The JERK of Lincoln County?

On Tuesday April 19th, 2016 the Lincoln County Republican Party held a candidate forum at the public Library. Your Arrowflinger was there and asked the candidates very tough questions. Former House District 117 Representative Lee Anderson, now running for the Senate District 24 seat, and his wife Donna were seated the next row in front. When Lee got up to speak my questions were pointed at his previous record of voting for double digit fee, rate, and tax increases on us. Donna turned and called me a “jerk” numerous times, although the only clearly audible one was at the end, when I loudly challenged Lee to take further questioning.

Now, the point being made is that we go broke very fast paying double digit cost increases when our incomes are increasing less than 2%. Lee and Donna have a solution to this dilemma though. You see, Lee’s first cousin Superior Court Judge David Roper heads the guardian ad litem program in Augusta which became a national scandal because of the guardians’ ad looting. Now Donna is in that stable of ad lootems, supplementing their family income. We don’t have that option, do we?

None of the other candidates or their parties reacted with anger at my tough questions, only the one person divorcing parents would expect to stay calm.

Later radio talker Austin Rhodes quipped that the Andersons don’t need the money, but did the other Ad lootems who punished distraught parents with outrageous fees??

Usually the phrase “grab the wife and kids” is hyperbole in a political season, but can you families of the 24th risk having a rogue judge, rubber-stamp lawmaker, and angry guardian ad lootem wife all aligned against you in the event of divorce?

Think about it.

Watch and listen, as Arrowflinger Al gets tagged with yet another insulting label to join many other such Badges of Honor.

Lee Left the Gate Open – Tax Revenues Hoofed It

Back in 2011, during Lee Anderson’s last year in the Georgia House before his doomed attempt at the US House, your arrowflinging writer called and wrote him about the activities of the Tax Reform Council. Lee acted ignorant of the issues and directed me to his guy on the Council, plant nurseryman Skeeter McCorkle. He got back “Lee I know what McCorkle will do – he will get a whole new slew of agriculture exemptions!”

Anderson wasn’t in the Georgia House in 2012 when House Bill 386 passed containing all those costly new exemptions that real people are now having to make up.

Included in the bill was a provision giving nearly every farmer in Georgia, even home gardeners, what is now known at the GATE (Georgia Agricultural Tax Exemption) card. It looks like this.

Georgia GATE Card

Now when we used to visit Lee Anderson’s farm, each and every gate we passed through had to be closed and secured with a chain. So it used to be with Georgia Tax Exemptions.

What transpired was a comical statewide tax looting publicized heavily in the Atlanta Media, municipal publications, and even county papers like the Lincoln Journal. Some farming fellows tried to use their GATE card on the casket and vault for their fathers funeral. Others bought $100,000’s of lumber for home building. The carnage continues today at nearly every rural store in Georgia.

The tax losses exceeded 15% in many counties, causing property tax increases just like the 22% property tax Augustans got out of the same tax reform fiasco.

A Georgia Municipal Association map and chart depicted the damage statewide.GMA-map-for-blog

 

Another term, this time with Lee in the Senate, will be a real riot if the escaped money cows don’t come home.

Cow patties won’t fund education!

 

R.W. Allen’s Guaranteed Money Pits

IMG_4374Owners like to use a contract delivery method called “Design Build” when they don’t know what the heck they are building, don’t want to take the time to design it before bidding it out, or have a site with too many unknown conditions.  Since they don’t know these things they put a fig leaf of protection against unlimited costs called a “Guaranteed Maximum Price” or GMP. Even in commercial or industrial construction, supposedly knowledgeable in cost controls and with fewer unknowns, GMP contracts are a challenge to administer, because the assumptions the contractor gives in quoting a GMP generally last only days or weeks. Owners would be better off with a pure cost-plus contract with great controls, but the owner’s internal politics command at least a fiction of a fixed price.

Imagine trying to catch a butterfly in a windstorm – that is how elusive the “guarantee” becomes.

In government there is no better money-hemorrhaging device than these contracts, hence perhaps GMP should automatically be understood by citizens as being “Guaranteed Money Pit.”

The City of Augusta, Georgia loves to squander money using GMP contracts, having thoroughly embarrassed itself with the things. Augusta  built a $30 million Convention Center across land the city didn’t own and then had to pay for it with Kitchen Equipment added by change order to a “guaranteed” price,  spent about $50 million on a Municipal Building Remodeling that was supposed to cost $20 million mostly covered by another GMP contract, and built houses in the Laney Walker district with maximum-price, not to exceed contracts that never were adjusted to actual cost.

