Wednesday, February 27, 2008

MARTA boss: Less talk, more action

Posted By on Wed, Feb 27, 2008 at 11:17 PM

For 30 years, MARTA CEO Beverly Scott knew little about Atlanta aside from what she saw out of a hotel lobby on Peachtree Road. Today, as a resident, she's blown away by the neighborhoods.

"They're all over!" she said today after addressing politicians, civic leaders and stakeholders at the annual "State of MARTA" luncheon at the Georgia Freight Railroad Depot next to Underground Atlanta. "I go to this coffee shop on Edgewood [Javaology], my church is right there on Boulevard, and I love it."

The only problem, of course, is getting to all these gems.

Since Scott took the helm of Atlanta's underfunded and beleaguered transit agency, she's been the recipient of glowing praise for her ability to speak directly and not walk on egg shells about what changes need to be made. That was on display today.

Continue reading »

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Insurance Commissioner Clark Howard?

Posted By on Wed, Feb 27, 2008 at 11:04 PM

Insurance commissioner is one of those state jobs that doesn't normally generate a lot of attention. In part, that's because the incumbent, Republican John Oxendine, is happy to quietly pocket insurance companies' campaign cash as he waits for a shot at the governor's office -- a long shot.

The race could get really, really interesting, however, if consumer hero, maximum penny pincher and all-around swell radio guy Clark Howard decides to run. Howard, we can be sure, would turn the office into a watchdog agency, a prospect that likely scares the bejesus out of those who are supposedly regulated by the insurance commissioner.

When last heard from, Howard was considering a run for Atlanta mayor. That race, however, is now crowded with candidates.

The news of Howard's interest comes from three prominent local Democrats. Howard's office didn't return calls.

The Democrats might have their best chance in years to recapture statewide offices. A Zogby poll in January showed that U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-BushToady, has low approval ratings and would be in a statistical dead heat with a Democrat. The carnival show at the state Capitol has revealed that the Republicans are incompetent at serious governing, and more interested in buffoonery over abortion than confronting critical state problems.

The Democrats need only one commodity to win back some seats: candidates. Howard is just the sort of wild card -- a true crusader for average citizens -- who would attract voters.

More later ...

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ARC releases freight mobility study

Posted By on Wed, Feb 27, 2008 at 10:08 PM

This one goes out to all the wonks in the audience.

The Atlanta Regional Commission released its 2008 Freight Mobility Report this afternoon, all 122 whopping pages of it. Lots of interesting aspects to it, including:

  • The region is one of the top five logistics hubs in the country -- pretty notable judging that we're landlocked. Atlanta, Dallas and Chicago are the three largest inland distribution centers in the country.
  • Lots of tractor trailer operators rarely -- or don't -- use the heralded Georgia Navigator system.
  • The bottlenecks you'd expect freight operators to gripe about -- Spaghetti Junction, Peachtree Road, etc. -- are terrible for moving goods and are getting worse. Oh, and Howell Mill Road sucks for truck drivers.
  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport ranked 10th in the nation and 25th in the world for annual tonnage moved in 2005.
  • Heads up, Metro Chamber: "It was noted during stakeholder interviews that shippers are starting to look outside the Atlanta metro region for distribution facilities due to congested conditions. As they do so, Atlanta will retain its competitiveness relative to other areas (such as Macon, Valdosta, Chattanooga and Charlotte) because the region’s advantages outweigh its disadvantages."

Check it out here. Really thorough report. The ARC board voted today to adopt the recommendations of the report, which include increasing driver education, double-track the rail corridors between Atlanta and Chattanooga and Savannah and Memphis, and eliminate or reduce at-grade crossings at bottlenecks, among others. Lots of suggested infrastructure fixes listed in there, too.

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Sen. David Shafer, R-Dances With Pipeline, and Navajo wisdom

Posted By on Wed, Feb 27, 2008 at 8:13 PM

Received an e-mail from state Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth, about his comments on the Senate floor regarding Chattanooga's "ha-ha-why-don't-you-try-conserving-before-you-gank-our-agua" shipment of bottled water. Big Chief say:

There is an ancient Indian proverb. Give a man a cup of water and you quench his thirst for an afternoon. Share in the waters of a great river and you quench his thirst for generations to come.

Today the City of Chattanooga delivered a pickup truck full of bottled water to the State Capitol. On behalf of the State Senate, I graciously accept this water as a down payment on the billions of gallons of Georgia water that feed the Tennessee River from the creeks and streams of Northwest Georgia.

I remain confident that border dispute between our two great states can be resolved in a neighborly fashion.

We're all for cherry-picking ancient words of wisdom uttered by civilizations the White Man devastated, so here are some of our favorites, culled from a trustworthy and never-wrong source.

  • "A good man does not take what belongs to someone else." (Pueblo)
  • "The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives." (Sioux)
  • "We will be known forever by the tracks we leave." (Dakota)
  • "When a man moves away from nature his heart becomes hard." (Lakota)
  • "Only when the last tree has withered, the last fish has been caught, and the last river has been poisoned, will you realize you cannot eat money." (Cree)

And my personal favorite:

Love ya!

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Jekyll Island -- some background, plus new developments

Posted By on Wed, Feb 27, 2008 at 7:52 PM

Jekyll Island Jeff Chapman Linger Longer

WHO BENEFITS? Critics say plans to build condos, hotels and a retail center may cut off this public beach from Jekyll's day visitors.

