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.

White on Black Climb, an Execution Stayed

I called The Bug Babe, but she Laughed

Saturday, June 30th, 2012
Lincolnton, GA
By Al Gray
Most homebuyers know to require a home inspection, including a termite report. Well you need to know there are lots of pests that many folks just don’t think about when they sign a real estate contract and close on a house. Another thing is that there are critters that the pest control firms shy away from. Ask the Bug Babe of Augusta’s Advanced Services. Some things make her laugh.

Your tale teller’s house is in Lincoln County, Georgia, situated on 38 acres on the southern end of the county near Clarks Hill Lake. It was purchased at a very reasonable price from a guy who had been transferred to his employer’s Atlanta office. (How’s that for a change in lifestyle!) This previous owner, Tim Rambleton,  owned horses and had constructed a 20×20 pole barn to hold his “stuff.” That shed had little value. The poles were not plumb and were misaligned. That might have been surmountable but the roof was skewed. The lumber was infested with carpenter bees, that look like this
The worst thing was the floor. Tim had laid out a series of wooden pallets and nailed sheets of particleboard over them. This left a space about 4 inches high under the floor. The immediate thought was “What a great snake den!” As it turned out, that could not have been more wrong!
Although the house was only 3 years old, it was considered a “fixer-upper” The mud room was just that – covered with Georgia red clay. There were no exhaust fans in the bathrooms. The ceiling fans made all sorts of racket. The deck was 12 feet square. Their dog had gnawed on the outside office door. It took a lot of work. Oh, one last thing is that there was no garage door.

Shortly after moving day during the winter of 1998, conical holes in clusters came to be noticed in the yard. The clusters grew in number and size. Some sort of critter was tearing up the yard! “What” was a mystery. Then one night, your story teller awakened around 2 AM and decided to cut on the lights to see what was out there. The floodlights glaring, the mystery was solved. There were several skunks out there digging.

A call went out to the Department of Natural Resources to inquire as to what could be done with nuisance skunks. The game warden said “Trap them in a WIRE trap!” Seriously. Mama raised no fool and there was absolutely no way this guy was gonna move a wire trap with a skunk in it.  The man just as well should have said “Catch them in a fish net.”

Lethal measures were the only resort. Five of them were shot. Some sprayed. When they did that, the smell lingered for the better part of a week. With others lucky shots resulted in no noxious mist rising from the corpses. None of them made it back to their warren – it turned out to be the space under the pole barn’s rickety flooring.

The clusters of burrowing holes grew smaller. The skunk infestation looked to be over. Then came the night the skunks turned the tables……almost.

A very long day of bowhunting for deer sent this house dweller into a very deep sleep, before a need to visit the bathroom created a stumbling, closed-eyed, ramble to the window and backyard light switch, Sure enough there was a very large, classically marked up skunk. He looked like this:

Aching bones and tired muscles shouted “Let him go, give him a reprieve, he will leave!” Before returning to the warm comfortable bed, a second thought occurred. The late return from the hunt had meant that a needed high powered rechargeable spotlight was face down at the garage entrance. It needed recharging for the next day’s hunt. To the right of the door into the house, the Cub Cadet lawn tractor was parked between the step and the corner of the garage. Having once spotted skunk droppings inside the garage produced a sense of caution, but that light had to be retrieved for charging.
 Your white maned, sort-of-fat author was dressed only in his boxer shorts.

Emerging onto the top step, the tractor was carefully examined – except for under the mower deck. Seeing no black and white threat, I decided to go for the spotlight on the floor. No sooner than hand grasped the handle, a rustling sound was heard – from the stairsteps!  There stood the black and white skunk seen earlier at the threshold, sniffing to see if he wanted to go in! Picture what came next, this – a mostly naked, fat, white haired man making a seemingly impossible leap OVER the skunk, through the door, and slamming the door in that skunk’s face.

The skunk held his fire, sparing the mud room and homeowner from a really, really bad top coating.
All thoughts of skunk reprieves vanquished, a shotgun was quickly accessed to accompany the spotlight. The door was opened. No skunk. Warily the garage was being explored when that skunk bolted for the woods. The first shot missed. The skunk was 15 feet from safety when the second blast took it out.

Big problem.

