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

09 December 2017

[TPC] - Wm Thomas Craig on pace to make upwards of half a MILLION dollars from Newton Co. this year?

[State of GA]
[Newton Co.]

(Covington, GA * 9 December '17) - Greetings.

Based on our information, The Chronicles can report the following:

Wm Thomas Craig, Esquire, though fired as legal counsel for the Newton County Board of Commissioners some two years ago, is on track to make hundreds of thousands of dollars for fiscal year 2018, paid for by the taxpayers of Newton Co.

How is this possible? While the Newton BOC is no longer using Craig for legal services, the Sheriff of Newton Co., Ezell Brown, is.

Also, ever since Craig was relieved of his duties by the Board, a very concerning trend with the legal costs of the NCSO has been occurring. Take a look at these escalating legal expenses of the Newton Co. Sheriff's office:

  • $24,841 for legal services in FY (fiscal year) 2015
  • $88,078 in FY 2016
  • $280,092 in FY 2017
If that isn't bothersome enough, based on data we have in our possession, it looks as though Craig is on track to get paid approx. $400,000 in FY 2018. But if we look at the rate of appreciation of Craig's legal fees over the past three years, then that would put the amount at more like ONE MILLION DOLLARS (calculated by deriving an average rate of appreciation over the last two cycles and applying that rate to FY 2017's expenditure)!!!

Of particular concern is an invoice from Craig that shows 78.75 billable hours for an amount approaching $20,000 for a 13-day period in July of this year. I'm not even sure if that's possible.


Jeez...good work if you can get it, huh? But seriously, this really looks bad. One might easily assume that this is the Sheriff's way of trying to help Craig financially. If you think about it, that fella has lost out on a couple million dollars worth of revenue from Newton Co over the last two years. Also, no more water consulting fees from Bear Creek, nor from some of his other projects in which he was terminated. We assume he's no longer being paid "consulting" fees from the Landfill. That's probably something to check on.

All of this begs the question - Why? What is really the "why" here? It just doesn't make sense...

In the spirit of full disclosure, I'll admit that I haven't reached out to Sheriff Brown for his side of the story. I plan on doing that next week. But I felt like this really needed to be put in the public discourse now. Also, for the record, I've always liked Ezell. He seems like a nice guy & I think he's been a pretty good Sheriff. But if these legal expenses are accurate, and I believe them to be (otherwise I wouldn't have gone to press), then the Citizens of Newton Co. deserve some answers.

So long for now, until we meet again.

M.B. McCart
Public Advocate 

04 December 2017

[TPC] - Alcovy Telegraph: Odds & Ends; Miscellany + What-not

The Alcovy Telegraph

[State of GA]
[Newton Co.]

(North C-town Representin' * 4 December '17) - Greetings & Salutations, Covingtonians, Newtonians & everyone else. Glad to be with you today & hope it's been a great day for you. December 4th. Three weeks exactly until Christmas. My Dad always told me that time would speed up the older I got and like many other things - he was right on the money on that one.

Another week in the books and, per usual, it had its highs & lows, but as always - it was our week, and that makes it a great week.

So, what's been happening here lately?

