Last Sat., June 23, I went to an educational event to discuss the upcoming Georgia #TSPLOST vote with of some #TEAParty activists I’ve come to know. #ClaytonCounty has historically been overwhelmingly run by the Democrat Party, and we took the occasion to lament the lack of choice when it comes to real choice in political leadership.
Later that night, I was visited by the head of the County’s Democrat Party, Kevin Thomas, as he went door-to-door to solicit votes from residents who have recently been redrawn to the newly comprised 77th State Assembly District of Georgia. Until now, I had been “represented” by the officeholder in the 75th State Assembly District, but due to the new Census data, the boundaries have shifted, it seems… To his credit, Mr. Thomas was polite, seemed eager to hear my opinions, and despite the high heat and humidity, had committed his time and energy to campaign in a neighborhood largely vacant and apparently ambivalent at best, given the current state of the economy in our area. It seems he’s been the Chairman of the Clayton County Democrat Party for the past six years. He’s also strongly associating himself with Rep. John Lewis of Selma Bridge fame, as well as his credentials as a member of the NAACP. He’s also proud to announce that he’s a delegate to the upcoming Democrat National Convention to nominate Barak Obama to serve a 2nd Term as President of the United States of America. And there he was, standing on my doorstep, sweating profusely in the heat of the early evening 90° heat of a mid-June summer day… What else could I do but offer him some ice water along with the chance to pick my brain, and invite him in to my home?
I was delighted to have had the opportunity to have hosted you for a short time in my home at 6414 Bimini Drive tonight. The fact that you are willing to get out into the neighborhoods of this newly drawn District 77 to solicit votes on a house-to-house basis speaks highly of your willingness to face your potential constituents on a one-on-one level to entertain their questions and concerns in a less public forum. I was impressed by that alone, and found it refreshing in the context of today’s media-driven “retail politics” as you so wryly noted in the course of our broad-ranging discussions.
As you may recall, we touched upon the issue of ILLEGAL Immigration and how you felt about various aspects of the current laws in force in the State of Georgia. We seemed to agree that to a varying degree, this issue has had an impact upon our local communities. To recap what I believe I heard you say to my pointed questions on this subject:
• You indicated that you supported enforcement of Georgia’s current immigration reform measures. While we discussed the plight of minors and young adults who are here because they were essentially “smuggled” here by another family member or custodian, we seemed to come to the mutual understanding that while the State awaits action on the part of the Federal Government to enforce existing laws, there is little that Georgia can do to respond to this growing demographic challenge of this rising underclass of resident non-citizens who are on the one hand, being given economic and political incentives over native-born or law abiding citizens when it comes to employment, education, and social benefits, and on the other are being deprived of the benefits of freedoms enjoyed by other native-born and lawfully naturalized citizens. As a citizen who can trace his ancestry to another group of people who suffered under a second-class status for generations, I’m certain that you understand how important it is going forward, that we don’t allow these “citizens in limbo” to suffer a modern-day tragedy of living in the shadow of the promise of America, only to be denied the full benefit of citizenship simply because they were arrived here through no decision made on their part. Still, we are a nation of laws, and the laws are supposed to prevail over the whims of mankind;
• You seemed to agree with me that you should support any measure on the agenda of the State Legislature that would mandate and any official business contract and official communication, whether written or verbal, should be done in English as the official language. While I didn’t go into detail on the subject, I’d like to follow up and ask you whether you’d also support any legislation that seeks to mandate that in order for any person to hold any official position in a local, county, or state government should be required to also speak and write English fluently. It shouldn’t matter – and in fact would be a great asset – if they also spoke and wrote another language fluently. But the important part would be the primary requirement of English proficiency;
