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Friday, January 25, 2013

New Morehouse College president talks HBCU money woes and LGBT issues

Posted By on Fri, Jan 25, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Morehouse College

Incoming Morehouse College President John Silvanus Wilson Jr. had a "frank" discussion with NPR's Michel Martin on "Tell Me More" about the need to re-evaluate the mission and effectiveness of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

The segment, "Do We Still Need HBCUs?", focused largely on the financial challenges facing HBCUs in recent years, particularly as they pertain to turning graduates into donors. According to Dr. Wilson, who is the former executive director of President Obama's White House Initiative on HBCUs, the problem isn't that HBCUs lack the wealthy alumni pool that keeps other colleges and universities afloat, it's that proud graduates of black schools tend to donate to their alma mater at a much lower rate than other alumni because they don't trust their institutions' money-management skills.

WILSON JR.: You're pretty much spot on. I mean the office that has come up more than any other office is the financial aid office. Most graduates say, oh boy, they angered my parents. They lost my money, or in some cases I couldn't get my transcript back and that kind of thing. So it's a lack of operational excellence, so I'm going to go down to Morehouse and I'm going to - and I've already announced, we are going to be known for our operational excellence.

That lack of "operational excellence" has led to the downfall of several HBCUs, including Atlanta's Morris Brown College, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year, after a decade of decline resulting from lost accreditation and the conviction of former Morris Brown President Delores Cross (1998-2002) for embezzling government funds intended to cover student tuition.

While Morehouse hasn't faced anything nearly as daunting, the college was forced to cut spending and furlough staff members last fall based on a decline in enrollment, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. That announcement came on the heels of the Obama administration authorizing a $228 million grant to benefit struggling HBCUs.

Wilson, a Morehouse alum who begins his presidential tenure this month, has focused much of his academic career on collegiate finance research and fundraising at schools ranging from George Washington University to MIT. As Michel Martin suggests, Wilson is "part of a new trend of emphasis on administrative capability" among HBCU presidential hirings.

Another issue discussed during Wilson's NPR interview was the Morehouse ban on cross-dressing a couple of years ago that resulted in a 2010 Vibe magazine story titled "Mean Girls of Morehouse."

Continue reading »

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

YoungBlood Boutique finds new owners

Posted By on Tue, Dec 11, 2012 at 3:12 PM

Two emails just hit my inbox within 30 seconds of each other:

"For Immediate Release: Premier Indie Boutique to Remain in Business in Atlanta"

"For Immediate Release - MINT announces relocation"

See where this blog post might be headed? Yup, YoungBlood Boutique & Gallery owners Kelly Teasley and Maggie White, who announced last month their intentions to sell or shutter the shop/art space, are transferring ownership of their much-loved Poncey-Highland storefront to Rebecca Hanna, YB employee since 2009; Jessie White, a longtime supporter; and Erica Jamison, director of Atlanta-based nonprofit MINT Gallery. MINT will be vacating its home at 145B Sampson St. in the Old Fourth Ward and moving in to the space at the back of 636B N. Highland Ave. White and Teasley will continue to host exhibits under the umbrella of "Young Blood Gallery" although it will not be attached to a permanent space. MINT will be closed throughout January to get settled and will christen the gallery's new incarnation with an opening Feb. 2.

"We're thrilled to pass the torch to local ladies who have supported us for years and have great ideas for taking Young Blood Boutique to new levels of success," White said in an email.

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Friday, September 28, 2012

Atlanta's water rates have spiked 233 percent since 2001 (Update)

Posted By on Fri, Sep 28, 2012 at 11:09 AM

Atlanta water treatment plant
  • CL File
  • Atlanta water treatment plant

USA Today released a study last night that examines the residential water rates of 100 municipalities across the country. According to their findings, Atlanta ranked atop those cities, claiming the largest spike in rates over the past 12 years.

While more than a quarter of those municipalities have seen their water bills double since 2001, Atlanta's rates grew by approximately 233 percent. That echoes what the City of Atlanta's audit — released earlier this week — stated regarding ratepayer costs, which have increased 81 percent since 2008.

Continue reading »

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Monday, September 10, 2012

South American cartels linked to counterfeit bills in Athens, again

Posted By on Mon, Sep 10, 2012 at 4:53 PM

Quinn Michael Gibson
  • Quinn Michael Gibson
An Athens man plead guilty last week to smuggling more than $14,000 in counterfeit bills from Ecuador to Georgia, offering a glimpse into a South American counterfeiting scheme that continues to flood the United States — Georgia included — with fake currency.

