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Omnivore - Tales of the Cocktail (2)

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  • Scott Henry
  • Fourteen glasses of rum on the mat, 14 glasses of rum...

Did you know that the earliest Russian vodkas were flavored with fruit? Or that rum was overtaken in popularity in the U.S. by whiskey only after politically motivated embargoes made it difficult to import? Or that the curacao citrus, from which the popular, orange-flavored liqueur is made, is actually green, wrinkled as hell and otherwise inedible?

OK, I think I've heard something about that last one, but the fact is that Tales of the Cocktail is a great place to learn new, if arguably trivial, facts about your favorite drinks, as well as get a glimpse of the latest trends in mixology and taste the newest products, often months before you see them on the shelf of your local package store.

For instance, the recent explosion of Italian amaros (amari?) — the bitter liqueur made by Averno, Cynar, Fernet and, one of my favorites, Montenegro — was so well represented at Tales that a seminar on the subject had filled before I could sign up. Also, the Italian and French love of aperitifs, such as Lillet, Campari and Aperol, a relative newcomer here, was also duly noted. Pisco, the mild Peruvian brandy, continues to make inroads in the national cocktail scene, while I didn't see as much attention paid to "white dog," the un-aged bourbon or "silver whiskey" as it is sometimes called, as I had two years ago. Both of those are good trends as far as I'm concerned.

Another trend I noticed is a perennial, namely, that rum is the Roger Dangerfield of spirits (for you millennials out there, that means it don't get no respect). I've been hearing predictions for years no at Tales that premium rum will soon enjoy the popular renaissance that high-end vodkas and tequilas have enjoyed, but so far it hasn't happened. This year, probably the best seminar I attended was a guided tasting by master spirit taster (how's that for a job?) Paul Pacult. The nearly 200 people who filled a ballroom at the Monteleone Hotel were each greeted by a placemat set with 14 1-oz pours of various rums made in the Caribbean, Central and South America of both sugar cane and molasses.



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?Atlanta’s king of upscale old school is undoubtedly Petite Auberge (2935 N. Druid Hills Road, 404-634-6268, New name and address), the Toco Hills time capsule that has clung to tradition with white knuckles. Unlike swanky brethren like Nikolai’s Roof that have made efforts to update an outdated atmosphere, this restaurant soldiers on, oblivious to trends and modern advances in the preparation of side vegetables.?

?
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 There’s an indefinable, but nonetheless distinct, point at which an upscale restaurant, if it sticks around long enough, crosses the threshold from fancy to schmancy. When the gracious formality of yesteryear can assume an air of pretentiousness. When a menu once considered traditional has segued into simply being old-fashioned. When the first thing you wonder when you walk in the door isn’t, “What’s the special tonight?” but, “In what decade was this place last redecorated?” Once a restaurant has reached this point, it would take a restraining order to keep me away.  (''Pictured above: the dining room at McKinnon's Louisiane'')

Everyone loves checking out the latest thing and the bragging rights that come from being the first to visit a hot new eatery. Certainly that’s exciting, but, for me, the thrill of the trendy can’t compare to the lure of the old-school and the promise of faded grandeur. And, to be clear, I’m not talking about retro joints winkingly designed to evoke a bygone era — although that can be enjoyable, too — but rather, genuinely old places whose once-ritzy décor, menu, and atmosphere are wildly, unironically out of step with current times. It’s like the difference between visiting the France Pavilion at Epcot and actually being in Paris. (''Pictured below: a detail from the Shepherd Room at Petite Auberge'')

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 When I first arrived to Atlanta in the late ’80s, a number of these classy holdovers were still scattered across town: super-posh joints such as Hedgerose Heights and Pano's & Paul’s in Buckhead; seafood havens like Jim White’s Half Shell at Peachtree Battle; and fusty Continental eateries like South of France next to the Tara theater and Maximillian’s in Smyrna, which specialized in wild game. Anthony’s, which resembled an old plantation house right on Piedmont Road, was so well established as a highfalutin dining establishment that it was tapped to secretly replace its regular coffee with [www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3RhbqbfhFQ|“mountain grown Folger’s crystals” for a TV commercial].?

Sadly, only a handful of these swanky throwbacks remain in Atlanta, a city notorious for bulldozing its history in the name of progress. None of these survivors date back much earlier than the ’70s. And, no surprise, most are on the Street That Time Forgot, Cheshire Bridge Road.

 Unquestionably, there are better meals to be had in Atlanta than at its battery of old-school restaurants, with more innovative food. But a more enjoyable experience than wallowing in culinary nostalgia, antiquated surroundings? I’ll have to order another Old Fashioned and think that over.


__ ALFREDO’S__?{DIV(align="left")}
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Beyond the entrance’s fading burgundy awning, dozens of framed clippings and reviews offer evidence that this place has been around for a while (it celebrated its 40th birthday this year). The heavy scent of garlic bread suggests you’re not in Sotto Sotto anymore, and the lengthy menu reads like a list of Italian-American standards, from chicken cacciatore to a full 10 veal dishes.?

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Alfredo's (1989 Cheshire Bridge Road, 404-876-1380, [http://alfredosatlanta.com/|alfredosatlanta.com]) cramped, busy dining room, the low drop ceiling, the vintage paneling, the small aquarium behind the bar all suggest a shabbiness that stands in contrast to the white tablecloths and elderly waiters hurrying about in matching burgundy vests. 

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The bar at Alfredo's.

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But it’s Alfredo’s “art” on the walls that really ties the room together. Each unmatched print, bas-relief, and filigreed mirror was clearly hung at different times over a number of years for reasons probably long forgotten.


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In the last century, it was common for upscale restaurants to have not just a specific cuisine and décor, but an actual theme. The late, much-lamented Dante’s Down the Hatch was a ship where you could cross an actual gangplank and eat dinner on the main deck — to the stylings of a live jazz combo, of course. At the Abbey, which occupied a former Methodist church on Ponce de Leon, the waiters wore monks’ robes while a harpist played in the choir loft.???The 57th Fighter Group (3829 Clairmont Road, 770-234-0057, [https://www.the57threstaurant.com/]), next to DeKalb Peachtree Airport, is especially high-concept, resembling a white stucco French farmhouse that’s been commandeered as the temporary headquarters of an American flying squadron during WWII. Got that? (Just for the record, the website describes it as “Atlanta’s favorite World War II aviation theme restaurant,” which is inarguably true.) 

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Did customers snicker as they walked through the sandbag-lined entryway when the restaurant originally opened its doors 30-some years ago? I couldn’t tell you, but my reaction when I first visited was to wonder why people don’t build cool, gimmicky shit like this anymore.

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An original Nazi flag is among the World World War II memorabilia at the restaurant. 

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The dining room at 57th Fighter Group looks onto the runway at DeKalb Peachtree Airport.


