September Meeting Canceled

Dear Oconee County Democrats,

We have decided to cancel our meeting  for this Tuesday.We want to give everyone the opportunity to attend  the Community Engagement meeting which is scheduled from 6 pm-9 pm on the same evening. We encourage all of you to attend and show continued support for our two school board candidates Fran Thompson and Andrea Wellnitz.

The purpose of their meeting is for community members to provide input as OCS begins its Strategic Planning Process.The set up will be small groups where individuals will have opportunities to discuss and identify internal and external challenges, growth areas, opportunities, and success of the school system. Light refreshments will be served.

Our committee has procured 100 Abrams signs for our county. Angie Eells and Tracey Wyatt will be available at Keba from 5:15 pm to 7:00 pm for those of you who would like to purchase a sign, say hello or  eat a great dinner. Our cost was $3 a sign but we are asking for a $5 donation with the proceeds going back into getting our local candidates elected. We are giving signs away in exchange for one hour of volunteer time. We will have more details for you there.

We believe this event is too important for folks to miss or have to choose. See you next month ON THURSDAY October 18th at 6:30 pm at the Chamber of Commerce. Keep checking our calendar, your emails and the website for everything you need to know about the campaign season and how you can help TURN GA BLUE.

In solidarity,

Angie M Eells

Chair of OCDC

Community Engagement Meeting Sept. 18

Oconee Young Democrats Speak Up

If this doesn’t give you faith in the next generation, I’m not sure what will!  Carter Watson is a student at Oconee High School and he penned the following letter to Angie Eells about an inspiring visit from Jonathan Wallace to OCHS’ Young Democrats Club:

On Wednesday, August 22, 2018, State Representative Jonathan Wallace came to speak to our humble club, the Oconee County Young Democrats. As a member of the club and a fan of Wallace, not just because of his policy positions, but in his success in flipping a gerrymandered Republican district blue, I was excited to meet him. As one of the first people in the class, our club sponsor, Mrs. Jennifer Strickland, sent me to the front office to escort him to our class. There I had the opportunity to shake his hand and to compliment his work on protecting sanctuary cities like Atlanta.

When we got back to the classroom, he started out by talking about reelection. Since we are under 100 days away from election day and in a historically Republican district, Representative Wallace understandably had the campaign in mind. He spoke to us about how important it is for him to bring out the vote by canvasing, a process which he very much enjoys. He told us a story about a woman whom he met whilst canvasing that used to walk to town in the 1940s to listen to FDR’s fireside chats. He told us that this woman has a large family of Democrats, all of which voted for him and are going to vote for him again.

After discussing his reelection, he described what he has been focusing on in the state house. He said that his three top priorities in the state house is to learn as much as he can, establish a reputation, and spread his knowledge on cybersecurity. He discussed how he was unable to kill a bill related to cybersecurity, but he later was able to help convince Governor Deal to veto it. He also described his ongoing efforts to implement an important regulation to rental car companies, which would require them to erase all synced data to cars which people may have accidentally synced. These efforts and more is what his focus is on and why it is important we keep him in office.

One thing that I took to heart was Wallace’s rhetoric when he talked about his opposition in the upcoming election. The kindness and non-hostile approach he took when someone asked him about his opposition or the Republican party as a whole is exactly what we need right now in our government, both at the state and federal levels. The general hostility in this country toward people who have conflicting values or opinions needs to change, and that all begins with elected officials. His honest, kind rhetoric is exactly what we need right now, and we are incredibly lucky to have him representing us.

It was absolutely excellent to have had the privilege to meet and listen to our representative! While he does have a tough reelection ahead, I believe that he can win over the hearts and minds of the people of which he disagrees and go back to the state house again next year.

~ Carter Watson

We couldn’t agree more, Carter!  Hope to see you and your friends on the canvassing trail this fall!

A Message from the OCDC Chair

Hello everyone.

I am sending you this message to thank you for allowing me to represent Oconee County this Saturday at the 2018 Georgia Democratic State Convention as your State Committee member. I’ve never been to a State Convention before so I am looking forward to learning more about how our politics work at the state level. We will take lots of pictures and video to share. Tracey Wyatt and Dan Matthews will both be joining me as our delegate and alternate.

There are several different caucuses that Dan, Tracey and I are able attend. Please post a comment below to let us know which of these are important to you and we will each attempt to attend one and report back.

https://www.georgiademocrat.org/about/caucuses/

I heard we had a great meeting on Tuesday. Thank you to Ann Stoneburner and to everyone who contributed to the meeting.  Please know that as campaign season heats up you will begin to receive more emails regarding our ground game in getting all democrats on the ticket elected. If you are not yet on the email list, please come to an event and know that our meetings always remain open to the media and public.

