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What should Atlanta mayoral candidates be discussing?

Activists, academics, and experts say what they want City Hall hopefuls to address during the 2017 campaign

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Atlanta voters from now until they cast ballots on Nov. 7, 2017, will hear mayoral candidates discuss their ideas for what the city needs to go from good to great and why they are the ones who can accomplish the task. These ideas have been tested and the pitches have been perfected. But what do the people who study, advocate for, and try to solve some of the city’s most pressing problems want to hear candidates discuss? We asked 17 of them what they want to hear on the campaign trail. Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.Xochitl Bervera, Racial Justice Action CenterBefore the election of Donald Trump I was primarily focused on the mayoral candidates’ stances on criminal justice reform — their support for reforming the city jail and municipal court, funding for the Atlanta Pre-Arrest Diversion Initiative, and transforming the Atlanta Police Department’s culture.  Now these things are important inside a larger context. Will Atlanta become a sanctuary city, an oasis of freedom, an island of resistance in a Trump America? Do the candidates understand that a Trump regime means policies that will negatively affect many of us? There will be a direct and serious impact on many of our communities. And Atlanta stands at a crossroads. The candidates must choose a side. Choose “respectability, don’t rock the boat, work for cooperation with the Republicans” and a good number of our fellow ATLiens will be thrown under the very dangerous Trump bus. Or choose clear and concrete opposition that stands with all of the people of Atlanta and become a blue island of freedom in a ever-more repressive state. Which side will the candidates choose? Are they willing to make a set of commitments designed to use the power of the city to protect and defend the people most targeted and vulnerable under Trump’s administration? This includes local commitments around immigration policy, criminal justice and public safety policy, education policy, and more. Sally Flocks, PEDSI’d like mayoral candidates to address how the city will address the backlog of broken sidewalks, which probably exceeds $200 million. The 2010 State of Atlanta’s Infrastructure report estimated the backlog at $152 million. Department of Public Works Commissioner Richard Mendoza has also stated publicly that the estimated annual deterioration of sidewalks is $15 million.Chipping away at that backlog faces hurdles. Current city policy calls for billing property owners to fix sidewalks in front of their home. Atlanta City Council members decided to reallocate sidewalk funding included in the $250 million infrastructure bond to projects in their districts. They drained the sidewalk funds completely and cut curb ramps to $5 million — something the city was already required to spend as part of the 2009 settlement agreement with the U.S. Justice Department. Elected officials don’t want Public Works to enforce the current ordinance billing property owners. So are the mayoral candidates willing to include at least $15 million a year in the City budget?I’d also like the candidates to address the issue of creating a city Department of Transportation. Many large cities, including New York City, Chicago, Boston, have DOTs. Officials at Public Works have not bought into the Planning Department’s vision for the city and continue to implement changes that favor congestion relief over ones that benefit multi-modal transportation.No value assignedRebecca Serna, Atlanta Bicycle CoalitionWe feel this election is key for our issues and are planning to do what we can to help our network of supporters get engaged and get to know the candidates. We have a goal of making safe streets and bikeways high-profile issues in the election, and we’re working on a platform we want candidates to consider adopting.We want the city to have a focus on overall road safety. We want the city to adopt a goal of zero traffic deaths. It should prioritize roadway safety over roadway speed, which should change how streets are designed, give people more options, and reduce crashes. That would in turn reduce unpredictable delays, and makes the city more livable for its residents. The city should also create a City Department of Transportation to better integrate project planning with delivery.We hope the next mayor will eliminate minimum-parking requirements, especially for projects on the planned bike network, to make those developments more affordable. Finally, we want the mayor to continue creating a safe, connected, and convenient network of bike lanes and trails — candidates should set mileage goals for the network, as this will require them to do some homework and show it’s a priority — and commit to maintaining it regularly.Vince Champion, regional director of the International Brotherhood of Police OfficersI would love to see a mayor looking at the police department as the necessary tool it is. For he or she to explain more to the public why we have to make arrests and what we do, and to see where the training is definitely better. Money is important, but not necessarily as much as other benefits. What is insurance like? What about their pension benefits? You look at APD and every other car has dents in it. Why is that? Why do officers have to fight for things like that? If we don’t have to worry about administration, then we can go out and be a cop.We’d like to have a mayor, especially as strong as one here, that would stand up in support for law enforcement and be as transparent to the community as he or she is with us about what we do.Jennette Gayer, Environment GeorgiaThe bottom line: protecting our air, water, and green spaces will be even more important at the local level under a Trump presidency. The city should be a leader not a follower on energy and climate issues. We also need someone not afraid to push Georgia Power--the city should be figuring out how to get 100% of its electricity from clean renewable sources and pushing the utility to help with that goal.  I'm hopeful but not optimistic that the Obama administration will do some good around neonics, the pesticides linked to the huge bee die-off. But the city could do it now. Ban neonics, use fewer pesticides on city parks and schools, and save the bees — and our food system! Finally, the passage of TSPLOST and the MARTA sales taxes means a lot will be happening to expand our transit in the coming years. We need smart transit-oriented development to accompany this new transit. We need a mayor that will not abandon principles like walkable, bikeable, mixed-use, and affordability when a developer has an idea. Chris Appleton, WonderRoot I want to hear candidates talk about the intersection of arts and policing, arts and housing, arts and restorative justice. I’m looking for mayoral candidates who will talk about the power of the arts to heal. Candidates must discuss their solutions to ensure every Atlantan has the equitable access to arts and culture that they deserve. Art and artists have a history of being on the frontlines for change. In a time when change is needed for all Atlantans, our leadership must demonstrate their support through a dedication of increased resources — time, money, and people — for the City of Atlanta toward the arts.William Perry, executive director of Georgia Ethics Watchdogs, a good government groupHopefully none of the candidates will try to justify the illegal use of sirens and blue lights and we can have a discussion of real ethics and transparency issues such as: ending Atlanta’s pay-to-play culture; establishing guidelines, procedures, and qualifications for office budget expenses, staff bonuses, and proclamations; posting accessible public documents on the city’s website including budgets with real-time expenditure and revenue reporting; creating a Council Attorney that serves independently of the city — Mayor’s — law department; reducing the mayor’s budget for hiring private lawyers hired to protect the mayor’s image, a move that keeps public documents out of the hands of the public and stalls the prevention of illegal appointments and activities.No value assignedDan Immergluck, Georgia Tech professor and expert on housing affordabilityCandidates need to discuss housing affordability, specifically inclusionary zoning and a housing opportunity bond. The first must be mandatory and targeted primarily at households making less than 50 percent of the area median income — roughly $34,000 for a family of four. We also need a major housing trust fund, funded by a housing bond, that’s targeted to low-income households. It can also be used to preserve existing affordable stock, to provide funds for rehabilitation and purchase of existing properties accompanied by long-term affordability requirements.I’d like to hear how they plan to address vacant and abandoned properties more aggressively. The city needs