Who you going to believe—me or your lying eyes?

If you want to know a person’s true character, pay attention to what they do not what they say. A person’s actions tell the real story of their values, their principles and their truth. Today’s Atlanta Journal Constitution story on Atlanta City Council members who received transportation campaign funds challenges the core principles public servants take the oath to honor.

The story is one of the most interesting of this local campaign season. The Citizens for Better Transportation 2016 was funded to advocate successfully for passage of the city’s T-SPLOST. Businesses large and small heeded the Mayor’s call for funding that ponied up $1.2 million. The Committee was established by a respectable Georgia lawyer, Robert Highsmith, who has close political ties to the Mayor and to the Georgia Republican Party. Highsmith served as the Committee’s treasurer. The Committee relied on seasoned campaign staff including the mayor’s brother, Tracy Reed, to manage the campaign. The referendum passed and all was well except instead of spending all of the $1.2 million, the team spent less than it raised. Now the integrity test is what do you do with the funds that were not spent. Should the Committee adhere to the law and return the funds on a prorated basis to the donors, donate to an IRS approved charity or create a slush fund? It seems as if the Committee decided on the latter.

Integrity is what you do, when no one is watching. The Committee decided the donors wouldn’t care if they returned the funds back to them. After all, big corporations have more than enough money to spare in the robust economy City Hall has created. And there aren’t any worthy charities that are struggling to fund their social or educational services for the sick, unemployed, students short of college funds or seniors in need of help to pay their utility bills. I guess the homeless are all sheltered and the hungry can do without a meal for the night. The Westside Future Fund must be fully funded. So is United Way of Greater Atlanta and Hosea Feed the Hungry. All the children who want to attend early learning centers and schools must be accounted for. Grady Hospital must have all the money they need for indigent patients and the Atlanta Police Foundation has funded all the houses necessary for police and firefighters.

According to today’s AJC, the Committee decided it was best to use the extra $700,000 for political campaigns and not the needs of Atlanta’s residents. That may be a moral dilemma but choosing to fill out the required state disclosure form in a way that indicates there were no remaining funds, is a question of character.

This case is similar to the actions of Councilmember Michael Julian Bond whom I have known for many years and I am an admirer of his parents and grandparents.

Bond accepted a contribution for the maximum amount allowable by the law from the Committee, and is rumored to be receiving additional financial help in the form of anonymous mailers and other campaign services. This shouldn’t be a surprise for anyone who’s paying attention, since Bond accepted $12,800 from a city contractor that has been ensnared in the ongoing federal corruption probe, and before that he racked up 300 ethics violations for which he promised to pay a $45,000 fine — the largest in Georgia history!

Bond has yet to make the first payment…and if he’s able to hold onto his council post, I wonder if the Citizens for Better Transportation committee can find a legal justification for covering his debt.

You decide. Is it a mere oversight and a lapse in judgement? Or is it an intentional illegal act to gain power and influence no matter the law?

It all reminds me of the punchline from comedian Richard Pryor’s joke about him getting caught cheating on his wife and he says, “baby who you going to believe—me or your lying eyes?”

You know you have crossed the ethics line when …

By Gary S. Cox

You know you have crossed the ethics line when you return to public office in 2009 and rack up over 300 ethics violations and $45,000 in ethics fines, the largest in state history according to the Government Transparency and Finance Commission. You have really crossed the line when the Democrat Commission Chairman says, “I think [with] this level of violation, you don’t belong in office.”

Just this week, Michael Julian Bond was up to his usual dirty tricks. Bond filed a campaign disclosure ( www.gaeasyfile.com ) that revealed only his total contributions, his total expenditures and total cash-on-hand. The entire form omitted who gave him money and how he spent the money he received. Knowingly filing an inaccurate financial disclosure is the basis for a new ethics violation.

Why would Bond resort to such tactics? Bond accepted money from Jeff Jafari and George Reynolds of The Prad Group, Airport Concessions Group and their cadre of relatives. The Prad Group is the firm recently raided by the FBI. WSB Investigative Reporter Richard Belcher confronted Michael Bond about accepting what could conceivably be tainted campaign cash. Bond publicly promised to return the money. However, since the financial disclosure contained blanks, he avoids the scrutiny of the press that was examining who contributed to his campaign and how those funds were spent. More importantly, Bond still has not returned the campaign cash as promised.

Michael Julian Bond exemplifies the current “culture of corruption” that permeates Atlanta City Hall and the Reed Administration. In a recent WSB poll, transparency in government and corruption was very important to 51% of the people surveyed. It should be important to 100% of Atlanta voters. It is time to vote unethical politicians like Michael Julian Bond out of office on November 7th. Remember, early voting starts Monday, October 16th. Monday is your first chance to say “No” to corruption at Atlanta City Hall.

