Sine Die and Second Chances

As Sine Die looms in the near distance, the theatrics of politics in Georgia go into overdrive.  The topics of most interest have already been covered on this blog before with education and transportation taking the cake for most often discussed topics.  However, we have been markedly silent on the issue of Religious Freedom.

I have wanted to speak to this issue, but have been hesitant.  It is something that I feel both passionate about as a person of faith and who does not necessarily believe that regulations always aid equality or justice.  Yet I have a uniquely difficult position:  I am genuinely friends with and admire both primary sponsors of the House and Senate versions of the bill and my pastor has openly spoken against both pieces of legislation.   The lead lobbyist for the Faith and Freedom Coalition is also a friend, and I have Georgia Equality as a client.  When I say I am firmly in the middle, it is not an exaggeration.  Most people who know me personally know where I stand on this issue, and therefore my written explanation of my beliefs are probably relatively unnecessary.

However, after sitting in the House Judiciary meeting last Thursday afternoon I thought I would bring a few things to light about some of the proceedings and process, and give a second chance to someone whose courage I deeply admire.  This post isn’t about policy; it’s about punditry and leadership. Continue reading “Sine Die and Second Chances”

Bike Sharing is Coming to Atlanta

I am thrilled that the bike sharing movement has made its way to Atlanta. Being that the south is at best, a sore spot for overall health, I think this movement is an excellent step in a healthier direction. Through this initiative over five hundred bikes will be distributed around the city for shared. I have a few questions though.

  1. Who is paying for this?

This type of program is costly for sure and naturally my first question is… Where is this money coming from? Initially this program was sponsored by the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation and the City of Decatur. In Order for these bikes to hang around, additional sponsorship will be needed which I am sure will not be hard to find. Health conscious foundations and companies would be smart to back this program and it helps to keep costs down for consumers. Not to mention, healthier employees make for a better work place! So far so good.

  1. Is Atlanta a bike friendly city?

I personally do not remember the last time I rode a bike. Nor do I recall seeing a lot of bike lanes in this wonderful city of ours. So while I love the idea of saturating the city with bikes… Where will these go-getters ride?? The good thing is someone else thought this too. Atlantans recently voted to add 12 bike lanes to some major streets that would help create more routes for bikers. This would make cycling safer and people more willing to use them. It would create more opportunities for bikers to get from point a to point b safe and sound. Good job Atlantans.

  1. Do enough people live within biking distance of work/play to utilize this resource?

According to the Bike Share Feasibility Study, in the beginning stages the bikes would be available to about 15% of the Atlanta/ Decatur area. In the specific areas that it would cover, about half of the individuals who live there live within biking distance of their jobs. I’m no expert but this seems like a pretty decent start. I would love to see the culture of our city adjust to a lifestyle that would allow for a quick bike commute to become the norm. Not just because traffic here is horrific but also for the health benefits. It’s a win win.

  1. Are helmets provided?

No. They aren’t. Georgia law does not require individuals over 16 to to wear a helmet. So while people wouldn’t be breaking the law it definitely raises some concerns for me. Helmets keep you from smashing your head against the pavement so despite the fact that they are dubbed “uncool” they are kind of important. Especially if you are biking on a main road. I would hate to see an increase in head injuries because of this but I don’t expect many people to wear helmets if it’s not the law. Perhaps that’s another issue for another post though.

Overall, I think this is a win for Atlanta and a win for health. The potential environmental and traffic benefits were probably enough to convince us all that this is a step in the right direction. It appears that the technology accompanying this movement will make this addition an easy, fun and convenient one. It is very much in the early stages but I am definitely looking forward to sharing bikes with you all! More information is available here.

 

Tweet me your thoughts– @Lbriana12

Priorities and the Transportation Disconnect

Anyone who has followed this legislative session knows there’s lots of talk about Georgia’s transportation. Forget the gridlock, congestion, and lack of transit options in our most populous regions, we’re struggling just to keep the roads paved and the bridges useable. I’m not going to delve into the details, but if you need the back-story I’d suggest checking out the transportation section of PolicyBEST.org, they’re eyeball deep in this issue.

