Adoption Bill Already In Peril?

Senator Jesse Stone

Yesterday the Senate Judiciary Committee met to take up the adoption bill, HB 159.  This Committee is chaired by the handmaiden of Senate Leadership always vigilant and helpful Senator Jesse Stone.  He began the committee meeting as he often does- in a quiet and respectful nature, explaining in detail the work that has gone into the legislation at hand.  In my experience this is his way of boring you to death before doling out the sucker punch of his substitutes.

If you recall, Chairman Stone offered the sub for Campus Carry in the 2014 session, which effectively gutted the bill.  He offered the sub for Campus Sexual Assault for the 2016 session, in both instances bringing good, common sense to Georgia’s otherwise extreme legislation.    It appeared yesterday this has become his legislative calling card.  He has painted himself in the colors of a moderate. In his initial run for office, I remember a longer standing politico in Augusta (Stone’s district’s nearest metropolitan area) pondering the milquetoast nature of the Chairman.  It is my personal belief that this is his means of a head fake. Stone gives you the idea that his humility is genuine and I can almost see him shrugging his shoulders as he tells one he is just grateful to be in the presence of other great leaders.

Don’t be ashamed if you were fooled.  I certainly was.

I have always seen Chairman Stone to be very secure and confident in his control of his committee meetings, yet Stone seemed somewhat rambling in his opening statements yesterday.  This was the first red flag. Continue reading “Adoption Bill Already In Peril?”

Legislative Day 1: A Day of Hope?

Today marks the beginning of the legislative session of the Georgia General Assembly.  The General Assembly has always convened in the winter months, giving a historic nod to Georgia’s agricultural economy.  For me, it seems also appropriate that it sits snugly in the lull between the end of the Christian seasons of Christmas and Easter.

A few weeks ago, I found myself invited to a holiday party of a friend that is located in the town named after Jesus’ birthplace.  On this evening, I attended what I have many times before in my hometown area: a live nativity scene.  The congregants of the Nativity Lutheran and Bethlehem First United Methodist Churches gathered to tell the story of Jesus in the manger, and naturally there was a crowd of the devout.

The experience this time was different and somehow more poignant to me in a year of so much conflict and anything goes. Continue reading “Legislative Day 1: A Day of Hope?”

The Quick and Already Dead

As reported by the AJC, Representative Regina Quick has decided to not run again for her seat, Georgia’s 117th House District, occupying parts of Barrow, Jackson, Clark, and Oconee counties.  Instead, predecessor Doug Mckillip and newcomer Houston Gaines will challenge one another in the Republican primary and local attorney, Deborah Gonzalez will run on the Democratic ticket.

Georgians may remember my post about HB 51, primarily sponsored by Dean of the House Republican Caucus and Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee Chairman, Earl Ehrhart, this past session that Rep. Quick heavily defended.  As a female, Republican, attorney, and someone who has the ability to be both intelligent and respectful in committee hearings, Quick was truly the best thing HB 51 had going for it.  Yet the legislation was largely opposed by UGA students and ultimately was defeated in the General Assembly.  However, carrying water for the longest serving Republican member of the Georgia House has its benefits, (along with Quick’s own legal chops) and Georgia may yet see her awarded a judgeship.

“Your honor” has a certain ring to it, I am sure. Continue reading “The Quick and Already Dead”

When You Find Yourself in a Hole, Stop Digging

Dear Commissioner Hunter:

When you find yourself in a hole, please stop digging.

Some months back I penned a piece about my new home county becoming ground zero for the Post-Trump era.  Unfortunately I find the saga of Commissioner Tommy Hunter continues this morning as I read the Atlanta Journal & Constitution.  The AJC has brought to light the grating words of my commissioner’s attorney in a request for an evasion of an Ethics Panel.  The particularly troubling part is the misappropriation of terms referring to “political lynching”.  Lynching has a long and sordid history here, God help us, as my home rests in the same town that once was the home of the Grand Dragon of the KKK.  The spate of images the term lynching brings up does not lend any help to a man who referred to a Civil Rights icon as a “racist pig”.  Generally one wishes to avoid those images being associated with their name, but in the post-Trump era, now white, property-owning men are now the victims of racism.

Language is a strange and powerful thing, is it not? Continue reading “When You Find Yourself in a Hole, Stop Digging”

Brain Drain: The Southern Response to Ed and Business Atrophy

The challenge of brain drain has existed for years in areas around the nation.  The South is no different, although perhaps more exaggerated and slower to respond.  As I grew up in Social Circle, all I wanted to do was get the hell out of my small town and find a job, home, and surroundings that seemed to fit me more than from whence I came.  Many college-age kids and younger are the same.  This is not to say I do not deeply love Walton County (God’s country) and recognize the idyllic childhood I had there.  I grew up recognizing I was a square peg in a round hole, and I felt like an escape would provide the upward mobility I sought while not interfering with/ ruffling the feathers of those within the cultural climate I was reared.  The early recognition that I was a bit different forced me to reconcile that staying in my small town would mean a constant outsider feeling accompanied with a general uphill battle for any of my ideas and presence in certain circles.  So like a number of youth across the nation, I left and come back for family visits, events of friends who stayed behind and not much else.  I wait with baited breath for Walton County’s prosperity and commercial growth.  I sing its praises as often as I am able and I encourage as many to move there as possible, yet the struggle to be accepted as I am (more progressive, assertive, and business oriented) will always halt any dreams of returning.

