Republicans creating own problems while Olens takes gutsy stand
by Don McKee
August 28, 2014 04:00 AM | 166 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Don McKee
Don McKee
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“Republicans are Georgia’s problem.” So says David Pennington, the former Dalton mayor who ran for the Republican nomination for governor and placed second with 17 percent of the vote behind Gov. Nathan Deal, who coasted to re-nomination with 72 percent. In his “Pennington Perspective” email this week, Pennington fired a scathing verbal barrage at fellow Republicans. Questioning whether Georgia Republicans “practice what they preach” about limited government with “lower taxes, less spending and less regulation,” Pennington says fiscal year 2014 revenue growth included $473 million from “the new way cars are taxed” after the so-called birthday auto tax was eliminated, but in reality, the new ad valorem vehicle tax amounted to “Georgia’s second largest tax increase in 20 years.” The former mayor spreads the blame around to Deal’s predecessor, Sonny Perdue, and GOP legislators. “After 12 years of Republican rule, Georgians’ taxes are higher and state spending is higher,” says Pennington. “Georgia’s growing population is getting poorer. Other Republican-led states are outperforming us because they have embraced real tax reform based on lower state income tax. … Meanwhile, Georgia’s pseudo-Republican leadership has no plans to reduce our income tax, the 9th highest in the country.” He adds: “In the last 12 years, Georgia’s Republican leadership has presided over what is arguably the largest economic decline, relative to the rest of the country, since the Civil War.” Pennington’s blast at fellow Republicans couldn’t have been timed any worse, coming on the heels of an outrageous stunt at a Republican campaign rally last Saturday at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm in Dawson County, per Tuesday’s Around Town. In the midst of the orating, video journalist Nydia Tisdale of Roswell, owner of AboutForsyth.com, was forcibly removed from the rally by a Dawson County deputy. Of all the GOP candidates present — including Gov. Nathan Deal and Senate nominee David Perdue — only Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens had the guts to speak out against the outrage. “If we stand for anything as a party, what are we afraid of with the lady having a camera filming us?” Olens asked. “What are we saying here that shouldn’t be on film? What message are we sending? That because it’s private property they shouldn’t be filming? What is the harm? The harm that this poses is far greater than her filming us. What are we hiding? If we are telling you why we are running and what we stand for, what are we hiding? … Who’s the winner in the long run? Not a good move.” Coincidentally, vindication for his defense of open government came loud and clear in another case of Tisdale’s being ejected from a Cumming City Council meeting in April 2012. Olens quickly filed suit against the mayor and the city to enforce Georgia’s Open Meetings Act. He won big a week ago in a ruling by Forsyth Superior Court Judge Robert Adamson, who ordered the city and the mayor to pay $12,000 in penalties — maximum allowed under the law — and attorney’s fees, “a major victory for government transparency,” Olens said. Kudos to Olens for standing up for our First Amendment rights. dmckee9613@aol.com
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City eyeing options for $5M from parks bond
by Hilary Butschek
August 28, 2014 04:00 AM | 478 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — The City Council is eyeing three parks and the Elizabeth Porter Recreation Center as options to spend $5 million that remains from the $25 million bond issuance voters approved in 2009. Those parks are Flournoy Park and the future Chicopee and Blackwell parks. The Parks, Recreation and Tourism Committee chaired by Michelle Cooper Kelly discussed its options but didn’t vote to allocate any money. Kelly said the council will take time to mull the options, and when members vote to spend the parks bond, they will distribute it equally. “We want to make sure we’re not heavily concentrated in one area of the city with parks,” Kelly said. The city paid $30,000 more than it originally planned for one property it needed to expand the Porter Center, which is on Allgood Road near North Marietta Parkway, causing it to go over budget for the project. Rich Buss, the city’s parks director, said parks bonds funds can be allocated to cover the overage. The $3.5 million renovation of the Porter Center will expand the property from 1.8 acres to 4.8 acres. Other potential projects to be funded by the bond include two pieces of land the city already purchased that are the future sites of Chicopee Park and Blackwell Park. Chicopee Park is nearly 3 acres of land on Chicopee Drive purchased by the city in December 2012, Buss said. It would cost $440,000 to fence in the property and pave a concrete path inside that would enclose a new picnic table area and playground, Buss said. Councilman Andy Morris said he liked the design for the park because it remains closed off from the adjacent neighborhood, Forest Hills. “Chicopee is different because a lot of people live right behind it, but I like the trees that will keep the noise away from (the residents) and the picket fence,” Morris said. The other undeveloped property, Blackwell Park, is quarter of an acre the city purchased on Blackwell Lane in April 2011. The council agreed the best plan for the park was to keep it natural and plant more trees and shrubs. Councilman Johnny Walker said residents want the property to remain undeveloped. “We’re probably just going to make it a light, green space and a community garden,” Walker said. The committee will hear more detailed plans for the area, as well as a cost estimate, at