We stand in the shade of a tree planted by others

DFranklin2DFranklin2 1Born and educated in Atlanta, David Franklin loved Atlanta and all the possibilities it offered for all Atlantans never expecting African American economic opportunities would come without controversy and lots of public debate. Rarely did he speak in public settings but he had lots to say in hundreds of conversations and to political allies.
This is one of the few letters found in his desk when he died a few years ago. The letter to Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Jack Tarver along with a Hosea Williams campaign poster, a Maynard for Mayor button and a copy of a 1974 New York Times article about Atlanta politics along with family photographs were worthy of saving as prized possessions.
Forty-one years ago David and a small group of black and white leaders joined Mayor Maynard Jackson in pushing open the doors of economic opportunity in public and private business sectors. Such courage was demonstrated by few but many have benefitted. The biggest beneficiary is the city itself whose economy has grown by leaps and bounds over four decades.
This week was David’s 73rd birthday and it reminded me of a familiar phrase. We stand in the shade of trees planted by others. Thoughtful, grateful people know so and are thankful for the opportunities afforded them by the actions of others. Only fools think otherwise or worse, believe that they stand alone as champions for their or the city’s success.

A super highlight of a super-man in New York Times voter feature

lewsisSCF

At Antonio’s 2010 Lincoln University graduation in Jefferson City, Missouri is Lincoln University SGA President Antonio Lewis and Dr. Carolyn Mahoney, Lincoln University President.

NYTimesThis is a super story about a super young man in the New York Times, Of the People feature. It highlights Antonio Lewis, one of the Mayor’s Youth Program (MYP) students during my term as mayor. He  graduated from Atlanta Public Schools and earned a scholarship to Middle Georgia, which he lost after the first semester. While he was on winter break, he visited me as mayor and asked for my help in attending a local community college. Instead, I called our local Lincoln University-Missouri alumni contact who arranged for a partial scholarship that was matched with MYP funds. Four years later Lewis graduated with honors as Lincoln University student body president. The following year he joined the Obama field team and the rest is history. This happened hundreds of times during the six years of the program at the City. His success is the result of a village of people like, Deborah Lum and the staff at the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency, who supported him. I am happy that we caught him before he fell through the cracks like far too many of our young people, unfortunately, have done.

HBO’s Confirmation Is a Painful Flashback

Beverly Isom

“If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us! But passion and party blind our eyes, and the light which experience gives us is a lantern on the stern which shines only on the waves behind.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Poet/philosopher)

ahillThis Saturday, April 16 at 8:00 p.m. EST on HBO, “Confirmation”, the story of the 1991 public hearings on the Senate vote for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas with witness Anita Hill will debut on cable television. As a raging progressive and lukewarm loyal Democrat, I admit to watching the hearings hoping that in this real-life saga, the woman would win. And in some small way, I hoped all women would win. But for three days during those crisp Washington, DC October days, I saw an America where men judged women about an issue they had little knowledge of and even less patience for understanding. Four votes could have made the difference in who is sitting on the high court now but maybe “passion and party” blinded their eyes. However, the final floor vote was not strictly along party lines: 41 Republicans and 11 Democrats (Dixon (D-IL), Exon (D-NE), DeConcini (D-AZ), Robb (D-VA), Hollings (D-SC), Fowler (D-GA), Nunn (D-GA), Breaux (D-LA), Johnston (D-LA), Boren (D-OK), and Shelby (D-AL) now (R-AL)) voted to confirm Justice Thomas while 46 Democrats and 2 Republicans (Jeffords (R-VT) and Packwood (R-OR)) voted to reject the nomination.

