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Stimulus Money in North Fulton

There are some hard-core conservatives that think local governments should refuse to accept federal stimulus funds. I suppose it is a moral high ground to take. The best way to end pork barrel spending is to be above the fray and not participate in the game, right? Makes a lot of sense to me. But I don’t wear the shoes of a city councilman or mayor. I’m not going to criticize small (and young) municipalities for wanting a piece of Obama’s stimulus pie. Not in this economy!

So let’s take a look at how stimulus money is being spent in north Fulton. This data comes directly from www.recovery.gov, a nifty website with a clickable map to review projects. They separate money by grants and contracts. Grant money is my main interest for this article; the projects being funded in our neck of the woods. You’ll find some energy efficiency projects for city buildings, some road work (including two decent sized projects on Kimball Bridge), the Johns Creek smart traffic system, and a curious one tenth of a mile greenway extension. I think there are fairways in Johns Creek longer than this!

Federal Stimulus Grants

I won’t go into a lot of detail on the contracts awarded to north Fulton companies. Many of these are for projects out of state. I will say that Exide Technologies (headquartered in Milton) is on the receiving end of about $34 million.

Federal Stimulus Contractors

  • Exide Technologies – Milton
  • Infor – Milton
  • Yahasoft – Johns Creek
  • The Circle Group – Alpharetta
  • Siemens – Alpharetta
  • Techlaw – Alpharetta
  • iParametric – Alpharetta
  • Mactec Engineering – Roswell
  • B2B Workforce – Alpharetta
  • R2T – Roswell
  • CONTAINER-IT – Roswell
  • FCB Engineering – Roswell
  • Fisher Engineering – Johns Creek
  • Embedded Eng – Johns Creek

Johns Creek, Gateway Signs and the Identity Crisis

Only eight people showed up at the public hearing. I’m surprised that they got that many, a typical response from a busy public with no time for such matters. So the city of Johns Creek put out the call to the media. They are requesting feedback on a proposal to add thirteen signs at various points entering the city. The cost? Upwards of $35,000 a piece for the larger designs. You can check them out for yourself here. Don’t worry, they’ve employed the services of consultants, so it can’t be that bad.

Before I weight in on this issue, let me get this out of the way. Politicians in the conservative burbs need to keep this in mind. If you’re pondering whether spending money on a new project is worth it, the answer should be a resounding NO in 99% of all cases. We’re in the midst of a recession and tax receipts are down. If you’re not already convinced that the project is vital, you say no.

So that pretty much let’s the cat out of the bag on how I feel on the issue. Yet what I see underneath all this is really an identity problem for Johns Creek. It goes back to how this city (and Milton) were founded. If there was a legal description of what is in Johns Creek it would be “everything in northeast Fulton County that isn’t already incorporated.” In essence, these cities are the leftover scraps of what Alpharetta and Roswell couldn’t finish consuming in their hungry annexation plans. As a result, there is little to no discernible boundary to these cities. Perhaps Johns Creek is trying to rectify this by putting enormous and expensive stacked stone signs everywhere. There is also a “keeping up with the Joneses” aspect to this. They show a picture of Suwanee’s entrance sign as an example. We can’t be outdone by our sister city across the river!

When I see this issue along with the Johns Creek vanity zip code and the “swoosh” street sign stuff… it seems that this young town is more concerned with their outward appearance and identity. It’s a common character flaw of the young I suppose. They’ll grow out of it.

Not as Conservative as You’d Think

I’m a conservative. I’m a true conservative. I was a foot-solider in the Reagan Revolution. I’m so far to the right I can’t turn my head left. These are all lines I’ve heard in this election year. Well, the last one I made up, but you get the idea. The election of 2010 has been an amazing one so far. It reminds me a lot of 1994, only more intense. Candidates are tripping all over themselves to come across as conservative. We live in one of the most politically conservative parts of the country, yet politicians are trying to out-conservative each other. It is almost comical to watch.

At the same time I’m puzzled with local government and how very un-conservative their policies seem to be this year. City and county governments around here stomp on the principles of private property rights and limited government with impunity. Here are a few examples…

Forsyth County in the Golf Course Business – Some Republican county commissioners in Forsyth County want to use taxpayer money to purchase a golf course, namely the Lanier Golf Course. Never mind that other privately owned courses in the northern burbs are struggling financially. I’m sure Forsyth County can do a better job running one while still being good stewards of the taxpayer. Fore!

Roswell Denies Cell Tower Request. Milton Rejects Two Cell Towers – This has been written about a LOT. I’ll probably beat on this dead horse in a few months when Roswell and Milton are dragged into court. The odd thing is that fighting cell towers is politically popular among residents even though the law is clearly NOT in the side of the cities. Tea party principles be damned, we’re talking NIMBY! Can you hear me now?

