As we batten down the proverbial hatches for what could be a full week of snow and canceled school (or not, who knows..), here’s a look at some political happenings for the upcoming 12 months:

Georgia General Assembly

The state legislature begins its annual session on Monday. Among other issues, this year that esteemed body will address the future of HOPE scholarships, an immigration bill, and proposals to reform the state’s tax system. Some tax proposals call for a reduction in personal and corporate income taxes, but those reductions would be more than offset by plans to raise tobacco taxes, make groceries taxable again, tax Internet purchases, and take away exemptions for seniors. All of those add up to a tax increase for the state as a whole, and a tax increase is the last thing we need right now considering how things are going economically. In light of that, we can hope nothing is finalized before the assembly runs out of time during its 40-day session.

One legislator who never met a tax increase he couldn’t embrace is our own Georgia State Senator Jeff Mullis, R of Chickamauga. One of Mullis’ biggest “accomplishments” last year was a bill calling for another 1% sales tax to fund local road projects, thus allowing the state to continue blowing general tax money on programs and projects no citizen would fund willingly.

Mullis may have a harder time politically in 2011 because he chose to stick with Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle last year even as many in the legislature abandoned Cagle due to sex scandal rumors. Mullis is also beginning to look foolish as many fellow legislators point out how his ten-year-long focus on building a MAGLEV train through the state is a silly waste of time because it does nothing to help the manufacturing businesses that mean jobs for his constituents.

Despite his alliances with unloved Lt. Governor Cagle and futile attempts to bring a Disneyworld-style train to Northwest Georgia, Mullis is still likely to retain his position as chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee and already enjoys a position on new governor Nathan Deal’s transition team. He was also named, for the second year in a row, as one of Georgia’s 100 Most Influential by Georgia Trend Magazine. He might be influential, but that influence isn’t doing a thing to help his constituents, and he’s also one of the 100 most influenced because he accepts gobs of campaign money from county governments and special interest businesses from outside his district.

Redistricting & 2010 Census Results

Preliminary results of the 2010 Census show Georgia gained over 1.5 million new citizens in the last decade, which means the state gets a new US House district. The exact location of that district will be worked out by the state legislature, but many speculate it will be a new smaller district for Northwest Georgia. The first representative for that district will be chosen in 2012, and we anticipate Jeff Mullis will make a run for it. He has hundreds of thousands in campaign contributions saved from previous years’ campaigns and seems to have aspirations beyond just serving as the state senator from Chickamauga. The new district’s territory and Mullis’ intentions should be crystal clear by this time next year.

Sometime later on, hopefully within the next year, Census results for individual counties and cities will be made available. While Walker County is likely to have grown a bit from its year 2000 population of 61,053 we would be shocked if LaFayette has grown much at all from the 6,702 residents counted a decade ago. In fact, considering the number of empty homes, the unemployment, and the outright flight of middle-class residents, we expect to see population figures to show the city shrinking by several hundred people – a population count somewhere between 5,500 and 6,200.

City Council Elections

In November 2011 three LaFayette City Councilmen will be up for a vote: Wayne Swanson, Bill Craig, and Eric Tallent. But two of the three have indicated no desire to run for the job again. Ward 3’s Bill Craig, who’s been on the council on and off since the 1960’s, is apparently done. Jim Cole has expressed an interest in taking over the seat, and we understand Judy Meeks would like it back as well. Eric Tallent, supposedly representing Ward 4, is also hinting that he won’t run again.

Wayne Swanson, councilman at-large, does plan to run again and has been a lone voice of reason in the last few council meetings – voting against the recent utility rate increase and speaking up about the condition of the city’s unpaved streets. But all that might be a result of his knowing a vote approaches. Either way, Shane Stanley of West LaFayette has also hinted at an interest in taking away Swanson’s post.

Qualification for the city election will be sometime in July or August, usually it’s a very brief period of time and not well advertised. The Underground will put up dates and processes as soon as we hear anything. (In the meanwhile try to make sense of how the city’s wards are arranged – fixing that mess would be a good first step for any new councilmen elected in November.) When the final vote is held in November, city voters will get to use electronic voting machines on loan from the county instead of voting with the pencils and paper ballots seen during 2009’s vote.

More Than Wishful Thinking?

City Manager Johnnie Arnold may step down before the vote happens. Good sources say he plans to resign in September, giving the existing council a chance to pick his successor before the November vote. Arnold has been running the city’s daily operations for about a decade now, and we can all agree ten years of him is plenty. Hopefully when his successor is picked the council won’t look for a new City Manager in the mayor’s wife’s family tree or in a random phonebook from South Georgia.

In addition to the two “retiring” councilmen and city manager, strong rumors point to Mayor Neal Florence leaving his 22-year post before the next mayoral vote in 2013. That’s some time off, but the gears are already turning to keep his friends in power when the time comes. At this Monday’s City Council meeting one of the agenda items is to appoint someone to be Mayor Pro Tem, or vice-mayor. The city hasn’t had a Pro Tem in our memory, and the sudden need to appoint one seems odd considering how the mayor’s job is mostly ceremonial.

We expect current councilman Andy Arnold to be appointed Pro Tem since he’s been telling people he plans to replace Florence in the 2013 election and is one of only three current councilmen who plan to stick around. If he’s appointed Mayor Pro Tem we wouldn’t be shocked at all to see the current mayor resign a short time before the vote, thus making Arnold an incumbent and ten times harder to defeat when polling rolls around. Councilman Arnold might have stiffer competition by then since Dr. Paul Shaw has retired and indicated he’d also like to be mayor or county commissioner. If Shaw can’t defeat Bebe in 2012 he’s likely to take a run at the city job a year later.

Even if Arnold is elected mayor in 2013, by then the city will have at least three, if not all five, council positions held by new people, plus a new city manager. That’s something to look forward to; we can’t afford another decade or more of the same bunch running the city into the ground with their focus solely on benefitting their own friends, habits, and hobbies. We might not get leaders any better than these, but it’s not possible we could get leaders any worse.

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4 comments so far

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  1. The Mayor pro tem is chosen at the beginning of EVERY year. This will not be the first.


    But even WQCH doesn’t know when that qualifying is, apparently. It’ll be announced a week after the deadline so only those “in the know” can run.

    — The LaFayette Underground

  3. Well, it appears the LPD have sunk to new lows. Sunday morning (this AM) they were hiding at Richard Wilbanks funeral home parking lot and busting people on their way to church for not coming to a complete stop at the 4-way by the funeral home. They harrassed a 75 year-old Sunday School teacher this morning as he made his way to church. Pulling him over with 2 squad cars while his students wondered where he was at. All the while Scott-the-thief-Rhodes was selling stolen property right before their eyes! What a bunch of nonsense. I wonder if Wilbanks gives them the ok to stage this cowardly junk on his property? Shame, shame, shame.

  4. Is it possible these officers just woke up Sunday morning and decided to arrest people at the intersection of Farm Bureau and the funeral home ? Probably.

    The most unlikely reason would be because someone (?) gave them standing orders to do so. Nah. Not here. Not under this impeccable administration………..