Archive for the ‘Local’ Category

APS indictments: What more proof do Georgia’s lawmakers need that school choice must expand?

The cheating scandal at Atlanta Public Schools led Friday to the place many of us believed it would and should: indictments for 35 administrators and teachers implicated in the scandal. If this seems too harsh a step, take some time to re-familiarize yourself with the details of the case. The answer-changing parties at which teachers made sure their students made the grade; the spy-novel-worthy actions certain APS employees took to make sure they evaded test-security measures; administrators’ ignoring and covering up complaints about potential cheating — the story is astoundingly shameful.

But don’t forget that a similar pattern of cheating was found hundreds of miles away in Dougherty County, while incompetent school boards in Clayton and DeKalb counties have brought their systems to the brink of losing accreditation. (Atlanta’s own board nearly did the same in the wake of the cheating scandal.) Meanwhile, across the state, many schools and school systems commit the more …

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Question on new stadium remains: Why so soon?

If you haven’t yet read Jeff Schultz’s column today about whether it would be “the worst thing in the world if the Falcons moved to the suburbs,” I recommend it. Spoiler alert: Schultz thinks it would not be the worst thing in the world if that were to happen.

Although I think downtown is ultimately far preferable to the suburbs for the Falcons’ home games, Schultz makes a number of good arguments. But this is the part to which I want to draw your attention (with emphasis added):

The [San Francisco] 49ers couldn’t get a downtown stadium deal done, so they’re moving to Santa Clara, 30 to 45 minutes away. … By the way, Candlestick Park is 53 years old.

The [New York] Giants left the old Meadowlands stadium, which was 34 years old. The [Miami] Dolphins left the Orange Bowl, which was built in 1939. The [Dallas] Cowboys and [New England] Patriots left stadiums that were opened in 1971. The [Washington] Redskins left RFK Stadium, built in 1961.

The Georgia Dome opened in 1992.

For …

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Louie Giglio and ‘the right to hold differing views’

I’ve never been to Louie Giglio’s church. But I drive past it every Sunday on the way to the church I do attend.

Passion City Church meets in a building that once was home to a Home Depot Expo and a PGA Tour Superstore. If you aren’t familiar with the site, one thing you ought to know is it has the kind of enormous parking lot you’d expect for a mega-box store and that it’s filled to capacity each week as volunteers and traffic cops direct the flow of motorists, pedestrians from the nearby Lindbergh MARTA station, and the shuttles that ferry still more worshippers to Giglio’s church.

You also ought to know that, for a couple of months last year, there were fewer parking spaces available than usual. That’s because part of the pavement was occupied by a gigantic statue of an arm and hand reaching skyward — I’m talking about 103-feet-tall gigantic — with, among other messages, “Indifference Is Not an Option” written on it.

“Indifference” to human trafficking and slavery, that …

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A new year’s note to MARTA’s new chief

“I’m a skeptic, and I want to protect taxpayers.”

Keith Parker spoke those words toward the end of his first visit to the AJC’s offices as MARTA’s new general manager, earlier this month. He was voicing his understanding of Georgia Republicans who view the transit agency with skepticism and the interests of taxpayers in mind.

Much of Parker’s broader message of working to find efficiencies and earn the trust of taxpayers, customers and skeptical state leaders could have been spoken by anyone. That’s no knock on Parker; he’d been on the job just one week when he met with us.

In fact, after listening to Parker, I found two reasons to think he just might have a fighting chance of doing at MARTA what hasn’t been done there before.

The first is that he has done it in politically similar states before. He has worked in Charlotte and, most recently, as head of the transit agency in San Antonio.

In the latter, he said, he persuaded Texas’ GOP-dominated state legislature to make …

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Poll Position: Which big win would make you happiest?

Now for something completely different …

As my longtime readers know, I’m a sports fan. And if there’s been a bigger four-day stretch of big and potentially big sports news in Atlanta than we’ve seen beginning Wednesday, I don’t recall it.

Which of these big wins makes (or would make) you happiest?

  • UGA’s (potential) SEC title/BCS title game berth (120 Votes)
  • The Falcons’ big win (64 Votes)
  • Sports? I’d rather be shopping … or raking leaves! (21 Votes)
  • Tech’s (potential) ACC title (18 Votes)
  • The Braves’ big moves (13 Votes)

Total Voters: 236

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Wednesday: The Braves reached a deal with free-agent CF B.J. Upton.

Thursday: The Falcons beat their arch-nemesis, the Saints, to move within a whisker of the NFC South title and a step closer to home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. (As a bonus, a loss Sunday by Tampa Bay would give the division title to the Falcons.)

