Columbia County Commission Chairman candidate Doug Duncan best try to hide the high profile state officials who are trying to lord over Columbia County politics with their endorsements from on high. They might smell up his coronation before he gets there.
First up, we have to address the lamentable Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, who should be a lighting rod of opposition among women.
Hudgeons was speaking at a GOP rally at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm in Cumming, when he spied Nydia Tisdale on the front row videoing him. He called her out, whereupon a beefy off-duty officer forcibly removed Tisdale from the meeting, as Labor Commissioner Mark Butler was speaking (another Duncan proxy with issues – more later). Tisdale had permission to be there.
“Nydia Tisdale, a citizen journalist, was invited to a GOP rally in Atlanta, but State Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens demanded that she (and not other, more friendly press) stop recording his speech. When she refused, he summoned a deputy who violently arrested her and then charged her with felony obstruction after she elbowed him while he was bending her over and pressing his groin into her buttocks.”
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.
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.
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:
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 father’s 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.
Another term, this time with Lee in the Senate, will be a real riot if the escaped money cows don’t come home.
The November 2014 race to fill Georgia’s 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, and 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.
The Magnolia Trace affair was also a scandal in its approval process and the political donation largess 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.
Owners 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’s 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.”
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.
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.
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?
(Editor’s Note: The above clips are included here under the terms of FAIR USE for journalistic and educational purposes. As part of the public record, this material is not available through non-archive means, and is hereby presented for the public good.)
Comments of Al M. Gray to the Augusta Commission
Equal Protection, Equal Accountability
March 1, 2016
Mayor Davis, lady and gentlemen of the commission, thank you for the opportunity to speak today.
The baseball great Yogi Berra once said, “If you come to a fork in the road, take it,” but after its last two meetings perhaps this body should stop, back up and try another fork before the wheels come off of Augusta’s government like one of those KME firetrucks. Citizens, officials, and observers far and wide have been taken aback by votes to remedy a pay-increase scandal which represents a horrendous breach of Constitutional equal protection for the one employee, and the simultaneous dismissal of equal accountability for three others, who arguably had more responsibility.
The vote, and particularly the commentary during the last commission meeting, filled me and most observers with dismay, not just because of the ugly tone, but because the transparency so loudly promised during the SPLOST campaign is obviously dead. A citizenry who saw its garbage collection service cut in half now sees, yet again, tomfoolery to shift money between accounts to cover benefits to the downtown. They see the time-consuming machinations this administration has undertaken to do it during a time in which new SPLOST controls were supposedly a priority.
The biggest scandal in Augusta history – the financially ruinous TEE Center/Laney Walker Development deal – wasted more $tens of millions than a convention of con artists could dream up. The principle TEE contract required extensive records to be kept until the year 2020, yet neither side of the ugliness of the last 2 weeks wants to empower Augusta by learning from its mistakes there. One faction wouldn’t want it out during the state Republican Party Convention at the Convention Center out of fear of embarrassing party officials and the city. The other seems to want to maintain the sloppiness to get tens of millions more in loot with assertions of, “it’s our turn, now”, or, “we are getting our share.”
Politicians like to create a façade of controls to hide the looting, but not controls to stop the looting. With the TEE Center, Augusta wound up with the daisy chain of “expert” controllers, costing a combined $1250 per hour, who controlled almost nothing and rubberstamped nearly everything. The powerfully-written construction management contract that Augusta won was turned into mush at their hands. Why?
Another Yogism by Berra– “It is Déjà vu all over again” – fits my 40 year odyssey out of Augusta, back, and now into this chamber. The mid 1970’s found me at the Labor Department in Augusta working to administer the old 13 county CETA employment programs. Fury erupted among the mostly black program management in Augusta that Columbia County had preselected an overwhelmingly white contingent of ineligible folks, but then came the embarrassing find that Augusta’s enrollees were mostly black ineligible folks.
A poor, blind, black woman with a young lad in tow came into the Program Director’s office to see the Reverend F. Francis Cook. “This is my grandson, Jonathan, who sees about me, the best he can, but he needs one of those CETA jobs you all are handing out,” she said. Deputy Director Cook was in tears. There were no jobs left for the eligible and deserving grandson. He got crowded out by black politics. F. Francis Cook made sure we quit running a program for cronies, to make room for his people and for ALL people.
Yes, you can use the system perfected by the last administration to loot the people and discriminatingly spread $millions, but, “They did it, and we are, too!” makes a twisted concept of equal protection, while hurting the wrong people -people in your community.
What happened over the last two weeks destroyed confidence that this commission desires the promised transparency and reform. Choose another fork, one of real reform; this one is a dead end for Augusta.
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.”
