Thursday, October 21, 2010

21 OCT 10: Six Questions, One Percent

With so many candidates and so many commercials on both sides of the state line, it's easy to ignore other important election issues. For instance: which candidate for Columbus Mayor will be the first to act on that controversial audit - and pledge to build shuffleboard courts at senior centers?

Blog readers actually have other issues on their mind, and they're e-mailing us about it. We heard first from a candidate for Georgia State Senate, who amazingly did NOT want a free plug for his campaign:

Richard, Dick & Richard,

I am writing all of you as proprietors of websites that are viewed by a lot of people in our area. I am hoping you would be willing to do a post on the Constitutional Amendments and the Statewide Ballot Question on this year's ballot. An alarming number of voters have no idea these are on the ballots and a number of "early voters" have expressed surprise and concern to me that they got into the booth, voted and then found all of these items which they did not know anything about and had to abstain from voting or vote "no" on everything in some cases.

I would be glad to send each of you a description of each question that I think more fairly covers it without taking a position of "Yes" or "No" on each.

Let me know if you are interested and I will send it on. If any of you have thoughts on how we can get this in front of more people please let me know.



Before you get wrong ideas -- I believe Josh McKoon also sent this e-mail to Dick McMichael and Richard Hyatt. It does NOT mean I have multiple personality disorder.

Columbus city government wants you to know about these five amendments and one "ballot question." There's a link on the city website to a ten-page summary of the issues, prepared by Georgia state officials. The Democratic Attorney General and Republican Secretary of State worked together on this -- showing there may be hope for consensus after all.

Amendment One would allow Georgia courts to enforce contracts which could wind up "encouraging a monopoly," or wind up "defeating or lessening competition." So if you want to play Monopoly at Burger King as well as McDonald's, it might lose on appeal.

But look at the way Amendment One is worded on the ballot: "Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to make Georgia more economically competitive by authorizing legislation to uphold reasonable competitive agreements?" Well, who said this makes the state more economically competitive? Economists can't even agree on whether we're out of a recession.

An Athens newspaper doesn't seem to like that wording, either. An editorial in the Banner-Herald describes Amendment One as "a cynical attempt to manipulate the results...." It's a bit like putting Roy Barnes's job creation count next to his name on the ballot for Governor.

Amendment Two has received the most attention during the campaign season. You may have seen TV commercials promoting this plan to create a "trauma trust fund," and pay for 14 more trauma care hospitals. Right now there are none between Columbus and Thomasville - proving Phoebe Putney in Albany doesn't have as much clout as its critics say.

Columbus Regional is listed as a supporter of this proposal. The Medical Center is a pediatric trauma care center - so Amendment Two could mean two steps up the ladder.

Supporters of Amendment Two are honest enough to admit how the trauma trust fund would be funded - with a ten-dollar increase in car registration fees. When the ballot question refers to "certain passenger motor vehicles," be certain it applies to you.

Georgia Amendment Three involves state road construction contracts. The Department of Transportation could sign multi-year agreements, while only budgeting for one year at a time. But the way the state budget has looked lately, Georgia might risk leading the country in "roads to nowhere."

Amendment Four would do the same sort of thing in long-term state contracts involving energy conservation. While the question says this will provide for "guaranteed cost savings," the fine print shows state agencies could incur debt. So "going green" could send Georgia deeper into the red.

Amendment Five seems simple enough: can owners of "real property" in industrial areas be allowed to remove the property from that area? It's about time we allowed mobile homes to be truly mobile....

But the summary by Georgia state officials reveals Amendment Five only applies to Chatham and Jeff Davis Counties. So the Columbus Chamber of Commerce might encourage a "No" vote, to give us a sales point over Savannah.

There's also a "ballot question" for Georgia voters. It proposes to exempt "inventory of a business" from state ad valorem taxes. I don't mind this, if it means department stores bring back those semiannual inventory sales....

