The Boardroom Trail to the Talisman

OPINION BY The Arrowflinger

Talisman – an object held to act as a charm to avert evil and bring good fortune.

The revelation to the American public that its establishment media is biased, lazy, and protective of their turf surely by now must extend to the Augusta contingent of “recognized” media. After all, activists brandishing Georgia Open Records Requests and publishing their own stories reinforced by documents offering obvious proof got too big to ignore between 2011 and 2013.

By 2014, you might think their “professional” inquisitiveness would have taken hold, but the Metro Spirit took resolute opposition to perceived competition to extremes. When the reformers started investigating the Reynolds Street Parking Deck boondoggle the Metro Spirit cover was one of black helicopters over the deck. Somehow, they later were acknowledging the discovery of liens on the property under the parking deck as common news. There is no way they would admit that the City Stink blog systematically awoke Augusta to such a ridiculous circumstance without THEM! The exception was Metro Spirit Writer and radio talk show host Austin Rhodes occasionally would provide some coverage to the alternative media, most recently with the absurd Tractorgate Scandal that saw Augusta men and Equipment secreted three counties away for work on private property of an ex-Augusta contractor.

The Columbia County Commission meeting of May 6, 2014 was covered by Spirit reporter Eric Johnson, who promptly disregarded the directly presented challenge to then Finance Committee Chairman Ron Thigpen’s bonus with Georgia Bank and Trust. That bank was awarded a highly irregular mass banking deal with the county, with Thigpen recusing himself from the commission vote.

Instead Johnson decided to interject his own bias and implied that the real subject was instead Chairman Ron Cross, then up for reelection. The acknowledgement of all of our enhanced “time and attention on this stuff” was very true, however. He even got handed key documents in the hope that he would pick up on the story. No way Jose.

Collateral Metro Bank

Astounding. Georgia was number one in mortgage fraud in the USA for 5 years from 2000 to 2004, leading to a tsunami of bank failures in 2008 through 2010, losing 1/5 of the state’s banks, yet NOBODY can come to suspect any alligators in their local banking swamp. The “media” ad sales blindfold “reporters.” “Their” advertisers cannot be corrupt because they pay the media’s way.

What the Spirit’s Johnson blew off was a chance to investigate how Columbia County’s cash infusion into his bank may have boosted Thigpen’s bank bonus. Had he pursued it he might have found the Talisman. From there an epic of financial gamesmanship might have been his prize!

In this burgeoning saga, the Talisman is a man, recently the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, Mr. Edward J. Tarver. When the bank executive compensation contracts were changed for 2008 and 2009, before his appointment as US Attorney, Tarver sat on Georgia Bank and Trust’s Audit Committee. (Page 23)

For the bank, Tarver had to do absolutely nothing to ward off scrutiny from investigators. All he had to do was sit in his office. Mr. Tarver is a fine man by all accounts and is respected but the simple fact is that he could be a cross between Nelson Mandela and Billy Graham and be the Talisman. Common sense says that one look at documents signed by Tarver or approved by his bank audit committee would make federal agents turn away. That is just how things are in the real world.

He wasn’t the only well-positioned protector of the bank, either. Someone in Authority upon seeing this picture of the Bank Board in 2007, the year before the financial world came unraveled might have whistled and exclaimed with eyes as large as saucers, “these are the most powerful people in Augusta!”

The story almost sounds straight out of Washington DC and the recent news bombshells over the conflicts between the FBI and Department of Justice up there.

In Columbia County’s banking controversy, the bankers are off enjoying their stock sale proceeds but the county finance department and the finance committee of the County Commission will now have to explain why they have been incompetent, or far worse.

May be no Talisman for District One Commissioner Doug Duncan, who is running for the Chairmanship of the Columbia County Commission with the backing of those same bankers. He had the chance to investigate 3 years ago, shortly after taking his seat, but dropped the ball. Former GB&T Chairman Robert Pollard, Former GB&T Chief Operating Officer Ron Thigpen, and Former GB&T Voting Board Member Larry Prather are listed as Duncan Supporters.Former GB&T shareholder and current Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross, who voted for the suspect award of the county primary banking contract to GB&T, is said to be a Duncan contributor.

