21 January 2018

In Which I Reminisce About the Time Darrell Huckaby Blocked Me on Facebook

The Piedmont Chronicles
- est 2010 - 

So a fair number of you reading this might know who Darrell Huckaby is. Like me, he's a UGA grad; and also like me, he's a published writer who often discusses the South & many things Southern. Unlike me, though, he's not a muckraker or ant-hill kicker, at least not with local issues & politics.

Over the years more than a couple of folks have mentioned things like, "you're kind of the next generation's Darrell Huckaby." I'd honestly always kind of take that as a back-handed compliment. While we both had beards and the aforementioned similarities, we're really kind of night & day. And naturally for the couple of years I was writing for the Covington News while he was (and still is) doing his longtime gig at the Citizen, I got a few more of those comments. 

Darrell seems like a nice enough fella, and certainly he's a fairly gifted writer. However, and as a few folks who've known him for years might tell you, the "Huckster" can maybe sometimes get his panties in a bunch, and that leads me to this little tale.

I remember it fairly well, and I can give you the exact date: September 24th, 2011.

I can give you the date because it was the day that Georgia went to Oxford, MS and defeated the Ole Miss Rebels by a score of 27-13. During the football season chances are that a dust-up on Facebook with folks in and around the GA Piedmont is going to be something related to UGA football. Usually, however, it's folks from competing teams getting hot under the collar with one another. But not this time.

For those of you who may not remember, September of 2011 was a bit of a dicey time for UGA football. Coming off the heels of a disastrous 6-7 campaign in 2010 and just a few weeks removed from the epic embarrassment against Boise St in the season opener at the GA Dome, the general state of the Georgia program was one of borderline malaise.

Of course, some of us remember how things turned out. At least for awhile. SEC Championship game appearances in 2011 & 2012 and literally just one play away from playing for (and most likely winning) the national championship in the 2012 campaign. Honestly, this Ole Miss game kind of set the tone for that turnaround. 

I believe, if memory serves, me and Huckaduck had only become Facebook friends maybe a few months before this went down. When we connected, I'd sent him a FB message talking about writing, UGA football & a few other things. He responded back. It was nice. We seemed to be getting along pretty good.

And for the record, this game was a nooner, and all of this went down in the mid-afternoon hours. I hadn't gotten into the Bourbon yet, and there was no profanity involved.

After the game was over, the Huckman had made a post, and I really can't remember the specifics, but something about how proud he was of his Dawgs, and how big of a win it was.

And a quick sidebar here. You have to remember that at this time and with all of the backstory I previously mentioned, there was a lot of "noise in the system," as it were. By this point a fairly large contingent of UGA alumni, boosters & fans were ready to throw in the towel on the Mark Richt era. But there were also many who had a seemingly undying loyalty to Coach. Around this time a Facebook page had sprouted up called something like - The Support Coach Richt Group. And don't quote me on this, but I believe Huckaberry was maybe involved with that. But anyways, like how I am with politics, I was basically a "GDI" and could see both sides, though at this time I was feeling less and less sure about Richt being the guy to get us to an elite level. 

So he made his post, and I, naturally, felt obliged to reply.

Basically - and the memories are fairly fuzzy; this was over six years ago - I mentioned some specific concerns with all facets of the game - offense, defense & special teams - and how we were going to have to tighten up and address these concerns if we were going to rebound from an 0-2 start. I also had a line in there saying, in essence, I love Coach Richt & all but I'm just starting to wonder if he's the guy. A few more comments come in on the thread with most folks saying the same thing Huckamania was saying and at least one negative comment about my comment.

So the afternoon goes on & I'm watching college football on TV. I go back to check on the thread to, you know, see what the "Support Richt" crowd was saying. I hit on the notification for the thread and nothing happens. "Hmmm, that's odd," I thought. A few minutes later I tried again. This time it went to a page I'd never seen before basically saying that the page couldn't be found. "That's strange," I said to myself...

