Author: Teri

Real Housewife of Smyrna. Proudly representing Ward 3 on the Smyrna City Council since 2007.

Morning Reads – Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Good morning! Ed’s not here, but he picked today’s song.





“Sometimes The System Goes On The Blink”

Circa 2006.

Let’s see a show of hands from all the readers who are using the same cell phone or laptop they used in 2006!

Anyone? Bueller…?

A recent report from the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law details the technological shortcomings of the nation’s current fleet of electronic voting machines. The report’s authors interviewed election officials in every state, including Georgia. Of note:

  • Every voting machine in Georgia was manufactured prior to 2006, and was designed and engineered in the 1990s.
  • Every Georgia voter casts their ballot on the same discontinued machine.
  • All of Georgia’s voting machines rely on Windows 2000 (Microsoft ended support for Windows 2000 in 2010).
  • According to the report, no jurisdiction in Georgia is looking for new machines.

Citylab breaks down the essence of the report (links are theirs), and also makes this point:

Meanwhile, states are paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars to roll out new voter ID laws in the name of “election integrity.” Some have paid even more, into the millions, to defend voter ID in court, even though the problem it purports to resolve is middling—and that’s being generous. Many of those states have not coughed up money to solve their voting machine problem, which is far more crippling to election integrity.

Following a summer of special elections, many Georgians will vote in municipal and other elections on November 3, and 2016 will start strong with the SEC Primary in March. Have you heard of any Georgia jurisdictions that are looking to update their equipment? Are you confident in Georgia’s voting machines, or do you worry that Election Day will be – not unlike the #1 hit song of 2006 – a bad day? Discuss in the comments.

GRU Is Out, AU Is In

Gru reacts to today’s news.

This morning, the University System of Georgia Board of Regents voted unanimously to change the name of Georgia Regents University to Augusta University. The move comes two years after the merger of Augusta State University and Georgia Health Sciences University resulted in the Board of Regents basically naming the new university after themselves.

The response to the 2012 name change from students, alumni, and the Augusta community – as well as Regent University in Virginia – was unenthusiastic.

From the AJC:

It became [clear] that “Georgia Regents University or Augusta University” cannot become the university it can be without complete support from the community,” Keel said during Tuesday’s Regents meeting in Atlanta. The name change, he said, will help establish the strong and necessary partnership between the community and school.

While pride in Augusta is at the heart of the issue, Walter Jones and Tom Corwin’s report in the Augusta Chronicle indicates that it’s apparent that money is at the root of the change, whether it’s concerns from dropping alumni contributions:

The name change will bring back “tens of thousands of alumni” from both institutions who had shied away from providing financial support to GRU, said Nick Evans, a leader in the Save the A movement that campaigned to put Augusta back in the name of the university for the last three years.

Or the fact that donations from the Augusta community will offset the costs of the name change:

Huckaby said Augusta civic leaders promised to raise funds to pay for the sign changes. The university spent $3.8 million to replace all of the previous signs from the schools that created the consolidated college of Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities, as well as the signage for the school’s health system.

Interestingly, while the Board of Regents’ eponymous institution was known as GRU from August 12, 2012, until today, and nearly $4 million was spent on new signs, the name of the school was never legally changed until today. Meanwhile, the Medical College of Georgia will retain its name.

When That’s Where You Left Your Heart: Katrina, Ten Years Later

Ten years ago tomorrow, Hurricane Katrina made landfall at Buras, Louisiana. Soon after, the levees broke. The SomeTimes-Picayune and The Advocate have extensive coverage of what the past decade has meant for the region, and it’s easy to find compelling first-person accounts from residents and those who acted behind the scenes.

In the remarks that President Obama delivered yesterday in the Lower Ninth Ward, he stated, “What started out as a natural disaster became a man-made one—a failure of government to look out for its own citizens,” and I don’t entirely disagree. A common theme among many narratives is that the immediate response to the catastrophe by Inmate New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, Governor Kathleen Blanco, President George W. Bush, and FEMA is worthy of criticism, evaluation, and – yes – even some praise. By the grace of God, it’s been ten years since a hurricane of that magnitude made landfall in the US, but it will happen again, and we will only benefit from thorough analysis of what did – and didn’t – work in preparation for, and response to, Katrina.

