Amendment One: Fail

I am tickled pink that Amendment One got a big, fat, red F. It failed, failed, I say! I’m sad the others passed, but that’s not the point of this piece.
This amendment crossed party lines in its proponents and its opponents.

The proponents appeared a bit paternalistic in their approach: “We know what is best for the poor black and brown children in Georgia, and their schools, their teachers, and their community members are simply sitting around on their asses, doing nothing but eating bon bons on taxpayer time.” Dealio even had the gall to go into a majority minority community and tell those folks in East Point that his was that of the great white hope, and if the OSD became reality, kids could graduate from high school, and then they could go to technical schools. He didn’t mention university, mind you.

The opponents seemed to be a bit more anarchist in their approach to defeat the amendment: “Get the government out of my school. I don’t trust you folks to pick your noses without making them bleed, let alone to educate my kid.” I could be wrong, but that was the vibe I got…

My take is a little different: We have this nebulous CCRPI metric, which changes every year. Last year, Schools can get points for graduation rates, test scores, teacher and parent surveys (Nice! Poke a mama bear, and that survey goes down the crapper). Fulton County has advisers set up to help the schools earn more points based on the ever changing scale. Advisers! It’s all a number game, folks. And it seems that the scale is changing so that more schools are failing…struggling…sorry Richard Woods (nice change in rhetoric after the fact, though).  So more schools got on the watch list as this amendment became more viable to the Opportunity School District. In fact, the amount of schools who were determined failing skyrocketed in 2016. One Hundred and forty two schools were added to the list of 2015’s 81. Almost a 200% increase in failing schools. DANG! Coincidence? Maybe. Probably not, though.

It was a grab for money and for power, and it failed, as it should have. I think the voters got this one right (I voted Libertarian, so I am exempt from any blame for TP in the WH).

Research like a reporter, Part 2: Who’s backing the constitutional amendments?

Elections day is less than a week away, and for many that’s not soon enough. However, down ballot of the Trump-Clinton circus are actually pretty impactful candidates and issues, including four constitutional amendments.

In brief, they are:

Amendment 1, Opportunity School District: This is a piece of legislation that allows the state to take control of chronically failing schools, as measured by the state’s annual College and Career Ready Performance Index or CCRPI. (Full disclosure: I wrote in opposition to this bill here).

Amendment 2, Safe Harbor Fund: Creates new taxes/fees which will be dedicated to funding support services for survivors of child sex trafficking. (I wrote about this amendment, as well, here).

Amendment 3, Judicial Qualifications Commission: Abolishes the current JQC and recreates a new commission that would be made up solely of political appointees. This body oversees ethics complaints against judges. (Oops, can’t hide my dislike of this sleazy measure).

Amendment 4, Fireworks: Like Amendment 2, this creates a new dedicated fund, in this case to support trauma care, firefighter training, and public safety services. (No, I have not written about this one. Why are fireworks such a big deal in this state?).

Check out the ballot guide from the YWCA of Greater Atlanta for good, in-depth analysis of the amendments.

What can you learn?

Pulling up the disclosures is a fairly quick process, you just need ten minutes. In this year’s batch of reports you can find out what measure(s) AT&T is backing, what Washington D.C. groups have donated to these amendment fights, what legislators are involved in these projects, and what measures the Walton family (of Wal-Mart fame) have put money behind.

Everyone likes to toss around this claim about the “other” side of a policy debate: special interest, out of state money! coming in to ruin real Georgia values! There are, indeed, small numbers of very wealthy people who can dump tons of money into political issues they care about, because we live in a nation that faces such severe income and wealth stratification that that’s possible. Lots of in-state groups solicit and benefit from out-of-state money; it’s not a surprising phenomenon. These donations can and should still be interrogated, but are quite common.

As in Part 1 of this series, financial disclosure reports reveal how different people and organizations are connected to each other. Are they people and organizations that share your values? How are political leaders connected to the funding of these amendments? This may require a little more googling to figure out exactly who is involved, as oftentimes intermediaries are making large donations to the groups campaigning for or against a constitutional amendment, but it’s definitely a rewarding process.

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As an example, let’s to go through the campaign report for Yes2SaveLives, Inc., which was involved in a 2010 campaign to support an amendment to raise funds for trauma care. This example does not use current campaign information.