Freedom and Football

abcnews

“People don’t get mad when people are shot or killed, but they’re getting mad because a football player is kneeling or raising a fist,” said Melendez, who is African-American. “The double standard is crazy.” This quote comes from a story in the New York Times from a fan at the Jets game.

This weekend was the third week of the NFL season and one television commentator said, “President Trump goes for cheap applause”. He does that and more. He chooses to divide Americans by race, gender, and national origin. He chooses to start divisive debates about who is a “good” American and who isn’t as if he has the power beyond the bully pulpit to make such a decision. It is as if our democratic system of checks and balances, our laws, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution are his alone to interpret. Yes, he likes applause and plays to crowds of supporters caught up in the moment. I presume those supporters would fight for their rights if they felt at risk of losing them. When President Trump has been rendered powerless at the job he was elected to do, he vigorously attacks those he deems powerless to divert attention from his failings. This is the “give them red meat and they won’t notice your failure” approach to leadership. The NFL players and owners stood, kneeled and displayed the resistance to the President’s divisive remarks and hateful behavior that we who love America should emulate. Their demonstration reflected a peaceful but loud and bold resistance.

For those who want athletes to be quiet and just play the game, they should consider the historic relationship between athletes and activism. It was important for John Carlos and Tommie Smith during the 1968 Summer Olympics and it is important to Venus and Serena Williams who are advocates of equal pay for women tennis players. As Americans, we have the right to decide when we speak up, kneel, stand or sit despite who likes it or not. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin surely must have known this, so must United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, HUD Secretary Ben Carson and other Cabinet members who reflect the diversity that makes America great.

It is in times like this that we remember Martin Luther King Jr.’s powerful words from a Birmingham Jail, “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

Call Your Senators Today!! Vote No to Obamacare Repeal.

This week has offered us a contemplative and newsworthy glimpse into the challenging lives of America’s poor. A Yale study released on Monday sheds light on the economic gap between blacks and whites and misconceptions of racial economic equality in this country. Reverend William Barber the former President of North Carolina’s NAACP, and dynamic speaker at the National Democratic Convention declared in the Los Angeles Times this week that he is continuing his fight against poverty through his national Poor People’s Campaign. And finally, the announcement of the Graham-Cassidy health care bill designed to dismantle the current United States health care program by the September 30 deadline is the latest attack on America’s poor.

As the Senate prepares to make changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that could impact low-income patients with deep cuts to Medicaid, the debate is not merely a political one but a moral one. It doesn’t matter if you live in a red or blue state or you tout liberal or conservative, America has a poor people problem that can longer be blamed on poor people. The economic gap is real, it is statistically unquestionable and the response deserves our best, most thoughtful public policy and economic response if we are to become an America, as good as its promise.

This current proposed bill is just another Obamacare repeal bill. As a sister, aunt, and daughter and as a mother and grandmother whose ancestors were known for caring for others and believing in the goodness in all who need nurturing and care it is unfathomable that our great country would consider snatching away the much-needed medical care safety net from any one of God’s children. Unfathomable! Call your senators to urge them to vote NO.

History will Judge Atlanta Mayors

It isn’t true that I punch pillows or walls or smash mirrors when enraged by public pronouncements about my years in public service. It is true however, that I follow news about public policy at the local, state and national levels as I have done since my early teens in the 1950’s. I have learned along the way to stay focused on long term goals and to avoid the skirmishes.

As a student of public policy and government, I was an early adopter of the principle that I heard characterized in a saying frequently used by long time Georgia state representative Calvin Smyre. “When you see a turtle sitting on a fence post, you know he didn’t get there by himself.”  You see I grew up in a duplex apartment located on a busy three lane street in the inner core of one of America’s big cities. The closest grass or fence was miles away and I saw my first turtle in a zoo exhibit. But the saying, “he didn’t get there by himself” is worth remembering no matter who you are.  The truth is all of us have benefitted from the expertise, hard and smart work and sacrifices of others whose names we may never know.

As I follow local politics now, I am amazed by the complete and utter dismissal of the contributions of others that I have seen recently in the press and other public announcements from the city’s communications office. It is as if no one – not Hartsfield, not Allen, not Massell, not Jackson, not Young, not Campbell or I ever contributed to the significant growth of the city, ever made a smart and visionary public policy decision or ever solved a tough problem on behalf of Atlanta’s residents, businesses, or visitors.  Atlanta mayors for a very long time have made some darn good decisions to move Atlanta to the forefront of American cities. Each had unique skills and talents to apply in tackling the challenges of their day. The best among us had an extra dose of humility and compassion for the people they served. Mayor Reed has his accomplishments which will be judged by history and not by press releases, official pronouncements or political polls. All of us have that same fate.

