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Local Govt & Politics
One Man's Opinion: Municipal Elections Report Cards Due
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One Man's Opinion: Municipal Elections Report Cards Due

One Man's Opinion: Municipal Elections Report Cards Due

One Man's Opinion: Municipal Elections Report Cards Due

You would hardly know it, as we are all engulfed in the swirl of Impeachment Palooza out of Washington, D.C., but we are just over a month away from hundreds of municipal elections all across Georgia this November. Georgia's more than 500 cities elect their mayors, council members, school board district seats and other local offices in the odd-numbered years, with terms staggered so that not all offices are up in the same election cycle.

As a school boy, we brought home mid-term Progress Reports each quarter, these reports graded your progress and school work as Satisfactory (S), Needs Improvement (N) or Unsatisfactory (U). Any U's at our house made for a very loooooongggg night. I now use a similar grading process, to track and follow the performance of our local elected officials. My home DeKalb County contains 13 municipalities, including our capital city of Atlanta, with hundreds of elected officials, so this sometimes requires a spread sheet. 

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One Man's Opinion: Municipal Elections Report Cards Due

Atlanta's mayor has actual domain over a reasonably compact 134 square miles (metro Atlanta is more than 2,150 sq.miles), and a population of just over 500,000, but Atlanta's Mayor is often viewed as the face and in some respects 'voice' of our region to the outside world and nation. Today's column is a mid-term progress report card for Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

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One Man's Opinion: Municipal Elections Report Cards Due

When elected in November of 2017, Mayor Bottoms initially focused extensively on southwest Atlanta, pushing MARTA to implement new SPLOST-funded Bus Rapid Transit Service to Cascade Road southwest of downtown, and making her largest number of public appearances and speeches in communities like the West End, Collier Heights and Cascade Heights, among Atlanta's most historic and prestigious African-American communities. Bottoms' election and campaign were also tied, correctly or incorrectly, to the endorsement and strong support of former Mayor Kasim Reed (also a resident of southwest Atlanta).

Atlanta's minority-dominated and largely Democratic Party political machine, in place since the first Mayndard Jackson mayoral race in 1973, no longer exists. To receive a strong re-election and second term, Mayor Bottoms will need support and to be judged as effective in Atlanta's north, east and south-sides. West Atlanta is currently undergoing a renaissance of its own, and political support there has become much more difficult to guage as a result.

Bottoms quickly made clear her desire to reduce what she views as systemic inequalities on a number of fronts. Bottoms raced to erase the practice of cash bail and bonding, which she felt disproportionately jailed poor black citizens for the most minor of offenses. The Atlanta City Jail itself is in the process of closing, with Bottoms again taking point, and the facility will later be turned into some other type of public use. Bottoms halted the incarceration of immigration detainees in the City Jail, as well as ending cooperation by the city with the U.S. Marshall Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service on these fronts. This Mayor also gave the Atlanta Police Department officers and leadership their first significant compensation adjustment in well over a decade.

The daughter of a famous father, singer and songwriter, Major Lance, the mayor also understands the outsize and symbolic role which a strong leader can play. Most Baby Boomers recall John F. Kennedy's aspirational call to put a man on the moon. Yet few may remember that actually occurred during the first administration of President Richard Nixon, Kennedy's former campaign rival from back in 1960. 

Similarly, Mayor Bottoms is calling for $1-billion in new affordable housing units (during her first term), as well as trebling the number and miles of 'Complete Streets,' in Atlanta's urban core. Direct funding of a billion in new housing of any stripe is a tall order, and paired with an even more extensive re-build of city street-scapes in a municipality not known for speed or efficiency on either front seems next to impossible. Bottoms is also following the lead of her predecessor in maintaining strong and regular communication and building personal relationships with State of Georgia leaders, just across a downtown Atlanta block. 

Bottoms appears to understand that to be successful, in addition to a very pleasant and approachable demeanor, she may need to make some big bets and approach Atlanta's more intractable challenges by daring greatly. So for this mid-term report card, two years into a four-year term, I give the Mayor a solid S...for satisfactory, not super, and as trends also do matter, I'd say at this point it's Bottoms up.

