One Man’s Opinion, “There is Something Rank About Ranked Choice Voting,” Tuesday, July 13, 2021

One Man’s Opinion, “There is Something Rank About Ranked Choice Voting,” Tuesday, July 13, 2021

 

You are easily forgiven due to the daily wall-to-wall critiques of Georgia’s voting law if you missed the fiasco that was New York City’s first crack at Rank Choice Voting during its recent wide-open Mayoral Election.  On Tuesday, June 22, 2021, the Big Apple held Democratic and Republican Mayoral primary election contests, as well as down-ballot races for City Council and other local offices.

 

In a state which requires party registration to vote, registered Democrats outnumber Republican 6 to 1 in New York City.  In a field of 15 candidates, there were 13 Democrats and 2 Republicans.  Curtis Sliwa, a co-founder, and now CEO of the Guardian Angels (a nonprofit organization focused on unarmed crime prevention), easily won the GOP primary nomination.  On the Democratic side, a diverse spectrum of candidates sought the nomination, from far left to centrist, with a contest and debate which increasingly focused on New York’s 60-year surge in violent crime and homicides.

 

In addition to explaining the Rank Choice process, New York law allows absentee ballots to arrive and be counted for 10-days following Election Day.  The initially estimated date for Final Results tabulation and release for this election was expected to be Tuesday, July 13, a full three weeks after Election Day.  Besides the stress, one can only imagine on the candidates during that time, what could go wrong?  Well, the answer, not surprisingly is A LOT.

 

Eric Adams, an African-American and Brookyln borough President, was a 22-year veteran of the New York Police Department, who ran as a blue-collar, moderate New Yorker, very concerned about turning the tide of crime engulfing the city.  Though it would take nearly two weeks for the final tallies to be released, Mr. Adams would carry every part and most precincts of NYC, except for the island of Manhattan.  On Election Night, prior to the flood of late absentees, each of the top three finishers, were more centrist Democrats –Adams, former New York Sanitation Commissioner Katherine Garcia, and former Presidential aspirant and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.  As initial tallying continued, Yang would be passed by the primary Progressive in the contest, Maya Wiley, also African-American and legal counsel to sitting Mayor Bill de Blasio, who would land temporarily in second place.

 

In that first round tabulation, Adams was above 30%, Ms. Wiley continued to move up to 21.3%, Ms. Garcia hovered just below 20%, while Mr. Yang fell out of the running.  By late Election Night, the Adams campaign pointed out that the Election tallies exceeded by more than 100,000, the number of voters who cast ballots on Election Day before absentee tallying had begun.  To its credit, the New York City Board of Elections almost immediately realized it had a problem, and election tabulation was halted, and the reporting numbers were temporarily pulled down.  It was soon discovered that the board of elections had been running ‘practice rounds’ on the rank choice voting, as this was to be a first in NYC, and they had been ‘practicing’ with 130,000 pretend votes…only those votes were NOT removed from the system on election day, and they landed in the initial result tallies.

 

The error was corrected, pretend votes removed, and tallying begun anew.  Adams’s lead continued to shrink, while the former Sanitation Commissioner appeared to most benefit.  On Tuesday, July 6, roughly a week ahead of their final tabulation forecasts, the New York Board of Elections declared Adams the Democratic Party nominee for Mayor of New York.  His ‘ranked-choice’ lead had shrunk, and also grown, to 50.5 percent.  A close second-place finish by Katherine Garcia at 49.5%.  Adams will face Sliwa in November, though most consider the race’s outcome a foregone conclusion.

 

Adams retired from the NYPD as a Captain in 2006 and was elected to the New York State Senate.  In 2014, he was elected Brooklyn Borough President. Since securing the nomination, Adams has not been shy about pointing out that his may be the ‘new face’ of the Democratic Party.

 

I’m not suggesting any fraud or ballot counting conspiracy here, but IF you are a candidate, or passionate about a campaign, and find it okay for 130,000 votes to appear and then disappear and for 12-13 ballot tabulations to occur, largely via algorithm and computer to determine the final outcome…I would say that the stench of rank choice voting is strong enough to keep its spread to a minimum in the near future, if not indefinitely.

