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Cracker Squire


My Photo
Location: Douglas, Coffee Co., The Other Georgia, United States

Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Monday, February 28, 2005

The G-7 drawn redistricting map that will probably be it.

The redistricting map that will probably be the final one is appropriately named G7 after the Republicans congressman who prepared it. They can be found at the following sites.

G-7 state map.

G-7 metro map.

Democrat Jim Marshall's district is the one that is changed the most. The current 3rd focuses on Middle Georgia. The new district stretches from Colquitt County, near the Florida border, to Newton County, east of Atlanta.

Living in South Georgia, I preferred the Franklin map, with some necessary tweaking for incumbents. Of the 13 congressional districts, we had three South and Middle Georgia districts, with District 1 including both Savannah and Glynn, Georgia's two port cities, in one district as it is now, and which is good.

Jim Marshall's present Middle Georgia district was the district that did all the changing to accomodate the remaining 12. As proposed, it replaces the 12th district as being a district that is long and narrow, going from deep South Georgia to close to Atlanta as noted above, comparable in length to the present 12th district that goes from Savannah to Athens.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Rep. Bordeaux adjusts to minority status; says our party needs to adjust too, including talking more about the impact of faith on our political views.

Excerpts from:

Once a powerful chairman, Bordeaux adjusts to minority status.
State Rep. Tom Bordeaux says his party needs to adjust, too.

By Brandon Larrabee
Savannah Morning News
and Morris News Service
February 26, 2005

When he took to the well of the House earlier this month, his emotions rising, Rep. Tom Bordeaux conceded that his long fight was over.

In recent years, Bordeaux had become the bogeyman of those looking to cap jury awards in medical malpractice cases. Bordeaux, a trial lawyer and Savannah Democrat, had used his clout as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee to bottle up measures that he believed damaged the rights of patients hurt by negligent doctors.

But Republicans have the House, and when a special committee sent the malpractice measure to the floor that day, Bordeaux knew he was powerless to prevent it from passing.

It has been a long year for Bordeaux.

Late in last year's legislative session, then-House Speaker Terry Coleman, D-Eastman, stripped Bordeaux of his chairmanship because his committee wouldn't send malpractice caps to the floor.

Then, in November, the Democratic majority that had given Bordeaux much of his influence was wiped away in a GOP tidal wave.

For his part, Bordeaux said his job hasn't changed much since his party tumbled into the minority.

"It's the same as it's always been, and that's to try to get the best legislation passed and stop the bad legislation from passing. It's a lot harder to do that now," Bordeaux said.

And the methods he uses have to be a little different.

"You have to be more clever, you have to be more strategic," he said. "In a lot of ways, you have to be more vocal at the right times. You have to appeal continually to the legislature's sense of fair play and justice. ...

"And you have to have a hide made of leather."

Bordeaux says his party hasn't quite adjusted to being in the minority.

"Frankly, for some of our members, I think we need to develop a fire in the belly," he said.

The party needs to talk more about the impact of faith on its political views, Bordeaux said, who added his Christian faith is a major influence in his being a Democrat.

"I know this is going to sound like pandering, but the truth is, I think I'm a Democrat because I'm a Christian," he said. "I believe that God wants us to help the oppressed, to do justice, to be good stewards of the environment, to do everything Jesus commanded us to do. I see the Democrats as the party that traditionally has done that."

But some observers, particularly those on the other side of the aisle, question whether the 15-year lawmaker can remain effective with a GOP stranglehold on the General Assembly.

"The only way to be effective in the minority is to stand for your principles without being dogmatic," said Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson, a Savannah Republican who was the minority leader in the upper chamber for several years. "And Rep. Bordeaux runs the risk of being dogmatic."

Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, said Bordeaux can still make an impact.

"There's certainly no way he's going to enjoy the influence he had when was chair of the Judiciary Committee," Bullock said.

But Bordeaux could get some legislation through the General Assembly, particularly if he's willing to let a GOP lawmaker take the credit.

"You can have good ideas, but you have to also realize that your good ideas may be co-opted by somebody in the majority," Bullock said.

For his part, Bordeaux said he doesn't plan on giving up any time soon.

"As I understand what God wants, He wants me and others to fight the good fight," he said. "And that's the reward."

Sen. Biden: Hillary Clinton will be hard to beat in 2008 race. - I am not buying such talk, not now, not in 2007-08.

Sen. Joseph Biden says any Democrat who wants to run for president in 2008 should keep in mind these three words: Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"I think she'd be incredibly difficult to beat," the Delaware Democrat said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." "I think she is the most difficult obstacle for anyone being the nominee."

The former first lady and Democratic senator from New York insists that she plans to run for re-election in 2006. But speculation persists that she might run for president in 2008.

"She is likely to be the nominee," Biden said. "She'd be the toughest person and I think Hillary Clinton is able to be elected president of the United States."

Biden said he is thinking about running again, 20 years after his first failed bid for the White House because "there's a lot at stake."

(2-27-05, AP.)

I might not be a U.S. Senator, but I am not buying this or even worrying about such talk at this early stage in the game.

Will she be a factor? Sure. Will she get the nominee? No; hopefully we have learned from 2004 that we must nominate someone who appeals to all 50 states.

See my 11-06-04 post entitled:

"Democrats Map Out a Different Strategy -- The 2008 nominee must appeal to red states, analysts say. Hillary Clinton may not (read WILL NOT) qualify."

A look at our competition & how it operates.

From the 2-23-05 The Hill:

Eight teams now man GOP message machine

By Patrick O'Connor

Building on a strategy developed during the Medicare prescription-drug debate, House Republicans have rolled out an unprecedented communications strategy, coordinating members and lobbyists to start selling the GOP’s ambitious legislative agenda.

Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio) announced the eight teams of members last week after initially introducing the strategy during last month’s bicameral Republican retreat in West Virginia.

The teams, each of which will focus on a particular set of legislative issues, are Retirement Security, Voter Values, Economic Competitiveness, War on Terror, Lawsuit Abuse and Affordability, Education and Career Opportunities, Healthcare Access and Affordability, and Waste, Fraud and Abuse.

The rollout also included an appeal to K Street.

Following a meeting with lobbyists two weeks ago, Andrew Shore, in the GOP conference office, sent out an e-mail last Friday thanking participants for their interest in the communications strategy and attached a roster of team members and the contact information for key staff.

"We’re asking you to sign up for one or more of the 8 groups listed," Shore wrote in the e-mail. "Much like our Medicare campaign last year, we’ll be working with you on press events, media strategy, grassroots, town hall meetings and floor debate to highlight these issues."

Each team has a separate chairman, or co-chairmen, with an accompanying vice chairman. Chairmen were selected for their particular areas of expertise. For example, Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), a former judge, will head the Lawsuit Abuse team and Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), a doctor, will chair the Healthcare Access team.

Members were encouraged to sign up for the team that most interested them, with the conference deciding who would serve on the most popular.

The 18 chairmen and vice chairmen represent a diverse cross-section of the conference, and leadership has taken an active role in the effort.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) has signed up for three teams, including those to push for Social Security reform and issues related to the war on terrorism, which one conference aide said would be among "the two heaviest lifts." Leadership Chairman Rob Portman (R-Ohio) is also on three communications teams.

Each team has a designated pollster, who will serve as a message adviser, but no money has been set aside to conduct specific polls. The teams will also focus strictly on message and will have no role in shaping policy.

"The public-affairs campaigns will be used strictly to enhance our messaging and communications efforts," conference spokeswoman Andrea Tantaros said in an e-mail. "They are not designed to craft or shape policy."

There will be coordination, however, between the teams and the committees pushing particular legislation.

Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), chairman of the Education and Career Opportunities team, for example, has already scheduled a meeting to discuss message goals with the Education and the Workforce Committee, on which he serves as a member.

Because the teams were only announced last Wednesday, most of the teams have not yet scheduled initial meetings with members to discuss outreach goals.

Some teams will meet more frequently than others. The Economic Competitiveness team, which will focus on tax reform, job creation and energy independence, was already planning to meet once a week, while the Lawsuit Abuse team could meet much less frequently after last week’s passage of the class-action-reform bill.

There will not be a predetermined meeting time for most of the groups, but the conference has set aside a "war room" within the conference office for each group.

The new structure will allow the conference, and leadership in particular, to schedule issue outreach as legislation moves to the House floor. The Retirement Security team, for example, will get increasingly active as Social Security advances within the Ways and Means Committee. The Economic Competitiveness team will be responsible for trumpeting, or downplaying, jobs numbers as they are released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The War on Terror team will coordinate constant message strategy regarding the war in Iraq and other issues relating to homeland security.

Shore, in Pryce’s office, will oversee the K Street coalitions, and Tantaros, Anne Buresh and Jessica Ferguson, in the conference office, will oversee all of the teams.

The new groups help Pryce’s office monitor press from individual districts and were also expected to help vet that information as it comes in. But the teams’ primary function will be crafting a conferencewide message as it moves quickly from one agenda item to the next.

"Just like a full-service public-relations firm, House Republicans have streamlined and mobilized our conference so that we are accessible, articulate and ahead of the game on every issue," Tantaros said.

Things we wish we had not (1) e-mailed; (2) put in a letter; & (3) ordered from pharmacist. - Pol. Insider wrote nos. (1) & (2); Ga. S. Ct. wrote (3).

(1) The e-mail someone wishes he had not sent:

A 11-11-04 post provided in part:

Today's [November 11, 2004] title in the Political Insider is a classic:

One more reason to think about your legacy each time you tap out an e-mail.

