Morning headlines: politics and the port, Georgia poised to mimic Arizona, Fannie and Freddie phase out debated, more examples of city bureaucracy

Lots of interesting headlines this morning. I could go on and on about each of these items, but I’ll keep it short.

An interesting article from Maria Saporta with the Atlanta Business Chronicle on the pretty obvious political quandary of the Georgia Ports Authority Chairman having been chosen to lead the planning for the Republican national convention in Tampa in 2012. She wonders how the GPA could possibly get federal funds under those circumstances:

The chairman of the Georgia Ports Authority is Alec Poitevint II of Bainbridge.

But Pointevint also has another critical role that is hurting Georgia’s ability to get federal funding.

In early February, Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, announced that he was naming Pointevint to chair the Republican Party’s 2012 political convention in Tampa.

Okay, while serving as chairman of the Georgia Ports Authority, Pointevint also is heading the national convention to get President Barack Obama elected out of office in 2012.

And Georgia leaders are wondering why we didn’t get $100 million from the federal government.

Mayor Reed can be the hardest working Democrat in Georgia seeking federal funds for the port, but he can’t overcome the “shoot-yourself-in-the-foot” situation of having Pointevint as chairman of the Georgia Ports Authority.

Yesterday, in one of the most disheartening moves I’ve seen in this state in a long time (and there have been many), the Georgia House overwhelmingly approved an Arizona-style bill cracking down on illegal immigration. I have already covered my major thoughts on it in this post. For my column this coming Sunday, I’ve noted that the bill will hurt businesses and the state’s economy generally, and I’m sure all the usual anonymous loose cannons will have a field day making inane comments.

From today’s New York Times, an interesting piece about the future of American housing if Fannie and Freddie’s roles in the housing market are dramatically reduced. The article is “Fannie and Freddie Closing Could Change Face of Housing“, and it explores the fundamental question of the government’s role in propping up the middle-class housing market.

A few key snippets:

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage loan, the steady favorite of American borrowers since the 1950s, could become a luxury product, housing experts on both sides of the political aisle say.

Interest rates would rise for most borrowers, but urban and rural residents could see sharper increases than the coveted customers in the suburbs.


The much more divisive question is whether the government should preserve the benefits that the companies provide to middle-class borrowers, including lower interest rates, lenient terms and the ability to get a mortgage even when banks are not making other kinds of loans.

Douglas J. Elliott, a financial policy fellow at the Brookings Institution, said Congress was being forced for the first time in decades to grapple with the cost of subsidizing middle-class mortgages. The collapse of Fannie and Freddie took with it the pretense that the government could do so at no risk to taxpayers, he said.

Finally, if you want to get a quick taste of the climate for small businesspeople in Savannah, take a look at this piece about the complexities of serving alcohol on St. Patrick’s Day, which is less then two weeks away. So that gives some businesses less than two weeks to spend $250 for a special permit and to have temporary hires “trained” to qualify for a bar card, which will cost $45 even if the employee is literally working one day.

The money quote:

“We don’t want to be on the front page of the national news with some tragedy that happens here in Savannah,” Acting Assistant City Manager Marty Johnston told business owners. “We want it to be a great event and for all of y’all to make a bunch of money.”

But new regulations – including the city’s smoking ban and a requirement that anyone serving alcohol carry a “bar card” – are making that harder, bar and restaurant owners say.

“They’re all good ideas on their own,” said Stu Putman, owner of Rooftop Tavern. “But they have a cumulative effect which gets to be a little overwhelming.”