Politics & Government

Political Notebook: A roasting we shall go

Jim Marshall, a former Macon mayor and former U.S. representative, received the Distinguished Citizen Award on Tuesday from the Boy Scouts of America’s Central Georgia Council, but not before getting a little good-natured ribbing from friends and former colleagues.

There were several references to Marshall’s 1997 foot chase that helped police catch a would-be thief who ran off from a downtown health club. But there also were recollections of other less familiar episodes, including a pickup hauling horse manure (“You shoveled a lot of stuff during your political career, too.”)

Among other quotes from the evening: “We would have voted Jim least likely to become a politician,” “He didn’t have much patience for fools,” and the recitation of an inscription from a Macon Bar Association plaque once presented to Marshall: “Diplomacy is for sissies.”

MACON NOTABLE FREED FROM FLORIDA JAIL

Christina Perera, a convicted felon who was once leader of Macon’s private Progressive Christian Academy, led Georgia to pass laws requiring better background checks for day care workers.

Perera was arrested earlier this year on a probation violation charge. A judge terminated her probation this week, Florida records confirm.

Perera had been arrested in Lee County, Florida, in August, where she was working at an unlicensed Fort Myers day care that misrepresented its ownership and had unscreened people working with children, the sheriff’s office there said in a statement. She was later transferred to Marion County, Florida, to face the violation of probation charge. There, a judge dismissed the violation of probation charge and also ended Perera’s probation, saying the state didn’t provide enough evidence, reported the Ocala StarBanner.

Perera was removed, and then added anew, as a defendant in a two-year-old Bibb County Superior Court lawsuit over ownership and control of Progressive Christian Academy. That case continues.

NEW POST FOR SCOTT

U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ashburn, has been named chairman of the House Subcommittee for Commodity Exchanges, Energy and Credit by U.S. Rep. Michael Conaway of Texas, chairman-elect of the House Committee on Agriculture.

Scott said in a statement, “I am humbled by the opportunity to oversee many important issues impacting U.S. producers, from commodity exchanges to future agricultural energy needs. Almost every farm operation depends on institutions like the Commodity Future Trading Commission and the agricultural credit and lending services of the Farm Service Agency. ... I look forward to representing agriculture producers back home in Georgia as well as across our nation in the 114th Congress.”

In the last session of Congress, Scott was chairman of the Subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture.

NO PROFIT IN IT

Macon-Bibb County’s Sister Cities program and the Fort Hawkins Commission are both planning to become nonprofit agencies, which would let them raise private money while still providing public services.

Resolutions endorsing nonprofit status for those groups passed a Macon-Bibb committee this week and should be back for a final commission vote Dec. 16.

Mike Cranford, Fort Hawkins Commission chairman and a former Macon councilman, said nonprofit status would let the fort seek grants from private foundations, which have strict rules on giving. Fort Hawkins is developing more programs and wants to add another building on the property, he said. But Cranford made an initial pitch for perhaps $12,000 until the nonprofit designation could be approved.

“We’re going to have to cease our weekend operations if we don’t get some sort of funding while this process is going on,” he said.

SIBLING RIVALRY

Other aspects of the Sister Cities program provoked brief debate among Macon-Bibb commissioners this week. Commissioner Bert Bivins suggested suspending the eight-year-old relationship with the Russian city of Ulyanovsk -- pronounced several different ways by commissioners, who might be happier with its previous name of Simbirsk.

Bivins said sisterly stiff-arming would be warranted by Russia’s recent actions, which are “not in the spirit” of the Sister Cities program, created by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956.

No action was taken on Bivins’ suggestion, but Commissioner Virgil Watkins then spoke up for greater discretion when hosting visitors from Kurobe, Macon-Bibb’s Japanese counterpart.

Among the many historic documents reproduced on the hallway walls leading to commission offices is the instrument of surrender signed by Japan on Sept. 2, 1945, ending World War II. Keeping that posted in view of teenage guests from modern Japan is “kind of awkward,” Watkins said. While students from Kurobe are being welcomed, perhaps the surrender document could be covered or replaced with a “nice picture of flowers,” he said. That idea also fell flat.

“That’s the reality of history. We’ve got to accept it and they’ve got to accept it,” Bivins said. Commissioner Gary Bechtel backed Bivins in endorsing a continuing history lesson for Kurobe students.

SPLOST TRACKER

An interactive map allowing people to view and track projects paid for with special purpose local option sales tax money is up and running. The online map shows each project’s location and gives a description. It also has frequently updated information about its progress, how much money is allocated for it and how much has been spent so far. Just go to maconbibb.us and click on the SPLOST project map banner at the top of the page.

EARLY VOTING BEGINS MONDAY

Early voting in the state House District 120 special election begins Monday in parts of Putnam, Greene, Oglethorpe, Taliaferro and Wilkes counties. Five candidates are running in the Jan. 6 election, all Republicans: Debbie Bartlett, 63, CEO of the Georgia Nurses Association; Jesse Copelan, 73, senior State Court judge; Gary Gerrard, 62, attorney; Jesse Johnson, 37, Realtor/forester; and Trey Rhodes, 39, financial adviser.

Staff writers Oby Brown, Jim Gaines and Mike Stucka contributed to this report.

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