  • On the personal tip, I was made aware by its news editor, Jackie Guknecht, that the Covington News had made a decision "to end the relationship" with Yours Truly. Yeah, I know, so sad. Poor ole Marshall...But seriously, as I've mentioned to a few folks over the years, it'd always been a dream for me to write for that publication ever since I was a pretty young fella. I had the opportunity to do that for almost two years, and it was pretty great. Besides, if I'm being honest here, it just wasn't the same after Mrs. GM left (and after they did away with the funny papers) and really - my heart just wasn't in it anymore. If I was going to do it, I would want to do it like I'd been doing it: regular weekly columns with my monthly Esoteric South pieces. There were budgetary issues involved, and the news business it pretty dang tough these days. I harbor no ill feelings towards The News or any of its employees, management or ownership. And I appreciate the folks who've let me know how much they missed my stuff. 
    • In light of these recent developments I actually considered the idea of going to the dark side - The Newton Citizen, but I just couldn't envision that. 
    • I've had some discussions with a few folks about the possibility of a print edition of The Chronicles. And that is something I'm considering. I've talked to a few folks who would like to be involved and have even had some discussions with a couple of possible investors. If I was going to do it - it'd have to be 110%, totally legit & properly capitalized. At least two editions per week & and an actual office/HQ to meet the requirements to become the legal organ of Newton Co. Once we had that type of revenue, we could really maybe accomplish some things. I think my chances of getting the vote of the three county Constitutional officers needed is a possible one. 
    • But then again, why would anybody want to get into the "real" news business. Lots of overhead; printing costs are outrageous. Perhaps spending a little more w/ my little online version and trying to incorporate some local advertising to complement my Google ads might be the way to go. IDK. Send out a smoke signal or slide me an email to give me your thoughts...
  • The Rec Commission. What a weird situation. Seems like a lot of folks are in scaredy cat/walking-on-egg shells mode. I actually had people reaching out to me after they found out I was working on covering this story to tell me, in one case, "tread lightly...you need to be careful with this one." Dafuq? Well, that's never stopped me before and it sure as hell wasn't going to this time. Truth be told, I've kind of secretly been hoping for someone to sue me for as long as I can remember. I'd raise a defense fund. I'd represent myself, naturally, and bring in some co-counsel and some consults. I just think it'd be exciting. But as I always strive to do, I think I word things and present my information in a way to avoid finding myself in an actionable position. 
    • So...anybody know what's going on with that? I finally heard back from the Newton Co. HR director with a whole bunch of nothing. 
    • I just don't get it...
  • I greatly enjoyed Larry McSwain's well-written letter to the editor of The Citizen talking about the lack of action taken on last year's $300,000 audit that showed major problems and issues. He's absolutely right. This current edition of the Newton Co. BOC is almost a full year in. I understand and appreciate that the previous edition of the Board left things in battered tatters and there were immediate things that had to be addressed by the current group, but I'm starting to get this all-too-familiar feeling that things are not going as they should. I'm willing to give this crew another three months or so; however, if they're not able to start getting some serious things done then I'm of the opinion that'll be time to turn on 'em like we did the last time. All I can really see right now is that we've swapped one million dollar county attorney for another.
  • Tomorrow I'm hopefully having at least two meetings/interviews on the JDA of the four counties. I hope to have my 1st installment of my investigative report on Stanton Springs by Wednesday. So keep an eye out for that. And, if all goes well, look for something on the Hospital Authority next week.
Okay for now, friends. Lord willin' & if the Creek don't rise, we'll see you next time.

- MBM 

30 November 2017

[TPC] - Newton Co. Recreation Department: What's Going On?

[State of GA]
[Newton Co.]

(Covington * 11/30/17) - Greetings, readers, and hope all is well out there.

The Newton Co. Rec Department has long been a subject of discussion and conjecture by many over the years.

Last year's forensic audit found some concerning issues with this organization. But (and I'm still not 100% clear on this, and I'm not sure if anyone else is) those issues were either okay per the regulations & procedures of the organization, or since they were not expressly prohibited, then nothing could really be done.

Regardless, it is our understanding that a concerted effort had been made by the Board of Directors of the Rec Commission to try to improve things within that department.

This much we know:

It is a matter of public record that Anthony Avery, Director of Newton Co. Recreation, was terminated by the Commission Board at their meeting Monday night.

But then there began to be mentions that this was not the case, and that Avery was actually on paid administrative leave and that this was now in the hands of the Human Resources department of Newton Co., the county attorney, and the Newton BOC.

Multiple calls to Newton Co. HR have not been returned. "No Comment" from Newton Co. Recreation. So...who knows?

The Newton BOC has a special called meeting today at 4:30 at the Historic Courthouse. They will most likely immediately go into executive session to talk about this. Question. What involvement would the BOC have with any of this? I don't get that. Is this not under the purview of the Board of the Recreation Commission? Speaking of them, they're meeting at 6PM.

A concern, as we understand it, seems to center around the fact that Avery is considered a civil servant as opposed to an at-will employee. That's a key distinction and there are different rules and procedures involved & questions about whether or not the termination was done properly in accordance with the aforementioned rules.

So apparently there are concerns of potential legal issues.

Days of our Lives, Newton edition, once again.

It sounds like this could become an issue, and that maybe the only winner in all of this would be the billable hours for our current million dollar county attorney (not to be confused with our former million dollar county attorney), and perhaps a possible settlement package for the former, suspended (?) director.

But perhaps a silver lining to all of this could be that finally there will be a consensus to move all county employees to an at-will basis. That certainly needs to be done in this writer's estimation.

One last thing. Regardless of what happens, this should be the responsibility, financially or otherwise, of the Recreation Department. They do, after all, have a budget approaching $2 million.

We'll keep an eye on it.