The 24-year-old suspect’s guilty plea in federal court Wednesday was the latest in series of Georgia convictions involving phony Federal Reserve Notes, or FRNs, over the past few years, the Athens Banner-Herald reported.

Last year, authorities in Athens broke up a smuggling ring that flooded the area with fake $100 bills during Fourth of July weekend, when busy cashiers would be less likely to look closely at the bills.

In both cases, the production of the fake cash was traced back to organized crime families in Peru.

Continue reading »

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Atlanta launches power2give, a Kickstarter-like program for arts funding

Posted By on Wed, Aug 29, 2012 at 12:14 PM

Mayor Kasim Reed demonstrates how the program works.
  • Debbie Michaud's iPhone
  • Mayor Kasim Reed demonstrates how the progam works.
This morning, the city's Office of Cultural Affairs and Mayor Kasim Reed launched the new arts granting program power2give. Like Kickstarter, power2give is an online crowd-sourced funding tool that allows donors to contribute in comfortable increments to projects that resonate with them. Where Kickstarter takes a 5 percent cut from the money raised, and Amazon a 3-5 percent processing fee, power2give's 6.75 percent operating costs are built in to the goal so that projects are fully funded through the money raised. power2give is open only to OCA's contracts for arts services recipients who can post $5,000 projects online once they're reviewed by a panel and the city of Atlanta will match dollar for dollar up to $2,500. Participating organizations currently include MOCA GA, the Atlanta Ballet, Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta, and C4 Atlanta, among others. The city was able to offer the matching grants thanks to a $530,000 budget bump for 2013 ($280,000 more than the initially proposed $250,000 making the 2013 total budget an even $1,000,000), of which $220,000 is going toward the power2give campaign.

The Atlanta launch of power2give comes on the program's one-year anniversary and is a result of a partnership with the Arts and Sciences Council of Charlotte. power2give is currently in eight cities and has raised $1.2 million to date.

"The arts are a vital component to any great city; art defines greatness in my judgement," said Mayor Kasim Reed to a small gathering of arts organizations at City Hall. "We're completely committed to Atlanta being a great arts city," he continued before referencing his 2012 budget proposal that included slashing arts funding in half from an already measly $470,000. "With your support I was smart enough to change that decision."

"[The arts] are a space we have to continue to grow in to be a special city. We need to invest at least $10 million annually to be a serious arts city. We're far away from it now but we have to figure it out. We have to do more to support our artists and this is a step in that direction."

Continue reading »

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

The prospect of paying a $95 parking ticket makes me very upset

Posted By on Thu, Jun 7, 2012 at 2:51 PM

Allow me to opine for a moment: Atlanta's decision to privatize parking enforcement was a bad one. Whew. That felt good.

The city was supposed to get $5.5 million a year out of the deal, but because PARKatlanta, the outsourced enforcement firm (a branch of Wisconsin-based Duncan Solutions), isn't bringing in enough money, the city is only getting $1.5 million a year. As a writer who knows how to do math points out, that's 73 percent less than the amount originally promised in the contract.

The Reed administration and city council are working on strategies to boost PARKatlanta's revenue. First, they considered 24-hour enforcement in some parts of the city. No one thought that was a good idea, particularly business owners in those areas. The latest strategy is another that blows for the parking public: raising the price of parking tickets.

Currently, the fine for parking at an expired meter is $25. After 14 days, that fine goes up to $50. That's the ceiling. The proposed changes, first of all, increase the cost of overtime tickets to $35 from $25, so after 14 days, the fine jumps to $70 instead of $50. The changes also extend the sliding scale for increased fines — after 45 days, overtime tickets would go up to $95.

Obviously, one can avoid paying $95 by simply paying citations on time. But it's the principle, isn't it? The city makes a deal with a private company that can't make as much money as it thought it would, so the public has to pay for it one way or another. Is what's happening.

This latest proposal will be discussed at the June 13 meeting of city council's transportation committee. The public is welcome to attend, be heard.

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Medical company to create 1,500 jobs near Social Circle

Posted By on Thu, Apr 19, 2012 at 10:14 AM

Gov. Nathan Deal this morning announced that Baxter International, a major medical company, plans to locate a bio-pharmaceutical manufacturing facility 40 miles east of Atlanta along I-20. The company's production center, which state officials say would be a $1 billion investment, is expected to create approximately 1,500 jobs. So says the Governor's office:

Baxter's new Georgia facility will manufacture plasma-based therapies that treat chronic and life-threatening illnesses. The new facility will be located in Stanton Springs, a business park that spans Jasper, Morgan, Newton and Walton counties. The operation will also include warehouse and distribution facilities. In addition to the manufacturing facility, Baxter will locate plasma centers in a number of communities around the state.

