Posts Tagged ‘Transportation’

Camera1 Photographer Jim Cawthorne Puts Columbus on the Georgia Transportation Map

February 6, 2013
Photo by Jim Cawthorne, Camer1

Photo of Fort Benning Gateway Bridge by Jim Cawthorne, Camera1

Well, the I-185 entrance to Fort Benning was put on the map.  Jim Cawthorne, a friend and fellow Rotarian, got a big hand at Rotary today for winning the contest to determine the picture that would go  on the cover of this year’s Official Georgia Highway and Transportation Map. Jim’s Fort  Benning Gateway Bridge photo is on the cover.

Jim, owner of  Camera1, is also the photographer for the Rotary Club of Columbus.

CONGRATULATIONS,  JIM!

You will soon be able to pick up a free copy of the map  at the Georgia Highway Welcome Center at the William’s Road exit on I-185.

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Save Highway Trees; Urge Governor Deal to Veto HB 179

May 2, 2011

There is still a chance, perhaps a small one, but a chance nevertheless, to block the billboard industry’s attempt to clear-cut taxpayer owned trees on the state’s highways.  It will take a veto by Governor Deal. 

Former state representative and retired Columbus lawyer Milton Jones, who is an enthusiastic  Trees Columbus booster, states the problem and the solution.

Problem:

House Bill 179 allows billboard companies to clear-cut every single tree in a view zone in front of a billboard. Thanks to powerful billboard interests, HB 179 passed the Georgia General Assembly despite significant public opposition.

Billboard owners can already trim and cut trees in front of billboards under existing law, but HB 179 would cut down every single hardwood and pine tree in a 250 foot view zone in front of billboards. These are trees owned by the public that would be sacrificed for private gain. HB 179 harms the scenic beauty of Georgia.

Solution:

Urge Governor Deal to stand up for trees and veto House Bill 179.  You can email the governor by clicking here.

“Democrat” is Not a Bad Word in Muscogee County

October 24, 2010

Election 2010 is upon us, about a week away.  If the polls are right, Republicans will be in control in Washington and Georgia, but not necessarily in Muscogee County.  Since Republicans maintain a high-profile  in the county, you might think they are the majority. Look at recent election results and you’ll see they are not.  Muscogee County regularly goes for the Democratic nominee for president.  And locally, the last sheriff and district attorney races make the point. 

I was reading a letter to the Ledger-Enquirer that made a big deal about the writer’s candidate for mayor being a “conservative” and accusing others of being “Obama Democrats.”   That person just doesn’t understand the reality of Muscogee County politics.  Being a Democrat is a plus in county-wide races, not a liability.  Besides, some Democrats are also conservatives, especially when it comes to matters fiscal.

Yes, Republicans may gain control of the Congress and retain control of the Georgia legislature.  The end result, though,  probably will not be all that bad for Democrats.  If Republicans are in control and things don’t get a lot better than they are right now, they probably won’t stay in control for very long.  But, then, in Georgia,  just look at the shape the state is in after 8 years of Republican control, with water, transportation and education problems worse not better, and despite that, they are poised to remain in control.  Surely, over time, Georgia voters will wake up if things continue on the down slope.  Surely. Surely?

Ah, but in Washington, they’ll be able to blame lack of progress on President Obama vetoes, some will say. That tactic didn’t work with President Clinton. He got reelected.  There is a very good chance it won’t work with President Obama, either.  

Meanwhile, don’t let all of the partisan rancor upset you.  Just have a good meal at the Taste of Lemon. Never heard of the Taste of Lemon?  Well, stay tuned.

Wild Hogging it Again

January 11, 2010

I didn’t go this year so I had to depend on the AP story in the Ledger-Enquirer to tell me about it.  Actually, after reading the story, I got the impression that this year wasn’t much different from last year, the one I attended.

Last year the budget was the main concern of just about everyone I talked with when the politicians and lobbyists and media folks gathered at the Georgia Railroad building in Underground Atlanta, a stones throw from the Capitol.   It appears that’s the same main topic this year.  Last year the state had to cut spending and this year it’s going to have to do the same thing.

With the legislature struggling to balance the budget, does the Capitol really need a lavish gold dome? Gold is expected by some to go to $1500 an ounce this year. Why not melt it down and use the proceeds to help balance the budget?

Last year, gubernatorial candidates were smiling big and shaking a lot of hands. That was no different this year, from what I read. It will be interesting to see how legislators handle the huge problems of water, transportation, and education. With elections looming, their decisions could very definitely have an impact on who wins. 

