Monday, August 29, 2011

SCHS Pigskin Update

My alma mater Indians opened the season with a 29-28 road loss to Elbert County, as the Blue Devils scored a late touchdown and completed a two-point conversion for the win.

This week, the Indians (0-1, 0-0) will take on their second 8AA South opponent when they host the Hart County Bulldogs (1-0, 0-0) at The Reservation.  Hart County is coming off of a 31-0 blowout of Franklin County.

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I ♥ Mark Stein

Writes America’s self-professed "undocumented anchorman" in “The Desperation-of-Depravation Myth,” from the current issue of National Review Online:

“The problem for the Western world is that it has incentivized non-productivity on an industrial scale.”

Filling in for Rush last week, Stein commented on the three classes that make up Western society these days, the government class, the dependency class, and the productive class.  The first two are growing by leaps and bounds and the third is shrinking – while simultaneously being on the hook to fund the other two ever more lavishly.

To my mind, that pretty much sums up what the problem is.  And all of the solutions proffered by the political class simply advocate more of the same.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Impertinent Observations

After asking some questions on the Winterville yahoo group about the “wandering guineas” that started showing up in our yard a while back, I got a call from Erin France of the Banner-Herald.  I, in turn, referred her to my sweet wife, with the result being this story that appeared in Monday’s edition.

Speaking of my sweet life, who works at Coile Middle School (located between Winterville and Hull), she called me yesterday afternoon to tell me that her desk had shook and to see if I had noticed any untoward vibrations.  Within a few minutes, word came out that there had been an earthquake up in the Old Dominion.

On the national scene, the various mouthpieces for the Obama Administration are pushing the idea that government transfer payments (food stamps, unemployment payments, etc.) in reality constitute economic stimulus and job creation.  Of course, any such contention is utter crap – but it is precisely the kind of newspeak crap that we have come to expect.

Speaking of Obama & Co., they are laying the groundwork for “Stimulus Mark II” in the form of a “bank” for “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects.  Haven’t we seen this one before?  Wasn’t that one of the main selling point for the original version?  It didn’t work then, just as many of us predicted at that time.  There is absolutely no reason to think that it will work this time, either.

And now we find out that the Fed bailed out banks, both American and foreign, to the tune of another $1.2 trillion that it didn’t see fit to tell anyone about.

Finally, I am angry with the GOP leadership (or establishment or whatever term one may choose to use).  I realize that the deal they got with regard to raising the federal debt limit was probably the best they were going to get, given that Democrats control the Senate and the White House.  On the other hand, signing off on baseline budget increases of $7-9 trillion and calling it a $2-4 trillion cut in spending is an absolute crock.  My anger stems from the fact that Republicans had the opportunity to make some structural changes just a few short years ago when they ran everything up in Washington – and they did not do so.  As a result, they are now facing a well deserved challenge from fiscally conservative, small government Republicans, not to mention the Tea Party, on their right.  I hope that the GOP powers that be have learned their lesson – but we shall see.

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

SCHS Pigskin Update

Threatening weather postponed the preseason tilt between the Habersham Central Raiders (8AAAA) and the host SCHS Indians from 7:30 p.m. on Friday until 6:00 p.m. on Saturday.

The Raiders emerged from the “Battle of Currahee Mountain” scrimmage with a 21-7 win.  The first half of the game was played under controlled conditions, with each team alternating sets of ten plays regardless of down-and-distance.  The game's second half was played under regular game conditions.

Regular season play begins in two weeks, with the Indians traveling to Elberton to take on the Elbert County Blue Devils (8AA South) in the Granite Bowl.

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Impertinent Observations (economic development edition)

The recent dust-up between City Hall and the Economic Development Foundation is not the first time that a potential politicization of local business recruitment efforts has been in the offing – and I remain convinced that was precisely the issue both then and now.

From 2003 to 2009, I sat on the Development Authority of the Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County.  That is the comparatively recent statutory one, as opposed to the traditional Industrial Development Authority created by a constitutional amendment some decades ago, and about which there is no need to delve into minutiae of the two.  Suffice it to say that the one of which I was a part was developed specifically to handle bond issues for the University’s Real Estate Foundation and Athletic Association, though it exercised most of the same powers as did the traditional IDA.