Law enforcement on three levels of government has the greater responsibility of having turned a blind eye until the Statute of Limitations expired, possibly allowing financial thieves to escape prosecution.

There are no Pulitzer Prizes that will be awarded to Augusta “journalists” from this scandal, either. The artwork was nice, though!

-AF

Banking Hard Right into a Wrong Place

OPINION by the Arrowflinger

Well, Well, Well Scott Johnson, What an interesting set of developments since we last talked. Back then, y’all couldn’t identify the Commission Finance committee member who essentially redirected a huge 5 year Columbia County banking contract to Georgia Bank and Trust after First Citizens Bank won that bid, but lately you have gotten really good at finding and disclosing facts about Pam Tucker. Austin has insinuated that you were “looking for dirt” on Ms. Tucker during her vacation, her conversation got very efficiently recorded and replayed, and there was a further dust-up involving a banker. Heaven knows that wasn’t one of the GB&T bankers. No one dare do that back when the banking contract went down. A majority of the commissioners, including 2 out of three on the Finance Committee, were GB&T shareholders then, including one who was the Chief Operating Officer of the bank!

What are the new Developments?

Well, that bank wound up being the 2016 flagship of the whole American Banking Association, when its CEO Dan Blanton became chairman of ALL of the bankers. The ABA was regaled with a story we all heard, GB&T’s claimed focus of “Doing the Right Thing.” Based upon What I have seen there is absolutely no question the executives of that bank were doing the right thing – for themselves! Your doings are trickier, because your finance committee and finance department were “Doing Tha’ Thang Right!”

In the last 15 months the United States Attorney of the Southern District of Georgia very arguably an unwitting protector of the entire mess, left his post after 8 years and was replaced just 6 months ago.

In the last 15 months GB&T sold out at a premium of around $49 per share, up from the dark $9 per share days of 2009, just before your secret finance committee member swung over $100 million of Columbia County’s money into rescuing them.

Meanwhile, the employees of 83 percent of area banks who didn’t work for that bank, many who lost everything in 2009 and got no rescue from you all, and the 100 GB&T employees who lost their jobs after years of propaganda will read this with keen interest. What is worse, we read that you are quoted promising retaliation against one of them for questioning not only Tucker’s departure but that of another departed division director as well.

This was and is a national scandal and you are sitting in the middle of it.

Columbia County Finance got caught “Doin’ Tha’ Thang Right” but the taxpayers didn’t even get a peck on the cheek.

They ain’t gonna be happy with YOU!

Are Herbert or Tucker any Match for THE ARMADA?

OPINION by The Arrowflinger

Rarely, if ever, has there been such a display of raw, naked, affluent power as this fundraiser handbill for a candidate for the Chair of the Columbia County Commission.

This invitation to a (fundraising) “Event” for Doug Duncan, now the District 1 Commissioner, might have dissuaded Mark Herbert and Pam Tucker from even qualifying. It didn’t.

It is breathtaking. This is a crew perfectly capable of raising $400,000 or even more, if they want to maintain their ironclad control of Columbia County.

They do.

Over here one finds fellow Commissioners Trey Allen, Gary Richardson, and Bill Morris. Not an overt sponsor on this invite, current Chairman Ron Cross has been cited in the Augusta Chronicle as donating heavily to Duncan’s campaign. On it we find stalwart backers of Cross from earlier campaigns like Jean Garniewicz and the Ivey Brothers.

Over there one sees the names of three voting members of a board of directors of a bank, that kinda, sorta got a timely backdoor bailout from Columbia County, Robert Pollard, Ron Thigpen and Larry Prather.

A bunch of the rest are developers, realtors, and builders.

Of course, no campaign endorsement list for a Columbia County incumbent politician worth his, or her, salt is complete without Sheriff Clay Whittle. He has been at this for decades now, hasn’t he?

