Soapbox

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Shirley Franklin: APS 'public lynching mob mentality' is 'barbaric' (Update)

Posted By on Tue, Apr 2, 2013 at 5:24 PM

On a day when nearly three dozen former Atlanta Public Schools educators began turning themselves in to the Fulton County Jail, former Mayor Shirley Franklin (also a former Fresh Loaf commenter) implored the general the public to avoid a "public lynching."

Franklin, now a visiting professor at the University of Texas, wasn't the only one critical of the way former APS teachers and administrators have been treated following charges of racketeering, making false statements, and theft by taking. Her calls for restraining judgement were accompanied by the Revs. Timothy McDonald, Gerald Durley, Darrell Elligan, and Jerome Harris, who all demonstrated today outside the prison over what they considered to be excessive bonds. Former APS Superintendent Beverly Hall's bond was set at $7.5 million, which surpasses the amount that many violent offenders receive before heading to trial.

In her latest Blogging While Blue post, Franklin wrote:

Yes cheating is awful. And so is conviction before a fair trial. "I believe every accused person deserves a fair trial under a set of laws that promises to be just and balanced." I don't support public hangings. It is barbaric. Never have and never will. I didn't in the horrendous Nichols and Johnston murder cases though some of my political advisors thought I could improve my voter favorability if I did. I didn't then and I won't now. The eagerness to convict someone cannot take precedence over our demand and respect for the fundamental legal principle that everyone who is charged has a right to a fair trial with competent representation.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Opinion: Process to approve stadium deal was rushed, not transparent

Posted By on Wed, Mar 20, 2013 at 12:55 PM

Arthur Blank and Mayor Kasim Reed announce the Falcons, city, and state reach a deal on new stadium
  • Joeff Davis/CL File
  • Arthur Blank and Mayor Kasim Reed announce the Falcons, city, and state reach a deal on new stadium
On Monday night, the Atlanta City Council approved a plan to provide at least $200 million from the city's hotel and motel tax revenues to help fund a new Atlanta Falcons football stadium. William Perry of Common Cause of Georgia, a government watchdog group, says the vote was rushed - and that talk of a "big public conversation" about the deal never came to fruition.

As the head of a nonprofit government watchdog group, I hear comments about people's cynicism toward elected officials all the time. The comments they make the most: "They don't care about what we think", "they are all crooked", "we can't trust them" and "we should vote them all out."

No doubt, trust in government is at an all-time low. I try to convince people all the time to find a reason to keep believing, but it is truly like pushing a boulder up a hill.

Look no further than Monday evening's approval of the new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons by the Atlanta City Council as a prime example of why people feel this way.

No matter how you feel about public financing of the new stadium, the process that led to its approval has to make even the biggest citizen supporters of the project uncomfortable.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Charter school amendment opponent calls ballot measure the 'T-SPLOST for Education'

Posted By on Fri, Oct 19, 2012 at 10:00 AM

Herb Garrett
  • Herb Garrett
On Nov. 6, Georgia residents will vote on the proposed charter school amendment — which seeks to reinstate the state's power to authorize the creation of charter schools. Yesterday, we ran an op-ed from Gov. Nathan Deal, who explained why passing amendment one would lead to increased choice and competition throughout Georgia's education system. Today, we're giving the floor to Herb Garrett, Executive Director of the Georgia School Superintendents Association, who will explain why he's opposed to the charter school amendment.

As I thought about how best to describe the upcoming vote on amendment one, the so-called “charter school amendment” that will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot, it occurred to me that it should be called the “T-SPLOST for Education” vote. We all remember that summer referendum and how it ended, and this ballot initiative is just like that one in that: 1) it is brought to us by the same General Assembly that gave us the T-SPLOST and 2) favored on the “yes” side by big money companies and organizations. The similarities are almost eerie!

The real problem that I see, though, is the misinformation being used and the half-truths being told to get this monstrosity passed. Supporters would have you believe that charter schools — which are supposed to be “laboratories of innovation” and operate free of many of the rules and regulations that hamstring traditional public schools — are somehow in danger of becoming extinct. They fail to tell you that, under current law, local boards can already approve charter schools in local communities — over 100 already exist — and the State Board of Education can already approve such schools over the objections of local boards of education —15 of these already exist. In Georgia, current law even permits entire school systems to gain charter status, freeing them from having to comply with onerous laws and rules and do what is best for children.