to increase its activity taking control of distressed properties so that they do not continue to harm neighborhoods. This will also serve to open up these areas to housing opportunity. More funding should be devoted to demolition where it is necessary, and to rehab where it is feasible. Doing so would spread out housing demand and reduce land value pressures. It will also save the city millions per year in costs associated with vacant properties. The mayor can push the Fulton tax commissioner and the Atlanta-Fulton Land Bank Authority to partner on acquiring properties and, when possible, rehabbing them for affordable housing.The new mayor should push for property tax reform that is more fair. Low-income homeowners need tools that limit property tax burden, especially as their neighborhoods gentrify. Landlords who commit to long-term affordability should be taxed at lower rates than those who do not. Programs to help lower-income homeowners repair their homes need to be expanded.Finally, where state policy is an impediment to local policies, the next mayor must work more with mayors and leaders from other cities and suburbs around the state to build political capital for changes to state law. This is more feasible as we have seen a growth in suburban and small town poverty and housing affordability issues.Jack Hardin, co-chair of the Atlanta Regional Commission on HomelessnessAtlanta is reducing its homeless counts while other major cities are experiencing increases. The next mayor should continue to partner with the private sector investing in successful strategies and filling gaps to make homelessness rare and brief in Atlanta. At the same time, the City needs to lead major investments in affordable housing so we can avoid the fates of other great cities. Housing needs to be affordable for unskilled workers and connected by transportation to employment.Eric Kronberg, principle of Kronberg Wall and urbanism advocateAtlanta has a chance to lead, to be a light in urban redevelopment. The city has come amazingly far in the past 18 years I’ve lived here, but it also has very far to go. The Nov. 8 votes offer great promise in terms of funding local investment in place and mobility options, but also set a huge responsibility for cities to lead the way to a better, more inclusive place for all people of our nation. I firmly believe that the work Planning Commissioner Tim Keane and Ryan Gravel are leading in terms of helping Atlanta define a vision for our future as a city is critical for our success. I also strongly believe that the changes needed will be uncomfortable medicine for a lot of residents. This will obviously not be politically popular in the least. Finding a mayoral candidate that understands the importance of this work, and the absolute need to help people get past their current expectations, is critical for the success of Atlanta.Marshall Rancifer, founding director the Justice for All CoalitionThey should be discussing having total wraparound services for homeless folks. I want to see them instead of putting people in satellite locations, which is not going to work unless you provide transportation for them to access homeless service providers, is improving the Peachtree-Pine task force to be a one-stop shop, a full-service center to meet the clients who are there. I want to see if taking the quality of life arrests off the table and getting those ordinances done away with. It’s been sitting on the table since Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall released it a few months ago. And there are more and more places being blocked off by the city to prevent homeless people from gathering. The city needs to be more welcoming to its poor and marginalized populations.Julian Bene, Invest Atlanta board memberI would like to see the mayoral candidates discuss whether they will continue to champion job attraction and retention efforts, which have brought to the city many new or expanding employers and thousands of good jobs in each of the past several years. Would they fully fund Invest Atlanta’s economic development program and collaborate closely with the state and the city’s other key partners? Would they restrict tax abatements for commercial developments to exceptional cases, such as those in challenged parts of the city? And how would they stop the Development Authority of Fulton County from giving out abatements in the city with no public benefit, such as affordability, required? Would they wind up any Tax Allocation Districts Editor’s note: TADs are funding tools aimed at incentivizing developers to build in so-called “blighted areas,” including Atlantic Station and Downtown. and direct their revenues back to the general funds of the city, Atlanta Public Schools and the county? If so, which TADs? In addition to their plans for boosting affordable housing, how do they see completing out the Beltline during their term?No value assignedMary Hooks, Southerners on New GroundThey need to be talking about what they intend to do to make this city a sanctuary city for black and brown people under a fascist, white-supremacist administration.Jeff Graham, Georgia Equality executive directorWhile health services fall under the purview of counties, the city has an important role to play in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The next mayor can play a pivotal role in helping us reach the goal of an AIDS-free generation. The mayor must have a good working relationship with both Fulton and DeKalb County Commissions to ensure a coordinated effort to implement the Strategy to End AIDS. The mayor should also use the bully pulpit of the office to engage civic, faith, education, and business leaders in this fight.On a policy level, the mayor needs to prioritize the housing crisis among people living with HIV by ensuring more affordable housing options, lobbying for increased funding, and addressing the current contracting issues that leave HIV housing providers with funding gaps while annual contracts are being processed. The mayor should also support efforts to develop a pre-arrest diversion program for those accused of sex work and work with the Atlanta Housing Authority to ensure that those with minor criminal convictions are able to secure housing and access to vital services.Jessyca Holland, C4 Atlanta executive directorOn my mind, and heavy on my heart, is the "Ghost Ship" fire in Oakland, California. We need to collectively learn from that tragedy. I would also like to see more local support for national initiatives that have the potential to offer workforce support to the "gig" economy, which includes artists. I'm specifically thinking of the CREATE Act. Artists are concerned with a wealth of issues that affect everyone. We would all benefit from better transportation, affordable housing, and food equity and access, to name a few. These are issues many artists understand intimately. Listen. Paul Gerdis, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Atlanta, IAFF Local 134The Professional Fire Fighters of Atlanta, IAFF Local 134, will be watching the 2017 Mayoral race with a close eye. We are looking for a candidate that will continue the strong lines of communication that our current mayor, Kasim Reed, has established with the recognized Fire Labor Union in the city.The Fire Union needs a mayor that will take a serious look at increasing our compensation packages, lower benefits, and increasing our way of life. The firefighters of the City of Atlanta are dedicated public servants that commit to the protection and well-being of the citizens, visitors, and business in our city. Our Union will meet with all leading mayoral candidates.Michelle Marcus Rushing, chair of the Beltline Tax Allocation District Advisory Committee, a citizen oversight groupI think what is needed is a “For Atlanta, By Atlanta” platform. It feels like far too much political and fiscal capital has been spent on making Atlanta attractive to outsiders — event facilities, tourist districts, big roads so they can zoom in fast and zoom back out even faster, big cheap parking lots so they don’t have to feel like they’re even in a city. Many of these choices have degraded quality of life in the city; some have simply diverted funds from other causes, while others have directly led to deterioration of neighborhood and travel conditions at a local level (especially walking and bicycling).Those things are not why people move here and stay here. Those things usually suck up a lot of public expenditures while generating relatively little tax revenue in return. In the meantime, citizens are fighting for years to get playground equipment fixed, crosswalks installed, blighted houses controlled, schools improved, and all the other things that actually impact daily life.I want to hear a mayoral candidate say, “We aren’t going to do anything glamorous or attention-getting for the next four years unless it primarily benefits our residents. We’re just going to make a nice place to live and to work or run a business. And we’re going to make sure that everyone can live here and thrive from it.”