Ah, what a difference a month makes. This week, state Rep. Chuck Sims of Douglas swore fealty to the Grand Old Party for the sake of getting things done in his rural district. Only a month before, he was a fervent Democrat. Specifically, on Oct. 5, Sims dashed off a quick e-mail to Kristin Oblander, who was John Kerry's finance director in Georgia: "How are ya.? Can you send Kerry bumper stickers and signs to Douglas? We need about 25 to 50 each if you have them, for three counties."

(2) The letter someone may wish he had not sent:

A 2-21-05 PI is entitled:

Evidence this Democrat intends on running to the right

The flu struck many of those lined up to speak last Saturday at the annual gathering of the Georgia Christian Coalition. Still others had conflicts, and wrote letters of regret. The most telling letter came from Greg Hecht, a Democrat running for lieutenant governor:

Dear Sadie,

I hope you are doing well. I appreciate the invitation to the event this Saturday. Unfortunately, I have a conflict, but I am grateful for your hard work. You have been dedicated to families for a long time, and I appreciate your service. While we agree on some issues and disagree on some other issues, I have always been appreciative of your concern for all people. Also, I thought the paper took an unfair shot at you last year. Take care.

Greg K. Hecht

The "unfair shot" was probably a reference to the publicity surrounding the entrance of Field's daughter, a lesbian, into the Georgia debate over gay marriage.

(3) The prescription someone may wish he had not ordered:

The headnote [summary] from a Georgia Supreme Court case decided in January 2005:

Where evidence concerning husband's use of erectile dysfunction medicine was relevant to wife's claims of marital infidelity, it followed that trial court did not err in allowing wife to question husband about why he sought medicine from physician.

And the relevant test from the full opinion (the appellant is the one appealing a case, here the husband; the appellee is the wife):

The trial court did not err in admitting limited evidence concerning appellant's use of the prescription medicine Viagra, commonly used to treat erectile dysfunction. Among other allegations, appellee claimed that appellant used Viagra in connection with several extramarital sexual relationships occurring both before and after the couple separated. In domestic relations cases, a party may seek to prove sexual misconduct through the introduction of circumstantial evidence. Evidence is relevant if it logically tends to prove or disprove a material fact at issue in a case, and every act that tends to throw light upon a material fact or issue is relevant. Because the evidence concerning appellant's use of Viagra was relevant to appellee's claims of marital infidelity, it follows that the trial court did not err in allowing appellee to question appellant about why he sought Viagra from his physician and what condition he needed assistance with.

Bush's budget. - Millions of Americans will be paying the price for the fiscal profligacy of this misnamed conservative government.

Stealthy Budget Cuts

By David S. Broder
The Washington Post
February 27, 2005

Back-to-back briefings last week put a harsh spotlight on the deep hole left by the budget policies of George Bush's first term. Millions of Americans will be paying the price for the fiscal profligacy of this misnamed conservative government.

The bad news, delivered in the first report, is that the camouflaged domestic spending cuts contained in the Bush budget will -- if accepted by Congress -- do serious damage to education initiatives, low-income assistance and environmental programs over the next five years.

The worse news, documented in the second report, is that these cuts will not even begin to deal with the looming calamity of runaway entitlement spending on the retirement and health care costs of the baby boom generation.

You won't find either of these warnings spelled out in the budget message of the president. An analysis by the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted that for the first time since at least 1989 the White House Office of Management and Budget failed to give Congress or the news media information on the proposed spending on most domestic programs beyond the coming year.

These "domestic discretionary" programs -- covering all the routine functions of government except for defense, homeland security and international affairs, and the entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare -- span the gamut from national parks to medical research.

They are financed by annual appropriations from Congress. Bush gave detailed directions on how he wants $18 billion saved on these programs next year, but he then urged Congress to impose spending caps for the next five years that would reduce spending in these areas by $214 billion total -- without specifying the cuts. Savings in all cases are measured against fiscal 2005 spending on these programs, adjusted only for inflation.

By studying the spending caps Bush proposed for the 57 broad functions included in the domestic discretionary budget, the center's experts calculated how much would have to come out of individual programs -- assuming Congress accepts Bush's priorities.

The results are startling. Elementary and secondary education programs, including the president's No Child Left Behind initiative, would be cut by $11.5 billion over the next five years, with a 12 percent reduction from inflation-adjusted 2005 levels in fiscal 2010 alone.

The WIC program, which subsidizes the diets of low-income pregnant women and nursing mothers -- a major preventative against low-weight babies -- would be cut by $658 million, enough to reduce coverage in 2010 by 660,000 women. Head Start funds would be reduced $3.3 billion over five years, with 118,000 fewer youngsters enrolled in 2010.

Clean water and clean air funding would decline by $6.4 billion over five years, a 20 percent cut in 2010. Community development programs used by cities to build up impoverished neighborhoods would lose $9.2 billion in five years, a 36 percent cut in 2010.

Most of these cuts would come out of state and local budgets, adding to the burdens their taxpayers would have to take up if services are to be maintained.

As Bob Greenstein, the center's director, commented, cuts of this magnitude would be bitterly contested if Congress had to justify them to the people who care about each of these programs. But by asking instead for a vote this year on enforceable five-year caps on these broad categories of spending, the administration hopes to accomplish its goals without arousing the same degree of controversy.

The irony is that even if all this were done, the biggest budget problem would still remain. Medicare and Social Security benefits for the huge wave of boomers, who start to turn 62 in just three years, make the cur- rent budget policies "unsustainable" for the long term. That was the word used repeatedly at a briefing by David Walker, the head of the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, Congress's watchdog agency, and others.

Reform of these major entitlement programs is the pressing need to avoid a budget train wreck in the next generation, but Bush has offered little leadership on that. His Social Security plan -- for individual savings accounts -- does nothing to address the shortfall in that system. And his "contribution" to solving the more pressing crisis in Medicare has been to add an unaffordable prescription drug benefit to the program.

It is a sorry record for a conservative administration, and we are just beginning to recognize its price.

2008 Presidential Race Gets Its First Cattle Call. - At least its first gubernatorial cattle call.

This weekend one might be able to hear some mooing coming from the JW Marriott Hotel in Washington, site of the first cattle call of the 2008 presidential campaign.

Technically, this first '08 campaign event is the bipartisan meeting of the National Governors Association. But as 15 of the nation's 50 governors are considering a bid for the presidency, both parties have learned the benefits of nominating a governor.

The defeat last year of Kerry extended a losing streak for sitting legislators that has been going since Kennedy's 1960 election. As Kerry, Dole and others know, those decades-long voting records can be hard to explain.

The following sitting governors would like to run as president in 2008:


Arnold Schwarzenegger (Calif): Needs constitutional amendment -- quickly.

Mitt Romney (Mass.): Prettier than John Edwards.

George E. Pataki (N.Y.) : He'll have to outfox Rudy.

Jeb Bush (Fla.): Many hope he'll break his promise not to run.

Haley Barbour (Miss.): Deep ties to Washington steakhouse of dubious value.

Mike Huckabee (Ark.): Recent weight loss increases speculation.

Mark Sanford (S.C.): Can't run if his friend John McCain does.

Bill Owens (Colo.): Embarrassed by Democratic victories in his state in '04.

Tom Vilsack (Iowa): Early favorite to win the Iowa caucuses.

Mark R. Warner (Va.): A southern Democrat.

Phil Bredesen (Tenn.): Could do better in his state than Al Gore did.

Bill Richardson (N.M.): Dogged by his Energy Department tenure.

Jennifer M. Granholm (Mich.): Waiting for the Schwarzenegger amendment to pass (she was born in Canada).

Janet Napolitano (Ariz.): Her home state may be too red for Democrats to win.

Rod Blagojevich (Ill.): His home state may be too blue to matter.

(2-27-05, The Washington Post.)

I love political overreaching. - The USA Next attack on the AARP over Social Security.

Talk about return on investment. Industry experts say it cost less than $1,500 for the conservative group USA Next to put on the American Spectator Web site for a few minutes last week an ad attacking the AARP over Social Security. But the ad was so incendiary -- it asserted that "the real AARP agenda" is to promote gay love and to belittle American soldiers -- that it caused a media sensation. CNN, MSNBC, Fox, the Associated Press and a wide range of newspapers covered the ensuing fracas, as politicians such as Sen. Jon S. Corzine (D-N.J.) weighed in.

As it happens, the anti-AARP group is being advised by some of the same people who counseled the Swift Boat Veterans, whose initial ad buy of $550,000 against Kerry had a greater impact than the tens of millions of dollars spent on ads by the Democrats. But that's just coincidence: The former Swift Boat advisers say they weren't involved in last week's ad.

(2-27-05, The Washington Post.)

Saturday, February 26, 2005

HB 218. - It's time for the Cracker Squire to move onto other topics of more general interest.

As noted in a 2-24-05 post, HB 218 was tabled on Thursday, a parliamentary move that sets the measure aside for later consideration. Had it come to a vote, it would have been defeated.

Jim Galloway has a story on the Thursday action concerning the bill in a 2-25-05 article in the ajc, and there is also an informative story on the status and maneuvering on the bill in a story by Sonji Jacobs in Saturday's ajc.

Short of some major development with regard to HB 218, I am going to quit doing so many posts about it.

I recognize that it is something near and dear to my heart because so much of my adult life has been involved -- and continues to be involved -- in industry recruitment. And I didn't limit the following sentence to my legal career.

I became actively involved in recruiting industry in Douglas and Coffee County several years before I became the attorney for the Douglas-Coffee County Economic Development Authority, and I assist other authorities and their counsel in South Georgia in doing the same without compensation.

But I also recognize that this topic is not something that folks talk about at the water cooler and coffee pot at work each morning. And it is for this reason that I am going to cease future posts until and if a major development occurs.

