Lyndon B. Johnson Legacy Celebration: Civil Rights Summit



Starting today the four-day celebration begins at the University of Texas-Austin. The highlight of the week’s events include speeches by President Obama and three of his predecessors – Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.  Other participants include John Lewis, Andy Young, Julian Bond, Maria Shriver, Billie Jean King and Bernice King. Atlanta will be well represented on the panels, at the dinners and on news shows.

While Johnson is credited with championing the most sweeping Civil Rights legislation of the 20th century, he’s rarely mentioned among the greatest presidents. One of my LBJ School colleagues remembers a 1990′s University of Texas history class on United States Presidents that omitted Johnson.  Johnson’s War on Poverty legislation included the creation of HUD, the Fair Housing Act, Legal Services, Medicare, Jobs Corps, and Community Action Agencies. These are paired with the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Immigration Reform Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. His 1964 State of the Union address to the Congress laid out his aggressive agenda.

Johnson is credited as one of the most effective politicians in the history of our country because he knew how to get things done and used the office to wrangle the votes needed to change America. It is said he knew the changes would make him and his party unpopular but he was determined to lead the charge for political change to achieve economic and social justice for all Americans.

Below find various links to the 50th anniversary celebration, Civil Rights Summit.

Are Politicians Role Models?

BowserThis week, Washington D.C. elected Muriel Bowser as the Democratic nominee in the race for the next mayor. She defeated first term Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) who federal prosecutors have accused of allegedly having knowledge of a campaign scheme by one of his donors. The ‘shadow campaign’ and accusations of quid pro quo put Mayor Gray under significant scrutiny as he sought to be reelected. The Mayor has denied having any knowledge of a shadow campaign to help him win in his 2010 race.

Another DC candidate lost his seat after his colleagues cited him for ethics violations.  The fifth-term councilmember, Jim Graham lost to first-time council candidate Brianne Nadeau. Councilman Graham was the subject of several investigations involving code of conduct violations.  His colleagues subsequently reprimanded him in February 2013. The investigations found that he tried to bargain with bidders for a lucrative contract and attempted to use his power for personal gain.

And in San Francisco Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) was the subject of an investigation of public corruption and arms trafficking. Federal agents this week continued to search his office.

Even in Atlanta, Georgia’s former state ethics commission director, Stacey Kalberman is in the courtroom where she has alleged in a lawsuit that commissioners retaliated against her and she lost her job for pursuing an investigation into Governor Nathan Deal’s campaign spending.

Are political leaders role models? Of course they are.  While that may be an unwanted and reluctant role, there is no question that voters have an expectation of trust in those who choose to serve. Ethics and politics are inseparable.  The cost of political office is often microscopic scrutiny and persistent challenges to the public’s trust. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “When a man assumes a public trust he should consider himself a public property.”

Maynard H. Jackson: Setting the Record Straight – Cecelia Corbin Hunter

As we celebrate the 76th birthday of Maynard Holbrook Jackson we are reminded of his many accomplishments, those he mentored and his love of the city of Atlanta. The video below is another in the video series capturing some of the stories of his most faithful and loyal supporters.

There are hundreds of stories to tell about Atlanta’s first African American mayor. It is my hope this series will serve as the basis for others to tell their stories.  Each person was asked to describe their relationship with Jackson, to reflect on the lessons they learned from him and to offer their perspective on his legacy. To many people, the lessons learned have not been forgotten and have guided them in their professional decisions today. Many women are part of this video series because Jackson brought more women to leadership positions than any of his predecessors.

This is just a small segment of the Cecelia Corbin Hunter interview. She served on Jackson’s team during all three terms and shares her story of Jackson’s impact on her professional career and his high standard of expectation.

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Maynard H. Jackson: Setting the Record Straight

Shortly after leaving the Mayor’s Office in 2010, I began collecting stories of friends and colleagues of Maynard H. Jackson to begin to fill the void of firsthand accounts of his service to Atlanta as mayor. The interview series consists of nearly 16 hours of personal interviews from 22 subjects. Maynard touched the lives of many Atlantans. This series of interviews, Maynard H. Jackson: Setting the Record Straight, is yet another glimpse of the man and the politician.

Works Not Words Offer the Best Solution to Poverty

PaulRyan-npr photo

PaulRyan-npr photo

Last week on Bill Bennett’s radio program, House Budget Committee chairman and 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan (R-WI) made some comments that can only be described as uninformed and insulting regarding the issue of poverty in American cities.  He said, “We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work.”

Ryan was addressing a report on poverty that he released earlier which detailed his version how federal spending was impacting our nation’s poor. The reaction was swift from journalists, political pundits, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to the Congressional Black Caucus. Ryan’s views on poverty are neither new nor surprising but the recurring attack on race and class in this country under the guise of the federal budget and big government is disingenuous and ridiculous rhetoric. The Lyndon B. Johnson war on poverty 50 years ago did not end poverty but his political response to a policy issue  cannot be understated or denied. The LBJ administration responded to poverty with action not rhetoric. The government raised the minimum wage; created programs to train and educate Americans for better jobs, provided rent subsidies and student loans as well as enacted Medicaid and Medicaid for those who could not afford healthcare.