The most amazing aspect of this list are the power brokers from old Augusta throwing their weight into this contest. State Department of Transportation Board member (former Chairman) and former Augusta Commissioner Don Grantham, former Georgia Representative Barbara Sims, and former State Department of Transportation Board member and former Augusta Commissioner Bill Kuhlke are on this list. Throw in names like McKnight and Hull – both of those last names emblazoned on the new Georgia Cyber Center for Innovation and Training in Augusta – and you get a stunning array of power.

This election might have been over before it started.

But then again…

The political seafloor is littered with invincible armadas that suddenly developed holes in their Hulls.

-Arrowflinger

Was it PERJURY?

By The Arrowflinger

(In the latest coverup in the Augusta Equipmentgate Scandal, which saw City of Augusta, Georgia resources deployed to work on private property in Lincoln County in March 2017  has just been released. In it, the Augusta Richmond County Grand Jury issued a statement which said they found no criminality had occurred.)

The Presentment of the Augusta Richmond County Grand Jury of yesterday, June 27, 2017 on the Use of Augusta manpower, heavy equipment, trailers, supplies, fuel, fringe benefits and trucks on Private Property in Lincoln County back in March contained this statement:

The testimony revealed that the excavator was never actually used as the weather at the time was inclement.

The presentment also says that the Augusta Mini-excavator was  on the Lincoln County private property from March 8, 2017 to March 17, 2017.

That statement is most interesting as video taken on March 16, 2017 at the Lincoln County site shows a large freshly-installed culvert and drainage work that certainly seems to have been performed by an excavator and the only excavator in evidence was the one owned by the City of Augusta.

District Attorney Natalie Paine needs to determine which witness provided that testimony and whether perjury occurred.

If there was no perjury in the production of that presentment, she needs to explain why not and, while she is at it, explain why so many material aspects of this incident were omitted from any investigation by her or the Augusta Richmond County Sheriff’s office.

-AG

No Account, But Headed to Judgement Anyway

Comments of Al M. Gray to the Augusta Commission

No Account, But Headed to Judgement, Anyway

Tuesday June, 20 2017

 

Mayor Davis and commissioners, thank you for the opportunity to speak. I never intended to return to this chamber, yet here I am. One should never say ‘never’ and that is borne out by the power of events that have shaken you, me and the people of Augusta.

No Account, But Headed to Judgement, Anyway sounds like a sermon harkening to passing into eternity that we all face, but as Mayor Copenhaver once told me “You ain’t dead yet!.”

Older folks used to have a description that was applied to crooked, lazy people. It was that they were “No Account.”

Your Equipmentgate scandal has assaulted the Rule of Law, not that this body, mayor, administrator, district attorney or Sheriff intended that consequence. That result grew out of the cronyism that has destroyed our protective institutions From Washington down. The accountants safeguarding our money threw math out, the lawyers forgot nobody needs them if there is no law, the press lost objectivity and credibility, and pastors escorted the money changers into our temples, not out. Our protectors decided to be No Account.

At Commissioner Sias’ last meeting DA Paine was posed the question “Is the RULE OF LAW DEAD?” After all, the most powerful, revered man in Georgia politics, had $2 million invested in banks and other financial institutions involved with drug money laundering, among other things. The Legislature two sessions ago decriminalized banking crimes in our state which was number 1 in mortgage fraud five years running. Then there is Equipmentgate. What happens in Atlanta and Washington is not yours, but what happened in Lincoln County is fully on your account, but you want to be no account for that.

Some of it comes from misguided instinct to protect the defenseless, who are anything but that. Elements of this body and friends of the mayor pro-tem rallied to defend her last week, but the fun poked at her soon will rain all over you. The rest of this body is protecting a nice lady administrator with the same instinct. At $187,000 per year and much power, she isn’t defenseless either. She is responsible for about 2/3 of this scandal, in my opinion.

16 years ago a sweet, attractive planning director supported by the full Columbia County commission abruptly left her position. Failures proved her plan flawed, deceptive, and outrageous to the no longer defenseless people.

