27 June 2015

[TPC] - Some Basic Truths About Drugs - A Write-up by Ellis Millsaps

The Piedmont Chronicles

~ est. 2010 ~

[State of Georgia]

[Newton County]

Some Basic Truths About Drugs - A Write-up by Ellis Millsaps

Some of you are not going to like what's to follow, but from what's getting to be a long life working on both sides of the law, I believe everything I'm about to say to be absolutely true. 

There is nobody who's not doing illegal drugs because they're illegal. Nobody you know or have known or will know. 

I'm tempted to just leave it there but some of you may want supporting data.

Okay, just look at the state of American society since what was once called the War on Drugs began - about the only time you hear that term now is when black-shirted commandos burst into a house and terrorize, sometimes kill, innocent people because they have the wrong house of the wrong "confidential informant." 

No matter how much we up the penalties - and we're starting to back off on that - there's been no decline in drug use, only changes in the drug of choice. For example, we now have a heroin epidemic in rural Iowa. Meth has become a scourge in many places. 

The Cost to the American Taxpayer is Crippling Our Economy 

America has more people incarcerated, per capita, than any other western democracy. The majority for non-violent drug offenses. We're paying thousands of dollars per year per prisoner incarcerating these citizens, and supervising them on probation or parole - a huge governmental bureaucracy to have to pay for. Also, and this is something that gets lost sometimes, these citizens are no longer a part of the tax base. No sales tax being paid. Property taxes. Income. So it's a double whammy. 

Then there's the huge cost we're paying for the enforcement of these laws. The police, the judicial system, etc. Think about all of that money. Add that to the incarceration expenditures and loss of tax revenue. A triple whammy. 

Apart From Taxes, There's a Huge Cost to the American Consumer

Imagine how much your insurance payments would go down if there were a much lesser chance that people would break into your house or car, rob you at gunpoint, etc. to get money for that next fix. So many times, these drugs and this war on drugs are responsible for many problems within our economy and society. 

We Are Destabilizing the Governments of Central America & Mexico and Endangering the Lives of their Citizens 

Put simply, you cut off their supply of cash - which is us - and the drug gangs will wither away. Oh, and these children crossing our borders that so many have complained about, they're fleeing drug gang violence fueled by the War on Drugs in many instances.

To be continued... 

Ellis is an attorney by trade 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...


[Editor's Note]: A lot of truth, wisdom and common sense here in my opinion. While Ellis is definitely a good bit left of me on the political spectrum, I'm in full agreement with him here. Ultimately, I believe it to be a limited-government, and dare I say, conservative approach. I think Ellis has a unique and valid perspective too having been an assistant D.A., Public Defender, and a private defense attorney. He's seen it firsthand. `MM


26 June 2015

[TPC] - Friday Night Check-in - Lots of Moving Parts, Much Coming Down the Pike

The Piedmont Chronicles

~ est. 2010 ~

[State of Georgia]

[Newton County]

  • In re the Newton County GOP - a "private event" tonight at the Holiday Inn where GA GOP Chair John Padgett, State Rep. Dave Belton, and others attended. A private event paid for by the Newton County GOP? An event where upwards of 20 dues-paying members were not allowed and the cops were called. Growing the party? Winning the hearts and minds? Also, questions about past actions of some of the current members of the Newton GOP executive committee. Back to tonight. Per multiple sources, they are on video telling the police officer that while the Newton GOP was hosting it and paid for it, private individuals were going to pay the party back so therefore it was a "private event." Wow...I'm planning on touching base with Padgett and Belton first thing next week to get their thoughts. DEVELOPING... 
  • Landfill: Green Hill not dead yet? Ministers Union now supporting the amended proposition? We know at least one member of the Spring Hill Community has been on the Green Hill P3 payroll. There are many, many questions that have to be answered on this one. We'll agree with many who are saying that this doesn't seem to pass the smell test. DEVELOPING... 
  • The Newton County Budget. Taxes are going UP, UP, UP! 
  • Multiple write-ups by contributing writer Ellis Millsaps have been submitted. I've got to get it in to gear and get those up soon. 
Lots of moving parts. Stay tuned... 


24 June 2015

Quick History Lesson on Confederate Flags

This is the Stars & Bars:

Also known as the First Flag of the Confederacy. This particular one was used early in the war. As states joined the Confederacy, more stars were added. This is the flag that the original, and now current, Georgia flag is based on. It is a beautiful flag, and it is a testament to history and heritage. I love this flag; I have no problem with it, and I think a lot of folks of color feel the same way.