One Man’s Opinion, “Who Doesn’t Love Free Money?” Tuesday, May 4, 2021

One Man’s Opinion, “Who Doesn’t Love Free Money?” Tuesday, May 4, 2021

 

“We can do it without increasing deficits,” said President Joe Biden during his first joint address to Congress, April 28, 2021.

 

During 2019, the entire U.S. budget was $2.7-trillion, for all programs, Social Security, Medicare, national defense, etc… One global pandemic, and understandable deficit and recovery spending later, the Biden Administration has proposed $6-trillion in NEW spending in 100 days, above the current $3-trillion already on the books.  Granted, that some of these increases will phase in over a period as long as a decade, but even the former Budget Director in the Obama Administration acknowledges, the current proposals represent a roughly 50-percent increase in the size of the federal government, and this is largely PRIOR to expanding spending on healthcare.  Though I am neither a fan of big government, cradle to grave programs nor tax increases (for anyone), I am reasonably certain that there are not enough wealthy and affluent Americans nor major corporations to over-tax and close this spending gap.

 

I am not suggesting that several of the President’s objectives for this spending are not worthwhile goals for America to seek improvement on…access to quality childcare, community college as well as universal Pre-K — three of the main spending pillars of the American Families Act, but there is no prior example that we can site where creating/investing billions in a massive new federal government program has actually driven down costs in the marketplace of almost any service or commodity.  In fact, the opposite case is easily proven.

 

And now, a trillion here, a trillion there…pretty soon you are talking about some real money.  But hey…who doesn’t love FREE money.  Universal free Pre-K.  Free community college.  Significantly subsidized child care for all, 12-weeks of paid family leave for each parent or caregiver in a household…and the list goes on.

 

Having a daughter who is an educator, recent mother of twins with a difficult pregnancy and nine-weeks premature births, I have watched my daughter and son-in-law cheerily struggle with the realities of limited maternity and sick leave, reduced income in a currently one-income household, and offering to assist where possible, as well as their deliberations over upcoming childcare, as Barclay returns to the workforce.  YES, free pre-K in a few years, subsidized or free child care and eventually, free community college for the twin Mighty Mites sounds great, but we’re not so thrilled about the mortgage sized debts we would be saddling each of these boys with before their first day of daycare.  The current spending proposals average out to $85,000 in debt for each living American in their ‘fair share’ of the national debt additions these programs will bring on.

 

My daughter and her son-in-law are both frugal, they have a savings and spending plan.  Prior to her pregnancy, Barclay was working three jobs.  She still works part-time and has a modest home-based business.   When she returns to the workforce full-time, they have already done extensive research on day-care providers, and thankfully, Georgia is a state which later offers Universal Pre-K, funded by the Georgia lottery.

 

But Democratic leadership in the White House and Congress can count.  The recent U.S. Census will cost seven states a Congressional District and member, due to population losses in California, Illinois, New York, Michigan, and Pennsylvania – each predominantly blue states.  Red-leaning states losing a seat are Ohio and West Virginia.  But gains are coming to Texas (2), Florida, Montana, and North Carolina, as well as Colorado and Oregon.  Democrats control the U.S. House by only four seats…the urgency of this White House is in part driven by the belief that they don’t have a lot of time.

 

The Biden White House wants to get this big-spending bus rolling long enough to get money flowing as if it were falling from the sky.   This spend-athon counts on finding just who loves free money now, knowing well that high price will eventually be paid later by our children, grandchildren, and even soldiers fighting later battles with outdated weaponry, once interest on the national debt becomes twice the size of our national defense budget.  Remember Head Start?  Well-intended, but still struggling to justify its costs.  Cradle to grave government assistance may sound and even feel good, but while we can always crank up the printing presses at the U.S. mint, public and private resources in fact are NOT unlimited.  Who doesn’t love free money?  I don’t.  The price is simply too high.

