Political Notebook: The best available option

April 5, 2013 

An earlier version of this report contained one of two websites for Bibb County's special purpose local option sales tax.

Macon Mayor Robert Reichert had more than one chance to needle the chairman of the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority during its meeting Monday.

After the authority agreed to accept the recommendations of the nominating committee to re-elect the current officers, Chairman Cliffard Whitby said: “I appreciate the confidence that you are showing in the leadership.”

The mayor, who is chairman of the nominating committee, retorted: “We couldn’t find anybody else to take it.”

When discussing another matter, the mayor mentioned that the former Bank of America building downtown should be considered for companies looking for space for back-office operations because of its size and the fact it has lots of parking, including some underground parking.

Whitby said he didn’t know it had underground parking and said “Where?”

To which the mayor replied: “Where do you think -- it’s underground. What does ‘underground’ mean?”

Later in the meeting, Whitby asked for a tour of the parking at the bank.

Cutting-edge tech

Macon’s not noted for being a tech center, but interesting things can start here.

The city and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation brought in three Code for America fellows, who tried to find technology to help government and citizens better connect. When the technology didn’t exist, they invented it.

Some of that software keeps getting re-purposed into new projects, and some is going to get approved. Warner Robins native Jessica Lord wrote something called Sheetsee, a Javascript program that creates data visualizations from an online spreadsheet. In one example, built for a website to track Bibb County special purpose local option sales tax expenditures, she shows a map with a pin for the Macon Coliseum, graphs showing how money will be used, and then a list of projects and their states of completion.

This week, the Sheetsee project was selected as the first recipient of a revamped Knight-Mozilla OpenNews grant called a Code Sprint. Lord will work with Chicago Public Media and WBEZ to collaborate on turning Sheetsee into a “dead-simple data journalism tool,” wrote Dan Sinker, leader of the OpenNews project.

Sheetsee can best be seen on the a web site built for the Bibb County SPLOST initiative, http://splost.herokuapp.com. The Code for America fellows built other tools in Macon, including an online map for the Macon Transit Authority.

The official Bibb County SPLOST site, http://splost.info, runs on different software.

Time to change

Crawford County commissioners voted 3-2 Tuesday to switch their meeting times to 6 p.m. from 7 p.m.

Commissioner John Thomas made the suggestion and the motion, which was seconded by Frank Hollis and supported by Vice Chairman Paul Chapman. Chairman Dean Fripp and Bobby Blasingame voted against a change, draft minutes of the meeting show.

Shiny web

Warner Robins launched its new website this week. Found at http://wrga.gov, the site has all the newfangled buttons.

The old website gave standard information. The new one allows visitors to register for various city notifications, including job openings and government meetings, apply for permits and pay utilities bills more easily.

Road hard

The Georgia Department of Transportation is considering express lanes for Interstate 75 through Henry and Clayton counties. The lanes would be reversible for rush hours and would be separated from the rest of the traffic by barriers. They’d run between Ga. 155 and Ga. 138.

Public hearings are slated for 5 to 8 p.m. April 23 at Eagles Landing High School in the commons area, 301 Tunis Road, McDonough; and 5 to 8 p.m. April 25 at the Hilton Garden Inn, 95 Ga. 81 W., McDonough.

Electoral math

A new report from the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics said seems to think 12th Congressional District incumbent John Barrow, a Democrat, will stay favored if he wants to stay in the House. The district includes Laurens County.

The report says Barrow’s district leans Democratic, and gave Barrow 53.7 percent of the vote even as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney drew 55.4 percent of the vote. Republicans want the district, and Democrats want to hold on to it. What does Barrow want?

The report says, “Barrow appears to be seriously considering a run for the senate; if he did, Republicans would be strongly favored to take this seat.”

Stay tuned.

Tolleson draws a dubious honor

State Sen. Ross Tolleson, R-Perry, is among the legislators given a “Golden Sleaze” award for his water-carrying efforts in the General Assembly. Tolleson was the lead sponsor on a bill that would have allowed the pumping of Flint River water into aquifers during rainy times, then allow the water to be withdrawn and put back into the river during dry times. That could have allowed Atlanta to take more water from the basin without angering neighboring states that rely on the river. Tolleson also sought to loosen movie-making restrictions on Georgia beaches and nearby streams.

“You’d think the chairman of the Senate environmental and natural resources committee would consider protecting Georgia’s streams,” Creative Loafing claimed. “Apparently not.”

Writers Linda S. Morris and Mike Stucka contributed to this report.

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