The new generation of leaders

The Friday Photo

Decatur High School, Decatur, GA

Students walked out or took a knee on Wednesday because #enoughisenough. I stood with them and for them.

And the winners are…..

Current leadership in the Georgia General Assembly never fails to disappoint. This year’s session has been a catalog of hate-baiting legislation against LGBTQ citizens and people of faith (and no faith). Rape victims have been dismissed, and Georgia’s Guns Everywhere mentality threatens campuses across our state.

Creative Loafing Atlanta didn’t wait until the end of the session to announce this year’s Golden Sleaze Awards. If you want to hear keen political analysis of this year’s General Assembly session in Georgia, tune in to GPB’s Political Rewind at 3:00 this afternoon.

 

Legalizing hate in Georgia

It only took three days before the Georgia General Assembly saw a bill filed that, if passed and signed by Governor Deal, will mark us a state that allows discrimination based on religious faith. Filed by Republican Representative Kevin Tanner of Dawsonville, HB756 allows business owners the right to deny services or the selling of goods to a “religious organization” or for a “religious or matrimonial ceremony” if the business owner says the organization or ceremony conflicts with his/her right to exercise their religious freedom.

That means HB756 legalizes discrimination by florists, bakers, bridal shops, caterers, wedding sites, and other businesses connected to the wedding industry, simply because the business owner personally opposes the marriage. That’s legislative code for opposing same-sex marriage.That also means the business owner can do the same if they don’t like the tenants of a religious organization.

In other words, if you don’t worship where I worship, I don’t have to treat you like I would the members of my church when you come into my place of business.

I used the word “church” because HB756 specifies churches for protection under this law. Temples, mosques, and other places of worship are not described at all, just churches. 

HB756 reads, “the term ‘religious organization’ means a church, a religious school, an association or convention of churches, a convention mission agency, or an integrated auxiliary of a church or convention or association of churches…”
Christians go to church, Jews attend synagogues or temples, and Hindus and Muslims worship in temples. Tanner and Hb756 co-sponsors Tom Rice, R-Norcross, Randy Nix, R-LaGrange, and Paul Battles, R-Cartersville, know this, and their choice of words is telling. They want to make sure churchgoers are afforded the right to discriminate.

Speaker of the House David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, is only supporting Tanner’s other bill, HB757, called the “Pastor Protection Bill,” a bill that allows a minister to decline a request to perform a marriage ceremony if it conflicts with his/her beliefs.

Of course there shouldn’t be legislation allowing a person who is licensed by the state to perform legal ceremonies, to deny services to anyone, but this move to “protect” pastors pales in comparison to Tanner’s HB756.

The wedding industry is huge, and state coffers benefit greatly from them. Hotel rooms are booked, gas tanks filled, gifts sent, clothing bought, and bouquets tossed to guests. Legalizing hate in HB756 doesn’t make legal sense or good economic sense.

What was Georgia Power doing at Plant Branch on New Year’s weekend?

Georgia’s coal ash monitoring laws are awfully easy on power companies. The companies get to monitor their heaping piles of coal ash waste piles and ponds themselves.

Thank goodness the Altamaha Riverkeeper (aided by Tonya Bonitatibus, the Savannah Riverkeeper) checked up on the coal ash ponds at Plant Blanch, which abut Lake Sinclair, last weekend.

There was a lot of activity there on Saturday, with large trucks in and out at the ponds and generators buzzing due to the tremendous amount of rain recently.

What was flowing into the lake just didn’t look like normal runoff, so Jen Hilburn, Altamaha Riverkeeper (ARK),  put in a call to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. Hilburn said in a press release, “I am deeply concerned about what sounds like pumping of water into Lake Sinclair.  If this is coming directly from the coal ash ponds into the lake, it could pose a threat to our community on the lake as well as many others who utilize its waters. Georgia Power appears to be delibrately dumping coal ash waste directly into the lake. I am surprised that no-one I spoke with on Lake Sinclair had been notified in anyway by Georgia Power of their activities”

coal ash spill at Kingston, TN, photo from New York Times
coal ash spill at Kingston, TN, photo from New York Times

Coal ash ponds are notorious for leaking, or worse, collapsing, as they did in Kingston, TN on December 22, 2008. That community was flooded with 1.1 billion gallons of coal ash slurry from a TVA coal plant. Coal ash waste also contaminated the Dan River on the Virginia-North Carolina state line in 2014 as a result of nine criminal violations of the Clean Water Act by Duke Energy. 