The following is the Confederate Battle Flag - it is NOT the Stars & Bars, although many people get mixed up and think it is. This was the flag that was incorporated into the Georgia state flag as a show of defiance against segregation and civil rights for minorities. I have a problem with this flag, as do most folks of color:

Hope that clears a few things up.


23 June 2015

Thoughts About Race & Confederate Insignia from the Great-Great-Grandson of a Decorated Confederate Veteran

The Piedmont Chronicles

~ est. 2010 ~

[State of Georgia]

[Newton County]

My name is Marshall McCart. My Great-Great-Grandfather was William Marion McCart. He enlisted with the E 53 Infantry in Covington, GA to serve the Confederate States of America in the War Between the States. He was wounded several times and was treated at the Confederate hospital in Richmond, VA. He was the namesake of his father, William McCart, and settled in Newton Co. GA, by way of a wagon train from Abbeville, SC during the 1840's. Like so many, he answered the call of his great state and fought, valiantly, for that "lost cause."

Growing up I was a proud supporter of "Confederate Heritage." "Heritage, not Hate," was the motto.  I believed it then; I still do. In the early 1990's, I participated in multiple reenactments. Up until the late 1990's, my key-chain was that of the battle emblem of the Confederacy, also known as the the St. George Cross.

However, I reached a point where I didn't want to carry the key-chain anymore. I reached a point where, to quote the Alabama Shakes, "I  [didn't] want to fight no more," No, I reached a point where I got it. What is "it?" Basically, just good old-fashioned sympathy. I realized, especially after my time at University in Athens, GA, that the field of argument was beyond me. I realized that nothing I could say, especially if I had that battle emblem prominent on my person, was going to do any good.

There have been so many things to come out lately:

A fellow 6th-generation Newton Countian offered up this. 

A former Bulldog put this out there.

A well-known fellow southern Liberty-activist added this.

Please read all three of the previous links. Please. It's vital that you do so, and you'll be glad you did... 

Here's the hard truth:

For those of you worried about "them" sandblasting Stone Mountain, doing away with all Confederate memorials, or anything else of the like - just keep doing what you're doing. I've got a hard truth to tell you - in a couple of generations, white folks will be the minority. That's just the facts - the demographic data.

I realized a  few years back that if the principles of the Republic - nothing to do with the "Republican Party," mind you, but the actual tenants of the Republic form of government - were to endure, then we were going to have to win the battle of hearts and minds. We were going to have to earn it. To share that light.

It's the same with the heritage of many of our ancestors. We have the win that battle of ideas. And how do we do that? We've got to be real with ourselves, and with them. The Civil War was fought over slavery. And States' rights. But ultimately slavery. You can do the research. In Georgia's statement of secession, it - slavery - was mentioned a couple of dozen times. Nothing about States' Rights, though.

Another hard truth - the battle emblem was purely and only resurrected for the purposes of maintaining segregation and racism. That's the facts, jack. Again, do the research. As a true State's Rights advocate, I wouldn't be presumptuous enough to say the South Carolina "must" remove the Confederate Battle Emblem from their State Capital Grounds. That's up to the duly elected legislature of that great state; however, just as an individual with an opinion, I'd say this - "take it down."

If you want to ignore this, you do so at your ancestry's peril.

There's nothing wrong with admitting that you're wrong. In fact, it's rather honorable. Hell, tell yourself that you're just punting the ball, as it were, if you have to. Do whatever you've got to do to swallow this pill. You need to do it. There's no other way, in my estimation.

As always, I remain optimistic. I still think we're striving for that more perfect union. It's never easy. That's just the way it is...

Marshall McCart
Covington, GA

19 June 2015

Impressions of Porterdale: A Write-up by Contributing Writer Ellis Millsaps

The Piedmont Chronicles

~ est. 2010 ~

[State of Georgia]

[Newton County]

Impressions of Porterdale: A Write-up by Ellis Millsaps 

I had lived in Porterdale for less than a month before my bicycle was stolen. Unlike in my previous recount of Mansfield, the Mayor was not there to help me take down the culprit. 

I first visited Porterdale in 1986 when I was looking to move to Newton Co. My wife and I looked at a home here and, although the price was right, we immediately knew that it was no place we wanted to raise our children. Because it was Porterdale. And it was 1986. 

My next experience with the mill village was maybe a year later. I was an assistant D.A. and was interviewing some folks for a case I was working. To backtrack a bit, previously I had worked for the welfare department in my home county of Fannin Co. In that capacity I had seen some things - folks livin' in the hills who didn't have running water or electricity, but I never, until that day in Porterdale, had seen folks living in such squalor conditions. The day I was interviewing these people, there was a basketball-sized hole in the wall right by the front door - you could see through it. It was shortly after that visit that I composed a little ditty about this town set to the tune of Randy Newman's "Birmingham."

