Author: Bull Moose

It’s getting crazy in Savannah

In a turn of events in the Savannah City Manager search, the Attorney General’s office is demanding to know why the Mayor and City Council of Savannah attempted to circumvent the State’s Open Records and Meeting Act with it’s illegal meetings on January 18 and 19 in a letter written to the Savannah City Attorney.  It is a great testament to Sam Olens’ character and integrity that he is committed to ensuring that our cities will operate in an open and transparent manner and that he will proactively ensure that happens.

This illegal meeting allowed all four finalists to make a power point presentation to the council about what they would do in their first 90 days in office.  No notice was given to the public, the local media, or any other interested parties.  It is a clear violation of both the spirit and letter of the state’s Open Records and Meetings Act.

The selection of the two finalists has split the council along racial lines in a way not seen in many years, with one Council Member calling it, “the worst and most disheartening executive session she has participated in during 11 years in public office.”  Otis Johnson, the Mayor of Savannah, alleged that race was at the core of the uproar, “It’s very interesting, now that the white candidate has been eliminated, all of a sudden it’s an issue.”

The Mayor is way off base and out of line.  To suggest that Members of Council are acting because of race is beneath the office in which he serves.  His actions have so upset many in Savannah that a Facebook group entitled, “Step Down, Mr. Mayor” has started calling for him to step down from the office.

In other news, former State Senator Regina Thomas, has announced that she will “throw her hat in the ring” to be the Mayor of Savannah.

Isakson Takes the Lead on Budget Reform

Senator Johnny Isakson has taken the lead, along with Senator Jeanne Shaeen of New Hampshire, on a proposal that will greatly improve the functionality of our government.

Together they have proposed the Biennial Budget Appropriations Act.  The goal of the act is to, “reform the broken appropriations process and reduce wasteful spending by switching Congress from an annual appropriations process to a two year cycle, with a requirement that every other year be devoted to scrutinizing federal programs to determine if they should be continued, reduced, or eliminated.”

Under the current annual appropriations process, Congress has repeatedly failed to pass the 12 annual spending bills on time and frequently resorted to passing pork laden omnibus bills at the last minute.  Actually, since 1980 Congress has only twice completed the entire appropriations process on time.

This bill would ensure greater transparency of the federal budgeting process and tighter oversight of the mission of the federal programs.  This bill would convert the federal budget process from an annual, chaotic spending event to a two-year, thoughtful process that would require Congress to conduct oversight. It would mandate that the first year of a Congress be dedicated to appropriating federal dollars while the second year is devoted to scrutinizing federal programs to determine if they are working and deserve to continue to be funded.  This budget reform would force Congress to become better stewards of the taxpayers’ money, thereby reducing reckless and wasteful spending.

Read more about the proposal and voice your support for by visiting Senator Isakson’s Facebook page.

Then There Were Two

It was announced this afternoon that the Savannah City Council has narrowed the search for a new City Manager to interim City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney and Albany City Manager Al Lott.

This is not without controversy as several in the community have spoken out about the lack of transparency of the process and the poor job description Savannah used in the $30,000 search.  It also came out that the interim City Manager was not in compliance with the city charter requirement of being bonded, but had kept that fact hidden from Council.

Savannah’s Mayor Otis Johnson went so far as to suggest that those who were opposed to the finalists were motivated by race as opposed to what was best for Savannah. Many in the community, including some at the Savannah Morning News Editorial Board, felt that the Assistant City Manager of Austin, TX Pat DiGiovanni was deserving of being one of the two finalists.

The Mayor’s comments about the race of the candidates is beneath the office of the Mayor and is more of a bullying tactic to prevent others from speaking out about the bungled search for a new City Manager.

Last week while the four original finalists were in town, the Savannah City Council held a meeting in violation of the state’s open meetings law to allow the candidates to present their case for consideration.  If Attorney General Sam Olens hasn’t begun an investigation into the illegal meeting on a proactive basis, he needs to begin to do so now.

UPDATE: The Attorney General’s office sent a letter to the City Council concerning the illegal meeting yesterday (1/26/11) at 5:30 PM.

Savannah City Manager Search Gets Absurd

The Savannah City Council continues it’s circus act of trying to find a City Manager.  Following Tuesday’s open forum to meet the candidates for City Manager, the Council ran afoul of Georgia’s Open Meetings Act on Wednesday by meeting in an undisclosed meeting place and time.  While some on Council still talk about calling in the GBI, it might be time for some higher authority to step in before the situation escalates any further out of control.

