Monday, June 30, 2008

Athens Chamber

Athens Chamber of Commerce Meet-Tweet & Greet Auction Items

  • Framed Athens Area Chamber of Commerce print by James Dean-Minimum bid $25
  • Framed Athens Area Chamber of Commerce print by James Dean-Minimum bid $25
  • Framed Sanford Stadium print (Courtesy of Michael Daniel)-Minimum bid $100
  • Kenneth Cobb signed GA Theater Widespread Panic print-Minimum bid $100
  • Framed print (Impressionist reproduction) -Minimum bid $65 Donated by Appointments at Five
  • AFB&T gift basket (candy, cheesestraws, wine)-Minimum bid $15
  • Electric stapler from Advanced Office Solutions & two online computer training programs from Athens Technical College-Valued at $225-Minimum bid $40
  • The Legends at Chateau Elan- golf for 4- Valued $650+ Minimum bid-$200
  • Golf Gift Basket: 2 rounds of golf with cart at Monroe Golf & Country Club, ARMC Foundation Classic golf shirt, 2 ARMC Foundation Classic tumblers & set of 4 Master’s coasters-Minimum bid $35
  • Gift basket from Heyward Allen Toyota-Minimum bid $25
  • Executive Golf package from The Georgia Club- Valued at $400-Minimum bid $100
  • 4 Atlanta Braves tickets and parking pass courtesy of BB&T-Valued at $200-Minimum bid $50
  • 1 full service oil change from Bulldog KIA and a weekend stay at Candlewood Suites-Minimum bid $25
  • 1 year membership from Bush Creek Sporting Club and autographed Clint Boyer racing hat (donated BB&T). Valued at $250. Min. bid $50.
  • 3 nights stay on private island donated by Bulldog Illustrated. Valued at $ 2500.00 (Inclusive food & beverage) Minimum bid $250
  • Portrait or engagement session, plus 5 (8x10) prints by Mark Sorrow-Valued at $310-Minimum bid $25
  • 4 Bulldog Village passes for the UGA/LSU game donated by Georgia Sports Properties and set of Vince Dooly coasters-Valued at $815-Minimum bid $75
  • 4 Bulldog Village passes for the UGA/South Carolina game donated by Georgia Sports Properties plus 2 Mark Richt coasters-Valued at $815-Minimum bid $75
  • 1 round of golf for four at Reynolds Plantation (National or Reynolds Landing Golf course)-Valued at $700-Minimum bid $200
  • REM gift basket-Valued at $300-Minimum bid $35
  • Buffalos South West Café gift pack (USA Olympic team hat and scarf, $40 dinner for two and 2 buffalos tee’s)-Minimum bid $10
  • UGA football helmet courtesy BB&T (Val. $175.00)-Minimum bid $25
  • The Power Lunch pack-briefcase, $20 Ike and Jane gift cards + 2 coffee mugs, and 4 lunch cards from McAllisters-Minimum bid $25
  • Allen’s gift pack ($25 gift card, hat t-shirt, cap, koozie)- Minimum bid $10
  • Desk Chair donated by Global Industries -Minimum bid $35
  • Gourmet gift basket-Minimum bid $15
  • Beauty gift basket and 1 free Microdermabrasion treatment from The Moore Center for Plastic Surgery-Valued at $250-Minimum bid $25
  • Igloo Cooler with Coors Light 30 pack and hat-Minimum bid $15
  • “Ladies Only” gift pack-6 month OMNI Club membership ($240.00, hair care products and green HOBO purse ($158)-Minimum bid $35
  • Free Microdermabrasion treatment from Moore Center for Plastic Surgery and bottle of Nopalea (courtesy of Beyond Planning)-Valued at $150-Minimum bid $25
  • Makeover gift package- 3 months at Body Plex ($150) and $50 services at Classic Center Hair-Minimum $25
  • Wine Enthusiasts Gift Package-1 bottle of Diva’licious’ peach wine and complimentary wine tasting for 12 people at Boutier Winery + football guy wine holders-Minimum bid $25
  • Outdoor Date Night- dinner for 2 at Mirko, 2 tickets to see Dirk Howell at Ashford Mannor on Sept. 7th and 2 lawn chairs-Minimum bid $25