With that in mind, I have the legally-required economic development training and a few years of practical experience in the area.  Based on that training and experience, I maintain that, rather than being overtly “anti-business,” the powers that be effectively hamstring the Classic City’s efforts to lure expanding and/or relocating businesses as a matter of their ideology.

On the one hand, City Hall has no sway over some local ills, such as the horribly expensive (and yet chronically underperforming) local school system and the lack of direct access to an interstate highway.  On the other hand, though, it does have influence over others, such as a permitting process that is notoriously difficult (and expensive) to navigate* and the decades-long lack of an agreement with Oconee County as to the infrastructure and tax particulars of the Orkin tract (apart from the apparent difficulty of dealing with the Orkin family).

Be that as it may, contrary to what seems to be popular opinion business and industries and not looking for a reason to come to Athens.  Instead, they are looking for reasons to strike as many communities as possible, ours included, off of their long lists of potential expansion sites – and that is where local politics enter the picture.

For an example of this, let’s take a ride in the way-back machine to 2005.  CertainTeed, located on Athena Drive, was contemplating an expansion of its operations, either in Athens or a couple of its other locations.  A local pressure group sought to have the Commission alter its usual bond approval process, namely that of having the mayor sign off on the matter, and instead insert itself into the issuance of bonds for the project by having the full Commission vote on it.  Additionally, and more importantly, the group also petitioned the Commission to place environmental restrictions on CertainTeed as a requirement for approving the bonds.

Such an approach would have failed on two counts: 1) it would have subjected bond issues to political intrigue, ripe with the expectation that the Commission would seek to further mandate its progressive world view** and 2) in any event, the Commission had no authority to impose any restrictions in excess of those mandated by the federal EPA and the state EPD – which made the exercise purely political (see #1 above).  It is fair to observe that City Hall did not go this route, but it is also fair to observe that once word got out about the potential political meddling in the Unified Government’s economic development efforts, as it most assuredly did, it gave pause to those on the receiving end of those efforts.

For whatever reason, CertainTeed ultimately opted to expand elsewhere (surprise, surprise) and the local pressure group claimed “victory” – quite literally.  Those interested may review the particulars of the CertainTeed affair for themselves:

Had I been a business owner considering expanding or re-locating here, such would have summarily ended any flirtations with Athens.  I keep saying that the problem with local economic development efforts is not to be found in those relatively few instances in which the Classic City makes it to a company’s short list and looses out in the end, but is in those vastly more instances in which our fair burgh is not considered in the first place.

This is not so say that local officials do not have a legitimate interest in overseeing bond issues, quite the contrary.  But anyone who does not recognize the obvious political implications of having the Commission, always up for a bit of political posturing, vote on them, not to mention the resulting dampening of economic recruitment efforts, to my mind is simply not being honest.

Then we had the related spectacle of NBAF, just the kind of economic development our community ostensibly wants, being fought by another highly organized and well-funded pressure group (granted, I think that there was a strong tinge of Bush Derangement Syndrome in the opposition, but even so).   Doc succinctly phrased the question thus, “If not this, what?”  No useful answer has been forthcoming.

Now we have this latest sordid episode in which members of the Commission effectively held the EDF’s funding hostage in an attempt to force themselves onto the latter’s board.

And folks wonder why business and industries avoid Athens-Clarke County like the proverbial plague?

*For problems with the permitting and approval process, see the Overview Commission’s report.  Unfortunately, that report seems to have disappeared from the Unified Government’s new (and very expensive) web site.

**If one doesn’t think that, when considering economic development bonds, City Hall would not display the same rigidly ideological approach that it has employed with regard to a variety of other issues (rental registration, definition of family, conservation subdivisions, stream buffers, property tax appeals, condemnation of land for the eastside park, three-lane roads, the Stiles parking lot case, etc.), then I think on is sadly mistaken.

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