GPB Executive Bob Olive

GPB Executive Bob Olive, Who Speaks on Behalf of GPB President Teya Ryan

Staff at Georgia Public Broadcasting – your PBS and NPR stations across Georgia – got an interesting email from Georgia Public Broadcasting Executive Bob Olive this weekend.

(And please, GPB, don’t fire anyone over this leak. You can never be sure how this came to me, can you? And if you’re so committed to creating jobs, firing people suspected of telling truths really violates that spirit, doesn’t it?)

So, back to the email. It reads:

“On behalf of Teya Ryan, President and Executive Director…

“GPB has been in the spotlight for the last few weeks and for those of you who have experienced the white heat of a media frenzy, you know it can be uncomfortable but not unbearable as long as we continue to focus on our mission which is to produce and distribute programs that educate, inform, and enlighten our communities.

“So to set the record straight: GPB is starting a new initiative that the state has funded which will address the two major challenges facing Georgians today–the economy and education. Because GPB has the largest distribution system in the state with 9 television and 17 radio stations as well as a comprehensive educational website, we will lead this state-funded initiative. It will launch in late spring, beginning with a weekly statewide radio show and an interactive website designed to connect job seekers to employers. GPB will work with partners in the university system, K-12 teachers, technical colleges, and the private sector to connect students and job seekers to the job skills they will need.

GPB President Teya Ryan, No Longer a Good Steward of Georgia's Public Airwaves

GPB President Teya Ryan, No Longer a Good Steward of Georgia’s Public Airwaves

“The initiative will be led by a former State Senator, Chip Rogers, who left his position in the Georgia General Assembly to lead this state-funded program. Working with the state is not new to GPB. We work closely with the state on many levels–we are currently developing a digital textbook for Georgia History, a requirement for all 8th graders in the state. We are working with the Department of Education on a literacy based childhood obesity initiative. We work closely with the Department of Natural Resources when taping our Emmy award winning program Georgia Outdoors. And we work daily with Georgia’s K-12 teachers, providing them with over 125,000 digital assets tied to standards and in support of the classroom experience. and while the choice of Rogers may be controversial, we invite all of our public media colleagues and our Georgia communities to listen to the weekly radio show when it launches in late spring, then go to the interactive website and see how we hope to have a positive impact on our state’s crushing 8.6% unemployment rate.

“At GPB we are well known for applying a business sense to our public media model and we are a strong example of a public/private entity. Through our wide distribution system, we are in a position to help meet Georgia’s economic and educational challenges.”

Hmmm, with the exception of that introductory paragraph, this feels a bit like it was written to be leaked, doesn’t it? All those positive talking points about its distribution system, its partnerships and its commitment to helping Georgians find with jobs. The “We don’t get out of bed in the morning without finding ways to connect our educational mission to our programming…” 

And, yes, the initiative itself sounds interesting. And no one argues that Georgia needs help with its unemployment problems.

But we can’t lose sight of the fact of who will oversee this marvelous, taxpayer-funded project. And we can’t lose sight of how he got there.

Let’s stay focused, shall we?

This brilliant boondoggle is being managed by disgraced former GA Senator Chip Rogers. And Rogers landed that job because GPB President Teya Ryan – charged with being a good steward of  not only the public and private money that funds our NPR and PBS stations, but also the integrity of our PBS and NPR stations – let Georgia Governor Nathan Deal (R) and his crony, Rogers (R), waltz through the door and onto those airwaves… with their agendas in hand.

Continuing to focus: and there’s Rogers’ salary: $150,000. Yes, it’s almost three times what most existing staff producers make, and is even more than the salary of Bob Olive, Ryan’s second-in-command and mouthpiece. In fact, $150,000 appears to be $10,000 more than Governor Deal. Sweet.

Yet it’s still more than $50,000 less than Ryan, who pulls in a healthy $208,000 for her stewardship, now irrevocably and completely compromised.

Again, Georgians do need jobs. But using taxpayer money to pay for a project that requires someone hand-picked by the Governor, at an exorbitant salary, and total access to our NPR network?

Senator Rogers, you’re an expert on odds. What are our chances of that play being a winner for the people of Georgia… and for the future of our PBS and NPR stations?

Posted by: Richard Armitage US | January 25, 2013

Georgians Deserve GPB President Teya Ryan’s Resignation

Disgraced Senator-turned-public-broadcaster Chip Rogers

Disgraced Senator-turned-public-broadcaster Chip Rogers

With the exception of our beloved Fred, the name “Rogers” has always spelled Trouble, with a capital “T,” for Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB).

Back in the day, it was then-GPB Executive Director Werner Rogers and financial irregularities and outright theft by one of his senior managers. This time a guy named Chip Rogers is the center of the ethical storm that – unless heads roll soon – I believe will irrevocably damage Georgia Public Broadcasting.

And it is this disturbingly serious brouhaha at 260 14th Street has pulled me back into the fray after taking a blogging break for over a year.

Briefly, our Governor Nathan Deal (R) proposed a cushy job for disgraced House Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R), a crony, at Georgia Public Broadcasting, and GPB President Teya Ryan accepted his proposal. (The most thorough story on this is a piece by Dru Sefton in the industry newsletter Current.)

There was some outcry when the decision was announced, but it died down. Then Rogers’ salary information was uncovered by some industrious soul. Deal’s crony will be making $150,000 a year – making him the second highest paid GPB employee, second only to Ryan – for a job which has no description so far, just a nebulous “job creations” project for radio and the web. Published reports also put the start-up expenses of his endeavor to be around $300,000. And he’ll have a producer to help him out.

