Posted: 10:54 am Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Snowjam puts Nathan Deal on the spot 

By Jim Galloway, Greg Bluestein and Daniel Malloy

Atlanta’s worst snowjam in decades – the most comparable one is the mid-afternoon blizzard of 1982 — presents Gov. Nathan Deal with the worst weather disaster of his administration.

The irony here is about as thick as the 2.6 inches of snow on the ground. Deal took office in the middle of the January 2011 ice storm, but was absolved from blame because the paralysis came just as Sonny Perdue was handing off the baton.

Your daily jolt on politics from the AJC's Political insider blogThis time, there’s no doubt who is in charge.

The governor has scheduled an 11:30 press briefing at the statehouse, and has invited Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

Deal is certain to be asked how he came to view Tuesday’s snow and ice as unpredictable. At last night’s press conference, Deal opened the press conference by describing an “unexpected storm” – despite ample warning from meteorologists.

We’re told the governor was referring to models his office received at 9 a.m. Tuesday that showed Atlanta and areas north getting a light dusting — forecasts that quickly proved wrong.

Click here for the analysis from UGA professor Marshall Shepherd, president of the American Meteorological Society, who cited National Weather Service warnings to the contrary as early as 4 a.m.

Already, Dalton Mayor David Pennington, who is challenging Deal from the right, is using the storm to target the governor.

“Government’s primary role is to protect the people’ Nathan Deal has failed miserably once again.”

Republican schools Superintendent John Barge, another challenger, said he’s concerned that metro Atlanta’s schools are packed with kids who never made it home last night.

“We knew as early as 3 a.m. Tuesday morning that the storm line was shifting further north and metro Atlanta was on the radar for snow accumulations,” said Barge. “We purchased lots of equipment after the 2011 storm to handle these situations, but why couldn’t we have more of the equipment out pre-treating roads and bridges?”

Barge said school districts should have “erred on the side of the caution.”

“When you’re talking about childrens’ lives, I’ll take heat for closing, especially when it involves safety.”

***

Our AJC colleagues Aaron Gould Sheinin and Kristina Torres report a largely empty state Capitol today. House Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle have told lawmakers and staff to stay away – and off the roads.

Nonetheless, the day will count toward the Legislature’s constitutional, 40-day allotment.

We received a bitter email from one lawmaker this morning, who complained that House and Senate leadership were just as inattentive on Tuesday to the dangerous conditions outside as other leaders.

Specifically, this lawmaker pointed out that the House judiciary and public safety committees “deliberately” chose not to cancel their meetings, forcing staff and concerned citizens to navigate hazardous roads. “Incredibly, incredibly stupid, cavalier and reckless” was the exact phrasing.

***

Mike Griffin, the lobbyist for Georgia Right to Life, sends word that he will also be the public affairs representative for the Georgia Baptist Convention, replacing Ray Newman, who died last year. The position can be an influential one, given that the state convention represents 1.3 million congregants in 3,600 churches.

***

The long overdue five-year Farm Bill is finally lumbering to passage this week, but several members of the Georgia delegation are not celebrating.

Witness Rep. Tom Price, the Roswell Republican who has backed House GOP leadership often on strategy and budgetary matters in the past year. On today’s vote, he classified himself as leaning no, despite the fact that the measure has the backing of House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Said Price:

“There’s a role for food assistance and there’s a role for agriculture policy and support, but when they get melded together it distorts the whole discussion. And so one of the key principles that I supported in the initial one as it came to the House is dividing those two. And my understanding is they are united again, and that’s troubling.”

The $956 billion bill combines spending on nutrition programs such as food stamps with agriculture subsidies. The House passed two more conservative versions separately. The Senate passed one bill with bipartisan support.

The conference report on the floor this week, the result of months of heated behind-the-scenes negotiations, actually saves less money against future deficits than either chamber’s approach: $16.6 billion in savings over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Of that sum, $8 billion comes from food stamps, in part from prohibiting undocumented immigrants and college students from receiving the aid. That’s far less than some of the restrictions House Republicans were pushing for, but Democrats such as Rep. Hank Johnson of DeKalb County say taking a dime from food stamps is a bad call:

“It comes at a time when so many people need relief. They need help. And to use those people and their experience as a throwaway to decrease the debt is unconscionable.”

Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Marietta, unsurprisingly, told us he’s a “no,” because there are not enough food stamp cuts. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton, who served on the conference committee, is supporting the bill. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, is a “no.”

Read the Congressional Budget Office cost breakdown here. If you want to read the whole thing and get ahead of your Member of Congress, the 959-page conference report is here.

