By Stefan

Is Georgia Withholding State Aid from those that need it most?

The Georgia Department of Community Health is responsible for administering the Georgia Pediatric Program (GaPP) that is supposed to assist medically fragile children in this state in getting their healthcare needs met.

According to parents of those children it isn’t doing so. Judges who have heard their Americans with Disabilities Act complaints agree, and the Commissioner of the Department wants it all to go away. Or so it seems, he won’t answer the questions of Matt Pearl of 11Alive who broke the story.

11Alive requested an interview with commissioner Clyde Reese. The department refused.

We then requested an interview with anyone who could speak about the program. The department refused; its communications director, despite having received little background on the story, sent the following statement [unresponsive statement probably cut and pasted from a pamphlet removed].

We, in return, sent specific questions in writing, like “Why reduce nursing care for children whose conditions have not changed?”

The department refused to comment further.

The kids’ stories are heart-rending and failing to provide the legally required assistance (mostly nursing care) is an unlawful attempt to shift the burden onto the parents. I’m assuming everything in the legal decisions and parents.

(embedded video after the jump, autoplay)

Read more

Secretary of State released names and all identifying info on 6.1 million voters

Every month, the Secretary of State (Brian Kemp) releases all the new registered voters on a disc so that various entities can update their records. This information is generally limited to names, addresses, and demographic information. But last week, the SoS decided to give out a bunch of information it has collected on you and everybody you know to anyone who signed up.

Their monthly CD for October contained the Drivers license number, social security number, full name, address, and everything else you need to steal someone’s identity for every single registered voter in Georgia. All 6.1 million of us. It was not encrypted. It was not password protected. It was a gift for anyone who ever thought of doing wrong.

So just get the discs back and we will all be safe, right?

Wrong. These discs, called the “voter file”, are automatically updated to a number of different databases, which are then replicated around the country for use in voter targeting and other means. So this data is now well beyond the discs.

The information from these discs has been coursing through the system for a month now, and Brian Kemp’s office had done nothing to stop the flow of information prior to suit. Read more

Oxendine Takes Excess Campaign Funds and Invests Them, in Himself

Ox is still Oxing

From Jim Walls at Atlanta Unfiltered comes the story of what John Oxendine, former Insurance Commissioner, did with all that campaign cash he racked up when it looked like he’d be the Republican nominee for Governor way back in the year of our Lord 2010. Turns out he invested it in his own law firm, which is exciting I am sure to his many campaign contributors because I would assume they now own shares in that firm, and probably deserve dividends. Oh wait, no? He Just converted it? Oh.

But in subsequent filings, Oxendine has called those transfers “loans”. A campaign committee can make investments (really?) and Oxendine states he has now paid back his committee, but questions still remain. Check out what Walls thinks the money may have gone to over at his site…



Georgia gets D- in CPI Public Integrity Grading

But really, shouldn’t we grade this on a curve? Alaska got the best grade in the nation and it was a C!

The State Integrity Investigation is “a data-driven assessment of state government by the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity. The comprehensive probe found that in state after state, open records laws are laced with exemptions and part-time legislators and agency officials engage in glaring conflicts of interests and cozy relationships with lobbyists. Meanwhile, feckless, understaffed watchdogs struggle to enforce laws as porous as honeycombs.”

Many inside Georgia’s government gave the report a chilly response in Walter Jones’s piece on the matter. But demonizing lobbyists is always a good idea, so let’s all do that, shall we? We can safely ignore the fact that, despite their obvious representation of an interested party, they are often experts in the area and conversations with them often bring about good changes to legislation, not bad.

Hasta Lavista, Baby

In a result that was surprising to many observers, and on a night when its proposed neighbor to the east, Tucker, passed overwhelmingly, the city of LaVista Hills failed to reach the 50% needed for incorporation.

Two questions for the commentariat:

Why did LaVista Hills fail when Tucker succeeded?

Has any ballot for a new city failed previously? If so, when and where?



Simone Bell Leaving the House for Lambda Legal

Simone Bell was first elected to the house in 2009 in a special election following the resignation of Robbin Shipp. She outlasted her opponents in a five way primary and won the runoff handily. She became the first African-American lesbian to serve in a state legislature – not just Georgia, the entire United States. As part of redistricting, she was drawn in with a fellow Democrat Ralph Long and defeated him in 2012.

She had a leadership role in the Democratic House Caucus and was highly respected by her peers.

