Issue 12.33 | Friday, Aug. 3, 2012
GwinnettForum.com is a twice-weekly online community commentary for exploring pragmatic and sensible social, political and economic approaches to improve life in Gwinnett County, Ga. USA.
PEACHTREEE CORNERS, Ga., Aug. 3, 2012 -- It is hard to believe summer is over and it is time to begin another school year. As parents, we strive to raise our kids to be productive citizens and to be successful in whatever path they might choose in life. I believe it is much tougher for kids today than it was when we were growing up. Competition is intense and expectations are high. Once our children hit high school, they begin a four-year track that will significantly impact their future potential. What career track will they choose? What direction will they take in life? What colleges will accept them?
I am the parent of a sixth and a ninth grader in the Gwinnett Norcross Cluster. Therefore, my wife and I are preparing for a year of change as our oldest transitions to high school and our youngest transitions to middle school.
Public education has faced tremendous challenges over the last several years with significant budget cuts at the state and local levels. Now, more than ever, our public schools need engaged communities. After all, our future depends on the education we provide our students today. We cannot afford to cut corners and cheat a generation of students.
A couple of years ago, I decided to begin learning more about my cluster's high school and discovered an amazing example of community engagement. In 2001, a group of dedicated parents, faculty, and community members had the foresight to create the Norcross High School Foundation for Excellence. Because of their vision and leadership, we are now able to provide support for the school, above and beyond what is provided by the state and county. Eleven years later, the Foundation has been able to raise more than $900,000 and has made numerous contributions to the learning environment through technology, teacher grants and recognition, and facility improvements.
In December 2010, I began serving on the Foundation board of directors. Many people have asked, "Why are you serving at the high school when you do not even have a child there yet?" My answer "before they get there is the best time to begin." Getting involved early has given me an opportunity to learn more about what is happening in our high school and to get to know the faculty and other parents, so that I might be able to help my children maximize their experience once they arrive.
As a new school year begins, I encourage all parents to not only get involved at your child's school but to also learn more about your cluster of schools. No matter where your children attend school, the strength of our community centers on the strength of our public schools.
Some 92 percent of the students in our state attend public schools. Engaged communities build strong schools. Strong schools graduate successful students. Successful students strengthen our economy. Together, let's invest in our future by investing in our public schools. Are you ready?
AUG. 3, 2012 -- Elections often raise more questions than they settle. That's certainly the outcome of the 2012 Georgia primary.
Possibly the biggest question is: what will the state of Georgia do to tackle its still large transportation problem, after rejection in nine of 12 regions of the one-cent T-SPLOST effort to patch the problem?
Voters overwhelmingly rejected the measure in most of Georgia since the proposition was flawed in so many ways. This now puts even more pressure on the Legislature to stop dilly-dallying around and actually adopt a measure that, yes, will surely cost most of Georgia more in taxes, but is necessary to halt the gridlock which was advertised so much by the Atlanta "Untie" forces. (Instead of "Untie," the state got more of a "Unite"-but against the tax.)
Prior to the voting, we heard that the reason July, 2012 was picked for the vote was that former Gov. Sonny Perdue figured with few statewide races, there would be little voter interest and the "pro" forces could sneak in and win. That may be the reason passed in three of the smaller regions, around Columbus, in the Altamaha River Basin, and in the Savannah River area south of Augusta. But voters along the coast and through the rest of South, Central and North Georgia were so heavily against the new tax.
Perhaps the Legislature can adopt some measure that would exempt the three areas that passed the TSLOST from having more taxes, since they're paying the one-cent more in their counties. That would seem fair.
In effect, it's time for Georgians to bombard the legislators with better ideas on a method to improve the state's transportation situation.
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Gwinnett voters go back to the polls on August 21 for runoffs in three races, for District 3 on the county commission, and to elect two new judges.
Incumbent Mike Beaudreau will face Tommy Hunter in the District 3 race. For Superior Court, Kathy Schrader led the voting Tuesday, but failed to gain 50 percent and faces Tracey Mason Blasi for the post. And Emily Brantley and Pam Britt will face-off for the State Court seat. One thing for sure: Gwinnettians want women to be the judges of the county. All four of the run-off candidates are women.
