Top honchos with Atlanta Beltline Inc., the nonprofit tasked with planning and developing the 22-mile loop of parks, trails, and (one day) transit, have started reimbursing taxpayers for questionable expenses including wedding gifts, booze, and dry cleaning. Writes Greg Bluestein, who first reported the story:
On Wednesday, the Beltline said it has also reimbursed the city for a $71 taxpayer-funded wedding gift in January 2011 for Beltline staffer Richard Lutch purchased by Leary in January 2011 at the Etu Moana Beach Villas in the Cook Islands. They didn't immediately say what the gift was.
In all, the Beltline said it has reimbursed the city about $750 for "inappropriate" taxpayer-funded expenses, but it said the tally could grow as its investigation continues.
Elected officials have expressed outrage! and shock! over the expenditures. Fulton County Commissioner Emma Darnell, who sits on the ABI board of directors, wants to review the county's participation in the project. Officials have kept mum over whether project leaders should resign, though that seems (to me, at least) unlikely. Still, it's a wake-up call for the smart-growth project.
The film, which aired before filmmaker Danny Boyle's lavish production on Friday night kicking off the 2012 games, included Olympic posters from previous host cities stretching back to 1896.
Writes Joanna Manning-Cooper, the LOC's head of public relations and media, in a Tuesday morning email to CL:
Danny Boyle chose a selection of posters from some, but not all, previous Olympic Games to appear in the film that opened the Ceremony. There was no conscious decision to omit any City, it was simply that not all posters could fit into the time available in the film.
View the video in question, courtesy of SB Nation, and judge for yourself if Atlanta and the other cities could have been squeaked into the montage.
People who tuned in to the 2012 London Summer Olympics opening ceremony last night might have noticed, just before the Danny Boyle-produced extravaganza began, a montage of posters from past games. Apparently Los Angeles, the 1984 Olympics host city, and Atlanta, which, as we all know, hosted the festivities in 1996, weren't included.
Check your DVR's... At the beginning of the Opening Ceremonies, Right at the end of the Thames River flyover sequence, they show Posters from every summer Olympics since 1896 except the one for Atlanta 1996. WTF?
Here's his rough cell-phone footage of the segment. One can see posters from Moscow (1980), Seoul (1988), Barcelona (1992), Sydney (2000), Athens (2004), and Beijing (2008). But no Los Angeles and Atlanta. He wasn't the only person who noticed the oversight.
Did anyone else notice that Atlanta 1996 poster wasn't included in the opening of the opening ceremonies montage? #Olympics
— Jarrid Hawkins (@jqh797) July 28, 2012
Last nights opening ceremonies showed posters of past Olympics leading up to today. They omitted Atlanta 1996 !WTF...
— Timberboy (@Timben66) July 28, 2012
#openingceremony did I miss the 1996 #Atlanta #olympics banner at the beginning? Went from 92 to 2000.Absolutely outstanding opening.
— David Corbitt (@mocscompub) July 28, 2012
Granted, we didn't watch the entire ceremony, so we might have missed some other nod to Atlanta and LA. Please correct us if we're wrong. It's worth noting that Atlanta's games were criticized by Olympics officials for being overly commercial. But to not acknowledge them?
We contacted the International Olympic Committee, which referred us to London organizers. We asked them if missed anything during the montage and why the two cities weren't included. We've also contacted officials with NBC Sports, which broadcasts the games. We'll update when we hear word.
The outside investigation stems from AHA's employees' complaints after Commissioners James Allen Jr. and Wayne Jones visited the authority's downtown offices on Nov. 4, 2011. According to an investigator's 18-page report submitted to Mayor Kasim Reed in early December, the two commissioners concerned several unnamed AHA employees with comments about "pistol whip[ping]" a top executive and their job security, among others.
According to the report:
* Allen — who, according to the investigator, did not fully participate with the probe — made several references to AHA employees' job security and the top floor of the agency's headquarters where executive-level employees are located. The investigator said Allen, who is African American, told employees on the AHA's 6th floor that "If you haven't been stealing money, you have nothing to worry about, like those niggas upstairs." And before leaving that afternoon, investigators say Allen told a front-desk employee that she didn't have to worry about being fired — but the "niggas at the top do have to worry." Allen and Jones were among the commissioners who voted last year to require all the agency's hirings, firings, and demotions of employees to first be approved by the board.
