Archive for February, 2014

What neighborhoods need

Building strong communities

By Shirley Franklin

I remember when East Lake Meadows was one of Atlanta’s most violent neighborhoods. Today, high-quality, mixed-income housing has replaced decrepit apartments in East Lake. Crime is down and employment, income, school attendance and student achievement are up. It’s a flourishing community where people of all ages and different backgrounds choose to live.

The benefits of living in a safe neighborhood with good housing and outstanding schools come from a holistic approach to community revitalization. Why holistic? A community’s wellness results from the quality of education, recreational facilities, employment opportunities and health care of its residents.

That’s what happened in East Lake. Tom Cousins, an Atlanta-based developer and philanthropist, spearheaded an initiative to turn the neighborhood around, combining mixed-income housing, a cradle-to-college education pipeline and community services. Purpose Built Communities was …

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Medicaid expansion

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Top leaders in the Georgia Assembly are behind a bill to strip Gov. Nathan Deal of the power to expand Medicaid, as called for by the Affordable Care Act, and put that decision-making in the hands of the Legislature. Some Democrats are calling that political cover for the governor during this year’s election campaign. Today, we hear from Rep. Jan Jones, R-Milton, who is sponsoring House Bill 990, and Horacena Tate, D-Atlanta, chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

Commenting is open.

Give legislators Medicaid say

By Jan Jones

Georgians can be proud of their generosity toward the vulnerable and needy of our state. Individuals, churches, non-profits and governments dig deep to give relief to the less fortunate.

In fact, state taxpayers provide $3 billion annually in health care services through Medicaid to one in six Georgians. From covering 60 percent of the births in Georgia, to serving as de facto long-term care insurance for many, to providing …

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The man who said no to injustice

Earlier this month, members of the Asian-American community gathered at the state Capitol with Gov. Nathan Deal and other officials to observe Fred Korematsu Day — for the man who refused to obey military orders to turn himself in for internment as a Japanese-American during World War II. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld his criminal conviction; one writer notes that the decision is dangerous because it still stands. Another details how Korematsu ultimately was vindicated, and the lessons his case teaches us about civil rights and justice. Korematsu’s daughter tells how her late father made a difference.

A dangerous ruling still stands

By Adam Liptak

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court’s 1944 decision in Korematsu v. U.S. was a disaster.
Justice Antonin Scalia has ranked Korematsu alongside Dred Scott, the 1857 decision that black slaves were property and not citizens, as among the court’s most shameful blunders. Justice Stephen G. Breyer has written that it has lost all potency as …

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How lucrative is Georgia’s renowned musical moxie?

Moderated by Rick Badie

Georgia’s film’s industry has become an economic blockbuster with an impact of $3.3 billion in 2013, according to the the Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Office. Could the state’s renowned musical moxie — a palette of hip-hop, country and rock — prove just as lucrative? That’s the subject for today.

Market Georgia music

By Ben Harbin

Last fall, the House music industry study committee and I set out to examine the music industry in Georgia and explore strategies to grow it. We knew the names of many Georgia artists, and a 2011 study showed the industry had a $3.77 billion economic impact and supported 20,000 jobs. But until we visited Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Macon and Savannah and heard testimony from more than 100 individuals, we had no idea how expansive “Georgia music” really is.

The committee heard from artists, composers and producers who create content that is performed,streamed and licensed for use in movies, television, games and …

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Money for unclogging Atlanta

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) grants provide federal funding to planning organizations like the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) for projects that relieve traffic snarls and reduce air pollution. Today, we hear about the distribution of grants from the ARC’s executive director, while a highway proponent takes issue with some of the commission’s decisions. We also break out the new spending.

Commenting is open.

An ‘exciting’ chance to reduce congestion

By Doug Hooker

Few things are more important to the economy and success of the Atlanta region than its transportation network. But in a world of dwindling gas tax revenues and budget cuts, the opportunities to plan for new transportation projects are rare. In fact, more than 70 percent of available funding is needed just to maintain the existing network.