Here’s where there’s a Georgia connection, as more than 100,000 New Orleans evacuees found their way to metro Atlanta and Georgia. WABE’s Katrina coverage offers a range of oral histories from evacuees, first responders, and Georgia politicians.

Read more

You Spin My Head Right Round

When you’re commuting in Georgia, it’s generally because (with apologies to Flo Rida) you’ve got people to see, and your time is precious. Daily commutes are getting longer, so perhaps communities should defer to traffic engineers – and the Mythbusters – and embrace the roundabout.

As reported in the AJC, roundabouts are on the increase in Georgia. Since 2005, 145 have been built in Georgia, and another 130 are either under construction or in the design process, so if there’s not one in your community yet, chances are, you’ll see one soon. In Smyrna, we currently have three roundabouts, and one is in the works for the 2016 SPLOST. Smyrna’s nascent roundabout will replace a traffic light that controls a six-point intersection. Traffic there is light, but the time drivers spend waiting for the lights to cycle through each street is frustratingly long; that’s the kind of interchange that was made for a roundabout.

The AJC notes that feelings on roundabouts range from love to loathe:

Surveys have shown that before roundabouts are installed, a lot of people don’t want them, said Mike Hunter, director of the National Center for Transportation Systems Productivity and Management at Georgia Tech. But afterward, they tend to be well-received.

“I think there has definitely been a tipping point in Georgia, where you are now starting to see more and more people request them,” Hunter said. “It’s not the transportation agencies going in and saying, ‘We think this is a good location for one.’”

It’s also clear that driver education is key – although, arguably, if you have the wherewithal to operate several thousand pounds of steel, you should be able to figure out how to circumnavigate a circle. The Georgia Driver’s Manual currently gives roundabouts only a passing glance, but they will be covered in greater depth for next year’s edition. (Admittedly, if there’s a stop sign at the roundabout, the situation is sometimes fraught.)

Alternatively, some believe that roundabouts are kin to ten-foot sidewalks as a tenet of Agenda 21. Benignly innovative traffic calming tactic, or part of the UN’s onward march towards global domination? Discuss in the comments.

Morning Reads – Wednesday, August 12, 2015


  • The headline for this Economist poll is funnier when you consider that “trump” is British slang for “fart.”
  • Speaking of, I kind of wish Donald Trump would enter the feminine hygiene market, because there’s always room for super-luxe products made especially for ladies’ wherevers.
  • NPR offers solid coverage of the Katrina-versary.
  • This bonnethead has an uphill campaign, but don’t underestimate a former SAG president.



The Coddling of the American Mind


“Pabst! Blue! Ribbon!”

The House We Live In

On Sunday, the Associated Press published an article by Adam Geller marking the 100th anniversary of the Leo Frank lynching. The piece begins with a sentence describing the site of the lynching that could have only been written by someone who’s not from Cobb County (and I write this as a person who has an linocut print of the Big Chicken in her foyer):

Down past the Big Chicken, the 56-foot-high, steel-beaked beacon of extra crispy that may be this town’s most prized landmark, the wedge of dirt hard by Interstate 75 is notable only for its lack of notability.

As Don Cox of the Marietta Museum of History noted, “This is a story that won’t go away.”

To many in Cobb County and Georgia, it’s apparent that this isn’t a story that should go away. In The Temple Bombing, Melissa Faye Greene traces a clear path from the Frank lynching to the role that Atlanta’s Jewish community played in the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s. 13-year-old Mary Phagan’s murder, and the progression of Frank’s trial, appeal, and lynching in August, 1915, also contributed to the re-formation of the Klan atop Stone Mountain in November of that year. In light of current conversations happening across Georgia and the south regarding race relations and symbols of the confederacy, the Frank case should be remembered and discussed. Read more

Morning Reads – Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Ed is somewhere else.

Submitted without comment:

The music he chose.




“These days, it is hard to ignore a rising conservative clamor to rehabilitate the criminal-justice system.”


