Georgia received excellent news today as the Corps of Engineers says we can start deepening the Savannah Port next Wednesday:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Tuesday that the federal government and the state of Georgia will sign a so-called Project Partnership Agreement on October 8 that details the cost-sharing and engineering responsibilities for the $706 million project.

Georgia has long sought deeper water along the river leading to the Garden City terminal above Savannah, the nation’s fourth busiest port. Deepening from 42 to 47 feet will allow ever-larger container ships to run the river and drop off imports and pick up exports that fuel Georgia’s economy.

The state has already ponied up $266 million for the deepening project scheduled to take five years. Congress is on the hook for the rest and Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Gov. Nathan Deal, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed — all likely to attend next week’s signing ceremony — expect Washington to pay its share.

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Over at the AJC, Kyle Wingfield picked up on an item we had in this morning’s Daily (subscribe here) noting that the crosstabs in the recent 11 Alive Poll show support for Nathan Deal and David Perdue among Hispanics:

Poll Results Show Hispanic Support For… Republicans? C’mon!   An 11Alive poll released last week showed strong support for Republicans: an 11-point lead for Governor Nathan Deal, and a 12-point lead for David Perdue among Hispanic voters. Even the chairman of the Georgia Democratic Party’s Latino Caucus, Antonio Molina, “concedes that GOP family and religious issues appeal to many Hispanic voters.” Republicans probably shouldn’t pint their future hopes on a surge of support among Hispanic voters however. Even though the sample size proportionate to the likely percentage of overall Hispanic turnout, it’s still less than 40.

Wingfield finds some additional polling that supports the idea that a perhaps considerable portion of the Hispanic vote could go to the Republican candidates in November, and says,

[I]t simply isn’t true that Republican candidates only receive the support of white voters. If Deal (or any other Republicans seeking statewide office) really gets 30 percent or more of the Hispanic vote in this election, that will be significant — particularly after the prominent legislative battle during Deal’s first term over the bill cracking down on illegal immigrants in Georgia. It would confirm that, far from being single-issue voters, many Hispanics look at the whole picture — and that the GOP has positions on a number of other issues that resonate with them, such as religious and social issues.

Wingfield’s position is supported up to a point by a recent post on the New Republic website by Hispanic DREAMer John David Romero, featuring a Q and A with Gary Segura, the author of a new book about how Hispanics will influence politics as we approach mid-century. He points out that by 2050, Hispanics will constitute 29% of America’s population, and that as of now, 93% of the Latinos under the age of 18 are citizens, and thus will be eligible to vote upon their eighteenth birthday.

He talks a bit about the issues that might drive Hispanics to the polls:

JDR: You write that the Latino agenda is the American agenda. Can you elaborate a little bit on this statement?

GS: This is a quote from Cruz Bustamante. Bustamante used to like to say that the Latino agenda is the American agenda because, when you take out immigration, the things that Latinos most often worry about are education, jobs, public safety, crime, and healthcare. None of those are particularly Latino-focused. Bustamante thought that Latino politics were more likely to be advanced successfully if the Latino agenda looked more mainstream and less minority specific.

JDR: In your book you say: “Latinos are not as socially conservative as popularly conceived nor as susceptible.” Explain to me what this means for Hispanics now, in the midterm, and future elections?

GS: Going back to Ronald Reagan, Republicans have always believed that social conservatism—messages around religion, hard work, opposition to abortion, and gay rights—is going to get them a growing share of the Latino vote. It doesn’t work out that way. First of all, Latinos are about as pro-gay as all other Americans; Latinos don’t want ministers telling them who to vote for and they don’t want politicians relying on their religious beliefs to make policy. So they don’t see these things as defining how they vote, and Republicans don’t get that.

The conventional wisdom shared by many Republicans is that Hispanic sensitivity to social issues should make them natural Republicans. Segura’s thinking seems to contradict that. In fact, a focus on economic issues and a “Don’t tell me what to do” attitude on social issues makes them sound a lot like some millennials I know.

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At least six candidates have started telling supporters they will run for mayor of Atlanta.

Multiple sources involved in Atlanta politics bring up the same names of non-candidate candidates–and the list continues to grow.