The fact that Rogers, whose primary broadcast experience appears to have been as a spokesperson for a sports gambling network – as revealed here by Atlanta Unfiltered – and that his salary is three times that of long-time, experienced GPB producers have put more than a few noses out of joint. One brave producer, multi-Emmy-winner Ashlie Wilson Pendley, stepped up and spoke out in a rousing and brilliant resignation letter.

There’s a petition from Better Georgia calling for Rogers’ head – which is a no-brainer since he can be fired, but the Governor can’t – but it doesn’t go far enough.

Teya Ryan’s head should be served to Georgia taxpayers and Georgia Public Broadcasting’s supporters as well.

Ryan has to go, for a number of reasons. In this case, she has absolutely violated her role as the steward of the public airwaves and absolutely violated the public’s trust. She has repeatedly said she wasn’t pressured, and that taking on Chip Rogers was her decision. As President of Georgia Public Broadcasting, Ryan could have – should have – put up a fight. But she didn’t.

Instead, it took a staff producer making under $55K to stand up and speak out.

Teya Ryan

GPB President – and supposed chief steward of the public airwaves in Georgia – Teya Ryan

Teya Ryan, the person who is charged with the responsibility of safe-guarding the integrity of the organization – and, as a comparison to Rogers and Pendley, is making over $208,000 a year – just stepped aside and let Rogers and the Governor stroll through the door, agendas in hand.

We can’t trust her to protect public broadcasting in Georgia. If this is her decision in this blatant case of cronyism and governmental interference, then we can only imagine what she might have done before – like suddenly and completely reversing a decision to cut a series covering the state legislature to a couple of nights a week – and might very likely do again.

Sure, Chip Rogers has to go, but Teya Ryan has to go, too. Anything less will continue the betrayal of the people’s trust, and GPB will be irreversibly crippled.

Over the years, Ryan has down-sized, laid off, fired, outsourced and reorganized staff…. all in the interest of operating a more efficient Georgia Public Broadcasting and making the organization a national leader. During her tenure, I believe PBS has accepted one GPB project for national broadcast: the Margaret Mitchell bio aired on American Masters. (GPBers, correct me here if I’m wrong, please.) American Masters is impressive, yes, but still a skimpy record based on GPB’s past national broadcast presence. Georgia Public Broadcasting’s radio news service has long been its shining jewel and an industry favorite, winning countless awards. Its stories have been picked up often by NPR for national broadcast. I guess the best we can say for Ryan’s efforts in radio is that she hasn’t run it into the ground.

As for cost-cutting, after looking at the salaries reported for FY2012, I’m having a reaaaally difficult time seeing how hiring contractors has worked out as a cost-saver… but more on that another time.

Here I feel I should add a note in the interest of full disclosure: I began my career at Georgia Public Television, as it was called then, back before there was a public radio entity, when it was based in a crappy building  just off scenic – if you enjoy hookers and drug dealers – Stewart Avenue. I remember it when it was truly a lean, mean public broadcasting machine, with editing equipment held together with duct tape, paper clips and Aaron Allen’s prayers. I continued to work there when it moved to its shamefully extravagant digs on 14th Street. Altogether, I was with GPB for 23 years.

During that time, I saw it change from a dysfunctional, but somehow wonderful, public TV station to a dysfunctional, but ultimately flawed, tool of the state. Say what you will about Dr. Richard Ottinger, he was not a total political tool. That began with the appointment of his successor, the first real political appointment, when then Governor Zell Miller (D) named defeated State School Superintendent Werner Rogers (D) to the position of Executive Director. Following his departure, for the aforementioned financial irregularities, then-Governor Roy Barnes (D) appointed the State Auditor, Claude Vickers to head the then nine-station TV and 15-station radio networks. Vickers had seen New Yankee Workshop, but that was about it. After that came the reign of terror of Vickers’ second-in-command Jim Lyle, then Nancy Hall, and then – inexplicably to all observers who knew anything about broadcasting,  much less public broadcasting – GPB’s miserly former CFO Bonnie Bean. Then came Ryan, appointed by then-Governor Sonny Perdue (R).

I vividly remember the words of Frank Bugg, deputy director under Ottinger and (Werner) Rogers, when we were talking about cultivating wealthy individuals to support us as major donors.  He laughed mockingly and said that they didn’t matter. “You know who our major donors are, don’t you? The state legislature. That’s our biggest major donor, and don’t you ever forget it.” And that was the management’s mindset until the day I left, which – thank God – was before the board that required us to carry the Cherry Blossom Festival in Macon live on the statewide public television network.  And for the most part, most of us were able to work around the mindset in our day-to-day activities. But our management’s attitude was always there.

But the Deal/Rogers/Ryan situation takes that attitude to an entirely different level; as Chip Rogers’ employment demonstrates, it is now in the stratosphere. And its arrogance is simply stunning.  Without even the slightest subtlety or even gamesmanship, the Governor unloads a political handicap on a State agency, and the head of the State agency says “Sure!” As for Rogers himself, knowing his background, I’m certain it never occurred to him to decline the position – whatever it is. $150,000 is a sweet deal for someone whose previous job as a state senator paid a little over $17,000.

So this is what Georgia Public Broadcasting has become. As long as Ryan is at its helm, I can’t imagine that will change.

