7/21: Single-payer health care; Auburn’s shops; James Camak

GwinnettForum  |  Number 17.31  |  July 21, 2017   

THESE ATTRACTIVE SHOPS are the new attraction in Auburn, Ga., adjacent to its City Hall. Coming to full operation in April, the 9×12 foot shops were built for small business owners to market their wares and to attract more interest in the downtown area, and it’s working, says Mayor Linda Blechinger. For more on these shops, see Elliott Brack’s perspective below.
PLEASE PUT the Duluth Fall Festival on your calendars now.  This family-friendly event will take place on September 30th and October 1st. This is the 35th year, and it is consistently voted one of the top festivals in the whole area.  In fact, last year it was voted ‘Best Large Festival in the Southeast.’ It includes more than 350 arts, crafts and food booths, a huge parade, entertainment at three venues, “Man’s Corner,” a 5K road race, Gold Medal Shows Carnival, and much more. It is always Duluth’s biggest event of the entire year. 
MORE: www.duluthfallfestival.org.  


TODAY’S FOCUS: Only with Bipartisan Approach Can the Congress Improve Healthcare
EEB PERSPECTIVE: City of Auburn Attracting Attention with Its Whistlestop Shops
ANOTHER VIEW: James Camak Surveyed Border, and Was a Key Businessman in State
SPOTLIGHT: Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
FEEDBACK: Brings One Reason to the Forefront for Opposing Single Payer Health Plan
UPCOMING: Distinctive Senior Housing Development To Be Built in Snellville
NOTABLE: Gwinnett Place CID Completes Phase of Streetscape Improvements
RECOMMENDED: The Hunchback of Notre Dame at the Aurora Theatre
GEORGIA TIDBIT: Auto Racing in Savannah First Drew Howard Coffin To Georgia
TODAY’S QUOTE: Philosophy from Singer-Songwriter, et al Willie Nelson
MYSTERY PHOTO: Check Out This Scene and Tell Us Where You Think It Is
LAGNIAPPE: County Officials Hold Third Ribbon-Cutting in Recent Days
CALENDAR: Ribbon Cutting at Centerville Senior Center on August 8


Only with bipartisan approach can the Congress improve health care

By Jack Bernard, Peachtree City, Ga.  |  To protect you and defend you…it ain’t me babe”-–Bob Dylan.

Dylan’s words are applicable to our President. He said there would be no cuts to Medicare or Medicaid on his watch. He proclaimed that coverage would be broadened and that everyone would get more affordable coverage. He also said that there would be no repeal without a better simultaneous replacement plan.


But, he has gone back on all those promises. He now says just take coverage away from 20 million plus people via immediate repeal of Obamacare. He says “We will replace it some other time within the next two years” without giving any specifics.  That is the cowardly way out; the unstated assumption being that with a little tweakin’, Trumpcare can be passed, if given time.

Trump recently tweeted about Obamacare: “Remember keep your doctor, keep your plan.” He implied that Trumpcare will let you do this.

In reality, under either the House or Senate version, Trumpcare kicks tens of millions off their insurance. There is “access” for the very wealthy and those employed by larger organizations. Others are fed to the crocs that inhabit the large swamp that Trump, Ryan and Price have purposefully created.

Accordingly, approval for Trumpcare is now down to an incredible 12 percent! Per a recent survey, twice as many citizens want Obamacare versus Trumpcare.  Trumpcare is not supported by all 52 GOP Senators and that is the reason that McConnell has pulled any replacement plan from consideration.

On the other hand, under Medicare for All, everyone really can keep their doctor. Under single payer, European nations have per capita costs half ours, superior access and better health outcomes (Commonwealth Fund, 7-17).

The GOP must realize that single payer is now the only feasible way to repeal Obamacare. Plus, Republicans clearly are in for major Congressional losses in 2018 and 2020 unless they move now with a popular plan like Medicare expansion.