Here is the document you will see when you pull up amendment campaign finance disclosures (link here). Note the Chairperson and Treasurer on the summary page. A quick google search reveals that Israel was the President and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. Joe Parker was the President of the Georgia Hospital Association. So GCC and GHA were heavily invested and likely leading this campaign (more confirmation of this later).

Googling the address or P.O. Box listed might also tell you information about affiliated business or organizational interests. Often, technically separate organizations, like the c(3) and c(4) arms of an organization, might share an office and thus an address.

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Next up is the summary of their fundraising and expenditures. This group fundraised over $3.1 million (line 6) from their inception in August to the date this was submitted, and they spent $2.3 million (line 12, not pictured) of that in the same time period. The $1.25 million figure in line 3 (wow this feels just like doing taxes!) is the number this report will break down into individual donors.

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And now…what people and organizations make up the $1.25 million in donations?

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Columbus Medical Center were both big donors. Additional confirmation that the GCC was heavily invested in this issue; not only was their President the Chairperson of Yes2SaveLives, but the GCC is “donating” office spaces and related services. As you scroll through the document, you’ll see the same holds true for GHA. The donors this filing period were 100 percent in-state medical institutions, so it’s clear they were very invested in this.

Interpretation if you opposed the measure: hospitals are spending big bucks to pass this special interest measure that will line their pockets; we should never raise taxes, especially not to benefit these corporate interests.

Interpretation if you supported the measure: deaths from traumatic injuries are 20 percent higher than the national average because of lack of access to care, and medical groups recognize the urgent need for a well-funded trauma care system in Georgia to prevent these unnecessary deaths.

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Not shown are loans and itemized expenditures. Still worth perusing, but often not as great a source of information.

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If you are interested and looking at these reports for the current campaigns for and against the various amendments, here’s how to do it:

(1) Go to ethics.ga.gov, which is the home of the Georgia Government Transparency and State Finance Commission, formerly known as the State Ethics Commission. Along the black bar at the top of the page, select “Search.”

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(2) Select “Campaign Reports” from the list.

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(3) Scroll down the the second box labeled “Non-Candidate Committee Search.” Select “Constitutional Amendment or Statewide Referendum,” type in the name of the organization you want to search and select “View Non-Candidate Committees.”

Amendment 1: Better Georgia Action, Inc.; Committee to Keep Georgia Schools Local, Inc.; Opportunity for All Georgia Students, Inc.

Amendment 2: SafeHarborYes

Amendment 3: Georgians for Judicial Integrity; Save the JQC-Vote No on 3

Amendment 4: None

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(4) Select “View” next to the name of the committee.

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(5) Select “Campaign Contribution Reports – EFiled (Click to Expand Information).”

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(6) Select “View Report.” Everyone should have their “15 days Before Date of Election” report filed by now.

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(7) Select “View Report in PDF,” to take a look at the entire report. (The other options are more excel friendly versions of the same information, broken into segments).

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Nerdy Details

Passing constitutional amendments is quite involved. First, both bodies of the Georgia General Assembly must pass the legislation with a two-thirds majority. Right now, Republicans only have a two-thirds majority in the State Senate (so Democrats only have to co-sign if some of the far right Republicans aren’t backing the party agenda). In the House of Representatives, Republicans do not have a two-thirds majority, so at least some Democrats must also vote for a constitutional amendment for it to pass. Then it goes before the Governor, who has the ability to veto it. Then it goes before voters, where it must pass by a simple majority.

Fun facts: the only thing the General Assembly is constitutionally mandated to do is pass a balanced budget each year, everything else is just gravy. Legislators are also constitutionally protected from arrest during the legislative session!

Comment with any questions or just to let me know what you dig up.

Research like a reporter, Part 1: Who’s giving your candidate money?

It’s election time and you may — like many — be pulling out your hair wondering where to get good information about non-presidential candidates and state ballot measures. I am going to go through some of the tools I’ve learned to use as a freelance reporter, to help you get some baseline information about the people and issues on your ballot.

First up: who is giving your state candidates money? (Obtaining local candidate’s campaign contributions disclosures requires going through your local elections office).

