Giving Thanks for Our Blessings

November 27, 2014 12:05 pm

by Edward Lindsey · 1 comment

It is easy for many to look at our country’s current state of affairs with such despair that they approach the future with trepidation and foreboding. For them, only a rose colored memory of the past offers joy for America. Nonsense.

It is true that we face resurgent adversaries abroad, exposed racial divides, a frustratingly slow economic recovery, and bitter political polarization. But we have overcome far greater perils and divisions before and we will prevail in these difficult times as well.

In our search for a better nation, let us not forget to count our blessings.

A new generation of young men and women in uniform – volunteers all – tempered by the horrors of 9/11 stand watch today over our safety around the globe. In doing so, they join an unbroken line of Americans stretching from Lexington to Afghanistan who have stepped into harm’s way.

The American ideals of individual liberty and rights derived from God were born in revolution, survived a bloody civil war, won out in two world wars, proved more powerful than our adversaries in the Cold War, and still offer the world its best hope in the 21st century against those forces who would slide mankind back into the Dark Ages.

Our strength, however, is not merely measured by our force of arms. We are among the most charitable people on Earth both to our own people and to our fellow men and women around the world. Wherever and whenever there is human tragedy or suffering, America rushes in with aid as we have recently in Africa to combat the Ebola crisis.

The racial strife unleashed by the events in Ferguson, Missouri should not allow us to forget how far we have come in the past fifty years. Jim Crow, fire hoses, and Governors standing in the doorways of schools or holding pick handles in restaurants are confined to the history books. We have a long way to go before we reach Martin Luther King’s dream but we should not forget the journey we have made together so far.

Our higher education is the envy of the world. Of the twenty top universities, seventeen reside in the United States. Over 17 million Americans are seeking higher education today. Among them, 57% are women and over 30% are minorities. The world’s best and brightest from around the world still clamor to come to the United States to learn and be a part of our future. These universities, colleges, and technical schools and the people they educate will fuel our future industries, technologies, and innovations.

For all of its all too apparent weaknesses in the news today, we still maintain a stable republic and a durable Constitution that has served our needs for over 225 years.

There is much to be done and tomorrow we should resume our struggle to meet the challenges before us together with the confidence and boldness that defines us as a great people. For today, however, let us count our blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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Happy Birthday Jon Richards

November 27, 2014 9:00 am

by Charlie · 4 comments

Today, Jon gets to share his birthday with Thanksgiving.  I’m sure he doesn’t mind. He’s great about things like that, and it’s not the first time he’s had to do so.  He tends to like to focus on more important things anyway, and usually doesn’t let himself get put first in most things.  He’s great like that too.

Quietly in the last year Jon assumed the title of “Front Page Editor” for Peach Pundit.  He’s volunteered and taken on a lot of the roles here that needed to be done, because he saw stuff that needed doing.  Now he tries to help play traffic cop with scheduling our posts, as well as takes the lead working with our interns to help them focus their skills to the….tastes of our readers.

Here at Peach Pundit he works without a lot of fanfare, much like he does in his GOP and civic activities.  So while we’re with our families and consuming too much food, give a toast as well to Jon on his birthday.  He’s earned it, even if he has to share.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

November 27, 2014 6:53 am

by Jessica Szilagyi · 0 comments

It’s been an interesting year in Georgia politics – and just about everywhere else too- full of highs and lows, wins and losses that are both personal and professional. But luckily there is much more to life than #gapol.

We are all very blessed to live in this great state and great nation. Our lives are truly rich with family, friends, and love. I hope we all have an opportunity to be extra gracious for our health, our hearts, and the faith of those around us.

From all of us at Peach Pundit, we hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving. 

(And if you can’t stumble away from the wit and snark for just one day, or just need a break from your family, watch this two minute Thanksgiving related video for your daily dose.)

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Jack Kingston Heads Home

November 26, 2014 8:30 am

by Chet Martin · 11 comments

Last Friday, Congressman Jack Kingston left the office he’s held for 22 years.