I got wrapped up in the games going on and then I think I ended up cooking up some steaks maybe. That evening I tried again and this time I couldn't find the post in my notifications at all. So then I searched Darrell Huckaby. His listing came up and when I hit on it - it said something like this page wasn't available. And then it hit me. The SOB blocked me! What the huck, HUCK?!

I was pretty dang pissy about it for a bit. Grits might be groceries, but an ass is an ass. Then I just shook my head & scoffed at the whole thing. As I'd heard before & since, DH's skin is maybe a little thin, and he doesn't necessarily like to hear competing viewpoints. 

As fate would have it, a few months after this went down I was at the Butcher Block waiting for a pick-up order and there on the counter was that day's edition of the Citizen. I'm thumbing through it & come across his column for that day. I've never regularly read his column & could probably count the number of ones I have on both hands. I'm scanning through it & he starts talking about Facebook. And in one line he basically says - "If I encounter someone and don't like what they're saying, hell - I'll just block 'em!" I nodded my head. Yup. He'll do it...

So that's the time Darrell Huckaby blocked me on Facebook.

For the record, I was right & he was wrong. Richt wasn't the guy.



17 January 2018

The Porch: Chapter 2 - A Piece by Ellis Millsaps

est. 2010

The Porch: Chapter 2
A piece by contributing writer Ellis Millsaps
~ Special to The Chronicles ~

Ed. Note: here is Da's much anticipated second part of "The Porch." Hope you enjoy it as much as I have. As always, thanks for reading. -MM

So I’m sitting on the porch when an overweight, adolescent girl walks by. I want to ask her if she dressed that way on purpose, but I don’t. She might go home and kill herself. I don’t need that on my conscience with my myriad of other sins.
Then Bruce and Bob walk up.
“What up?” I inquire.
“Just in the neighborhood. Thought we’d sit and chill.” says Bruce.
“Yeah, thought we’d sit here so peacefully and watch the river flow,” Bob adds.
“You know you can’t actually see the river from here,” I say.
“It’s a metaphor, Millsaps,” Dylan rejoins.
With that they pull up two chairs and sit. I pour drinks and we’re quiet for a spell.
Bruce pulls out three Cubans and after a while I break the silence. “Ain’t seen you for a while.”
“Well, the Boss here’s been busy being a big Broadway star and I’m on this neverending tour, you know.”
“And what brings you two to Porterdale, again, and particularly to my porch?”
“You tell him Bruce. I’m tired of being interviewed.”
“I’m about to observe that my only previous question was “What up?” when Bruce says, “Ah, Porterdale, Porterdale, meanest city this side of hell. Well, well, we come here for the peace. If we avoid the lofts, you’re the only person in town who recognizes us.”
“And you don’t make a big deal of it. You’re not calling the neighbors or taking those look-who-I’m-with pictures,” says Dylan.
“I think they call them selfies,” Bruce gently corrects.
“Well, I’m not very photogenic and my neighbors don’t like me.”
“Not even Arline?” Bob asks.
“It was one of those self deprecating jokes I peddle, Zimmerman.”
I’m about to ask how he knows Arline when up walks Elvis, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie and, to my surprise, Tom Petty.

It’s hard to be surprised on this porch, but at least they’ve brought folding chairs.

 Ellis Millsaps 

Ellis was an attorney by trade (now recovering) but has worn many hats over the years: father, bus boy, stand-up comedian, novelist, wiffle ball player, rock'n'roll band manager, and at one time wrote a popular and funny column for The Covington News. A Fannin Co. mountain boy originally, Mr. Millsaps now stays at the mill village of Porterdale by way of 20 years in Mansfield. Usually funny and at times irreverent and subversive, he leans left in his political philosophy but can always be counted on for a pretty darn good write-up. The Chronicles are proud to have him involved. You can read his past works at TPC by visiting his Contributing Writer page

15 January 2018

Checking in on the Rec Commission Situation

The Piedmont Chronicles 
- Est. 2010

[State of GA]

[Newton Co.]