From the AJC:

State Rep. Simone Bell, D-Atlanta, is headed to Lambda Legal’s Atlanta office as a Southern regional director. Bell had previously worked as a community educator for the gay rights group.

Said Bell in a statement:

“I am so proud of what Lambda Legal has accomplished, but my experience in the General Assembly tells me the work cannot stop. This is a particularly exciting time to be a part of Lambda Legal’s work in the South, challenging laws and public policies that discriminate across lines of sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV status, income and race and to achieve full equality for all.”

Photo Courtesy of ProjectQ

Morning Reads for Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

Happy Birthday to the first rapid transit subway (the IRT in NYC 1904), Silvia Plath (1932), Philadelphia, and Teddy Roosevelt (1858). It’s also the date of the first Federalist Paper, the speech that launched Ronald Reagan’s political career, and when, after too many margaritas, the United States annexed West Florida. Nevertheless, on to the reads!


Attention those who may be in the vicinity of the Lowndes County Courthouse on October 24th, the Rally to STOP the Muslim Invasion would like you to stop by.

It’s at 11 am, so I assume tailgating starts at 9. I assume the Muslim Invasion itself is scheduled for sometime after 11 am or this rally will be a total waste.

Here’s all the relevant info, except for the needed historical perspective and touch of humanity.



LaVista Hills, DeKalb Strong, and DeKalb County Cityhood

There’s an election coming up shortly to determine whether or not the new city of LaVista Hills will come into being. The pro-cityhood group, LaVista Hills Yes! and the anti-cityhood group is Dekalb Strong.

One of the vexing issues in cityhood is that under current law, a city that is formed out of a county has no continuing obligation to contribute to the pension plans to support those county workers that have provided services to the area. So a potential resident of LaVista Hills, whose garbage has been regularly collected by a sanitation workers for years, can get out of paying for the costs of those employees even though they’ve enjoyed those services. In the extreme example, you can imagine a county being so carved up into cities that the pension liabilities fall on very few people, which just isn’t fair.

Having said that, it’s not a great argument in a campaign where one of the major electoral issues for many is which result leads to lower taxes.

What is a good argument is that your taxes will be lower. That’s the argument the cityhood folks are making. But is it true?

The Carl Vinson Institute at the University of Georgia did a study on the viability of the city at the behest of the pro-cityhood folks. Their numbers show that the proposed city would operate at a $2 million surplus, thus creating the expectation that LaVista Hills could roll back taxes and still provide all the services their residents expect. The study essentially used the same millage rate and taxes collected by Dekalb, but then ran them against the projected budget of LaVista Hills. But that doesn’t work. First, the city would be limited to 5 mills as a tax rate, not the 7.64 Dekalb currently charges. Part of that would be offset by the HOST credit, but it isn’t clear how much. Saying that LaVista Hills would certainly run a surplus based on that study would seem to be a leap.

Voters will see a ton of mail in the next few weeks. Let’s hope that the messages adhere to the bounds of truth and target what the voters want to hear.

Morning Reads for Tuesday, October 20th, 2015


On today’s date, President Richard Nixon forced out both his Attorney General and his Deputy Attorney General, in an attempt to fire Archibald Cox, the Watergate special prosecutor. It’s also the date of the Louisiana Purchase, Mickey Mantle’s birthday, and the date Herbert Hoover died. But more important than all that, it’s the date of the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash that killed three band members. On to the reads!

  • How rivalry propels creative genius (Aeon)
  • Why Jack Dorsey Is Ready to Save Twitter (Re/code) see also Twitter’s Moment (Stratechery)
  • How Cartrivision’s 1972 VCR Foresaw–And Forfeited–The Time-Shifted Future (Fast Company)
  • Danny Meyer Is Eliminating All Tipping at His Restaurants (Eater)
  • Bill Gates: ‘We Need an Energy Miracle’ (The Atlantic)
  • Daily Fantasy: You’re Screwed, Because You’re Supposed to Be. On sites like DraftKings and FanDuel, the sharks circle and the deck is stacked against you from the start. But hey, welcome to America (Rolling Stone) see also Cash Drops and Keystrokes: The Dark Reality of Sports Betting and Daily Fantasy Games (NYT)
  • Opting out: Inside corporate America’s push to ditch workers’ comp (ProPublica)
  • If You’re Not Paranoid, You’re Crazy. As government agencies and tech companies develop more and more intrusive means of watching and influencing people, how can we live free lives? (The Atlantic)
  • How To Shop For Pot In Denver (Priceonomics)
  • The Amazing Inner Lives of Animals (NY Review of Books)

Morning Reads for Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

Georgia Tech was founded on this day in 1885. Remember to hug a nerd today.