How risky are the coal ash ponds at Plant Branch?

Since 2010 Plant Branch’s coal ash ponds have been considered “High Hazard” for contamination or failure by the Environmental Protection Agency. Did Georgia Power try to avert a pond breach or overflow by  pumping the coal ash waste into Lake Sinclair? I’m anxious to learn what the EPD says in their findings.

While ARK, and concerned citizens, wait to hear back from the EPD, the Riverkeeper is advising that no fish be consumed from Lake Sinclair until more is known about the safety of the water.

What can Georgians do in the meantime?

Our General Assembly convenes next week. Ask your state legislators NOW to require stricter monitoring of the coal ash waste landfills and ponds that pepper our state. Even though wind and solar are becoming a larger part of our fuel resources, the heavy metals and toxins in coal ash waste are forever. As last weekend demonstrates, shuttering a coal plant like Plant Branch doesn’t solve the problem of safely storing the contaminated waste it has left behind.

Allowing Georgia Power and other coal burning companies in our state to self-monitor their toxic waste isn’t working. The Georgia General Assembly can do something about that beginning next week.

 

Sunday reads

Just some of the news I’ve been catching up on today:

Maggie Lee at the Macon Telegraph  has an article about last Monday’s carbon pollution rules and the shift already underway towards renewal energy sources in Georgia.

Jay Bookman at the Atlanta Journal Constitution points out that the world didn’t come to an end years ago when Atlanta’s air quality was classified as “non-attainment” and the city was required to take action to reduce smog and other problems (the article concludes behind their pay wall).

The AJC is doing a series of articles on climate change and the impacts already seen on Georgia’s coast called “A rising tide of concern.” The articles are behind a pay wall and include this: “David Stooksbury, the former state climatologist, said the unwillingness of leaders to address climate change is dangerous.’I don’t think that most of our elected officials understand the long-term seriousness of what climate change will do to the agricultural economy, public health and the environment,’ Stooksbury said. ‘It will be much cheaper and better for the state if we follow a well-developed plan starting now rather than waiting until we must respond.’ ”

Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources is quoted too, stating, “Last month the wildlife resources division of the Department of Natural Resources issued its State Wildlife Action Plan, or SWAP, which states unequivocally that “climate change presents unprecedented challenges.”

The AJC reports that Governor Nathan Deal had no statement on climate change. Senator David Perdue, who lives in a mansion on one of Georgia’s Barrier Islands, Sea Island, told the AJC, ““the scientific community is not in total agreement about whether mankind has been a contributing factor.”

The rising tides will eventually wash away the sand Perdue and others have their heads buried in on this subject and many others.

 

Gun-toting Confederate flag wavers

A group of white people held a demonstration at Stone Mountain yesterday to support continuing the display of the Confederate flag at the state-owned park. Based on the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s photo gallery, people who think being armed to the teeth in public are hate flag wavers too, or they thought this would be a good place for showing off their weapons. Photos tell the story better than words.

photos from the Atlanta Journal Constitution
photos from the Atlanta Journal Constitution

 

 

Bobby Jindal doesn’t have much of an imagination

The Friday Photo
July 24, 2015

Gringos, Milledgeville, GA
Gringos, Milledgeville, GA

I posted this photo as a Friday Photo on August 29, 2014, almost two months after Georgia’s Open Carry (Guns Everywhere) law, passed by the Georgia General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal, went into effect.

Last night nine innocent people out for a night at the movies in Lafayette, Louisiana, became the victims of a shooting. Two victims died, seven are wounded.

