Author: Stefan

And just like that…

He was gone.

I came from parts unknown, and I depart for a similar destination.

It’s been not a job, but not a vacation,

And I’ve enjoyed it more than a smidge,

from the Cheesecake Factory Bridge,

to explainers on campaign finance and Lifeline,

It’s been greatly rewarding getting up off the pine.

My time here, with the people of the front page and the comments, has changed my life. Thanks for all of that, and if you’re looking for me, you can find me @stefanturk




Ronnie Mabra will not seek reelection

Ronnie Mabra announced today that he will not seek reelection. His reasons are below. He will be missed in the legislature for good humor, thoughtful advocacy, and sartorial splendor.

After much discussion and praying with my family, I announce that I will not seek re-election as State Representative for House District 63.  As many of you know my son, Ronald E. Mabra III (Remiii) was born in September.  Dawn and I appreciate all of the phone calls, emails, and other congratulatory messages as we welcomed our first child into this world.  Remiii’s birth has changed our lives in so many wonderful ways and as a family we are doing some restructuring.  Dawn has decided to return to school.  She has always dreamed of becoming a physician and I am very proud that she has enrolled in a Masters Program at Morehouse School of Medicine.  I am very fortunate to have a loving wife that has supported me while I was building a law practice, while I ran for public office, and as I have served the people of District 63.  It is now time I be by her side as she pursues her dreams.  This means taking an extremely active role in raising our son while she continues her education. 

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The Special Election Contenders for House District 58!

As you may know, State Representative Simone Bell resigned from the State House in November, triggering a special election to fill her seat. This district runs from Midtown into Virginia-Highland, across Old Fourth Ward down into Capitol View and Sylvan Hills. It is a heavily Democratic district and the qualified candidate list so reflects.

Are you ready to rumble? These three are:

Qualified Candidates for State House District 58:

Kwame Thompson                                                   Party Affiliation: Democratic
206 Ormond Street, SW
Atlanta, GA 30315-1031

Park Cannon                                                              Party Affiliation: Democratic
Renaissance Parkway, NE
Atlanta, GA 30308

Ralph Long, III                                                           Party Affiliation: Democratic
1010 Katherwood Drive, SW
Atlanta, GA 30310-4520

The election is January 19th with a run-off if necessary held on February 16th.

More on Senate District 43 and the Democrats failure to hold Ramsey’s seat

As Jon Richards summarized earlier, Janice Frey Van Ness, a Republican, defeated Tonya Anderson, a Democrat and a House member who resigned her seat to run for the Senate seat. The special election was necessitated by the resignation of Ron Ramsey, who was appointed to the judiciary by Governor Deal.

Why is this so surprising? Because this district goes for Dems 75/25. Ramsey got 80% of the vote the last time he was opposed. It has a BVAP of 67%. This is not a race Democrats should lose.

But lose they did. Here’s a picture of the winner with a horse:


This victory will be short-lived for Republicans, but its lessons for Democrats shouldn’t be. Special elections are low turnout and they require real campaigns even in cases where the psychodemographics imply a cakewalk. The campaign disclosures will be enlightening to see how these candidates spent their money, but the early lesson is clear: you can’t just show up.

Update: Anderson was the former Mayor of Lithonia and took only 68 votes from that precinct. That says it all right there.



Is Georgia Withholding State Aid from those that need it most?

The Georgia Department of Community Health is responsible for administering the Georgia Pediatric Program (GaPP) that is supposed to assist medically fragile children in this state in getting their healthcare needs met.

According to parents of those children it isn’t doing so. Judges who have heard their Americans with Disabilities Act complaints agree, and the Commissioner of the Department wants it all to go away. Or so it seems, he won’t answer the questions of Matt Pearl of 11Alive who broke the story.

11Alive requested an interview with commissioner Clyde Reese. The department refused.

We then requested an interview with anyone who could speak about the program. The department refused; its communications director, despite having received little background on the story, sent the following statement [unresponsive statement probably cut and pasted from a pamphlet removed].

We, in return, sent specific questions in writing, like “Why reduce nursing care for children whose conditions have not changed?”

The department refused to comment further.

The kids’ stories are heart-rending and failing to provide the legally required assistance (mostly nursing care) is an unlawful attempt to shift the burden onto the parents. I’m assuming everything in the legal decisions and parents.

(embedded video after the jump, autoplay)

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Secretary of State released names and all identifying info on 6.1 million voters

Every month, the Secretary of State (Brian Kemp) releases all the new registered voters on a disc so that various entities can update their records. This information is generally limited to names, addresses, and demographic information. But last week, the SoS decided to give out a bunch of information it has collected on you and everybody you know to anyone who signed up.

