Around Town: The new ‘normal’ will be just fraction of old, economist warns
by Otis Brumby, Bill Kinney and Joe Kirby
Around Town Columnists
March 20, 2012 12:00 AM | 4456 views | 2 2 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
THE ECONOMY is slowly getting back to normal, but the housing sector won’t be normal until at least 2014, and even that depends on redefining downward what “normal” is, warns Mercer University economist Dr. Roger Tutterow of Cobb County.

“It will be late 2014 or maybe 2015 before the number of Americans working is where it was in 2007, because we’ve adding an average of 200,000 jobs a month over the last six months, but when you lose 8.8 million jobs like we did during the recession, it takes a while to make it up,” Tutterow told members of the Marietta Kiwanis Club on Thursday.

“I don’t expect housing to be ‘normal’ again until we get back to those levels, so 2014 is probably the next target for normalcy, but even there, the ‘new normal,’ take the level of activity that you had and knock about a third off, and that will be the new normal.”

And, predicted Tutterow: “I don’t know that in my lifetime on a per capita basis that we will see the pace of housing activity near what it was back in ’04 and ’05.”

Not exactly encouraging words from arguably the state’s foremost economist.


TUTTEROW ADMITS that during the housing boom of the mid-2000s he “called the top of the market right, and even called the right month” at which it would peak.

“But I thought that when it dropped, it might drop 45 percent in terms of volume,” he continued. “It dropped 45 percent all right, and then some. We came down 80 percent nationwide in terms of new home sales and construction, and in the Atlanta metro area, which had led the nation for most of the past quarter century, we came down not 80 percent, but 94 percent.

“That means that for every 20 homes built during 2004 and ’05, only one was being sold in 2010-11. It is hard to overstate what that has done to the national and local economies.”

The downturn in residential real estate and the resulting effect on the financial services industry and on the finances of local governments have caused the metro and state economies to underperform the national average, Tutterow pointed out.

“A couple of weeks ago I would have told you Georgia was running 50th in the country in job creation because of it. We were very exposed in those three industries,” he said. But figures released last week indicated metro Atlanta has added 70,000 jobs in the last 12 months. Yet, “I’m skeptical,” he said. “The truth is that we’re somewhere between flat and 70,000 jobs. I began this year saying that we could expect to create 36,000 new jobs this year in the metro area, and I still think that is the correct outlook."


“GENERAL OLENS,” apparently the correct way to address Attorney General Sam Olens, was the featured speaker at a Thursday luncheon at Vinings Bank. Olens told the crowd that to be the state’s lawyer is “a dream,” and also referenced several of the legal battles his office is active in, including challenges to the president’s health care laws that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear next week.

Olens, who stated early and often his support for presidential candidate Mitt Romney, was asked by former MDJ reporter Ashley Hungerford, now of The United Way, whether Romney will secure the nomination before the August convention, to which Olens quickly answered, “Yes.”

Olens was introduced by Kevin Moore, of Marietta’s Moore Ingram law firm. Others attending included John Moore, Shan Cooper, Dr. Michael Hinojosa; Dr. Emily Lembeck, John Crooks, Betty Gray, Tim Lee, Chip Nelson, Judy Manning, Van Pearlberg, John Skelton, Elva Dornbusch, Tommy and T.W. Lord, Virgil Moon, Asa Candler V, Gene Clark, Ron Newcomb, Joe Brannen, Phyllis Collins, Fred Aiken, Gary Eubanks, Richard Ingalsby, Pete Wood, Johnny Whitaker, Kelly Nix, Tom Charron, Alex Owen, Patrick Burns, Ken Swofford, Larry Luce; and Rainia Washington.


PRECINCT RESULTS from the March 6 primary show that Newt Gingrich ran best in the southwest corner of Cobb. He wracked up his most decisive margins in Mableton 2, where he got 61.2 percent (or 178) of votes to Romney’s 16.5 percent and Rick Santorum’s 15.1 percent. Newt also did quite well in the Riverside precinct near Six Flags. He got 61 percent of the vote there — though only a total of 41 votes were cast in that heavily black precinct.

As expected, Romney performed best in east Cobb. His top Cobb precinct was Vinings 4, which includes the pricey Woodland Brook Road area along the Chattahoochee River across from Buckhead. He garnered 57.1 percent of votes in Vinings 4 — which was Gingrich’s worst Cobb precinct. Newt got only 28 percent of votes there. Those results fit the expected pattern, with Romney appealing to fiscal conservatives who are more moderate on social issues.

Meanwhile, Santorum won no precincts. His best showing in Cobb was in Sweetwater 1 (25 percent). His worst showing was Vinings 1, where he got 6.9 percent.