***

At last night’s State of the Union event, Rep. John Lewis had the opportunity to offer President Barack Obama his hand. Along with the shake came some words from the president, Lewis reported: “You’re making real progress.”

It was a reference to the new voting rights bill, which Obama alluded to in this passage of his speech:

“Citizenship means standing up for everyone’s right to vote. Last year, part of the Voting Rights Act was weakened, but conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats are working together to strengthen it.”

When Obama delivered the first sentence, to a standing ovation, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., turned around to vigorously shake Lewis’ hand.

***

In past years, U.S. Rep. Paul Broun has not shown up for the State of the Union – preferring to critique the president on Twitter rather than to his face. But the Senate-seeking Athens Republican was present and accounted for Tuesday night, with a prime seat next to the center aisle, where dignitaries enter.

But instead of going in for the presidential handshake (or vice presidential hug), Broun hung back and let some House Democrats past him to the aisle spot for a big, televised moment with POTUS.

Broun did wave and shake hands with a couple of senators. And, as noted by the eagle-eyed Dave Weigel of Slate magazine, he gave a fist-bump to Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., one of the most liberal Democrats in Congress.

***

FYI, our WSB Radio colleague Jamie Dupree has the full text of President Barack Obama’s SOTU speech here.

***

Public Policy Polling, a Democrat-leaning firm out of North Carolina, has posted what it says are “strongly” encouraging numbers for Democrats in Georgia and Kentucky. But we’re not sure the numbers fit the adverb:

Kentucky voters (by a 57/34 margin) and Georgia voters (by a 54/37 margin) both strongly support a minimum wage hike to $10 an hour. In addition to overwhelming support from Democrats the proposed increase also has an unusual amount of support across party lines, with 40% of Republicans in Kentucky and 27% in Georgia supporting it.

Blocking efforts to raise the minimum wage has the potential to hurt GOP prospects in these states’ toss up Senate races this fall. 42% of Kentucky voters say they’re less likely to support Mitch McConnell for reelection this fall if he votes against increasing the minimum wage, compared to only 25% who say they’d be be more likely to back him. Similarly in Georgia, 42% say they’d be less likely to vote for the eventual Republican nominee if he/she opposes increasing the minimum wage, with only 30% saying they’d consider that a positive.

***

Peanut Politics reports that former Macon congressman Jim Marshall has quit his job as head of the U.S. Institute of Peace. Be on the lookout for attempts to put him on the 2014 ballot in Georgia. A Democrat, Marshall lost his seat to Republican Austin Scott in 2010.

70 comments
DS
DS

"Barge said school districts should have 'erred on the side of the caution.'

'When you’re talking about childrens’ lives, I’ll take heat for closing, especially when it involves safety.'”

I think Barge is correct.

To be fair, however, Deal and Reed weren't the only ones who weren't sufficiently cautious. We all had access to the weather reports, and we know how Atlanta gets with a bit of snow and ice.

I think school administrators and business managers should've sent people home sooner. And even if they didn't, individuals have to take some personal responsibility for doing what they must to keep their family safe.

Oh well, lesson learned.

Leadbelly
Leadbelly

Reed and Deal are dissembling morons. They act as if they take responsibility but they reallydo not. How can someone opine that schools, businesses, and government should all leave at staggered times? Are you crazy.....if the word is that all hell is going to break loose, everyone bails at the same time. 


They both bear primary responsibility for this fiasco.

Bernie31
Bernie31

Governor Deal and Mayor Reed were Yucking it UP with many Pats on the Backs with plenty of Good ol Boy Jokes being spread around. Meanwhile Atlanta's Katrina was RAGING in Full Force just outside of the event DOORS. Surely LQQKING out the Window at the Gridlocked Roadway below caused a Panic and a urgent departure from a Back Door Entrance with Blue lights Flashing, GET OUT OF THE WAY!

Eustis
Eustis

No excuse for the Governor to be caught off guard. He has an agency (GEMA) that should have niotified him early on about the changing weather. 

Prop_Joe
Prop_Joe

The city streets weren't that bad in Atlanta.  It was the face that the interstates were so turrble, forcing people onto arterials such as Northside Dr., MLK, etc., causing all the gridlock.  Coming from Chicago, the streets are salted ahead of snow storms to the streets from icing.


Gridlock was a big part of the clusterf... yesterday, but there wouldn't have been as much pandemonium if the interstates were clearer.  I bet the suburbanites wish they could've hopped on a train to Kennesaw, Canton, Douglasville...

findog
findog

Yesterday morning I was in Marietta at noon I headed back to Alpharetta.  The snow was still not completely covering the asphalt and it was already hopeless.  While I place a lot of blame on School Boards, Mayors, and Governor Deal there is one element not being addressed.

