Political RoundUp: December 2006
Do fence me in: When President George W. Bush finally signed a bill authorizing the construction of a fortified fence along 700 miles of the U.S.-Mexican border, several Georgia congressmen were cheering him on. “I’ve been to the border and our border patrol agents are doing all they can, but they need the full backing of the federal government,” said Rep. Tom Price, a Roswell Republican. Sen. Johnny Isakson was another big booster of the border fence. The cheers may have been in vain, however. The bill Bush signed into law does not contain actual funding to pay for the fence and there are no estimates available of what the total cost of the project would be.
The lessons of office: Cathy Cox served as the state’s chief elections officer during her eight years as secretary of state, so what better person would there be to teach election law to aspiring attorneys? That’s what University of Georgia law school officials thought, too – they’ve hired Cox to spend a semester teaching election law and a course in law and politics. The pay is also nice – she’ll receive $80,000 for her work as a Carl E. Sanders Leadership Scholar. Past Sanders Scholars include Max Cleland and former state Supreme Court Justice George T. Smith.
Brown is down: Savannah State University President Carlton E. Brown is stepping down as president at the end of the year, but he won’t be leaving the University System. He’s transitioning to a staff position where he’ll coordinate system-wide projects for Chancellor Erroll Davis.
Sad day for DeKalb: Former state senator and longtime DeKalb County tax commissioner Tom Scott, who was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this year, died recently. He was a genial man who loved to tell political stories and, by the way, was in charge of a very well-run tax department.
A dubious honor: Cynthia McKinney will be leaving Congress in January, but she did manage to pick up one last bit of recognition before moving on. Radar magazine named her one of “America’s Dumbest Congressmen,” a distinction that not many people strive for. “With her famously bad hair and even worse manners, Cynthia McKinney has long cut a slightly ridiculous figure on Capitol Hill,” the publication noted. “But this year she went to new extremes.”
Democracy awards: Five legislators have been given “Defender of Democracy” awards for their support of measures that would add “paper trail” auditing backups and other security features to electronic voting machines. They are: Sen. David Shafer (R-Duluth), Rep. Harry Geisinger (R-Roswell), Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates), Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield (D-Decatur) and Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta).
Breaking ground: Gov. Sonny Perdue and Kia Automotive officials held a groundbreaking ceremony for the Kia auto assembly plant in West Point; but, unfortunately, a few days after that Ford Motor Co. closed the doors on its assembly plant in Hapeville after it rolled out the last Taurus. (Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy snagged it for his auto collection). The General Motors plant in Doraville is scheduled to shut down in 2008 or sooner. The jobs lost from those closings are about equal in number to the jobs expected from the Kia plant.
A sure thing: One thing you could never accuse state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine of lacking is self-confidence. In the middle of running for a fourth term in office, Oxendine left the country for 10 days in October to attend an insurance regulatory conference in Beijing. He did make it back in time for a TV debate with his Democratic challenger Guy Drexinger and won re-election handily when voters went to the polls in November.
Back on board: Community Health Commissioner Rhonda Medows has reactivated the Minority Health Advisory Council (MHAC) by appointing 12 new members to the panel that will work with the Department of Community Health on health care disparities affecting minority groups.
Growing GSU: Georgia State University President Carl Patton has proudly broken ground for a major addition to the university’s downtown campus, a $142 million science teaching laboratory and science research laboratory. The two buildings will be constructed on the site of the old Atlanta police department headquarters near the Twin Towers office complex and will house GSU’s biology, chemistry, computer science, geology, psychology, physics and astronomy, nursing, cardiopulmonary care, nutrition and physical therapy departments.
And in Gwinnett: The newest addition to the state’s University System, Georgia Gwinnett College, has begun construction work on a new academic building that will open next fall and serve as the central facility for academic programs at the Lawrenceville campus. “In 30 years you won’t be able to recognize this same 170 acres of land,” says Gwinnett President Daniel Kaufman.