History will Judge Atlanta Mayors

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

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

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

God is Watching Georgia

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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.

A Few Words on the Election by Pearl Cleage

pcleagePearl Cleage, playwright/novelist/poet/citizen

I want to offer a few words about our upcoming presidential election to be held on November 8, 2016. The reason I only need a few words – 5 to be exact – to say my say is that I am not interested in arguing a position, promoting a specific candidate or platform or discussing the record of our current president, the ever amazing Barack Obama. I have only one mission between now and Election Day and that is to make sure everybody I know is ready to vote. That means, you have registered, checked the location of your current polling place and secured the necessary ID to vote in your state/territory/district. It also means ordering an absentee ballot now if there is even the remotest chance you might not make it to the polls on Election Day and returning that ballot the day after it arrives so you won’t forget to do it. Early voting is always a good option for busy people. You should also make childcare arrangements in case there are long lines at the polls. Here too, advance preparation is key. Take water and a protein bar for sustenance. Wear comfortable shoes. Congratulate yourself on being a good citizen at a time when your country truly needs you.

If you can check off everything on this list, you are registered and ready to vote. 5 words – registered and ready to vote – will make all the difference on Election Day. 5 words – easy to adapt as a personal affirmation: I am registered and ready to vote. Easy to utilize as a friendly inquiry: Are you registered and ready to vote? Easy to offer as an invitation to action: Let’s get registered and ready to vote.

You will find the more you use those 5 little words, the easier it is to say them. To your family. To your friends. To your mail carrier. To the woman behind you in line at the Post Office or the man sitting beside you at church. After a few days, you will share my enthusiasm for these 5 little words and realize that in the midst of all the fussing and fighting and name calling and bigotry and womanhating and lying through the teeth, the only way this election will come out wrong is if sane, right thinking people aren’t registered and ready to vote when November 8 rolls around. And if that happens, all the angry tweets and indignant Facebook rants you can post aren’t going to make a damn bit of difference. ‘Nuff said.

 

Blogging While Blue: In November 2001 I won the election for mayor of Atlanta  as a first-time candidate. Miraculously the election was decided without a runoff between the top two candidates. Less than 200 voters decided the outcome of that election. Polls and those running for office tout the importance of every election. That is always true…once again we are faced with clear choices for President and U. S. Senate. The candidates hold different opinions on the issues and have totally different records, experiences, and skills they bring to bear as leaders. My 2001 election taught me how important every vote is…..since I believe  I would have lost the run-off election… There is no run off in the Presidential election.

In Georgia, you can register to vote in the Presidential election until October 11. Yours could be the deciding vote. 

Happy Father’s Day

Once a year we celebrate our fathers whose role in our lives make such an impression. Today we celebrate all the good that comes from healthy, happy relationships with our fathers and father surrogates. Research shows everyone in the family does better when fathers do well.

In speeches, Clarke/FranklinI’ve talked about the challenges my father faced struggling with alcoholism and how in spite of this debilitating disease and its manifestations in his life and scars it left in mine, he graduated from college at an early age. Somehow he was able to “hold it together” in law school too. When he made the pledge in Alcoholics Anonymous 20 years after his graduation he was able to reclaim a prominent position in Philadelphia’s legal community. Lesson learned: Education matters.

My paternal grandfather had many fewer opportunities but made our lives better through his entrepreneurial efforts as a small businessman. Though poorly educated and barely educated in tough economic times or emergencies, and there were more than a few, Pop was able to support my grandmother, mother and me. He was a father when mine was missing. Lesson learned: Hard work matters. Then there was my uncle, Walter, who stepped in every summer from the first day of the break until the weekend before school started back. He, too, had few educational opportunities in a small Virginia farming community, but he was able to build a small, lucrative upholstery business in Washington, DC. He loved to take my cousins on weekend trips to his family farm in the Shenandoah Mountains. It was there that I learned to feed the hogs and chickens, plant the garden and kneel in prayer before every meal. Lesson learned: Take care of the land and it will take care of you.