But it hopefully what will not be a concluding post, I must say that I appreciate Jim Galloway of the ajc helping define the issue as many of us involved in industry recruitment perceive that it has come down to. In his 2-25-05 article linked above he notes:

"The measure is seen by those involved in recruiting industry for their state and communities as 'a contest between jobs and the right to monitor growth in Georgia communities . . . .'"

If a community does not want jobs, anything that facilitates job creation and levels the playing field with other states ipso facto must be bad.

Now this is really news! Some Republicans may have a heart after all. Bubba's budget gets revised by Republicans! - And speaking of values . . .

Saturday's ajc has the following two items concerning PeachCare:

• A key House panel approved a budget plan Friday that would end the controversial three-month lockout period for children whose parents send late payments to PeachCare, the state's program for uninsured kids.

Tougher rules on payments and higher premiums, adopted last year, caused 45,000 children to lose PeachCare insurance in the first four months. The state says about two-thirds of those children have been reinstated, but many went without coverage for three months because of the lockout rule.

The House Appropriations subcommittee on health spared state health programs from several painful cuts by approving a gentler budget than was first proposed by Gov. Sonny Perdue.

The change "will get the state back on the right track," said Linda Lowe, a consumer health advocate. "The department never should have adopted that lockout policy. It harmed a lot of children."

• Separately, the Senate passed a PeachCare bill Friday allowing 200,000 PeachCare kids to be shifted into health maintenance organizations, or HMOs, along with 800,000 people on Medicaid. But the chamber removed language that would have given the board of the state Community Health Department the power to shrink PeachCare enrollment by changing eligibility requirements.

Sen. Regina Thomas (D-Savannah) gave a fiery speech about the importance of programs like PeachCare.

She criticized the GOP-controlled General Assembly for touting family and moral values but failing to protect children and poor people. "If you're a Christian, you care about all people," Thomas said. "The right thing for the people in this state is to allow our babies to have access to health care."

And talking about PeachCare, in a 10-4-04 post partly entitled "It looks like the Governor needs to get his Easy Rider helmet on for some rough riding ahead," I wrote:

Baxter & Galloway observe:

Former Gov. Roy Barnes — not that he would ever criticize a fellow governor — has been testing this line in front of several audiences: "I would have scraped the gold off the Capitol before I cut funding in education."

Jim Galloway stood in for the Dean this week on The Georgia Gang, and during the show had the occasion to note that Gov. Barnes had made the above statement about scraping gold off the Capitol.

I thought to myself; I have heard Roy say that before. He used the line when addressing the huge, huge crowed of well-wishers at a campaign rally for Charles Walker in Augusta the day after the fed's made public the 142 count indictment. The topic: how Gov. Perdue has more than doubled the premiums for PeachCare (the program providing comprehensive health care to children who do not qualify for Medicaid), a program dear to Roy Barnes' heart.

And by the way, when and if you next see Sen. Regina Thomas, tell her to keep up the good work. As we all well know, she has -- as have so many other good Democrats this legislative session -- had to work extra hard this session on behalf of the good people of Georgia.

Here's to hoping such hard work will be rewarded in November '06.

Do you remember Three Dog Night's song "Easy To Be Hard?" - I thought about it recently.

The words from Three Dog Night's song "Easy To Be Hard" immediately came to mind a couple of days ago when I read the following from Thursday's ajc:

"In a North Georgia community [Cleveland, birthplace of the Cabbage Patch dolls] that values politeness next to godliness, what would incite students at the lone high school to jeer a 16-year-old classmate as she walked down the auditorium aisle, rose in hand, during the annual Valentine's Day assembly?"

The words from the song Easy To Be Hard that came to mind:

How can people be so heartless
How can people be so cruel
Easy to be hard, easy to be cold

How can people have no feelings
How can they ignore their friends
Easy to be proud, easy to say no

Especially people who care about strangers
Who care about evil and social injustice

In catching up with my reading last night upon returning home, I read that on Thursday night the chairwoman of the White County Board of Education's warned a raucous standing-room only crowd in the community's high school gymnasium that "This is not a time for name-calling." (2-25-05, ajc.)

I have been to Cleveland before. It is a northeast Georgia town about an hour and a half's drive from Atlanta. It has two traffic lights and several dozen churches.

Here's to hoping those "raucous" members are in the pews of one of this community's many churches Sunday morning, and that the ministers of these churches will suggest to those who profess to be Christians that they should pause to remember and consider the words of the Master and Greatest Teacher of all time who taught us in Matthew 7:1 to "Judge not, that ye not be judged."

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Baxter & Galloway's Political Insider does it again. Breaks the news before it is news. - A third map is to emerge Friday.

Tomorrow's PI reports:

Remember those two congressional maps so lovingly introduced by the House and Senate last week? Forget 'em.

A third map of Georgia's 13 congressional districts will be pulled out of someone's drawer Friday. Both chambers will agree to it. The deal's done, we're told.

We haven't seen the artwork, but we hear the 9th District of U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-Augusta) will be drawn higher into north Georgia, to give him fewer black voters. Georgia's two white Democratic congressmen, John Barrow of Athens and Jim Marshall of Macon, catch a break.

Barrow's left in a 12th District by himself, rather than being paired with a Republican. Marshall retains a separate district, too, plus the Air Force complex at Warner Robins.

Darned if those French didn't have it right: Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. [French for, of course, the more things change, the more they stay the same.]

And wouldn't you know it, I will be on the road tomorrow, sans my laptop. If I can break away from business for a second though, I will look for and post "the" third map.

Son of a gun.

HB 218 was tabled on Thursday, a parliamentary move that sets the measure aside for later consideration, apparently because its passage was in doubt.

No amendments, including the one discussed earlier today, were voted on.

(2-24-05, ajc.)

The revised House (Franklin) redistricting map.

State map.

Metro map.

Amendment to be offered in the Senate to HB 218 will be somewhat of a disappointment for development authorities in the Other Georgia.

Today state Senate leader Eric Johnson plans to offer an amendment that reduces the breadth of HB 218. Recruiting projects conducted by local development authorities would not be covered. But big-ticket recruiting projects by the state, and any project that involves an alliance of state and local agencies, would still be covered.

The change, while disappointing, will not be fatal for new projects. Many projects that local development authorities pursue involve working closely with state agencies.

But not always. Many times we are working with what we call "existing industry," this being local industries or businesses, and their expansion is just as important -- more important in the actual number of new jobs created yearly in the state -- as the location of a new industry in the jurisdiction.

Redistricting: Whichever map passes its home chamber first is likely to become the vehicle for future action. So speed means something.

Yesterday I did a post entitled "Based on Tom DeLay's words, the General Assembly should go with the House (Franklin) version that was not drawn by the G-7" that was short and to the point, quoting from House Majority Leader Delay:

“If you have a small group of people in a back room drawing lines, what you’ll end up with is an incumbent protection system instead of a system that truly represents the will of the people.”

According to today's Baxter & Galloway's PI, this is becoming the story of what is happening in Georgia, [and these are my words are not from the PI], and the "small group of people in a back room" are the G-7, the seven Republican members of Georgia's delegation.

The PI opines that "[w]hichever map passes its home chamber first is likely to become the vehicle for future action."

Based on what has happened in the state House, the first such map is likely to be the Senate map, the one agreed to and being pushed by the G-7.

Whatever happened to all of that talk that the legislature and not the incumbents in Washington -- many of whom would not be in office now or at the end of their current terms if they followed the Contract With America that set term limits during the Republican takeover of the U.S. House of Representative in 1994 to six terms?

Based on the GOP's Contract With America, Nathan Deal, John Linder and Jack Kingston, all elected in 1992, would be out of office now, and Charlie Norwood, elected in 1994, would be in his last term.

You may ask: But Sid, you said the House was going to be voting on its map first.

Well, it was; the House reapportionment committee chaired by Rep. Frankin was to vote Wednesday on its version of a new map of congressional districts. But then the Washington influence -- that is, the G-7 -- began asserting itself.

But then the Czar -- House Speaker Glenn Richardson -- decreed that no vote will occur until he gives the green light, and he apparently is putting the brakes on the House having its map voted on first.

Did someone say "the more things change the more they stay the same?"

Thanks Rep. Franklin for your efforts, but it appears that the GOP leadership is more interested in having "a small group of people in a back room drawing lines [so that what we] end up with is an incumbent protection system instead of a system that truly represents the will of the people."

Living poor, voting rich. - These folks are supposed to be voting our way. Let's not lose them in '06 & '08.

The 2-24-05 Los Angles Times reports the following:

The number of employd U.S. working 75 years old and older grew from 669,000 in 1994 to just under one million last year, a number expected to increase as the large baby boom generation ages, and for many of those older seniors, work is not a choice but a necessity.

Whether outliving retirement savings or facing lower-than-expected investment returns, this population is finding that Social Security isn't enough to cover their bills. Even before the current debate over Social Security's future, many Americans seemed doubtful they could retire without working at least part time.

Bipartisan Report Faults Bush Initiative on Education.

Concluding a yearlong study on the effectiveness of the No Child Left Behind program, a bipartisan panel of lawmakers drawn from many states pronounced President Bush's sweeping education law a flawed, convoluted and unconstitutional initiative that usurped state and local control of public schools.

(2-24-05, The New York Times; 2-24-05, The Washington Post.)

Views from South Georgia. - U.S. Rep. Kingston gets an earful about Bush's privatization plan at question-and-answer sessions.

First Congressional District Congressman Rep. Jack Kingston of Savannah is making a swing through my district on a series of nine town-hall-style meetings on Social Security.

