- Created on 05 June 2013
A public hearing regarding the proposed Charlotte-Atlanta train line will be held on Thursday.
Transportation officials will be administering the hearing from 3-6 p.m. at the N.C. Department of Transportation office in Charlotte.
An extension to the Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor is being proposed by state and federal representatives. The rail line will extend from Washington to Charlotte on into Atlanta, connecting with the Georgia Multi Modal Passenger Terminal and Hartsfield-Jackson.
The routes being considered for the addition to the train line are as follows: Norfolk Southern Rail Corridor; the CSX right-of-way connecting Charlotte, Rock Hill, Augusta and Atlanta; a route along the I-85 highway; and a route along the I-77 and I-20 highways.
- Created on 05 June 2013
Common Cause Georgia (CCGA) on Wednesday filed a second petition request with Atlanta Municipal Clerk Rhonda Johnson in the group's effort to place public funding of a $1 billion stadium for the Falcons in downtown Atlanta up for public vote.
This group said its second petition request is a result of Atlanta City Attorney Cathy Hampton's statement Friday asserting there is no loophole that would allow Common Cause to challenge the City Council's decision to move forward on the stadium without a voter referendum.
On Thursday, William Perry, executive director of CCGA, announced that his group had found a loophole in the Atlanta city code that would allow a referendum to overturn City Council approval of at least $200 million in public funding for a new $1 billion Falcons stadium.
Hampton declared that the loophole was closed long ago, by the Georgia Supreme Court, saying:
"No such 'loophole' exists. During a public work session on March 14, 2013, the Law Department advised the Atlanta City Council that Georgia Supreme Court case law prohibits a referendum as requested by Common Cause.
"In 1998, the Supreme Court of Georgia decided the case of Kemp v. Claxton, which clearly precludes Common Cause's ability to present this referendum. If Mr. Perry has more recent Georgia Supreme Court case law to the contrary, the City will review it.In the absence of such authority, a petition to undo the lawful actions of the Atlanta City Council is invalid."
Common Cause, though, looks to be moving forward with its latest request.
"We want to avoid unnecessary legal battles with the City, since the core principle here is the right of Atlanta's voters to use initiative and referendum, as recognized in the City's own Charter and ordinances, to put into legal effect those voters' widespread opposition to their public money being used to finance in part a new stadium," said Wyc Orr, a member of CCGA's Board of Directors.
CCGA Executive Director William Perry added, "The Supreme Court case referred to by the City Attorney basically says that a city cannot hold a referendum without approval by the state legislature unless such referendum is held to amend a city charter."
Having seemingly found another loophole, Common Cause is seeking to repeal the resolution that authorized public funding of the stadium.
"We are seeking to amend the City Charter to block public financing of the project with hotel/motel tax revenue," said Perry, "which meets the criteria established by the court."
This action from CCGA follows the group's initial attempts to block the stadium funding without a vote from Atlantans.
Mayor Kasim Reed has yet to respond to the group's latest action, but did issue a statement about Common Cause and its initial challenge of the City Council vote to authorize the hotel/motel tax money, which will be an initial investment of $200 million and could cost up to $900 million, according to estimates.
"William Perry is sacrificing the reputation of a once venerable and well-respected organization for the sake of furthering his own personal ambition," Reed said in a statement. "His attempt to derail the stadium development is a losing proposition. The state-of-the-art facility is going to help strengthen the city's $10 billion tourism and convention industry and the 220,000 jobs it supports, spur economic development in the surrounding neighborhoods, and keep the Atlanta Falcons in the heart of downtown for the next 30 years."
The mayor was not finished.
"We have already had tangible wins because of the approved stadium development deal," he continued. "The construction of the new stadium will create much needed-construction jobs and include opportunities for women and small business-owners. As a result of the stadium deal, Atlanta recently was named a host city for the College Football Playoff series, expected to immediately become a mega-event in the nation. The city's Chick-Fil-A bowl will become a national semifinal once every three years, with the first Atlanta game scheduled for Dec. 31, 2016 in the Georgia Dome. The next three are planned for the new retractable-roof Falcons stadium in the 2019, 2022 and 2025 seasons. In addition, the city of Atlanta is now able to robustly compete to host a Super Bowl, perhaps as soon as 2019.
