2014
01.27

After years of mismanagement, hatefulness, and borrowing funds with no means to repay, it’s time to pay the piper: Erlanger is suing Hutcheson, Walker, and Catoosa for the $20+ million it’s owed from the 2011 hospital bailout.

What’s that old proverb about poop and fans?

Hutcheson Medical Exterior

Over the weekend, Erlanger made an official statement about the pending lawsuits, listing accomplishments and contributions made to Hutcheson. Per Erlanger, legal action was forced after a mid-January payment deadline wasn’t met.

Worst case scenario this COULD result in bankruptcy for Hutcheson and even for the two counties involved. Most likely, the counties will only lose control over Hutcheson – which would be fine if Erlanger ends up owning and running the place as it should have been all along.

Either way, this is likely to result in a change of hospital leadership (desperately needed) and more public access to Hutcheson’s financial records, something that could have kept the hospital from getting into such terrible shape to begin with. Unfortunately the legal process could take years to accomplish anything significant.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

LaFayette City Council has asked the state legislature to raise local hotel/motel tax from 5% to 8%, with the money designated to promote tourism. WQCH Radio reports the funds will be sent through Walker County Chamber and THEN used for LaFayette tourism promotion.

Morgan Motel

The Chamber has done nothing in the last twenty years except eat lunch, celebrate itself, and engage in political advocacy, so funds being channeled through that agency is a bit discomforting. According to Councilman Bradford, there’s no other agency legally allowed to handle the money and it will be kept in a separate trust designated solely for city use.   Tiny Facebook

Taylor's Ridge Fire / Summerville NewsAn overnight fire on top of Taylor’s Ridge in Chattooga County temporarily closed Highway 27 between Summerville and Gore. The highway reopened with only one lane usable for several hours, but was fully accessible by Monday morning.

The fire is possibly related to a controlled burn set over the weekend by US Forestry Service.

Another controlled burn (actually under control) is being conducted by the same agency at Keown Falls in Walker County. That fire is sending smoke into Whitfield County and Dalton.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

LaFayette City Manager job has been posted online. City is focusing on someone with business experience rather than a bureaucrat, which is probably a better approach than what we’ve tried before.   Tiny Facebook

Last week State Senator Jason Carter (candidate for governor) added language to a proposed bill that would have taken Ethics oversight for the state away from the governor’s office. His suggested changes were removed before the measure was passed – another chapter in the lengthy book of Georgia’s ethical failures.

Another chapter in that book? The Washington Post has named Georgia one of the nation’s seven most corrupt states, citing a lack of ethics rules and enforcement agencies without teeth.

Georgia Capitol Aerial View

Also under the Gold Dome: State legislators hoped to reintroduce a bill allowing college students with concealed weapon permits to carry guns on campus, but a panel of legal experts say a proposed compromise would violate the state constitution. That aspect of a pending gun law was then removed. The issue won’t be settled this year.

A bill streamlining approval for new cell towers is moving fast. The bill is a compromise between county governments, which tend to be a roadblock for the towers, and cell companies. What exactly the bill changes isn’t made clear in the news reports, but voters can be confident it’s not likely to be in THEIR best interests.

Georgia and Tennessee now both consider legalization of products based on or related to marijuana for medical use. But don’t get excited about legal weed – both states are focusing on a low-THC oil made from hemp.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

A Trenton Police detective is unemployed and facing criminal charges after being accused of stealing prescription painkillers from the evidence room.

Trenton PD is the third law enforcement agency to have evidence stolen in the last two years: In October 2012 a Chattooga County deputy was consuming drugs intended for disposal via flushing. In May of the same year, a Walker Deputy was found with drugs and guns taken out of the county evidence locker for his own use.

Seems like law enforcement leaders need to revisit accountability and transparency for those who have access to evidence be it drugs, guns, cash, or anything else of value. Without accountability temptation to steal becomes much stronger.   Tiny Facebook

Future Net NeutralityEarlier this month a federal court overturned “net neutrality” rules requiring Internet service providers to treat all network traffic equally. With the rules essentially declared illegal, companies like Comcast or Windstream are free to prioritize some traffic, slow down services they don’t like, or completely block access to some Web sites.

Right now there’s no impact, and companies won’t make any changes immediately so it’s not obvious, but we could eventually see a situation where companies like Comcast make it harder to use competing services such as Netflix, or block sites critical of their business practices.

Small ISP’s owned by municipalities or local companies (like, say, RTC, EPB, or Chickamauga Telephone) could cave to political pressure and keep customers from pulling up sites like this one.

This could ultimately bring about a cable TV situation where companies charge customers for access to each site or type of site, as illustrated in the image at right:

Some conservatives are quick to say the market should decide, government has no role here. That’s OUR first instinct too – but in a situation where you basically have a monopoly on a service, the government DOES have a role.

LaFayette residents use Comcast or Windstream for Internet at home or don’t have service. That’s a natural monopoly which must have some limited government oversight to prevent abuse.   Tiny Facebook

Former director of Chattanooga Kidney Foundation has been indicted for mishandling organizational funds. She was essentially fired last fall and will now be going to court for felony theft charges.

If they find she stole money from the group to buy a shotgun, she’s a shoe-in to take over leadership at Stocking Full of Love. (You had to know that was coming.)   Tiny Facebook

Tuesday morning a church-run private school in Dalton suddenly closed, as students were leaving for class. Parents say the closure wasn’t announced, but church leaders – who won’t say why it closed – claim parents were notified in advance.

Student at Closed Dalton Private School

An insider says the whole thing comes from financial struggles and parents who failed to pay tuition on time. But at least one parent was told the church’s pastor was forced out in a hurry, so at this point it’s a mystery.   Tiny Facebook

Atlantan Allan Levene is running for US Congress this spring. He’d like to represent Georgia House District 11, but he’s ALSO running for congress in Michigan, Hawaii, and Minnesota.

Levene is taking advantage of a legal loophole requiring candidates to live in the district they represent when they’re elected, but not when they campaign or face a primary vote.

    Allan Levene for Congress 2014: “As you may have heard, I am running for Congress in four states simultaneously. Why? Because at sixty-four, I don’t have the time left to run every two years until I get it right. As you get older, you eventually realize that time is not on your side. So being elected this cycle will give me time to fix our broken government.”

Seems like two would be enough. If he can’t win in either of the first two he can’t win in any of the four.. Spreading his resources, time, money around too much reduces the odds of winning – and those who pay attention can see local issues aren’t going to be his top priority regardless of which area he’s elected to “represent.”   Tiny Facebook

41.1% of Georgia’s state budget comes from the federal government – making GA 9th out of 50 states for percentage of revenue from the fed. Highest is Mississippi (49%), lowest is Alaska (24%). These figures only include money given from the federal government to the states, not federal money spent inside the state for things like military bases, the Post Office, or national parks.   Tiny Facebook

Georgia Lottery-funded HOPE Scholarship is now twenty years old. State college aid has been criticized both for doing too much and for not doing enough.   Tiny Facebook

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  1. Should have mentioned.. The focus on someone with business experience over someone with government experience, for the City Manager job, is because LaFayette basically IS a business. The city runs off proceeds from selling electricity and gas, with the profits going into city services. A minimal amount of the city’s income comes from taxes. So it makes sense to have somebody who can run a business running the city’s businesses.

    – LU