One Man’s Opinion, “Addition, Versus Subtraction, Along with Compromise,” Tuesday, April 27, 2021

One Man’s Opinion, “Addition, Versus Subtraction, Along with Compromise,” Tuesday, April 27, 2021

 

For centuries it was a sacred Indian burial ground.  Later the site of one of the most commercially viable granite quarries in the nation, with its granite now forming the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, one side of the U.S. Capitol building, and the walls of Fort Knox.  And since 1958, the world’s largest granite out-cropping has been a Georgia State Park and Confederate Memorial.

 

Stone Mountain Park in east DeKalb County and its vast 3,400 acres of green space, is Georgia’s most visited destination, and in more recent years a site of seemingly never-ending controversy and debate.

 

The combination of COVID19 and heated debate over all Confederate symbology have taken a business toll on the park.  During 2o19, park revenues were $49-million, and by 2020 they were down to $22-million, a decline of 56 percent.  The pandemic took out Snow Mountain, crowded spring and summer festivals and days at the park and the Confederate controversy cost long-standing corporate sponsors and partnerships including Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines, and Humana Healthcare.  In 2022, Herschend Family Entertainment, the Master Franchisor who manages parks attractions and restaurants will also be leaving the park, as will global hotelier, Marriott.

 

Cognizant of those hard business facts, as well as the real pain and visions of white supremacy and racism which some associate with all aspects of the Confederacy, a rebalancing is needed, at the very least, to make the park more welcoming and attractive to a broader cross-section of Georgians and visitors from around the world.

 

The SMMA is a gubernatorial appointed state authority, nine volunteers, who oversee and manage the infrastructure and public safety aspects of Stone Mountain Park.  Governor Brian Kemp last week promoted one member to Chair and appointed a new member.  Both are African-American, the Reverend Abraham Mosley becomes Chair officially at the board’s first meeting since November 2020, due to the pandemic, and Christopher Sanders, the Executive Director of the East Metro CID will also take his seat.  Previous Black members of this board include Hank Aaron, William Chapelle, Gregory Levett, and DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond.  From his first board meeting on Monday, April 26, 2021, a state holiday formerly known as Confederate Memorial Day, it would appear that Reverend Mosley is coming to the table with a plan.

 

In August of 2020, the SMMA board tasked its CEO, Bill Stephens as well as park staff, to come back to them with research and data on viable updates, upgrades, and potential re-branding concepts for the park.  The board has now received that report, including a lengthy list of proposed additions to the park:

  • Consolidation of the Confederate memorials and aspects of the park into 40-50 acres surrounding Memorial Hall and the carving
  • Securing and relocating the Confederate Flag Plaza, now at the foot of the walk-up trail, to Valor Park, under the southeast corner of the carving
  • A museum exhibit in Memorial Hall, giving an honest re-telling of the history of the mountain carving, acknowledging the early involvement of the Klu Klux Klan
  • Construction of a Faith & Freedom Chapel atop Stone Mountain
  • Renaming of the offices of the SMMA, now Confederate Hall, as Heritage Hall
  • Renaming several park roadways, paths and trails, ponds and lakes, and other assets in the honor of a wider array of prominent Georgians in history
  • A new logo for the SMMA, featuring the mountain silhouette and natural setting, instead of the carving and Confederate leaders

Significant subtractions at the park or the complete removal of memorials would likely only re-open deep wounds and further the re-litigation of the Civil War.

 

I do not know how the final choices will land, and if all aspects of this plan will stand, but I do know that Stone Mountain itself is not going anywhere, nor its smaller siblings nearby of Arabia and Panola Mountains.  The communities surrounding all three outcroppings are predominantly African American, as are park users on any given day, each walking, jogging, biking, hiking, or recreating with friends and family.  A visit to this great green space, the largest in metro Atlanta will tell you on most any day that the battle is raging outside the park, not inside it.  We wish the Reverend Mosley, SMMA Board, and Mr. Stephens the best of luck as well as our goodwill, and hope you will consider doing the same.  We could all use a bit more common ground and compromise to stand on, as well as the common sense to appreciate the value in that.