"These types of events help create and sustain jobs in our city, have a significant economic impact and help us maintain Atlanta's position as the dominant city in the Southeastern United States. Common Cause Georgia should focus on moving our city forward, not taking us backwards."
For their part, CCGA still expects Johnson to present the group with official copies of the petition. Once Johnson presents CCGA with the official copy of the petition, they will have 60 days to collect 35,000 valid signatures. Perry said Johnson told him she would provide the official copy "in a few days."
- Created on 04 June 2013
His wise investments and partnerships have elevated him toward all-star status in another arena. Just as noteworthy, is Mr. Johnson’s track record of opening businesses in predominately Black neighborhoods, providing jobs in the community.
As a youth, his goal was to play professional basketball, but it was not his sole focus, Mr. Johnson told a gathering of Black business owners and entrepreneurs, at the Black Enterprise Conference and Expo held recently in Columbus, Ohio.
Former college and NBA player, current collegiate basketball TV analyst Clark Kellogg conducted a one-on-one “fireside” chat with the basketball legend on the first day of the conference, in which Mr. Johnson talked about his start in business and shared keys for success.
“Even as a young man who was thinking about playing in the NBA, I was still dreaming about being a businessman because I’m a big believer if you can’t dream it, you can’t become it. So, when I got my first job at 16, it was 7 floors that I had to clean, you know, an office building,” he told the audience.
“I would get to that seventh floor and I would bust in like I was Earl Graves, Sr., you know like I was the CEO,” said Mr. Johnson flashing his trademark smile. Earl Graves, Sr., is the renowned founder and publisher of Black Enterprise magazine, longtime businessman and philanthropist.
Mr. Johnson credited two Black businesses men, Greg Eaton and Joel Ferguson in his hometown of Lansing, Mich., as examples of Blacks owning buildings, car dealerships and other businesses. They were his childhood examples of what could be accomplished, he explained. It is important that Blacks mentor and help one another in business, he added.
Mr. Johnson, CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises is part-owner of the LA Dodgers major league baseball team and has several enterprises including Magic Workforce Solutions, Sodexo Magic Food Service, Magic Airport Holdings, ASPiRE and other entities.
He began fact-finding, researching and reaching out to people early in his playing career to set the stage for the growth and development of his own business portfolio.
It’s important to gather information, factfind and develop a solid business strategy, said Mr. Johnson.
“Your strategy is everything. How are you going to drive ROI (Return On Investment), how are you going to implement your plan, execute it and then who’s going to manage that?, he asked, giving audience members something to think about.
“A lot of people looked at me as a dumb jock. I could play basketball but I couldn’t run a business,” he said.
Mr. Johnson said he was repeatedly turned down by investors and potential business partners that did not share his vision or think that he was business savvy. And the fact he wanted to invest in the so-called ghettos and ‘hoods around the country was a vision, few shared.
“We have to get into … proving people wrong. Everybody told me I couldn’t do it in urban America. They said there was no money to be made in urban America,” explained Mr. Johnson.
“I wanted to impact Urban America. I wanted to show people. Here we are, African Americans about a trillion dollars spending power. Latinos about a trillion dollars spending power. That’s a lot of disposable income. We love to shop; we love to do things but the problem is, a lot of retail is not in our community. We’ve got to drive outside of our communities and spend our money,” he said.
Mr. Johnson said knowing demand for products, goods and services was present in the inner cities prompted him to open Magic Johnson Theaters in 1994 in South Central L.A., in a joint venture with Sony Pictures Entertainment. Through the years, he has formed business partnerships with Starbuck’s, T.G.I. Friday’s and 24 Hour Fitness
And it has certainly paid off as Mr. Johnson’s net worth, estimated to be $700 million makes him one of the country’s wealthiest Black Americans.
