Open Minded

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Recycling turns controversial on A-C Commission

The solid waste department has long charged lower rates (per gallon) for those who throw away the most. Self-haulers -- at the landfill -- are charged $1.50 per bag; that amounts to about $100 per ton when others pay $40 per ton.

I can't say what's going on, but almost every single resident on 'trash pickup' in ACC will tell you that the ACC service providers can be a surly, ungrateful bunch who often 'find' excuses to leave your garbage with you. If Reddish holds up 'solid waste' as an example of where a manager-run government gets good results, he may be on the wrong track.

posted @ Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - 15:32


@Zack Hawkins: Hey Zack!

I had a post about the decline in enrollement in the state's technical schools on the 'forum,' but can't seem to locate that post, now.

posted @ Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - 15:21

How Much Do 'We' Owe?

"Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting."

posted @ Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - 14:46

How Much Do 'We' Owe?

Your comment may be more indecipherable than mine.

Myra Blackmon, last Sunday, wrote what I call a 'unity' column vis a vis the ongoing economic 'catastrophe.' In it, she seemed to chide the Tea Party folk, as though they are somehow more 'guilty' than neoliberals such as herself who, for instance, ignore spendthrift local schools while holding the 'public' in public schools as some sort of secret code incorporating all the views and values of folks in her camp.

Long story short, though, is that her inclinations about unity are on track; Americans definitely do share a common economic fate.

What's less clear, to the liberals and even the conservatives, is this: Our futures' -- pensions; jobs; government benefits; health care access; housing; food; 401K's; etc. -- now, are, one-and-all, and collectively, 'on-the-table,' and 'in play.'

Granted that sounds like 'Greece,' and, no doubt, Americans continue to believe they'll be spared, again, the worst of the global economic collapse. I'd suggest such a view is not in good stead with the facts: The local, state, and federal governments -- not to mention the private sector, by and large, -- are on an unsustainable course of spending more than they make, and borrowing the rest.

In other words, your caricature of the 'brother class,' no doubt extending for a sense of racial justice to the 'brother like white trash' class is worthless and meaningless in view of the fiscal reality. It matters not who is to blame, at this point. What matters is reorienting the personal, local, state, etc., economies, on a sustainable basis.

Sustainable basis means economies that produce more than they consume.* (* We could produce as much as we consume and hold on, except for the fact that our great debts necessitate that we produce more than we consume.)

Neoliberals, perhaps, can bank on Keynesian stimulus as the 'Ultimate Obama' in the face of the Tea Party barbarians. Should be quite the contest ... until domestic and foreign creditors blink the lights, and announce a 'cessation of hostilities.' That display, of course, followed with explicit instructions for 'austerity' and 'pain' and 'suffering' until and unless they are paid back in full. Smile

posted @ Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - 14:44

How Much Do 'We' Owe?

I am returning to the subject of 'debt,' again, after a little time off to read about debt issues, and think about things.

Granted, parts of the above post are almost indecipherable, but in my defense, I'd offer that I am not an economist, and am very new to the game of trying to assess how much debt is out there and how it might effect our future!

Why should we think about debt?

I think Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth S. Rogoff in, "This Time is Different," do a good job of underlining debt as almost a singular predictor of bad economic outcomes. As they oft say, "it will end in tears!"

To wit, and from the preface:

If there is one common theme to the vast range of crises we consider in this book, it is that excessive debt accumulation, whether it be by the government, banks, corporations, or consumers, often poses greater systemic risks than it seems during a boom.

The authors explain, a little, about how debt creation can mask certain 'things' both about the 'efficacy' of government and our current leaders, and the actual 'vibrancy' of the local or national economy:

Infusions of cash can make a government look like it is providing greater growth to its economy than it really is. Private sector borrowing binges can inflate housing and stock prices far beyond their long-run sustainable levels, and make banks seem more stable and profitable than they really are.

Well, "D'uh!," huh?!

Granted, we already saw a market crash -- years ago now -- and our banking system seems to have weathered the 'credit crunch.' Certainly the prices of houses seem to be moving towards some 'bottom!'?

Let me lift a few more lines from, "This Time is Different:"

Such large-scale debt build-ups pose risks because they make an economy vulnerable to crises of confidence, particularly when debt is short term and needs to be constantly refinanced. Debt-fueled booms all too often provide false affirmation of a government's policies, a financial institution's ability to make outsized profits, or a country's standard of living. Most of these booms end badly. Of course, debt instruments are crucial to all economies, ancient and modern, but balancing the risk and opportunities of debt is always a challenge, a challenge policy makers, investors, and ordinary citizens must never forget.