But what if an entire generation chooses to leave their home towns?  What if few decide to come back?  What happens to the rural small towns they leave and how do those towns sustain themselves over time?  What happens when my generation reverses white flight and we all move back into urban areas?

You may have noticed it in your own town and among your own neighbors.  My generation has little patience for lack of amenities and we frankly do not comprehend how you work or live without reliable WiFi.  This isn’t unique to a certain area of the Southeast.  This is representative of a larger generational shift across the nation.  The opportunity to be something other than someone’s child has its own draw, and readily available choices of higher paying jobs is incredibly seductive.

In the last six months I have engaged in a leadership class called Georgia Forward.  Initially a nonprofit offshoot from Central Atlanta Progress, this organization partners with cities around Georgia to produce solutions to the local community’s challenges.  These challenges are identified by a steering committee of local officials (namely the local Chamber, from what I can tell), and are then posed in the form of questions to the group of fifty class members, a third of which are locals.

The area to which my class was partnered is Troup County.  Rich in textile history and manufacturing industry jobs, Troup County is an ideal location for Georgians to stake their claim and build their dreams.  Yet the cities of LaGrange, West Point, and Hogansville are finding it challenging to attract and retain young talent.  With little to no quality of place attributes (nightlife, retail establishments, civic organizations), I found myself both very familiar with and appallingly shocked as to why the residents could not recognize their own challenges.   The juxtaposition of those who enjoy the non-urban lifestyle that Troup County offers is in direct contrast to the preferences of those they wish to attract and retain.

This is not new, or foreign to me.  It is becoming so damn common across Georgia I often wish to beat my head against the wall in frustration.  I have seen this manifest in Macon, Augusta, Monroe, on recent visits to Americus, Albany, and certainly in my hometown of Social Circle.  There is a generational difference that contributes to the challenge, but also an ever-present racial one, and at its roots, economic.

I did not think of it as a generational problem across the nation until I recently finished the memoir, Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance.  The book was so incredibly gripping- painfully so at times.  The tome spoke such truth to the life I have known here where, albeit less violence and drugs as represented in Vance’s life, my own experience knows well the depth of family loyalty, the need for escaping one’s hometown, and the ties that forever bind us by the heartstrings to the challenges we try to leave behind. Continue reading “Brain Drain: The Southern Response to Ed and Business Atrophy”

Power As A Test of Character: Georgia’s Campus Sexual Assault Bill

 In every political system we have abuses of power, some more than others.  They are not uncommon, and as long as the abuses are not egregious they can often times be overlooked.  That does not make it right, yet one must pick their battles.  It should also be said that the very legislators who commit these may do so because they sincerely have good intents.  Sadly though, the general public is not always aware that some bills begin under these circumstances, and a bill’s origins often offer a more comprehensive view of the legislation.  I would like to shed some light on one such case.

In 2016, the AJC reported on Representative Earl Ehrhart (R-36, Powder Springs) intervening in an investigation at Georgia Tech where he threatened and then followed through on reduced funding for the research institution the next legislative session after the outcome of the school’s investigation.  You see, despite thirty-eight years in the Georgia General Assembly and being a past Rules Chairman under Speaker Richardson, Ehrhart is only a sub-committee Chairman.  That subcommittee happens to be the House Appropriations sub-committee on Higher Education.

That’s right- Rep. Ehrhart holds the purse strings for all the colleges and universities across the state.  Those same universities that are churning out the talent in our state to put it on Forbes’ List of the next tech meccas.

Follow me now? Continue reading “Power As A Test of Character: Georgia’s Campus Sexual Assault Bill”

Gwinnett, the New Ground Zero Post-Trump

Most people do not pay any attention to their local political scene.  They vote every four years in a Presidential election and they pat themselves on the back for check off that mental box of participation in the political process.  As of late though, the Gwinnett County Commission has become a more embroiled entity.  The good Lord KNOWS Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash is trying her hardest to smooth things over like every Southern woman has done for one foolish man or another in her circle.  But we all know there aren’t enough hand written notes IN THE WORLD that can smooth this one over!  This hits close to home for me because it literally IS my home now.  And it is of particular interest to me now that my last home (Atlanta) has become involved in Gwinnett County Commission dealings via a letter from Mayor Kasim Reed to Commissioner Tommy Hunter’s employer, United Consulting.  You can find the text of the letter and coverage by Adrianne Haney and Duffie Dixon of WXIA here. Continue reading “Gwinnett, the New Ground Zero Post-Trump”

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?”

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”