2 weeks ago, we were walking with our dog Lilly. We came upon a flock of molting geese, whose wings were of No Account. Now geese are mean, big and can peck or wing-whip a beagle. One ran out of the woods, but Lilly caught it. The goose wing whipped her and got to the water. Lilly jumped in and outswam it. The goose did something it isn’t supposed to be able to do and that was to dive! While that one was escaping another goose ran out doing something even stranger. It ran low to the ground, head and all, like a snake! It didn’t want to be seen with its No Account wings.


You are faced with the same thing. This body is confronted by the truth of Equipmentgate. You must do the impossible for the next 6 months and together rise to account before Augusta. Justice must be served and accountability restored. Former Director Johnson must be dealt with, this Administrator must be phased out, her contract not extended, and a forensic audit of the landfill done.

The consequences of the 1/3 of the scandal resting with the Sheriff’s Department are simply chilling. The Sheriff must remove those involved.

Lady Justice has been dead in Augusta so long she stinketh like Lazarus. It is time for her resurrection.

Thank you.

-AG

Update: At the conclusion of these remarks, Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis, Jr. took umbrage with them and made thinly-veiled threats that “there will be consequences!”

Mr. Mayor is voteless and toothless! He doesn’t have the guts to call the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in on this OUTRAGEOUS SCANDAL. He could you know.

Mums the word from Augusta’s No Account County Commission, as there was not even a second for Commissioner Marion Williams’ motion to request that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation conduct an Investigation that the Augusta Richmond County Sheriff’s office botched.

At least one Augusta Commissioner isn’t No Account!

The Mary Davis Sand and Gravel Company

By Arrowflinger Al

Remember the good old days out here in the rural counties when your commissioner could rock, grade and maybe even pave your driveway if you supported him? Well, those days are gone out here because our commissioners don’t want to go to prison. Now, there is hope and help from our good neighbors down in Augusta  with their new Public-private partnership we are  calling the Mary Davis Sand and Gravel Company. Call  Augusta Mayor Pro-tem Davis at (706) 821-1831 and you may be able to arrange what one of my neighbors got here in Lincoln County – men, trucks, trailers, supplies, fringe benefits, and heavy equipment expended fixing a private road. All for FREE!

No need to worry about tipping the Augusta workers either because they get the greater of 3 months severance pay or a full retirement if they get caught.

Even getting 300 tons of stone like THIS isn’t impossible, because the Augusta Landfill down on Deans Bridge Road has stockpiles of everything you need – sand, gravel, screenings, surge stone and even rip rap. Those can be loaded up and sent out to us through the same gate that the equipment loaned to my neighbor was.

If you look at the pictures of my neighbors’ Augusta built Project, there is even drain pipe furnished with the deal you get from Mary Davis.

You don’t even have to pay a registered contractor with expensive insurance, permits, a business or contractor’s license in your county, either. Those gifts give a pretty big bonus to your free work value  from Mary Davis.

If the equipment from the landfill is tied up and can’t get to you, then the nice sheriff down there has a guy who will meet your equipment needs with no delay stationed at the shooting range next door.

Augusta taxpayers and residents, you do not qualify for this program, so don’t attempt to call. You give but cannot receive.

We out here in the sticks thank you for your generosity and the kind treatment we get from Mary Davis Sand and Gravel.

Mary rocks our world.

 

-AG

The Still Waters of Lincoln County’s Lots of Murder

Tragedy…… when you lose control and you got no soul, It’s tragedy

The BeeGees

In the heady days of 2005, as the real estate bubble was inflating in full force, James Robert “Bob” Ward was lifting helicopter rides to show off many of the 8 subdivisions in 5 states his company, Land Resources, Inc., was marketing worldwide. A short six years later Ward was in prison with a thirty year sentence for the murder of his wife. The bullet that ended her life wasn’t fired in the northern reaches of Lincoln County, Georgia but the lingering tears of tragedy still water the financial landscape of the less than 8000 permanent citizens of the county and hapless investing victims far away.

