Political Notes – Ports officials hope strike can be avoided

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Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) officials are keeping their fingers crossed that a contract agreement can be reached to avoid a strike by the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) that would effectively shut down the state’s busiest port at Savannah.

The deadline for a deal is midnight Saturday and, for the moment, talks have resumed between representatives of the ILA and the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX), an association of shipping companies and terminal owners.

If a strike is called, it would affect more than a dozen major ports along the eastern seaboard and the Gulf Coast, including GPA’s Garden City Terminal container port.

“Clearly, the economic impact is very large, it’s significant, it goes well beyond the state of Georgia,” said Curtis Foltz, executive director of the GPA.

The Garden City Terminal is the only GPA facility where ILA workers are involved in the handling of containerized cargo, but that facility accounts for 75 to 80 percent of the cargo that moves through the port, Foltz said.

“We really don’t have a seat at the table (in the contract negotiations), we being the Ports Authority,” Foltz said. “It’s between the ILA and the folks who employ them.”

It’s a private deal, but is it a raw deal?

Officials of the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) have spent several weeks in private negotiations with representatives of the Atlanta Falcons over the terms of a deal for a taxpayer-financed football stadium.

Common Cause Georgia argues that the private deal should be considered a “raw deal” for taxpayers if there is not a wider degree of public input into these negotiations.

“At this point, the Falcons and GWCC are excluding the public, but want to include public money in this boondoggle project,” said Wyc Orr, a Common Cause board member, at a Thursday news conference.

“We will oppose public financing of this project until they take the steps needed to restore public trust in this process,” said Orr, a Gainesville attorney and a former member of the Georgia House.

“We have a lot of respect for Common Cause Georgia, but they hold no position as a public representative,” said Jennifer LeMaster, a spokesperson for the GWCC.

“As with any private citizen, they are entitled to their opinion and we respect their right to share it with the press,” she added. “Our objective, however, remains the same . . . to protect and provide for the best interests of the Authority and the State of Georgia and its residents.”

The proposal between the GWCC and the Falcons calls for the authority to contribute about $300 million in hotel-motel tax revenues towards the construction of a $1 billion, retractable-roof stadium near the site of the Georgia Dome (the dome would be demolished after the new stadium opens).

The Falcons would raise the remainder of the construction money privately, with a large portion of that money coming from the sale of “personal seat licenses” in the new facility.

Options for senior citizens

The state Department of Human Services has awarded grants totaling $150,000 to three Aging and Disability Resource Connections (ADRCs) in Northwest, Southern, and Middle Georgia. The funds will provide options counseling to help families make informed decisions about long-term services and supports for elderly citizens.

The ADRC’s will team up with Mercy Senior Care of Rome, Mayo Clinic Health System of Waycross and the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon.

© 2012 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: aging grants , Common Cause Georgia , Curtis Foltz , Department of Human Services , football stadium , Garden City Terminal , Georgia Ports Authority , Georgia World Congress Center , ILA