The skunk shot was a black skunk with white bangs…….Mrs. Skunk. WHERE WAS MR. PERFECT SKUNK?

He had to be in the garage. Sure enough, he was there – under the hood of my new pickup truck! One could hear him rustling around on top of the engine! Worst of all, skunks are nocturnal. It would be light in about 45 minutes. What if that skunk was still in there at daylight?

There was nothing to do but go back to bed. The morning hunt requiring travel would have had to be scratched in favor of a hunt on the grounds. A nice fat doe fell to the bow and arrow, giving even more time for the black and white scent emitter to escape.

The examination of the truck and ginger lifting of the hood arrived with a trepidation like that of inspecting for a car bomb. With crossed fingers, the engine was started, all the while the truck owner, mindful of his cousin starting up an engine with a cat entangled in it, was expecting a fog of ruin to overwhelm the new-truck smell.

The skunk was gone.

Monday, instead of the bow shop getting a sale of the latest Matthews bow, the garage door company got a contract to install a remote controlled garage door, as soon as possible.

The skunks never came back. One of them had been living under the steps inside the garage. Everyone coming and going had walked over his den.

Getting “skunked” nearly took on new meaning.

The lawn recovered and was fine. Then the conical holes started multiplying again. It was the

That is another story.***


Al Gray: Now, A Fair Deal from the Governor

A Fair Deal From the Governor

Originally posted by CityStink
Sunday, Jan. 15, 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.
Among Governor Nathan Deal’s 2012 legislative proposals there is real gem, one that cries out for implementation and doesn’t require new legislation – taxation of internet sales. Enforcing the abandoned use tax requirements already on the books  will increase Georgia’s tax revenues from sales and use taxes to where they should be, increase fair compliance, and put Georgia’s imperiled retailers on equal footing with out-of-state wholesalers and online sales sites, like the booming
Cries of “taxing the internet” or this being a tax increase are wrong. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. The existing laws of the states with sales taxes, including Georgia, invariably include a reciprocating use tax. Georgia has a use tax that operates this way – if the consumer buys an item of taxable tangible personal property where the seller did not charge the sales tax, that consumer is legally bound to complete a use tax return and pay the use tax due to the state at the time of filing the return.
The use tax return form and instructions explaining how the use tax operates are found online here.
No new legislation is needed. This is not a new tax. It is the Georgia “Fair tax.” Everybody pays, or they should be paying. Why not allow and encourage the Georgia Department of Revenue to audit residents for payment of the use tax on their online purchases? It can be done electronically by requesting taxpayers’ annual credit card listing of transactions to allow the revenue auditors to verify that purchases from unregistered, unremitting out-of state firms have been reported for use taxes and that the taxes have been paid on taxable transactions.
Auditing use taxes would very quickly gain compliance from the imposition of interest at 12% and onerous penalties, provided that the use tax return was updated to provide for payment of these items. Another boost to compliance is that there is an infinite audit period for residents who have not filed, because failure to file eliminates the 3 year statute of limitations. Couple 12% interest onto 10 years of taxes will get anyone’s attention!
The first group to be audited and brought into compliance with the laws of the state should be the members of the Georgia General Assembly. The politicos can lead by example or face being made examples. The Georgia Department of Revenue should be required to audit these Georgia citizens first, publicize failures to comply, and impose full penalties and interest for a number of years.
Once citizens and legislators, alike, rediscover this Fair tax, Georgia’s retailers will have more than a level playing field because of the onerous shipping and handling charges applied by the online sellers.
Congratulations to Governor Nathan Deal on this very timely, justified, reasonable, and fair component to tax reform. It is one that will work. Thank you, governor, and let’s roll with this great idea.

Good Deal.***

Al Gray

Busted: MD Mayor “Admonished” for Augusta Trip with Ripken Baseball

Mayor Bennett (left) and challenger  McGrady (right)

Originally published by CityStink
November 5, 2011
Augusta, GA

Al M. Gray, President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc. contributed multidisciplinary review techniques in support of this article.