"If there's one thing I learned from these town halls, it's that the First Amendment is alive and well," Kingston has commented at a couple of the meetings.

The congressman has a well-produced PowerPoint presentation, and his "stump speech" goes something like this:

The solvency of Social Security, while not in crisis as depicted by President Bush, will become a problem as more baby boomers head into retirement, Kingston says.

"A crisis is when my house is burning down. A problem is when termites are eating at the foundation."

By 2018, it's estimated that Social Security's foundation will begin to crumble. The system will pay out more than it takes in. Fewer workers will be supporting more retirees.

And that will jeopardize benefits for future generations, who could lose one-third of the payouts now promised them.

Kingston says he's not convinced Bush's proposal to allow private investment accounts is a panacea. The plan would allow workers to divert a portion of their social security contributions into personal accounts, but critics have wondered how that would solve the looming shortfall in the Social Security trust fund.

In fact, the idea has raised more questions than can be answered right now because there is no bill before Congress yet detailing the plan, Kingston says.

In each of these town hall meeting Kingston is listening to constituents about their concerns, and gathering ideas on how to address the problem.

One very impassioned comments made during the series of town hall meeting came from the Rev. Michael J. Kavanaugh, pastor at a Savannah area church:

Rev. Kavanaugh urged Kingston to consider privatization of Social Security as a moral question.

"In the last election, there was a great deal of discussion about values. That's a good thing, except those values related to only two areas - sexual areas including gay marriage and abortion," he said. "The value of caring for the common good is a Judeo-Christian value, and an American value that goes back beyond our founding.

"The responsibility that we have to maintain Social Security - not private or personal security, but Social Security - are values we must hold on to."

"I'm afraid further privatization, whether it's by choice or enforcement, reduces our understanding of our responsibility for our common good."

Rep. Kingston was in Douglas Wednesday at noon. Here when the issue of income taxes came up as a collateral issue, Kingston commented:

"We must change the fundamental tax code. Quit taxing savings and begin taxing consumption."

(2-23-05, The Savannah Morning News; notes from Coffee County's Rajin' Cajun.)

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

RNC Outscores Democrats in Funds. - Disparity between RNC & DNC in Jan. '05 fundraising shows benefit Bush's reelection can have day to day for GOP.

The Republican National Committee began the month with a 6-to-1 financial advantage over its Democratic counterpart, with $16.5 million in the bank compared with the Democratic National Committee's $2.6 million.

The RNC raised $10.5 million in January, according to its monthly report to the Federal Election Commission. The GOP spent $8.7 million, including a $1-million transfer to the Senate Republicans' fundraising committee and about $1 million in telemarketing, according to an analysis by Political Money Line, a nonpartisan campaign finance tracking service.

The DNC raised $4.1 million last month, based on its FEC report. It spent $7.6 million, including a donation of $1.5 million to Virginia Lt. Gov. Timothy Kaine's campaign for governor and a $1-million transfer to the Senate Democrats' fundraising committee.

(2-25-05 Los Angeles Times.)

Whoa on moving so fast on these maps says Rep. Franklin. We have some changes & want to give the public a chance to review before we vote on it.

The House committee considering a new map for Georgia's congressional districts on Wednesday postponed a vote on the plan for at least several days, while rolling out changes to its existing proposal.

Rep. Bobby Franklin, R-Marietta, the House redistricting committee's chairman, said he wanted to give people more time to comment on the map.

"We wanted to public to have another chance to take a look at the map," Franklin said. "As soon as we feel it's ready, and the committee is ready, we'll be able to bring it forward."

On the map the committee unveiled Wednesday, the current 12th District - which runs from Athens through Augusta to Savannah - would be divided into three different districts.

Two pairs of incumbents would be placed in the same district - Democrat Jim Marshall and Republican Lynn Westmoreland in a west-central Georgia district and Democrat John Barrow and Republican John Linder in a district dominated by Gwinnett County, Linder's home.

Two open districts would be created - a large swath of south central Georgia, now mostly represented by Marshall, and turf northwest of Atlanta including Cherokee, Bartow, Gordon and Pickens counties.

(2-23-05 AP.)

Winning back the allegiance of the white working class: Side with Main Street over Wall Street & build an America that supports working people.

Excerpts from:

Working-Class Democrats

By Harold Meyerson
The Washington Post
February 23, 2005

How do the Democrats win back the allegiance of the white working class? The problem may be deeper than even the most pessimistic Democrats fear it is.

John Kerry got clobbered by working-class whites, whom he lost to George W. Bush by a hefty 23 points. 66 percent of these voters trusted Bush to handle terrorism, compared with just 39 percent who trusted Kerry. [But what should cause real alarm to Democrats is] that 55 percent of white working-class voters trusted Bush to handle the economy, while only 39 percent trusted Kerry.

Few Americans of any class give stellar marks to Bush on the economy.

So how did the white working class come to prefer Bush to Kerry on matters economic? At one level, we shouldn't read too much into the polling: The lack of trust that white workers felt toward Kerry on security questions surely spilled over to their assessment of him on other topics, too. Moreover, the Republicans did a better job of defining Kerry as a cultural plutocrat (no great achievement, that) than Kerry did of defining Bush as the economic plutocrats' favorite president. Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg has observed that Kerry did not turn to populist themes in the campaign's final weeks, and that this hurt him particularly among white working-class women.

All this is true, and yet I think the Democrats kid themselves if they think this problem is Kerry-specific. To begin, de-unionization has taken a huge chunk out of Democratic vote totals.

Unionized working-class whites tend to vote Democratic at least 20 percent more than their nonunion counterparts, but with private-sector unionization now fallen to less than 8 percent of the workforce, there aren't enough unionized whites to put a state such as Ohio into the Democratic column.

Bill Clinton's repositioning of the party, of course, was supposed to have made it safe for working-class whites to vote Democratic again. Under Clinton, the Democrats became the party of fiscal responsibility. By ending welfare, Clinton sought to eradicate what many working-class whites saw, however incorrectly, as the Democrats' tilt towards blacks. No longer were the Democrats the party of racial preferences that they had been in the 1970s and '80s. And nothing that John Kerry said in 2004 reversed that repositioning.

But if the Democrats are no longer quite the party of racial preferences, they are not quite the party of class preferences either.

To be sure, they oppose the privatization of Social Security and support the provision of universal health care, and every poll shows that the American people back their positions. But on a broad range of economic matters, Democrats have alarmingly little to say to working-class Americans. For the past 35 years, as short-range share value has come to dominate our form of capitalism and the burden of risk has been shifted to the individual employee, far more manufacturing jobs have been sent abroad from the United States than from any other advanced industrialized nation. As the middle fell out of the economy, the Democrats advocated job retraining and, eventually, some form of managed trade, but these policies were too little and too late.

Today's working class isn't found largely in factories; it's in nursing homes, on construction sites, in Wal-Marts. Republicans talk to its members about guns, gays and God. Democrats often just stammer. And given the imbalance of power in today's de-unionized workplace, Democrats couldn't do much better than Bush when it comes to boosting wages in this raise-less recovery.

Democrats win when they deliver prosperity and security for working Americans, and in today's capitalism, those have become increasingly unattainable goals. Which is why, as they only now gear up their think tanks, Democrats need to promote alternatives to the kind of shareholder-driven capitalism into which our system has descended, to the detriment of millions of underpaid, insecure workers. They need to side with Main Street over Wall Street. Like the conservatives 40 years ago, the Democrats need to offend their own elites to build an America that reflects their best values, and in which working people can and do count on them for support.

Based on Tom DeLay's words, the General Assembly should go with the House (Franklin) version that was not drawn by the G-7.

“If you have a small group of people in a back room drawing lines, what you’ll end up with is an incumbent protection system instead of a system that truly represents the will of the people,” House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) told Judy Woodruff on CNN’s “Inside Politics” last Thursday.

(Roll Call.)

As noted in a 2-22-05 post, the G-7. (That's the name the seven Republican members of Georgia's delegation have given themselves.)

Tuesday the House voted 99-62, largely along party lines, for a set of "principles" that would urge lawmakers to craft political districts that avoid bizarre shapes, split as few cities and counties as possible and don't intentionally dilute the voting strength of any political or social group.

As discussed in prior posts, the House map drawn by Franklin combines the turf of incumbents Democrat Jim Marshall and Republican Lynn Westmoreland in middle Georgia, and Democrat John Barrow and Republican Charlie Norwood in northeast Georgia.

While Senate leaders have acknowledged working with Republicans in Congress on their version of a new map, Franklin has said he received no input from Congress, the governor or House leadership before crafting his own.

Franklin's map in scheduled to come up for a vote today in the House.

If the Senate and House approve different maps, a six-member committee will be appointed to combine the two, or draw a completely new map.

(2-22-05 A.P.)

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Further revisions to the House (Franklin) map.

A 2-19-05 post discussed some tweaking that had been done to the House (Franklin) redistricting map. Today the PI discusses these and further revisions in this map:

"The adjustments Franklin has made to his map include:

• Wrapping Clarke County and Democrat incumbent John Barrow of Athens into a 7th District dominated by Republican stalwart John Linder;

• A juiced-up 8th District that would give Westmoreland a Bush re-elect figure of 64 percent. Democrat Jim Marshall of Macon remains paired with Westmoreland, but most of his geographical support would be stripped away. It's hoped that such numbers would send Marshall packing;

• Nine districts that have a Bush re-elect rating of at least 60 percent. Seven that have a rating of no less than 64 percent; and

• And two empty seats that would whet the appetite of any number of congressional wannabes who now reside in the Legislature."