29 November 2017

[TPC] - Words & Expressions Currently In Vogue That Drive Me to Distraction: A Piece by Ellis Millsaps

Sometime back, maybe 10 years ago, maybe 20 (the older I get, the harder it is to say how long ago something happened. I'm not in school; my kids are grown. I've lost my reference points), I wrote a piece for the Covington News entitled, "Words and Expressions I Don't Care to Hear Next Year," or something like that. It must have been at some year's end. Maybe Marshall can reference it for you with one of those 21st Century click-on things (ed.note: I tried but couldn't find a link for it).

I wrote about linguistic trends then annoying me. I probably harped about servers commanding me to "enjoy." I definitely ranted about the substitution of "utilize" to mean simply the time-honored little Anglo-Saxon word "use," but seemingly meant to convey a techno-scientific expertise on the utilizer's part.

"Utilize" is still excruciatingly with us, but thank god some annoying usage trends fade away. For example, maybe twenty years ago, at any rate - whenever,  the "Valley Girl" trend prevailed and many young people, especially females, interspersed their dialogue with the pointless word "like," as in, "I'm all like what, and he's like yeah." "Like," in these instances, meant essentially "uh," but moreover, "I'm like a part of this thing, which is like happening, and I'm like cool."

This has pretty much faded from our lexicon.

Another example around the same time was the tendency of young speakers - again, most likely female, which is in itself possibly a fruitful field for sociological inquiry outside the scope of this essay - to end declarative utterances with a rising intonation suggesting a question or uncertainty, as in, "I was going to the bathroom (?), but maybe I didn't need to go (?), like maybe it's just constipation (?).

Young people do not do this anymore. Maybe there is hope for their forty-something progenitors who still do. I hear them on NPR, but this too is fading away.

Like the end of a declarative sentence.

But what this rambling prologue is leading to is this: "Words and Expressions Currently in Use That Drive Me Up the Wall."

The word that currently peeves me most petulantly is "actually," as in:

"Where did you buy those shoes?"

"Actually, I bought them at Macy's."

In this sentence, "actually" means essentially "uh."

My theory of this phenomenon is that the speaker hopes to con us into thinking they're more thoughtful than they actually are.

I'm sick of hearing "iconic," which has ceased to mean anything other than someone somewhere has somehow heard of the thing so referenced. This was epitomized for me when a young British person referred to his friend who died in the Manchester terrorist attack as "iconic."

I recently invented a public radio drinking game in which the players tune into to NPR and everyone has to drink when they hear the word "iconic." Last drinker standing gets to change the station (for hardcore players there's the lightning round where one tries to get through 15 minutes of Lois Reitzes).

Lately I'm really getting sick of public speakers saying "everything from something to something."

The spectrum they envision is rarely a logical one. For example, "the play covered everything from sexism to philanthropy," or, "their music covers everything from Beatles to Beethoven."

And even if the poles of their comparisons do make some sense, IT'S NEVER EVERYTHING!

And when did it become fashionable, even amongst semi-educated people, to replace "you" and "me" as objects of prepositions with "yourself" and "myself," as in, "as someone like myself or yourself?"

Do they think it makes them look more educated?

Like saying utilize instead of use?

 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... 

27 November 2017

[TPC] - Newton Co. and Surrounding Area Well Represented at the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

Doug Biggers, Maloy Brothers, Lanier Mote & Brooks Hunnicutt among locals inducted. 

The Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame held its 36th annual awards ceremony at the Doubletree by Hilton - Perimeter hotel in Atlanta on Saturday, November 25th to a packed house in the Azalea Ballroom. 

The Bluegrass Allstars kicked things off with a really good, fiddle-heavy performance led by Randall Franks of "In the Heat of the Night" fame. Later, artists well-known in Georgia Country, Gospel & Bluegrass circles such as Danny Gardner, Helen Burke, Mitzie Gardner, David Gosdin & Donnie Griggs also performed. 

In all, some three dozen or so Georgia musicians and artists were inducted in this year's edition including several from our neck of the woods. 

Biggers gives his acceptance speech
Doug Biggers was inducted for his many years as a Country & Gospel artist. Mentioned in his introduction speech delivered by the Hall of Fame founder Phyllis Cole, was his time playing with groups such as the Tommy Millwood Band and Steel Road and his many years as serving as Musical Director at various churches. As an aside, Doug is my Brother-in-Law and he's one of the best men you'll ever meet. He's also a super talented guitar player and singer and it's no surprise that he once opened for Trisha Yearwood and recorded multiple Nashville demos. It's always a privilege to play with him and The Biggers Family Band. Doug joins his Dad, Steve Biggers, as a member of the Hall of Fame. 