One Man’s Opinion, “So You Have a Case of Vaccine Hesitancy?” Tuesday, April 20, 2021

One Man’s Opinion, “So You Have a Case of Vaccine Hesitancy?” Tuesday, April 20, 2021

 

If you are among those who have already received your first COVID19 vaccine, the J&J one-shot, or awaiting only your second vaccine dose, then thank you for doing your part, and we’ll see you here again, same time, same place next week.  Please go visit and hug your vaccinated parent or grandparents, or have a tailgate or barbecue with vaccinated friends and neighbors…you know, pre-March 2020 normal stuff.

 

This is for all the rest of you.  Across the nation nearly one-half of our adult age population, more than 130-million, have received at least their initial dose of one of the several FDA approved and sanctioned for emergency use, COVID 19 vaccines.  Our percentage is a bit lower in Georgia, but we are catching up, and as of this week, anyone over the age of 16, more than 30-days after having their last COVID19 symptoms or without direction to the contrary from their physician is eligible to receive a COVID19 vaccine.  And now as virtually the entire adult population is eligible, we have very quickly shifted from the position of demand exceeding supply to “no appointment necessary,” walk-in vaccination and locations with vaccine supply in need of patient arms that may need to be destroyed or wasted at the end of each day.

 

Two more severe variants of this virus, each more contagious and with more highly critical symptoms, have already made it into the U.S.  The United Kingdom variant appears to be causing the majority of current cases in Georgia, but to our north in Canada, a Brazilian variant has swamped hospitals in British Columbia and Montreal and those two provinces have returned to 8 p.m. home curfews and only essential workers traveling dayside.  The entire U.S./Canadian border is currently closed.  As I shared here last week, though there are only roughly 40-million Canadians, they have no domestic vaccine production facilities for the COVID19 vaccines, and their greatest trading partner and next door neighbor keeps buying up virtually all available global supply (US).

 

I am happy to report I am currently Pfizer double-dosed.  And I have also had the flu vaccine twice in a year.  I’m not any more a fan of needles than the next guy, but I have a frail and medically fragile mother, who just barely survived COVID19, twin grandsons born 9-weeks prematurely (now healthy and seven months old), and an immune-compromised child.  I got vaccinated for all of them, but I also did that for you and would do it again.  At least in my lifetime vaccines have saved me from the dangers of polio, measles, mumps, multiple strains of the flu, and hopefully any repeat of one horrific episode in this lifetime of shingles.

 

And with some minor bumps in the road for the Astra Zeneca and J&J vaccines, all of those in broad circulation and use have efficacy rates of nearly 80-95%.  In clinical trials underway at present, the Pfizer vaccine has a 99% effective rate in teens and pre-teens from age 12-16.  We will vaccinate our teen daughter Olivia as soon as the FDA clears that vaccine for use among teens.  The average flu vaccine, which you should also get each year, typically has an effective rate of just over 50%, as that single dose is designed to combat multiple flu strains simultaneously.

 

These vaccines do not contain the Mercury-based preservative, Thimerosal, controversial for its use in multiple other more common vaccines.  Though the Clinical Trial timeline was compressed, and regulatory speed bumps were expedited, scientists across the globe did not cut corners, skip steps or deliver vaccines that are not safe, as most all of those same doctors and scientists have been vaccinated themselves.

 

There is no cost, no co-pay and in an expanding number of harder to reach communities, federal grants will make possible vaccine vans going door to door and bringing this opportunity to you.  If that knock comes, and you have still been resisting, sit down and take your shot.  On my first dose, I barely even felt the needle enter my right arm.  During yoga practice the afternoon after dose # 2, I felt only the equivalent of a small bruise on that right arm at the inoculation site.  And that remained the extent of my vaccine reaction symptoms.

 

My father drilled into my brain during my own adolescence – you can either be part of the problem or part of the solution.  The choice here is clear as well.  Which one are you going to choose?