The PI further reports:

"We've also gotten at some of the motivation for an alternative to the map drawn by the G-7. (That's the name Republican members of Georgia's delegation have given themselves.) In the Senate version, more than one strategist noticed, the 6th District of U.S. Rep. Tom Price of Roswell, newly elected to his seat, had been drawn so that it might discourage any further challenges from Cobb County candidates.

"Robert Lamutt . . . , who lost to Price in a 2004 run-off [is from east Cobb]. Lamutt was very much present at Saturday's annual meeting of the Georgia Christian Coalition. And he had much to say about the strong points of Franklin's map."

In my 2-19-05 post I noted I was going against current conventional thinking and predicting that the Legislature would end up adopting the House map rather than the Senate map, with the revisions noted and of course "some additional adjustments reflecting horse-trading and personal choices that will require minor revisions a bit here and bit there."

I am staying out on the limb, as my thinking remains the same.

The House Reapportionment Committee meets today to take up the topic of congressional redistricting, and a vote on the above revised map is planned for Wednesday.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Unlike the '60s, now lawmakers never seem to leave Washington & barely a night goes by that they don't shake the money tree.

To Understand Washington, Follow the Shrimp

By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
The Washington Post
February 21, 2005

As late as the 1960s, lawmakers stayed in Washington as briefly as they could and rushed home to their constituents. To pay for their elections, they held fundraisers in their districts and states, never near the Capitol.

Back then they didn't need much money and didn't want to be seen as selling out to bloated interests in a far-off city. Besides, there was also almost no one in town to provide the cash. Only a handful of law firms and trade associations cared enough to contribute and, generally, they didn't.

Not any more. Now lawmakers never seem to leave and barely a night goes by that they don't shake the money tree. Congressmen who aren't collecting checks for themselves are visiting the receptions of colleagues to help spur attendance -- all of which has created a booming cottage industry for those who plan and host fundraising parties.

The reasons for this are many. Government has grown so huge that every industry and interest you can think of has a stake it must protect, thus exploding the number of lobbyists. At the same time, elections, even for the House, are million-dollar affairs. Power among legislators is measured not in laws passed but in dollars collected.

The good news about this maniacal focus on campaign lucre, said Kent Cooper of PoliticalMoneyLine.com, is that the donations "aren't going into envelopes of cash" as they reputedly once did. Checks are politely passed over a glass of cabernet and then dutifully disclosed.

But that's pretty much the end of the good news. Cooper and other experts offer a litany of explanations for the ever-growing number of Washington fundraising events. None of them is heartening for the average citizen.

The first is that lawmakers are no longer content to have just one place to put their donations. All 535 members of Congress have their own election committees, of course. But now 211 of them also have second funds (some even have a third) that in years past were called Leadership PACs. That name doesn't work anymore because a freshman is as likely to have one of them as is a veteran.

So now they're called Politician PACs. In any case, their existence multiplies the amount of money that lawmakers can collect from interest groups and lobbyists. And given the opportunity, that's exactly what lawmakers do.

Why bother? After all, almost all incumbents are shoo-ins for reelection given the careful redistricting that's been going on for years and the huge financial advantage they invariably have over their challengers.

The answer is that there's no end to political greed. Incumbents convince themselves that the more money they have in the bank the less likely a challenger will oppose their reelections. But even when lawmakers pass their don't-even-think-about-challenging-me threshold, they still accept more money because they convince themselves that they might want it to run for higher office.

One of my favorite lobbyists says he receives about 20 faxed invitations to congressional fundraisers every day. More invitations are e-mailed.

No matter how large the volume gets, however, lobbyists will never stop giving. Their clients provide a never-ending stream of funds. To them, the ever-larger and ever-more-activist central government remains an appealing and fruitful investment. With lawmakers' trajectory to positions of power getting shorter in duration every year, donors can't afford to ignore anyone who asks for a contribution.

Thus the ingrained system for in-town fundraising marches on. And up goes the demand for venues to gather in the cash.

The result is a new hierarchy among congressional hangers-on. Interest groups and lobbying firms that have access to big rooms or, better, big rooms with views, are highly sought after. With so many fundraisers on the schedule, whoever can cater is king.

Put another way: The traditional way to understand how things happen in Washington is to follow the money. What I'm suggesting here is to follow the shrimp.

"We're very busy," said Susan Lacz Niemann, an owner of Ridgewells, the big catering company. "Almost every night when Congress is in session we handle events for interest groups on behalf of congressmen and senators."

So many restaurants, lobbying firms and hotels offer themselves for this purpose that professional planners now proliferate to help winnow the field. A smattering of choices can be found under the "events" section of National Republican Congressional Committee's Web site.

Convenience is key. Congressmen have to hop to so many receptions that the nearer the events are to their offices the more likely they are to attend. That's why the fancier restaurants on Capitol Hill -- such as La Colline, Capital Grille, Charlie Palmer and the Monocleare favorite spots. Homes like the Stewart R. Mott House (for Democrats) and private clubs such as the 116 Club (for real insiders) serve the same purpose. The Phoenix Park Hotel is among several Capitol Hill haunts that are regularly booked as well.

Then there are the old standbys such as the Democratic Club and the Capitol Hill Club (for Republicans) on the House side. The Senate side has its own places, too, like the buildings that house the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Since congressional aides often chauffeur their bosses, top-flight restaurants downtown also draw a crowd. Among the frequently used spots are Oceanaire, Morton's, the Caucus Room, the City Club of Washington, Ruth's Chris Steak House near the convention center and Sesto Senso on 18th Street NW.

Trade associations also gladly get into the act. On the House side, the townhouses of the American Trucking Associations and the Associated General Contractors of America regularly host quickie fundraisers. On the same street can also be found the very busy party rooms of the National Rifle Association, the National Automobile Dealers Association and Dutko Worldwide, a lobbying firm.

On the Senate side, the American Gas Association is equally popular. At all those facilities, costs are low and the well-practiced service is famously reliable.

The gas folks have the added benefit of a remarkable view. Its fourth floor digs have the same view of the Capitol's dome as MSNBC and Fox News Channel (where I am a contributor). The association holds more than 100 receptions annually and has more requests for the space than it can accommodate.

"During those nights when the Congress is in session, there are very few in which we don't host an event," said Rick Shelby, an executive vice president at the American Gas Association. "We have had days when we've had different people in for breakfast, lunch and dinner."

The association doesn't charge for use of its meeting room because of the exposure it gets in return. "We feel this is one way we can raise the visibility of the organization," Shelby said. "We've been here nearly six years and we've had over 300 members of Congress in our facility for events."

The hottest space for fundraising is the new building at 101 Constitution Avenue NW, also known as the Carpenters Union building. There, firms as diverse as Van Scoyoc Associates, the National Mining Association and the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI) use their proximity to Capitol Hill and their spectacular views of the dome and the National Mall to entice lawmakers -- and their benefactors.

"It's an extremely popular spot," said Jack Dolan, a spokesman for ACLI. "When I leave my office at 6 o'clock there are a lot of people going upstairs for PAC events and related political gatherings." In years to come, that traffic will only be getting thicker.

Georgia Republicans have a different ethics view, now that they're in charge.

Republicans have a different ethics view, now that they're in charge

By Kristen Wyatt
Associated Press
February 21, 2005

When Gov. Sonny Perdue first ran for governor, he said many times that a top priority would be new ethics rules for elected officials. He depicted long-ruling Democrats as pigs at the trough of state government and vowed to change all that when he took office.

Now, three years later, the Republican governor presides over a Legislature firmly in GOP hands for the first time in modern history. And it appears that Republican passion to overhaul state ethics laws has cooled now that they're the ones in power.

For example, Perdue's first ethics proposal, in 2003, included a ban on candidate-to-candidate campaign contributions. That's where a powerful lawmaker raises tons of money, more than he needs to win re-election, and turns around and donates it to other candidates, a practice thought to allow that senior legislator to control his colleagues.

"I think we ought to stop it once and for all," Perdue told reporters three days after taking office.

Two years later, that ban on candidate transfers is conspicuously absent from Perdue's current proposal.

"That's an issue between a candidate and his or her contributors," said Rep. Rich Golick, R-Symrna, who is sponsor of Perdue's 2005 bill.

A spokesman for the governor, Dan McLagan, said Perdue hasn't flip-flopped on the matter, but dropped the idea because lawmakers would never agree to it.

Which points to a bigger story about Republicans and ethics reform. Perdue tried and failed his first two years as governor to pass sweeping ethics reforms. Republicans have blamed Democrats for stopping his idea, even insinuating that they weren't serious about cleaning up corruption.

But this year, with the Democrats effectively dispatched from positions of power in the Legislature, it is Republicans who are in-fighting on what ethics changes are needed. The ethics bill has stalled in committee, with Republican sponsors hinting vaguely that there are problems in the bill, but not saying what the problems are or when the bill might proceed to a full vote.

"There's a lot of disagreements between us and the governor, we just don't choose to make those public," said House Speaker Glenn Richardson. (Perdue's ethics bill is not pending in the Senate, just the House.)

McLagan, speaking for the governor, also was vague when asked what the areas of disagreement were. "We don't try to micromanage the Legislature," he said.

The stalled ethics plan has Democrats, and even some Republicans, griping that the GOP is slow to make reforms when it is fellow Republicans who could be hurt by tougher rules.

Rep. Wendell Willard, a Republican and powerful House chairman, said many rank-and-file Republicans think it's unseemly that the party has quietly dropped its opposition to candidate money transfers. "Strange how that changes depending on who's in control," he said.

Democrats are even more blunt. "They want to protect their perks," said Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, who has suggested a cap on candidate transfers, plus lower limits on some campaign contributions.