Too many Georgia drivers are selfish idiots.  How many intersections did you cross where a couple of the special people thought they needed to pull into the box thereby blocking traffic in the other direction?

By the way GDOT, your converging diamond was a total failure when there is no way to throttle the I285W exit ramp; hour and a half to just get to the U-Turn.  They probably hit nearly two and a half to head north off the exit.

Bernie31
Bernie31

There is a Pattern and Problem with this Governor's Leadership..Always a DAY Late and a Dollar Short on everything. just a few days it was Teachers and state employees Healthcare. Today, its the Snowstorm. The Blame is being placed on the National Weather Service that clearly stated and reported "DANGER is APPROACHING Prepare NOW!"

MattieMae
MattieMae

Why is noone asking why thousands of kids were in school yesterday?? 

notagain
notagain

Little salt,little calcium chloride,little ot pay.Does wonders for car wash/clean up shops.

DannyX
DannyX

Has anyone seen Bob Barr?  We need him to start the Governor Deal impeachment process.

DontTread
DontTread

Seriously...this was 3" of snow.


I wonder what would happen in the event of a real disaster (cyberattack, deadly virus outbreak, Cat 5 hurricane, welfare runs out of money)?


This is a test....this is only a test...

CuriousPrime
CuriousPrime

The National reports about SnowMess 2014 shows how the City of Atlanta can get the blame for problems that are the responsibility of the State, Counties, School Systems, and businesses.

JacketMan
JacketMan

The "good" Governor, Mayor of Atlanta, as well as every City/County Administrator all over the Metro Area were given PLENTY of notice that we were going to get a MINIMUM of anywhere from 1"- 6" of snow around the area and they did NOTHING to prepare for this mess in ADVANCE. They also knew WELL IN ADVANCE that we would have SUBFREEZING weather, which meant this mess would remain on the ground potentially for DAYS.

In their infinite "wisdom, these idiots took no preemptive steps to prepare for this mess and now are trying to blame everyone else; from the media, to an Act of God. Well, all they have to do is look in a mirror. Then they need to beg forgiveness from all of those poor souls who got stuck for hours, up to almost a day, due to THEIR incompetence.

DannyX
DannyX

This is Deal's Katrina!

rightwingextreme
rightwingextreme

This is a failure of individuals to take care of themselves.   Plain and simple.


Did you watch any of the weather forecasts?


Did you send your kids to school knowing about the potential weather problems?


Did you go pick up your kids early as the conditions began to deteriorate?


And just how is this a problem of government??

SlimDem
SlimDem

How is it that the University System of Ga knew, MONDAY AFTERNOON, that the weather was going to be bad on Tuesday so that they ordered classes closed at Gordon College in Barnesville and other places, but Governor Deal and his advisors did not know? Does the USG have access to better weather info than Deal?

RantNRave
RantNRave

Cons have the NERVE..the gall to talk about POOR leadership in the White House.

Now they see what happens in the SOUTH HOUSE.

DEAL can't blame this on OBAMA.

But he'll ask for HELP from the G-O-V-E-R-N-M-E-N-T.

Government to the RESCUE.....................AGAIN

hmmmmmmmmmmmmm 

EdUktr
EdUktr

Shouldn't John Barge, our Schools Superintendent, be answering for why he didn't act forcefully to get schools closed?

Kamchak
Kamchak

@Prop_Joe   

I bet the suburbanites wish they could've hopped on a train to Kennesaw, Canton, Douglasville...

That's a bet you would lose.

honested
honested

@MattieMaeBecause they don't want to explain why the cuts in education eliminate cushion days, and why teachers have to take additional non-paid furlough days.


Just a thought.

honested
honested

@DannyXThat would require factual considerations.

Mr. barr has only shown that once in his career (when he rightfully imprisoned pat swindall).

Bernie31
Bernie31

@DannyX - uh...huh! Well said..with Kasim to follow. Surely The Football Gods will come to his rescue and demand a reprieve.

honested
honested

@DontTreadThere would probably be more of a hue and cry if we wised up and cut defense spending the 60% it needs to be cut.


Then the REAL whiners would float to the top.

honested
honested

@CuriousPrime
Our responsibility to remind them WHO is responsible for Federal and State Highway maintenance in our State.

As we all know, the National Media has been stuck on wrong-wing apology since the ray-gun years.

John53
John53

Because it was supposed to hit in places like Barnesvillle and not in the city and the northern suburbs.