Their monthly CD for October contained the Drivers license number, social security number, full name, address, and everything else you need to steal someone’s identity for every single registered voter in Georgia. All 6.1 million of us. It was not encrypted. It was not password protected. It was a gift for anyone who ever thought of doing wrong.

So just get the discs back and we will all be safe, right?

Wrong. These discs, called the “voter file”, are automatically updated to a number of different databases, which are then replicated around the country for use in voter targeting and other means. So this data is now well beyond the discs.

The information from these discs has been coursing through the system for a month now, and Brian Kemp’s office had done nothing to stop the flow of information prior to suit. Read more

Oxendine Takes Excess Campaign Funds and Invests Them, in Himself

Ox is still Oxing

From Jim Walls at Atlanta Unfiltered comes the story of what John Oxendine, former Insurance Commissioner, did with all that campaign cash he racked up when it looked like he’d be the Republican nominee for Governor way back in the year of our Lord 2010. Turns out he invested it in his own law firm, which is exciting I am sure to his many campaign contributors because I would assume they now own shares in that firm, and probably deserve dividends. Oh wait, no? He Just converted it? Oh.

But in subsequent filings, Oxendine has called those transfers “loans”. A campaign committee can make investments (really?) and Oxendine states he has now paid back his committee, but questions still remain. Check out what Walls thinks the money may have gone to over at his site…



Georgia gets D- in CPI Public Integrity Grading

But really, shouldn’t we grade this on a curve? Alaska got the best grade in the nation and it was a C!

The State Integrity Investigation is “a data-driven assessment of state government by the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity. The comprehensive probe found that in state after state, open records laws are laced with exemptions and part-time legislators and agency officials engage in glaring conflicts of interests and cozy relationships with lobbyists. Meanwhile, feckless, understaffed watchdogs struggle to enforce laws as porous as honeycombs.”

Many inside Georgia’s government gave the report a chilly response in Walter Jones’s piece on the matter. But demonizing lobbyists is always a good idea, so let’s all do that, shall we? We can safely ignore the fact that, despite their obvious representation of an interested party, they are often experts in the area and conversations with them often bring about good changes to legislation, not bad.

Hasta Lavista, Baby

In a result that was surprising to many observers, and on a night when its proposed neighbor to the east, Tucker, passed overwhelmingly, the city of LaVista Hills failed to reach the 50% needed for incorporation.

Two questions for the commentariat:

Why did LaVista Hills fail when Tucker succeeded?

Has any ballot for a new city failed previously? If so, when and where?



Simone Bell Leaving the House for Lambda Legal

Simone Bell was first elected to the house in 2009 in a special election following the resignation of Robbin Shipp. She outlasted her opponents in a five way primary and won the runoff handily. She became the first African-American lesbian to serve in a state legislature – not just Georgia, the entire United States. As part of redistricting, she was drawn in with a fellow Democrat Ralph Long and defeated him in 2012.

She had a leadership role in the Democratic House Caucus and was highly respected by her peers.

From the AJC:

State Rep. Simone Bell, D-Atlanta, is headed to Lambda Legal’s Atlanta office as a Southern regional director. Bell had previously worked as a community educator for the gay rights group.

Said Bell in a statement:

“I am so proud of what Lambda Legal has accomplished, but my experience in the General Assembly tells me the work cannot stop. This is a particularly exciting time to be a part of Lambda Legal’s work in the South, challenging laws and public policies that discriminate across lines of sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV status, income and race and to achieve full equality for all.”

Photo Courtesy of ProjectQ

Morning Reads for Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

Happy Birthday to the first rapid transit subway (the IRT in NYC 1904), Silvia Plath (1932), Philadelphia, and Teddy Roosevelt (1858). It’s also the date of the first Federalist Paper, the speech that launched Ronald Reagan’s political career, and when, after too many margaritas, the United States annexed West Florida. Nevertheless, on to the reads!


Attention those who may be in the vicinity of the Lowndes County Courthouse on October 24th, the Rally to STOP the Muslim Invasion would like you to stop by.

It’s at 11 am, so I assume tailgating starts at 9. I assume the Muslim Invasion itself is scheduled for sometime after 11 am or this rally will be a total waste.

Here’s all the relevant info, except for the needed historical perspective and touch of humanity.