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Of course, the granddaddy of concept restaurants is the 80-year-old Tiki chain, Trader Vic's. (255 Courtland St., 404-221-6339, [https://tradervicsatl.com/]). It bears repeating — if not the offering of a Pu Pu platter to thank the Tiki gods — that Atlanta is somehow lucky enough to have one of only three full-service Trader Vic’s left in the U.S., and the only franchise not on the West Coast.

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 It’s no secret that Trader Vic’s is savvy to its rep and has chosen to embrace the kitsch with live bands and special promotions in order to appeal to hipsters and Tiki nerds like this writer. 

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But, self-awareness aside, the bamboo-and-blowfish décor of the expansive basement space remains largely unchanged from the chain’s 1950s heyday (though the Atlanta location didn’t open until the mid-’70s). ?

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?The menu still offers the signature Crab Rangoon and “Polynesian” spare ribs cooked in giant Chinese wood-fired ovens. The Trader’s trademark Mai Tai, Samoan Fog Cutter, Scorpion Bowl, and other rummy concoctions remain thankfully unmolested.

?

?__PETITE AUBERGE__?

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?Atlanta’s king of upscale old school is undoubtedly Petite Auberge (2935 N. Druid Hills Road, 404-634-6268, [http://www.petitevioletterestaurant.com/|New name and address]), the Toco Hills time capsule that has clung to tradition with white knuckles. Unlike swanky brethren like Nikolai’s Roof that have made efforts to update an outdated atmosphere, this restaurant soldiers on, oblivious to trends and modern advances in the preparation of side vegetables.?

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?From the fussy interior decoration that includes crystal chandeliers and gilt mirrors, to a Continental menu that rescues from near-extinction such hoary delights as Beef Wellington and Chicken Cordon Bleu, Petite Auberge serves up a blue-hair’s vision of fine dining without a dollop of irony. 

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?It even offers that most ostentatious of fancy-pants entrées, Chateaubriand (née beef tenderloin), cut, grilled, and sauced tableside by a black-vested waiter.
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Article

Thursday October 9, 2014 01:00 am EDT
A tour of some of the city's swanky throwback restaurants | more...
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  string(68) "Even pro-NRA Peach State could be dragged into a more sensible place"
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  string(5691) "Seeing longtime National Rifle Association leader Wayne LaPierre stammering through an increasingly hostile interview with Fox News' Chris Wallace this past Sunday provided momentary gratification, to be sure. But it also offered yet more encouragement that the forces of sanity seem to be gaining momentum in the current national debate over gun control.

For as long as I can remember, the NRA has been a politically unassailable monolith able to cow all but the most liberal Congressfolk into submission. Like a Teflon-coated bullet, the nation's most effective special-interest group has successfully plowed through all obstacles, ever pushing to eliminate even the most reasonable gun-control regulations.

In recent years in Georgia, the NRA and its allies had managed to force through bills allowing guns to be carried into restaurants, city parks, and even public transportation. Georgia joined Florida and other states in passing "stand-your-ground" laws, creating an instant murder defense for anyone claiming to have killed because he felt threatened. The gun lobby even won a partial victory over business interests in 2008, when state lawmakers voted to prohibit private companies from making employee parking lots off-limits to guns, so long as they were kept locked in workers' cars.

Just last year, state legislators eager to maintain their NRA approval ratings passed a bill mandating that police departments must auction off confiscated firearms — even though law-enforcement officials opposed a move that could put thousands of guns back on the streets.

But now it feels as if the pendulum has begun to swing back the other way. From the repulsive and absurd NRA commercial accusing President Obama of being an "elitist hypocrite" because his daughters have Secret Service protection to LaPierre's conspiracy-theory rantings about a secret national gun-owner registry, it's clear the gun lobby is on the defensive.

In the wake of December's Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, the NRA quickly tried to distract attention away from gun control with the ludicrous argument that the shootings in Connecticut might have been prevented or cut short if only teachers and school administrators were allowed — nay, encouraged — to pack heat.

Well, ludicrous to me, anyway. Here in Georgia, some lawmakers took those talking points seriously and introduced House Bill 35. The legislation would give local school boards the authority to decide whether to arm and train designated school administrators to serve as classroom Rambos. (The legislation is mum on whether the chosen administrators have the right to decline this honor.)

It's still too early to predict whether the bill will pass this session, but my guess is some school districts that can't afford to hire security guards, like those employed in many urban schools, might welcome the chance to arm teachers. Even if no carnage resulted from such a move, I don't believe for an instant that it would save lives or do much more than offer parents a false sense of security.

The NRA's other post-Newtown smokescreen argues that America doesn't need gun restrictions; it needs better services to keep the mentally ill from shooting up schools, movie theaters, shopping malls, etc. Some Georgia lawmakers trotted out the same line before the legislative session began.

The irony, of course, is that any such services would likely be delivered by Medicaid, which has been slashed to the bone by cash-strapped state legislatures across the country, including Georgia's. Even if the state weren't in a revenue slump, it's hard to picture Republican lawmakers funneling more money into a program they so nakedly disdain. Gov. Nathan Deal unwisely opted out of expanding the program here in Georgia as part of Obama's new health-care overhaul. And we haven't heard a peep from lawmakers about revisiting the mental-health issue thus far.

Still, Georgia could help matters simply with a more complete reporting of mentally unstable people to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. According to Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the advocacy group founded by New York's Michael Bloomberg, Georgia is near the lower end of states providing necessary mental-health data to the NICS.

Although we're lagging behind the curve, as usual, it's still possible to feel upbeat. Ask Alice Johnson, the longtime executive director of Georgians for Gun Safety, who agrees that the NRA at last is showing some chinks in its armor.

"I'm really hopeful, for the first time in my 23 years as an activist, that we'll see some changes," she says. "The national conversation has placed the issue of gun responsibility alongside that of gun rights. I think we've reached a tipping point brought on by outrage over the loss of life from firearms."

And while Georgia lawmakers are unlikely to pass any new restrictions, an Obama-backed law mandating universal background checks — such a no-brainer that LaPierre himself publicly supported them in the wake of the 1999 Columbine shootings — would have immediate impact on a state whose many gun shows were cited by Bloomberg's group in 2008 as among the top destinations for interstate weapons smugglers and straw buyers.

The president's other main initiatives — limiting magazine size and banning military-style assault weapons — stand less chance of passage this year. But the NRA spent years promoting its sick brand of "from my cold, dead hands" survivalist paranoia, so we shouldn't expect to see its handiwork undone overnight.

But we do seem to be seeing the beginning of a national discussion about sensible gun control. And that's a great place to start. "
  ["tracker_field_contentWikiPage_raw"]=>
  string(6421) "Seeing longtime National Rifle Association leader Wayne LaPierre [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/03/chris-wallace-wayne-lapierre-nra-ridiculous_n_2612034.html|stammering through an increasingly hostile interview] with Fox News' Chris Wallace this past Sunday provided momentary gratification, to be sure. But it also offered yet more encouragement that the forces of sanity seem to be gaining momentum in the current national debate over gun control.