* Allen was overheard saying he "couldn't stand" an unnamed AHA top executive and added: "Back in my day, it would have been nothing for me to pull out my .357 and pistol whip the shit out of" him.
* In an incident on the AHA building's 6th floor, Allen observed a female employee walk past, to which Jones replied, "I don't know what you're looking at that for, you can't do anything with her." Allen then, according to the investigator, pulled cash out of his pocket and said he "couldn't do anything with her, but could pay her to keep her happy."
Bishop Eddie Long's wife Vanessa better keep her hands and other extremities inside the car at all times because she's riding a roller coaster o' emotions.
Following years of accusations that her mega-church bishop husband was having sex with young men, Vanessa issued a statement this morning announcing that she'd filed for divorce:
“After a great deal of deliberation and prayer, I have decided to terminate my marriage to Bishop Eddie L. Long,”
You go, girl. Kick his ass to the cur ... oh, wait.
Just a couple hours later, Vanessa issued another statement, saying that she and her husband are going to work it out:
“Upon prayerful reflection, I have reconsidered and plan to withdraw my petition for divorce from my husband, Bishop Eddie L. Long. I love my husband. I believe in him and admire his strength, and courage. My filing followed years of attacks in the media that frustrated and overwhelmed me. I love my family and church family, New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. Therefore, my husband and I have mutually agreed to find healing from these attacks. We ask that you respect our privacy during this time.”
The "attacks" to which she refers are lawsuits filed by former church members, young men who claim they were sexually exploited in exchange for money, presents and trips when they were underage. He settled with four of them — Maurice Robinson, Anthony Flagg, Jamal Parris and Spencer LeGrande — earlier this year.
Beverly Hall, the superintendent who oversaw the Atlanta Public Schools system during a widespread cheating scandal, will discuss the pitiful affair tonight on NBC's Rock Center at 10 p.m. According to the AJC, former Attorney General Mike Bowers and former DeKalb District Attorney Bob Wilson, who led the state's investigation into the cheating scandal, will also make an appearance.
From the looks of this four-minute NBC teaser, Hall denies having any knowledge about teachers changing students' test answers to boost scores:
No telling if NBC's Harry Smith had to jet to Hawaii to hound Hall for the interview — or why Hall's decided to discuss the scandal on national television.
No sooner than it became a temporary base for capitalism protesters, Atlanta's largest homeless shelter has been discovered to be housing several cases of TB — again.
You might recall back in February when CL revealed that the shelter operated by the Task Force for the Homeless had earlier been identified by the CDC as a breeding ground for a drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis.
The CDC report, which had not previously been made public, indicated that between early 2008 and mid-2009, 12 confirmed active TB cases, six probable cases and one suspected case had all been traced back to the giant shelter at the corner of Peachtree and Pine streets.
The report called the situation then an "urgent public health problem."
Well, the bugs are back. Just this week, we learned that county health inspectors have identified new TB cases at the shelter. Here's a statement from Dr. Patrice A. Harris, director, Fulton County Health Services:
There have been new active TB cases at the Peachtree and Pine Shelter and as a result, we have been conducting screenings of facility residents. The management of the facility has been referring clients to us for these screenings. We are carefully monitoring the situation and have provided the management with handout materials and posted fliers for citizens utilizing or visiting the facility so that they are informed as well.
As we explained in our earlier article, active, full-blown TB is pretty rare — even at homeless shelters — because it's hard to catch, relatively easy to treat and even easier to avoid if you initiate a few basic safeguards, such as having adequate ventilation, using bacteria-killing UV lights and screening new residents. But, according to county health officials earlier this year, there was no evidence Peachtree-Pine had done any of those things.
Is there anyone out there who still believes the Task Force should remain in business?
First things first: On Tuesday, Atlantans vote on whether to renew the 1-cent sales tax for city schools. This coming March (I think), we vote on whether to renew the city's 1-cent water and sewer tax. In July, we return to the polls to vote on the proposed Regional T-SPLOST, which will fund the Beltline, MARTA extensions and a light-rail line from Midtown to Cumberland.