If you haven’t donated to OCDC or to a candidate, please consider donating to them today. Any amount helps but I challenge you to try to find $50 and donate. Lots of people will be working around the clock, taking off work, making calls, knocking on doors, getting literature printed, hosting fund raisers and all of this costs money. If we want publicly funded elections and to eventually overturn Citizens United then we must publicly fund elections and walk the walk. 🙂

https://secure.actblue.com/donate/ocgadems

With that, I and others are taking off election day. If you are able to request off now to make yourself available please do so. More details about how you can help will be available as we get closer to November.

My next task is to visit the YD at the high schools and get them involved. I’ll be at the Pride Booth and the art auction. Tracey and I have a meeting with a Statewide Coordinator for the Democratic Party of Georgia next week so we will know exactly how they want to use us and what makes the most sense in supporting all candidates down the ballot. Oh, and if you haven’t attend the Social Hour, you are missing out, please join us.

Lastly, if you feel so moved by what you see in the news or you just have some self reflecting thoughts that might inspire, move or impact others in a meaningful way, then write a blog  of 300-500 words and submit to ocgadems+news@gmail.com. It will be reviewed by another person and edited so don’t let a “grammar fear” keep you from letting others know what’s on your mind.

I appreciate all of you.

In solidarity,

Angie M. Eells

Chair, Oconee County Democratic Committee

For Fans of Transparent Politics

For those who are fans of transparency in the political process, you may be interested to know that the Oconee County GOP has informed Lee Becker of Oconee County Observations that he is no longer allowed to record the GOP meetings – or even take notes – until after the General Election on November 6.

According to Dr. Becker, the media ban was delivered to him via personal email by the Oconee County GOP chair, Tammy Gilland.  In that message, Mrs. Gilland stated that the ban applies to all media outlets.  Dr. Becker states in his blog that he has followed up with several media contacts in the area and none have received the same message from the Oconee County GOP.

For those that are not aware of Dr. Becker’s blog, it is a wealth of information about almost anything going on in Oconee County and is a wonderful way to keep informed of local news and community developments.

The Oconee County Democrats would like to take this opportunity to remind all citizens that our meetings are open to the public and we welcome all media coverage.

OCDC meetings are currently held on the third Tuesday of the month at the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce, but are moving to the third Thursday of the month, beginning October 2018.

 

Primary Wrap-Up

Primary season officially ended at 7pm last night, and the Oconee Democrats would like to take a moment before we all dig into the General Election (November 6th!) to extend our thanks to all candidates for a great race.  Remember, it was only 2 short years ago when Congressman Hice ran unopposed, and we had 3 Democrats in the hunt for his seat this time. We have truly come a long way!

In addition, we Democrats have a lot to be proud of that we had so many women and minorities running for office.  We are truly changing the face of politics for the best!

Of course, the battle is not over, and we have a lot of work to do!  Here is a quick rundown of the general election candidates and their opponents:

Race Democrat Republican
Governor Stacey Abrams Runoff
Lieutenant Governor Sarah Riggs Amico Runoff
Secretary of State John Barrow Runoff
Attorney General Charlie Bailey Chris Carr
Comm. of Agriculture Fred Swann Gary Black
Comm. of Insurance Janice Laws Jim Beck
School Superintendent Runoff Richard Woods
Comm. of Labor Richard Keatley Mark Butler
PSC, District 3 Lindy Miller Chuck Eaton
PSC, District 5 Dawn A. Randolph Tricia Pridemore
US. Rep., District 10 Tabitha Johnson-Greene Jody Hice
State Senator, District 46 Marisue Hilliard Bill Cowsert
State Rep., District 117 Deborah Gonzalez Houston Gaines
State Rep., District 119 Jonathan Wallace Marcus Wiedower

We had some wonderful candidates in the primary season, and it was simply incredible to have so many progressive ideas in the conversation.  It is truly a shame that all candidates can’t win, but in a democracy, that is just how it works. Now is the time for everyone to come together to support our chosen candidates.  Regardless of whether your particular candidate won the nomination, we can all agree that the Democratic nominees are better for our communities than their GOP opponents.

It is worth pointing out that the top state offices will have runoffs on the GOP side, giving Democrats the advantage of campaigning for the General Election (November 6th) NOW while they are still sorting out their candidates.  This is an opportunity we can’t afford to squander!

