12/15: Lilburn’s downtown; Alabama election; Republican Party

GwinnettForum  |  Number 16.70  |  Dec. 15, 2017

LILBURN’S NEW CITY HALL and library are behind this snowy mixture from last week. That Gwinnett city is preparing to revitalize its historic downtown area. See more details in Today’s Focus below. (Photo by Doug Stacks.)
TODAY’S FOCUS: City of Lilburn Preparing To Revitalize Downtown Infrastructure
EEB PERSPECTIVE: Two Major Reasons Allowed Alabama To Elect a Democratic Senator
ANOTHER VIEW: Writer Outlines History of What Happened to the Republican Party
SPOTLIGHT: Eastside Medical Center
FEEDBACK: Perhaps Here Is a Way Corporate Tax Cuts Could Help the Middle Class
McLEMORE’S WORLD: More on Advent Season
UPCOMING: Gwinnett Symphony and Chorus Christmas Concert Is December 18
NOTABLE: Peach State FCU Gives $50,000 for Research at Piedmont College
RECOMMENDED: Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
GEORGIA TIDBIT: Publication of EMC’s Georgia Is State’s Largest Circulation Magazine
TODAY’S QUOTE: What? There Are Dishonest Men in Government?
MYSTERY PHOTO: Stately Brick Building Welcomes Your Idea of Where It’s Located

City of Lilburn preparing to revitalize downtown infrastructure

“Music on Main venue in Lilburn during snowstorm of last week”

By Nikki Perry, Lilburn, Ga.  |  The City of Lilburn has invested heavily in revitalizing downtown infrastructure over the past five years. Now the city is starting a program that will get downtown business owners more involved in the future development of Main Street.

Director of Planning and Economic Development Doug Stacks says: “Lilburn is super-excited about the opportunities presented by the Georgia Main Street Program to further enhance the viability of our core. This program enables our Old Town businesses to do things that are specific to themselves, but, in turn, positively impact Lilburn as a whole.”

The Georgia Main Street Program has been around since 1980 in coordination with the National Main Street Center. Other Gwinnett cities involved in the program include Auburn, Braselton, Grayson, Lawrenceville, Suwanee, and Sugar Hill. Member cities make a commitment to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs to pursue “meaningful economic, social, physical and organizational improvements in the historic commercial district.” In return, the Main Street Program provides cities with the organizational and informational tools to revitalize downtown businesses.

The entire program is founded on a philosophy that a city’s downtown is the center of community life, and that a strong downtown creates a stronger community. That same belief has motivated the Lilburn City Council’s decisions to build a new city hall-library, redesign the flow of traffic on Main Street, and add sidewalks throughout downtown.

The heartbeat of Old Town is in Lilburn City Park, which is about to undergo a major redesign, and the Camp Creek Greenway, which is also in the process of significant improvements.

Clearly, the city and county governments have done a lot downtown. It’s time for the affected businesses to take the reins. And it’s about to happen.

Antiques in Old Town owner Hugh Wilkerson, who is also a member of the Lilburn Downtown Development Authority (DDA) says: “I see the Main Street program as way to bring property owners and local government together to create a Main Street that is attractive and successful.”

In Lilburn, the DDA will be the mechanism for creation of a Main Street Program. On Monday, Lilburn City Council voted to approve agreements with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs to join Georgia Main Street. In January, the DDA plans to officially create a Main Street Board, which will be comprised of DDA members, downtown business owners, or anyone interested in fostering economic growth on Main Street.

Music on Main Street and DDA member Scott Mecredy says: “The new Main Street program will help business owners and their customers, especially the residents of Lilburn, work more directly with city government to make Main Street Lilburn a vibrant attraction in our community.”

Learn more about Georgia Main Street at www.georgiamainstreet.org. Updates on the Lilburn program’s progress will be posted at www.cityoflilburn.com.


Two major reasons allowed Alabama to elect a Democratic senator

By Elliott Brack, editor and publisher  |  Modern technology had a major influence in the outcome of the Senate race in Alabama.