The Orlando Sentinel reported that Land Resources was founded in 1997 and had successfully completed a number of subdivisions in Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee and Florida. Most providently HGTV picked Land Resource developments Cumberland Harbor and Grey Rock for two of its million-dollar home giveaways. Trouble arose from 2005, when Stillwater Coves in Lincoln County was announced, through 2008. A pattern emerged of unsophisticated, mostly rural county governments allowing Land Resources to market and sell lots before the basic infrastructure was completed to permit home-building. In 2008 Land Resources filed for bankruptcy protection. Suddenly lots that had sold for $300,000 were virtually worthless.

Bob Ward began this saga in Atlanta. Near the height of selling hundreds of millions of dollars of hot resort real estate in 2007, Ward and his wife moved to the Islesworth community in Orlando, Florida, this being also home to golfer Tiger Woods and his beating from wife Elin. When Bob Ward became subject of a criminal investigation, his wife Diane was called to testify, apparently causing the developer to shoot her in their bedroom in September 2009. The murder trial, incarceration, conviction, appeal, retrial, and drug overdose in prison made a twisting, turning and very compelling tabloid story. An excellent timeline from the perspective of the Grey Rock development can be found here.

The Big Four (ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox News), CNN, The Orlando Sentinel (a series on the saga), Atlanta Constitution, various Florida TV stations and even the UK Mirror jumped all over the murder tragedy and the accompanying trial, yet missed the total tragedy. The connection to the Greater Financial Crisis that became manifest in 2008 and which has morphed into a world-consuming monster went unnoticed. The Augusta area media seemingly slept through it all, especially the Lincoln County connection. The closest article to do it and the only one found to actually mention the murder trial was an article by the Augusta Chronicle’s LaTina Emerson of October 15, 2009 reporting that the successor to Ward’s bankrupt Land Resources had promised that the development remained on track for 2010. Amazingly it took one of the lowly commenters to note “…..the original developer being tried for murder? Seems it would be a story.

Indeed it was. Ward’s Land Resources had sold out its Stillwater Cove lots in one week , garnering a reported $43 million(the author’s spreadsheet says $27 million) in the process. At the time of bankruptcy, the paving and grading of the roads had been completed, with water, sewer and fire protection systems only partially complete. Fortunately, the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners, under the direction of then Chairman Walker “Boss Hog” Norman, had insulated the county from all liability, obtaining performance and payment bonds on the crucial infrastructure before lots were allowed to be sold.

Most of the development was financed by Wachovia Bank, a rogue financial institution whose sullied name can be found in Augusta’s Parking Deck and Convention Center fiascos, the 2008 financial decimation of Augusta’s blueblood society, money laundering nearly a half-billion dollars for the Mexican drug cartel, identity fraud against elderly customers, selling $9 billion of bad securities as money-good, and $millions on mortgage fraud. There is much more to be reported in these pages on this bank. Those are stories for another day.

Elsewhere in county government, the tempting lure of the hundreds of millions of dollars in additions to the property tax base represented by the full build out of Stillwater Coves and the other lakefront subdivisions created in the boom was too great. Lincoln County needed a modern high school and that need had found a promising revenue stream. It was a case of chickens counted that were never to hatch. The Lincoln County Board of Education voted to build a $32 million new school complex to house junior high school and high school students. Financing for the project was to be $23 million. R.W. Allen LLC was engaged to construct the complex.

More bad news erupted in 2009 when it was discovered that the bonds protecting the Stillwater Coves lot buyers had been issued in an even bigger fraud. An insurance man named Ray Miller had sold fictitious bonds covering more than $500 million in projects. The bonds covering one of the water systems at Stillwater Coves proved to be worthless. The county doesn’t seem to be at fault, however, for most of the bonds had been forged in the name of legitimate bond insurors. Perhaps the only mistake that the county made was to allow reduction, perhaps too early, in some of the coverage on the bonds that were good. Perhaps the discipline to achieve completion of infrastructure before any subdivision lots are sold is better. Tragedy would have been averted!

The school board found itself in a fiasco when it decided to house only high school students in the new school, keeping the junior students at an old school. The State Board of Education withheld funds based upon the fact that the school it agreed to fund was for grades 6-12. Citizens cried FRAUD and for good reason.

