Archive for the ‘Local’ Category

Why T-SPLOST is a Terrible Idea

Posted: July 26, 2012 by davishipps in Local, State

Over the past few weeks on the show, Ren has discussed the T-SPLOST referendum on the upcoming July 31st ballot in great detail. To state it simply: the proposed Transportation – Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax is a terrible idea.

I don’t see how this can be better illustrated than by the fact that, in the Atlanta area at least, the Atlanta Regional Commission has admitted that with the proposed projects “the average commute time really doesn’t change a lot.” Compound that with the fact that the Georgia DOT has had 4 straight years of “scathing” audit reports regarding woeful mismanagement of their existing funds, and you come to the laughable-if-it-wasn’t-so-tragic conclusion that we’re being asked to vote ourselves a tax increase so that incompetent bureaucrats can spend our money on traffic projects that won’t solve our traffic problems. Or, for the same results, we might all just get together and start a big bonfire with our money.

I’ve seen several videos describing why the projects for Atlanta are foolish in the extreme, and I’ll link to a few of those below. Some of these videos, however, seem to think that the biggest problem of the T-SPLOST is with the project list, and that we should vote No this year so that the politicians and bureaucrats will come back with a better list next year. That is not the biggest problem with the T-SPLOST.

The biggest problem with the T-SPLOST is that it taxes all of us by increasing the price of everything we buy. This at a time when prices are already rising due to the sagging economy, when Georgia has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, and thus when Georgians can least afford a tax increase. If there can ever be a good time to raise taxes across the board, surely this is not that time.

The proponents say it’s not much of an increase, just a penny. But, as Ren has pointed out, it’s not just a penny. It’s a penny on every single dollar you spend. It’s an increase of 14% over the existing sales tax in our region, and it affects absolutely everyone, whether they can afford it or not. You are taxed whether you are rich or poor, whether you will ever make use of these projects or not.

In summary, Georgia voters are being asked to hand over more of their hard-earned money to politicians and unelected bureaucrats who have badly mismanaged the state’s transportation systems for years, and these officials are, in effect, promising to take our money and, in return, not fix the problems to any noticeable degree. Is it any wonder they’re having to spend so much on advertising to sell this thing?

Please vote NO on the T-SPLOST referendum. Surely you can think of better ways to spend your money.

Videos:

Don’t Be Fooled by BIG Money

Atlanta vs. Other Cities

Express Bus vs. Light Rail

If You Don’t Understand What You’re Voting For…

Posted: November 5, 2011 by davishipps in Local

I’ve often heard Ren say that if you don’t understand what you’re voting for, vote No. This is usually in the context of a ballot initiative posed as a question to the voters. This Tuesday, the voters of Barrow County will be asked to vote on the following “Special Election Referendum: Local Act” which will alter the Barrow County Charter and result in a significant change to the government of the county:

“Shall the Act be approved which provides for appointment of a county manager for Barrow County; for a part-time chairperson of the Board of Commissioners of Barrow County, with a reduction in pay; and for meetings, voting, and quorum of the board?”

The reporting on this proposed change in the Barrow Journal has been highly favorable, including this editorial by Mike Buffington, one of the Journal’s publishers. Last week, there was a story about State Senator Frank Ginn and State Representative Terry England both being in favor of the change. Ren will be interviewing Senator Ginn on the show tomorrow to further discuss and clarify his position on this and other issues.

This week former BOC Chairman Don Holliday was interviewed as being in favor of the change as well. Mr. Holliday mentioned that he and other past chairmen had help from county administrators to handle day-to-day operations, and that today’s Barrow County government is larger and more complex than ever before. Indeed, Mr. Holliday is the 2nd commenter on the online version of the editorial linked above, making largely the same points.

On the other hand, Mr. Buffington’s editorial seems a bit contradictory. After initial claims that the proposal to change the government largely “stems from the controversies that have come from current BOC chairman Danny Yearwood,” he later admits that the government’s problems may be leftover from the previous chairman, Doug Garrison. Mr. Garrison had hired a county administrator who “got caught up in the glories of the job, hired too many people too fast and raised local government salaries to inane levels. Many of today’s problems, in fact, stem from that hubris of government largess and the lack of BOC oversight.” So, the “strong chairman” form of government is a problem, but the wrong county manager could be far, far worse.

In the print edition of last week’s Journal, a letter to the editor by Frank Clark (bizarrely entitled “Raise My Taxes Please” despite his being against the proposal) discusses the fact that the potential cost of a full-time County Manager would likely be significantly greater than the $135K+ upper limit of the proposed salary. His information seems to be coming from a discussion of the proposal at a recent BOC meeting. I’ve seen no real coverage of the potential costs beyond the salary range and the pay cut to the BOC Chairman.

It may well be that Barrow County should have a full-time County Manager or Administrator to handle its day-to-day operations. Certainly arguments in support of the idea have been compelling. I’m very interested to hear what Senator Ginn has to say in its favor on the show tomorrow. However, without the public having a real idea of the costs involved, and without a clear understanding of how the Manager would be held accountable to the people, I’ll be voting No on the proposal and recommending the same to those within my limited sphere of influence.