Kingston, tied with Congressman Sanford Bishop for second longest-serving member of Georgia’s 16-man Congressional delegation, was the first Republican to win office in his coastal district since Reconstruction Era Andrew Sloan. By the end of his service, he was the senior member of the all-powerful House Appropriations Committee and the de facto leader of Georgia’s Republican delegation.

In a recent interview with Savannah-based WSAV, Kingston said he was most proud of his herculean (my word) efforts to deepen the Savannah Port as well as his advocacy for South Georgia’s military bases and agriculture industry. He advised the next Congress to “listen to the other side”, a comment that will likely be ignored by elected officials and noted by historians of American sclerosis. He praised “most members of Congress” and his staff for “a deep love of their country” (one delights to identify the others.)

Kingston-SnakesFor those looking for a metaphor, here’s a picture of his recent snake-handling trip:

If you watch that interview, you’ll notice  a brief shot of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher. Congressman Kingston (let’s be honest, we all called him Jack) was a frequent guest of that program, one of the last bastions of actual debate in the American media. In this clip, Jack shows the humor and humility that endeared him to his constituents and supporters; he labels a 2008 debate between candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as “whipping each other with Kleenexes” then laughs at his own political chicanery. Maher responds with “I’ll give you the best compliment I can: I don’t even think of you as a politician, because you’ve always been straight with me on this show.” For further evidence, see his fishing trip to the Reflecting Pool with Stephen Colbert. 

According to WSAV, Kingston did not rule out another run at political office. Let’s hope not.

Eons ago, Jack Kingston ran for US Senate. I backed Jack, so I’ll give the last word to Charlie, who said when he shared one of Jack’s last Facebook posts, “Jack Kingston: Served with honor, leaving with dignity.”

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Morning Reads–Thanks Edition

November 26, 2014 4:54 am

by Ed · 32 comments

I’m thankful for classic trolling; such as putting Clean Old-Fashioned Hate on the SEC Network. (The SEC Network is not available on Tech’s campus). And www.WalmartAcademy.com. I’m also thankful you people get to read me.

“Christmas Wrapping” from The Waitresses. Thankfully we can play Christmas music now.

  1. GSU says thanks for that $22.8-million gift. 
  2. Delta’s on board with Obama’s immigration policies. 
  3. Atlanta Fed researcher: 95% of those employed are employed full time. That conflicts with the conventional wisdom, but we all know the Atlanta Fed is the Best Fed.
  4. AG Sam Olens talks water war. 
  5. New Invest Atlanta chief. 
  6. If you missed that your fire chief published a book (an inflammatory one, too) then you need to review your vetting policies. 
  7. The Economist: Atlanta, the South, want better public transportation. They are not incorrect.
  8. Smaller is better for Coke? 

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The following is Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s response to Ferguson:

Yesterday, a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown.

This announcement is likely to spark understandable feelings of frustration, not only in Ferguson, but across the country.

However, while many are saddened and angered by the grand jury’s decision, I urge everyone taking part in demonstrations to do so in a peaceful manner.  I support the efforts of local leaders to promote non-violent expression by self-policing and elevating the voices of community members.  Equally important, I believe we should respect the wishes of Michael Brown’s father, Michael Brown Sr., that all protests be conducted in a way that honors his son’s memory, rather than distract from it.  It is also essential that all local, state, and federal law enforcement officials show proper restraint and respect every citizen’s constitutional right to assemble.  Atlanta’s history demonstrates that we can come together and protest in a non-violent and peaceful fashion.

Going forward, I encourage the United States Department of Justice to conduct a complete review of how Michael Brown’s killing has been handled thus far. Both the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation have opened civil rights investigations, and I look forward to the release of their findings.

