Friday, September 28, 2007

After tearing down public housing, will Section 8 end up on the chopping block, too?

Posted By on Fri, Sep 28, 2007 at 10:30 PM

In last week's cover story, we looked at the Atlanta Housing Authority's plans to demolish a second massive wave of public housing — and how that might affect the city's poor.

Now, the futures of families living in the 12 housing projects scheduled for demolition might be more uncertain — thanks to President Bush's budget for fiscal year 2008.

When public housing is torn down, it is replaced with mixed-income communities — and most of the displaced families are handed a federal voucher for reduced rent, called Section 8. In Atlanta, the number of public housing units will have shrunk from 14,800 in 1995 to a mere 4,800 in 2010 — while the number of Section 8 vouchers will jump from nearly 5,000 to more than 13,000.

The loss of units bothers some housing advocates, who believe that public housing only should be replaced with actual hard and fast apartments. And they've expressed fear that the Bush administration will have an easier time slashing funding for vouchers than it would in making actual buildings disappear.

Those fears seem to be materializing in an analysis released today by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. In a report called, ominously enough, "Housing Vouchers Could Be at Risk in 2008," the nonprofit compared what Bush wants to spend on Section 8 vouchers to what separate bills before the House and Senate propose:

The President’s budget for fiscal year 2008 would fail to renew 80,000 housing vouchers likely to be used by families in 2007, and the House appropriations bill would fail to renew 55,000 vouchers. In contrast, the Senate bill would fund all vouchers in use in 2007.

Thus the fate of public housing in Atlanta would go something like: tear down housing for the poor, replace with vouchers for the poor, watch as the feds stop funding said vouchers, face the reality that there's no place left for low-income families in our fast-gentrifying city.

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More from Mayor Franklin

Posted By on Fri, Sep 28, 2007 at 10:17 PM

In addition to the e-mail Mayor Shirley Franklin sent us responding to my Metropolis column on the nontransparency of her travel records, she has posted another response at http://www.atlantaga.gov/media/medadv_msfethics_092707.aspx.

It reads:

Mayor Franklin provided travel information and a written response to Creative Loafing columnist John Sugg, nearly three weeks ago. While the Mayor responded openly and quickly to Mr. Sugg his column did not reflect that so an updated response is provided here.

"I have requested the City of Atlanta Ethics Officer provide an opinion on the issue. My request was made in writing via email three weeks ago after Ms. Looney and I exchanged emails prior to the Creative Loafing column but following a Creative Loafing Open Records Requests made to Janice Davis, Chief Financial Officer for my travel records. There is ambiguity in the Ethics Code according to written communication I have received from Looney. At her suggestion I requested a formal review and opinion. I await her and the Board's finding , recommendation and possibly changes to the Code to reflect the clarity that is missing now. Creative Loafing knows all this and received my statement three weeks ago.

I haven't read the Creative Loafing column and I may not but I suspect Mr. Sugg didn't like my answer. As someone who has promoted transparency and strong ethical practices for myself and city government I am no stranger to the debate that surrounds developing best practices. Like any other person Mr. Anderson has a right to object or complain. I retain my right to express my opinion as well. It is much easier to complain than to develop and implement progressive, fair and transparent policies than it is to complain. Given the specific circumstances in this case I am not sure Mr. Anderson's complaint is well founded but instead seems to be a political move since he knows that I have previously requested clarification or recommendations from the Ethics Officer."

Shirley Franklin

Mayor

I'll leave it to readers to decipher the message. Did she read my column or not? This missive says she didn't. The one we received implies she did.

Continue reading »

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Sex + weather + football + AJC = blog fodder for me

Posted By on Fri, Sep 28, 2007 at 10:01 PM

The roar of the crowd. The snap of the pigskin echoes as the steam of hot coffee wafts in the high school stands. The gladiators of our time waging war on the gridiron, where the strong survive, and evolution is on display for the battle watchers, like spectators to blitzkrieg ... four quarters of thunder and mayhem. Such is the glory of the game we call ... football.

Could it be a quote from The Program? Nope! It's just another weather story from the AJC! Granted, the AJC's take is nowhere near as clichéd or hack-worthy as my prose above -- nor as breathtakingly genius and awe-inspiring -- but nonetheless, That Other Paper just loves turning weather forecasts into adventurous forays set in bedrooms or bleachers. What's next -- big-game hunts?

