Tuesday, July 7, 2015

First Slice 7/7/15: Grand jury recommends looking into charges in Dunwoody officer-involved shooting

Posted By on Tue, Jul 7, 2015 at 8:04 AM

A civil grand jury has recommended that DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James take one step forward toward charging Dunwoody Police Officer Jason Dove in the 2012 killing of 34-year-old man Bradley Almy, who was shot to death after driving erratically and striking several cars. James has yet to decide whether to ask a criminal grand jury to consider charging Dove in the fatal shooting.

Former Atlanta Fire Rescue Chief Kelvin Cochran, who earlier this year was axed for distributing copies of a self-published book that contained homophobic and anti-Semitic passages, says he "absolutely" wants his job back once a federal lawsuit against the city is resolved.

And just like that, Underground Atlanta's redevelopment has doubled from a $200 million project to a $400 million endeavor, according to South Carolina-based developer WRS.

Why is a tall, white man with glasses exposing himself to women in the Krog Street Tunnel?

Georgia Civil War Commission, a group that includes appointees of Gov. Nathan Deal and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, has doubled down in its support of the Confederate flag.

The Confederate flag, the "great conundrum of the South,” still flies high just about everywhere in Haralson County, Ga.

South Carolina's Senate has taken the first step toward taking the Confederate battle flag down from its longtime home outside the statehouse. The measure now heads over to the House.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder, who did not criminally prosecute the big banks involved in the 2008 market collapse, will be returning to the law firm that has represented those financial institutions.

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Monday, July 6, 2015

The marathon campaign for Margaret Kaiser's Gold Dome post has begun

Posted By on Mon, Jul 6, 2015 at 12:16 PM

District 59 runs from East Point to Poncey Highland.
Democratic state Rep. Margaret Kaiser's decision to jump into Atlanta's next mayoral race didn't catch anyone off guard. But the timing, more than two-and-a-half years before the 2017 election, and a few hours after former Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard declared her bid, came as a surprise. Kaiser plans to serve out the remainder of her term as she pursues higher office. At least three people are already seeking to claim her Gold Dome post and rep the Atlanta district.

District 59 is one of Georgia's most diverse districts and includes more than 48,000 residents. It snakes from East Point all the way up to Poncey Highland. Whoever gets elected to the post would play a key role on issues such as improving education in a city with struggling public schools, creating better jobs in a city with the highest income inequality, and redeveloping Turner Field. Though the election is a long ways away, candidates have already said they're running in the district's first open race since 2006. David Dreyer and Josh Noblitt recently held kickoff events to formally launch their campaigns. And Janine Brown has also launched her statehouse bid.

David Dreyer, a commercial litigator and Grant Park Conservancy president, has worked inside the Gold Dome for state Rep. Pat Gardner, D-Atlanta and former Gov. Roy Barnes. He's also served as chairman for left-leaning groups such the American Constitution Society and Red Clay Democrats.

If elected, Dreyer says, he would fight hard for stronger voting rights — an issue he's worked on closely as a volunteer poll watcher, Election Day boiler-room observer, and a voter protection team member. He's also supportive of Medicaid expansion in Georgia, a higher minimum wage, and the growth of metro Atlanta's transit system.

"We can get a real progressive elected in this district," Dreyer says. "We can be against the death penalty and for legalizing marijuana. We can do a lot of things and it's a great district for that."

Facing off against Dreyer will be South Atlanta resident Josh Noblitt, a marriage and family therapist and Saint Mark United Methodist Church minster. Noblitt would be the first openly gay male legislator in Georgia if elected and was the subject of a 2010 CL cover story following a violent attack that occurred due to his sexual orientation.

Noblitt, who's still making the rounds with constituents to hear about their needs, says improving Georgia's education system and boosting the economy will be among the his campaign's top issues. He also wants to see greater beautification and code-enforcement efforts within parts of the district. With the state's "religious freedom" bill expected to return, he plans to fight the legislation, something he's done for the past two years.