Television has afforded us the ability to have a piercing and lasting image of how we remember history. Even though Vice President Joe Biden, as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted against Clarence Thomas and authored the Violence Against Women Act, I can’t forget the memory of him presiding and looking down at Hill during those hearings. Though the hearings were conducted to confirm Thomas they were really much more about sexual harassment in the workplace. Hill had the courage to withstand the public aggressive intimidation by a dozen men who were not her peers. Biden among them. He did very little to change the “optics” on what we saw on television. He did not stop the vicious and searing attacks from Senators Orrin Hatch, Alan Simpson, and the late Arlen Spector. Anita Hill’s public humiliation was felt by many women who knew her story firsthand from assembly lines to corporate board rooms. There is no question that while Thomas won the confirmation, nameless women in the workplace have benefited from Hill’s heroic stand.
The Anita Hill story has been written about and a documentary was also done, but this weekend Kerry Washington transforms into Anita Hill to tell the story once again. “If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us!”

Demographics haven’t shifted elections in Georgia, yet!

Vinson Institute-UGAAs more and more people become engaged in the presidential campaigns either as voters, caucus members or active campaigners, news articles and columns are speculating about which supporters are best positioned or angling for appointments and VIP statuses the new administration.

There is talk all over Atlanta about who will get the nod for which positions in which administration. Ambassadorships and Cabinet appointments are among the most mentioned. Hopes are high in political circles that at least a few Georgians will follow their predecessors – United Nations  Ambassador Andrew Young, White House staff person Rita Samuels, Director of Presidential Personnel Veronica Biggins, Ambassador Gordon Giffen or Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates are among the host of other Atlantans who have served among a President’s most respected and trusted advisors. Even as those considerations are being entertained, most voters and most polls expect Georgia to remain a red state in November. The growth of Georgia’s population over the last decades and the demographics – young, black, brown and international have changed the “color” and “culture”  of the state’s residents,  but we have yet to see a change from “conservative and right leaning” political philosophy in statewide or Congressional elections.

Last year Cabral reminded me about having thousands of qualified registered yet seemingly uninterested voters move to the state or the city doesn’t automatically change election outcomes. Even massive voter registration drives like Georgia House Minority Leader and State Representative for the 89th House District Stacey Abrams’ New Georgia Project in 2012 haven’t moved the needle much. The population of Georgia might be browner and more left leaning but so far election results haven’t shifted.

Before anyone starts packing for Washington, DC maybe we should ask them to focus on a few of the issues that face at least a million Georgians. Those who live on limited or fixed incomes have the greatest needs but all Georgians suffer when we “play politics” while Georgians face social and political obstacles to improve their everyday lives. From the LIMITED accessible, affordable, clean public transportation, affordable housing, healthcare and mental healthcare options, affordable post-secondary and higher education, funding for medical research, support for technology incubators, business retention and expansion incentives,  business opportunities for small, minority and female businesses to HIGH rates of incarceration and recidivism, high school, community college and college dropout rates, family and child poverty and persistent and growing high levels of homelessness in both cities and the suburbs, Georgia officials and civic leaders, all of us, have a lot of work to do at home before moving up the ladder to national leadership.

I count myself as responsible to do some of the hard work too. Whether Georgia is red, blue or purple in the November elections, we should choose the road less traveled and double down on getting Georgia on the right track for those who are most in need.

The Wizard of Fear

bwbtrumpRepublican presidential candidate Donald Trump made his rounds on the Sunday morning talk shows amidst criticism that he has incited the recent violence at his campaign events. His public remarks on the campaign trail against Muslims, immigrants and others have fueled physical attacks and angry protests. In the spirit of throwing a rock and hiding his hands, his response on “Meet the Press” was, “I don’t accept responsibility…….They’re not angry about something I’m saying. I’m just the messenger”.

The impassioned anti-Trump protestors that appear to be diverse and varied are increasing as the campaign travels. There are ample photos and video footage from protests that led up to the cancellation of the Chicago campaign event due to security concerns. The violence has grown from a simmering dislike to full on hate. From protestors being ordered out of Trump events to being punched in the face to yelling obscenities and even to journalists being roughed up and thrown out of his events. This weekend, in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, there were injuries and arrests and in Kentucky, Trump reportedly promised to defend his supporters if they fought with protestors and in Chicago, he relegated his detractors to “thugs”. It is rumored that Trump may pay the legal fees for the supporter who punched the protester at his recent rally. If so, then his responsibility will be decisive and clear—he will be putting his money where his mouth is.

