Thursday, February 5, 2009

Sonny Perdue's message to Georgia Historical Society: Drop dead
by Todd Groce
Georgia Online News Service

The Georgia Historical Society's state funding has been deeply slashed. We've been hit by the Secretary of State's office with an immediate elimination of nearly $75,000 of funding needed this fiscal year to operate our library and archives in Savannah, effectively ending a relationship that began in 1966. We have also absorbed a 10 percent reduction in funding for the historical markers program. But the worst is yet to come. Gov. Sonny Perdue has recommended the elimination of our entire state appropriation, $327,275, representing 15 percent of our current operating budget - in the fiscal year 2010 budget.

What do these cuts mean for you? In the short term, they mean limited access to history: no more historical markers will be erected, thus ending a program that started in 1954; severely curtailed library and archives research hours; the end of any hope Georgia had to participate in the national 150th anniversary of the Civil War; the loss of billions of tourist dollars which might have helped to improve our economy and to create jobs.

But in the long term, and of greater concern, they mean a citizenry less educated, less informed about its past, less prepared for the future.

Institutions like the Georgia Historical Society are not frills to be discarded when budgets are tight. They are essential trustees of our democratic inheritance that deserve continued funding. To do anything less dishonors the heritage upon which we build and threatens the future we aspire to create.

Moreover, to cut history is to rob future generations of the tools needed to compete in the global marketplace of the 21st century and the education needed to function as citizens of our republic. Best-selling author Daniel Pink persuasively argues that we're shifting from the "information age," with its premium on logical, linear, computer-like abilities, to what he calls the "conceptual age," where right-brain qualities will predominate. Thinking creatively will be more important than learning a specific skill that can be automated or outsourced. History encourages creative thinking: it develops and hones writing and analytical skills; instills an understanding of our own and other cultures; offers examples of great leaders to emulate; puts events in context; and teaches us what it means to be an American. And ultimately, if people expect "to be their own governors," observed James Madison, then they must "arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."

GHS is not asking the state to fund our entire budget or to exempt us from reasonable deductions during these difficult economic times. Indeed, GHS underwent a voluntary privatization effort in the 1990s that led to a significant reduction of state funding. Now 85 percent of GHS's operating funds are from private sources. But the state has a vested interest and responsibility for telling its story to its citizens and visitors alike and should continue to support its state historical society.

Please join us in urging the General Assembly (where we still have many allies and supporters) to restore funding for history education and tourism.

If those of us who love and value history don't advocate for it, no one else will. Educating Georgians about their state's past ultimately ensures a better future. Please be courteous but make your voices heard.

W. Todd Groce is president and CEO of the Georgia Historical Society. Learn more at www.georgiahistory.com.   [full bio]


Editor's note: Hello, Georgia! I've had a few questions from folks – media and civic and political leaders – asking me to explain the Georgia Online News Service (GONSO). Without being too grandiose, our purpose is to preserve quality journalism in Georgia at a time when news organizations are shrinking.

We were founded by concerned journalists, business leaders and educators, and after months of planning, we launched two weeks ago. Our "inventory" is a roster of about 30 of the most talented journalists in the state. We're providing GONSO content free for a few weeks – but we're a business, and our goal is to become the source of premium content to newspapers and broadcasters in the state.

The menu of the Georgia Online News Service (GONSO) today is topped with squirrel meat. No kidding. Larry Wilkerson writes about how this meat, popular in many corners of the South, is catching on among our distant cousins in Jolly Old England.

On a more serious note, Tom Baxter, one of the most authoritative political writers in Georgia, examines the communications – or lack thereof – between Georgia officials and the Obama administration. And, in the second of two articles about consumer legislation pending in the Georgia General Assembly, Maggie Lee takes a look at bills that would do everything from cracking down on "foreclosure rescue" scams to making sure that lawyers who advertise on TV must play themselves and not use actors.

Finally, in today's Soapbox, W. Todd Groce, CEO of the Georgia Historical Society, warns that Gov. Sonny Perdue's plan to eliminate state funding for the group will mean "a citizenry less educated, less informed about its past, less prepared for the future."

As always, send your comments and suggestions to john.sugg@georgiaonlinenews.org or call 800-891-3459.

-- John F. Sugg, Executive Editor


Today's GONSO

There's little conversation between Georgia and Obama administration

by Tom Baxter
How do Georgia and the Obama administration talk to each other? In a roundabout fashion, you might say, but with a keen sense of urgency on both sides.

The complicated business of how state and federal officials establish lines of communication is always an important matter after a change of administrations, but never more so than this year, with the Obama administration desperate to get economic stimulus money out to the nerve ends of the economy, and states frozen on the edge of a deepening chasm of debt.

Full Story

Lenders and lawyers among those targeted by consumer legislation

by Maggie Lee
Allison Wall, executive director of the Georgia Watch, often has a tough job battling for consumers issues at Georgia Capitol. But she's looking forward to a bill this year that gives some relief to homeowners, renters and municipalities, one that may help "clean up the mortgage broker industry here in Georgia."

Senate Bill 57 would throw a lifeline to homeowners mixed up in so-called foreclosure rescue scams. These are short-term, often predatory loans, made against a property deed. The law would treat these loans as mortgages, giving homeowners more rights to maintain possession of a home.

Full Story

Brits are wrong by not serving squirrel with most important meal of the day

by Larry Wilkerson
Our distant British cousins, out to protect their environment and their native red squirrels against threats posed by an immense population of gray ones introduced long ago, are barking up the right tree: They've begun to eat the invaders like crazy.

Reporting from London for The New York Times early this month, Marlena Spieler wrote that "squirrel is selling as fast as gamekeepers and hunters can bring it in."

Full Story

SOAPBOX

Sonny Perdue's message to Georgia Historical Society: Drop dead

by Todd Groce
The Georgia Historical Society's state funding has been deeply slashed. We've been hit by the Secretary of State's office with an immediate elimination of nearly $75,000 of funding needed this fiscal year to operate our library and archives in Savannah, effectively ending a relationship that began in 1966. We have also absorbed a 10 percent reduction in funding for the historical markers program. But the worst is yet to come. Gov. Sonny Perdue has recommended the elimination of our entire state appropriation, $327,275, representing 15 percent of our current operating budget - in the fiscal year 2010 budget.

What do these cuts mean for you? In the short term, they mean limited access to history: no more historical markers will be erected, thus ending a program that started in 1954; severely curtailed library and archives research hours; the end of any hope Georgia had to participate in the national 150th anniversary of the Civil War; the loss of billions of tourist dollars which might have helped to improve our economy and to create jobs.

Full Story

Tomorrow's Budget
Nuke Financing Passes Committee, Goes to Full Senate
by Maggie Lee
Eight months in a cloud of dust and paperwork lead to GSU's very first football players
by Wendy Parker
Capitol Debts to Pay
by Hollis Gillespie
Vouchers are the way schools can improve themselves
by Senator Eric Johnson

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