There were only three finalists selected by Augusta for the Old Green Street Library remodeling, and two of the three had “Allen” in their name. The low bidder who didn’t have “Allen” in its name and who bid on the whole project in its bid, with a Guaranteed Price for all of the work, somehow didn’t get the award. RW Allen, LLC was awarded the work on a piecemeal basis, destroying any figment of a guarantee in this writer’s estimation.

John Allen, nephew and contributor to Congressman Richard W. Allen, is a principal in the Allen-Batchelor firm, which was also on the finalist listing.

District 8 Wayne Guilfoyle said it best “if all three firms are proposing this project the following including the proper scope, met the required schedule and fully capable of completing the RFP why are we selecting the highest bidder?” Then later Commissioner Guilfoyle said “So we’re approving something we don’t have a clue, only a partial.

It must be nice to be R.W. Allen LLC and to have Augusta push you into a yet another money pit where nothing is guaranteed but more profits.

 

No Opting Out of The Greatest Transition

You got your demons, you got desires, well I’ve got a few of my own – Don Henley

Four years ago, a loose coalition of citizens came together to bring a powerful blend of research, online publication, media presence, and reform to Augusta, Georgia and east central Georgia. One started a blog named City Stink, that moniker being a statement of admiration for long-time Augusta Chronicle columnist Sylvia Cooper and her column City Ink, yet impishly labeling the town as the source for all manner of unsavory things. Augusta wasn’t the sole target, either. The archives of Agraynation are amply populated with the City Stink posts, which retain power and utility for change.

As with all human endeavors, members grew weary, lost stomach for the political idiocy, and allowed personal differences to intercede in what was a wonderful community effort. During a nearly two year hiatus, individuals in the group ventured out on various initiatives, successfully defeating SPLOST 7a in Augusta and forcing SPLOST 7b proponents to slash waste, while promising reforms. Members of the Facebook groups Augusta Today and Augusta Political Watch, along with old participants in the City Stink effort, have used the interruption in the fray to observe what transpired in the vacuum and how positive developments proceeded from those action-filled 30 months.

The methods were proven. Mistakes were made, but those were instructive.  Glenn Frey, the late Eagle and co-writer of “One of these Nights” said “We all have our dreams, a vision we hope will come true someday. When that ‘someday’ will come is up to each of us.” Yes, our demons and desires got in the way of continued success, but the need for action has never been greater.

America has lost nearly every institution with direct responsibility to control financial matters and the Rule of Law, foundation of social stability, is for practical matters dead. The Accountants have abandoned financial standards that protected us for decades. The Lawmakers have rewritten the Law to legalize fraud. The Ministry has thrown “THOU SHALT NOT STEAL” out of the Ten Commandments. The Bankers have destroyed one of the two functions that make the United States Dollar “money” and are on the brink of killing the other. The Media have been either silenced or captivated.

We have the tools to overcome it all. The Augusta reformers proved several important techniques and strategies. As great as the challenges are, the technology and methods are here to overcome them all. All that is missing is desire to make it happen.

Laughter is the best medicine and there are bounteous sources of outrageous humor that only need a little attention to have everyone laughing on the way to restoring our cities, counties, states and America. We are in the midst of the greatest transformation and transition in 400 years, if not all of human history.

“Agraynation” perhaps sounds a lot like “aggravation” to some. The subscribers list is stale, yet there are many in the community and state included in the automatic notification feature. Posts may be coming faster than you like via your email account. If so please UNSUBSCRIBE if you get one notification too many. Please accept my apology if notification that accompanies this post is that “one too many.”

Thanks to everyone for you encouragement, support, and participation. And……..welcome back to the fray.

– The Arrowflinger

 

After Lee Anderson Blew Off Clark Howard….

By The Arrowflinger

In 2010 Georgia House District 117 Representative Lee Anderson was getting calls from constituents with concerns about the upcoming House vote on Senate Bill 31, the infamous law that delighted more than seventy  Southern Company  lobbyists by giving the company’s Georgia Power Company over $1 billion in advance profits and a guaranteed 11% return on nuclear plant Units 3 and 4 at the Vogtle generating complex near Waynesboro. Famous consumer advocate Clark Howard begged Lee and the rest of the legislators to vote no and he did so repeatedly.


Seventy Lobbyists? With Lee it was the 71st lobbyist, his Southern Company-employed daughter, who mattered more than the folks back home.

