Racism doesn’t kill people — vigilantes with guns often do

Most people, knowing what’s known about the shooting of Trayvon Martin, would like to see George Zimmerman charged with something — me included. But it would be a miscarriage of justice if  Zimmerman was charged with a hate crime, as some experts speculate.

Racism, if Zimmerman is guilty of it, is not a crime. Pursuing an unarmed teen when law enforcement tells you not to, then shooting and killing him, is clearly illegal.

The overriding cultural issues brought to the forefront by Trayvon Martin’s slaying shouldn’t cloud simple matters of justice, nor should it obscure the larger problem that’s garnering scant attention.

We’re a nation of no gun laws. A state rep. from Woodstock has proposed House Bill 981, which would allow concealed weapons in:

Public schools and colleges;

Bars and restaurants;

Places of worship;

Polling places

Government buildings, including the state Capitol.

Meanwhile, a bill that would require four hours of training for anyone who gets a permit to carry a concealed weapon couldn’t even get a hearing in a committee.

While there appears to be nothing in George Zimmerman’s past that would’ve prevented him from carrying a weapon there were certainly warning signs.

Over the years, his scores of calls to police showed he pursued shoplifters and errant drivers with zeal, reporting pit bulls, potholes, children playing in the street, open garage doors and “suspicious” youths — usually black males — loitering in the street.

He peppered his calls with jargon familiar to police. In one case, he chased a reckless driver while calling 911 — the driver later told police he was terrified that Zimmerman was going to attack him. In another case, Zimmerman tailed a supermarket shoplifter until a police officer successfully arrested the thief.

Of course those warning signs were missed because the NRA won’t allow governments to regulate who is allowed access to deadly weapons. And few people seem inclined to challenge the gun nuts who, despite nearly uncontested influence, still claim to be under siege.

Ga. last in ethics; pols blame the messenger

A new report measuring states on the strength of their laws on public corruption and government openness ranks Georgia last in the nation, a grade state officials dismissed as a biased hit job.

The report, released today, scored states on 330 “corruption risk indicators” including open records law, campaign finance rules, and auditing and budgeting procedures. Georgia received an overall grade of 49 out of 100, an F. …

House Ethics Committee Chairman Joe Wilkinson, R-Sandy Springs, said the report blindsided him, and he criticized the choice of author for Georgia’s report card. Jim Walls, a former Atlanta Journal-Constitution editor and owner of the website Atlanta Unfiltered, gathered, wrote and provided an initial score on the information on Georgia for the report.

“To have Georgia’s laws judged by a blogger instead of a regulatory official, as has been done in the past, is of great concern,” he said.

Wallis guided watchdog reporting while an editor at the AJC. His blog is a public service — something many in the General Assembly know nothing about.

If you don’t believe Wallis about Georgia’s loose ethical standards, look at all the crap Sonny Perdue got away with as governor.

Thou shalt not waste time w/ symbolic legislation

A copy of the Ten Commandments could be posted in all Georgia government buildings and schools under a bill passed unanimously Tuesday by House lawmakers.

Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, is seeking to expand a 2006 law that already permits the passage from the Old Testament to be displayed in judicial buildings and courthouses when accompanied by other historical documents deemed to have influenced the U.S. legal system.

So what else has Georgia’s General Assembly been up to?

*Car owners could get “In God We Trust” stickers free of charge under a bill passed Tuesday by the state Senate, which adopted the measure after initial plans to make the motto mandatory on all Georgia license plates fell short in committee.

*A bill to limit mass picketing outside private residences has garnered vocal opposition from community leaders, who issued a call Thursday to organize and defeat it.

That last bill was drafted by Sen. Chamber of Commerce.

State budget finds room for fishing ponds, football stadiums

Having already subsidized a fishing museum in former Gov. H. Dumpty’s backyard the state of Georgia is now helping fund a unnecessary new football stadium for the Falcons and its billionaire owner.