As previously covered by this publication, the termination suspension with pay of former (?) Recreation Department Director Anthony Avery has been quite the thing. Unfortunately, with each passing day it seems as if this whole thing continues to spiral more and more out of control and, sad to say, it seems as if race is the only factor for many folks both inside and outside the arena of this particular situation.

This much we know: 

Anthony Avery was terminated by the Board of Directors of the Recreation Commission.

What we may or may not know: 

His termination was changed to a suspension with pay by Newton Co. HR, perhaps, but maybe not, per the advice of county legal counsel, possibly. maybe, allegedly...

Here's where it gets juicy: 

Word on the street is that everybody & their brother & sister is getting in on this thing - BOC Commissioners, City of Covington Council members, County Constitutional Officers, the Minister's Union, maybe former county attorneys, and about 227 other persons apparently. That's why The Chronicles will be submitting an Open Records Request first thing in the A.M. We'll keep you posted on that.

And here's what starting to become fairly apparent: 

The Chronicles has in its possession multiple official documents that clearly shows, in our estimation, that Mr. Avery was definitely fired WITH cause. While apparently the actual process of terminating Avery under his classification of a civil servant was mishandled, that is no reason for a county as beyond broke as Newton to feel compelled to agree to a possible settlement that some are saying has eclipsed the $300,000 mark. Also, The Chronicles are in close contact with an anonymous source who says the really heavy stuff is about hit. Based on their previous track record, we have little doubt that they will be proven correct.

Also, it seems as if our quasi-esteemed Chair, Marcello Banes,  is maybe either getting bad advice from somebody, or somebodies, or is being set up to fail miserably, by that same somebody, or somebodies. Sending out certified letters threatening to improperly and illegally remove Rec Commission Board members is about as dumb as trying to violate the county's form of government to take over operations of a county facility. Oh, wait, that's right...

Tonto Network; ear to the ground & all that.

We'll be keeping an eye on it.



05 January 2018

Ramblin' Man: A Piece by Ellis Millsaps

Ramblin’ Man

A piece by contributing writer Ellis Millsaps * Special to The Chronicles

I choose this title because I intend to ramble on, but while we’re here let’s talk about the Dickie Betts classic. A Southern anthem, I think it’s one of the Allman Brothers’ best tracks. Another one of my favorites is “Midnight Rider” off their second album, though most people are more familiar with Gregg’s re imagined version on his first solo record. It’s a classic because of that underlying guitar riff. I love it when the soaring guitar solo drops back to the killer riff.

Beck, brilliant musical innovator of the 21st century, for his first hit, “Loser,” could have called it Beck and Gregg, because the underlying guitar part is unvarnished “Midnight Rider.”

But meanwhile ramblin’ on, I’ve been a politics junkie since high school. It was Eugene McCarthy’s opposition to the war that first electrified me. For my generation, “the war” isn’t WWII the big one, it’s Vietnam, a place where I might be sent to die to satisfy the lies of a bunch of old white guys, including my maternal cousin Dean Rusk.

I watch election returns with the enthusiasm that some watch the lottery numbers fall. The election returns from the recent Alabama senate race were for me riveting TV.

There was amazing drama. With 75% of the vote in, I think Roy Moore was leading by six percentage points, but the networks considered it “too early to call.” They were calling it that way because the precincts out there were the cities: Birmingham, Montgomery, Mobile, Tuscaloosa, and Auburn, the places with concentrations of black votes.

We know what happened after that.

I watched these returns partly on my favorite TV show, “The Rachel Maddow Show,” but I think it was the next day, the aftermath, when her show had for a backdrop a banner proclaiming “Alabama Shakes.” One has to be as cool as Rachel and I to appreciate that slogan, but the music I thought about was Neil Young, “Oh, oh, Alabama, the devil fools with the best laid plans.”

Of course when we hear Neil’s “Alabama” we white trash shift immediately to Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home,” which to Rolling Stone Neil famously conceded was a much better song than his, "And then when I found out I was in it…” more superlatives.