God is Watching Georgia

“As Congress debates whether to repeal the Affordable Care Act nationwide, Georgia continues to suffer from the impact of having never fully implemented the law in the first place. Two more rural hospitals are on the verge of closure as a result of Georgia’s backward and politically defiant healthcare policy. Adel and Monroe Counties appear to be the next victims. The fate of Cook Medical Center, in Adel, is now sealed as officials confirm that the center is scheduled to close its doors at the end of February. And Monroe County Hospital is teetering on the verge of shutdown, too.” Better Georgia

This is shameful. As a metro Atlanta resident, my family and I have the good fortune to live within a few miles of some of the most prestigious hospitals and medical care centers in the world. Yet our fellow Georgians,  who live in rural parts of the state, are losing their access to basic healthcare and hospital access. Perhaps the state legislature and the Governor should consider dedicating the state’s profits from proposed casino gambling to expanding Medicare and improving mental health care for the hundreds of thousands of Georgians who have neither. The state legislators who will vote to approve gambling or place a casino initiative on the ballot ought to take a step back and think about the needs of the people they serve. Georgia remains one of the states that values shiny new things and spanking new facilities more improving the lives of its taxpayers and residents. Along with health care and mental health care, education is underfunded as are transit, environmental justice solutions, jobs and business development and community development. If we are to grant new wealth building rights to a few people let’s use the same business opportunities to improve the quality of life of millions of Georgians who call the state home wherever they live in Adel, on Westside Atlanta or Monroe County.

My grandmother, Mary Emma, reminded me when I thought no one was watching,  “God is watching you. And he expects you to do good and to make the world a better place for others.”                        God is watching all of us.  Shirley Franklin

 

Read the entire story at the link below South Georgia hospital treating tornado victims scheduled to close                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

 

 

Practicing the politics of divisiveness

A  friend who contributed the post below expresses our concern if the hateful and divisive language of President Trump’s campaign will empower some Americans to threaten and discriminate against women, Muslims, African Americans, those with disabilities and ordinary folks. Just ask around and there are more and more stories like the customer who told a sales clerk in a tech store to “speak English or the story below.

I got up this morning to have a cup of coffee and read the paper before I start a day of mostly school work and taxes. I opened the paper in the A Section and read a headline, “Man accused of attacking Muslim worker at Airport.”

A white businessman flew in from Aruba to Kennedy Airport in New York. He had a connecting flight to Massachusetts, which included a layover. He spent his layover in the Delta Sky Club. There was a woman wearing a traditional Muslim hijab. She was minding her own business and sitting in the utility room. The man saw her through the glass portal in the door. He went over to her, totally unprovoked, and slammed the door in her hitting her head against the door. He asked her if she was in there praying? He then kicked her, the woman got out of the room and away from the man. The man then fell on his knees like he was praying in a mosque and started mocking her. The man yelled, “Trump is here now. He will get rid of all of you. You can ask Germany, Belgium and France about these kinds of people. You will see what happens.”

He thought he was going to jail just for disorderly conduct and even said so to the policeman who arrested him. Thank goodness New York airport authorities charged the man with assault and the commission of a hate crime. Much more serious than just disorderly conduct.

I think I got so upset reading this article because the article made me realize that for the past eight years we have been able to practice the politics of inclusion under President Obama. Now we are practicing the politics of division (and out right hate.) The saddest part of all of this is Donald Trump feels absolutely no responsibility for unleashing this type of venom into our society. What Donald Trump has unleashed is not patriotism; it is a malevolent nationalism we have not seen since the 1940’s.

I’m just venting over the sad state of affairs we are going to have to survive for the next four years. The only thing I know to do is to personally resist such despicable, (and yes deplorable) behavior. I will speak up and I will speak out when I see these types of injustices. I want to live in Obama’s America, not Trump’s America.

Reflections on the morning of the passage of the Presidential Baton

Barack Obama had the audacity to challenge the history of the ages. No African American, though others were courageous and smart, has been able to challenge the status quo of American politics like he has. He shattered the glass ceiling, broke out of the locked box, tore down the walls that kept African Americans in “their place” and denied service in the most powerful political position in the country. Before his presidency no person of color was the center of national news on every topic every day; no African American family was portrayed daily as the American standard, no African American woman First Lady set the national agenda for civic activism. President Obama is the 21st century standard for calm under pressure, thoughtful, compassionate and smart leadership. Every American witnessed it and people around the world did too. Most Americans acknowledge him as a great leader for his time and recognize his accomplishments. No one can deny his impact on American politics and culture if they are honest. The world we knew in 2008 has changed largely for the better. His legacy cannot be denied in the decades to come. He’s opened the door for more like him on America’s political stage. His successors, no matter who they are or what they say, will be measured in history against the standard of intellectual rigor, reflection and compassionate leadership President Obama has set as the 44th President of the United States. Our children’s grandchildren and their heirs will revere and recall the Obama legacy. It is done and cannot be undone. Will policies change, maybe, but the Obama legacy will endure.