  • Free consultation and ½ hour of sclerotherapy from Veininnovations-($325.00 value) Min. Bid$25 courtesy Dr. Chris Malone
  • 1 year membership at St. Mary’s Wellness Center-Valued at $500-Minimum bid $50
  • “Glamorous Girl” package- BCBG purse ($178.00), $15 gift certificate to Jewels, and 6 month membership to the OMNI Club ($240.00)-Minimum bid $40
  • Bobbi Brown beauty basket donated by Belk. Minimum bid $25
  • Home Makeover Package- Hand embroidered pillow($215.00 courtesy of Heery[s Too!) and 4 hours of design consultation time from Studio 21 Interiors ($600 value) -Minimum bid $50
  • Wine Enthusiasts Gift Package-1 bottle Diva’licious peach wine and complimentary wine tasting for 12 people from Boutier Winery-Minimum bid $15
  • $50 gift certificate from the Ginko Tree (Courtesy of DOL Athens Employer Group) and 2 oil and filter service coupons from Akins-Minimum bid $15
  • Athens Banner Herald Advertising Package- 2 corner peels and an online ad campaign of 100,000 ad views ($2500 value)+ 32 sq. foot banner from Fast Signs ($250.00)-Valued at $2,750-Minimum bid $100
  • Errands gift package- 3 oil changes from Automotive Plus Inc., $25 Sam’s Card, and $30 worth of free dry cleaning at Athens West Cleaners-Minimum bid $25
  • Kids play day package- (2) $5 gift cards to Creative Cookies and Creamery and “Family Saver” gift package to Chuck E. Cheese-Minimum bid $10
  • Oil and filter service coupon to Akins and (2) 1 time service for general household pest control from Arrow Exterminators-Minimum bid $25
  • Night on the Town Package-$50 gift certificate to Hilton Gardens Inn’s restaurant (Courtesy DOL Athens Employer Group) and Downtown Athens gift bag plus $50 downtown gift certificates-Minimum bid $35
  • Hot or Cold Package- Fleece travel set and $200 in service on repair from HVAC from Paul’s Heating and Air-Minimum bid $ 35
  • Circa 1900 hand painted German bowl, gift certificate and lunch for two at The Factory Antiques-Minimum bid $25
  • 1 year $350 membership to the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce and signed print of Athens Area Chamber of Commerce by Jill E. Leite-Valued at $375-Minimum bid $50
  • Set of 6 antique butter spreaders- (Donated by Hawthorne House) Minimum bid $15
  • Outdoor date night for two #2- 2 tickets to see Dirk Howell at Ashford Mannor on Sept. 7th, dinner for 2 at Barberitos, and Buffalo’s South West Café blanket-Minimum bid $25
  • Free night stay at Hotel Indigo and $75 gift certificate to the National Restaurant-Minimum bid $40
  • Wisdom Teeth Surgery from Oral Surgery Associates and Dental Implant Center-Valued at $2500-Minimum bid $100
  • UGA Gift basket-Minimum bid $15
  • Shoulder laptop bag (Courtesy of Peach Mac) -Minimum bid $15
  • 3 hours of limousine service from A Touch of Elegance-Valued at $300-Minimum bid $35
  • Identity package form Jackson Spaulding-Valued at $5,000-Minimum bid $200
  • Computer Package-HP Deskjet 6940 ($100) (courtesy of Advanced Office Solutions) and 1.5 hours of in-office I.T. Consultation from Athens Technology Partners Value($145) Minimum Bid $30.00
  • Gucci tan suede envelope handbag with dust cover (Courtesy of Suska). Valued at $1,325. Minimum bid $500.
  • Judith Leiber Red & Black Python Leather bag (Courtesy of Suska) . Valued at $2,450. Minimum bid $500.
  • Lindsay Mayflower Transfer and Storage- Local (surrounding 5 counties) 4-hr move Valued at $568 Minimum bid $50. Can be used in conjunction with longer move
  • 61. Mini Marketing Plan ($999.00 value) by Lorraine Communications - Minimum bid $400.00