Have 'policy makers, investors, and ordinary citizens' forgotten how to balance the 'risks and opportunities' of debt?!

1. How much debt is out there now?

2. How much of the 2000's go-go economy was built on real wealth increases (increases in productivity), and how much of that economy was built on borrowed money?

3. Will GA, the U.S., and local governments 'default' on current debts?

4. What effect will we see on the economy -- local and national -- as we draw down our debt levels? In other words, what sort of growth would we have seen in the 2000's if we could, experimentally, measure that growth WITHOUT the massive debt inputs?

5. Did the $trillions invested in housing stocks between 1982 and 2006 and the many billions and billions borrowed and spent by local, state, and federal governments create a 'false' prosperity that masked a grimmer reality evidenced by the 'outsourcing' of millions and millions of U.S. manufacturing jobs? Is that what's so 'bad' about the current U.S. and Georgia economic 'recovery', and is all that outsourcing the real reason the President, the Congress, nor anyone else can do ANYTHING to re-boot the economy?

How many years might it take to rebuild America's industrial and manufacturing bases?

Food stamps, and UCB, until, then, right?!

6. Are liberal advocates of more 'stimulus' spending properly accounting for the risks posed by creating further debt? At what point does the rise in debt obviate or destroy the short-term social goods delivered with borrowed money? (Will the embattled Greek government, now, embark on a new era of domestic spending made possible by borrowing more money than they've already borrowed? Seriously, though, could they do that even if they wanted to? Why or why not?)

posted @ Sunday, October 2, 2011 - 19:27

Georgia Club's impact

I am curious about the source of funds. Have development authorities issued bonds?

What were the terms of the purchase?

posted @ Sunday, October 2, 2011 - 19:07

Less Interest in GA Technical Colleges?

@CharlesB: That's good information but completely ignores the critique of the states' technical schools.

posted @ Sunday, October 2, 2011 - 18:51

Less Interest in GA Technical Colleges?

@E.J.: I do agree with your view of apprenticeship, generally. What we have built, now, is very inefficient and expensive and this is mainly because a corp of self-interested individuals have figured out how to 'make a lot of money' by exploiting sincere, hard-working 'students' who are interested in finding careers; the abuse of student loan programs, the HOPE program, etc., is well-documented in GA's technical school system, cooking schools, truck-driving schools, and other unscrupulous organizations.

Granted, most of these folks just want to 'protect' their own jobs, or grow more 'education' jobs. Still, its a waste of scarce capital resources when the private sector can do most apprenticeship programs much more cheaply and with little or no need to lard-up on state tax dollars.

You make a good case with your own story: Most 'students,' folks, citizens, want to 'go to work,' with a minimum of bull XXXX!

No doubt at least SOME of the Tech School drop-outs have tired of 'going into debt,' and simply skipped school and found real jobs -- such as they are -- and feel that's better than hanging around the Tech school, building up huge debts, and waiting for jobs that may or may not be available.

Perhaps my linkage of the state's technical schools to the formal higher eduations system vis a vis 'political correctness' was something of a stretch. On the other hand, when you look at the organizational structural similarities it seems clear that the technical school agenda, like the University system agenda, does include an ample amount of 'social engineering.' I can't tell you how many times I've heard academics exclaim about the 'values' of native Georgians; they are here to 'help' and re-engineer our thinking on any manner of issues, including smoking.

U.GA., and most of the 'higher ed,' schools, actively discriminate in both admissions programs and in the support they hand-out to 'would-be' students. One would assume that the 'wanna-be's' in the Tech System are keen to 'earn their credentials' by getting their hands dirty, as well.

PS: How much of Athens Tech's budget goes to public relations?
How much are they paying the new-hire from WGAU?
How much do they spend on IT, websites, and other promotional advertising designed to both entice students to enroll and to convince state leaders that the Technical System needs another whopping taxpayer bailout? (And, if leaders will not provide another boat-load of money, then no employers will ever come to GA, again!)

posted @ Sunday, October 2, 2011 - 18:49

Garland: Moratoria aren't good government

I can see both sides of the argument, but see no reason whatsoever that the mayor and commissioners, apparently, are unwilling to go on record with their personal votes or views. If there is some record of their votes on the most recent moratorium, well, apologies are in order! They should have the courage of their convictions.

posted @ Sunday, October 2, 2011 - 18:38

101 communities to vote on Sunday alcohol sales

The REALLY conservative position is that such referendums are not needed because the voters already overturned "Prohibition" many years ago. The nascent banning of 'Sunday sales' was in line with a rather tepid writing of the REPEAL amendment that basically threw the issue back to the states.