For the record, with 391,232 voters registered in Gwinnett, 99,521, or 25.44 percent, voted. For a time when voters were not choosing either a governor nor a president, this was on the whole a good turnout. It's still too low, but not as bad as it could have been. However, perhaps only ten percent will return for the runoffs, and this means that anything can happen in these three races.
Since qualifying for the Superior Court judgeships, another development came along recently, when Gov. Nathan Deal named a Gwinnett Superior Court Judge, Billy Ray, to the Court of Appeals bench. That means that the governor will be replacing Judge Ray on the local bench. Why not name whichever of the current runoff opponents lose the race to the Superior Court bench. That way, the "people" will have a choice in the selection. It could happen.
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Maybe it was the big war chest that the Untie Forces amassed, but boy, oh, boy! Did we ever get flooded with robo calls in this election cycle. I was most honored to get people on the phone who said they were Roy Barnes, Joseph Lowery and Kasim Reed suggesting a vote "for" the T-SPLOST would be beneficial to us all. I am so honored to have received calls from these "friends." Actually, Governor Barnes is a friend, but his "voice" was recorded.
Seriously, the big winner may have been Kasim Reed. We need the mayor of Atlanta to be strong and active in the affairs of the region. He showed great leadership even when promoting a bad message.
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Editor, the Forum:
In re: the U.S. Senate report and the recent editorial comments in the Forum about for-profit universities.
I have almost 10 years experience teaching for the University of Phoenix. I earned my Ph.D. in Instructional Technology and Design at Georgia State University. I have also taught for Auburn University, Tuskegee University, Michigan State University, Shaw University, North Carolina State University and Georgia State University. I am currently an Online Learning Consultant for three universities in the University System of Georgia. As you can see, I am highly qualified to express an educated opinion on this topic.
Here's what your bulleted list, the Senate report, and news coverage don't take into account: hundreds of thousands of students have and are currently earning their degrees at high quality, for-profit universities. These are students who would not have had access to higher education otherwise because of entry requirements or work-life balance challenges. I know these students -- I have had hundreds of them, and if they complete the full curriculum and graduate, that means they are burning the midnight oil, pursuing their dreams, handling a full school work load, all while also working and raising families.
Here's what I am concerned about in the coverage of this issue: why doesn't the media coverage focus on the established issues of recruitment practices and drop-out rates? Why move beyond that to speculating about poor quality education when there is absolutely NO evidence to support that?
Let's be clear: the regional accreditation board that certifies the University of Phoenix (UOP) is the same regional board that certifies Purdue. The quality of education at UOP is not questionable. Instead students are held to the highest standard of rigor of the eight state universities I have worked for.
There's room for improvement in any industry. This one, too. But my plea to readers is: don't swallow the negative media like it's the only story. And don't propagate it. To make a blanket attack on the whole industry is unwarranted, and damages real people, people who have spent their valuable time and money following their dreams.
state work toward steering firms outside Atlanta
talks about how the defeat of the T-SPLOST will adversely affect the future
economic development of Atlanta. Even your comments Tuesday mentioned
that in the future, companies will ask: "What is the state doing
to resolve the problems of transportation and that long commute in Atlanta?"
At times like these I think of the quote by Henry Ford: "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got."
In other words, if we keep expanding the local transportation/road system, perhaps we will continue to receive the curse of gridlock? It's time to think outside the box and find solutions that are 180 degrees different from the same old same old. Just food for thought!
Suggests checking out her former pupil, Mark Pitt as Elvis
Editor, the Forum:
Mark Pitt's "Tribute to Elvis," scheduled for August 11 at 8 p.m. at the New Dawn Theatre Company in Duluth, will be a fun evening, suitable for all ages. For two hours he returns you to a time of memories and beautiful music.
A quiet, shy young man, Mark Pitt was one of the most promising artists at Duluth High School. He drew, painted and sculpted with immense talent, often softly humming or singing while he worked. Back then, everyone was into the Beatles and Elvis was touring the county to sold-out crowds.