Presented in no particular order, the people who have begun laying the groundwork for a run are:

  1. City Council President Caesar Mitchell —  a logical progression after two terms as Council President
  2. Fmr. Council President Cathy Woolard — she was the first openly-gay Councilwoman and has spent several years as a lobbyist
  3. Councilwoman Felicia Moore — although I’ve heard she’s being groomed for Council President; an odd job for which to be groomed as it doesn’t really do anything
  4. State Rep. Margaret Kaiser — she would probably be one of the more formidable candidates right out of the gate
  5. Kwanzaa Hall — I’ve heard people complain that all he does is promote himself, something he does extremely well
  6. Councilwoman Mary Norwood — she really wants to be mayor and had a strong showing in 2009

I’ve also heard Ivory Young and Alex Wan’s names mentioned, but only as possible candidates. I’ve also had conversations with a couple non-elected folks who see their own path to the mayor’s office, but those are contingent on many things falling into place.

I feel disgusted with myself offering this much speculation on the race, nearly four years before a new mayor will assume office.

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Three Political Scientists comment on the strengths and weaknesses of Perdue and Nunn.

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Atlanta’s transit agency has had its ups and downs over the years. Originally envisioned to serve the five core Atlanta metro counties, only Fulton and DeKalb voters agreed to pay the penny sales tax that funds its operation. A heavy rail system built in the 1970s and 1980s feels underutilized, especially compared to the continued expansion of Washington D.C.’s Metro system, which was started at about the same time.

Voters refused to support a penny sales tax in a 2012 referendum that would have provided funding for an expansion of MARTA services, including rail to the Emory University / CDC area in DeKalb County. And how many times have you heard the mantra that MARTA is the only major transit system in the country that receives no state funding?

Yet, the tide may be changing. Part of the reason for that, according to a story in Governing Magazine, is the leadership of General Manager Keith Parker.

After taking the helm of the transit agency in December 2012, Parker worked to improve MARTA’s image and implemented cost reductions identified in an audit commissioned by his predecessor, Beverly Scott. Perhaps most importantly, Parker realized that MARTA would need to do some work to improve on its own before going to the Georgia General Assembly and asking for help.

All of these efforts have led some state officials to see the transit agency in a different light. In the early months, despite MARTA’s mounting deficits, Parker asked for very little from state officials. He did not seek a financial bailout. He only asked that state officials not pass any onerous new laws that could tie the agency’s hands as it tried to prove its merit.

This was all a refreshing change for Jacobs, the Republican chairman of the state oversight panel. Historically, MARTA’s relationship with the state legislature had been a rocky one. Jacobs recalls MARTA and its union, under Parker’s predecessor, painting a third of its buses and trains with red X’s to signify the cuts MARTA would have to make if the state refused to help. The public shaming, Jacobs says, was “exactly the wrong approach to take with the legislature.” Parker has avoided those kinds of tactics. “Those two approaches are very different,” Jacobs says. “One was a bomb-throwing approach that was accompanied by no substantive changes in MARTA’s operations. The other is a very personal type that is accompanied by substantive changes. What’s not to like?”

From the beginning, though, transit advocates wanted Parker to put pressure on state legislators to support the agency, but the transit chief thought that was poor strategy. “It’s like we’d be begging,” he says. He urged them to wait until the agency got its own house in order first. “Then, when we go and talk to [legislators], it’s not asking for money, it’s asking for investment, because we are a strong group, worthy of investment. It’s a whole different conversation than going in with a position of total weakness.”

Things seem to be improving for MARTA. In November, Clayton County voters will decide if they want to join the transit system. Passage of the referendum, which looks increasingly likely, will bring bus service to the county for the first time since 2010, when Clayton Transit went defunct due to lack of funding. The agency recently sought companies that could build a transit oriented development project at the Brookhaven station, and MARTA has plans to revamp its Five Points and Garnett stations.

And, a plan to extend the North Line up to the employment centers around Windward in Alpharetta is finally moving forward.

The slowly improving economy and a growing population in the metro area are possible reasons that some of these long stalled projects are finally starting to move forward. But another reason has to be a leader who decided to do the best he could with what he had, rather than complain he didn’t have the resources to make any improvements without outside help.

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About The Georgia Bar….Union?

September 30, 2014 9:00 am

by Charlie · 11 comments

The Georgia Bar Association may be the Georgia Bar Union, according to the feeling of some unspecified lawmakers who are looking at the Association’s compulsory dues structure.  Insider Advantage posted the following last week:

The word from Insideradvantage sources at the state capital is that several lawmakers are huddling together to craft legislation that would force the Georgia Bar Association to look “more like an association and less like a union.” Potential legislation would require the Georgia Bar to make their dues voluntary. Historically all attorneys in Georgia have been required to pay with no choice in the matter. The lawmakers, who asked to remain anonymous have said its time the Bar “had to earn its dues like everybody else in Georgia.” This will surely be a hotly debated piece of legislation as it gets closer to the January kickoff of the 2015 session.