Proponents of the amendment would have you believe this is about “school choice.” I wonder just how much “choice” would satisfy some of them, for in addition to the choices I outlined in the previous paragraph, we have many systems that offer in-system school choice as well as opportunities for children to cross-school system lines and attend their schools. We have home schools, we have private schools, we have religious schools. Do we really need still another layer?

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Gov. Deal: proposed amendment will make charter schools more like 'grocery stores'

Posted By on Thu, Oct 18, 2012 at 9:30 AM

On Nov. 6, Georgia residents will vote on the proposed charter school amendment — which seeks to reinstate the state's power to authorize the creation of charter schools. We asked to speak with Gov. Nathan Deal in hopes of having a conversation about the issue, but sadly, he declined our request. However, his office provided us with the following op-ed, which outlines why he supports the amendment. Tomorrow, we run a letter from an opponent of the charter school referendum.

Georgia parents enjoy a multitude of choices when shopping for a pair of jeans, a car or a bag of potato chips.

And when it’s time to go off to college, their children can choose a campus that fits them best.

The diversity of options in the marketplace shows that competition and choices drive innovation and improvement. It demonstrates that one size does not, in fact, fit all.

We would abandon a grocery store that didn’t give us options, so why don’t we demand the same from the public education system?

All parents want their children to do better than they did, but that can’t happen if they don’t have access to high-performing public schools.

When they go to the polls this November, Georgia voters have a chance to assure that parents can choose what’s best for their family and child.

Too many school districts in Georgia offer nothing but mediocre or even failing schools. In those situations, parents deserve the chance to demand something new, but they often hit a brick wall with their local school boards.

If passed, the constitutional amendment gives those parents hope. It would restore to the state the ability to charter schools. That would hardly qualify as a revolution; on the contrary, this simply takes us back to the policy we had before a misguided Georgia Supreme Court ruling struck down the state’s charter school approval process.

Unfortunately, school boards eager to maintain their monopoly have spread misinformation about what the charter school amendment would do. So let’s clarify the facts.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Councilman Kwanza Hall: Cancel ParkAtlanta contract

Posted By on Wed, Aug 29, 2012 at 10:06 AM

For years, Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall has fielded constituents' complaints about ParkAtlanta, the private company that enforces the city's on-street parking. Hall, who represents some of the cities' most dense neighborhoods including downtown and Old Fourth Ward, says in an op-ed that it's now time to cancel the deal. And he's even managed to find a way to work "The Walking Dead" into the conversation.


Walking Dead Season 1: Courtesy AMC
  • Courtesy AMC
  • Read the op-ed and this will make sense. Promise.
In October 2009, soon after the ink dried on a seven-year agreement with the city of Atlanta’s new privately owned parking enforcement agency, parking meters began to appear in two parts of downtown that I have the privilege to represent.

First they arrived on one block of Mitchell Street. Then they showed up in the Fairlie-Poplar neighborhood. At the time, both areas were known for their small, independent businesses and their loyal customers. Parking meters were rare and parking enforcement infrequent.

A few months later, scouts for a new AMC cable television series called "The Walking Dead" began scouring the city for sites that would scream “Zombie Urban Apocalypse!” to millions of viewers across the globe. They chose the same two locations.

By the time the dogwoods were blooming in the spring of 2010, carefully chosen blocks of the Auburn- Edgewood business corridor, Little Five Points, Midtown, Virginia-Highland, and the West End had become part of a network of newly created metered parking spaces that more than doubled the number of approved spaces in the city. These are among the most populated parts of intown Atlanta. The new spaces arrived without the review or approval of the Atlanta City Council. The contract outsourced decisions about meter and signage placement to ParkAtlanta.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A bicycle advocate's argument for the T-SPLOST

Posted By on Wed, Jul 25, 2012 at 2:39 PM

Look over the list of transportation projects to be funded by the T-SPLOST, which voters will decide on July 31, and you'll find plenty of road and transit projects. But there's plenty for bicyclists and pedestrians to be happy about as well, says Rebecca Serna, executive director of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition. A significant portion of those road projects, particularly those proposed in the city of Atlanta, would meet Complete Streets criteria, which take into account pedestrians, bicyclists, public transportation, and cars. And the city's list of local projects to be funded with the tax would make 29 miles of city streets equipped with bike facilities — more than double what currently exists. She shines a light on some of the improvements that bicyclists would see with revenues from the transportation tax, which the coalition supports.

