Let’s Be Honest…

Anyone who starts a sentence with “I hate to say I told you so…” is lying. People L-O-V-E to be proven right. And since I am just as small and petty as anyone else, let me remind you of this post which opined that Common Cause Georgia’s effort to create a ballot referendum on the Atlanta’s new stadium deal was quixotic and unproductive, and that their energies would be better spent on greater oversight on “judges, district attorneys and school boards...” (Emphasis mine.) Common Cause Georgia’s director William Perry told me in the comments that I was “ill-informed...” which hurt my feelings a lot. 

But since then, Greg Bluestein at the AJC wrote “Douglas’ ‘Teflon’ DA faces fresh scrutiny” about Douglas County District Attorney David McDade, who has “…asked for a GBI investigation into his own office after an Atlanta television station reported McDade used drug forfeiture money to finance a fleet of cars for his staff, including his office manager who frequently used her car for non-county business.” Dale Russell at Fox 5 did a story on the topic a couple of weeks ago. And Fulton District Attorney Paul Howard came under fire for spending drug forfeiture money on things like renting a movie theater for his entire office staff, a photo shoot, and registering an office softball team.  Note: All these things are perfectly legal uses of money seized from gangsters and drug dealers, though Governor Deal may seek to change that pretty soon. (paywall)

But I was most gratified to see this quotation: “It’s shocking. I mean so many things on that list are well beyond anything that could benefit the taxpayers of Fulton County, much less stop crime in Fulton County,” Who said that? William Perry, executive director of the government watchdog group Common Cause Georgia, telling WSB TV reporter Jodie Fleischer that “voters should demand oversight.” (Emphasis -and sense of malicious delight- mine.)

It’s good to know that Common Cause is concerned about at least one area of public spending that really does need to be addressed. There may be hope for that organization yet.

9 comments

          • Ed says:

            From your post.

            “The gesture, however nobly intended, is so futile and stupid that it detracts from better work Common Cause could be doing.”

            Ergo, they’re doing work on the stadium at the expense of other projects.

            You’re either a bad troll or unaware of what you write. Take your pick!

            • I said oversight of DA’s would be better, and now they are demanding oversight of DA’s. AFAIK, they haven’t dropped the petition thing, so it’s clearly a “both” and not an “either or,” regardless of how you want to interpret what I wrote.
              But I’ll be happy to write a recommendation for you to b-school.

    • sockpuppet says:

      I agree with Ed. Which of course means that Ed should reconsider his opinion immediately :-)!!!

      In any case, two things.

      1. I kinda sorta don’t blame these police departments for spending the seized cash that way. I remember from my time living in Florida that certain police departments located near drug trafficking thoroughfares started using the drug money that they seized to buy equipment. Which of course made the local pols less likely to approve money for equipment, saying that they could just keep using the seized drug money for that. Meaning that they began to need “money seized from gangsters and drug dealers” as part of their regular operating budget, which made seizing money from gangsters and drug dealers a necessity if you know what I mean. Now since those same drug thoroughfares just happened to also be vacation routes to Disney World, Busch Gardens and Florida’s beaches, seizing cash from (mostly black and Hispanic of course) families and college students became more commonplace, especially after they found out that they could get away with it. When word got out about the tactics, people started avoiding those routes, making the police even more aggressive to maintain the revenue. That is, until the racial profiling lawsuits were filed and won, which ultimately cost those departments a ton. Since pretty much everyone in law enforcement is familiar with those cases, it is difficult to blame them for making the same mistake of getting into the habit of needing drug money to fund their operations. You might say that there are other uses that it could have been dedicated to like donating it to charity, but what charity is going to accept drug money? Maybe it can be used for one time, non-recurring expenses, but other than that it is a real conundrum on what to use the money for without having it become “part of the budget” if you know what I mean.

      2. Common Cause has to know that this is really a ridiculous fight that they are taking on. Public-private partnerships to fund stadiums are commonplace, and in this instance the city gets a real benefit in return for their investment because they get to use the stadium for other events to make money (both directly and indirectly) on. Also, the revenue source is something that is earmarked for this purpose, so it isn’t as if they are taking money away from schools or social welfare programs. So this is bad policy. It is also bad politics because the fight is unwinnable. The only people who are going to vote on this is the city of Atlanta, and the city of Atlanta is not an anti-tax, fiscally conservative region. Even T-SPLOST passed in Atlanta and by a large margin, 58% to 42%, despite it meaning that Atlanta residents would have paid another 1% in transportation in addition to what they are already paying for MARTA. And as Hassinger stated in an earlier piece, all that is needed to ensure this referendum’s failure is for Kasim Reed and Arthur Blank to take to the airwaves to remind people that A) despite what they choose to believe, the money can’t be spent on schools or anything else that is more important and B) if the referendum is passed, the Atlanta Falcons will become the Forsyth County Falcons (a bit of exaggeration of course but they will use the tension between the city and the suburbs to their advantage … just as said tensions played a major role in defeating T-SPLOST). Add A) to B) and the city would be losing the Falcons for nothing. It isn’t as if they would lose the Falcons but get the money that was going to be used for the new stadium on something else. They would lose the Falcons to the suburbs and get nothing. Period. Let’s see how Common Cause can make “lose the Falcons and get nothing in return!” into a winning political slogan. In Atlanta, which has no problem with tax and spend liberalism.

      A great deal of politics is about choosing your fights wisely. If grandstanding on segregated private parties, backing a dysfunctional DeKalb County school board and opposing a stadium deal on terms that are actually good for the city is the best that the progressive movement (as Common Cause, metro civil rights leaders and Better Georgia did respectively) can do in terms of the fights that they are picking, then the DPOG is in serious, serious trouble.

      • How much coffee have YOU had? And you left out something important: If the hotel/motel tax goes away, the Dome goes from public asset earning a little money to public liability needing a million or so in tax subsidies from the State.

        • sockpuppet says:

          Yep. And that is not all. The plans for revitalizing downtown by attracting businesses there goes away too. A plan which governor Deal supports heavily by the way.

          I know why a lot of black leaders that are to Kasim Reed’s left despise this plan, his other goals like the Beltline, his partnership with the governor, etc. Their angle is that economic growth for downtown means gentrification, which means replacing their voter base with hipsters and tech workers. They will still lean progressive, but of course won’t be beholden to the black leadership.

          But I don’t get Common Cause’s problem. Replacing black voters with white progressives (such as the ones that are going to snap up those Coca-Cola IT jobs http://mdjonline.com/view/full_story/22858850/article-Coca-Cola-moving-2-000-IT-positions-to-new-Atlanta-HQs?instance=home_lead_story) ought to be right up their alley. And Common Cause already knows that the money can’t be spent for anything else.

          Doesn’t make a lot of sense.

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