Porterdale, Porterdale. Meanest city this side of hell. You can sit beside the river if you can stand the smell. There's no place like Porterdale...
Bear with me Porterdale. As you know - it gets better. 

Twenty nine years later I find myself sitting on the front porch of my duplex here in Porterdale. It feels like what I imagine life in Brooklyn to have been like in the 1950's. The houses are close together and also very close to the street. Sometimes I think its like "Rear Window" except there's nothing to see except people sitting on their porches talking on cell phones and smoking. And there's definitely no Grace Kelly. 

More people walk past my place in an hour here than would happen by in an entire month in Mansfield. Oftentimes I speak to these people. Sometimes somebody bums a cigarette. 

Things are large here in Porterdale. The old mill is large. Those are now lofts. Even the people are large. It might be a small sample size but judging from my street, Porterdale may be one of the most obese cities in America. Of course the shiny residents of the gentrified lofts never walk by on my street. 

Porterdale, however, is the cleanest place I've lived, certainly cleaner than the other cities in Newton Co. except possibly Oxford. Almost every street has a sidewalk on both sides of the road in which the city meticulously maintains, edging them regularly and killing weeds in the crack. This is a major reason why we walk so much here and why there are so many good places to walk to. Doesn't seem to help the fat folks, though...

Ellis is an attorney by trade 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...

15 June 2015

[TPC] - Monday Night Update

The Piedmont Chronicles

~ est. 2010 ~

[State of Georgia]

[Newton County]

Greetings, Readers.
Hope all is well out there in the Georgia Piedmont.

A few things to tell you about this evening:

~ The long-awaited write-up about Porterdale, GA by contributing writer Ellis Millsaps will be hitting the stands tomorrow. If you missed his reminiscing  of Mansfield, you should definitely check it out. An introductory piece about his new home, that lovely mill village, is very good. So check back tomorrow... 

~ The Newton Co. BOC will be meeting tomorrow night, and since they haven't posted the agenda or updated their webpage in any way, only the worst can be assumed. It's looking likely they will be raising property taxes once again. Why? That's, as we understand it, because of a variety of factors:

- The Covington Way

- Tommy Craig's continued mind-control and/or any dirt he may or may not have on all of them. 
- They hate Newton County. And America. And puppies, and old folks.
Who knows?

~ My "Conversation with the Chairman" piece from last Thursday actually became my most read piece of the last month. I had many people tell me how much they enjoyed it, and a few folks let me know that they thought I was lobbing softballs and being too easy on ole Keith. I basically just took notes on our conversation and then posted them. That's it. I feel that an ongoing dialogue between myself and our elected officials could be a good thing for Newton Co. I plan on talking to Keith again and publishing it. I extend that offer to all public officials of Newton County, the city of Covington, or any other municipality within the county.

'Til next time...  

11 June 2015

[TPC]- A Conversation with the Chairman

So...I finally got in touch with our Chairman. The following happened:

Ellis, in re Nord:

"He's done a good job...I think he's a honest guy... wish him the best."

I came in hot and heavy. Keith responded with this:

"To get the pumps up and running at Varner, you can go ahead and count on about $50K, if you turn it on, as I'm told...it's a major thing."

In regards to Nord being instructed to run or not to run the pumps when the levels at Varner were getting low:

"I can't speak to that...I don't know about any communications he may or may not have had with Tommy...but the way of doing things - not running the pumps when not necessary - had been policy with the previous two county managers."

When I asked him about the public perception:

"Well...it's like you're damned if you do, or damned if you don't...you have two major constraints - lake level and river level."

A concern about running the pumps when the Alcovy is low is mentioned...

When I asked him about the safe-yield analysis:

"That's when you know what you can provide on a day with the highest demand, like the 4th of July." When lots of folks are home and and a lot of usage."

When I asked about his opinion of the Water Authority's take on things, he nicely pivoted.

He talked about what the true capacity of Newton Co. water is. Doesn't think it's 25 million gallons due to antiquated piping system of some parts of the Newton Co. water supply. Specifically, the eastern and southern part of the counties that have smaller water pipes.

Regarding Taxes and the budget:

Basically thinks the budget is not good.

"Raising tipping fees - not a good idea."

"Landfill and recycling will always be a drain unless something is done."

Unhappy that many employees won't be getting a raise after a long time of not getting one.

Doesn't like seeing a millage increase.

Recycling Centers:

"I've been studying this for a long time."