Bicycle projects are usually lumped into the “other” category — at least, that’s how it used to be, and, we often hear, that’s how it’s always been.

Well, those assumptions no longer hold. The Complete Streets movement is gaining ground in unexpected territory — metro Atlanta, poster child for sprawl.

Last year around this time, the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition was pushing for bike projects on the regional transportation sales tax project list. The final regional list approved by the Roundtable sets aside less than 1% of funding for stand-alone bike projects.

I’m here to tell you that’s a good thing.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Millennial's argument for the T-SPLOST

Posted By on Tue, Jul 17, 2012 at 2:51 PM

Saba Long is a downtown Atlanta resident, serves on the board of Neighborhood Planning Unit M, and is a spokeswoman for Citizens for Transportation Mobility, the business community's campaign to pass the July 31 regional transportation tax referendum. Long, like many Millennials, uses transit to move around the city and wants more options. If they can't find those options in metro Atlanta, she says, they'll look elsewhere. Her views below are her own as a Fulton County resident and do not necessarily reflect those of CTM.

I don't own a car. In fact, I'm among the 26 percent of America's 14- to 34-year-olds who don't even have a driver's license, a number that has increased from 21 percent in recent years.

I take transit everywhere, or walk. And I'm not alone: There are hundreds of thousands of "Millennials," as our age group is called, in metro Atlanta with commuting preferences distinctly different from our parents'. When metro leaders are considering long-range transportation planning, such as the July 31 transportation vote, they ought to keep us in mind. Because if they fail to create a metro Atlanta where there are transportation options — bus, rail, bike paths and pedestrian access as well as roads — we Millennials will take our education and skills and talents to create jobs and businesses elsewhere.

Many Baby Boomers and older Atlantans are opposing this transportation referendum because it does not do enough for them. They've forgotten, conveniently, that their parents paid taxes to build a transportation system that has driven their prosperity — and it is their obligation to do the same next generations. It's as if they are stuck in time. They argue that the BeltLine is a boondoggle, oblivious that it is exactly the kind of transportation Millennials want and will demand.

John Sherman of the Fulton County Taxpayers Association recently argued that the project list has too much transit, stating again that only 5 percent of commuters in the region use transit. But Sherman seems blind to the preferences of a younger generation that will benefit most from these projects. He ignores that the average number of vehicle miles traveled by 16- to 34-year-olds dropped 23 percent between 2001 and 2009, according to the National Household Travel Survey.

He seems unaware that the number of miles traveled by transit has increased 40 percent among our age group. While we don't expect for Sherman, an octogenarian, to be attuned to our commuting preferences, we expect for leaders to think and act and invest long-term. And considering the years it takes to build transportation projects, long-range is the only way we should be planning.

We see the same shortsightedness of our parents' and grandparents' generation when they complain that the tax may not sunset in 10 years as promised, or that some of the projects may not be finished in 10 years. Again, they're thinking about themselves, and not about their children. In 10 years, today's eight-year-olds will be able to vote on whether they'd like to extend this referendum to incorporate their transportation needs.

Past generations of Americans made investments for the nation's future prosperity. Unfortunately, many of today's T-SPLOST opponents are thinking only of themselves, with little to no regard for the future. "Another tax won't help YOUR traffic jam," says the tag line on Traffic Truth, a site opposed to the transportation referendum. They're all about "me" and "mine." It is emblematic of the collective national mindset that saddled future generations with trillions of dollars in debt: A mindset that says let's focus on US, and let future generations pay for it.