It may seem like a long time until Election Day (November 6th!), but it will be here before you know it.  All of these fine candidates will be needing your support over the coming months, so please get involved and do what you can to help them succeed!

Did we mention that the General Election is on November 6th?

Oconee Young Dems Host “Good Cause” Tournament for ACTS

Area Churches Together Serving is an  organization supported by local churches to provide food and clothing for the needy.   ACTS accepts referrals from its member churches and others, but also from  Oconee County Social Services Agencies such as DHR and ACTION.

The Oconee Young Democrats from both our high schools are hosting an event to benefit ACTS, an all-abilities Ultimate tournament, fundraiser, and can drive.  Sign up with this form, pay a small ($15) registration fee, and take up a can collection to bring to the tournament on April 15th at 1:00pm at Oconee High School.  We’ll be on the football field and also the practice field.

What is this about?  It’s a benefit for a cause that helps families in Oconee, and a chance for participants to have a fun time, and—

No, I meant what’s this “ultimate” about?  Oh, that.   Ultimate is a really fun and kind of off-beat sport, played with a frisbee .  (Except “frisbee” is a trademark of Wham-O, so it’s played with a “flying disc.”)

There are official rules, but the really short version is that it’s teams of seven on a field with end zones like a football field.  You aren’t allowed to run with the disc, so you have to pass it until someone on your team catches it in the endzone for a point.  There’s a 10-second stall count like baseketball, and anything that isn’t a completed pass is a turnover—the other team immediately gets the disc and tries to score in the other endzone.  So it can be a fast-moving game.

If that’s enough that you want to hear more, but don’t want to wade through the complete rules, there’s “Ultimate in 10 Simple Rules,” if that’s all you need.

Okay… How does this work? We’ll assign you to teams, mostly randomly, but trying to keep the teams balanced according to how strong a player you tell us you are.  If you have a buddy you want to stay with, we’ll try to keep you together (you both have to name each other on your registration forms, though.)  We’re hoping to have enough players for four teams, which means each team gets three games in the tournament.  We’ll have frisbees for the winning team as a prize.  ACTS keeps the donations and proceeds, you go home with bragging rights for having done good.

But I don’t know how to play!  That’s fine; neither do lots of the other people we’re signing up.  We’ll spread out the people who do know, and they can help coach you.  And we’ll run a bit of a clinic ahead of time to explain things.  (Show up early if you want that!)

What should I bring?  Your registration check, running/athletic clothes, soccer cleats if you have them (but no metal, please!), and a good attitude for fun.  A water bottle and maybe some sunblock would be smart.  We’ll have gym “pennies” to tell the teams apart.  Other than that…  cans to donate for ACTS, friends and family to cheer for you, maybe a chair if you don’t like sitting on grass?

Right.  Talk to me about ACTS again?  Area Churches Together Serving.  They provide food to needy families in Oconee and nearby, but also other services as well—clothes, school supplies, that sort of thing.  We’ll have someone from the organization there, too; they’re there to thank all of you for participating, but they can also answer all the questions you have—and tell you how else you can help!

Aren’t “Young Democrats” a political group?  Politics bores me…  That’s fine.  Yes, we are, but this is a charitable event.  Come have fun!

I still have questions… but this is the end of the post!  You can email them to the OCHS Young Dems coordinator, Jennifer Strickland, at  JStrickland@oconeeschools.org

Now, about 2018…

Didn’t we just do this election thing?  And win it?  Well, yes… but that was only the 2017 special election, one race per district to fill the seats vacated by former Representatives Quick and Williams.  There’s still the regular 2018 election, with a whole slate of state, district, county, and local elections, plus our representative in the U.S. Congress.

So… for the first few months of 2018 we’ll have an eye on the Georgia legislative session, and we always have an eye on Congress (which is surprisingly necessary despite so little actually getting done), but… it’s time to talk about the road to November 2018.

Election Calendar

From the Secretary of State’s office, here are the key dates:

  • Voter registration deadline for the Primary: April 23, 2018
  • Primary election: May 22, 2018
    • Primary runoff, if needed, July 24, 2018
  • Voter registration deadline for the General Election:  October 9, 2018
  • General election: November 6, 2018
    • General election runoff, if needed: December 4, 2018

Additionally, although we don’t yet anticipate needing one, there could be a springtime special election on March 20, 2018; if so, its voter registration deadline would be February 20, 2018, and any runoff would be April 17, 2018.  No reason we’d need that, but… you never know.

