Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Cost of City Life

On the eve of an election in my city, I decided to review how changes over the past ten years have impacted me personally.

City property taxes on my residence = $629.28
Appraised value = $262,200
Number of City Police Officers = 33
Annual cost of trash collection = $159.00
Active transportation projects = $30,000
[city street resurfacing through LARP funding]

City property taxes on my residence = $462.24 [down 27%]
Appraised value = $344,100 [up 31%]
Number of City Police Officers = 50 [up 50%]
Annual cost of trash collection = $0.00 [down 100%]
Active transportation projects = $70+ million [up 2,333%]
[U.S. 78 safety project, 78/124 intersection, SPLOST, Signature Community $, LARP, ATMS signalization, sidewalks, McGee intersection, turn lanes, and more]

Additional City benefits now available:
New City Hall
New Senior Center [12,000 visitors a year]
New Recycling Center
New Oak Road Park
New Police Services
[Citizen's Academy, K-9 Unit, Commercial Vehicle Unit, Bike Patrols]

Awards recognizing our City's progress over the past ten years:
Park Department of the Year
Tree City USA [several years running]
Signature Community [statewide recognition]
Numerous Awards for our Police Department [Governor's Office of Highway Safety and others]

I know I'm being selfish, but I like spending 42% less to live in the City while enjoying a huge increase in services. I sincerely appreciate the work our Mayor, Jerry Oberholtzer, and the City staff have done to generate these results and I very much would like to see this trend continue.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Orlando Republican Presidential Debate

McCain had the line of the night commenting on a proposed Woodstock museum. He said (paraphrased), "I'm sure it was the cultural and pharmaceutical event of a generation, I didn't attend as I was tied up at the time . . .(laughter, applause, standing ovation).

Nice job John. McCain is unquestionably a national hero and this debate was an excellent event for him and perhaps a great opportunity to begin transitioning out of the Presidential race.

Huckabee hit on a solution I've proposed (jokingly) for several years to address the nations ever increasing entitlement programs, traffic congestion, rising health care costs, and high unemployment. He reminded the nation that when Social Security originated, benefits were paid at age 65 and typically stopped about age 67. Our increasing life expectancy has consequences impacting many areas of our economy and it's time to focus on addressing the impact of longevity. Huckabee may be an good choice as V.P. in November.

Romney was average - again. He certainly looks Presidential, but he's so stiff and scripted rather speaking from conviction and passion. The Presidency is much more than a business negotiation. Back to the Board Room Mitt.

Thompson disappoints for second time in a row. I expected a seasoned actor and attorney to excel in televised debates. Thompson has fumbled his answers, frequently looks down when responding rather than at the questioner, and demonstrates no depth of knowledge or command of the issues discussed.

Giuliani remains a solid debater and plays well on TV. He surprised many with solid answers on foreign policy - an area his opponents expect is his weakness. His answers are clear and easily understandable - no nukes in Iran for example.

Asked how to measure success of military efforts Giuliani alluded to the standard of Reagan, "we win, they lose". He also demonstrated a keen understanding of foreign policy and the relationships between nations when he suggested that China and Russia, to preserve their economic interest in Iran, may support the United States efforts to prohibit Iran's nuclear capabilities.

Final ranking of top tier candidates for this debate: McCain, Giuliani, Huckabee, Romney, Thompson.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ministry misstatements

It happens across all faiths - none are exempt. Members of a particular faith-based organization stray into politics for political purposes in support of their own ministry. It is happening now in my hometown on two issues with two groups.

The first is on the issue of Sunday sales of alcohol and a prominent, conservative protestant church is opposed. No surprise there. I'd very much expect this active, valuable, and important member of our community to voice their opposition - as they did with a letter.

What I didn't expect and what is less than consistent with their professed teaching is that this church included in the letter a statement critical of other members of the community that happen to also be members of the church.

We have, within our community, an organization charged with downtown development and business building activities. This is a quasi-governmental authority composed of business people with an interest in the downtown area. Two members of this authority are also members of the aforementioned church. The authority issued a letter, consistent with their mission, in support of alcohol sales.

When the church responded, they went beyond their opposition to alcohol to call out, though not by name, these two members of their own congregation to say they did not speak for the church. Of course they didn't, they wrote under a different banner. There was simply no need for the church to go beyond their opposition to the issue and bring negative attention among the congregation focused on two members.

The second involves a faith-based food ministry. In years past, this food ministry was supported by local churches. By coincidence, the church mentioned in the first example also provided operating space for the food co-op for some time. For various reasons, the church was unable to continue providing that space and the food ministry was forced to relocate.

The food co-op approached another local church for support. This church was in the midst of a real estate transaction with the city and had space available, but for a limited time. The church discussed with the city the relocation of the co-op ministry and the new space was provided for the food ministry to continue their operations.

Some time later, the church and the city concluded the real estate transaction and the food ministry became a tenant of the city until such time as the agreement reached with the church expired. Upon expiration, as had been contemplated from the outset with full knowledge of all parties, the city took possession of the building and the food ministry was forced to relocate yet again.

The food ministry is another wonderful, positive, and valuable organization within our community and everything appeared straight forward and understandable until the co-op decided to use public pressure and the media in an attempt to gain ongoing financial support from the city. The food ministry has been critical of the city - suggesting they're being forced out of the community [a day they knew would come years ago]. The food ministry approached our Mayor and Council recently at a public meeting requesting city funding to replenish reserves depleted because of the cost of relocating as if that cost was a responsibility of the city's.

The city has supported and made accommodations to benefit the food ministry through various means for many years - some perhaps that the co-op is even unaware of. It is disappointing that another positive, faith-based organization would resort to less than positive means to meet their needs.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Off to Dallas, Texas

I'll be spending the next three days just north of Dallas in Collin County, Texas. The trip is one organized by the Gwinnett Chamber titled a "Strategic Leadership Visit". I attended a similar trip some time ago to Fairfax, Virginia.

The purpose is to take a group from Gwinnett County involved in business, government, education, the arts, medicine, and other disciplines to an area with similar challenges to investigate what they may be doing differently than Gwinnett. The Fairfax trip was eye opening. We get many things right here in Gwinnett, we have room to improve in areas as well.

The Texas trip looks to be of similar value. Collin County is rapidly growing, faces demographic and transportation issues similar to Gwinnett.

One of the most important aspects of trips such as this, however, is the strengthening of local bonds and the ability to share details of various local initiatives with others active in the community. The result is improved partnerships, expanded support for local projects, and an improved understanding of the challenges we face in Gwinnett. It appears about 54 are going on the trip - ought to be interesting.