Atlanta often has a dream of being the best combined with a haunting inferiority complex that prevents real evidence-based decision-making and attention to detail. The recent interest in affordable housing and opportunity and ending homelessness needs to be elevated. That is, they need to champion and make evidence-based policies for decent local jobs, housing affordability at all income levels and all parts of the city, lots of transportation options, local businesses, and so forth.



More By This Writer

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Monday October 21, 2019 03:39 pm EDT
Explore the outdoors and commune with nature without leaving town | more...
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  string(13609) "::::No value assignedForty days. That’s how long the Georgia General Assembly has by law to decide what laws should be passed, tweaked, or repealed to run the state. Will lawmakers overhaul Georgia’s education spending? Help MARTA keep expanding? Thumb its nose at the chaos happening in Washington, D.C., or mimic here at home? Here’s a rundown of some of the issues that are on lawmakers’ minds.


EDUCATIONWhen it came to education, Gov. Nathan Deal had a clear plan for the 2017 legislative session: Overhaul Georgia’s school funding formula, the one that’s remained in place since 1985, old enough for the septuagenarian governor to compare it to a Commodore 64 during his “State of the State” address two years ago.But the best-laid plans of politicians often go awry: Voters rejected his Opportunity Schools District referendum intended to fix failing schools but would have seized control from leaders in marginalized communities. Now Deal wants to revisit how to turn around 153 schools that have had failing test schools for three consecutive years — a rising trend that now affects nearly 89,000 students.“If this pattern of escalation in the number of failing schools does not change, its devastating effects on our state will grow with each passing school year,” Deal said during this year’s “State of the State.”Deal’s “Plan B” is still on the drawing board. For starters, though, he wants to give teachers a 2 percent raise in the upcoming budget. But expect anything else beyond that to focus on elementary school students first. How will that happen exactly? The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, following its poll that found voters mostly backed school choice, has reported school vouchers might be in the cards. But the plan’s supposed architect, State Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, has kept quiet on the matter to date.“There’s no magic silver bullet,” says Georgia Budget and Policy Institute senior education policy analyst Claire Suggs. “Just complex and hard work. There needs to be a conversation about the needs of these children, and how to best meet these needs. Whatever emerges should reflect that.”Though Deal has increased K-12 funding by $2 billion over four years, Suggs says the money is just one step toward fully restoring the more than $9 billion in austerity cuts made since 2003. Those funding cuts, state auditors found, have in turn forced college tuition costs to increase by 77 percent over a decade. Expect lawmakers to watch that debate closely: Not just because of its impact on tuition, but because casino backers, who say their foray into Georgia could save the HOPE Scholarship, might use it as a way to gain traction under the Gold Dome.
No value assigned

HEALTHLast summer, policy experts were crafting a plan to increase health insurance coverage to Georgians living on low incomes. In other words, it was an effort to expand Medicaid without expanding Medicaid.Those plans are now on hold, and potentially dead, now that Donald Trump is moving into the White House. With a promise to repeal and (maybe) replace the Affordable Care Act, state officials are now waiting to see what policy comes out of Washington, D.C. Deal said just as much during his annual “State of the State” address, warning lawmakers “against taking giant leaps on health care policy.”State reps and senators will instead focus on ways to keep hospitals from going broke and shutting their doors. First on the to-do list is giving the state department of public health the authority to continue collecting a fee — opponents call it a “bed tax” — hospitals pay. The fee helps generate roughly $900 million a year to fund Medicaid and PeachCare, the state’s insurance program for children living in poverty.Also up for consideration is an effort by state Rep. Geoff Duncan, R-Cumming, to improve a tax credit aimed at coaxing people to donate to rural hospitals. Duncan, who’s said to be considering a gubernatorial run in 2018, wants to increase the credit from 70 percent to 90 percent to make it more attractive.In addition, lawmakers will also consider whether making access to Naloxone, a drug used to reverse opioid overdoses, more readily available. Deal did so in an executive order but he’s asking the General Assembly to codify the measure. And state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, is pushing to allow in-state cultivation of medical marijuana. State law is silent on how people can actually obtain the cannabis oil permitted in Georgia.


No value assigned


TRANSPORTATIONOn Jan. 10, House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, broached an idea that just 10 years ago would have been blasphemy to a Georgia Republican: The state would consider funding transit, an important mode of transportation that up until now has mainly been bankrolled by Atlanta, Fulton, and DeKalb counties and the feds.Granted, “considering” allocating cash toward rail and buses is not the same as actually doing it. But the fact that a North Georgia Republican would mention the possibility shows just how far transit, and MARTA, has come under the Gold Dome. After decades of shunning buses and rail as a viable option and demonizing MARTA as a crime-ridden money sump, lawmakers have taken notice. The fact that corporations want to relocate, and developers build, near transit stops, has helped.Last year the Legislature gave Atlanta the OK to ask voters to approve a sales tax to pay for a $2.5 billion expansion of MARTA in the city limits (they overwhelmingly agreed). This year the General Assembly might be asked to do the same for a $5.5 billion boost in unincorporated DeKalb and Fulton.Whether that happens during the next 40 days, or next year, depends on a variety of factors. DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond, new to the job, might first wish to clean up the dysfunctional county before asking residents to hand over more in taxes. There’s also the question over whether South Fulton leaders and North Fulton elected officials, some of whom have gone as far as pushing legislation denouncing MARTA rail, can agree.“I hope this will be another year we can build on our success,” says MARTA Board Chairman Robbie Ashe. “We’re very proud of the job MARTA CEO Keith Parker and his team have done and we think the recent election results make it crystal clear that when transit is on the ballot, transit wins. We believe the rest of Fulton and DeKalb deserve the same choice that Atlanta’s voters got.”In addition, lawmakers will once again weigh the pros and cons of creating a regional transit agency to wrangle metro Atlanta’s various transit systems, potentially allowing seamless transfers between buses and rail systems. Someone should tell them there’s already one up and running. Its name is MARTA.
No value assigned

RELIGIOUS FREEDOMState Sen. Josh McKoon isn’t letting last year’s failed attempt to pass a “religious freedom” bill — or contentious battles over the issue in other states — stop him from trying again. The Columbus Republican tells Creative Loafing he’s resurrecting the measure that critics say would pave the way for discrimination. But McKoon says this year’s version will be an easier pill to swallow than its predecessors.McKoon — or possibly one of his colleagues, he says — will drop a bill this week that will mirror the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act enacted in 1993 by President Bill Clinton. That measure “ensures that interests in religious freedom are protected.”Not surprisingly, the American Civil Liberties Union Georgia chapter Executive Director Andrea Young says the organization will not endorse a state-level RFRA. She says Georgia needs a comprehensive civil rights act replete with protections for all people. “The issue of civil rights needs to be looked at in its entirety,” she says.McKoon says the measure is not anti-LGBTQ. He claims his RFRA pitch last year, Senate Bill 129, caught flak and failed because it was lumped into legislation alongside the “Pastor Protection Act,” a statute that would have allowed religious institutions to deny services in cases that infringed upon their beliefs, such as performing same-sex marriages.McKoon this year is using the story of Nabila Khan, a Muslim Georgia State University student who was asked by a teacher to remove her face-concealing religious veil. Khan declined, and the university backed her up, according to the Signal, the school’s student paper. McKoon says SB 129 could have helped her situation, especially if Khan wound up facing charges for violating Georgia’s anti-mask code.“What about the next person who’s confronted by an authority figure, who doesn’t challenge that person?” McKoon says. Under a state-enforced RFRA, “the government, to enforce that criminal statute, would have to show a compelling state interest and show that this is the least restrictive means,” he says.
No value assigned
BUDGETNow that the part-time lawmakers have parked their horses outside the Gold Dome, they are required to do one thing before they head back to Americus and Zebulon: pass the damn budget! Deal says that task shouldn’t be too tricky considering Georgia has projected a revenue growth of 3.6 percent. From his dais last week, Deal unveiled Georgia’s $25 billion spending plans for the upcoming fiscal year — one of the largest in the state’s history.Yeah, yeah, yeah. Budget, how boring. What’s that cash being spent on? State troopers are getting a 20 percent pay hike to boost morale and lower turnover. (Don’t worry, teachers and child welfare social workers, the guv’s got your back, too.) There’s also more than $1 billion in cash for loans to fund construction for a new Georgia Supreme Court building, Georgia World Congress Center upgrades, and a fancy technical college near the governor’s home up in Hall County.
SON OF A GUN: State Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, plans to bring back his legislation allowing permitted gun owners to tote their shootin’ irons on campus.Joeff Davis

