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One Man's Opinion: Seasoned Hands on the Wheel
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One Man's Opinion: Seasoned Hands on the Wheel

One Man's Opinion: Seasoned Hands on the Wheel

One Man's Opinion: Seasoned Hands on the Wheel

"While this is only the first part of the Golden Ray and the St. Simons Sound incident, there remains a lot of work to do, threats to the environment, hazards to the people and to the Port of Brunswick continue to be addressed through a unified command," said U.S. Coast Guard Captain John Reed, Charleston sector Coast Guard commander.

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One Man's Opinion Seasoned Hands on the Wheel

While an ongoing review and investigation unfolds of a fire and the subsequent capsizing of the South Korean automobile transport tanker, the Golden Ray, off the Georgia coast, you can bet millions that the ship's owner, automobile manufacturer/shipper and insurer were all hoping that there were some very experienced hands at the wheel the night that this massive cargo ship fell over on its side.

The Port of Brunswick is one of the busiest automobile import facilities on the eastern seaboard. The shipping channel into and out of the port is narrow, surrounded on both sides by sand bars as well as St. Simons Island/Brunswick and Jekyll Island. Hard to imagine that the massive craft, with 4,200 vehicles still on board was piloted by a crew of only 24 sailors. The ship's pilot hails from Brunswick, most of the remaining crew are South Koreans. It may be months before we know how the ship ran aground, if the fire damaged navigation systems, or operator error grounded this massive ship on a sandbar, still causing ongoing environmental and economic injury, though thankfully without any serious injury or loss of life. 

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One Man's Opinion: Seasoned Hands on the Wheel

Georgia emerged from the depths of the Great Recession with a seasoned team at the helm, Governor Nathan Deal had nearly two decades of legislative and leadership experience in the U.S. Congress and Georgia State Senate, former Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle presided over the State Senate for three terms and 12 years and House Speaker David Ralston joined the body in 2002 and was elected Speaker in 2010. This experienced team led Georgia to become the best place to do business for six years in a row now, as well as record levels of employment, and industry relocations, while conservatively managing the state's fiscal affairs, resulting in the highest bond ratings possible to service our state’s relatively modest debt. None of these accomplishments occurred easily or by accident and of those three team captains, only Speaker Ralston remains on the current field of play.

Georgia and our U.S. economy may again experience choppy waters in the not too distant future. During the past two sessions of our General Assembly, growth in the Georgia economy allowed for record budgets, including a one-time pay raise of $3,000 heading for the wallets of Georgia educators. Now with a tougher economic climate looming, it may be time to trim those sails a bit. Governor Brian Kemp is requesting state agencies identify and prepare their budgets with a reduction of four percent for the coming fiscal year and six percent for 2021. 

The largest component of most every state agency budget is the salaries of its employees, typically consuming 65 percent of each dollar. Lay-offs are generally rare in state government, though furloughs did occur during the prior recession within several state agencies and local school systems. While the state owns most of its real estate, maintaining those structures and paying utility expenses typically consumes another 10-15 percent. You are now at 75 to 80 percent of the available budget dollar, leaving 20 percent to make cuts from...and those dollars are the agency program or mission expenses. A 4 percent cut is actually more like a 20 percent cut to the agency program, followed by the request of deeper cuts the following year. This calls for experienced hands chairing the House Appropriations and Senate budget committees, as well as steering the legislative process and budget differences between the Executive and two legislative chambers to a successful and prudent conclusion. So would you prefer the experienced surgeon, pilot or ship captain, or a newbie in training learning the ropes? A less seasoned legislative branch also enables a more entrenched and less responsive bureaucracy. 

Having lived through several prior recessions, especially the DEEP trough of 2006-2010, I understand and appreciate the benefits of having steady, seasoned and senior hands on the wheel. Sensing turbulent economic times ahead, I want Georgia to have captains and a spending Skipper who can help us smoothly sail through the tightest channel and choppiest waters, in part because they have already done this before. Think about it. Prayers for the crew of the Golden Ray and their families.

