Usually I dont care much for ex-Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes, or for am-bulance-chasing trial attorneys. But lawyer Barnes has jumped into a fight near and dear to my wallet.
Barnes is suing a Gwinnett County car wash for violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, the federal law that prohibits junk faxes. He represents just one Gwinnett woman, but wanted the suit certified as a class-action effort to allow more plaintiffs to jump in (and to jack up the potential award, since the law levies huge fines payable to each junk-faxed individual.)
The court turned down Barnes class-action request, so his potential payday wont be as big. In the junk-fax lawsuit settlement with Hooters, the attorneys took in $4 million. Not bad for a days work.
Someone described junk faxes as a low-tech version of e-mail spam, but theyre worse: at least with spam, you can delete it and it disappears, and all it costs is a little time. With junk faxes, we have to pay for paper and ink to receive sales pitches from shady companies hawking discount vacations, computer equipment, stock-market tips and various medical supplies.
On this one, Im rooting for Barnes. And if some other enterprising ambulance-chaser wants to take up the cause, Ive got a stack of junk faxes ready for em.
Money flies away?
Paying for junk faxes is cheap compared to the price some Augusta officials hope area businesses will pay to promote the community in one of those tediously chirpy airline magazines.
U.S. Airways brought in representatives of its Attach magazine Thursday to beat the drums for a Profile Augusta section in the magazines May 2004 issue. Invitations to the luncheon touted it as a Launch Party.
It turned out to be a sales pitch, led off with endorsements from Mayor Bob Young, Metro Augusta Chamber of Commerce Director Ed Presnell and Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Barry White. The Augusta story the magazine is offering to publish would be paid for by area businesses (and, possibly, government entities) ponying up for high-priced ads in the airline publication.
Harlem Mayor Scott Dean and Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross were in the audience. They were a little skeptical of the sales pitch, though we all liked the free lunch.
But nothing really is free, is it? For the past few months, many have applauded the Columbia County Chambers effort to stand more on its own. That sends warning signals to the Convention and Visitors Bureau, which has no Columbia County parallel - yet.
Columbia Countys financial support of the CVB has come under increasing scrutiny as local cultural groups seek more of the countys hotel-motel tax funds, and as the idea of the county establishing its own tourism or cultural-events office gathers steam. The Attach proposal, then, comes at a bad time for Columbia County: Any deal that would send local money to a North Carolina company would further irritate those who question the way the money already is spent here.
Tax Commissioner Kay Allen rightly smacks me on the hand for my comments the other day about her tax notices. She points out that the notice specifically directs taxpayers to pay their bills at the Evans office after January.
True - but Im not the only one who missed it. Long before my mistake, the tax office had to put a sign on the door of the as-yet-unopened Evans office, directing equally mistaken would-be bill-payers to Appling.
The goof is probably a combination of speed-reading the notice and readers wishful thinking about a shorter ride for paying bills. Either way, lots of people - me included - misunderstood. (Good thing I put my bill in the mail.)
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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