GUNSIt wouldn’t be a legislative session without bills expanding the number of places where people can carry guns. At least four pieces of firearm-related legislation are headed through this year, including the return of the controversial “Campus Carry” bill by state Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper.The bill, which Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed last year, would have allowed college students with carry permits at Georgia’s public universities to tote guns on campus.University System of Georgia officials, school leaders, gun-control advocacy groups, and concerned parents opposed the measure. This year it’s returning with the exact same language, the lawmaker tells CL.“I can carry my weapon if I take my 3-year-old to day care today,” Jasperse says. Why not a college campus?Democrats are likely to oppose the bill, and state Rep. Keisha Waites, D-Atlanta, is reviving her effort to require gun safety training for all firearm carry permit applicants. She likened a safety course mandate to a driver’s license test.“Think about the recent shooting we just had with the individual who was ex-military,” she says, referring to the Iraq war veteran who shot and killed five people in a Florida airport. “Can you imagine a scenario with a good guy with his weapon, but he can’t shoot it, he can’t load it, he knows nothing about it or how it puts the public at-large in danger?”But even Waites' benign proposal is too much for Second Amendment advocates. Both Jasperse and Jerry Henry, executive director of Second Amendment advocacy group Georgia Carry, say government-mandated training would be unnecessary and unconstitutional. U.S. citizens aren’t tested before becoming eligible to vote, they argue, and therefore shouldn’t be tested prior to exercising their rights.Another gun bill detested by Jasperse and Henry, filed in November by state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, aims to ban assault rifles as well as explosive ammo, high-capacity magazines, and silencers.“I want somebody to justify why a cop killer bullet should be sold,” Oliver says, citing the July attack on Dallas police officers, which was carried out by an Army vet wielding legally obtained weapons.
ATLANTA’S WISH LISTIn past years, most of the favors Mayor Kasim Reed and the Atlanta City Council have asked state lawmakers to grant centered around getting the state’s OK to hike taxes on booze. Occasionally, you’d see a measure or two aimed at gun control that promptly went nowhere in the Republican-controlled Gold Dome.This year city officials want House reps and senators to tweak laws to help eradicate blight by allowing the city to move faster on getting rid of dilapidated properties it takes over (and tweaking the state’s eminent domain law to do so), keeping secret some records gathered by a citizen advisory group that hears complaints about police misconduct, and allowing earlier pour times at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Priorities!

