Useless Arguments With Frivolity

“The lawsuit was silly and in poor form. If we were to treat it credibly, it should have been handled credibly”

The other day I mentioned, well, I didn’t even mention, I just linked to a Telegraph story that Judge Christian dismissed a lawsuit challenging the special purpose local option sales tax (“SPLOST”). You can see for yourself here. That brought out the wrath of the person who filed the challenge who has filled out several threads with comments attacking me for relaying information and giving opinions with which she disagrees, oh, and for admitting truths she disagrees with.

Here, for example, I pointed out that the person in question, while sticking to principle and being well meaning, was going to come across as a sore loser. More power for her sticking to principle, but these latest comments are more diatribe than anything else.

As she points out, she missed a deadline. But, she also says there were “contestable violations” because, in particular, the governments involved said they would either roll back or stay property tax increases — something they have, to their credit, done. This is a specious argument. To buttress the point, she says I should read the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (“ACCG”) 2005 SPLOST guide, available here (PDF). In fact, I am quite familiar with the guide.

No doubt her principle argument is based on this passage

Can SPLOST funds be used to reduce property taxes?

Yes, but not directly. Although counties cannot directly include a property tax rollback as an eligible expenditure on their referendum, counties can use SPLOST funds to pay for capital outlay projects that would otherwise be funded through property tax revenues.

Neither the County nor the City “directly include[d] a property tax rollback . . . on their referendum.” Most certainly they said that passage of the SPLOST would mean property taxes would not be increased and might mean property taxes would be decreased. But, that is not directly including a rollback in the referendum. In point of fact, the referendum did not include a property tax rollback.

Now that we’ve dismissed the specious argument, let’s move on to the funny fatuous argument.

You see, does buying votes or bribing voters for votes in anyway lead you to tie the connection that this is in effect a direct promotion of the SPLOST? . . . . If you offer property owners a tax cut to vote for a SPLOST, can you not see that you have disfranchised the 30 to 40% of residents in Bibb County that are renters? I have thick skin, but I am not going to sit back and take any crap from a lawyer or anyone else that wants to snicker and put out false reports that this election contest had no merit.

[Emphasis added]

Oh, where do I begin? First, I never said the “election contest has no merit.” In fact, I said when it was filed that it was on principle and I made zero editorial comments when linking to the article saying the case had been tossed.

Second, telling property tax owners they’ll get a tax cut if the SPLOST is passed may be bribery to my commenter, but it is also the truth. The County did not raise property taxes and the City is cutting property taxes. They are keeping their word, which they should be applauded for instead of challenged in court.

As for disenfranchising the “30 to 40% of residents in Bibb County that are renters”, that is a non sequitur. If we follow that to its logical conclusion, renters are disenfranchised when property taxes go up and go down. Likewise, property owners, who have no vote when their property taxes go up are also disenfranchised because they lack the power to prevent the property tax increase. But, both the property tax owner and the renter can vote for or against a SPLOST. Because they can vote they are not disenfranchised. I’ll leave aside altogether the absurdity of the argument in light of out of county taxpayers who enter the county and buy something and must pay a sales tax. Again, non sequitur.

I try to be polite with commenters. In fact, I generally do not get into the comments and debate the commenters. I let them have their say. But, this particular commenter asks

why don’t you be bold enough to admit the truth?

So, here is the truth. I did not vote for the SPLOST, but the lawsuit was silly and in poor form. If we were to treat it credibly, it should have been handled credibly, including not missing important deadlines. The arguments in its favor are, at best, a misreading of the ACCG book — secondary material and not legal authority — and at worst a willing smear of the elected officials who put forward the SPLOST to help relieve serious economic troubles in Bibb County, not to mention the overwhelming amount of support the SPLOST got at the polls.

Interestingly, leaving aside the arguments for or against the SPLOST, the basic fact is still the same. Bibb County has a lower sales tax than all but one other county in Georgia. At the same time it faces serious economic problems, a government which refuses to cut spending in the city, and a government that sees no problems in raising property taxes to pay for their pork whoring, which in turn drives out the residents most able to pay taxes. It is a sick cycle and no doubt my commenter and I can agree on that and both work to condemn silly and wasteful government spending in the face of real economic problems in Macon and Bibb County.

