Freedom of Speech: It’s Not “Freedom From Speech You Dislike”

I keep asking myself why this topic keeps coming up.  Certainly it was not the “Anything But Coughlin” signs.  Coughlin is more than prepared to respond to such things.

Ask yourselves what is worse-anonymous speech or people in positions of authority who use these positions in an attempt to bully people into silence?  Here’s a hint-anonymous speech is protected in the State of Georgia(more below).

How many people have come to me and told me that the Mayor of our City has made one disparaging remark after another about me.  That’s his prerogative of course.  People who know me know better.  And when he tells people that know me these sorts of things, do you think those that know me and know my principles actually believe it? 

There is the time after the John Bradberry-Vicki Horton Runoff debate two years ago where the Mayor of our City sought me out in a crowded room to make the comment to me that follows:

“I look forward to making your life a living hell the next four years”. 

Free speech? Something else?

I’ll let you decide.  

Then candidate and now Council Member Bradberry knows not only what was said to me, but stated to me that the Mayor came to him after I left the building and asked  “Did your friend tell you what I said?”

Council Member Zaprowski, near the height of the “anonymous troll hunt”  was approached by me to talk to his friend and supporter Tom Warren about repeatedly accusing me of posting under fake Facebook names.  Did knowing a name make a difference?

He took a pass and told me to speak to him myself. 

The Johns Creek Post had a series of IP addresses with pseudonyms from some of the individuals screaming the loudest about anonymous comments.  

Here’s an idea:  Lay out an unemotional argument on the merits of what you have been challenged on and post where you choose and leave it at that.

Our residents are smart.  Very smart.  They will cut through the nonsense and the BS and they won’t need your help to figure it out.  

These are the very reasons some in our community choose to remain anonymous within our community while making comments.  Who wants to be bullied?  Who wants to be questioned about why they have a certain candidate’s sign in their yard?  Who wants to be pushed for an endorsement?

Just to make it clear, protected free speech does include the use of false identification to avoid social ostracism, to prevent discrimination and harassment and to protect privacy.

Please see ACLU VS. Miller:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Civil_Liberties_Union_v._Miller

The Georgia General Assembly passed legislation that eliminated rights to privacy when using the internet in the State of Georgia. Governor Zell Miller signed the legislation into law in April 1996. Several internet based groups that guaranteed privacy to their users sought to have the law overturned on constitutional grounds, and enlisted the support of civil liberties groups such as the ACLU.[1]

Decision

After the plaintiff could prove likelihood of success of merits, substantial threat of irreparable injury, balance of hardships, and the promotion of the public interest, the court awarded the plaintiff with a preliminary injunction. Thus the defendant was enjoined from enforcing the newly passed act and was forced to revoke it. This act was found to be unconstitutional and in violation of the Bill of Rights.[2]

Either get the Constitution changed or find another venue to address your issues over anonymous posters.  This issue has already been resolved in the State of Georgia. 

It is in the best interest of the Public overall, and your constituents, that they always have the freedom and the right to post anonymously.  

It’s time to lead by example rather than by intimidation.

There is no better place than to start with this Council today.

Why wait?

Ernest Moosa

In Pursuit of Safety, Are There Any Limits In Johns Creek?

Safety Used To Justify Solutions

Johns Creek has used the “safety” for the pursuit of many solutions in Johns Creek in search of justifications. But should there be a litmus test when using these claims as justification in the implementation of policy changes, decisions and home inspections.

Residents have seen expensive traffic circles implemented at intersections that have functioned for decades as two or four way stops. The reason cited? Safety.

Residents replacing a hot water heater in their homes now need an inspection. Safety again.

The fourth fire station was justified as a safety issue, despite questions and observations that a Fast Response Unit might actually provide better outcomes for residents of Johns Creek.

Traffic intersections where you used to be able to turn left when there was a safe opportunity to do so now prohibit you from making a left turn unless you have a flashing yellow or green arrow. The reason cited? Safety.

Green Dot: U-Turns Allowed Red Dot: No U-Turn

We have U-Turns being eliminated at 141 and State Bridge southbound citing safety, while the other three legs of the intersection all still allow U-Turns. And a crossover just north of that intersection? U-Turns are allowed and despite the safety issue, will continue to be allowed for the benefit of the businesses.

