Monday, September 29, 2008

SCHS Pigskin Update

My alma mater Indians (3-1, 1-0) returned to their winning ways with a 21-17 victory over Hart County (1-3, 0-1) last Friday evening. This week, the Indians travel to take on Eastside of Covington (4-0, 1-0), a team that appears to have seven home games on its schedule, in their second Region 8AAA game of the season.

Regarding the Dawgs, in the immortal words of Lewis Grizzard, “I just don’t want to talk about it.” I will console myself, though, with the fact that the team did not throw in the towel in the second half and is still in the thick of the SEC East race.

Sphere: Related Content

Friday, September 26, 2008

Leaf & Limb (redux)

Kudos to District 8 commissioner Andy Herod, who apparently peruses TOA from time to time. He took note of my leaf-and-limb complaint and contacted the powers that be at Solid Waste to resolve my question. The answer was precisely as I had surmised from the beginning, namely that leaf-and-limb pickup is not available where I live. Even so, that answer prompts two observations.

The first is that, not to put too fine a point on it and with all due respect to the folks at Solid Waste, it took the intervention of a commissioner to get a definitive answer, which was sent to him directly and copied to the county manager; I have yet to receive any word from Solid Waste. Apparently, commissioners and/or county managers can get prompt answers to questions that we little people outside the rail cannot.

The second is that leaf-and-limb pickup, contrary to what the Unified Government touts, is not available to all of the county’s residents. The limitations on the availability of the service may make sense, but they are restrictions nonetheless and mark yet another service for which I pay in taxes any yet do not receive in practice.

Though Herod and I have divergent political philosophies, I have no doubts as to his conscientiousness as a commissioner. Back in 2006, when I was a candidate and he headed up the Federation of Neighborhoods (a group which, generally speaking, I doubt supported my candidacy to any measurable degree), I found him to be fair and even-handed (and no, the same cannot be said for many of the neighborhood activist types in this community). Also, for what it is worth, Herod is one of the few members of the Commission or Board of Education on whom I can count to actually respond when I contact my local elected official with regard to specific issues. For that he get high marks.

Sphere: Related Content


Of course, tomorrow’s matchup featuring the #3 Dawgs and the #8 Crimson Tide makes the Classic City the center of the football universe. The game is the biggest thing to hit this part of the world for a while (football being one of the few things to divert TOA from political matters). Both ESPN’s College GameDay and the FOX Tailgate Tour will be in town for the festivities (things are at such a pitch that the local constabulary is warning against counterfeit ticket scams).

As an undergrad, lo these many years ago, I baked my brain out in the student section on many a glorious autumn afternoon (and a few that were not so glorious). Lately, I have much preferred to watch the games at home while listening to Larry (and now Scott) call the play-by-play.

By the way, for those who may not have heard, there are plans that may increase the seating capacity of Sanford Stadium to 101,766 of the Bulldawg faithful (see the PDFs). Also, according to the guys at 960 The Ref, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was on hand for yesterday’s practice session.

Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Same Old Refrain (leaf & limb edition)

Even though this one goes back a couple of months, the point remains valid (and is one on which I have been harping for years). The Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County, in what was touted as a cost-savings move, cut back on leaf-and-limb pickup. Instead of every six weeks, the Solid Waste folks are now making the rounds every eight weeks. So far so good, at least insofar as the budget goes.

The problem is that leaf-and-limb pickup is one of the precious few services supposedly received by the residents of the formerly unincorporated area of the county (out here in the hinterland we get generalized police and fire protection, leaf-and-limb pickup . . . and that is about it). But even that is kind of iffy, as I indicated in a comment over at Blake’s Banner-Herald blog (scroll down to the very bottom):

I laugh whenever I hear someone make the “cut services” argument. Again, for years I have been pointing out the vast disparity in services between the old City of Athens and the formerly unincorporated area of the county. The explicit provisions of the Charter be damned. After 7.5 years of never seeing a leaf-and-limb truck in front of my house, I recently called the Solid Waste folks to see if such service was, indeed, available. The fellow I spoke with told me that he had been on the job for about three years; over that time he has had a steady series of such calls from folks who had been told that leaf-and-limb was not available in their area (which frequently turns out to have been incorrect – but that is what local government told then) and that the department would send someone out to see if service could be provided to my house. Three weeks later I still haven’t heard from anyone.