Woe is Jekyll Island, the pristine beach getaway that has fallen into disrepair. Visitors across the state have voiced concerns about plans by a developer – and the actions of the governor-appointed Jekyll Island Authority that oversees the barrier island – to revitalize the state park.

Linger Longer Communities, a development company owned by two GOP cash cows – and fundraisers for presidential hopeful John McCain and potential veep Gov. Sonny Perdue – wants to build a “town center," hotels and posh condos near a prized public beach.

What’s even more worrisome: Bills proposed by state Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick, to protect the island from development have been stonewalled by members of his own party in a legislative committee. Sen. Chapman agrees that the island is in need of revamping, but says the process needs to be responsible and the result affordable for all Georgians.

"If they manage to stop or kill good legislation, then they’ll have a free hand to do anything they want,” Chapman says.

Chapman went on the offensive yesterday and slammed the authority for underreporting its revenues and visitor numbers. The authority's critics have repeatedly claimed that the data it uses to show a sharp decline in visitors is misleading, noting that the statistics intentionally omitted season pass holders.

For more information, visit the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island.

(Photo by Greg Lowery)

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William F. Buckley Jr. has died

Posted By on Wed, Feb 27, 2008 at 7:21 PM

One of the key figures in the rise of the conservative movement in the United States has died.

When I was a bored child, deprived of cable television by my cruel, cruel parents, I loved watching William F. Buckley Jr. on "Firing Line." It aired on PBS -- the same PBS that Buckley's political allies have been trying to destroy for the past quarter century. Ha!

I don't think I had a concept of what conservative or liberal meant (I think I was 7 or 8 when I watched the show regularly), but I was a big fan of his mannerisms. Basically, I thought he was cool.

Now that I'm an adult (legally, at least), I disagree with most of Buckley's political views, but admire that he created a forum where smart people could debate without shouting.

I love arguing. I hate shouting.

Here's Buckley debating Noam Chomsky on "Firing Line" in 1969.

Part one:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://youtube.com/v/VYlMEVTa-PI" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Part two:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://youtube.com/v/R9Samvw6Z08" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

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EPD's Carol Couch, DOT's Mike Evans and Wal-Mart in Forsyth

Posted By on Wed, Feb 27, 2008 at 3:51 PM

Dale Russell of Fox 5 Atlanta reports that Carol Couch, director of the state Environmental Protection Division, may have engaged in a little favor dishing for Mike Evans, the state Department of Transportation board chairman.

Evans and some of his developer buddies had a proposed Wal-Mart project in Forsyth County. A stream ran through the land. With time running out on the development group's contract with the big-box retailer, going through the EPD's permitting process to build on it -- you know, doing the right thing -- would've been too time-consuming, they thought. So, according to the documents Russell obtained, Carol Couch -- after a little prodding from U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., and Sen. Judson Hill, R-Marietta -- overrides the variance and gives 'em a pass. What ensues is confrontation journalism at some of its most awkward and delicious, although sadly there are no middle fingers or hands over lenses here.

Check it out. I'd heard that Russell had been holding this report until after the DOT election. I'm glad it's out now. It's a sad, sad state of affairs when the person looking out for the environmental well-being of the state has to be concerned with politicians' business interests as well.

Oh, and the Wal-Mart planned for the site? Never built.

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Connect Atlanta Plan workshops to begin in SW Atlanta

Posted By on Wed, Feb 27, 2008 at 2:00 PM

From planners for the Connect Atlanta Plan, the city's first-ever comprehensive transportation plan.

The Connect Atlanta Plan is a yearlong planning process to develop the City’s first citywide transportation plan. These interactive sessions are designed for you to drop by at your convenience and work with us on

specific transportation challenges in your area. While the public can come anytime during the day, each multi-day workshop will have an introductory and final meeting in order to introduce you to the plan and workshop and then to present the work accomplished during the week. Your input is critical to this effort; please join us in your neighborhood!

Southwest - February 25-28 (NPUs H, I, Q, P, R)

Location: Adamsville Recreation Center - 3201 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, SW

Kickoff: Monday, February 25th at 6:30pm

Recap: Thursday, February 28th at 6:30pm

Workshops: Open Monday through Thursday from 10:00am to 8:00pm

Directions: MARTA Bus #73 (Fulton Ind/Purdue) from Hamilton E. Holmes Station on west MARTA line

Parking: Available in front of building

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Chattanooga mayor to give Georgia water

Posted By on Wed, Feb 27, 2008 at 12:54 AM

Kind of.

Mayor Ron Littlefield of Chattanooga is sending down one of his aides -- wearing a coonskin cap, of course -- with a truckload of bottled water to the Georgia Capitol Wednesday. He's also declared Feb. 28, 2008 as "Give Our Georgia Friends a Drink Day."

Click here for more info.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Spielberg, China, genocide, and Mia Farrow

Posted By on Tue, Feb 26, 2008 at 11:32 PM

I need to start eating more cod liver oil or ginseng. My memory is deteriorating.

I heard two weeks ago that Steven Spielberg quit his gig as artistic muckety-muck for the 2008 Beijing Olympics to protest China's support for the Sudanese government's genocidal killings in Darfur.

But only ten minutes ago did I remember I wrote last year about how Spielberg didn't seem to have any problem with China's actions until actress Mia Farrow publicly shamed him.

Wrote Farrow in a Wall Street Journal op-ed:

"Does Mr. Spielberg really want to go down in history as the Leni Riefenstahl of the Beijing Games?"

Nearly one year since Farrow publicly asked the question, Spielberg has finally answered no.

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