I am encouraged and inspired by President Barack to seek a better, more just and peaceful world for all of us. His words and deeds will matter for generations to come. I believe tens of millions of Americans are inspired too. Onward and upward…

Tuition Free College Offers More than Hope to Students

NY Governor Cuomo and Bernie Sanders at recent news conference

Last week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled a proposal to make public college tuition free for low and middle-income students. At a recent news conference he said, “New York state is going to start this year the Excelsior scholarship: if you come from any family earning $125,000 or less, you are going to get free tuition………It’s the first program like it in the US… and it should be a wake-up call to this nation.”

It would be a great kick off to 2017 if Georgia’s graduating high school seniors could get a similar deal. Georgia families deserve the same opportunities as New York students – the unfettered chance to advance their post secondary education to compete in a world economy. New York Governor Cuomo gets it. His initiative is worthy of state funding because the state budget reaps the benefits of the higher income of its residents and a highly educated workforce is the foundation of economic development.  While Georgia’s HOPE scholarship serves a record number of middle-income students, recent studies have found Georgia students from the lowest income families are underserved. Let’s improve education at every level simultaneously – improve K through 12 public education, fund research universities, and high performing students and invest in the children and the families who need it most- those with the lowest wages from working families who can support themselves but don’t earn enough to save for college. Let’s put hope and opportunity back into Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship program.

All I want for Georgia is bold leadership that sets high standards and seeks to support all Georgians especially our youth. Go Governor Cuomo! Cheers and good luck! Here in Georgia, we’re pulling for your success hoping that Governor Deal might follow your lead.

Bullying Weakens our Democracy

Dan Rather supposedly posted the following regarding Donald Trump’s distracting reaction to the Broadway play Hamilton cast member response to Mike Pence who attended a recent performance.

“Bullies are often thin-skinned, quick to overreact when challenged, and undone when people are no longer afraid to speak truth to their face. Great prhamiltonesidents are almost always the opposite in all those categories. Reflecting on Donald Trump’s complete overreaction to a statement made at the end of a performance of Broadway’s Hamilton: An American Musical, I couldn’t help but think – doesn’t this man have more important things to worry about? Hasn’t the theater long been a stage for political art? And isn’t this a man who broke so many norms as a candidate, insulted so many people – individually and as groups – that he now has the nerve to demand an apology when he never gave one himself?

I know there are many who say that this incident shouldn’t be blown out of proportion. Yes, when compared to cabinet posts or paying out $25 million in a fraud case against “Trump University,” a Tweet maybe might not seem that important. But being president is to have every word you utter scrutinized. And these words are intimidating and unfitting of the office of the presidency. But more importantly, they show a real weakness of vanity and small-mindedness that our enemies abroad will likely look to exploit. I can also imagine that Trump’s political foes at home are noticing – once again – how easily he can be rattled.

I imagine this is not the last we will see of these kinds of incidents.”

As someone with a enhanced appreciation of the arts and politics, I could not agree more with Rather. Trump’s campaign of hate and fear was an unfortunate winning combination for him. But I have long believed that resorting  to name calling, personal attacks or “low blows” should not be standard fare nor acceptable because Eugene Clarke, my dad, made it clear to me that those who did so were displaying the limits of their intelligence and knowledge of the topic at hand.

I have debated contemporary issues publicly and privately my entire life, as an opinionated youth and an appointed official who challenged Maynard Jackson on criminal justice solutions and airport management or Andrew Young on education reform programs and public art or among my friends and relatives on discussions from Pan-Africanism to nonviolent political activism.

Seven years into the administration of Atlanta mayor Reed, I have marveled at the personal attacks I have garnered from him when we either disagree on the facts or hold different opinions. My son, Cabral and I developed Reed’s winning election strategy in late August 2009, when his top campaign advisors and he were befuddled, flat footed and losing his first mayoral election. Yet, he routinely smears me and disparaged Cabral unnecessarily. We ignored Reed’s bullying tactics to exercise our freedom and independence in politics and in business. Cabral masterminded Atlanta Councilmember Andre Dickens’ first campaign against Reed’s candidate Lamar Willis and he advised Teach for America, Atlanta Public School candidates on how to gain four Board seats (more than any other school board in the country at the time). We never started a fight, Cabral would walk away more than I would or do but neither of us ever felt intimidated by bully tactics regardless of who was bullying.

Reed’s bullying outbursts are not much different from those we have witnessed these last 18 months in president-elect Donald Trump’s despicable behavior. If such behavior and tactics are acceptable by any high ranking elected or appointed official, as Americans we lose because the guarantee of free speech won’t matter. If everyday folks and leaders are intimidated by the possibility of retribution and verbal or physical attacks by their leaders, then fewer will exercise their freedom of speech. When we lose civility in politics and accept bullying from our President or our Mayor, our human rights are weakened.