Category Archives: What You Can Do

Demonstrate Your Support of the Georgia Archives

The Georgia Genealogical Society will sponsor a rally in support of the Georgia Archives on Monday, Jan. 14, the opening day of the 2013 session of the Georgia General Assembly.

The rally will be held at the Washington Street entrance to the state capitol from 1-3 p.m. Only hand-held signs are allowed. Please come out and support your Georgia Archives.

If you cannot attend — and even if you can — please be sure to keep in touch with your state representative throughout the session.

Public pressure made the different last fall when the Archives was in danger of closing to the public.  Because of  all the phone calls, messages and petitions, Gov. Nathan Deal restored money to keep the Archives open — but only until the end of the fiscal year, June 30, 2012.

Public pressure is vital to ensure the enough money is restored to the budget to keep the Archives open.

If you have questions about the rally or about talking to your legislators, please contact Vivian at msaffold@bellsouth.net or Elizabeth at elizabeth.s.olson@gmail.com.

Thanks for your support.

Vivian Price Saffold

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Georgia Legislators Need To Know

Money is tight. That’s no secret.

On January 14 — opening day of the 2013 session of the Georgia General Assembly — lawmakers will begin debating, among other things, the amended budget for Fiscal Year 2013 and the complete budget for Fiscal Year 2014.

With a limited amount of funds to work with, the legislators will have to make tough decisions about how the money should be allocated.

If supporters of the Georgia Archives want to see the budget increased, they must convince lawmakers that the agency is more deserving of funding than some other government function.

In my talks with Georgia legislators, I find that many know little about the Archives. One actually asked if the Archives was in Macon! If you have been talking to your legislators — which I sincerely hope you have — you probably have had the same experience.

The state government uses taxpayer money to fund a lot of things — important things like education and not-so-important things like… I’ll let you add your own ideas here.

It’s your money. You should have a say in how it is spent.

Start right here and let your thoughts be known on why the Georgia Archives is important to you as a Georgia citizen and taxpayer. Georgia lawmakers only are interested in comments from constituents, so please indicate the city in which you live.

I will get the ball rolling. The Georgia Archives is important because…

The information in the Georgia Archives is the permanent record of the state. The records in the Georgia Archives belong to the people of Georgia. State law requires that records be retained, preserved and made available to the public.

Vivian Price Saffold
Chamblee, Ga.

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GGS President: Never Give Up

After two months of angst over the announced closing of the Georgia Archives and the termination of seven of the 10 Archives employees, Gov. Nathan Deal ordered the addition of $125,000 to the Archives budget.

The funds allow the Archives to remain open two days a week until the end of the state fiscal year, June 31. The move also saves the jobs of two of the seven employees. One staffer works in the reference room, the other is a veteran employee with extensive knowledge of the collection and the workings of the Archives.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s plan to require appointments, which any researcher knows was virtually useless, will not be implemented.

In addition, Gov. Deal announced that the Archives would shift from the Secretary of State’s purview to the State Board of Regents, pending approval of the Georgia legislature. It is too early to tell exactly what such a move would mean to the Archives.

So, as of late October, the Archives will remain open two days a week for the next seven months. The staff will be doing the same work, but with half the staff.

I don’t have enough words in my vocabulary to describe how awful this entire situation has been; a few that come to mind are crisis, devastation, laughingstock, shameful and disaster. Add yours; we could probably come up with hundreds if we brainstormed.

I won’t go into all the reasons why the Archives is important. You can read them elsewhere in this newsletter, on our blog, on our Web site, in newspaper articles, on the Friends of the Georgia Archives Web site and numerous other places. What I want to emphasize here is that we must fight for the Archives, then fight some more, and never give up.

Even with the governor’s decision to keep the Archives open, much remains to be done. The Georgia legislature will be back in session in January, and we must convince the lawmakers to not only appropriate enough money to keep it open to the public two days a week as it is currently, but appropriate enough money to open it five days a week with adequate staff.

What should you do? Write letters – to the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, appropriations committee members, your senators and representatives – anyone in state government who has influence or a vote. Start immediately. Call their staff, visit their offices, participate in rallies and other events sponsored by GGS, FOGAH and other entities. Then do it all over again. The excuse, “I’ve written a letter” isn’t good enough. We don’t want this issue to become “old news.” It must remain in the public eye, and we must continuously (but politely) hammer away at the decision makers in our state government. Persistence on our part is paramount.