According to Ellis - the actual contract for Hilliard is only approx. $450K. The rest is actually county operated. "Not much to work with."


Not under Hilliard's overview, per Ellis - rather it's a contract with the county directly with Maddox recycling operation on Washington St. (Keith made a point to mention that this isn't Levie's company, but rather his brother's).

When asked if he can get why citizens are worked up?



There was a lot more...but my head's hurtin.' Too much for one day.

Til next time...

[TPC]- Lake Varner Water Levels; A Conversation with the Chairman

The Piedmont Chronicles 

~ est. 2010 ~

[State of GA]
[Newton Co.]

I've been asking the same question for quite some time: why were the water levels for Lake Varner kept low for so long? It was the basis for Tommy Craig's push for the Bear Creek Reservoir. Due to some superb reporting by the Covington News, we found out that there was at least some interaction between Craig and the director of the Cornish Creek Water Plant director, Jason Nord.

Many pointed to this as a big deal, or even perhaps a smoking gun of some sort. However, as anyone who has been following WTC for some time will tell you - smoking guns are very hard to come by. Red Herrings? Forget about it...

I started a file on this when the news first hit in February. It wasn't, however, high on my to-do list. That was until I saw the news that Nord was resigning his position and would no longer be a county employee as of 5PM tomorrow afternoon.

So I called over to Cornish Creek first thing this A.M. Nord wasn't there, but I had the chance to talk to a James Brown who is apparently the #2 over there. A nice guy - he was very nice - but he informed me that I'd "have to talk to the county manager about that," when asking why water levels were purposefully kept low at Varner. When I asked why that was the case, he informed that they were directed to do so. I tried to dig a bit but he wasn't budging.

I told him to have Nord to call me. I then, later on, called back multiple times and even left a voicemail once, but have yet to hear back from him.

I then proceeded to call the new, interim county manger, Mr. Owens. Left a VM. Haven't heard back.  Not that it would do any good. He doesn't know anything about this. Tom Garrett would, but he's no longer with the county.

So...I was kind of stuck. So I did what I usually do in these situations. I started harassing our esteemed Chairman of the Board, Keith Ellis. Multiple calls to his cell phone and also to his office secretary eventually netted a call-back.

We ended up talking for a good 30 minutes. That's coming up next...

07 June 2015

[TPC] - The Sunday Edition: 7 June 2015

The Piedmont Chronicles 

~ est. 2010 ~

[State of GA]
[Newton Co.]

The Sunday Edition: 7 June 2015

In this Edition: 

~ Local Politics
~ State & National
~ Music, Art & Culture
~ Miscellany & What-not

Local Politics

Where to start? That's a good question. How about the purchasing policy committee. Why on God's green earth is Junior Hilliard on that thing? That is so unacceptable, and people wonder why we have a problem around here. He has the contract on the recycling centers that have been one of the biggest drains on our budget. Conflict of interest. End of story. The committee has the authority, as I understand it, to remove him. But...they don't. Nor will they. Because, Covington Way. 

Next. The Landfill. A book could end up being written just about this one moving part. As we've discussed before, it's just a hot mess. The good news is that I think the BOC knows that this just simply can't happen. There's too much public support against it. And I don't know about y'all, but I think it's time for that smooth operator to just ease on down the road. But the citizenry, obviously, has to remain vigilant on this one. We could solve so many problems by really studying on going with Pratt Industries. That seems like a no-brainer, really. 

The Library. A million dollars to do the HVAC system. How many bids did we get on that one? As I'm told, an ORR has already been submitted to figure this out. Newton Co. is on the verge of financial ruin, and we're going to do this. Seriously? And look - the Library is vital and so important and has been thrown under the bus time and time again by this board and the previous ones. All the more reason to sell it to the City of Covington, in my estimation. 

Bear Creek. I always think about that guy that tried to hold out. To keep his home down there in the Henderson Mill Rd community. Just wanted to stay on his land. Basically, he had to leave under the force of a gun - let's not sugar coat it, that's police power - and for what? What a terrible disgrace. And why were those levels being kept purposefully low on Lake Varner again? That's a question that needs answering. 

Also, the Newton Co. BOC voted 3-2 to settle the wrongful termination suit with William Durden for $45,000. It has been mentioned that the county has spent upwards of $200,000 dollars on legal fees for this case when they could have settled for $42,000 two years ago. See: Covington Way. 
Tommy Craig. I can't even...not today. 

The hospital and the budget? Mentioned those yesterdayBasically everything is terrible...

State & National 

Don't really have much on state.