For as long as I can remember, the NRA has been a politically unassailable monolith able to cow all but the most liberal Congressfolk into submission. Like a Teflon-coated bullet, the nation's most effective special-interest group has successfully plowed through all obstacles, ever pushing to eliminate even the most reasonable gun-control regulations.

In recent years in Georgia, the NRA and its allies had managed to force through bills allowing guns to be carried into restaurants, city parks, and even public transportation. Georgia joined Florida and other states in passing "stand-your-ground" laws, creating an instant murder defense for anyone claiming to have killed because he felt threatened. The gun lobby even won a partial victory over business interests in 2008, when state lawmakers voted to prohibit private companies from making employee parking lots off-limits to guns, so long as they were kept locked in workers' cars.

Just last year, state legislators eager to maintain their NRA approval ratings passed a bill mandating that police departments must auction off confiscated firearms — even though law-enforcement officials opposed a move that could put thousands of guns back on the streets.

But now it feels as if the pendulum has begun to swing back the other way. From the [http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/01/nra-jabs-obama-kids-secret-service-protection.html|repulsive and absurd NRA commercial] accusing President Obama of being an "elitist hypocrite" because his daughters have Secret Service protection to LaPierre's conspiracy-theory rantings about a secret national gun-owner registry, it's clear the gun lobby is on the defensive.

In the wake of December's Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, the NRA quickly tried to distract attention away from gun control with the ludicrous argument that the shootings in Connecticut might have been prevented or cut short if only teachers and school administrators were allowed — nay, encouraged — to pack heat.

Well, ludicrous to me, anyway. Here in Georgia, some lawmakers took those talking points seriously and introduced House Bill 35. The legislation would [http://neighbornewspapers.com/pages/full_story/push?article-Legislators to decide bill arming administrators &id=21417344&instance=bartow|give local school boards the authority] to decide whether to arm and train designated school administrators to serve as classroom Rambos. (The legislation is mum on whether the chosen administrators have the right to decline this honor.)

It's still too early to predict whether the bill will pass this session, but my guess is some school districts that can't afford to hire security guards, like those employed in many urban schools, might welcome the chance to arm teachers. Even if no carnage resulted from such a move, I don't believe for an instant that it would save lives or do much more than offer parents a false sense of security.

The NRA's other post-Newtown smokescreen argues that America doesn't need gun restrictions; it needs better services to keep the mentally ill from shooting up schools, movie theaters, shopping malls, etc. Some Georgia lawmakers trotted out the same line before the legislative session began.

The irony, of course, is that [http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-12-19/to-prevent-massacres-like-newtowns-expand-medicaid|any such services would likely be delivered by Medicaid], which has been slashed to the bone by cash-strapped state legislatures across the country, including Georgia's. Even if the state weren't in a revenue slump, it's hard to picture Republican lawmakers funneling more money into a program they so nakedly disdain. Gov. Nathan Deal [http://www.ajc.com/news/news/state-regional-govt-politics/deal-rejects-expansion-of-medicaid/nRMfK/|unwisely opted out of expanding the program] here in Georgia as part of Obama's new health-care overhaul. And we haven't heard a peep from lawmakers about revisiting the mental-health issue thus far.

Still, Georgia could help matters simply with a more complete reporting of mentally unstable people to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. According to [http://www.mayorsagainstillegalguns.org/html/home/demandaplan.html|Mayors Against Illegal Guns], the advocacy group founded by New York's Michael Bloomberg, Georgia is [http://www.demandaplan.org/fatalgaps|near the lower end of states] providing necessary mental-health data to the NICS.

Although we're lagging behind the curve, as usual, it's still possible to feel upbeat. Ask Alice Johnson, the longtime executive director of Georgians for Gun Safety, who agrees that the NRA at last is showing some chinks in its armor.

"I'm really hopeful, for the first time in my 23 years as an activist, that we'll see some changes," she says. "The national conversation has placed the issue of gun responsibility alongside that of gun rights. I think we've reached a tipping point brought on by outrage over the loss of life from firearms."

And while Georgia lawmakers are unlikely to pass any new restrictions, an Obama-backed law mandating universal background checks — such a no-brainer that LaPierre himself publicly supported them in the wake of the 1999 Columbine shootings — would have immediate impact on a state whose many gun shows were [http://www.mayorsagainstillegalguns.org/downloads/pdf/trace_report_final.pdf|cited by Bloomberg's group in 2008] as among the top destinations for interstate weapons smugglers and straw buyers.

The president's other main initiatives — limiting magazine size and banning military-style assault weapons — stand less chance of passage this year. But the NRA spent years promoting its sick brand of "from my cold, dead hands" survivalist paranoia, so we shouldn't expect to see its handiwork undone overnight.

But we do seem to be seeing the beginning of a national discussion about sensible gun control. And that's a great place to start. "
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  string(5970) "    Even pro-NRA Peach State could be dragged into a more sensible place   2013-02-06T17:20:00+00:00 Opinion - Georgia clings to its guns   Scott Henry 1223597 2013-02-06T17:20:00+00:00  Seeing longtime National Rifle Association leader Wayne LaPierre stammering through an increasingly hostile interview with Fox News' Chris Wallace this past Sunday provided momentary gratification, to be sure. But it also offered yet more encouragement that the forces of sanity seem to be gaining momentum in the current national debate over gun control.

For as long as I can remember, the NRA has been a politically unassailable monolith able to cow all but the most liberal Congressfolk into submission. Like a Teflon-coated bullet, the nation's most effective special-interest group has successfully plowed through all obstacles, ever pushing to eliminate even the most reasonable gun-control regulations.

In recent years in Georgia, the NRA and its allies had managed to force through bills allowing guns to be carried into restaurants, city parks, and even public transportation. Georgia joined Florida and other states in passing "stand-your-ground" laws, creating an instant murder defense for anyone claiming to have killed because he felt threatened. The gun lobby even won a partial victory over business interests in 2008, when state lawmakers voted to prohibit private companies from making employee parking lots off-limits to guns, so long as they were kept locked in workers' cars.

Just last year, state legislators eager to maintain their NRA approval ratings passed a bill mandating that police departments must auction off confiscated firearms — even though law-enforcement officials opposed a move that could put thousands of guns back on the streets.

But now it feels as if the pendulum has begun to swing back the other way. From the repulsive and absurd NRA commercial accusing President Obama of being an "elitist hypocrite" because his daughters have Secret Service protection to LaPierre's conspiracy-theory rantings about a secret national gun-owner registry, it's clear the gun lobby is on the defensive.

In the wake of December's Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, the NRA quickly tried to distract attention away from gun control with the ludicrous argument that the shootings in Connecticut might have been prevented or cut short if only teachers and school administrators were allowed — nay, encouraged — to pack heat.

Well, ludicrous to me, anyway. Here in Georgia, some lawmakers took those talking points seriously and introduced House Bill 35. The legislation would give local school boards the authority to decide whether to arm and train designated school administrators to serve as classroom Rambos. (The legislation is mum on whether the chosen administrators have the right to decline this honor.)