Fundraising efforts across the state can range from the anemic $2,450 of Rep. John Corbett (R-Lake Park) to Speaker David Ralston’s (R-Blue Ridge) $110,100.

Digging through campaign contribution disclosure reports requires equal parts googling, channel your inner Mafioso, and taking it all with a grain of salt. What this information tells you is who your candidate is connected to. Are they people and organizations that share your values? Are they people and organizations trying to build relationships with legislators to influence them? Are they people and organizations trying to repair relationships with legislators after some contentious legislation was passed? How does this information compare to what your candidate says about them self?

It’s worth mentioning, too, that sometimes powerful people just know each other and do things for each other without an immediate benefit. Relationship building is a huge part of the game, and elected officials underestimate (or don’t care) just how much it influences their judgement.

Let’s first walk through what the campaign contribution disclosure reports look like and what kind of information they contain, and then dive into how to find them yourself for your state candidate. As an example, let’s look at Rep. Andrew Welch (R-McDonough), who is running unopposed.

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Here is the document you will see (link here). The first page is basic information about the campaign. Then, you’ll see a summary page that goes over the total figures. After that is the itemized breakdown for contributions, expenditures, and loans.

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Next up is the summary page. Quite frustratingly, candidates aren’t consistent in how they calculate “previously reported” (i.e. cumulative) figures. Some candidates start fresh at every new campaign cycle, while others may keep the tally running from campaign to campaign. You may have to go back through old filings and do the math yourself to figure out which method your candidate used, especially if you are going to compare between candidates.

Also, Welch is running unopposed and will clearly be reelected, so it’s no surprise he has so little fundraising and expenditures to report. Candidates that are running unopposed, but hold lots of power, however, would likely see more activity. And, of course, candidates that are actively campaigning against another candidate should be fundraising at least $10-30,000 just to print signs, print flyers, get their website designed, maybe pay a staff person or some phone bankers. Candidates also fund their campaigns sometimes by loaning themselves money, which I just think is weird (but I’ve also never had a “spare” $45,000 that I could just do whatever I want with).

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Now the fun stuff: itemized contributions. For Rep. Welch, here’s what I notice: these are mostly out-of-state donors, so guessing these are big corporations or PACs working in all states (or key states) on particular agendas, and so probably just donating pretty widely. I’d definitely contextualize these by looking at what committees Rep. Welch is on (here) and what legislation he’s sponsored (here).

Alkermes, Inc is a biopharmaceutical company with a Georgia office, I’ve seen them on several candidate’s reports. Biomedicine is actually quite big in Georgia, especially with the CDC and big research institutions, like Emory, located in Atlanta.

GUCA Political Action Committee is the Georgia Utility Contractors Association, Inc. PAC. I’m not very familiar with them, but I suspect a little bit of googling would help establish a baseline of who they are and what their goals are. (There also is a way to see everyone who GUCA has donated to, that view would definitely provide interesting information into the kinds of elected officials they are targeting).

Looking at the TitleMax donation, I’d want to find out if he serves on a committee that is important to them or sponsored legislation that would impact their business. Alternately, they may be proactively building relationships with key legislators. These title pawn and paycheck loan companies are starting to come under higher levels of scrutiny around their exploitative business practices, and states are looking to more tightly regulate what they do.

I also notice that someone who works for the Nelson Mullins & Scarborough law firm donated separately. I am not familiar with them, and it could be interesting to investigate more about this firm and who that employee is in relationship to state politics.

Other things you may see on your candidates report: expect lots of PACs, especially for businesses with big stakes in Georgia law, across all people and all parties. Medical associations, insurance companies, telecommunications, hospital groups, lawyer groups are all quite common. The folks trying to allow breweries to do direct sales are also making selective investments. Also, candidates donate to each other. It’s a way to bolster someone who isn’t a great fundraiser, but is a party favorite, a “team player,” or someone whose seat is being meaningfully challenged by the other party.