Mote holding his award
Lanier Mote, mandolin player extraordinaire & another great artist I've had the pleasure to perform with, was another local inducted on Saturday. Lanier has spent decades as a practicing musician and is known far and wide throughout Georgia for his proficiency with many instruments and his singing abilities. He joins longtime collaborator Donna Bopp as a member.  

Local musicians Allen and Steve Maloy of The Maloy Brothers Bluegrass Band were also inducted into The Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame. These fellas and their band are real-deal, top-notch Bluegrass music. They're a fixture on the Bluegrass festival and show circuit and are highly regarded by many music enthusiasts throughout our great state.

And last but not least, fans of the Cowboys BBQ Picker's Circle over the years will be thrilled to know that Brooks Hunnicutt, a marvelous woman with a magnificent voice who has performed with many national and international stars over the years, was also inducted. 

It was a great night with a lot of great music and memories. This writer sure enjoyed it. 

Thanks for reading. 'Til next time. 

- MBM 

23 November 2017

[TPC] - Past Piedmont Chronicles: The History of Thanksgiving

The History of Thanksgiving

By: Marshall B. McCart 
*Originally published  in"About Covington to Madison" Magazine, Fall of 2010

Hello everyone! Good to be back with you once again. November already! Hard to believe, isn't it? Fall is in full force; college football is hitting the homestretch (and as a UGA man, I'll be “giving thanks” once this season is finally behind us); and Thanksgiving is just around the corner.

Many people consider Thanksgiving their favorite holiday—myself included. It's all about the gratitude we feel for the things we have and the people we love. Also, the traditional feast of turkey, dressing, and the rest of the fixins is pretty darned good. Some would also argue that while Thanksgiving has the food, family, and fellowship of Christmas, it doesn't have the stress and hustle and bustle that sometimes leads up to the December holiday. Of course, I think the people who say that usually aren't the ones doing the cooking! But what about the history of this wonderful holiday?

We all remember the story we learned in elementary school about the Pilgrims and Indians coming together for the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth Rock. And while it wasn't quite so simple (and maybe not quite completely accurate either), that basic story is pretty much true. In 1621, the Pilgrims, led by William Bradford, had a three day feast to give thanks for their first successful harvest and invited several of the local Wampanoag Indians including their leader Massasoit. Also in attendance was Squanto--the Indian who translated for the Pilgrims and who also taught them how to fish the local rivers and to grow and harvest the corn and other crops that they were celebrating. It was quite a feast and included turkey, deer, lobster, fish, fowl, corn, squash, and cranberries. This type of celebration as well as its Autumnal timing was similar to the harvest festivals that many parts of Europe had been celebrating for centuries.

Going back to the line about the first Thanksgiving not being completely accurate, I say that because most historians agree that it wasn't truly the first one in the new continent. In 1619, English settlers in Berkley Hundred, near Jamestown in the Virginia colony, had a “day of thanksgiving” which was actually more or less a religious ceremony but did not include a feast. However, that still might not truly be the first one either as it has been documented that the Spanish had a thanksgiving celebration starting in the mid 1500's in modern day Florida. Also, in modern day Canada, settlers there started celebrating a “thanksgiving” in the late 16th century. So while the basic story behind the Pilgrims is true, it would be inaccurate to label it as the very first Thanksgiving in what is now America. As an aside, Canada also celebrates Thanksgiving but does so in September.

Another inaccuracy with this holiday is the popular misconception that it disappeared for over two centuries and was brought back to life by Lincoln during the Civil War. While Lincoln did issue a proclamation to make the final Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving in 1863, several earlier presidents had done the exact same thing including George Washington and John Adams. Also, many states, particularly in the North, had officially been celebrating the holiday decades before Lincoln.

Thanksgiving did not become an official national holiday until FDR and Congress did so in 1941. They specifically made the fourth Thursday in November (rather than the last) as the date for the holiday. A couple of years earlier, FDR had tried to move the holiday up a week to help spur Christmas sales during the lean times of the Depression. His idea flopped and many people, especially in the South, still celebrated on the last Thursday and jokingly referred to the earlier celebration as “Franksgiving” while some parts of the country simply celebrated both holidays. So after two years and “four” Thanksgivings, FDR and Congress made the change and it has been that way ever since.

