Category Archives: State Level Stuff

The Hot Mess of the I85 ‘HOT’ Lanes

I have the pleasure of traveling on 85-N twice a week during evening rush hour. My route consists of roughly 7 miles on 285 and 14 miles on 85N for a complete one-way trip mileage of 25 miles (that’s including surface streets). Before the implementation of the HOT lanes, my trip time was 25-30 minutes. Since implementation, my trip time has doubled, I spend 30 minutes on the bridge at Spaghetti Junction and tension among drivers is immense. [And by that, I mean my horn may need replacing by the end of the year]

The HOT lanes are one of Georgia’s biggest mistakes yet. Channel 2 Action News set up their camera at I-85 and Jimmy Carter Boulevard during rush hour Tuesday (10/4) and watched five lanes of brake lights. There was one empty lane, which was the HOT lane. They also interviewed drivers and heard several complaints over the highest toll posted ($5.55) from Old Peachtree Road to Chamblee Tucker Road Tuesday morning. That price is $.30 cents more than Georgia’s minimum wage of $5.25 an hour

Any way you cut it, this cake tastes like crap. For those who either 1) had a hybrid/energy-efficient car or 2) carpooled with one other person, you can no longer be ‘green’ without paying for it. For those who drive the old-fashioned, not-so-green cars, your commute time has increased because of the digest of people who are now traveling in the ‘regular’ lanes. To use the lanes during rush hour is more expensive than using the lanes in the middle of the day or late at night.

Ms. Wilkins from the State Road and Tollway Authority said, “What the data said in the traffic and revenue study from about three years ago is that it would be no discernible impact to the general purpose lanes”. Well Ms. Wilkins, your study is outdated and wrong.

The system isn’t even effective. Users have to register online, (and currently, the processing time is SIX WEEKS to receive your ‘transponder’ for your dash). Then you must set up a prepaid account and “manage” that account monthly. Violations for driving in the lanes inappropriately (without a pass or without a valid account) are $75 + court fees.

You can visit the PeachPass website yourself and poke around. My favorite part is in the FAQ section. “Will the HOT lanes make my commute better or worse?” Answer: The I-85 Express Lanes will give you more choices for planning your commute. What? Ms. Wilkins also recommends contacting the Clean Air Campaign to be matched with carpool buddies, if you would like to be exempt from the toll.

So what are we going to do about it?

On Thursday, WSB-tv reported that Gov. Nathan Deal announced there will be a reduction in the toll rate along the Interstate 85 HOT lanes, starting with the Thursday rush hour night-time commute. Instead of $5.50, the cost would be $3.05 for the next two weeks. This is supposed to work as some sort of incentive to get drivers in the Express Lanes. Not sure how this will work, though. If the ‘sale’ is only for 2 weeks, and transponder receipt time is 6 weeks, newly registered users will not reap the benefits.

And, there has been speculation that the same system will be further imposed on 85, and spread to I-75 and I-575.

My suggestion? Boycott the HOT lanes! It has an effect. After one week, the prices were reduced. Besides, why should we support ANOTHER tax? We are taxed enough to travel as it is. Car sales tax, gas tax and now there is federal legislation to tax by mile driven. No thank you.

Georgia has attempted to implement traffic systems from other states many times before, but they JUST CAN’T GET IT RIGHT.

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Troy Davis & The Death Penalty: Race, Cost & Repercussions

The execution of Troy Davis on September 21st has fueled a lot of discussion on the death penalty in recent days. Of course there are the extremists who call for the abolition of the death penalty all together.  There are the moderates who believe that the death penalty needs some tweaking, like more appeal opportunities, longer death row time, etc.  And then there are the hooligans who think Troy Davis was only convicted because he was a black man who killed a white man.

In evaluating the death penalty, there are several aspects that one must take into consideration.  First and foremost, the death penalty is NOT a deterrent for crime.  It is a punishment for committing a crime.  The death penalty, like many other foundations of America, is based on Biblical values.  And in actuality, the death penalty has become so humane, that it is no longer feared.  Criminals are lucky that they aren’t executed in the same fashion by which they took a life.

Death row is often times considered to be a “second punishment” in addition to the actual execution.  But how is this any different from a life sentence? And isn’t it a bit hypocritical to say that jail time is punishment, when the same groups are extending the length of time in jail by appeals and stays and retrials?  Craig Haney, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz said, “People on death row live under the threat of death, which is of course an extraordinary psychological trauma, and they are denied most of the ways that people make life in prison more tolerable: meaningful social activity,
programming of any kind, activities,” but again, prison is a punishment so why must it be tolerable, or comfortable, or enjoyable? The conditions are pretty nice. All states offer television and a limited number of states offer educational training and group recreation time.