Congressman Rob Woodall held a town hall meeting to a packed room at the Barrow County Administrative Annex Monday night from 7-8PM. Below are my thoughts and reactions:

  • The turnout was amazing. Every seat was filled, people were standing all along the back wall, all along the side wall closest to the doors, and there were even some folks standing just outside the doors.
  • The assembly was also much more diverse than I’ve witnessed at previous town hall meetings, both physically and ideologically, so that it really did feel like the community was well-represented.
  • I appreciate that the Congressman remains courteous and civil, even when his constituents do not pay him they same courtesy. There were some folks who insulted the man to his face, and the Congressman let them know that he was offended, but he did so politely, and encouraged them to research his record on voting and his finances before insulting him again.
  • Congressman Woodall strikes me as more of a political science teacher than a politician, patiently explaining his reasons for voting the way he has. I appreciate that he has plausible reasons that aren’t laden with sound bites or political jargon. For example, he explained that he’d voted No on all of this year’s Debt Ceiling Increase bills until this last one, when he believed that the opportunity to require the Senate to vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment within the next 3 months trumped his normal reservations about endorsing continued federal spending.
  • The meetings themselves are always tense, and Monday night’s was no exception. This is the people’s chance to speak with their Congressman, and the people of Barrow County vary in their opinions of his performance and philosophy. The emotions ranged from praise to disappointment to frustration and anger, and there were some outbursts where I wondered whether the speaker might not have to be restrained or removed. The Congressman’s calm responses seemed to win out, however. He fielded questions on Social Security, the debt ceiling, foreign trade, and the Federal Reserve System, and he tried to have an educational answer to all of them, though his teachings weren’t always accurate.
  • Overall, I’d say it went as well as the Congressman could have realistically hoped, given his vote on the recent controversial debt-ceiling increase and the variety of opinions represented by the people in attendance.

The Congressman’s final Town Hall meeting of the summer is tonight at 7PM in the Snellville City Hall Community Room.

Last night, Congressman Rob Woodall held a Town Hall meeting at the Barrow County Administrative Annex. I attended the one last night, as well as the one he held back in February. The Congressman conducted both meetings in a similar format, starting with a kind of report on what he’s been doing in Washington and then proceeding to take questions from the constituents. He was polite and courteous, even when the questioner was rude or insulting to him. I appreciate the way he tried to use every answer to teach the attendees a bit about how Congress works and how he reasons out his decisions on voting. In that spirit, I thought I’d do a little teaching in this article, based on some answers that he gave which I believe were erroneous.

He was asked a question about whether the Federal Reserve System was harmful or helpful, and was also asked to keep his answer brief. To that end, he replied that it is harmful. “However,” he said, “the Federal Reserve is charged with two mandates: keeping inflation down, and keeping unemployment down.” He proceeded to say that inflation and unemployment are inversely related, and the Fed, therefore, has to try and strike a balance that grows the economy without causing deflation. The notion of this inverse relationship is based on something called the Phillips Curve. The Phillips Curve is named for British economist A. W. Phillips, who based the inverse relationship purely on what he thought he was witnessing empirically, and not on any form of logical reasoning or sound economic theory. I say, “he thought he was witnessing” because, as is stated in this lengthy article from the mid-1980s, “the curve contradicts economic thought and experience.” The period of years that Phillips plotted happened to show periods of high inflation during times of low unemployment, but a given period of years before the beginning of those plotted would have shown that “the age of the classical gold standard was an age of unprecedented monetary stability together with full employment.” The Phillips Curve was also refuted de facto in the 1970s, when America experienced very high unemployment combined with very high inflation, which came to be known as “stagflation.” So, as it turns out, there is no Phillips Curve; there is no inverse relationship between inflation and unemployment.

Regarding deflation, Congressman Woodall mentioned that workers don’t like to see their wages decrease, but someone in the back immediately piped in about purchasing power being the real issue. So long as prices are falling as fast or faster than wage rates, would anyone object that the dollar amount of their wages was decreasing? For example, if you work for $10/hour now, and a loaf of bread costs $2.50, you can buy 4 loaves of bread for an hour’s worth of work. If a deflation rate of 20% caused your wage rate to drop 20% to $8/hour, and caused the price of bread to drop 20% to $2/loaf, your purchasing power remains the same: you can still buy 4 loaves of bread for an hour’s worth of work. This is, of course, an extremely simplistic example, but it illustrates the point that deflation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This longer article goes into some of the more complex issues involved, but still arrives at the conclusion that deflation can be a healthy thing for the economy.

Again, I greatly appreciate the Congressman’s desire to educate his constituents on the ins and outs of the legislative issues on which he’s voting. I will be emailing him a version of this article, and I sincerely hope it is educational for him. Our district is relying on him to represent us in Congress by making the most informed decisions possible on our behalf.

Our Congressman is Coming to Town

Posted: August 16, 2011 by davishipps in Local, National
Tags: ,

Congressman Rob Woodall will be hosting a series of town hall meetings across the 7th district over the next week and a half (the first one was actually tonight at 7PM in Lawrenceville). Please feel free to come with questions and concerns about his voting record. Congressman Woodall will also be addressing the Barrow County Republican party at their Annual Republican BBQ at the Winder Lions Club this Saturday. The full details on that, as well as their other upcoming events, are on the Barrow County Republican Party’s Events page. Here is the Congressman’s full schedule of remaining town hall meetings:

Saturday, August 20th: 9AM-10AM Walton County Government Building, 303 South Hammond Drive, Suite 330, Monroe, GA 30655
11:30AM-12:30PM Duluth High School, 3737 Brock Road, Duluth, GA 30096
Monday, August 22nd 7PM-8PM Barrow County Administrative Annex, 233 East Broad Street, Winder, GA 30680
Thursday, August 25th 7PM-8PM Snellville City Hall Community Room, Snellville, GA 30078