Liane Levetan: LaVista Hills on shaky fiscal ground

With a mere 11 days to go before the vote, former DeKalb County CEO Liane Levetan has declared her opposition to the new city of LaVista Hills. From her piece in today's AJC:

First, I am far from convinced a city of LaVista Hills can support itself, especially under the fiscal constraints imposed by the enabling legislation. I have studied the Carl Vinson Institute report on the viability of LaVista Hills, and even the most optimistic reading of its analysis does not leave much room for error.

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LaVista Hills advocates argue that rising property values will create even more of a cushion. As we all know from painful experience, property values don’t always rise, and the next economic downturn would prove disastrous for a community that is overwhelmingly dependent on residential property taxes. If that happens, a city of LaVista Hills and its residents would have few good options and no way to undo the damage. Cross this bridge, and there’s no going back.

The opposing viewpoint from Mary Kay Woodworth and Kevin Levitas, also in today's AJC, includes this:

DeKalb's population is now larger than Wyoming's and about the size of Alaska's, with each commissioner representing more constituents than the populations of most Georgia counties. The model just doesn't work. Much like the federal government, DeKalb has become too big and unwieldly. And when that happens — just as we've seen in our nation's capital — there is too much room for mischief.

A slightly dated report of rampant optimism in DeKalb County, by CBS 46, includes these lines:

In 2011, DeKalb County's Office of Senior Affairs issued a $7,500 invoice to Candace Sunshine on Prosperity Lane in Stone Mountain for exercise classes. The only problem -- DeKalb County's voter registration office said there is no Candace Sunshine that is registered to vote in the state and her address doesn't exist either.

Here's the problem. CBS46 was looking for a human being. Candace Sunshine of Prosperity Lane is clearly a Cabbage Patch doll.

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We'll call it 'the war on Hanukkah.' A controversy over the addition of a six-foot menorah to a Christmas tree lighting in Dunwoody on Nov. 22 threatened to scuttle the annual event after the Dunwoody Preservation Trust decided to disallow any religious symbols.

The Dunwoody Reporter reported that a compromise is in the works to allow both the tree and the menorah at a farmhouse property in the heart of the city. Channel 2 Action News has more of the back story here.

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A group called Hatewatch reports that members of the Ku Klux Klan will attend the mid-November rally planned by pro-Confederate groups at the proposed site of the Martin Luther King Jr. monument atop Stone Mountain.

The state-run park's officials received notice earlier this week of the rall,y to be held on Nov. 14. It's the third since August by supporters of the Confederate battle flag, which has come under renewed scrutiny after the slayings of black worshippers at a Charleston church by a suspected white supremacist.

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The Savannah mayor's race and the re-election bid of Edna Jackson has taken an ugly, racially tinged turn on YouTube, according to the Morning News:

The camera then panned past each of the students as a distorted voice shouted, "Sacrifice it," followed by "Burn in hell, Edna! Burn."

The camera paused on a boy holding a lighter fluid container then zoomed in on an "Edna Jackson for Mayor" campaign sign that was fully engulfed. The caption beneath it read, "RIP to Edna Jackson."

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State Sen. Vincent Fort may be a little groggy this morning. He attended an all night "sleep in protest" to support residents of the Peoplestown neighborhood upset about the city of Atlanta's plans to

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One of Georgia politics' most controversial figures is leaving his post. From our AJC colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin:

GRTL on Thursday announced veteran anti-abortion advocate Ricardo Davis will take over as president Nov. 10. Becker, who has been president since 2007, will move to Personhood Alliance, a separate organization founded in 2014.

Davis owns a healthcare information systems consulting firm and was a campaign consultant to former U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga.

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Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is formally in for speaker, after getting the backing of three key caucuses of House Republicans. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, offered his endorsement, as Georgia -- like the rest of the GOP -- appears ready to line up behind Ryan in next week's votes, with the possible exception of Rep. Jody Hice, R-Monroe.

Here's a snippet from Graves:

"Right now, the Republican Party needs unity. Since I was elected in 2010, I can remember no time of total unity – from House Republicans, to conservative talk radio, to the grassroots and outside groups – other than when we rallied behind Paul Ryan's visionary Path to Prosperity budget plan."