Forming strategic partnerships is important stressed Mr. Johnson.
“A lot of times we want it all for ourselves, we want 100 percent. And that becomes a problem,” he continued.
“Look, if I can get 50 percent of something, I’m good. That check is still good. So you get somebody that don’t have the expertise that you have and then you guys come together and you build something very powerful and build a successful business.”
Different knowledge bases and skill sets are part of the formula for his success, he continued.
“I know what I know and hopefully my partner knows something else and then we come together and make a lot of money and then we put people in our community to work. And that’s what I did to build my business,” said Mr. Johnson.
The same work ethic displayed on the basketball court is what he brings to the board room he shared.
“If you’re going to be in business, you better be a competitor. A competitor will do their homework, research, bring their passion and fire, will be disciplined. You know it’s really important to stay focused on the prize,” he said.
Mr. Johnson shared how he disregarded naysayers and could not wait to prove them wrong and told the crowd they must do the same.
He also said hiring the right personnel is critical.
“The number one failure of minority-owned business is either finance number one, number two, you done hired the wrong people and most of the time it’s your family. I paid mine to stay away!” he laughed.
Another key Mr. Johnson told participants to make sure they wrote down is that it is important in a business to exceed expectations. When the opportunity is there, “you’ve got to over deliver,” but don’t take on more than you can manage, he cautioned.
Building a track record of success and brand building are also important he said, adding, “Your brand, your reputation is everything.”
Commenting on the grim fact that Blacks, Latinos and other minorities have been unable to pass down wealth to future generations, Mr. Johnson said parents must teach their children early about business, citing Mr. Graves Sr. as an example. His son Earl “Butch” Graves, Jr. is now President and CEO of Black Enterprise after being prepared by his father.
Mr. Johnson said he is doing the same with his oldest son, Andre.
Although he is now a multimillionaire, Mr. Johnson told the crowd he has not forgotten his roots, growing up poor in Lansing. The youngest of 9 children, Mr. Johnson’s mother and father worked hard to provide for their children.
Giving back is something Mr. Johnson said is important. His Magic Johnson Foundation formed not long after he made his 1992 announcement that he was HIV positive, awards student scholarships, hosts job and health fairs, HIV/AIDS education and a host of other community services.
“God blessed us to be able to do what we do and then somebody helped us along the way to achieve what we are achieving at that time. Those two African American men helped me to become what I am today. That’s why I’m standing here talking to everybody,” said Mr. Johnson.
“So it’s my job to reach back and to give back, too. And so I really believe that you can do good and do well at the same time; That you can give back and still be successful at the same time. We should always be about giving back while we’re trying to also build our own success.”
- Created on 05 June 2013
(CNNMoney) -- That $1.29 iTunes song or $9.99 e-book may be more expensive than you think.
If you live in one of the nearly 25 states that charge sales tax on digital goods or services you likely pay more for everything from downloaded music, e-books and ringtones to streaming TV shows and video.
And a growing number of states are finding ways to tax our digital diversions. While some states rely on existing sales tax laws, more than a dozen have enacted sales tax laws specifically targeting digital goods.
In July, Minnesota's residents will be the latest consumers to pay tax on digital products, under a provision of the state's tax bill passed in May.
As consumers switch to digital music, books and movies, many states discovered that they were losing out on valuable sales tax revenue and decided to do something about it, said Michael Mazerov, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonprofit think tank.
E-book sales, for example, rose 44% to $3.04 billion in 2012, according to the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group. Meanwhile, digital music sales, were up 9.1%, with digital transactions making up a record 37% of all album purchases, according to Nielsen.
What exactly is taxed varies widely by state. Washington state, for example, taxes digital content regardless of how it is delivered; while other states tax music and videos that are downloaded, but not when streamed through a service like Netflix or Spotify.