There have been some recent trends with Thanksgiving particularly relating to the preparation of the turkey. The big thing lately has been deep frying the bird in peanut oil. Unfortunately, this has also led to Thanksgiving day becoming the number one day of the year for home cooking fires in our country. The experts stress three things. Make sure you're outside. Make sure the turkey is completely thawed out. And make sure you slowly submerse it—don't just drop it in there.

And finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention one other thing...just in case there is anyone out there who hasn't heard about it yet. In Louisiana, they eat what they call a “turducken”, in which a chicken is stuffed into a duck which is then stuffed into a turkey and then cooked. That's just crazy! Although, I must admit, I really want to try it sometime. There is also a variation called a “gooducken” in which a goose is substituted for the turkey. Strange but true...

Well folks...that's all I got for this one. Hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving and maybe some of us will be dining on turducken this year!

21 November 2017

[TPC] - Tuesday Check-in: Talkin' C-town East Ward, JDA, et al

[State of GA]
[Newton Co.]

(North Covington * 21 November '17) - Greetings, fearless readers, and we sure hope all is well out there. Thanksgiving is just two days away (how can it possibly be late November?) and we're about to start that busy and wonderful five weeks of the Holidays, Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus, New Year's & all the rest.

So glad you could join us this evening. I like those boots...are those new?

In the words of The Senator, on to the bullet points!

  • So it's been two weeks since the Covington municipal election where we saw another Henderson get into elected office in Newton Co., in the West ward of the home city, and saw what can really only be described as an ass kickin' in the East ward. 
    • Susie Keck seems to be a marvelous woman and it was truly a pleasure to be able to support her and to give her my vote. She was a great candidate, ran a great race, and it's looking like she is going to be a great councilwoman (and naturally we'll be keeping an eye on her & helping to make sure she's doing the right things and doing things right). And kudos to our ole pal, AB. Great work, friend! 
    • Chris Smith. If not for the letter he penned to The Covington News, I was going to just let things slide. I wasn't going to mention the numerous times in the past several months that I did write-ups criticizing him and even calling for his resignation. I wasn't going to talk about how so many folks in and around Covington had just had enough and worked very hard to effect real and positive change here in the home city. I wasn't going to discuss how in a municipal race a 62/38 split might as well be on par with the infamous CC75/DF25 we saw a while back in a BOE race. No, I was just going to let it go. I think I'll just link to this Letter to the Editor that appeared in the past Sunday edition of The Covington News. I thank Chris for his service to the city, but he has no one to blame but himself...
  • The Joint Development Authority of Jasper, Morgan, Newton & Walton. Stanton Springs. Baxter. Baxalta. Shire. 
    • For some info for those of you who might not have a backstory on this thing, a good place to start might be with some of fellow Citizen-Journalist MP Pat's pieces over at Tax Dogs/Taxpayer's Watchdog Group. Now there are those out there who think that some of these pieces have been inaccurate, misleading or unfair. Well, I've gotten to know this lady pretty good, and she seems to always have her I's dotted & T's crossed. Her ducks seem to always be in a row, if you will, and honestly - I'm a pretty big fan. However, some of these folks seem to think that there's a lot of innuendo, gossip, hearsay & a bit of conspiracy theory going on as it relates to this long, complicated thing that is Stanton Springs and the JDA (Joint Development Authority) story. Maybe, but as I've mentioned in this publication more than once, it does seem to me that perhaps some things haven't really passed the smell test. Or, at a minimum, that major mistakes and crucial errors have been made. To that point: 
    • The Piedmont Chronicles has been researching and studying on this thing for well over two years now. I have a file that is maybe not quite literally an inch thick (but's it damn sure close), and I have now started the next phase of my investigation. 
    • I have been reaching out to former and current JDA Board members, elected officials, and others in the attempt to get the "full story." Really what I'm wanting to do is construct an in-depth and comprehensive history of this whole thing going all the way back to the late 90s and early 2000s with an emphasis on the "Who, What, Where & When?" So...it's going to be a process. And just like I've done in the past with the report on the Bear Creek Mitigation property, or the breaking story on a certain former county political party chairman and appointed official allegedly guilty of plagiarism - I am going to be doing this strictly by the book and with "just the facts." With that said, I may very well offer occasional commentaries, but they will be labeled as such.  
    • I have spoken with Andrea Gray, legal counsel for the JDA, and will most likely be talking to her again. Maybe a few times. So far, she's been helpful and has answered my questions. 

Speaking of files, The Hospital Authority one is getting thicker and thicker... 