Some interesting facts about the death penalty, for those who are so against it:

  • On average, 13 years elapses between the time a death sentence is handed down
    and carried out. (1)
  • In Kentucky, more people on death row have died of natural causes than have been executed in the last 30 years. (1)
  • Almost all people facing the death penalty cannot afford their own attorney. The state must assign them two public defenders, and pay for the costs of the prosecution as well. (2)
  • The rate at which death penalties are handed down at sentencing has gone down dramatically over the last twelve years, with slow-downs occurring in almost every state that still allows the death penalty, including the southern region (4)

Dragging on the process of appeals is costly.  It costs $90,000 more annually to house a death row inmate than it does someone sentenced to life imprisonment.

Another misconception? African Americans make up the majority of death row. Wrong. According to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), 43.68% of inmates on death row are white, 41.77% are African American, 12.12% are Latino and the remaining 2.43% are categorized “other”.  Further, many believe that the South is more likely to sentence a black man to death row than a white man, but Alabama has equal numbers of both, and Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee have more white men on death row (3).

You don’t have to support the death penalty. You can certainly move to one of the 16 states that has banned it: Alaska, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia or Wisconsin. Or better yet, another country.

Sources
1. http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hOcn1bXU7W_NbP0JN80LCNIVFa7A
2. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/costs-death-penalty#financialfacts
3. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/race-death-row-inmates-executed-1976
4. http://deathpenaltyfacts.org/facts-about-the-death-penalty/

More Heat in the Classrooms

It appears that a good deal of my blogs address the life messages targeted at today’s youth.  It may seem repetitive at times but it is important to note all the different directions from which our youth is being imperceptibly brainwashed.  The article discussed below is a step in the right direction but hardly a success.  While we are constantly being “nudged”, we have to be persistent on shoving back in order to establish an educational system that is balanced and unbiased and get our youth back on track.

Last week the Los Alamitos Unified School District ordered schools and teachers to give an annual presentation on the instruction of ‘controversial’ advanced placement (AP) courses for the next school year. As defined by the article, a topic is ‘controversial’ if there is “more than one widely held view’ on the issue (according to Assistant Superintendent Sherry Kropp).  The effort to assess the stance from which subjects are taught was headed by conservative school board member Jeffrey Barke over a new course covering environmental science and global warming (other topics in the course include population dynamics, evolution and biodiversity, pollution, ozone depletion and human health and toxicity).  Barke stated, “Most teachers are left to center, and if we leave it to teachers to impose their liberal views, then it would make for an unbalanced lesson…Some people believe that global warming is a crock of crap, and others are zealots.”  Barke claims he simply wants both sides of the argument to be presented throughout the class.

Thankfully, the board vote 4-0 that this was a necessary measure, especially since the class is expected to be popular and reach upwards of 15,000 students during the next school year.

Like I stated above, the request and vote in-favor of ensuring a well-balanced course is a step in the right direction, but we’re not there yet.  It’s a little reassuring to see that people are taking note that education is skewed and students deserve a balanced upbringing in this instution. However,  it still leaves the questions of how will the school board guarantee that the teachers remain unbiased about the side they don’t necessarily agree with? And how, at the end of the year, will students be assessed to ensure that both sides were covered equally, and not as one side -fact and one side-opinion?

The point of school is not to TELL students what and how to think, but to introduce facts and allow students to think critically for themselves and establish their own thoughts and opinions. There has been such a ruckus to keep God and religion out of public schools, to make sure all textbooks are politically correct as not to include certain terms from the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement and now we are even trying to impose feminism on everyone to ensure that a woman is called a waiter not a waitress. Where do you draw the line? It seems to me that schools have extracted any trace of conservatism and implemented all forms of liberalism, so much so as to push the limits of progressivism.  If extraction is the course we are going to take, it must happen on both sides of the spectrum.  Same goes for employing both sides in an argument.  But whether you take it or leave it, it’s like algebra….what you do to one side, you must do to the other.  And by doing that, you are left with one thing: facts.

Here is the link to the textbook that will be used for the course: http://www.google.com/products/catalog?hl=en&q=textbook+:,+%E2%80%9CLiving+in+the+Environment,%E2%80%9D&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=shop&cid=11141072175406725121#

You can read the article here from the Los Alamitos Patch here: http://losalamitos.patch.com/articles/global-warming