|| 11:55:45 PMScandal Skandalakis
Mitch Skandalakis (what an appropriate last name), former Chair of the Fulton County Commission, will plead guilty today of what is almost sure to be charges related to accepting bribes during his term in office. This is, of course, three years after the fact. His administrative right hand man, Josh Kenyon, has already been indicted.
Does this mean that Bill Campbell can't be far behind? I suspect that Bill is shaking in his boots down in Florida over his hideous shenanigans as Mayor of Atlanta. Bill's a clever, underhanded SOB, so the investigators have their work cut out for them, but his time will come.
|| 12:13:14 PMShirley Franklin in Contempt of Court?
Today is the day that the City of Atlanta must inform the EPA and a federal judge which deadlines the City will be unable to comply with in accordance with the consent decree to repair our sewer systems. The Department of Watershed Management advised the EPA of our inability to comply two weeks ago (you can read that notification here
, and I commented on it here
), and now the EPA wants specific deadlines that will be missed.
You can expect Shirley Franklin and her minions to make a grand deal over this notification, although her Watershed Management Department (a fox in the henhouse if there ever was one), says the response won't be ready until the close of business today.
It's really difficult NOT to like Shirley Franklin. She's inherited a raw deal and has until now done a pretty favorable job in running this city. And, she's just so likeable. But, in this case, it is not her lack of leadership that is the problem... it's her absolute refusal to consider any alternatives other than the one her fat cat aides have convinced her to propose. Like a child in the sandbox, Shirley is crying to have it her way.
Shirley & Company will tell the EPA that the City Council are a bunch of irresponsible slugs who couldn't give a damn about the retributions from the feds. Truth is that the rate increase passed in the wee hours of the morning on December 2 does
provide enough income to BEGIN
the necessary repairs. Yes, there may be a need for further increases down the line, but we should cross that bridge when we come to it. So, it is Shirley's VETO, not the Council vote, which will lead to us missing the initial deadlines in January 2004. The Council expressed their willingness to consider additional hikes down the road if necessary to comply. But, the Mayor wanted her way or the highway.
In a city known far and wide for its cronyism and back room deals, there just seems to be something suspicious about Shirley's lack of flexibility. Some people have said to me that it may be that Shirley & Co. have done their homework, crossed every 'T' and dotted every 'I', and know what they're up against. I wouldn't make that assumption so quickly. Some members of the City Council went to the Fulton County Commission and essentially said, "We don't trust our Mayor or our Department heads. Will you help us with your engineers study this thing?"
The County Commissioners then put together a "business plan" for fixing Atlanta's sewers, which resembles a phone book, complete with alternatives, charts, financial projections, etc. Ms. Franklin's plan, on the other hand, totaled 8 pages laying out in vague terms her approach to the problem. Her administration has provided vague answers and asked for forgiveness on some very key points of the plan. Something smells fishy about this, and it ain't the sewers.
Shirley also continues to shout out the price tag of compliance at $3.2 Billion. In reality, the cost of actual compliance will be about $2.14 Billion. But, hey, what's a billion bucks when you're talking about taxpayer/ratepayer money? The other $1.04 Billion is "optional."
The federal judge in this case has hinted that he may charge city officials with contempt of court. That contempt rests solely with Shirley Franklin and the Department of Watershed Management, not with our City Council. There are plenty of reasons to think the Council is filled with a bunch of buffoons, but this is not one of them.
In the meantime, City Council President Cathy Woolard has called a peacekeeping meeting between the Mayor and the City Council this Friday. Damn, what I would give to be a fly on the wall in that meeting! Should be a chilling encounter.
The folks at City Hall now say that the answer will be delivered to the feds by midnight tonight. That would give the impression that they are busily working on crafting just the right message to put the City in the best possible position with the federal judge. I would suggest, rather, that the City continues to be unorganized and unable to meet deadlines in a professional manner.
|| 10:49:03 PMUp in Smoke in Gwinnett
The Gwinnett County commissioners passed a ban on smoking in public places including bars and restaurants. Although I have no love for people who smoke and force their nasty habit on me in public places, this is no place for government involvement. Instead, let the free market determine what is best for each business. In Atlanta, where no smoking ban exists, some businesses have found a niche for themselves by going smoke-free on their own.
The commissioners supporting this measure (all but one) will tell you that it's a matter of public health. Is it only a matter of time, then, before they ban fried foods, salt and other things that are bad for us?
The Atlanta bar owners predicted that with earlier bar closings in Atlanta people will head for the 'burbs to continue their late night drinking. Will this keep them from fleeing for Gwinnett in droves?
None of the doom and gloom that was predicted when New York enacted their smoking ban has actually come to pass. I just think there is no place for Government to be telling us how to live our lives.
There is currently a similar measure being held in committee with the Atlanta City Council. Stay tuned.