LaVista Hills, DeKalb Strong, and DeKalb County Cityhood

There’s an election coming up shortly to determine whether or not the new city of LaVista Hills will come into being. The pro-cityhood group, LaVista Hills Yes! and the anti-cityhood group is Dekalb Strong.

One of the vexing issues in cityhood is that under current law, a city that is formed out of a county has no continuing obligation to contribute to the pension plans to support those county workers that have provided services to the area. So a potential resident of LaVista Hills, whose garbage has been regularly collected by a sanitation workers for years, can get out of paying for the costs of those employees even though they’ve enjoyed those services. In the extreme example, you can imagine a county being so carved up into cities that the pension liabilities fall on very few people, which just isn’t fair.

Having said that, it’s not a great argument in a campaign where one of the major electoral issues for many is which result leads to lower taxes.

What is a good argument is that your taxes will be lower. That’s the argument the cityhood folks are making. But is it true?

The Carl Vinson Institute at the University of Georgia did a study on the viability of the city at the behest of the pro-cityhood folks. Their numbers show that the proposed city would operate at a $2 million surplus, thus creating the expectation that LaVista Hills could roll back taxes and still provide all the services their residents expect. The study essentially used the same millage rate and taxes collected by Dekalb, but then ran them against the projected budget of LaVista Hills. But that doesn’t work. First, the city would be limited to 5 mills as a tax rate, not the 7.64 Dekalb currently charges. Part of that would be offset by the HOST credit, but it isn’t clear how much. Saying that LaVista Hills would certainly run a surplus based on that study would seem to be a leap.

Voters will see a ton of mail in the next few weeks. Let’s hope that the messages adhere to the bounds of truth and target what the voters want to hear.

Morning Reads for Tuesday, October 20th, 2015


On today’s date, President Richard Nixon forced out both his Attorney General and his Deputy Attorney General, in an attempt to fire Archibald Cox, the Watergate special prosecutor. It’s also the date of the Louisiana Purchase, Mickey Mantle’s birthday, and the date Herbert Hoover died. But more important than all that, it’s the date of the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash that killed three band members. On to the reads!

  • How rivalry propels creative genius (Aeon)
  • Why Jack Dorsey Is Ready to Save Twitter (Re/code) see also Twitter’s Moment (Stratechery)
  • How Cartrivision’s 1972 VCR Foresaw–And Forfeited–The Time-Shifted Future (Fast Company)
  • Danny Meyer Is Eliminating All Tipping at His Restaurants (Eater)
  • Bill Gates: ‘We Need an Energy Miracle’ (The Atlantic)
  • Daily Fantasy: You’re Screwed, Because You’re Supposed to Be. On sites like DraftKings and FanDuel, the sharks circle and the deck is stacked against you from the start. But hey, welcome to America (Rolling Stone) see also Cash Drops and Keystrokes: The Dark Reality of Sports Betting and Daily Fantasy Games (NYT)
  • Opting out: Inside corporate America’s push to ditch workers’ comp (ProPublica)
  • If You’re Not Paranoid, You’re Crazy. As government agencies and tech companies develop more and more intrusive means of watching and influencing people, how can we live free lives? (The Atlantic)
  • How To Shop For Pot In Denver (Priceonomics)
  • The Amazing Inner Lives of Animals (NY Review of Books)

Morning Reads for Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

Georgia Tech was founded on this day in 1885. Remember to hug a nerd today.

  • Where to Stash Cannabis Cash? Tribal Nations Make Bid to Bank It (Bloomberg)
  • Former Fed chair Bernanke no longer a Republican because the GOP has “lost its economic mind” (US News)
  • Why Does This Watch Cost $815,000? (NYT)
  • Why Free Markets Make Fools of Us (NY Review of Books)
  • The Network Effect: Reid Hoffman, and LinkedIn’s Plan for World Domination (New Yorker)
  • The Decline of ‘Big Soda’: The drop in soda consumption represents the single largest change in the American diet in the last decade (The Upshot)
  • New Horizons Finds Blue Skies and Water Ice on Pluto (NASA)
  • What’s in a Boarding Pass Barcode? A Lot (Krebs on Security)
  • Taking on the Drug Profiteers: Martin Shkreli Is Not the Problem (New Yorker)
  • Why Donald Trump Will Always Be a “Short-Fingered Vulgarian” (Vanity Fair)
  • Why Comedians Love the Mets: From Jerry Seinfeld to Jon Stewart, the second fiddle of New York baseball could fill a dugout with A-List comics—ones who love to embrace suffering (WSJ)
  • Reel-to-reel tape is the new vinyl (The Verge)