CRAZY BILLSDo not rule out nonsense during the legislative session. In addition to debating whether casinos should be allowed in Georgia, lawmakers will also hear measures to aggravate immigrants by tacking a fee on wire transfers to other countries and withhold state funding from colleges that push back against immigration policies. Considering past years have brought us measures advocating for the state to ignore federal laws and bills that prohibit the involuntary implantation of microchips in people, the sky’s the limit."
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________
::____::
::__EDUCATION__::When it came to education, Gov. Nathan Deal had a clear plan for the 2017 legislative session: Overhaul Georgia’s school funding formula, the one that’s remained in place since 1985, old enough for the septuagenarian governor to compare it to a Commodore 64 during his “State of the State” address two years ago.But the best-laid plans of politicians often go awry: Voters rejected his Opportunity Schools District referendum intended to fix failing schools but would have seized control from leaders in marginalized communities. Now Deal wants to revisit how to turn around 153 schools that have had failing test schools for three consecutive years — a rising trend that now affects nearly 89,000 students.“If this pattern of escalation in the number of failing schools does not change, its devastating effects on our state will grow with each passing school year,” Deal said during this year’s “State of the State.”Deal’s “Plan B” is still on the drawing board. For starters, though, he wants to give teachers a 2 percent raise in the upcoming budget. But expect anything else beyond that to focus on elementary school students first. How will that happen exactly? The ''Atlanta Journal-Constitution'', following its poll that found voters mostly backed school choice, has reported school vouchers might be in the cards. But the plan’s supposed architect, State Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, has kept quiet on the matter to date.“There’s no magic silver bullet,” says Georgia Budget and Policy Institute senior education policy analyst Claire Suggs. “Just complex and hard work. There needs to be a conversation about the needs of these children, and how to best meet these needs. Whatever emerges should reflect that.”Though Deal has increased K-12 funding by $2 billion over four years, Suggs says the money is just one step toward fully restoring the more than $9 billion in austerity cuts made since 2003. Those funding cuts, state auditors found, have in turn forced college tuition costs to increase by 77 percent over a decade. Expect lawmakers to watch that debate closely: Not just because of its impact on tuition, but because casino backers, who say their foray into Georgia could save the HOPE Scholarship, might use it as a way to gain traction under the Gold Dome.____
____%{[ data-embed-type="image" data-embed-id="587fcf3b6cdeeab644a8d9c5" data-embed-element="span" data-embed-size="640w" contenteditable="false" ]}%____
::____::
::__HEALTH__::Last summer, policy experts were crafting a plan to increase health insurance coverage to Georgians living on low incomes. In other words, it was an effort to expand Medicaid without expanding Medicaid.Those plans are now on hold, and potentially dead, now that Donald Trump is moving into the White House. With a promise to repeal and (maybe) replace the Affordable Care Act, state officials are now waiting to see what policy comes out of Washington, D.C. Deal said just as much during his annual “State of the State” address, warning lawmakers “against taking giant leaps on health care policy.”State reps and senators will instead focus on ways to keep hospitals from going broke and shutting their doors. First on the to-do list is giving the state department of public health the authority to continue collecting a fee — opponents call it a “bed tax” — hospitals pay. The fee helps generate roughly $900 million a year to fund Medicaid and PeachCare, the state’s insurance program for children living in poverty.Also up for consideration is an effort by state Rep. Geoff Duncan, R-Cumming, to improve a tax credit aimed at coaxing people to donate to rural hospitals. Duncan, who’s said to be considering a gubernatorial run in 2018, wants to increase the credit from 70 percent to 90 percent to make it more attractive.In addition, lawmakers will also consider whether making access to Naloxone, a drug used to reverse opioid overdoses, more readily available. Deal did so in an executive order but he’s asking the General Assembly to codify the measure. And state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, is pushing to allow in-state cultivation of medical marijuana. State law is silent on how people can actually obtain the cannabis oil permitted in Georgia.
::____::
::____::
::%{[ data-embed-type="image" data-embed-id="587fcf3b39ab46d82e2a2c1a" data-embed-element="span" data-embed-size="640w" contenteditable="false" ]}%____::
::____::
::____::
::__TRANSPORTATION__::On Jan. 10, House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, broached an idea that just 10 years ago would have been blasphemy to a Georgia Republican: The state would consider funding transit, an important mode of transportation that up until now has mainly been bankrolled by Atlanta, Fulton, and DeKalb counties and the feds.Granted, “considering” allocating cash toward rail and buses is not the same as actually doing it. But the fact that a North Georgia Republican would mention the possibility shows just how far transit, and MARTA, has come under the Gold Dome. After decades of shunning buses and rail as a viable option and demonizing MARTA as a crime-ridden money sump, lawmakers have taken notice. The fact that corporations want to relocate, and developers build, near transit stops, has helped.Last year the Legislature gave Atlanta the OK to ask voters to approve a sales tax to pay for a $2.5 billion expansion of MARTA in the city limits (they overwhelmingly agreed). This year the General Assembly might be asked to do the same for a $5.5 billion boost in unincorporated DeKalb and Fulton.Whether that happens during the next 40 days, or next year, depends on a variety of factors. DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond, new to the job, might first wish to clean up the dysfunctional county before asking residents to hand over more in taxes. There’s also the question over whether South Fulton leaders and North Fulton elected officials, some of whom have gone as far as pushing legislation denouncing MARTA rail, can agree.“I hope this will be another year we can build on our success,” says MARTA Board Chairman Robbie Ashe. “We’re very proud of the job [MARTA CEO] Keith Parker and his team have done and we think the recent election results make it crystal clear that when transit is on the ballot, transit wins. We believe the rest of Fulton and DeKalb deserve the same choice that Atlanta’s voters got.”In addition, lawmakers will once again weigh the pros and cons of creating a regional transit agency to wrangle metro Atlanta’s various transit systems, potentially allowing seamless transfers between buses and rail systems. Someone should tell them there’s already one up and running. Its name is MARTA.
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::____::
::__RELIGIOUS FREEDOM__::State Sen. Josh McKoon isn’t letting last year’s failed attempt to pass a “religious freedom” bill — or contentious battles over the issue in other states — stop him from trying again. The Columbus Republican tells ''Creative Loafing'' he’s resurrecting the measure that critics say would pave the way for discrimination. But McKoon says this year’s version will be an easier pill to swallow than its predecessors.McKoon — or possibly one of his colleagues, he says — will drop a bill this week that will mirror the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act enacted in 1993 by President Bill Clinton. That measure “ensures that interests in religious freedom are protected.”Not surprisingly, the American Civil Liberties Union Georgia chapter Executive Director Andrea Young says the organization will not endorse a state-level RFRA. She says Georgia needs a comprehensive civil rights act replete with protections for all people. “The issue of civil rights needs to be looked at in its entirety,” she says.McKoon says the measure is not anti-LGBTQ. He claims his RFRA pitch last year, Senate Bill 129, caught flak and failed because it was lumped into legislation alongside the “Pastor Protection Act,” a statute that would have allowed religious institutions to deny services in cases that infringed upon their beliefs, such as performing same-sex marriages.McKoon this year is using the story of Nabila Khan, a Muslim Georgia State University student who was asked by a teacher to remove her face-concealing religious veil. Khan declined, and the university backed her up, according to the ''Signal'', the school’s student paper. McKoon says SB 129 could have helped her situation, especially if Khan wound up facing charges for violating Georgia’s anti-mask code.“What about the next person who’s confronted by an authority figure, who doesn’t challenge that person?” McKoon says. Under a state-enforced RFRA, “the government, to enforce that criminal statute, would have to show a compelling state interest and show that this is the least restrictive means,” he says.____
____%{[ data-embed-type="image" data-embed-id="587fcada57ab46ce3a6daede" data-embed-element="span" data-embed-size="640w" contenteditable="false" ]}%____
::__BUDGET__::Now that the part-time lawmakers have parked their horses outside the Gold Dome, they are required to do one thing before they head back to Americus and Zebulon: pass the damn budget! Deal says that task shouldn’t be too tricky considering Georgia has projected a revenue growth of 3.6 percent. From his dais last week, Deal unveiled Georgia’s $25 billion spending plans for the upcoming fiscal year — one of the largest in the state’s history.Yeah, yeah, yeah. Budget, how boring. What’s that cash being spent on? State troopers are getting a 20 percent pay hike to boost morale and lower turnover. (Don’t worry, teachers and child welfare social workers, the guv’s got your back, too.) There’s also more than $1 billion in cash for loans to fund construction for a new Georgia Supreme Court building, Georgia World Congress Center upgrades, and a fancy technical college near the governor’s home up in Hall County.____
____{img src="//media.baseplatform.io/files/base/scomm/clatl/image/2017/01/640w/cover_preview1_3_39.587fcd7b1eb34.png"}SON OF A GUN: State Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, plans to bring back his legislation allowing permitted gun owners to tote their shootin’ irons on campus.Joeff Davis
::____::
::__GUNS__::It wouldn’t be a legislative session without bills expanding the number of places where people can carry guns. At least four pieces of firearm-related legislation are headed through this year, including the return of the controversial “Campus Carry” bill by state Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper.The bill, which Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed last year, would have allowed college students with carry permits at Georgia’s public universities to tote guns on campus.University System of Georgia officials, school leaders, gun-control advocacy groups, and concerned parents opposed the measure. This year it’s returning with the exact same language, the lawmaker tells ''CL''.“I can carry my weapon if I take my 3-year-old to day care today,” Jasperse says. Why not a college campus?Democrats are likely to oppose the bill, and state Rep. Keisha Waites, D-Atlanta, is reviving her effort to require gun safety training for all firearm carry permit applicants. She likened a safety course mandate to a driver’s license test.“Think about the recent shooting we just had with the individual who was ex-military,” she says, referring to the Iraq war veteran who shot and killed five people in a Florida airport. “Can you imagine a scenario with a good guy with his weapon, but he can’t shoot it, he can’t load it, he knows nothing about it or how it puts the public at-large in danger?”But even Waites' benign proposal is too much for Second Amendment advocates. Both Jasperse and Jerry Henry, executive director of Second Amendment advocacy group Georgia Carry, say government-mandated training would be unnecessary and unconstitutional. U.S. citizens aren’t tested before becoming eligible to vote, they argue, and therefore shouldn’t be tested prior to exercising their rights.Another gun bill detested by Jasperse and Henry, filed in November by state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, aims to ban assault rifles as well as explosive ammo, high-capacity magazines, and silencers.“I want somebody to justify why a cop killer bullet should be sold,” Oliver says, citing the July attack on Dallas police officers, which was carried out by an Army vet wielding legally obtained weapons.
::__ATLANTA’S WISH LIST__::In past years, most of the favors Mayor Kasim Reed and the Atlanta City Council have asked state lawmakers to grant centered around getting the state’s OK to hike taxes on booze. Occasionally, you’d see a measure or two aimed at gun control that promptly went nowhere in the Republican-controlled Gold Dome.This year city officials want House reps and senators to tweak laws to help eradicate blight by allowing the city to move faster on getting rid of dilapidated properties it takes over (and tweaking the state’s eminent domain law to do so), keeping secret some records gathered by a citizen advisory group that hears complaints about police misconduct, and allowing earlier pour times at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Priorities!____
____
::__CRAZY BILLS__::Do not rule out nonsense during the legislative session. In addition to debating whether casinos should be allowed in Georgia, lawmakers will also hear measures to aggravate immigrants by tacking a fee on wire transfers to other countries and withhold state funding from colleges that push back against immigration policies. Considering past years have brought us measures advocating for the state to ignore federal laws and bills that prohibit the involuntary implantation of microchips in people, the sky’s the limit."
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  string(13945) "    Guns, health care and some good old-fashioned edumacation   2017-01-19T01:43:00+00:00 2017 Legislative Preview   Thomas Wheatley|Max Blau|Sean Keenan  2017-01-19T01:43:00+00:00  ::::No value assignedForty days. That’s how long the Georgia General Assembly has by law to decide what laws should be passed, tweaked, or repealed to run the state. Will lawmakers overhaul Georgia’s education spending? Help MARTA keep expanding? Thumb its nose at the chaos happening in Washington, D.C., or mimic here at home? Here’s a rundown of some of the issues that are on lawmakers’ minds.


