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…..