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Neighborhoods - How did Little Five Points get weird?

And how long can it stay that way?

Photo by Eric Cash
Photo credit: Eric Cash
SHOW TIME: Kelly Jordan (left) and Don Bender, pictured in front of two theaters they helped save, led a group of neighborhood residents starting in the 1970s to preserve and revitalize the area.

When Pam Majors was a child, her father would come home each night with his truck filled with random items he'd purchased that day in metro Atlanta shops that were going out of business. Her parents would sift through the day's haul, which her dad would then sell in one of his salvage shops. When her father retired in 1981, Majors, then in her early 20s and living in Candler Park in a house she purchased for $29,500, went through the flotsam and jetsam of his life. She discovered rare finds and gems such as old Beatles notebooks and 1950s leather jackets and saw a chance to put her spin on the wares. In 1982 she opened a shop next to a former methadone clinic in the business district nearby called Little Five Points. The store's name was biographical and authentic: Junkman's Daughter.

In the mid-1970s, Majors says, half the neighborhood was vacant. The other half was "old mom-and-pop things that had been there forever." But that quickly started to change as people started moving to the neighborhood.

"It was my type of energy that was going on," Majors says. "A lot of artists, creative people, and students. And we all at one point kind of knew each other. You'd go to places and it would always be the same group. As the neighborhood living situation was evolving, the retail neighborhood started evolving. Everything was starting to grow. New energy was coming in and people were starting things."

In the following years, Little Five Points would establish itself as Atlanta's most eclectic, independent, and bohemian retail area, a shopping and entertainment district that catered to locals, OTPers, and tourists looking for offbeat items and up-and-coming bands, and drifters ranging from the down-on-their-luck to train kids looking for a handout. But for all the colorful murals that adorn the walls and dreadlocks that wave in the wind, L5P is not just an enclave of hippies, gutter punks, and punks — it's arguably Atlanta's most full-service community, with a grocery store, pharmacy, dentist, counselor, optometrist, pizza joint, shoe store, bicycle shop, and even a credit union. Some businesses have been located there 30 years.

Little Five Points is also in a peculiar spot. It's sandwiched between two affluent neighborhoods in a booming corner of Atlanta. As more and more people move to the area, bringing with them their own ideas of community, the question comes to mind, as it has every time a new business that might not jibe with the retail district's DNA opens nearby: How long can a neighborhood keep its personality?

NAMED AFTER THE INTERSECTION where multiple trolley lines and five streets met, the commercial district grew in 1920 after the former city of Edgewood, now Candler Park, was incorporated into the city and the trolley lines were built. Around that time, Downtown's Five Points was a mini-Manhattan packed shoulder to shoulder with businessmen and families in their Sunday best out to do their shopping or catch a show. Scott Ball, an Inman Park resident and principal with Commons Planning, a nonprofit civic design firm, says Little Five Points was the alternative to that Downtown glitz. Instead of buying a top-of-the-line bowler hat, you could find a more affordable brim. Rather than shelling out a large chunk of your paycheck to see a staged production, you could go to one of the four nickelodeons in L5P.

"You could pay a nickel to get on a streetcar in Marietta, see a movie in Little Five Points, go to a soda fountain at the Pendergrast Pharmacy that's now the Clothing Warehouse," Ball says. "And there for a nickel you could get a malted."

The area was, according to Robert Hartle Jr.'s thorough The Highs and Lows of Little Five: A History of Little Five Points, "ordinary." But as Atlanta grew outward, Little Five Points, just like Five Points, saw investment and interest turn elsewhere. By the late 1960s and 1970s, the business district that Hartle says once boasted "three grocery stores, four drugstores, three barbershops, and three movie theatres," was largely rundown thanks to white flight and the imminent arrival of a freeway that would have likely replaced all of Little Five Points with pavement, hotels, and gas stations. The storefronts had turned into oddball junk and antique shops. On the corner of Euclid and Moreland avenues sat the Redwood Lounge, a notoriously rambunctious watering hole that earned a reputation as the first stop for newly released inmates of the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary.