  • Where to Stash Cannabis Cash? Tribal Nations Make Bid to Bank It (Bloomberg)
  • Former Fed chair Bernanke no longer a Republican because the GOP has “lost its economic mind” (US News)
  • Why Does This Watch Cost $815,000? (NYT)
  • Why Free Markets Make Fools of Us (NY Review of Books)
  • The Network Effect: Reid Hoffman, and LinkedIn’s Plan for World Domination (New Yorker)
  • The Decline of ‘Big Soda’: The drop in soda consumption represents the single largest change in the American diet in the last decade (The Upshot)
  • New Horizons Finds Blue Skies and Water Ice on Pluto (NASA)
  • What’s in a Boarding Pass Barcode? A Lot (Krebs on Security)
  • Taking on the Drug Profiteers: Martin Shkreli Is Not the Problem (New Yorker)
  • Why Donald Trump Will Always Be a “Short-Fingered Vulgarian” (Vanity Fair)
  • Why Comedians Love the Mets: From Jerry Seinfeld to Jon Stewart, the second fiddle of New York baseball could fill a dugout with A-List comics—ones who love to embrace suffering (WSJ)
  • Reel-to-reel tape is the new vinyl (The Verge)

Cheesecake Factory Bridge Gets Even More Fattening

The bridge required by the new Braves Stadium, sorry, Suntrust Park, to ferry fans across the Perimeter from the Galleria area to the stadium has reached the stage where you have to punch new holes at the end of the belt in order to make it stay on.

Yes, the $9 million dollar bridge that was supposed to cost taxpayers $0, has recently begun to tip the scales at, well let’s add it up.

Let’s turn to the AJC to get us up to speed:

The AJC has previously reported on other costs associated with the bridge project that are not included in the county’s $9 million estimate — including the county’s $2 million estimate for land purchase; an estimated $3.5 million to reinforce a parking deck into which the bridge would tie; and approximately $800,000 to the bridge engineers.

Add to that what the AJC has more recently found: $500k to move (yet another) pipeline, and $2.2 million to get people over some sort of lake it looks like, bring the total up to a cool $17 million.

In case you were curious, that’s 2,720,000 slices of Oreo Cheesecake.

And there is no plan on the table that is anything but 100% public money.

Must be a cheat meal.

This may be a surprise to Cobb County Commission Chairman Tim Lee, as he has reassured us time and time again that no public money would be used. But then again, he probably knew that was never true, as our story from November of last year indicated:

Cobb County let the Atlanta Regional Commission, which specifically stated that the traffic plans the County submitted would not work at all without people circulators (read as trolleys, trams, or buses), that they would be tapping Cobb’s share of federal transit funds to fund 50% of the construction cost. Cobb County taxpayers would be responsible for the other half. That was in June.

But in July when asked if tax money would go toward the bridge construction, Tim Lee responded “Probably not. No. I doubt it,” Lee responded. “I doubt it seriously.”

We are getting closer and closer to the reality that is the Cheesecake Factory Bus Jump.

Morning Reads for Tuesday, October 6th, 2015


On this day in 1979, Pope John Paul II became the first Pope to visit the White House. Anwar Sadat was assassinated on this date in 1981. Robert Bork’s nomination was voted down in the Senate Judiciary, which, sadly, is why we never had Supreme Court Justice Richard Posner. Discuss.

  • Children of the Yuan Percent: Everyone Hates China’s Rich Kids (Bloomberg)
  • Inside The Epic Fantasy That’s Driven Donald Trump For 33 Years (Forbes)
  • How Prescription Drugs Get So Wildly Expensive (Wired)
  • A Brief History of the Corporation: 1600 to 2100 (Ribbon Farm)
  • A Country Is Not a Company (Harvard Business Review)
  • The Politics of Star Trek (Claremont Institute)
  • Can Surfing Reprogram the Veteran’s Brain? There’s no quick fix for post-traumatic stress disorder, but research has shown that surfing’s physicality and flow can give victims some relief and a way forward. (Outside)
  • In Unit Stalked by Suicide, Veterans Try to Save One Another (NYT)
  • How the Church of Scientology fought the Internet—and why it lost (Kernal)
  • Sneaker Wars: Inside the Battle Between Nike and Adidas (GQ)
  • Wonks for Hire: Elizabeth Warren challenged a think tank over iffy, industry-backed research. There’s a lot more where that came from. (Slate)
  • The Troubles of “Bitcoin’s PayPal” Show Why the Cryptocurrency Is Not a Good Payment Mechanism (MIT Technology Review)
  • Utz review the competing Dekalb city proposals (Decaturish)
  • Comcast’s plan to cap unlimited data. Remember when words had meanings? (AJC)