"It's one of the most diverse districts in the entire state," Noblitt says. "That's our strength. Relationships and conversations among all residents are the key. It's my desire and intent to spend as much time in every neighborhood in this district."

Reynoldstown resident Janine Brown, a retired labor liaison with the United Way of Greater Atlanta, has also joined the race. Much of her time in Atlanta has focused on connecting union members with the greater community. She's also volunteered her time on campaigns for issues such as Grady Memorial Hospital, ban the box, and immigration reform.

"What most people are concerned about is that they need good jobs, they need to be able to get to those jobs, they need to be prepared in education to get jobs," says Brown, who stresses that job-creation efforts must keep all workers in mind, especially when doling out tax incentives to corporations.

In particular, Brown says, she'll push for the right kinds of jobs in District 59. She points to Turner Field's $300 million redevelopment as one of the biggest chances for bringing new employment opportunities to the communities in the district. That process, she says, must be one that's guided by the community's desires that will be outlined in the upcoming Livable Centers Initiative study.

More candidates are expected to enter the race before the November 2016 election. However big the field, House Bill 566, an unheralded measure that quietly passed during the 2015 legislative session, slightly decreased the percentage of African-American residents in District 59 from 57 percent to 51 percent. That change will likely have a major impact on how the race plays out in the coming months.

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First Slice 7/6/15: U.S. wins third Women's World Cup

Posted By on Mon, Jul 6, 2015 at 9:20 AM

Vancouvers BC Place, site of the 2015 Womens World Cup final
  • GoToVan/Wikimedia Commons
  • Vancouver's BC Place, site of the 2015 Women's World Cup final
Bravo, U.S. Women's National Soccer Team, on defeating Japan to win a third World Cup.

An audit found that Fulton County paid big bucks for an IT company to basically do... nothing?

Fulton County Superior Court Magistrate Judge Karen Woodson was carjacked at gunpoint in northeast Atlanta last night. Her car was later found dumped near the intersection of Reynolds Drive and Lakewood Avenue in southeast Atlanta.

Georgia has seen more people living on low incomes move into the state over the past 20 years than higher earners, a new report has found.

Residents of a Lawrenceville subdivision hope pranksters were behind a racial slur and expletive painted on the entrance of their community.

Georgia's teachers and state employees pay more for their healthcare than other public-sector workers in the university system and surrounding states, according to yet another audit.

College Hill Seventh-Day Adventist Church, a black church in Knoxville, is bouncing back after its house of worship was burned in what investigators say is a case of arson. The incident was the first in a series of church burnings that have recently happened across the South.

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Sunday, July 5, 2015

First Slice 7/5/15: Cabbagetown fireworks extravaganza is arguably Atlanta's best

Posted By on Sun, Jul 5, 2015 at 10:22 AM

Some of Cabbagetown's fireworks festivities kicked off prematurely yesterday. According to one version of events, a piece of lit debris landed in the pile of explosives earlier in the day while enthusiasts tested some of their arsenal in Esther Peachy Lefevre Park. The fireworks then did what fireworks do. The show did go on later that evening in Cabbagetown Park, however, and it was incredible.

Police are hoping people who were celebrating the July 4 holiday in Atlanta's Pittsburgh neighborhood will be able to give more information about what led to a fatal shooting nearby.

The proposed boycott of Stone Mountain because of its Confederate flags? Didn't work out so well.

College Park police are looking for a person of interest who might have information about the death of a teenager. Officers think the bullet that killed Rasheedah Evans was shot during celebratory gunfire.

R.I.P., Matthew Weaver, local personal stylist and man about town.

Why did Brunswick, Ga., police officers shoot and kill Caroline Small?

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Thursday, July 2, 2015

First Slice 7/2/15: MGM Resorts considering Downtown casino — but state would first have to OK gambling

Posted By on Thu, Jul 2, 2015 at 9:13 AM

Potential locations include the Gulch, above, and the site of the Georgia Dome
MGM Resorts is considering building a $1 billion casino resort in Downtown. But it's not moving forward until Georgia allows gambling, which Gov. Nathan Deal opposes.

