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.
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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."