I need a theme here to tie this piece together, something like the Dude’s rug.

Remember about a year ago when you could wake up in the morning and know the President of the United States wasn’t a deranged, pathological liar?

Man, that was awesome.

And “Well, how did I get here?”

I of course voted for Clinton, but I didn’t give her any money. I sent my 29 dollars to Bernie. She didn’t need my money. What she needed was my advice which, as you may have assumed, she didn’t ask for.

Had she, the advice I would have given was that which Lou Grant gave to Ted Baxter on the occasion of Ted’s upcoming nuptials. Lou didn’t want to give Ted advice, but when Ted kept insisting said, “Ok, Ted, you know the way you always are (pause) well don’t be that way.”

Remember when you could wake up in the morning and know the President wasn’t an egomaniacal imbecile.

I’m loving watching Trump’s undoing as much as I did the Watergate hearings in my early twenties. I was glued to the television for months. I was thrilled to see Tricky Dick go down. But while Nixon was also dishonest and criminal he wasn’t an imbecile, and he did despite that, in a plausible way, try to president good.

At last check, the Vegas betting line is still slightly in favor of Trump serving out his term. If I had any money I’d take that bet.

You may not have read it here first, but the Democrats will sweep to power in the house in ten months, then Trump will be impeached. They may not take the senate, but there are enough honorable Republicans there to complete the deal. Aah, the art of the deal.
They might not be able to dump Pence the way they did Agnew, because that would require Trump approving a replacement which he will not do. But maybe if they told him that  Obama thinks he shouldn’t go along with the replacement…

And what will happen after we’ve dumped Trump? I’m thinking the rest of the world will let us back in the club if we agree to stand in the corner and think about what we’ve done.

*Author’s note: this piece was written before the recent blockbuster news about the new Trump expose.  Ellis Millsaps

Ellis is a recovering Attorney but has worn many hats over the years: father, bus boy, stand-up comedian, novelist, wiffle ball player, rock'n'roll band manager, and at one time wrote a popular and funny column for The Covington News. A Fannin Co. mountain boy originally, Mr. Millsaps now stays at the mill village of Porterdale by way of 20 years in Mansfield. Usually funny and at times irreverent and subversive, he leans left in his political philosophy but can always be counted on for a pretty darn good write-up. The Chronicles are proud to have him involved... 

31 December 2017

The Sunday Edition: December 31, 2017 - Talkin' NCSO, Wm Thomas Craig & Letters to the Editor

[State of GA]
[Newton Co.]

(Covington, GA * 12/31/17)

Greetings, fabulous readers, and we hope this post finds you well.

A lot going on this New Year's Eve. Let's get right to it.

So the most recent Letter to the Editor over at the Citizen was penned by Archie Shepherd and is a response to a previous letter tendered by Larry McSwain & Barbara Morgan, two fellow community advocates that I hold in very high regard, in which they questioned the escalating legal expenditures being paid to Wm Thomas Craig, Esq. (WTC) by the Newton County Sheriff's Office (NCSO). As you may remember, this publication wrote about this very issue almost a month ago.

I have a few issues with Mr. Shepherd's letter. First off, no real facts seem to be given; rather, it is made clear that Shepherd just had a conversation with Sheriff Brown and simply regurgitated the information given. His argument that how the monies paid for legal expenses by the Sheriff used to come out of the "same pot" when WTC was county attorney doesn't appear to hold water. Based on the facts - county records - legal expenses for the Sheriff was always a separate line item. See graphic below:

As you can see, money was being paid directly from the NCSO to WTC prior to his termination from the Newton County Board of Commissioners (BOC), as, as we understand it, it always had. So if the assumption of Shepherd, and apparently confirmed by Sheriff Brown, is correct, then that would mean that WTC was over-billing the BOC for legal expenditures that should have been delineated and separated out for a Constitutional Officer. If that is indeed the case, then one would have to wonder if WTC was guilty of an offense that can cause reprimands or surrender of license by the Georgia Bar. Interesting...

