- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:


March 24

The Gainesville Times says former Georgia governor Zell Miller stayed true to his roots:

It’s the rare politician with such a legacy to be recognized by first name only. And for Georgians, no one’s career or personality can be summed up so well in four letters: Z-E-L-L.

If we attached a definition to that name, it would mean, all at once: Feisty, homespun, genuine, honest, unpretentious and stubborn. All of those qualities described Zell Miller, who died March 23 at age 86.

The native of the Towns County mountains rose from U.S. Marine to college professor, state legislator, lieutenant governor, governor and U.S. senator. He was a pragmatic reformer and counsel to presidents. He fought battles big and small, not always with the gloves on, and he never backed down from a scrap.

He did it all while never losing the Appalachian twang in his voice, the mischievous twinkle in his eye or the steely determination in his jaw.

Ultimately, we can say this of Zell Miller: He never stopped being who he was. From start to finish, he was the real McCoy, as pure Georgia as the red clay of his hometown hills.

His career spanned the 1960s South to Washington, D.C., of the early 21st century. At each step along the way, he took on different jobs, foes and issues but he never strayed from his Young Harris roots.

He began his political career in the ‘60s as a state senator, then served as chief of staff for Gov. Lester Maddox, an unrepentant segregationist elected when racial turmoil was at its peak. Many credit Miller for helping to moderate Maddox’s extremist views, resulting in the appointment of many African-Americans to state office.

Yet in a 1964 run for Congress against Rep. Phil Landrum, Miller himself took a low road he later regretted, denouncing President Lyndon Johnson’s civil rights record. But like others of his era, including Jimmy Carter, he left that unholy path and soon learned the state’s racial diversity was a strength to be celebrated, not feared.

He later wrote, “I only hope that the totality of my 40-year record since then is proof that they were the words of someone who at that time was a political weakling, but not a racist.”

He lived up to that with his actions in office, becoming the first governor to openly recommend removing the state flag’s Confederate emblem that he said represented “the dark side of the Confederacy - the desire to deprive some Americans of the equal rights that are the birthright of all.” He also is lauded for appointing a record number of blacks and women to the state’s judiciary as governor.

Miller was elected lieutenant governor in 1974 and served a record four terms in that post, guiding the Senate with an iron hand and frequently clashing with his House counterpart, Speaker Tom Murphy. He became known as a strong-willed deal-maker and ally for Govs. George Busbee and Joe Frank Harris.

In 1980, he launched a bitter, divisive primary challenge to incumbent U.S. Sen. Herman Talmadge, who dubbed Miller “Zig-Zag Zell.” Talmadge handily won a runoff for the nomination, only to suffer an upset loss in the fall to upstart Mack Mattingly in a nationwide GOP landslide.

After two more terms as lieutenant governor, Miller ascended to the governor’s office in 1990 by defeating current U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson. He served as both a fiscal, law-and-order conservative and a progressive reformer who helped bring Georgia into the modern global era.

His signature achievement was creation of the Georgia Lottery to fund both the HOPE Scholarship, to help qualified students afford college tuition, and statewide pre-kindergarten. Over a quarter century, the lottery has provided $10 billion in HOPE funds for 1.8 million college students and 1.6 million pre-K children, while never costing taxpayers an extra dime.

After two terms as governor, Miller retired to his beloved mountains, but not for long. The death of Republican Sen. Paul Coverdell on primary day in 2000 opened the seat, and Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes appointed Miller to finish the term.

As a Democrat filling a GOP seat, Miller went to Washington determined to represent his state, not the party. He soon found Democrats in D.C. to be far removed from his own views, and he frequently caucused and voted with Senate Republicans while decrying the influence of money, partisanship and corruption in the nation’s capital.

His split with his party became so intense he gave a noteworthy speech at the Republican convention in 2004 endorsing President George W. Bush, 12 years after delivering the keynote speech for Bill Clinton at the Democratic convention.

Democrats were aghast at such betrayal but Miller was unapologetic, rephrasing Reagan’s old claim that “I didn’t leave my party, my party left me,” and he wrote a book to that effect, “A National Party No More.”

Though many Southern Blue Dog Democrats of the time switched to the Republican side, Nathan Deal and Sonny Perdue among them, Miller didn’t budge and finished his career as it started, with a “D” next to his name.

“I was born a Democrat. It’s not simply a party affiliation; it’s more like a birthmark for me and many of my fellow mountaineers,” he said. “I would no more think of changing parties than I would think of changing my name.”