As always, thanks for reading. We'll be in touch soon. 


17 November 2017

[TPC] - Marshall's Music Minute: Amy Rae highlights a great weekend of music

Marshall's Music Minute
17 November '17

Greetings, local music lovers, and it's so good to be back with you once again for the first installment of The Minute you've seen in several months. Nothing has really changed as the C-town music scene is still kickin' it 2 legit, and it just keeps getting better and better. The only difference now is you'll be getting this info right here at TPC instead of another publication almost every week. So get the 411 on who's playing where & when for the weekend of November 18th...

Featured Show: 

Amy Rae live at The Speakeasy at 18th & 21st
Saturday November 18th. 9PM

I've written about Amy several times in previous editions of MMM, and folks I'm here to tell you - she's the truth. An outstanding voice coupled with great songwriting skills and a choice selection of covers makes this a real audio treat, not to mention the fact that she's sweet as she can be and is pretty easy on the eyes as well. Never hurts... But the kicker? It's for a great cause!

From the Speakeasy FB event page:

The long awaited return of Amy Rae to The Speakeasy could not be for a better cause! Walking Home Together and The Friends of Newton County Animal Control are joining forces to raise much needed funds for animal rescue in our county and to save our beloved Sandy's Dog Park that was ravaged by hurricane Irma. We will announce opening acts and additions to the nights performance artists as they register with us. Check back for the latest info regularly and GET YOUR TICKET EARLY. Space is limited!

Tickets can be purchased by emailing TheFriendsofNewtonCountyAC@Gmail.com, Stopping in at Rush Tees and Signs in Covington by Ross or getting in touch with Walking Home Together on Facebook.

Tickets are $20 prior to the event and $30 at the door.

Chris, Jon & Scott live at The Listening Room @ Irish Bred Pub
Friday November 17th. 8PM

Quite possibly C-town's premier group playing at its premier music venue!

CJ&S are just on another level. What they can do as a trio is beyond ridiculous. No matter if it's 70's Soul and R & B, 90's Grunge, or Classic Rock, they lay it down tight, man! And they do so righteously.

If you've somehow not seen these guys, you owe it to yourself to do so. And Friday night's a perfect opportunity - it's a free show courtesy of TLR@IBP. Always a good crowd for these guys so you might want to get there early.

Andrew Brothers Dueling Pianos live at Lahrceny Tavern. Porterdale, GA 
Friday night. 9:30PM

One of my favorite spots in the home county, the Tavern has a real treat lined up for you. These guys are supposed to be unreal. Definitely worth a look.

And don't forget about the other usual musical hotspots in town: 

- Five O'Clock 

- Mystic Grill  

- Amici

Looks like another great weekend of tunage in one of Georgia's hottest music scenes - The COV!

We'll see 'ya around...

15 November 2017

Greetings from TPC; It's Been a While

[State of GA]
[Newton Co.]

Howdy, buckaroos, it's your ole pal M.B. again. Hope all is well out there.

As some of you may have noticed, The Chronicles took yet another hiatus as we're prone to do from time to time. I've recently put up a couple of posts featuring a few of my semi-recent write-ups over at The Covington News.

Speaking of The News, I'm still technically a part-time contributor for that publication, but I am no longer doing regular weekly or monthly columns. That publication changed ownership awhile back and they also changed their webpage, so most of my previous columns over the years are no longer available on the internets. However, my "Esoteric South" pieces can be found at a link at the top of the main page; I will also be putting up a select number of my past weekly columns in the near future.

So...it was basically a three month break for me for this time, and once again, I forgot to put up the "Gone Fishin'" sign.

Why the pause? Why the hell not?

But seriously, as I've been prone to do several times over the years, I just had to unplug. These episodes usually coincide with me having a bit of a...dip, shall we say. It's been a core attribute of my essence most of my life. Chasing the world by its tail, as well as my own, and riding the waves that will go up but always end up coming down. Peaks and valleys. Most of my life, just like Jerry Jeff Walker sang about, I'd just let "the high times carry the low," but I'd grown kind of weary of that.

So I've made some changes. For one thing, I haven't had a drink in going on a month. For those who know me, they know that's a pretty big deal. I've basically been a daily imbiber my entire adult life. I've also made some other changes. Basically I'm trying to find that elusive balance that has escaped me for such a long time. Just looking for a good even keel. I'm working on it, and it feels pretty good...

But enough about me.

I'm so glad to be back in the saddle as there's plenty of things going on. Here's a sampling of some of the things I'm working on or will be working on as well as some recent happenings here in the home city & county.