Finally, let’s not forget what this case is really about. It’s about the deep pain and sorrow that a mother and father have lived through since their son was killed more than three months ago.  We must view this case, not just through our own eyes, but through the eyes of parents who lost a child. While this decision does not do justice to Michael Brown and his family, it serves as an opportunity for Atlanta, and the rest of the nation, to engage in a thoughtful conversation on how to build greater trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

UPDATED:  A message from Elizabeth Omilami, CEO of Hosea Feed The Hungry and Homeless can be found after the jump.  For those that would like to help, food assembly for Feed the Hungry begins at 6 p.m. tomorrow at the DeKalb Jail. Read More

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CJ Pearson, the Executive Director of Young Georgians in Government, reached out to let us know that they have secured a sponsor and three co-sponsors for a bill that would put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to lower the minimum age to serve in the Georgia Senate and Georgia House.

The group is seeking to reduce the age to serve in the Georgia House from 21 to 18 and in the Georgia Senate from 25 to 21.  Article III, Section II, Paragraph III of the Georgia Constitution currently states:

Qualifications of members of General Assembly.

(a) At the time of their election, the members of the Senate shall be citizens of the United States, shall be at least 25 years of age, shall have been citizens of this state for at least two years, and shall have been legal residents of the territory embraced within the district from which elected for at least one year.

(b) At the time of their election, the members of the House of Representatives shall be citizens of the United States, shall be at least 21 years of age, shall have been citizens of this state for at least two years, and shall have been legal residents of the territory embraced within the district from which elected for at least one year.

The group plans to organize a ground game to knock on doors and reach out to voters if a bill passes during the session.

All of this comes on the heels of 18-year-old Saira Blair’s election to the House of Delegates in West Virginia.  She defeated the 66-year-old GOP incumbent in the primary in May and defeated her 44-year-old Democratic opponent on November 4.

I am of the mindset that the change would be good. There is always the argument of “lack of experience,” but I have been around politics long enough to witness how hard some in this age group have worked on campaigns and in their community. If they are willing to put in that kind of effort into a campaign and serving others, then I say let them have the opportunity. They have to live, work, and be educated under Georgia laws, so they may as well have a chance to legislate.

UPDATED: WGAU interview with Conrad Close of Young Georgians in Government about the possible legislation. Read more

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The Battle of Missionary Ridge was fought on this day in 1863, and it’s Evacuation Day in NYC (above). Morning Reads, after the jump…

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Former State Senator Jim Butterworth, now head of Georgia’s National Guard, will be assuming control of Georgia’s Emergency Management Agency, according to the AJC’s Political Insider Team.  Charley English, the agency’s current director, will step back into a Deputy Director role.

A 5pm press release details significant other changes:

Maj. Gen. Jim Butterworth will become the director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) effective in January. Butterworth will replace Charley English, who will assume the position of deputy director of GEMA. The governor has also tapped Brig. Gen. Joe Jarrard, current assistant adjutant general of the Georgia Department of Defense, to serve as the adjutant general of Georgia effective in January.

Camila Knowles, current chief of staff for U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss, has been nominated, pending board approval, to be the commissioner for the Department of Community Affairs effective in January. Knowles is replacing Gretchen Corbin, who has been nominated by Deal, pending board approval, as the commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) effective upon Commissioner Ron Jackson’s retirement in January. Matt Arthur, current director for education reform for the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, will serve as deputy commissioner of TCSG. Dr. Susan Andrews, current deputy superintendent of Race to the Top at the Georgia Department of Education, has been tapped to replace Arthur.

Deal also nominated Tricia Chastain, current associate vice-president for government relations for the University of Georgia, pending board approval, as president of the Georgia Student Finance Commission (GSFC). Chastain will replace Tracy Ireland, who has taken a position with the University System of Georgia as vice-chancellor of student enrollment services effective in January. Toby Carr, current planning director of the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), will replace Chastain with the University System of Georgia as the associate vice-president for government relations and director of state government relations. Corinna Robinson, current Disability Services Ombudsman and Olmstead Coordinator for Deal, has been appointed to be the executive director of the Georgia Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Commission. Robinson is replacing Bill Crews, who will be retiring on December 31.

Christopher Tomlinson, current executive director of the State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA) has been nominated by Deal, pending board approval, to serve as the executive director of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority in addition to his duties at SRTA. Russell McMurry, presently serving as chief engineer at GDOT, has been appointed as planning director of GDOT subject to approval by a majority vote of both the House Transportation Committee and the Senate Transportation Committee.