Now, I’d love to agree with the idea that rhetoric and posturing are enough to solve our transportation issues, especially since our legislators are so skilled in those disciplines, however, the roads won’t be paved with the speeches by our lawmakers. If we are to trust what our legislators say, then their words must be reflected in their actions. Today’s Senate proceedings provided a rather stark display of how those reflections get distorted. Here’s what passed out of the Senate today:

The budget (with regards to transportation):

  • The “fourth penny” from motor fuel taxes goes into the general fund (not to the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT))
  • New debt proposed to pay for additional budgetary needs.
  • Service current GDOT Debt.

Senate substitute for HB 170:

  • New “user” fees
  • Converts the motor fuel sales tax to an excise tax (note the first bullet from the budget…these two things cannot coexist)

Therein lies the problem, the budget and the transportation bill don’t account for each other. The budget spends money from the general fund that will go away if a transportation bill restructuring the motor fuel tax is passed. Moreover, we spend tax dollars to service current debt, and the Senate’s solution is to add debt?!? To that point, take a quick look at this chart, it is the recommendation for next year’s GDOT budget (paying special attention to the 14% in the 2 o’clock area):

pieChartFY16

Y’all…maybe I’m missing something, but it seems like this is a classic case of wanting to have the cake and eating it too. Either funding GDOT at a high enough threshold to maintain our infrastructure is a priority or it isn’t. Seems to me, with what the Senate passed today, that it isn’t.

Don’t increase the debt liability of the department charged with maintaining our roads when the current debt load is already an issue.

Don’t spend the “fourth penny” on the justice, education, or medical systems if the intent is for those dollars to go to the roads.

And don’t tell me that you believe we have a transportation crisis if GDOT is, at best, fourth on your priority list.

Dear Legislature:  You need to get right with Jesus, and the conference committee is the perfect time to do it.

First & Foremost

Hello everyone! I am Lindsay! (with an ‘A’ not an ‘E’)  but I will also answer to Linds. Before I get started blogging about new bills, my political heroes & news worthy updates, I would like to introduce myself! I am a Georgia College & State University public health graduate. I have lived all over the South but consider Georgia home. I am super passionate about education, women’s rights and health issues. I live and breathe everything non-profit and have had the pleasure of working for a few thus far.  I believe everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I am open to hearing all sides of an argument. I love to read. I could watch Ted Talks all day and I am always up for a good debate. The world is ever changing and I am just trying to keep up. I look forward to sharing my thoughts on our incredible country and state & hearing yours as well!

 

Cheers!

Stalk me on twitter: @Lbriana12

 

International Women’s Day: A Template For Future Success?

WIT imageYesterday was International Women’s Day.  It’s a day where we celebrate Madame Curie, recognize women’s accomplishments and struggles across the globe, and pat ourselves on the back for “coming so far”.  But what if we didn’t?  What if we looked at the situation of women, not as a retrospective, but as a projection?  How would our worlds collide if we conceptualized women were the next leaders in business?  In politics? Georgia was named last year as the number one state for fastest growing women owned businesses.  Unmarried women also make up the largest voting bloc in not only the state, but in the nation.  According to MassMutual Financial Group, senior women age 50 and older control net worth of $19 trillion and own more than three-fourths of the nation’s financial wealth.

If women are owning more businesses, have more wealth, and hold more votes, wouldn’t it make sense to consider their interests when making our states’ economic and business plans?  I ask this in response to a couple of articles and propose that Georgia, if wisely positioned, could be set to be bold in business, make leaps for women, and all while not having to acquiesce the tax revenue normally sacrificed on the altar of attracting economic development.  Continue reading “International Women’s Day: A Template For Future Success?”

Why I Declined the President’s Invitation

Saturday mornings are my time to surf the internet and catch up on my online reading and guilty pleasures. To mitigate the “guilty” part, I make a point of checking my work email, too. Imagine my surprise and delight when I opened my Outlook email to find an invitation from a government staffer in Washington, D.C., stating “On behalf of the White House, it is my pleasure to extend an invitation to the President’s remarks at the Georgia Institute of Technology this coming Tuesday.”

