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Garland: Proposed facilities ordinance is threat to civil liberties

When I started writing this column, I composed a (depressingly) long list of actions from which I could choose to highlight City Hall’s questionable behavior. In the event, I settled on just a couple of things that have been foisted off on us by our betters in the Unified Government, ones that have dealt with constitutional questions and generated some push-back on the part of the judiciary.

Readers desiring more on either of the incidents mentioned can simply enter some reasonable search terms and read all about them in the Banner-Herald archives.

And seeing as how I keep penning columns protesting government actions and (directly or indirectly) concerning constitutional issues, I guess that I should expect a letter from the IRS any day now, huh? Big smile

posted @ Saturday, May 25, 2013 - 16:57

The Editor's Desk: County facilities proposal somewhat troubling

@Jim Thompson: Great minds do, indeed, think alike (see my proposed column for Sunday that should be awaiting you in your email). To my mind, despite all of its rhetoric City Hall has a poor record insofar as respecting its citizens' constitutional rights.

posted @ Thursday, May 23, 2013 - 10:41

Athens-area Reps. docked in Ga. Chamber report card; other local delegates given A+

@E.J.: You'll get no argument from me, as I have been a longtime advocate of the Linder/Boortz FairTax. I'd gladly support the Forbes Flat Tax as an alternative to the status quo, as well. The problem is that, as I noted above, either would "disenfranchise" the political class and thus stands no chance of getting passed.

I fondly remember back in the day when my wife and I handed out FairTax flyers at the post office on Olympic Drive on the evening of April 15 as folks ruched to get their income tax returns postmarked by midnight. We did so for several years assisting the late Si Trieb. Of course, with e-filing, that particular annual rite is pretty much a thing of the past.

posted @ Tuesday, May 21, 2013 - 21:41

Athens-area Reps. docked in Ga. Chamber report card; other local delegates given A+

@MyraBlackmon: Here is something on which we can agree. The federal tax code is a horrifyingly complicated mishmash of special interest tax breaks and subsidies. And the more powerful the feds get, the more folks have an interest in influencing the tax code through lobbying and campaign contributions. To me, the obvious solution is to streamline the tax code, greatly limit deductions, eliminate subsidies, and lower the marginal rates. That way, the government wouldn't be in the position of picking winners and losers, a practice which has the obvious consequence of encouraging tax avoidance (which is legal) and tax evasion (which is not) - so that means it's not going to happen.

@bukowski: You mean that "corrupt republican organization" that has come out in favor of every tax increase imaginable (SPLOST, E-SPLOST, T-SPLOST, hotel/motel tax, etc.) in recent years? Sorry - couldn't resist. Wink

posted @ Tuesday, May 21, 2013 - 11:54

Athens-area Reps. docked in Ga. Chamber report card; other local delegates given A+

@Ferrol Katz: Just as was her vote against the "bed tax" bill. One the one hand, the bill itself was blatantly unconstitutional, as it was an appropriations and tax bill that originated in the Senate. On the other hand, the ostensible primary purpose of the bill was to leverage federal funds - funds that the feds don't have without borrowing them from China (or whomever) or cranking up the printing presses.

posted @ Tuesday, May 21, 2013 - 08:20

Georgia DOT identifies 9,000 surplus parcels

[quote][b]Walholler[/b] -

This same procedure needs to be done by Clarke County. Amazing how much land the local government owns and is not being used. Yet, our mayor and commission loves to raised the tax millage rate.


The more things change . . . .

posted @ Monday, May 20, 2013 - 10:02

Shrinks, critics face off over psychiatric manual

The infantilization of America continues apace.

posted @ Thursday, May 16, 2013 - 08:53

The Editor's Desk: Clarke school budget hearing tonight

@Curls: You are entirely correct, as these public hearings are held to satisfy a legal requirement - period.

I've been to a good many of them over the years and the sad fact is that typically not so much as a dime changes in the budget as the result of the public's input. Even so, just for the sake of argument I'll go to this evening's meeting. If past history and the budget presentation on the CCSD web site are any indication, it will be nothing more that a propaganda exercise designed to explain how the CCSD is underfunded.

posted @ Thursday, May 16, 2013 - 08:45

Athens-Clarke County commissioners restore Lyndon House funding, add to library with $250K budget boost

So why is there extra money in this year's budget? And since there apparently is extra money, the intention of City Hall is to spend it - not return it to the taxpayers. Par for the course.

posted @ Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - 08:19

Athens downtown board OKs parking contract renewal with mayor and commission

"Quick was the sole dissenting vote in sending the agreement on for approval."