Medicare for All has been introduced in the House, HB 676. It already has the support of over half of House Democrats. If Ryan, McConnell and Trump would introduce a similar bill on their own, with the virtually certain support of Democrats, it would pass easily. Trump would get the “win” he desires and needs.

Now is the time for true bi-partisan co-operation. The only feasible way to get full coverage at an affordable cost is expansion of Medicare to cover all ages.


City of Auburn attracting attention with its Whistlestop Shops

By Elliott Brack, editor and publisher  |  The City of Auburn, Ga. is getting a distinct new look adjacent to its City Hall.

The city partially on the northeastern edge of Gwinnett has established an attractive Whistestop Shop. These are 11 similar wooden 9×12 foot retail cottage style individual shops selling a variety of home-based products. They are attracting business activity to the downtown area.

Mayor Linda Blechinger presented the idea to the Council after seeing a similar collection of village shops at St. Simons Island, Ga., which were constructed several years ago. The Auburn Council liked the idea. Work started on the shops in early 2016 with a soft opening in November last year.

Alex Mitchen, community development director, says the city built an initial five shops, and because of the demand, added four more, then two more. Each of the buildings, of a high-quality wooden craftsman design, cost $32,000, paid with SPLOST funds. The work was done by DL Masonary of Jonesboro.

The shops have been virtually full since opening, with the Grand Opening at the “Auburn Ever After” event in April.

The city advertised for occupants, and found a ready audience. The rent for each shop is $200, which includes water, heat and air conditioning, and wi-fi. There is a museum associated with the shops. All are ADA accessible. The city is now anticipating adding two more of the 9×12 foot shops.

Mayor Blechinger says that the whole idea was “to assist small businesses to get their product to market, and to bring home businesses to Main Street. We wanted these businesses to flourish, and it serves as a gathering spot, a destination, and attracts tourists and visitors.”

The Whistlestop shops are attracting groups who come to town to shop. “One group from a nearby church came, and stayed until 7 p.m.”  Normal hours for the shops is from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays through Saturdays.  “But the shops adjust if there is a crowd, or if the weather is bad.”

Most of the businesses in the shops had proprietors who were either operating out of their homes, or on the Internet. Products being sold at the shops include a variety, from  gifts, custom crafts, coffee, baked treats, Ice cream, truffles, candy, quilts, wreaths, sporting goods and other items and goods.

Periodically, Auburn features market days. The next one will be tomorrow, Saturday, July 22, when the shops will be open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. There will also be similar markets in August, September and October on the second Saturday of the month.

MEANWHILE, Auburn, population 7,600 with only about two subdivisions and less than five per cent of its population in Gwinnett County, is primarily in Barrow County and has seen steady growth lately. The 2010 population was 6,887.

Auburn has a budget of $6.5 million, and its only debt is $7 million for its part of a water reservoir, which it shares with Barrow County. The reservoir is a former granite pit. The city has applied for an Environmental Protection Division permit to eventually withdraw water from the reservoir.

Auburn benefits not only from SPLOST funds (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) in Gwinnett, but also benefits from a LOST (Local Option Sales Tax) in Barrow County.  Mayor Blechinger heartily approves of these funds. “Income from the SPLOST and LOST are the best friends for our city,” she says.

If you are headed east from Gwinnett, instead of Georgia Highway 316,  take U.S. Highway 129 through Dacula, then Auburn, to check the Whistlestop Shops!


James Camak surveyed border, and was a key businessman in state

By Robert H. Hanson, Loganville, Ga.  |  A few weeks ago the GwinnettForum included an article about James Camak and the dispute over the boundary between Georgia and Tennessee.

James Camak, at the time, was a professor of mathematics at the University of Georgia and was asked to conduct a survey, along with Andrew Ellicott, to determine the actual boundary between the two states.

Camak complained bitterly to Governor William Rabun about the poor quality of the instruments provided and about the fact that the expedition was not furnished with the latest equipment.  His complaints fell on deaf ears as Governor Rabun allowed neither the time nor the money to purchase better equipment.  This refusal has cost the State of Georgia dearly over the decades.

