Georgia editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:
The Savannah Morning News on Gov. Nathan Deal leaving office and his influence:
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s first order of business upon leaving office next week is to undergo back surgery.
Such is the price for carrying the state to new heights over the past eight years.
Deal’s legacy is best described in the words of his longtime chief of staff, Chris Riley. Speaking at a ceremony, Riley said, “Gov. Deal isn’t an example by which all others should be measured, but he is certainly an example they should follow.”
Critics will nitpick Deal’s tenure as governor. They’ll seize upon missteps, such as the failed opportunity school district proposal, and call out his actions on polarizing social issues, such as signing campus carry into law and vetoing a religious liberty measure.
Those moves and others are part of his record and are more than mere footnotes. However, Deal will be remembered more for the successful environment he fostered — in places like the Capitol, the business community and judicial circles — than he will for headline-grabbing political maneuvers.
Deal understood the most effective leaders in government start with the broadest interests in mind. They build relationships, especially with those who differ from them philosophically. They establish a process for dialogue and action and insist that it be followed. They value trust and fairness above all.
The wins and losses fall from there, with no one success or failure detracting from the overall mission — to make Georgia a better place to live and work.
Deal’s influence cannot be overstated.
At the Capitol, in a decade marked by political divisiveness, the Georgia General Assembly conducted its business civilly — and efficiently. Deal made sure minority leaders, such as gubernatorial runner-up Stacey Abrams, had a voice in addressing challenging issues.
The governor also exercised a budgetary iron fist. He coaxed the spenders and the cutters to take a measured approach, with an emphasis on building a robust rainy-day fund. The reserve grew to $2.6 billion in Deal’s first seven years, and in his last the legislature was able to fully fund public education and do a tax cut.
In the business community, Deal listened closely to the job creators. He entered office in desperate economic times. The recession had ended, at least officially, 18 months earlier, but the recovery was tepid.
Where other states looked to squeeze businesses as a stopgap, Deal embraced innovative approaches to tax incentives, worked to improve transportation infrastructure through the Georgia Ports Authority and pushed workforce development initiatives to strengthen and deepen Georgia’s talent pool.
He was also the state’s biggest cheerleader on economic development. He wears the Georgia designation as the “No. 1 state to do business” like a badge — and rightfully so.
Courthouses and jails throughout the state are a testament to Deal’s criminal justice reform efforts. Foremost among those initiatives are expanded court programs for nonviolent offenders, particularly those struggling with drugs and mental illness.
The courts, from the judges to the prosecutors, bought in, and the reforms are estimated to have save taxpayers tens of millions. Additionally, the number of African-Americans entering Georgia’s prison system are at a historic low.
As Deal’s chief of staff said, the governor has set quite the example.
Sadly, Deal’s public service career will likely end when Gov.-elect Brian Kemp is sworn in shortly after 2 p.m. Monday.
Deal is 76 years old and his chief of staff, Riley, has said publicly Deal won’t run for office again. That doesn’t preclude Deal from taking an appointed position in some capacity, as Sonny Perdue has in the Trump administration and Zell Miller did in completing Paul Coverdell’s U.S. Senate term following Coverdell’s death in 2000.
Deal’s immediate plans are politically related, albeit outside of government. He will team with Riley in a consulting and lobbying firm “to take what’s worked as part of the last eight years to the private sector,” Riley recently told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The venture should allow Deal and Riley to maintain some influence in Georgia politics. Both have many allies under the Capitol’s gold dome and a deep well of contacts in the state’s business community.
Here’s hoping once Deal’s back heals, he’s up for lifting the state wherever he can.
The Augusta Chronicle on Clemson winning the national championship:
Football fans thought they would see a horse race.
Instead, they saw a boat race.
That two-word slang term helped light up social media Monday night as Clemson University did what no other college football team could during the 2018 season — it beat the University of Alabama, and the victory sealed that sport’s national championship.
Oddsmakers predicted a game with a much closer score, generally with about a touchdown or less separating the two teams. With a score like that, the players could shake hands afterward and congratulate one another on a close contest.
Oh no. Instead, Dabo Swinney’s Tigers blistered the Crimson Tide — behind the arm of freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence — to win decisively 44-16. That included keeping Bama scoreless in the entire second half.
Let that sink in. Alabama — serious as a heart attack and just as eagerly anticipated — had never lost by more than 14 points since Nick Saban took the helm of the program in 2007.
“And, in case you need reminding,” wrote The Sporting News’ Zac Al-Khateeb, “this was a Tide team many were ready to compare to the best that ever played.”
Likely in anticipation of how momentous the title game would be, regardless of outcome, the presidents who comprise the College Football Playoff’s board of managers couldn’t race to reporters’ microphones quickly enough to talk down any possibility of expanding the playoffs beyond four teams.
“It’s way too soon — much too soon — to know if that is even a possibility,” Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum said in a statement. He’s the CFP’s chairman. “It’s fair to say the speculation about expansion has outdistanced the reality of what the commissioners and the presidents have discussed. If a decision were to be made down the road, the presidents would be the ones to make it and we are not there.”
This page has argued for an expanded playoff before, not least because it seems to work at every other level of college football. We also feel the pain of University of Georgia fans who feel slighted. And imagine how fans in the Big Ten feel. Go back a decade or two through the list of national champs and you’d barely remember the Big Ten even exists. Then there’s the frustration over how nine-game conference schedules are evaluated against eight-game conference schedules.
It’s a mess. But on the other side, arguing against an expanded playoff, there’s the very real risk of rubbing out the significance of storied regional rivalries that have helped build the legendary history of college football. Others say it diminishes the importance of bowl games.
“If and when the playoff expands to eight teams, I don’t know if there would even be a Rose Bowl, or if there were, what the point would be,” Sports Illustrated’s Michael Rosenberg said last month. “It would feel like the NIT championship game.”
Whatever the forward movement is on an expanded playoff, it should be done logically and deliberately to avoid further fiascos (we’re looking at you, Bowl Championship Series National Championship). Above all, it should be fair.
All that is for another day. For now, the college football firmament is tinted orange. Congratulations, Clemson.
The Brunswick News on lower gas prices:
Anyone who has filled up a vehicle in recent weeks has been met with a pleasant surprise at the pump.
“Americans are finding gas prices below $2 per gallon at 31 percent of filling stations in the U.S.,” said Garrett Townsend, Georigia’s AAA spokesman. “We’ve seen gas prices plummet since around October.”
It should go without saying that lower gas prices are beneficial to everyone. Filling up an 18 gallon gas tank will run you $39.42 for a full tank.
Compare that to last month, when the prices were averaging $2.41 per gallon. The savings may seem like just a few dollars, but every bit helps at this time of the year when funds may be stretched to the limit after Christmas.
The average price for a gallon of regular gas is down across the board.
In Georgia, the average price was $2.01 as of Jan. 2, down 26 cents from last month and 34 cents better than this time last year.
Of course, lower gas prices also affect other aspects. Lower prices at the pump mean lower transportation costs for those that ship goods across the country. That should mean we will see better prices on groceries and other items in the near future.
With the volatility of the stock market and global crude oil supply, who knows how low the prices will go or how long it will be until the prices start to go up again. But for now, let’s enjoy this reprieve from the usual sticker shock at the pump and hope that it last longer than just a few weeks.