EDUCATIONWhen it came to education, Gov. Nathan Deal had a clear plan for the 2017 legislative session: Overhaul Georgia’s school funding formula, the one that’s remained in place since 1985, old enough for the septuagenarian governor to compare it to a Commodore 64 during his “State of the State” address two years ago.But the best-laid plans of politicians often go awry: Voters rejected his Opportunity Schools District referendum intended to fix failing schools but would have seized control from leaders in marginalized communities. Now Deal wants to revisit how to turn around 153 schools that have had failing test schools for three consecutive years — a rising trend that now affects nearly 89,000 students.“If this pattern of escalation in the number of failing schools does not change, its devastating effects on our state will grow with each passing school year,” Deal said during this year’s “State of the State.”Deal’s “Plan B” is still on the drawing board. For starters, though, he wants to give teachers a 2 percent raise in the upcoming budget. But expect anything else beyond that to focus on elementary school students first. How will that happen exactly? The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, following its poll that found voters mostly backed school choice, has reported school vouchers might be in the cards. But the plan’s supposed architect, State Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, has kept quiet on the matter to date.“There’s no magic silver bullet,” says Georgia Budget and Policy Institute senior education policy analyst Claire Suggs. “Just complex and hard work. There needs to be a conversation about the needs of these children, and how to best meet these needs. Whatever emerges should reflect that.”Though Deal has increased K-12 funding by $2 billion over four years, Suggs says the money is just one step toward fully restoring the more than $9 billion in austerity cuts made since 2003. Those funding cuts, state auditors found, have in turn forced college tuition costs to increase by 77 percent over a decade. Expect lawmakers to watch that debate closely: Not just because of its impact on tuition, but because casino backers, who say their foray into Georgia could save the HOPE Scholarship, might use it as a way to gain traction under the Gold Dome.
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HEALTHLast summer, policy experts were crafting a plan to increase health insurance coverage to Georgians living on low incomes. In other words, it was an effort to expand Medicaid without expanding Medicaid.Those plans are now on hold, and potentially dead, now that Donald Trump is moving into the White House. With a promise to repeal and (maybe) replace the Affordable Care Act, state officials are now waiting to see what policy comes out of Washington, D.C. Deal said just as much during his annual “State of the State” address, warning lawmakers “against taking giant leaps on health care policy.”State reps and senators will instead focus on ways to keep hospitals from going broke and shutting their doors. First on the to-do list is giving the state department of public health the authority to continue collecting a fee — opponents call it a “bed tax” — hospitals pay. The fee helps generate roughly $900 million a year to fund Medicaid and PeachCare, the state’s insurance program for children living in poverty.Also up for consideration is an effort by state Rep. Geoff Duncan, R-Cumming, to improve a tax credit aimed at coaxing people to donate to rural hospitals. Duncan, who’s said to be considering a gubernatorial run in 2018, wants to increase the credit from 70 percent to 90 percent to make it more attractive.In addition, lawmakers will also consider whether making access to Naloxone, a drug used to reverse opioid overdoses, more readily available. Deal did so in an executive order but he’s asking the General Assembly to codify the measure. And state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, is pushing to allow in-state cultivation of medical marijuana. State law is silent on how people can actually obtain the cannabis oil permitted in Georgia.


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TRANSPORTATIONOn Jan. 10, House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, broached an idea that just 10 years ago would have been blasphemy to a Georgia Republican: The state would consider funding transit, an important mode of transportation that up until now has mainly been bankrolled by Atlanta, Fulton, and DeKalb counties and the feds.Granted, “considering” allocating cash toward rail and buses is not the same as actually doing it. But the fact that a North Georgia Republican would mention the possibility shows just how far transit, and MARTA, has come under the Gold Dome. After decades of shunning buses and rail as a viable option and demonizing MARTA as a crime-ridden money sump, lawmakers have taken notice. The fact that corporations want to relocate, and developers build, near transit stops, has helped.Last year the Legislature gave Atlanta the OK to ask voters to approve a sales tax to pay for a $2.5 billion expansion of MARTA in the city limits (they overwhelmingly agreed). This year the General Assembly might be asked to do the same for a $5.5 billion boost in unincorporated DeKalb and Fulton.Whether that happens during the next 40 days, or next year, depends on a variety of factors. DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond, new to the job, might first wish to clean up the dysfunctional county before asking residents to hand over more in taxes. There’s also the question over whether South Fulton leaders and North Fulton elected officials, some of whom have gone as far as pushing legislation denouncing MARTA rail, can agree.“I hope this will be another year we can build on our success,” says MARTA Board Chairman Robbie Ashe. “We’re very proud of the job MARTA CEO Keith Parker and his team have done and we think the recent election results make it crystal clear that when transit is on the ballot, transit wins. We believe the rest of Fulton and DeKalb deserve the same choice that Atlanta’s voters got.”In addition, lawmakers will once again weigh the pros and cons of creating a regional transit agency to wrangle metro Atlanta’s various transit systems, potentially allowing seamless transfers between buses and rail systems. Someone should tell them there’s already one up and running. Its name is MARTA.
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RELIGIOUS FREEDOMState Sen. Josh McKoon isn’t letting last year’s failed attempt to pass a “religious freedom” bill — or contentious battles over the issue in other states — stop him from trying again. The Columbus Republican tells Creative Loafing he’s resurrecting the measure that critics say would pave the way for discrimination. But McKoon says this year’s version will be an easier pill to swallow than its predecessors.McKoon — or possibly one of his colleagues, he says — will drop a bill this week that will mirror the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act enacted in 1993 by President Bill Clinton. That measure “ensures that interests in religious freedom are protected.”Not surprisingly, the American Civil Liberties Union Georgia chapter Executive Director Andrea Young says the organization will not endorse a state-level RFRA. She says Georgia needs a comprehensive civil rights act replete with protections for all people. “The issue of civil rights needs to be looked at in its entirety,” she says.McKoon says the measure is not anti-LGBTQ. He claims his RFRA pitch last year, Senate Bill 129, caught flak and failed because it was lumped into legislation alongside the “Pastor Protection Act,” a statute that would have allowed religious institutions to deny services in cases that infringed upon their beliefs, such as performing same-sex marriages.McKoon this year is using the story of Nabila Khan, a Muslim Georgia State University student who was asked by a teacher to remove her face-concealing religious veil. Khan declined, and the university backed her up, according to the Signal, the school’s student paper. McKoon says SB 129 could have helped her situation, especially if Khan wound up facing charges for violating Georgia’s anti-mask code.“What about the next person who’s confronted by an authority figure, who doesn’t challenge that person?” McKoon says. Under a state-enforced RFRA, “the government, to enforce that criminal statute, would have to show a compelling state interest and show that this is the least restrictive means,” he says.
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BUDGETNow that the part-time lawmakers have parked their horses outside the Gold Dome, they are required to do one thing before they head back to Americus and Zebulon: pass the damn budget! Deal says that task shouldn’t be too tricky considering Georgia has projected a revenue growth of 3.6 percent. From his dais last week, Deal unveiled Georgia’s $25 billion spending plans for the upcoming fiscal year — one of the largest in the state’s history.Yeah, yeah, yeah. Budget, how boring. What’s that cash being spent on? State troopers are getting a 20 percent pay hike to boost morale and lower turnover. (Don’t worry, teachers and child welfare social workers, the guv’s got your back, too.) There’s also more than $1 billion in cash for loans to fund construction for a new Georgia Supreme Court building, Georgia World Congress Center upgrades, and a fancy technical college near the governor’s home up in Hall County.
SON OF A GUN: State Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, plans to bring back his legislation allowing permitted gun owners to tote their shootin’ irons on campus.Joeff Davis

