Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Oxending, running for governor, says Perdue too cautious

Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine thinks Gov. Sonny Perdue has done a "very good" job in office but has been a little too cautious in his approach.
Oxendine, speaking to the Buckhead Rotary Club, also called MARTA "a flop" and said he was frustrated that the General Assembly failed to pass tax reform legislation this year or do anything to relieve traffic congestion in Georgia.


Oxendine, who is a candidate to succeed Perdue as governor in 2010, said Perdue's style is in sharp contrast to the man he defeated, former Gov. Roy Barnes, who was "overly aggressive," and made a lot of political enemies. He said Perdue apparently didn't want to make the same mistakes Barnes did.
"I think that's a logical human trait that someone would have, and I think he errs on the side of being too cautious sometimes," Oxendine said.
Oxendine, noting his birthday arrived recently, said like many Georgians he celebrated by paying ad valorem tax on three vehicles he owns.
"We've got to have some meaningful and serious tax reform," said Oxendine, who blamed political infighting in the state house and senate for dooming "several good ideas" for tax reform.
"Not as a public official but as a taxpayer, I was frustrated because I felt like we had been promised tax reform, and it didn't pass," he said.
Another big failure in the legislature was transportation, said Oxendine, who also blasted MARTA as simplistic and ineffective.
"MARTA's a flop because MARTA assumes everybody in the suburbs wants to go straight to downtown Atlanta to jobs at Five Points. How many jobs are there in Five Points?," Oxendine said.
People from Gwinnett County want to go to Alpharetta and Marietta, and MARTA can't get them there, he said. In contrast, mass transit systems in Washington, D.C., Chicago and San Francisco work, he said.
"They're confusing for a tourist, because they've got the red line and the green line and the blue line and the yellow line. But you know what, those lines will take you where you want to go."
Oxendine said MARTA fails in the task of easing traffic congestion on the roads.
"So many of the people who are riding MARTA are people who would be riding buses," he said.
"Well, the idea of a train system isn't to get bus people off the road, it's to get people who would be driving cars off the road."
"We've got to find a way to have efficient public transportation," he added.
Oxendine spoke about his belief that government should serve the people, which is why he keeps his office open until 7 p.m., while other state offices close at 4:30 p.m. He mocked several he said lock their doors at 3:30 p.m. so they can serve all the customers in line by 4:30.
He said his office helps Georgia consumers collect $22 million to $23 million a year in benefits from insurers by intervening or mediating on their behalf.
People in his office answer their phones rather than letting automated systems do it, he said.
"You know what's so cool about having a live person answer the phone? You never have to push "1" to get English," Oxendine said.
The candidate for governor also spoke about the 2008 presidential race. He said the fact that the Republicans chose an unlikely nominee in John McCain and the Democrats are likely to pick an unlikely candidate in Barack Obama indicates that Americans are looking for something different in their leaders.
He encouraged Georgians to vote and be active in politics, or their neighbors' view of the future would come to pass, rather than their own.
"Think about it," he said. "Look at some of your neighbors. That can be a little scary."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

U.S. slow to adopt international accounting standards

A roiling real estate market. Changing regulation. New international accounting standards. How does Deloitte & Touche maintain its position as Atlanta’s largest professional service firm? Ed Heys, Atlanta Deputy Managing Partner, says it’s about hiring and retaining good talent. D&T hires about 350-400 people per year in Atlanta alone. Critical to retention is satisfying young workers’ desire to donate time and money to charity. Hence D&T’s emphasis on giving both money and intellectual capital to the United Way, Boys & Girls Club, and many others.


D&T maintains this focus while managing the adoption of new International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and their heavier emphasis on guiding principles instead of hard and fast rules. Heys says the U.S. has resisted moving to the new standards and is now playing catch up.

“We’re going to have to go through a process of becoming experts on a new set of standards,” Heys says, predicting most major U.S. firms will adopt the standards by 2011.

Heys says accounting audits are taking more time, specifically due to the complexity of how to value certain assets such as real estate during this tumultuous market.

Friday, March 28, 2008

HA8 descrimination? Call the Anti-Defamation League

Imagine a license plate that begins HA8, or hate. Hate this, hate that.