And, once again, Regina does the right thing when no one else will.

posted @ Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - 08:15

Garland: It's still government, it's just more expensive

I didn't have room to delve into it in the column, but the two millage rate reductions by City Hall in 2004 and 2005, both long since obviated by later hikes, are deceptive.

In 2004, growth in the tax digest during the housing boom resulted in substantially more revenue for the city-county government. The folks down at City Hall were simply going to spend the new "free" money. A group of local citizens (and by that I mean Clarke County Republicans) studied the budget and recommended some specific reductions which, to its credit, the Mayor and Commission adopted and were thereby able to lower the millage rate. Readers should remember, though, that taxes can go up even as the millage rate goes down because of higher assessments, which is what happened in this instance. And don't forget that, prior to the public outcry, local government was quite content to simply spend the new revenue.

In 2005, City Hall's own budget documents made plainly clear that the millage rate reduction was not a tax decrease at all. With the implementation of the stormwater utility fee, what money was "lost" via a millage rate reduction was simultaneously gained via the new source of revenue. Clarke County residents were still paying the same amount (actually more), it was just coming out of one pocket as opposed to another.

Unified Government

FY2013 Budget (see page A-8 and A-9):

FY2014 Budget (see pages A-3 and A-4):

Charter (see Section 1-105(b)):

Public hearings on the Unified Government’s budget and millage rate increase will be held in the Governmental Building Auditorium at 5:30 on May 14 and in City Hall’s Commission Chambers at 5:30 on May 21 and at 6:30 on May 23. Final approval of the budget and millage rate will take place at the Commission’s regular voting session, slated for 7:00 on Tuesday, June 4, at City Hall’s Commission Chambers.

Clarke County School District

FY2013 Budget (see page 1):

FY2014 Budget (see slide 17):

Public hearings on the CCSD’s budget and millage rate will be held at Gaines Elementary School at 6:00 on May 14, at Alps Road Elementary at 6:00 on May 16, and at the CCSD’s administrative offices at 6:00 on May 21. Final approval of the budget and millage rate will take place at a special called meeting before the Board of Education’s work session June 6.


Clarke County Millage Rate Chart (graciously complied and provided to me by Tax Commissioner Mitch Schrader; most of this information used to be available on the old departmental web site, but did not make onto the “new and improved” version):

Clarke County Tax Comparison Report:

posted @ Saturday, May 11, 2013 - 20:27

State releases school report cards; Jefferson, Madison, Oconee schools shine

[quote][b]Save our Republic[/b] -

@jrgarland: already posted what I was looking for!


That's what I'm here for. Wink

I analyze the per pupil expenditure numbers on an annual basis - and the results are always the same: Clarke County is always on the high of expenditures, but the low end of academic achievement. And note that the differences are not "a few hundred dollars more per student," they are a few thousand dollars more per student.

posted @ Wednesday, May 8, 2013 - 20:45

State releases school report cards; Jefferson, Madison, Oconee schools shine

[quote][b]Athens Trojan[/b] -

It is the quality of student . . .



Just so folks will remember, the FY 2012 per pupil spending for the area's other school districts was as follows: Barrow County $7,457.87; Commerce City $8,593.19; Jackson County $9,273.25; Jefferson City $6,860.63; Madison County $9,272.90; Oconee County $8,226.60; and Oglethorpe County $9,125.20.

Plot these expenditures against student achievement (graduations rates, test scores, AYP - take your pick) and you will immediately note that increased spending does not equal increased student achievement - far from it.

Compare these figures to Clarke County's $11,621.30. Remember this amount when the CCSD incessantly laments decreased revenue and nonexistent budget cuts in its upcoming public hearings on the FY 2014 budget - which is going up over that of FY 2013, by the way.

posted @ Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - 14:48

The Editor's Desk: Venture capital fund not best use of state dollars

And as I previously noted, Regina was the only member of the local legislative delegation to vote against the unconstitutional "bed tax" extension as well. So much for her not being a real conservative, huh?

posted @ Thursday, May 2, 2013 - 08:47

Garland: People of Hope and wishful thinking

First, a nod to my colleagues over at Flagpole; the entire People of Hope thing has been below the radar for a good while, save these recent pieces by Blake and Allison:

Concerning “affordable housing” generally see this, lifted verbatim from my 2006 campaign web site:

“The Commission should establish a separate and dedicated zoning category specifically tailored to mobile homes, which comprise the best market-based solution to the issue of affordable housing. Unfortunately, since city-county unification, the Commission has all but excluded mobile homes from most areas of the county. Class A mobile homes (multi-sectional or doublewides) are limited to existing parks or large lots in the AR zones. Class B mobile homes (single-wides) have been restricted to existing parks for years. While recognizing that mobile homes may not fit in with traditional stick-built home neighborhoods, we have done the low-income among us no favors by excluding from the county the best housing option available to them.”