Were it not for a tight band of mostly young residents and activists, the surrounding neighborhoods would be a far cry from the affluent, picturesque communities they are today. Hippies, families, and young singles unable to afford Virginia-Highland prices or who were flushed out of Midtown started moving in to Candler Park's modest bungalows and Inman Park's mansions that had been chopped up into boarding houses. They started fixing up homes and building a community. They were of a progressive bent.

DO YOU LIKE POETRY: Findley Plaza was built on what once was a part of uclid Avenue to create a space for the public to gather.
Photo credit: Eric Cash

"A lot of people who are committed to diversity wanted to live in a neighborhood where there would be different economic classes, spiritual traditions, races," says Linda Bryant, the founder of Charis Books, a feminist bookstore that opened in 1974. "There were a lot of people who shared those values."

Residents created a cooperative pre-school. With the leadership of Inman Parkers John Sweet and Stan Wyse, a group of active residents called the Bass Organization for Neighborhood Development, or BOND, created a credit union after the C&S Bank branch on Moreland Avenue wouldn't issue loans. The C&S branch is now Star Bar. The credit union is still in Little Five Points and accepting deposits.

The residents were militantly active. They famously faced off bulldozers trying to build a freeway that would have blasted through much of Inman Park and Candler Park. There's a reason why Moreland is so wide near Euclid Avenue and Freedom Park exists. After residents scored what appeared to be a cease-fire from the state, they realized they could turn Little Five Points, an area that was mapped for demolition and a freeway exit, into a true community asset. In addition to potentially warding off a second wave of bulldozers, it could just be good for the neighborhood.

Making that vision become a reality would not have happened without Don Bender and Kelly Jordan. Bender, a Mennonite turned Quaker from Delaware who came to Atlanta to work with impoverished communities after claiming conscientious objector status during the Vietnam War, settled in Candler Park in the early '70s. So did Jordan, a jovial Summerville, Georgia native who bounced around the Southeast as a child with his father, who worked for Sears. They were attracted by the neighborhood's activist energy, small-town vibe, and promise.

In 1972, Bender helped start Atlanta Intown Development Corporation, a group of neighbors who would pool whatever cash they had to purchase and renovate the most dilapidated house on a block. "There were too many marriages going down the toilet because people were renovating their houses while they tried to live in them," he says. They would then sell or rent them. Profits were used to purchase another property.

After the group renovated six houses, it bought a strip of storefronts that wrapped around Euclid and Seminole avenues. After pleas to the owner of the Redwood to try to clean up the joint, the group purchased it as well and turned it into the Little Five Points Community Pub, an open-to-all gathering spot where residents could hold meetings, imbibe, and hang out. Bender tended bar, a sight considering most Quakers abstain from alcohol. The process continued. Jordan, who was only 25 at the time, rounded up people to chip in $1,000 or $2,000 to help purchase the Point Center Building located at the intersection of Euclid and Moreland avenues, which was then home to Charis Bookstore, Sevananda's original location, and a junk shop known as Mr. Ed's. The second floor was completely vacant.

In 1975, the communities came together to create a plan for Little Five Points' future. They went door to door to inform neighbors about meetings and surveys in the credit union's newspaper called the BOND Community Star. The results would guide neighborhood leaders in recruiting tenants. What came back wasn't incense shops or places to buy tapestries. Residents wanted a pharmacy, a dentist's office, a restaurant, a grocery store — the building blocks of a community. And they wanted independent businesses.

Jordan dropped off fliers promoting the Point Center Building around town, including Emory medical school. The area caught the eye of Richard Shapiro, a Brooklyn exile. He opened a dental office in the building despite its crumbling walls and obvious evidence of squatters, he says, because the district reminded him of Greenwich Village. "It had a real neighborhood vibe," he says.