Because of the limited dollars available for added capacity, the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) was excited to accept proposals for …

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Civil forfeiture: There’s a better way to do it

There’s an old saying among lawmakers that perfection should not be the enemy of the good. That adage squarely applies to Georgia House Bill 1, which offers significant improvements to the state’s current, too-weak laws concerning civil forfeiture.
Georgia needs a stronger law because the existing statutes covering seizure of assets believed linked to criminal activity do not provide for fair, effective oversight and administration of the forfeiture process.
HB 1 as now written is not all-encompassing in its offered improvements, but it represents a solid step forward. That’s likely the best that can be achieved during this hurried, election-year legislative session. Lawmakers anxious to resume campaigning can’t be counted on to achieve perfection this year. Thus, the good, and not the perfect, will have to do for now.
The bill was passed out of House committee this month. It should be quickly approved by the full House and sent on to the state Senate.
Questionable uses of …

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Forfeiture bill improves accountability

By Wendell Willard

Civil forfeiture is the power of law enforcement to seize property believed to be connected with criminal activity and acquire it for law enforcement use through a forfeiture proceeding. Georgia’s current civil forfeiture procedures have come under fire in recent years, sparking a desire for reform.
Critics allege that current laws create a profit incentive for seizing agencies, potentially distorting law enforcement priorities and shifting focus to revenue generation and away from other activities. Civil forfeiture provisions are currently spread throughout the Georgia code and encompass 14 different procedures, which alone calls for creation of one consolidated and standardized procedure. While law enforcement agencies are presently required by law to file an annual report with the state detailing their forfeiture seizures and expenditures, there exists ambiguity on who is expected to do the reporting, the level of detail required to be reported, and what …

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Georgia sheriffs speak on forfeiture bill

From a Jan. 24 letter to State Rep. Wendell Willard by Ben Hill County Sheriff Bobby McLemore, president of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association: It is on behalf of the members of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association that I respectfully advise you of our opposition to the substitute to House Bill 1 … .
We feel the substitute to House Bill 1 properly addresses the issues of burden of proof, discretion of appropriate use of condemned assets by sheriffs and chiefs and the threshold amount for quasi-administrative forfeitures. We are grateful for these compromises, but have serious concerns with the nature and extent of newly added procedural requirements which will unnecessarily complicate our existing constitutional process of condemning assets seized through criminal activity. Surely, these newly required procedures can only create additional burdens for our Clerks of Superior Court and District Attorneys whose offices remain understaffed. We furthermore believe the imposition of …

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Dangers of a hoodie

This ‘thug’ could save your life

By Anwar Osborne

Here is a guy walking down the street in Atlanta. He’s black and wearing what some might call a “thug” uniform: a zip-hooded sweatshirt, jeans, a baseball cap on backwards, and Michael Jordan basketball shoes.

But that man is me, and I’m on my way to work, a physician in an urban hospital emergency department. I’m a doctor, and I dress like a “thug.”

Michael Dunn, a white Floridian, said he hated “thug music” before shooting Jordan Davis, a black teenager. Seattle Seahawk Richard Sherman had the word “thug” uttered about him many times before the Super Bowl, and Jonathan Ferrell got shot instead of getting help after a car crash.

These cases are striking to me because I live in a 6-foot 1-inch, 210-pound black body, but also because I spend the majority of my waking hours trying to keep people alive. Sometimes it’s by delivering patient care, signing charts in my office, attending a lecture or fleshing out research in a small …

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Privatizing foster care

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

The General Assembly is considering legislation that will put foster care largely in the hands of private agencies, even with regard to case management. Today we hear from child-law experts who say our state’s outcomes for abused children are already better than Florida’s, which has the model Georgia is looking to replicate. A former Obama Administration official familiar with Florida’s law says privatization is the way to go.

Commenting is open.

Privatizing is not a proven reform plan

By Melissa Dorris Carter and Andrew Barclay

Is privatization of child welfare services good public policy for Georgia’s children and families?

That’s the question provoked by Senate Bill 350, and there is no simple answer. The rapid early progress of the proposal, which would require that the Division of Family and Children Services bid out child welfare services statewide through contracts with community agencies, should not be taken as an indication of support among …

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