It's still too early to predict whether the bill will pass this session, but my guess is some school districts that can't afford to hire security guards, like those employed in many urban schools, might welcome the chance to arm teachers. Even if no carnage resulted from such a move, I don't believe for an instant that it would save lives or do much more than offer parents a false sense of security.

The NRA's other post-Newtown smokescreen argues that America doesn't need gun restrictions; it needs better services to keep the mentally ill from shooting up schools, movie theaters, shopping malls, etc. Some Georgia lawmakers trotted out the same line before the legislative session began.

The irony, of course, is that any such services would likely be delivered by Medicaid, which has been slashed to the bone by cash-strapped state legislatures across the country, including Georgia's. Even if the state weren't in a revenue slump, it's hard to picture Republican lawmakers funneling more money into a program they so nakedly disdain. Gov. Nathan Deal unwisely opted out of expanding the program here in Georgia as part of Obama's new health-care overhaul. And we haven't heard a peep from lawmakers about revisiting the mental-health issue thus far.

Still, Georgia could help matters simply with a more complete reporting of mentally unstable people to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. According to Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the advocacy group founded by New York's Michael Bloomberg, Georgia is near the lower end of states providing necessary mental-health data to the NICS.

Although we're lagging behind the curve, as usual, it's still possible to feel upbeat. Ask Alice Johnson, the longtime executive director of Georgians for Gun Safety, who agrees that the NRA at last is showing some chinks in its armor.

"I'm really hopeful, for the first time in my 23 years as an activist, that we'll see some changes," she says. "The national conversation has placed the issue of gun responsibility alongside that of gun rights. I think we've reached a tipping point brought on by outrage over the loss of life from firearms."

And while Georgia lawmakers are unlikely to pass any new restrictions, an Obama-backed law mandating universal background checks — such a no-brainer that LaPierre himself publicly supported them in the wake of the 1999 Columbine shootings — would have immediate impact on a state whose many gun shows were cited by Bloomberg's group in 2008 as among the top destinations for interstate weapons smugglers and straw buyers.

The president's other main initiatives — limiting magazine size and banning military-style assault weapons — stand less chance of passage this year. But the NRA spent years promoting its sick brand of "from my cold, dead hands" survivalist paranoia, so we shouldn't expect to see its handiwork undone overnight.

But we do seem to be seeing the beginning of a national discussion about sensible gun control. And that's a great place to start.              13072350 7488224                          Opinion - Georgia clings to its guns "
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Article

Wednesday February 6, 2013 12:20 pm EST
Even pro-NRA Peach State could be dragged into a more sensible place | more...
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  ["title"]=>
  string(33) "Opinion - Reforming Fulton County"
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  string(33) "Opinion - Reforming Fulton County"
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  string(11) "Scott Henry"
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  string(80) "Lawmakers have a rare chance to reshape the county government; will they go big?"
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  string(80) "Lawmakers have a rare chance to reshape the county government; will they go big?"
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  string(6186) "There are plenty of ideas floating around the Gold Dome about how the operations of Georgia's largest county could be improved.

State Rep. Ed Lindsey of Buckhead wants to "reduce the footprint of Fulton County government." His fellow Republican, Rep. Wendell Willard of Sandy Springs, hopes to instill a "more realistic way of governing." Another GOP House member, former Fulton Commissioner Lynne Riley of Johns Creek, is even more ambitious. "I have three goals: to reduce taxes, promote better service delivery, and achieve better representation," she says.

And to think many of us would be half-satisfied if Fulton's elected leadership stopped calling each other names and building white-elephant amphitheaters in the middle of nowhere.

Much as it often seems distasteful to see state lawmakers meddling in the affairs of local jurisdictions, the freewheeling catalogue of dysfunctions that is the Fulton County government isn't likely to be cured from the inside.

Thanks to demographic shifts — with an assist from gerrymandering — the would-be reformers at the Gold Dome finally have enough votes within the Fulton delegation to alter the county's governance structure. They haven't yet decided exactly what course to take, but they already have a few suggestions left over from a 2007 House study committee helmed by Lindsey, the lower chamber's majority whip.

But the first step is likely to be dictated by the state Reapportionment Office, which is responsible for determining who lives where. Because growth in Fulton's top end has outstripped population gains in the southern part of the county over the past decade, it's likely that the commission districts will need to be shifted north, a move that should give North Fulton more political clout within the commission.

Fulton's population growth has also derailed lawmakers' hopes of shrinking the size of the seven-member commission, but they seem to agree that the at-large seat currently held by Robb Pitts should no longer be elected countywide because, well, that just never made any damn sense.

Twenty years ago, Fulton had three at-large seats, including the chairman's post, but one of those was changed into a regular district seat with the last redistricting a decade ago. The notion of turning Pitts' seat into a locally elected district seat has been assailed by some as an effort to dilute minority voting strength. But with African-Americans now making up less than 45 percent of Fulton's population, that argument seems a tough sell. It also seems somewhat moot, considering that while Pitts is a black Democrat, he hails from Buckhead, is chummy with Republican businessmen, and votes like a human weather vane. Pitts, by the way, is widely expected to run for commission chairman next year. He could not be reached for comment.

In addition to redrawing district lines, lawmakers are set on beefing up the power of the commission chairman to bring the position more in line with counties like Cobb and Gwinnett. Under Fulton's current weak-chairman system, the chair effectively serves as a glorified parliamentarian and all-around punching bag. Watch any commission meeting and you're likely to witness at least one you're-not-the-boss-of-me bitch-slap delivered to the well-meaning but hapless Chairman John Eaves by his colleagues.

"Down there, you've got no one in charge," laments Willard, who is considering giving the chairman the authority to set the commission agenda. Currently, an individual commissioner can add any item he or she wants to the agenda, which is why you often read about inflammatory resolutions that often serve only to earn the board more highly placed enemies.

An alternate approach being discussed would require at least two votes to place an item on the agenda, a move that would do little to curb the excesses of South Fulton Commissioners Emma Darnell and Bill Edwards, the board's two most enthusiastic bomb-throwers.

Willard would also like to give the county manager more job security, perhaps by mandating that he or she cannot by fired by a four-vote majority without cause. Insiders say this measure likely stems from an alleged attempt last year by several commissioners to pink-slip then-County Manager Zachary Williams that failed when one commissioner customarily flip-flopped.

Williams subsequently jumped ship to DeKalb County last month, leaving Fulton without a permanent day-to-day manager at a time when it is facing a $70 million budget shortfall; has seven department-head vacancies; and is embroiled in a state investigation of its ever-bungling elections division.

In his place, commissioners temporarily named County Attorney David Ware, who is currently the focus of a sexual harassment suit filed in November by three of his former female employees. Ware is fighting the claims.

Lindsey wants to restrict the scope of services the county provides, in recognition of the fact that all but a corner of South Fulton has been incorporated into new cities. Currently, the county performs a number of municipal functions — including operating libraries and senior centers and doling out arts grants — that are not among the duties mandated by state law.

