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.

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.

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.

Kellyanne the GOP should seize this time to lead

gopKellyanne Conway, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, said Hillary Clinton, President Obama and Democratic leaders should encourage demonstrators to be peaceful and welcome the nation’s transition to a Trump administration. No, Kellyanne it was the GOP that made the threats, and it should be your responsibility as a GOP leader to right the wrong you created.

As stories emerge of violence as a result of words or actions from the fallout of the presidential campaign it is important for us to look forward while we assess the damage of the hateful language and threats used by the GOP candidate. As a nation we are sorting through our political options with the presidential election behind us.  Community leaders from all sectors have their work cut out for them for the foreseeable future. Our children and youth need our guidance to avoid the negative psychological effects of the angry discord they have witnessed in the presidential campaign. Their fears of danger must be assuaged. Political campaigning can be scary even for those of us who have been in the thick of political “battles”. The GOP leaders must put the hateful threats and rhetoric in check by making clear that all Americans, immigrants, Muslims, women, African Americans, the LGBTQ community, Hispanics, disabled people, and those who disagree with the President-elect are not under attack nor will they ever be. The reckless attacks on these Americans and immigrants are harmful and dangerous.

In the last Atlanta citywide election a former council member viciously attacked my family members in the media and I was subject to an untruthful and hateful citywide robo call assumedly designed to scare me and my family into silence. Rumors attribute those strategies to political leaders at the highest levels of Atlanta politics. That’s a story for another time. Fortunately, my grandchildren weren’t harmed by the attacks but many children and youth are confused by the misbehavior of adults and the discord they are witnessing in their neighborhoods, on the Internet and on television. The GOP leadership has a unique opportunity to reverse this madness by issuing a pledge to cease the banal explanations of why the President-elect’s threats weren’t meant to hurt anyone nor were they intended to provide the foundation of public policy. No, Kellyanne, it is your responsibility to reassure Americans. The GOP should seize the time to lead an inclusive, fair and just America.

 

 

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.

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