Posted by: Richard Armitage US | January 25, 2013

Ashlie Wilson Pendley: Profile in Courage

GPB Producer Ashlie Wilson Pendley

GPB Producer Ashlie Wilson Pendley

The following is the text of the resignation letter given to Georgia Public Broadcasting President Teya Ryan by GPB Senior Producer Ashlie Wilson Pendley. I think it speaks very well for itself.

Teya Ryan
President & CEO
Georgia Public Broadcasting
260 14th Street, NW
Atlanta, GA 30318

Dear Teya,

It is with a grave heart but a clear mind that I respectfully tender my resignation from Georgia Public Broadcasting, effective January 31.  I have served GPB since 1997, first as a contractor and then as a staff producer.  I have served under a total of 6 Executive Directors, including you, so I know that recent events are not the first time nor I am sure will it be the last time that GPB has faced political pressures.

I know that you have faced a variety of challenges and difficult decisions in the last four years since you assumed leadership of GPB.  I’ve witnessed four rounds of layoffs.  I’ve watched the outsourcing of the sales staff, the IT helpdesk and most recently, Master Control operations.  I have loyally accepted stagnant wages for the last five years, even while the cost of my benefits has increased- even in the times when furloughed- because I believed GPB was an organization that was worth the sacrifice and the hard work.

In December, it became public that GPB was hiring former Senator Chip Rogers to spearhead a new job growth and community development effort.  I was shocked and curious about the sudden decision.  Having been involved with coverage of 15 legislative sessions with the Lawmakers program, I followed the situation with interest.  But interest turned to disgust this weekend after the AJC published Senator Rogers’ salary of $150,000.  More than any other Executive Producer, more than many of the Vice Presidents- and all in a time when budget cuts are deep and the rank and file have been told there is no money.

I think it is unconscionable to create a position and compensate any individual in this manner during these difficult times.   I am quite certain that considerable political pressure was brought to bear to make this a reality.  I am disappointed that you felt this was GPB’s best course of action. While I might understand it to some extent, I cannot condone it and I cannot continue to stand idly by.

For all of those who cannot, I resign in protest.  For all those who disapprove but must stand mute for fear of losing their jobs, I take this opportunity to speak up and speak out.  This was the wrong decision for GPB.  It has the appearance of the political manipulation of the public airwaves.  This stinks of cronyism.  I believe that this decision was in fact made at the highest political levels and forced upon this organization.

In the interest of my own personal integrity, I find I must leave.  I would like to stay to make the transition as easy as possible on the Lawmakers team and therefore plan to work out my notice until January 31.

In many ways, I have not been truly happy in my work of late.  First, I watched as well paid contractors replaced staff that had been laid off.  As the co-creator of the Georgia Traveler series in 2005, it saddens me to see how the only remaining original host and the most talented member of that show’s staff has been treated.  David Zelski is an amazing young man who can write, produce, shoot and edit.  He could be running the entire production if he had the proper support.

Then this year, there were all the delays in confirming that we would indeed cover the legislature in 2013. I’m sure you recall all of those “desperate emails” prior to October 12, when you told me that Lawmakers would indeed return, but with fairly extensive changes.  I learned of the new editorial management later.  Because of my loyalty to the organization, I accepted the new role of coordinating producer in the greatest sense of teamwork.  So much planning and hard work in such a short time took place.  Most of which seems to have essentially been abandoned at the slightest hint of political displeasure within the legislature.

These recent events have caused a great deal of introspection and examination of the type of work I would like to do.  I feel newly inspired to seek a new career in a new field.  I do not know what the future holds, but I approach it with optimism and a newfound conviction that I am making the best decision for myself.

I very truly hope for the continued success for GPB.  I have many friends among my colleagues here and I wish them all the best.

Sincerely,

Ashlie Wilson Pendley

Posted by: Richard Armitage US | November 16, 2012

So Long, Farewell, Atlanta!

Photo by IntownWriter

For now, the IntownWriter’s Atlanta posts are done. A series of events has meant a major life adjustment and relocation to my hometown in rural Georgia, where all politics is extraordinarily local, and there is not a newspaper to cover local politics, much less a website that even lists the candidates on the ballot.

It’s a not-so-brave new world.

It’s going to take some time to adjust to a place where political information is shared on in person, at the bank, the drugstore and casually after church. But who knows? I may be back. I still live within city limits, albeit the city limits of my new old town. So I am still an Intownwriter… just a little bit outside the Perimeter.

Take care, Atlanta. I do so love you and your people.

Posted by: Richard Armitage US | July 24, 2011

Of Shifting Sands and Undertows…

You know that singular feeling of standing on the beach as the waves come in, just enough to cover your feet? As the wave goes back out to sea, it creates a sensation of the earth literally shifting beneath your feet. While it can be disconcerting, depending on the pull of the wave, it’s not unpleasant.

Then there’s another kind of wave entirely. The kind of wave looks normal, but when you step into it, it sucks at your feet like death, jerking them out from under you pulling you under with sudden and terrifying power. An undertow is treacherous, unexpected and all too often undetectable… until it has you. As you become more familiar with the shore, the pattern of the waves and the weather, you can sometimes sense an undertow, but that doesn’t mean you can avoid it.

Every day, as I swing my legs over the edge of my bed, I never know whether I’ll step into the softly shifting eddies of a wave, or if I’ll step directly into an undertow, and be pulled in, suffocating beneath the weight of life, and sucked under.

Depression is my undertow. Like 1 out of 10 Americans – and the 80% who show signs of depression, but aren’t treated – I never know when I awaken, what kind of day it will be. It’s never a solid-ground day.