In this week's podcast, Bill Nigut, southeast director of the Anti-defamation league, says those plates are very popular. He became aware of them after The Department of Revenue issued the plate "HA8 JWZ," interpreted as "Hate Jews." In fact, it was an accident (HA stands for "hobby auto," a special designation for classic cars, and the rest was pure chance), but Nigut's group convinced the department to remove the HA8 sequence. Still, Nigut says the department told him that intentionally created HA8 vanity plates are all the rage, reflecting the increasing nastiness of our political and social discourse.
Nigut is on a mission now, having left his job as a TV political reporter, and then a second thriving career in the arts. He's recruiting allies against what he says is hate speech pervading our society.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Oil interruption could send Georgia into recession

An energy shock could trigger a recession in Georgia, and the U.S. has no serious energy policy to prevent it, says Robert Sumichrast, Dean of UGA's Terry College of Business. Speaking to Buckhead Rotary, Sumichrast delivered predictions based on research by the college's Selig Center for Economic Growth.

Sumichrast says the risk of recession is imminent, and the greatest risk is in the first half of this year. The Selig Center puts the chances of a national recession at 80%, and says we may already be in it.


Georgia, however, could escape the recession if we avoid "recession triggers" of housing, oil and continuing drought, which could put the state's economy "past the tipping point." Without those triggers, the center predicts Georgia's GDP will expand by about 2.0% in 2008.

Sumichrast doesn't see housing as the greatest threat here as in California, Florida and Washington D.C., where home prices got out of hand. The drought is a bigger threat, but the biggest is the potential from an oil supply interruption.

Sumichrast says Georgia's heavy reliance on transportation-based industry makes it especially exposed to an energy crunch.

"If a refinery breaks down, if a storm rips through the gulf again and knocks out platforms, or if a war breaks out, you can think of a lot of scenarious where we could have a supply interruption," he says. "That's what I'm more worried about."

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

AGL chief: Future bright for gas, until it runs out

In 100 years, all of our natural gas may be gone. But in the meantime, it'll take on a bigger role in powering our lives. So says John Somerhalder, chairman, president, and CEO of AGL Resources, parent company of Atlanta Gas Light as he addressed Buckhead Rotary on Monday.

Somerhalder says since natural gas burns cleaner than coal and faces less regulatory and community opposition, more gas plants are getting the green light than coal-fired power plants, shifting our energy portfolio toward gas.

In this week's podcast, Somerhalder says the next president's administration must develop a balanced energy policy as surging world demand strains supply. He says renewable energy sources, now providing about six percent of our needs, have no prospects for exceeding 25 percent.

He reports studies that show we'll run out of natural gas in 80-100 years, but by then we will be harnessing ocean waves and other energy sources to meet our growing needs.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Rotarian's soldier son receives posthumous honor

"That's what this project is all about. To honor Tyler. To honor all those who've gone before," said Maj. Gen. Jerry White (retired) of the National Infantry Foundation.

1st Lt. Tyler Hall Brown, son of Buckhead Rotarian Carey Brown, was killed in Iraq in September 2004. In this podcast, Brown is inducted into the Order of Saint Maurice, the highest honor given by the foundation.

The foundation is building the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center at Patriot Park, a $91 million privately funded project being built in Columbus, Georgia, near Fort Benning, where infantrymen are trained.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Water, traffic, and property taxes to dominate 2008 Georgia legislative session

One is a Republican, one a democrat. One is in the House, the other the Senate. But both Rep. Edward Lindsey (R) and Senator Kasim Reed (D) represent metro-Atlanta districts, and they agree on several major issues affecting the metro area.

Water – The long-delayed plan to build reservoirs to capture and store water must move forward during this session. It is critical to stopping Atlanta’s national brand from eroding further.

Transportation – Atlanta can’t build or widen its roads much more, so Atlanta needs funding for creative solutions to improve the way we use our roads. Senator Reed favors a bill to allow two or more counties to create a regional sales tax to fund transportation projects specific to those counties. He prefers this approach to a state-wide one-cent sales tax, which he believes does not have enough support and would get bogged down in rural versus urban politics anyway.

Property taxes – Both support a plan to set a cap on how much the assessed value of your home can increase each year. Neither supports a freeze.

In this podcast, hear about these plus other issues including a revamping of education funding in the state and how the state might help save Grady Hospital.