[...]

Plasma protein fractionation, the process of separating plasma into its components, is the largest industry segment in global therapeutic protein manufacture. The $14 billion global industry supplies products to more than one million patients each year. The United States provides more than 50 percent of the world's plasma supply, and Baxter is among the world's leading producers.

Now, let's find out about what kind of incentives it took to lure the company here.

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Monday, April 16, 2012

The going rate of a life lesson

Posted By on Mon, Apr 16, 2012 at 12:33 PM

Prom 2012: A night you will definitely forget
  • WIKIMEDIA
  • Prom 2012: A night you will definitely forget
According to a Visa Inc. survey, the average american family is prepared to shell out $1,078 (so specific) to send their already entitled teenager to prom this year.

Financial types are lamenting this, particularly the fact that poor people plan to spend even more than that — $2,635. Says Jason Alderman, director of Visa's financial education programs, "This is social-arms-race spending. It's extreme.

"Prom season spending is spiraling out of control. It's important to remember that the prom is a high school dance, not a wedding, and parents need to set limits in order to demonstrate financial responsibility."

OK, so parents could deprive their children a fancy dinner at Benihana, a limo bus with a stripper pole, and a set of french manicured acrylic nails to teach them a lesson about financial responsibility. OR, they could indulge their pimply progeny, splurge on all of the above, and teach them the most important lesson of all: Any event that you spend a lot of time, money, and energy preparing for will fail to live up to your expectations. Prom is among the first in a lifetime filled disappointments — and that's what makes it a rite of passage.

Did anyone have a really great prom? I vaguely remember having dinner at Buca di Beppo — HIGH CLASS — spilling beer on my dress before we got to the dance, wanting to leave the dance almost immediately after we got there, and then getting drunk at a hotel party, which was a thing we could have done any old weekend. I definitely remember that I really hated my date Gary, who'd graduated from another high school a year earlier, and who I literally never saw again after we left the dance. The entire thing was a letdown. And, look, I'm a better person for it today. Thanks, Mom and Dad.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

This lady's, like, 'Who's a sucker now, assholes?'

Posted By on Tue, Mar 20, 2012 at 1:56 PM

A day after Bloomberg Businessweek called Georgians "suckers" for blowing so much of their woefully meager household incomes on lottery tickets, the Georgia Lottery tweeted this pic of Austell, Ga. resident and "Decades of Dollars" winner Vilmer Meyer (great name) holding a big-ass check in the Smyrna convenience store where she bought her winning ticket.

Screen_shot_2012-03-20_at_12.24.45_PM.png

Sticks and stones may break our bones, Bloomberg, but words are overshadowed by pictures of people holding comically large checks for millions of dollars.

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Bloomberg calls Georgians 'suckers' which seems rude and uncalled for

Posted By on Mon, Mar 19, 2012 at 3:30 PM

Georgians spend $50 billion dollars a year on lottery tickets [Actually, AMERICANS spend $50billion a year on lottery tickets — the article doesn't say how much Georgians spend total.] That's $470 on average or about one percent of their already below-average incomes. Massachusetts spent more on lottery tickets, but also had the highest return in the form of prize payouts. Georgia ranked second in terms of the amount its residents spend on tickets, but only ranked sixth in prize payouts.

Anyway, Bloomberg's "sucker index" says this makes Georgians the biggest suckers of them all. Does it really mean we're suckers? Or does it just mean we just really, really excel at throwing our money away?

The poor appear to excel at it, anyway ...

You’re taking from those with few means and helping those with more means,” Charles Clotfelter, a Duke University economics professor, said from Durham, North Carolina. “To link that tax revenue to a benefit that goes largely to middle-and upper-class citizens is a little stunning.”

“It’s a pro-rich wealth-redistribution technique in Georgia,” Clotfelter, co-author of “Selling Hope: State Lotteries in America,” said in a telephone interview.

And, of course, the HOPE scholarship is in danger anyway. If you'll recall ...

Last year, with the lottery-funded programs facing a $300 million deficit and “on the brink of bankruptcy,” Governor Nathan Deal enacted scholarship changes that raised grades and test scores for eligibility, eliminated funding for books and fees and cut payments for remedial classes. He also cut the pre- kindergarten program to 160 days from 180.

H/T AJC's News to Me blog.

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