• We also spoke on the upcoming issue of the upcoming TSplost Referendum on July 31st. While I haven’t made up my mind at this point, I hope I’ve helped to give you some differing viewpoints on why the paradigm as being presented gives me cause for concern. It seems to me that the manner in which the “package” is being presented to the voters is much like (former) Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s comments to the effect that “…we have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it…” as she commented on the Affordable Care Act prior to its infamous passage by dubious parliamentary chicanery. The language of the preamble of the TSplost proposition as printed on the ballot is disingenuous in asserting that the citizens of this state would be voting for local transportation projects “to create jobs and reduce traffic congestion with citizen oversight.” Right. As I also commented, it’s equally clear that there is a funding crisis for transportation improvements as well as infrastructure maintenance that most probably won’t be filled by the current system of taxes on traditional hydrocarbon consumption, given changes to fuel efficiency, alternative transportation fuel sources, and an overall decrease in demand for oil (at least in the near future) due to our current economic challenges. Whatever revenue that continues to come in from the state fuel tax will probably continue to be purloined out of the general budget for expenses other than those to which they are supposedly earmarked with the resultant advanced deterioration of much of the 30+ year-old infrastructure such as existing bridges and roads. This scenario would undoubtedly put greater pressure on the resources allocated by the TSplost measure, if approved, to be diverted to essential or critical infrastructure maintenance en lieu of proceeding with proposed expansions or new projects. Even another major economic downturn or catastrophic weather event in the next decade could drastically alter the cost/benefit consideration for the projects already “on the books.” As I hope I demonstrated to you, even in the best of possible scenarios, the Tara Blvd. Major Interchange Project could easily take up to 10 years simply to get the design, zoning, right-of-way issues and other regulatory requirements behind them. More bluntly put, none of the projects that I’ve seen, other than improvements to the MARTA System, are “shovel ready.” That is, few, if any of them, will have groundbreaking occurring in the next few years because of the reasons I’ve cited above. The more that I look at the proposed transportation projects as supplied by TSplost officials, the more I become suspicious that the voters are being asked to buy the proverbial pig in the poke. The only way I can explain it to you in how it compares to one of a family’s biggest investments in life – a home mortgage. The “normal” financial commitment on a home mortgage is 30 years. Some families are able to change that duration to less than 30 years, but for the most part, a 30-year mortgage is the standard. Why, then, is the state only willing to commit to a 10-year window for these major infrastructure projects? There’s something about the remaining 20 or so years down the road that they don’t seem willing to discuss in terms of the SPlost. How much will it cost your kids in 15 or 20 years to drive or ride on the highways and byways that are being committed by this referendum? And presumably the Georgia Dept. of Transportation will continue to get funding of $1 Billion plus per year? Something just seems to be failing the “smell test.”
•The other “hot button” issue that’s currently on my personal watch lists is that of maintaining accurate and up-to-date voting lists on all levels of government. As you are well aware, the issue of Georgia’s Voter Identification Laws have been part of an ongoing controversy over the past 6 years or so. GIven your personal role as the Chairman of Clayton County’s Democrat Party, you certainly have detailed knowledge of the various machinations that have occurred in various legal venues as your party has repeatedly sought to have the State’s Requirements for Voter Identification overturned. Indeed, your political mentor, Congressman John Lewis, went on the record on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on 11/3/2011 to declare the law in question to be “…a disgrace…” Former Governor Roy Barnes personally (unsuccessfully) represented plaintiffs seeking to have these laws overturned in front of the Georgia Supreme Court over the past few years. Georgia’s State Chapter of the Association for the Advancement of Colored People (GAACP) has gone on record to oppose the various aspects of Georgia’s Voter ID requirements. Given that you have been a leading member of Clayton County’s Democrat Party, and seeking a position to represent the newly-drawn 77th District in the State Assembly, and given your clear ties to both the State Democrat Party with Roy Barnes as its figurehead, and given that you closely identify your political ambitions with Congressman John Lewis, what is your view toward the current requirements on the books for the State of Georgia mandating picture ID for all voters? Do you support the current regulations in place for voters? If you do, are you willing to state that for the record? If not, what are your specific reasons for opposing these requirements? What steps or processes would you put in place to ensure the integrity of the “one person, one vote” concept here in Georgia?
I understand that there are many other issues facing the voters of Georgia’s 77th State Assembly District besides those that I’ve touched upon above. Notwithstanding, I look forward to hearing what you have to say in response to these questions, even as other issues get discussed.
Thank you for taking the time, and making the commitment, to seek to fill the office of State Representative for the 77th District here in Georgia. I’m sure it took a great deal of deliberation and advice on the part of your family. As the campaign unfolds, I wish you the best of luck in your endeavor as I await a response to my concerns.