Republican Presidential candidate and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who has signed over 12 bills increasing access to guns and where they can be carried in his state, told the media, “We never imagined this would happen in Louisiana.” Brushing off a reporter’s question about gun control after last night’s shooting rampage and murders, Jindal said the thing to do to do now is pray.

Governor Jindal doesn’t have much of an imagination.

As for prayers? How about praying for reduced access to guns, thorough background checks, removing banning the sale of assault weapons, and serious limits on where guns can be carried?

Two boxes, 8.5 years

The Friday Photo
May 29,2015


We’re downsizing today. These two boxes are filled with documents spanning 8.5 years (and counting) of some of the most difficult, rewarding, and meaningful work I will ever do.

When grandparents are the parents

Last week the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that Gov Nathan Deal said this about Georgia’s families where children are abused, or worse, murdered,“When was the last time the press or anybody else asked the greater family, ‘Why didn’t you do something about this?’ It really galls me, quite frankly, to see an able-bodied grandparent complaining about the fact that DFACS didn’t do something to protect her grandchildren. And my question is, well, where were you?’ ” (DFACS is the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services).

Where were these grandparents? US Census data from 2012 says this about grandparents and their grandchildren:

Number of grandparents living with grandchildren                    265,530
Percent responsible for grandchildren                                                  46.9
Percent of grandparents  raising  grandchildren for 5+ years          38.8
Percent of households with no parent of grandchild present           32.8
Percent of grandparents over 60 years old                                           34.1
Percent living in poverty in 2011                                                             25.2
Number of households with grandparents and grandchildren   171,939
Percent of all households in Georgia                                                        4.9

Grandparents in Georgia who care for their grandchildren are eligible for a whopping $50 per month from the state of Georgia. Have you priced diapers, day care, or children’s books lately? Fifty dollars doesn’t begin to make a dent in the costs of raising a child.

Single grandparent Deborah Paris, who is raising three grandchildren, told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer “Our system will pay a foster care parent to take care of children and supply and do what they need for them,” she said. “But me, as a relative or actually grandparent, you give me little to no assistance. … Our system is just awful.”

We need to address multiple problems concerning the welfare of children in our state. Gov Deal shouldn’t begin by making grandparents the scapegoats where the state has failed.

 

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

The Friday Photo
August 29, 2014

Gringos, Milledgeville, GA
Gringos, Milledgeville, GA

To borrow a slogan from an old toothpaste commercial, “Put your money where your mouth is.” I’m making a real effort to find and support businesses who are willing to post a sign saying guns don’t belong in theirs.

 

Tarbuttons are big funders for Gov Deal

There’s no doubt that money follows power. When your primary measure for the most important appointments is “who has money and who will give it to me” then you have a government like Nathan Deal’s, which is dominated by a few major donors instead of reflecting the diversity of Georgia’s citizens.

Last week the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that, “Three powerful Georgia boards help to bankroll Gov. Nathan Deal.” The three boards reviewed include Washington County’s own Tarbutton family.

As noted by the AJC, Ben Tarbutton, III, often referred to in conversation as Ben III by people in Washington County, currently sits on the Georgia University System Board of Regents .  Ben III is a former Chair of the Board of Regents and was appointed by Gov Deal for a second term in 2013. He will sit on that Board until 2020. The AJC reports that Ben Tarbutton, III has donated $158,100 to Deal’s campaign since 2009.

The AJC quoted Ben III  describing his donations as part of  “modern day politics.”

During Ben III’s first term on the Regent’s Board he was joined by Dean Alford, who holds a no-bid contract to build a coal-fired coal plant in Washington County called Plant Washington.

Alford’s second wife, Debbie Dlugolenski Alford, was appointed to lead the Georgia Lottery in October 2012.  The AJC reported that Ms Alford was the sole finalist for the job. She had no previous experience running a lottery. One Lottery Board member, Frances Rogers, resigned because she thought Gov Deal had interfered in the process for selecting someone to lead the Lottery.

Just a few months after Debbie Alford was appointed to lead the Lottery, Benjamin R Tarbutton (Benjie to folks in Washington County) was appointed to the Georgia Lottery Board. I don’t know if Benjie filled the seat held by Ms Rogers. Benjie is Ben III’s cousin.