Anderson of the 117th voted AYE.

These days Lee is campaigning for the vacated Georgia Senate District 24 seat waving his phone promising voters that he will answer the phone and call them back. He isn’t saying when. He called this constituent after his vote for SB 31.

Now where are we? Unit 3 was to have begun operation last month, but recent updates have the unit only 26% complete with a $900 Million Cost Overrun to be paid by ratepayers when Georgia Power gets its way after the May elections.

Contractors have been paid out to the 60% completion level, despite the unit being only 26% complete. This is the tight construction cost control the 70 lobbyists touted?

Clark Howard was right, but Lee Anderson’s 71st lobbyist home economics were the sizzle in the bacon for House District 117 residents, who got $109 a year higher invoices.

He isn’t much good at writing bills but is wonderful at raising them.

After Lee Anderson blew off Clark Howard, how are you going to pay your power bill and what is that hay farmer going to toss in next?

Columbia County Tax Dollars Fuel a Banker’s Bonus???

You just have to laugh when the politicians in two urban counties down the road resort to hiding videos, switching meeting times, and cutting debate time in half to thwart an old busybody and his gang of reformers. Their latest trick play came between Tuesday May 6 and Thursday May 15, 2014 down in Evans. Columbia County has a pledge to post its commission meeting video within 48 hours of its Tuesday meetings, but it took 9 days for this one to see daylight.

Agraynation.com has been in the habit of bringing videographers to ensure that a video record is secured, but in a previous Columbia County meeting Chairman Ron Cross admonished that having video shot was unnecessary because the county provides it with so reliably. Not this time. This speaker had a most unpleasant message and an even tougher question but obviously had no prepared text to post later. Rather than let the explosive video and information out, the administration sat on it.

Metro Spirit reporter Eric Johnson observed and wrote a wonderful piece on the Commissioner Ron Thigpen bonus presentation titled “Collateral Damage.” The title was pure brilliance, because the collateral damage from the Columbia County banking scandal will range far, wide and deep.

Johnson implied that the talk was long-winded, overlooking that it was 8 minutes before a body that allowed 10 minutes until this campaign season began. He was also puzzled. The key exhibits were not shown to the public, because their sensitive nature commanded the decency to allow the Rons, Thigpen and Cross, to respond to the deep concern of this old supporter and friend.

To summarize, the county entered into a mass banking agreement with the Ron’s bank in 2010 after a series of recusals, mystery documents, a vote to allow 2 commissioners to even vote on it, and more irregularity than comes after a trip to a filthy restaurant. About the same time Ron Thigpen, who is President of the bank, got a new bonus that looks to have doubled because of the massive Columbia County money deposited in his bank.

Thigpen Bonus 2010 Change

The media around these parts whines that just about any issue involving money is too complex. This one isn’t. It is third grade math. If you have 1 over 2 (1/2), you double the result if you subtract 1 from the bottom number. That is how Ron Thigpen’s bonus was set up. After Columbia County’s $1 (hundred million) is applied at December 31st of that year, the equity denominator falls to $1(hundred million) from $2(hundred million). Sources of the county monies are an open records response and the bank equity figures are from the FDIC.

When all factors are taken into account, it would appear that the $22,000 cash bonus paid to Thigpen was 2.2 times higher than it would have been without the county deal.

Thigpen Bonus Received 2010

Last week Ron Thigpen was overheard in an ad for Chairman Cross’ reelection saying how “comfortable’ he was with Ron Cross.

We all can be comfortable along with him that fellow bank stockholder Cross did the right thing to enhance their wealth.

Collateral Damage, Mr. Johnson? That was very, very well done! Next up Cat Burglars and Cat bankers – the $12 million heist.

This is Arrowflinger Al reporting on a cloudy day from points west. Stick around for the missing video.

Intimidation in Evans?

During the recent look at Columbia County Georgia’s controversial 2010 Banking Services Request For Proposal, which was awarded to Georgia Bank and Trust, a bank in which 2 county commissioners held stock and a third is now President of the bank, Ms. Leanne Reece was seen at the County commission meeting accompanied by a young lad taken to be her son. You can see the boy in this video.

His presence was enough to change the topic of the presentation that night from Banking Services to the TIA 2010 scandal, because there was no desire to pressure his mom in front of him.

It is a shame the county commissioners aren’t so forgiving when it comes to applying pressure to county employees to get an intended outcome.