Add in some Republican voters staying home on Tuesday, and you get a Democrat in a red state going to the U.S. Senate.

Here’s how this came about.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, on assuming office on Jan. 9, 2015, had as his goal to get as many Alabamans as possible registered to vote. He chose a new method already underway in many other states, online registration, as the key method to get more people in Alabama registered. Today 38 states, including Georgia, allow online voter registration.

Since Secretary Merrill has taken office in early 2015, 866,000 people have been registered to vote. That’s a whopping 35.2 percent increase in registered voters in slightly less than three years! Today there are 3,328,117 people registered to vote in Alabama (as of last Friday.) Never has Alabama had so many people who were eligible to vote.


Unusual for a Republican office holder to encourage voting, Secretary Merrill told us this week: “My intent on taking office was to make each and every eligible citizen who had a photo ID be registered to vote.  And we’ve done it. We have had over 350,000 people registered electronically through their computer or on their phone.”

As in Georgia, in Alabama if you have a valid driver’s license, you can use a computer or your phone to register to vote. And Alabamans bought it. No longer were they required to go to a county registration office to register.

Officials at the Secretary of State’s office like to point out that this decision to move to online registration was also inexpensive.  The secretary of state’s chief of staff, David Brewer, says that “We did it with our house staff. Online registration didn’t cost us an extra dime.”

Wow!  Double Wow-Wow.

Any time you get 35 more percent of the people voting in any election, you almost automatically can have major change.

Then couple this with the aroma that many regular Republicans smelled coming from the candidacy of Roy Moore, the one accused multiple times of sexual harassment of young girls, and something else happened. Many Alabama Republicans simply stayed away from the polls.  They were true old-line ultra conservative Republicans who were repulsed by the candidacy of Roy Moore, yet could not bring themselves to vote for a Democrat.

We talked with another Alabama voting official, who we could not quote by name. Yet this person told us that they were not surprised at the outcome of the election.  “No, I wasn’t surprised,” we were told, “For last week I was in Selma, and found that many Republicans told me that they would not vote at all. That helped the Democrat win, so I wasn’t surprised.”

Add in that many parts of Alabama, areas that supported President Donald Trump in 2016, had a majority of people casting votes for Doug Jones for the Alabama senate post. You wonder if the vote in Alabama is symbolic of other areas of the country (those areas that voted for Mr. Trump), but have become alienated to his outrageous antics as president? Is this signaling a change in voters throughout the nation?

Throw in online voting, and those staying at home….and you get an Alabama earthquake!


Writer outlines history of what happened to the Republican Party

By George Wilson, contributing columnist  |  First, they were asked to swallow the idea of a narcissistic sexual harasser and a compulsive liar as their party leader. Then he asked the party to accept his comprehensive ignorance, and his politics of racial division.

Now with the tax cut plan, he asks the party to surrender its reputation for fiscal conservatism.  Simultaneously he asks the party to become the party of Roy Moore, the party of bigotry, sexual harassment and child molestation.

That is how a tormentor works, seeking a little piece of you, but keeps asking and asking, and before long, he owns your entire soul.

Today’s rotten Republican Party is the product of a rotten system. The utterly antiquated Electoral College gave us an unqualified disaster as president, a man who lost by three million popular votes. Gerrymandering and voter disenfranchisement gives us a minority rule by the Republican Party. Citizens United and money-as-free-speech have given us a Republican Congress utterly in the thrall of the Kochs, the Mercers, and any other self-serving billionaire with a checkbook.

And Fox News has given us millions of people who vote for the GOP because they believe every lie, they are told, because responsible journalism is now “fake news”.