Don’t ask for too little; ask for what is needed. Ask for the Archives to be open five days a week; ask for full staffing so the work that needs to be done can be accomplished.

Regular updates can be found on this blog, as well as the Georgia Genealogical Society Web site.

REMEMBER, NEVER GIVE UP! The Georgia Archives houses OUR records, and we must have adequate access to what is ours.

Linda S. Hughes

President, Georgia Genealogical Society

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Georgia Archives Focus Moves To Legislature

September and October 2012 will “live in infamy” among Georgia genealogists, historians, archivists and researchers. Five weeks of worry, anger and frustration. Five weeks of bad press for Georgia around the nation and the world. Five weeks of hard work on the part of Archives advocates.

The work apparently paid off, although supporters did not get all they hoped for. Gov. Nathan Deal has given the Archives $125,000 to keep the agency open until June 31, the end of the state fiscal year. Two of the seven employees terminated by Secretary of State Brian Kemp have been reinstated. The governor wants the Archives moved out of the Secretary of State’s office to the state Board of Regents, which controls the University System of Georgia, pending approval of the Georgia legislature.

Only time will tell whether this is a positive move for the Archives.

The Board of Regents supervises Georgia’s colleges and universities, including Clayton State University, located adjacent to the Archives, as well as the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography. Also under the supervision of the board are the Public Information Network for Electronic Services (PINES), which offers “borderless” library services; the GALILEO virtual library; and Georgia Libraries for Accessible Statewide Services (GLASS). GLASS provides materials to Georgia’s blind and physically handicapped. The agency has its offices in the Georgia Archives building.

The last two months have been an emotional rollercoaster for Archives supporters and employees.

In September Secretary of State Brian Kemp announced that he was taking the entire three percent cut required of his agency from the Archives. He closed the Archives to the public, except by appointment, and terminated seven of the remaining 10 employees.

Gov. Deal then promised he would find the funds necessary to “keep the Archives open.” Jubilation. A few days later he backtracked. Disappointment.

Public outcry resulted in petitions, letters and phone calls demanding that the Archives remain open and the seven employees be retained.

Almost 100 people attended the governor’s signing of a proclamation declaring October Archives Month in Georgia. Even more showed up for a rally at the state capitol, with picketers outside marching, carrying signs and shouting their wishes.

Rally speakers given loud ovations and cheers included former Congressman Bob Barr; University of Georgia professor Jim Cobb; Emma Davis-Hamilton, representing the Metro Atlanta Chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society and the Georgia Genealogical Society; along with state Sen. Gail Davenport, state Rep. Debbie Buckner (D-Talbot County); state Sen. Gail Davenport (D-Clayton County) and Morrow Mayor J. B. Burke.

Thankfully, the governor acted before the Secretary of State’s appointment system could be tested. Researchers would have been restricted to two hours per month.

Many Georgia citizens across the state have worked tirelessly to keep the Archives open and the employees in place. Many continue to work.

The focus now moves to the 2013 session of the Georgia General Assembly, which will convene on Monday, Jan. 14. The final day will be sometime in late March. Lawmakers control just how much money the Archives will have to work with during the coming budget cycle.

The fight for the Georgia Archives is not over. Please keep writing and calling your state government officials, especially your own representatives and senators.

You can find the name and contact information for you local legislator here:

http://www.legis.ga.gov/en-US/default.aspx

While some die-hards have been working the legislature since the deep budget cuts began, the Secretary of State’s radical actions came as a surprise to most. Once he announced the closing, however, Georgians rose up and bombarded the governor and secretary of state with letters, phone calls, emails and messages through social media. The uprising had much to do with governor’s actions.

The Secretary of State accomplished one positive thing. He got people fired up. Focused, determined, vocal people get attention and get action. Archives supporters are due a little celebration and a bit of cautious optimism. However, the battle is not over. We need to keep the spotlight on the Archives.

And, if we want to be effective advocates from here on out, we must never again become complacent.

Vivian Price Saffold

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We Cannot Be Complacent

Now that we’ve all settled down a bit from the euphoria of Gov. Nathan Deal’s Oct. 18 announcement, it’s time to get back to work on making sure the Archives is as secure as we can make it.