Open Offices

There are a lot of offices up for grabs; you should consider running.  (We can teach you how,.)

Our candidates page lists the races that we know are currently in contention, but we might have missed one or two.  (Please tell us, by Facebook message or email, if you think we did miss anything!)  But this is the list of all the races we know are open, regardless of whether they have a Democratic challenger yet.

Federal

State

There are enough here that we’re going to separate the legislative, judicial, and executive positions:

Legislative

Judicial (non-partisan election)

  • Judge, state-wide Court of Appeals

Executive

County

  • Superior Court Justice for Athens-Clarke and Oconee Counties, departing incumbent David Sweat
  • County Commissioner Post 2, incumbent Chuck Horton (R)
  • County Commissioner Post 3, incumbent W. E. “Bubber” Wilkes (R)
  • County School Board Post 2, incumbent Amy Parrish (R)
  • County School Board Post 3, incumbent Kim Argo (R)

Local

  • Watkinsville City Council Post 3, incumbent Marcia Campbell
  • Watkinsville City Council Post 4, incumbent Christine Tucker
  • Watkinsville City Council Post 5, incumbent Dan Matthews

(None of Bishop, Bogart, or High Shoals have council seats open in 2018.  Bishop just elected a full slate to four-year terms, so they’re next up in 2021; the others have a half-council up in 2019.)

Interested in Running?

If you are, come to one of our meetings and talk to us about it.  Or contact us on Facebook or via this form to express your interest.

Even if you’re not sure, let us know; we can help you understand what the job would involve, what running for it would involve, and how we can help you do those things.  We can also help train you for the race, and maybe help you find volunteers to staff your campaign…

How Medicaid Cuts Affect Us Here

It seemed a simple question: how would the Republican healthcare bills’ proposed cuts to Medicaid affect us here around Athens, GA?  And how would the various proposed amendments affect us?

It’s been a moving target, and the most recent Senate vote was literally to try to pass an almost unknown and unevaluated bill… but in short, in any variations to date, the bills would cost Georgia money, jobs and the health of many of its citizens.  The bills proposed so far do not directly affect the care people need, or the cost of that care… they only change how much of the total of Medicaid care is paid by the federal government. Using the government’s estimates, under the original Senate plan, by 2026 Georgia would have received $3.7 billion less federal money to pay for Medicaid care.  By 2030 the cumulative estimate is $10.7 billion. This is because the bills include place a lower cap on federal payments that grows less than the expected costs.   So while the government projects the growth rate for total Medicaid costs will be 4.4%, under the senate rules, payments can only increase by 2.4% annually.  The House plan was better in that regard, growing at medical inflation, estimated at 3.7% (but still less than 4.4%).

That’s cost for needed care, and Medicaid patients are, by definition, the poor, the elderly, low-income children, and the disabled; they can’t be expected to pay that much more out of pocket.  So either Georgia would have to come up with that money itself, foregoing other benefits in education, public safety, and infrastructure, or Georgians would have to go without care.  The explicit availability of waivers for coverage of pre-existing conditions, for example, provides one tempting path to resolve the gap… but, one way or another, people would lose coverage.

These people would have to live with chronic conditions and a lower quality of life—until something that hadn’t been a crisis became one.  Sometimes that would be fatal (higher mortality rates from preventable heart attacks, for example), sometimes it would require an emergency room visit.  Hospital emergency rooms cannot legally turn those in need away, but with the proposed changes to Medicaid, they wouldn’t be paid for the care. Increased “indigent care” means hospitals cannot maintain their staff, or update their equipment and services, and may eventually risk bankruptcy and closure. That has ripple effects economically as well as in public health.

What that means for the Athens area

We have two major hospitals in Athens, as well as many individual practices, laboratories, clinics, long-term and elder care facilities, and so on, most of which serve patients on Medicaid across much of northeast Georgia.  Using 2013 numbers, Clarke and its surrounding counties (Oconee, Barrow, Jackson, Madison, and Oglethorpe) contain about 3% of the state’s Medicaid enrollees.  Assuming costs follow that same proportion—which is a risky assumption, I admit—under the Senate plan, the region would lose about 3% of $3.7 billion by 2026: $112 million dollars less spending in the Athens economy.  By 2030, it’s a cumulative $321 million less in Athens.  That is a loss of medical employers investing in their businesses, hiring staff, offering raises; it ripples further to a lack of spending by healthcare workers at other, non-healthcare businesses.  Beyond the economic costs, there would also be a human cost in unmet care for low-income patients, including children and elders. In net,  the region would be sicker overall, and we would suffer losses to the local economy, compared to today’s law.

