This week Bill Torpy wrote a piece that chronicled his attempts to tell the story of brave Atlanta firefighters who went into a burning blaze to rescue children. Or he wrote a piece that’s part of a continuing series of attempting to chide the Mayor of Atlanta. Or both. It works because he’s writing as a columnist and not a journalist. Readers should understand that’s his take on the news of the day. They also need the history of the relationship between the Mayor and the columnist.

There is an ongoing saga between some firefighters and the Mayor that stems from the pension reforms of 2011. Nearly everyone agrees that pension reform was needed or the city would have been in dire financial straits. The firefighters then sued, and now the Mayor won’t give them pay raises until the lawsuit is concluded.

It’s clear that Torpy wanted to play the pension dispute against the heroism of the firefighters (and possibly some scantily clad photos taken in the firehouse) but he was thwarted by his inability to interview the firefighters involved. You can’t interview city employees without the City’s permission, and here it was not given, and the reasons why not were set forth in the City’s response. Both the column and the response are worth reading.

But is clear that the history is even more important than the present in evaluating what’s going on here. Cast your mind back to this spring, when the City was trying to hold absentee landlords accountable for the deplorable conditions of their property holdings (read burned out vacant homes) in Vine City and English Avenue (two impoverished neighborhoods near the new Falcons stadium). Rick Warren, no not the minister, held a ton of these properties, or maybe did, but the maze of shell corporations made that difficult to prove. He was on trial in municipal court in May and the Mayor took the afternoon (at least twice) to sit in the audience and watch the proceedings. (I’ve sat in those benches and they are none too comfortable). Torpy wrote a column on the proceedings, and though he accurately described the problem, he left the impression that the Mayor’s presence was there not to emphasize the importance of the case, but to affect its outcome.

Torpy’s columns carry weight in this city. And when he decides that the Mayor has overstepped his bounds, he is right to point that out (as he did in both columns). But the problem is that more people read Torpy than the actual news, so the characterization he gives becomes the truth, rather than an opinion. And in the case of Rick Warren and Vine City, he may well be wrong.

The article that really tells the tale of Rick Warren and English Avenue is elsewhere on the AJC’s website. It reveals Warren’s ownership of derelict properties that he refuses to fix and instead they become sites of prostitution and drugs. Neighbors trying to clean up the neighborhood hit a roadblock when they got to his houses. He owns 10% of the neighborhood. Consider that for a moment.

So Mayor Reed wanted the world to know that this day of code violations in municipal court was different than all other days. And instead he took the blame of subverting justice.

So when you read both pieces, Torpy’s and the Mayor’s keep in mind the historical context of that relationship.




Rep. Rob Woodall addresses the Southwest Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.

Rep. Rob Woodall addresses the Southwest Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.

7th District Representative Rob Woodall talked about the resignation of Speaker John Boehner, the passage of the Continuing Resolution that funds the government through mid-December, and the atmosphere in Washington, DC when he spoke to members and guests of the Southwest Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce Friday morning.

Because the House and Senate failed to pass this year’s appropriation bills, Congress was forced to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government funded past September 30th. Leading up to Wednesday’s vote, much of the debate on the bill concerned the possible defunding of Planned Parenthood. The organization has come under fire in recent weeks following a series of videos showing the organization allegedly selling fetal tissue.

Woodall pointed out that Planned Parenthood receives funding from the government two ways. A portion is received from state Medicaid programs that pay the organization for providing healthcare services. These reimbursements are not subject to the appropriations process. The remainder comes from annual grants that were previously approved in March, none of which are paid out during the ten week period covered by the continuing resolution.

The congressman pointed out that even though there was no Planned Parenthood funding in the bill, those who opposed the organization felt it was more important to make a statement than it was to keep the government running past September 30th. Those supporting Planned Parenthood refused to allow the symbolic vote on funding, even though it would not have made any difference to the organization’s revenues.

Congressman Woodall summarized the situation this way: “If we can’t keep the doors open because we can’t get together on something that’s not going to happen anyway, 13 months away from an election, that’s not a Republican problem or a Democratic problem, it’s self governance problem.” [click to continue…]


WGST Peach Pundit Radio –

October 2, 2015 10:00 am

by Charlie · 0 comments

It’s Friday. You should know the drill by now.

Radio. High noon. 640AM WGST.