With all of that said, it is our understanding that there was a major legal situation with the NCSO related to the death of an inmate at the county detention center. Certainly that would cause an increase in legal expenditures; however, there have been many legal situations for the NCSO over the years. Are we correct in assuming that the BOC was improperly paying for this?

Sheriff Brown shouldn't have it both ways. He can't puff his chest about how he's a Constitutional Officer with sole oversight and discretion on his legal spending now, if - as Shepherd's accounting of their conversation seems to imply - he was utilizing legal expenses on the BOC's dime before.

And finally, this entire situation seems similar to the Rec. Department Director's situation. It seems as if a certain card is being played and an implying of  motives being at the core of both of issues.

Well, frankly, that's bullshit. It's the old divide & conquer strategy we've seen here for the last several years. It's not going work anymore.

Thanks for reading & I hope 2018 is the best year yet for all of us!


P.S. - One of my New Year Resolutions is putting the Newton Co. Hospital Authority back on the top of the to do list. Look for an expansive piece on this in early January.

P.P.S. - GO DAWGS!!!

23 December 2017

Happy Festivus: TPC's Airing of Grievances

It's the 23rd of December so it's time for The Chronicles' Airing of Grievances. 

This year's list: 

  • William Thomas Craig, Esq. 
  • The total lack of action with anything pertaining to last year's $300,000 forensic audit performed by Frazier & Deeter. 
  • The traffic light at Elm & Floyd. 
  • This entire [expletive deleted]-show related to the Rec Commission situation. If the termination process was indeed possibly mishandled, then that is unfortunate; however, the mickey mouse show/planned attack that was put on at the city of Covington's last council meeting was beyond the pale. A total joke. Absolute clown shoes...
    • And didn't one of those self-righteous, indignant council members vote to terminate the Main Street director last year without consulting the rest of the council? 
    • It's just unfortunate that everything has to be about race. It's 2017 - racism should have no place in our society. And these recent antics benefit no one. 
  • J. Pye's propensity for arrogance and occasional tendencies to get annoyed + D.C. = Trouble? 
  • The rising legal fees of the Newton Co. Sheriff. Constitutional officer or not, there's needs to be an explanation for a tenfold increase in payments to Attorney Craig over the last two years. 
  • That Covington/Newton Co. still doesn't have a Krispy Kreme, Steak & Shake, or a Cracker Barrel (thanks Randy Vinson). 
  • The fact that we basically have 27 McDonald's & a hundred dollar stores. And we just need a few more pawn shops. 
  • The landfill situation. 
  • The fact that there are still people pushing for Bear Creek. 
  • Georgia Tech, Florida, Tennessee & Auburn (but hey, at least we beat all of them this year. GO DAWGS!)
  • Democrats (most of them).
  • Republicans (most of them). 
  • Those that would take advantage of their power, position or influence for personal gain. 
  • The fact that medicinal marijuana and CBD oil are not fully legal in our great state, and the lack of in-state growing. And the fact that saving lives & easing people's suffering has to take a back seat to profits and/or the irrational fear of ignorant people. 
  • Bloated budgets at all levels of government. 
  • Several other traffic lights in and around the home city & county. And many traffic laws. 
  • The old model/revenue-based system of government. 
  • The ju$tice system. 
  • The "war on drugs" (see previous two bullet points). 
  • Those in our society who do not appreciate Freedom. Liberty, Justice, Equity & Wisdom. 
  • Loud cars, trucks & motorcycles. 
  • The "there ought to be a law" crowd. 
  • The "they" in "that's what they say."  
  •  The NIMBY (not in my backyard) crowd. 
  • A.B. (see the previous bullet point in re Pye. At least he's not spending too much time in DC....yet?)
There's probably a few dozen more, but that'll do for now.

Happy Festivus, everyone! 

19 December 2017

Stanton Springs/JDA 1st Report: Some Definite Concerns

[State of GA]
[Newton Co.]