I am a committed Democrat (although I don’t vote straight tickets) that voted for President Obama twice and support him loyally. (Full disclosure: I also support Georgia’s Republican governor and lieutenant governor.) I am equally supportive of his Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. Receiving this invitation is literally a dream come true for me. However, I respectfully declined and am sending one of my Executive Cabinet officers as my designee instead.

My friends that are fellow political junkies are no doubt scratching their heads reading this and saying “Wait…what?” There is only one thing, other than a family emergency, that could prevent me from accepting this invitation and showing up Tuesday morning at McCamish Pavilion with bells and blue ribbons on. It’s the single most important responsibility, after ensuring the safety of students and staff, of any school superintendent.

I made a commitment to visit our campus in Savannah next week and observe our Program Coordinator, who is also our math teacher in that center, using the Teacher Keys Effectiveness System observation tool. I will also be visiting our paraprofessional staff and the literacy teacher. The responsibility to supervise and evaluate instructional staff thoughtfully and effectively is the most important of any burden borne by any instructional administrator. In districts where student performance improves and teacher satisfaction and retention are the highest, the superintendent of schools takes personal responsibility for monitoring the quality, timeliness, and effectiveness of teacher supervision and evaluation.

In many districts, instructional supervision is delegated to the human resources department. That is not the case in Provost Academy Georgia, which is a single-school statewide district authorized by the State Charter Schools Commission. Instructional supervision and evaluation is carried out by all administrators who oversee any part of our instructional program—and that includes me, first and foremost. I evaluate my instructional administrators on their carrying out of TKES and LKES in the manner in which the State has directed us to do. I learned the importance of this concept (executing the teacher evaluation instrument to the letter) while writing my dissertation and studying how administrators implement teacher evaluation.

For that reason, I make it a practice, and I have done so since 2002, when I first became a public school administrator, never to schedule over an instructional observation in a classroom. I am attending the Legal Issues Conference being presented by the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders while I am in Savannah (because I try to get maximum bang for our school’s travel buck). I’d have gladly ditched the conference, valuable as it is, and sent a representative to it in my stead so I could be at Georgia Tech to hear the President speak. I never, however, ditch a classroom observation.

I designated one of my direct reports to attend the President’s event in my place, and I sent polite regrets and a brief explanation: “Thank you for the kind invitation. I have scheduled instructional observations at our school site in Savannah. One of my hard and fast rules since I became a school administrator is that I do not schedule over teacher observations for any reason, unless the building is on fire or school is snowed out. Teaching is simply too important for anything else to edge it from my schedule. I hope that the President understands my priority, and that he continues to have my steadfast support as a loyal Democrat who has cast my vote for him twice.”

 

In the Interest of Introductions

Hey y’all! I’m Mere. (It’s pronounced like the female horse…also, the first half of Meredith). This is a small introduction, just to give you a frame of reference for me.

So, I am drafting this post, using pen and paper; in a wing place; during karaoke; at closing time (actually, the KJ just announced that they would usually wrap about now, but he’d let the last ten people sing…those would all be our group); with my husband, two children, and about ten friends. That’s how I roll.

My philosophy. I suspect that I’m what a 1960’s hippy would look like in modern society. I think personal choices are just that, personal. People should be responsible for the decisions that they make…without the need for some great, governmental authority to permit it. (One day I’ll entertain y’all with my thoughts about how our incessant need to legislate everything is to the detriment of a lawful society). The generally accepted term for this philosophical thinking is libertarianism (please note the little “l”). I also generally believe that a free society cannot exist without a moral code. As such, I’m good with the community ostracizing people who adhere to something other than the moral code.

Currently I identify with the Republican Party, but that’s mostly because I do not identify with the Democratic Party, and I understand the realities of the existing two party system.

So, that’s me…you can find more from me on Twitter (when I bother to actually use Twitter) @merepagejones and I hope you enjoy all that Southern Indeed has to offer!

hookerHeels

Raises, Roads, and Retirement: What Not To Do

Yesterday the AP released a review of the Governor’s staff raises.   Last Thursday through the weekend, the Governor flew twelve General Assembly members and members of the press corp. out to New Orleans. Meanwhile, the General Assembly has proposed cutting teacher’s pensions, and raising our taxes for transportation.