Another area of contention is a proposed $50 cap on gifts to elected officials, which would include meals and drinks. Oliver and other Democrats are siding with Perdue. They say $50 is a reasonable limit, allowing lawmakers to have business dinners without appearing to be wined and dined.

But some Republicans, including the chairman of the Ethics Committee, say the cap is too low. "The average dinner in Atlanta is $65," said the chairman, Rep. Joe Wilkinson of Atlanta.

Richardson, the speaker, is also fighting Perdue on the gift limit. He called lobbyist dinners "an effective use of how we get business done."

Less controversial is a proposed one-year waiting period to keep elected officials from becoming lobbyists as soon as they leave office. Perdue's plan includes a waiting period, aimed at stopping the so-called "revolving door" of officials taking job with the people they recently regulated.

"We will stop the revolving door," Wilkinson said.

But there, too, the GOP is vulnerable. Perdue's ethics plan was sponsored in the Senate last year by former Sen. Dan Lee, a Republican from LaGrange. The bill passed the Senate but stalled in the House. A few months later, Lee lost in a primary. And now? He's a registered lobbyist, taking the job just days after leaving office.

Not surprisingly, Democrats are hoping to take full advantage of what they call an inconsistent ethics message from the GOP. House Democrats chafed at being blamed for stopping ethics reforms the last two years, and they're clearly glad they can't be blamed for it again.

"No longer can it be blamed on us," said Rep. Calvin Smyre, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. "The spotlight has to be cast on the Republicans. The differences are within their own ranks."

Smyre said the GOP is finding that it's easy to throw stones at political opponents, just not at themselves. "When you're in the opposition for so long, there's a contrast in being opposed to everything in government, and then running the government and being in charge."

Not so, Republican leaders retort. They vow that substantive ethics reforms will become law, and that they're not dragging their feet. "The Democrats had 135 years to make those changes. We've had 35 days. Give us a little more time," said Wilkinson, the Ethics chairman.

House Republicans and the governor agree that an ethics package is desperately needed to boost public confidence in their elected officials.

"What the governor is proposing is the most sweeping ethics reform that we've seen in a very long time, maybe ever," Golick said. "The reason it's slow going right now is because of the breadth of what we're doing. Ultimately what matters is that we pass a bill that moves us a state much farther along than where we are now."

The Dean on redistricting that might have been.

This week Bill Shipp writes about redistricting:

Congressional redistricting is crying for reform. At the behest of Washington Republicans, the Georgia legislature has decided to redo the state's congressional districts.

Our state's lawmakers have an opportunity to get it right this time. Instead of simply reversing the Democrats' gerrymandering by invoking GOP gerrymandering, why not try something new, at least for Georgia?

As 12 other states have done, the Georgia legislature could create a redistricting commission to remove some of the rank partisanship and politicking from the process.

Demographics indicate such a move offers no threat to growing GOP dominance. No matter how the state is sliced up, Republicans are sure to gain power - possibly as many as three or four additional congressional seats in addition to the seven they now hold.

So why not use this no-risk opportunity to let an impartial panel draw new districts in which maintaining the integrity of county lines and protecting common community interests become the most important ingredients?
Perhaps incumbency should also be a factor. But, mainly, creating citizen-friendly maps instead of placating political personalities should drive the process.

[Without question incumbency should be a factor. Like it or not, redistricting is a political undertaking, and if this factor is not allowed in the equation, needed redistricting reform is most unlikely never to occur.]

If this legislative session moved in such a direction, it might be remembered in the same way as past General Assemblies that accomplished such feats as adopting basic education standards, approving the first sales tax and creating HOPE scholarships. Admittedly, such a change in course for these newly empowered lawmakers is unlikely. They have already made lasting marks for limiting the right to redress grievances and trying to cloud sunshine in government.

Two new interstates that would run through Georgia are being pushed again - I-3 & I-14.

I-3 would stretch from Knoxville, Tennessee, down the Georgia-South Carolina line to Savannah.

I-14 would start in Augusta, cutting southwest through Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.

The objectives of both proposed: Reduce traffic congestion around major cities, particularly Atlanta, and give small ones better access to the interstate highway system.

A big question looming is whether the federal government would pony up the money for two new interstates leading to the same city -- Augusta.

(1) Ajc wins "Headline of the week" award with "GOP dresses up Legislature in a business suit;" & (2) HB 218 is not GOP legislation, Part II.

The title of James Salzer's article in Sunday's ajc "GOP dresses up Legislature in a business suit" pretty much sums up the legislative session to date.

The following two quotes are from Mr. Salzer's article:

• "New Republican legislatures in the South tend to pass two categories of bills above all: pro-business legislation, including anti-trial lawyer tort reform, and social issue legislation," said Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist. "The first category solidifies the GOP-business alliance, and the second pleases social conservatives, who form a third or more of the Republican base today. Georgia has followed this Southern pattern almost perfectly."

• "It used to be that lobbyists had hospitality suites for lawmakers," said Rep. Tom Bordeaux (D-Savannah). "Now it's the other way around."

Mr. Salzer's article also notes that while "[t]he Georgia General Assembly was a low-tax, pro-business body under more than a century of Democratic rule, and many Democrats remain solidly pro-business, . . . Perdue and the Republicans have stepped up the pace . . . ."

Despite the legislation considered or passed to date being pro-business legislation reflecting the GOP-business alliance, there is one piece of legislation for which I feel the GOP I think is taking more than its share of heat.

This is HB 218.

I venture to say that if state House was still under the control of Speaker Tom Murphy as it was from 1974 to 2002, he would support HB 218 just as I support it.

It is a far different bill from the now dead S.B. 5 that deserved its recent public burial.

I stand behind the title of my 2-7-05 post:

"HB 218 is not GOP legislation. Rather it is legislation for all Georgians and for economic development in all of Georgia."

In that post I note:

As far as the Other Georgia is concerned, the thrust of HR 218 is that it allows economic development authorities to go into executive session to discuss prospects and the status of negotiations concerning potential prospects so long as such action is part of a "program of economic development."

A "program of economic development is one established by an agency for the purpose of maintaining, supporting, or expanding the economic or employment base of the jurisdiction that establishes the program."

It does this by exempting from the Open Meetings Law and the Open Records Law meetings, records and documents that would "[i]dentify or reveal private persons, businesses, any other agency or entities contacted or being solicited by the agency in carrying out the [economic] development functions of the agency."

These exemptions from the sunshine laws are no longer applicable "once the agency, person, business, or entity publicly announces that the entity or business that is the subject of negotiations will be retained, expanded, or located in the jurisdiction or that negotiations to do so have been terminated or abandoned."

The above quotes are from the proposed legislation.

This legislation is not only important to the Other Georgia (as well as Georgia), it is critical.

Have you ever heard of the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD)? It recruits businesses, trade partners and tourists to Georgia.

You may still know it as the Georgia Department of Industry, Trade & Tourism.

I have been the attorney for the Douglas-Coffee County Industrial Authority for many years, and recently, we followed the lead of GDEcD and changed our name to the Douglas-Coffee County Economic Development Authority.

Economic development is a tough game when you live in the Other Georgia. In Douglas and Coffee County we pride ourselves with all of the good fortune we have enjoyed. Such success led Tom Perdue (yeah, that one, as in former Gov. Joe Frank Harris' Chief of Staff, Mac Barber and Sen. Saxby Chambliss) to dub us the "Oasis in the dessert."

Where I am going with this? Recruiting businesses and industry is both an art and a science, and at a minimum it requires patience and discretion.

I once heard the attorney for the development authority is a neighboring city relate has one evening the authority was discussing a prospect. The authority chairman asked that the reporter from the local paper to put his notepad down -- something customary for us in the Other Georgia -- and the authority proceeded to discuss how a large tire factory was considering locating to the area.

The next morning on the front page of the local paper was the headline: "XYZ Tire Co. considering [the Georgia town] for new plant."

That afternoon the authority received the call. All discussions about the company's possible plant location in the area were off.

I urge you to contact your local representative and senator and strongly encourage their support of this needed legislation. As noted above, not only is this legislation important to all of Georgia, for the Other Georgia, it is critical.

(End of above-noted post.)

As you probably know, HB 218 passed overwhelmingly in the House.

And then the onslaught began from the press, the ivory towers and the talking heads of this state. All of this notwithstanding, HB 218 easily was approved by the Senate Economic Development Committee last week, and now is in the Senate Rules Committee.

All of the ink and talk by the press and political pundits about million dollar giveaways by development authorities to industry reminds me of a story that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran last year. Before I share the story, let me make a confession on behalf of my community and authority -- we don't have millions to give away. The same can safely be said about most authorities in the Other Georgia.

The story was in the 5-24-04 edition of the ajc. The headline read: "$19 million in public money spent on Wal-Mart in Georgia."

The following are quotes from the article:

"Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer with over $256 billion in sales last year, has received more than $19 million from Georgia governments to build [three retail] stores and [five] distribution centers [in the state] since 1987 . . . .

"Incentives included free land, sewer and water lines, tax rebates, industrial revenue bonds and cash.

"Wal-Mart's biggest Georgia subsidy, $10 million, came in 1987 for building a distribution center in Douglas, in southeast Georgia . . . . The center employs about 1,600 workers."

I couldn't believe what I was reading. The newspaper was saying that my authority gave Wal-Mart a subsidy of $10 million. What was the actual amount? Would you believe $-0-, zip, not one red cent.

I immediately wrote a polite but firm e-mail to the story's author noting:

"This is one of the most inaccurate statements I have read in my 25 years of being involved in industrial development. Wal-Mart did not get any $10 million subsidy from Douglas, Coffee County, or the state of Georgia for locating its distribution center here in Douglas.