The turmoil is also giving Georgia's ex-members a chance to weigh in. We've told you about Paul Broun's "Fire Everyone" viewpoint. Now comes longtime Rep. Jack Kingston, who writes in the Savannah Morning News that the next speaker must tackle entitlement reform:

Enter the Freedom Caucus. Risking their own careers and the Republican majority, the group is ready to plunge into the Forbidden Forest. Last week, Leader Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) told me: at the very least, whoever the next Speaker is will have to facilitate meaningful debate on these sensitive issues. ...

I believe Paul Ryan is up for this the challenge. He's a patriotic, dedicated, natural leader. But he is right in making certain requests from the caucus first. Really, he needs three things before taking the job: 1) he must assemble a kitchen cabinet consisting of Freedom Caucus representatives, moderates, libertarians, and social conservatives; 2) this cabinet must provide a pathway to settling the debt ceiling, budget, and reconciliation in the next 60 days; and 3) establish a six-month peace treaty into the new year in order for him to begin to address the issues of the day without being booted.

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Towards the end of Thursday's epic Hillary Clinton Benghazi hearing on Capitol Hill, she got in a back-and-forth with Coweta County Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland about her personal email server. (Here's their earlier exchange on security at Benghazi)

Westmoreland: Did you tell them you had a private server at that time?

Clinton: You know, I don't -- I know that, um ...

Westmoreland: Well, if they were gathering emails, you had to tell them you had a private server while you were there.

Clinton: The server is not the point. It's the account. And I made it a practice to send emails that were work related to people on their government accounts. Secretary Kerry is the first Secretary of State to rely primarily on a government account. So ...

Westmoreland: I'm not talking about the account. I'm talking about the server. One last point. I'll close with this and then the chairman can give you time to answer. Let me tell you what I thought. I think that your attorney sat down with the State Department and they said: 'We got a problem, and so we gotta come up with something that this is not just the secretary having these emails in a private server. So I tell you what let's do. Let's go back and ask Madeline Albright, who was Secretary of State in 1997 that never even had an email account, or let's go back and ask, you know, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and me to provide all this information.' I'm just telling you it smells -- it doesn't smell right.

Politico has an important point about the timing of the email server talk:

Facing pressure to prove the committee was about Benghazi not Clinton 2016, Republican questioners waited until 7:40 p.m. (well after FOX broke away from the hearings) to savage her server arrangement. Jim Jordan, the most aggressive of the lot, took the lead, followed by Georgia Rep. Lynn Westmoreland and, eventually, [Trey] Gowdy.

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Will Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., be the next domino to fall in the Republican presidential race? Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other key figures are pushing him to focus on keeping his day job, according to Politico:

The meeting, confirmed to POLITICO by three people briefed on the conversation, represented a key moment in the quiet push to get Paul and his team to realize that, come next summer, the junior senator from Kentucky is far more likely to be campaigning for reelection in Louisville than crowned as the GOP nominee in Cleveland.

"We don't have unlimited patience," said a top Senate Republican operative of Paul's presidential candidacy.

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On the Democratic side, the "Block of Granite" has crumbled: Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee announced this morning that he is dropping out of the race.

Chafee and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb are both out this week after getting some TV time in Las Vegas. That leaves three: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley.

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It's possible that the HOPE scholarship is giving us too many English lit majors. From David Pendered and the Saporta Report:

"We find that as a result of these merit aid programs, there was a significant drop in the probability of students majoring in STEM," David Sjoquist, co-author of the study, said in a statement.

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Just in case you still didn't think the theater in Washington doesn't matter, from Andria Simmons, who operates the AJC's Route 666 commuter blog:

Repeated shortfalls in the Federal Highway Trust Fund, which pays for a majority of state road projects, have led to a series of short-term extensions. The latest patch by Congress is the 34th since 2009 and the third in less than a year. It expires Oct. 29.

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The Macon Telegraph's Maggie Lee tells us that we have a sixth candidate, James Pettis of Kathleen, Ga., in the special election to replace state Sen. Ross Tolleson, R-Perry. Tolleson has endorsed Larry Walker III. All candidates are Republican.