Furthermore, have the Republicans traded an ethos of excellence for an ethos of hucksterism? Here’s how:

  • Starting with Nixon’s southern strategy to capture Dixiecrats for the GOP;
  • Continued by Reagan’s program for states rights announced in Philadelphia, Ms.;
  • Furthered by Newt Gingrich’s winner-take-all contempt for progressive ideas;
  • Coupled by the decades of gerrymandering that Tom DeLay started;
  • Reinforced by Trent Lott’s dog-whistle to the likes of the Council of Conservative Citizens ;
  • Brought to fruition in Sarah Palin and the spread of Fox News; and
  • Cemented by Mitch McConnell’s stacking of the courts.

Finally,” What shall it profit a man,” the Bible asks, “if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?”

Citizens need to get involved before our republic is flushed down a golden Trumpian Toilet along with our souls.


Eastside Medical Center

The public spiritedness of our sponsors allows us to bring GwinnettForum.com to you at no cost to readers. Today we welcome a new underwriter, Eastside Medical Center, which has been a healthcare leader for more than 35 years providing quality care to patients in Gwinnett and surrounding counties. Eastside is a 310-bed, multi-campus system of care offering comprehensive medical and surgical programs as well as 24-hour emergency care at both their Main and South Campus locations.  Eastside Medical Group provides primary care for patients of all ages in Snellville, Grayson, and Loganville. Specialty surgical services and gynecology and maternity services are also offered by Eastside Medical Group in Snellville.  Eastside Medical Center now has three Eastside Urgent Care centers located in Lawrenceville, Centerville, and Lilburn. Our exceptional medical staff of 500 board certified physicians, 1,200 employees and 400 volunteers is committed to providing our community a healthcare system of excellence.

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Perhaps here is a way corporate tax cuts could help the middle

Editor, the Forum:

Proponents of the GOP tax proposals assert that changes to the federal individual income tax system would save the average middle class family about $1,400 per year. However, I have heard only a little about how the corporate income tax cuts would help the middle class.

The most frequent comments suggest that lowering corporate income taxes would enable companies to grow, thereby increasing demand for new workers, and in turn driving up wages for existing employees. This result might occur, but it may come only slowly, as numerous factors beyond corporate profits fuel business growth.

Another, faster way the corporate tax cuts could benefit Americans involves the impact of lower income taxes on business’ pricing of their goods and services.  Corporations all along the supply chain, including the retail link, could lower their sales prices by the projected tax savings and still make the same amount of net income.  While it is not likely that corporations would pass all of their tax savings to their customers, it seems fairly likely that competition will lead some early disrupters to pass along some tax savings to their customers in order to gain more market share.

An old-fashioned, political tactic might get corporate businesses to consider customers as valuable stakeholders, along with shareholders and employees, and to act more quickly than otherwise to benefit them.  That tactic is called “jawboning.”

President Trump likes to talk up the benefits of his policies to Americans, so he should lead the jawboning.  If other political leaders followed suit, corporate management and their boards of directors might push more rapidly for sharing with customers, as well as shareholders and employees, the benefits of lower income taxes.  If corporations merely pass along these benefits to shareholders, the so-called “investor class”, they will miss a great opportunity to help the customers and employees who comprise the American middle class.

— Michael L. Wood, Peachtree Corners

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More on Advent Season


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Gwinnett Symphony and Chorus Christmas concert is Dec. 18

“Let There Be Peace on Earth” is the theme of a Christmas concert to be presented by Gwinnett Symphony Orchestra and Chorus on Monday, December 18 at 7 p.m. at the Infinite Energy Theater in Duluth.

The program will include favorite holiday music – traditional, pop, kids, secular and spiritual – plus an audience sing-a-long led by none other than Santa himself! Other special guests include Frosty, Rudolph and Suzy Snowflake.  Santa will also assist the children from the audience as they come on stage in what has become a Gwinnett Symphony tradition where each child has a turn at conducting the orchestra in “Sleigh Ride.”  After the concert, children will have the opportunity to visit with Santa on his sleigh while their parents snap a few photos.  Love offerings appreciated.