The Congressional Black Caucus has invited Rep. Paul D. Ryan to a CBC meeting where a more robust and thoughtful conversation on poverty might be possible. CBC Chairwoman Marcia L. Fudge, D-Ohio has said that she thinks it could be a teachable moment, let’s hope so.


Get to Know Jason Carter

JasonCarterWe like what we hear and know about him and what he stands for. Watch State Senator Jason Carter’s passionate remarks on the Lakeside Cityhood Bill. He is smart, he is seeking practical solutions, he believes in honest discourse and inclusion and he is a man of integrity.  It looks like a new day in Georgia politics.

We invite you to get to know Jason Carter, visit his campaign site, volunteer and contribute to his race to be Georgia’s next governor.

“It’s Borderline”

I learned a general ethical principle in politics nearly 40 years ago–if it’s borderline then don’t do it. If the ethics decision compromises your reputation, implies a conflict of interest or causes public suspicion–Don’t consider it. Stay as far away from it as humanly possible. Don’t get involved publicly or privately. Stay the heck away.

The latest victim of getting too close to the ethical fall line is Georgia Senator and Republican First Congressional District candidate Buddy Carter. He introduced S. B. 408 that would regulate pharmacy benefits managers, impose certain requirements for the use of maximum allowable cost pricing by those managers and quite possibly benefit pharmacists and pharmacy owners like him.

When Fox Atlanta reporter Dale Russell asked Carter about the obvious ethical conflict and whether he should have carried the bill he replied, “Obviously, it’s borderline.”

As a pharmacist and the owner of three pharmacies, the conflict of interest seems obvious. What was he thinking? I suspect he was thinking of himself and not the people of Georgia. The bill failed to make Crossover Day but Carter hasn’t given up on trying to get the bill attached to another bill.

Click here to see Fox Atlanta Reporter Dale Russell’s story

Don’t Believe the Hype

PE-dontbelieveGeorgia Democrats have a lot at stake in November. The changing demographics of Georgia voters have local and national politicos abuzz about Georgia. Democrats are looking to expand their footprint and many think the first step to making Georgia a targeted state in the 2016 Presidential election is a strong showing among statewide democratic candidates this year. Thankfully, Democrats have fielded their strongest slate of statewide candidates in recent memory.

Qualifying ends tomorrow for candidates seeking office this year and the campaigning should begin in earnest. There will be many advisors who will tell Georgia candidates to run away from the national democratic talking points – expanding healthcare, raising the minimum wage, and women’s rights. Don’t follow their advice.

Don’t make the common mistake of trying to convince the voters that won’t vote for you to vote for you. Spend your time, energy, and money talking to voters who will vote for you. Talk to them about issues that are likely to appeal to them.

Expanding healthcare, raising the minimum wage, and protecting women’s rights are no-brainers for democratic voters and all three issues will likely appeal to independent voters in Georgia. Our Republican friends will try and make these issues evil. They will try to make voters believe that these issues are part of a fictitious national scheme to raise taxes and take away their rights.

All three of these platform points will appeal to the average voter. Women’s rights was a major platform of President Obama’s historic 2012 presidential victory. The President racked up huge margins in swing states among women. Regarding healthcare, every poll on the issue reveals that Georgians are in favor of expanding Medicaid to insure the uninsured. And raising the minimum wage is part of the populist message that succeeded in several contested elections last year.

Georgia Democrats can win this November, but we must appeal to the everyday voters. We can’t let Republicans hijack our message and trick the majority of voters to vote against their self-interests.

Candidates – Don’t believe the hype.

Voters want healthcare. They need the minimum wage raised. And women want to control their bodies. Do not run away from these messages, run toward them.

Governor, what is the Option?

Online Athens

Online Athens

There have been numerous local and national commentaries on the remarks made by Governor Deal last week in which he said the uninsured should be turned away from emergency rooms because it is too expensive to care for them.

Deal said at an event held at the University of Georgia, “I think we should be able in this passage of time to figure out ways to deal with those situations but not have the excessive costs associated with unnecessary visits to the emergency room.”

It is no secret in Georgia that Deal does not support the Affordable Care Act and has refused to support the expansion of Medicaid that would offer thousands of Georgians much needed healthcare benefits.  A federal government 1986 law required hospitals to provide emergency care whether patients were citizens or they had the ability to pay. Even staunch progressives would argue that seeking emergency care instead of preventive care is expensive no matter how you look at it.  But if you don’t want to expand Medicaid to meet the needs of low-income citizens and you want to close the doors to emergency rooms for desperate patients who can’t afford to go anywhere else. Governor, what is the option?

It is easy to become mired in statistics, budget lingo and the righteous indignation that affords those who have healthcare options to discuss disenfranchising others. And for those who would debate the merits of what is governments’ moral obligation to its citizenry. The answer should never be the horrible consequences of denying the least among us because it is fiscally responsible to do so. It is outrageous and incorrigible.