Looking specifically at the two hospitals, ARMC is Athens’ third largest employer, behind UGA and the county government; St. Mary’s is fifth.  (If you break the school district out from the government generally, they’re second and sixth.)  So, a big cut to Medicaid expenditure in the region is a big loss of revenue for two of our biggest employers.  Assuming we see a resulting increase in unreimbursed emergency care, it likely also results in cuts to other services.  For example, some rural hospitals, required to provide emergency care but underfunded overall, close obstetrics: you might have to go to Atlanta to deliver a baby, or for any of a myriad other non-emergency services we now get locally.

Revisions

Under the Cruz (R-TX) amendment, substandard plans are allowed.  That suggests a dangerous misunderstanding of insurance: any of us might get cancer, or be in a severe car accident, and need ruinously expensive care.  Allowing a tiered system, with a cheaper plan for healthier people, hurts us two ways: the less healthy can’t afford care, and the healthy-but-unlucky can’t either, because their “plan” doesn’t cover their suddenly increased requirements.  The recent Portman (R-OH) amendment does offer some assistance to those losing Medicaid through the loss of Medicaid expansion… but it’s not nearly enough to cover private insurance.

The repeal-only option, also rejected, is irresponsible because it provides no predictability for the insurance market; that can’t help but raise costs.  And in two years or so, should we expect Congress to agree on a replacement, when they’ve proven unable to do so already?

And today’s vote, to debate and then attempt to pass an unknown, un-evaluated variation of bills that already?  That’s irresponsible, too.  Even setting policy aside, if your bill has to be passed in a cloud of secrecy and dark of night… you’re doing something wrong.

Conclusions

Almost nobody likes the House or Senate bills, and they haven’t improved.  Keeping them hidden is worse.  We do have a serious problem with healthcare… but pushing the costs around doesn’t help; we need to address the rising costs themselves, head-on.

None of the Republican do that; they only reduce the federal payments, and would eventually force Georgia to either cut benefits, or to cut other services.  In Athens, that’s hundreds of millions of dollars by 2026; that reduces employment, as well as making people live sicker, unable to afford or unable to access treatment.

There is work we can do to address the actual problem of health care costs directly.  Sadly, many of the most obvious approaches are politically anathema to somebody.  So, rather than addressing the actual problem, Congress is merely passing the buck.  Literally.  And if the states don’t pay it, and patients can’t pay it… then we all go without.

But there is work we can agree on.

  • Medicaid helps patients avoid high-cost care, by offering reliable medication and preventative care.  Paying that “ounce of protection” makes more sense, as public policy, than leaving people sick.
  • If we stop changing the rules, then insurers can plan more accurately; according to those companies, the uncertainty, more than the market itself, has lead to the premium rises and exits from market we here about in the news.
  • Prescription drugs are more expensive in the U.S. than elsewhere.  They’re only about 12% of total medical costs, but the U.S. costs are often about 2-3x, or more, the costs in other developed nations.  So that’s about 6% of our annual medical costs that could probably be saved.  The companies do need to recover their R&D costs… but the U.S.A. doesn’t have to pay so much of it.
  • We can look at unhelpful state regulations.  For example, obstetrics care is expensive, and many pregnancies could be served at home by a midwife… but in Georgia, that is only legal in a hospital setting.
  • Medical insurers, including Medicaid, get negotiated pricing, often half or less of “retail” pricing.  So the uninsured both pay out-of-pocket, and pay higher prices.  Could we cap retail pricing, say to two or three times Medicaid’s (admittedly low) rates?  Doctors should be paid fairly for their time, expertise, facility costs, and risks (including malpractice suits)… but there’s clearly some room between today’s retail pricing, and the practice taking a loss.

A bill that used some of those ideas, or others, to reduce medical costs… that would offer some improvement.  It is, sadly, not to be found in Congress today.  Or at least there’s no reason to expect it, in the mystery box currently proposed.

Blood Drive 5/17 at Oconee Veteran’s Park

The Red Cross is collecting blood donations in the Community Room at Oconee Veteran’s Park, Wednesday May 17 between 11am and 4pm.  Walk-ins are welcome!

Each pint donated can save up to three lives.  Most people over 18 are eligible to give blood… if you have questions, follow these links to the Red Cross for answers to frequently asked questions and a special page for first-time donors.

This drive is co-sponsored by the Rotary Club of Oconee County and by Oconee County Parks & Recreation Department.