Atlanta’s Future Depends on a Coalition

I am sharing my recent response to a reporter who asked me to describe my relationship with the state and Governor Perdue when I was mayor and what advice I would offer the next mayor.

We had a good relationship in the sense that we shared information and ideas from our first meeting. Our agreement was to talk directly to each other instead of using third parties to intercede. The Governor and state legislators were unfamiliar with how large water/sewer systems operate and are funded. After they were briefed, they offered to help with loans and ultimately with the MOST (municipal option sales tax) for water and sewer. Then Cobb Chairman Sam Olens was very helpful as was the Democratic leadership including States Senator Nan Orrock and State Representative Calvin Smyre. I urged the Governor to be aggressive in funding water infrastructure planning and to consider long-term water planning.  He started some of this work.

I offered to help find funding solutions to pay for the NASCAR museum but he declined the offer.

We had a generally good relationship for eight years.

It is hard to compare the types of relationships men and women have to same-sex relationships even in high levels of government. Models of leadership in most of American industries and in public/private sectors remain defined by how men relate to each other.

Now politics is much more complex at every level – Tea Party, establishment Republicans, Trump Republicans, loyal Democrats, AltRight, and newcomers. There are many new challenges with the added complication of social media and technology.

We have entered an era of Coalition, not party or race, politics in Atlanta. Leaders who succeed will be collaborators, good listeners, and honest brokers not merely charismatic and well-spoken politicians. Atlanta Maynard Jackson remains the best model of a superb coalition politician. His coalition of black and white voters, young professionals, neighborhood and faith leaders, when Atlanta’s population was predominantly white, catapulted the city and him to the national status. From here to tomorrow the prospect of the city’s future success depends on a coalition of committed engaged Atlantans.

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.

VOTE OR DIE

vote2As those of you who have not yet voted prepare to cast your ballot on Tuesday, let’s imagine our future.

Imagine a world where the President of the United States routinely stops his press conferences to shout at reporters, call a group of Americans demeaning names or encourages physical attacks on peaceful demonstrators. Well, if that seems impossible, then you have missed much of the last 18 months of political campaigning by GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump. He specializes in calling his opponent a liar and using hateful, evil speech to attack anyone who disagrees with him which isn’t hard to do since he offers few facts and little vision for the issues affecting our increasingly diverse, complex country.

We are diverse in opinion, experience, education, career, ethnicity, race, religion, and so many other ways. The best of our history has recognized our diversity as a strength. Most of us want an America where children are taught to love whom they want, achieve their dreams and use their talents to improve their world, their families and their communities. Most of us pay our fair share in taxes and sweat equity to support a strong country. Not dear old Donald Trump. He  avoids paying taxes, spouts hatred, meanness, lies, hyperbole and misinformation. His retort “believe me” is hollow and meaningless because believing him would mean you have to ignore the facts and forget the value of fairness, data or statesmanship.

Can Donald Trump be elected President? Yes.

Will America and many Americans suffer for such a foolish choice, if he is elected? A resounding Yes.

Only registered voters can stop Donald Trump’s climb to political power.

VOTE or DIE was an effective slogan to arouse voters in 2008. This is a VOTE or DIE moment. VOTE and be sure your friends and family vote too. It is time to reclaim our democracy from the mockery Donald Trump has made of it.

Better Georgia: Deal Running Scared

“Our partner, Cabral, was an early supporter of Better Georgia and its mission to advocate on behalf of progressive issues and to expose the hypocrisy and danger often found in the positions taken by the right wing and Republicans in states like Georgia. While we agree on this issue, we post this in Cabral’s memory and hope you will take heed and vote as a progressive on the issues in Georgia and in states across the US, especially our home region the Southeast. ”

 

Better Georgia
More parents, teachers and community members are opposing the school takeover, which threatens to gut local control and silence parents.

Gov. Deal knows that voters are seeing through his deceptive ballot language. And he’s panicking.

AJC: “Is Gov. Deal running scared on Opportunity School District?”

It’s not just the headlines that show that we are winning. A recent poll by WSB-TV shows that more Georgians oppose the school takeover than support it. No one thought that this was possible just a few short months ago.

Our efforts to inform voters are working, and it’s your support that makes these victories possible.