I received this comment today from a person identifying himself as Norman on the post I did last year about the Wild Hog affair.  “Who pays for this dinner of 1500 or more people? If the budget is as bad as they tell us, be nice if things like this could be cut, not police, fire fighters, and teachers.”

According to what I learned last year, the state doesn’t pay for the Wild Hog Dinner. The affair is hosted by Agricultural Commissioner Tommy Irvin.  State Rep. Carolyn Hugley told me last year that it was paid for by “sponsors,”  which probably translates to lobbyists.  It’s pretty safe to assume that’s what happened this year, too.  So you don’t have to worry about the state paying for it, but those teachers, fire fighters, and police could decide to take retribution at the polls when the budget slashers who cut their compensation run for reelection?

Rails to Trails Progress Report

September 7, 2009

It seemed like a good transportation move when Columbus voters approved a sales tax for capital improvements that included a railroad trolley from downtown Columbus to Columbus State University. Rail is the most energy efficient way to transport masses of people. However, instead of following through with the trolley idea, city leaders decided to dig up the old railroad tracks the trolley would have used. They decided that not enough folks would ride the trolley to make it financially feasible. Maybe they were right. Maybe.

However, replacing those tracks with asphalt for a Rails to Trails project could be considered energy efficient, too. Folks riding bikes and walking the trail will not be burning fossil fuel, and will be improving their health.

Rails to Trails biking and walking trail under construction, Columbus, GA

Rails to Trails biking and walking trail under construction, Columbus, GA

Columbus City Planner Rick Jones tells me that the first phase of the Rails to Trails program, an asphalt trail from downtown Columbus to Columbus State, is about a third of the way through. When you look at the asphalt that has been laid from 14th Street in downtown Columbus almost to Hardaway High School, you would think it’s more than a third finished. However, other things have to be done. 

One of them is a rest station which is under construction near Hannan Elementary School. It will feature a concession stand, rest rooms and a parking lot. One of the construction workers told me that, at the rate construction of the rest area is going,  the building should be finished in about a month.

Rails to Trails rest stop under construction, Columbus, GA

Rails to Trails rest stop under construction, Columbus, GA

The second phase, from Columbus State to Cooper Creek, Jones tells me, will get started in about a month. He says the Rails to Trails project should be completed in   about a year.

Savannah Revisited #1

June 28, 2009
Riverfront, Savannah, Georgia

Riverfront, Savannah, Georgia

I was in Georgia’s “first city”  recently and was impressed with the impact that  a book and two movies made on Savannah.  Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt, was a record breaking  New York Times Best Seller for 216 weeks.  It was written in 1994, and three years later, the movie was made. 

Savannah now boasts almost 7-million tourists a year, twice as many as before   Midnight was published.  As a comparison, Columbus, Georgia, which has a population about the size of Savannah’s, had 1.1 million last year.

The movie Forest Gump, which was nominated for six Oscars in 1994  did not have the impact of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, but it did help.  The bench, on which Forest, played by Tom Hanks,  sat in one of the famous historic squares in downtown Savannah, is in the Savannah History Museum, which is housed in the old Central of Georgia depot’s warehouse and offices.

Paramaount pictures donated ths is park bench to the Savannah History Museum.  It was the one on which Tom Hanks sat at a bus stop. telling his story to different people waiting for a bus.  The bench appeard to be made of concrete and wood, like the ones in Savannah's 24 historic squares, but, it's not.  Paramount had one made of fiberglass so that it could easily be moved around.  There is a picture of Hanks from the movie placed on the bench.

Paramount Pictures donated this park bench to the Savannah History Museum. It was the one on which Tom Hanks sat at a bus stop. telling his character Forest Gump's story to different people waiting for a bus. The bench appears to be made of concrete and wood, like the ones in Savannah's 24 historic squares, but, it's not. Paramount had one made of fiberglass so that it could easily be moved around. There is a picture of Hanks and the suitcase he carried in the movie placed on the bench.

More on today’s Savannah,  tomorrow.

Josh McKoon: “High speed rail will be the interstate of the 21st century.”

June 18, 2009

One of the great tragedies of the do-nothing Georgia legislature is that it did nothing about a state transportation plan again in the last legislative session.  Nothing in face of a monumental transportation problem, especially in the Atlanta area is incredibly irresponsible, in my book. Nothing means the same old same old in dealing with the problem.  Nothing means continuing to spend hundreds of millions on widening lanes even though that simply is not going to solve the problem, especially on the long haul.