Own The Night Like The 4th Of July

As of July 1, Georgians can celebrate Independence Day with legit fireworks. I have to admit, I’m kind of excited – I spent my formative years in Texas, where people celebrate July 4th by eating brisket and doing stuff like this with firecrackers. I appreciate a DIY fireworks show, even if it’s just sparklers and Roman candles in either the cul-de-sac or the back pasture.

There are really only a few things that the new Georgia law requires:

  • The person lighting the fireworks must be at least 18 years old and have a valid photo ID.
  • You can’t light them within 100 yards of a gas station or a nuclear power plant.
  • You’re liable for any damage caused by your fireworks.
  • You can only shoot them off between 10 AM and midnight, unless it’s New Year’s Eve or July 4, in which case you can celebrate freedom until 2 AM.

And that’s pretty much it. Want to shoot them off at a state park, or in the middle of a crowd? You can do that – it’s totally legal – but park officials advise you to be careful. From WSB:

Park officials are concerned that the new law does not allow them the flexibility to put in place restrictions on where the fireworks can be set off.

HB 110 expressly prohibits any government or municipality from creating local laws or ordinances that prohibit the sale or use of the fireworks in any area.

“We are hoping to work with lawmakers to help regulate crowded situations or state and public lands,” said Dwayne Garriss, Georgia’s State Fire Marshal.

Unlike Texas, where cities and counties can regulate whether fireworks are allowed within their borders (for instance, fireworks are allowed in Harris County, which includes Houston, but not within the Houston city limits), counties and municipalities in Georgia have no say at all in determining whether they want to enact local ordinances that deal with fireworks. We local elected folks can handle Sunday alcohol sales, we can – for now – determine whether we want to ban plastic bags, but fireworks? That’s state-level stuff, kids. Read more


Many Georgians thought we had put the flag battle behind us. We are quickly learning, though, that replacing one Confederate flag with a flag that, while less incendiary than the previous flag, is still basically a Confederate flag, and by offering license plates that look like this, we might want to revisit the flag conversation.

We began this week by lauding ourselves when Governor Zell Miller’s 1993 State of the State speech, in which he eloquently called on a stone-silent Legislature to change the flag, went more viral than any 22-year-old C-SPAN video has before. The message was that Georgia has been working on this issue for decades, way before South Carolina and Mississippi decided that there was merit to conversation about eliminating from state grounds a symbol that many feel is grounded in racism and the legacy of Jim Crow.

Among Georgia’s political elite, the public flag discussion began about eight months prior to Miller’s 1993 address. On May 15, 1992, Attorney General Mike Bowers – yes, that Mike Bowers – wrote a succinct letter to the editors of the Atlanta Journal that called for a change to the state flag:

Our state flag glorifies the Confederacy but this is not right. The state flag is highly offensive to many black Georgians, for whom the Confederacy symbolizes slavery. We should change the flag. We should not impose on our neighbors anything so distasteful to them.

The current version of our flag is relatively new. It came into being only in 1956, some say in anticipation of the Civil War centennial. Most likely, defiance toward the Brown desegregation decision of the U.S. Supreme Court played a key role in the flag’s creation…

… Unfortunately, reality has fallen short of the great promise of equal justice. There is no magic or even simple answer to this. At least a part of the answer, however, is in millions of individual efforts by decent Americans of all races, colors and creeds, reaching out in love to let their neighbors know that they are loved and that someone truly cares.

We have an extraordinary opportunity to reach out and show our love for our black neighbors. Change the state flag.

Historical context is key: this letter was written two weeks after the Rodney King verdict and the subsequent riots in Atlanta, and amidst the preparations for the 1996 Olympics. In 1992, Bowers was still a Democrat, but context is key there, as well, since the Democratic party in Georgia was ruled by House Speaker Tom Murphy, who was outspoken in his reticence to make any changes to the flag.

Our back-slapping over how early we came to the flag debate isn’t entirely unwarranted. In Georgia, we’ve had potent politicians like Zell Miller, Roy Barnes, and Mike Bowers talking about why the flag needed to change for decades, and ultimately making that change, and I’ll venture a guess that they were speaking out about the issue long before the conversation was happening among politicians of their caliber in other Southern states. But it appears clear that we still have a ways to go in this discussion.