Join 3,200 Georgians in telling Gov. Deal that you see through his latest education scam.

>>>Don’t let Deal silence parents. Sign and share the petition.

The school takeover is not a partisan issue — as soon as anyone reads the fine print on Amendment 1, they realize that it’s a political power grab that would do nothing to help our students.

Well-known conservatives like Mary Kay Bacallao, the former GOP candidate for state school chief, and Debbie Dooley, a Tea Party leader, are bashing Deal’s takeover because it guts local control.

Dr. Melissa Ladd is also a conservative, but she’s opposing Deal’s takeover, because as an education expert, she knows it won’t improve schools.

She has been in the classroom, working with students most of her life. She has a master’s degree in reading instruction and a doctorate in school improvement.

The takeover threatens to fire teachers, replace them with strangers and take $13 million from underfunded schools for “administrative operations.”

If passed, it would destroy one of the safest environments for Georgia’s most vulnerable students.

From the AJC: “Children are not mere products created by a corporation. They are worth more than just a test score. But if we allow Amendment 1 to pass, our kids will be nothing more than a statistical liability to a school’s bottom line. They deserve better.”

Unlike Ladd, Deal and his politicians are not in the classroom. They don’t work with students, talk with them or listen to them. How could they possibly know what students need?

Ladd isn’t the only one who sees through the takeover.

Deal asked Rev. Chester Ellis, a community activist, and 29 other ministers to meet with him in the governor’s mansion basement to hear about his takeover. After Deal failed to answer question after question, Ellis realized that the governor doesn’t have a plan, but Ellis knows what Deal’s really after.

From Diane Ravitch’s blog: “I’m not comfortable with the Governor’s answers or his solutions. His Opportunity School District has no facts and no plans to improve schools. This is an opportunity that citizens can’t afford to take. It is all about the money. It’s just that simple.”

Rev. Timothy McDonald is one of the plaintiffs filing a class action lawsuit against the governor on behalf of all Georgia voters. Deal has crafted a ballot that misrepresents Amendment 1 in order to trick voters into voting in favor of the takeover. The lawsuit alleges that a scam like this violates voting rights.

Our momentum is growing everyday, but we need to tell more Georgians about the dangers of Deal’s school takeover plan.

>>>Tell Deal that you see through his deception. Sign the petition.

Sincerely,

Executive Director
Better Georgia

P.S. Deal is counting on voters not read the fine print. Tell Deal you won’t be deceived by signing our petition.

Click to view this email in a web browser or to share on Facebook
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Athens, GA 30603-1982 Google+
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http://act.bettergeorgia.org/mailings/view/6173?akid=6173.57453.r7RYls

It is Time to Vote!

bwb65Early voting starts in seven days on October 17.

It is time to vote.

In the debate, last night Donald Trump said his lewd and sexually aggressive taped comments weren’t as bad as ISIS. Is that the best he can do?  Oh and if that isn’t bad enough Trump said he isn’t as bad as Bill Clinton. Really?

It is time to vote.

Hillary Clinton has years of public policy and legislative experience, she’s poised and she struggles to understand complex issues and address the issues in her answers.

As Georgian, as a woman, as a grandmother and mother, as a former mayor, as an African American, I will vote my conscience on November 8. I will cast my vote for Hillary Clinton for President and Jim Barksdale, the Democratic candidate for U. S.  Senate.

Barksdale is seeking elected office for the first time. He was born in Macon and has made his home in Atlanta for 61 years where he has built a successful business. He brings a deep love for his home state and a desire to support programs and policies to improve the lives of everyday folks.

It is time to vote.

There are also constitutional amendments on the ballot. The amendments include the Opportunity School District referendum, state’s Judicial Qualifications Commission, a fireworks sales tax and one that supports human trafficking victims. You should make your choice known on these amendments.

I will vote YES on Amendment #2 which will generate revenue for the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund and Amendment #4 which addresses the allocation of revenue from the sale of fireworks. Both Amendments have bipartisan support from legislators from across the state and broad-based community support.

Early voting begins October 17.  Please vote and take your neighbors and friends to the polls.

It is time to vote.