Protip: Don’t do this all at once.

This is my eleventh legislative session, and while I have so much faith in Georgia’s future and confidence in the talent growing from this red clay, the leadership seems to be horribly out of touch with the basics of tact and honest brokering.  It has led me to question, “Is this legislative session to become a lesson in what NOT to do?” Continue reading “Raises, Roads, and Retirement: What Not To Do”

Southern Snow Days and Clichés

There are two things that we Southerners are famous for:  our aversion to snow and our propensity to speak in endearing clichés.   Saturday Night Live produced a pithy little skit poking fun at both.  Stay with me, folks; you’ll understand this post soon enough.

On February 23, 2015, while we were all heading for home and stocking up on the essentials of bread, milk, eggs, and “beverages,” Senator Hunter Hill and Senator Fran Millar’s Senate Bill 152 was set to read.  In essence, this bill takes away Teacher Retirement System (TRS) for any new teacher hired after December, 2017.   I won’t bore you with the numbers, but if Georgia wants to have teachers who are the best and the brightest, giving them the short end of the stick is a road paved to hell, even though the good intentions are questionable.

The Universe has a lovely way of telling people things, and our friends Senators Hill and Millar may want to take heed.

On January 24, 2014 Senate Resolution 782 was read in the Senate.  Guess what happened on January 28, a mere four days later?  Snowmaggedon.  You know, that day when children were stuck on buses for hours and teachers stayed at school and took care of the young people whose parents couldn’t get to them? Yeah, that Snowmaggedon.  With SR 782, Young Senator Hill wanted to mess with not only active teachers’ retirement, but also that of all retirees in Georgia.  Since those retirees were already home on January 28 with their bread, milk, and beverages, they gave down the country pretty quickly.  I am fairly confident that the four sponsors of SR 782 had headaches from all of those phone calls.

When the teachers actually got home from spending the night with other people’s children, the phones started ringing again.  The resolution never made it to the floor, and teachers thought that it was dead and cold in the ground. We thought Hill and Millar read the writing on the wall, or in the snow as the case may be, and were going to leave well enough alone.  Senators Shafer, Mullis, Bethel and Jones dropped that thing like a hot piece of corn bread, but Hill and Millar?  God love them.  These boys were counting on the fact that even a blind dog finds an acorn every now and again, bless their hearts.

Senate Bill 152 dropped and was read on February 23 this year.  This time, the Senators left off the retirees and only included those of us who are still teaching children.  I guess these Good Old Boys figured that since the retirees don’t have a dog in the race, the bill would be fine and dandy.  Teachers were in school, so Senators Hill and Millar thought they are sitting in high cotton, right?  RIGHT????  Well, on February 24, 25, and 26 these fine gentlemen got another think coming.  Why?  SNOW DAYS! Sorry Senators, but you got caught with your pants down.  Teachers got wind of your shenanigans faster than two shakes of a sheep’s tail, and we were pretty hacked off at the news of your silly little bill. Teachers don’t sit around like bumps on a log even though that seems to be the general gospel for y’all up there in the Dome.

What do teachers do all day “trapped inside” while Satan’s Dandruff swirls around us?  We get on social media.  What did we find on social media February 25?  Lord have mercy, we found A LOT!  The news of SB 152 spread like wildfire, and Hill and Millar were in the middle of it all…again.   Young Senator Hill’s bill dropped at the worst possible time…again.

I think that it’s Jesus’ way of saying, “Boys, that dog won’t hunt.”  Next year may be snow free, but teachers have been bitten way too many times by these gentlemen, and we are a little shy of what might happen less than a year from now; we will be burning the midnight oil to ensure that these boys keep their dogs in the shed, their foxes out of our hen house, and their fingers out of our retirement pie.  Senator Hill and Senator Millar will soon realize that the sun don’t shine on the same dog’s tail all the time.

I hope that these gentlemen will actually speak to those who have reached out to them; otherwise, they are in for a very rude awakening from a sleeping giant.  Hill and Millar may want to talk with former Governor Roy Barnes about the power of the teacher’s vote.  They can take that to the bank.

#teacherretirement

#HunterHill

#FranMillar

#Teachersnowdays