Benjie’s father is Hugh Tarbutton, Sr. Hugh Sr. was re-appointed to the Georgia Ports Authority two years ago by Gov Deal. He had served 20 years on the Ports Authority Board but former Gov Sonny Perdue wouldn’t extend his term. Hugh Sr. has donated $157, 200 to Deal’s campaign according to the AJC’s infographic  and he is back on the Ports Authority Board. (Hugh Sr. has a son who is also named Hugh, hence the use of Sr. here.)

It gets even cozier.

The Tarbuttons own Sandersville Railroad, a short-line railroad, that would move hundreds of cars of coal every week to Alford’s proposed Plant Washington, if the plant is ever built. They also own B-H Transfer, a trucking company based in Washington County. The Tarbuttons have a vested interest in transportation, and Georgia’s ports are tied to transportation.

Plant Washington will also require thousands of acres of land. The proposed plant site include large tracts of land owned by Hugh Tarbutton, Sr. A few tracts of Plant Washington land that don’t belong to Hugh Sr. are connected to Washington Timberland, LLC. That LLC is registered to Dean Alford. According to county tax records (Tuesday, August 26, 2014), property taxes due in December 2013 by Dean Alford’s LLC are still unpaid, and are subject to auction next month at the Washington County courthouse.

Oh yeah-Debbie D. Alford’s daughter Sasha Dlugolenski, is Governor Deal’s Press Secretary. A complaint was filed against Sasha Dlugolenski  earlier this summer concerning her Tweeting in support of her boss, Gov Deal.

People may think Atlanta is the center of power in Georgia, but it seems to tilt towards Washington County and the checkbooks of a few campaign donors.

“Guns Everywhere” results in first reported death

The Atlanta Journal Constitution and Raw Story are reporting that a Texas woman visiting Helen, GA was killed by a stray bullet outside a bar over the weekend. According to Raw Story,  53-year-old Glenn Patrick Lampien, from  Jasper, GA was outside the Old Heidelberg bar and restaurant on Helen’s crowded Main Street when he accidentally shot himself.

Police arrived after a call was placed concerning gunshots to discover that a woman across the street had been struck by Lampien’s bullet. She didn’t respond to first aid and was pronounced dead at the scene. Lampien will be charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Georgia’s HB 60, known as Georgia’s “Guns Everywhere” law, went into effect less than two months ago. This bill, which drew strong opposition from law enforcement officials  and ministers, allows guns in public places including bars, government buildings, TSA lines at Atlanta’s Jackson Hartsfield airports, and schools.

Businesses may prohibit guns by posting a sign stating that they do not want guns brought into their establishment. What HB 60 doesn’t do is restrict law enforcement officers from going into an establishment that prohibits guns. HB 60 does stop police officers from asking to see a permit unless a crime is being committed. At that point asking to see a gun license is moot, isn’t it?

I talked with several local businesses I frequent, or used to, about HB 60, and was stunned to find out that they know very little, if anything, about HB 60. Some owner/managers said they thought it fell apart during the session because it was so “crazy.”

“Crazy” is a law now, and a woman from Texas who visited our state is going home in a coffin as a result of Governor Deal and the Georgia General Assembly’s insistence that we need guns everywhere.

 

 

What’s happening to teachers’ health insurance is just TRAGIC

TRAGIC

This was posted on the Teachers Rallying Against Insurance Change (T.R.A.G.I.C.) group page. It is an open group, so if you want to stay current on what the state and Governor Deal are doing to teacher’s health coverage join the group and do your part to protect one of Georgia’s most valuable resources, our public school teachers!
https://www.facebook.com/groups/TRAGIC4GEORGIA/

***ACTION ALERT***
By now, you should have seen the 2015 Rate Comparisons for both the Active and Medicare Advantage plans. While we are pleased the Department of Community Health has offered choices for 2015, these choices are just as unaffordable as last year! The premiums and deductibles are way out of line with state employee and teacher salaries, and mean financial ruin for school support personnel and other state employees.