 

Women’s Equality Day-Friday, August 26th 2016

WDWhen passing a Resolution establishing Women’s Equality Day in 1970, the House of Representatives of the United States Congress acknowledged the fact that women, “have been treated as second-class citizens and have not been entitled the full rights and privileges, public or private, legal or institutional, which are available to male citizens” over more than four decades women have made enormous strides and yet significant challenges remain.  Today Georgia ranks number one in the nation for the fastest growth in the number of women-owned firms contributing to a growing economy. Turning to the political front, the fact that there are no women holding statewide constitutional offices  suggests that there is more work needed to fully flatten the playing field.

Women are the majority of registered voters in Georgia but women have never experienced the full collective power of the women’s vote.  The standard assertion that gender should not matter seems to function as an invisible barrier for women preventing a much broader coalition that could result in leadership that prioritizes issues and solutions of concern to women and their families.  As women work to establish businesses access to capital and contracts remains limited.  As women run for office at the local level statewide offices remain out of reach.  Electing a woman president of the United States can break through the glass ceiling and usher in an era of equity for all women regardless of race, religion, orientation or even political affiliation.  As women pause to commemorate the signing of the 19th Amendment some 96 years ago let us come together realizing that we are not as different as we are disconnected.  Georgia women are stronger together.

Rita Samuels    

Women Flying High, LLC       

Women Flying High will join Georgia Democratic women lawmakers to host a Women’s Equality Day roundtable conversation at the Georgia Capitol on Friday, August 26, 2016. The event will commemorate the signing of the 19th amendment to the U. S. Constitution giving women the right to vote in 1920.

 

Why are Georgia GOP Officials Mum on Trump’s Bigotry?

GOPThe opposition to Donald Trump’s candidacy for the Presidency of the United States is growing every day.  First there was silence, then surprise and shock and now calls for action to oppose his candidacy from corporate leaders, national security experts and technology leaders. Each person who has signed open letters makes it clear they speak as individuals based on their experience and knowledge of their industry and public affairs. None of the open letters blasts Trump directly rather they allow the GOP nominee to speak for himself. And speak he does loosely and carelessly on nearly every subject of national concern. His callousness is not reserved for a few. He lashes out at crying babies, anyone who disagrees with him or any person or organization that represents the diversity of culture and tradition among Americans. His early attacks on Mexicans and immigrants and later Muslims and now common and regular attacks on President Obama, members of congress, the media, women, crying baby in a crowded room among others are unmatched in post-WWII American presidential politics.

In Georgia and in other parts of the South otherwise good, honest voters are expected to turnout to support the GOP nominee and GOP elected officials, for the most part, stand silent watching from the wings. In Georgia the Governor, the state House and Senate, the two United States Senators and the majority of the Congressional delegation are Republicans. Some work across the aisles on key issues, some are known for their good works and delivery of “pork” to fund state projects…. but all are mum when in comes to challenging the hatred Trump spews and statements he makes nearly every day. They know ISIS wasn’t founded by President Obama or Hillary Clinton. They know immigrants contribute positively to the Georgia economy. They know babies cry in public. They know women are legitimately concerned about their rights and most gun owners want to expand background checks. They know thousands of families benefit from healthcare unavailable to them in the recent past. They know America is great now and no amount of chanting from Trump will change that. They understand the racial overtones of many of the GOP nominee’s statements. After all many GOP elected officials in the South have witnessed the expansion of democracy with the Voting Rights Acts and the impact on their own political races. Some have made changes in more than their language (staff composition, number of black church visits) to stay on good terms with African American voters who, depending on the election, turnout in record numbers and can make their campaigns more costly. Some have enjoyed close relationships with African American organizations and political figures.

Following Rev Warnock’s lead… it is time to ask questions. Can Georgia Republican leaders enjoy “good relations” with African American and immigrant communities in the face of Donald Trump’s candidacy? Will voters give them a pass? Who are the Mayors William Hartsfield and Ivan Allen (who challenged the status quo of white dominance of Atlanta politics) among the current crop of established white political leadership? Deal? Cagle? Olens? Many African Americans seek to carry the Maynard Jackson banner. Who among the white Georgians, Georgia Republicans will take the moral, righteous stand against Donald Trump’s bigotry, hatred and ignorance?