In 1992, Bowers wrote, “The state flag is an issue worthy of concern because race relations are as strained as they have been for a long time.” In the South, in 2015, those words still ring true, and it will be interesting to see how history shapes the continued conversation.

Metro Atlanta – But Not Atlanta – Sees The Most Population Growth

The latest census data was released yesterday, and along with the news that Georgia’s population growth now lags Tennessee’s, we know which parts of Georgia are growing fastest. The top five cities are all part of metro Atlanta:

Smyrna (represent!) – 2.7 percent
National rank: 50

Sandy Springs – 2.1 percent
National rank: 93

Atlanta – 1.7 percent
National rank: 146

Marietta – 1.4 percent
National rank: 199

Alpharetta – 1.4 percent
National rank: 220

The AJC has more details on Georgia’s growth – and lack thereof – and is quick to note that Atlanta’s population decline “was largely obscured by the region’s growth.” The folks up at the Cleveland (not our Cleveland) Plain Dealer have a handy tool that can search census data from every city and county in the U.S., which is how I now know that the population in Hahira grew at a rate of 4.53%.

Works on Contingency? No, Money Down!

A Newtonian scandal of Hutzian proportions.

Back in January, WXIA’s investigative team ran an in-depth report on Newton County attorney Tommy Craig, prompted in large part by the work of the Newton Conservative Liberty Alliance (NCLA). The NCLA emerged a few years ago as a bit of an underdog in Newton County politics as self-styled “Karate Kid activists” (presumably, the Newton County Commission is Cobra Kai).

In 2014, Craig billed the county for $1.1 million in legal fees, which WXIA determined is three to four times higher than fees in neighboring counties. For some perspective, Newton County’s general fund budgeted expenditures for FY 2015 total only around $44 million. It’s also a relatively unique arrangement; typically, county attorneys are salaried, even if they are with an independent firm, or they bill at a negotiated rate that is far lower than their usual hourly rate. And for 2015, Craig is on track to bill even more.

There’s also the issue of Craig’s involvement in negotiating details for the Bear Creek Reservoir project, the necessity of which is up for debate. From WXIA:

Craig also bills hours to the county as a water consultant and residents say his lack of results needs to be questioned. For 19 years, Craig has worked on getting a permit to build the Bear Creek Reservoir in Newton County.

More than $20 million has been spent on the project, and no news — except bad news.

According to minutes taken from an Army Corps of Engineers meeting with Craig and three commissioners, the Corps is taking issue with several parts of the reservoir plan, expressing concerns about whether the reservoir is actually needed. The promised permit is not as close in hand as many residents say they were lead to believe.

WXIA ran an update on the issue last night, and discussion of an $800,000 cap in legal fees is promising news for Newton County taxpayers, but the County Commission is divided. And while I question the musical transition that WXIA uses for their Investigators series (if you’re at work or a baby is sleeping in the vicinity, you may want turn down the volume before you play those clips), there’s no doubt that they are right to follow this story, and that the NCLA should continue to press this issue.

Summer Camp Licensing: Does It Matter?

I have two children in elementary school, and like so many parents in Georgia, I arranged months ago for them to spend several weeks this summer at different day camps. For many working parents, camp is an essential component of the child care puzzle that must be pieced together during the months when school is out; it’s just as critical for stay-at-home parents who want a week or two of sweet, blessed silence (you’ll receive no judgment here).

Parents can choose from all kinds of day and sleepaway camps: art, sewing, sports, LEGO, computer coding, swimming, iOS and Android app development, writing, history, puppetry, zoo and aquarium camps… and there are still plenty of camps that kick it old school with canoeing, archery, and s’mores.

But unlike day care and other state-licensed child care providers, most camps in Georgia are exempt from any kind of oversight. From the AJC:

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation found that more than 900 summer camps in Georgia are exempt from state regulation, allowing them to legally avoid inspections, criminal background checks for employees and other safeguards designed to keep kids safe. And that’s the camps the state even knows about. Hundreds — perhaps thousands — more simply operate off the books, luring parents with posts on Craigslist, ads in magazines or even signs along the road.