Oh what a difference a decade makes … (in politics). “No Gays Allowed” – Religious Freedom legislation dies in the state House and Senate

By Gary S. Cox

Governor Roy Barnes once told a small group of political confidants that the hardest part of being Governor of Georgia was “. . . trying to keep GACareGeorgia (and the Georgia General Assembly) off the front pages of the New York Times in a bad light …” Well, it seems the Georgia General Assembly is failing miserably at, on first blush, what should be a simple task. House Bill 1023 and Senate Bill 377 both put Georgia squarely in the national limelight (along with Arizona, Kansas, Mississippi, and Oklahoma and Tennessee) in a very negative way.  The introduction of the House and Senate companion bills (The Preservation of Religious Freedom Act) would have exempted people, government employees and businesses from any legal proceeding if they invoke personal religious beliefs to break laws that serve the “common good.” This expansion of religious freedom was simply not needed, was unwarranted and was unprecedented in its depth and scope – it would have created a potential hodgepodge of unintended consequences – it is simply mind boggling.

The laws, if it had been enacted and signed by Governor Deal, could potentially nullify laws intended to protect individuals from discrimination and violate both public safety and state health laws. Passage of the legislation would adopt a new defense of “religious belief” into civil and criminal cases. For example, the law could protect a nurse who refused to administer a doctor ordered blood transfusion if giving the blood transfusion were against her religious convictions – the state Nursing Board would be powerless to sanction the nurse. Business owners would have been able to legally post a sign “No Gays Allowed” in their restaurant or business – as long as they claimed that serving the LBGTQ community violated their religious beliefs. This example is the real crux of the legislation – the bill was designed by the conservative religious right as a method for religious conservatives to thumb their nose at society in our growing acceptance and public demand for equality for our LBGTQ citizens. Does this scenario sound familiar? It should – this is the same attitude found under the Gold Dome in 1956 that gave us the Confederate Battle flag on the state flag in the wake of the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

In moving forward as a society, we now have elected officials State Representatives Simone Bell and Karla Drenner who spoke forcefully and vocally against the House and Senate bills. Georgia Equality, with Jeff Graham at the helm, and former Council President Cathy Woolard leading the charge to get vocal opponents “en mass” at the state capital to defeat this legislation.
Further, the religious right didn’t count on hometown Fortune 500 companies like Delta Airlines and Home Depot state the legislation violated their “core values” as employers. Nationally, American Airlines, the NFL and Star Bucks weighed in on similar legislation in Arizona – and their collective voices were heard. The pressure from the business community was so great that this legislation has died for this session.

Suffice it to say it was collective effort spear-headed by a newly invigorated gay community winning court battle after court battle on the marriage issue that defeated this legislation … and just 10 years ago, the same Republican controlled legislature was successful in getting a constitutional amendment on the ballot and passed banning same-sex marriage in Georgia. Shades of purple and turning blue may be in Georgia’s future after all.

Early Voting in Georgia Threatened–Legislature Needs to Hear from YOU

GAPUNDITHouse Bill (HB) 891 has been introduced in the Georgia General Assembly and the aim of this bill is to reduce the number of early voting days in Georgia cities (municipalities) from 21 days to 6 days.  This bill if passed would impact 535 municipalities including cities like Atlanta, Augusta, Macon, and Savannah as well as other smaller cities across this state.

This proposed bill promises to undermine hard-fought progress to expand access to the ballot in Georgia, and, in the process possibly run afoul of federal and state laws. Importantly, this legislation was introduced fewer than eight months following the Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder ruling, in which the Supreme Court declared Section 4(b) – a core protection against voting rights discrimination, unconstitutional.

This bill passed out of the Rules Committee today and is scheduled to be debated on the House floor on Friday. It is important for those of good conscience to contact their representatives to remind them of the value of early voting. Value of early voting:  1) reducing stress on the voting system on Election Day; 2) alleviating long lines on Election Day; 3) improving poll worker performance; 4) allowing early identification and correction of registration errors and voting system glitches; and 5) providing greater access to voting and increased voter satisfaction. (Brennen Center Early Voting Report)

Tomorrow may very well be too late to voice your opinion on this significant political change. This bill is being pushed as a “cost savings” measure, which could ultimately end up costing big cities more money. (If you have fewer opportunities to vote, you will have more voters showing up on election day leading to the purchase of more voting machines or additional staffing hours to deal with the volume.)

A Georgia specific study on early voting by Dr. Charles Bullock showed a direct correlation between the availability of early voting and the rise of voter turnout numbers.

Proponents of this bill have not conducted proper analysis as to the true cost of early voting.

There has been no analysis on how this will affect minorities and the elderly, who readily rely on early voting.

The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Barry Fleming, told the Rules Committee that his bill was a result of a “unanimous request” from members of the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA).

If you agree, if you care about opening the democracy to all registered voters, then ask you Councilman, mayor, county exec to pass a resolution to oppose legislation and to use the bully pulpit, social media to oppose this legislation. Call, email, Facebook, Twitter or fax your State Representative TODAY!

You can find out your elected officials by following the links belo

Secretary of the State    

United States Census