"Did the Newton County (School) Board members who were present for a 'public matter' -- that is ESPLOST -- on Tuesday night, March 5, violate the Open Meetings Act of the state of Georgia? There was a quorum present at the meeting and they spoke out on a 'public matter.' Did they plan this? Did they know there would be a quorum? Here is what the law defines as a meeting and it requires notice to the public: 'Meeting means: (i) The gathering of a quorum of the members of the governing body of an agency at which any official business, policy, or public matter of the agency is formulated, presented, discussed, or voted upon; or (ii) The gathering of a quorum of any committee of the members of the governing body of an agency or a quorum of any committee created by the governing body at which any official business, policy, or public matter of the committee is formulated, presented, discussed, or voted upon.'"----"A few weeks ago a person who visited Madison commented favorably about the appearance of Madison. Last week I went there and drove up their main drag, 441. I used to drive there regularly from 2002 until 2007. And I must say what a pleasant transformation has taken place in the last six years and made a very nice impression on me and my wife. A lot of well-kept 'greenery' (grass and trees) between the highway and stand-alone businesses and strip centers), business facades with a consistent look, business signage controls, the downtown area (square) seemed very welcoming and seemed to be busy. Madison is now projecting a very warm and friendly image compared to what I recall from '02 to '07. I asked a business owner in Madison when did this transformation take place. He said it started slowly in 2005 as the city based codes for new businesses and existing businesses to follow when they did any remodeling or expansion. And I noticed that there were a couple businesses in Madison that relocated there from Covington -- one was a customer of mine but now much larger. Today, I drove on 278 from 142 to Turner Lake area and took notice of what image Covington might be projecting to first-time visitors, as first impressions are often very lasting. Here is what I saw, at the intersection of 278 and Covington Bypass -- a large empty building (old Walmart) and four closed business on the other side; on the southeast corner a viable business that the grass needs cutting (maybe 6" high); on the northwest corner an empty lot with a lot of trash and it has been awhile since someone used a lawn mower on that lot; a little further down at the intersection of Hazelbrand and 278 a couple of businesses on each side of Hazelbrand need to fire up a lawnmower. As you drive up further on 278 one gets the impression they have found the 'Whitman's Sampler' of fast food restaurants; and a mecca of predatory-type lending businesses, used tire dealers and 'We Tote the Note' used car/truck dealers, some tacky" advertising signage (those triangle shaped ones) and almost a drug store on every corner etc. My reason is not to put down Newton County or the city of Covington but the city, county and chamber need to get their act together to improve the image. There is a lot of talk and concern about all those Baxter International execs moving in the area and they might not come to Newton County or the city of Covington. Well, I ask how many big dollar execs are projected to come? And if the competition is coming from surrounding areas (Conyers, Social Circle, Madison or beyond), how does Covington stack up to the competition. Remember first impressions are important and convenience of living (shopping, eating out -- other than fast food and Waffle Houses) is important. And, hopefully, there will be other companies like Baxter looking at Newton County for a potential home. Remember perception is everything. I worked for a company here in Covington that employed 250, only one of the top level execs lived in Covington, four lived in Atlanta (Buckhead), the other in Conyers. When we had sales meetings with corporate field sales staff (usually once a quarter) and training programs for dealer sales staff (again once per quarter) we always went to Conyers or Atlanta for group dinners -- once we went to the Blue Willow in Social Circle. FYI: this company relocated after 12 years of being in Covington to a neighboring state -- South Carolina."----"Has anybody but me noticed that since the completion of the '278 road improvement project' that all the speed limit signs on 278 from the Covington Bypass Road intersection to Highway 11 have been removed? There used to be limits of 45 mph (near the old Wal-Mart area) and 55 mph the rest of the way. And the rules of the road say that if you don't see a speed limit sign, the speed limit is based on the last sign you saw. That is fine if you were traveling on 278 which is posted 45 through the main drag. But for someone turning off the Bypass Road to go eastbound on 278 it becomes a SWAG. Hmmm! Guess GDOT and/or Newton County forgot something (this was a jointly funded project) and there are a number of accidents and many skid marks left in this area especially near Peachtree Academy."----"The timing is wrong for an education SPLOST. Our schools are not performing even at state levels in some cases and the state is at the bottom in the country. This is not an attack or blame on teachers. If SPLOST can be redone by lawmakers to use SPLOST to support classroom teachers and their salaries and benefits, then I think I can support that and our students will learn more. Teachers are stressed to the max and that does not make the best situation for student achievement. Newton County is in the top five of highest millage rates in the state and has some of the lowest graduation rates so common sense says you don't add money to that mix especially when that money cannot support classroom instruction. Look at the millions of dollars our schools get for being so high on free/reduced lunch. Millions of dollars for technology and Smart Boards and iPads for assistant principals and what is the result? Not an improvement that we can see in student achievement on a large scale, so at this time I think the timing is wrong and the school board should go back to the drawing board."----"Obama's attitude of 'my way or the highway' proves he is a narcissist. He is not open to any ideas that are not his. How sad that those Americans who voted him in for a second term were so blind to his true agenda. Anyone who believes that he honestly cares about each and every American is not rational. Another four years of the same or worse is disheartening. The 'take care of me for doing nothing' mentality is what Obama has instilled in so many people's minds. When the money finally runs out -- and it will -- these same people are not going to know how to cope. They are like little children, who expect Daddy (Obama) to take care of their every needs. Wake up people and smell the real roses! Learn how to take care of yourselves for a change. Stop being takers!"