After reconnecting with Mark through Facebook's "You know you are from Duluth," Mark invited us to recent performance in Norcross. It was terrific evening. A devoted fan of all things Elvis, our son James declared Mark "the best."
His performance as Elvis is amazingly accurate. He has the look, wearing costumes created by Elvis's original designers. He has the sound as his voice sweeps from tenor to bass with Elvis' clarity and lyrical, southern drawl. And he certainly has the screaming fans. Serenading the audience, Mark presents scarves to his adoring fans, collecting more than a few kisses along the way. And like Elvis, women threw themselves at him.
Elvis was famous for his Taking Care of Business or "TCB" references. Mark Pitt has taken care of business as he closely studied Elvis, integrating The King's moves, mannerisms and voice into his own comfortable, easy manner.
Mark frequently performs for charity events, parties and venues like the upcoming one at Duluth's New Dawn Theater. An ordained minister, Mark can perform weddings and renewal of vows as himself or as Elvis. Mark is nationally recognized for his Elvis Tribute Show. He is an exciting and excellent entertainer and captivates the heart and soul of Elvis Presley on stage. Mark has been described as "a first class Vegas Style Concert performer singing your favorite Elvis hits from the 50s to the 70s along with your favorite Gospel songs."
Come to "Aloha from Hawaii" 35th Anniversary Concert and return to a time of youthful exuberance and light heartedness. Join us in the audience and let yourself float back in time.
For reservations, which are suggested, call 678-622-0460, or visit www.newdawntheatercompany.com.
Printer review was for benefit of first-time buyers
Editor, the Forum:
I wasn't surprised by Mr. Michael J. Keefe's review of my printer review. This review wasn't meant for the business user but, on the contrary, for the first-time buyer and those people whose primary concern is the printing of photos. I have worked with all types of printers for the PC since they first came on the market including the old dot-matrix printers. I would need to look at the box, which I know longer have, to see what it says about printing photos. I remember it saying that it was for photos, among other things. I have taught computer science at the University of Cincinnati back when the mainframe ruled the roost and have worked for several Fortune 500 companies at their corporate headquarters.
The staff and volunteers behind Gwinnett Relay For Life are looking to add new talent to the steering committee that builds one of the world's largest community fundraisers. A committee interest meeting will be held at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce on August 16, at 6 p.m.
The steering committee is comprised of subcommittees responsible for planning and marketing the May 10-11, 2013 event, recruiting Relay teams and corporate sponsors, training and motivating Relay team captains and team members, engaging cancer survivors, creating awareness about the impact of ACS in the fight against cancer through research and advocacy and how the Society serves patients through programs and services.
members are needed with skills and talents in the areas of communication,
marketing, sales, technology, training, motivation, photography, creativity,
and organization. For more information on how to join the Gwinnett Relay
For Life steering committee, please attend this committee interest meeting
on August 16 or call Kelly Smith at 770-814-0123, extension 3.
In a continuing effort to allow Gwinnettians to understand the new method of taxing sales of automobiles, we got this from a statewide association. Here is what the Georgia Automobile Dealers Association (GADA) says on the new auto license plate system:
If a customer buys a vehicle prior to March 1, 2013, can they opt into the new title fee system?
Yes, a customer who purchases a vehicle between January 1, 2012 and February 28, 2013, can opt into the title fee system between March 1, 2013 and January 1, 2014.
The opt-in provision should be utilized by GADA members to encourage vehicle sales in 2012 and the first two months of 2013, since your customer's ad valorem tax will go away upon the customer's applications to their county tag agent.
County's Corrections Unit wins accreditation ranking again
Gwinnett County's Department of Corrections has received national accreditation. The department received its first accreditation in 2009, according to Warden David Peek. He says: "This achievement shows that we meet or exceed rigorous standards for administrative and fiscal controls, staff training and development, physical plant, rules and discipline, safety and emergency procedures, offender health care, sanitation and food service."