And in another unbelievable act of messenger amnesia, Trump warned Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders that if his campaign people keep coming to his events, he would send his supporters to Sanders’ events. Whether it is threatening or bullying, Trump’s bravado has instigated flagrant and irresponsible discourse. Trump’s shameless reliance on fear and intolerance to fuel his campaign is likely the result of frustration and resentment from the crowds who support him. People who have seen their lives dramatically impacted by economic and social changes they were unprepared for. People looking for hope in small towns and big cities—desperate for a new and better future. Unfortunately, the billionaire candidate has chosen to pillage their hope with the tactics of fear. He has found acceptance as the messenger of hate but as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “hatred and bitterness can never cure the disease of fear”. The only question now is when will it be too much for the majority of GOP voters because it is already too late for the rest of us to believe he is more than the Wizard of Fear.

 

VOTING MATTERS: Shame on any Georgian who doesn’t register to vote OR vote!

voteFrom time to time we will write a case that exemplifies why who gets elected might matter to the thousands of our neighbors and friends who haven’t registered to vote. Voting matters because whoever gets elected can impact your life in ways you would never expect.

Take the case of a friend who supports himself doing special projects while going to school. He has a chronic disease which is managed by his doctor’s close attention to every detail about his wellbeing and a collection of prescription drugs which keep him well.  With the reelection of Georgia Governor Nathan  Deal it wasn’t clear he was at risk of losing affordable access to his prescription drugs, but that is what happened. His monthly deductible jumped from $26 to $1395. What working person can afford this change? Only the rich!

Here’s the full story…..

In 2014, the state of Georgia decided to move all persons who have Plan D Medicare coverage and were participating in the no cost Ryan White Care Drug Assistance Program Part B, from this program and require them to utilize their Plan D coverage for their HIV drugs. Many of these individuals are on disability or individuals who returned to work and were able to maintain their Medicare coverage. For those working, they are the working poor. By making this policy decision effective 2015, Governor Deal’s goal was to shift the burden to the Federal government, claiming that this opened up slots for people in need of the Part B plan of Ryan White. In effect, this social policy decision placed an undue burden on the working poor, who already have a 20% co-pay under Medicare, by making these individuals subject to the infamous Plan D Medicare “doughnut hole.” Individuals, using Plan D to pay for their HIV drugs, if they don’t qualify for Medicare Extra Help, or non-profit grant assistance, are left with staggering out-of-pocket deductibles. The way this works, once you have spent $2,840 in Medicare for drugs, you then “fall” into a co-payment hole you have to spend your way out to the tune of $4,550, then your co-payments fall back down. This recently happened to my friend who did not qualify for any assistance. His HIV medications, which normally costs him $26.06 per month in co-payments, rose to $1,395 per month overnight. Those who are working and struggle, get buried in medical debt – this is but one example of who gets left behind when the cost effective measures to our health care social policy and make the working poor subject to outrageous co-payments. Governor Deal led the state to make it harder for my friend to get the medications  he needs and to add insult to injury the state didn’t notify him. He found out when he went to the doctor 30 days after the effective date of the policy shift.

A governor who cares about the well being of all Georgians could do something about this. Georgia has elected and reelected a governor who doesn’t care and who leaves hard working people to fend for themselves. Shame on Governor Nathan Deal and shame on every qualified Georgian who doesn’t register to vote or any registered voter who doesn’t vote.  If this story reminds you of someone in your family or your circle of friends, get registered and vote in November.