If it’s a gentle shifting sand day, I can usually accomplish a few tasks – grocery shopping, talking with a friend on the phone, maybe even cooking a meal – but I still have to be careful to pace myself.

If it’s a day of the waves that come before a storm, it’s trickier. They come so fast and so frequently that it’s easy to lose my balance. I may begin believing I can survive what could be a relatively normal day for me, but the insistent power of the pull on my ankles and legs can send me scampering for the safety of my bed and oblivion.

If it’s an undertow day – and it is, more often than not – I can know it before I even I swing my legs over the side of the bed and my toes touch the floor. Even as I lie there, prone on my mattress, I can feel the weight of the day, the force of the pull drawing me under. On those days, I do my best to accomplish two things: feed my cats and – eventually – write something on Facebook so my friends who worry about me know I’m still here. Usually I’m able to accomplish the former; not always the latter.

I’m not trudging along this beach alone and unaided. In fact, for the last four years – since my clinical depression was finally diagnosed – I’ve worked with several doctors and countless medications. While my sessions with my doctors make me feel less like a freak, the meds they’ve prescribed have had a negligible impact, or their impact is short-lived. I also have friends – thank you, Diane – who listen and empathize and, ultimately, have helped me keep my head above the deadly waves. And I have had supportive family members – PMK & VSK – who have made a tremendous difference.

Still, it’s a struggle.

just shifting sandsToday is a shifting sand day, so I fed the cats and read for a bit. These thoughts about my depression have been swirling around in my head for a while. So, since it’s a day I can write a little, I’m trying to put them down to share. If you suffer from this illness, maybe knowing that someone else has these thoughts and these struggles will help you feel less alone, or you can share this with a loved one to help them understand.

Today is a day that I might even be able to post bon mots on Facebook, which is where I can pretend to be well. I can log on, keep up with close friends and the interesting people I know, share a couple of interesting news items, make pithy – sometimes even witty or funny – comments, and log off. No emotional energy or capital required. On most shifting sand days, I can be a pretty good pretender… lots of people with depression learn to be skilled actors, and would rather put on a cheerful face- no matter its cost to them later – than see that dreaded “You have so much. What’s wrong with you?” expression in others’ eyes.

On undertow days, I still try to log on. I do this because if I don’t, my phone will be ringing within a day or so from friends who demand a response to ensure that I’m all right. On undertow days, I try to avoid status updates since “Today my depression is overwhelming” isn’t exactly the kind of pretend-positive personality I’m trying to project. Instead, I find something interesting from NPR or the New York Times or the Hollywood Reporter or TIME in case there’s a hot issue to share. My introductory comments don’t require what would be obviously false cheeriness. I can be as dark as I want based on the gravity of the news.

On any day and every day, though, I avoid real people as much as possible. Email and Facebook are my guards. I find that personal interactions require far too much emotional and physical energy, and usually the undertow has me in its paralyzing embrace for days afterward.

This is why my friends and acquaintances learn that I’ll often agree that it would be lovely to get together for lunch or a movie, or a reunion of beloved colleagues, but then I rarely speak of it again, and never show up at the parties. This is a  major change, made solely as a self-protective measure. It’s especially odd to me, considering my career consisted of reporting, media and community relations and managing special events.  I was also very involved in community and neighborhood life. It finally hit me that these activities were doing me more harm than good. With the first whisper of disagreement or conflict, I heard the waves rising and could tell that the undertow was already tugging at my legs. Isolation, I’ve found,  protects me from that particular trigger.

So is this it? Is this how I’ll spend the rest of my life? I truly can’t imagine another 20-30 years of this kind of existence. Instead, on shifting-sand days, I continue to hope that the next medication will be the one that gives me the comfort of daily shifting sands (naturally, I’m realistic enough to not to expect solid ground).  We have found one med that helps with my panic attacks, so I’m hopeful that we’ll find one someday that works with the undertow.

This unpredictable, but daily possibility and frequent presence of that dark, insistent undertow is no way to live. So I will pray that each of us finds the meds that will deliver those gentle eddies, and diminish, perhaps even eliminate, the suffocating darkness.

 

Photo by Phil Skinner, AJC

Fulton County Court Watch members (from left) Marcia Killingsworth, John Wolfinger, Peggy Denby, Diane Ward, John Pavlin and Adam Brackman monitor cases against recalcitrant burglars, dope peddlers and thieves who have often gotten a pass by the courts. The group, set up in 2006, has members from across the county. Phil Skinner pskinner@ajc.com  

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2-13-11, Metro Cover story 

By Bill Torpy  btorpy@ajc.com  

As she walked down Peachtree Street one afternoon, Marlene Mullen was suddenly and violently attacked   by a deranged stranger who repeatedly punched her in the face and back of the head.

Back then, no one stopped to help.

So it brought great comfort to the Midtown resident last year when strangers filled a bench in court to make sure her attacker didn’t once again slip through the cracks.

Ricky Love, a troubled man with a history of arrests and unstable behavior, was sentenced to four years in prison with the judge assuring community members, “he won’t   get out of custody without my signature.”

Mullen credits the Fulton County Court Watch for helping ensure that Love was taken off the street.

“I think it made a huge difference,” said Mullen, who has joined the effort. “It created an awareness in court that the community cares, that they are watching and want something done.”

Court Watch was set up through the Fulton County District Attorney’s office in 2006 to be the eyes and ears of the   public in the crushingly busy courthouse. District Attorney Paul Howard said he was frequently asked by community groups why repeat offenders kept getting out of jail.