its Sept. 23 meeting. Flournoy Park, a quarter-acre park on Roswell Street beside the Cobb County Courthouse, could get additions worth $95,000. Additions could include new plants, such as azaleas and roses, as well as seating and granite steps into the park. “It will open (Flournoy Park) up and make it a little bit more attractive,” Buss said. “We presented this in 2012, but the council decided to put it on hold.” Councilman Philip Goldstein said because the park is adjacent to the courthouse, which is owned by the county, the council should present the plans to the county as well as request its help to fund the project. “If we’re going to do Flournoy Park, I would encourage (us) to show this to the county. This (park) was originally done as a partnership with them,” Goldstein said. “Just out of courtesy.” Discussion continues on school crosswalks The Public Works Committee agreed to continue discussions at its Sept. 23 meeting about adding crosswalks along roads that border Marietta schools to make it safer for students to walk to and from school. Dan Conn, the city’s public works director, said two new signs, one facing east and one facing west, that alert drivers with flashing lights when they speed, will be installed on Maple Avenue to slow down traffic on the road that borders West Side Elementary School. Councilman Grif Chalfant said he wanted to see if the signs would successfully slow traffic before adding sidewalks. “You put those radar signs up and see what happens,” Chalfant said. Conn said one crosswalk could cost $2,500 to $5,000. Walker said he wants to pursue further discussion because drivers speed too often on streets around schools. “I get a lot of calls from the parents, and I have been over there a couple times when school lets out, and it gets really busy and there are a lot of speeders there, not just when school lets out,” Walker said. While one representative of Marietta City Schools, Danny Smith, the executive director for support, attended the meeting yesterday, Mayor Steve Tumlin invited members of the school board and Superintendent Emily Lembeck to attend the September meeting to talk about solutions. “We need to have a game plan (to install crosswalks), and I’d like (the school board) to be a part of it,” Tumlin said.
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Cobb Public Safety improvements overdue but welcome
August 28, 2014 04:00 AM | 287 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cobb Commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to hopefully put to rest, at least for now, a public safety issue that has been festering for some time and which finally erupted early this year. Then-Public Safety Director Jack Forsythe announced his resignation via a public letter Jan. 6 that stated the county police force was in “crisis” mode due to lack of resources and blistered the commission and County Manager David Hankerson for blocking his efforts to address those shortcomings. Forsythe said the department was losing officers faster than it could replace them, was serving as an expensive training ground for officers who then would leave for better-paying jobs in neighboring counties and noted the department was hard-pressed to find enough detectives to work on homicides, gang investigations and “sexploitation” crimes. The Commission promoted Fire Chief Sam Heaton to succeed Forsythe, and with the PD’s problems now front and center — and with most of those running for county commission this summer making public safety improvements their top issue — the commission slowly began addressing them. The first small step was the decision in March to create 40 additional positions in the department and purchase 55 more police vehicles, still well short of what is needed. Next was a report from Heaton early this month laying out a comprehensive plan for addressing the department’s perceived problems. The commission agreed Tuesday, via its vote to approve the county budget for FY15, to begin implementing the recommendations of that report. The new budget does not increase taxes. The commission, first of all, agreed to bring the department to full staffing levels by hiring 232 officers by Jan. 1, 2017. The FY15 budget starts by including funds to hire three police captains, two fire marshals, an animal cruelty investigator, a crime-analysis coordinator and a senior crime-scene technician. The budget will include money to buy 37 more vehicles and to train four classes of police recruits per year rather than the current two, thereby getting new officers on the street more quickly. Another change will be the implementation of higher “shift differential” pay for those working less-desirable evening and night shifts. The budget includes $1.3 million for the cost of that change. The budget also includes money for the costs of converting Cobb Police Precinct 3 in southeastern Cobb to a 10-hour-shift, four-day-a-week schedule by next May. South Cobb’s Precinct 2 has already gone to that schedule and the plan is for the entire department to do so by the end of 2016. The change translates to a four-day work week for officers and hopefully will improve officer retention. Another change in that regard will be the earmarking of $12.3 million to expand the department’s take-home car program, although the funds for that would come not from the General Fund but from the hoped-for passage of the SPLOST referendum this November. All told, the changes approved Tuesday should go far toward tackling problems the commission had allowed to go unaddressed for too long. “I think it’s going to have a positive impact across the board on all public safety,” Heaton said after Tuesday’s vote. Cobb has long had one of Georgia’s best-run and best-equipped public safety departments. The changes approved this week should go far toward addressing any recent shortcomings.
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