    62.Aurum’s Chamomille Valued at $158 Minimum Bid $35

    63. Servpro of Athens – Whole house carpet Cleaning - $200.00 value, Minimum Bid $25.00

    64. Scott Greene- Logo for Company, Valued at $400 Minimum Bid $50

    65. Bunco Babe Party package (Value $100) Minimum Bid $25.00 – Donated by The Peoples Bank

    66. Wellman Dupree, Residential Appraisal ($400.00 Value), Minimum Bid $50.00

    67. Mark Kooyman – Afternoon Brainstorming – Value $750 – Minimum bid $75

    68. Mark Kooyman – Catered dinner for six. Late Summer Harvest Theme. Appetizer, salad, main course, desert. Organic vegetables - $300.00 value, Minimum Bid $30

    69. Mark Kooyman – Retail Site Analysis Repair Value $1500, Minimum Bid $150

    70. Mark Richt autographed football- donated by UGA Athletic Association, Valued at $150 Minimum Bid $30

    71. Mark Richt autographed football (#2)- donated by UGA Athletic Association, Valued at $150 Minimum Bid $30

    72. UGA Athletic Association golf driver cover and 8 free rounds of golf with cart at UGA golf course. Minimum Bid $25

    73. UGA golf shirt and hat- donated by UGA Athletic Association. Minimum bid $25

    74. UGA golf shirt and hat (#2)- donated by UGA Athletic Association. Minimum bid $25

    75. Binoculars in leather UGA case (#1)- donated by UGA Athletic Association. Minimum bid $10

    76. Binoculars in leather UGA case (#2)- donated by UGA Athletic Association. Minimum bid $10

    77. Binoculars in leather UGA case (#3)- donated by UGA Athletic Association. Minimum bid $10

    78. Set of 4 cheese knives in a wooden UGA box (#1)- donated by UGA Athletic Association. Value $40 Minimum Bid $10

    79. Set of 4 cheese knives in a wooden UGA box (#2)- donated by UGA Athletic Association. Value $40 Minimum Bid $10

    80. Set of 4 cheese knives in a wooden UGA box (#3)- donated by UGA Athletic Association. Value $40 Minimum Bid $10

    81. Set of 4 cheese knives in a wooden UGA box (#4)- donated by UGA Athletic Association. Value $40 Minimum Bid $10

    82. Set of 4 cheese knives in a wooden UGA box (#5)- donated by UGA Athletic Association. Value $40 Minimum Bid $10

    83. 2-night Stay in Savannah (Courtesy of Motel Enterprises) $$600 value – Minimum Bid $75

    "All About Watkinsville"

    Watkinsville and its merchants do a wonderful job with self promotion. A perfect example of this can be found in this month's issue of Southern Living, which features Watkinsville's own Ashford Manor and Maison Bleu restaurant, two of our city's finest establishments.

    Ashford Manor, with its summer concerts, incredible decor, and manicured grounds is a landmark for our community. Maison Bleu, with its high-end (but affordable) French fare and exceptional desserts is always worth a visit.

    A rather poor scan of the article is below-- as far as I can tell it is not available online. Let me encourage you first to pick up a copy of the magazine and secondly (and more importantly), to visit both of these wonderful locations this summer, whether for a night away from home, a concert that will get you up on your feet, or an exceptional meal that will take your taste buds on a well earned vacation.

    --Thanks to Kirk for the tip on the article.

    Thursday, June 26, 2008

    Mortgage Bailout Plans Bad News

    If you read the Oconee County legal organ, the Oconee Enterprise, you'll notice that the numbers of foreclosures have grown significantly this year. Many of these are established homes occupied by individuals who have been unable to pay their bills. Undoubtedly, these are sad situations for the owners and occupants of these homes. Other listings are for undeveloped lots or unsold homes in some of Oconee's new neighborhoods, most notably Coldwater Creek, which seems to have a few listed each week. Despite these notices, it is obvious that the vast majority of people in Oconee and elsewhere have honored their commitments to their banks, and despite the tough times, are still paying their mortgages.

    Over the past few weeks and months I have discussed the mortgage situation with various reporters and others, and posted on it on May 21. I have deep concerns about Congress' apparent willingness to wade into the non-fraudulent aspects of the national mortgage situation -- which in many areas is much worse than that in Oconee -- and rescue borrowers who took on a larger mortgage than they could handle as well as the banks who loaned them the money.