This month, [Gov. Nathan] Deal included $15 million in his proposed 2012 budget for the GWCC Authority to purchase the old Herndon Homes property next to the potential stadium site from the Atlanta Housing Authority.  GWCC spokesman Mark Geiger said the property could be used for a marshaling yard, for GWCC expansion or parking, or for a stadium.

Last March AJC columnist Kyle Wingfield detailed what the $400 million the state is expected to kick in towards constructing an open-air stadium could go to instead:

With $400 million, the city could erase more than a quarter of its $1.5 billion pension funds deficit. Or it could pay for a big chunk of its continuing, $4 billion water and sewer infrastructure repairs. Those costs are inescapable. Why pass them on to unborn Atlantans when visitors could help us pay them down now?

Just to get a full grasp of what $400 million will buy, let’s look outside the city limits. For that money, we could pay the rest of the cost of deepening the Savannah port, which would benefit the entire state. It would also fund a large part of an outer perimeter or new north-south expressway allowing cargo trucks to bypass Atlanta.

Or we could hedge our bets in the water wars by building new reservoirs to fulfill our water needs in the event we lose access to Lake Lanier.

No refunds for the subsidisers

Just say 'hell no!'

Let’s say 10 years from now — long after the Georgia General Assembly approves public funding for a new Falcons stadium (shouldn’t that be put to a statewide referendum?) — NFL owners preside over another lockout. A prolonged work stoppage ensues.

Who will reimburse the taxpayers who funded the stadium, the ones misled to believe that a new facility would bring added revenues to the city and state? What about the merchants who open establishments dependent on fan business?

Fan reimbursement — that’s funny. Additional subsidizing is more like it, in the form of higher ticket prices to cover alleged losses by team owners.

Why haven’t we heard from the Tea Party on this? Are they okay with government subsidies, as long as they don’t go to the poor?

Asshole state rep. strikes again

Already this year Bobby Franklin, a state representative from Marietta, has compared gays to “unrepentant drug dealers” and tried to criminalize miscarriages.

Now he’s badmouthing tornado survivors.

At least 340 people were killed by the historic tornado cell that passed through the South, causing property damages ranging from $2 billion to $5 billion.

What $400 mil would buy

Excellent column by the AJC’s Kyle Wingfield detailing what the money earmarked for an unnecessary football stadium could go toward instead: 

For example, it could go to cutting property taxes. Atlanta takes in $18 million to $20 million in general funds for each mill of property taxes. (A mill equals a dollar of tax for every $1,000 of a home’s assessed value.)

If the city were to lower property taxes by one mill and replace the revenue with hotel taxes, the owner of a $250,000 home would save $250 a year. (Hey, that’s about what it costs to take a family of four to a Falcons game!)

On the other hand, we could continue to spend the money, just not on a new stadium. The list of potential projects is long. Here are some possibilities, not all of which I’m endorsing simply by including them here.

For $400 million, we could build the entire 44-mile network of high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes planned to help ease congestion in the region. Or we could make a number of improvements to freeway interchanges choked by traffic.

For those more interested in public transportation, the city could complete about a third of the BeltLine’s 22-mile transit loop. Alternatively, it could more than cover the first phase of the proposed streetcar route along the Peachtree corridor (a project I’d personally put at the bottom of the list).

Or the city could do the opposite of what governments tend to do and reduce the burden on future taxpayers.

With $400 million, the city could erase more than a quarter of its $1.5 billion pension funds deficit. Or it could pay for a big chunk of its continuing, $4 billion water and sewer infrastructure repairs. Those costs are inescapable. Why pass them on to unborn Atlantans when visitors could help us pay them down now?

Or we could give the money to one of the state’s five billionaires.



Man cannot live on $900 million alone

Forbes lists Arthur Blank’s net worth at $1.3 billion. Taxpayers are being asked to provide $400 million toward a new stadium (to replace one barely two decades old) for Blank’s Falcons.

Glad to see Georgia’s General Assembly taking care of one of the state’s five billionaires. The rest of their constitutents can suck it.

