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.

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.

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.

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.

150 Years is Long Enough

To celebrate the Confederacy with public displays of a flag which stood for enslavement and hateful violence against Americans 

Just in case there is any question, Blogging While Blue supports removing the Confederate flag in all its versions from every public space and facility in Georgiaimage. It is a relic of the past and is appropriate for history books and museums but not the public space. It seems odd to us that Governor Deal has called for the redesign of Georgia license tags and hasn’t taken down the flags. Tags, yes; but flags, no? He wouldn’t be an outcast even among Republican governors, if he took it down. This is a perfect chance for the Governor to lead the state into the 21st century. I recall a fair amount of discussion during Maynard Jackson’s term, some of it threatening, about whether Atlanta was obligated to fly the state flag in its buildings and on its property. Intimidation works sometimes but is never a strategy that insures compliance with the intent of the law. As mayor, Maynard Jackson resisted any display of the Confederate flag. He was both on time and ahead of his time.

This is a chance for Governor Deal to acknowledge the hurt and pain felt by many Georgians who love the state but who cannot and will not do so blindly ignoring the human rights violations perpetuated against African Americans. Slavery and Jim Crow nor their symbols should be celebrated or honored in any public forum.

Deal could follow his colleague, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley who ordered the Confederate battle flag and other symbols of the Confederacy be taken down from the Capitol grounds. He told a reporter, “it is the right thing to do.” Governor Deal has a unique opportunity to set the record straight and to act on behalf of all Georgians who are descendants of slave owners and slaves and the millions of good people who have migrated to the state expecting Georgia to represent their human rights and values.

“But, conscience asks the question, is it right? And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.”–Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Deal should remove the Confederate flag from all state property and lead his party and the Georgia Republican dominated legislature to accept his actions in the best interest of all Georgians. He should insist that the Confederate Memorial Day be struck from the state holiday calendar and eliminate Robert E. Lee’s birthday as a state holiday. Replace them with two vacation days to be used at the employees’ discretion since they are already funded.

Nathan Deal left Congress to run for governor presumably because he wanted the power and authority of the position. Well now is the time to exercise that power and take down the Confederate flags.

 

 

Why President Obama and Georgia Need the LBGTQ Community in November. Will your vote count?

Shirley FranklinIn a tongue-in-cheek, but pointed article, Newsweek Magazine nicknamed President Obama as “the first gay President.” This was an editorial comment on President Obama’s firm support of same-sex marriage, employment non-discrimination, HIV/AIDS funding and tthe Departments of Justice and Defense efforts to grant LBGTQ citizens, servicemen and servicewoman “full citizenship” in their interactions with the Federal Government. Many are not aware that President Obama is also the first President to invite transgendered children to the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. The invitation did not cause a “flap” in the press and was a non-issue because it is a well-known fact the President practices the “politics of inclusion”.

Here in Georgia, the campaign for inclusion has yet to be realized for minority communities. This includes Hispanics, Asians, Africa Americans and the LBGTQ community. Georgia ranks dead last with the highest unemployment rate in the nation with some 380,000 plus Georgians out of work. The majority of Georgia’s unemployed are minorities. In education we rank 35th in per student spending. We have cut teachers’ pay and have 6,500 fewer teachers in Georgia’s classrooms. We have refused to expand Medicaid to grant healthcare to the working poor, which has an adverse impact on Grady Memorial Hospital as well as our rural health system – resulting in hospital closings in some rural communities. And to add insult to injury Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp is stonewalling efforts to register more than 600,000 minority voters. He is holding up approximately 51,000 registration applications under the pretense of “voter fraud”. The Republican effort to suppress minority voters and the Democratic vote in Georgia is reminiscent of literacy tests that were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. As Atlantans celebrated Pride this past weekend, LBGTQ residents in Georgia LBGTQ cannot marry, cannot file joint state taxes, are unprotected in the workplace against employment discrimination and generally confess to not feeling “safe” outside major urban areas. Here in Georgia, there is still work to be done before President Obama’s vision of an “Equal America” is realized.

If President Obama is going to continue his efforts to level the playing field of minority participation, Democrats need to maintain control of the U.S. Senate. A vote for Michelle Nunn, who is endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, a national LBGTQ lobby, is a vote to maintain Democratic control of the U.S. Senate. Control of the House and the Senate are important to the President; it is the difference between success and failure. The Democratic-controlled Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in as a bipartisan measure. However, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced immediately after the Senate vote that ENDA was “dead on arrival” in the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives. It is no secret the Republicans have tried consistently to derail the President’s federal non-discrimination agenda. In November, it is important to send a strong message that Georgia isn’t the presumptive “Red State” that Republicans thought it was … your vote can make a difference in all the state-wide contests from the U.S. Senate, the Governor’s Office and the State School Superintendent’s race.

In Georgia, if we want to improve and reform our educational system, if we want to expand Medicaid and strengthen our healthcare system, if we want to fairly register all voters, if we are tired of being dead last in healthcare, education and employment, if we want to pass State Representative Karla Drenner’s Fair Employment Practices Act in the Georgia General Assembly to protect LBGTQ state employees, and if we want a better quality of life for our husbands, our wives, our friends and our families, we need Jason Carter as Governor. It will take strong leadership to change Georgia’s direction. President Obama needs a Governor who will work with him. The President does not need a Governor who jousts at windmills and accuses the President’s Administration of “manipulating” Georgia’s unemployment rate to change the outcome of an election.

President Obama needs LBGTQ Georgians to register, to vote and to be a part of the statewide coalition to retain control of the U.S. Senate and to right the ship of the state of Georgia. President Obama needs Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter.

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.

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.

Maynard Jackson-Setting the Record Straight (Maynard Eaton)

Maynard Eaton was an Atlanta reporter who covered Maynard Jackson during his second term. Here he briefly discusses the scrutiny he and other Black reporters were under to provide fair coverage of the first African American mayor as well as his impressions of Maynard Jackson’s legacy.

 

Maynard Jackson : Setting The Record Straight (Rodney Strong)

Rodney Strong met Maynard Jackson when he worked on Maynard’s first mayoral campaign as student at Morehouse College.

We believe this clip of Strong discussing Jackson’s impact on him as a student, the gift of public service that has guided his life, and how Jackson created the City’s NPU system is relevant as voters in Atlanta prepare to vote on the billion dollar Transportation Referendum on July 31st.

Strong reveals how transportation was one of the policy issues that Maynard faced in the 1970’s, which is interesting considering we are still facing some of these same policy decisions almost 40 years later.

 

Maynard Jackson: Setting the Record Straight (Elaine Alexander)

Elaine Alexander and her husband Miles were among Jackson’s early supporters. Here Elaine talks candidly about Maynard Jackson’s first week in office and his first inauguration. During the early days of Atlanta’s first African American mayor’s tenure, he and the city braced themselves for the challenges of a new and changing racial reality in the South.