So who ran best in Marietta? Gingrich. The former speaker won 10 of the city’s 12 precincts, losing only Marietta 4B to Romney by 139 votes to 175. Gingrich and Romney tied in Marietta 4C, each garnering 337 votes with Santorum way back at 124. Both of those precincts are in the ward of Councilman Johnny Sinclair. Gingrich also didn’t win by much in Marietta 4A, where he edged Romney only by 357-345.

Romney’s strong showing in Marietta Ward 4 would seem to bear out the thinking of many analysts, noted above, that Romney appeals more to fiscal conservatives than social conservatives.

The only other close precinct was Marietta 6B in Councilman Jim King’s east Marietta ward, where Gingrich nosed Romney 236 votes to 227.


FORMER East Cobb Commissioner Thea Powell is hosting a meet and greet from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday for county chairman candidate Mike Boyce; Marietta attorney John Skelton, who is vying for Superior Court clerk; and Marietta attorney Nathan Wade, who is running for a Cobb Superior Court judgeship. The event is at Powell’s house, located at 3354 Weathertop Way in east Cobb.


AROUND TOWN was told by a reliable courthouse source that Dwight Brown was part of the jury pool in a Cobb court on Monday morning. Brown, the ex-CEO of Cobb EMC, is also due in Cobb Superior Court on April 3 regarding his $1.8 million suit against the nonprofit utility for the balance of a three-year, post-retirement consulting contract.


THE CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF THE CIVIL WAR ERA at Kennesaw State University will present a powerhouse lineup of historians at its 9th annual Symposium on New Interpretations of the Civil War coming Friday and Saturday. Among them will be Dr. Ken Noe of Auburn University, author of “Reluctant Rebels: The Confederates Who Joined the Army after 1861”; Jeffrey D. Wert, author of eight books on the war, including “Cavalryman of the Lost Cause” and “The Sword of Lincoln”; Atlanta’s Wiley Sword, author of numerous books on the Western Theater of the war; and KSU’s Dr. Brian Wills, author of “The Confederacy’s Greatest Cavalryman: Nathan Bedford Forrest.”

Admission to the symposium is free. For more, go to


“THE LAS VEGAS SHOW” played to packed houses Thursday through Saturday nights at the Strand Theatre, leaving many wondering how director Earl Reece had managed to pull off such a high-caliber performance with less than two weeks of rehearsals and cast members who were mostly strangers to each other just 12 days before.

The cast included music director Catherine Rhodes and choreographer Allison Michalke, both recent graduates of the Cobb County Center for Excellence in the Performing Arts at Pebblebrook High. Other standouts in a stellar cast included seventh-grader Zach Seabaugh (son of Devan and Beth Seabaugh) as Justin Bieber; Strand business manager/ blogger Cassie Costoulas and Strand events manager Andrew Cole as Sonny & Cher, and Strand pipe organist Ron Carter as Liberace — complete with glittered shoes and candelabra.

Others in the all-local cast included Katie Cathell, Joia Carter, Findley Hansard, Sara Vonzine, Joe Arnotti, John Burnett, Ceasar Davis, Tyrell Johnson, Brandon Johnson, Sterling McClary, Kevin O’Hara, Carl Windom and Likeam Wise-Jackson.

Serving as executive producer was Stephen Imler. Reece told the audience during intermission that though the cast was paid for its efforts, it amounted to “hamburger at McDonalds” money, and that Imler had been so impressed by their dedication that the night before he had written $250 checks out of his own pocket for each of the 19 cast members.

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March 20, 2012
FORMER East Cobb Commissioner Thea Powell is hosting a meet and greet from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday for county chairman candidate Mike Boyce, Bob Ott’s and ECCA plan to take Cobb County back on the fast track. The new era is emerging from Deep in East Cobb the rest of you watch out!!
March 20, 2012
In the most recent version of HB 397, this section is crossed-out, thereby meaning that agencies (e.g., Cobb County Government...the entity AG Olens is a former county commission chairman of) no longer have to forward emails sent by anyone in the agency...and that, instead, each email would have to be printed-out and a copy purchased for $0.10 per copy.

( the way, it was in the original version of the bill as well, so nobody better claim "Oh, it must have been struck by the other guy...we're not responsible for that")

If this bill passes as is, it will seriously impede all efforts by citizens, bloggers, news media, or whoever to obtain by electronic means records that are ALREADY in electronic format and able to be transmitted over the Internet.

Furthermore...there's also this new addition to the law which makes the retrieval of emails written by government officials, employees, or whoever in a Georgia government state, local, or county agency much more difficult to uncover corruption and illegal acts by government officials:

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