The Georgia Supreme Court gave the OK for Cobb County to move ahead with issuing nearly $400 million in bonds for a new Atlanta Braves stadium. But Justice David Nahmias says Cobb is pushing the limits of the law — and warned elected officials about the consequences the deal might have on their careers. “If the stadium deal does not fulfill the high expectations that have been set for it, there may be a significant political price to pay for those who negotiated and signed onto it," he says.

Of the many states coming out of a same-sex marriage ban, Georgia is one of three where every county is offering marriage licenses to LGBT couples. Some Alabama counties are even denying licenses to different-sex couples.

Atlanta Developer JPX Works has proposed a "daring design" for a "condo tower" in Buckhead.

A metal scaffolding dropped onto a construction worker at the site of the Atlanta Falcon's — and Atlanta United FC's — soon-to-be new stadium. The injured man is treated for severe head injuries and Atlanta Police are investigating what caused the scaffolding to fall.

In a matter of days, the Sweetwater bar at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport has been transformed and reopened as a Three Taverns bar.

In response to last Independence Day weekend's 291 D.U.I. arrests in Georgia, Georgia State Patrol announced cops will be cracking down on impaired drivers. “If you are caught driving impaired, you will be arrested,” says Georgia DPS Commissioner Mark McDonough. “Driving while impaired is not worth the risk of killing or seriously injuring yourself or someone else."

And here are five things to know before lighting any fuses this Independence Day.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

First Slice 7/1/15: Georgia's gas prices go up, up, up today thanks to transportation bill

Posted By on Wed, Jul 1, 2015 at 9:25 AM

It's July 1! That means new laws legalizing fireworks and loosening beer sales regulations go into effect today. And, yes, a new gas tax means you'll likely be paying more at the pump.

Congrats, Georgia: You successfully set yourself apart from Alabama when it came to same-sex marriage. Now if only could strive for that kind of success in other policy issues...

Dyana Bagby, editor of the Georgia Voice, has covered Atlanta's LGBT community from the time when Georgia passed its same-sex marriage ban to last week's landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling requiring marriage equality in all states. Now she's saying farewell to the paper.

One study finds that electric vehicles in Atlanta cause more environmental damage than their gas-sucking counterparts.

Georgia lawmakers changed its state flag to no longer the fly Confederate emblem in the early 2000s. But the tiny town of Trenton, Ga., decided to adopt the Confederate flag as the city's official banner. It's still there.

And then there's that other flag that appeals of flags: "He is not racist, just likes flags."

Bill Bolling, CEO of the Atlanta Community Food Bank, has left the nonprofit organization he helped found more than 30 years ago.

Who's responsible for the string of arsons at black churches throughout the South? Mount Zion AME Church in Greenleyville, S.C., the target of a church arson started by Ku Klux Klan members in 1995, burnt to the ground last night.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

State rep: Skip Stone Mountain on July 4 — and until Confederate flags come down

Posted By on Tue, Jun 30, 2015 at 4:44 PM

Go somewhere else for fireworks on July 4, state lawmaker says
  • Stone Mountain
  • Go somewhere else for fireworks on July 4, state lawmaker says
Stone Mountain Park tends to draw a crowd for Independence Day festivities. But state Rep. LaDawn Jones, D-Atlanta, is urging citizens to skip the attraction’s laser-light show and find another place to view fireworks.

Jones wants people to avoid the mountain, which features three Confederate figures prominently carved into its north face, until the Confederate flags at the bottom of the rock stop flying.

She says the recent killings of nine men and women in a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., "immediately reignited my disdain for the Confederate Flag and all places that it flies over."

Jones says people like Dylann Storm Roof, the accused Charleston shooter, are "empowered" in places that display such a "hateful message." She says The Stone Mountain Memorial Association, the state authority that oversees the park, has yet to respond to her requests to remove the flags. But she thinks the association should be well aware of the stigma surrounding the flag.