(Covington * 12/18/17) -

The long and winding story of the Stanton Springs development & the Joint Development Authority of Jasper, Morgan, Newton & Walton counties (JDA) goes back almost 20 years to the late 1990s. The original vision was a grandiose plan of creating a four-county authority and purchasing 1500 acres of land right next to I-20 in an area where those four counties converged to create, as an AJC article mentioned in 1999, high-tech companies with high-wage jobs. Having four different taxing jurisdictions coming together could spread the cost and risk and would help make a reality of a dream that maybe couldn't have come together otherwise.

It sounded pretty good. But...

The problems with this project, which has officially put hundreds of thousands of taxpayers throughout these four counties on the hook for over $1.2 billion* and has been described as a boondoggle by many, began almost immediately.

The aforementioned land was owned by a timber trust and was at the time offered for approx. $3.7 million ($2400/acre) based on information at the time. Two different appraisals ordered during this period put the value somewhere between $2.8 million & approx $5 million. So the asking price actually seemed to be fairly reasonable. So what did the property end up selling for? $7.5 million according to our information. So, to recap, the land was offered for $3.7 million, appraised for somewhere between approx three to five million, but then sold for almost twice the asking price. Why the inflated sales price? And who profited from this? So, a major money concern right there at the beginning.

Also, the original bond offering at the time - the one that friend-of-the-program Samuel Hay tried to stop in court  - was for $9 million. There were many grumblings and concerns with all of this at the time. Money, it was said, was needed for consultants, attorney fees & operating expenditures.

Fast forward a few years and the JDA ended up selling a parcel of land, described as parcel # C1590001C in the Walton Co. tax records, to JC Flex, LLC. This entity, a subsidiary of the TPA Realty Group that has had the exclusive listing rights of Stanton Springs, bought the land for approx $1.6 million in 2005. But then in 2012, the Authority bought that parcel back for $2.9 million. A gain of approx $1.3 million. This is the parcel where the Baxter Baxalta Shire facility was actually built, so in order to be eligible for the tax abatements, the land had to be owned by the Authority, which, as mentioned, it originally was, but was sold and bought back for reasons that no one has been able to explain to this publication. Again, this seemingly unnecessary flip cost the Authority - and by extension, the taxpayers of the four counties - approx. $1.3 million 

But really, in the grand scheme of things, this would all almost seem like chump change. Let's not forget that the JDA issued $1.137 BILLION in bonds in 2012 for the construction of the Baxter Baxalta Shire facility, or the $85 million in "phantom bonds" that the authority issued last year. And remember when Mort Ewing resigned from the JDA in 2015? He said in the newspapers at the time that he felt like he needed to do that in order to "protect [his] assets."


One common thread in my discussions with folks both on and off the record is that the Stanton Springs project has had many problems and issues. Even its biggest cheerleaders will tell you that major mistakes have been made. And it seems to be a consensus view by many that you can lay most  of the blame at the feet of William Thomas Craig, Esq. Craig was involved with the project from its conception, and served as the attorney for the Authority, as we understand it, for the entirety of its existence up until a couple of years ago. "Hell...we figured Tommy knew what he was doing," was a line from one person when explaining a mistake that was made several years back pertaining to a particular situation. So I guess Craig can add the JDA to the Newton Co. BOC & others as those who have made him their "whipping boy." At this point it seems to be getting pretty convenient and is happening more frequently - just blame it all on Tommy Craig. Well, just like with Newton Co., I think there's a lot of other blame to go around. And, yes, it does seem pretty convenient to just blame it all on Tommy Craig. Too convenient almost. Is that just the way it is? Or is it by design?

Another emerging theme I've encountered is that some folks think it's time to just let the past be the past. That the time has come where we should just accept the fact that perhaps things weren't done as they should've been, but now we need to look forward to the future with a common goal and a shared vision. That we just need to hang in and that all of this will be worth it once everything comes to fruition.

I'm of the opinion that more attention needs to be given to Stanton Springs and the JDA than ever before. Look for future write-ups on this topic.

Until next time.


*updated corrected figure