Many of the lot buyers lost their life savings in the meltdown of the Land Resources empire. Diane Ward lost her life. Lincoln County found itself financially crippled with extraordinarly high property taxes created by the school bond debt, a collapsed lake front property tax base, and the reality that three successive property tax exemptions involving timberland removed two thirds of the county from the tax digest. Existing residential property owners bore the brunt of the damage, with elderly property owners denied exemptions from school taxes afforded citizens of Columbia and Richmond Counties because their money was needed to service the bonds. The corrupt shell of Wachovia Bank continues to threaten the viability of Wells Fargo Bank, who had the misfortune of wanting the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to fold Wachovia into their operations. The lots themselves might not ever be viable, as they were drawn up to be served by a sewage system that languishes without paying customers.

The waters remain still up on Graball Road but the tragedy continues.

At least now it isn’t an untold tragedy in Augusta and the Central Savannah River Area of Georgia and South Carolina. Lessons are never learned from things covered up.

Agraynation.com gets the big stories of our times and tries to make our readers think about what they mean.

Double-crossed at the Doubletree, Augustans Got a 22% Property Tax Increase

When your humble flinger of arrows climbed into his pickup truck one afternoon in the late summer of 2010 it was not dreamed that the trip was worth $4 million to $5 million to the people of Augusta Richmond County, Georgia, yet it was.

The Georgia General Assembly had empaneled a Tax Reform Council, chaired by former Atlanta Olympic Games chairman A.D. Frazier, and charged it with recommending a tax reform plan. Earlier, in 2008, the legislature had wisely rejected disgraced House Speaker Glenn Richardson’s G.R.E.A.T. (Georgia Repeal Every Ad valorem Tax) plan but still held the notion of “tax reform” dear, spurred on by the Georgia Traditional Manufacturers Association and others. Manufacturers wanted relief from Georgia’s sales-tax-exemption-limiting “Direct Use” requirements. Agricultural interests wanted sales tax relief, too.

The Tax Reform Council met in cities across Georgia. The meeting in Augusta came within 3 weeks of a furious Republican Party runoff for governor, which diverted attention from what was at risk. The Council convened at the Doubletree Hotel on August 30, 2010. A number of presenters had prepared remarks which were posted on the Tax Council website. This writer had not come to speak but rose and gave an impromptu talk in opposition based upon the enormous revenue loss that appeared to be in the making, including a critique of surviving elements of G.R.E.A.T. A sitting member of the Georgia House of Representatives, Don Parsons, was not paying attention enough to catch the name and dismissed the talk as uninformed.

The frightening thing was that the Tax Council withheld its report, despite promises it would be published in November, until the start of the 2011 session and the stated intent was for the plan to rocket through the General Assembly for a straight “up or down” vote.

The Augusta presentations included one that tipped off how draconian the sales and use tax losses would be for Augusta. An email to a key member of the Augusta Commission warned of the losses. Another to an organization promoting the bad tax deal laid out the reasons that killing it in 2011 were good.

Taxreformwarning_Page_1Tax Reform 2011 Killed_Page_1Lobbyists didn’t care.

The Augusta Chronicle reported “Twice panel members asked how to replace the revenue from new tax breaks such as elimination of the inventory tax. John Krueger, senior vice president of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, replied that he hadn’t polled his members about that.

“To be honest, I really don’t have an answer to that,” he said.”

The next year tax reform returned and passed. Not one of the location legislative delegation voted against it, not even “conservatives” Representative Barbara Sims or Senator Bill Jackson. Just as night follows day, the tax losses hit Augusta Richmond County so hard that in 2014, the Augusta Commission had to pass a 22% property tax increase to compensate for them.

The Augusta Commission got the blame but the damage was clearly inflicted by the General Assembly, with the local delegation going right along with it.

The sales taxes given up were were being passed on to purchasers of the manufactured goods outside of Augusta, Richmond County and now are being replaced by your property taxes, if you live in Augusta-Richmond County. The manufacturers were not likely to leave Augusta over taxes they had been paying for years and “tax reform” means that new businesses won’t be paying new taxes, either. Theories and subsidized jobs excited the politicians but this was a DEAD LOSS to the people, if one looks at the only thing that counts with revenue – CASH FLOW!