While Lindsey concedes that the state does not traditionally step in to tell counties how to spend their money, "Fulton is a unique situation." Unique or not, Lindsey can expect plenty of push-back from mayors who don't want to hike city taxes to pay for services now provided by the county. Or from lawmakers who might view such a move as a breach of local control.

Although Riley is largely mum on details of how she hopes to increase efficiencies in county government, she says, "The new cities have been able to do more with less and I look forward to seeing the county do the same."

As the newly named chairperson of the Fulton House Delegation and a former commissioner, it's likely that Riley will carry whatever legislation eventually emerges from the ongoing discussions.

Left aside for the moment is any talk of decapitating Fulton to create, or, rather, re-create Milton County, a move many lawmakers in the county's north end still crave. All things in good time. "
  ["tracker_field_contentWikiPage_raw"]=>
  string(6233) "There are plenty of ideas floating around the Gold Dome about how the operations of Georgia's largest county could be improved.

State Rep. Ed Lindsey of Buckhead wants to "reduce the footprint of Fulton County government." His fellow Republican, Rep. Wendell Willard of Sandy Springs, hopes to instill a "more realistic way of governing." Another GOP House member, former Fulton Commissioner Lynne Riley of Johns Creek, is even more ambitious. "I have three goals: to reduce taxes, promote better service delivery, and achieve better representation," she says.

And to think many of us would be half-satisfied if Fulton's elected leadership stopped calling each other names and building white-elephant amphitheaters in the middle of nowhere.

Much as it often seems distasteful to see state lawmakers meddling in the affairs of local jurisdictions, the freewheeling catalogue of dysfunctions that is the Fulton County government [http://clatl.com/atlanta/Content?oid=1701551|isn't likely to be cured from the inside].

Thanks to demographic shifts — with an assist from gerrymandering — the would-be reformers at the Gold Dome finally have enough votes within the Fulton delegation to alter the county's governance structure. They haven't yet decided exactly what course to take, but they already have a few suggestions left over from a 2007 House study committee helmed by Lindsey, the lower chamber's majority whip.

But the first step is likely to be dictated by the state Reapportionment Office, which is responsible for determining who lives where. Because growth in Fulton's top end has outstripped population gains in the southern part of the county over the past decade, it's likely that the commission districts will need to be shifted north, a move that should give North Fulton more political clout within the commission.

Fulton's population growth has also derailed lawmakers' hopes of shrinking the size of the seven-member commission, but they seem to agree that the at-large seat currently held by Robb Pitts should no longer be elected countywide because, well, that just never made any damn sense.

Twenty years ago, Fulton had three at-large seats, including the chairman's post, but one of those was changed into a regular district seat with the last redistricting a decade ago. The notion of turning Pitts' seat into a locally elected district seat has been assailed by some as an effort to dilute minority voting strength. But with African-Americans now making up less than 45 percent of Fulton's population, that argument seems a tough sell. It also seems somewhat moot, considering that while Pitts is a black Democrat, he hails from Buckhead, is chummy with Republican businessmen, and votes like a human weather vane. Pitts, by the way, is widely expected to run for commission chairman next year. He could not be reached for comment.

In addition to redrawing district lines, lawmakers are set on beefing up the power of the commission chairman to bring the position more in line with counties like Cobb and Gwinnett. Under Fulton's current weak-chairman system, the chair effectively serves as a glorified parliamentarian and all-around punching bag. Watch any commission meeting and you're likely to witness at least one you're-not-the-boss-of-me bitch-slap delivered to the well-meaning but hapless Chairman John Eaves by his colleagues.

"Down there, you've got no one in charge," laments Willard, who is considering giving the chairman the authority to set the commission agenda. Currently, an individual commissioner can add any item he or she wants to the agenda, which is why you often read about inflammatory resolutions that often serve only to earn the board more highly placed enemies.

An alternate approach being discussed would require at least two votes to place an item on the agenda, a move that would do little to curb the excesses of South Fulton Commissioners Emma Darnell and Bill Edwards, the board's two most enthusiastic bomb-throwers.

Willard would also like to give the county manager more job security, perhaps by mandating that he or she cannot by fired by a four-vote majority without cause. Insiders say this measure likely stems from an alleged attempt last year by several commissioners to pink-slip then-County Manager Zachary Williams that failed when one commissioner customarily flip-flopped.

Williams subsequently jumped ship to DeKalb County last month, leaving Fulton without a permanent day-to-day manager at a time when it is facing a $70 million budget shortfall; has seven department-head vacancies; and is embroiled in a state investigation of its ever-bungling elections division.

In his place, commissioners temporarily named County Attorney David Ware, who is currently the focus of a sexual harassment suit filed in November by three of his former female employees. Ware is fighting the claims.

Lindsey wants to restrict the scope of services the county provides, in recognition of the fact that all but a corner of South Fulton has been incorporated into new cities. Currently, the county performs a number of municipal functions — including operating libraries and senior centers and doling out arts grants — that are not among the duties mandated by state law.

While Lindsey concedes that the state does not traditionally step in to tell counties how to spend their money, "Fulton is a unique situation." Unique or not, Lindsey can expect plenty of push-back from mayors who don't want to hike city taxes to pay for services now provided by the county. Or from lawmakers who might view such a move as a breach of local control.

Although Riley is largely mum on details of how she hopes to increase efficiencies in county government, she says, "The new cities have been able to do more with less and I look forward to seeing the county do the same."

As the newly named chairperson of the Fulton House Delegation and a former commissioner, it's likely that Riley will carry whatever legislation eventually emerges from the ongoing discussions.

Left aside for the moment is any talk of decapitating Fulton to create, or, rather, re-create Milton County, a move many lawmakers in the county's north end still crave. All things in good time. "
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  string(6471) "    Lawmakers have a rare chance to reshape the county government; will they go big?   2013-01-24T09:00:00+00:00 Opinion - Reforming Fulton County   Scott Henry 1223597 2013-01-24T09:00:00+00:00  There are plenty of ideas floating around the Gold Dome about how the operations of Georgia's largest county could be improved.

State Rep. Ed Lindsey of Buckhead wants to "reduce the footprint of Fulton County government." His fellow Republican, Rep. Wendell Willard of Sandy Springs, hopes to instill a "more realistic way of governing." Another GOP House member, former Fulton Commissioner Lynne Riley of Johns Creek, is even more ambitious. "I have three goals: to reduce taxes, promote better service delivery, and achieve better representation," she says.

And to think many of us would be half-satisfied if Fulton's elected leadership stopped calling each other names and building white-elephant amphitheaters in the middle of nowhere.

Much as it often seems distasteful to see state lawmakers meddling in the affairs of local jurisdictions, the freewheeling catalogue of dysfunctions that is the Fulton County government isn't likely to be cured from the inside.

Thanks to demographic shifts — with an assist from gerrymandering — the would-be reformers at the Gold Dome finally have enough votes within the Fulton delegation to alter the county's governance structure. They haven't yet decided exactly what course to take, but they already have a few suggestions left over from a 2007 House study committee helmed by Lindsey, the lower chamber's majority whip.