Friday: The Braves traded pitcher Tommy Hanson, freeing up payroll funds for another …

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Some questions for those pursuing a new Falcons stadium

Gov. Nathan Deal recently said “there’s got to be a little further explanation to the public, and probably to the members of the General Assembly,” as to why tax dollars should be used to replace the Georgia Dome before its 25th birthday. He’s right.

That explanation must come from the Georgia World Congress Authority, the state agency that runs the Dome, and/or the Atlanta Falcons, the loudest voice calling for the Dome’s replacement with a $1 billion, retractable-roof stadium. About $300 million of that cost would be paid by Atlanta hotel/motel tax revenues, but only if legislators and Deal agree to raise the authority’s bonding limit. The Falcons and the NFL would cover the rest.

I’m hardly naive about the ability of powerful people to get what they want, and Falcons owner Arthur Blank no doubt qualifies as just such a person. So does Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who backs the project. And I’m hardly a supporter of ditching the Dome, as I’ve written before.

But if the GWCA and …

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And you wonder why voters rejected the T-SPLOST

If you want to see a microcosm of the reason metro Atlanta voters didn’t trust our transportation planners enough to approve the $7.2 billion T-SPLOST tax, I recommend this news from the AJC:

The state Transportation Board is poised to declare the Downtown Connector a gateway to the state, and to help fund a makeover to pretty up some of the high-profile bridges that pass over it.

The first two are the Peachtree Street bridges that pass over the Connector and back, in Downtown and Midtown.

“This lets the traveling public know the city of Atlanta is the capital city,” said DOT board president Johnny Floyd. “We want to showcase it and make sure it looks good.”

The makeover, according to the Midtown Alliance, will include colored under-lighting for night time and the words “Peachtree Street” in lights, as well as sculptured fences and sidewalks on the surface level over the I-85/I-75 interchange.

The Department of Transportation’s board approved the expense on Thursday. DOT will …

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Award for Ivy Prep shows just how wrong Lowery and others crying ‘resegregation’ are

Dear Rev. Joseph Lowery: Before you agree to record another advertisement decrying state charter schools as a maneuver to reinstate segregation in Georgia, perhaps you should check out the news about Ivy Preparatory Academy.

Ivy Prep, to which the Gwinnett County school board refused to grant a charter, and which as a result had to resort to the state’s chartering process, was named one the state’s highest-performers among schools with a high proportion of low-income students.

This news ought to be of interest to Gwinnett voters, given that their school system has fought tooth and nail to prevent the state from having a process to approve charter schools in general, and Ivy Prep specifically. The Gwinnett system was one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit that resulted in the old State Charter Schools Commission’s being declared unconstitutional, and about 20 percent of all the money donated to the anti-amendment campaign has come from administrators in the Gwinnett system …

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Well, well: What’s this about a $50 million problem at MARTA?

This morning’s big AJC headline — in the print edition, it read “Audit: MARTA spends $50 million too much” — was one of the least surprising things I’ve ever read in our paper.

Not because of some anti-MARTA bias on my part. Rather, it’s because MARTA officials told me as much, almost 2.5 years ago.

In the first part of my special series on MARTA back in May 2010, I wrote:

As you may have heard, MARTA now faces a $120 million budget hole. Believe it or not, the agency projected as early as in 2006 that it would be short $60 million by now, even though revenues were forecast to rise for a decade. Problem was, expenses piled up even faster.

One might summarize the financial history of MARTA (and most public entities) this way:

The economy takes a turn for the worse; MARTA’s budget, which already assumed some operating losses, goes from tenuous to disastrous. Officials warn of (take your pick) drastic, draconian, devastating service cuts unless someone, anyone, finds $50 million …

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Our governing class gives us more reasons to distrust them

Two weeks have passed since voters across most of Georgia rejected their region’s T-SPLOST proposals in a display of distrust in government. Unfortunately, that’s plenty of time for members of our governing class to provide new reasons to be wary of them.

The most egregious of the new bad examples comes courtesy of an organization whose project became a lightning rod during metro Atlanta’s T-SPLOST debate: the Beltline.

The 22-mile loop of trails, parks and transit ringing Atlanta’s urban core is supposed to herald yet another renaissance for the city of perpetual rebirth. Instead, a series of investigative stories by the AJC’s Greg Bluestein has uncovered an all too familiar sight: flip disregard for the public, this time in the expense reports of Beltline employees. These workers might not be public officials in the traditional sense, but they do have access to tax dollars.

And my, how they’ve used that access. Wedding gifts, a parking ticket and a dry cleaning bill, and …

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