By Scott Henry
Something not smell right at the state Capitol? Creative Loafing tries to turn over every rock in our search for legislative sleaze, but we could use your help. If you've observed some slimy goings-on down at the Gold Dome, or would simply like to comment on our own 17th Annual Golden Sleaze Awards, please chime in.
We're looking for episodes of hypocrisy, self-dealing, grandstanding, rule-breaking and general boorishness -- but understand that we will be unable to post outright libel, so please limit your commentary to provable facts.
If there's any confusion about what constitutes sleaze in the General Assembly, here's an example that occurred after press time:
The Sneaky Weasel Award
To Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem
Majority Whip Fleming is earning a reputation for the kind of legislative subterfuge that makes enemies on both sides of the aisle. This past Monday, as the House was hurrying through a long calendar, Fleming took the well to amend his own non-controversial bill dealing with legal process. On the strength of his brief explanation that he was simply cleaning up some errant Senate language, the amended bill passed almost unanimously.
Soon after the vote, however, horrified lawmakers discovered Fleming had fibbed: His amendment actually stripped out a provision by Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, to restore Georgia's hate-crimes law, a measure that had passed the Senate with bipartisan support. Several Democratic and Republican members rushed to change their votes in the record after learning of Fleming's chicanery, but House rules dictate that the original vote stands, meaning he may have tricked trusting colleagues into killing hate-crimes legislation for another year.
For those keeping score: Fleming's scheming -- 1; Fleming's credibility -- 0.
Got it? Keep 'em short, pithy and, above all, factual. Opinions, of course, are most welcome.
Earlier this week, I wrote about rumors of a work boycott in the Latino community. Well, it happened. Today approximately 80,000 -- that's the low estimate -- Latinos didn't show up at the poultry plants, construction sites and fast-food restaurants in a unified effort to oppose Senate Bill 529, a comprehensive bill aimed at limiting the number of illegal immigrants in Georgia. Here's a run-down on what's happened today:
At 11 a.m. in Norcross, several of the organizers of the March 17 Alliance, the group who organized the boycott, spoke to immigrants and the press about the boycott's impact. Rolando Santiago, one of the organizers, said Latinos didn't go to work and most Hispanic-owned restaurants and businesses didn't open today. Josefa Esquea, the owner of the popular Mipilon restaurant, decided to shut down her restaurant to send the message to the legislature that, "we are here to invest money and contribute to society."
Around noon, more than 150 students -- many who skipped school -- gathered at the Capitol to protest the passing of Senate Bill 529 in the House (it passed yesterday). They held signs that read "Don't Panic We're Only Hispanic" and shouted "Justice Now" and "The people united will never be defeated." Around 12:30, state Sen. Sam Zamarripa and Rep. Pedro Marin, both Latino legislators who opposed SB 529, came to speak with the students. They informed the students of SB 529's provisions, in part, because misinformation has spread throughout the Latino community (rumors of school raids, deportation, etc.). Jose Ramirez, a Mexican immigrant who skipped work along with approximately 20 others at his construction site, said he joined the rally to show Georgians that he's not a criminal. "The African-Americans boycotted in the 1950s and '60s and won their rights. Now it's our turn. We deserve the same rights."
At 5 p.m., a news conference will be held in Norcross, at the same location as earlier, so the March 17 Alliance can summarize today's impact. Already, according to Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, several McDonalds and landscaping companies had to close due to a lack of employees. Gonzalez says this is just the tip of the iceberg. "This hurts the Georgia economy and hopefully this will send a message to lawmakers."
Students protest Senate Bill 529 on the steps of the Georgia Capitol
Photo by Alejandro Leal
After a brief hiatus,
In partnership with Dad's Garage and Hands On Atlanta
April 12, 2006
LET THE RACES BEGIN!
Having done their damage during this year's legislative session, state lawmakers are set for a hot and heavy political season. Hear and question the leading politicians and prognosticators on this year's crucial election campaigns.
Host: John Sugg, CL Senior Editor
Political Party is held at Dad's Garage.
280 Elizabeth Street, Suite C-101, Atlanta, GA 30307
(link to directions: http://www.dadsgarage.com/directions/)
Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the show begins at 8 p.m.
As always, itÕs free (though the beer and wine will cost you), so show up early for seats.
And, if you would like to submit questions for an upcoming Political Party, suggest show topics or make guests recommendations, e-mail us at: email@example.com
The state Senate's passing of Senate Bill 529 -- a comprehensive bill aimed at decreasing the influx of illegal immigrants in the state -- triggered uproar in Hispanic communities late last week.