The banking RFP seems to have gone through the entire process up to a week or so prior to the meeting as Bid Title: Banking Services for Columbia County, GA Board of Commissioners Bid Number: 2010-005 but was on the Agenda April 20, 2010, the fateful night that the commission awarded the contract, as RFP 2010-005 Banking Services for the County and Water Utility.

Why is the title change potentially significant? Based upon the submissions by responding banks, the evaluation team only recommended Georgia Bank and Trust for the Water Utility accounts, county accounts the bank already had. Finance Director Reece was one of the evaluators and had even noted that the apparently winning bank based upon the evaluation, First Citizens Bank, had offered a 1% interest rate minimum. You can see evidence of Ms. Reece’s diligence. WHOA, she wrote there was “no floor” in the G,B&T proposal, an odd statement since GBT is shown to have offered a floor of 0.75%. Can it be that was true with the original submittals, since replaced by altered documents? With this gang of manipulators, who knows?

If she was that attuned to the greater interest earnings potential of First Citizens, why would Director Reece go along with the lesser proposal based upon a speculative analysis from county bond underwriter Jeffries?

This entire affair reeks of pressure put on a professional woman with a family by powerful men with control over her job.

You have to hope that job isn’t in jeopardy for yielding to human fear.

Conflict in Columbia County?

Would y’all just look what we have here! In April 2010 the award of Columbia County’s Major banking agreement was on the Columbia County Commission agenda. Uncomfortably, three Commissioners had stock in Georgia Bank in Trust at the time of this vote. The county attorney seemed concerned about the whole area of ethics but it looks from up here in the pine woods that the entire commission was prepped to put on ballerina slippers and tiptoe through the minefield of awarding the county’s mass banking agreement to, well, Georgia Bank and Trust.

District One Commissioner Ron Thigpen was Chief Operating Officer of GB&T (very recently promoted to President). The county attorney found he could avoid the technical definition of a “Conflict of Interest” by recusing himself from this, an official vote of the commission. The county attorney found that the other GB&T shareholders Ron Cross and Charles Allen, Jr., held less than 5% of the bank’s shares and the bank being publicly held fit another exception in the Ethics Ordinance. The final step in the fanciful footwork that carried them to apparent safety was getting the not-ensnared commissioners Scott Dean and Trey Allen to bless the choreography and allow Cross and Charlie Allen to vote, which they did, awarding the banking deal to their bank.

Did the commission gracefully tiptoe across the ethics minefield on gilded slippers, as they would have us believe? Or were they really tap-dancing across it wearing snowshoes?

One of the Rons sure looks like he stepped on one of those Vietnam -era “bouncing betty” mines with a slow trigger. After all, it has taken 4 years for the damage to pop up and show itself to the taxpayers of Columbia County.

The mine had “Appearance of a Conflict” written all over it. The shrapnel might just now be striking. Wasn’t the key issue for Cross and Allen really how much their stock made up of their total assets and how much they stood to gain? How could Thigpen make myriad impartial decisions, beyond just that commission vote, like whether to increase or pay down debt when his bank stood to gain or lose revenue from the county’s deposits there?

Coming up next in the series is “Blame it on the UFO!”

-AF

Enron Accounting Revisits DOT

On February 5 of this year the time of the groundbreaking for the Riverwatch Parkway Extension Project, WAGT TV26, WJBF Channel 6, and the Columbia County News-Times all incorrectly reported that the $34 million project was being funded wholly out of TIA-2010 funds, also known as TSPLOST.

The TIA funds for the project came out of the 75% funding level list approved by voters within the Constrained Projects List. There is a project cost estimate found in the details. That paints a truthful picture. Nearly $11 million for the project is reserved out of DOT highway and fuel taxes and there is a $3.3 million cost overrun already, leaving $20 million in TSPLOST funding.

You know there is something screwy when that many news outlets get it wrong and are all using the same number.

Well it didn’t take long to find the source. It was DOT, who came into the TSPLOST debate tarnished and smarting from Governor Sonny Perdue accusing them of “Enron Accounting,” but seems back to their bad habits by putting out a webpage showing TIA spending that looks to be TIA, alright – Totally In-Accurate. A Lincoln County project is only $1 million of TIA funding, but DOT listed it as $4 million. Wrightsboro Road in Augusta is shown as $19 million TIA funding, but it is only $2 million.

If DOT wants to reestablish its credibility after its flirtation with Enron Accounting they sure have a funny way of showing it.

How they are going to fund the huge cost increases with revenues collected so woefully low would make an Enron Accountant strain.