On thing about it, when Pendergrass starts seeing all those Sunday afternoon convoys from Athens to buy beer, ACC will wake up and smell the coffee!

(Because the love taxes more than anything!)

posted @ Tuesday, September 27, 2011 - 18:25

A-C freezes development near downtown

@jrgarland: Thanks for that answer. I would have listened, myself, but can no longer endure the torture! Sick

posted @ Tuesday, September 27, 2011 - 18:19


Whites will have to make the case for their own group that represents their interests the way the NAACP represents the interest of black citizens.

So far, we have some lawsuits out there, some conjecture, and mostly hearsay. I'd bet their are more workplace issues, really, than there are claims about black hate crimes against whites.

posted @ Tuesday, September 27, 2011 - 17:45

Garland: Development work done in many ways

I gather you only wish to include local authorities, and only entities that are involved in 'economic development?

Bond Issuer/ Debt/ Guarantor

1. ACC Housing Authority / ?$/ Feds?
2. ACC IDA/ ?$/ ACC taxpayer?
3. ACC Downtown DA/ ?$/ ACC taxpayer?
4. DA of ACC/ ?$/ ACC taxpayer?
5. Joint DA of NE GA ?$/ multi-county?
6. Econ Dev Foundation ?$/ ACC taxpayer?

No need to look this up; just thinking out loud about the dimensions of a 'fact-finding' mission whose goal is to obtain some hard data on current local indebtedness.

Then we could add state indebtedness to the tally. That ought to included 'poorly funded' liabilities such as the state health care benefit; and include a pro-rata share -- I think -- of all state level bonds including those of U.GA. (assuming these bonds reappear on state ledger should UGA not be able to pay?)

And, then, for completeness, we'd add federal debt to the tally; and federal internal liabilities to the ledger.

And of course, if the new ELOST and TSPLOST passes, those debts should be added on.

Thank God borrowed money is practically free!

posted @ Tuesday, September 27, 2011 - 17:06

A-C freezes development near downtown

Was the vote unanimous in favor of the moratorium? Was there any opposition?

posted @ Tuesday, September 27, 2011 - 16:33

Athens-Clarke puts hold on any new apartments near downtown

Should the public assume all the commissioners and the mayor supported the moratorium? Who voted 'yes,' who voted 'no?'

posted @ Monday, September 26, 2011 - 17:50

Nelson: Don't give up on developing river district just yet

@davidxto: Many, many local bond issues are out there, but the public remains in the dark about the details. Arguing against more publicity one might find these points:

1. Business plans are proprietary, and publicizing, prematurely, those plans and the government funding part, might cause them economic harm, and/or prevent them from coming here.

2. Economic development operates much like a sausage factory and the public is well served by not knowing all the details.

3. When a bond issue fails -- and pops up back on the local government ledger -- political leaders need plausible deniability. They'd never have given the bonding agencies the free rein they had if they thought for one minute that there might be a political 'negative.' (Elected officials want 'ribbon-cutting ceremonies,' aka political 'positives,' only.)

Some of the arguments have merit; in the big picture, though, government, per se, is coming under increasing suspicion; and that bodes poorly even for strategically superior planned developments. Additionally, there seems to be a rising global concern over the 'soundness' of capital investments; those lending the money want reassurance they'll get it back. If this creates a 'credit crunch,' it may infect local bond issues and raise rates; many 'doable' developments are extremely sensitive to rising rates. If bond issues begin to go bad, they go back on the backs of taxpayers -- and now is the WORST possible time for that! I'd argue for much more caution and transparency.

posted @ Monday, September 26, 2011 - 17:22

Editorial: Moore's call for boycotting Georgia misguided

This editorial is quite a turn around from previous ABH op-ed pieces that condemned GA, for instance, over its voter ID requirements; I believe the editors also said GA should 'continue to be' monitored as a suspect under the Voting Rights Act.