    Today, details began to emerge in the Washington Post and elsewhere that set off the alarm bells again. If you buy a house you can't afford, why in the world should you get a guaranteed bailout from the government? What does this tell future consumers? Why shouldn't everyone be able to get a government backed, low cost loan? And why in the world should a bank that loaned someone the money -- when it shouldn't have -- be able to avoid the full consequences of that action?

    Clark Howard calls this action privatized risk and socialized return -- and I couldn't agree more. He summarizes his point neatly:

    "This plan is being sold as a "bailout for homeowners," but it's the lenders who really benefit.

    ... BoA is using its influence in Washington to get a deal for itself and other lenders from the government -- with taxpayers being put at risk to fund it.

    The question remains: Will this move actually help the homeowners who are delinquent? We'll have to wait and see. There's no telling if this is a workable solution for those who got into loans they could never afford.

    Most of us who pay our mortgages every month aren't happy about a taxpayer-supported bailout. But there are complicating factors. For example, every foreclosed house in a neighborhood lowers the value of surrounding homes by 1%."

    A Wall Street Journal article goes into more detail on the specifics of the bill, and offers some further insights on the situation, including the idea that bailed out borrowers somehow will share profits with the federal government and that $4 billion of community development block grants are involved, which are always a red flag for me as they are often a gift to inefficient urban governments.

    Let me say this: anyone who was duped by an unscrupulous lender needs to have a recourse through the government or the legal system. But the healthiest thing for our economy long term is for the borrowers who bit off more than they could chew and the bankers who enabled them to bear the painful consequences of capitalism. And if mortgage lenders were corrupt or misleading to consumers, they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and those borrowers should be granted relief.

    I admit that I am not a banker. If anyone can make a case for this bill and why it is getting near unanimous support on the hill (other than pure political expediency), please comment below. I'd also love to hear about how else this situation is impacting the local economy from your perspective. To me, it seems as if it's another step towards the erosion of personal responsibility and limited government involvement in business that our country was founded on.

    Tuesday, June 24, 2008

    Ode to a Great Retailer

    We have a lot of small businesses open – and sometimes close – in Watkinsville. One of the most innovative to come to town in recent years has been Circa Antiques, located downtown.

    Delores Schofill, the owner of Circa, brought a high level of energy and creativity to the downtown retail scene. Her first shop was rented at the end of the block between the courthouse and Sunshine Village. She later bought a standard small brick storefront on the same block, tore out the sheetrock walls and drop ceiling and unveiled a wonderful historic structure that was different than most others in town. She even removed the mansard roof outside, revealing a wonderful brick façade with the name “McRee 1918” etched in (see picture).

    Her goods were eclectic – rare books, original local art, agricultural antiques, other farm implements, containers, furniture, benches. She kept art, sculptures, and planters along the sidewalk in front of her story, making for a changing and interest-building scene. She participated religiously in Watkinsville’s various festivals and events, kept late hours that could accommodate those of us who work late or needed a last minute gift, and knew her customers by name. All this built wonderful community awareness and loyalty.

    Her approach inspired others, including John Byram, to see the great potential in their old buildings and to take them back to their bones, often yielding higher rents and property values for owners. Today, several of our historic buildings downtown are closer to their original look than they have been for many years.

    Last weekend marked the end of an era as Delores retired and closed Circa. She will still keep some stuff at another store in town, but Delores, I wanted to take a minute and say thanks for what you have done for our community and for the lessons you have passed along to other retailers in Watkinsville (and elsewhere) about running a classy, successful business. The Circa website says "we search for the unique." Well, we do the same in Watkinsville -- and Delores, you're one of a kind! Good luck!

    Monday, June 23, 2008

    Kuhlke Appointment Good News for Watkinsville, Northeast Georgia

    Often times we tend to focus on the negative in politics. A bit of good news quietly came our way last week as Bill Kuhlke of Augusta was named chairman of the board for the Georgia Department of Transportation.

    What, do you ask, does an appointment of an Augustan have to do with Watkinsville? Here's what. GDOT board slots are appointed by Congressional District. We share a congressional district with Augusta (which currently features Paul Broun and Barry Fleming going mano-a-mano), meaning Mr. Kuhlke is actually our representative on the GDOT board.