"Douglas' competition for this distribution center was Lake City, Florida, and Lake City offered Wal-Mart $1 million in cash and free land. Not only did our industrial authority not give Wal-Mart any $10 million as your story reports or any other amount, it sold Wal-Mart its land. Wal-Mart got income-tax exempt financing through the industrial authority, also known as conduit financing, which Wal-Mart alone is responsible for repaying to the bondholders.

"I am the attorney for the Douglas-Coffee County Industrial Authority, but I am writing this e-mail out of shock and as a private but informed citizen, and not on behalf of the authority. I just happened to see it tonight after a long day at the office, and was aghast at such an inaccurate statement."

By the next morning my authority people were on me like white on rice complaining about the story and requesting that I contact its author. I informed them that I had already done so the prior evening.

The embarrassed reporter e-mailed me back apologizing, and promised to do a follow up story noting the error (a story that was never done).

Our authority in Douglas has never given away land to attract industry, but this is not to say those authorities in Georgia that have done so have have done something sinister. The reason our authority has not is that it has not had to do. If it ever becomes necessary to cinch a big deal providing valuable jobs, I do not think it would hesitate.

The irony of the ajc's story is that while my authority never offered Wal-Mart any land or cash incentives to locate its distribution center here in Douglas, our competition (as noted in my e-mail to the reporter) Lake City, Florida, offered both, free land and $1 million in cash, if it would locate the distribution center near the intersection of I-10 and I-75.

And also as noted, we sold Wal-Mart the 150 acres on which it put its distribution center. Although I did not elaborate in my e-mail to the ajc reporter, actually we sold the land to Wal-Mart for a $75,000 profit, and with the profit from such sale put in a deceleration lane, something the authority did on its own and not as a requirement of getting Wal-Mart.

When we first sought to have Wal-Mart put its distribution center in Douglas (this was its first in the southeastern United States), Wal-Mart told our authority that it need not apply if our community was not located on an interstate.

Undeterred, we applied anyway, informing Wal-Mart officials that while Douglas is not on an interstate, it is within an hour's striking distance of four interstates: I-16 to the north; I-95 to the east; I-10 to the south; and I-75 to the west.

Did Wal-Mart get any incentives from locating in Douglas and Coffee County? Besides tax-exempt financing (meaning the bondholders pay no income taxes on the interest from the Wal-Mart bonds they purchased), the only other thing Wal-Mart received in the way of incentives was that it did not have to pay property taxes on its distribution center for a number of years.

Did this tax abatement cost my city, county and school board money?

It depends on whether you are an optimist and see the doughnut or a pessimist and see the hole.

Prior to the distribution center locating on the 150 acres of land on which it built its distribution, the total city and county taxes on such land were $2,465.09.

Shortly after Wal-Mart Distribution Center arrived, our county began receiving some $300,000 a year in tag sales for Wal-Mart tractors and trailers until the Congress changed the law to allow Wal-Mart to purchase its tags in Arkansas.

And a couple of years after building the original part of the distribution center, Wal-Mart needed to do a major expansion, and because of federal tax law, this expansion could not be done with income tax-exempt bonds. Since the expansion did not get authority conduit financing, the expansion immediately went on the tax rolls.

Since such expansion until now Wal-Mart has been one of our county's large taxpayers, paying around $750,000 in property taxes each and every year for our city, county and schools.

And the foregoing two factors do not include the benefit to this area from all of the good jobs that the distribution center brought to our community, resulting in many homes being constructed that changed land from being taxed as unimproved to improved with nice residences that its well paid drivers built.

I have contacted many of our state senators asking that they please consider the importance of HB 218 to the ability of our development authorities in the Other Georgia to be able to continue competing in our never ceasing attempts to attract industry.

Based on negative publicity that the press has written about this bill, many of our senators are under a lot of public scrunity on this bill. They are receiving e-mails and letters from folks who are writing the senators as their local editor has suggested, insisting that they vote "no" to this legislation that has as its sole mission attacting jobs.

And on the flip side, their local chambers of commerce and development authorities have quietly made and continue to make the case that this legislation is important, very important.

And to further complicate matters, this pending legislation is unfairly being portrayed as GOP legislation. The Georgia Department of Economic Development people who have been testifying for passage are not doing so as Republicans or as any part of a GOP agenda.

I know these people. I work with them on a monthly basis. They see this bill as I do, as being legislation needed to continue bringing jobs and economic development to Georgia that benefits all Georgians.

Thanks Sen. Edwards, we sure didn't expect anything any less. - Edwards won't pledge to follow Lieberman example of not running if Gore did in 2004.

In an interview aired Sunday on ABC's "This Week" former vice presidential candidate John Edwards would not talk about whether he plans to run for the White House in 2008, but he is not pledging to stand aside if running mate John Kerry tries again.

(2-20-05 AP.)

Staking out one's positions in 2005 for a 2006 race. Ralph Reed gets a jump on a "hot" GOP issue for the 2006 GOP primary. - Immigration.

Today's PI provides a heads-up for what is going to be hot issue during the 2006 GOP primary, at least as far as the lieutenant governor contest is concerned. I see this issue potentially having the same status in 2006 with Republican candidates as abortion did in the 2004 GOP U.S. senatorial campaign.

The issue -- immigration.

The PI notes:

Many Republicans in Georgia don't want any part of [President Bush's] proposal to allow 8 million illegal immigrants to obtain legal status as temporary workers.

"I am opposed to amnesty in any form whatsoever," [Ralph] Reed said.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Clinton warns Dems not to assume that his policies are incompatible with a vibrant, progressive wing of the party. - Dean model vs. Clinton model.

On 2-15-05 I did a post entitled "I disagree with new Democratic strategy based on GOP precedent & not on Democrats' own tactics of the 1990s of appealing both to base & moderate swing voters."

In that post I wrote:

"I remain a card-carrying member of the old-school advocating that our ticket to the White House in 2008 is not veering to the left, but rather perfecting our agenda and message that appeals both to our base and moderate swing voters."

Today's Washington Post has an article on this very topic entitled (excerpts):

Democrats' Grass Roots Shift the Power
Activists Energized Fundraising, but Some Worry They Could Push Party to Left

Dean [has called] for "bottom-up reform" of the Democratic Party and the further empowerment of grass-roots activists who flexed their political muscle in his unsuccessful presidential campaign. They later became the backbone of organizing and fundraising efforts by John F. Kerry's campaign and the DNC's election-year efforts.

But the rising of this grass-roots force also signals a shift in the balance of power within the party, one that raises questions about its ultimate impact on a Democratic Party searching for direction and identity after losses in 2002 and 2004.

At a minimum, say party strategists, the shift will mean a more confrontational Democratic Party in battles with President Bush and the Republicans. But some strategists worry that the influence of grass-roots activists could push the party even further to the left, particularly on national security, reinforcing a weakness that Bush exploited in his reelection campaign.

It was Dean during the presidential primaries who argued that it was time for the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" to reassert itself, an implicit criticism of strategies that guided President Bill Clinton in his battles with Republicans in the 1990s. Clinton recently warned Democrats not to assume that the policies he pursued are incompatible with a vibrant, progressive wing of the party.

As Dean takes the helm as party chairman, Democrats now face a competition between what might be called the Dean model and the Clinton model, between confrontation and triangulation. This amounts to a contest between a bold reassertion of the party's traditional philosophy that fits the polarized environment of the Bush presidency vs. a less provocative effort to balance core values with centrist ideas that proved successful in the 1990s but has since produced a backlash within the party.

Dean recognizes the difficult job ahead as he tries to welcome a cadre of political outsiders, many of them turned off by the party's recent leadership, into the institutional party he now heads. His first steps have sought to bridge the ideological divisions with a call for a party that is fiscally responsible and socially progressive.

Tom Ochs, a top Dean adviser, said the challenge is less about ideology than the political culture of the audiences to whom Dean is speaking. "It's clearly an insider-outsider thing that I think crosses ideological terrain, where there are people who haven't been involved who want to be involved and see in Governor Dean someone who wasn't part of an existing enterprise," he said. "I'm very optimistic about our ability to do what a lot of people think will be hard to do, which is to get a lot of people involved, regardless of their ideology, to get Democrats elected."

But other Democrats, a number of whom declined to be quoted by name because they wanted to be more candid about the problems they see, said there are ideological overtones to the growing significance of the grass roots. They said the belief by some of those activists that Democrats can solve their problems by playing more directly to their core constituents ignores several realities, particularly the question of whether voters see Democrats as strong enough to win the war on terrorism. One strategist called that the "one scab" where differences may be difficult to resolve.

Another Democrat, firmly in the party's centrist camp, said, "It's striking to me how reluctant the party is to come to terms with the fact that we have a painfully obvious national security threshold that we're going to have to cross if we're going to rule this country again."

It is no surprise that Democratic leaders are paying much closer attention to grass-roots activists. In 2003 and 2004, those activists became prodigious contributors to the Democratic Party, to Kerry and to Dean, who first tapped into their potential through the Internet during his campaign for the Democratic nomination.

Figures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics show that in 2003 and 2004, the DNC raised $171 million in contributions of less than $250. That represented 42 percent of the $404.5 million raised from all sources by the committee. Four years ago, before large soft-money contributions were banned by the new campaign finance reform law, the DNC raised a total of $260 million from all sources. Kerry's campaign raised an additional $84 million in contributions under $250.