James Camak was a fairly notable person in Georgia history.  In addition to making the famous (or infamous) survey of the state’s northern border, he was a founder and officer in a textile mill in Athens.  

He, along with several other notable businessmen, organized a company to build and operate a cotton mill in Athens.  The machinery was ordered from England and came by ship to Savannah and thence up the Savannah River to Augusta.  Here it was loaded onto wagons for the trip from Augusta to Athens.  The trip should have taken a little over a week.

The trip was slow, but all went well until the wagons reached a point near the present location of the town of Union Point.  By this time, fall had changed to winter, and rains had turned the roads into quagmires of mud as sticky as only Georgia clay can get.  The wagons became mired hub deep in a particularly nasty hole and remained there until spring, when the ground had dried sufficiently.  Even then the wagons had to be literally dug out.

This situation prompted the businessmen, including Camak, to request a charter for a railroad.  In December of 1833, such a charter was granted.  In March of 1834, an organizational meeting was held in the library of Camak’s home and he was elected president of the Georgia Railroad.  He remained president until 1836, when the railroad was granted banking privileges and became the Georgia Railroad and Banking Company.  Camak then became Cashier, or chief operating officer, of the banking side of the company.

The Georgia Railroad was the second railroad chartered in the state, and the first (in May of 1837) to begin operations.  At the time of its demise, through merger, in 1983, it was the oldest company in the state of Georgia continuously doing business under the same name.

James Camak’s home is still standing today at 279 Meigs Street in Athens.

First Union Bank, a North Carolina corporation, bought and merged the Georgia Railroad Bank and Trust Company, the banking arm of the Georgia Railroad and Banking Company, on February 17, 1987. First Union became Wachovia, and Wachovia became Wells Fargo.


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Brings one reason to the fore for opposing single-payer health plan

Editor, the Forum:

In a recent contributing column, George Wilson advocated for a single-payer system for healthcare in this country. I cannot disagree more.

My original – admittedly brief – response was as follows:

One Question, two words: “Why is it that every wealthy person in the world, the people who actually have the resources, come to the United States for specialized health care?” The two words: “Charlie Gard.”

Allow me to clarify my thoughts: When a serious illness befalls a Saudi sheikh, a London billionaire, and/or a Chinese tech mogul, it is not to Canada (single-payer), England (single-payer), or Korea (single-payer) to which they head. It is to the United States of America, wherein resides – by far – the very best healthcare in the world. If all of these (clearly skewed) statistics (about the U.S.) are genuinely indicative of less-than-optimal healthcare, why do these people, who can choose to go anywhere in the world, come here?

On the second point, Charlie Gard is an infant in Great Britain who is extremely ill with a rare, and usually fatal, disease. His parents want to bring him to – you guessed it – the U.S. for an experimental treatment, and have the resources to do exactly that.

Simple enough, yes? Not so fast. The government – which controls the rationing of limited resources – says, “No, we are sorry. We, in our infinite wisdom, are talking that choice away from you, and we have decreed that your child must die.”

Remember everyone making fun of Sarah Palin and her claim about impending death panels?

Remember former President Obama stating that “Maybe you give grandma a pill instead of that surgery she needs?”

The implications are obvious, folks; I implore each of you to consider the ramifications of “single-payer” healthcare.

Gregg Stopher, Peachtree Corners

Send us your thoughts:  We encourage you to send us your letters and thoughts on issues raised in GwinnettForum.  Please limit comments to 300 words.  We reserve the right to edit for clarity and length.  Send feedback and letters to:    elliott@brack.net


Distinctive senior housing development to be built in Snellville

A 24.73-acre senior housing development on U.S. Highway 78 in Snellville has been approved by the city. The project by Ridgecliff LLC, calls for a mixed-use senior citizen development including retail and restaurant space, medical buildings, 225 Independent Living units, 55 Assisted Living units, 24 memory Care units and 85 single-family townhomes for those 55 and older.

