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Georgia editorial roundup

May 22, 2019

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

May 20

The Augusta Chronicle on keeping local airports in locals’ hands:

Plenty of words, if uttered, could strike fear into your soul.

This phrase should be right up there on the list: “Let’s allow the government to pitch in and help!”

That’s why we’re in solid agreement with Augusta Regional Airport, Augusta city officials and several members of Augusta’s state legislative delegation in opposing Senate Bill 131. If passed into law, it would wrest deserved local control away from Georgia’s larger airports.

If you’re wondering why state bills are still being discussed, since the Georgia General Assembly is no longer in session this year, remember that the sessions are two years long. Bills that died in 2019 don’t always go away. Some stick around like stubborn stains. S.B. 131 looks to be one of those bills.

The bill came out of the findings of a study committee appointed by then-Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle to further examine Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Federal prosecutors are gathering evidence in what they say is a corruption and bribery scandal involving Atlanta airport contracts.

The committee’s solution was to write S.B. 131, which originally would have created the Georgia Major Airport Authority. As the bill wove its way through the legislature this year, the bill was tweaked. Among other revisions, it changed the authority to the Airport Transparency Legislative Oversight Committee. Either way, it would allow the state to further poke into airports’ affairs

That’s “airports,” plural. Even though the initial concern seemed to reside solely with how Atlanta’s airport has been operating, the bill roped in Georgia’s other commercial airports with at least 300 commercial passengers boarding planes annually. So that includes airports in Albany, Athens, Brunswick, Columbus, Macon, Savannah and Valdosta.

And Augusta.

The other airports “just kind of got thrown in there,” said state Sen. Harold Jones of Augusta. You better believe he didn’t vote for this bill.

For heaven’s sake, aren’t airports already regulated enough? Do airports really need more red tape? Shelves are groaning under the weight of the rules already on the books that airports have to follow. Diligent local airport authorities know those rules chapter and verse, and follow them.

Augusta Regional Airport Executive Director Herbert Judon can confirm that. He also can confirm the needless acrimony that erupts when a state tries to take control of a city’s airport.

Judon spent several years in Charlotte, whose Charlotte-Douglas International Airport faced a state takeover in 2013. That scrap spent about three years in court before the Federal Aviation Administration stepped in to institute a policy restricting hostile governmental takeovers of airports.

That policy could keep the state’s grip from tightening around Georgia airports. Could. That doesn’t mean it will.

The only sure way to maintain local control is to make sure S.B. 131 doesn’t pass - and if it does pass next year, Gov. Brian Kemp shouldn’t sign it. He’s already probably heard as much from the leaders of every major Georgia city.

Imposing an extra layer of government bureaucratic oversight on an operation can be much like spreading expired mayonnaise on a sandwich. It’s a rotten idea to begin with, and if you follow through, matters only get worse.

Online: https://www.augustachronicle.com

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May 18

The Savannah Morning News on possible split between Grayson, Bananas

To breathe new life into Grayson Stadium required more than hands-only CPR.

The ballpark’s tenant needed to go full mouth-to-mouth.

Savannah Bananas’ founders Jesse and Emily Cole resuscitated both baseball in Savannah and the venue three years ago. The kiss of life they delivered to the historic structure on Victory Drive was akin to a princess laying lips on a frog, making a nearly century-old ballpark appealing again.

Now, the stadium’s owner, the city of Savannah, is poised to sock the Coles in their magic kissers.

The Bananas’ lease is up later this year, and city officials have indicated in a request for proposal a desire for the next operator to cover the costs of field maintenance and assume responsibility for other operating expenses, such as janitorial services, pest control and electricity.

By the letter of the RFP, this would constitute a significant rent increase. The Bananas currently pay $20,000 a year with that rent covering the operating costs. The RFP estimates field maintenance alone costs the city $103,000 annually. Cleaning, exterminating and keeping the lights on requires tens of thousands more.

The RFP terms are by no means an ultimatum. Prospective tenants aren’t lined up along Bee Road eager to take over the Grayson lease. The Bananas have been and in all likelihood will continue to be the only interested operator and will get a new lease if they want one.

