From booze to schools, Truth-O-Meter does it all
By Willoughby Mariano
Published on Sunday, March 20th, 2011 at 6:00 a.m.
From Sunday booze to overpriced oil, from streetcars to schools, PolitiFact Georgia’s Truth-O-Meter covered it all last week.
Were you curious whether loosening restrictions on Sunday alcohol sales would lead to more drunken driving? Did Gov. Nathan Deal’s changes to the popular HOPE scholarship make Georgia stingy on education? Is President Barack Obama doing enough to keep oil prices down?
Is there anything the Truth-O-Meter can’t do?
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State Rep. Alan Powell: "Democrats have now become the party of the [Atlanta] metro area and of blacks."
After veteran Hartwell Democrat Powell bolted to the Republican Party days after his November re-election, he made the above comment to the Washington news publication Politico.
True, Georgia Democrats no longer dominate. But is the party’s influence really that narrow?
Of 20 Democratic state senators, only one white person represents a rural district. In the state House of Representatives, only five rural whites are Democrats.
Voter records reflect this trend, too, especially on race. Of 2010 Republican primary voters, 98 percent were white.
Rural white Democrats therefore have much in common with the panda -- their range is restricted and their numbers are thin. But Powell should have been more clear that their habitat includes major metro areas outside Atlanta.
Deal: "Georgia still has one of the richest programs in terms of scholarships for students to go to college."
Deal made this claim during a defense of his plan to overhaul the popular HOPE college scholarship program, which is struggling financially. On Tuesday, he signed a bill to make the plan happen.
We asked the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs, a leading authority on the subject, for the facts.
It said Georgia ranked fourth in the nation behind California, New York and Florida in total scholarship money given out. On a money-per-student basis, Georgia ranked second behind South Carolina.
Even with changes to HOPE, it thinks Georgia will remain near the top. We rate Deal’s claim True.
U.S. Rep. John Lewis: Building and running the Atlanta Streetcar is projected to create 1,399 jobs.
A newsletter from Lewis to constituents made the above claim about the planned downtown line, but we found that those job-creation figures are not for actual positions. The Department of Transportation advised grant applicants to use a measure called "job years," which means one job lasting for one year.
The newsletter said running the streetcar is projected to create 460 jobs. It actually creates 23 jobs that would last 20 years.
The newsletter also said the streetcar would create 939 jobs during construction. They would last for one year, so for this phase, the number is correct. But they all won’t be building the line.
Some would be for manufacturing construction materials or products that workers purchase with their earnings. Not all would be in Atlanta.
We rule Lewis’ statement False.
Obama: "Oil production from federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico reached an all-time high" in 2010.
The president made this comment as he talked up U.S. oil production against a backdrop of higher prices at the pump.
We turned to the Energy Information Administration, the federal government’s official office for energy statistics, to check the facts. The president was right -- 2010 was the highest ever.
But some critics say that isn’t the whole story.
After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill began in April, the federal government allowed existing wells in the gulf to continue production but imposed a moratorium on new drilling. While that moratorium has now been lifted, it slowed production.
Production is projected to fall further over at least the next two years. We therefore rate Obama’s statement Half True.
Georgia state senators: Say easing restrictions on selling alcohol on Sundays will result in more traffic crashes and fatalities.
Some Georgia senators made the above claim during a Wednesday debate on a bill that sets the stage to allow retail stores to sell beer, liquor and wine on Sundays.
The legislation passed the Senate and must now go before the House. If it passes, should we expect carnage on our roads?
Most research shows there’s little evidence that there are major spikes in alcohol-related wrecks and fatalities when a state loosens its Sunday alcohol laws. In fact, Colorado had fewer crashes.
We rate the senators’ claim False.
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