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Itemized expenditures. For Rep. Welch, here’s what stands out to me: Alright, we see him donating to fellow Rep. Brian Strickland, who I think he’s fairly politically aligned with. Both are very principled conservatives. Deidra White is the conservative running against incumbent Dexter Sharper. Looking at her campaign filings would tell you more about what other Republicans, if any, have donated to her campaign. If it’s just him, then this may be his personal decision — she may be a friend, they may be politically aligned — or, if many Republicans are donating to her campaign, then it could be the donations are being solicited from the higher-ups in the party.

Apparently he was a Ted Cruz fan. Also, not surprisingly, a supporter of U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson‎ (R-Ga).

Super weird that he donated from his campaign (rather than personal) funds to the Georgia Life Alliance Committee. GLA is a pro-life group (the official Georgia chapter of the National Right to Life) and they lobby at the capitol. I haven’t seen this practice a lot and it just strikes me as ethically murky…to donate to a group that directly lobbies you and your colleagues. That also says a lot about his politics: (1) that he is pro-life, and (2) that he is aligned with GLA over Georgia Right to Life, which is ideologically more rigid in their politics.

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If you are interested and looking at these reports for your own state candidates, here’s how to do it:

(1) Go to ethics.ga.gov, which is the home of the Georgia Government Transparency and State Finance Commission, formerly known as the State Ethics Commission. Along the black bar at the top of the page, select “Search.”

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(2) Select “Campaign Reports” from the list.

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(3) You’ll be taken to a page called “CAMPAIGN REPORTS – NAME SEARCH.” Type in your candidate’s name in the box at the top of the page, and click “Search for Candidate.” As an example, let’s look at Rep. Andrew Welch (R-McDonough). Note: You can always navigate back to this page at anytime by selecting “Search By Name” from the menu on the sidebar.

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(4) Now select “View” for the appropriate candidate. Some things to note here: some candidates run under a middle name or nickname, and file under their legal name. Try searching just their last name if you don’t see them in the list. Alternately, some candidates will file under different variations of their name for different campaigns they’ve had. You’ll have to click around to find the current campaign documents you are looking for.

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(5) Double check you found the right person. The “Office Sought” should be for the position they are currently running for on your ballot. “Status” should be “Active.” If it says “Terminated,” then the candidate is no longer running for that office. Under the first box, there is a tab that reads “Campaign Disclosure Reports,” and another tab that reads “Registration Information.” Clicking on the second tab will take you to some basic information about the campaign, we’re interested in the first tab right now.

Select “Campaign Contribution Reports – EFiled (Click to Expand Information).”

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(6) Now you’ll see a list of all the reports the candidate has filed. Rep. Welch has reports going back to 2010, when he first ran for his House seat. Candidates have different reporting requirements for election years and non-election years.

  • Note: If you like diving deep into numbers, it can be interesting to compare the same time period across campaigns (e.g. looking at the “September 30th – Election Year” reports for 2016, 2014, 2012 and 2010) in order to understand if the candidate is more or less active in fundraising at this point in the campaign cycle when compared to previous years. It can also be interesting to look at just the most recent two or three reports to see what’s changed over the course of one campaign. If a candidate had a primary opponent, but no general election challenger, then they may have more aggressively fundraised early on in their campaign. Also, state Senators and Representatives are not allowed to engage in fundraising or campaigning during the legislative session, so that often means big pushes from folks currently in office for donations before and after session.

Let’s take a look at the most recent filing. Select “View Report” next to the first report, “September 30th – Election Year.”

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(7) Select “View Report in PDF,” to take a look at the entire report. (The other options are more excel friendly versions of the same information, broken into segments).

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Phew. Okay, that was quite a bit of information. Just a reminder: you absolutely don’t need to be an expert to vote. Dig into this as much as is interesting to you (certainly freelance reporting is my profession because this work fascinates me). In this case, it may be enough for you to know Rep. Welch is so committed to pro-life politics, he’s giving them money.

As I wrote earlier, definitely be willing to channel your inner Mafioso, but don’t get carried away thinking that every dollar donated is a vote bought.

Next post, I’ll look at who is spending money on the four constitutional amendments on the ballot.

Comment with any questions, and I’ll do the best I can to address them, as well as your own experience looking through campaign contribution disclosure reports.