GUNSIt wouldn’t be a legislative session without bills expanding the number of places where people can carry guns. At least four pieces of firearm-related legislation are headed through this year, including the return of the controversial “Campus Carry” bill by state Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper.The bill, which Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed last year, would have allowed college students with carry permits at Georgia’s public universities to tote guns on campus.University System of Georgia officials, school leaders, gun-control advocacy groups, and concerned parents opposed the measure. This year it’s returning with the exact same language, the lawmaker tells CL.“I can carry my weapon if I take my 3-year-old to day care today,” Jasperse says. Why not a college campus?Democrats are likely to oppose the bill, and state Rep. Keisha Waites, D-Atlanta, is reviving her effort to require gun safety training for all firearm carry permit applicants. She likened a safety course mandate to a driver’s license test.“Think about the recent shooting we just had with the individual who was ex-military,” she says, referring to the Iraq war veteran who shot and killed five people in a Florida airport. “Can you imagine a scenario with a good guy with his weapon, but he can’t shoot it, he can’t load it, he knows nothing about it or how it puts the public at-large in danger?”But even Waites' benign proposal is too much for Second Amendment advocates. Both Jasperse and Jerry Henry, executive director of Second Amendment advocacy group Georgia Carry, say government-mandated training would be unnecessary and unconstitutional. U.S. citizens aren’t tested before becoming eligible to vote, they argue, and therefore shouldn’t be tested prior to exercising their rights.Another gun bill detested by Jasperse and Henry, filed in November by state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, aims to ban assault rifles as well as explosive ammo, high-capacity magazines, and silencers.“I want somebody to justify why a cop killer bullet should be sold,” Oliver says, citing the July attack on Dallas police officers, which was carried out by an Army vet wielding legally obtained weapons.
ATLANTA’S WISH LISTIn past years, most of the favors Mayor Kasim Reed and the Atlanta City Council have asked state lawmakers to grant centered around getting the state’s OK to hike taxes on booze. Occasionally, you’d see a measure or two aimed at gun control that promptly went nowhere in the Republican-controlled Gold Dome.This year city officials want House reps and senators to tweak laws to help eradicate blight by allowing the city to move faster on getting rid of dilapidated properties it takes over (and tweaking the state’s eminent domain law to do so), keeping secret some records gathered by a citizen advisory group that hears complaints about police misconduct, and allowing earlier pour times at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Priorities!

CRAZY BILLSDo not rule out nonsense during the legislative session. In addition to debating whether casinos should be allowed in Georgia, lawmakers will also hear measures to aggravate immigrants by tacking a fee on wire transfers to other countries and withhold state funding from colleges that push back against immigration policies. Considering past years have brought us measures advocating for the state to ignore federal laws and bills that prohibit the involuntary implantation of microchips in people, the sky’s the limit.             20849514         http://dev.creativeloafing.com/image/2017/01/Outsidecover1_1_39.587fc7dc4504a.png                  2017 Legislative Preview "
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Wednesday January 18, 2017 08:43 pm EST
Guns, health care and some good old-fashioned edumacation | more...
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  string(3323) "%{data-embed-type=%22image%22 data-embed-id=%22587fdb9639ab46ca322a2bbf%22 data-embed-element=%22span%22 data-embed-size=%22640w%22 contenteditable=%22false%22}%On Jan. 17, after nine glorious years, God knows how many stories and blog posts, and mounds of paper piling higher and higher on my desk, I bid farewell to co-workers I consider friends and a newspaper I love. By the time this piece passes your eyeballs, I’ll be at Atlanta magazine, a publication I’ve long admired, where I’ll write and edit stories about this complex city.The first time I read Creative Loafing, I was a fifth- or sixth-grader living in the suburbs and spending my free time skateboarding or listening to punk and industrial music. My mom, aware that Cobb County was lacking when it came to cultural stimulation, suggested we take trips to Little Five Points. After I pored over band stickers and cassettes, my mom and I would meet up. She always had a copy of CL.On the car ride home I would study the articles. I had no clue what the news writers were writing about. But I was fascinated by how they wrote about it. I grew up in a household filled with magazines, books, and the nightly news, but CL was the first publication I read that had a voice. I knew I wanted to write that way. And I knew I wanted to at some point work at CL.You can imagine the joy I felt in 2007 when Ken Edelstein, the editor-in-chief at the time, and Scott Freeman, the senior editor, gave me a chance. Since then I’ve been fortunate to learn from, work alongside, and laugh and occasionally cry with a family of writers, editors, photographers, designers, and sales teams.I watched my work get torn apart and made legible by Edelstein, Freeman, Mara Shalhoup, and Debbie Michaud. Scott Henry taught me the importance of structure and some fashion sense. I learned that John Sugg was not as menacing as his author photos made him look. I once dressed as Santa Claus and Andisheh Nouraee sat on my lap. I shared laughter and deadlines with Gwynedd Stuart, Max Blau, Besha Rodell, Joeff Davis, Rodney Carmichael, Chad Radford, and Alicia Carter, and so many others. I would list them all if I had four more pages.Along the way I was able to find my own voice and became fascinated with the city where I was born. I wore hard hats in the “Horrible” Fifth District’s sewers with Congressman John Lewis, sat in living rooms of people fighting to keep their communities intact, and marched in streets alongside protesters. These experiences showed me that Atlanta has plenty of deep problems. But it’s also a city filled with people actively working to solve them. I had a chance to see what works, meet the people finding the answers, and occasionally pester people in power (it’s very cathartic to write the Golden Sleaze awards).
              

