Monday, April 29, 2013

People Of Hope and Wishful Thinking

Read the column here.

First, a nod to my colleagues over at Flagpole; the entire People of Hope thing has been below the radar for a good while, save these recent pieces by Blake and Allison:

Second, I must admit to being surprised at the lack of response to this column in the Banner-Herald’s online comments section – I was expecting some rather intense blowback – though I guess something may appear as a letter to the editor at some point.  Not that I write things so as to be intentionally contrarian; on the contrary, I write what I really think (for good or ill).

Concerning “affordable housing” generally see this, lifted verbatim from my 2006 campaign web site:

“The Commission should establish a separate and dedicated zoning category specifically tailored to mobile homes, which comprise the best market-based solution to the issue of affordable housing. Unfortunately, since city-county unification, the Commission has all but excluded mobile homes from most areas of the county. Class A mobile homes (multi-sectional or doublewides) are limited to existing parks or large lots in the AR zones. Class B mobile homes (single-wides) have been restricted to existing parks for years. While recognizing that mobile homes may not fit in with traditional stick-built home neighborhoods, we have done the low-income among us no favors by excluding from the county the best housing option available to them.”

“I feel that efforts to mandate ‘inclusionary zoning’ in the county are misdirected. The resulting housing would not be “affordable,” it would instead be subsidized. Someone other than the person paying the submarket rate mandated by government will be required to make up the difference, whether it is the other residents of a given development or the taxpayers.”

“For what it is worth, I remain convinced that the rezoning of land for the People of Hope, contrary to the recommendation of the Planning Commission and requiring alteration of the Comprehensive Plan, not to mention the subsequent sanitary sewer line extension to that park, would not have been approved for any other petitioner. The Commission did the right thing, but for the wrong reason.”

Needless to say, these were/are not the dominant opinions in the Classic City.  Also needless to say, the manner in which local ordinance serve to drive up housing costs is all but universally ignored (except by me and a couple of others): conservation subdivision ordinance; “green belt” ordinance; one-size-fits-all stream buffer ordinance; tree cover ordinance; grading ordinance; definition of family ordinance, etc.  I’m not arguing that all of these ordinances are inherently bad, but rather that their roles in driving up housing costs are never acknowledged by the powers that be.

Be that as it may, see this letter to the editor in which I actually defended the Commission against a charge of “ethical” criminality for not foolishly going the moratorium route:

See this news article about a particular Commission meeting, where I explicitly told City Hall that its treatment of People of Hope was rooted in politics and that no one else would get approval to put a trailer park in peripheral Clarke County (much less one necessitating a rezoning, an amendment to the future land use map, a sewage pump station, and a sewer line extension):

Note that I spoke against both the rezoning/future land use map amendment and the sewer line extension, not because I thought that they were the wrong things to do in and of themselves, but because People of Hope got approvals that no one else would have.  See the minutes for the cited Commission meetings:

December 2003
See pages 30-32.  Ironically, at this same meeting that the Commission approved the People of Hope rezoning, by another unanimous vote it also approved an ordinance that explicitly banned Class A mobile homes (doublewides and multi-sectionals) from the county’s agricultural residential, single family residential, and commercial zoning classifications. Placements of Class B mobile homes (single-wides) have been limited to existing mobile home parks for many years.

October 2004
See pages 2 and 5.

That news article review of funding includes (and I daresay that it is incomplete):
-Federal housing grants – $377,500 (as best as I could determine this included $175,000 in
-HOME funds and $202,500 in CBDG funds)
-Presbyterian Church (USA) – $150,000
 -Affordable Housing Program of the Federal Home Loan bank – $446,443
-Governor’s Discretionary Fund (Roy Barnes) – $10,000
-Georgia Community Loan Fund – $25,000
-Other private donations from individuals, business, and churches – $200,000

“HOME” would seem to indicate an acronym, just as CBDG stands for Community Block Development Grant, but all I could find was HOME Investment Partnership Program.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Whatever Its Flaws, Constitution Integral to Our Lives

Read the column here.

The column I started to write concerned how specific amendments in the Bill of Rights (the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 9th, and 10th come immediately to mind) have been all but eviscerated (or at least are in the process of being so), and how a couple of other amendments (the 16th and 17th) have seriously undermined the concept of federalism on which the county was founded. And , of course, the rampant perversion of the "commerce clause" and the employment of judicial fiats have been used to justify all manner of government activity. But, sometimes in the writing process, the one you intended to write morphs into something else, so this is what I ended up with.

To read Wagner’s supposedly inflammatory essay, “As American as . . . Compromise,” for yourselves, follow the link
 link. Just use something like “Wagner,” “Emory” and “three-fifths” as search terms and you will find plenty of media coverage. 

To the best of my knowledge, those states that have passed some sort of bill concerning alternative currencies, or that have at least expressed interest in studying the idea, include Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and Washington. Just use something like “state alternative currency” as a search term and you will again find plenty of media coverage.

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Monday, April 1, 2013

Issuing Bonds Isn't Routine Matter

Read the column here.