– Rita Mae Brown , but frequently attributed to Albert Einstein
The last time Saxby Chambliss’ Georgia seat in the US Senate was contested, it was by Democrat Jim Martin in 2008. The general election ended in a run-off. This writer, normally a Republican and fanatically conservative, endorsed Jim Martin out of sheer fright of the damage “Taxby,” as he is known in Georgia, might do with another term. After all, Chambliss had voted for the now $17 trillion Medicare D unfunded liability, the Patriot Act that took our constitutional rights, and a smorgasbord of outrageous government spending.
None of that mattered to Augusta radio talker Austin Rhodes. There isn’t a smidgen of independence in his body when it comes to partisan politics. There is no “Republican” too objectionable to be supported to the hilt. Humorously, there is a Georgia prison system that has come to house many of his favorites. When it came to voting for Martin, Rhodes yammered about how important it was to vote for the “conservative” Chambliss for the sake of avoiding the dangerous liberal Supreme Court justice appointments Democrat Martin might vote to approve and all of the perils that the “liberal” Martin might engender.
Oops! Chambliss voted for the nomination of John Roberts to be the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Roberts voted for Obamacare, the greatest Republican-feared monster ever.
Read that one slowly. The “conservative” Austin wanted and got to avoid disastrous liberal court decisions voted for the Justice delivering the biggest liberal program that could be imagined!
Sadly, the damage that the GOP establishment clown Taxby would go on to inflict will likely result in the financial collapse of America! Chambliss was the ranking member on the Agriculture Committee when the chance came to reform the colossal $400 trillion financial derivatives markets that caused the 2008 Lehman Brothers collapse. Derivatives were the biggest problem, because these insurance “contracts” where written without the reserves required by every state insurance commissioner and didn’t keep enough money to pay off the contracts when they became bad gambling debts. This came from a Saxby Chambliss vote in 2000. Worse than that, they were made even better than our money in the banks by a worse Chambliss vote that allowed mixing of the bad gambling debts with insured bank deposits!
Readers probably understand that they can call their insurance agent to place a binder on insurance for their new car. However,those binders cannot be deposited and spent . That requires a cash transaction. They aren’t “money good”. Well, in the panic of 2008, $10 million increments of insurance binders/derivatives/gambling bets were being made whole at taxpayer expense with the bailout of AIG.
$10 million or more in our money went to reimburse a phone conversation memo? Most employees cannot get $250 travel costs paid with no receipts!
Jim Martin would never have been in a position to correct these catastrophic errors. Saxby/Taxby was as the ranking member of the Agriculture Committee. Did he demand that no longer could phone calls cost taxpayers $100’s of billions in total? Watch this for yourselves.
There you have it. There are more derivatives now than in 2008 and they can still be a phone call, thanks to Saxby Chambliss.
Now, in 2014, Austin Rhodes is still hawking US Senate candidates based upon their party affiliations, citing possible court nominations and legislation.
This writer is with Austin in supporting Republican David Perdue, having campaigned for him to the hilt in the primary season.
Perdue or even Democrat Michelle Nunn are far more capable than the retiring Chambliss.
Let’s hope this time Austin has it right, even if the reasoning isn’t sound by Einstein standards.
(Editor’s Note: The above installment of the Washington Journal is included for context in a journalistic/ educational discussion. The use of said content is covered under Fair Use and with respect to C-Span, and is embedded hereby for the public good in this respect.)
It’s 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 a 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 humongous 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.
In March 2010, Arrowflinger Al engaged Dr. Paul Broun at a Lincolnton, Georgia town hall meeting. Topics were financial fraud, mad GOP spending, and GOP party principles.
More recently, local Augusta, Georgia talk show host Austin Rhodes was embarrassed by the National Defense Authorization Act Controversy when Paul Broun had a radio town hall meeting on his show on Friday January 13, 2012. Broun inexplicably voted for NDAA, gutting the Bill of Rights. Rhodes has since excoriated Arrowflinger Al for “suddenly” turning on Representative Broun but that was the fourth time Broun was engaged by this former supporter and urged to change his history of support of fake Republicans or to stop the financial looting of America with law enforcement.
Is this true? Did Broun get unceremoniously and dumped by this loyal supporter? Or was the supporter justified in deciding that Broun had been dismissive of his concerns over four public meetings in 5 years?
First, Broun was engaged at a fundraiser in Augusta in 2008, then this meeting in 2010, then on C-Span again in the fall of 2011, and finally on the January 13, 2012 town hall meeting.
How many second chances does Paul Broun think he deserves?
Anybody who gave Barack Hussein Obama power and dominion to seize the Arrowflinger without a warrant, detain him without limit, provide no notice to next of kin or even execute him is to be opposed with every fiber in one’s being.
Sorry Paul. Times up. You had one more last chance. You blew it.
That Constitution you carried around in your pocket was just a prop by just another common politician.
This saddens. It is life. The really great thing is that your opponent, Steven Simpson is a really bright man who is consummately prepared to replace you.
(video courtesy of the Lincoln County Technology Department)