More than anything, my time here gave me the joy of being engaged with Atlanta. It showed me I can’t imagine another job as fulfilling as being able to write about the place you call home. You see people at their highs, lows, and in betweens, learn and help others discover how we got here, and play some small role in nudging the city closer to where it should be. It’s a good feeling to stand back and be proud of what you accomplished with people you love. Thank you for giving me that chance."
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More than anything, my time here gave me the joy of being engaged with Atlanta. It showed me I can’t imagine another job as fulfilling as being able to write about the place you call home. You see people at their highs, lows, and in betweens, learn and help others discover how we got here, and play some small role in nudging the city closer to where it should be. It’s a good feeling to stand back and be proud of what you accomplished with people you love. Thank you for giving me that chance."
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  string(3691) "    CL's news editor says farewell and thank you   2017-01-18T16:21:00+00:00 The next step - Thomas Wheatley ben.eason@creativeloafing.com Ben Eason Thomas Wheatley Thomas Wheatley 2017-01-18T16:21:00+00:00  %{data-embed-type=%22image%22 data-embed-id=%22587fdb9639ab46ca322a2bbf%22 data-embed-element=%22span%22 data-embed-size=%22640w%22 contenteditable=%22false%22}%On Jan. 17, after nine glorious years, God knows how many stories and blog posts, and mounds of paper piling higher and higher on my desk, I bid farewell to co-workers I consider friends and a newspaper I love. By the time this piece passes your eyeballs, I’ll be at Atlanta magazine, a publication I’ve long admired, where I’ll write and edit stories about this complex city.The first time I read Creative Loafing, I was a fifth- or sixth-grader living in the suburbs and spending my free time skateboarding or listening to punk and industrial music. My mom, aware that Cobb County was lacking when it came to cultural stimulation, suggested we take trips to Little Five Points. After I pored over band stickers and cassettes, my mom and I would meet up. She always had a copy of CL.On the car ride home I would study the articles. I had no clue what the news writers were writing about. But I was fascinated by how they wrote about it. I grew up in a household filled with magazines, books, and the nightly news, but CL was the first publication I read that had a voice. I knew I wanted to write that way. And I knew I wanted to at some point work at CL.You can imagine the joy I felt in 2007 when Ken Edelstein, the editor-in-chief at the time, and Scott Freeman, the senior editor, gave me a chance. Since then I’ve been fortunate to learn from, work alongside, and laugh and occasionally cry with a family of writers, editors, photographers, designers, and sales teams.I watched my work get torn apart and made legible by Edelstein, Freeman, Mara Shalhoup, and Debbie Michaud. Scott Henry taught me the importance of structure and some fashion sense. I learned that John Sugg was not as menacing as his author photos made him look. I once dressed as Santa Claus and Andisheh Nouraee sat on my lap. I shared laughter and deadlines with Gwynedd Stuart, Max Blau, Besha Rodell, Joeff Davis, Rodney Carmichael, Chad Radford, and Alicia Carter, and so many others. I would list them all if I had four more pages.Along the way I was able to find my own voice and became fascinated with the city where I was born. I wore hard hats in the “Horrible” Fifth District’s sewers with Congressman John Lewis, sat in living rooms of people fighting to keep their communities intact, and marched in streets alongside protesters. These experiences showed me that Atlanta has plenty of deep problems. But it’s also a city filled with people actively working to solve them. I had a chance to see what works, meet the people finding the answers, and occasionally pester people in power (it’s very cathartic to write the Golden Sleaze awards).
              

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Article

Wednesday January 18, 2017 11:21 am EST
CL's news editor says farewell and thank you | more...
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  string(1318) "Gov. Nathan Deal says he plans to push state lawmakers over the next 40 days to give pay raises to some state workers, renew a controversial tax on hospitals, and reform education, along with investing in cybersecurity. 

Per tradition, Georgia representatives and senators gathered on Wednesday to hear Deal's annual "State of the State" address to outline his policy agenda. Deal, who's halfway through his second and final term in the governor's office, also urged lawmakers not to make any major changes to healthcare policy — for example,  expanding Medicaid — because of potential changes from the incoming Donald Trump administration. Here's his full speech. 

Deal's speech was framed around Georgia songwriter Johnny Mercer's 1944 hit "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive," which considering the upcoming presidential administration, is about as good as any advice we're gonna get. CL Photographer Joeff Davis was on hand to document the festivities. 

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Gov. Nathan Deal during his annual address to lawmakers.Joeff Davis

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Per tradition, Georgia representatives and senators gathered on Wednesday to hear Deal's annual "State of the State" address to outline his policy agenda. Deal, who's halfway through his second and final term in the governor's office, also urged lawmakers not to make any major changes to healthcare policy — for example,  expanding Medicaid — because of potential changes from the incoming Donald Trump administration. [http://gov.georgia.gov/press-releases/2017-01-11/deal’s-state-state-address-georgia-will-‘accentuate-positive-eliminate|Here's his full speech]. 

Deal's speech was framed around Georgia songwriter Johnny Mercer's 1944 hit "[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3jdbFOidds|Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive]," which considering the upcoming presidential administration, is about as good as any advice we're gonna get. CL Photographer Joeff Davis was on hand to document the festivities. 

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  string(1682) "    Governor taps the oldies to talk about Georgia's present and future   2017-01-12T23:46:00+00:00 The state of the State of the State   Joeff Davis|Thomas Wheatley  2017-01-12T23:46:00+00:00  Gov. Nathan Deal says he plans to push state lawmakers over the next 40 days to give pay raises to some state workers, renew a controversial tax on hospitals, and reform education, along with investing in cybersecurity. 

Per tradition, Georgia representatives and senators gathered on Wednesday to hear Deal's annual "State of the State" address to outline his policy agenda. Deal, who's halfway through his second and final term in the governor's office, also urged lawmakers not to make any major changes to healthcare policy — for example,  expanding Medicaid — because of potential changes from the incoming Donald Trump administration. Here's his full speech. 

Deal's speech was framed around Georgia songwriter Johnny Mercer's 1944 hit "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive," which considering the upcoming presidential administration, is about as good as any advice we're gonna get. CL Photographer Joeff Davis was on hand to document the festivities. 

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Gov. Nathan Deal during his annual address to lawmakers.Joeff Davis

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Thursday January 12, 2017 06:46 pm EST
Governor taps the oldies to talk about Georgia's present and future | more...
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  string(94) "First Slice 1/10/17: State lawmakers have returned to the Gold Dome for 40 days of legislatin'"
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  string(982) ">> The Georgia General Assembly has returned. Prepare for madness.

>> The United Methodist Children’s Home in Decatur might sell its 77-acre property. If it does, what goes in its place? A school? Greenspace? A massive housing development?

 

>> A group of Cheetah dancers allege they were drugged and sexually assaulted at the Midtown strip club's VIP rooms. One dancer has filed a lawsuit, which the club's attorneys say is an attempt to "extort" money.

>> "Most SEALs did not commit atrocities, the sources said, but the problem was persistent and recurrent, like a stubborn virus. Senior leaders at the command knew about the misconduct and did little to eradicate it."

>> Donald Glover and the team behind "Atlanta" walked away with two Golden Globes on Sunday night. And he had special words for the city. 

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  string(1520) ">> The Georgia General Assembly has [http://news.wabe.org/post/what-expect-georgias-2017-legislative-session|returned]. Prepare for madness.

>> The United Methodist Children’s Home in Decatur might sell its 77-acre property. If it does, [http://www.decaturish.com/2017/01/united-methodist-childrens-home-considering-sale-of-property/|what goes in its place]? A school? Greenspace? A massive housing development?

 

>> A group of Cheetah dancers [http://www.myajc.com/news/local/cheetah-dancers-allege-sexual-assault-top-atlanta-strip-club/6udoC3nhtw2JXJM9uzv3vJ/|allege] they were drugged and sexually assaulted at the Midtown strip club's VIP rooms. One dancer has filed a lawsuit, which the club's attorneys [http://www.wsbtv.com/news/2-investigates/atlanta-strip-club-investigation-cheetah-dancers-allege-sex-assault/482508852|say] is an attempt to "extort" money.

>> "Most SEALs did not commit atrocities, the sources said, but the problem was persistent and recurrent, like a stubborn virus. Senior leaders at the command [https://theintercept.com/2017/01/10/the-crimes-of-seal-team-6/|knew about the misconduct and did little to eradicate it]."

>> Donald Glover and the team behind "Atlanta" [http://www.eonline.com/news/820781/why-donald-glover-can-t-believe-atlanta-won-two-golden-globes|walked away] with two Golden Globes on Sunday night. And he had special words for the city. 

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Article

Tuesday January 10, 2017 05:21 pm EST
Plus, a massive redevelopment opportunity awaits in Decatur | more...
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