The search firm used by Savannah in its $30,000 search, Affion Public, is also conducting a search for another Georgia city, Columbia, for it’s City Manager. There the City Council is going to do its own double checking on backgrounds, probably by running the names through Google – go figure.

Savannah is an important city in Georgia.  It’s home to one of Georgia’s largest job producers – the Port of Savannah.  It’s the Hostess City of the South and Georgia’s first City.  It deserves better than this circus of leadership now prevailing.

And while the previous City Manager, Michael Brown had a $1 million bond for his position, Acting City Manager Rochelle Small-Tony was denied for such a bond.  She is however claiming that she was approved for a $50,000 bond, but refusing to provide proof of such a bond. In another story to come out tomorrow,  Tony-Small still is unable to reproduce a copy of the bond that she is required to have.

The Savannah Morning News Editorial Board has done a great job in stating just how sad of a state of affairs this has become.  You can read them here and here and here and.

The City Charter of Savannah empowers the City Manager as the Chief Executive Officer of the city government.  The Mayor and Council act as a kind of Chairman of the Board and Board of Directors.  They have no real power or authority, except to hire and fire the City Manager and set policy.

UPDATE

Great editorial on the illegal meeting held Wednesday morning by City Council to review presentations by the four City Manager candidates.  Unfortunately, because the Council met without informing the public or news media, no one knows what was included in those presentations.  Furthermore, the majority of City Council Members will only say they have reservations about the search, and not make their concerns public.  This can only lead one to question the merit of having a public official who will not discuss their concerns publicly.  Just more absurdity.

Savannah City Manager Search Gets Controversial

The City of Savannah is in the midst of a controversial search for a new City Manager.   In what has turned into one of the most contentious issues to hit Savannah in a long time, controversy over the interim Manager and her qualifications may very well lead into a GBI investigation (second story).

Under the City Charter of Savannah, the City Manager is required to carry a bond of public service. The city’s insurance carrier declined to cover the interim City Manager, Rochelle Small Tony.  Small Tony has served as interim Manager for several months, but Council only recently became aware of her failure to meet the Charter’s bond requirements.  While one Council member wants to call in the GBI, the larger and more important question should be why it took so long for the Council to become aware of someone serving as Interim City Manager in violation of the City’s Charter.  Many within the City feel that the Council has skewed the search to select Small Tony as the City’s first African American City Manager.

The candidates under consideration are as follows:

Wayne Cauthen, former aide to Mayor Wellington Webb of Denver, CO; fired City Manager of Kansas City, MO
Pat DiGiovanni, current Assistant City Manager of San Antonio, TX; former City Manager of Kalamazoo, MI
Alfred Lott, current City Manager of Albany, GA
Rochelle Small Tony, current Interim City Manager

Having attended the open house meeting tonight, Small Tony refused to answer questions regarding her failure to qualify for the bond.  Lott defended his recent resignation from Albany, GA as having wanted to help the current Mayor into his 2nd term.  Cauthen called his firing from Kansas City, MO politics.  The candidate lacking scandal, DiGiovanni answered questions about his qualifications and background.

Small Tony has come under other criticisms including controversy over several 20%+ pay raises while at the same time laying off 54 employees.

The City Council of Savannah will now narrow the four candidates down to 2.

Kingston stands in the path of food safety funding

A bipartisan cadre of legislators negotiated the first update to Food Safety Standards in over 70 years and now Georgia’s own Congressman Jack Kingston stands in the path toward funding the much needed 70 years worth of improvements.

According to news accounts, the new FDA bill would shift the focus of the agency from reactionary policies to proactive enforcement in protecting the safety of our nation’s food supply.  “The legislation calls for stepped-up inspections of farms and food processing operations, requiring the FDA to visit “high risk” facilities-those where contamination is likely to occur-once every five years initially and then once every three years. According to the Government Accountability Office, the FDA had been inspecting food facilities about once every 10 years on average.”  Read more

Redistricting Reform

Reapportionment also known as redistricting has become a rallying cry by some voters as they head to the polls now and over the coming days to cast their vote for Governor.

In many ways, I think that some are misinformed about how redistricting is currently done in Georgia.  The Legislature currently draws the lines and the Governor signs or vetoes the bill. If you trust your member of the Legislature to draw fair and balanced district lines, then fear of redistricting is just another pointless scare tactic being used to mislead voters from the truly important issues facing our state like creating a climate for robust job growth, education, and addressing our long overdue transportation problems.