Gwinnett’s New Garbage Plan Takes Effect – Citizens in unincorporated Gwinnett County now have zero choice in which garbage company to use. This isn’t as big a deal to me since many municipalities do the same thing (the City of Alpharetta being one of them). It is more the principle of the matter. In the name of reduced traffic and pollution citizens had a small freedom taken away from them. That stinks.

I could go on with examples of legit zoning applications being rejected for NIMBY purposes, but you get the idea. In 2010 we will hold politicians in Washington and Atlanta to a higher conservative standard. We’ll demand to have it the other way with city and county commissions. We’re not as conservative as we’d like to think here in the northern burbs.

Why I Like Karen Handel

Georgia’s primary elections are Tuesday. It has been quite an election year. There are tons of candidates to pick from, which is always a good thing. And like I mentioned a few months back, with so many politicians running for higher office, we’re bound to have a lot of employed career politicians when this is all over. This is a terrific thing.

I’ve decided to vote for Karen Handel for Governor. There are a few reasons in my mind, some of which are germane to my blog’s theme. They are:

She’s one of us. She lives in Roswell. I live in Alpharetta. Her campaign headquarters are on Old Milton Parkway. Not a big deal under normal circumstances. Her past is like many here in the burbs (except the part about working at the White House). She was a relo working for the corporate world. Sound familiar?

Fulton County Commission – Her experience here is noteworthy. In short, she got shit done. The current leadership in north Fulton County doesn’t even compare. I’m amazed at how uncooperative politicians are here these days. In Handel’s case, she was elected county-wide as someone from Roswell. She worked with the diverse population and leadership of Fulton County, balancing budgets. I don’t see many leaders today from north Fulton that look like Karen Handel.

She’s a woman. One way to cut out the good-old-boy syndrome of politics is to vote the boys out. And most of the boys in this race have ethics problems that immediately ruled them out of contention for my vote. The most egregious is Nathan Deal and his no-bid contracts with the state.

In short, I think Karen Handel is a take-charge-get-stuff-done kind of woman who will shake things up in Atlanta.

Karen Handel was a Rootless Relo

New readers of my blog might not know this. The inspiration for my blog’s name came from a New York Times article written years ago about Alpharetta’s rootless relos. You can read the entire article here. It also spawned a book.

So before you draw any conclusions from the title of my article today, understand that being a rootless relo is not a negative thing to me. I should know, because I’m a rootless relo who’s working on deepening my family’s ties to this area.

It occurred to me the other day that Karen Handel, the candidate for Governor, also fits into this category. Well, at least she used to. I think it is safe to say she’s established a few roots in Georgia by now. I give her an even money chance at becoming Georgia’s next Governor.

Check out her bio page on her campaign website. She grew up in Maryland and worked in Washington DC for a while before moving to North Fulton to follow a corporate job. Sound familiar? Her story is not unlike thousands of others from North Fulton in that regard. I guess what I’m trying to say is that she’s one of us!

I haven’t completely decided who I’m voting for in the primary, but I’m certainly leaning towards Handel at this point. There are other reasons of course. I just thought it was interesting to point out this little connection between her past and my blog’s theme, for what it’s worth. I’ll write again on why I like her as a candidate.

Shuffling the Political Deck

Politics is not something I really want to blog about a lot. But in the ten years I’ve lived here, I’ve never seen a primary season shape up like this one is about to. Friday was the deadline to qualify for campaigning in Georgia. We now have the official fields set in what will be some deep primary battles. Several things have combined this year that have resulted in a shuffling of the deck. Here’s the way I see it…

There are wide open vacancies at the top of the ticket, the governor’s race being the biggest one. As people threw in their hats for that race, they stepped down from the positions they formerly held. In years past they might have tried to campaign while in office, but this year that’s not the case.

On top of this, several candidates have retired, the most notable being Congressman John Linder. Those who are lower on the political food chain started salivating at the chance to move up. They resigned (because everyone else did) and ran for higher office. That’s leaving a lot of entry-level spots open in the statehouse and senate and even some county commission seats.

Most of Forsyth County is in House district 9, which is currently vacant because Nathan Deal resigned to run for governor. There are seven Republicans running in that special election. Forsyth will vote on May 11th and in a near-certain runoff on June 8. But those candidates will all run again in the primary. What’s the point, right? The regular primary election will be July 20 with the runoff being August 10. Voter fatigue? Never! I’ll be able to reverse engineer those touchscreen vote machines before this is all over. (just kidding!)

You’ve also got multiple candidate primaries in nearly all statewide races, a state senate race in Alpharetta, state house race in Forsyth and several county commission seats in north Fulton and Forsyth. Oh, and don’t forget about the seven Republicans running for Linder’s Congressional seat out in Gwinnett.

So get ready for the politicians at your spring festivals, junk political mail and robocalls. I don’t know who’s going to win. I don’t even know who I’m voting for. But I can say this with certainty… there will be some unemployed career politicians come the end of summer. Given the current political climate, tea party activism and the like, I think this is a terrific thing. Election 2010 is on like Donkey Kong!

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