 

 

Flint–The Poison of Politics

flintPrior to the environmental fiasco in Flint, I would never have imagined the likelihood that an elected official would make a budget decision that would poison an entire city. It is unimaginable, yet here we are. For those unfamiliar with the widely publicized story, a brief summary is offered.

In 2011 when many cities had still not recovered from the 2008 economic recession, the financially strapped city of Flint was taken over by the state. Then Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, retained emergency managers to cut costs and manage the struggling city.

Two years later, it was decided that Flint should break away from the Detroit water system that pulled water from Lake Heron and join a new water district. In April 2014, Flint switched its water system and started drawing water from the Flint River. There are lead pipes throughout the system and in older homes with copper water pipes that were held together with lead solder, the lead corroded the water. The World Health Organization has said that lead poisoning can cause adverse neurological effects.

The problem is now headline news as reports of sick school children who now have lead poisoning, state EPA officials have resigned, truck loads of donated water arrive in Flint everyday and both the state and federal government officials have declared a state of emergency for the city.

I wish this was just about a bad budget decision, but the cries of environmental racism can’t be overlooked. And not just from political candidates hammering for sound bites. New York Times columnist, Charles Blow wrote,”An entire American city exposed to poisoned water. How could this be? It is hard to imagine this happening in a city that didn’t have Flint’s demographic profile — mostly black and disproportionately poor.”

If not racist it is clearly unjust, unfair, and unacceptable.

“If I Were Mayor”— A Young Student Explains the Job

Fifteen years ago in January 2001 a few friends, colleagues and I gathered in my living room to discuss whether my candidacy for mayor could be successful. We talked about the likely candidates, their years of public service and accomplishments; we had an honest discussion about whether I, as a first time candidate even with promised endorsements, could win a race against a seasoned politician and former City Council member. We talked very little about what I would or should do as mayor beyond continuing the legacy programs of previous mayors going back to William Hartsfield.ifIweremayor

Mine was a long shot candidacy and the voters proved the prediction true when the winning percentage of votes in the election barely tipped over the required 50 percentile.  At some level I longed to be in the public discussion about issues held dear to my heart as much as winning the race. Such is the value of democracy. Each of us can be in the public debate about issues we hold dear. Voting is only part of the equation.

During the campaign I found people had opinions about the city, what the mayor should or should not do. Time after time I was struck by the opinions of children.

Here is an essay  written by a Fernbank Elementary School student in August 2002 two months before the November election.

If I Were Mayor

If I were mayor, I would make bigger candy stores, more ice cream trucks, and better playgrounds. But wait a minute. What exactly is a mayor supposed to do? It sounds like a big job-so many things to be done, so many things to be fixed, so many expectations and responsibilities! Decisions, decisions, hmmm…what would I do?

I once heard a poem that said to put your big rocks in the jar first. Then you add the gravel, sand, and water. The big rocks symbolize one’s main priorities, and the gravel and sand symbolize other small projects. One big rock in Atlanta that needs to be put in first, is the task of decreasing air pollution and traffic. If I were mayor, I would change the minimum number of people in an H.O.V. lane to three instead of two; increasing carpool rates and reducing pollution. Then I would encourage the expanding of MARTA. Hopefully, this would reduce traffic. Finally, I’d develop highway clean up teams to keep our roads clean and safe.

Another big rock is the task of helping and caring for the homeless or needy. I, as mayor, would start a sort of “homeless hospital” which would provide good, reliable and cheap medical dental care for the needy. Also at the “hospital”, homeless could sign-up for job skills courses, where trainers would come in and teach certain skills they could use to get a job.

Now comes the gravel and sand. I would paint over graffiti, restore old buildings, improve schools, clean parks, and find good homes for the orphaned children. These and other small things help fill the jar.

Finally, another very important thing that every mayor should do is keep his or her promises. Citizens want an honest and trustworthy mayor who will make fair decisions and listen to the problems of the city. Our city deserves a good mayor. And who knows, one day, it could be me!

