Thursday, September 17, 2009

Gubernatorial candidate Barnes visits Bartow Business Association

Gubernatorial candidate Roy Barnes visited Cartersville Wednesday, speaking at the Bartow Business Association's September luncheon. The event, hosted by Barbecue Street, was sponsored by the city of Euharlee and gave Barnes the opportunity to speak to local business leaders concerning the economic development of Georgia and the critical challenges facing that development.

Barnes took the opportunity to present issues that he will concentrate on during his bid for the Democratic nomination. He previously served as the state's governor from 1999 to 2003.

Barnes focused on three issues he believes to be the crisis of the state contained within an acronym.

"It can be summed up in three letters: W.E.T.; water, education and transportation," Barnes said. "Concentrate on those three elements and you will return the economic development and the creation of jobs that we are so desperate for right now."

Barnes said he would focus on bringing jobs and business to the state by emphasizing these three elements in an effort to attract corporate investment and relocation.

Regarding water Barnes said, "First, we've got to stop all the leaks, or at least most of the leaks, that come from the city and county municipal systems, and the state has to be a part of that. Through the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority it is estimated we lose between 17 percent and a third of all water that goes into the systems.

"The main thing is stop evaporation and stop leaks; that's the greatest amount of the water," he said. "The second thing is we should seriously consider the underground storage of water in the limestone caverns that are all up through here, up through Northwest Georgia.

"Only when the other states see that we are serious about addressing those problems will we be able to negotiate," said Barnes, regarding the attraction of businesses to the state.

On the issue of education, Barnes said that spending must be prioritized and direct instruction must be protected. "The last thing that we should be doing is furloughing teachers. It is like eating our seed corn that we need to plant for the next generation of bright minds," he said.

"We should integrate with our technical college system and our high schools. Not everyone needs a college education, but everybody needs at least two years of post-secondary education that is skills-based rather than just seat-based, how many hours you sit in a chair in a classroom.

"Thirdly, transportation, the day of big road projects is gone," he said. "You have to integrate a mass transit system into this overall transportation system."

Barnes proposes that MARTA be taken over by the state and operated by the Georgia Department of Transportation. He also discussed options for the use of high-speed light-rail lines. One line in particular was mentioned due to the concentration of jobs on the northern side of 285 between interstates 75 and 85 -- Barnes asked those in attendance, "Doesn't it make sense to elevate over 75 and 85 ... a high-speed light-rail system that does not have to stop at great crossings to deliver folks back and forth to work?"

Last on the topic of transportation was gas prices to which he said, "A few months ago gasoline was $4 a gallon and it will be again. It is a finite resource ... and we have to plan for it."

In an interview following the luncheon, Barnes discussed his reasons for seeking re-election.

"I want to be governor not because I need another line on my resume or not that I need another job. It's just that I am so very concerned with what is going on and I want to make sure that my grandchildren have the same opportunity I did in the future. And I'm very concerned about the state," he said. "I think there's got to be some tough decisions."

Barnes had referred earlier to these decisions saying, "We have for too many years ... not made tough calls. We've not made anything that made us uncomfortable." Barnes left the audience with words from Proverbs saying, "The people perish when there is no vision."

Before serving as governor, Barnes served eight terms in the Georgia Senate and six years in the Georgia House of Representatives. He received his undergraduate and law degree from the University of Georgia before serving as a prosecutor in the Cobb County District Attorney's office.

Since his time in the governor's mansion, Barnes has continued to practice law through the establishment of The Barnes Law Group in Marietta. "Georgia has been a bountiful place for us to live and particularly this Atlanta region," said Barnes in his introduction to the BBA. "This Atlanta region has been a generator of jobs and a creator of a better way of life."

Eighteen 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, Elbert Bartell, current Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Carl Leon Camon, Jeff Chapman, 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, David Poythress and State Rep. James Austin Scott.

Editor's note -- The Daily Tribune News will cover first visits of gubernatorial candidates to Bartow County when notified in advance. Interviews will be conducted on site or at our offices.

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