“We were always getting questions, ‘What is going on in the court? How are decisions being made?’ ” Howard said. “So we said, ‘Come on and see for yourself.’”

The group now has members from across the county coming to court, wearing their distinctive Court Watch T-shirts and monitoring cases against recalcitrant burglars, dope peddlers and thieves who have often gotten a pass by the court system.

Some members of the group soon will begin rating judges by the toughness — or leniency — of their sentencing and put those ratings on a new website. They want the public to know judge’s sentencing patterns come election time. And they want judges to think about that the next time they sentence a repeat offender to yet another probation.

“When election time rolls around, most people don’t know who is who, who is more lenient or who goes by the book,”said Adam Brackman, a southeast Atlanta resident who ran for city council in 2009. “Judges who are more aware of the community interest in the case are more likely to hand out appropriate sentences and not be lenient.”

The group’s efforts have gotten support from residents who have criticized the Fulton court system’s “rocket docket,” which was set up to move nonviolent felony cases quickly. The system was created about five years ago to help ease the backlog in cases that caused overcrowding in Fulton County jail. Court Watchers came soon after that.  

The district attorney’s office has scores of people on a list and sends out notices of upcoming hearings concerning repeat offenders or cases that garner community interest. New Court Watchers are given a crash course on court proceedings.

Peggy Denby, a court watcher, also leads the Midtown Ponce Security Alliance, a hard-nosed neighborhood group that tracks criminals who plague that neighborhood, some of whom, like Love, have been around for decades. The alliance posts photos of offenders online and pushes city and law enforcement officials to get tough. She sees the rate-a-judge effort as the next logical step for Court Watch.

“The idea is when we get more data, people will be able to search by   judge, by type of crime,” she said. “We’re hoping we can get a file up sharing results of all the cases. No one holds them accountable. We’re trying to hold them accountable.”

She added that the group’s presence in court also underlines that a case is not just routine. “It has much impact on the judge,” she said. “After we make our plea, all of a sudden it gets more important. It interrupts the drudgery they go through day after day.”

Some judges, such as Superior Court Judge T.   Jackson Bedford, do not allow Court Watchers to wear their T-shirts when visiting their courtrooms.

“I see it as a demonstration, like any other, to influence the decisions of a court,” Bedford said.

He said he considers himself a tough judge and doesn’t change his sentences because the group is in attendance.

 “This is not the coliseum ; it’s not about thumbs up, thumbs down.

“With the Court Watch system, it seems that it’s an effort to intimidate [ judges],” he said.

The judge said he is concerned that any rating system would be anecdotal and subjective.

“What kind of ratings? What’s the objectivity?” he said. “There are so many agendas. It’s an attack on the judges.”

Bedford, who has feuded with Howard and once ordered him taken out of the courtroom in handcuffs during an argument, believes Court Watch is an effort by the district attorney to politically tar the judiciary.  

“Some of it is misinformed hysteria fueled by the DA,” said Bedford, who said he encourages the public to sit in on trials and other court business. “But I put the word out that I will not tolerate T-shirts. It’s nothing but a demonstration by the DA’s office, manipulating well-intentioned citizens. [Howard] ought to look at his own shop and the quality of the cases he brings before the courts.”

Howard said he is not behind the proposed judge rating system. “They’ve asked me for years to give them some [rating information] for the judges,” he said. “We said that’s not appropriate for the district attorney’s office to do that. … For the life of me, I don’t know how a judge can be intimidated by a citizen being in court.”

He said the citizen participation could cut many ways. “They have their eyes on everybody, the   defendants, the judges, the prosecutors,” Howard said.

Court Watchers said they have gotten an education in the gritty reality of Fulton County justice.

Brackman, who lives   near Grant Park, said he started attending cases concerning crimes from other neighborhoods “because crime knows no boundaries.”

One such case was that of Donald Shorty, a cocaine addict and repeat burglar from the Cascade Road area. Shorty had 26 arrests, eight felony convictions and a pile of misdemeanors. “However, he’s not spent any length of time in jail,” prosecutor LaDawn Blackett-Jones, who heads the district attorney’s Community Prosecution unit, told the judge.  

In 2007, he was sentenced to 90 days in jail on a burglary charge. In 2008, he was nabbed for another burglary but caught a break. Dr. Walker Young, a dentist and brother of former Mayor Andrew Young, was the victim. Walker Young knew Shorty’s family and tried to help him out, advocating   for probation and an opportunity for a job.

Shorty never showed up for the job and went back to burglary. He broke into a business and left identifying blood stains behind. Last March, he smashed in a store window and was arrested trying to steal the cash register.

Fulton County Judge Walter Lovett, one of the unelected magistrates hired to help move cases, sentenced him to 20 years to do eight. “This is recidivist time; there is no parole,” he told Shorty, who is now in prison.  

Court Watch member Marcia Killingsworth, a southeast Atlanta resident involved with several neighborhood public safety groups, said she started going to court more often in 2009, when there was a rash of smash-and-grab burglaries in the area.

“Burglary is a very invasive crime,” she said. “We felt we were under siege and no one cared.”

After hours watching court proceedings, she still gets angry but can better understand what the court is up against.

“Frankly, it breaks my heart when the judge talks directly to the defendant — especially the younger ones, under 20 [years old] — and you can tell that they don’t understand anything the judge is saying,” she said.  

Killingsworth noted she has disagreed with decisions made by Superior Court Judge Alford Dempsey, a veteran judge. But she later found out his mother had been burglarized.