But the first step is likely to be dictated by the state Reapportionment Office, which is responsible for determining who lives where. Because growth in Fulton's top end has outstripped population gains in the southern part of the county over the past decade, it's likely that the commission districts will need to be shifted north, a move that should give North Fulton more political clout within the commission.

Fulton's population growth has also derailed lawmakers' hopes of shrinking the size of the seven-member commission, but they seem to agree that the at-large seat currently held by Robb Pitts should no longer be elected countywide because, well, that just never made any damn sense.

Twenty years ago, Fulton had three at-large seats, including the chairman's post, but one of those was changed into a regular district seat with the last redistricting a decade ago. The notion of turning Pitts' seat into a locally elected district seat has been assailed by some as an effort to dilute minority voting strength. But with African-Americans now making up less than 45 percent of Fulton's population, that argument seems a tough sell. It also seems somewhat moot, considering that while Pitts is a black Democrat, he hails from Buckhead, is chummy with Republican businessmen, and votes like a human weather vane. Pitts, by the way, is widely expected to run for commission chairman next year. He could not be reached for comment.

In addition to redrawing district lines, lawmakers are set on beefing up the power of the commission chairman to bring the position more in line with counties like Cobb and Gwinnett. Under Fulton's current weak-chairman system, the chair effectively serves as a glorified parliamentarian and all-around punching bag. Watch any commission meeting and you're likely to witness at least one you're-not-the-boss-of-me bitch-slap delivered to the well-meaning but hapless Chairman John Eaves by his colleagues.

"Down there, you've got no one in charge," laments Willard, who is considering giving the chairman the authority to set the commission agenda. Currently, an individual commissioner can add any item he or she wants to the agenda, which is why you often read about inflammatory resolutions that often serve only to earn the board more highly placed enemies.

An alternate approach being discussed would require at least two votes to place an item on the agenda, a move that would do little to curb the excesses of South Fulton Commissioners Emma Darnell and Bill Edwards, the board's two most enthusiastic bomb-throwers.

Willard would also like to give the county manager more job security, perhaps by mandating that he or she cannot by fired by a four-vote majority without cause. Insiders say this measure likely stems from an alleged attempt last year by several commissioners to pink-slip then-County Manager Zachary Williams that failed when one commissioner customarily flip-flopped.

Williams subsequently jumped ship to DeKalb County last month, leaving Fulton without a permanent day-to-day manager at a time when it is facing a $70 million budget shortfall; has seven department-head vacancies; and is embroiled in a state investigation of its ever-bungling elections division.

In his place, commissioners temporarily named County Attorney David Ware, who is currently the focus of a sexual harassment suit filed in November by three of his former female employees. Ware is fighting the claims.

Lindsey wants to restrict the scope of services the county provides, in recognition of the fact that all but a corner of South Fulton has been incorporated into new cities. Currently, the county performs a number of municipal functions — including operating libraries and senior centers and doling out arts grants — that are not among the duties mandated by state law.

While Lindsey concedes that the state does not traditionally step in to tell counties how to spend their money, "Fulton is a unique situation." Unique or not, Lindsey can expect plenty of push-back from mayors who don't want to hike city taxes to pay for services now provided by the county. Or from lawmakers who might view such a move as a breach of local control.

Although Riley is largely mum on details of how she hopes to increase efficiencies in county government, she says, "The new cities have been able to do more with less and I look forward to seeing the county do the same."

As the newly named chairperson of the Fulton House Delegation and a former commissioner, it's likely that Riley will carry whatever legislation eventually emerges from the ongoing discussions.

Left aside for the moment is any talk of decapitating Fulton to create, or, rather, re-create Milton County, a move many lawmakers in the county's north end still crave. All things in good time.              13072182 7372303                          Opinion - Reforming Fulton County "
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Thursday January 24, 2013 04:00 am EST
Lawmakers have a rare chance to reshape the county government; will they go big? | more...
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*Scott henry
*I'll have my Fernet neat, with a creosote chaser!
Fernet Branca — it's what's for breakfast. At least, it is at Tales of the Cocktail. 

If you can't imagine waking up with the pungently bitter Italian amaro, I'm with you. As I stepped onto the elevator of the Monteleone Hotel in New Orleans shortly after 9 a.m. last Friday — soon to be joined by a woman already lavishly trashed — I wondered if I could handle so strong a flavor so early. 

For the uninitiated, Tales of the Cocktail is very likely the nation's foremost convention celebrating and promoting the mixed drink. It's an industry event, to be sure, where bartenders battle against each other in mixology competitions and the world's booze-makers roll out their latest products. But it's also a playground for connoisseurs, critics and folks who simply enjoy a good stiff belt.

(If the event does sound familiar, it might be because I blogged about it a couple years back and Besha did so again last year.)

This was the 10th year of the convention and I can personally testify how much it's grown since 2007 or whenever it was I first attended. Back then, I don't remember seeing anyone checking badges or taking tickets for seminars. This year, many of the events were sold out months in advance, and security personnel shut down tasting rooms not one moment past the scheduled time.

But a couple of things thankfully haven't changed a bit. Firstly, seminar topics are as esoteric and off-the-wall as always, including sessions on the use of alcohol in religious ceremonies, the importance of aroma and a discussion of how our sense of taste changes as we age. Also, the convention still has the feel of one big, barely contained party, with folks happily scurrying from one event to the next on unsteady legs and the hotel lobby buzzing at all hours.

Speaking of buzzing, I've learned that it's possible to quaff — or at least sample — three or four dozen high-test cocktails over the course of a 16-hour day and yet not feel actually drunk. Even more importantly, I avoided waking up with a hangover. Granted, there were moments when I worried that I might be nauseous if I took one more sip, but those moments passed and I grabbed the next drink."
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*[http://clatl.com/atlanta/ImageArchives?by=1223597|Scott henry]
*I'll have my Fernet neat, with a creosote chaser!
Fernet Branca — it's what's for breakfast. At least, it is at Tales of the Cocktail. 

If you can't imagine waking up with the pungently bitter Italian amaro, I'm with you. As I stepped onto the elevator of the Monteleone Hotel in New Orleans shortly after 9 a.m. last Friday — soon to be joined by a woman already lavishly trashed — I wondered if I could handle so strong a flavor so early. 

For the uninitiated, [http://www.talesofthecocktail.com/|Tales of the Cocktail] is very likely the nation's foremost convention celebrating and promoting the mixed drink. It's an industry event, to be sure, where bartenders battle against each other in mixology competitions and the world's booze-makers roll out their latest products. But it's also a playground for connoisseurs, critics and folks who simply enjoy a good stiff belt.

(If the event does sound familiar, it might be because I [http://clatl.com/omnivore/archives/2010/07/24/boozy-weekend-in-nola|blogged about it a couple years back] and Besha [http://clatl.com/omnivore/archives/2011/07/26/some-tales-from-tales-of-the-cocktail-2011|did so again last year].)