The newspaper headlines have been mainly positive, telling a very different story than the unaffordable reality that we will be dealing with next year. There are numerous lobbyists and pubic relations people working for the other side, spinning the story and getting their side out. We have only our voice (and our vote!).
We are strong when we speak as one, and it is time to speak up!

Call the Governor’s Office tomorrow and the DCH. Send emails. Contact your Legislators.

Here are some sample questions, but feel free to ask your own!“ Can you explain how I am supposed to afford this insurance and pay up to $28,000 on my salary of $___________?”

“Can you explain why the BCBS Medicare Advantage plan costs 300 – 700% more than it does this year? Why is it so much higher than United Health Care?”

“Why is the United Health Care HMO 25% more than the Blue Cross HMO?

What are members getting for that additional money?”

“Why are the Board of Regents, with fewer employees and a smaller risk pool, able to offer so much better insurance than the State Heath Benefit Plan?”

Office of the Governor: (404) 656-1776
Email the Governor: http://gov.georgia.gov/webform/contact-governor-domestic-form

Call the DCH: (404) 656-4507.
Email the DCH (use both addresses): DCHBoard@dch.ga.gov, creese@dch.ga.gov

Find your Legislators: 
Georgia House of Representatives: http://openstates.org/ga/ 
Georgia Senate: http://www.senate.ga.gov/senators/en-US/FindyourLegislator.aspx

Contact the Governor electronically here.

#weknownathan

Yesterday Nathan Deal’s campaign operatives launched a new slogan complete with t-shirts and bumper stickers, #weknownathan. And yep, the Democrats, with the always keen work of Better Georgia, co-opted it and made it ours. Even the Conservative Peach Pundit scolded the Deal campaign for its utter cluelessness about social media.

A quick search of #weknownathan shows that Deal’s campaign wasn’t even savvy enough to secure the Twitter handle @weknownathan or register the domain weknownathan.com.

#weknownathan but wish we didn’t.  That’s exactly why I am voting @carter4governor in November.

#weknownathan

In the wee hours this morning

A couple of months ago I began posting links to news items on Rural and Progressive’s Facebook page. I was sleepless in the wee hours of the morning so I skimmed the news and found some interesting things that I shared there.

If you are on Facebook please like the page, and share or comment. If you aren’t on Facebook, you can check my Twitter feed @kghcummings I also post there, and the two platforms don’t always overlap.

Here’s what I found at o’dark thirty today:

circular firing squad

you can’t make this stuff up 

Republicans complain to state ethics commission they eviserated 

Bring your library card and your gun

Georgia’s Guns Everywhere law went into effect at 12:01 this morning. A few weeks ago I made some calls to businesses I frequent to find out if they would allow guns beginning today. A coffee shop I really like reacted like I was making a prank call. I doubled back today. They were honest and said they just didn’t know much about it, but would hustle now and get an answer back to me. They serve beer and wine, so they can’t stay on the fence on this one.

Alcohol and guns didn’t mix in Georgia, until now. Guns Everywhere means patrons at any guns and alcoholestablishment serving alcohol can bring a gun in, unless the business posts a sign telling patrons they can’t bring a gun in.

As of midnight last night, the Rosa M Tarbutton Memorial Library, a beautiful library in Washington County used by everyone in the community, will have to allow guns in the building. My county, like many others, can’t afford the additional security staff or detectors required to keep guns out of the building. All the county buildings in my community, with the exception of the courthouse, where they are adding additional staff for security, will have to allow citizens to bring guns inside.

The Georgia General Assembly and Governor Deal think we need more guns in public places but less funding for mental health services and public schools. Do legislators expect them to have a bake sale to cover their costs?

Climate, kidnapping, and GPB

20140507-072428.jpg
This is good Mr President but why not step up and stop Keystone XL now? We won’t get the oil, Americans and First Nations will be forced to give up their private property to a foreign company, spills are sure to happen in our backyards, and all of us will suffer the climate effects of the dirtiest oil in the world. If you truly belief what you are preaching, act now.