“He’s been through what we’ve been through,” she said. “He doesn’t need us wagging our fingers in his face.”

Former 1965-constructed C&S Bank on Moreland Avenue

Since the building is all on stilts, nature is fully visible from every angle. Photo Credit: Simon Graves

Courtyard of the 1965 C&S Bank on Moreland; Photo Credit: Simon Graves

We need someone with a big vision and deep, deep pockets to help SE ATL save a crazy-unique mid-century modern classic commercial building. We simply cannot allow this structure to be destroyed. (See Call-to-Action below.)

This essay is about a property in on Moreland in Southeast Atlanta, south of I-20, on what is known as the South Moreland Corridor. (For those who know me, you know that I’m involved in my community, But I’m launching this initiative is purely as a resident interested in historic preservation.)

Until Sunday, I knew nothing about the history of this building, besides it was a very odd, fascinating structure. I’ve been driving past this property for over three years, wondering about its story.

So on Friday, I snapped a shot of it, and over the weekend, I posted a shot of a property and sent it to the surrounding neighborhoods’ listservs with this question: This structure has intrigued me since I moved here. What the heck is it and what is its history? It’s located on Moreland, just south of the IGA on the western side of Moreland. So what’s the scoop, folks?

Turns out it long-time residents couldn’t wait to share:

The structure was a Citizens & Southern (C&S) Bank , which was the Atlanta bank back in the day and intimately tied to Atlanta’s economic progress. (Unfortunately, C&S was also involved in the construction of the original Fulton County Stadium ’60s, which resulted in the destruction of the largely middle-class African American neighborhoods of Summerhill, Mechanicsville, Peoplestown, which are now making a comeback.)

In any case, C&S was the largest bank in the South in the ‘70s. C&S also seemed to have a thing for round/circular buildings: its headquarters in upper Downtown was round, and so was the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium it was so involved in developing.)

Interestingly, the building we want to save – this odd climbing helix structure — is also circular.

Please  look at all of the photos Ormewood Park  resident Tim Flanagan found online  (two are included in this post). Unfortunately, while I’d love to credit the amazing photog, “The Man Who Can’t Sit Still,” I can’t get in touch with him through that website.

Check out his photos: what an amazing structure! I can’t believe it’s still that intact. Check out the stilts; its courtyard and surrounding nature is visible from every angle.

And it’s for sale, too, at the bargain price of $750K… are they kidding? This isn’t Inman Park or even East Atlanta. 

It was great hearing from long-time residents who remember the structure when it was still a bank:

Ormewood Park resident Brent Corcoran remembers: built in the late 70’s, very modern for its time an “O” design. solid wall on the outer ring, glass on the inner ring overlooking a court yard. the turret looking thing on the left, tagged with graffiti, was the vault. The metal awning to the right of the structure.. was an elevated walk way.

Another long-time Ormewood Park resident Ken Boff recalls: (When it was a C&S Bank), the teller stations all faced the glassed-in center core, and there was an evergreen tree growing out there (in the center courtyard). The big problem was that it wasn’t all on the same level. Every so often there was a step down, like that Escher drawing where the stairs go down forever, which made it impossible from a wheelchair access standpoint. But that was during the ’70’s when architects loved to put stairs everywhere. It’s a cool building, in its own strange way.

We’ve heard that this property is slated for demolition.  We simply cannot allow this building to be demolished!  

Everyone in Atlanta, on Facebook, across the country — members of the Mills Bee Lane Memorial Foundation, the Urban Design Commission, the Atlanta Preservation Center — anyone and everyone who is interested in historical preservation — who love crazy-wacky mid-century modern commercial properties, look at these photographs.

We need to create a coalition, backed,  of course, by our generous architectural, community angels/backers with big visions and deep-pockets — of these groups:

  • All of our SE ATL neighborhoods;
  • ALL of Atlanta;
  • Every single online and intown historic preservationist — especially those who love crazy-wild mid-century modern structures featuring a climbing helix design… (And what’s not to love about that?)

Then we must all get together behind this rescue mission, pool our contacts – especially any financially generous, architectural “angels” with a particular affection for wacky-climbing-helix-mid-century-modern-former-banks – and work together and save this crazy-unique property!

Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could save, rehab, renovate and bring this one-of-a-kind architectural jewel up to code so that it could be used as a community center, a for community meetings… including appropriate branding for aforementioned architectural angels, of course.

Southeast Atlanta has so few public architectural treasures.

Help Us Save This Crazy-Unique Mid-Century Modern Classic for Our Community,
and for Everyone Who Loves This Style of Architecture

Georgia Gov-Elect Nathan F---in' Deal; Photo courtesy of Sara Guevara, AP

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, disgraced former U.S. Congressman Nathan Deal defeated former King Governor Roy Barnes with 53% to 43% of the vote to Libertarian candidate John Monds’ 4%.  

And old Roy has even conceded. No waiting ’til morning, no recount request, no drama. Old Governors never die, they just go back into law or insurance or real estate…

I wasn’t a big Barnes booster – his appointments at Georgia Public Broadcasting, where I once worked — were disastrous. There is nothing worse than having two people in charge of your public television and radio networks who know nothing about TV or radio, especially if one is indifferent to the product and the other contemptuous. It got worse when the contemptuous bully, #2, was promoted to #1.  Plus Roy created the Georgia Regional Transit Authority (GRTA) without gutting the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) so GRTA would have some real power… ah, well. Don’t get me started. He was a smarter and far better governor than Joe Frank Billy Bob. But he was a known – and beaten – entity.