National - Rand Paul, for the win. Again. And again

Music, Art & Culture

~ The supremely talented Hannah Thomas played a local show in Porterdale Friday night at Dirty Dogs. This hometown girls has been on fire - playing all over America and even opening for The Indigo Girls on a recent tour. By all accounts, the show went great.

~ The Newton County Music Scene has really expanded these days. You can catch a lot of music all over. Here are some regular venues: 

  • Amici Covington. Live music on Friday nights. 
  • The Social House. Porterdale, GA. Live music usually on both Friday and Saturday nights. 
  • The Mystic Grill. I believe they do stuff on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 
  • The aforementioned Dirty Dogs Cafe in Porterdale. I'm actually playing there soon with one of my projects. 
  • Millazo's Italian Restaurant. Live music the third Thursday of the month. 
  • And several others.
In addition to so many outstanding musicians, Newton Co. has as absolute plethora of artists. I've featured Cindy Murphy before, and here are three other amazing talents whose work can be found at the Southern Heartland Art Gallery on the Covington Square: 

There are so many great places to eat in Covington and Newton, Co. Townhouse Cafe, Woods-McKay, Amici, Jack's BBQ and many, many others; however, I would like to give a specific shout-out today to Grumpy's Low Country Fish Camp. Not only do they offer up killer seafood at good prices with great folks working there, but they also do something else I think a lot of. There's a certain eccentric that is an integral part of our community. He does some work for one of our well-known and wealthy citizens. This fella is pretty special, and one can say that maybe he isn't quite all there. A lot of folks will know who I'm talking about. Well, as fate would have it, he's a big, big fan of Grumpy's as well and usually eats supper with them 4 or 5 times a week. Now this guy's a talker, and if you don't know him, you would obviously think he was a little different. But the folks there at Grumpy's are really great to him. And hell - he's a good customer! Well done, Grumpy's. We're going to be seeing a lot more of you guys. We love it! 

Miscellany & What-not 

That's all, folks! Till next time. 



06 June 2015

[TPC] - Saturday Quick Bites - Talkin' Hospital, Budget Shortfall, et al

The Piedmont Chronicles 

~ est. 2010 ~

[State of GA]
[Newton Co.]

Saturday Quick Bites - Talkin' Hospital, Budget Shortfall, et al

~ Hospital

The whole agreement between the Hospital Authority and Piedmont is 300 pages. We can almost guarantee the usual hijinks and shenanigans. Because, Covington Way.

From the looks of it, it really doesn't change anything. You will still have the Authority, and you will still have Newton Health Systems. Yes, there's a thing about the management only staying on one more year - but who will be serving on the governing board for the next several decades?
As one Covingtonian recently said - this seems to be a situation of the foxes guarding the hen house

In terms of not having to pay out that millage for indigent care - there is no legal basis for the county paying that out. Never has been. But as we've been told, due to Piedmont's status, they couldn't take those monies even if the wanted to. So it's not like they're doing any huge favors. Again, this is as we understand it.

So...Banks Craig? Tommy's boy? Is he the one that drafted this thing? And is a Craig the attorney for the Newton County Hospital Authority? Inquiring minds want to know.

~ Newton Co. Budget Shortfall 

Anybody out there know what the budget shortfall for Newton is right now? If you said $10 million, you'd be correct. It's a bad state of affairs.

To be honest, as we understand it, you can cut that amount by 50% - dept. heads wishing for the moon and all that. Then cut another good bit off the Sheriff's request.So, let's say an approx. $2 million dollar shortfall.

Options to meet this shortfall: 

- go to in-house attorney - save approx. $400-600k.
- do away with millage for hospital - several hundred thousands.
- privatize ambulance service - several hundred thousands
- change the recycling center contract - approx. a few hundred thousand in savings.
- not another dime on Bear Creek - a fair sum.
- get the Tax Commish to collect on unpaid property taxes - several hundred thousands. 

And there are many other options.

As the Chronicles understands it, this has to be done. There can be no millage increase.Per the BOC, we have to return to the FY 2014 level - that was included and entered into the official record when they increased the millage rate two years ago.  

So many other moving parts, naturally - the landfill drama, Bear Creek, lack of morale with county employees all across the board. And my word - The Library. How bad is that at this point? A million bucks to redo the HVAC system? 

Questions, folks, so many questions. We're doing our best to get some answers. And if you start to feel down and blue, just always remember that there are a lot of folks - more than 12, who are smart, savvy, and passionate - that are really working hard on all of these issues. It always makes me feel better to think about that. And as one of my favorite C-town activists always ends his emails with, remember this - "you are not alone."

Til next time.