The chorus director and conductor for this concert, Rick Smith, comments: “This program will be a special time to share with family and friends but also for remembering our home planet where an amazing physical and astronomical event took place 2,000 years ago,”

Tickets are for reserved seats and may be purchased through Infinite Energy Center on line at  https://www.infiniteenergycenter.com/events/detail/let-there-be-peace-on-earth. They may also be purchased at the box office.  Additional fees apply for online purchases. Tickets are $12 for kids 12 and under or kids-at-heart 55 and older. All others are $17.


Peach State FCU gives $50,000 for research at Piedmont College

At the check presentation were James F. Mellichamp, Marshall Boutwell, Dr. Robert H. Wainberg and John Fair.

Peach State Federal Credit Union has made a $50,000 donation to Piedmont College benefitting the Dr. Robert H. Wainberg Natural Sciences Research Fund. The endowment will support research for Piedmont College students majoring in natural sciences, including biology, chemistry, and environmental science.

Piedmont College President James F. Mellichamp says: “Research is an important part of the learning process for science majors. This generous donation will enable the college to continue to provide our students the ability to acquire hands-on experience with their research projects. We look forward to seeing the positive impact this will have on our students and faculty.”

Peach State President/CEO Marshall Boutwell says: “Our credit union was founded by educators in 1961, and we proudly honor that foundation through the support of students, schools, and educators in our footprint. We achieve this through our robust scholarship program, support of Teacher of the Year programs, and important donations like this one.”

Dr. Wainberg, for whom the research fund is named, is a professor of biology at Piedmont, where he has taught since 1988. Prior to Southeast FCU’s merger with Peach State, Dr. Wainberg served on the Board of Directors of Southeast FCU as Secretary and Treasurer for 13 years.

Republic Services offers 5 environmentally-friendly holiday tips

This holiday season, Republic Services, Inc. (NYSE: RSG) encourages consumers across the country to incorporate environmentally responsible practices into celebrations and family gatherings with five simple tips.

Pete Keller, vice president of recycling and sustainability at Republic Services, says:  “Many of us want to be more sustainable during the holidays, but we aren’t sure how or we just don’t have the time. These five easy tips can help each of us to do our part to make environmentally responsible choices throughout the holiday season and help make a positive impact in our communities for generations to come.”

Republic’s five holiday sustainability tips:

  • When giving holiday gifts, commit to reusing laminated bags and recycling those made of paper.
  • Shipping gifts? Make shredded paper out of old newspapers and be sure to reuse last year’s bubble wrap and Styrofoam peanuts.
  • After opening gifts, remember to recycle the wrapping paper – even the shiny stuff – but save and reuse the ribbons and bows.
  • Getting a new device this holiday season? Make sure your old phone or tablet does not get tossed in with the recycling. Check with your local service provider on any special instructions or electronics recycling options.
  • Enjoy that holiday latte, just remember the paper cup, plastic lid and paper sleeve should be empty, clean and dry before tossing them into the recycling container.

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

Reviewed by Gene Ramsey, Norcross  |  Author David Grann takes us back to 1920s Oklahoma, telling the true story of the murder there of a large number of members of the Osage Indian tribe, and the eventual effort by the Bureau of Investigation, part of the United States Department of Justice, to bring justice in some of the cases.  The Osage had occupied a large swath of the Midwest in the early 1800s, prior to the onslaught of European settlers, but by the early 20th Century the federal government had confined them to a remote section of Oklahoma.  The discovery of oil on Osage land in the 1920s brought fabulous wealth to the tribe, but this in turn brought forth a wave of predators who used fraud, deceit and murder to steal the newfound riches.  David Grann follows the story from those times to the Osage descendants living in the area today.

  • 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.  Send to:  elliott@brack.net

Publication of EMC’s GEORGIA is state’s largest circulation magazine

GEORGIA Magazine is the state’s largest-circulation monthly magazine, a general-interest publication that averages more than half a million monthly subscribers with an estimated readership of more than one million. The magazine is the official publication of Georgia Electric Membership Corp. (Georgia EMC), the trade association that serves the state’s forty-one consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.