On the other hand, I certainly wasn’t – and am not – part of the “Real Deal” team. As far as I can tell, most of the real deals Georgia’s Governor-elect is involved in are unethical and even borderline criminal. He was so crooked, he resigned from Congress to avoid an investigation. Now that’s crooked. Keep Googling… that was back in March; lots more came out more recently.

So when Roy gave in and it was official, I felt a bit queasy, much the same way I felt when – in my salad days – my DeKalb Neighbor reporter colleagues and I were meant to be calling the county’s election returns in to WSB Radio. (Yes, this was pre-Internet, pre-everything, practically. Though I think we were watching CNN so cable must have existed.)

Morning in America: The Night Before… 1980 & President Precedents…

At the DeKalb County Courthouse, we watched as Jimmy “Not Yet the Best But Most Sanctimonious Ex-President Ever” Carter conceded to Ronald Reagan.  Ronald &#^*~*^%$@*  Reagan!! Archie Bunker’s candidate, for cripes’ sake.  T’hell with the DeKalb returns, said we, and – dear, legendary Aubrey Morris, forgive us – WSB Radio’s news coverage.

Carter conceded before 8:30 PM, as I recall. By 9 PM, we were at a Midtown club – where the USPS office now sits on West Peachtree — watching a local band called Baby & the Pacifiers. At the time and on that night, the bass player for Baby Maurice was a very tall, lanky African-American whose attractions included his mad punk guitar skills and his sense of style. 

As we downed our adult beverages, I tried to get into this “punk music” thing, and admired the band’s funky fashions, including the bass player’s long shiny vinyl trench coat and platform boots.  I should mention here that although the club lighting was dim at best, the stage was small and right on top of the audience. I was a little wasted – and that’s the excuse I’ll stand by — so it was only gradually that I realized that when Mr. Vinyl Bass moved his guitar to show off his licks, he also showed off a little something more private. So Baby’s bass player at the time was, in fact, an artist-flasher.

It could not have been a more perfect way to spend the evening that Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States. We stayed until the club shut down, then went back to someone’s apartment until the sun came up and reality sank in… Ronald Reagan, the Archie Bunker/Joke Candidate was going to be our President for at least four years. I don’t remember any of us being that passionate about Jimmy’s candidacy; we just never, ever wanted Reagan. (Of course, naive as we were, we thought he was the worst we would ever have to endure; we could have never envisioned a George W. in our future.)

We had a strong and odd combination of cynicism and idealism, unique, I believe, to our generation. We’d grown up in the schizophrenic Sixties. We had all lived through Vietnam and Watergate, but had also seen the brutality of Selma and Birmingham result in political action that made millions of people’s lives better.  Looking back, I realize our sophistication was mostly an act;  we were really so young and far too idealistic to be real, kick ass journalists; luckily, there was no danger of that with the Neighbor, where my first interview was with a state senator who gave me his standard Kiwanis luncheon speech, and my second was a section front about the new Little Miss Tucker.

I think my colleagues of those days shared some of the my motivations. I went into journalism because I could write, I was nosy (aka proudly and insatiably curious), and because reporters could change lives… even nations! We’d seen it happen. Could we do that? Yes we could. We’d be investigative reporters and right all kinds of wrongs. But first we had to pay our dues – something everyone has to do – but we were paying ours in the late-1970s/early-1980s Otis Brumby Neighbor Newspapers/Marietta Daily Journal empire.

But the nation chose Reagan, a cardboard cut-out who hid his hawkishness and penchant for secrecy far beneath well-delivered jokes and an easy smile. I believe you can tell a lot about a person by looking at their life partner; that’s where you can get a real clue to the – in these cases – the real man. If we’d used that principle with Reagan, we’d have found a wife whose priority was new china rather than human rights abuses in China. On the other hand, the voters rejected a good, determinedly, deliberately, exhaustingly good man.  Had they examined his wife, they’d have seen a woman determinedly, deliberately, exhaustingly devoted to public service. I admire but do not like the Carters. There, I’ve said it. And I couldn’t vote But I voted for him. The totals? Reagan: 43,903,230; Jimmy: 35,480,115 ; and John Anderson: 5,719,850. That was the last time I wasted my voting rights on a quixotic gesture.

So I was silently guilty as we all danced and drank to Baby and his band (I’m not good at math so didn’t add the numbers, and just felt that people like me voting for Anderson had killed America).

Maybe somehow we did, but we – well, Graham and Mark – had perfectly chosen the  venue, activity, event and behavior to officially close out the previous two decades before we began the Ronald Reagan (still not a joke) era. We were getting whatever “it” was all out of our system, long before Prince Charles prevaricated about whatever “it” is. Tomorrow would dawn on what was to become Morning in America, filled with golden light, golden retrievers chasing golden-haired kids and, most importantly, gold lining the pockets of the rich. I was just 25.

We spent that night before the dawn in a dark, cramped club; imbibing lots of cheap alcohol; sharing passed reefers and poppers; gyrating to early punk music and laughing at and with a flashing guitarist. Still, we were who we were: four shell-shocked idealistic journos who had really believed that Ronald Reagan would never be president. President of the Screen Actors Guild, sure. But President of the United States of America… especially with that wife? Nevah.

The Real Deal? 2010 & All Politics is Local…

I kinda felt the same way about Deal. As a native of rural Georgia, I was 100% sure 95% of the people who were part of my parents’ circle (i.e. upper- and middle-class whites) would go with Deal. But my real hope rested with the rest of rural Georgia, especially in Southwest Georgia (in 2004, the one blue county amidst the Perdue/Bush red victory map was mine: little was Calhoun County).