On Thursday, an anonymous flier written in poor Spanish circulated among several of Atlanta's Latino neighborhoods and Hispanic radio stations. The flier urged Latinos to keep their children home from school and not report to work on Friday because government officials planned to raid various locales. In addition, the flier asked Latinos to meet in Five Points at 10 a.m. to protest Senate Bill 529.
The flier didn't list any organization backing the boycott and the city of Atlanta didn't grant a permit for such a gathering. What's more, the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials noted that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Mexican Consulate didn't know of any scheduled raids.
The Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund said the boycott may be tied to the release of Walkout, a new film on HBO that tells the story of the 1968 student walkouts in East Los Angeles. Though several Hispanic organizations quelled the potential boycott in time, they've received word that it might be rescheduled for this Friday.
This boycott -- caused by fear -- is just the beginning of what could happen if various communities don't help citizens and immigrants understand the impact of Senate Bill 529. Let's hope Latino organizations, the media and other community outlets can stop misinformation from spreading before disruption occurs.
Let us know if you have any information about the anonymous flier or another boycott.
In the 33 years since Roe v. Wade, abortion is more of a flashpoint in our country's culture wars than ever. South Dakota just outlawed most abortions, and the Georgia legislature may pass its own restrictions next week.
Tomorrow morning, AirLoaf presents both sides of the eternally emotional issue: Becky Rafter of NARAL Pro-Choice Georgia and Josh Brahm of Georgia Right To Life face off in a no-holds-barred debate on the issue. And listeners will have an opportunity to call in with their questions and comments.
Is there the potential for rational discourse on abortion? Tune in and find out.
AirLoaf's first hour will feature the subject of Creative Loafing's current cover story: Scott Turner Schofield will join Ken and CL writer Curt Holman to talk about his experiences as a transgender performance artist.
Air Loaf airs every Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon on 1690 AM Air America. Listen and call in at 404-633-1690.
Abramowitz said Dems have a great chance to take back the U.S. House. But he isn't optimistic about big Democratic gains in Georgia. That's because Georgia's congressional lines seem to lock in a majority of Republican seats.
Also, Gov. Sonny Perdue, who'll be at the top of the ticket, has 60-plus percent approval ratings. His predecessor, Roy Barnes, actually tried to solve Georgia's problems Ñ remember education, transportation and the flag? But Perdue hasn't rocked the boat. That means the Democrat who gets the nomination (Secretary of State Cathy Cox or Lieutenant Governor Mark Taylor) faces an uphill battle.
... except for the "R"-factor: Abramowitz agreed Republicans could be vulnerable if they nominated religious-right hypocrite Ralph Reed for lieutenant governor. Democrats could use him to wedge away suburban voters.
Nolan, a management consultant, wrote a book that argues Delta's tailspin was tied to bad management. He predicted for the first time on the show that AirTran would end up buying Delta.
But he said arrogant, out-of-touch boards and poor leadership aren't exclusive to Delta; they're basically a virus for corporate America. I was surprised a straight-laced disciple of management guru Peter Drucker called CEO salaries "crazy." To my delight, he pulled out "Fat Cats," Michael Wall's July 2005 CL cover story on Atlanta executive salaries. Seems like everyone is pissed about high CEO salaries Ñ except the CEOs.
This week's show: Georgia's Great Abortion Debate and an interview with transsexual Scott Turner Schofield, the subject of this week's CL cover story. 10 a.m.-noon Saturday. Check this blog later for details.
And listen to last week's show here:
Will President Bush's tanking poll numbers cause the Republicans to lose control of Congress? Do Democrats have a chance of retaking Georgia's top elected offices?
Emory political scientist Alan Abramowitz joins CL Editor Ken Edelstein in a wide-ranging discussion of upcoming local, state and national elections.
Abramowitz closely follows Georgia politics. He's also one of the nation's leading experts on political polling and voting behavior.
Also on the show: Harry L. Nolan Jr., Sandy Springs management consultant and author of Airline Without a Pilot: Lessons in Leadership, an in-depth critique of Delta Air Lines. Nolan's book argues that dysfunctional management styles and poor financial decisions Ñ not high fuel prices or
low-cost competition Ñ led to Delta's bankruptcy. Nolan's cogent critique of the airline and the lessons he gleans from top-level mismanagement have far-reaching implications for our current culture of arrogant, financially profligate, out-of-touch business "leadership."