“Unless they’re living under a rock, they know what’s going on in the country," she says.

Jones says her opinion doesn't just stem to the recent flag debate: "There is no mistaking the horrible history that comes with that park where the [Ku Klux Klan] was reformed in 1915 and grew from dormancy to millions of members.”

“Due to the large carving… Stone Mountain will always be a memorial to the Confederate soldiers and the Civil War," Jones says. "However, we can stop giving credence to this type of hate by removing the flags that fly at the bottom [of the mountain]."

However, SMMA CEO Bill Stephens tells Creative Loafing that Stone Mountain is protected by state law as a Confederate memorial.

“The law that changed the flag to our current state flag also expressly prohibited changes at Stone Mountain Park,” he says. “Some on both sides of these issues have said that these Confederate symbols belong in a museum. Here in Georgia, Stone Mountain Park serves that purpose.”

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First Slice 6/30/15: Braves stadium challenge dismissed by Georgia Supreme Court

Posted By on Tue, Jun 30, 2015 at 8:45 AM

The Georgia Supreme Court has ruled that nearly $400 million in stadium bonds approved to fund SunTrust Park, the Atlanta Braves' new stadium in Cobb County, are legal.

States can continue to use a controversial lethal injection cocktail to kill death-row inmates, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled yesterday. "While most humans wish to die a painless death, many do not have that good fortune," Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his decision. "Holding that the 8th Amendment demands the elimination of essentially all risk of pain would effectively outlaw the death penalty altogether." Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who wrote the lead dissent, compared the drug's impact to "being burned at the stake."

By sometime next year Delta could once again be sending its planes from Atlanta to Cuba.

The Georgia Building Authority has passed a resolution to ban drones from flying in basically all of Atlanta within five miles of the Georgia State Capitol. How will that actually be enforced?

A Stone Mountain spokesperson says options "are on the table" to remove the Confederate flag from the state park.

Congressman John Lewis wants black clergy members to push for changes to the Voting Rights Act. "It’s time again for religious leaders, the ministers of the gospel, to get in trouble,” he told pastors at the Progressive National Baptist Convention.

Three Medlock Park residents have reported encounters with armed robbers at their homes. “It was somewhat cordial,” one victim told Decaturish. “It wasn’t like the guy was threatening to hit me or screaming at me. He said, ‘Give me your wallet and your phone. He was six feet away from me. They were not trying to attract attention themselves.” DeKalb County Police are looking into the incidents.

Farewell, Pero Antic! The Macedonian hero and Atlanta Hawks big man is parting ways with the team.

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Monday, June 29, 2015

Tyler Perry's Fort McPherson studio dreams to become a reality

Posted By on Mon, Jun 29, 2015 at 4:13 PM

The sale of the bulk of Fort McPherson to Atlanta film mogul Tyler Perry is now a done deal after a year's worth of delays, criticism, and legal challenges.

As many people celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark same-sex marriage decision last Friday, board members with the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority, the state agency tasked with overseeing the former military base’s redevelopment, approved the sale of 330 acres for $30 million during a special-called meeting. The decision clears the way for Perry to move forward with building a massive film studio, despite the push back from some community members.

MILRA, which initially closed on the 500-acre former military base in September 2011, had planned to redevelop the base into a mixed-use development and bioscience hub. But after the lead developer backed out in early 2014, Perry emerged as a surprise replacement, one who didn't go through a competitive bidding process. Nevertheless, the U.S. Army's complex requirements for decommissioning a former post, a short-lived legal battle, and financing hiccups further delayed the project's timeline.

“More than three years since the closing of Fort McPherson, we have today taken a great step forward for the former post and for the surrounding community,” said MILRA Board Chair Felker Ward said in a statement last Friday. “We look forward now to significant investment by hometown entertainment entrepreneur Tyler Perry, and we will move forward with further planning for the 145 remaining acres of the site.”