The U-Turn crossover as you head south on 141 to make the U-Turn to head north is clearly more dangerous for drivers, especially young drivers as they leave the school in the afternoons. However, for the benefit of the businesses this is apparently a risk we can tolerate.

Somehow, at 141 and State Bridge, with a traffic light giving the drivers the right of way, the failure to yield the right of way by State Bridge Westbound drivers taking a right, is enough to get that U-Turn eliminated. Does that make sense?

I Can’t Drive 55

Now we have the lanes on 141 being narrowed from 12 feet to 11 feet AND the speed limit being lowered from 55 to 45 all in the name of safety.

This leads me to the following question:

What Can’t The City Of Johns Creek Do For Safety?

That’s not really the question to be honest. We would ask that if our duly elected officials were action the ones with oversight in making these decisions. But they are not. So here is the question we need to ask:

Are There Limits to What A Staff Member Can Do Using Safety As A Justification?

What’s process anyway? The residents here have elected a City Council to represent them. Can the City Council change this decision? If so how?

For starters, I’d demand actual data on 141 with traffic accidents to determine if we are actually implementing a solution solving a problem.

  1. How many rear end collisions on 141 were reported for the last 36 months?
  2. How many annual miles were driven on 141 for the last 36 months?
  3. What is the ratio of rear end collisions to miles driven?
  4. Is this higher or lower than the national average?
  5. Is this higher or lower than the average for surrounding areas?
  6. How many of the rear end collisions on 141 were in areas where the posted speed limit was 55 and how many were in areas where the posted speed limit was 45?
  7. How many additional minutes of travel will be added daily to commuters traveling the 141 corridor in Johns Creek by lowering the speed limit? (if just 4 miles of 55 MPH road is reduced to 45 MPH, each vehicle will have one extra minute of travel or 24% longer)

During non-rush hours, adding 1 minute of travel to 15,000 vehicles daily equals 15,000 minutes of time. That is 250 hours per day lost. That is 1250 hours per week lost. Or 65,000 hours per year.

You can read about the high cost of traffic here: https://ejmoosa.com/the-high-cost-of-traffic-dollar-and-sense/

This decision could cost more than $650,000 per year of lost time for drivers in Johns Creek if your time is worth $10 per hour. I bet your time is worth more.

If this is a $650,000 per year decision, don’t you think your City Council should have had the opportunity to weigh in knowing the actual facts and costs of the decision?

I certainly do.

Gateway Markers, The CVB, Volunteers and Tax Payers: What a Waste of Money

Everything that is wrong with Government can be seen in this Process

One has to look no further than the debate on Gateway Markers and the desire of some Council Members to give the “volunteers” what they want when it comes to spending taxpayer monies to understand what is wrong with government.

“They gave it great consideration and they came back with the same recommendation and added further data to it, so to me it’s supporting the people we ask to work on a volunteer basis for the city.” -Council Member Steve Broadbent

What about the actual taxpayers Council Member Broadbent? The ones that are forced to work for government? Have you considered what it takes to actually earn the monies you are suggesting being spent on “Gateway Markers”?

A total of $508,900 was collected in fiscal year 2018 by the Hotel/Motel tax. Council Members forget that this money had to be earned before it could be collected and then spent by volunteers on frivolous endeavors through the Convention Visitors Bureau(CVB).

IT IS NOT FREE MONEY

At 7% that represents revenues of 7.27 million dollars in hotel/motel sales to collect.

If you divide the $508,900 by an average hourly wage of $25 per hour, that equals 20,356 hours of labor. This is not volunteer labor, but effectively forced labor to support these endeavors such as painted pedestrian tunnels(A cultural attraction according to the CVB), gateway markers and kiosks in hotels that effectively do the same thing as Yelp and Google(only worse-you cannot carry it with you).

While the entire amount proposed to be spent on Gateway Markers is much less, the issue is the same.

Assume we spent $50,000 on Gateway Markers, that would represent 2,000 hours of labor at a minimum. Let’s weigh that against the time of “volunteers” in making these decisions.