- The Covington municipal election. Chris Smith. Gracious in defeat? Not hardly. That's a piece in the very near future.

- The Newton Co. Hospital Authority. I'm still Ahab, folks, and they are Moby Dick. That's one I've still been working during the TPC break and I hope to have a piece up on that very soon.

- The Joint Development Authority of Jasper, Morgan, Newton & Walton. Stanton Springs. Mystery LLCs. Coincidental addresses. Properties being sold to an entity and then sold back to the authority for million dollar gains, being paid for by taxpayers. As this publication has been saying for over two years, this thing stinks to high heaven.

- The Bear Creek fiasco.

- And much, much more...

It's not all going to be politics, ant hill kicking & muckraking, though. I'm going to try to do my best to bring back "Marshall's Music Minute" and "The Alcovy Telegraph," two of my former CovNews columns, here at TPC on a weekly (or semi-weekly) basis. There's only so much time in the day and I am a pretty busy guy, but I'm gonna give it the ole college try. And we're looking forward to some future pieces from TPC contributor Ellis Millsaps.

It's so good to be back with you.

'Til next time,


09 November 2017

Leaving Home: A Short Story

The Esoteric South 
Leaving Home 
A Short Story by Marshall McCart 

The time was the early 1950s. The place was a farm out in the country in the heart of the Georgia Piedmont, and the main characters were a young boy and his Mother.

The boy had been upset for a day or two. He’d been unimpressed with how his parents had brought an end to his latest venture. For you see, his folks, the owners and operators of a fairly big farm, had gotten the first television set of anybody in their part of the county.

Naturally, it was a big item of discussion throughout their community and many had come by to see it. Well, the boy saw a going concern with lots of pent-up demand and upside potential and decided he’d start charging the children in their neck of the woods to watch television. A nickel for an up-front fee and another nickel for each program watched. The boy was excited about this new venture; he felt like it was going to be a real winner.

But his folks were not impressed and brought a stop to it, and they also made their son return the money.

After stewing on it a day or two, he went to his Mother and said he’d made up his mind and felt like it was time to leave home. That he was going to take some provisions and head back to the back pasture and woods on the river and that he’d just fend for himself.

“Well, “ his Mother said, “you’re 9 years old now...maybe the time has come for you to go out on your own.”

“That’s the way I see it, “ said the boy.

“Well...you’ll need some supplies, and you’ll need a way to be able to feed yourself.”

So the Mother helped her son collect some things. Some soda crackers, a can of potted meat, a piece of cheese, his pocket knife and couple other things. Also, some fishing line and a couple of hooks, and proceeded to put them in a red bandana which they tied around a stick.

“This way you can tie your fishin’ line to the stick and you’ll be able to catch you some supper.”

“That’s right,” responded the boy.

So he set off towards the back pasture. On the way he passed his Father and a couple of the field hands working on a piece of farm equipment. His father looked his way and  so the boy yelled out:

“I’m strikin’ out on my own! I’m going to live on the back 40!”

“Alright then, good luck!” his Dad responded back.

The boy spent most of the day just walking around. He went back to the river and came the long way ‘round back to the pond. He’d already eaten up his cheese, crackers and meat, so he figured it was time to do some fishing.

He dug up some worms, tied his line to his stick and actually caught a nice sized crappie. Then it dawned on him - he didn’t bring any matches to start a fire to cook it. How could he have been so stupid! And why didn’t his Mother think of it? Disgusted, he threw the fish back in the pond.

About this time, around 7 or so - this was Summertime, you see - and those shadows started to loom longer. He was running out of daylight. What was he going to do?

“I’ll just go back,” he thought to himself. “I’ll just say I needed more provisions...but now that it’s dark - I’d just have to wait to go back out tomorrow!”

Pleased with himself, he walked back the mile or so to the house, and there was Mother in the backyard who just light up like a light when she saw him.

“Oh, thank goodness, I was just thinking about how I wasn’t going to be able to sleep tonight,” she said. “Not worried about you, naturally, but because I was going to be so nervous about not having you to project me, your Father, and your Sisters...I’m so glad you’re back, son.”

The boy was always quick on his feet.

“Well, yes, Momma, I figured, and that’s precisely why I came back.”

She gave him a big hug and then fixed him some biscuits and gravy.

That night, as he lay in his bed, the boy thought about what he might do the next day. He came to the conclusion that they just needed him too much and that he had a responsibility to the family and the farm. He’d shown that he could go out on his own; it’d be his decision to stick around. So, with a smile on his face, the young man drifted off to sleep...