Will HRC Really Win Georgia?

redclay

I enjoy discussing Presidential campaign politics as much as I enjoy tilling the red clay in my backyard when it hasn’t rained in a few weeks.  It’s tedious, gets me hot under the collar, and only has marginal capability of providing me with anything of beauty or worth in the end.  So I tread carefully when discussing our Presidential picks.  I leave that to my friends in the District.  I keep my feet firmly planted in state and local affairs.  Yet my ears perked up when I was listening to FiveThirtyEight’s podcast some time ago on Hillary making ad buys in Georgia.  And then again today when the DPG emailed out the NY Times front page line indicating Georgia may be a swing state for HRC.  First, the NY Times knows little about Georgia politics.  Yet FiveThirtyEight is a strictly data oriented site.  If you are unaware of FiveThirtyEight, it’s really a fantastic podcast and the analysis of polling is really both delightful and heartbreaking, depending upon how you perceive the results.  Nate Silver, Harry Enten, Claire Malone, and Jody Avirgan are the political nerds people like me look to for the cold hard numbers to back up or destroy our assumptions.  I find their humor engaging, their discussions meaningful to understanding the macro in our nation’s politics, and I always find their insights thought provoking.

It should be said, aside from admiring this team, their work and their expertise, I admire data above all.  I trust the 538data more times than not.  If the numbers tell you something, believe it.  In their August 29th podcast, Nate Silver encourages the listeners to look beyond the numbers though, for the inevitable “swing” where Clinton’s lead across the nation will inevitably fall in certain areas.  The group discussion centers around where that swing and fall may occur. You can click on the link and at about minute 29 they get into the Georgia discussion.

Spoiler alert: I disagree. Continue reading “Will HRC Really Win Georgia?”

Education: A 21st Century Crucible

witchuntAt the turn of the 17th Century, there was a witch hunt.  Men and women, mostly women, were rounded up and were made to prove that they were not what others accused them of.  Lots of tests, or crucibles, if you will, were put into place to see if someone was actually a witch, and all the sorceress had to do was to admit it, and she could spend the rest of her life as a devil worshipper.  A whisper from a child, a look from a neighbor, or an absence from a meeting became grounds for inquiry or tests.  To be convicted as a witch meant you lost your life.  To admit it and bear the stigma of devil worshipper meant that you lost everything but your life. Anyone who associated with that “witch” became suspect, so everyone stayed away.  A whisper could change everything…

In the 1950s, the McCarthy Trials were the witch hunt and the political upheaval of the time. Men and women, mostly men, were taken to the court of McCarthy and put on trial.  A whisper from a child, a look from a neighbor, or an absence from a meeting, and the Communist label becomes truth. mccarthy The McCarthy Trials were akin to the Salem Witch Trials.  One could deny it or admit it, but either way, the accused lost everything but his life.  Anyone who associated with that “communist” became suspect, so everyone stayed away.  A whisper could change everything…

The crucible is a vessel that is able to withstand violent chemical reactions, or a test or trial.  Education has become a crucible on many levels, but the one that has become the most used today is the test, the trial:  one where a student lays claim that a teacher said something, or did something, or wrote something.  There is an investigation, and even if the teacher is proven innocent, it is game…over.  A whisper from a child, and an educator’s career has effectively ended.   Even if he keeps his job, how will he be able to do his job with the stigma of being…a Witch? A Communist? An Activist? A Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, Republican-Democrat-Libertarian, Gay-Straight-Bi, Man-Woman-Mom-Dad-vegetarian-pescatarian-unapologetic carnivore…fill in the blank.

And anyone who associates with that teacher becomes suspect, too, so everyone stays away.  A whisper could change everything…

When a child accuses a teacher of something “unspeakable”, no matter what it may be, the teacher is in the crucible for the rest of his or her life, whether it is true or not true; whether the teacher is guilty or innocent. A whisper from a child, and a career is over.

A whisper…

GettyImages-182566801-EI would like to wish everyone a happy Equality Day!  August 26th is the date we commemorate (since 1971, thanks to Rep. Bella Abzug (D-NY)) the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920, giving women the equal right to vote in elections in the United States.   As part of the memorialization of this day and women in our nation’s history, one can still step into the Capitol rotunda and look for a statue of the Suffragettes: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Susan B. Anthony.  When you find it, you will notice there is still a part of the statue that remains uncarved.