I am sure the editors would never say Moore doesn't have the right to say whatever he pleases and nor would I.

Whatever the facts and implications of the issue du jure, the public and this newspaper, in particular, would do well to realize that there is a continuing and undeserved bias against GA and the south, in particular. Here, 'we' make a convenient punching bag and are once again, falsely, accused of institutional racism.

Granted, Moore is just against the death penalty and doesn't care whether or not his race-baiting might harm GA.

Others, including east coast media moguls such as the NYT have a vested interest in harming the reputation of GA with false charges; generally speaking, they are keen to spread the false label so their own industry and employees will continue to accept the sky-high taxes and bureaucracy that plague much of the ubber liberal east coast including New York and New York City. It's ALL about harming the reputation of the south so as to keep business in the north and other areas. Thank God someone at the ABH, apparently, see through the circus and gets at the truth.

posted @ Monday, September 26, 2011 - 16:57

Clinic marks 10 years of caring for the poor

@Ross: The quantity of doctors, and indirectly, nurses, does have an influence on the availability of care. Generally speaking, large progressive metro areas have a surplus of care providers and this is because many providers, themselves, favor big city life over life in a small burg even if there are people there who must forgo care, and even though much of their education and some subsidies for their work are publicly funded. Specialists, in particular, get wedded to large metro areas simply because they need to have enough business. It'd be hard for a jaw specialists, for instance, to make a go of it in Colquit, GA.

Other studies of capacity v. care in New England revealed that with rising numbers of doctors, office visits and elective treatments rise, as well. This may indicate, then, that too many providers, or lawyers, might cause them to practice in ways that are strictly related to their need for income as opposed to the health care needs of their patients.

One thing about our health care capacity that is often neglected is the fact that health care planning agencies -- that looked at such issues -- were phased-out years ago. In other words, no one, really, plans for health care needs of a given community and then incentivize the resources necessary to meet those needs.

While my original commentary takes aim at greedy providers and says they withhold needed care in order to drive-up prices, I am well aware, too, that they cannot practice 'for free.' Furthermore, the madness that is the law suits/ government/insurance bureaucracy, alone, has driven thousands of providers completely out of the business; eg, OB-GYNs. On the other hand, when they lard-up their practices with very steep overhead, why should the public be held hostage to their own poor investment decisions?

In sum, the US is facing a crisis in health care made much worse by a 'down' economy. As providers struggle to meet overhead expenses, they are less willing to provide low cost care because they are attempting to hold-up reimbursement rates.

It's unlikely that 'universal care' would 'fix' the current problems as such an approach takes only a crude swipe at costs and would overwhelm governments with debt at the worst possible moment.

Rather than take the European approach, the U.S. ought to champion a version of health care that creates more competition between providers while vastly limiting liability costs; bureaucratic costs, such as compliance with insuror rules, and puts health care providers closer to the patients they are supposed to be treating. How to manage the huge debts inherent in the massive overhead costs of our current system will be a key part of any solution.

posted @ Sunday, September 25, 2011 - 21:06

Nelson: Don't give up on developing river district just yet

Yes, it's appropriate to direct some planning resources to the planned 'Blue Heron,' but officials should not be hurried by the prospect of a private development that may indirectly affect the planned venue.

Both the M&C and the BOE should, first, figure out how they are going to deal with a shrinking tax digest: They will have to either offer sharp cuts in spending, or sharp hikes in property taxes and/or other fees. Another alternative would retrofit current SPLOST/ELOST rules so that those monies could be used to fund operational expenses. (That's no panacea, however, especially if the change meant governments would not cut spending, but simply use the additional revenue to spend even more.)

While I am quite sure that many in Athens' regard a cautious approach to fiscal issues as 'too conservative,' and perhaps as the sort of thing that might cause Athens to miss 'the next big thing,' I think such an approach might offer more benefits than downsides. A more cautious approach to development, for instance, might mean a delay rather than mean something or the other might never be done. Unfortunately, some point to the current low interest rates and very reasonable construction costs as a reason to 'invest, now, in infrastructure projects.' Perhaps they imagine that Athens and U.GA. can 'leap-frog' ahead of other communities and schools should that take the courageous approach and plow ahead even while others are more cautious. There may be something to that idea; but on the other hand, all investments involve 'risk,' and it seems plain that the risks of debt, now, are much larger than they were in the early 2000's.

