Saturday, February 28, 2009

Could this be the fate of your Union-Recorder?

Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo.

Last week we heard from John Sugg about why it won't be the fate of this paper. But still, it is shocking to see one of the major metropolitan cities lose one of its news organizations.
I spent almost all of 2007 in Philadelphia, a city with a similar two-paper agreement going on. Will this be the fate of the Inquirer or the Daily News?
And what will be the fate of two newspapers in little old Milledgeville?
Stick around to find out.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Special Election to fill Parham's state House seat could cost $30K

Just thought y'all might like to know.
Baldwin County has 14 voting precincts that require five poll workers apiece. Including four poll workers handling absentee ballots, that’s 74 poll workers needed to pull off election day alone.
Poll workers are paid about $115 per day for their service to the county’s Democratic process.
Assuming absentee and early voting take place over 20 business days, that’s roughly 100 election days between early and absentee voting, plus the 74 poll workers needed to carry out election day itself.
All of those together will cost the county $20,010 in precinct labor.
Blackwell said the election process will also include printing of the absentee ballots, labor of programming the voting machines, advertising the election and the sample ballot in the local newspaper--in Baldwin’s case the Union-Recorder--and the cost of transporting the voting machines to their precincts.
Blackwell said that the cost of holding the special election could double if the race is forced into a run-off because no single candidate is able to garner a majority of votes.

Pick up Thursday's Union-Recorder to find out more.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Parham Stirs the Pot 2

Good Golly Miss Molly!
State Rep. Bobby Parham, D-Milledgeville, is pulling down more headlines than ever before.
Dick Pettys' Insider Advantage is reporting that the state's Attorney General is being asked to weigh in on the question of when Parham has to fill his seat on the state Transportation Board.

One big question Wednesday - will Rep. Bobby Parham, the man elected last week to replace Anderson - vote or not on Thursday? Parham has told constituents he won't resign from the Legislature and take his seat on the board until after this session is concluded. Further, he hasn't yet been sworn in. But some board members contend he should begin participating in board decisions now. They argue that he was elected to an unexpired term and, therefore, should start fulfilling those duties.
The attorney general has been asked to clarify the situation and to specify the "triggering event" by which a board member takes office. He had not ruled as of early Wednesday afternoon.

Parham told One Capital Removed yesterday that Charles Tarbutton, the heir to the Kaolin fortune that Parham beat out in the DOT board election, has been pushing other board members to determine Parham in dereliction of duty to the board.
And that's all nice and good, but the rising tide that says DOT Commissioner Gena Evans, never a stranger to controversy, is on her way out--and quickly--is bringing the fight over the vacant 12th District seat to a logger head.
On the 13 member board that has remained in gridlock, Parham's vote may be needed to break any tie as a result of pushing Evans out.
But from what Parham was saying last night, Evan's ouster probably won't require his vote.
Watch the link for more conclusive and timely updates.

Update: Speaking of above, read this AJC Political Insider post about the rebellion against Perdue's DOT proposal. Don't miss out on the comments where it really gets heated.

Chambers says it's not over

District 6 Milledgeville City Councilman Steve Chambers told One Capital Removed last night that efforts to apply some kind of Corridor Management Standards are still in the works.
Chambers said that the next step may involve reaching out to the Rosser International Group (that most notably handled the Milledgeville State Properties Master Plan dealing with the Central State Hospital property) to get estimates on having them take a look at creating a set of standards for Milledgeville from scratch. That would hopefully take wind out of the sails of the "cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all" argument.
Chambers also said the standards will be scaled back to tackle the community's biggest offender: North Columbia Street. But Chambers would like to see any standards also cover some of the community's east-west gateways as well. Although he conceded that any standards may need to be phased in over time.
But it is imaginable that anything involving outside consultants is going to be costly. And we'll see how the rest of the elected leadership, both city and county, will take that.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

More on Floodgates

Close the floodgates some.
In a conversation with Floyd Griffin earlier today, the city's first African American Mayor flat out denied rumors that he was going to run in the special election for Rep. Bobby Parham's chair in the state House.
But after denying his candidacy he said enough to let one think that he's considering it.
"The only thing I'm saying is that Rep. Parham indicated that he is resigning his seat at the end of the current session. But the question is: When is the end of the session?"
If things stay the same, the session is set to end in late June, early July depending on whether legislators meet for a full five-day week when the reconvene for the 36th (of 40) legislative day on June 22.
So that would lead to another question: When will a special election to fill Parham's chair be held?
Rusty Kidd, Culver's son, announced his bid Monday.
Assuming the election doesn't happen until June, that could have been a shot in the foot if there's nothing to campaign about until June and memory of your announcement fades once City Council election qualifying gets underway. (Put that on the to-do list.)
No other candidates have come out of the woodwork yet, but an off-the-record conversation I had last night provided me with a very short list of suspects to query.
More to come.