That was Miller’s signature, one of a man who would change jobs but not parties, and change views but never his principles, who he was or from whence he came. He always spoke his mind freely without wetting a finger to the wind or consulting focus groups or polls to parse his statements or select the right color of tie.

For 40 years, spanning the days of “White Only” bathrooms to the Atlanta Olympics, Miller held nearly every political job listed on a ballot, leading with both his heart and his head, and never once touched by personal scandal or ethical breaches. He changed the way Georgians get an education, from pre-K to college, and if that were his only achievement, it would stand alone as a major success.

The hardscrabble hills from which he emerged will now accept him home for all eternity. “Give ‘Em Hell Zell” gave ‘em hell all right, and our state is richer, smarter and better for it.

Online: https://www.gainesvilletimes.com


March 25

Savannah Morning News say there’s no room for short-term vacation rentals in residential neighborhoods:

Every homeowner’s wish is to live among good neighbors.

Consideration for the residents around you is a pillar of urban and suburban life. Hold down the noise after 11, except when having the periodic block party. Be considerate and respectful with your pets, vehicles and such. Keep the yard neat and presentable.

All are reasonable expectations. All are essential to maintaining neighborhood harmony.

And all are threatened by the short-term vacation rental trend.

A recent week saw what is sure to be the first in a wave of legal wrangling involving vacation rentals located in traditional residential neighborhoods. The city of Savannah has moved to stop a property investor from renting out 26 homes in Ardsley Park - mostly through Airbnb.com and other web-based listing tools - to overnight visitors as prohibited by zoning ordinance.

Ardsley Park is about as traditional a residential neighborhood as there is in Savannah, filled with tidy, understated single-family homes situated on modest-sized lots. It has that classic neighborhood feel like so many others in residential areas around town and the country.

Ardsley is not a visitor lodging destination. Neither are other owner-occupied areas across the Coastal Empire, be it Windsor Forest, Wilmington Park, Sandfly, Georgetown, Southbridge or countless others. So good on the city for enforcing the law and protecting homeowners from these nastiest of neighbors.

The shame is that this type of community spat is almost certain to become a riot.

To many, the internet grants permission to be a jerk. Go on social media and you’ll find vile insults hurled across cyberspace. Scorn no one would share in a face-to-face setting is fair game online, especially if the combatants can hide behind anonymous handles or pseudonyms. Scams and fraud are rampant, as are falsified entries on open-source sites, such as Wikipedia.

Short-term rental activity can take the beastliness to new levels. If you don’t want to deal with Facebook bullying, phishing or “fake news,” you can simply ignore that foolishness. But when some callous property owner decides to turn a house in a quiet neighborhood into an anything-goes crash pad, the neighbors unwittingly feel the impact.

The short-term rental issue is nothing new in the Savannah area. Historic District and Tybee residents in particular have struggled with living next to a revolving band of visitors going back to the pre-internet days. The web has just made it significantly simpler, and cheaper, to market properties.

Savannah is far from the only locale dealing with the short-term rental abuse. More and more American cities are taking a hard line against un-neighborly activity. Nashville has outlawed house-as-hotel-room rentals in residential neighborhoods. Detroit and Springfield, Missouri, too.

Kansas City is taking an intriguing approach. To rent out a home in a residential neighborhood, the owner must secure the consent of 55 percent of the adjacent property owners. Defy the requirement and face a $200 fine and up to 10 days in jail.

Elsewhere, groups are pushing for greater latitude with short-term rentals. New Orleans enacted an ordinance in 2016 limiting the number of days owners can rent out homes in residential neighborhoods and banning rentals in much of the French Quarter.

A faction recently began lobbying to double the day limit from 90 to 180 and to expand rental opportunities in the French Quarter. With municipal elections coming later this year, candidates are using the issue as part of their political platforms.

Don’t misinterpret this dialogue - the short-term vacation rental, in and of itself, is not evil. Here in Savannah, a tourism boomtown, rentals offer alternatives to traditional lodging options, keep room rates in check and generate welcome tax revenue.

Hence, no short-term vacation rentals ban. City officials worked for years to develop the ordinance, collaborating with neighborhood associations and local hospitality insiders. Together, they found a compromise on the subject that is meant to minimize the effect on homeowners.

As the city’s attorney, Brooks Stillwell, said last year, “Homeowners have property rights just like renters have property rights.”

One of those rights should be to keep residential neighborhoods neighborly. When it comes to short-term vacation rentals located inappropriately, keep one rallying cry in mind.