Note that this comment dates from more than four months ago. Since then, I have called Solid Waste and had essentially the same conversation at least three more times. I still have yet to see a leaf-and-limb truck in front of my house (for years those piles of limbs that I’ve left there sat unmoved until I got around to hauling them off myself) and I still have yet to hear the first word back from anyone at Solid Waste. I guess my next step is to whine to some Commissioners.

And by the way, those new spending programs that prompted the euphemistic “cuts” in existing services, even in the face of increased reassessments and a millage rate increase, are still in the FY 2009 budget.

Sphere: Related Content

Monday, September 22, 2008

SCHS Pigskin Update

After a 31-6 drubbing at the hands of the LaGrange Grangers a couple of Fridays ago, prior to their only bye week of the season, my SCHS Indians predictably dropped out of both the AP and AJC rankings.

The remainder of the Indians’ regular season consists of seven consecutive Region 8AAA games, beginning when Hart County visits The Reservation in Toccoa on 26 September.

Sphere: Related Content

Clarke County Sample Ballot

For your electoral entertainment, courtesy of the folks over at One Press Place, here is voting information and an Athens-Clarke County sample ballot for the general election to be held on 04 November.

Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Impertinent Observations (politics)*

Just some quick hits on local and state political doings in no particular order:

After getting an earful from constituents, the Athens-Clarke County Commission backed off of its plan to extinguish one-fifth of the county’s streetlights, instead opting to pull the plug on just a few (of course, the new spending programs that prompted the darkening of our fair city stayed in the budget). So now we will have the same process play itself out over trash pickup in the general services district (I hope that the Commission backs off of this one, as well).

The Transparency in Government page is up over at the Secretary of State’s web site. Check it out.

Current Lt. Governor Casey Cagle is throwing his hat into the ring for the big chair. John Oxendine, already an announced candidate for governor, responded by sending out an email saying, in effect, “c’mon in, the water’s fine.” Thus begins the fruit basket turnover as folks lower in the political pecking order begin positioning themselves for runs at higher office – not that they haven’t been already (which is not a criticism, that is how the process works).

I’m a Paul Broun supporter, but I must admit that the logic behind this one eludes me. I understand that the Democrat will win Clarke County because . . . he is a Democrat and this is Clarke County. Thus, it is a perfectly reasonable strategy for Broun to concentrate his efforts elsewhere. Even so, this looks bad, especially given the way Jim Whitehead snubbed the Athens area through a strategy that became a campaign issue in and of itself. As a practical matter, Broun skipping the forum may make some sense; as a political matter, it emphatically does not (which in turn calls its practical utility into question).

*Apologies to Mr. Fain.

Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Credit Where It Is Due

At its September meeting, the Clarke County Republican Committee heard from Superior Court Judge David Sweat and Probate Court Judge Susan Tate concerning the local Treatment & Accountability Court.

Says the Court’s web page:

A treatment and accountability court, sometimes called a mental health court, is not a separate court. Rather, it is a specialized court docket, or calendar, in which participants seek treatment for their mental illness while being closely monitored by local mental health providers and the court.

It is a collaborative program involving representatives from the court, mental health providers, prosecutors, public defenders, and community advocates all working towards providing treatment rather than punishment.

It targets non-violent offenders whose crime would not have occurred had it not been for their mental illness.

It links participants not only to mental health services such as counseling and treatment but also link them to needed social services – social security, housing, jobs, etc.

It may accept referrals from a variety of sources including the police, jail, mental health providers, family and the individuals themselves.

Unlike traditional substance abuse treatment in drug court where a standard model is available, mental health court is not a one-size-fits-all approach but instead is tailored around the individual’s specific needs.

I give the Unified Government quite a bit of grief, and deservedly so in my opinion, but I realize that not all is doom and gloom, as evidenced by programs such as this.

Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

SCHS Pigskin Update

My alma mater Stephens County High School Indians are the sixth ranked AAA team in the state according to both the AP and the AJC.

The Indians began the season with a 28-25 victory over the Flowery Branch Falcons (currently #7 in the AJC poll) and a 31-0 romp over the Seneca (South Carolina) Bobcats. This week finds the Indians at the LaGrange Grangers (currently #7 in the AP poll).

Sphere: Related Content

CCBOE Elections

A mere eight weeks from today, voters in Athens-Clarke County may elect as many as three new members to the Board of Education (and not a moment too soon).