That…would be a significant change in the structure of the Bar presumably making membership in the Association and the dues associated with them optional.  This would also further escalate tensions between some members of the legislature and the legal community that seemed to flare up publicly last year during a debate over whether or not medical malpractice lawsuits should be abolished.

Reached last evening for a comment, Senate Judiciary Chairman Josh McKoon said “Compulsory unions are never a good thing, but I’d have to take a look at the bill before making a decision on that policy.”

That doesn’t sound like this idea/rumor is just an idea/rumor.  Tell us what you guys are hearing in the comments section.

 

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Above, if you a woman between the ages of 30-45, your name is likely to be Jennifer. On this date in 1938, Chamberlain allowed Hitler to annex the Sudetenland thereby providing “Peace in Our Time”. Morning Reads after the jump! [click to continue…]

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Romanstein Out as ASO President

September 29, 2014 17:00 pm

by Ed · 3 comments

The ongoing labor dispute with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has forced ASO President Stanley Romanstein to take an early curtain call.

In a statement released on Monday from the ASO Board of Directors, Romanstein said “I believe that my continued leadership of the ASO would be an impediment to our reaching a new labor agreement with the ASO’s musicians.”

Current board member Terry Neal will serve as interim president, overseeing day-t0-day operations of the ASO until a permanent president can be found. Romanstein “will be available” to the ASO until October to help with the transition, the statement said.

It seems that both sides in the ASO dispute are being hit especially hard in the media. Probably because both the players and management have shown some colossal ineptitude, either in running the symphony or handling negotiations.

As I’ve said before, right now everybody is losing and the longer it goes on, the less anybody, the public (you know, the only ones who matter), the city, the players or the management “wins”.

You can read the complete statement below.
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Cagle and Perdue Release TV Ads

September 29, 2014 16:30 pm

by Lawton Sack · 13 comments

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle released his first TV ad today.  The focus is on college and career academies and increasing innovation in education.

The ad makes absolutely no mention of his Democratic opponent, Connie Stokes.  The ad is very upbeat and positive, so it should stand out from the other TV ads currently on the airwaves.

U.S. Senate candidate David Perdue also released another TV ad today that focuses on cutting spending in Washington.

Perdue, through a narrator, takes a brief jab at Obama and Nunn in the first 10 seconds.  The ad then takes a more positive tone as Perdue begins speaking.

Ad scripts can be found after the break.

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Well, it’s not just limited to a phone app (search for “GA Votes” in the Apple App Store on on Google Play). There’s also an online application, motor voter registration, and plain ol’ paper registration application that you can remit to your local election office. Secretary of State Brian Kemp is giving folks a friendly reminder that if you’re wanting to cast your ballot as a resident of the great state Georgia on November 4th, your deadline to do so is October 6th. Of course, you need to have a valid Georgia driver’s license or official state ID to register and vote.

If you, your family, your friends, or your neighbors haven’t registered to vote yet, there’s still time! Go register and go vote.

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Georgia 10th District Congressional candidate Jody Hice seems to be making national news yet again. Only this time, it’s the New York Times. In an article about a potential rightward shift for the GOP in the US House of Representatives, the author paints Jody Hice as possibly “even more conservative” than outgoing Congressman Paul Broun. The following is an excerpt from the article:

Then there is Mr. Hice. Having once called evolution a lie from “the pit of hell,” Mr. Broun, the departing representative from Georgia, would be hard to beat on the inflammatory front. But Mr. Hice has a record. He once said of women in politics, “If the woman’s within the authority of her husband, I don’t see a problem. ”

He compared the recent appearance of red “blood moons” to prophecies that preceded the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, Israeli statehood and the Arab-Israeli War of 1967. In a satirical book, he claimed he had found a homosexual agenda to “sodomize your sons” by seducing them “in your schools, in your dormitories, in your gymnasiums, in your locker rooms.”

The article also makes mention of Hice’s former comments regarding Muslims not deserving 1st Amendment Constitutional protections, something that Eric has previously reported here.

Just to set the record straight, there needs to be a distinction in national media between “Conservatives” and outright “Xenophobes”. The sad truth is that GOP candidates and elected officials such as Jody Hice only do the conservative cause more harm than good by playing right into the liberal media’s allegations that Republicans hate everything and everyone who is not an old, rich, white, Christian male.