I'll go easy on the AJC, as I'm all for presentation with flair. But I miss the SnuggleScribe, Jeffry Scott, and the ways he waxed poetic about the wanton days of fall. I, for one, can vouch that fall has not made me creep closer to -- or even locate -- a significant other, Snugglemeister.

(Note: Jeffry Scott e-mailed me a very kind note after my first post. I think he's a talented chap. Anyone who loves snuggling is good by me.)

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Atlanta theater awards and other giveaways

Posted By on Fri, Sep 28, 2007 at 9:18 PM

A spirit of generosity seems to be affecting the Atlanta performing-arts community this fall. Not only is local theater awards season upon us, but theater is actually being given away for free.

The Atlanta Coalition of Performing Arts will present its annual Georgia Arts & Entertainment Legacy Awards, or GAELA, at 7:30 p.m. Mon., Oct. 1, at the Rialto Center for the Arts. Honorees include True Colors Theatre Company Artistic Director Kenny Leon, Center for Puppetry Arts Executive Director Vince Anthony and Ruth Mitchell Dance Theatre founder Ruth Mitchell.

GAELA kicks off the 2nd annual Georgia Open Arts Month, or GO Arts, which features special chances to see free and discounted visual and performing arts. To sign up for free theater tickets, for instance, go to this page to sign up, starting at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4. Shows include Georgia Shakespeare’s Richard III, the Alliance Theatre’s Sleuth, Dad’s Garage Theatre’s Improv Revolution and more. Warning: The 1500 available free tickets are expected to be snatched up in about 10 minutes.

Even more theater awards will be presented at the 2007 Suzi Bass Awards gala evening at 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 5, at the Fox Theatre. More than 100 nominees from 17 producing organizations will be honored in 20 categories of excellence in theater and musical theater. The most-nominated shows include the Alliance Theatre’s Sister Act: The Musical, Synchronicity Performance Group’s A Year with Frog and Toad and Theatre in the Square’s Turned Funny.

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'Six million light-years beyond believability!'

Posted By on Fri, Sep 28, 2007 at 8:42 PM

“You won’t believe your eyes! You won’t believe your ears! You won’t believe your mind!” Who knows if Infra-Man can live up to such hyperbole, but you can find out on Saturday, when the Silver Scream Spook Show presents the Hong Kong sci-fi fantasy from 1975. This vintage trailer from YouTube offers just a hint of the tough cyborg squaring off against “Princess Dragon Mom” and an army of mutant monsters. What’s not to like?[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/okxWjilRY3s" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

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Aryans go kaput

Posted By on Fri, Sep 28, 2007 at 8:01 PM

A year ago, I wrote about a bunch of losers called Aryan Nations -- once one of the leaders in the violent white supremacist movement. The report noted that Aryan Nations had split, had been evicted from its Idaho HQ, and had lost several of its fuhrers, including founder Richard Girnt Butler.

Now that faction of Aryan Nations has gone to the Great Reich in the Sky. The group's leader, Jonathan Williams, and one of his lieutenants, Laslo Patterson, have disbanded the outfit. The group's website is gone. So are the swastikas and Klan robes, according to Williams.

Williams and Patterson have now formed the International United Church of YHWH

(Yahweh) in Alabama. It's a "Christian Identity" church -- a bizarre creed that teaches Europeans (mainly the Brits) are the true Israelites, Jews descend from a union of Eve and Satan, and non-whites are subhuman. Despite those beliefs, Williams told an Alabama paper that his church is not bigoted.

Oh.

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Mayor seeks ethics board advice on her travel

Posted By on Fri, Sep 28, 2007 at 6:00 PM

Atlanta officials have requested a clarification of city ethics policies regarding Mayor Shirley Franklin's frequent traveling. The clarification request follows this week's disclosure in my Metropolis column that Franklin frequently takes free travel and lodging from groups other than the city without filing disclosures apparently mandated by the city ethics code.

The city's ethics board discussed the issue Sept. 27, but made no determination. Then, Franklin sent a blistering letter to us accusing me of being "a bully."