Today Jon Richards, Stefan Turkheimer, and Mike Hassinger will join me and Rich Sullivan to talk a little politics. What are we going to talk about…..Here’s the plan, subject to change.

I wrote a column this week saying that Georgia needs to hold firm on thorough teachers evaluations. I’ll let Jon Richards ask me why I hate teachers. (spoiler alert, I don’t)

The Mayor of Atlanta has engaged yet another Atlanta Journalist – This time the AJC’s Bill Torpy – in a public flame war. I don’t get it. Luckily, we have a Democratic Politics Editor. Hopefully Stefan Turkheimer can explain it to us.

We got the news of a new Speaker just before air last week and went pretty far down that road. A week later, we’ll look at Tom Price’s race for Majority Leader, and talk Congressional politics on the CR that kept the government open this week.

With a little extra time, we’ll probably talk some Presidential Politics, rant about DeKalb county DeKalbing, and maybe discuss if tomorrow in Athens will be a Tide or the great flood.

Listen live at noon on 640AM WGST, or perhaps at this link.


– Heading to the UGA/Bama game? Be prepared for worse than usual traffic/parking challenges.
– About those streetcars…
A novel idea. Then you don’t have to worry about the racoon biting you after it starts your car. Except all the blood and stuff.
Two Georgia women make Top Banker’s list.

– The NYC City Council did what? At least they’re not Reidsville.
Lando’d again.
Grandma zaza is the bomb, but she’d probably be blocked from Bernie’s Twitter feed.
Oh my.

Random Everywhere, even Out There:
– Whose idea was this?
Feeling paranoid?
The Truth is Out There.

{ 1 comment }

In his weekly e-mail newsletter, Rep. Hank Johnson shared some comments about some of his colleagues’ actions on government shutdowns and women’s health.
Avoiding Government Shutdown:

“While I’m pleased to report that a government shutdown was averted this week, I’m growing increasingly concerned about how the majority party have governed from manufactured crisis to manufactured crisis over the past three years.

I, for one, don’t think the American people are pleased with the way we are managing our affairs – limping from crisis to crisis is a not smart way to run things.

Two years ago when the government was needlessly shuttered for 16 days over a vain attempt to defund the Affordable Care Act, it cost our nation billions of dollars in lost production. Coupled with the threat of defaulting on our debt, the government shutdown cost us 120,000 new jobs, according to the Council of Economic Advisers.

We cannot afford to play the political games of brinkmanship with our economy, which is just now recovering from the Great Recession.

My constituents sent me to Washington to do real work for the American people – such as reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank and supporting American jobs, extending the Land and Water Conservation Fund to protect our natural resources, fixing our broken immigration system, and investing in our nation’s infrastructure by repairing our roads, bridges and highways.”

Women’s Health:

“Unfortunately, some of my colleagues have declared open season on the health care of millions of American women. This week, they only offered us a radical new bill targeted at drastically reducing access to affordable family planning for low-income women and their families by stripping lifesaving health care away from millions of women – including cancer screenings, birth control, STI testing and treatment, well-woman exams and advice on family planning.

American women deserve better than this; the American people deserve better than this.

As long as I’m in Congress, I will be committed to keeping all American families safe and focus on creating jobs and providing bigger paychecks to the American people.”


Jimmy Carter is 91 today, something that makes his still busy work and travel schedule even more remarkable. He’s also probably going to remain the only POTUS born in Georgia for quite some time.

Should you wish to get in the spirit of the festivities that are bound to sweep the nation, the Carter Center hung this wonderfully low-key display and is offering 91 cent admission all day on Thursday. It’s also #AskAnArchivist day on Twitter for the presidential libraries but I believe that was an independent event.

Happy birthday to President Carter!


John Lewis said he is running for reelection for the 5th Congressional District representing Atlanta.

Speaking to the AJC on Wednesday and surprising perhaps no one, Lewis said:

“Yes, yes. I’m doing it. I’m doing it. I know there are a few people who think: ‘Oh, maybe he’s going to give it up.’ But I’m not giving it up. Not now. Thank you for asking me.”

I’ll make a bold prediction and say he wins easily in 2016 making him one of the most senior members of congress. And in a body that prizes seniority, you don’t want your long-time representatives going anywhere.


That didn’t take long.

The House of Representatives won’t vote until October 8th to decide who will replace John Boehner as Speaker, but that isn’t stopping a group led by former Georgia congressman and Senate candidate Paul Broun from launching a campaign opposing California Rep. Kevin McCarthy for the job.