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  • A mother in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, is heartbroken, claiming her son was kicked out of Walmart because of his disability. Buddy, 24, is 6-foot-2 and nonverbal with special needs, but he communicates with noises that can sometimes get loud. His mother told WPXI that while he and his service worker were inside the Walmart in Baden, they were approached by a worker who asked them to leave. Tammy Sheets said an employee who claimed to be a manager asked them to leave because of the noises her son was making. “She (the service worker) said, ‘Are you serious?’ Because she was shocked. And he said, ‘If he is going to continue to make those noises then yes,’” Sheets said. Sheets doesn’t know if her son understood what happened, but she said he cried afterward. She called Walmart’s corporate office and filed a complaint. She also called the American Civil Liberties Union. WPXI reached out to Walmart. A spokesperson said they are aware of the situation and that this was a misunderstanding. Walmart officials claim the employee did not ask them to leave the store. “I don’t know if he was sad or embarrassed or both, but that hurt me as a mother. … I’m here, I’m supposed to defend him,” said Sheets. Walmart updated its statement Wednesday, and the full comment is below: “Our associates and customers reflect the diverse communities we serve and our doors are open to everyone. This was an unfortunate misunderstanding, and at no point did we ask or tell these individuals to leave or exit the store. Our management team has experience serving customers and family members with autism and working to ensure they have a positive experience in the store.”
  • Two Calhoun State Prison officers in Morgan, Georgia, were arrested for allegedly smuggling drugs and other items inside a popular microwavable sandwich. The two female officers were arrested Monday after a metal detector alerted investigators to about 112 grams of meth and tobacco inside a Pepperoni Pizza Hot Pocket, according to WALB. Officer Corlethia Lattimore was charged with drug trafficking and Imani Ferguson was charged with conspiracy and giving illegal substances to inmates. Both were charged with violation of oath of office. Calhoun County Sheriff Josh Hilton told WALB that there have been almost a dozen arrests in the last year of people trying to smuggle contraband into the prison.
  • Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg took fire from all sides Wednesday in a contentious Democratic presidential debate that saw him questioned on race, money and calling women “fat broads.” In the course of the two-hour event, Bloomberg, in his first debate appearance, was forced to defend his policy of stop and frisk and was asked if he would, there onstage, release from non-disclosure agreements women in his company who have complained about a hostile workplace. Bloomberg was hesitant in some answers and seemed nervous when answering other pointed questions, many thrown at him by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Warren displayed a take-no-prisoners attitude for much of the debate, going after not only Bloomberg but everyone else on the stage over issues such as health care, climate change and taxing the wealthy. A recurring argument between Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar turned heated at one point with Klobuchar asking Buttigieg if he was saying she is dumb. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, also got into several sharp exchanges with Bloomberg, saying he doesn’t believe a billionaire should be allowed to “buy an election.” Former Vice President Joe Biden, who likewise went after Bloomberg and his wealth, also took a swipe at Sanders’ Medicare-for-all plan. “When you asked Bernie how much it cost last time he said...' We’ll find out,’” Biden quipped. “It costs over $35 trillion, let’s get real.” Here’s how the debate went: Live updates: Closing statements 11 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: The debate ends as the candidates are asked to give closing statements. Klobuchar says it’s about heart and Trump doesn’t have one. She then asks people to go to her website. Bloomberg says people should go to his website, but he’s not asking for money. He says Trump isn’t doing the job – he’s not a manager, he can’t build teams. Buttigieg says time is running out but he is the candidate who can build the largest coalition to defeat Trump. “I grew up fighting,” Warren said. She talks about the hard times she had as a youngster and wonders why the US is still in hard times. Biden begins to talk and protesters begin to yell. They are escorted from the room. He resumes his statement saying he is running to help people. “I know what it’s like to get knocked down.” Sanders says he is the candidate for universal health care and taxing millionaires and billionaires. Who wins at the convention? 