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Erick Erickson

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  • You have such a conflict of interest by working for Chairman Biship and by working for a law firm that derives income from taxpayers, that I cannot believe your ridiculous comments. There was nothing frivolous about my charges, and you and other readers can take that fact or leave it!

  • Chairman Bishop is on the Board of Directors at the Chamber of Commerce, and the ads said that the tax rollback would happen immedialtely with the passage of the SPLOST.

    You can use your legal jargon and sparse with words, but the fact is that voters went to the polls with an understanding that they would get a rollback of property taxes! This is not only wrong in the tying or the rollback to the SPLOST but it is also a direct promotion of the SPLOST by the Commissioners at the expense of taxpayers!

  • The reason I could not file on time, is because there is a barrier to entry that government has created against the very citizens that pay the bills in this town. Had I relied on Elaine Carr, I would have never filed at all because she told me that I only had two days to file. The people that you should be angry with are the people that are in office, but when you took consulting fees from Chairman Bishop and you work for a law firm that derives income from taxpayers, then you cannot honestly sit back and protect others rights to free speech and their right to civil disobedience! I am a conservative CPA, and I never do anything that is frivolous! I had offers of help from someone in Putnam County and a friend in Covington, GA. There are people all over this state that are fed up with tyrannical governments! The Judge allowed three pieces of evidence in last Monday, and I did not capitalize on the hearing by telling the media or anyone. This is not about politics, it is about cleaning up what I see as an abuse of power.

  • Chairman Bishop is on the Board of Directors at the Chamber of Commerce, and the ads said that the tax rollback would happen immedialtely with the passage of the SPLOST.

    Yes, but do we know if he abstained from votes on the matter? Also, while it may just be “legal jargon and sparse with words,” the law is the law and you use “legal jargon” in court. While you might not have liked that the advertisement tied a property tax roll back to the SPLOST, it did not violate the law.

  • Oh, and for the record, I don’t work for Chairman Bishop. I was his consultant during his campaign. I also did work for Cecil Staton, Allen Freeman, Bob Fountain, and the President of the United States of America. Doing work for someone does not, at least around here, mean I should censor my own opinions about matters of policy and politics.

  • It most certainly did violate the law, as I said read the SPLOST Guide and see the case that is cited, which is Harrison v. Rainey, 227 Ga. 240 (1971) and McKinney v. Brown, 242 Ga. 456 (1978). It is an official enough guide that it directs the attention of the reader to the first case where in Dekalb County the Commissioners were not supposed to tell voters how to vote on consolidation. The ruling did not have to go further than that because the voters turned down the consolidation.

    When you directly promote to taxpayers that a yes vote for the SPLOST will result in a milage rollback at the South Bibb Property Owners forum, in the newspaper, on television, on the radio, at the West Macon Exchange Club, at the Republican Women’s luncheons then you cannot wiggle out of the fact that regardless of whether or not it was listed on the ballot it does not negate the fact that taxpayers’ money was used to directly promote a yes vote and this is against the US CONSTITUTION, AS WELL AS THE STATE CONSTITUTION!

  • And another thing, that alerted a conservative CPA to watch this election closely. While attending a Christian Coalition meeting at the Tabernacle Baptist Church in April, Chairman Bishop told me and another party that I will keep confidential that the reason that he was not at the Centreplex on election night last November with the other Republicans.

    Mr. Bishop said that he received a call that “if he did not want to lose the election….that he had better get to the elections board because ballots were being stuffed in the box for Lance Randall.” I could not believe what I was hearing, and I thought well why were the police not called?

    You see, I realized just how corrupt this County is when I was running for office, and I saw the games that were played. And you are part of the problem and not the solution, as so many are. The powers that be just cannot relate to someone like me that was paying attention, and tried to do something about it!

    Just because corruption has been the norm in the past does not mean it should go unchecked. A person can speed every day going to Atlanta from Macon to work, and then when a police officer puts on the blue lights to pull them over and issue a ticket, a good defense is not I have been speeding every day so why the ticket now?

    You see, I know that you were paid a modest $1,000 to consult Mr. Bishop in his campaign and that does create a conflict of interest when you are judging the acts of the Commission whether or not you want to admit it or not. You just cannot stand the fact that someone on the outside challenges the conduct of an election.