One Man’s Opinion, “Out of Their League, Tuesday, April 6, 2021

One Man’s Opinion, “Out of Their League, Tuesday, April 6, 2021

 

I certainly give Major League Baseball (MLB) and Jackie Robinson credit for breaking the color barrier and slowly ending segregation within the sport.  Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and dozens of other stand-out players from the former Negro Leagues followed, but in terms of upper management and franchise ownership, the league looks a great deal like it did when Hank Aaron retired from the diamond and into Braves franchise management in 1974.  I’m not trying to say that America’s past-time is prejudiced, but I am pointing out that among professional sports, it is far from being the ‘most woke.’

 

The Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Sports Council, Cobb County government, Chamber of Commerce, and CVB among others, invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in a bid and effort, fairly won several years ago, to host the MLB All-Star Game in 2021.  Such sporting mega-events, like the recent NBA All-Star Game weekend in Atlanta, draw fans, visitors and heavy spending, media attention, and a surprising amount of later side investment.

 

Unrelated to those event hosting competitions won fairly and squarely, the Georgia General Assembly passed, and Governor Brian Kemp signed into law, an omnibus Election Law reform package, SB 202, during late MarchThe law in some places expands voting access, via additional advance and weekend voting, and in other places retracts it, but perhaps most importantly provides some new security protocol on the front and back end of absentee balloting.  Ballot drop boxes, a temporary pandemic emergency order measure, first recommended by the Trump Administration, were also codified into law, though pulled indoors at early voting sites, and during polling hours, versus 24-hour access.

 

The new law is receiving as much attention as the earlier burning of Atlanta, though that re-telling and legend didn’t see its mythology reach epic proportions until nearly 70 years later, with the fictional tale of “Gone with the Wind.”  The internet, Democratic and voting rights activists and multiple networks and legacy media outlets have fanned the flames a bit harder this go-round, and while we can certainly debate the justification and fairness of that, versus what is actually contained, and not, in the 98-page state statute, I will venture that no one at MLB League HQ in New York has bothered to read it.

 

In pulling the event, in an attempt to cause reputational injury and pain point to the state of Georgia, and it’s political leadership, here is who is actually being harmed.  The Atlanta Braves, out their earlier investment and a likely sell-out stadium on the back end of a never-ending pandemic, Cobb County (the owners of Truist Park), and hundreds of area businesses, restaurants, and hotels near Battery Park and the Cobb Galleria, now facing thousands of cancellations and dozens of millions in lost revenue.

 

If the folks at MLB had done their homework, they might have also noted that Cobb County went for Hillary Clinton in 2016, Stacey Abrams in 2018, and President Joe Biden and Georgia’s two new Democratic U.S. Senators in 2020.  On the local level, Cobb elected Lisa Cupid, a Democrat, and black female as its county commission chair, and also a new Sheriff and District Attorney, also both African-Americans.

 

Before sports leagues self-anoint themselves as morality police, or begin giving guidance on social justice, race, and equity issues, some internal housekeeping and fairness checks are in order first.  It wasn’t all that long ago that at least one MLB team owner almost could not hold a press conference without offering an expletive or occasional racial epithet.

 

However, in this episode, while MLB is attempting to take on the role of a scolding Dr. Phil or even Dr. Ruth, its feet of clay give this more the impact of a Dr. Pepper.  Perhaps a bit of indigestion will follow, as well as some real economic injury to folks who had absolutely nothing at all to do with the political decision being criticized.

 

I imagine in part based on the applause from certain national media outlets, and similar commentary from some prominent Georgia corporate chieftains, MLB’s leadership is giving itself a congratulatory pat on the back.  You will know this is for real though when they decline to attend the Masters @ Augusta National, or ask Liberty Media to relocate their Braves franchise.  This is more like the handful of Georgia legislators temporarily asking Coca-Cola to pull the free beverages stocked in their offices at the Georgia Capitol.  Now when they start pouring Pepsi in those places and spaces…then things will really have gotten real.