10:45 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: Todd asks each candidate if the person with the most candidates should win the nomination, not the person with 1,991 – a majority of the total number of Democratic delegates to the national convention. Everyone but Sanders says no, the process should play out as the rules dictate. Sanders says the process is skewed with super delegates and that must be addressed. Perfection 10:43 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: Klobuchar: tells Buttigieg she wishes 'everyone was as perfect as you” after he attacks her on her record. “You’ve memorized a bunch of talking points, and a bunch of things,” she says.Buttigieg begins to speak in Spanish. Helping with Trump’s re-election, according to Bloomberg 10:40 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: Bloomberg takes a swipe at Sanders’s explanation of Democratic socialism. “I can’t think of a way that would make it easier for Donald Trump to get re-elected than listening to this conversation,” Bloomberg said. “This is ridiculous. We’re not going to throw out capitalism. We tried that. Other countries tried that. It was called communism and it just didn’t work.” Burnin’ down the party Biden on guns Who is the president of Mexico? 9:55 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: Klobuchar is asked about her inability to name the president of Mexico during an interview a few days ago. She says his name, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, just slipped her mind. Buttigieg says that shouldn’t happen because part of her job as a senator is overseeing border issues, and he suggests she is not as prepared as she says she is. Warren steps in and defends Klobuchar, saying forgetting a name happens sometimes. Sexist remarks 9:50 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: Warren pounces on Bloomberg for his answer on allegations that he made sexist remarks to women in his company, Bloomberg LP.Bloomberg says he will not talk about it, and that when someone makes sexist remarks at his company, “we investigate it. And if it’s inappropriate, they’re gone that day.”Warren cuts in and asks why he won’t release women from confidentiality agreements they signed relating to sexist comments and a hostile workplace.“I’m sorry the question is are the women bound by being muzzled by you and you could release them from that immediately? Understand, this is not just a question of the mayor’s character. This is also a question about electability.”He says he will not release the women from the agreements.The audience boos.“I hope you heard what his defense was. I’ve been nice to some women,” Warren said. ‘I can’t go to Turbo Tax’ 9:40 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: Bloomberg explains why he has not yet released his tax returns. It’s a massive job to do that, Bloomberg says, and the results will be in the thousands of pages, he said. “I can’t go to Turbo Tax,” he says. Stop and frisk 9:37 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: Bloomberg explains his stop and frisk policy: “I thought my first responsibility was to give people the right to live,” he said, but “it got out of control.” “I’ve sat, I’ve apologized, I’ve asked for forgiveness,” Bloomberg said. “We stopped too many people.” Warren responded, “This really is about leadership and accountability,” she said. “It targeted communities of color; it targeted black and brown men from the beginning. You need a new apology.” Health care is the issue 9:20 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: Warren attacks the health care plans of everyone on the stage. She says Klobuchar’s could be written on a Post-It note. Buttigieg’s plan is a campaign slogan, she says. Klobuchar responds: “Post-it notes were invented in my state.” Fireworks from the start 9:10 a.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: Sanders gets the first question. It is about Bloomberg and why he, Sanders, would be a better choice for president. Sanders says Bloomberg has baggage that will keep him from bringing in people for Democrats. Bloomberg says he doesn’t think there is “a chance of the senator (Sanders) beating Trump,” pointing to Sanders’ plan for Medicare for all. Warren goes after Bloomberg saying there’s one candidate who has referred to women as “fat broad” and “horse-faced lesbians.” “No, I’m not talking about Donald Trump, I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.” “We are not going to win,” Warren said, “If we substitute one arrogant billionaire for another.” Klobuchar said she was happy to see Bloomberg on the stage until she saw a memo from Bloomberg’s campaign that suggested she get out of the race. Biden says, according to an NBC poll, he is the one who can beat Trump. “Look at your own poll,” he tells the moderators. Buttigieg says the nominee could end up being one of the “two most polarizing figures on this stage.” Then he suggests, “Let’s put someone forward who is actually a Democrat.” xxxx The debate is about to start 8:53 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: The candidates are taking the stage now. Who’s Number One? 8:40 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: Sanders is now the front-runner in the Democratic race for the presidential nomination, replacing Biden. He is holding around 30% support in national polls. However, the leader in primary results, which is what matters in gaining the nomination, is former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. He’s up by one delegate over Sanders. Steyer isn’t there, but his money is 8:31 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: Tom Steyer is not on the debate stage tonight. The billionaire entrepreneur has spent upwards of $14 million on ad buys in Nevada and is on the Nevada ballot, but he did not get enough support in polls to make the stage. When will we know Nevada’s results? 