As CL reported, city officials and employees are banned from taking trips and lodging from groups deemed "prohibited" under the ethics code. The mayor has claimed that the code is ambiguous, and has failed to file a single disclosure of gifts involving trips she has taken in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

The code, however, doesn't appear to be ambiguous on key points. Among the items that qualify a group as "prohibited" is employing "registered lobbyists." The Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, which has five registered lobbyists for local matters, has paid for Franklin trips, including one earlier this year to several Asian nations. There are no exceptions in the city code that would have allowed Franklin to avoid disclosing the gifts from the chamber -- indeed, the city's ethics board has declared another business association, Central Atlanta Progress, "prohibited." In an e-mail, Franklin stated that "no" prohibited source has ever paid for a trip. Franklin now claims "ambiguity" clouds the issue of what groups are "prohibited."

Franklin ripped off an e-mail responding to CL's report on her travel records.

Here's the mayor's return salvo:

Continue reading »

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It's about time

Posted By on Fri, Sep 28, 2007 at 5:35 PM

If you call Atlanta City Hall and get put on hold, a recording of Andy Young will remind you over and over that "Every Day Is an Opening Day" until you want to scream, slam down the phone and move to Bainbridge, Ga.

Well, your misery is about to end. The Brand Atlanta campaign has finally realized that the city's two-year-old motto isn't working, according to a front-page story in today's Atlanta Bidness Chronicle (subscription required). Local PR guru Bob Cohn is quoted hitting the nail on the head:

"This was really a joke from the beginning," Cohn said. "It wasn't 'Virginia is for Lovers' or 'I Love New York.' It was trying to capture everything, and that was a mistake."

Cohn was apparently too polite to point out that the tagline also blows greasy chunks.

To be fair, the motto isn't embarrassing so much as it is bland, meaningless and forgettable. In contrast, the Ivan Allen-era claim that Atlanta was "A City Too Busy to Hate" was visibly false, but at least it memorably articulated a shared yearning to make Atlanta a better place for everybody.

The Brand Atlanta campaign has so far cost nearly $15 million, says the ABC article, with about $8 million coming from city taxpayers and the rest from private sources. That's a drop in the bucket compared to the $90 million a year that Las Vegas spends on its "What Happens Here, Stays Here" campaign. But it's arguably money that's been flushed down the crapper, as studies have shown that the Atlanta branding campaign has had no discernable impact on tourism.

The downside to the city's belated realization is that Brand Atlanta isn't going away. On the contrary, it plans to debut a new branding campaign early next year. Anyone know a good realtor in Bainbridge?

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Atlanta blogs today: American solutions

Posted By on Fri, Sep 28, 2007 at 5:20 PM

I am at peace with his decision. He believes he is doing the right thing. I don't really see his motivations as something he should trade his life for, but it is his life. I love him dearly. I respect him. I rarely pray any more, but i will be praying for him and thinking of him. Thats all I know right now.

-Aging Hipster reacts to learning that the U.S. Army will probably be sending his nephew to Iraq soon.

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Perhaps it was the presence of right wing radio host Sean Hannity, but the "non-partisan" event hosted at the Cobb Galleria by American Solutions definitely had a one sided feel.

-GriftDrift on his visit to an American Solutions conference. AS is chaired by noted political bridge-builder Newt Gingrich.

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I think being raised here gave me the courage and the sense of self that enable me to come out to my parents. I don't know if I would have been able to do that if I had been raised in Nigeria. The social and family pressure would have been to strong for me to fight against it.

-southerfemmek writing on the LiveJournal blog Pieces Of Me, about how being in the U.S. has given her the freedom to be true to her sexual orientation.

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China ... Just Like Us!

Posted By on Fri, Sep 28, 2007 at 3:20 PM

Man, oh man! Little did I know after writing my first love letter to China a couple of days ago that even more wonderful news of our match-made-in-heaven would arrive via modern-day Cupid Matt Drudge. It's not just our common struggle with a bare-bones transit system, like Shanghai's — although I do hear their bus routes are pretty thorough.Turns out they're suffering a little bit of the water woes, too.

And for some reason, doesn't it seem like we could just swap names in the quote below and it would read like something you'd hear in Atlanta? From the article:

"We have a water shortage, but we have to develop," said Wang Yongli, a senior engineer with the city's water conservation bureau. "And development is going to be put first."

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