A 1990 cover of the magazine

The state’s oldest monthly magazine, GEORGIA Magazine launched in July 1945 as RURAL GEORGIA, a newspaper tabloid mailed to rural homes served by the state’s EMCs. Originally, the magazine was produced by Georgia EMC staff members. The periodical’s first editor, Belmont Dennis, was hired in 1945. Since then, there have been 14 editors, including the current editor Laurel George.

In 1951 Georgia EMC Manager Walter Harrison became editor of the tabloid, which operated out of Georgia EMC offices in his hometown of Millen. Instrumental in organizing the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), Harrison served three separate turns as editor of the state association’s publication and contributed a monthly column.

In 1958 RURAL GEORGIA expanded to 16 pages. Along with Georgia EMC, the newspaper tabloid moved its offices from Millen to Atlanta and, under the leadership of Bill Blankinship, became a 32-page, four-color magazine in 1977. Emphasis was put on special editions to build advertising and circulation, which, in 1980, surpassed 200,000.

That same year, the magazine surveyed its readers and, based on the results, created what continues to be its most popular departments: a calendar of events and cooking and gardening columns. The magazine was named the best electric cooperative magazine in a NRECA national competition in 1980.

In 1990 RURAL GEORGIA changed its name to GEORGIA Magazine to reflect its readership, which had grown to include those in both rural and suburban communities.

As the magazine’s circulation increased to a monthly average of more than 500,000, a more efficient means of printing began. Simultaneously, the magazine embraced new technical trends, winning national industry awards for its website and offering readers a digital edition of the magazine in a flip-page format.

Along with its statewide edition, GEORGIA Magazine serves 29 of the state’s EMCs which incorporate their own newsletters into the magazine’s center fold, bringing local co-op news as well as state EMC news to their members. In 2016 the publication partnered with the Digital Library of Georgia, which archived the magazine and provided online access to past issues.


Stately brick building welcomes your idea of where it’s located

It’s a stately building, and may fool you on where it is located. Send your idea of this edition’s Mystery Photo to elliott@brack.net, and be sure to include your hometown.

Last edition’s mystery photo, that of the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I., was easy for five people.  The photo came from Ross Lenhart of Pawley’s Island, S.C.

First in was Howard Hoffman of Peachtree Corners, followed by Bob Foreman of Grayson; b Duluth; and Mark Barlow, Peachtree Corners.

Allan Peel, from San Antonio, Tex., formerly of Peachtree Corners, gave lots of detail: “This is an easy one! Today’s photo was taken at the  International Tennis Hall of Fame, located in Newport, Rhode Island. This museum and tennis club promotes the history of tennis and celebrates its champions and is actually affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. Following a visit to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in the early 1950s, Jimmy Van Alen, then-president of the Newport Casino, and his wife Candy, decided that tennis also needed a place to honor its great figures. Jimmy Van Alen successfully lobbied the leadership of the United States Lawn Tennis Association to sanction the establishment of a National Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport. The venerable Newport Casino became the National Lawn Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum and was officially recognized by the International Tennis Federation in 1986.”

George Graf of Palmyra, Va. adds more about the building early history: “This photo was taken through the promenade trellis.  The magnificent Newport Casino was built as a result of a grudge.  James Gordon Bennett was one of Newport’s most well known celebrities.  To some he was a rogue, others a rascal and to still others the very pillar of society.  The Casino, most Newporters will tell you, was built upon a resentment that Bennett had against the members of the very exclusive Reading Room. To younger men like James G. Bennett, the Reading Room habitues were ‘stodgy old men who sat around telling ribald stories, chewed plug tobacco, and spit in the shiny brass cuspidors which were in abundance.’ Bennett decided to add a little spice to their lives and shake up these ‘pillars of society.’  The Casino, which contained a block long complex of shops on the street, was built across from Bennett’s estate.  Unlike the exclusive Reading Room, the Casino was both a private and public club in that the public could pay an entrance fee and enjoy the club’s facilities for the day.  The Casino opened in 1880.”


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