Vince, Jerry Jeff & Ronald

*modified version originally published in August of 2017 in The Covington News

The Esoteric South 
Vince, Jerry Jeff & Ronald 
a piece by Marshall McCart 

I’ve oftentimes thought about what really influences and makes the person they become. Naturally it’s a lot of things, I think. First and foremost, it seems obvious that family and upbringing are the two most important things, and I was very fortunate in that regard. My parents were great, as were the rest of my family, and I was doubly blessed to have Reba McCart, God rest her Soul, as my Grandma.

Schooling and environment is another key piece of the puzzle in my estimation. To use a line that may seem, politically, to not fit for me, I do believe that it really does take a village. Having that city and county-wide system of support is crucial. And growing up and reaching my formative years in Covington and Newton Co. back in the early and mid 80s was a pretty good thing. At that time, for those of us in town, you went to Ficquett and then you went to Sharp. The bus wasn’t really necessary. We could just walk or ride our bikes.

In our middle school years once we had a little money in our pockets, we could head over to City Pharmacy and get a vanilla malt, or maybe head to People’s, then head over to the Library and read all the old Rolling Stones about Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and The Who. Sometimes we would maybe read books, too. Quite often we were told to be quiet…

But a big thing, for me at least, and I think for a lot other folks as well, are some of those early influences. You could maybe even call them heroes. And three of the biggest ones for me were the ones I have listed as the title of this column. Looking back on it, I truly think these three gentleman had a major, lasting impact on the person I would become.

I’ve always liked Kevin Butler’s encapsulation of the essence of Vince Dooley. In an interview once, Kevin - probably the greatest kicker who ever played college football - said you always felt good with Dooley on the sideline. You always felt that he had something up his sleeve, or some contingency plan, where he was  going to know exactly what to do when the time came. And it certainly seemed to be that way. In that four year period from ‘80 to ‘83, we won a national championship and three SEC titles and only lost four times and won countless super-close games that sometimes maybe we had no business winning.

I always think about the 1983 season. Herschel, the greatest to ever play the game, had gotten caught up in a trap and had to forego his last year of eligibility. And, no disrespect, but John Lastinger was our QB. This is the same guy who kept pleading with Coach Dooley that maybe somebody else should play that position and lead the team. Well, it was a beautiful ending to a beautiful season when Lastinger made that beautiful option run to beat the heavily favored Texas Longhorns in The Cotton Bowl. Honestly, I still wonder if that was our best win from that entire run.

As a young kid and a huge Georgia fan, Vince was just always kind of this larger than life character. He seemed to always convey confidence and wisdom. I used to really enjoy watching his TV show where he’d recap the previous game. He was a great coach and was a major influence for me.

I’ll never forget the first time I heard Jerry Jeff Walker. My Dad was a big fan and had seen him live a few times. Finally he brought home a cassette tape. I was immediately hooked. Seeing Jerry Jeff’s picture, reading about the Great Gonzos, and seeing some of the song titles (especially the one about doing something in the wind), and I was captivated. And buddy, once I started listening to it - I was for sure hooked! “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother,” “Gettin’ By,” “LA Freeway,” and all the rest. “Gettin’ By,” by the way, is my unofficial theme song.

As the years have gone by I’ve seen Jerry Jeff myself a couple of times and own several of his albums and listen to him quite frequently. To quote a line from the Guy Clark song, “Desperados Waitin’ on a Train,” that Jerry Jeff recorded - “to me, he’s one of the heroes of this country.”

Me and a buddy of mine have spoken frequently about a sub-set of Generation X that we are both members of that we call “Reagan Kids.” Reagan Kids are those of us who were basically born in the 1970s who were reaching our formative adolescent and early teen years when the 40th President of America was in office.

It was in the summer and fall of 1984 that I came to the realization that I was a nine year old political junkie. I was really plugged in to the election. I vividly remember when Reagan was asked about age being a factor in that campaign and he made the classic line about not wanting to talk about Walter Mondale’s youth. I was basically the grassroots coordinator for the Reagan/Bush ‘84 campaign at Ficquett. We were having an in-class election and I was actively doing sampling and drumming up support. A good friend of mine at the time told me he was planning to vote for Mondale because that’s who his Mom was supporting but I was able to convince him to get behind Reagan!

So Vince, Jerry Jeff and Ronnie as three of my biggest influences. That may explain a few things…