Amy Jacobs, interim director of the Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL), and Bobby Cagle, interim director of the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS), will remain in their positions full-time effective immediately. To streamline the review process and efficiently evaluate recommendations, DFCS will continue to report directly to the Governor’s Office.

“Each of these high caliber individuals has contributed their expertise and counsel in order to make Georgia a better place to live, work and raise a family,” said Deal. “As they assume their new positions and responsibilities, I’m confident that they will continue to serve our state well. I cannot thank them enough for service and dedication to Georgia and its citizens.”

Biographies on each of the appointees can be found here.

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Hutcheson Medical Center in Fort Oglethorpe said that it would file for bankruptcy last week in an ongoing saga of the ailing hospital. Although they will be filing for bankruptcy, the hospital will continue in its day-to-day operations. The decision to file for bankruptcy protection is a move to help protect the hospital from being foreclosed upon by Erlanger, a Chattanooga-based hospital that is trying to recoup $20 million loaned to Hutcheson. The management is hopeful that bankruptcy will allow them to reorganize and be a much stronger organization. From the Chattanoogan:

Hutcheson officials said, “In recent years many organizations, such as GM and Chrysler and Georgia-based companies including Delta, have been able to use the Chapter 11 reorganization process successfully as a vehicle to restructure their financial obligations while preserving jobs and continuing to serve the public.”

“We fully expect Hutcheson to join that list of companies who have emerged from Chapter 11 reorganization even stronger than before,” said Mr. Jewell.

Hutcheson’s announcement came only hours prior to Governor Nathan Deal’s panel to discuss ailing hospitals in Georgia.

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While the current policy fight over marijuana in Georgia has been limited to medical cannabis oil for children, Sen. Curt Thompson (D-Norcross) has pre-filed two pieces of legislation that go much further. Thompson’s SB 7 would legalize medical marijuana to treat a wide array of conditions from cancer to glaucoma to Chrone’s Disease. Thompson explains his position:

“During the 2015 legislative session, we will have the opportunity to provide our doctors with an additional tool by legalizing marijuana for medical use. This past summer, a joint study committee examined the options for legalizing marijuana and, already, three bi-partisan bills have been filed. Our discussions of marijuana in Georgia – in its many forms – have been largely limited to children’s health. While I adamantly support cannabis oil treatments for children with severe medical problems, I believe physicians should have the ability to care for all of their patients, regardless of age. SB 7 would provide doctors another tool for care and treatment.”

Thompson has additionally filed SR 6, which would place a constitutional amendment on the ballot where voters could decide if they wish to “legalize, regulate, and tax the sale of retail marijuana through licensed establishments.” The tax revenue would be set aside for education and transportation infrastructure. This revenue could stack up nicely: Colorado has collected about $45 million of marijuana tax revenue as of August.

You can read Thompson’s full press release below the fold.

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Isakson On Hagel “Resignation”

November 24, 2014 13:40 pm

by Charlie · 9 comments

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., issued the following statement regarding the resignation of U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel:

 “Whether a resignation or a firing of Secretary Hagel, this decision reflects the uncertainty of this administration as it relates to foreign policy in general, and in particular the destruction of ISIS. Given the crisis with ISIS, along with situations of unrest in the Ukraine, Iran, and west Africa, this president and his administration need to send a clear message of strength and commitment.”

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Druid Hills, for those who don’t know, is an area of unincorporated Dekalb County just north of the easternmost parts of Atlanta and the westernmost parts of Decatur. It has a large tax base, healthy businesses, and one large university whose hospital is known for its treatment of ebola patients. And all of this may soon be part of Atlanta should some local citizens get their way…

From Jim Galloway,

It would be the most extensive expansion of Atlanta’s boundaries in decades, and could significantly change the city’s political dynamics. On the opposite side, loss of the area could be a tremendous loss of prestige and financial wherewithal for DeKalb.

