I visited Berean Christian Church last week ago to hear Jason Carter speak. I’m looking at the role of the black church in voter turnout and civic participation. Berean has become the new New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in DeKalb politics, now that Bishop Eddie Long is weighed down by allegations of abusing young men.
After hearing Carter’s moving description of his own faith, Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May — who happens to be a member of the church, along with a state senator, the sheriff, two school board members and a dozen other minor potentates and panjandrums — mentioned the presence of Daniel Blackman beside him in the pews.
Blackman is running for Public Service Commissioner. The crowd met Blackman with scattered golf claps. Then May mentioned that the PSC helps set utilities rates for electricity and phone rates … and the crowd went nuts.
Blackman, a Democrat, faces the incumbent Republican commissioner, Lauren “Bubba” McDonald. Bubba has been in politics for a long time, serving as a Democrat in the legislature for 20 years and serving on the PSC as a Democrat before switching parties for his most recent stint on the commission. To his credit, he’s pushed for more solar power in Georgia.
But Bubba has a habit of failing to show up for work.
Apparently, he’s missed 40 percent of the commission’s meetings, despite earning $160,000 for the job.
Blackman is an attorney who grew up on Fort Benning as an Army brat — his dad was an Army Ranger. While he’s never held elected office, he served as an appointee for half a dozen boards over the years, including as chairman for an environmental policy commission chartered by congress to address climate change, renewable energy, and utility issues.
He’s pushing for more renewables in Georgia — which makes sense, given what we’ve got to work with — but is also pressing for changes to the university system, to ensure that there’s a local talent pipeline for environmentally-friendly energy producers to tap into. And, mercifully, he’s aware of how ass-backwards America’s broadband technology has become compared to the rest of the world. Georgia should be one of the best places in the country to get fiber to the curb, given AT&T’s legacy in Georgia and that two of the biggest fiberoptic trunk lines in the world cross under Georgia Tech, but we’re still behind.
The key thing for me is having someone willing to push back against industry. Georgia Power is probably the most powerful lobby in the state, and they’ve had their run of things for decades. The rate increases tied to the Plant Vogtle expansion are obscene — charging consumers now for capacity that hasn’t been delivered, rather than seeking financing properly in the financial markets is the kind of move only a lobbyist could love.
Four rate increases in four years, friends.
Blackman displays a quiet professional competence in public, without the overwhelming desire to grandstand that downticket candidates usually possess. Some of you may be looking for that one downticket Democratic candidate to cross over for, as a symbolic gesture of your own vote-the-man-not-the-party principles. Consider Daniel Blackman.