This was the 10th year of the convention and I can personally testify how much it's grown since 2007 or whenever it was I first attended. Back then, I don't remember seeing anyone checking badges or taking tickets for seminars. This year, many of the events were sold out months in advance, and security personnel shut down tasting rooms not one moment past the scheduled time.

But a couple of things thankfully haven't changed a bit. Firstly, seminar topics are as esoteric and off-the-wall as always, including sessions on the use of alcohol in religious ceremonies, the importance of aroma and a discussion of how our sense of taste changes as we age. Also, the convention still has the feel of one big, barely contained party, with folks happily scurrying from one event to the next on unsteady legs and the hotel lobby buzzing at all hours.

Speaking of buzzing, I've learned that it's possible to quaff — or at least sample — three or four dozen high-test cocktails over the course of a 16-hour day and yet not feel actually drunk. Even more importantly, I avoided waking up with a hangover. Granted, there were moments when I worried that I might be nauseous if I took one more sip, but those moments passed and I grabbed the next drink."
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*Scott henry
*I'll have my Fernet neat, with a creosote chaser!
Fernet Branca — it's what's for breakfast. At least, it is at Tales of the Cocktail. 

If you can't imagine waking up with the pungently bitter Italian amaro, I'm with you. As I stepped onto the elevator of the Monteleone Hotel in New Orleans shortly after 9 a.m. last Friday — soon to be joined by a woman already lavishly trashed — I wondered if I could handle so strong a flavor so early. 

For the uninitiated, Tales of the Cocktail is very likely the nation's foremost convention celebrating and promoting the mixed drink. It's an industry event, to be sure, where bartenders battle against each other in mixology competitions and the world's booze-makers roll out their latest products. But it's also a playground for connoisseurs, critics and folks who simply enjoy a good stiff belt.

(If the event does sound familiar, it might be because I blogged about it a couple years back and Besha did so again last year.)

This was the 10th year of the convention and I can personally testify how much it's grown since 2007 or whenever it was I first attended. Back then, I don't remember seeing anyone checking badges or taking tickets for seminars. This year, many of the events were sold out months in advance, and security personnel shut down tasting rooms not one moment past the scheduled time.

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Wednesday August 1, 2012 04:08 pm EDT

  • Scott henry
  • I'll have my Fernet neat, with a creosote chaser!

Fernet Branca — it's what's for breakfast. At least, it is at Tales of the Cocktail.

If you can't imagine waking up with the pungently bitter Italian amaro, I'm with you. As I stepped onto the elevator of the Monteleone Hotel in New Orleans shortly after 9 a.m. last Friday — soon to be joined by a woman already lavishly trashed...

| more...
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  string(4862) "Driving through Ormewood Park recently, I saw dozens of homemade yard signs urging a "no" vote on next week's T-SPLOST referendum. They looked to be the handiwork of someone passionately opposed to another penny in sales tax and who had managed to persuade his neighbors to help spread the word.

There are a number of reasons some people will be voting against the transportation tax next Tuesday. Maybe they don't believe the list of planned projects will benefit them directly. Maybe they think there are too many roads and not enough transit — or perhaps the reverse. Or they simply think a 9-cent sales tax is too high, no matter what the benefit.

I'm not particularly eager to pay more sales tax, either, but I'll be voting in favor of the T-SPLOST. This isn't because I have no issues with the project list — although it's a pretty good deal for intown residents — or because I wouldn't like to see more focus placed on regional transit. It's because, to cite "Let's Make a Deal," there's nothing behind door No. 2.

Naysayers should realize that, if they vote against the T-SPLOST, they won't just be voting against the project list, or the timetable of improvements, or even the balance of roads vs. transit. Rather, they'll be voting against the process that produced all of the above. And if they reject the process, well, they'll be slamming a door shut that likely won't open again.

Here's what I'm talking about: Next Tuesday's referendum is the result of dozens of local politicians trying to find an answer to the region's traffic woes, which are just as bad in the 'burbs as they are ITP. After the Transportation Investment Act was passed by the General Assembly in 2010, local elected officials — including Mayor Kasim Reed — got together and hammered out the list of projects that you can read about elsewhere in this issue. When they were finished horse-trading, they approved the list unanimously.

As an antidote to metro Atlanta's clogged highways and long commutes, the T-SPLOST isn't perfect and won't please everyone. Political solutions — especially bipartisan ones — rarely do because they're the product of negotiation and compromise between competing interests. The goal of the politicians involved in this process was to create a set of priorities that they would be comfortable trying to sell to their constituents.

So, let's say you, the voter, are not entirely happy with the project list or some other aspect of the T-SPLOST as proposed. Join the club. But don't vote against it thinking you'll get another shot at approving a version that's more to your liking, because that ain't gonna happen. Why would it? Even if the Legislature decided to try this again, a do-over would have to go through the very same political negotiation process that yielded this list, so why would next time be any different?

In other words, a vote against the T-SPLOST is a vote against trying to find a political solution to our transportation problems.

Now, to be fair, there are other potential avenues to relieving our metro-wide gridlock. There's the administrative solution. When he was governor, Roy Barnes created the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, which he envisioned as an umbrella agency to oversee and coordinate the disparate county and local transit programs. Before it could be given the needed power to carry out this mission, of course, Barnes lost re-election and Gov. Sonny Perdue set about dismantling his work.

Could Gov. Deal pick up where Barnes left off? Certainly. Does that seem likely? What do you think?

Also, it's theoretically possible that the Georgia Department of Transportation could step up to the plate and figure out how to solve the traffic conundrum. But, again, how likely is that, considering that we keep tossing out DOT commissioners who don't measure up to the leadership standards set by Tom Moreland and Wayne Shackleford? Today's DOT can scarcely run its own affairs, much less forge a transportation vision that's going to please intown progressives. And even if it tried, that wouldn't get the Beltline built any quicker.

One of the ironies here is that the T-SPLOST's most active opponents are the Tea Party crowd that shouts down all proposed taxes. But, for much of the '90s, Cobb, the most conservative metro county, funded an ambitious program of local road and transit projects through a local-option sales tax. Sometimes voters approved it and, in years when they thought it wasn't needed, they rejected it.

If you're OK with the status quo and you think Atlanta traffic is fine as it is, then I won't try to persuade you to support the T-SPLOST. Same goes if you feel the cost far outweighs any possible benefit.

But if you're hoping that something better is going to come along, you're fooling yourself. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. "
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There are a number of reasons some people will be voting against the transportation tax next Tuesday. Maybe they don't believe the list of planned projects will benefit them directly. Maybe they think there are too many roads and not enough transit — or perhaps the reverse. Or they simply think a 9-cent sales tax is too high, no matter what the benefit.

I'm not particularly eager to pay more sales tax, either, but I'll be voting in favor of the T-SPLOST. This isn't because I have no issues with the project list — although it's a pretty good deal for intown residents — or because I wouldn't like to see more focus placed on regional transit. It's because, to cite "Let's Make a Deal," there's nothing behind door No. 2.