Who Signed Silicon Valley’s Anti-Trump Open Letter (and Who Didn’t) http://www.inc.com/tess-townsend/silicon-valley-letter-to-trump.html

 

Gun Control Legislation Has Me Asking Georgia Senators, “What’d I Miss”?

nolawnobreakEvery 9 out of 10 Americans believe that anyone on a government terror Watch List should not be permitted to buy an AR-15 assault weapon. It is time for Georgia Senators Isakson and Perdue to listen to the people. It is time for them to listen to Republicans and Democrats who want background checks and want to keep guns out of the hands of suspected terrorists.  Many polls show gun owners agree with increased national gun control measures.Who are Senator Isakson and Senator Perdue representing? And why?

If Senator Lindsay Graham gets it and has stepped forward to support Senator Susan Collins’ legislation it is time for Georgia’s Senators to wake up to the reality they are not operating consistent with the beliefs of most of their constituents. As Daveed Diggs’s Lafayette sings in the hit Broadway play, Hamilton, “What’d I miss”. Well, it seems Senator Isakson and Perdue “have  missed” that Georgians and Americans  believe their safety requires federal law with tighter gun control and expanded background checks.

It is time to suspend partisan politics, Senators.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2016/06/22/democrats-stage-protest-on-house-floor-to-force-gun-control-votes

#NoBillNoBreak

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.

Will a Speaker Ryan fare any better with the Freedom Caucus? The “Crackpot Caucus” now has a formal name!

By: Gary S. CoxCrackpotCaucus

New York Times columnist Timothy Egan (November 2014) was the first to coin the term “Crackpot Caucus”. Of the Georgia Congressional Delegation, Egan listed Jody Hice (R – 10th), Barry Loudermilk (R – 11th) and Rick Allen (R – 12th) among his esteemed “new crazies” taking on the Republican establishment as “political outsiders.” Hice and Loudermilk joined the radical right Freedom Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives, otherwise known as Egan’s “Crackpot Caucus.”

Blogging While Blue highlighted the “Congressional Crazies” in a December 2014 blog and asked the question “Has the Speaker gone from herding cats to stopping stampeding elephants in the new Congress?” We know the answer to this question, Speaker John Boehner (R – OH) was stampeded out of office by the likes of Georgia’s own Congressmen Jody Hice and Barry Loudermilk – as members of the Freedom Caucus. This caucus fiercely argued that Boehner was neither conservative enough nor confrontational enough in challenging President Obama on a variety of policies from defense spending to funding the Affordable Care Act. The Freedom Caucus wanted to invoke Article I, Section 2, and Clause 5 of the Rules of the House of Representatives. This rule allows the Speaker to “live or die” on his/her record each legislative session. It also allows the House membership to call for a vote on the Speaker’s leadership at any time during the legislative session. Rather than have this rule invoked against him, Boehner chose to resign. This rule is the center point of the current brouhaha that surrounds vacuum of leadership in the Republican Caucus.

Congressman Paul Ryan (R – WI), the former Mitt Romney vice presidential running mate is now reluctantly seeking the Speaker’s gavel. Ryan, who is being hailed in the press as the “Reluctant Leader” set ground rules by which he would ascend to the speakership. Ryan insisted on winning by a super majority of 80%, being endorsed by all factions of the Republican Party, “family time” to spend time with his wife and children, less fundraising responsibilities and most notably a repeal of the House rules that allow the Speaker to be challenged at any time during the legislative. Though the Freedom Caucus endorsed a Ryan candidacy for Speaker, they balked at changing the House rules. The Freedom Caucus did not want to rescind the rule that could lead to Ryan’s ouster. The caucus wants to reserve the right to review Ryan’s conservative credentials. Should Ryan not oppose Obama Administration policies to their liking, then, they want to be able to challenge his leadership. Remember, the Freedom Caucus believes “compromise”, the way a legislative body is supposed to operate, is a dirty word and an unforgivable sin against conservative principals.

This week will tell us if Ryan gets his way. This will be “the week that was” in Washington when it comes to the Republican leadership. Is Ryan going to be able to herd his elephants and keep them in line? Or, will they stampede him the same way they did with Boehner …. I have my popcorn and I’m sitting on the sidelines watching these circus elephants either get in line or stampede the new leadership into the political dust!