The model of proper legal and ethical redistricting in our country is conducted by the State of Iowa.  In Iowa, “The legislature has the final responsibility for enacting both congressional and state legislative district plans, but the nonpartisan Legislative Services Bureau has initial responsibility. It must develop up to three plans that can be accepted or rejected by the legislature. The plans are criteria-driven, meaning that the bureau draws districts based on clear, measurable criteria.”

The four criteria, in descending order of importance are: 1) population equality; 2) contiguity; 3) unity of counties and cities (maintaining county lines and inserting house districts within senate districts and senate districts within congressional districts); and 4) compactness. A five-member commission consisting of four civilian members chosen by each caucus in the legislature, and a fifth chairperson chosen by the commission, is responsible for advising the bureau, but only upon their request. If the legislature does not approve the first three plans by the bureau, it must itself approve a plan by September 1st, or the state supreme court will take responsibility for the state districts. The Governor has veto power over both plans.

You can read more about Iowa’s redistricting process here.

As proposed by Roy Barnes, and supported by Governor Sonny Perdue, Georgia needs an Independent non-partisan commission, very similar to Iowa’s plan, to draw district lines.  It will be more transparent, ensure that back room deals do not trump local community integrity, and actually give us fair districts.  The current system allows personally drawn districts that benefits incumbents first, personal ambition second, and party dominance third.

When Corruption Wins, Citizens Lose

It’s true.  When corruption wins, taxpayers and citizens lose.  When an elected official crosses the line into corrupt behavior, either actual or perceived, the real victim of their wrong doing are the citizens living in the district or state.  Furthermore, this corruption threatens the basic fabric of our democracy in cheating the basis of which elected officials are supposed to live under the same rules and regulations of those they are supposed to represent.

It really doesn’t matter if it’s at the federal, state, or local level.  Their is an opportunity cost to the citizens.  Unfortunately, professional politicians and most operatives have managed to over complicate the political process to the point where most regular citizens tune out everything having to do with politics and current events that affect them on a day to day business far more than what Justin Bieber said or how long Lindsey Lohan will be in rehab.

The fact that a Member of Congress may repeatedly abuse their office for personal gain cheats out other businesses that do not have their own special representative in Congress, nor personal staffers paid for by taxpayers, and puts their business at a significant financial disadvantage in competing in the private sector.  That includes requests for rezoning, road maintenance, and so forth.  For example, there are other salvage businesses in North Georgia that would have benefited had they been able to compete in the open market to provide the title inspection service that Congressman Deal so quietly and deceitfully tried to protect from competition.  Additionally, being able to exercise influence to request meetings with state and county officials for one’s private business puts other businesses and private sector companies at a disadvantage, especially when they attempt to operate within the current rules of the law.

Self enrichment of an elected official while in office by means of official acts, if not illegal, is certainly unethical and the means by which an elected official goes to hide their activity and actions is demonstrable of their core character and value system, especially when there is a pattern of the behavior.

There is a real opportunity cost to the citizens and taxpayers of our state when the corruption of elected officials occurs, and when that corruption is defended and even outrageously justified, there is an erosion of our fragile democracy.

While some of you sit back and justify Nathan Deal’s various excuses and reasons that he abused his Congressional Office for his personal gain and make light of the Congressional Ethics Investigation because of the group which made the actual referral, it doesn’t change the facts of the alleged abuses made by Deal or carried out by his office, nor does it absolve him of responsibility for cheapening the office of a US Member of the House of Representatives and the shame that it brings on an already tainted Congress.

It should be beneath our elected officials and the leaders within the Republican Party to continue to push this person on the people of Georgia as a candidate for Governor simply because of the letter that comes behind his name.  When you lie on his behalf and use your credibility to vouch for his wrongdoing, you’re no better than he is.  Partisanship should not come at the cost of your own reputation, self respect, and the greed of a self enriching corrupt politician.

Deal targeted Rape Shield

Deal targeted Rape Shield

Media coverage from 1991 of Deal’s attempts to weaken the Rape Shield Act

Supporting documentation of Deal’s attempt to weaken the Rape Shield Act

Nathan Deal’s official record of legislation he sponsored is very relevant as he seeks to be the Governor of Georgia.  It gives us a further peek into his values and priorities.  It should give voters absolute pause in casting a vote for him.  Deal doesn’t have nor respect the values of Georgians. Thankfully Deal was unsuccessful in his efforts to repeal the law due to the public pressure.  Hopefully that same pressure will keep him out of the Governor’s Office.  Georgia can’t afford Nathan Deal’s lack of ethics, respect for the rule of law, or ethical baggage.