The project, located at 1672 Athens Highway at Crestview Drive, will be one of the few on the region which combines senior housing options with retail and restaurant space. It also fills a void for senior housing options in the city, officials said.

Planning and Development Director Jason Thompson says: “This is a win for the City of Snellville. There are few, if any, senior housing options in the area that offer doctor’s offices, retail and restaurant space on a campus for seniors with varied levels of care and living choices. We have identified a need for senior housing and this will do just that.”

Named “The Villas @ Crestview,” the campus will include two parks, a community center and recreation space. Construction is expected to begin soon and is expected to be completed within two years.

County votes for slight increase in millage for local operations 

The Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners adopted the 2017 millage rate Tuesday as discussed at three recent public hearings on the proposal  by a 3 to 2 vote.

The annual millage rate and individual annual property assessments determine each property owner’s property tax for county operations. Property tax bills also include school taxes, which are usually the larger portion of the total. For properties within certain cities, the tax bill may also include city taxes for those properties.

The 2017 total County millage rate has been set at 13.51 mills, which reflects a modest increase of 0.334 mills from the 2016 total millage rate 13.176 mills.  The net increase results from an increase in the county M&O (General Fund) rate of 0.574 mills and a reduction of 0.24 mills in the millage for bond debt. One mill equals a thousand dollars of assessed value. The increase results in the owner of a $200,000 home paying about $21 more this year than in 2016.  This figure will vary from home to home, based on valuation changes and exemptions. 

In 2008, the value of one mill to county government was approximately $29.4 million. By 2013, it had dropped 20 percent to $23.6 million. In 2017, the value of a mill, approximately $28.9 million, has still not returned to its highest point prior to the economic downturn. 

“This millage rate allows us to balance the 2017 general fund budget and set aside funds to begin addressing long-standing hiring and retention issues, especially in law enforcement,” said Chairman Charlotte Nash, adding that mandated responsibilities in the judicial and law enforcement areas accounted for more than 85 percent of the general fund budget increase this year.

Lawrenceville to roll back millage rate for 2017-18 budget year

The City of Lawrenceville voted to roll back the millage rate of 2.025 mills to 1.909 mills and decrease the city property tax rate for the 2017-18 fiscal year. 

Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson says: “The city has rolled back the millage rate to effectively maintain an affordable cost of living for residents in the city. The Council believes that keeping a low tax structure today will create opportunity for the future. As the city moves forward to execute capital projects, low millage now would offer flexibility for citizens to invest in these projects and maintain competitive rates along the way.”

Local leaders noted in the meeting that this decision will still result in a increase for residents because of Gwinnett County’s increase in the city/county combined tax digest. However, based on the decision to roll back the rate, the city will move forward to advertise a local decrease in property tax rates for the 2017/18 year. The intent of the rollback rate is that there would be no increase in city taxes.  

  • For more information on the city of Lawrenceville and how funds are invested back into the community, visit the website at www.lawrencevillega.org.


Gwinnett Place CID completes phase of streetscape improvements

The Gwinnett Place Community Improvement District (GPCID) recently completed phase two of its Satellite Boulevard streetscape project that included the construction of pedestrian enhancements along both sides of Satellite Boulevard from Pleasant Hill Road to Old Norcross Road.

The enhancements feature a combination of new brick lined and concrete sidewalks, brick paver crosswalks, striping, landscaping, pedestrian plazas, benches, trash receptacles, ADA ramps for accessibility, concrete curbs and gutters, concrete header curbs, conduit for future pedestrian light poles, reconstructed retaining walls, enhancement of existing retaining walls with stone veneer, and new barrier railings. The project begins at the intersection of Pleasant Hill Road and ends at the Gwinnett County Transit Center/Old Norcross Road intersection.