Parham Stirs the Pot

Lucid Idiocy wrote an interesting post about the governor's proposed shake up of the state's transportation system.
I had a seasoned lobbyist tell me Parham's election was the first major sign that Gov. Perdue's re-organization plan will be defeated. We shall see.
This train of thought follows what Parham had told me about his reasoning for running for the State Transportation Board in the second place:
Although Parham acknowledged that there could be changes to the scope of the transportation board’s responsibilities if Gov. Sonny Perdue’s plan to create a new State Transportation Agency that will plan the future of the state’s transportation system is adopted by the state House and Senate, Parham said that the number of legislators he saw campaigning for election to the current transportation board leads him to think that there may not be support in the General Assembly for Perdue’s proposal.
Indeed, we shall see.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

If Sugg likes it, you should too

John Sugg, former senior editor of the Creative Loafing and a life-long print man, gave a big shoutout to the Union-Recorder during Friday's Georgia Gazette.
Talking about his new online news venture GONSO, the Georgia Online News Service, Sugg told listeners that the fate of the large metropolitan dailies may not be shared by their small town counterparts.
These newspapers, what gives them viability to survive in this new age is that they're awfully darn good at reporting on their local communities.
I go to Milledgeville occasionally, and Milledgeville is this tiny little daily newspaper--5,000 circulation--and they do a heck of a job at reporting on the news that is important to the people in Milledgeville and whatever the county is around there.

Thanks John!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Open the Floodgates

The rumor mill is already running at full strength on who will throw their hat in the ring for Bobby's seat ( see below) in the state House.
Word around the room is that Rusty Kidd, the late state Sen. Culver Kidd's son, is throwing his name in for the chair.
And as a special caveat to that tid bit, word is he wants to announce as soon as possible to keep former Milledgeville Mayor Floyd Griffin from getting too comfortable with the thought of running for the seat.
Definitely more to come on this story.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Parham wins seat on State Transportation Board

State Representative Bobby Eugene Parham, D-Milledgeville, was just elected to the State Transportation Board today.
Parham called the Union-Recorder earlier this afternoon to say that he was going into the day's 12th U.S. Congressional District Caucus with enough votes to get the seat vacated by Raybon Anderson.
"I have the 15 votes committed verbally--I didn't ask them to sign their names to a piece of paper in their own blood--but when a man looks you straight in the face and tells you they'll vote for you, you can usually believe them," he said.
Parham called back about five hours later like he said he would to tell us that he beat out the competition 18 to 10. And the final competition was part of the Tarbutton clan out of Sandersville.
Parham said he'll stay in the House until the end of the session so that he can be sure that his new chair will actually be worth something when he takes it this summer.
"The Democrats have got to hold together on this [opposing the governor's plan to create a State Transportation Authority to take over planning of the state's transportation system]," he said. "They had their chance when Talmadge was governor and he tried to fire the entire Board of Regents and the legislature had to pass a constitutional amendment to take the Board of Regents and the Department of Transportation out of the direct control of the governor."
Parham will be leaving behind a seat he's held in the state House for 34 years--though strangely enough he told me he's been there for 36.
"I've watched it change a lot in the last 36 years," he said. "But I'm not going to write a book about it (like some people we know)."
So we at One Capital Removed wish him the best. Now bring us that darn Fall Line Freeway they've been talking about for three decades!

Update: I had the good people at the Probate Court pull the records on when Parham was first elected and the Union-Recorder with the aid of the General Assembly's Web site is correct. Parham was elected in 1974 and sworn into office in January 1975.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Governor to local governments: Check's in the mail

Governor Sonny Perdue wasn't able to kill the Homeowner Tax Relief Grant the way he'd been telling Georgians he would.
But don't worry, he effectively outsourced that responsibility to Rep. Larry O’Neal, R-Warner Robins, whose H.B. 143 will fund the grant program this year and then let the market decide from there on out.
Let's all coalesce for a good back-slapping feel-good moment before returning to the reality that that is an extra half a billion that will have to come from somewhere.
One of our esteemed sources said that the Governor's decision to sign the HTRG without a fight may be due to the buzz from the electric coolaid the federal government is about to send around to all the states.
"For me, I'm just glad this stimulus bill was passed so now we can depend on this money to get us out of the hell of a hole we're in," said anonymous source said. "Now the question arises: What do we do when this money runs out? Will the economy rebound enough to return revenues to where they were?"

See what I see

I'd like to invite y'all to view some of the images of Milledgeville and local politics and events that go on here in the State's Antebellum Capital.
In keeping with the small town newspaper tradition (one of no budget), the writers here at the Union Recorder are also tasked with being their own photographer. To record some of the more interesting photos and events, I have created a Flickr site to display some of those loose images that do and don't make it into our publication.
View my Flickr site here.
Of recent note are my trip to the State's current Capital for Georgia Day festivities and some images from the new jail.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Will there ever be a peaceful Mayor Pro Tem election?