Georgia deserves better and you do have options…

The fact that Nathan Deal continues to lead for Governor of Georgia is a testament to the strong winds blowing against the Obama Administration and their disastrous efforts in Washington, DC.  Barack Obama is clearly in over his head and has no idea how to lead a nation.  Barack Obama is a smart man, but a great leader of a nation he is not.  That’s a mistake that America can help correct in the 2010 Congressional elections and the 2012 Presidential election.

However, let’s be clear, the office of the Governor of Georgia isn’t located in DC, it’s in Atlanta.  The next Governor is going to have to work on a host of issues that have been bubbling up under the surface for a long time and have now finally reached a boiling point (taxes, traffic, quality of life, jobs). Georgia is going to need a Governor who can focus 110% of their time on the greater good of all Georgians and improving Georgia’s future.  Georgia is also going to need a Governor who can’t be bought.

As a candidate for Governor, Nathan Deal has not been honest about his financial dealings, disclosures, or other potential liabilities that may exist. It is clear that he has immediate items that require his attention and therefore will not be able to focus on the betterment of the entire state.  Additionally, he used his Congressional office to try and continue a sweetheart arrangement with the state.  Because of the lack of disclosure, we also now know that Deal participated in creating a company with his cronies that made hundreds of thousands of dollars off of his official Congressional travel.  It might have been legal, but it sure wasn’t ethical and he worked pretty hard to conceal these items from the voting public.  The jury is still out as to the status of a possible federal grand jury investigation.  There was a time when people with as much baggage as Nathan Deal has would never have run for office.  The pure shame associated with their greed and corruption would have been enough to have discouraged them from making the decision to run.  In all fairness, Deal kept his issues hidden from his supporters for a very long time.  Yet, even when they came to light, some chose to double down in their support.  It does make me wonder about their own ethics and priorities, but that is a subject for another time.

Based on his record, Nathan Deal is not a conservative.  If anything, he’s a man who was willing to draw the last straw in his desperate campaign to win the Republican nomination by seizing on homophobia, fear, and lies.  Before going to Congress, Nathan Deal voted for the largest tax increase in the history of Georgia.  Furthermore,  as a Member of Congress, Nathan Deal voted against parental notification for minors seeking an abortion.   Additionally, Nathan Deal voted over ten times to raise the debt ceiling from about $1 trillion when he got there to over $7 trillion by the time he was forced to leave because of an ethics investigation.  When asked in the run-off debates if he’d support Karen Handel as the Republican nominee, Nathan Deal said that he would not commit to supporting her.

I know most people are going to treat what I say as sour grapes because I was a Karen Handel staffer.  Georgia Republicans had the opportunity to nominate a Chris Christie type straight talking no nonsense public servant in Karen Handel, and while they did not, I do not have sour grapes about that decision.  As a loyal Republican, there is no requirement that I check my common sense at the door in casting a ballot for my elected officials.  To be certain, there are parts of the Republican Party scrambling to pull every stop to try and get Nathan Deal elected and my speaking out will likely put me in small company within the party.  If you are upset about any of this, be upset with Nathan Deal for having so many distracting issues and for insisting on running for Governor even when he knew these items would be distracting.  There are just too many questions surrounding Nathan Deal and his lack of transparency and arrogance regarding those that question his record is very concerning and defies common sense and it certainly is something that should encourage you to cast a vote against him.

Every election is about choices.  Let’s be clear, knowing that the General Assembly is at no risk of switching hands from the Republican Party made my decision to support and vote for a candidate other than that of my party’s choice much easier.  I think it might actually cause some clear thinking and rational debate to take place should my candidate be successful in winning this election.

Let’s be clear about the choices you have in this election:

1. You can vote for Nathan Deal and throw ethics, honesty, and integrity out the door.  If you complain about politics as usual and the corruption that ensues from it, then you will have no one but yourself to blame.  You will also be sending a contradictory message to your children about the aforementioned values.  For a man running on the tag line that he’ll get it right the first time, Nathan Deal is on the third or fourth modification of his disclosures and even those weren’t done right and require revisions.

2. You can cast a vote for John Monds.  If the Libertarian candidate for Governor gets 20% of the vote, they will be granted ballot access and it will permanently change the dynamics of politics in Georgia from here on out.  Essentially, this punts the race for Governor into a runoff though and extends this mess beyond Thanksgiving.

