I spent about 2.5 hours watching the Planned Parenthood hearing. Its purpose was to examine the use of federal funding in their national office and affiliates. I will refrain from sharing my stance on this issue because it is irrelevant to the purpose of this post. Instead I will focus on what happened during the hearing. My disappointment is equally distributed amongst everyone involved and my intent is bring light to why this hearing was in my opinion ineffective.
Behavior of the Members of Congress– It is unknown to me why the congressmen and congresswomen were allowed to speak to Ms. Richards, CEO of Planned Parenthood, the way they did. They ranted at her and often times did not allow her adequate time to answer their questions. They fired facts at her that she had no chance to dispute or confirm. They asked questions in “yes or no” form that often required a more detailed response yet they did not allow for such a reply. Overall, I found their aggressive nature to be ill-mannered and disturbing. It seems like our elected officials should engage with a witness in a way that shows respect and does not badger or intimidate them out of answering a question effectively. I will not make the argument that she was treated this way because she was a woman as some members of congress did. I will however, express my extreme disappointment that any person who is there to testify to congress could be treated with such a lack of respect. I was genuinely taken aback by their often harsh tones and their lack of basic manners. I expect more from our elected officials.
CEO: Ms. Richards- I am certain that Ms. Richards and her team are highly intelligent people. However, I was deeply disappointed in many of her answers to the questions she was asked. She often replied with “I can’t confirm”, “ I am not sure”, or “I do not have that information in front of me”. This is unacceptable. An organization who is so often critiqued and questioned should be diligent and thorough in their preparation for a hearing like this one. They should have fully prepared for any form of question and prepared Ms. Richards to respond to the rapidly fired inquiries concisely and quickly to convey her point clearly. She is the sole person representing the organization in front of many members of congress and it is of the utmost importance to planned parenthood supporters and patients that she be well equipped to defend the organization. Nonprofit CEO’s should be well-informed about every nook and cranny of their organization to be able to defend any penny spent or raised and activities conducted in the organizations name. This may be a slightly unrealistic request but often times the people demand this type of knowledge and when a hearing is called to examine what you have, how you spend it and what you do, it seems like something you would want to know.
Lack of Objectivity-A congressional hearing does not seem like the pLace to divulge personal information about previous health care experiences with Planned Parenthood or how much you value your daughters and mothers. Nor should it be the place where you advocate for your anti-abortion agenda. This hearing is not for the members of congress to express their own opinions of this organization in the mere 5 minutes they have to speak and ask questions. The purpose of this hearing is to address facts regarding the funding they receive from the federal government. I find it unprofessional and inappropriate to bring personal experiences and private emotions into a conversation that should be operating on a facts only. If Planned Parenthood is or has broken the law then they should be dealt with accordingly. If they have not, then they should continue on. This hearing was far too emotional for a government setting.
I admit that I am no expert on congressional hearings or the intricacies of federal funding. But as an American, I was disappointed in how we treated a voluntary witness. As a former nonprofit employee, I was bothered by her seemingly unpreparedness on key issues. And as a person, I resented the lack of objectivity they showed in their choice of statements and questions.
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I have been visiting churches lately around Atlanta and Decatur. For years I have considered visiting, yet have not attended historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. It sits about a 10 minute drive away from my home, I’ve been to the historic site a number of times, yet until yesterday I had never set foot into a worship service. That was my mistake. As a girl who grew up in a Baptist church and sang in the gospel choir in college, this was closer to home for me than any of the stuffier restrained services I’ve worshipped in over the summer. Dr. Raphael Warnock preached a strong message of goodness yet to come mixed with grace given to those who were struggling to find their path. It was a good word to begin my week, bookended by the three part harmony of the men’s choir and their praise team. High drama was used in the sermon, with the senior pastor at times yelling above the “Amen”s and “Hallelujah”s, yet no drama so much employed than that used in a very quiet but clear invitation for a “members-only” meeting of the church after the service. Members of the media were told they were not welcome in the meeting and members of the church who were part of the media were told the meeting was off the record.
I left my Members Only jacket in 1985 and thus was not in attendance for the meeting.
It is no secret Dr. Warnock has considered running for U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson’s seat. My guess is that this was the meeting in which Dr. Warnock discussed what his run might mean for his church and to ask for the congregation’s blessing. Continue reading “Warnock Hosts “Members-Only” Meeting at Ebenezer Baptist”
I walk a line in Georgia politics. Many of the policy issues that face the state are ones that are not only passion points for me and for my friends, but also INVOLVE my friends. As a political consultant, I work to further my clients’ causes and move the state in, what I hope is, the right direction. More times than not, I find myself on the opposite side of the issue with people whom I admire, value their opinion, and with which I would really love to be on the same side. In this business, there are professional ethics that are dictated by the Georgia Government Transparency and Finance Committee, otherwise known colloquially as the “Ethics Commission”. There are also personal ethics that command even a higher standard. I personally take a GREAT DEAL of pride in that I never work for a cause in which I do not fully believe. It would make me a horrible advocate and I believe would reflect poorly upon my causes.
Earlier this week, the question of Governor Deal’s top education gun, Erin Hames’ ethics came into focus. The AJC and Creative Loafing posed the ethics question regarding the fact that an open records request has shown Mrs. Hames to have concurrent contracts to continue consulting Governor Deal’s office on education and providing strategies to Atlanta Public Schools for avoidance of being taken over by the Opportunity School District.