Records obtained by the AJC through open records requests show that the state has issued nearly as many child care exemptions as it has licenses, creating a vast network of care for children that exists with little or no oversight.

I’m probably not the only parent who raised an eyebrow after reading this article – but I’m not sure that putting thousands of camps under state purview is the solution. Should the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning – and it’s a safe guess that DECAL probably doesn’t have the spare resources necessary to take on a licensing program of this scale or ephemerality – take on this task, or, to quote Bill Murray, “it just doesn’t matter,” and it’s reasonable for these camps that we trust with our kids – the kids! – to operate without any kind of state oversight?

So! Many! License! Plates!*

As you prepare for your drive home this gorgeous May Friday, consider the Georgia license plate, of which you will likely see as many versions as there are minutes in your commute. A trip in the Peach Pundit Wayback Machine offers a stroll down Georgia’s license plate memory lane.

Earlier this week, WABE’s Michell Eloy detailed her fascination with the many iterations of the Peach State’s plates:

There’s the one with the big, fuzzy-looking peach in the middle and the words “Georgia on my mind” up top that pays homage to the state song.

Then there’s the license plate with the state surrounded by an outline of a peach set to a background that fades from grey to white. There’s also the same plate but minus the gray shading.

And don’t forget the two newest plates: the bucolic – some might say busy – scene of a peach tree farm, and the one I like to call the “minimalist peach,” just a bright orange peach in the center set on a white background.

It will surprise few to hear that my car sports a plate honoring my alma mater; I’m guessing more than one of my colleagues here has a Georgia(Tech)(State)(Southern) plate on their car.

Representative Tom Rice (R-Norcross), who heads the House Motor Vehicles Committee, said, “The objective is to give people a choice. People like choices.” Indeed we do.

In late March, the Supreme Court heard a case originating from Texas addressing Confederate license plates (you may have seen a similar plate here in Georgia). Do you think we have too much choice in Georgia? Should we stick with one design, or go for broke, pedal to the (not made by prisoners) metal?

*Alternate title: “Dr. Cosmo Kramer, Proctology!” And here’s a good starting point for the license plate internet rabbit hole.


A New Chief for the GGTCFC(FKASEC)

Yesterday, the board of directors for the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission (formerly known as the State Ethics Commission) elected attorney Stefan Ritter to head the commission. Ritter, a Decatur resident (who presumably possesses a positive attitude and a strong work ethic) has a background in issues that are critical to leading the ethics commission, as noted in the AJC:

Currently the head of the Attorney General’s Education, Elections, Local Government & Judiciary Section, Ritter for several years has served as the commission’s assigned legal counsel. He also has extensive knowledge of the state’s Open Records Act and Open Meetings Act…

Ritter has defended the state in many high-profile cases as assistant attorney general, including a 2004-2005 effort to overturn Georgia’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. In 2010, he successfully fought a lawsuit challenging the Georgia Charter Schools Commission. A year later, he represented Gov. Nathan Deal in his effort to suspend the DeKalb County School Board in 2013 after an accreditation agency placed the school system on suspension.

But, Ritter has also been proactive in enforcing the state’s rules requiring openness and transparency from government. He led the Attorney General’s Office’s efforts to force Atlanta Public Schools, the city of Savannah, the city of Cumming and others to follow the law.

Ritter was one of five finalists considered for the position; 72 people applied for the job after the opening was posted in February. I’ve chronicled my frustrations with the filing process from a candidate’s point of view, and I have no doubt that citizens and the media alike are anxious to see how the refreshed GGTCFC(FKASEC) proceeds. This will be no small feat considering the hurdles they’re working to overcome following a year of turmoil highlighted with the firing of Holly LaBerge in September 2014, and a 58-page audit this past October that detailed myriad dysfunctions within the department, including systemic inefficiencies and inaccuracies.

Ritter represents a much-needed fresh start for the beleaguered commission, and he told the AJC, “We’re going to make sure everything is on the up and up and we’re going to make sure that citizens and candidates are all [able] to use the commission the way they’re suppose to, easily.” I truly wish him the best of luck.