Note that, according to whom one is speaking, the terminology concerning a school district’s sales tax levy varies.  The technically correct term is “SPLOST,” just like with a county’s sales tax levy, though the two are (sometimes) governed by different O.C.G.A. sections.  The terms “E-LOST” and “E-SPLOST” are similarly used, but all three means the same thing.

Remember that, legally speaking, school districts cannot levy taxes; they are “requesting” authorities.  The actual imposition of taxes falls to county governments; they are “levying” authorities.  Of course, case law leaves essentially no leeway for county governments not to approve whatever the4or respective school districts request, assuming that the requests are otherwise legal.

Some of my concerns about the CCSD’s SPLOST 4 bonds actually began with questions I had about the SPLOST 3 bonds – questions to which no one seemed to know the answers.  After very long and circuitous investigations through quite a number of local and state bureaucracies (CCSD, Department of Education, Department of Revenue, etc.), I eventually found the answers to a couple of them.  The first listed below, about exceeding the 20 mills limit, is courtesy of the Attorney General’s office.  The second is the result of a conversation I had with a bond attorney over in Atlanta (because the AG’s office clammed up on me):

Seaboard Air-Line Railway Company v. Wright, comptroller-general, et al.
I could not find the text of this decision online, but I am told by the AG’s office that this is the case that exempts bond debt service form any constitution limit on a school district’s millage rate.

O.C.G.A. §48-8-121(c) – Use of proceeds; issuance of general obligation debt:
“General obligation debt issued under this part shall be payable first from the separate account in which are placed the proceeds received by the county or qualified municipalities within the special district issuing such debt from the tax authorized by this part. Such debt, however, shall constitute a pledge of the full faith, credit, and taxing power of the county or qualified municipalities within the special district issuing such debt; and any liability on said debt which is not satisfied from the proceeds of the tax authorized by this part shall be satisfied from the general funds of the county or qualified municipalities within the special district issuing such debt.”

Readers can follow the progress of the SPLOST 4 bond resolution for themselves below (note that the agenda items in January concerned the SPLOST 4 “schedule and plan,” not the bond resolution itself, so I have omitted those meetings):

December 2012 – Board Regular Meeting Agenda (no agenda meeting in December)
See page 88 PDF.  Note that the memorandum had to do with initiating the bond issuance process only, having nothing to do with the bond resolution itself or any other links or background material.

December 2012 – Board Regular Meeting Brief
See page 4 of the PDF.  Concerning the SPLOST 4 bonds under New Business, it notes “The Board approved the authorization to initiate the process to issue bonds for the upcoming SPLOST 4 construction projects.”  That’s it; no other information or links to background material are provided.

December 2012 – Board Regular Meeting Minutes
See page 5 of the PDF.

March 2013 – Board Regular Meeting Agenda (no agenda meeting in March)
See page 1 of the PDR.  Under Superintendent’s Report, all that is mentioned is “SPLOST Bond Resolution.”  No additional or background information or links are provided.

March 2013 – Board Regular Meeting Brief
See page 2 of the PDF.  Note that the paragraph pertaining to the Superintendent’s Report merely says about the SPLOST 4 bonds that “After that, attorney Terrell Benton introduced a presentation on a SPLOST Bond Referendum that will be voted on at a called Mar. 20 Board of Education meeting.”  Note also that no time or place is given for the special called meeting nor are additional or background information or links are provided.

Calendar of Events
Note that the finance committee and full Board meetings on 07 March are clearly indicated, but that the special called meeting on 20 March is notable by its absence.

“This Week in the CCSD”
It is true that the email message forwarded to me by a member of the local new media did contain notice of the Board’s special called meeting in the text of the email message itself.  Note, however, that three is no mention of the special called meeting in the document.  Had one not received the email directly and relied on the attached file, one would not have known of the special called meeting.

For a further critique and timeline of the hurried process used to pass the bond resolution and the stunning lack of public notice, see my first comment following this news article:

I received three responses to my emailed inquiries about how much money would be saved by issuing SPLOST 4 bonds and how such savings could be calculated, which were sent to Board members (as elected officials) on purpose so as to establish that I had concerns about the SPLOST 4 bond issue.  One indicated that the Board member had forwarded my questions to the appropriate CCSD administrative personnel, which was a fair enough response, as I knew that Board had no idea.  The second merely was a “reply all” that sent my questions to all of the other members of the Board, the email addressed of whom I had purposefully included in the address line (not the CC or BCC line) specifically for the purpose of letting the Board Members know that I had sent my questions to all of them.  The third response was to ask me if I had received any other responses.

Finally, I must thank Denise Spangler and Ted Gilbert.  When I asked the former, after the Board meeting on 20 March, where a member of the public could get a copy of the various resolutions just approved, she graciously gave me her copies.  That is the only reason I have them – to my knowledge, they are still not available anywhere else.  The latter, with whom I have had amicable dealings in the past, has indicated that he will try to come up with some numbers for me as to how much money the CCSD ostensibly saved by issuing bonds under both SPLOST 3 and SPOST 4.

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