Perry will first hand over $30 million to MILRA for the land. Then the state agency would pay the U.S. Army $26 million for the full base, a necessary step since the military doesn't work directly with commercial developers on such deals. MILRA's first $13 million payment would be paid up front, while the remaining half would be paid over a seven-year period. MILRA would be first in line to purchase the filmmaker's land at market value should he ever decide to sell his properties. (Read the full contract here)

Perry plans to build a major film complex with up to 16 sound stages that are expected to be fenced off from adjacent communities. The deal requires Perry to only develop the land into a film studio, unless given permission otherwise from MILRA. It also grants MILRA exclusive rights on the former military base to build lodging, hardware stores, a groceries, or restaurants. Both parties are banned from letting adult businesses, head shops, gun shops, pet stores, bars, clubs, and several other types of establishments from opening on the former base.

In a statement to the AJC, Perry thanked officials for their support and said he "look[ed] forward to helping lift this area to the greatness that we know it could be." Mayor Kasim Reed, comparing the deal to the likes of Ponce City Market and Buckhead Atlanta, said the deal will open a new chapter of "job creation, business expansion and community development in South Atlanta."

"I am looking forward to the day when Fort McPherson is a catalyst for change in one of our most important neighborhoods," said Reed, who was out of the country visiting Cuba on an economic development trip when MILRA approved the deal.

MILRA would own the remaining 145 acres of the base located in two separate chunks along Campbellton Road and Lee Street. With the deal complete, MILRA Executive Director Brian Hooker said in a statement the authority would seek to build a "walkable urban community of commercial mixed-use development." In a recent interview, Hooker told CL his vision for the MILRA property includes retail shops, restaurants, office spaces, and a hotel that complements the film studio. He also noted that development will be largely informed by recommendations from an upcoming Livable Centers Initiative study awarded to the city four months ago.

"This, in turn, enables us to deliver the community benefits to which we are committed,” Hooker said in a statement.

Some opponents of the Tyler Perry sale remain outspoken about the deal's problems. State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, told Saporta Report the deal is "illegal and unconstitutional" given the steep discount Perry received for the land. Fort, a fierce critic of the deal given the lack of transparency and public process, called for MILRA to tap the brakes on the deal or else be subject to potential legal action. A judge last fall tossed out one legal challenge from a prospective developer because the sale had not yet been finalized.

“[Perry] is getting a 60 percent discount on the property,” Fort said. “The state Constitution prohibits gratuity. I have had the law researched by people with legal expertise in this area, and this goes against Constitutional law. You can not give a gratuity — sell the land for less than what it’s worth."

During public comment at Friday's special-called meeting, West End resident Alan Holmes criticized the deal for its lack of public involvement for southwest Atlanta residents since Perry was announced as a prospective buyer.

“When you leave here today, you’re going to go back to where you all live. You won’t have to deal with the effects of the decisions you all are making," said Alan Holmes, according to WABE-FM (90.1).

A public ceremony to celebrate the deal will be held on July 13. The details are still being finalized.

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First Slice 6/29/15: ATV street riders arrested on Boulevard, Moreland Avenue

Posted By on Mon, Jun 29, 2015 at 9:00 AM

  • Jorge Sigala/CL File
Atlanta Police yesterday arrested ATV riders and dirt bikers who were participating in a group ride on Moreland Avenue and Boulevard. APD says more details should be available today.

Newt Gingrich, the former U.S. House Speaker who has seen the future with his Google Glass, thinks Georgia's state flag might be changed again.

If you steal a car, make sure it's not a hearse. If you do steal a hearse, make sure a body isn't in the back. Some person with bad karma did not follow this advice yesterday in the Old Fourth Ward.

When did slaves arrive in the Americas and where did they come from? An animation by Slate that shows ships' origins, destinations, routes, and number of passengers helps paint the picture.

Keep your eyes on Greece

ICYMI: The effort to make Westside Reservoir Park a reality recently took a big step forward as city officials will start connecting the future greenspace's pond with water treatment plants. 

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