Hushing the Racket from Dr. Phil (Gingrey) and his D.I.C.K. Quartet

Its springtime in Georgia, but this spring there are a lot of things blooming in the red state of Georgia besides the redbud trees and like this redbud tree the true colors are beginning to show a tinge of blue for good reasons.

The state might be in the heart of the bible belt, but its movers, shakers, and polydamnticians have most of us, the citizens, remembering that the place started out as a penal colony of thieves, con artists, petty pirates, embezzlers, and more than an few whores. Our holy rollers in banking managed to make Georgia #1 or #2 in Mortgage Fraud for 5 years running from 2001 to 2005 on the way to the national championship of bank failures 7 years later. 11000 real estate appraisers warned them. (Video cites a conservative 2200.)You’d think somebody would be embarrassed.

Undaunted by their humungous failures and emboldened by chilling thoughts of losing their second homes in Highlands, the financiers turned to the mother’s milk of government bailouts and protection rackets. While they were at it, they dressed all the rest of us in milk-bone pajamas in this dog-eat-dog world they created. You reckon they thought we wouldn’t notice?

Over under that gold dome in Atlanta, their puppet chairmen of the House and Senate Banking Committees – both of whom headed failed banks – kept those pesky credit unions owned by the people at bay. We can be sure they were in church on Sunday – that is a Georgia law for politicians after all. Now, one of their pawns, Donna Sheldon, is running for the United States Congress in the 10th District after sitting on her duff on the Georgia House Banking Committee or actively countering the reformer, Senator Jesse Stone of Waynesboro. We’ll talk over more about her later.

Over yonder is US Representative Paul Broun, who vacated the seat Sheldon is drooling over, whose family owned a failed bank. He is looking to replace Saxby Chambliss a guy who so brilliantly defined $trillion bank derivatives as mere phone calls after his committee was charged with reforming banking. Saxby had a motto: “Wall Street Money for Free, be on the First Tee by Three!”

Yes we can bank on our Republican leaders in this state for rollicking fun and entertainment at our expense. Let me introduce you to Dr. Phil (Gingrey) and the Deal, Isakson, Chambliss and Kingston quartet. Phil and the DICK gang voted for such fiscally responsible triumphs as Medicare D, No Child Left Behind (before Phil), highway and farm bills. Before Phil came, DICK voted to allow banks to gamble with depositor’s money with no reserves and to book those bad gambling debts to be paid back first before depositors. Old Milhous Nixon himself wasn’t this tricky.

Now you think it is ugly to call these bozos DICK, but they got the ball rolling when Deal and Isakson became a tag team 4 years ago. Chambliss is escaping the boot he was about to get, but that old pork barrel spender Kingston is out playing the churches in an old woodie like a 2014 model Pharisee.

For us a frugal folk there isn’t much deciding to do. Let’s pack Dr. Phil and the DICK quartet off to a doublewide in Ludowici to play the pornography derivatives market and send the capable David Perdue and Karen Handel into the US Senate runoff. Do it for yourselves and the kids.

Please, don’t forget a lifelong conservative Republican Protestant who doesn’t really want you to force him into a Chilly November date with a Nunn.