Certainly the bar should be much higher on how this money should be spent other than “volunteers worked hard.” Certainly the money should be spent in a way that shows a real return on the investment by the taxpayers that paid it, even more so than the volunteers that offered to spend it?

If Council Member Broadbent and others feel that being a volunteer qualifies you to spend taxpayer money(and this is what we are talking about), then I would like to volunteer to decide how to spend some of the budget surpluses generated by this City each and every year.

And I would bring you a list of proposals AND return on investments that are specific and quantifiable, not pie in the sky “we should do it because some marketing people said so”.

What should concern you the tax payer is that if they are this frivolous with tax payer dollars on this issue what keeps them from being frivolous with spending on other issues?

The answer is they spend frivolously very often, rarely demanding a real return on investment for taxpayers(have you seen the lights along Kimball Bridge). Instead, it’s about optics. It’s about feeling good. It’s not about real returns.

Council Member Zaprowski wants to pursue the Gateway Markers now. He seeks it so much that he is willing to push aside a greenway along the river which would benefit all residents. Would residents benefit from Gateway Markers? Of course not. A greenway? Absolutely.

Just look at the activity in Roswell along the river or in Sandy Springs along the river. Is there any question that it attracts people and provides health benefits to boot? How can someone even question which would be best for Johns Creek in the long term?

The residents of Johns Creek have given this Council what it sought in past elections: A Parks Bond and a TSPLOST Tax. More and more money. Before you ever do this again, you need to ask yourself if you can trust them with millions if they are willing to waste thousands.

Residents have made it clear we want to get traffic moving. Yet we have spent more time on this issue and seen more passion from Broadbent and Zaprowski on Gateway Markers than we have seen on getting traffic moving. It took months and months to get the traffic signals back on the agenda. And somehow the CVB and Gateway Markers are so important, this Council seems to have to address the issues again and again until the CVB gets what they want. Is this Council here just to give the CVB what they want?

I challenge this Council to demand a real return on investment on these tax dollars. Do not simply go along to appease the CVB. If that was what was intended, then the CVB would NOT need Council approval to spend these funds.

I ask each of you the following questions:

  • How much do you expect business to be boosted by a Gateway Marker in Johns Creek?
  • How are you going to measure this return on investment?
  • Which of you has chosen to do business in a city because of a Gateway Marker?
  • Which of you does not know when you enter or leave the City of Johns Creek?

Isn’t it time we quit spending money just because we have it? And since we cannot really spend it on something worthwhile, we will just spend it just to spend it.

I’ll be blunt. The hotel motel tax should be eliminated. The CVB should be disbanded. This City Council needs to work on the REAL Issues.

We do not need outsiders to come in and define us. We do not need Gateway Markers to “reflect” who we are.

We know who we are. Unfortunately, this City Council seems hellbent on redefining who we are. Maybe it’s this City Council does not like who we are. Or maybe this Council does not know who we are. They certainly seem out of sync with the majority within Johns Creek.

More importantly, they seem unwilling to say NO to bad ideas.

If we are going to put up a Gateway Marker, I’d suggest Dollars flowing into a paper shredder and pennies coming out of the bottom.

Wasting taxpayer money is no way to run a City. And rewarding “volunteers” for bad decisions should never happen.

Johns Creek Residents Should NOT Vote This Fall…

Residents of Johns Creek should not vote in this upcoming election if they are not familiar with the candidates, the major issues in Johns Creek and are basing their decisions on such variables as :

  1. You are not familiar with the issues we are facing such as potential widening of our roads to overcome the ineffective traffic light system we have today
  2. You are unfamiliar with the negative impact higher density housing has on our roads, schools, and property values
  3. You are basing your decision on the endorsement of an elected official, who just wants to avoid having someone challenge them on issues before the City Council
  4. You saw more signs for the candidate that you are going to vote for so you believe that is a sign of more support for that candidate(Signs for candidates are placed on the roads by the candidates and their crews-Signs in neighborhoods actually show you who your neighbors support but you still need to educate yourself!!!)
  5. You read their mailers to your home and they seem like a nice person

Residents of Johns Creek should vote IF:

  1. They have done their own research into the candidates
  2. They have watched the debates, forums, City Council Meetings and Work Sessions and see how these candidates actually think and function
  3. They understand that Johns Creek is at a crossroads.  Do we become Buckhead or stay Johns Creek.