Pop and Uncle Veney filled the empty fatherly role when my dad was unable. They are among the men who have loved me, nurtured me and supported me. I did better because of them. Lesson learned: Family matters and extended family matters too.

Today is a good day to celebrate them and their unselfish love for family and community.

This is dedicated to the men who give to those they love and to those who need it. Special recognition to Cabral Franklin and James T. Isom.

 

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.

“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.

 

 

To achieve equity in our cities, start at the neighborhood level

Originally posted in Saporta Report

By Guest Columnist SHIRLEY FRANKLIN, executive board chair of Purpose Built Communities and Atlanta’s mayor from 2002 to 2010

eastlakeSRLast week, Lesley Grady of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta wrote an insightful piece called “Equity, Inequality and Myth Busting” that highlighted the extreme income inequality between white households and African-American households in Atlanta.

“Addressing income inequality will require our collective courage to acknowledge historic, pervasive biases and structures, bounded by race and class, which anchor whole families and communities in perpetual poverty,” she argued.

We agree.

I just returned from the sixth annual Purpose Built Communities Conference in Fort Worth, TX, which brought together leaders from fields including business, real estate, medicine, public health, housing, education, social entrepreneurship, social justice, criminal justice, and the faith community.

More than 350 people from 49 communities across the country came together to learn about neighborhood transformation and breaking the cycle of inter-generational poverty.

There are those who think a neighborhood focus is too narrow. According to the latest data and research, neighborhoods are exactly where we should be focusing if we want to reverse decades of concentrated poverty and create equity and prosperity.

There are those who think a neighborhood focus is too narrow. According to the latest data and research, neighborhoods are exactly where we should be focusing if we want to reverse decades of concentrated poverty and create equity and prosperity.

Several sessions at the conference focused on the ways neighborhoods determine health outcomes. Dr. Lisa Chamberlain from the Stanford Medical School and Dr. Douglas Jutte from the Build Healthy Places Network shared striking data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Commission to Build a Healthy America  about life expectancies in different neighborhoods within cities.

In Minneapolis, a distance of three miles could equal a 13-year difference in lifespan. In New Orleans, life expectancy can vary as much as 25 years from one neighborhood to another.

New York University professor Patrick Sharkey’s research about place and poverty shows that having a mother who was raised in a distressed neighborhood puts a child at a two-to-four year cognitive development deficit at birth.

The question is, why is this the case?

According to Jutte and Chamberlain, the science shows that environment has a greater impact on health outcomes than genetics.

Our neighborhood environment, including physical conditions (e.g. presence or lack of sidewalks and lead paint), service conditions (e.g. transportation, stores, schools) and social conditions (e.g. crime, sense of community or lack thereof), largely determine how long a person will live and what kind of quality of life they will have.

Factors like toxic stress, which is prevalent in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty, impact both neurological and physical development.

Dr. David Erickson, director of the Center for Community Development Investments for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and Carol Naughton, president of Purpose Built Communities, shared the latest research impacting community development, including the work of economist Raj Chetty, whose research found a strong correlation between place and upward economic mobility.

There are two ways we know of to address this: one is to move people out of neighborhoods of concentrated poverty to ones where the physical, service and social conditions are qualitatively better.

Another is to improve those conditions in distressed neighborhoods.

Purpose Built Communities exists to help with the latter, assisting local leaders implement a comprehensive model consisting of mixed-income housing; a cradle-to-college education pipeline; and community wellness programs and services guided by a dedicated “community quarterback” nonprofit organization whose sole focus is the health of the neighborhood.

In the span of just six years, we now have 13 Purpose Built Communities Network Members from coast to coast, including East Lake here in Atlanta which provided the blueprint for this model of neighborhood transformation. All of these neighborhoods have community quarterbacks and partners implementing this model to break the cycle of inter-generational poverty.