The entire progression of events might not have turned to the public’s favor, but it was a wonderful chance to demonstrate how The AURELIUS PRINCIPLE works to identify millions of dollars of savings to clients who might just be interested in saving those millions rather than paying them out. Cost Recovery Works, Inc. has used these techniques to stunning effect for clients many times and the tax reform participation showed how they work to potentially effect tens of millions in savings.

Millions of dollars in savings come from projects like this one – Just not for the poor, tax-besieged citizens of Augusta.

Thank your politicians.

GOP Cookie Jar Lid Slams on Rep. Jodi Lott

LottJodi4879

 

The November 2014 race to fill Georgia House District 122 seat, vacated by retiring Representative Ben Harbin of Evans was the ugliest, most hotly contested election in the modern history of Columbia County. It saw 2 months of nonstop attacks by radio station talk show host Austin Rhodes on hapless candidate Joe Mullins conjoined with the collapse of the campaign of departing Columbia County District 3 commissioner Mack Taylor. Taylor’s efforts became mired in a nasty war with Mullins, complete with subterfuge, private investigators, and backdoor conniving with the radio talker.  Columbia County, sick of the carnage, chose political newcomer Jodi Lott in the December runoff.

Representative-elect Lott was probably giddy with excitement still when she was sworn in this January. Her refreshing enthusiasm, undiminished by the grinding  reality check of public life, was apparent to everyone in the area. Her primary campaign issue, a “fairtax” (a sales tax) to replace the state income tax, seemed unstoppable in the Georgia House of Representatives, as leadership and the membership voiced support.

Like the rest of us, Jodi Lott found the meaning of “lip service,” that when grizzled politicians like House leaders move their lips, you can count on it being in service to a lie. In this case her treasured tax relief met uncompromising doom at the hands of  Governor Nathan Deal, who cited the danger that moving from an income tax to a sales tax would pose to Georgia’s burgeoning film industry, which heavily benefits from income tax credits. The House leadership beat a retreat, citing the futility of going against the governor’s wishes.

That is the “official story.” Here is a much more accurate explanation. The reason that the citizenry of Georgia will never see their income taxes cut, or replaced by a sales tax, is that other income tax credits have been a back-door, almost totally-unaccounted for, stream of public funds to connected political donors from the Republican hierarchy in the legislative and executive branches.  They give away income taxes that have to be made up by increased income taxes on us. No income tax means that the payola scheme dies.

Our City Stink/Agraynation.com  collaborative effort uncovered the scandal in 2012, during investigation into the details of the Magnolia Trace subsidized housing development uproar.  After the public fury, this writer had traveled to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) offices and spent an afternoon pouring over records of the Magnolia Trace income tax credit applications in the company of DCA attorney Phyllis Carr.  The review did not uncover any smoking guns assignable to Columbia County Officials, but found a huge one wafting smoke toward the Georgia Republican Party and its senior officeholders in government.

You see, the availability of income tax credits, especially the low income housing tax credit, had been around for years. Most of these credits expired unused. That was until Missouri based Affordable Equity Partners got measures through the Georgia legislature allowing the credits to be exchanged, marketed and sold to taxpayers who could use the tax credits.  Affordable Equity and its sister Capital Health Management, Inc. funded a bevy of GOP-beneficent PACs and made direct contributions to nearly all of the important party office holders. To date, Governor Deal has received $10,000, House Speaker David Ralston has received $9,500, Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle has received more than $17,000 from this stable of companies and related PACs. The  GOP, its incumbents in the legislature and other supporting PACs have received another $240,000.

Magnolia Trace affair was also a scandal in its approval process and the political donation largesse was a deciding factor for approval in this writer’s opinion. How widespread are these failures and malpractices by DCA and how much is it costing the people of Georgia?

Representative Lott and tax reformers take note! To get tax reform for the people the path is directly through your leaders’ hefty campaign finances.

Let’s see if the candidates now running for Senate 24 and House 123 seats on passing a “fairtax” have that much tenacity.

 

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