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  • A North Alabama police officer said he was placed on administrative leave following complaints about two social media posts, including one that mocks the late George Floyd. Ross Greenwood, an officer with the Mentone Police Department, said he was put on leave pending the outcome of a termination hearing, AL.com reported. Greenwood said he was not told who complained about his posts, but Mentone Mayor Rob Hammond confirmed the administrative leave to the Fort Payne Times-Journal. Greenwood said he shared two posts that received complaints. One, posted June 14, noted that the “Treasury Department will honor George Floyd by placing his portrait on the $20 counterfeit bill.” The second post, made on June 19 read, “Breaking News: Quaker Oats officially changes name to Shaquille O’atmeal.” Floyd is the Minneapolis man who died May 25 after a police officer put his knee into the man’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Greenwood said he left the posts on his Facebook page because he wanted to be transparent, the Times-Journal reported. He said he does not believe he did anything wrong, and said he “absolutely” enforces the law equally. Hammond said Mentone Police Chief Gene McKee met with town attorney Pat Tate to discuss his investigation, the Times-Journal reported. “It is the Town’s contention that these postings are a violation of the Mentone Police Department’s code of conduct,” Hammond told the newspaper, adding a termination hearing would be held “within the next 10 days.” Greenwood, who has been with the Mentone Police Department, previously was the chief of police in nearby Sylvania. “In my opinion, (Floyd) was a criminal. He’s sure made a name for himself,” Greenwood told the Times-Journal, adding he was unhappy with the news of several products changing their branding because they play off racial stereotypes. “A lot of this has gotten way out of hand,” Greenwood told the newspaper. “What’s the standard of what we can share on social media? I’ve never targeted or threatened to kill anyone.” “If some radical Christian shot up a church, I’d share a story about that as much as I would if a radical Muslim did,” Greenwood told the Times-Journal. “I’m prejudiced against people who do stupid things. I can’t help what race you are when you mess up. I do post a lot of stuff about minorities and may post some stuff that looks racist, but there’s got to be some standard. Innocent people are getting killed.” Greenwood said he had asked for a copy of the police department’s social media policy but never received it, AL.com reported. He also said he never signed any papers documenting that he agreed to any department social media policy. “There’s something on Facebook that’s going to offend somebody,” Greenwood told AL.com. “There’s posts going around of police officers getting their throats cut. That offends me. But I don’t get out of shape. I just think, ‘Wow, that’s pretty rough.’”
  • A Black family has sued Hilton and a North Carolina Hampton Inn franchisee, alleging discrimination after a white clerk called police regarding a billing dispute. Dolores and Alvin Corbett, along with their two teenagers, checked in to The Hampton Inn & Suites on Nov. 23, 2018, in Wilson, North Carolina, along with some extended family. According to a news release provided by attorney Jason Kafoury, the family was there to “celebrate the life” of Alvin Corbett’s mother, Fannie Corbett, who died in 2019 and was declared a “civil rights pioneer” in North Carolina, The News & Observer reported. The following morning, the suit alleges, the unidentified clerk loudly and repeatedly told Dolores Corbett that her credit card had been declined. Corbett tried to explain that she had prepaid for the $145-per-night room using her Hilton Honors account points, but when she asked to speak to a supervisor, the clerk shouted, “Get off my property” and alerted police. Dolores Corbett told USA Today the humiliation and degradation suffered warranted the lawsuit, but the clerk’s summoning of police “put our family in imminent danger.” The family checked out immediately and told officers they had done nothing wrong when they arrived. And even though the clerk conceded to the responding officers that the billing question had been resolved, the suit alleges the officers escorted the Corbett family from the premises and circles their car in a restaurant parking lot while they waited for their extended family to join them, USA Today reported. Meanwhile, the Corbetts’ attorneys shared with the publication an email from the hotel’s general manager, Phil Ronaghan, dated one day after the 2018 incident, offering his “sincerest apologies” and calling the clerk’s actions “unprofessional and unwarranted.” Ronaghan also said in the email the unnamed clerk told them she called police because she felt threatened, but he did not feel the situation rose to “anywhere near that level of dispute” and noted that she had been reassigned pending an internal review of the incident, USA Today reported. In response, Hilton spokesman Nigel Glennie told the newspaper, “Hilton’s records show that our guest assistance team worked to resolve this complaint in 2018. We believe that our Hilton team engaged with sensitivity to understand, listen and address concerns about the guest’s experience.” According to The News & Observer, the suit seeks damages to compensate for the plaintiffs’ “economic loss, humiliation, embarrassment and emotional distress” as well as punitive damages that would punish the defendants’ alleged “willful, wanton, and reckless conduct” to prevent similar incidents in the future.