Oh, and for your listening pleasure, Tim Keane, Atlanta’s new design czar:


On Bill Torpy, the AJC, and the Mayor

This week Bill Torpy wrote a piece that chronicled his attempts to tell the story of brave Atlanta firefighters who went into a burning blaze to rescue children. Or he wrote a piece that’s part of a continuing series of attempting to chide the Mayor of Atlanta. Or both. It works because he’s writing as a columnist and not a journalist. Readers should understand that’s his take on the news of the day. They also need the history of the relationship between the Mayor and the columnist.

There is an ongoing saga between some firefighters and the Mayor that stems from the pension reforms of 2011. Nearly everyone agrees that pension reform was needed or the city would have been in dire financial straits. The firefighters then sued, and now the Mayor won’t give them pay raises until the lawsuit is concluded.

It’s clear that Torpy wanted to play the pension dispute against the heroism of the firefighters (and possibly some scantily clad photos taken in the firehouse) but he was thwarted by his inability to interview the firefighters involved. You can’t interview city employees without the City’s permission, and here it was not given, and the reasons why not were set forth in the City’s response. Both the column and the response are worth reading.

But is clear that the history is even more important than the present in evaluating what’s going on here. Cast your mind back to this spring, when the City was trying to hold absentee landlords accountable for the deplorable conditions of their property holdings (read burned out vacant homes) in Vine City and English Avenue (two impoverished neighborhoods near the new Falcons stadium). Rick Warren, no not the minister, held a ton of these properties, or maybe did, but the maze of shell corporations made that difficult to prove. He was on trial in municipal court in May and the Mayor took the afternoon (at least twice) to sit in the audience and watch the proceedings. (I’ve sat in those benches and they are none too comfortable). Torpy wrote a column on the proceedings, and though he accurately described the problem, he left the impression that the Mayor’s presence was there not to emphasize the importance of the case, but to affect its outcome.

Torpy’s columns carry weight in this city. And when he decides that the Mayor has overstepped his bounds, he is right to point that out (as he did in both columns). But the problem is that more people read Torpy than the actual news, so the characterization he gives becomes the truth, rather than an opinion. And in the case of Rick Warren and Vine City, he may well be wrong.

The article that really tells the tale of Rick Warren and English Avenue is elsewhere on the AJC’s website. It reveals Warren’s ownership of derelict properties that he refuses to fix and instead they become sites of prostitution and drugs. Neighbors trying to clean up the neighborhood hit a roadblock when they got to his houses. He owns 10% of the neighborhood. Consider that for a moment.

So Mayor Reed wanted the world to know that this day of code violations in municipal court was different than all other days. And instead he took the blame of subverting justice.

So when you read both pieces, Torpy’s and the Mayor’s keep in mind the historical context of that relationship.



Morning Reads for Tuesday, September 29th, 2015


Can you imagine how government might be different if those turnout numbers were flipped? What policies might be favored by politicians if the poor voted in higher numbers? On to the reads!

  • Shutdown hurts job creators (thehill)
  • Greencracker’s guide to Tucker an LaVista Hills (greencracker)
  • Georgia student invents condiment (athensbannerherald)
  • LaVista Hills an some emails (11alive)
  • Why Is Art Expensive? (Priceonomics)
  • Laissez Prayer: The secret history of the 1950s Christian right and its zeal for capitalism. (Democracy)
  • 87 Deceased NFL Players Test Positive for Brain Disease (Frontline)
  • Life on the Congo (Roads & Kingdoms)
  • On Kasim Reed and his brand of leadership (ajc)
  • The Study That Started the Volkswagen Scandal (CityLab)
  • The transformative potential of self-driving electric cars (Vox)
  • Wherever You Go, Your Personal Cloud Of Microbes Follows (NPR)
  • The West is on fire – and the US taxpayer is subsidizing it (The Conversation)
  • Mystery Solved? How Universe’s Brightest-Ever Galaxies Formed (Space)