But one piece of new language in the RFP is sure to remain: A $1 per ticket surcharge to be paid to the city. That equates to approximately $80,000. While the Bananas can pass along that tax to their customers, the team would be on the hook for the buck attached to the significant number of tickets they donate to local groups and organizations.

Jesse Cole isn’t ready to take his bat, ball and yellow tuxedo and go home — or another city — over the Grayson lease situation.

He and his wife have remained remarkably upbeat. They haven’t complained and have kept the focus on the fast-approaching start of the 2019 season.

This community would be naive to assume they aren’t getting the message being sent, wittingly or otherwise, by the city. Grayson is a drain on the taxpayers, and the city has an obligation to recoup as much of the public investment as possible.

The Coles, as a result, are a victim of their own success.

The city made a loser of a real estate deal with the Bananas to attract a tenant for the stadium. Officials did the same for years to keep the Sand Gnats in town.

Unlike the string of Gnats’ owners, though, the Coles had the audacity to build a viable business in Grayson’s creaky confines. Instead of constantly threatening to move the team, the Coles see Savannah as the Bananas home, talking openly and longingly of the Grayson Stadium centennial.

For those scoring in the grandstands, that milestone anniversary is still seven years away — an eternity in terms of Grayson tenancy.

City officials recognize that for the first time in a generation there is a demand for Grayson Stadium. And they want their share.

This tact, though, is as shortsighted as a blindfolded home plate umpire.

The city is taking the Coles and the Bananas for granted.

The team has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in stadium improvements. The previous operator took everything but the men’s room urinals with them when they relocated the Sand Gnats to Columbia, South Carolina. The Coles paid to get the stadium back online.

More important than what the Coles put in is what Savannah gets out of the Bananas being here.

They employ a staff of more than 150, and while many of the jobs are seasonal and not the highest paying, work is work. The Bananas eagerly give back to local nonprofits.

Then there’s the immeasurable return on quality of life. They have been in Savannah for only three years, yet it’s hard to imagine summer around here without them.

The team — the Coles in particular — are also tremendous ambassadors.

We encourage the city officials and the Coles to work out the details of the next lease and stop monkeying around with an invaluable Savannah asset.

Online: https://www.savannahnow.com

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May 17

The Valdosta Daily Times on community policing:

Positive interactions between police and people — especially young people — are crucial.

We like what Valdosta Chief of Police Leslie Manahan said about this week’s Coffee with a Cop at Chick-Fli-A.

“It lets people know that we are open and that we have an open dialogue with the community. I want everyone to feel like if they need something, they can come to us.”

She is exactly right and she is striking the right tone for our community.

Police are people too.

Mutual respect and communication are the keys between positive relationships between police and the community.

And it must be a two-way street.

When we show respect, we are more likely to receive respect. When we talk to people in positive ways, they will more than likely talk to us in the same kinds of ways.

Setting the right tone and environment begins at the top and the chief is right to express a commitment to being approachable and having a willingness to listen, even to critics.

It is a delicate balance but officers must be able to maintain authority while demonstrating humility in a profession where it can sometimes be dangerous to show vulnerability. Serving and protecting must be more than a slogan. It must be a mindset, a culture and attitude that permeates a law-enforcement agency.

Let’s be honest, no one wants to get a ticket. No one wants to be arrested or questioned. Every interaction between police and the public is not going to turn out well.

Police sometimes say and do the wrong things and that should not be denied or ignored.

It is important that the authorities be open, candid and completely transparent when those things do happen and that the offenders be held accountable.

The community must also realize that police do encounter bad actors with bad intentions, some of whom represent a risk to the lives of the men and women who wear the uniform. They go to work each day putting themselves in harm’s way for our safety and security.

Respect for police and respect for the policed are equally important conversations that must be taking place simultaneously.

Coffee with a Cop is a great gesture.

Effective community policing must also include daily relationship building, as many positive interactions as possible and — more than anything — the public showing respect for the police and the work they do while the police are showing respect for every person they come in contact with each day.

Online: https://www.valdostadailytimes.com

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