservoirs under the Governor’s plan were too heavily weighted north of Atlanta and served interests of connected developers. 

The Executive Secretary of the State Ethics Commission and her chief assistant were removed from their positions as they sought subpoenas in ethics cases against the Governor.  The Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff went so far as to call Budd’s removal a “teachable moment” for others who serve at the pleasure of the Governor.

On Friday leading into the 4th of July holiday week, the Governor somewhat quietly appointed three close political allies to the board of the Georgia Ports Authority.  Ken Cronan of Gainesville, the Governor’s business partner for decades; James Walters of Gainesville, the Governor’s banker, landlord and campaign donor to the tune of $30,000; and Hugh Tarbutton of Sandersville, also a large campaign donor, according to the AJC.

The precedent of appointing the closest allies to the potentially lucrative board seats overseeing Georgia’s ports was clearly set by former Governor Perdue, who also installed much of his campaign team and a cousin to oversee the board.  Perdue’s business interests were later entertained with private meetings with ports management as they sought to grow their presence at the rapidly expanding port.

While Tarbutton has logistics experience with the Sandersville Railroad in Southeast Georgia, the two other appointees from Gainesville experience seems to be wholly their relationship to Deal.  Most troubling is the appointment of Ken Cronan, whose various business dealings with the Governor have resulted in ethics complaints leveled both at the Congressional level and which remain pending before the State ethics commission.  Deal resigned his seat in Congress with the federal ethics complaints unresolved. 

Governor Deal has put a great deal of time and bi-partisan effort to galvanize support for funding the expansion of the port of Savannah.  Appointing his business partner to oversee the port is yet another example of the Governor’s tone deaf understanding of ethics. 

Ken Cronan has been the governor’s chief agent for his personal business interests during his time in public service, often tied directly to government connections.  Placing him on the board of the Port of Savannah during this critical time that funding is being secured for much needed expansion gives opponents of deepening the harbor unnecessary ammunition to criticize and possibly block federal funding.

The Governor also makes this appointment at a time when voters are asked to approve billions of new tax dollars for transportation improvements via T-SPLOST referendums this month.  Opponents of the measures are already citing a reluctance to give significant new money to a system rife with cronyism.  The Governor’s ill timed appointment will do little to allay their fears.  If anything, it should make anyone on the fence about T-SPLOST strongly consider moving into the solid “no” camp.

The Governor has demonstrated that he and his team can be quite adept at understanding prevailing political winds and converting the desires of multiple constituencies into sound legislation.  It is time he and his staff did the same with a cold hard look at the public’s perception of the state’s and their office’s ethics practices. 

The people now have two chances to voice their concerns to the governor on July 31st.  They can vote for the non-binding referendums on gift caps on each party’s ballot.  They can also choose to deny a government upwards of 10 Billion in new tax dollars to be put into a system that seems designed to reward those in power and close to them.

25 comments

  1. Rambler1414 says:

    “They can also choose to deny a government upwards of 10 Billion in new tax dollars to be put into a system that seems designed to reward those in power and close to them.”

    This statement couldn’t be further from the truth.
    Under the current system, the Non-Elected State GDOT Board dictates how motor fuel tax is spent around the state, via congressional balancing.
    Under T-SPLOST, the projects that the local governments in the region chose are the projects that would be built.

    • Charlie says:

      It’s exactly the truth. There already exists a DOT budget. Many of these projects would be completed based on state prioritization under said budget. Many others would not.

      Adding roughly $10Billion to the mix doesn’t decrease the politics involved of selecting whose roads get built, it increases it.

      Next.

      • Rambler1414 says:

        “Adding roughly $10Billion to the mix doesn’t decrease the politics involved of selecting whose roads get built, it increases it.”

        It also increases the speed at which these projects will get built, if ever.

      • GTKay says:

        Except that the projects have already been selected. Maybe I’m misunderstanding your point. As far as who will build them, GDOT must take low bids.

    • seekingtounderstand says:

      GDOT Board members have often become weathy off real estate developments. More than most citizens even realize because it usually covered up by lawyers.
      Some would argue that letting county commissioners be in charge could result in more wealth building but with a local flavor. These folks have no accountability as the boards will simply be their buddy.

  2. Three Jack says:

    Senate Majority Leader Rogers against it after he was for it — http://blogs.ajc.com/political-insider-jim-galloway/2012/07/09/your-morning-jolt-splitting-with-governor-chip-rogers-to-condemn-transportation-sales-tax/

    Good to see Chip finally come out against this major tax increase, but it is increasingly difficult to understand why he and other ‘non-voting members’ of the committee accepted non-voting status. What’s the point of being there if you have no input into the decision? Secondly, why vote for the resulting legislation if there was no plan and little funding offered at the time of the vote (reminds me of this year’s tax increase HB386 that was passed off as ‘tax reform’…what will it be known as 2 years from now).

    • DeKalb Wonkette says:

      Keep in mind that NOTHING in the Senate goes to the floor without the blessing of the GOP caucus. And because the Majority Leader (Chip Rogers) and then-Senate Pres. Pro-Tem (Tommie Williams) both lead the caucus and make committee/chairmanship assignments, it is fair to say that the TIA would never have passed without Chip’s personal stamp of approval.

