Ralston visits Americus to stump for Cheokas
Published 11:15 am Monday, November 7, 2016
By BETH ALSTON
AMERICUS — Georgia Speaker of the House, David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, was in Americus recently to visit Southland Academy and Furlow Charter School and for a reception given by supporters of state Rep. Mike Cheokas, R-Americus, who is seeking reelection to his seventh term in District 138. They also met with the Americus Times-Recorder while in town.
Ralston was asked to talk about Amendment 1, which along with three others, is on the ballot for the General Election on Tuesday. Amendment 1 deals with the public schools in Georgia.
“The decision was made that this was an issue that’s important enough that Georgians needed an opportunity to vote on it,” he said. “The way it is written, I think it will be utilized very, very fairly, because of what is required for the provisions for that law to kick in would be for a school system to fail for three consecutive years. When school systems fail, the losers are the students because then their scholarship opportunities are jeopardized. Their ability to get in college … in many cases, is jeopardized. It’s not for one year of failing. It’s not for two years of failing; it’s for three. I don’t know how anyone can justify condemning a student to being in a school system that is a repeat violator.”
Ralston explained that an office would be set up within the state Department of Education, “that is not a for profit, that would come in and develop a program either for them to administer until the system gets back on its feet … I share with Mike Cheokas a strong commitment to local control, in everything, but there comes a time, I think, when we have to say, we’re going to give our students opportunities rather than to condemn them by making them continue in a system that is failing repeatedly. That gives them a bleak future in terms of educational opportunity, therefore employment opportunity. I think it’s a good amendment.”
Amendment 3 deals with the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC). The JQC is a judicial watchdog which oversees the conduct of Georgia’s judges. It has been in existence in the state for over 40 years.
The Speaker was also asked to comment on Amendment 3 and how it will change the JQC.
“… right now, our law provides for different commissions and different boards. Only in one instance does a special interest group have appointments to that commission by law. This would change that. Right now, the commission members are appointed by the Governor, the Supreme Court and the State Bar of Georgia. The State Bar of Georgia is a private, special interest group that has no accountability to the public. This would eliminate their appointments and would have the Speaker of the House and the Lt. Governor appoint because those two offices are ultimately accountable to the people of Georgia. If this commission runs off the rail, right now, Georgians only have the Governor, and the Supreme Court is kind of immune from public scrutiny, as it should be, but we would have more public accountability. That’s simply all it does.”
Ralston also believes Amendment 2 is good idea. It provides for safe harbor for the victims of human trafficking. Amendment 4 provides that taxes from fireworks sales will go to trauma centers.
Ralston was asked about other issues in District 138.
“I’m here a lot,” he said, “and I’m here because of him (Cheokas) because I want him to be successful and I want people here, because you live a good distance away (from the State Capital) as I do … people don’t get to come and ask what kind of job Mike Cheokas is doing. So I come down here to let people know he’s doing a great job. One of the things he is really good at is bringing back state dollars for local needs. He has brought back in his tenure millions and millions and millions of state dollars for Georgia Southwestern University, for South Georgia Technical College, for roads and bridges, economic development projects ….”
Ralston used a recent example at SGTC for its transportation center.
“We funded it because he battled for the funding a couple of years ago. Because of change orders and cost overruns, they came up short on money which would have delayed the project for months and months.”
Ralston that at Cheokas’ request, because he made the case, the state redirected the money recently so the project will be completed on schedule in December.
“That’s important, and that’s a specific example of a representative who has developed trust among other members and trust with the Governor’s Office who has the respect of other members and all the leaders in state government and who can be effective. Mike Cheokas is effective.”
Ralston pointed out that Cheokas is on the Appropriations Committee, the Rules Committee, chairs the Information and Audits Committee, on the Higher Education Committee, the Insurance Committee.
“I can promise you that if someone takes his place, they’re not going to be on those committees,” Ralston said.
When asked what he would be talking about with the students the following day, Ralston he would talk about government and the political process. Encouraging them that we need our next generation of leaders to pass to some of things that this generation has got bogged down in negativity. We’ve allowed some to create sort of a toxic environment out there, and I will tell them it’s important for them to get involved and why, and ask them to restore civility and a servant spirit to government. …
Toward the end of the meeting, Cheokas was asked about a novel, “The Wheels of Justice,” written by T.J. Cheokas, and who the author is. He said it was pen name, but didn’t divulge the identity. In the acknowledgements, the author writes, “I am eternally grateful to Michael Arthur Cheokas and Ellen Ivylynn Long. Without their love, support, and encouragement this book could not have been written.” The novel is about the judicial and political systems in Georgia and gang-related crime. It is self-published.