Not in our backyard.

Online: www.savannahnow.com


March 24

The Augusta Chronicle says voting matters:

A cartoon has a splitting-up couple explaining the situation to their young child.

“Your mother and I are separating,” the father tells him, “because I want what’s best for the country and your mother doesn’t.”

Like that couple, increasing numbers of Americans may also want what’s best for the country, but they have very different, even mutually exclusive, visions for what America is and should be. The visions are becoming divisions almost everywhere you look.

In one recent week, President Trump flew to California - which is obstinately refusing to recognize America’s borders - to inspect prototypes for a new border wall.

Visions don’t get much more opposing than that.

Meanwhile, a supposed bellwether congressional election in Pennsylvania March 13 - one that would tell us what we’re currently wanting for the country - ended with just hundreds of votes’ difference between the Republican and Democrat.

It’s yet another sign that we simply don’t agree anymore on the most fundamental questions undergirding the American experiment. In fact, we are more divided by party and ideology than we are by “gender, race and ethnicity, religious observance or education,” according to a 2017 Pew Research Center poll.

In interpreting the poll, CNN.com wrote that the two parties disagree sharply “on basic questions about how people succeed in America, how the economy ought to work, what the government should do to provide a safety net …”

Don’t fool yourself into thinking it has always been thus. The differences are widening. Across 10 policy questions the study has measured since 1994, CNN writes, the ideological gap between Democrats and Republicans “averages 36 percentage points. That’s more than double the 17-point average difference found 13 years ago, and up from 15 points in the first year of the study, 1994.”

The biggest single fissure today is over illegal immigration and the border. Although we knowingly elected a pro-wall president, Democrats are resisting any and all attempts to secure our border. They won’t even help pass one of their supposed most-fervent planks - legal status for so-called “dreamers,” illegals brought here as children - if it includes border security.

They also adamantly oppose efforts to better screen arrivals from terror-prone regions of the world.

Few presidential candidates in memory had as precise and bold a platform as did Mr. Trump. Yet the Democratic response to his free and fair election has been to “resist” in every way possible the policies he was elected to enact - even the cutting of Americans’ taxes.

Democrats are said to be more motivated than Republicans in this midterm election year. Mainstream media report it continuously, breathlessly and, most likely, with some amount of hopeful anticipation. That begs the question: what is motivating them?

What is the Democrat platform, and why is the elected president’s agenda so anathema to it? Is it secure borders and orderly immigration they oppose? Americans keeping more of the money they earn? A stronger defense in the face of an increasingly hostile world?

Hating this president is not a platform; it’s a tantrum.

Likewise, why in the world would Republicans be down-in-the-mouth? This president has been relentless in pursuing his campaign promises - of which we were all well-informed prior to casting our ballots.

We understand why many Republicans are demoralized by some of Mr. Trump’s actions and utterances. We, too, wish he could be more focused, and be above picking Twitter fights with every left-wing luminary who goads him.

But why in heaven’s name would that result in lower Republican voter participation - particularly in congressional races? Don’t they understand that the congressional majority is key to finishing, or just preserving, the many policy overhauls the president has begun?

We’ll never forget the melancholy that plagued conservatives following the 2012 re-election of Barack Obama. Do they now believe that their job is done, the country put back on the right track, through just 14 months of the current administration?

Do they not realize how different the two parties’ visions for America are today? How can they be so smug as to sit at home on election day?

Far too much is made of these occasional special congressional elections. But if Pennsylvania is indeed a harbinger for the wider congressional elections later this year - and GOP turnout - then the conservative vision of a more secure, free and prosperous America will again wane.

Control of Congress is paramount. If you care about your vision for America, you won’t lose sight of that, especially this year.

The Democrat in the Pennsylvania special election March 13, Conor Lamb, did his best to appeal to both sides - arguably to a fault. In fact, Republicans derided him for trying to sound Republican. And indeed, he promised not to vote for Democrat Nancy Pelosi to be speaker of the House if Democrats win control of the chamber.

Really? If his vote is the decisive one, you really think he’ll cast a ballot for Republican Paul Ryan?

Whatever Mr. Lamb’s mindset, his party has its own.

We truly wish our political differences weren’t so sharply drawn. We wish there were more things we could agree on as a country.

But until that happens - as long as we have such conflicting and even contrary beliefs about what kind of country this should be - voting has never mattered more.

Online: http://www.augustachronicle.com

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