State leaders need to make changes if Georgia wants federal dollars to deepen Savannah port

By Maria Saporta

Sometimes it seems as though Georgia is its own worst enemy.

State and regional leaders have proclaimed that Georgia’s top economic development priority is the deepening of the Port of Savannah. They say it is essential to the state’s future to deepen the port and the 33-miles of the river that connects the port with Atlantic Ocean.

Georgia leaders — including Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed — have been lobbying the federal government and the Obama administration for $105 million to help pay for the deepening of the port.

But last month, Georgia got word that the federal government was only allocating $600,000 in pre-construction and planning dollars for the project.

Well, if Georgia really is concerned about why it’s not receiving more federal support, it should probably look in the mirror.

The chairman of the Georgia Ports Authority is Alec Poitevint II of Bainbridge.

But Pointevint also has another critical role that is hurting Georgia’s ability to get federal funding.

In early February, Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, announced that he was naming Pointevint to chair the Republican Party’s 2012 political convention in Tampa.

Okay, while serving as chairman of the Georgia Ports Authority, Pointevint also is heading the national convention to get President Barack Obama elected out of office in 2012.

And Georgia leaders are wondering why we didn’t get $100 million from the federal government.

Mayor Reed can be the hardest working Democrat in Georgia seeking federal funds for the port, but he can’t overcome the “shoot-yourself-in-the-foot” situation of having Pointevint as chairman of the Georgia Ports Authority.

Of course, Reed was too diplomatic to own up to Georgia’s awkward position. “I don’t see that as a problem,” Reed told me recently.

But someone who has worked closely with Washington, D.C. officials on this issue told me simply that the Obama administration is well aware of Pointevint’s dual role.

Of course, it also doesn’t help Georgia when 93 Republican state legislators support a bill that would require President Obama to provide proof of his American birth in order to get on the ballot next year.

My former colleague, Jim Galloway, pointed out in the Political Insider this week that the bill comes at the same time that the Georgia Ports Authority is pushing “the White House for hundreds of millions in federal dollars to dredge the Port of Savannah.”

Again, it appears as though Georgia is doing as much as it can to make enemies in the Obama administration. That certainly doesn’t seem to be the smartest move the state can make if it really believes that the deepening of the Port of Savannah is its most important economic development project.

Fortunately, it appears as though House Speaker David Ralston is sensitive to the fact that the “birther bill” is not in Georgia’s best interests. But given the mood at the General Assembly, it’s quite possible that even Ralston won’t be able to stop that bill.

If Georgia really wants to be taken seriously in Washington, it might want to change its tune in the General Assembly and find someone who is less partisan to chair the Georgia Ports Authority.

I’m just saying…..

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

6 replies
  1. Burroughston Broch says:

    It’s getting difficult to find a credible Democrat to put in any position, so I understand the Governor’s dilemma.
    On the other side, dredging the Savannah River is a lot cheaper than building a new stadium for Arthur Blank. Why don’t we State taxpayers pay for the dredging ourselves, tell the President to go fish, and tell Arthur to build and pay for his own new stadium?Report

  2. Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights..... says:

    Burroughston Broch says:
    March 3, 2011 at 7:31 pm
    “It’s getting difficult to find a credible Democrat to put in any position, so I understand the Governor’s dilemma.”
    “On the other side, dredging the Savannah River is a lot cheaper than building a new stadium for Arthur Blank. Why don’t we State taxpayers pay for the dredging ourselves, tell the President to go fish, and tell Arthur to build and pay for his own new stadium?”

    Burroughston Broch, your being so diplomatic. Don’t you mean “Why don’t we state taxpayers tell the President AND Arthur Blank to go to h***”? Especially if he’s going to let personal political pettiness get in the way of seeing the big picture and an investment that will benefit not only the state of Georgia, but the entire nation as Savannah has proved to be a rising major seaport of increasing international importance in recent years. But I can’t really blame the President, he is only human and for a group of local politicians to have the gall to crawl forth again and again on their knees to beg his administration to give them billions of dollars after repeatedly badmouthing him as a big government facist marxist secret muslim born on foreign soil who is really out to weaken and destroy America must seem hypocritical at best and totally disingenuous, two-faced and mean-spiritedly spiteful at worst. Yeah, I could see why he wouldn’t hesitate to repeadly deny to fulfill Georgia Republicans financial requests when the level of rhetoric coming from the right is deafening, just because he can. Crawling on your knees to beg for money the same big government entity that you repeatedly criticize as evil and in need of destruction is probably not wise, but there still legions of Obama supporters in this state that would greatly benefit from a deeper Savannah River that is able to handle even larger ships and containers. Oh the irony!

    As for Arthur Blank, I fully and wholeheartedly agree that if he wants a new stadium he needs to pull a “Jerry Jones” and pony up the funds to build his own damn stadium, open-air, retractable roof, spaceship or whatever. I notice that alot of these billionaire pro sports team owners are being shown “Jerryworld” (the new Cowboys Stadium in Texas) as an example of how to fund and build a stadium (pay for it their damn selves) whenever they demand that cash-strapped local governments cough up some of the precious few funds they have on hand to build a new stadium for millionaires to play in for a billionaire owner that could pay for it his damn self. I don’t always agree with how Jerry Jones runs his team, but I love the hell out of him for saying that he’s gonna build the biggest, best stadium in the history of the world and prove to that same world that he can build it all with his own money, no government handouts or corporate welfare.

    P.S.: By the way, Maria, thanks for this making available this great online forum on pressing local issues. Keep up the great work!Report

  3. Burroughston Broch says:

    @ Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights…..

    Did I touch a nerve? Most Democrats have so many, and they’re all so sensitive. 🙂

    All kidding aside, I don’t care about insulting the President. I do think that the State should accept with thanks whatever funds the Federal government will contribute, and pay for the remainder with a bond issue. If it’s important, we must do it ourselves and not wait for Federal handouts.Report

  4. Concerned Atlanta says:

    I actually think the biggest problem is Jack Kingston. He has a senior position on the House Appropriations Committee but campaigned against earmarks in his bid to become chair of this committee. The headline should be, can Jack Kingston deliver?Report

  5. Burroughston Broch says:

    @ Concerned Atlanta

    Forget Jack Kingston and his aspirations. If the dredging of Savannah harbor is critical, we must do it ourselves.

    Too many critical projects are abandoned because of waiting for Federal handouts.Report


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