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The Georgia Ethics Commission may have a huge backlog of unresolved complaints, but they managed to find time to dismiss a complaint pending against Gubernatorial candidate Jason Carter. Over at the Political Insider, Greg Bluestein has the story.

The complaint, which was filed by former State Senator John Douglas, relates to a March 23rd fundraiser held in New York for the Georgia Democratic Party featuring Jimmy and Jason Carter, along with REM frontman Michael Stipe. It alleges the fundraiser was illegal because the invitations were listed as being paid for by Jason Carter’s campaign committee, Carter for Governor Inc., and were sent while the legislature was in session. State law prevents legislators and state constitutional officers from fundraising while the session is underway.

The Commission’s response (PDF) said,

While you are correct that a member of the Georgia General Assembly is prohibited from soliciting contributions for their campaign while the Assembly is in session, there is no such prohibition that prevents a member of the General Assembly from soliciting campaign funds for political parties or non-candidate campaign committees during a legislative session.”

Since the proceeds from the fundraiser went to the Georgia Democratic Party’s Georgia Victory 2014 Fund, the Commission ruled that no violation of campaign law had occurred.

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GA-12 Debate Audio Released

September 29, 2014 14:00 pm

by Lawton Sack · 4 comments

The audio from Saturday’s GA-12 Congressional debate in Augusta between Rep. John Barrow and Rick Allen has been released by Rahul Bali, a reporter for WGAC Radio.  The sponsor of the debate was the Islamic Society of Augusta and the moderator was Steve Crawford, publisher of The Columbia County News-Times.

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This week’s Courier Herald column:

Governor Deal spent Friday morning at a public appearance, which isn’t unusual given that he’s campaigning for what appears to be a very close election that will be held in roughly five weeks.  What could be considered unusual is that his location was in Clayton County – not exactly a bastion of Republican votes.  Even more unusual is that the Governor’s partner for the photo op was rap star Ludacris.

Ludacris encouraged the students to do well, noting that “A lot of people will tell you you’re at a disadvantage, but I feel like you’re at an advantage. You have street smarts. But when you add book smarts to that, you’re unstoppable.”

The purpose of the appearance was to highlight the opening of Utopian Academy charter school in Riverdale, just south of the runways of Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson airport.  It is an example of a school opening because of the recently passed constitutional amendment allowing for state sponsored charter schools, as Utopian had been denied a charter for three straight years by the Clayton County Board of Education.

It is also evidence that the Governor is keenly aware he is running in a general election in which the voter base is not merely an extension of a Republican primary.  The urban areas in and near Atlanta that have had accreditation issues with their local school boards gave the 2012 state charter school amendment some of its strongest support.  Clayton County voters returned 71% of their votes in favor of the amendment, well above the state’s 59%. [click to continue…]

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With polling showing a close race for control of the U.S. Senate, national Democratic and Republican organizations are making plans for possible runoffs in Georgia and Louisiana. According to a story published in Politico over the weekend, those plans include hoarding funds and reserving television time and hotel rooms in the two states.

“It’s a very intense period of time,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican who battled in his own runoff race in 1996 when he competed for voters’ attention during the Olympic Games in Atlanta. “You’ve got to recapitalize almost immediately, and it’s a matter of who gets their voters out to the polls.”

That means for Democrat Michelle Nunn and Republican David Perdue, it’s anyone’s guess who would show up to the polls Jan. 6, just after New Year’s Day, when many voters will be tired of constant election-year politics.

Isakson added: “With the runoff the 6th of January, they are having to peak about three or four times within eight months; that’s a big challenge.”

Louisiana’s jungle primary almost certainly guarantees a runoff between incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu and a Republican challenger, most likely Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy. The Louisiana runoff would be held on Saturday, December 6th. In Georgia, a narrow lead held by Republican David Perdue is narrowing in recent polling, increasing the chances for a runoff.

If Perdue can pull off a win on November 4th, it could complicate a potential runoff in the Governor’s race between Nathan Deal and Jason Carter. Assuming a Senate runoff in January, both Democrats and Republicans would be campaigning hard in November and December for the Senate candidates. Without a runoff, and attention by national Republican and Democratic groups turning to Louisiana, Nathan Deal and Jason Carter would be forced to rely on their own campaign teams to get out the vote.

The gubernatorial runoff is scheduled for December 2nd. The Senate runoff is scheduled for January 6th.

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