Broun and a coalition of other organizations apparently led by the Constitutional Rights PAC launched the website on Wednesday. In a press release, Broun was quoted as saying,

Having worked with Kevin McCarthy in the House, I’ll admit he’s a friendly guy. But we need a dramatic change in House leadership – we can’t afford to replace Speaker Boehner with someone who will continue to carry out his failed legacy, one that has been stifling conservative progress for six years.

McCarthy and Boehner are cut from the same establishment cloth, and if the former replaces the latter, I’m pledging to help my fellow Americans mobilize to make sure he’s fired.

Simply stated, we must have fresh, new, truly conservative leadership so the American people can see that there is a difference between Republicans and Democrats.

Paul Broun's New Logo

Paul Broun’s New Logo

The former Athens congressman has a new logo, which appears on the webpage. That logo, in turn, links back to the website of the Constitutional Rights PAC, which in turn still contains two pages soliciting contributions for Broun’s 2014 Senate campaign, in which he failed to make the runoff between Jack Kingston and David Perdue. The PAC’s mission statement says it “exists to advocate Constitutional governance and remind elected servants of the oaths they swore to uphold.”

There have been rumors that Broun will re-enter Georgia politics as a candidate in one of the 2016 races. Qualifying, we’ll remind you, is six months and one week away.


Happy First Day of October!


Jimmy Carter

Sweet Tea


I’ve been interviewed by 11Alive’s Jeff Hullinger many times. Today, I wanted to interview him. Hullinger was an official witness to the execution of Kelly Gissendaner in the early hours of this morning. He reported the events leading up to the execution via twitter.  While neither trying to be the story nor report a personal opinion point of view, it’s clear that he assumed this role demonstrating a very transparent human quality. The experience was clearly not one of joy for him, nor one to be sensatinalized or hyped.  Instead, he did exactly what the role requires: He gave a window to a horrible event that all among us wish were unnecessary or did not happen.  Below are his words, prepared for us, in witness for what he observed.

We were ushered onto prison grounds with heavy security. I’ve never been in a maximum security prison. Spending 6 hours inside for the execution drove home the enormity of death and hopelessness , No iPhone no money, no medicine, no rings, no watches, no freedom.

I asked an imposing bald guard who doesn’t make eye contact for permission to use the restroom. Only one at a time under his supervision. With 3 experienced reporters in a break room near the warden’s office we sat. Combined they had witnessed 23 executions. Strangely this gave me comfort.  I felt somewhat at ease in Prison that maybe this would be okay.

Together we sat under guard with pencils and paper and water for 6 hrs. talking politics, government and Burt Reynolds movies. This began at 6:20 and ended when the guard came and retrieved us tersely at 11:39 saying “grab your stuff”.

We exited through a long tunnel bunker to a waiting van-  we see DA Danny Porter, AG Sam Olens-It’s foggy, zero visibility–the road is lined with big men toting big automatic weapons in black armor. Through checkpoints we went silently, flanked by razor wire.

We were the last in to a small building that looks like a concession stand at a high school football game. We entered seeing three church style pews with lots of men. Then right in front of us is Kelley Gissendanner- -on the gurney, arms outstretched with needles and tubes.  She makes eye contact as we enter the room. She begins to sob, I avert my eyes trying to compose myself.  She is somewhat agitated or nervous. [click to continue…]


It may have taken the resignation of Speaker John Boehner to do it, but the chances of a government shutdown have been averted until December 11th. H.,R., 719 passed in the Senate this morning by a vote of 78-20. Both Georgia senators voted yes. For those watching the presidential race, Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul voted No, while Sens. Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio did not vote.

This afternoon in the House, the measure passed 277-151, but look at the party vote split: Only 91 Republicans voted in favor, with 151 opposing. All 186 Democrats present voted yes. Four Republicans and two Democrats did not vote.

Georgia Representatives voting yes included 2nd District Democrat Sanford Bishop, 4th District Democrat Hank Johnson, 5th District Democrat John Lewis, 8th District Republican Austin Scott, 13th District Democrat David Scott, and 7th District Republican Rob Woodall.

The No list, all Republicans: Rick Allen, 12th District; Buddy Carter, 1st District; Doug Collins, 9th District; Tom Graves, 14th District; Jody Hice, 10th District; Barry Loudermilk, 11th District; Tom Price, 6th District, and Lynn Westmoreland, 3rd District.