  • Deputies in an Oregon county were in the right place at the right time this week, saving two lives in the same spot on two different days. Shortly after 11 p.m. on Monday, Washington County deputies received a call that a 16-year-old girl was at the top of a parking structure across the street from the Sheriff’s Office in HIllsboro, KATU-TV reported. Deputies were able to coax the girl, who was allegedly preparing to jump, away from the outside railing, the television station reported. “There’s a lot of grief associated with the loss of normalcy with what youth are doing right now and the connections to their peers,” Emily Moser, director of the non-profit YouthLine, told KGW. Moser’s job has taught her a lot about how teens are trying to make sense of a world that doesn’t make much sense right now. “The uncertainty that they’re feeling is very much in the here and now,” she said. On Tuesday, deputies responded to the same area, as a woman in her 30s was standing on the top of the parking structure, KGW reported. “I received a phone call from a coworker who was driving home and she told me there was a subject on the top level of a local structure that was outside the barrier,” Commander Caprice Massey told the television station. When Massey arrived, she tried to engage with the woman by talking to her. “She starting signing in American Sign Language and she preferred to communicate that way, and as luck has it, I know sign language,” Massey told KGW. Massey was able to talk the woman back over the barrier without saying a word. “I asked the young lady if she would sit with me and we sat pretty close to each other,” Massey told KGW. “Just take the time to check in with people and when you ask ‘How are you?’ wait for the answer.”
  • Two Oklahoma police officers have been charged with second-degree murder nearly one year after the death of a naked Wilson man last Fourth of July weekend. According to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, Jared Lakey, 28, died July 6, 2019, after officers Joshua Taylor and Brandon Dingman discharged their stun guns on him more than 50 times, WXII reported. The incident occurred just before midnight on the Fourth of July after Taylor, 25, and Dingman, 34, responded to a call of a naked man running down a Wilson street screaming. “The two Wilson police officers were trying to take Lakey into custody, and he was not cooperating. He was not complying with their requests,” OSBI public information officer Brook Arbeitman said, according to the arrest affidavit. According to court documents, an OSBI agent reviewed dash and body camera footage of the arrest, The Ardmoreite reported. “The footage reveals numerous instances of both officers using their X26P tasers to send electrical shocks through (the victim’s) body in an apparent attempt to persuade him to put his hands behind his back as he lay on the ground,” the agent stated in an affidavit. Court documents indicate Dingman discharged his stun gun 23 times for a total of 114 seconds over the course of nine minutes, while Taylor deployed his stun gun 30 times for a total of 122 seconds. Despite sustaining nearly four minutes of electrical jolts, court documents state Lakey never struck, grabbed or made any aggressive attempts toward either officer during the nine-minute confrontation, WXII reported. The affidavit also states neither officer attempted to restrain Lakey during those nine minutes, despite several opportunities and the fact that Lakey was not fully conscious. “(The victim) is tased numerous times while merely lying naked in the ditch, presumably for not rolling onto his stomach and complying with the officers’ commands to ‘Put your hands behind your back’,” the affidavit states. Court records state Lakey died of “complications of myocardial infarction (clinical) in the setting of cardiomegaly and critical coronary atherosclerosis and law enforcement use of electrical weapon and restraint,” The Ardmoreite reported. The arrest warrants for Dingman and Taylor were issued Wednesday, and both officers surrendered to the Carter County Sheriff’s Office Thursday morning, WXII reported. Both men face 10 years to life in prison if convicted, and both were granted $250,000 bond.
  • What is more important -- global health policy, or where to display a unicorn drawing? That was the pointed issue confronting a BBC broadcaster on Monday, who was interviewing Clare Wenham, an assistant professor at the London School of Economics. Of course, the unicorn won out Wenham, speaking virtually with Christian Fraser, was about to answer a question about the United Kingdom’s response to the coronavirus pandemic when her daughter, Scarlett, entered the picture, The New York Times reported. The young girl can be seen walking back and forth in the room, trying to decide where to put her drawing. When Wenham finished her answer, Fraser asked, “What is your daughter called?” “She’s called Scarlett,” Wenham said. “Scarlett, I think it looks better on the lower shelf,” Fraser said. “And it’s a lovely unicorn.” As Fraser started to ask another question, Scarlett interrupted. “Say, what’s his name?” the child asked. “What’s his name, Mummy?” Fraser had a good laugh and quipped, “This is the most informative interview I’ve done all day.” Wenham told the BBC it was ironic that her interview had been crashed. She said she recently wrote an article for the British Medical Journal on that topic. Wenham conceded, however, that she never thought that scenario would happen to her. Reaction was mostly positive, with Twitter users complimenting both Wenham and Fraser. “Wonderful to see the realities of homeworking for parents,” Heather de Gruyther wrote. “And thank you to the presenter for making it OK and for talking to the child too.” The interview was similar to a 2017 clip that went viral when Robert Kelly, a political-science professor at Pusan National University in South Korea, was interrupted by his children and wife during his interview with the BBC, the Times reported.
  • A naked man was rescued from a sewer in downtown Duluth on Thursday, officials said. Officials in the northern Minnesota city said first responders pulled the man to safety around 5:10 p.m., KBJR reported. It was not clear why the man was naked, or why he was in the sewer. The rescue comes after authorities received a report about a man who had entered a manhole Wednesday afternoon, the television station reported. The man’s clothes were found near the manhole, city officials said. After ending their search Wednesday, first responders returned Thursday after receiving a report about a man yelling for help from under a manhole cover, the Duluth News Tribune reported. Firefighters lifted the manhole and found a man “visibly in distress,” according to a news release from the city of Duluth. Firefighters placed a ladder down the manhole. The man, who has not been identified, was able to climb out, the News Tribune reported. He was taken to an area hospital, where he was treated for hypothermia, the newspaper reported.