Continue reading

The Property Tax Model is Broken Beyond Repair

Let’s be honest. The system of collecting taxes for county, city, and school taxes is broken. And the larger the area dependent on funding from property taxes, the more broken it becomes. North Fulton County residents pay tremendously more for the same county services than South Fulton residents.  Why?

Here are three reasons it needs to be scrapped:

  1. There is no correlation between the amount of taxes you pay and the amount of “services” you receive.

A family of six living in a $500,000 home and a family of two living in a $500,000 home, pay the same property taxes if they live in the same community.  Why?  What makes us feel its fair to collect three times as much tax on a per capita basis from one family than another?  What if the family of two lives in a home worth one million?  What makes it right to collect six times as much for the very same levels of services?  Should I mention that the family of six likely creates more demand for services than the family of two as well?

When property values are high, and tax rates are high, this can have the effect of driving out empty nester residents to avoid the high levels of taxes relative to the services they receive for those tax dollars.

2.  Property values rising(and falling) should have no impact on how much tax revenue is needed to run your county, cities, and schools.

We’ve seen property values fall during recessions and rise during better times.  This should have nothing to do with how many dollars are needed to provide services in your community.  Yet we have made the tax digest the first step in the taxation process, followed by each government agency voting on the millage rate to be applied to that tax digest.  Elected officials vote far more often on how much they will tax you than you have a chance to vote on whether or not they should remain in office.

Let’s add to that the huge infrastructure we now have in place at the Tax Assessor’s office to track every piece of property, every structure, and every improvement you make to your home, all in the effort to make sure every $ of real estate(real or imagined) is taxed.

Why on earth should you owe the government more dollars because you decided to finish your basement or add a deck?

The perverseness of this likely discourages residents from making improvements to their properties.

How much time and energy is used by the Tax Assessor’s office to gather all of this information?  How accurate is it?  Is it worth it?  Who is really benefitting?

3.  How many hours of effort will the Public spend appealing these assessments?

If 1/4 of the households in Johns Creek appeal, that could be as high as 7,000 homes.  Spend five hours on this process, and cumulatively we will have spent 35,000 hours fighting our high assessments.

Instead, why don’t we take a moment and consider a different system?  We do not tax each resident within an HOA a variable amount do we?  It’s a flat rate per household.  While not necessarily the same on a per capita basis, it is a fairer system than taxing each household based upon the value of their property.

What would a fixed property tax collected per residence look like?  First, it would treat all of us as equally as possible.

We would not need an army of government employees tracking our properties, needing to know everything about the inside and outside of our homes.

We would never have to appeal property taxes in the future.

Our governments would be accountable to us directly for the rate of taxation we face, and there would be no finger-pointing as to who is to blame.

The current system of taxation has more expensive property owners subsidizing the less expensive property owners.  In a society where wealth redistribution is frowned upon by most of us, it is curious to me why we are so willing to allow tax redistribution with property taxes, where the level of services received are so far removed from what the property owner pays in taxes.

Johns Creek could lead the way to a better model of taxation for its residents.  It’s time we slay the beast that taxation based on property values has become.   Taxation should not be unfair or onerous.

It’s time for a change.  Contact your locally elected officials and tell them you want a different system.  Tell them you want a better, more equitable system.

Picking Winners and Losers: How Our State Government Functions (Georgia Musical Investment Act)

Georgia’s State government is pretty much like every other government.  They love the idea of picking winners and losers.    Whether or not your business or sector is a winner or a loser is going to depend on a lot of things, but it will not depend on being equal under the law.


 

HB 155
Georgia Musical Investment Act

A BILL to be entitled an Act to amend Article 2 of Chapter 7 of Title 48 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to the imposition, rate, and computation of and exemptions from state income taxes, so as to create an income tax credit for certain expenditures by a production company related to certain state certified musical or theatrical productions or recorded musical performances; to provide for rules and regulations and an application process related to such income tax credit; to provide for certain conditions and limitations; to provide for definitions; to provide a short title; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.

