Thursday, October 30th, 2014

No pants burned, but toilets did flush

Last week, the Truth-O-Meter flushed claims down the toilet.
Last week, the Truth-O-Meter flushed claims down the toilet.

AJC PolitiFact Georgia did flush a few claims down the toilet.

One claim was literally about commodes. A DeKalb County pol said low-flow versions can cost up to $1,000. Sometimes yes, often no, we found. Half True.

But after reading others on red-light cameras and unemployment benefits, we reached for the handle and flushed several times. 

Want to comment on our rulings? Join us on Twitter and Facebook.

You can also get our latest updates there.


City of Atlanta: Red-light camera installed to "promote public safety."

It's a piece of mail that makes motorists cringe --the letter saying you ran a red light with a picture to prove it.

Soon, you'll have more chances to get one. Although state transportation officials denied Atlanta's request earlier this year to keep a red-light camera at Freedom Parkway and Boulevard, Atlanta officials recently said they're bringing it back.

They "promote public safety," city officials said in a news release.

Is that true?

The state denied Atlanta's request because it found little evidence that the cameras reduced T-bone collisions that typically occur when motorists run a red light.

A red-light camera study done for the city of Atlanta found no major difference in accidents. Studies reviewed by AJC PolitiFact Georgia show they do not demonstrably improve safety at intersections. In fact, they can increase rear-end collisions because drivers slam on the breaks to avoid a ticket.

The city's claim that the camera "promotes public safety" has some truth but leaves out important details.

Barely True.


Democratic Party of Georgia: "[Georgia] Republicans have mismanaged unemployment benefits."

When Channel 2 Action News recently reported that the state of Georgia borrowed several hundred million dollars to pay unemployment benefits, state Democratic Party leaders knew who to blame.

"[Georgia] Republicans have mismanaged unemployment benefits and now might have to cut them or hike taxes on small businesses," the party posted on its Facebook page Nov. 18.

Really?

The man in charge of unemployment benefits, Georgia Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond, is a Democrat.

Businesses in Georgia pay into a state fund that the Labor Department uses to pay unemployment benefits. To keep the fund afloat during the Great Recession, Georgia has received advances totaling $454.5 million from the federal government. 

Georgia Democratic Party spokesman Eric Gray told us the Facebook message could have been more precise. He posted a blog column explaining that state GOP leaders failed to make the "tough choices" necessary to avert this problem. It does not say what those were.

Democratic Party officials say they should have been more precise. We agree. We rate the statement False.


DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer: Low-flow toilets "can cost homeowners up to $1,000 each."

Thanks to an op-ed in The Dunwoody Crier, the minds of your AJC PolitiFact Georgia scribes are in the toilet.

Boyer made the above claim in an article deriding government intrusion.

But can a commode really cost $1,000?

DeKalb requires that newly purchased buildings built before 1993 have low-flow toilets and other water-saving fixtures installed before the county turns on water service.

Broadly speaking, toilets can cost anything. But in many cases, a new toilet plus installation can fall in the $500 to $800 range. Prices may vary widely depending on your home's plumbing.

In DeKalb, if the switch costs more than $1,000 per toilet for a residential property, you can get a financial hardship waiver. The county also offers rebates of up to $100 to defray the cost.

This means do-it-yourselfers can spend less than $100.

So while installing a low-flow toilet "can" cost up to $1,000, in many cases, it will cost much less.

We therefore rule Boyer's claim Half True.


Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.: President Barack Obama's position on nuclear arms is a "march toward global zero."

In a discussion of the new START treaty on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Nov. 28, Kyl outlined reservations that he has with the proposed treaty to control nuclear arms.

But more than that, Kyl said he has a major philosophical difference with Obama. Kyl disagrees with the president that the goal should be a nuclear-weapons-free world.

PolitiFact National found there's little question that Obama's stated goal has consistently been a world free of nuclear weapons. But just how fast?

Obama has said he's not even sure it's possible in his lifetime.

And he has always noted that as long as other countries retain nuclear weapons, the United States will maintain a strong nuclear arsenal.

Nonetheless, Obama has consistently and repeatedly stated that his ultimate goal is to enact policies that bring a world free of nuclear weapons. And so we rate Kyl's statement Mostly True.


National Review Online: Said Republicans made historic gains in state legislatures during last month"s election.

Hours after the November election ended, the conservative journal National Review boasted online that the GOP had enjoyed a historic win. Not in Congress, but in state houses across the nation.

That's not a new story in Georgia, where both chambers of the state Legislature have GOP majorities. They grew during the 2010 election cycle.

But did Republicans in state legislatures nationally actually make "historic" gains?

Experts agreed with the National Review.

Republicans gained 691 state legislative seats in the November election. Nationwide, they now hold 3,928 seats to 3,366 for Democrats.

They easily surpassed 1994 gains and saw the biggest party shift in state house seats since 1966.

The GOP tilt was even stronger in the South, where state-level offices had been trending Republican for two decades. When the election began, 14 of the region's 28 legislative chambers were controlled by Democrats, 14 by Republicans. Now, Republicans control 19.

We rate the National Review's claim of historic GOP gains as True.