3. You can do what I decided to do.  You can cast a vote for the candidate for Governor who is the most fiscally conservative and who has the entire state of Georgia’s bests interests in mind.  You can cast a vote for Roy Barnes.  First and foremost, Roy Barnes didn’t have to run for Governor.  He didn’t need to run for Governor.  His business interests (loans and ability to get loans) aren’t contingent upon his being Governor.  Despite the best efforts of some groups, Roy Barnes is not a big government Democrat and in fact, the CATO Institute, in a report co-authored by Stephen Moore, rated Roy Barnes as one of the 3 best Governors in the country in 2002, coming just behind Republicans Bill Owens of Colorado and Jeb Bush of Florida.  This idea that Barnes is somehow a radical liberal of the left just isn’t true.  Was Roy Barnes aggressive in his efforts to get things done as Governor?  Yes.  Perhaps if more of our elected officials showed a little aggressiveness they wouldn’t need to stay in office so long to get things done.

Georgia Politics

It’s been quite a while since I made a post about something as generic as “Georgia Politics”, but I think the time has come.

Looking across the spectrum, both in Georgia and in some of the races across the country, it certainly defies logic as to some of the candidates nominated by the parties for certain races.  Some people are just not qualified to serve in the office they seek, plain and simple.  They do not have the intellectual capacity for the job, they seek only partisan gain and not the improvement of the general public, or they are so grossly ethically challenged that it would be a disservice to elect or reelect them to the office in which they seek.  I will let you debate as to which candidates I am referring.  Cases could be made on both sides of the aisle.

As a party, (and I consider myself a loyal member of the Republican Party) I am worried that we are promoting candidates, that in normal situations, we would never support because of ethical and legal issues they may carry, simply because of the letter that comes after their name.  In normal, less partisan times, wouldn’t we seek a higher standard for those seeking public office?  If we truly are dissatisfied with politics as usual, shouldn’t we demand a higher ethical standard from those seeking office?  Shouldn’t we really seek to change the culture of politics by elevating the standards of the people we elect?

I’m not casting aspirations towards anyone seeking office, I have learned, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones; but rather, I am trying to open an intellectual debate, albeit here on Peach Pundit, as to the upcoming General Election.

Consider this your “Thursday” open thread and my official return to the political debate which occurs on Peach Pundit.

Chatham County District Attorney Under Fire…

Embattled Chatham County District Attorney Larry Chisolm is under fire and facing several law suits for inappropriate behavior.  Here are the full details.

… One federal court lawsuit has been filed against Chisolm and Chatham County accusing him of age and gender discrimination, and at least two more are threatened.

Sounds like someone just needs to go ahead and resign so that real law and order can resume in Chatham County…

12th District GOP Convention Straw Poll and Wrap Up

Down in Statesboro we gathered in the NeSmith Continuing Education Building for the 12th District Convention.  The convention ran smoothly and Congressman Jack Kingston made a surprise appearance.

In the straw poll vote for Governor, we voted for our first, second, and third choice.  First, in raw numbers, the first choice for Governor are as follows:

Secretary of State Karen Handel 20
Congressman Jack Kingston 18
Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine 8

In the weighted results they were as follows:

Secretary of State Karen Handel
Congressman Jack Kingston
State Senator Eric Johnson

Oxendine’s Poll

Just in time for the district conventions tomorrow John Oxendine has released a poll:

Last night, a statewide poll was conducted of Georgia GOP primary voters who have voted in three of the last four GA GOP statewide primaries.  There were 1,226 respondents:

Oxendine  35%
Handel  16%
Olens  6.2%
Burkhalter  2.5%
Scott  1.8%
Undecided  38.5%

Consider this a lead in to an open thread…

Save Lives – Support the Buck!

As a conservative, I generally do not support increases in taxes, however, tobacco related illnesses cost our state over $2 billion every year.  Currently at $.37, Georgia has one of the lowest tobacco taxes in the country.  Additionally, thanks to the recession, our state is in the middle of a great economic downturn and is cutting spending and services across the board.

By raising the tobacco tax by $1, our state will raise approximately $350 million in new revenue.  This will go a long way to helping us in these rough economic times and will mean countless young people will not take up smoking or will quit.  That means, that just a buck can save lives.

This bill is supported by the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, American Heart Association, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Georgia Alliance for Tobacco Prevention.  Representative Ron Stephens has shown great leadership by leading the charge on this effort.