Macon Mayor Robert Reichert decided to break into full confessional mode before a few dozen ministers this week.
At a meeting of the Macon Reentry Coalition aimed at involving the faith community, Reichert announced he was at least partly responsible for the coalition’s challenge in turning ex-convicts away from a life of crime and into society.
“True confession, they say, is good for the soul. And I am, I believe, part of the problem that brings us here today,” he said. As a state legislator, Reichert helped pass get-tough-on-crime laws, including laws that required every day of some sentences be served. That means that criminals come out of prison with no probation, no support networks and often no supervision, making them more likely to become repeat offenders.
“These people are ‘maxing out’ now and coming back to the streets. While we were sincere in our efforts, holy mackerel, the prison population has skyrocketed,” he said. And crime continues, he noted.
Reichert said churches can help find places for the ex-convicts to live and work, but the churches also can turn lives around through hope and a belief in a higher power.
“I hope you don’t think me blasphemous for saying it this way: ‘God, I’m glad to see you,’ ” Reichert told the ministers. They applauded.
A crowd of one
Councilwoman Elaine Lucas wasn’t there, but her hand was firmly felt.
She called The Telegraph on Friday, 30 minutes before a petition-waving announcement outside City Hall. City employees were signing up to denounce Mayor Robert Reichert’s comprehensive pay plan for all city employees, pushing instead a proposal that sounds a lot -- but not quite -- like one of Lucas’ own.
Three TV cameras and one notepad turned out for the show, which consisted of exactly one city employee and two of Lucas’ supporters. Oh, and one passer-by who stopped to see what was going on.
Anthony L. Collins, a 20-year employee -- he said he’s a heavy equipment operator at the landfill, but has been working there as a supervisor -- did the talking. Backing him up were Tyrone Tucker from Lucas’ firm, ELucas Consulting; and Sarah Hunt, a retired teacher who appeared at Lucas’ side in a Dec. 8 committee meeting to denounce the pay plan as a conspiracy and predict a public uprising.
Collins did have about 60 signatures, which he said came mostly from Public Works Department employees. He started the petition Wednesday, following a big public meeting for city employees to hear about the pay plan -- which was also orchestrated by Lucas and council allies Henry Ficklin, Rick Hutto, Lonnie Miley and James Timley.
“We felt like we didn’t really have enough time to really ask questions” following a presentation from the administration, Collins said.
He said he’s gathering more signatures before presenting them to City Council on Monday and Tuesday. The signatories object to double-digit raises offered to top administrators; while police and firefighters deserve their proposed raises, general employees feel left out, Collins said.
The petition asks the council to throw out Reichert’s plan and “approve the substitute proposal,” giving all full-time city employees a flat $1,400 raise and coming back to the issue in six months, which is when the new fiscal year starts.
Lucas actually submitted two proposals: one for a $500 one-time bonus this year and another for a $1,400 raise to take effect in fiscal 2011.
Health care vs. history
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia praised a ruling by a federal judge against a portion of President Barack Obama’s health care reform bill. The judge in Virginia said it was unconstitutional to make people buy health insurance. Isakson vowed to fight the bill every day: “I commend the judge on his ruling it is unconstitutional to force Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a fine for doing so.”
John Adams -- president and one-time defender of the British soldiers behind the Boston Massacre -- might have a problem with that.
“An Act for the relief of sick and disabled Seamen” was signed by Adams in July 1798, and compelled a 20-cents-per-month tax on sailors making port in the United States “to provide for the temporary relief and maintenance of sick or disabled seamen.” In other words, it was something like a mandated health insurance. And Adams signed it. But it wasn’t for all citizens, just sailors on international trips. Was there a law affecting most citizens, as the health care reform legislation does?
Look at the Second Militia Act of 1792, signed by George Washington, which compelled most white men aged 18 to 45 to buy a gun, a bayonet, a knapsack, a cartridge box and similar supplies.
The early laws have been getting some discussion on law blogs for months. Expect more talk about these laws in the early days of the Constitution in the months ahead. Expect more people to hit the history and law books. Expect more fighting against the health care bill as the Republican majority gets seated in the House and Republicans gain more strength in the Senate. And remember Obama used to teach constitutional law. It’ll be an interesting fight.
Thorny opposition for Oaky Woods
Top Republican state senators, including Cecil Staton of Macon, asked the State Properties Commission to not buy Oaky Woods, a chunk of land in Houston County, for at least a month.
“Given current real estate market conditions, we believe a day will give taxpayers an opportunity to voice their opinion without jeopardizing the opportunity to purchase this property at true fair market value if is determined to be in the state’s best interest,” they wrote.
The letter didn’t move anyone. The State Properties Commission voted unanimously Monday to approve the $29 million deal for more than 10,000 acres.
Nunn honored at Georgia Tech
Former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, who calls Perry home, was honored earlier this month with the Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage at Georgia Tech.
Nunn was honored for altering American policy toward the former Soviet Union after that empire broke up; helping former Soviet republics secure and destroy nuclear, biological and chemical weapons; and working to reduce global threats from weapons of mass destruction through the Nuclear Threat Initiative.
States may give long-term GOP boost
Bill Connelly, a guest columnist on political guru Larry Sabato’s blog, noted Republican dominance in state legislatures may lead to stronger candidates in bigger elections.
“Since the New Deal, Democrats’ dominance in state legislatures provided them with impressive farm teams. In the 2010 midterm elections, however, Republicans gained over 680 new state legislative seats, significantly expanding their farm teams and shrinking Democrats,’” he wrote.
Farm teams can go several ways, though, not only into federal politics. This year, for example, Austin Scott went from the General Assembly into the U.S. Congress, while Nathan Deal moved from the U.S. Congress to the governor’s office.
Writers Jim Gaines and Mike Stucka contributed to this report.