    One of the biggest weaknesses of our region -- and the state -- for a long time has been a lack of transportation funding and effective planning. In recent months, we have had visits from Commissioner Abraham, and now we have a reasonably local chairman in place just as the Governor gets on board with commuter rail and GDOT begins putting together its state transportation plan, led by Ms. Abraham. Over at the Athens Inbox, I theorized that we might finally be in the right place at the right time.

    Despite being from Augusta, Mr. Kuhlke has proven to be a strong advocate for Watkinsville and Athens. He has helped us secure significant federal dollars for streetscape II and is showing a strong interest in the currently stalled 441 widening project in South Oconee.

    What does this mean? It's probably too early to tell. But rest assured, all politics is local, and the needs of this region -- from the Brain Train to the Bishop by-pass to the 441-15 connector south of Watkinsville to Jennings Mill Parkway to a 316 upgrade -- are a lot more likely to be met when you have local leaders in positions to make things happen. Check out this entry for my transportation wish list and lets hope some of them start to become a reality -- sooner rather than later!

    Friday, June 20, 2008

    NBAF EIS Released

    The draft environmental impact study for NBAF is out. At a quick glance, it looks like UGA's South Milledge site is taking the most hits for its visual impact and proximity to the Oconee River, although in fairness most impacts are listed as "moderate," "minor" or "negligible." Some of the other issues relate to distance from civilization (piping, infrastructure, etc.) -- not sure if DHS sees that as a positive or negative.

    Details follow from DHS, and include links to the executive summary and the full report (large file warning). As I have stated repeatedly, this is a project that could be beneficial for our area given the quality of the jobs that it would provide and the critical mass it might provide in a growing industry. I have also said that we need to base the local debate on facts (not rhetoric); hopefully this document will help provide some of those facts for those who want to make an honest assessment. Either way, am sure this release will light up the local blogosphere over the weekend....

    Dear Interested Party:

    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announces the availability of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility Draft Environmental Impact Statement (NBAF DEIS). A copy of the Executive Summary is attached for your information and review. The NBAF DEIS and Executive Summary are also available online at (click on Environmental Impact Statement) and in reading rooms as listed on the website. If you requested a hard copy of the document or a CD these will be sent in the mail to you. Please let us know if you do not receive a copy in the next week so we can ensure you receive the material.

    The NBAF DEIS analyzes the potential environmental impacts of taking no action, as well as siting, constructing, and operating the proposed NBAF at the six site alternatives: 1) South Milledge Avenue Site, Athens, Georgia; 2) Manhattan Campus Site, Manhattan, Kansas; 3) Flora Industrial Park Site, Flora, Mississippi; 4) Plum Island Site, Plum Island, New York; 5) Umstead Research Farm Site, Butner, North Carolina; and 6) Texas Research Park Site; San Antonio, Texas.

    In preparing the NBAF DEIS, DHS considered comments received from the public during the scoping period (July 31 through September 28, 2007). During the 60-day public comment period commencing on June 27, 2008 for the NBAF DEIS, DHS will hold public meetings to present the results of the environmental impact analyses and give the public the opportunity to provide its comments. The public meetings will be held in the vicinity of each proposed NBAF site alternative and in Washington, D.C. Meeting dates, times, and locations will be announced in the Federal Register, via local news media, through direct mail, and posted on the NBAF Web page (

    Comments may be submitted orally, in writing at the public meetings or by using one of the following mechanisms:

    U.S. MAIL

    U.S. Department of Homeland Security

    James V. Johnson

    Mail Stop #2100

    245 Murray Lane, SW, Building 410

    Washington, DC 20528


    1-866-508-NBAF (6223)


    1-866-501-NBAF (6223)

    ONLINE: (click on Public Involvement)

    All comments (oral and written) received during the public comment period, which commences on June 27, 2008 and ends on August 25, 2008, will be given equal consideration and addressed in the final NBAF EIS. Individual names and addresses (including e-mail addresses) received as part of comment documents on the NBAF DEIS normally are part of the public record. DHS plans to reproduce comment documents in their entirety in the final NBAF EIS. Any person wishing to have his/her name, address, or other identifying information withheld from the public record of comment documents must state this request prominently at the beginning of any comment document. DHS will honor the request to the extent allowable by law. All submissions from organizations and businesses, and from individuals identifying themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or businesses, will be included in the public record and open to public inspection in their entirety.