ETCOD Center, The Land of Tomorrow Doomed by Its Own Flaws & The Rule of Law

Monday, June 4, 2012
Evans, GA
By Al Gray

In last weekend’s article, Overlay Somebody Else: My Battle With Columbia County Over Property Rights, the birth pangs of the ill-fated Evans Town Center Ordinance and the Evans Town Center Overlay District (aka ETCOD) in 2000 were revisited. This week, let’s look at what happened two years later, after the ‘rules’ had been in place long enough to judge how well they were applied.

During the heated debate of 2000, the spirit of economist and philosopher Frederic Bastiat had to have been there. Among his relevant quotes were these:

It is impossible to introduce into society a greater change and a greater evil than this: the conversion of the law into an instrument of plunder….Sometimes the law defends plunder and participates in it. Thus the beneficiaries are spared the shame and danger that their acts would otherwise involve… But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them and gives it to the other persons to whom it doesn’t belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime….Legal plunder can be committed in an infinite number of ways…..


We can add to his list of legal plunder “town center ordinances” and “overlay zoning.”
Augusta attorney Gail Duffie Stebbins might not know Frederic Bastiat but she knew that the Evans Town Center was legal plunder. In 2002 Ms. Stebbins sued to have the Evans Town Center Overlay Zoning Ordinance set aside for failure to give her and other property owners sufficient, defensible notice. A Superior Court Judge agreed with her. Columbia County responded by curing the technical defects, then reintroducing the same ordinance.


The As the Columbia County News-Times reported about the November, 2002 meeting: “It wasn’t any more quiet the second time around, ” an obvious reference to the near-riot that broke out in 2000 in a Planning Commission meeting at which the original ordinance was advanced to the Columbia County Commission.

Ms. Stebbins temporarily-successful law suit was easily sidestepped. The findings of the another speaker turned out to be fatal. The News Times report continued in its report: “The Evans Town Center is as dead as some misguided possum crossing I-20, run down by high-speed development,” said Al Gray, who’s family owns land in the town center district. ”


Brash statements? Not really. You see, there are concepts as old as society itself that found themselves into the Constitution of the United States of America and the Bill of Rights. Citizens cannot be deprived of EQUAL PROTECTION OF THE LAW under the 5th Amendment and cannot be deprived of property without DUE PROCESS OF LAW under the 14th Amendment. By these standards the ETCOD ordinance was doomed, because there had been scores of noncomplying structures and developments built with county approval. The proof was demonstrated in this presentation, made to the county commission that night.

**(See the ETCOD Nonconformity presentation below. Article continues after)ETCOD Nonconformity (1)


The approach was this. First, the ETCOD ordinance was broken down into the component standards. Second, digital photos were taken of all structures, buildings, parking lots, and landscaping represented by approved and constructed projects since the Town Center was launched in 2000. Third, the noncomplying features were categorized under the pertinent design standard that was violated. Fourth, the fact that there were scores of noncomplying projects and only 5 variances requested and granted was documented. Fifth, it was pointed out that the near-universal approval of nonconforming structures would simply doom the ordinance in court. 


This is how one defeats an overly aggressive government. One can turn the planners own ordinances, actions, and lack of enforcement against them. A property owner cannot be singled out for not conforming when equal protection says he must be accorded the same leniency of those who came before. Yes, that night Columbia County fixed Ms. Stebbins’ objections, only to run into decisive defeat before the meeting concluded. 

The county never was able to subdue a patient determined landowner after that night, because they were armed with knowledge of their rights and how to successfully demand the same standards as those who came before them. Those standards had been gutted by the county’s own hand. “Columbia County does not have the resources to manage 5-square-miles with the ordinance as it is written,” said Richard Sorensen, a Northwoods subdivision resident. “What you are biting off is more than you can chew.”
Indeed.
After all, equal protection has its roots in the Bible admonition “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Even politicians find themselves nodding in agreement with that.

The Town Center plan ended up being a collection of upgraded architectural finishes and landscaping, but the unenforceable parts died that night.

Today, Columbia County’s Richard Harmon is putting the finishing touches on a comprehensive rewrite of the Evans Town Center ordinances, based upon these realities. Wise heads prevailed in the end. ***

AG
Related Stories:
Overlay Somebody Else; My Battle with Columbia County Over Property Rights

***Do you have a story idea, a tip, or would you like to write for City Stink? Then please contact us at: citystink@gmail.com***

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