We apparently need to offer tax credits to production companies to the tune of 15% for Production Companies to come to the State of Georgia.  And if they locate into one of the 100 poorest counties, they could get an additional 10% credit.

And while the tax credit is limited to $5 million the first year, it will expand to $15 million by year three.

If Georgia politicians want a better business environment, then why do they not lower taxes for ALL Georgia businesses?  What game are we playing here?

Is the music industry in crisis?  Is there a reason that they need additional support from the State of Georgia?  Frankly, it doesn’t matter.

When government picks winners, they also pick losers.  Government should not be in that job.

Supply and demand should pic winners and losers.  And under the law, it should not matter if you have started a Music business or a Automotive Repair Shop.  Each should be treated equally.

It’s no wonder the American Public looks at government with disdain.  So much time and energy is spent attempting to engineer outcomes when they should only be administering the framework, and not determining outcomes.

By the way, it passed 157-11 in the Georgia House.  Now it goes before the Senate.  Let’s hope they have a little more common sense.

 

It’s a Privilege to Do Business in Georgia(and So You Must Pay)

Yes, indeed, it is a privilege to do business in Georgia.  I am not speaking from the eyes of the business owner who is grateful of where he has chosen to open his business.  Instead I am speaking of how government views you and your business enterprise.

And as it is such a privilege, the State of Georgia taxes you for that privilege.

Senate Bill 133 brought that to my attention as they are attempting to remove this tax for businesses of a certain size.  It will still be a privilege to have a business, for that language will not be removed, but some businesses will be exempt.

http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/display/20172018/SB/133?utm_source=Copy+of+Eyes+and+Ears+-+GaPundit+for+Feb+27%2C+2017&utm_campaign=GaPundit+Todd+Rehm+Georgia+Politics+04202015&utm_medium=email

Continue reading

Georgia’s 6th Congressional District: Proof The House of Representatives Should Double in Size

Georgia’s 6th Congressional District is providing the nation a very clear message.  There are too few Congressional seats, and each one represents too many voters.

The resignation of Tom Price, a Republican from Georgia, and now running Health and Human Services has set off a mad scramble for his vacated seat.

And at $5250 dollars to enter the race, there were no shortage of people wanting to participate in the chase for the seat.  The winner of this race will likely have it for as long as they desire. Continue reading

The Naked Truth About (Subsidized) Wages

If you have read my work over the years, then you know that I am not a proponent of Minimum Wage.  An adult should be able to work for anyone at an agreed price.

However, a new issue has come into my view I did not realize existed until recently.

Apparently there are groups out there (think Chamber of Commerce) that works with your local governments to hold wages down by:

A)  Making sure that there is Affordable Housing in your area so their workers can live nearby

B) Making sure there is mass transit options so that low cost workers can get to the businesses that want to hirer low cost employees(A Chamber Objective for sure) Continue reading

The Trump Card: VETO

As Trump moves forward to become President of the United States(POTUS), you’d think that things were chaotic in DC.  Nothing could be further fro the truth.  Yes there are some that are getting their feathers ruffled(and that is a good thing).

If you want to see if Trump is actually draining the swamp in DC, watch just how many times he uses his Veto Power.  Because if Congress is not getting vetoed legislation sent back to them, then you will know that the Swamp is not being drained.

Yes, the Veto can be overridden.  But that takes compromise among those under the Capital Dome.  And we have not seen that sort of cooperation for decades.  Instead we have had the majority run over the minority not based on solid ideas and concepts, but on sheer force.

Trump can change that quickly and effectively.  Trump, hopefully, will not have favorite stooges under the Capital Dome.  Hopefully, he will spread out who he goes to to push forward valuable legislation.

Most importantly, Trump can Veto the thousands of Executive Orders put forth by Obama and Company, and do so quickly.  Trump, who feels precedent has no value whatsoever, will do more the first week by reversing the bad choices of Obama, than any other POTUS in modern history.

And that is a good thing.