“Economists have studied the economic impact of stadiums to death, and the clear consensus is that there is no positive impact,” said author and sports economist J.C. Bradbury of Kennesaw State University. “Economists don’t agree on a lot, but right wing, left wing, they all agree on that.”

Tea partiers apparently unfazed by welfare for billionaires

New Falcons stadium will revitalize its n’hood. You know, just like the Ga. Dome & Turner Field did for their n’hoods. http://bit.ly/gypR9L

The state’s broke yet taxpayers will soon be asked to help fund an unnecessary stadium. We’ll be told that new stadiums pay for themselves, and then some, but that’s bullshit.

[W]hat they do is they use debt, public debt, to help build these stadiums. And, essentially, these are bonds that go out decades, if you will. And two things generally happen: either these stadiums don’t pay for themselves in many cases, which leaves taxpayers on the hook, or if the venue does happen to be successful — as in the case of the New Jersey Meadowlands — politicians can’t help milking these things. They take the revenues and they put them somewhere else and they don’t pay off the bonds. It’s kind of like the equivalent of not paying off your mortgage. And that eventually leaves taxpayers on the hook too.

The Ga. General Assembly is a joke

The Sunday sales bill is dead. But there’s still time to save the American light bulb

The new GOP priority?

SB 61 would defend Georgia’s right – under the Tenth Amendment, Ninth Amendment and the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution — to produce light bulbs in whatever fashion it so chooses, no matter what the federal government says.

Looks like the Baptists win again

Our last governor was a crook. His replacement has, at the very least, been cordial with impropriety. The new speaker of the house might as well be fornicating with lobbyists.

And now, thanks to pressure from Christian conservatives who should have better things to worry about than the drinking habits of their fellow Georgians, legislation permitting Sunday alcohol sales has stalled. Again.

Pardon me for having zero faith in Georgia’s Republican monopoly.

Georgia: The new Mississippi

Atlanta’s downtown connector is about to get another coat of asphalt. Why?

The resurfacing of the northbound lanes should correct the problem of water seeping through the roadway that led to patches of black ice this past winter.

“Crews will cut very thin horizontal grooves in the asphalt to drain any seeping water,” DOT spokeswoman Crystal Paulk-Buchanan said. “Then, crews will put the final layer of asphalt over this section.”

Yeah, that black ice is a real problem — much graver than our failing schools.

Here is the bottom line. If the changes in state and local revenues that are already occurring are allowed to continue, Georgia’s schools will have to increase the number of students per teacher by at least 15 percent from FY 2009 to FY 2012 or decrease the salaries of their employees by the same extent. If teacher salaries remain the same, there will have to be a decrease of at least 14,000 teaching positions across the state.

Meanwhile, top Georgia lawmakers are living large on the taxpayer’s dime.

Overall, lawmakers billed the state for nearly $3.6 million in so-called per diem payments from Jan. 1, 2008, through March 19, 2010, at the same time the state budget was being slashed by $3 billion, teachers and employees were furloughed and state troopers were taken off the roads.

All we need now is a proclamation commemorating Confederate History Month. Done!

Paulding County Republicans and their “San Francisco values”

To fill the seat vacated by former House Speaker Glenn Richardson, who resigned earlier this year after his ex-wife confirmed he had an affair with a lobbyist, Paulding County voters on Tuesday elected Daniel Stout, a 29-year-old banker.

Stout won despite acknowledging an affair with his mother-in-law while his wife was pregnant. If John Edwards really wants back in politics, he should change his party affiliation and move to suburban Atlanta.

Georgia praises Scientology

This may come as a surprise to some, but your Republican-controlled state Senate – usually known for catering to the concerns of conservative Christians – last week issued a sincere commendation to the Scientology Volunteer Ministers Corps.

SR 998 passed the chamber on Feb. 8. The sponsors were three Democrats: Donzella James of College Park, Horacena Tate of Atlanta, and Valencia Seay of Riverdale.

I guess the three state senators were impressed with Scientology’s profiteering in Haiti.