Josh McKoon announces for Ga. Sen. Dist. 29, Government Center, Columbus, GA

Josh McKoon announces for Ga. Sen. Dist. 29, Government Center, Columbus, GA, Courtesy: Josh McKoon

Josh McKoon  says that is one of the issues on which he will concentrate if elected to fill Seth Harp’s Georgia Senate District 29 seat, the one Seth Harp is giving up so he can run for state insurance commissioner.  I am glad to hear that Josh plans to squarely face the transportation problem  because he will probably be District 29’s next senator.  29 is a strongly Republican district and Josh got a lot of publicity as chairman of the Muscogee Republican Party, and for his fight as an attorney for the group taking action against the city of Columbus to force it to spend SPLOST money to build a park in back on the new library.  

Sam Rawls, Josh McKoon, Government Center, Columbus, GA

Sam Rawls, Josh McKoon, Government Center, Columbus, GA

Josh sent me a few pictures of his announcement kickoff, which, as you can see, I’m using.

Josh McKoon, Georgia state Sen. Seth Harp, (R) Dist. 29, Government Center, Columbus, GA (Courtesy: John McKoon)

Josh McKoon, Georgia state Sen. Seth Harp, (R) Dist. 29, Government Center, Columbus, GA , Photo Courtesy: Josh McKoon

We’ll get into the insurance commissioner’s race later. There’s a lot I don’t know about it. I’m going to study up on it to decide what to ask about it.  Insurance plays one heck of a role in our lives.  Just look at the health care mess.  We’ll definitely be looking into it.

While, I’m having to work on the insurance commissioner questions,  I don’t have the same problem with the issues that Josh McKoon faces if he gets elected.   We are talking transportation,  water allocation, health care,  energy,  election reform,  to mention a few. 

I decided that I would concentrate on one issue in the upcoming state election one at a time on this blog.  That’s why when I thanked Josh for the pics, I asked hin for his position on transportation.  He said some things that I wanted to hear.  Here is the email he sent me in response to my question.

Josh McKoon: “Thanks for your e-mail.  I said in my speech announcing my candidacy last week that high speed rail transit linking our cities will be the interstate of the 21st century.  We need transportation solutions now and I will be supporting all of our alternate means of transit, including rail.

” Of course roads will continue to be important and funding for road projects will continue to be an issue going forward.  One proposal I have made to insure a steadier and larger revenue stream for all transportation projects is to dedicate the revenues from the unit tax on motor fuel for transportation projects only.  Currently those funds go into general appropriations and can be spent on pork projects.  We need to make sure transportation funds go for transportation needs.

 “We must confront the transportation issue now both as to passenger and cargo traffic.  A robust transportation infrastructure is the key to our continued economic growth and if we continue to rest upon infrastructure investments made in the 1960s and 70s we will see our growth choked off by an inability to move people and goods efficiently around and through our state. 

“Please let me know if you have any follow up questions. 

Regards, 

Josh”

Anybody have any follow-up questions.  If so,just click the “comment” button and ask it.  I’ll make sure Josh gets it.

Gov. Perdue Climbs Aboard High-speed Rail for Georgia and America

June 4, 2009

The return of  rail transit is inevitable.  It’s just a matter of time because it is the most efficient form of mass transportation, not only in fuel economy, but in reducing out carbon imprint.  Instead of continuing to pour billions in pouring concrete and asphalt to expand highways, that money can go to building rail systems. 

The news that Govenor Perdue was in Washington to meet with Vice President Biden and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a Republican appointed by President Obama,  about giving his support to the Obama plan for a national high-speed rail network is encouraging. The President’s plan calls for two high-speed trains to go through Georgia, with Atlanta being the hub. Read all about it by clicking on this link to the AJC’s Political Insider.  

Muscogee Legislators “Tell It Like It IS’

April 8, 2009

The state budget crisis,  the transportation fiasco,  a July session of the Georgia Legislature,  Sen. Harp’s plans to run for statewide office, billboards highlight the town hall meeting at the Columbus Public Library.

Muscogee County legislators made no attempt to sugarcoat what was not a satisfying session of the Georgia Legislature.

Muscogee County democratic Party Town Hall Meeting, Columbus Public Library, Columbus GA

Muscogee County Democratic Party Town Hall Meeting, Columbus Public Library, Columbus GA

Both state senators,  and the dean of the delegation,  all were not happy that the legislature failed to come up with a transportation plan.