Government Watchdogs Help Save Richmond County Taxpayers $6 million


Originally posted by CityStink
November 13, 2012
Augusta, GA
By Al Gray
The author, Al M. Gray is President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc., a provider of Cost Avoidance and Cost Recovery for America’s leading companies, businesses and governments desiring Superior Returns.
It began calmly enough for this correspondent in August 2011. Another chapter in life had been closed with the disposition of all commercial property in Evans, which was our family’s investment of a lifetime.  That adventure of maximizing returns from that investment had required leveraging up multidisciplinary contract and regulatory review skills to a new level in combating hostile forces inside of Columbia County government. The comfort of total retirement beckoned until zero-interest-rate-policies of the Federal Reserve attacked all safe income streams. Thoughts crept in about leveraging up the entire old repertoire of skills on a grander scale, but how?
Along came Deke Copenhaver’s ill-fated attempt to get a downtown stadium for a group headed by former Baltimore baseball great Cal Ripken, Jr.  The whole deal looked suspect all the way from the woods of Lincoln County and a tiny band of opponents rose up to combat the project. This just happened to coincide with a preliminary secretive review of Augusta’s major contracts for the water treatment plant, sales tax project oversight, and the TEE Center construction. The activists had a meeting that I drove down to attend. We quickly found and developed common bonds.
Our first success came a year ago this month, with our opposition to the Laney Walker Bethlehem Overlay District (LWBOLD). We successfully got the Augusta Commission’s motion to approve scaled back to the correct, much more compact Foundry Node, rather than the huge overall LWBOLD. This early project coincided with the creation of the CityStink.net blog (the name being a parody of Sylvia Cooper’s City Ink column in The Augusta Chronicle)  and a social media group called Augusta Today, a parody of the name Augusta Tomorrow — the latter being a group of elite self-appointed downtown power-brokers who are responsible for many of the ill-conceived taxpayer funded boondoggles over the past 30 years in Augusta.
A large element of success was a core group comprised of Augusta political ‘gadflies’ at whom the Augusta Chronicle was prone to scoff, researchers, and amateur media types. This group collaborated in a number of issues including overlay zoning, Magnolia Trace, the parking deck controversy in which we broke the story about the undisclosed liens, Laney Walker housing, TSPLOST, the 12thDistrict Congressional election, various Augusta contracts, the DDA, the clock and finally the TEE Center.
Former Mayoral candidate Lori Davis emerged quickly to take the lead in arranging for Georgia Open Records Act Requests and turning the results into hard-hitting reports that were promptly delivered. Kurt Huttar and Tom West are fantastic data hounds and analysts whose work would make all manner of Augusta players wet their pants if the research were released. Dee Mathis was an early core group member who took Laney Walker to heart with a rousing defense of property rights. Andy Cheek is an experienced Augusta political hand from his days on the Augusta Commission. Brad Owens is a now successful security contractor, in addition to his familiarity with the minefield of Augusta politics. All have made their presence known in Augusta.
Potential and real savings for Augusta were identified along the way including a possible $300,000 or so on Laney Walker housing, an apparent $167,000 overcharge on a major contract, perhaps $750,000 over the life of parking deck contracts, and now more than $6 million on the TEE Center Contracts, according to Commissioner Corey Johnson and various news reports in the aftermath of last Thursday’s vote to approve  considerably-amended Tee Center agreements after Augusta Today founder Brad Owens and this writer met with city and manager attorneys,  and three Augusta Commissioners. Johnson put the savings as high as $500,000 a year and our analysis confirms that the savings could easily exceed $400,000 a year between the contract changes and the safeguards to come in the Annual Plan process.
Media reports can be found at Georgia Public Broadcasting’s site which had this to say: “The revised deal cuts the operating losses in half from about $900,000 originally, and it gives Augusta officials the option of renegotiating with the management company after five years.” George Eskola, of WJBF NewsChannel 6 offered the headline “Proposed TEE Center Contract Change Could Save Augusta $500,000His report appears below.
Augusta has never seen anything quite like this grass-roots citizens movement made possible by the use of digital media.. The response has been overwhelming. Our media vehicles of social media groups and CityStink.net have gained a following among the legal, accounting, public policy, and business communities.
The achievements are not bad, not bad at all, for an operation held together by not much more than duct tape, baling wire, and twine.
Augusta Administrator Fred Russell has characterized Augusta Today as a group that is permanently discontented with the TEE Center contracts, saying “We have listened to everything they have said to do and done it, and now they’re not happy.”  Seven of ten commissioners listened better, delaying approval, and securing $400,000 to $500,000 in annual savings.
Augusta Today is happy today, Fred.
In closing, the phrase from District One Commissioner Matt Aitken “It is time to move Augusta forward” suits best. Let’s do that, keeping in mind that approaching problems from all angles makes for the best path forward, one less filled with mistakes. Deke’s and Fred’s way are no longer the only options on the table, when Augusta can save money doing otherwise.
On a more personal note in closing this first annual report card, leveraging up what worked so well before in the corporate and real estate into the glaring lights of Public Policy has been very satisfying. Thanks to each and all who have offered kind words of praise and support.  Thanks even more to the Augusta Today group for their commitment for positive change in government and saving the people’s money.
Who knows where this might end. Maybe what starts in Augusta won’t end in Augusta.***
AG

Lincoln County Commission Gets a TSPLOST Blast

In June 2012, Georgia’s proposed Transportation Investment Act, called TSPLOST all over the state, was being debated before coming up on an election ballot.

The Lincoln County commissioners were drooling over the new tax money. They didn’t like this message.

The words of warning were played and replayed on Lincoln County’s cable television network which reaches nearly every household in the county.

The election was held and the people of Lincoln County turned TSPLOST down despite the support of the elected officials and the Chamber of Commerce.

Home rule died with the TSPLOST vote.

Taking over the Augusta Commission Chamber

In early 2012, Augusta faced a dilemma. It had constructed a $15 million parking deck that it did not own. Local activists with the Augusta Today facebook group and CityStink.net had alerted the media when their research of real estate titles at the Clerk of Court’s office showed that the land was not owned by the city.

Cost recovery analyst Al Gray and Brad Owens took over the commission chambers to address the crowd and insist upon rights of audit, in what was seen as a one-sided contract.

Augusta Sales Tax Program Management Contract Extension

Augusta’s Sales and Use Tax-funded project management firm was up for contract renewal. After behind-the-scenes support of the commissioners, the contractor reduced the contract price by about $184,000.