Your informative article about the RAI Steel development on Commerce Road mentioned that a local development authority bought the land, build the building, and promised to forgo property taxes on this development. This $9 million dollar debt, then, is outstanding; certainly we all hope this company sees great success.

In general, I think such an investment far exceeds the potential pay-back of something like a civic center expansion or even project blue heron. But that's just my opinion.

However, since the public needs to know more about the current debt level of ACC, I think it would be wise to provide more information about the various development boards who can float bonds in ACC's name.

Generally, the public ought to know whether or not the debts are sustainable and wise; and they'd probably also wish to know that such incentives are offered in a fair and consistent manor to potential new businesses, and current businesses.

Granted, prospective economic development in ACC could easily become mired in the petty politics of jealousy and in-fighting between some who feel they've not been offered the same incentives of others. Knowing that there will never be a perfectly equitable way to re-build the local economy, critics of such efforts should never be ignored or trampled-over, either. Throwing money towards developing jobs, too, is an incautious route. In general, thoughtful and prudent investments towards diversifying Athens economy -- specifically towards incentivizing primary and secondary employment (production; manufacturing) as opposed to service sector jobs (we already subsidized those to a great extent), would serve as an insurance policy should some economic sector suffer a periodic set-back. A looming debt crisis, in the world economy, however might trump, temporarily, even the best local business development plan, ever. Moreover, as far as can be seen, local political leadership remains mum on the fiscal crisis effecting not only their tax digest but the many homeowners and residents who are increasingly unable to pay their property taxes, for instance.

As Brody told the Chief in Jaws, "Put out the fire, chief!"

/Then we'll go get the shark!/

posted @ Sunday, September 25, 2011 - 20:52

The Editor's Desk

@leongalis: Yes, and keep in mind, I am the thin-skinned one, and you are supposed to be the one to ignore comments that are intended to bait you up? (PS, I noticed that Mr. Editor ignored my comments vis a vis the new debt issue on tap for the CCSD; 'as though' Mr. Lanoue's Sunday article is NOT about selling even more spending over at the CCSD!)

posted @ Saturday, September 24, 2011 - 15:45

Reinicke shows off metal plant

Clearly, property tax rebates or even lowered property taxes can make a difference in where businesses or even homeowners choose to locate. This is prima facie evidence that our local mayor and commission should attempt to roll-back property taxes both for businesses and home owners. It's good for business!

posted @ Saturday, September 24, 2011 - 15:42

The Editor's Desk

@leongalis: Well, I support your right to say what you do, but will occasionally register disapproval when I see fit. In fact, I find myself more likely to disagree with your sentiments, than to agree, generally. But isn't that the nature of debate and conversation? Would you change the rules to better suit your point of view?

posted @ Saturday, September 24, 2011 - 14:54

Obama to let states opt out of school regs

NCLB should be voided completely, along with IDEA. Then states and localities should be the final authority when it comes to educational policy.

posted @ Saturday, September 24, 2011 - 14:51

Clinic marks 10 years of caring for the poor

The Mercy Clinic is to be commended for their service, but this group's efforts do not nearly meet current needs.

Unfortunately, our health care system actively limits care in order to drive-up reimbursement rates. Our University system -- massively subsidized by the state -- continues to churn-out providers who are taught to limit services to drive-up costs; who graduate with great debts that force them to demand extravagant fees; who are schooled in a culture of gold-plated debt-financed medical care that can only be paid for if they cooperatively work to hold-up rates; and they organize their 'practices' around models that, themselves, drive-up the costs of health care.

Until the public is willing to challenge the current health care education model, we'll see a continuation of anti-competitive tactics that are designed to protect a monopoly organized with the single-minded purpose of providing the most expensive health care in the world. It accomplishes this goal, unapologetically, by slamming the door in the faces of those who need care

posted @ Saturday, September 24, 2011 - 14:44

A-C commission poised to approve new, but similar district lines

The actual 'process' of democracy, including voting district lines, pales in comparison to the remarkably robust ability of citizens to elect or force-out current office holders. Amazingly, as with the ELOST timing and the Sunday Sales referendum, this M&C seems completely wedded to the idea that only by controlling the process can they control our local politics. A good measure of the viability of our leaders may come just as soon as they begin to hike fees and taxes in an attempt to 'bail-out' government spending by expropriating more from the beleaguered tax payers.

posted @ Friday, September 23, 2011 - 15:35

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