    I look forward to your participation in this important process. Thank you for your interest in the proposed NBAF.

    Thank you,

    NBAF Program Management Office

    Thursday, June 19, 2008

    Candidate Forum

    Linked below are video from the most recent Oconee County candidate forums, sponsored by the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce. Thanks to Tony Glenn, Lee Becker, and Jerry Price for filming and uploading the videos.

    June 17th Candidate Forum for Chair and the Four Posts of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners from Farmingtony on Vimeo.

    June 16th Candidate Forum for Oconee County Board of Education and State Senate from Lee Becker on Vimeo.

    Wednesday, June 18, 2008


    Susan and I were fortunate enough to attend the Peabody Awards in New York on Monday. We enjoyed roaming about the city as well. As different as New York and Watkinsville are, I came back reminded of some lessons that we can apply locally:

    1) You can't have enough trees and greenspace. We spent time in both the New York Botanical Garden and Central Park. In both places, and in other places throughout Manhattan, it is obvious how an investment in trees and greenspace pays off as places grow.
    2) You've got to build quality. It seems obvious, but it is plain to see when visiting that the good stuff up there is what stands the test of time; the rest is essentially disposable. You see this in Watkinsville with our historic structures.
    3) Culture and art are huge positives. We need to nurture the history, culture and artists we have in our community -- at the end of the day, that's what will set us apart.

    Thursday, June 12, 2008

    City Council and Candidate Forums

    City Council meeting was pretty low key last night. We approved the 2009 budget at $100,000 less than the 2008 budget. We still anticipate dipping into our reserves, which seems to be a trend among local governments recently. The city is beginning to construct its wish list for the upcoming SPLOST proposal, so feel free to offer up some ideas on that. The City Council is hopeful that the county will engage the cities as participants in the SPLOST effort this time around.

    Below you'll find video from the recent candidate forums. There has been much discussion about this in the local media as to whether they were biased or not, but I won't rehash -- just watch and choose for yourself. There will also be additional forums sponsored by the Oconee Chamber on June 16 and 17 that you may also want to attend if you're interested in our County's future.

    Also, while we're on the topic of video, our local BOC deserves a major pat on the back for moving quickly to arrange and post video of their meetings on the county website. A good step, although I hope they will keep them up longer than a week. We may want to look into something similar in the city when the budget situation is a bit better.

    Candidate forum for Chair of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners from Farmingtony on Vimeo.

    Candidate Forum for the Four Posts of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners from Farmingtony on Vimeo.

    Part 2 of the Candidate Forum for Chair of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners from Farmingtony on Vimeo.

    Candidate Forum for Oconee County Coroner from Lee Becker on Vimeo.

    Wednesday, June 11, 2008


    Sorry I have been incognito for so long. Busy at work + a week of vacation = no blogging.

    I have a city council meeting tonight that promises to be low key, but will let the world know if anything interesting comes up. I have also received video of the recent BOC and Coroner debates and will put those up soon.

    In the meantime, how about some national political talk? I love a potential Sam Nunn call on Obama's part. This is chronicled at The New Republic as my friends at Safe as Houses point out, and will be a great call for Sen. Obama. While I still prefer McCain, I think the general malaise towards his candidacy resulting from 1) general Republican burnout 2) the fact that the conservative talk show hosts are attacking him as much as they are Obama and 3) the fact that he comes across as a grumpy grandpa competing against a once-in-a-generation statesman will not help his chances. So if we're gonna get Obama -- which could be a good thing on a non-policy pure inspiration level for America -- lets mix in some Nunn; it would be good for Georgia and the nation.

    Additionally, Mark DeMoss, who runs a very savvy PR shop down the road also points out that McCain is weak among Evangelicals in a recent AJC clip. In other words, things don't look good for Republicans this time around, and it's a shame, as I think McCain probably has the independence to work across the aisle and the chops to affect real change on energy policy and other issues that many other conservatives don't.