Though all has been quite on the campaign front since candidate qualifying, things should be heating up quite soon. In District 2, J.T. Jones is challenging incumbent Vernon Payne. Incumbent Allison Wright, finishing up her first term, is running unopposed in District 4. James Geiser is challenging District 6 incumbent Charles Worthy. Chinami Goodie and David Huff are contesting the open seat in District 8, from which Sidney Anne Waters is stepping down.

I’ve reviewed the campaign web sites for Geiser and Goodie. I like what I see with regard to the former, as Geiser cites the same statistics that I have been commenting on for years and is taking a “no excuses” approach. Goodie’s site is much less specific. If the other candidates have campaign sites up, I did not find them.

Regular readers (and yes, there are a few) are well aware that I have been a vocal critic of the Board of Education for a long time. My criticisms are not based on personalities, as I have nothing against any of the Board members, but on the continued academic underachievement and high costs that typify the Clarke County School District.

Addendum: Courtesy of a reader, here is the David Huff campaign web site.

Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Talking Trash (a microcosm of progressive government)

Here we go again. The Athens-Clarke County Commission is poised to extend its regulatory tentacles into yet another area of my life where it is neither needed nor wanted (see articles in Flagpole and the Banner-Herald).

For those unfamiliar with our fair burg, we have a distinct division into “haves” and “have nots” here in the Classic City. Since city-county consolidation, residents of the former City of Athens live in what is called the “urban services” district, while those of us who reside in the formerly unincorporated area of the county live in what is euphemistically called the “general services” district. And ne’er the twain shall meet as, by and large, residents of the outlying areas continue to lack the basic services expected of a local government (water, sewer, trash pickup, etc.), about which I have commented ad nauseam.

Folks in the urban services district receive trash pickup from the Unified Government (for an additional fee, to be fair), folks in the general services district do not. The latter have to dispose of their trash themselves or pay a private hauler to do so. The Commission is considering a plan under which the general services district would be divided into several zones, with each zone being served by a single private hauler as determined by the Unified Government through the issuance of an “exclusive franchise” based on a bidding process.

Naturally, this proposal has prompted much discussion in the opinion pages of the Banner-Herald and on the Winterville Yahoo newsgroup (for those who do not know, Winterville is a separate municipality lying wholly within Athens-Clarke County – and yes that does entail some confusion from time to time). Even District 5 Commissioner David Lynn chimed in. Lynn is a bright guy with whom I agree on some issues (though our political philosophies differ greatly, we have found common ground on some civil libertarian issues), but I think he completely missed the boat on this one.

Ostensibly, the idea behind the franchise plan is to encourage citizens to recycle, thereby prolonging the life of the local landfill. These are laudable enough goals in and of themselves. To my mind, though, there are several areas of concern with this proposal:

1. “Exclusive franchise” rights would be awarded through a biding process. To whom would those bids be paid? The Unified Government, of course. Why should the Unified Government make a dime off of a service it does not provide?

2. Rates would be “standardized” (i.e. set) and billing administered by the Unified Government, meaning more bureaucracy and more employees (also, see No. 1 above).

3. What happens to those private haulers who do not get a franchise? They go out of business, that’s what. Remember how the Unified Government constantly tells us that it is “business friendly,” while at the same time continuously increasing the regulatory burden it places on business?

If the Unified Government wants to extend trash pickup service to the formerly unincorporated areas of the county, and by that I mean providing the general services district with the same service currently provided to the urban services district, that’s one thing. If, however, it merely wants to control that service in the peripheral areas of the county without actually providing it – thereby limiting my choices as a consumer and driving up the cost to me – I am opposed.

I'm getting real tired of my rights, my freedoms, and my bank account taking hits for what our betters tell me is the greater good, as those schemes invariably involve more government regulation and greater expense. And the problems that prompt these "solutions" never seem to get any better, do the

Addendum: At a Commission meeting some years ago I commented on the disparity between the services provided to the in-towners compared to those received by we rural folks, specifically citing trash pickup (or rather the lack thereof) among others. My comments prompted someone inside the rail, a staffer as I recall, to note that citizens in the general services district really got a better deal on trash pickup than those in the urban services district. Given my nature, the next opportunity I had to say something I immediately proposed that, if that was really the case, the Unified Government get out of the trash pickup business altogether and let the in-towners fend for themselves just like we out-of-towners. Needless to say, all I got from inside the rail, from elected officials and staffers alike, was blank stares.

Sphere: Related Content