I will leave the personal and professional ethical questions to others to debate.
As a government affairs consultant to Grad High, a statewide charter high school that serves at-risk youth, an Atlanta school district resident, and a person who is glad to see Governor Deal try something new and bold in education reform, I have a nuanced opinion about Mrs. Hames’ concurrent contracts.
Yet what I am more concerned about is the shadow that this focus on Mrs. Hames casts over the ballot initiative to be decided by Georgia voters in November. The OSD is not a done deal. Yet, education reform is desperately needed in our state. IMHO, Mrs. Hames has long championed for the Governor the necessary education reforms, and her work is something I am grateful for and I believe has very genuine and noble roots. However, I have to question why she would wish to cast a pall over these proceedings?
Continue reading “To Double Dip or Not Double Dip?”
After a weekend of football, and Miss Georgia taking the crown for Miss America, it would be my guess folks around the nation are wondering what other successes and accolades may come from the peach state? For me, I hope our future is found in growing business and a more developed economy, with meaningful employment for Georgians. Yet, I cannot help but notice there are some noticeable gaps still linger. These gaps are not ones that cannot be reconciled, but ones that must be addressed before Georgia is going to be placed on another tier in the marketplace. Many Georgians speak lovingly of farm life, and of agriculturally based, small town economies. Yet, if there is one thing I know of growing up on a farm in a small town, I know that you are always busy- there is compelling work to be done for maintenance, repair, and to keep the farm moving forward.
So what might Georgia do next? Continue reading “Georgia: Filling the Gaps”
I was living in central Massachusetts when it happened. I was on the 15th floor of a high-rise in the Boston financial district attending a school facilities finance seminar. Linda Brown, executive director of the Massachusetts Charter School Resource Center, the program that gave birth to Building Excellent Schools, came in and said there was something on the news about a plane that had crashed into the World Trade Center. What a horrible accident, I thought.
We all logged into cnn.com, and within a few minutes we saw the second plane hit and instantly knew that it had to be a terrorist attack. Every person in the room with me slammed their laptops shut and grabbed their things, and we all bolted to get out of the building as fast as we could. I was terrified that Boston would be attacked too, and all I could think of was getting out of that tall building in the middle of the biggest city in New England.
As I rode the Red Line on the T back to the parking deck in Cambridge, I thought of my parents driving by New York City the day before so they could see the skyline on their way to visit us in Massachusetts, and being thankful that my children were safe at school. I thought about my children’s father who had worked in Manhattan just a few blocks from the World Trade Center. My mom and dad got to my house about the same time I did, and we spent the entire day and much of the night glued to the television to see what had happened in New York, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania. As cynical as I am about political figures, I felt a real sense of pride in President George W. Bush’s steps to comfort the nation. He did a great job.
It didn’t seem real. It still doesn’t. It is unbelievable to me that we could have sustained such a massive attack in our own country. I remember being so relieved years before on the night I saw news about the Berlin Wall being torn down, naively believing that my children would grow up in a world where they wouldn’t have to fear a nuclear war, which I thought was the only way that any enemy of the United States could ever touch us on our own soil. That belief was shattered on September 11, 2001.
Seeing the news shows about 9/11 brings back the feelings of fear like it was yesterday. I cannot imagine what it is like for the families of those who perished, and the survivors of the tragedies.
This past week I had a flat tire, unexpectedly. I was rushing out the door to a meeting and as I turned the corner, saw very plainly that the tire was not a slow leak, but an all-out flat. Curses were said, patience tried, then I moved on. Being undeterred, I decided to take Über- my go-to for any event where I avoid driving. At the end of the day, I had very different drivers, all with a story to tell, all with an interesting perspective, and all who had strong feelings about their commitment to something large than themselves. Some had children which motivated them, others did not. Yet all felt compelled to do something- to go beyond the basic and I was left feeling that these were my kind of people. It was an eye opening experience for me, and I hope it will be interesting for you as well.
First off, I do not typically talk casually about what I do. For a long time I used to tell people I encountered and was certain I would not meet again I was a secretary or an events planner. I did this because whenever I say I work in politics, people always want my opinion. Or, more accurately they wish for me to affirm their opinion as right because I am (in their eyes at the moment) some subject matter expert. I’m not, and I tire of this easily. It was especially difficult in my early twenties at bars in Buckhead when the boys buying drinks wanted to talk about the latest Presidential election or to impress me with their lack of knowledge of foreign policy. But those are posts for another type of blog; just know that I do not bring up what I do in conversation unless I am asked directly and I try to offer the most basic explanation possible before switching the conversation back to them. It saves us all some headaches. Trust me.
My first driver was a fellow Jeep driver, so I felt some level of connection to him with this. We spent the first part of my thirty minute ride discussing Jeeps and other makes and models we had driven and considered driving. I learned he was a musician and did some video production as a primary job with Über as his back-up. Cool. Made me think of all the film productions going on here in Georgia and I silently thanked the tax credits that have encouraged that sector’s growth. The driver then asked me what I did and my answer seemed to engage him far more intensely than I had expected. This could go south, quickly.
…But it didn’t. Continue reading “Über: Disrupting More Than Just Transportation”