It's time for the John Sherman and the Baby Boomer generation to engage in a little forward-looking, and by doing so maybe they can see why the Beltline is important, why transit is important, and why the July 31 regional transportation referendum is a balance of transportation improvements that helps everyone now and into the future.

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Friday, April 27, 2012

Why we're sticking with Occupy Atlanta

Posted By on Fri, Apr 27, 2012 at 4:01 PM

Occupy Atlantas first General Assembly in Woodruff Park aka Troy Davis Park
  • Joeff Davis
  • Occupy Atlanta's first General Assembly in Woodruff Park aka Troy Davis Park

Yesterday CL published a column by metro Atlanta journalist and researcher George Chidi about why he's leaving the Occupy Atlanta movement. We're happy to give members of the group a chance to respond.

Many of us in Occupy Atlanta were deeply saddened by George Chidi's article, "Why I'm leaving Occupy Atlanta," published yesterday in Creative Loafing, and several of us have come together to pen a collaborative response. This response certainly does not speak for all members of Occupy Atlanta, but rather reflects the thoughts of those who felt compelled to contribute.

There is a debate among many of us about whether or not publicly discussing the pros and cons of Occupy Atlanta in Creative Loafing is productive. At first, many of us saw George's article as an unnecessary public airing of incorrect or uninformed assumptions and conclusions. After a period of reflection, however, we began to see it as an opportunity to share our message, the work we've been doing, and the victories we can claim - and to more explicitly deal with the controversies and issues we have within our movement.

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Why I'm leaving Occupy Atlanta

Posted By on Thu, Apr 26, 2012 at 10:22 AM

An Occupy Atlanta supporter packs up his gear at the end of the AT&T Occupation.
  • Joeff Davis
  • An Occupy Atlanta supporter packs up his gear at the end of the AT&T "Occupation."

George Chidi, a metro Atlanta journalist and researcher who's participated in several Occupy Atlanta demonstrations, says he's finished with the leaderless movement. After Occupy met last night at Woodruff Park to discuss next steps, Chidi penned the following "break-up letter" to the group, which he's given us permission to publish.

Tonight, I quit Occupy Atlanta for good. This is the angry break up letter.

Before I am inundated with the smug I-told-you-so's from folks wondering what I've been thinking this whole time, a few words about what drew me to the — what shall we call it? the cause? the gathering? the emergence? — of the Occupy movement.

I'm a relative rarity among Occupy here by dint of profession and education — an Occupier with an MBA. There's been a persistent gap of culture and world-view to bridge for me from the start, papered over in part by the strength of my convictions about the need for changes in the way the financial system works.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Judge: Municipal court isn't a 'waste of time'

Posted By on Wed, May 11, 2011 at 12:14 PM

CL's editorial board in April echoed the findings of a city audit recommending the Atlanta Municipal Court cut the number of active courtrooms and reduce the number of charges that require defendants to appear before judges, among other cost-saving measures. Like many of his colleagues, Atlanta Municipal Court Judge Gary Jackson took issue with that view.

I write to respond to your column entitled "City court should waste less of our time. " I believe that judicial oversight of our State's traffic laws promotes the health and safety of Atlanta's motoring community and is not a "waste of time." Many of the column's statements are incorrect because they are derived from an audit that is fundamentally flawed as it was premised on improper auditing standards.

Before any court can be evaluated, the legal environment in which it must function must be considered. In Georgia, traffic courts' powers are established by the General Assembly and those powers include the right to allow certain, enumerated offenses to be paid — by mail, internet, or phone — without the driver making a personal appearance in court, pursuant to an Order creating a Traffic Violations Bureau (TVB). State law, however, mandates that most "document" tickets (licenses, tags, insurance, etc.) must be heard in open court. The Atlanta Municipal Court has no power to alter this State TVB law.

Georgia law also makes most traffic cases criminal offenses, and punishment can range up to 12 months in jail, a $1000 fine plus state surcharges, and a license suspension up to 12 months. Since all criminal defendants have a right to a jury trial, a public defender if a lawyer cannot be afforded, and all other rights of a felony defendant, traffic cases take time. But adjudicating these cases is not "a waste of time" as lives are at stake every time we venture onto the road.

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