    My son is a Sergeant and Marine Corp Reserves, and has already served his five years of active duty, and he told me to fight for what is right. And those that have gave their lives in the name of freedom would feel the same way. My son’s best friend Sergeant Kelley Courtney gave his life this past October at the hands of a “Holy Suicide Warrior” by a bomb that took seven other Marines lives. Kelley was assigned to an early surveilance team that was going in to clean up Fallujah for the upcoming elections in order that Iraq’s citizens could experience a free election. Think about this that a citizen of Bibb County that was born and raised here gave his life fighting for freedom, and we just experienced the most unlawful election that I have ever witnessed.

    Yes, I supported Chairman Bishop 100% when he ran for office but I am not going to sit back and not say anything when I see wrongdoing. Unlike many people, I do not sell my ethics for politics, money or fitting in. That has got me far in life, and frankly when you debate the merits or call me frivolous then you are digging yourself a whole that you cannot truthfully get out of.

  • McKinney v. Brown and Harrison v. Rainey both prove my point. Thank you. From Harrison, we have this point of law

    Clearly the chairman and the members of the Board of Commissioners have the right, in their individual capacities, to support the adoption of the Constitutional Amendment by the voters. They may expend their time, effort, and money to procure its adoption.

    [Emphasis added] From McKinney,citing Harrison we have this point of law

    Expenditure of county funds to procure the passage or defeat of constitutional amendments is not specifically permitted. Further, this court has decided that an advertising campaign to influence voter approval of a constitutional amendment is not authorized as a facet of administration of county government.

    The county did not spend county funds on any advertising campaign and the advertising campaign that was conducted was not authorized by “a facet of administration of county government.” If Charlie Bishop participated in advocacy through his involvement with the Chamber of Commerce or any other group, he was free to do so.

  • And another thing, when voters rely on the ad, when voters are directly promoted to concerning the rollback then it “is” what it “is.” You would have fit right into the legal team supporting President Clinton with his definition of what is and is not sex!

  • When the Commissioners put on a suit and tie and receive a round of clapping from those at a forum, they are paid full time to be a Commissioner and the hourly rate does not matter! When a Commissioner is introduced as a Commissioner, they are servants to the citizens and not a private citizen! Playing with words again, and it does not “cut the mustard.” Sorry! When a person publicly gives an opinion and offers something for a vote, then they are acting in the capacity of their title. A private citizen cannot negotiate a tax rollback!

  • When Chairman Bishop drives the car paid for by taxpayers to political forums to promote the passage of the SPLOST, he is using taxpayers’ money to get voters to vote for the SPLOST! Chairman Bishop just said the other day on 940 all the hours that he works and he includes every meeting that he includes in his minutes posted on the internet as working hours. As a CPA, I cannot go to an official gathering in the public and tell people to cheat like the devil on your tax returns, as long as you don’t get caught and then use a defense that I was not a CPA at that gathering when confronted with the State of Georgia when they are revoking my license to practice. Get the picture?

  • Furthermore, when Sheriff Modena appeared on Fox Files live to promote the passage of the SPLOST, he too was using taxpayer’s money to promote the SPLOST, as was City Council Member J.C. Cranford and Mr. Hutto. Everyone that works for the taxpayers were out at the expense of taxpayers directly promoting the passage of the SPLOST. You try arguing this with Mr. Ted Olson that is a constitutional expert or Mr. Ginsberg and I am quite certain if they witnessed what me and other citizens of Bibb County witnessed, and you would no doubt get debated into a whole that you could not dig out of. The question that educated minds should ask is “what if Linda would have filed on time and what if she had someone like former Governor Barnes backing her in court.” You should have notices that Mr. Barnes got the SPLOST reversal in Cobb County that disallowed expenditures on new laptops with SPLOST funds just because that specific terminology was not included in the referendum.

  • I do know Ben Ginsberg and Ted Olson, thank you very much. And I’m sure they would say as I say that it is a difficult line to drawn between the private lives of citizens and those who undertake public service. Some will say that everything they do is representative of their official capacity and some will say otherwise. You and I will disagree on this, but we can both agree that the SPLOST will move forward.