Our Annual Conference is a chance for those working in these neighborhoods, and those who are thinking about doing this work, to learn from one another to achieve the results we so desperately need.

As Lesley Grady said, “we have to go further and deeper and fix the fault line that prevents all families and communities from sharing in the region’s growth and prosperity.”

By focusing on the neighborhood level in a holistic manner, Atlanta and other cities can change the trajectory for hundreds of families, especially children, so that a zip code will no longer determine a person’s health, income or lifespan.

 

 

Letting Go vs. Giving up: This water lives in Mombasa

This exchange between a mother and her son brings thoughts about my relationship with Cabral, my son. Shirley

andromeda“You get it. It’s a higher place, less crowded with idiots, acceptance of yourself, acceptance of others realizing finally that you don’t have to understand just accept. ” Susan

Above is one of my favorite paintings by Polish artist Tamara Lempicka. The painting is titled Andromeda. As part of a Greek myth, Andromeda was chained near the ocean to be devoured by a sea creature, but then saved by her future husband Perseus. In Lempicka’s Art Deco style Andromeda, she is also chained but her background is that of a modern city. One can only imagine what was flowing through Lempicka’s mind at the time of its creation.

The other night I was having a conversation with a friend. I told him that I had held a certain expectation of myself for many years. As these thoughts grew, they somehow dominated the very essence of my daily life and encompassed a way of maneuvering myself in the world. Finally, I came to the realization that I needed to change my way of thinking because these false expectations were indeed blocking other opportunities to surface. And so, I said to him, “I am letting go of it all…” He replied, “So, you have decided to give up?” “No, just decided to let it go.”

When we lock ourselves into expectation, we begin to live in an illusion, chained to a lie about who we think we should be- the ego indeed has taken control and we are simply blind to it. “Letting go” of the expectation/illusion creates an emotional freedom…a peace within…an empty space so that we may listen to inspiration. Our focus becomes what inspires us, not the compulsive thoughts of how we think we should live…simple, no?

When we decide to look at a continuing challenging situation in our lives and impose the words, “I give up”, we automatically look at the experience with the drama of defeat, the illusion of failure. We potentially create another drama for ourselves, which can carry us down a stream of bitterness, shame, blame, etc. We have only traded one emotional chain for another.

I am reminded of a scene in Sidney Pollock’s film, Out of Africa, when the rains arrived and flooded the damming of a nearby river for Karen Blixen’s coffee farm. She recognized the fruitless effort to control the damming and told the workers, “Let it go, let it go, this water lives in Mombasa anyway.”

So when we house and dam up negative thoughts or emotions, compulsive desires, fruitless goals, outworn expectations/ memories, etc. that don’t serve us, let them go…they don’t live there anyway.

Jeff Haskins

Tribute to Cabral: March 26, 1974 – September 15, 2015

Cabral Franklin March 26, 1974-September 15, 2015

Cabral Franklin
March 26, 1974-September 15, 2015

When we launched this blog in 2011, we collectively shared a politically progressive ideology and found a voice in sharing our views. Our editorial meetings were filled with robust debate and laughter. On far too many occasions Cabral pulled his mom and I off the proverbial political cliff. He was a sound and critical thinker who always knew more than he shared, but was careful to share exactly what he needed to.

There wasn’t a poll or interpretation of a poll that we did not rely on his expertise and insight. Many have called him a numbers man and he was; but he also translated what those numbers meant for everyday people. He will be greatly missed for his intellect, his judgment and his vision. Thank you for being you and I know that your soul is at rest and at peace.

We are sharing a few of his favorite blogs in his honor.  It’s the Message Stupid and No Alternative-Joe Paterno Should Be Fired. Rest well my brother.

http://www.bloggingwhileblue.com/2012/12/its-the-message-stupid-campaign-101.html

http://www.bloggingwhileblue.com/2011/11/no-alternative-joe-paterno-fired.html