If all three measures are approved, the local sales tax in Atlanta would bump up by a penny from the current 8 cents. Chicago, L.A. and plenty of other big cities have higher sales taxes, but my guess is that 9 cents represents a psychological barrier that many voters will not want to cross — which could spell doom for the transportation tax only because it follows the other referenda.
I'll put it simply: If you want to improve the chances of the T-SPLOST passing, you should vote against the school tax. (A vote against the sewer tax, on the other hand, would only serve to ratchet up our water rates again, since the city is under a federal consent decree to upgrade the system.)
As for the threat of a property tax increase if the APS doesn't get its penny, let's just see if school board members have the cojones to vote for a tax hike. If they thought they were unpopular during the whole "Step Up or Step Down" campaign, they would need to wear disguises in public if they tried to raise folks' taxes.
That's what's so aggravating about the Nov. 8 school tax referendum: If it passes, the school board can claim they're only spending money that voters approved — and they'd be right. Don't let that happen. Call their bluff. If they think they need the extra funding, they should be forced to go on the record in voting for a tax increase. Don't let them take the money through a stealth referendum by not going to the polls on Tuesday.
Tomorrow, I'll discuss why we haven't seen more public opposition to the school tax.
There's a lot of money to be made selling food, magazines and those gaudy neck pillows at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Possibly millions of dollars. So you'd expect there'd be a lot of interest to win a contract at the world's busiest airport.
Earlier this year, the city invited firms eager to open and manage restaurants and retail stores in several of the aviation hub's terminals, including the new multi-billion-dollar international concourse scheduled to open next spring, to submit pitches. More than 40 companies jockeyed for a chance to control more than 150 spaces, proposing airport outposts of Manuel's Tavern and Chow Baby, among other local restaurants, and concepts by Richard Blais, Kevin Rathbun and other celebrity chefs.
But city officials in early September unexpectedly threw out all the submitted bids and restarted the complicated bidding process anew. City officials explained that this unusual step was taken because some of the interested companies' applications were incomplete.
CL at that time requested a list of the specific firms that had failed to comply with bidding requirements. Citing an exemption in the Open Records Act, the city refused to disclose them. We disagreed with city attorneys' interpretation of the law and filed a complaint with Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, but his office has not yet resolved the dispute. However, the names of firms that made errors have been open secrets in political circles and are easily identifiable by cross-referencing a general list the city provided. But being that we're nice guys and gals, we wanted verification before we ran with this story.
The move raised questions among political observers and possible contractors who accused the city of playing favorites — particularly on the behalf of Mayor Kasim Reed's political buddies and celebrities. Two of the firms interested in operating at the airport — and which, Fox5's Dale Russell reports, were among the firms that failed to file the proper paperwork — are associated with rapper Jay-Z and Dan Halpern, president and CEO of Jackmont Hospitality and co-chair of Reed's 2009 mayoral campaign. The well-connected former business partner of the late Maynard Jackson, Halpern is also Reed's appointee to the Atlanta Housing Authority.
Reed denies any favoritism — he says he wouldn't put his integrity on the line — and that restarting the bidding process ensured more competition. Even still, it's a good bet that firms that spent tens of thousands of dollars on proposals and then complied with all the requirements might consider protesting — or filing lawsuits — once the city announces winning bidders. Here's Russell's report, which aired Tuesday night, and does a good job of spotlighting the brouhaha:
First, a little background. Atlanta voters, including those in DeKalb, have two major issues to decide on Tuesday:
• whether to approve package sales of beer, wine and that sweet corn liquor on Sunday, and
• whether to extend the one-cent special-purpose local option sales tax for Atlanta Public Schools
Say what?!? APS officials and schools just spent the past dozen years pocketing an as-yet-determined-but-certainly-huge amount of unearned bonus money from the federal government by falsifying test scores and the system now wants taxpayers to renew a tax to give them more money? Talk about chutzpa!
Just today, the feds revoked the "adequate" standing of half the city's elementary and middle schools due to the cheating scandal, and the state seized control of five of the worst-performing schools. As we await indictments, we haven't even seen the full scope of the fraud or the cover-up, and now they want more of our money?
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