    I for one am glad that my property taxes will now go down.

  • The games played in the past Chairman race:

    1. Lower the full time Chairman pay to part-time pay with full knowledge that it takes full-time work to get the job done.

    2. Use this ploy to wittle down your opponents saying that they could not survive on part-time pay, and put on publicly state that one is willing to serve the public for no pay to get the job done, yes I heard that.

    3. After in office for a while, start complaining publicly that you are working so many hours for so small a hourly rate.

    Oh, there were many more games played. But I will not waste my time listing them. Taxpaying citizens are fed up with what is going on but unfortunatley we do not have the vote to make a change. The only thing those of with enough money can do, is look forward to the day when we can hire a moving truck and move to a better place out of this County and out of this state.

  • I’ll give you this — making the Chairman’s job was a bad idea. I understand that they wanted a manager system, but they should have realized that people are so use to dealing with the Chairman that they weren’t going to stop.

    I don’t think Charlie had any idea that it was going to mean working 26 hours every 24 hour day. I also think he tried to make it work with the manager, but it has not worked as intended.

    And yes, if the city and county don’t improve, I’ll be one of those moving.

  • No, you are wrong about what they would say when it comes to judging whether or not a legislative election was lawfully conducted or not according to the Georgia Election Laws. I have found a case in Wrightville that involved an election being turned over becuase those running against an incumbent Mayor and other incumbents did not receive a voter’s list. The entire election was voided! This is much less than what we just had in this County.

    You are fooling yourself with saying that you are glad to get a tax cut. When your property gets revalued in 2006, it will be a moot point! I am proud to bring this out into the open, and trust me there are others that are proud of me. I did not lose anything, and it is Bibb County that is losing on a daily basis! We just lost one of the largest tobacco plant in the United States, and we are losing Keebler and the list goes on and on. Until, the powers that be see that they are causing the demise of this County, then this will be the status quo. But that dream would be like Hell freezing over.

  • Linda, I’m an Elections Law attorney — in fact, I’m one of very few in the state that does full time specialization in election law. I’ve helped write part of the election code. I’ve participated in numerous challenges to and defenses of elections in the state — not to mention recall efforts. I wrote the book, quite literally, on how to conduct elections in Georgia.

    I’m pretty sure I know how to interpret cases and statutes pertaining to the election code. If I have a tax issue, I’ll let you know.

  • Yes, the SPLOST will move forward, but can you honestly say that you want you child and your future grandchildren to experience freedom and democracy or do you want to support elections that take advantage of citizens? What is the truth, and what does it really mean to you? What are ethics? What does it mean to make an oath as an elected officer to uphold the Constitution or as an attorney to make an oath to uphold the Constitution? I can answer that question because I live my life in that manner.

    That is why since the beginning of time great scholars have debated what truth is: Socrates, Plato and Locke to name a few. Unfortunately, we have a society today where white lies and cheating and lying under oath is ok, as long as you don’t get caught. I am proud to not be a member of that club.

  • Erick, it sounds like you have a stalker on your hands. Dang! Lady, the SPLOST is good for the county. You’re just a sore loser. You may not have liked the process, but I’m thinking that if Christ himself had led the effort you would still be opposed. Maybe if you were coddled sufficiently you would have been okay.

    In the meantime, we’ll shed a tear on your behalf, then celebrate our property taxes going down.

    “Fatuous argument” is too polite.

  • I don’t care what you do for a living, I know how to read myself! You do not have to be an attorney to debate the law! The law is for all, and the Constitution is for all. As an attorney, you should respect my right to argue the law but you fall into the camp that only you know the answers. Eric, I am nearly 51 years old, and I have been an avid reader all of my life and a scholar.

    If I had the time to talk to every citizen in this county and explain to them what I know, you can bet that 75% of them would be right in my camp. You see, those of us that do not sponge off the system are fed up with an abuse of our rights. Don’t you get it? You have to be out in the real world to really get it. I, too had to take some law classes to pass the CPA exam. I teach for Becker, and once in a while I get assigned to teach the law class. I am not an expert on law and do not claim to be. But I did research nearly 80 hours on looking for cases, and reading different code sections. I did my best to familiarize myself with the law.