A team of auditors from the American Correctional Association spent three days examining documents, viewing operations, and interviewing staff members and inmates. Their findings went to the Commission on Accreditation for Corrections, which granted the three-year accreditation on July 22.
Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlotte Nash said, "This process involves a grueling series of reviews, evaluations, audits and hearings, but I'm not surprised that our dedicated staff passed all these tests with flying colors."
Peek adds: "This renewal means that our staff is maintaining the same high quality standards." The department operates an 800-bed correctional complex that houses both state and county inmates. Some work on supervised crews that provide janitorial and landscaping services at county-owned buildings, parks and roadways.
The State's Rights Hotel served as Georgia's Whig Party headquarters from about 1839 to 1847. During its operation, the hotel was one of several politically oriented taverns and hotels in Milledgeville, the state's capital at the time. It also served as the stage for numerous political meetings, conventions, and the inauguration celebration of Governor George W. Crawford, Georgia's only Whig governor.
Constructed in 1825, the State's Rights Hotel was designed by noted architect John Marlor and built for George Brown, a local businessman and plantation owner. The building is rooted in the Federal architectural style but is interesting for its large Palladian arch in the pediment of the building. Little is known about the operations of the building during its early years, but surviving records indicate that the structure was primarily utilized as a tavern. In 1837 Brown died and left the building to his son, John, who forged a partnership with his brother-in-law, Samuel Beecher. The two opened a new business at the site and named it the State's Rights Hotel.
On October 29, 1839, the first advertisement for the new business appeared in Milledgeville's Southern Recorder. The advertisement informed readers that "the proprietors of the commodious house respectfully inform the public and their old patrons that they are refitting and furnishing the establishment anew for the approaching session of the legislature."
On November 8, 1843, the hotel played host to an inaugural celebration for Georgia's newly elected governor, George W. Crawford, the only Whig elected into the state's highest office. By the late 1840s, the importance of the Whig party had declined, as the Democratic Party became the dominant force in southern politics. Because of the loss of a steady customer base, operations of the hotel ceased around October 1847. In 1855 the hotel was sold to Daniel Stetson, who converted the structure into a private residence.
For the next century, the State's Rights Hotel served as a private residence for two families and as a restaurant. In 1966 the building was saved from demolition and moved from its original location to a new site, where it was converted into a museum and civic center. Known today as the Brown-Stetson-Sanford House, the structure is a permanent fixture on Milledgeville's historic tours and is currently operated by the Old Capital Museum. In 1972 Milledgeville's historic downtown, including the former State's Rights Hotel, was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
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© 2012, Gwinnett Forum.com. Gwinnett Forum is an online community commentary for exploring pragmatic and sensible social, political and economic approaches to improve life in Gwinnett County, Ga. USA.
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MORE COPIES AVAILABLE
Previously out of print, Elliott Brack's 850-page history, "Gwinnett: A Little Above Atlanta," is now available again. Since its original publication, the book was declared the winner of the 2010 Award of Excellence for documenting Georgia history by the Georgia Historical Records Advisory Board. It is also the winner of the Gwinnett Historical Society's Whitworth-Flanigan Award for 2011 for preserving the history of Gwinnett County.The book includes 143 demographic and historic tables, with more than 4,000 names in the index, and 10,000 names in the appendix.Two versions of the book are available. The hardback edition is priced at $75, while a softback edition is $40. Books are available at:
You can also order
books through the Internet. To do that, go to www.elliottbrack.com
to place your order. For mail orders, there is a $5 shipping and handling
fee. Purchases are also subject to the 6 percent Georgia sales tax.
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IN THE COMING WEEK
Pedestrian, Bike Trail Plan Discussion: 6 p.m., Aug. 2, Campus Church, 1525 Indian Trail-Lilburn Road, Norcross. For more information, contact Alyssa Sinclair or call 770 449 6515.
Trains, Trucks and Tractor Festival: Aug. 4 to Aug. 5 at the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth. Exhibits, crafts and activities for kids will be on tap. Siemans will provide a next-generation electric vehicle, complete with charging station, at this event. UPS will have a special exhibit showing purpose-designed vehicles.
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