8:25 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: The Associated Press is reporting that Democrats will not commit to releasing Saturday’s Nevada caucuses results on Saturday. According to The AP, Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez said several factors, including early voting and potentially high turnout, could affect the tabulation and timing of results. In addition, Nevada, like Iowa, will be reporting three sets of data from the multistage caucus process. The rules 8:16 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: The rules for the night will allow debaters one minute and 15 seconds for answering questions they are given by moderators, and 45 seconds for follow-up responses at the moderators’ discretion. In past debates, those rules have often gone straight out the window with people jumping in on their own and, at times, hijacking the stage Health issues 8:03 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: Bloomberg’s and Sanders’ campaigns have been trading barbs today. Sanders’ press secretary claimed this morning on CNN that Bloomberg has had “several heart attacks.” Bloomberg’s campaign called her out, saying Bloomberg has never had a heart attack. Sanders, himself, has been questioned about his health following the heart attack he suffered in the fall. 7:43 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: Robert Reich, who was in Presidents Gerald Ford’s, Jimmy Carter’s and Bill Clinton’s administrations, offers a list of questions Michael Bloomberg may have to answer tonight. Live updates are beginning 7:30 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: Welcome to live updates from the Democratic presidential debate. Six candidates are in Las Vegas getting ready for the debate which comes three days before Saturday’s Nevada caucuses.
  • A human brain was seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the U.S - Canadian border last week in a shipment that was only identified as an “Antique Teaching Specimen.” An inspection on a mail truck entering the United States from Canada in Port Huron revealed a package that contained a human brain inside of a clear glass mason jar, according to WKBW. The package originated in Toronto and was on its way to Kenosha, Wisconsin, before it was intercepted by agents. The item did not have any paperwork or legal documents and was denied entry into the U.S. “Individuals looking to import shipments such as this, need to remember that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has a strict Import Permit Program that must be adhered to. This is just another great example of just one of the many things CBP officers do to protect our nation on a daily basis,” Area Port Director Michael Fox told WKBW. According to WDJT-TV, authorities are investigating how to dispose of the brain.
  • A Louisiana man accused of shoplifting items from a Walmart dragged a sheriff’s deputy across the store’s parking lot in a car as he tried to flee, authorities said. Joseph Ray Hollingsworth, 44, of Independence, was booked on several charges, including theft, resisting an officer, battery of a police officer, aggravated flight from an officer by vehicle and possession of a stolen firearm, according to a news release by the St. John the Baptist Sheriff’s Office. Saturday, officers working security at the Walmart were alerted about a man, later identified as Hollingworth, allegedly stealing items from the store, WVUE reported. Deputies detained Hollingworth and put him in handcuffs, but he was able to get free and fled, NOLA.com reported. Hollingsworth got into a vehicle and a deputy dived on top of him, the website reported. According to the Sheriff’s Office news release, Hollingsworth was able to start the vehicle and drove away, dragging the deputy alongside him. Hollingsworth eventually crashed into a basket corral, and the deputy was able to put the vehicle in park, WVUE reported. According to the Sheriff’s Office, a search of the car revealed a stolen handgun and plastic bags containing methamphetamine residue, NOLA.com reported. In the news release, deputies said Hollingsworth had active warrants issued by the Walker Police Department and had a suspended driver’s license, according to WVUE. Hollingsworth and the deputy were treated for minor injuries, the television station reported. Hollingsworth is being held in lieu of $67,500 bail, according to arrest records.
  • Former Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Greg Robinson was arrested Tuesday and was being held in a Texas jail on drug distribution charges, authorities said Wednesday. Robinson, 27, who started 14 games for the Browns in 2019, was booked by the Drug Enforcement Administration on Tuesday, according to El Paso County jail records. Robinson was arrested at the Sierra Blanca border checkpoint near the U.S.-Mexico border, AL.com reported. Robinson faces a charge of possessing marijuana with intent to sell, ESPN reported. Robinson has played six seasons in the NFL. He was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft and was the first-round pick of the St. Louis Rams. He played collegiately at Auburn University. Robinson played the 2019 second season in Cleveland on a one-year contract, and the Browns already told his agent the lineman would not be re-signed by the Browns in 2020, according to cleveland.com. He will become a free agent March 18, the website reported.