    I could not have afforded to pay an attorney for this time. Besides, it takes passion to do what I did and an inner force that most will never have. It takes courage and determination and most importantly a faith in Jesus Christ to fight for what is right and just.

    Like it or not, there are citizens like me that are willing to put their very lives on hold, to put the growth of their business on hold and to sacrifice time a way from a husband and a nine year old son to fight for what is right. My ancestors earned that right for me! I am a descendant of the Means Clan that came from Scotland to PA in the early 1600s, and there were many in my ancestory that gave their lives in the American Revolution, the Civil War, the Korean War, World War I and World War II. These proud men would roll over in their graves if they witnessed America today.

  • I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:

    Nothing brings out the blood and knives like SPLOST. Not adoption, not divorce, not zoning, not car wrecks, not medical malpractice, not insurance, not patent, not contract, not criminal.


    I mean, dang.

  • How about making your next project to get with Cecil Staton to write a new SPLSOT Code? For starters, an election can only be held during a general election and all potential voters should receive constructive notice that an election is taking place. etc… The law is so broad that you can drive a Mack Truck through it.

    And FYI, we now have a 12% effective rate of taxes paid into either the Georgia State Income tax and now the SPLOST makes the tax soon to be 6%. And then if the BOE gets their tax, we will be at 13%. Tennessee does not have a state income tax, and their sales tax rate is 11%. Of course, every year the legislature tries to get a state income tax in but TN voters are so far, smart enough to vote it down.

  • Dear Marty,

    Yes, it is good for the County Government and those that are unwilling to make the County run like an efficient business. But, it is not good for buisnesses to raise taxes, period! With the high gasoline costs, and inflation creeping up the SPLOST is not good. Besides, the point is that the election was not lawfully conducted. I have to live with the election like others do, but that does not mean that it is right. I am arguing my case, and if you don’t like it I really do not care. You guys just do not get it. Christ would have not abused the poor and the uneducated in any shape, manner or form! If you can live with an unfair election, then so be it. I am not a stalker, and I am not going to allow people to destroy my message without a fight. I am surprised my posts have been allowed to even stay on here.

  • You can charge your clients an hourly fee to represent them, and you can do your consulting and teaching work for wages but there is one certain thing that can not be bought or sold and that is ETHICS. Good day, Gentlemen it has been my pleasure to put you in your place today.

  • Eric,

    Here is a test for you and the Commissioners: Why don’t you prove to the public that a “fair election” was conducted? This test would be much, much harder than me proving that an unfair election took place. You see it is so hard to get past the barriers of entry to get justice in the Courts, but the court of public opinion is what rules the day for those of us that know the truth.

  • You lawyers and other people that think they are the rulers of the Macon think that we all walk in lock step with you, but quite the contrary, as there are many citizens in town that are fed up with the government. I am not a lone wolf in the wilderness, and you can take that fact to the bank that many people agree with me. I got a phone call just while ago from someone here in Macon that I have never met that congratulated me for fighting for a cause. I got a phone call from a man in Putnam County that told me that he hoped that I would prevail in court, and I did not know him at all (he just saw the filing of the petition in the newspaper). As I said earlier, I did not lose anything, and I am not a sore loser. And if I had it to do over, I would make the same choice. I am proud to fight for the rights of citizens to have a fair election in Bibb County. And if you were not in bed with the County government, you would feel the way that I do.

  • It has been way back since this subject was debated, but I have directed some law students to read this and wanted to add something that I thought of.

    I have a few public company stock investments one of which is a small holding in Exxon where I hold approx. 15 shares. Now like my other investments, I get a quarterly reports and an annual report that includes a proxy for me to vote my number of shares on issues before the Board and stock holders.

    Now, think about this a small investment in a company gets the same treatment from Exxon that a shareholder that may hold 50,000 shares of stock and gets invited to vote on the same issues.

    Do the readers here not see that we are shareholders in Bibb County, afterall it is our County government? Can you see the analogy here, and see that the elected officials should have a fiduciary duty to notify every shareholder (taxpayer) that an election is taking place. This will be my final post on this subject, and I hope that those taking the time to read this will see that those of you just now beginning your careers are the ones that can fix the government problems that we face or you can allow the status quo to continue.