      So now, 2 years later, Chip agrees that the T-SLPOST is a tax increase? Either there is a reading comprehension problem or disdain for constituents’ intellects here, IMHO.

      Will Chip give back his “lawmaker of the year” awards from the GA Chamber too?

  3. ZazaPachulia says:

    “yet another example of the Governor’s tone deaf understanding of ethics.”

    That’s a nice way of putting it, Charlie. I was thinking more along the lines of “yet another example of the Governor not even pretending to give a hoot about ethics whatsoever.” The guy is obviously smart. He just doesn’t care. And his political career backs him up: he has proven time and time again that people aren’t going to hold him accountable on this stuff.

    • Calypso says:

      “And his political career backs him up: he has proven time and time again that people aren’t going to hold him accountable on this stuff.”

      I’ve found that to be the case in most instances involving politicans, unfortunately.

  4. CobbGOPer says:

    “Appointing his business partner to oversee the port is yet another example of the Governor’s tone deaf understanding of ethics.”

    Meh. He’s not tone-deaf, he just doesn’t care what we think. His arrogance (and that of his staff) shows through – among other things – regular knucklehead comments by Brian Robinson (he of the ‘teachable moment’ comment among others). Unless we actually vote him out, nobody can touch him on any of this stuff since our ethics enforcement is so lacking (thanks in part to him).

    Sadly, in 2014 there will likely be no better options, as no one will have the guts to challenge him in the primary on ethics. If Karen Handel couldn’t make it stick, I doubt anyone else wants to give it a try, because that’s all you could run against. His listed accomplishments would drown out any talk (or even evidence) of nefarious dealings, though.

  5. Spacey G says:

    I think we need to change up your RINO status/title, Charles, as it’s a little dated by now. May I suggest… The Boy Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest.

    • IndyInjun says:

      Ah, methinks he flew so close to the sun that he now wants to singe the wings right off those hornets. His inner Indy finally got through. The “Restore Glass Stegall” piece was the breakthrough.

      Now say it s—-l—o—w—l—y…
      “Indy was right.”

      Indy applauds.

      Great work of late……Indy cheers.

      Back to the grind…….NO TO T-SPLOST!

      IndyInjun out.

  6. seekingtounderstand says:

    In Hall County a commissioner was caught writing checks, had the check book in his pocket for over a year, to an ex-county manager for consulting needs. Approx. $85,000.00 before some citizens called the sheriff and asked for investigation on this and other issues. The commissioner simply refused to talk and the three charges where wisked away with no accountability. This person is up for re-election and will probably win.
    So my question is …… with the GBI budget gutted and politized and the higher ups seeming to give cover we are in a more dangerous place then people realize. With a one party state with no accountability except for the occasional Federal investigation as with Gwinnett.
    When a republican president is elected……………think about what will happen here in GA
    That is ZERO accountability from people that give each other all the cover needed to do anything they want with tax payer funds. All of you smart folks who post here, I would love to hear your take on what could be………………………deliverance. Que the music…………………

    • Rick Day says:

      but, Liberals! Gay Marriage! Abortion! OBAMACARRRRRE

      You don’t understand. These people don’t care. They all fear the Mighty Negro and will engage in oral activities with Satan if it meant savin’ babbys.

      The GOP has the ‘extremely stupid’ vote. They CAN’T stop.

      • TheEiger says:

        Rick – it’s posts like this one that makes people laugh every time you post something. Just remember we are laughing at you and not with you.

  7. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    “Deal’s Appointment Another Reason To Consider “No” On T-SPLOST”

    As if we really needed anymore…

  8. Rick Day says:

    This is what I commented in the response section of the Cox Daily Rag:

    OW OW OW! That is my head throbbing at all the STUPID comments by that gang of nepotistic ninnies.

    Really? You just gotta ‘know’ a guy and that is enough? You read his resume? You expect his underling cronies to do all the heavy lifting while he sleeps at night? He has ZERO EXPERIENCE or EDUCATION in such a critical plum? A G-damn PRAYER? HELLO? Threats from above? Who is going to go against The Lord, you pathetic preacher creature?

    Is this not the most naked political mutual hand washing ever? Have these Republicans and their lapdog Democrats have no SHAME in their open rape of our great political system?

    Oh right, he’s Deals buddy. Tit for tat. Quid quo Pro. RUBBER STAMPED. Why even other to report?

    What a bunch of useless, morally corrupt trough hogs. Even THEIR bacon would taste rancid.

  9. cheapseats says:

    I was all set to hold my nose and vote for this pig-in-a-poke until this story came out. Interesting timing because I was planning to vote today since I’ll be out of town on the 31st.

    I’m still planning to vote today and I think the Goobernor just earned my “NO!” vote on the T-SPLOST.

    Kim Jong Deal needs a strong message. If those of you here that call yourselves Republicans don’t slap him upside the head then stop bleating about fiscal responsibility and conservative values and such because you clearly ain’t got none.

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