On July 10, Sylvan Hills residents who were tired of weeds and litter decided to brave the summer heat and beautify their southwest Atlanta neighborhood.
According to an email sent by one of the participants later that day to members of the neighborhood's email list, the effort was a success. The resident took care to thank neighbors by name for, among other things, donating pizza and organizing a landscaping crew. She even tipped her hat to the pastor of a nearby church who let folks enjoy pizza slices and Georgia peaches on the house of worship's picnic tables.
But state Rep. Ralph Long, D-Atlanta, who represents the area and was also out working in the heat, wondered why he didn't receive some recognition. And the state lamwaker let her and everyone else on the Sylvan Hills listserv know.
"Why can't I get a shout out from my own neighbors for the work that I have done in this community?" Long wrote later that evening. ""Yes I am campaigning, yes I am a Broker, yes, yes yes get over it. Why is it so taboo to acknowledge that I am elected official and also your neighbor? Perhaps attendance at neighborhood cleanups would be better if our community did not feel that there are cliques in our community."
Long went on to say that he expects to see more neighbors at the next town hall meeting he organizes. "Especially when we together are faced with what we are faced here in Sylvan Hills and this side of town. Embrace the positive attributes that everyone brings to the table, including the fact that I was elected to work for all of us, and acknowledge everyone."
Two days later the resident who sent the original message responded. She told Long (and all the other listserv members) that she didn't intend to offend him. She said she didn't want to name names in her reply because she might have forgotten someone. She added that she was "perplexed by [Long's] clique comment" and recommended that he direct his frustration to those residents who complain about the neighborhood but never do anything to help it.
"I think berating people who gave up their Saturday to make our neighborhood prettier is a very strange tactic to win friends, votes or anything good."
OH, GAME ON.
"You have no idea how offensive you can be," Long replied to the neighbor three hours later. "For me to raise this issue with you out in the open in front of our community before an election should resonate with you and others of how upset that I am with you and how important that I feel this issue is. I will not back down from stating my feeling for fear of loosing [sic] votes. The day that I try to be passive for fear of abrasion from an issue is the day that I've just become ineffective as a Representative."
"It is in my opinion that you intentionally omitted my involvement and I will check you on it anytime, anywhere, before an election, after an election. I did not become an elected official by backing down from confrontation. We will have a nice community that acknowledges elected official who show up and get evolved [sic]."
Long then lists how he's been involved. He says he's picked up trash, sicc'ed cops on people who shot up a neighbors' home, pushed for stop signs to be installed, and "cleaned up" a nearby store. He goes on to include links to news stories about illegally dumped tires.
He closes by saying: "I am not alone in my feelings either and I look forward to seeing you and others at our next community clean up which yes Tracy did a marvelous job organizing. it was great!"
Long, as you might imagine, regrets the tirade, which was forwarded to CL.
"That's not a good thing," he said.
Long told CL that he'd known the residents on the listserv since he moved to the neighborhood in 1995. Like any other community, he says, there's occasional infighting and disagreements between community leaders and residents. It's the first time the state lawmaker has lost his cool, he said.
"That's me as a neighborhood guy who's been out on Saturday in 100 degree weather scooping weeds, reclaiming curb edges like a military man, and shoveling loads of mud up a hill to an abandoned house and filling in runoff spots," he says.
"We have infighting," Long says. "I'll be honest. It's hard being an elected official out here. And when you're out there with 100 degree heat shoveling dirt and pulling weeds, everyone gets a shout out. But for the elected official not to... it's almost disheartening. But I hate that i put it in writing. That's the worse you'll see. I have to be a better person."
It's not the first time Long's messages on the Sylvan Hills group have been made public — or made the news. In 2009, Long candidly told his constituents that Republican lawmakers used MARTA as a political football — and by doing so, risked political retaliation by going on record and exposing the majority party's stance (or lack thereof) on transit issues.
Long says he'll continue to use the group.
"That's my home, that's my community," he told CL. "When I get in trouble those are the same people I turn to. They're my family. They live on my street... I have to be the best person I can be. That's me slipping right there and being human. "
In other news, listservs are some of the most informative and chaotic places ever created by man.
Now everyone hug and have a good weekend.
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