Yes, the governor saved the day, but there is still plenty of work to be done to bring the Archives back to the world-class status it enjoyed just a few years ago.

While keeping the Archives open until June 30 and restoring two employees was welcome news, it is not enough. A staff of 10 was insufficient to do the work of the Archives. The staff now has been cut in half, but the same amount of work remains.

Of course, restoring the Archives to 2008 – the last time it was open five days a week and was adequately staffed – would be ideal. The budget then was $5.4 million. That’s $600,000 more than last year’s budget, an increase of 11 percent.

As readers know, Gov. Deal ordered every state department to come up with an additional three percent budget cut for the coming fiscal year.

Of course, it always a good strategy to ask for more than you need, even though you know you won’t get that much. We will leave it to the reader to decide if an 11 percent increase seems reasonable or realistic.

Let’s look at some budget issues that just make sense.

Two employees who are scheduled to be terminated on Oct. 31 are directly connected to grants. Without these employees, these grants will be lost. Failing to keep employees who handle grants is like not contributing to your 401k when your employer offers to match the contributions.

The current salary and benefits of these two employees amounts to $140,000. The R. J. Taylor, Jr.  Foundation, a major supporter of the Virtual Vault, recently approved a grant for more than $56,000. The majority of that grant was withdrawn due to lack of staff. The most recent National Endowment for the Humanities grant was for more than $120,000.

We need to keep the Archives at the forefront of the minds of the Governor and legislators. They need to know that we are just as passionate today as we were on Oct. 17.

Here is the Governor’s information:

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal
Office of the Governor
203 State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334
Fax:(404)657-7332
Tel:(404)656-1776
email: georgia.governor@gov.state.ga.us
web: http://gov.state.ga.us/contact.shtml

You can find the name and contact information for your legislators here:

http://www.legis.ga.gov/en-US/default.aspx

If we want results, we simply cannot be complacent. Public outcry saved the day before Oct. 18, and it can have the same effect going forward.

Vivian Price Saffold

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Thanks… A Deep Breath… On To The Next Step

Thanks to the hard work and support of Georgians and people literally around the world — including Gov. Nathan Deal — the Georgia Archives will stay open.

The schedule will remain as is — two days a week, no appointment necessary — until the end of the current budget year, June 31.

However, the Archives will have to do the same amount of work with five fewer employees. Only two of the seven terminated by Secretary of State Brian Kemp will remain.

Gov. Nathan Deal announced Thursday the restoration of $125,000 of the $730,000 taken away by Secretary Kemp and the move of the Archives from the Secretary of State’s office to the University System of Georgia. The move to USG must be approved by the state legislature.

It remains to be seen if the Archives will fare better under USG. Hopefully, this great institution will gain some stability — as much as possible in these tough economic times. At least it should be farther removed from the political games under the Gold Dome.

The fight now moves to the legislature. Archives supporters need to contact their representatives and senators. Let them know that the Georgia Archives deserves funding. The legislative session opens Jan. 14.

Perhaps we can convince the legislature to appropriate enough funds to open the Archives an extra day… or three. Perhaps the five employees can be re-hired.

After we’ve savored this most excellent moment, we press on. January is just around the corner.

Vivian Price Saffold

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Archives Decisions Hurt Georgia’s Small Business People

I wrote a book once. About the history of a Georgia county. It took me almost five years to research and write.

Much of that research time was spent at the Georgia Archives. I’d be waiting when they unlocked the door in the morning. They had to shoo me out at the end of the day. I even told the archivist that I would be fine if they would lock me in overnight. And I meant it.

I figure I spent about 2,000 hours over the course of two-plus years conducting research at the Georgia Archives.

Using the system of appointments set up by Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp.  my research would take me 83.3 years to complete.

I didn’t go to the Georgia Archives every day, but when I did, I stayed from open to close. It never even occurred to me to go for two hours a day.  If the appointment system had been in place back then, I would not have attempted a book.

Like every other small business person who uses the Archives, I pay taxes on the income I earn.

The appointment system inhibits the ability of hard-working Georgians to earn a living.

Small business people who use the Archives are scrambling to figure out if they can honor contracts and how they will stay afloat. The Secretary Kemp, Gov. Nathan Deal and state legislators need to know that this is not acceptable.

Vivian Price Saffold

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