Joe Allen, executive director of GPCID says: “This project has reconstructed sidewalks, landscape enhancements and other features of Satellite Boulevard to ensure the safety of pedestrians, while improving Gwinnett Place’s walkability and visual appeal,”

The project ties into an earlier streetscape enhancement project along Satellite Boulevard from Tandy Key Lane to Old Norcross Road and to existing streetscapes along Pleasant Hill Road. The projected was funded by a Transportation Enhancement grant secured by the CID and CID funds. For more information or to request before and after project images, contact Maggie McDaniel at mmcdaniel@c21pr.com.

Snellville, county sign agreement for new library and market

Gwinnett Chairman Charlotte Nash and Snellville Mayor Tom Witts signed an intergovernmental agreement Tuesday to work together on the design of a new branch library and city market building as part of the city’s Towne Center project. The signing ceremony followed adoption of the agreement by the Board of Commissioners.

Snellville leaders said the city market could include restaurants, retail shops and other public, civic or educational facilities. Wittts comments: “With the help of Gwinnett County, the new City Market and Library will be a centerpiece of our ambitious plan to create a new downtown Snellville, one that will spur commercial and residential growth and be a catalyst for development in the city for decades to come. We are grateful for the help of our county leaders, moving us closer toward our goal of making Snellville a better place.”

The city also agreed to provide and maintain stormwater detention facilities for the area. Following finalization of space requirements by both parties, the County and city will hire a firm to design a mutually satisfactory building that meets minimum LEED sustainability standards.

The County recently worked with the city of Lilburn on a shared library and City Hall building that opened last October.


The Hunchback of Notre Dame at the Aurora Theatre

Stunning!’ is one word to describe the new production at the Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which continues through August 27.  Based in Paris of 1482, its actors are complemented by a magnificent setting and guided and brought along with a music that keeps the show moving splendidly with ease and syncopation.  The cast readily brings together this difficult story filled with tension, with continuing gusto and aplomb. The striking dramatic costumes add depth to the overall presentation, while the background of gigantic bells of the cathedral put you right in the midst of the excitement. This first show of the new season is being done in partnership with the Theatrical Outfit. After the run at the Aurora, the show will also be presented at the Rialto Center for the Arts from September 7-17.  For a performance you will remember, be sure to see this show.–eeb

An invitation: what books, restaurants, movies or web sites have you enjoyed recently? Send us your recent selection, along with a short paragraph (100 words) as to why you liked this, plus what you plan to visit or read next. –eeb


Auto racing in Savannah first drew Howard Coffin to Georgia

(Continued from previous edition)

Automobile racing first drew Howard Coffin to Georgia. He considered racing as a means to test and advertise early automobiles, several of which he had designed. At a 1911 contest in Savannah, he learned that Sapelo Island was for sale. Coffin and his wife, Teddie, who had visited the coastal area, jumped at the chance to buy 20,000 acres of the Sapelo Island land and marsh for $120,000.

Coffin, right, with President Calvin Coolidge

He constructed a palatial home on Sapelo Island, using the existing tabby walls and foundation that had constituted Thomas Spalding‘s antebellum mansion. What followed were numerous improvements to the island: he had drainage ditches blasted, fields cleared, an oyster-canning facility constructed, and roads cut. Soon Sapelo was host to a number of dignitaries, including aviator Charles Lindbergh, President and Mrs. Calvin Coolidge, and President and Mrs. Herbert Hoover. 

During this period Coffin bought vast tracts of land along coastal Georgia, and when paved roads began penetrating the area he foresaw the potential for tourism. 

This prompted Coffin to purchase several plantations on St. Simons Island, where he began extensive development, including a golf course, a yacht club, paved roads, electricity, and a residential subdivision. Almost as an afterthought he purchased an adjacent island, which he named Sea Island. This is where he eventually built the Cloister, an exclusive resort. 

A causeway constructed during the 1920s between the mainland and St. Simons Island enabled tourists and day visitors to reach the beach area easily. Coffin used his floating dredges to strengthen the existing causeway and also to build a causeway between St. Simons and Sea Island. This ensured the success of the Cloister, the only major resort between Miami, Fla., and the golfing community of Pinehurst,  N.C.