20140507-073509.jpg
Why did the world sit on its hands for over two weeks before beginning to address the 300 girls kidnapped for the purpose of being sold as child brides? It is because they are black? Because they are Nigerians? I am holding Hamatsu Abubakar in The Light until she and all her friends are returned safely to their families. Abubakar means “noble.” Bring Back Our Girls

Email-Chip-Rogers-Nathan-Deal
There are two big news items from Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) and we’re only three days into the week. Chip Rogers was fired for violating GPB’s employment policies for much of his stint at the public broadcasting network. While Rogers stated his $150K per year job at GPB, the network hired a radio professional with decades of experience to produce his show. Did Rogers need help with his 30 minute show because he was also busy working as the Vice-President for Government Affairs at the Asian American Hotel Owners Association?

WRAS
Yesterday the Atlanta Business Chronicle announced that Georgia State University’s 100,000 watt, student-run radio station WRAS, will broadcast GPB’s programming from 5 a.m.to 7 p.m. The station’s Album 88 programming has a strong following, but those listeners will have to stream Album 88 during the day until it switches back to over-the-air broadcasting after 7 p.m.

And that’s not all. GPB is switching to a news and information format with programming piped in from National Public Radio, American Public Media, and Public Radio International.  A GPB produced talk show will debut in the fall of this year.

GSU has a license to operate the student programmed station but didn’t involve WRAS management and staff in the decision making process to fundamentally change the programming format. WRAS posted this on its Facebook page,”WRAS management and staff have had no part in the decision made by the university regarding our partnership with GPB. As a completely student-run/managed station, the administration of GSU acted unilaterally in making this decision. A statement from the staff on the matter will be made public soon.”

Enough is enough

The Friday Photo
May 2, 2014

20140502-072805.jpg
I posted this photo on January 25, 2012 after Cobb EMC abandoned Plant Washington and resigned itself to a likely $15M loss on the proposed coal plant it had bankrolled with co-op owner/member dollars.

Almost 6.5 years after it was announced as a “done deal,” Power4Georgians has asked for a permit extension for this because P4G chose to delay construction.

Today is the last day to tell the Georgia EPD that Power4Georgians has had plenty of time.

We’re all living on the same small spinning piece of real estate sharing the limited water and air that has to sustain all of us. Every one of us have skin in this game.

Sign and share this message to the Georgia EPD TODAY and say that after almost 6.5 years, “enough is enough.”

 

And he’s out!

Chip Rogers and Will "The Winner" Rogers In November 2012, Governor Nathan Deal and Gold Dome Republicans found themselves in an embarrassing situation after State Senator Chip Rogers hosted a presentation in the state capitol by an Agenda 21 Conspiracy believer. Rogers boasted he would host more anti-Obama, fact-less meetings for legislators.

Deal strong-armed Georgia Public Broadcasting and created a $150K a year taxpayer-funded job for Rogers where he would produce a weekly radio show on economics and jobs.

Ashley Wilson Pendley, a long-serving staffer, quit not long after Rogers was hired. Five months later Teya Ryan, President of GPB, hired Tonya Ott, a radio veteran with 24 years of experience, to work on Roger’s 30 minute program.

Deal denied creating Roger’s job at GPB, and he hasn’t taken credit for the Republicans wiping out all the funding for Roger’s job in the 2015 budget.

Last Friday reports surfaced that Rogers was cut loose from the state taxpayers’ payroll. Now he’s freed up to focus more attention on the other job he’s held while collecting a state paycheck.

According to news reports, Rogers has been showing up for his job as the Vice-President of Government Affairs for the Asian American Hotel Owners Association “regularly, for ‘one year or more.’ ” Rogers’ bio on the association’s web site makes no mention of working at GPB or his stint as Will “The Winner” Rogers.

Rogers’ former employer GPB is promoting a spring fund drive. When Rogers was appointed to GPB, listener/member donor dollars dropped considerably. I wonder if this announcement is intended to woo the members back who jilted the network a year ago.