“I feel that efforts to mandate ‘inclusionary zoning’ in the county are misdirected. The resulting housing would not be “affordable,” it would instead be subsidized. Someone other than the person paying the submarket rate mandated by government will be required to make up the difference, whether it is the other residents of a given development or the taxpayers.”

“For what it is worth, I remain convinced that the rezoning of land for the People of Hope, contrary to the recommendation of the Planning Commission and requiring alteration of the Comprehensive Plan, not to mention the subsequent sanitary sewer line extension to that park, would not have been approved for any other petitioner. The Commission did the right thing, but for the wrong reason.”

Needless to say, these were/are not the dominant opinions in the Classic City. Also needless to say, the manner in which local ordinance serve to drive up housing costs is all but universally ignored (except by me and a couple of others): conservation subdivision ordinance; “green belt” ordinance; one-size-fits-all stream buffer ordinance; tree cover ordinance; grading ordinance; definition of family ordinance, etc. I’m not arguing that all of these ordinances are inherently bad, but rather that their roles in driving up housing costs are never acknowledged by the powers that be.

Be that as it may, see this letter to the editor in which I actually defended the Commission against a charge of “ethical” criminality for not foolishly going the moratorium route:

See this news article about a particular Commission meeting, where I explicitly told City Hall that its treatment of People of Hope was rooted in politics and that no one else would get approval to put a trailer park in peripheral Clarke County (much less one necessitating a rezoning, an amendment to the future land use map, a sewage pump station, and a sewer line extension):

Note that I spoke against both the rezoning/future land use map amendment and the sewer line extension, not because I thought that they were the wrong things to do in and of themselves, but because People of Hope got approvals that no one else would have. See the minutes for the cited Commission meetings:

December 2003 See pages 30-32. Ironically, at this same meeting that the Commission approved the People of Hope rezoning, by another unanimous vote it also approved an ordinance that explicitly banned Class A mobile homes (doublewides and multi-sectionals) from the county’s agricultural residential, single family residential, and commercial zoning classifications. Placements of Class B mobile homes (single-wides) have been limited to existing mobile home parks for many years.

October 2004 See pages 2 and 5.

That news article review of funding includes (and I daresay that it is incomplete): • Federal housing grants – $377,500 (as best as I could determine this included $175,000 in HOME funds and $202,500 in CBDG funds) • Presbyterian Church (USA) – $150,000 • Affordable Housing Program of the Federal Home Loan bank – $446,443 • Governor’s Discretionary Fund (Roy Barnes) – $10,000 • Georgia Community Loan Fund – $25,000 • Other private donations from individuals, business, and churches – $200,000

“HOME” would seem to indicate an acronym, just as CBDG stands for Community Block Development Grant, but all I could find was HOME Investment Partnership Program.

Let the long knives begin.

posted @ Saturday, April 27, 2013 - 18:30

The Editor's Desk: Bombing response raises questions

"Speaking of 'perilously close,' I recognize that I’m perilously close here to sounding like some kind of whacked-out conspiracy theorist. But I think it’s important for everyone to recognize that the recent events in Boston put us perilously close to, if not directly on, a slippery slope that might, one day, lead to some unthinking surrender of our civil liberties."

With respect, no you're not. This is exactly the same kind of argument that I've been making in several of my recent columns. Government at all levels is constantly pushing the envelope in terms of what the public will tolerate insofar as government violating its own rules and treating citizens without regard to the basic civil liberties enshrined in the Constitution. And to judge by the AB-H comment board, lots of folks are perfectly fine with that - their willing surrender of civil liberties being anything but "unthinking."