Air Loaf airs every Saturday, 10 a.m. until noon, on 1690 AM Air Atlanta. Listen in and call in at 404-633-1690.
If you missed last week's show, catch the podcast below: In the first hour (segments 1-4), CL film critic Curt Holman offered an irreverent Oscar preview, and Danny Orrock of Georgia Watch updated listeners on car-title lending legislation and the latest consumer rip-offs making their way through the state Legislature. It was highlighted in the second hour (segments 5-8) by a discussion with Ryan Gravel, the brains behind the Beltline concept, and Liz Coyle, a neighborhood activist and Beltline watchdog.
Listen to the March 4 Air Loaf:
You can reach Curt by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Find out more about Georgia Watch at www.georgiawatch.org. The main Beltline advocacy organization can be found at www.beltlinepartnership.org, while more about Liz Coyle's watchdog group Ñ the Beltline Neighbors Coalition Ñ can be found at www.midtownatlanta.org.
By Scott Henry
Bill Campbell isn't accused of taking bribes when he was a seven-year-old boy, bravely and single-handedly integrating the schools of his native Raleigh, N.C. The relevance, Your Honor? Um, none, but allow us to recount once again how young Bill was shaped and ennobled by his childhood forays into public service.
Actually, there were no interruptions by Judge Richard Story as the former mayor's top-dollar defense offered its final hagiography, um, we mean arguments, on Thursday. The defense's case, as offered by lead attorney Billy Martin and Decatur lawyer Fred Orr, boiled down to a handful of main points:
Campbell is the victim of a well-funded federal government plot (cue sinister organ playing) to "Kill Bill."
Former Ambassador Andy Young, hereafter to be referred to as Dr. Young, personally vouched for Bill, explaining that every City Hall is peopled with "hangers-on and losers" who are up to no good. (Of course, it should be pointed out that Young hired Shirley Franklin to run the city, while Campbell hired a bunch of people who've since gone to prison.)
Bill was, in his own way, a civil-rights pioneer.
So he liked to gamble. Who doesn't? Ever bet a dollar in a March Madness pool? Don't judge lest ye be judged.
The feds should be ashamed for "peeping into someone's bedroom" by bringing a couple of Bill's mistresses into the courtroom.
Did we mention that Andy thinks Bill is a stand-up guy?
Finally, attack-dog trial lawyer Jerry Froelich got up to deliver a hectoring, repetitive screed that nit-picked the testimony of the 72 government witnesses. But the main defense theme that doubtless will linger in the minds of jurors is the image of a powerful federal government out to nail a dedicated defender of affirmative action Ñ who also just happened to be a poor record-keeper and a shitty judge of character.
In wrapping up the prosecution's case, federal attorneys relied on a cheesy metaphor-cum-visual aid, a giant puzzle that they put together, piece-by-piece, as they talked. It might have had more impact if, when completed, the puzzle picture would've shown the Poker-Playing Dogs.
By Scott Henry
This coming Monday, March 13, will be the 30th day of the 2006 General Assembly, better known as "crossover day" because it's the final day that a bill must be passed by the House or Senate in order to become law that year.
By an unfortunate coincidence, Monday is also the night of the annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, traditionally the glitziest event for Georgia Democrats, when the party bigwigs come together to celebrate their achievements, hopeful candidates practice their networking skills and national up-and-comers show up to deliver the keynote address. This year, it's Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh; past speakers include Virginia Gov. Mark Warner and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (who, many will recall, was lauded by then-Sen. Zell Miller as "one of this nation's authentic heroes").
Crossover day is typically the longest of the session, often lasting well into evening. And, with more than 50 House bills up for consideration, this Monday looks to be no exception. Which likely means not a single Democratic state lawmaker Ñ and many lobbyists watching bills that night Ñ will be able to attend the party's biggest annual blowout.
Coincidence, indeed? House Minority Leader DuBose Porter isn't so sure the scheduling was accidental, especially since Speaker Glenn Richardson managed to wrap things up Thursday so the GOP faithful could make it to their own annual Presidents' Day Dinner.
"It's another indication of how petty the partisanship has gotten down here," Porter says.
By Scott Henry
By some calculations, the last day of the 2006 General Assembly will be on or about Tuesday, March 28. That assumes legislators continue to take off Fridays Ñ including the traditional St. Patty's Day recess Ñ don't schedule any more mid-week breaks and allow Speaker Glenn Richardson to honor his pseudo-pledge of wrapping up the session in slightly less than the alloted 40 days.
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