Another reader is interested in a proposal which isn't on a ballot, but could be on voters' minds right now - federal taxes:

Thsi spells trouble for the working people

This "Debt Free America Act" claims we can wipe out the national debt and end individual income taxes in seven years, simply by adding a one-percent fee on all financial transactions -- from buying a soda to selling stock. If that's really possible, let's add another one percent and conquer Afghanistan once and for all.

The Debt Free America Act was proposed this year by a Democratic Congressman from Pennsylvania -- but a campaign aide to Rep. Sanford Bishop didn't seem thrilled about it Wednesday. Travis Worl brought up the word e-mailers absolutely never want to hear: Snopes.

While the Debt Free America Act is real, it never moved out of any House committees this year. And a Snopes check shows it's been proposed constantly since 2004, with no success - which seems to make it the Democratic Party's answer to the "FAIR Tax."

We called the Mike Keown campaign Wednesday for a comment on the Debt Free America Act, but our message was not returned. The staff obviously is busy with another idea - the "Free Georgia of Bishop" Act.

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BLOG UPDATE: Wayne Anthony is turning up the pressure in the Columbus Mayor's race. Richard Hyatt's website reports Anthony now wants Teresa Tomlinson to release a list of every financial transaction involving MidTown Inc. I think the strategy is to keep Tomlinson so busy looking for papers that she has no time to campaign.

A statement from the Wayne Anthony campaign claims Teresa Tomlinson is guilty of "overreaction" to last week's questions about MidTown Inc. financial records. But isn't a request for every donation and expenditure over three years an overreaction in the other direction? Or is Anthony trying to prove his list of "House of Heroes Supporters" is bigger?

Teresa Tomlinson told The River City Report Wayne Anthony should ask MidTown Inc. for all those financial records, not her. Anthony answered he went to the MidTown Inc. board of directors months ago - but the media "sat on it" and didn't bring up the issue since August. Those Parks and Recreation officials simply were too entertaining....

Mayoral candidate Paul Olson made a logical-sounding suggestion at Tuesday night's forum. Teresa Tomlinson should release the MidTown Inc. financial records - and so should Wayne Anthony, with records from House of Heroes and the Pastoral Institute. Olson apparently stopped short of demanding Zeph Baker release his church's list of tithe-payers.

Wayne Anthony claimed afterward he's "never been paid a dime" for years from House of Heroes. Federal tax records we reviewed Wednesday night indicate that's accurate, with no salary reported since 2002. Anthony must be a sharp financial planner -- because he's made his Columbus Council pay stretch very well.

Meanwhile, Wednesday was a down day for the "Truth About Teresa" blog. All posts were removed, except for a statement that "we have had some new people join the TTAT team who have a better grasp on web design." How those new skilled people found such an anonymous blogger is a mystery to me....

Let's see what else had our attention Wednesday:

+ ABC News showed video of Alabama state legislators playing golf during a national conference in June. The outing in Louisville was funded by gambling lobbyists, and occurred at the very hour the conference was discussing ethics. So if there's a bill next year to restore the Birmingham Turf Club, you'll know why.

(ABC News reviewed state ethics laws, and found lobbyists can give Alabama lawmakers $250 per day without filing a report. I wondered where the legislature came up with all that money for district grant projects - not to mention the lawmakers' nice new suits.)

+ WRBL added sound effects to its newscasts - such as a "whoosh" when an anchor's name appears on the screen. If they keep doing that with Bob Jeswald's name, I'm going to assume the forecast calls for a windstorm.

+ WTVM showed a culinary arts show at the Trade Center. It had everything from food vendors to a high school cooking contest - but thankfully, no one stooped to the Nickelodeon level and served spaghetti tacos.

+ Instant Message to the Columbus Public Library: You're going to be fair and balanced, right? I mean, next Wednesday you're having a program called "Come Meet a Muslim." So why not bring back that teenager you suspended, for "Converse With a Christian"?

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