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”

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”

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”

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”

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?”

Rules, Shmules!

rulesToday is the last day of the Georgia legislature, and I am ever the optimistic populist.  So if you are watching from home, or from the galleries and have a bit of confusion about what’s going on, I thought it might be helpful to have your own copy of the Rules.

House Rules

Senate Rules

Click on the links above and you will find the rules governing the chambers.  The Senate Rules are online at legis.ga.gov, but the House Rules were updated back in 2013 and never made it back online.  With the gracious assistance of a transparency-loving House member, I scanned and copied the above for your reading pleasure/assistance before you head to sleep.

While these are the Rules governing the chambers, it would also be helpful to note that the House’s parliamentary procedure most closely follows the American version of Robert’s Rules of Order and the Senate more closely follows Mason’s Rules of Parliamentary Procedure.  I’m a fan of Robert’s, but Mason’s was explicitly designed for state legislatures.

Here’s NCSL’s take on the differences.

Now the key portions to pay attention to are terms like “germane”, “engrossment”, and paying attention to which floor votes are performed by a show of hands.  These procedures are what make the action on the floor more interesting and volatile.  Transparency is not the populace’s friend on Sine Die, and so I would encourage all Georgians to come out after work to watch the floors, if you want to really know what happens.

Want real time floor notes?  Twitter is your friend.

Senate Press

House Floor Notes

You can also get feedback from individuals and media on legislation by following #gapol on Twitter.

Happy Sine Die, all!

Rep. Mike Dudgeon: Transparency In the Age of Technology

voting card

Anyone who knows me personally knows how much I adore convenience providing technology, individuals who speak their mind, and processes that afford ample transparency.  I believe that those who can be informed can also engage, and the more folks are engaged are the more who can bring about sustainable methods of solutions to the challenges of our time.  I do not believe that elected oficials are inherently corrupt, but do recognize that it takes some serious courage and vision to alter a pre-existing system.  With this perspective, my compliments to legislators do not come easily nor is my respect earned without merit.  The Georgia General Assembly has been my playground and profession for the last twelve years.  I cut my teeth with the House Hawk system (to which Congressman Tom Graves belonged) and I have mourned the loss of a number of men and women who contributed not simply to their district, but to greatness of the state as a whole.

Last week I was sad to hear of the decision of Representative Mike Dudgeon to not seek re-election.   The image to the right was the image accompanying his Facebook post notifying the public he would not be seeking re-election.  I am particularly sad about this because of his contribution to a more open and transparent bill comparison system.  In a General Assembly in which the Senate still does not provide live streamed meetings, (and as of last week) I was told by Senate Gallery Doorkeepers photographs were no longer allowed in the Senate gallery, Representative Dudgeon stood in direct contrast.  He is no rabble rouser, but simply admires limited scope of government and does not hide behind some archaic idea that technology is something to be feared.  In contrast to the same photo-prohibiting ladies that explained I could use my cell phone for “business” not for “playing” while in the gallery, Representative Dudgeon and many House members actively have dialogue with their constituents via social media.

Thanks be to God for the House chamber, and specifically for Representative Dudgeon.  For those who are unaware, Representative Dudgeon graduated Georgia Tech with a degree in Electrical Engineering and currently holds five patents.  During his years in the Georgia General Assembly, Rep. Dudgeon also took time out of his full-time job in the tech sector and his service as a member to develop an inter-office software program that analyzes the different versions of bills as they go through the legislative process. 

Here’s where is gets wonky, so skip down a paragraph if you are not into political nerdom/ jargon. Continue reading “Rep. Mike Dudgeon: Transparency In the Age of Technology”

Of Rumors and Peach Punditry…

man woman hands holding broken heartIt would seem while I was in NOLA, a little change occurred in politics and punditry in the peach state.  (And I thought things were rowdy in the French Quarter.  Yikes!)

Long time Editor in Chief, Charlie Harper and many of the contributors jumped ship and moved to their own, new blog (gapol.com) with Harper serving as the publisher.  Yours truly got her start blogging there, met her current boyfriend among the writers there, and continue to hold many of the writers in high personal professional esteem.  Published by Clayton Wagar and created by Erick Erickson, Peach Pundit is now taking a new turn without the old crew.

It is my understanding that Peach Pundit, like Z Politics, has been acquired by Stoneridge.

If this rumor is true: Bravo to Wagar and Erickson for monetizing opinions and comments on a website!  Bravo too to the writers who left wishing to separate themselves from the monetization of their words!  Bravo to Jay Williams and gang for acquiring another hold on political punditry in Georgia!

Win-win for everyone, and a great start to session 2016!

 

Red Clay and the Challenge of Equality: To Be Mired In or Molded

georgiaredclayThe holiday season is drawing to a close, and soon the legislative session for the Georgia General Assembly will be upon us.  As the state closes out its year, we look to the future and what promise or plague our policy makers will bestow upon us.  I have spent an unhealthy amount of time this season pondering the fate of Georgia, as if I have any real means of addressing it.  I have not blogged in some time, as I have had little hope that the politics of the day are bearing anything other than strange fruit.  It is hard, even for an eternal optimist in these days of constant rain to see the silver lining.  Across the red hills, I see a lot of barriers that not only exist, but are perpetuated without real cognizance of their consequence.

Along with the temperature, I see the passion of Georgia’s people heating up like a kiln.  Many of us in the political sphere refer to this time as “the calm before the storm” of legislative session.  We spend time with our families, count our blessings, and prepare ourselves for the battle of will in government.  Under the surface though, there is something simmering here and in the nation that Presidential candidate Donald Trump and the Black Lives Matter movement have accentuated and possibly exploited.

It is widely assumed that the upcoming session will be brief and not much policy other than education passed.  Incumbents need time to raise money and campaign in their districts.  This abbreviated session may be a mixed bag of course, addressing a big problem, yet not the only one the state faces.  I am grateful to see the QBE funding formula finally addressed (as the last time was almost before my birth), yet I cannot shake the very real feeling I have had for the last five years or so.

The General Assembly is thinking too small. Continue reading “Red Clay and the Challenge of Equality: To Be Mired In or Molded”

#Protip

I have recently had the joy of attending a number of forums, meetings, discussions, and roundtables regarding policy in Georgia.  I recognize a lot of folks may not enjoy these, but I definitely do.  I like to build consensus, I like having multiple voices heard, new ideas vetted, and innovative solutions considered.  I attend these sort of events to learn, sometimes to share, and most importantly to connect in an area of interest I have, both for the benefit of my clients and (my aspiration) for the benefit of my state.

Unfortunately, I also attend meetings that could have been handled in an email, attend forums that are a waste of time, and discussions that are more echo chambers than actual conversation.  As a result, I thought it might be helpful for me to identify for others what makes a compelling, interesting, and well organized meeting or forum.  Consider this your free #protip.

Sidebar-Protip

Continue reading “#Protip”