Coffin made another major contribution to coastal Georgia’s economy by recognizing the area’s potential for growing pine trees that could be used as pulpwood. In 1927 he invested $10,000 in an experiment to determine if pine chips from Georgia trees could be processed into paper pulp. The success of this led to the creation of the Brunswick Pulp and Paper Company, one of the many pulp mills that now dot the eastern seaboard. 

Coffin died in 1937 from a shotgun blast, apparently accidental. His Sapelo Island mansion is owned and operated by the state of Georgia. Georgia’s vibrant coastal area is his most visible and significant contribution, along with the pulpwood industry he foresaw and actively supported.


Check out this scene and tell us where you think it is

It’s not quite distinguishable through the tree, but it’s a classic building. Can you recognize it?  If so, tell us what it is and where it’s located. Send in your ideas to elliott@brack.net.

Several people recognized last edition’s Mystery Photo. Debbie Krewson of Flowery Branch was first in: “It’s Anderson’s Sunflowers, 3360 Shiloh Rd., Cumming.  The season ends this Friday, July 21. Thanks for reminding me of them. Need to drive out there and see them blooming.”  Susan McBrayer, Sugar Hill, said: “This is more in my neck of the woods. It’s in Cumming at the intersection of Georgia Highway 9 and Shiloh Road.”  The photo came from Jerry Colley of Alpharetta.

Jennifer Stephens  of Suwanee and her daughter were there last Sunday: “Pretty neat. It’s a farm owned by the Anderson family in Cumming. They charge $10/car to come and view their sunflower field which blooms the first few weeks in July each year. There’s an old barn, old tractor, old truck and other farm equipment which is great for photographs. Check out their site: https://www.facebook.com/The-Andersons-Sunflowers-286874744691832/. Also recognizing the photo was Dr. Slade Lail of Duluth.

George Graf of Palmyra, Va. wrote: “When Dennis Anderson’s father, Byron Anderson, suggested planting sunflowers on the family farm, Dennis couldn’t see a good reason. He explained the decision to plant sunflowers was made in 1994 when his father phased out the hog operation.  “We weren’t going to grow corn and wheat and such anymore for the animals,” Dennis said. “So that year, my dad said rather than letting the fields grow up into weeds, he was going to plant sunflowers.  But the family planted the flowers all the same, and within one year, it was a hit in the community.”


County officials hold third ribbon-cutting in recent days

Roving Photographer Frank Sharp was present when Gwinnett County officials and history buffs celebrated the opening of the historic Isaac Adair House at the third ribbon cutting for a SPLOST-funded project in a week. The Isaac Adair House, located next to the Female Seminary in Lawrenceville, has benefitted from $1.055 million in improvements, including ADA accessibility to both structures, a restroom building, storage for programming supplies, landscaping and bus parking. On July 11, supporters of sports, playtime and recreation joined County officials for back-to-back ribbon cuttings to mark the completion of a new gymnasium at George Pierce Park and a playground and other improvements at McDaniel Farm Park.


Peachtree Corners State of the City Address, by Mayor Mike Mason, will be Monday, July 24 at 7 p.m. at Christ the King Lutheran Church, 5575 Peachtree Parkway. Learn about the upcoming events in Peachtree Corners, including the Groundbreaking of our new Town Center. The event will be presented by the United Peachtree Corners Civic Association.

Free Photography Workshop is coming to the Grayson Public Library on July 25 at 6 p.m. Join the Georgia Nature Photographers Association for this informal talk and Q&A photography workshop.  They will provide information about cameras, editing software, and tips for getting better photographs with the equipment you already have. There will be 31 photographs on display.

(NEW) Ribbon Cutting at the Centerville Senior Center, 3075 Bethany Church Road, at 10 a.m. August 8. Following the ceremony, enjoy a tour of this state-of-the-art facility, and enjoy lunch with the seniors.


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