Of course, this is not openly done on the basis of overt power grabs, but on the illusory basis of public safety (and of protecting us from ourselves). Unfortunately, the end result will be the same.

posted @ Wednesday, April 24, 2013 - 20:30

Clarke school board tentatively sets $119.5M budget

For what it is worth, the FY 2014 Budget Presentation on the CCSD web site gives a "total FY 2014 budget" figure of $120,360,835.

posted @ Friday, April 19, 2013 - 08:02

Garland: Whatever its flaws, Constitution integral to our lives

@Nevermore: Wow, thanks. I've been likened to the Ku Klux Klan, slave-owners, and assorted Nazis, but never Michener.

posted @ Sunday, April 14, 2013 - 16:21

Garland: Whatever its flaws, Constitution integral to our lives

@Nevermore: The column I started to write concerned how specific amendments in the Bill of Rights (the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 9th, and 10th come immediately to mind) have been all but eviscerated (or at least are in the process of being so), and how a couple of other amendments (the 16th and 17th) have seriously undermined the concept of federalism on which the county was founded. And, of course, you mentioned the rampant perversion of the "commerce clause" and the employment of judicial fiats to justify all manner of government activity. But, sometimes in the writing process, the one you intended to write morphs into something else, so this is what I ended up with.

posted @ Sunday, April 14, 2013 - 09:52

Trail Creek water, sediment no longer shows toxicity after 2010 spill

@E.J.: No argument from me about that - I'm just commenting on how City Hall voluntarily left the only station located in District 1, where I live, closed for 21 months. Any chance of that happening with the Taj Mahal in Five Points (or any one of the other stations for that matter)? I don't think so. And the closed station just happened to be the one closest to the biggest environmental disaster that has occurred in Clarke County in recent memory - due to a fire.

posted @ Sunday, April 14, 2013 - 09:37

Blackmon: School budgeting is tough process

Just so folks will know, the proposed FY 2014 budget comes to $120,360,835. This is an increase of $2,381,519, or a little more than 2%, over the FY 2013 budget of $117,979,316.

FY 2014 Budget Presentation (see page 17):

FY 2013 Final Approved Budget (see page 1):

posted @ Saturday, April 13, 2013 - 21:51

Trail Creek water, sediment no longer shows toxicity after 2010 spill

"Athens-Clarke officials and other observers faulted the state Environmental Protection Division for its slow response to the spill."

Of course, Athens-Clarke officials did not fault themselves for keeping Fire Station No. 6, located only about a mile down Olympic Drive from J&J Chemical, closed for well over a year waiting for an Obama "shovel ready" stimulus grant that never appeared. In the event, the station remained closed for 21 months, during which the J&J Chemical fire occurred.

posted @ Saturday, April 13, 2013 - 21:49

Garland: Whatever its flaws, Constitution integral to our lives

To read Wagner’s supposedly inflammatory essay, “As American as . . . Compromise,” for yourselves, see below. Just use something like “Wagner,” “Emory” and “three-fifths” as search terms and you will find plenty of media coverage.

To the best of my knowledge, those states that have passed some sort of bill concerning alternative currencies, or that have at least expressed interest in studying the idea, include Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and Washington. Just use something like “state alternative currency” as a search term and you will find plenty of media coverage.

posted @ Saturday, April 13, 2013 - 21:26

Essig: Cuts in education funding shortchange economic development

Understand that I'm not trying to pick a fight, as my point was to demonstrate the spurious reasoning used to sell the public on the idea that education funding has been decreased. But, in the spirit of debate, here are some observations on your comments.

"Can anyone tell me what reductions in budgets and furloughs have accomplished for public education?"

But that is just it, there haven't been any meaningful reductions in budgets, at least not in Clarke County.

"And yet, teachers in Clarke County are still having to spend out of pocket money to have what they need in their classrooms."

Then the next meeting of the Board of Education needs to be jammed with teachers (and parents) demanding to know just how that gargantuan $118 million budget is being spent.

"And when all is said and done and the school taxes are cut, the average individual taxpayer might save twenty-five dollars on his tax bill, if that."

But school taxes haven't been cut - not by a long shot - nor are they likely to ever be cut.

As usual on this topic, we will have to agree to disagree.

posted @ Thursday, April 11, 2013 - 11:01

Budget: Cover uninsured, trim Medicare, tax cigarettes

As I recall, funding the SCHIP expansion of a few years back was predicated on some 22 MILLION NEW SMOKERS lighting up and paying tobacco taxes. Of course, the financing was smoke-and-mirrors then, just as it is now.

And even if the feds save money on health care cost through this, experience dictates that they will simply spend any new "free" money on something else.

posted @ Thursday, April 11, 2013 - 09:03

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