” Citizens want an honest and trustworthy mayor who will make fair decisions and listens to the problems of the city. Our city deserves a good mayor.” This young woman captures the expectations of nearly all the voters I’ve ever met.

 

 

Ted Cruz Has Gone Too Far

Contributor, Cecelia Corbin Hunter

Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz

Just when I thought the national discourse had deteriorated as far as it would go in this election cycle, Ted Cruz says Hillary Clinton should be spanked and not in a playful lets get sexy way. The new Republican leaders seem to believe that (1) they can say any ugly constitution denying rhetoric that they can dream and (2) women are irrelevant and insignificant. It’s the second observation that gives me great pause. It’s become standard fare for the grand old party to discuss and legislate female innards, but a “spanking?” Oh no!!!! Ted has gone too far. Should the flogging be done clothed or should Hillary and all her “girl” supporters strip or just bare their bottoms. Should we gather in a stadium at high noon or be gathered up by Knights in white at midnight.

The days of white men spanking, flogging or beating women for having the audacity of exercising their right to be more correct, to think and unflinchingly to express their thoughts are gone. Ted can get on board or get out of the way. Hillary and the women of 2016 reject his supposition and thinking. We are here and a spanking from you is not on the agenda. Mr Cruz, spanking may be the norm in your house, but not for the woman who is White House bound.

 

The Status Quo Has Got to Go!

globalpost

Chicago protesters stopped by police at Black Friday rally after Thanksgiving Global Post photo

The year 2015 is behind us and a new one has just started and I am baffled by the continuing contradictions evident in what we believe, how we live and how we treat one another in the name of religion, security and cultural values. As a mother whose child has died, my heart aches for others whose loved ones have been buried too young. The stories of those who die violently from war, from abuse and hatred linger as troubling reminders of a world detached from the reasonable standards of fairness and justice.

In Cleveland a grand jury decided not to charge police officers in the shooting death of 12-year old Tamir Rice. In Chicago, police officer Jason Van Dyke pleads not guilty in the death of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year old who was killed last October. And the recent death of 19-year old Northern Illinois college student Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones, 55, a mother of five who were both killed the day after Christmas by a Chicago officer responding to a domestic disturbance call. Officials have admitted that Jones was killed accidentally, but she was a mother who is already missed by her children. The family of both victims has filed lawsuits in Chicago.

At 70 years old, my life is more over than not. Yet I live another day baffled by the mystery of my long life in the face of the death of the young. Someone wrote to me during this difficult time that, “I know you like me, would give your life for your child.” What parent wouldn’t?  Imagine your loved is a 12 year-old boy in the park like Tamir, or on a street at night in the lights of a police car like Laquan or on the other side of an apartment door like Quintonio.  Public debate about these cases dominate the local and national news and casual discussions among friends and neighbors. Lots of people are baffled about how these horrific instances continue.

In the absence of Congressional legislative action, today President Obama has exercised his executive powers to tighten access to guns and to address the nation’s deficiency in mental health care access and funding. This is a positive development. In Georgia we have witnessed decades of denial and underfunding for mental health care.  The Department of Justice (DOJ) forced the state and the Governor to invest in mental health reform and care a couple of years ago. Georgia had spent decades underfunding and ignoring the needs hundreds of mentally fragile residents. It is yet to be seen whether the state’s DOJ approved plan has reached the majority of those in need of mental health services.

Solutions are possible. They always are in a country as resourceful and wealthy as America. Mayors, governors and other elected officials must own the actions of police and government to better understand the challenges the officers face, the demands of the public for safety and the rights of everyday folks including those they distrust or fear.

Elected officials must adopt a fearless position to honor their commitment to transparency even in when its unpopular to be honest about what might have happened. The cover up of information is never acceptable. Citizen Review Boards can exercise their full authority to investigate…….States, cities and counties can adopt the DOJ standard ………..And all of us must question the use of force, especially deadly force in every case.

Or let’s try other ideas… But the status quo has got to go!!!!!