And I was counting on the persuasive qualities of the few and the brave left-wing white folks, and the African-American community, the people with whom I connected as a kid and then later again in high school after integration. Like me, most had left Calhoun County. (Why stay, really?)  But I was certain that we were all part of the No Deal movement and that Roy – bless his arrogant, flawed, still brilliant mind, but now fawning heart – would win the day. And, bless my little home county’s heart, we’re blue again, and this time we’re surrounded by a lovely Carolina blue pond in Southwest Georgia: Randolph (home of my maternal grandparents and our family’s Centennial Farm), Early, Clay, Stewart, Lee, Mitchell, Dougherty, Terrell, Webster, Sumter, Quitman, and – most notably – Baker, notorious for its lynchings back in the day.

But where are all of the other true blue South Georgia Democrats?? What happened?

Deal is an amoral sociopath (repetitive? not really). I can’t go into all of the truly fatal flaws of integrity, judgement….

Gad, I’ve given you the AJC article from March; just Google him, or just read Tom Baxter’s Southern Political Report or Jim Galloway’s Political Insider columns in the AJC. These two connected and authoritative veteran political reporters are my go-to guys for the scoop on local politics.

So if you don’t know the real Deal, do some research. Then you’ll understand my stupefaction.

And you’ll know that you can write off Georgia for any sort of progress for the next four years.

Georgia, the GAGOP, Tomorrow and Me…

I’ll leave you with my favorite reporting of the night, from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a quote from GOP Chairwoman Sue Everhart (pictured below):

“This is not an election,” said GOP chairwoman Sue Everhart. “This is a restraining order against Barack Obama.” (Just a note: Actually Sue is Georgia‘s GOP Chair.)

Georgia GOP Chair Sue Everhart

 Sorry Sue, but I don’t think our President needs to worry. Sure, you’ve had some major Republican/conservative/Tea party wins, but they’re hardly a “restraining order” against our President. Sue and Nathan and Johnny and Newt (Oops! sorry, I got confused… Newt was a disgraced Georgia Congressman, too).

Nationally, how are all of you conservatives going to work together? Seems to me the new people don’t trust anyone.

In any case, Georgia GOP Powers-That-Be, it would serve you well to recall that – despite so-called disastrous mid-terms and that sexual scandal that you can bet you will not be seeing with the current President of our country – President Bill Clinton managed to hang onto the White House by a nice – but not “soundly defeat” his opponents his second time around:  49.2%  to Bob Dole’s 40.7%  and Ross Perot’s  8.4%. Still he was there.

So, Sue, don’t count your chickens too quickly, especially with the people you have in place (with the possible exception of Sen. Isakson). Remember, President Barack Obama is still in the White House, and will remain there for six more years… two, of course, in this term, and four in his next.

As for Georgia, let us Democrats see what we can do about replacing the crowd at the state level.  Then, Georgia Tea Partiers, Republicans and other conservatives, you’ll need to watch your back locally.

Cheers!

 ** See county-by-county map of returns in governor’s race.

Posted by: Richard Armitage US | September 17, 2010

Scenes from a Rally: “Save the Phantom” Fans Protest at the Fox

Everyone on the Save Joe, Phantom of the Fox team was delighted with the turn-out for this week’s protest rally. Check out these great pix from the Happening…  
 

One of Joe's younger - but very vocal - supporters.

Another wee protester and her dad! Check out the Phantom in the background, too. Great signs!

… nor does he need a new lease on life. And this we believe!

 

A wedding party – exiting the Georgian Terrace – was eager to be part of the protest! First, Support the Phantom of the Fox. THEN the reception, honeymoon, and our lives together.

  

Photo by Lisa Dobb Hobart, Clear Lens Photography; Team Joe continues, although we think Smilin’ Jack was a doppelgänger.

 

Go, Team Joe! We hope The Fox Theatre and Atlanta Landmarks’ board heard the cacophony of car horns out front! It was music to the ears of Save the Phantomists: drivers proclaimed their support of Joe, and their blaring horns expressed antipathy and anger aimed at the people who are maneuvering to put Joe out of his home.
It does Joe’s heart good to know that so many people care about him. The Save the Phantomists are beginning to wonder if The Fox and Atlanta Landmarks care about how their audiences feel about *them*, as long as the theatre keeps making money.
Joe has supporters across the country. Here’s Casey, a virtual protester in San Francisco.
There's nothing like a colorful protest on your behalf to brighten your day.
What a beautiful shot by Steve Cripps of the man himself watching the show on a lovely September afternoon.

    

   

* Note on Photo Credits: I found some of these photos on the Save Joe, Phantom of the Fox Facebook page and others were sent by friends. If you are one of the uncredited photogs and would like a credit,  just shoot a comment to me and I’ll be happy to add it.)     

Posted by: Richard Armitage US | September 13, 2010

Join Us for Our Rally Today for Joe: 5-9 PM at the Fox

Save the Phantom of the Fox!

 

Join us today (9/13/10) from 5 PM – 9 PM (or anytime in between) at the Fox Theatre. It’s a PROTEST RALLY FOR JOE! Over 7600 people have joined our Facebook page, and we know there are more Joe supporters out there.    

Come for the whole rally or stop by for an hour or so. We need a tremendous support for Joe from the community! If you need more details, or want to leave a comment or RSVP, go to the Rally page on Facebook.    

Joe needs YOU!    

SEE YA THERE!

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