Naysayers should realize that, if they vote against the T-SPLOST, they won't just be voting against the project list, or the timetable of improvements, or even the balance of roads vs. transit. Rather, they'll be voting against the process that produced all of the above. And if they reject the process, well, they'll be slamming a door shut that likely won't open again.

Here's what I'm talking about: Next Tuesday's referendum is the result of dozens of local politicians trying to find an answer to the region's traffic woes, which are just as bad in the 'burbs as they are ITP. After the Transportation Investment Act was passed by the General Assembly in 2010, local elected officials — including Mayor Kasim Reed — got together and hammered out the list of projects that you can read about elsewhere in this issue. When they were finished horse-trading, they approved the list unanimously.

As an antidote to metro Atlanta's clogged highways and long commutes, the T-SPLOST isn't perfect and won't please everyone. Political solutions — especially bipartisan ones — rarely do because they're the product of negotiation and compromise between competing interests. The goal of the politicians involved in this process was to create a set of priorities that they would be comfortable trying to sell to their constituents.

So, let's say you, the voter, are not entirely happy with the project list or some other aspect of the T-SPLOST as proposed. Join the club. But don't vote against it thinking you'll get another shot at approving a version that's more to your liking, because that ain't gonna happen. Why would it? Even if the Legislature decided to try this again, a do-over would have to go through the very same political negotiation process that yielded this list, so why would next time be any different?

In other words, a vote against the T-SPLOST is a vote against trying to find a political solution to our transportation problems.

Now, to be fair, there are other potential avenues to relieving our metro-wide gridlock. There's the administrative solution. When he was governor, Roy Barnes created the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, which he envisioned as an umbrella agency to oversee and coordinate the disparate county and local transit programs. Before it could be given the needed power to carry out this mission, of course, Barnes lost re-election and Gov. Sonny Perdue set about dismantling his work.

Could Gov. Deal pick up where Barnes left off? Certainly. Does that seem likely? What do you think?

Also, it's theoretically possible that the Georgia Department of Transportation could step up to the plate and figure out how to solve the traffic conundrum. But, again, how likely is that, considering that we keep tossing out DOT commissioners who don't measure up to the leadership standards set by Tom Moreland and Wayne Shackleford? Today's DOT can scarcely run its own affairs, much less forge a transportation vision that's going to please intown progressives. And even if it tried, that wouldn't get the Beltline built any quicker.

One of the ironies here is that the T-SPLOST's most active opponents are the Tea Party crowd that shouts down all proposed taxes. But, for much of the '90s, Cobb, the most conservative metro county, funded an ambitious program of local road and transit projects through a local-option sales tax. Sometimes voters approved it and, in years when they thought it wasn't needed, they rejected it.

If you're OK with the status quo and you think Atlanta traffic is fine as it is, then I won't try to persuade you to support the T-SPLOST. Same goes if you feel the cost far outweighs any possible benefit.

But if you're hoping that something better is going to come along, you're fooling yourself. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. "
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  string(5121) "    Don't vote no because you think you'll get a better deal   2012-07-25T08:00:00+00:00 Opinion - T-SPLOST is a one-shot   Scott Henry 1223597 2012-07-25T08:00:00+00:00  Driving through Ormewood Park recently, I saw dozens of homemade yard signs urging a "no" vote on next week's T-SPLOST referendum. They looked to be the handiwork of someone passionately opposed to another penny in sales tax and who had managed to persuade his neighbors to help spread the word.

There are a number of reasons some people will be voting against the transportation tax next Tuesday. Maybe they don't believe the list of planned projects will benefit them directly. Maybe they think there are too many roads and not enough transit — or perhaps the reverse. Or they simply think a 9-cent sales tax is too high, no matter what the benefit.

I'm not particularly eager to pay more sales tax, either, but I'll be voting in favor of the T-SPLOST. This isn't because I have no issues with the project list — although it's a pretty good deal for intown residents — or because I wouldn't like to see more focus placed on regional transit. It's because, to cite "Let's Make a Deal," there's nothing behind door No. 2.

Naysayers should realize that, if they vote against the T-SPLOST, they won't just be voting against the project list, or the timetable of improvements, or even the balance of roads vs. transit. Rather, they'll be voting against the process that produced all of the above. And if they reject the process, well, they'll be slamming a door shut that likely won't open again.

Here's what I'm talking about: Next Tuesday's referendum is the result of dozens of local politicians trying to find an answer to the region's traffic woes, which are just as bad in the 'burbs as they are ITP. After the Transportation Investment Act was passed by the General Assembly in 2010, local elected officials — including Mayor Kasim Reed — got together and hammered out the list of projects that you can read about elsewhere in this issue. When they were finished horse-trading, they approved the list unanimously.

As an antidote to metro Atlanta's clogged highways and long commutes, the T-SPLOST isn't perfect and won't please everyone. Political solutions — especially bipartisan ones — rarely do because they're the product of negotiation and compromise between competing interests. The goal of the politicians involved in this process was to create a set of priorities that they would be comfortable trying to sell to their constituents.

So, let's say you, the voter, are not entirely happy with the project list or some other aspect of the T-SPLOST as proposed. Join the club. But don't vote against it thinking you'll get another shot at approving a version that's more to your liking, because that ain't gonna happen. Why would it? Even if the Legislature decided to try this again, a do-over would have to go through the very same political negotiation process that yielded this list, so why would next time be any different?

In other words, a vote against the T-SPLOST is a vote against trying to find a political solution to our transportation problems.

Now, to be fair, there are other potential avenues to relieving our metro-wide gridlock. There's the administrative solution. When he was governor, Roy Barnes created the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, which he envisioned as an umbrella agency to oversee and coordinate the disparate county and local transit programs. Before it could be given the needed power to carry out this mission, of course, Barnes lost re-election and Gov. Sonny Perdue set about dismantling his work.

Could Gov. Deal pick up where Barnes left off? Certainly. Does that seem likely? What do you think?

Also, it's theoretically possible that the Georgia Department of Transportation could step up to the plate and figure out how to solve the traffic conundrum. But, again, how likely is that, considering that we keep tossing out DOT commissioners who don't measure up to the leadership standards set by Tom Moreland and Wayne Shackleford? Today's DOT can scarcely run its own affairs, much less forge a transportation vision that's going to please intown progressives. And even if it tried, that wouldn't get the Beltline built any quicker.

One of the ironies here is that the T-SPLOST's most active opponents are the Tea Party crowd that shouts down all proposed taxes. But, for much of the '90s, Cobb, the most conservative metro county, funded an ambitious program of local road and transit projects through a local-option sales tax. Sometimes voters approved it and, in years when they thought it wasn't needed, they rejected it.

If you're OK with the status quo and you think Atlanta traffic is fine as it is, then I won't try to persuade you to support the T-SPLOST. Same goes if you feel the cost far outweighs any possible benefit.

But if you're hoping that something better is going to come along, you're fooling yourself. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.              13069209 5906334                          Opinion - T-SPLOST is a one-shot "
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Wednesday July 25, 2012 04:00 am EDT
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