Tuesday, August 23, 2011

23 AUG 11: Peaches on a Plate

And you thought this was an "off year" for elections. A winner was declared Monday in a vote which will affect practically everyone in Georgia. And it should be a big job creator -- at least for state prison inmates.

Governor Nathan Deal revealed the design of the next Georgia license plate. The creation of a mural designer in Forsyth will be produced on a large scale beginning this fall. At first glance, it's clear which of the "two Georgias" has won - because there's not a skyscraper in sight.

The new Georgia license plate features a tree with pink blossoms, and four ripe peaches in the corners. Hopefully they won't be so lifelike that hungry beggars will steal them....

A statement from the governor's office says the new Georgia tag will be less expensive to make, because it will NOT have raised letters and numbers. Digital technology allows for the production of a "flat plate." But I'm not sure that's a good idea - because won't the peaches be more likely to roll off the edge?

You may recall the online vote for a new Georgia license plate was restarted by Governor Deal, because of confusion over some designs showing the words "In God We Trust." I suppose some atheists might have been offended by it. But I don't hear anyone offering to add the optional line, "In Allah We Trust."

WTVM admitted some viewers were grumbling about the new license tag design Monday night on Facebook. You'd think those jealous pecan growers and cotton farmers would be over it by now....

But the announcement about the new license plate surprised me, by noting drivers "will also have the option of selecting a plain tag." And admittedly, there are a few people who oppose any pictures of anything on religious grounds. They stopped reading this blog entry a few jokes ago, so I can talk about them now.

Some of us can remember when "plain tags" were normal in Georgia. Monday night I pulled out the first two license plates I had when I moved to metro Atlanta. One of these days Country's Barbecue is bound to pay me big money for them....

The first Georgia tag on my 1982 Chevrolet had green letters on a plain-white background. There was no slogan or catch phrase - and this was before you could pay extra for "designer tags" promoting sports teams or colleges. It was an era when the most thrilling things about Georgia were Herschel Walker and Billy Carter.

The Georgia tag gained a little color around 1989 -- adding a peach on top and an orange stripe on the bottom. Yet I recall some military veterans complaining to the Atlanta newspaper the stripe looked a lot like a "yellow streak." They wanted no sign of Georgia surrendering -- as if they recalled how badly the Civil War turned out.

My current humble Honda has kept the same license plate for about 15 years. You can tell it's old because the tag has only six characters on it - and that isn't even long enough to make a good computer password anymore.

So my car is about due for a fresh Georgia license plate. But barring something unexpected, I'll have to wait until my next birthday next August to get it. In the meantime, I'll play mind games with the newer cars which pass me every day -- such as the "blobs" with BLB on their tags.

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BLOG UPDATE: We now return to the "Friendship fire fee flap" in Lee County. One woman left an old-fashioned voice-mail message with us Monday, which we've transcribed with slight editing....

Hi Richard.... If they would post the time and dates of their meetings, maybe citizens could attend them. Also, obviously there's no accountability of funds. Look at the federal indictment about the embezzlement by the assistant chief here. Also, there's nepotism. We had a fire chief, and then his daughter as the assistant chief; that's for the last 20 years.

Also, why don't we let citizens elect the board members? That would be nice. And to triple? The fees?? In one year??? Are you kidding me?

Also, they don't talk about the hundreds of thousands of dollars that Congressman Rogers gets from the federal government and disperses to the Lee County volunteer fire departments every year. You would really be surprised by the amount of income they take in - not only from our fees, which are put on our property taxes, but the federal funds and the fundraising. They have lots of money to work with.

And by the way, have you ever seen them stop a fire before it burned a house or a trailer down completely? Remember, they are not professionals. They are volunteers with jobs, and it takes them a long time to get to these fires.

The Alabama Forestry Commission works with nearly 1,000 volunteer fire departments -- but if it collects financial reports from them, the reports don't seem to be posted online. You'd think the paper for all those annual reports would help the state's timber industry.

A recent county audit noted the Southwest Lee County Fire Protection Authority is a "related organization" of the county commission, so the commission appoints most members. But it adds the commission "is not financially accountable" for that authority, because it gets no "financial benefit" from it. The courthouse IS in downtown Opelika, after all....

But while the Southwest Lee County Authority has received nearly $100,000 in annual federal grants, the Friendship Volunteer Fire Department received only about $30,000 last December. Of course, some of that Homeland Security grant money led to the indictment of Angelia Curran in July. So a federal prosecutor must have found something. Are Curran's Tigertown shopping buddies in seclusion right now?

This case is bringing a lot of questions to the surface about local volunteer fire departments. But I'm getting the feeling many of them won't be settled unless and until Angelia Curran goes on trial. Until then.... well, firefighters are used to being surrounded by thick smoke clouds.

By the way, my visit to Rep. Mike Rogers's website to review fire grants had an annoying moment. A "welcome page" demanded I sign up for Rogers's e-mail updates, before even seeing his home page. I thought Republicans were above Congressional cover-ups.

Speaking of people dealing with the heat, let's check other Monday news....

+ The high temperature in Columbus was 100 degrees F. OK, I've had about enough. Summer can end now. It can move north to Minnesota and Wisconsin for all of September, if it likes - and I'm sure the people there will appreciate it a lot more.

+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported Judge Douglas Pullen submitted his retirement papers to the state. There you go, Mr. Shelnutt - the address for your resume is Governor Nathan Deal, 203 State Capitol, Atlanta 30334.

+ The Georgia Legislature's special session received its first look at a proposed Congressional district map. Columbus would remain divided, with most of the city represented by Sanford Bishop and the rest by Lynn Westmoreland. But we're pleased to report the "Macon Road divide" is no more -- it's now around Bradley Park Drive and Weems Road.

+ Rep. Sanford Bishop held a "deficit reduction workshop" at the Columbus State University Cunningham Center. From what I saw on WRBL, he did NOT give away free lottery tickets.

+ WLTZ showed photos of a log truck which overturned at an Interstate 185 interchange, spilling logs all over Victory Drive. Sigh - yet another reminder that the Aflac Outdoor Games took 2011 off.

+ Instant Message to Muammar Qaddafi (however you spell it): I tried to warn you. It looks like you'll never get promoted to general now.

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