Not so. Lobbyists still have better and more frequent access to politicians in state government than We the Unwashed (and the legislation didn’t quell the self-righteous “My vote is not for sale” bromides, uttered by politicians while scarfing hot dogs in a private box at a ballgame.)
Thankfully, the media remains vigilant. Several politicians got their pictures on the front page of the Atlanta newspapers while being entertained by a lizard-loafered lobbyist at the Atlanta Braves' home opener.
State Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens and members of his staff recently were called out for accepting $100-per-head meals and free golf from the Independent Insurance Agents of Georgia, a group they are supposed to regulate. Looks like we have more work to do on lobbying reform. Our intrepid public servants seem to be slow learners.
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In 2005, I was in Iraq covering Georgia’s 48th Brigade Combat Team south of Baghdad in an area known as the Triangle of Death — a dirty, desolate, dangerous, God-forsaken corner of the world. The only good things I saw there were the brave men and women of the 48th BCT and their commanding officer, Gen. Stewart Rodeheaver, from Monroe County.
Fast forward eight years: I am at Jekyll Island addressing the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders and seated in the audience is — you guessed it — Stewart Rodeheaver. He has retired from the Army, moved to Eatonton and has a business called Vizitech USA, a high-tech firm that works with, among others, educational groups. From the pustule of Iraq to the sunshine of the Golden Isles, it is a small world and I am glad to see Rodeheaver safely in it.
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Speaking of Monroe County, Elaine Bunn, who hails from there as well, was recently named deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy in the Department of Defense. I have known Elaine since her days at the University of Georgia, and I am puffed with pride at her achievements. I’m not sure what all her new job entails, but if any nut-head terrorists are reading this, I would suggest you avoid Monroe County.
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Georgia Tech can’t win for losing with me. I told you recently about the magnanimous gesture of Tech’s associate athletic director, Wayne Hogan, to secure an autographed baseball for my friend, Rob Neely, a former Yellow Jacket baseball player undergoing serious surgery.
It was a very busy time for Mr. Hogan but he came through. His reward? A new athletic director has decided to bring in his own crowd, making Hogan the odd man out after seven years at the institution. On top of that, Tech play-by-play man Wes Durham has left to pursue a television sports casting career. To this Bulldog, Durham is the best in the business. With Hogan and Durham gone, Tech returns to its usual spot as my third favorite team: UGA is first; anybody playing Tech is second. Go Dawgs!
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I’ll have more to say on this later, but the Jekyll Island Authority won a pyrrhic victory when Attorney General Sam Olens ruled the authority could count marshland in its calculation of developable land. The issue goes back to an ambiguous 42-year-old law that states only 35 percent of Jekyll Island’s total land area can be used for hotels, golf courses and other developments.
The authority calculates that only 32 percent of the land has been developed, leaving about 108 acres of marshland for potential construction projects. However, Olens told the authority not to do anything until the Legislature considers the matter. Good advice. Expect legislators to get an earful.
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Finally, a reader chided me recently for referring to you-know-who as “President Peanut.” He found my gibes “though no doubt intended as a humorous (albeit childish) metaphor to be insulting to farmers in general, more than to a former president whose record has far more to commend it than his farming background, honorable as I consider that to have been.” What a gooberhead I am. I meant no disrespect to farmers. I was aiming squarely at Jimmy Carter’s revisionist apologists and obviously hit a peanut patch instead. I’ve got to be more careful with those humorous (albeit childish) metaphors in the future. No doubt.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Ga. 31139.