In the 1980s, Democrats courted corporate interests for political contributions, and that marriage helped influence party policy on economic and tax issues. But it also produced complaints by liberal Democrats that the party was selling out its principles for campaign cash. Gauging the ideological complexion of the small donors who opened their wallets in 2004 is much harder, but their participation in the process has diminished the power of business interests within the party and likely will produce some shift in the party's ideology as well.

"If the choice is between the grass roots and the big soft contributors of the prior period, I prefer the grass roots," said Stan Greenberg, a Democratic pollster who did considerable polling for MoveOn.org before shifting to the Kerry campaign last year. "What McCain-Feingold [campaign finance legislation] did was produce a shift away from soft money to grass-roots support. The great fear was it wouldn't happen, that Democrats would be left without resources. But starting with Dean and extending to outside groups like MoveOn, but also John Kerry and the DNC, there was a surge of giving and engagement that I can't believe isn't healthy."

Eli Pariser, who runs the MoveOn political action committee, said the rising power of the grass roots will make establishment Democrats uncomfortable and has helped reinvigorate the progressive wing of the party. But he said more than that, it has brought about a rethinking of how Democrats should organize themselves against Republicans.

"I think it's pretty clear that the era of triangulation is over," he said. "The reason for that is that if you step halfway between Republicans and Democrats, you get your head cut off by Republicans. There's no compromise and no mercy, so I think it's pretty clear that Democrats need to be an opposition that can explain why we believe the current administration is corrupt and misleading the country. It's not something you can do easily by putting yourself somewhere between the poles."

Many Democrats see the choice between nurturing the base and reaching out to expand the party's coalition as a false choice. "I find the 'base versus swing ' conversation not only to be a false choice but to be a deadly choice," said Mark Mellman, a pollster and adviser to Kerry's campaign. "If somebody is forcing that choice on us, they are forcing us to lose elections."

Clinton recently told Democrats not to succumb to the idea that they must choose between a vibrant progressive wing and the strategies he followed as president. Mark Penn, Clinton's pollster in 1996 and an adviser to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), said he sees a greater desire on the part of Democrats to reach a consensus around that model. But he said Democrats have to view the grass roots more expansively.

"I think [Clinton's] remarks represented the view that there is a synthesis here for Democrats that is not left or right, but the right kind of grass-roots movement will take that into account," he said. "I think the Republicans organized a wide diversity of people [in 2004]. It wasn't just religious people but a wide diversity of people they coaxed to the polls."

Simon Rosenberg, founder of the centrist New Democrat Network and a challenger to Dean in the race for DNC chairmanship, said he did not know the ideological implications of an energized grass roots but urged centrists not to fear such a development. "Who can be scared at having millions of people giving money and fighting?" he said. "But it's not enough for us to win."

The spike in activity on the DNC Web site in the past week shows that Dean's election has excited grass-roots activists, but keeping them happy may not be as easy as he thinks.

The Doctor's Plan for the Future of the Democratic Party.

Following his election as chairman of the DNC the Doctor sent out an e-mail directing attention to his plan for the future of the Democratic Party. His plan is found on the DNC Web site and has the following five points:

Show Up! Never concede a single state, county, district, or voter. Build a truly national party that wages a permanent campaign in all 50 states.

Strengthen State Parties and the Grassroots. Better integrate state and national party operations and support Democrats organizing in local communities.

Focus on Our Core Values. Articulate core Democratic values strongly and clearly, and show people how our agenda for reform reflects those values.

Take Advantage of Cutting-Edge Technologies. Leverage the Internet and cutting-edge technologies to better organize, empower, and communicate with people.

Train Tomorrow's Leaders. Strengthen our leadership institutes so we can recruit new talent, cultivate new leaders, and elect Democrats at every level of office.

The "talk of the town," make that Washingtown, is the Democratic Party being portrayed as the "No Party." - The "No" Web site.

This past week Washington was just about as quick to go to the following Web site as our kids were to just released federal Grand Jury transcript of Monica's testimony about her activities with former President Clinton.

After bowing to Democratic objections and removing the controversial material from its Web site, the House Republican Conference has put back on its site a video mocking Democrats as the “No Party.”

I fail to see the big deal, but in the event you want to be in the know, you can view the "No Party" video -- better knows as the "No" commercial -- at the following link:

The "No" commercial.

An irony that the "press" seems to have missed is that the Web site -- which has the Democrats saying "no" to strengthening Social Security (along with everything else) -- reappears the very day after two top GOP lawmakers bucked the president on Social Security.

This occurred when the House's top two Republicans swiftly rejected an idea floated by President Bush to raise the ceiling on wages subject to the Social Security payroll tax, with Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader Tom DeLay saying Thursday that they would consider that a tax increase.

(see 2-18-04, The Washington Post.)

Thus just as the "No" commercial has the Democrats saying "no" to the president, Speaker Dennis Hastert joined the majority leader Tom DeLay in distancing House Republicans from President Bush's idea to overhaul the retirement system, in effect, also saying "no."

Well, maybe I am the only one that finds this humorous. Give it a couple of days and maybe Garry Trudeau will come to my rescue in my favorite comic Doonesbury (along with reruns of Peanuts) and pickup on it.

GHCC comes to Douglas. - "Most Latinos in America have not learned how the voting process works yet. But they will, & their children definitely will."

This past Tuesday the ajc had an article entitled "Home Depot courts Hispanics."

The article noted that Home Depot was aggressively seeking to hire Hispanics and boost its own appeal to a market segment whose buying power reached $750 billion last year.

The article noted that Hispanic purchasing power will reach an estimated $1 trillion by 2008, and that Hispanics are poised to be the next generation of home buyers, according to Jeffrey Humphreys, a University of Georgia economist.

The timing of the article was fortuitious. At the preceding Coffee County Democratic Committee meeting Coffee County Democratic Chair Danita Knowles had annouced that on Wednesday, February 16, Sara Gonzalez, President and CEO of the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce ("GHCC") was scheduled to at South Georgia College in Douglas to explain her organization's efforts to promote Hispanic business in Georgia.

One of the topics of conversation at the preceding County Committee meeting was our need to reach out to Hispanics in our community rather than waiting for them to come to us. We discussed our perceptions of Hispanics in our community, including:

• Hispanics in Coffee County are apolitical because of perceived and actual corruption that exists in their countries of origin.

• The Hispanic community is not really cohesive, with different groups tending to center around various church communities in the area.

• There is a sharp division between Catholic and Protestant Hispanics because the two groups perceive themselves as separate groups who follow two different religions, primarily because of different visions of the role of the Virgin Mary.

At our County Committee meeting we identified potential Hispanic leaders in Coffee County. Several worked in our local Departments of Labor and Health; some worked in various churches; and others had other occupations. We discussed who would contact whom with regard to inviting to come join us at a future meeting.

Hoping to get to discuss these and other ideas with GHCC's CEO while in Douglas, Chair Danita Knowles and I got to the noon luncheon meeting ahead of the crowd. It was a good idea. The college personnel had been with President Gonzalez and her entourage for awhile, and were happy to hand them off to Sid.

President Gonzalez, a native of Cuba, had GHCC's Chief Operating Officer Sandra Font with her, and also was accompanied by Luis Izaguirre, the Economic Development Manager for the Hispanic American Center for Economic Development, a division of GHCC.

Danita and I discussed our County Committee's plan of going to the Hispanic community rather than waiting for it to (and hoping it would) come to us. Ms. Gonzalez was truly excited to hear about our plan, and noted that this was exactly what Home Depot is doing.

We shared with Ms. Gonzalez that prior to undertaking this effort on our own in Coffee County, we had contacted Jerry Gonzalez, the Executive Director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials ("GALEO") about any possible ideas for whom we might be able to get to serve as an Executive Committee Member to represent Hispanics in Coffee County.

[On of my favorite state senators and a workhorse for the Democratic Party, Sen. Sam Zamarripa (D-Atlanta), was instrumental in the forming GALEO as as nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with the goal of getting the Latino community involved in the democratic process.]

President Gonzalez explained that we had done the proper thing in contact GALEO; that GALEO is "political" (read Democratic, and let's all knock on wood as we strive to keep it such), whereas GHCC is adamant about remaining nonpartisan.

During President Gonzalez's meeting she stated that her organization was most eager to come to Douglas since Douglas, along with Valdosta, have been cited as the most entrepreneurial friendly cities in the state.

During her presentation the CEO and other presenters shared with the assembled group that:

• there is no county in Georgia that does not show Latinos in its census;

• Hispanics are the largest minority group in the U.S.;

• with nearly 40 million Hispanics, the U.S. has the world's 5th largest Spanish-speaking community, behind Mexico, Columbia, Spain and Argentia

• the Hispanic population is expected to increase to 50 Million by 2007;

• by 2050, over 1 out of 4 American is expected to be of Hispanic origin;

• between 2000 and 2002, the Hispanic population grew faster in Georgia than in any other state in the nation at a 17% rate, with 102 individuals of Hispanic origin moving in each day, 75 % of these being legal immigrants;

• in 2002, the U.S. Hispanic population was 574,164; by 2007, it is expected to double to 1.2 million; and

• in Georgia, 48% of Hispanics are Mexican; 44% are Puerto Rican [this high a percentage surprised me]; and 2% are Cuban.

A most interesting and relevant point made during the presentations was that most Latinos in America have not learned how the voting process works yet. But they will, and their children definitely will.

I have read that with funds from a grant from UPS (one of GHCC's partners that include Bank of America, Bell South, Cingular, Delta Air Lines, Georgia Power, SunTrust, Coca-Cola and Home Depot), GHCC will be opening four new offices in Georgia to promote economic development of Hispanic businesses.

Does anyone out there see an opportunity for your community as well as your party? I do, and I thought you might also.