City Stink first told you back on October 11th about Aberdeen, MD mayor Michael Bennett’s trip to Augusta, GA with Ripken Baseball officials: The Truth is a Funny Thing in Aberdeen, MD When it Comes to Publicly Financed Ballparks.
Mayor Bennett had a very different story for the audience in Augusta regarding his city’s financial history with the publicly financed Ripken Stadium from what the people back home are familiar with. Bennett supposedly wanted to “dispel rumors” from a 2007 Baltimore Sun  article that said the small city of Aberdeen, MD was losing hundreds of thousands of dollars annually on their stadium and a very lop-sided financial arrangement with Ripken Baseball made it next to impossible for the city to even break even. Plus, much of the promised real-estate development the city was hoping would occur adjacent to the ballpark never materialized. Of course City Stink got a hold of the budget reports for the city of Aberdeen and found that the city was still losing hundreds of thousands of dollars annually on Ripken Stadium and still having to dip into its general fund to service the bonds.
But Bennett made it sound like everything was just hunky-dory back in The Old-Line state. But people back home knew better. It seems for years, a series of mayors, including Bennett, tried unsuccessfully to renegotiate a better deal with Ripken Baseball to stop the financial hemorrhaging for Aberdeen taxpayers. Each time, the company refused. So why did mayor Michael Bennett come down and tell an audience in Augusta a completely opposite tale and sing the praises of Ripken Baseball?
As many of you know, Ripken Baseball and Augusta mayor Deke Copenhaver have been lobbying hard for a new stadium here in Augusta. But the public has been cool on the idea of committing public funds for the project. So when the news broke back in July that Cal Ripken’s home town of Aberdeen was suffering with a financial burden with Ripken Stadium, it seemed to reinforce what stadium critics here have been saying all along.
So on October 3rd, Ripken Baseball brought Aberdeen mayor Michael Bennett (at company expense) to Augusta to engage in some damage control and some truth bending. I mean if the mayor of Aberdeen, MD says all of this is a bunch of baloney about them losing money on their stadium then it must be true right? And of course Augusta reporters won’t ask any questions or dig deeper, right?
When the folks back up in Maryland caught wind of mayor Bennett’s trip to Augusta, there were naturally a lot of questions. Such as why was mayor Bennett down in Georgia on a lobbying junket for a company his city has a financial relationship with? And, why did the mayor neglect to give the crowd in Augusta the whole story?
Patrick McGrady, who is challenging Bennett in the upcoming Nov 8th election for mayor, filed an ethics complaint over the trip.
Well on Nov 1st, just a week before the election, the Aberdeen, MD Ethics Panel (many of whom were appointed by mayor Bennett) rendered a decision on the ethics complaint against Bennett, and it found the mayor IN VIOLATION of the city’s ethics ordinance: Baltimore Sun: Ethics Panel Admonishes Mayor Bennett.
You can view the official decision by the ethics panel below:
ethicsreport (1)
Even though the panel did not believe the mayor “willfully” violated the ethics ordinance, they did believe the potential for a conflict of interest did exist and that mayor Bennett should have disclosed this to the city council BEFORE making the trip. He notified the council more than a week AFTER when it had already hit the blogs and newspapers. The panel also concluded that the mayor, acting in an official capacity, was in effect lobbying on behalf of a private company that could result in that company receiving a  financial benefit (Ripken Baseball is trying to get Augusta to build them a stadium here). The panel did not consider the plane ticket a “gift”, nor has it been proven that mayor Bennett received some other direct financial benefit from Ripken Baseball for making the trip, but with it being election season, there are certainly many people asking questions about mayor Bennett’s motives for coming to Augusta to lobby on Ripken Baseball’s behalf and twist the facts about the financial burden of the stadium. Though there is no penalty for the ethics violation, the panel did “admonish” mayor Bennett for a “series of imprudent actions.”
How will this impact the election up there? Well we will find out after next Tuesday if this trip to Augusta cost Michael Bennett his job as mayor. The timing of this certainly could not be worse for Bennett. However things turn out in the election, many stadium critics in Augusta feel vindicated by this decision from the ethics panel in Maryland. The truth about the financial burdens of these stadiums are well documented, and for mayor Bennett and Ripken Baseball officials to come to Augusta and say that stadium critics here were spreading “rumors and misinformation” was not only disingenuous, but offensive. If they want to point the finger at who is spreading “rumors and misinformation” about the stadium, they may want to try finding a mirror.
Other media sources covering the ethics violation story: