Thursday, August 13, 2009

David Poythress in Cartersville

Gubernatorial candidate David Poythress visited Cartersville Wednesday, speaking on his platform at the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce. The former State Labor Commissioner, who resigned in 1998 to run for governor on the Democratic ticket, said in a subsequent interview with The Daily Tribune News that "the single issue that's on everybody's mind is jobs and the economy.

"My job as governor would be to position Georgia to take full advantage of the recovery as it begins. It looks like it may be starting now," he said. "We need to re-energize our economic development program in Georgia.

" I see my role as governor as chief salesperson for the state of Georgia, going to places in the Midwest, places in Europe or Korea, or wherever, and urging people to bring their money, their investment, their jobs to Georgia, and continuing to grow our state internationally because we clearly do live in an international economy, a global economy. This whole part of the country, the Southeast, is leading that. North Georgia, and indeed North Alabama and parts of the Carolinas, are going to grow tremendously in the next 20 to 30 years and we need to be planning for that now and bringing money and investment and jobs to Georgia."

Poythress, who also held other positions in state government, including assistant attorney general, deputy state revenue commissioner and secretary of state, said the more difficult part of economic development is dealing with three big issues -- water, transportation and education.

"Those are the three big economic issues, obviously there are others -- health care, law enforcement," he said. "All of those things are very important and certainly would occupy a lot of my time. To make sure that Georgia continues to be prosperous, we've got to deal with these three."

The Emory graduate, who served four years of active duty in the U.S. Air Force as a judge advocate general, said the "easy part would be easy to conserve the water we have.

"Fix the leaks in the city and county piping systems, encourage people to use [or] transition to low-flow plumbing devices, to think about different kinds of grass seed and landscaping that doesn't require much water. These are very common sense things that don't disrupt anybody's lifestyle but can save a lot of water," he said. "A good example [is] the city of Athens/Clark County, [which] voluntarily undertook such a program a few years back. They know they are using about 30 percent less water than they did before. So it can pay big dividends."

The Vietnam veteran, who volunteered for duty, serving as defense counsel and Chief of Military Justice at DaNang Air Base in Vietnam, said the state "needs to start raising the levels of the dams on some of our smaller, existing reservoirs, not Lake Lanier ... You raise the level of a dam three or four feet, the top of the lake, you're talking about a lot of water that is impounded or retained for future use."

Poythress, who also served as commander of the Georgia Army and Air National Guard as a three-star general, said six bodies of water have already been identified for possible elevation, but Lake Allatoona is not on that list. He added that six locations on which new dams and reservoirs could be built have been identified as well.

"If Georgia is going to continue to grow, we've got to have the water and we've got to store the water for use when we need it," he said.

Another big agenda item, Poythress said, would be negotiating with Alabama and Florida, which also have rights to the water.

"We've got to take a much more sensible, business-like approach to negotiating. I believe there is an accommodation that can be reached, we've just got to be more neighborly and business like," he said.

Transportation is not just an Atlanta issue, said Poythress, who also practiced law in Atlanta with concentrations in taxation and public finance.

"We have got to develop and implement a strategic transportation plan for Georgia, not just looking at the next election or the next election after that," he said. "We've got to be looking out 50 years at this 'mega' region that is developing that will include North Georgia, North Alabama, Tennessee and parts of the Carolinas."

Part of the immediate plan should be to re-engineer surface streets in Atlanta, Poythress said. "We don't necessarily have to build more interstate lanes to alleviate the traffic. Much of the traffic problem can be alleviated by re-engineering intersections, which is where traffic backs up."

Poythress said "perhaps sooner than later, we're going to have to commit ourselves to regional rail transportation." He added that he sees Georgia's rail needs in three dimensions -- adapting MARTA to a light, commuter rail, possibly extending it to Bartow County, Gainesville and LaGrange; planning and investing in high-speed, regional intercity rail; and increasing freight rail capacity around the port of Savannah, the throughput of which Poythress said would double in the next 10 years.

Classroom technology would be Poythress' initiative in education, he said. "I think we need to commit ourselves in terms of both money and education philosophy to getting our teachers the best in classroom technology. The value of that has been proven over and over again ... Some of the more sophisticated versions are very adaptive. They will accommodate various learning styles and the kids can learn at their own speeds, in their own way. Those innovations and systems produce a very highly educated young person."

Poythress, who is again running as a Democrat and called his politics "centrist" and "middle-of-the-road," said there is not a lot of room for political ideology in state government.

"It's about just making government work right, efficiently and honestly for the people," he said. "That's what my history has been ... My style of leadership is very inclusive and collaborative. My style is to bring people together behind a common vision, parcel out the responsibility and the authority and hold people accountable for their jobs. That has paid off for me my whole career and I think I can bring that type of leadership to state government.

"I am always discouraged by leaders who talk about vision, plans and studies, and then nothing else happens. There is no action, no follow through."

Poythress also held several local and national leadership positions, including chairmanship of the State YMCA of Georgia and vice chairmanship of the Board of the National Guard Association of the United States. He also served on the boards of Jobs for America's Graduates, Wesley Homes and the Atlanta Day Shelter for Women.

Sixteen other people have thrown their hats into the ring, filing declarations of intent to accept campaign contributions for the 2010 Georgia governor's race, according to the State Ethics Commission. They are Daniel Emanuel Alvin, Attorney General Thurbert E. Baker, former governor Roy E. Barnes, current Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Carl Leon Camon, U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, Secretary of State Karen Handel, Robert Francis Ingram, Matthew Jamison, State Sen. Eric Johnson, Thomas R. McBerry Jr., John H. Monds, State Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, Berry LaSalle Perkins, State Rep. DuBose Porter and State Rep. James Austin Scott.

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