This space is reserved exclusively for the bust of the first female President.

So while we wait, I thought today might be a great time to discuss other smaller ways to demonstrate equality in our midst.  I’ve experienced some great examples of sexism from people who never considered their comments to be sexist.  Here’s my list of things we could do (some individually and some collectively) to promote equality of our sisters, mothers, daughters, partners, and friends.  Enjoy! Continue reading

ATL Identity: Business, Trade, and Transportation

On a recent trip to Charlotte, North Carolina, I had the opportunity to take in the city’s art and restaurant scene, which I would HIGHLY recommend to anyone for a weekend.  More than just giving me loads of inspiration, the visit called me to reflect/question how a city’s identity is constructed.  Does the run of the mill Jane Smith typically reflect more on the history of a city or the trends of the present before she visits?  And what draws people to each city?  What makes them move there?  What makes them stay?  What drives them away?  Me?  I like low taxes and a great art scene.  I like walkability and commerce.  Others like quiet and quaint, picturesque views and still more love the hustle and bustle of of big city life.  As I focused my lens on Charlotte, I tried to think how my own city projects itself to the world.

Atlanta-rolling-1871Atlanta has a rich history, long before rising from the ashes of the Civil War.  My city, named Terminus, for its rail identity was one that sprang up from necessity of business, trade, and transportation.  Long before she ever became the Gateway to the South, Atlanta was buzzing with people moving to and fro, selling their wares and has always had a more transient population as a result.  Locals here know there are few true “native” Atlantans, as most Georgians coming from small towns move here to either try their hand at making it “big” in the “big city” or to escape the narrowness of living in a small town straight out of Faulkner.  My story was similar: farm girl grows up in Social Circle.  Studies hard in small town and attends the women’s’ college (Agnes Scott College) in small town close to bigger city.

I always like to ask people I meet why they moved here.  I know why I did, but I assume different strokes for different folks.  The resounding answer I tend to get is for “jobs” and the opportunity for upward mobility.  Is this legacy of a business oriented city still true?  Are we really a city that allows outsiders to come in and pull themselves up by the bootstraps to “make it”?  If so, how are we continuing to foster that image and promote growing business?

Atlanta has done a great job of promoting itself as a city “too busy to hate” and a place whose Mayor tries to be responsive to his business community.  Most recently, Mayor Reed had his Bobby Kennedy moment in the spot light as he tried to calm the #BlackLivesMatter movement protests in the streets.  In many ways, he navigated the storm well, with respect for the protestors and the blue line.  The moment Reed welcomed peaceful protests in the streets of Atlanta while asking them to stay out of the expressway was a moment I was truly proud of him!  I wish more people in the nation had the opportunity to see that side of our city.  In a city with a black mayor, a black city council, county commission and school board, we know from the bottom to the top that #blacklivesmatter here.

Mountaintop moments did not end in Atlanta with MLK, Jr. Continue reading “ATL Identity: Business, Trade, and Transportation”

A Flicker of Hope

candlesEditor’s note: I really don’t like folks who wear their religion on their sleeve.  It makes me uncomfortable, kinda like when the Deet mixes with your sweat when you’re doing yard work in Georgia in July and you can’t seem to move without everything sticking to you.  Maybe that’s just me.  Both instances leave me wanting to get out of that awkward situation quickly and shower off all the memories thereof.

That said, I am also not one to miss sharing a good word.  Thus in the midst of all the chaos and bad news that has filled my news feed as of late, I am happy to share a light in the darkness with all the readers out there.  I recently moved my letter of membership to The Church At Ponce & Highland. My Minister to Families, Carra Greer, and her husband, Brian Greer offered an amazing word a few weeks ago that spoke to the sadness and frustration I have felt recently, in light of all of the senseless killings of our own people.  Thus, I asked Carra if I might share their sermon with Southern Indeed readers.

It should also be said that Brian Greer is the first man Southern Indeed has featured as a writer- a thing of merit all of its own!

Personally, I really am not into complaining for the sake of hearing myself complain.  Me? I am a doer.  In my mind, there is always an opportunity for a resolution, solution, or way to fix things.  It may not be perfect or pretty, but one of the reasons I have always felt called to policy and politics is because I know in my heart we can always strive to improve.  I am no damsel in distress and you will rarely find me throwing my hands up in the air, looking for someone to swoop in and save me.  For this reason, this particular sermon really spoke to me and in turn, I share it with all of y’all for your consideration of what we may do and how we may find comfort.