Below please find the map of the proposed annexation. We’ll have a deeper dive on what this means tomorrow morning. Tease!

Download (PDF, 911KB)

 

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If you live in metro Atlanta, you may not understand the impact the military has in Georgia, especially south of the Fall Line. How big an impact? In Liberty County, home of Fort Stewart, it’s about $5.6 billion, and that’s only the contribution to the economy. There are also the soldiers and civilians stationed at the base who become involved in the local community.

That’s why several hundred of them gathered last week to learn more about possible plans to reduce the number of forces stationed at Fort Stewart. The Savannah Morning News reports that due to possible cuts imposed by the sequestration mandated in the Budget Control Act, some 70% of the forces stationed at the base could be eliminated over the next six years.

A possible reduction of around 30,000 troops prompted Army representatives to tour the ten military installations that could be impacted by the reductions. Area residents were eager to voice their support for the troops and the base.

“The ability to train, you guys know better than I do, you have that here; wellbeing, we’ve got that,” said Richmond Hill City Councilman Johnny Murphy. “I think another opportunity that you need to consider is this community and the chance to retire here.

“We’re probably easily one of the preferred communities in the Army. You guys should be interested in bringing more folks here.”

Coastal Georgia, said 10-year Army veteran June Jones, relies on the soldiers stationed in the area for income for small businesses to mentoring children.

“Our community is different from any other community,” she said. “We help each other; we are one family. We are Army strong. Help us stay together.

“There are so many things you help us with, and we in turn help you — we pray for you, we honor you, we support you and we encourage you day in and day out.”

Army officials promised to take the citizens’ concerns back to Washington for consideration. A decision on potential closings may be made sometime in 2015.

Because of the Peach State’s large number of military installations, Georgia officials have rolled out employment-related programs specifically targeted at veterans. In a story by Walter Jones in the Athens Banner Herald, Labor Commissioner Mark Butler praised the skills veterans have that are in demand by employers.

Labor Commissioner Mark Butler likes to quote a colonel who told him, “The military is a soft-skills factory. If you show up on time in the military, you’re late.”

Butler said when he meets with executives considering locating company operations in Georgia, they always ask about workforce quality, which includes more than just education and demographics, but also soft skills.

“We actively sell our veterans,” he said. “That’s a big part of our sales pitch.”

The University system of Georgia is working to offer new training programs, including a Liberty Center in Hinesville that is part of Armstrong State University. Its proximity to Fort Stewart makes it easy for soldiers and veterans to attend.

Ironically, the state’s efforts to provide training programs for soldiers and veterans may mean possible military reductions at Fort Stewart could be mitigated. Jones’s story has Georgia Economic Development Commissioner Chris Carr saying that “there’s no foolproof way to keep a local installation off the list, but one of the best forms of closure insurance is to demonstrate appreciation for the military.”

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Giving Thanks And Recognizing Needs

November 24, 2014 10:00 am

by Charlie · 2 comments

This week’s Courier Herald column:

 

This is the week of Thanksgiving. Most of Georgia has been spared political campaigns this week, save for some folks in DeKalb County facing a runoff for an open County Commission seat and those in North Fulton who now have a special election for the State House.

The rest of us, hopefully, have a week that we can spend to family and friends, and can focus on that which we are truly thankful.   What we’re each thankful for is varied. Some, of course, have more to be thankful for than others. Some will settle for “at least we have our health”. And, unfortunately, too many cannot say that.

There is no place that you will find like the waiting room of a children’s hospital. They are simultaneously the saddest and happiest place on earth. For someone who has not had children I’ve spent an amazing amount of time with friends and relatives in waiting rooms of the hospitals that make up Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. I’ve seen amazing healing that can only be explained by powers not of this earth. I’ve seen excruciating pain that will make you question everything.

The people that staff places like this have to have a special calling and it shows. It’s difficult enough to have the medical training required. It’s more difficult still to apply that to a sick child. The level of difficulty only increases when they try to manage the care with extremely concerned and stressed out parents who only want their child well. [click to continue…]

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