Despite an unanimous vote to elect District 6 Councilman Steve Chambers to Mayor Pro Tem, District 4 Councilman Ken Vance’s unexpected motion to amend the night’s agenda to include the inter-Council election sparked a small controversy as District 3 Councilwoman Denese Shinholster, who seconded the motion, said that Vance was acting underhanded in the last minute amendment.
“When we first started doing this, we said we’d talk about these things; I don’t like these things just springing up,” Shinholster said. “I think we ought to stay together as a Council. At least a courtesy call would have been nice.”

Still Waiting

The newsroom received a press release today from the Office of the Governor concerning the state's agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice investigation of Civil Rights violations in the state's seven mental health hospitals.
The funny thing is, it's the same release they sent out almost a month ago. And there's still no information about the details of the settlement as it says the settlement is still pending a federal judge's approval.

Update: Mystery solved! The newsroom can be a crazy place and sometimes that craziness results in the same e-mail being sent to you twice.
But this raising of the Department of Human Resources alert is appropo as we're all waiting to find out what the fate of the state's mental health system will be.
Rumor is there are movements going on at the Payton Cook Building.
We'll write more about that once DHR refuses to say anything about it tomorrow!

Does this mean the session won't last until June?

The U.S. Senate passed the President's Economic Stimulus Plan today.
What will this mean for the General Assembly now that they've voted to stay in session until June?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Quite possibly causing the post below...

January's revenue figures dropped 14.3 percent or $262 million between the numbers posted January 2008.
The AJC reports that the low figures will probably force the governor to lower the revenue estimates, thus dropping the digits on the state's projected $20.2 billion FY2010 budget.

Not so fast...

The state House voted to meet three times a week until March 25, adjourn and then return in late June so as to be able to respond to any federal stimulus package.
Read the professional's story about it here.

Update: Both Political Insider and Lucid Idiocy make an excellent point that a newbie like myself might have forgotten: You can't raise money during the legislative session.

Lake Sinclair no longer to be small pond for big boats?

State Senator Johnny Grant, R-Milledgeville, filed S.B. 99 to outlaw large boats on Lake Sinclair.
If passed, boats longer than 30 feet, 6 inches will not be allowed on the lake. It also prohibits--and I'll have to quote here because I'm no mariner--"Any vessel equipped with any type of bypass mechanism that reduces or eliminates the effectiveness of the muffler or baffler system."
This legislation was a big to do on the local level last year during boating season as many area residents began to worry about lake lizards with the large boats traveling from Lake Lanier to Lake Sinclair as it is one of the few lakes in the state that has no legislation prohibiting large water crafts.
On a side note, last year I did a ride along with DNR on Lake Sinclair and their understanding of any prohibition legislation was that it would outlaw any boats that couldn't make it under the 441 bridges.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Privatization deferred...

Yesterday in a surprisingly brusque conversation with Department of Human Resources spokesman David Noel, it was confirmed that a Request For Proposals issued for private companies to take over the state's forensics operations was canceled.
Noel said that the RFP was canceled so that DHR could review the request to see if the correct experience requirements were in place.
But, Noel went on to say that once review of the RFP is concluded, it would be reissued.
State Senator Johnny Grant, R-Milledgeville, called the Union-Recorder to inform us about this piece of information, which he had initially heard as a rumor at the Capital.
This RFP is of particular importance to the community as it may come to be all that is left of Milledgeville's mental health industry once privatization changes the state's mental health system as we know it.
Forensics is the branch of the state's mental health serves clients who are referred for psychiatric evaluation and treatment from various components of the state's criminal justice and corrections systems. According to Central State Hospital's ,Web site, the hospital currently has 192 operating beds in its forensics unit.
Although I haven't been able to acquire a copy of the RFP, word is that it was to center the entire state's forensics services in the Milledgeville area.
This would pose a strange fate for the state's former mental health capital--sometimes referred to as Asylum City--as it is now the home of the state's first mental health prison, Baldwin State Prison. The community has gone from the service center of the state's mental health system to the weigh station of the state's criminally insane.

Update: The Savannah Morning News wrote a story about changes to the "Game Plan." Maybe the U-R will have a story about this soon.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

District 12 without representation on DOT board

The AJC reported that Twelfth District Department of Transportation Board member Raybon Anderson announced that he will be resigning his post on the Transportation Board effective Feb. 17.
Let's hope that it doesn't bring this battle back to the Gold Dome.
According to the AJC, Anderson's seat on the board was taking too much away from his fertilizer company. But the story hints at the fact that the Transportation Board may be losing some sway over the state's transportation agenda.
"In the current session, legislators have said they were dismayed at the DOT board’s proposals to cut road projects without furloughs or layoffs, and ideas for bills have surfaced that may take power from the DOT board."