Here's what some residents currently pay:
iTunes: Downloaded music is one of the most commonly taxed digital goods. For example, a $12.99 album downloaded from iTunes carries a state sales tax of 52 cents in Wyoming, 78 cents in Vermont and 91 cents in Mississippi. E-books: States that tax iTunes also tax downloaded e-books. Take New Jersey, which levies a 70-cent tax on a $9.99 purchase, or Utah which imposes a tax of 47 cents. Mobile phone apps: Apps are a unique case. Some states that don't tax "digital goods" still tax apps, the same way they tax software downloaded to a computer. For example in New York, a $2.99 Angry Birds download from the iTunes store will carry a 12-cent tax. But if a New Yorker downloads music or a movie from iTunes they won't get taxed because the state doesn't tax digital goods. Netflix streaming video: Taxes on streaming content are less common. Washington state, for instance, levies 52 cents in sales tax on a $7.99 monthly Netflix streaming subscription. Florida meanwhile, which does not have a sales tax on digital goods, imposes a roughly 54-cent state tax on the same Netflix subscription under its communications services tax.
The rush among the states to tax digital content comes as federal lawmakers consider the "Marketplace Fairness Act," which would allow the 45 states (and the District of Columbia) that currently charge sales tax to require online retailers to collect taxes on purchases made by their residents.
Currently, online sellers are only required to collect taxes in states where they have a physical presence, such as a store or a warehouse. Under the proposed law, online sellers that have sales of at least $1 million outside of states where they have physical operations could also be required to collect sales tax.
The legislation wouldn't create any new taxes on digital goods, but it would let states enforce the laws that are already in place.
Most states tax a purchaser based on where their billing address is located, but there are no firm national guidelines, said Stephen Kranz, a partner at Washington D.C.-based law firm McDermott Will & Emery who specializes in tax policy.
Tax critics, like Americans for Tax Reform, are concerned that different states will try to tax the same digital purchase. So a resident of Washington state that buys digital music while traveling in Utah could end up paying sales tax twice.
The Download Fairness Coalition, which includes tax reform groups and members of the digital industry, are pushing for additional legislation that would create national guidelines and prohibit that from happening.
Critics also argue that digital goods shouldn't be taxed the same way as physical goods since users are often paying only for a license, not "tangible physical property."
"You can gift your records in your will," said Katie McAuliffe, executive director for digital liberty at Americans for Tax Reform. "You can't do that with your iTunes library."
To find out what items are taxed in your state and at what rate, contact your state's tax and revenue agency.
- Created on 03 June 2013
Atlantans looking for full- and part-time employment are invited to a job fair for the newly approved 20-story Ferris wheel soon to be erected near Centennial Olympic Park. According to Atlanta Partners LLC, SkyView Atlanta is expecting to employ about 50 people.
A job fair for the attraction has been set for Wednesday June 5, and will take place from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Omni hotel. Atlanta Partners says that most of the positions will pay between $9 and $13 an hour. Jobs include wheel operator, loader/unloader, ticket seller, greeter, porter and wheel maintenance technician.
The company reports that the attraction will be among the cheaper options downtown, with rides costing $13.50 for adults and $8.50 for children. Atlanta Partners LLC noted that the price is the cheapest average price of any attraction in the Centennial Olympic Park area.
Discount tickets will also be offered to seniors, members of the military, and groups of more than 20 riders.
The Ferris wheel will make its home in the southern end of Centennial Olympic Park, in what is currently a public parking lot next to The Tabernacle. It will be within walking distance from World of Coca-Cola, the Georgia Aquarium, CNN Center, Philips Arena, the Georgia Dome, and the Georgia World Congress Center.
The Atlanta Business Chronicle reports that Riders will go around in 42 six-person, air conditioned gondolas. There also will be a VIP gondola with all-leather seating, a TV monitor and a champagne/wine bucket.
Each flight takes between 12 and 15 minutes and includes four rotations around the wheel.