The sermon focused on the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18:20-33.  Rather than focusing on the death and destruction, the Greers focused on the small flicker of light in the darkness.  That’s my kind of theology, but certainly does not have to be yours.  If discussions of faith and God are not your thing, you may wish to wait for the next post.  Conversely, if you would like the audio of the sermon, please click here.  And now onto the good stuff…

Continue reading “A Flicker of Hope”

How Do We Define Open Access?

How do we define open access?

periscopeThe ever present use of social media and the ability to self- report the ground breaking as well as the mundane has caused me to ponder these tools a bit.  I am grouped into the millennial age group, albeit on the older side.  I have recognized my generation’s preference on certain things alters our expectations.   This age group around the globe seems to be less and less interested with ownership of things, or with developing status through accumulating material goods and more the access to them.  Think of Über and Airbnb instead of buying a car or house.  So too, my age group seems to enjoy dabbling in multiple jobs, rather than focusing on life-long careers in one profession or another.

So, if we applied the same principle to politics, what would that look like? 

For my parents, it is important to have access to their elected officials on a city and county level.  For them this means attending meetings in the evening and if need be, catching a moment with decision makers at the local watering hole or breakfast spot.  EVERY small town has a local hangout where the older men sit and discuss the events of the day over biscuits and coffee.  Where you will find a good biscuit in a Southern town, so shall you find folks sitting in clusters discussing the way things “should be”.  My parents’ generation’s expectation of access was determined more by their own efforts, namey because there existed no other options.

Yet as we see so many of the long-held seats being vacated by members retiring, I wonder aloud what the future will bring.  Many of the old guard’s replacements are closer in age to me, if not even younger!  So what shall these young guns bring?  Perhaps more of the same status quo, with little transparency, the same glacial pace of addressing actual challenges faced by Southerners, and little actual informed engagement of the voters…or maybe not.

I remain more optimistic because our options have changed. Continue reading “How Do We Define Open Access?”

“So…What do you do?”

On a personal note….

I haven’t written in some months due to the fact that life got in the way.  An engagement, a house renovation, a move that combined two households, a death of a grandfather, a near death and hospitalization of a grandmother, identity theft, vehicle theft, and loss of health insurance will do that to a woman….even Steel Magnolias bruise and bend.  Yet I am consistently like a bad penny: I just keep turning up and will continue to offer my opinions (for whatever they are worth to others) for as long as I am able.  I intend to spend the next little bit writing through all of the topics I have wanted to cover and yet did not have the time to do so in the last few months, so bear with me as I bear witness and I hope that I can offer insight/ explanation as we go along together.

And now back to the reason you’re here….

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“What do you do?”

People ask this of one another because we search for common ground and for safe topics in small talk.  Alas, my job description usually isn’t anything like that.  People see the term “political consultant” and “lobbyist” as a loaded gun, aimed at their rights, their perceptions of how things should be, or they see me as some sort of elite class.

I repeatedly have to tell them it’s really not anything remotely like what you see on House of Cards. 

I am sincerely not powerful and my work is more on the side of being kind to everyone- even when they are not kind to me rather than passionately debating legislators or playing puppet master behind the scenes.  I am not debating that the Remy Denton types of lobbyists exist, I am just here to tell you: that isn’t me.

I typically answer that question with a shoulder shrug and the factual statement, “I talk to people.”  Many times before I have also asserted that I think a monkey could do my job.  To be honest, there are probably primates that are more fully functioning than a LOT of people in their jobs, but I digress…Now that I have had the fortune of meeting a number of people who are very book-smart but have zero ability to communicate effectively nor manage a filter on themselves, I have come to value my own diplomacy skills a bit better.  Not everyone can take rejection well, nor know they are being purposefully left out of conversations and still try to make a difference.

I would say these are my greatest gifts. 

Hearing “no” is simply part of the process.  Brush it off.  The more important question is always, “what will get you to “yes”?” Continue reading ““So…What do you do?””