Bernie31
Bernie31

@RantNRave My friend in struggle. I am with You on that one. But here is MY thinking on it. GOD is showing NATHAN and KASIM they are NOT the Masters of The Universe THEY

Think they ARE!


The (2) Two very Arrogant and Conceited Leaders have Railed against the POOR of Georgia. Jesus promised The POOR.." I will Never forsake YOU". Nathan says " I do NOT CARE ABOUT YOU!, Kasim says " Me too".  Lets build a FOOTBALL STADIUM for the FOOTBALL GODS! They Pay Better!  We have our Financial Backers and we FEAR no competition as long as We stick together.

SO strange that both have their BUTTS in a Sling unexpected and unwanted. At the Hands and Mercy of the Weather. This is classic GOD at work in our Lives.

Medicaid Expansion will come to the Poor & Needy of Georgia. Stand By..for Miracles are approaching. Those who have denied them will not share in the News of the of its coming.

Jesus has promised those who do Harm to the Least of US...also Harm ME!


Listen, GOD is Talking to Us...change Your Ways!


Lean NOT to Your own Understanding.....


honested
honested

@RantNRave I would envision that before the end of today, every con comment will include some nonsense about Bennnnnngaaazzzziiiiii in hopes it will shield them from the bright light of truth.

John53
John53

John Barge has no authority at all.

The_Centrist
The_Centrist

Not by Democrats and Barge supporters trying to USE this against Deal.  It's not working.


td would have us believe that the State Superintendent of Schools doesn't talk to his local superintendents.  Doesn't fly.

td1234
td1234

@EdUktr Shouldn't you be answering questions about how little you are informed as to how our state and local governments work in Georgia?


Can you show me exactly where Dr. Barge has any authority or influence in when a school system should or should not close? Hell, even the Governor actually said that the decision to close the schools was a LOCAL decision. 


What the governor did not tell the public is that he does have some say so if he decides to declare a state of emergency. He could then order school systems to close. 


Dr. Barge has absolutely nothing to do when a local system closes. Only thing he could do is to ASK the governors office to close the state DOE office in Atlanta.  

honested
honested

@Kamchak@Prop_JoeNothing like a strong dose of reality to make them take a moment and rethink their long held bullheadedness!

Bernie31
Bernie31

@rightwingextreme@DannyX  This is KASIM's "T-BABY" , he is stuck like a RAT in a TRAP! and Boy is he Angry!

This kind of PR is what Failed Political careers are made of.

uh..huh

honested
honested

@rightwingextreme@DannyXI got home from the Capitol on passable Atlanta City streets yesterday afternoon. Clogged with traffic but passable.


The people stranded are on INTERSTATE HIGHWAYS which are the responsibility of the Georgia Department of Transportation (just ask them).

td1234
td1234

@The_Centrist And exactly why would he interfere with a  local decision? The local superintendents are on the ground in their local counties and are in better position to make these calls.



td1234
td1234

@The_Centrist Oh it is working. Teachers are telling parents left and right that it is all Deal's fault that little Johnny and Sue were left at school

EdUktr
EdUktr

@td1234 @EdUktr The Governor can ORDER school systems closed? Have you informed the state legislature and State Supreme Court about this new power?

rightwingextreme
rightwingextreme

@td1234@EdUktr


libs don't understand personal responsibility.   they've been conditioned to rely upon guvment for everything.

Kamchak
Kamchak

@honested

Nothing like a strong dose of reality to make them take a moment and rethink their long held bullheadedness!

Atlanta has maybe two of these snow related disruptions in a decade. They whine about it, blame everyone else, but in the end residents of the suburbs and the exurbs have a love affair with their cars, and they don't want those blah people to be able to get on a train/bus in south Atlanta to come steal their 90" plasma TV.

td1234
td1234

@The_Centrist No, there are many, many Republican teachers that will be voting for Barge in the primary. They all like him and the job he has done as Superintendent and hate what the governor did to their insurance. They all know that it is a local decision to send kids home or not and place ZERO blame on Dr. Barge like Deal cronies are attempting to do.

The_Centrist
The_Centrist

Only the Democrats who don't support Deal.  Do you think these same teachers are giving your Barge a pass?

AuntieChrist
AuntieChrist

@rightwingextreme@td1234@EdUktr Yep, all the conservatives made it home fine yesterday, it was just the libs who were stuck 16 hours on the interstates and state roads. As for blaming reed, the Interstates are the purview of state and federal officials, not city mayors.

CherokeeCounty
CherokeeCounty

So now our friend td is a 'lib'?

You really are clueless....

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