irwin street market

Credit woes face Fulton County, Atlanta schools, after ruling on tax collections

Fulton County and the Atlanta school district face fiscal woes even though a judge has approved a temporary collection of property taxes. Their cost of borrowing could increase now that a bond rating house has cut the credit rating on one county debt and has placed a total of more than $500 million of county and Atlanta school debt under review for a possible credit downgrade in the future.

Fulton mayors meet

Fulton’s transportation stance nears consensus despite differences among mayors

Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves has been working for months to build consensus among all the mayors in his county on how to move forward with transportation funding.

At Tuesday’s meeting of Fulton’s mayors and county commissioners, the various political leaders moved a step closer to consensus – with the exception of Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle.

Fulton County to hire lobbyists as state seeks to control tax rate

Fulton County on Wednesday is slated to hire a team of lobbyists that includes a top Washington firm and two local Republican firms that have connections at the state Capitol. The annual fee would total $216,000, with a three-year renewal option.

The team at the state Capitol could help Fulton resolve disputes with top Republican lawmakers, who have sued the county over tax collections. The team would include a chief advisor to then Gov. Sonny Perdue, and a former leader of the state GOP who oversaw Republicans begin their take-over of state government in the 1990s.

In Washington, Fulton intends to hire Greenberg Traurig, an international law firm with a strong lobbying presence on Capitol Hill. The firm’s Atlanta office represents a state authority in the proposed sale of most of Fort McPherson to filmmaker Tyler Perry.

Fulton County, its cities face fiscal cliff of their own creation; Thursday deadline set by state attorney general

Fulton County and all the cities in it could fall off their own fiscal cliff on Thursday. Atlanta could lose tax revenues that pay for 19 percent of its current year budget.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed told the Atlanta City Council in a special session Wednesday evening that the future is uncertain for a major source of sales tax revenues shared by Fulton County and all its cities. Unless Atlanta signs an existing distribution agreement for the 1 percent local option sales tax, Fulton may not be able to continue to levy the tax, Reed said.

The urgency is arising because Atlanta’s lawyers evidently were unprepared for a ruling last week from the Georgia Supreme Court. In a case out of Turner County, in south Georgia, justices tossed out an arbitration process concerning LOST distribution formulas that Atlanta intended to use to seek a bigger bite of LOST revenues.

Comedy or tragedy? Fulton legislative meeting heralds new era in county politics, government, civic theater

The latest act in the civic theater that is Fulton County began Thursday in a crowded room on the fourth floor of Georgia’s Capitol.

Republican lawmakers sat quietly while an hour’s worth of speakers protested Republican proposals to change what has been the natural order of the county – at least, it was the natural order before Republicans took effective control of the county’s legislative delegation this year.

The chorus in this case could do little to relieve tension, but the 75 who gathered certainly helped establish the mood. There were few smiles among the crowd of lawyers and lobbyists, community advocates and union reps, preachers and seniors – many of whom are familiar faces at meetings of the county commission and Atlanta City Council.

Redistricting proposal for Fulton County creates three white, three black commission districts

A redistricting proposal for Fulton County’s board of commissioners would create three commission districts serving majority white populations in north Fulton, and three districts serving majority black populations in south Fulton. The seventh post, county chair, would be elected and serve countywide.

This plan is moving at a time Fulton County’s government appears to have no registered lobbyists to present its views at the Capitol. The county’s previous lobbyist, Michael Vaquer, who served six years, terminated representation Dec. 31, according to the state’s Government Transparency Commission.

An added wrinkle is that the redistricting proposal comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing a legal challenge to the constitutionality of a portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that regulates the formation of districts. Georgia’s attorney general signed a brief urging the court to take up the case, from Shelby County, Ala.

Redistricting proposal for Fulton County’s board of commissioners creates new district, cuts at-large post

The long-awaited redistricting map to be proposed for Fulton County’s board of commissioners was introduced Friday, and it contains at least two major changes in Fulton’s form of government – while keeping a seven-member board.

One new district would be created in northwest Fulton, and one countywide post would be eliminated, under the plan introduced by Rep. Lynne Riley (R-Johns Creek), who chairs the Fulton County delegation.

The proposal calls for elections under the new district boundaries to be held during the general election of 2014, according to House Bill 171.

Urban Atlanta youth use muscle, risk to master complexities of the harp

Of all the instruments, one of the biggest and heaviest, most expensive and most exotic is the harp. A performer must play each foot and hand separately, using everything but pinkies to create the ethereal notes.

That is the muscle behind the dreamy soundtrack of the Atlanta Urban Youth Harp Ensemble. Most of these young musicians have overcome major disadvantages to master the instrument’s complexity, earn gigs at local weddings and events, qualify for college scholarships and position themselves for professional music careers.

Forums aim to help small firms win work as Legislature debates “small businesses”

Two upcoming forums will provide information to small and minority companies seeking contracts to design and build projects in Atlanta to be funded with proceeds of the proposed 1 percent sales tax for transportation.

Presenters will talk about the procurement processes to be used to award contracts for planned transportation projects in Atlanta, MARTA, DeKalb and Fulton counties. Registration for the session Wednesday is closed, but openings remain for the March 6 event.

The forums occur as the state Legislature debates a proposal to redefine small business as it relates to state purchasing contracts. House Bill 863 would change the size of a small business, for purposes of competing for a state contract, from 100 employees to 500 employees.

Transportation sales tax: Proceeds could not pay for routine MARTA maintenance

Over the next year, MARTA expects to spend up to $700,000 maintaining its train tracks, grinding them into proper shape and otherwise ensuring they will safely carry trains.

The amount may not seem terribly huge for a system with a total annual budget this year of more than $740 million. The project also seems to be an expense that could be deferred in the expectation that it could be funded with MARTA’s portion of the proposed 1 percent sales tax for transportation, which will be on the ballot July 31.

Except, proceeds of the sales tax could not be used for the rail maintenance project, a top MARTA official said. And the reality of the need for routine maintenance, in and of itself, speaks to the ongoing challenge of maintaining and operating the system – especially in an era of MARTA’s own declining local sales tax revenues and the uncertainty of federal funding for transit nationwide.

Atlanta region standing strong on regional transit governance and changes to MARTA Act

It should be so simple.

Establishing a regional transit governance structure and tweaking the MARTA Act to make the transit system more functional should be no brainers.

But when sound ideas are placed in the hands of some members of the General Assembly they somehow become distorted, convoluted and warped with political baggage.

Then when people and institutions object to proposed bills have been drafted with flawed thinking rather than common sense, those bills often just die on the vine and nothing gets done.