Rep. Calvin Smyre, (D), Georgia House

Rep. Calvin Smyre, (D), Georgia House

Rep. Calvin Smyre said,  “It was irresponsible.  It cannot stand. It will not stand.  I am going to make this clear in a news conference Thursday.   It will be addressed this year. ”

He predicted the legislature will be going back into session in three months to deal with the state budget,  and,  he seemed to be saying it will also deal with transportation plan.

“It is wrong for the state to tell the people of Atlanta what they can do with the penny tax they approved at the polls to expand Marta.”

Marta,  the Atlanta area public transit system whose ridership has soared,  cannot access it’s own money to improve and expand the system without the state’s approval.

“That’s wrong.  It has to be changed.”

The audience at the Muscogee County Democratic Party town hall meeting at the Columbus Library applauded enthusiastically.

Sen. Seth Harp, (R), Georgia Senate

Sen. Seth Harp, (R), Georgia Senate

And the Republican state senator who was at the Democratic meeting also got a few big hands, himself.  Sen. Seth Harp, said he would have voted for either of the plans, the one favored by the House or the Senate plan, but he didn’t think either would get taxpayer support.

“They waited too late.  They should have passed it last year. Now, with the recession causing pain in the pocketbook,  it is doubtful that people will vote a penny tax regionally or statewide,” Senator Harp said.  The tax is necessary to fund the plan, which advocates say is urgently needed.  All you have to do is drive to Atlanta to know that the situation is critical.

Sen. Harp might not have pleased his Republican following with one remark he made.  He joined Rep. Smyre in thanking President Obama for sending $1.6 billion in stimulus money to Georgia.  He said with the critical budget problem facing Georgia, the federal money does help. 

“I agree with Calvin.  The legislature will be going back into session in July.  The budget just approved by the legislature banks on the economy getting better. I hope it will, but I am not confident about that.  We will be making more cuts.  For instanceteachers will probably have tobe  furloughed.

“And if we have to do that, say for ten days.  I – and I hope my fellow legislators will join me – will not accept my pay as a senator for those ten days.”

That one elicited a big round of applause. 

Sen. Seth Harp, (R), Sen. Ed Harbison, (D) Georgia State Senate

Sen. Seth Harp, (R), Sen. Ed Harbison, (D) Georgia State Senate

Sen. Harp looked over at Sen. Ed Harbison,  a Democrat,  and said the two of them work together probably better than any two lawmakers in the Senate.  He also let everyone know that he recently learned that he and Harbison served in the same unit in the Vietnam War.  More applause.

Rep. Debbie Buckner, (D), Georgia House

Rep. Debbie Buckner, (D), Georgia House

And Rep.  Debbie Buckner, also a Democrat,  drew a round of applause when she said that, though some things she supported weren’t approved,  the effort that she and other lawmakers to kill the bill that would allow billboard companies to cut more trees on public property was successful.  The crowd like that one, too.

Rep. Carolyn Hugley, (D), Georgia House

Rep. Carolyn Hugley, (D), Georgia House

Rep. Carolyn Hugley was the first to point out that the state is in dire straights over the econ0my and that the cuts that will accompany the budget will cause pain for a lot of people.

When Sen. Harp confirmed he is not running for again for the seat he now holds,  but instead will run for either insurance commissioner and attorney general,  and will make an announcement next week on which one,  Rep. Hugley said, “Oh, go ahead and announce it tonight.”  Sen. Harp said he would wait.

All in all, I have to say I was impressed with the candor of the legislators at the town hall meeting.   They didn’t try to spin the truth about the state of the state or the legislative session that just ended.  The one they predict for  July will, no doubt,  will be a stem-winder.

Rules Committee Chair Nixes Referendum on Billboard Tree-cutting Bill

March 31, 2009

Dorothy McDaniels,  director  of  Trees Columbus Inc.  told me this afternoon that an attempt was made to call for a referendum to let the people of Georgia decide if billboard companies should expand their powers to cut trees on taxpayer property.  The chair of the House Rules Committee ruled the motion out of order so the committee did not get to vote on the suggested amendment to SB 164 which the House will consider tomorrow.

Not everyone on the commtitee thought that ruling was proper since the precedent of voting on such matters was set when Georgians were allowed to vote on the state flag.  They didn’t get anywhere,  so if the bill is going to be stopped it will have to be on the floor of the House,  which means it is very important to call or email your representative and let him or her know you want a no vote.