The unusual case of more House Democrats supporting the measure then Republicans did was partially due to the fact that the continuing resolution contained funding for Planned Parenthood.

Comments from Georgia Reps. are below the fold. [click to continue…]


Even though most DeKalb County officials are still reading and digesting the long-awaited report from Mike Bowers, the AJC seems to have been given an advance copy. The early reviews are not good, and Bowers has lots of criticism aimed squarely at DeKalb CEO Lee May, who commissioned the report in the first place. Bowers thinks May should resign. From the AJC:

Former Attorney General Michael Bowers and investigator Richard Hyde also called on other DeKalb officials to resign, citing numerous examples of improper and potentially illegal spending by five of the county’s seven district commissioners.”

Frankly, that’s not really surprising. What’s kind of surprising is this: “He hired us and gave us a mission of uncovering fraud, waste, abuse and corruption and we took that on in good faith,” Bowers said of May in an interview Wednesday. “But then he hides from us that he himself is engaging in what I can only call sinister conduct.” “Sinister?”  What an odd word.

There will be much more to come on this. In the meantime, the(40-some page pdf) report is available for download at this link.


The Gwinnett County Fair wrapped up for the year on Sunday, and the Gwinnett GOP conducted a straw poll each day of the event among the fair visitors that stopped by their booth. With slightly less than 400 votes, Donald Trump ended up the winner.

Donald Trump 31.1%
Ben Carson 23.3%
Ted Cruz 11.2%
Carly Fiorina 10.2%
Marco Rubio 8.8%
Jeb Bush 5.6%
Mike Huckabee 3.5%
Rand Paul 2.9%
Chris Christie 1.6%
Bobby Jindal 1.1%
John Kasich 0.5%
Lindsay Graham 0.3%
Scott Walker 0.3%


On Tuesday, the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute released a six page white paper calling on the Peach State to offer in-state college tuition to undocumented immigrants who are eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program instituted by President Obama. The think tank, which typically takes positions on the left side of the ideological scale, cites Georgia’s interest in creating a diverse workforce, Governor Deal’s push to grow the number of college graduates, and the potential tax revenue that could be gained from having Dreamers in the state’s workforce.

In its report, GBPI estimates there are 49,000 undocumented immigrants in Georgia eligible for the DACA program. 40% of those are high school graduates eligible to enter college, and almost two thirds are bilingual. It points out that the Complete College Georgia initiative calls for an additional quarter million college graduates to meet workforce needs by 2020. The report estimates that around 5,000 Dreamers would be part of that total if they could receive in-state tuition. In addition, the report points out that these graduates would further the state’s goal of making college graduates more representative of the state’s diversity. Finally, the paper estimates a $10 million increase in annual state tax revenue if once these DACA-eligible immigrants enter the workforce.

Impact of Illegal Immigration in GeorgiaThe GBPI report provides an interesting contrast to a graphic created by the Federation for American Immigration Reform that is making its way around social media. That graphic, shown at right, is based on reports issued by the right-leaning group citing the fiscal burden of illegal immigration on United States and Georgia taxpayers.

The FAIR report estimates that illegal immigration cost Georgians $2.4 billion annually and that immigrants contribute only $142 million in taxes, leaving a net cost to taxpayers of $2.26 billion, or $768 per household. 74% of that, however, is the estimated cost of educating the illegal and American-born children of illegal immigrants, at $1.67 billion. Both the Georgia Constitution and Supreme Court precedent require the state to provide a K-12 education to anyone residing in the state, regardless of legal status. [click to continue…]


Morning Reads for 9/30

September 30, 2015 5:54 am

by Ed · 22 comments

“Why is the GOP the only science-climate-change denying party on Earth?” Totally unrelated but I’ve found when you’re the only one who believes something–you’re the one who is wrong.

  1. The Blackmail Caucus: AKA the GOP. 
  2. Atlanta Fed: Looking around Midtown Atlanta, it is easy to wonder if multifamily housing construction is getting ahead of itself.
  3. ARC says Atlanta must continue to innovate. 
  4. Georgia Aquarium can’t import Belugas. 
  5. Georgia Tech helped find that water on Mars. 
  6. Must be why they couldn’t find their offense on Saturday.
  7. GT players’ likeness used (without permission) for the it’s-basically-gambling site FanDuel.
  8. Too bad, Taka was excellent.