Newly elected Mayor Maynard Jackson named Little Five Points and Lakewood Heights as intown revitalization districts, helping to connect the neighborhood groups and investors with funding, government grants, and the strongest ally possible in City Hall. When the owner of the theaters that later became Variety Playhouse and 7 Stages threatened to demolish the then-vacant buildings, Jackson helped tap the brakes, giving Jordan and Bender a chance to save the buildings. Word-of-mouth plus cheap rents attracted upstart businesses with nothing to lose and everything to gain: Wax n' Facts, which opened its doors in 1976; Unidentified Flying Objects, a store dedicated entirely to Frisbees and disc golf; Crystal Blue, an outlet selling mystical gems and geodes; Junkman's Daughter; and others. At the same time, everyday independent businesses, such as the pharmacy and dry cleaner, also moved in. Over time, the crowds attracted more crowds and Little Five Points became known as a community unlike any other in metro Atlanta.

A narrative has been peddled over time that the men and women who bought the buildings, helped bring businesses into L5P, and helped stabilize it over the years were hellbent on creating a hippie utopian experience. Jordan disagrees with that idea. Bender says it's been overstated.

"The Pub probably had more PhDs than any other business ever ... These were people many of them just ... well, very progressive in their point of view. Very much believing in self-determination," Bender says.

"This was serious community grassroots activity," says Jordan, who was influenced by community revitalization efforts he saw taking place across the country as he drove to the West Coast after his sophomore year at Emory University. "Serious get your hands dirty with the real way the world works for people who were not — none of us were — trained to do it ... Seriously. People started a federally chartered community credit union. Like only 2 percent in the whole country were community credit unions."

LOCAL BIZ BOOM: The business district was the city's first "Neighborhood Commercial" zoning area, which places restrictions on the number of shops and restaurants and their size, while helping to keep the area's charm.
Photo credit: Eric Cash

AS THE TIMES HAVE CHANGED, so has Atlanta. Neighborhoods once considered places to avoid are now outside many people's budgets. The Clermont Hotel, a former flophouse, is becoming a boutique hotel. Murder Kroger will become a 12-story office building.

Inman Park and Candler Park today are two of Atlanta's most desirable intown neighborhoods with listing prices starting around $525,000 for a three-bedroom house. The Atlanta Beltline is only a half-mile away. The generation that watched Little Five Points go from anonymous to quirky will, over time, be outnumbered by younger families and people with no connection — or sense of loyalty — to the business district. What's preventing Crystal Blue from becoming a bougie boutique with $50,000 couches? Could Crate and Barrel edge out Rag-O-Rama? In other words, how long can Little Five Points remain Little Five Points?

One thing in the neighborhood's favor, Shapiro says, is its zoning. Little Five Points was Atlanta's first neighborhood commercial district, a special type of zoning category that sets a community-decided limit on the number and size of businesses that can locate in a specified area. For example, no stores larger than 5,000 square feet can locate in certain properties, helping to protect it from some big-box chains. The controversial arrival of the Edgewood Retail District down Moreland, which brought Lowe's, Best Buy, and Target, helped chill some of that threat in the area. And the limited availability of parking could also ward off some big-name retailers that bank on serving motorists more than pedestrians.

A potential new addition to the neighborhood has recently sparked chatter and some grumblings. In September, the Candler Park Neighborhood Organization heard from the new owner of a Moreland Avenue property Chipotle was considering opening in the space. A Chipotle spokeswoman said the chain does not comment on new openings until "a lease is signed and construction scheduled."

Corporate chains have posed a threat to L5P before. But they've been fought off or peacefully absorbed into the mix. Some chains and businesses might see little opportunity in the Little Five Points clientele. In the early 1990s, area residents scared off a corporate pharmacy chain that proposed a location near Little Five Points Pharmacy, a beloved early tenant that remains one of Atlanta's few independent apothecaries. An equally loud uproar erupted when Starbucks moved in on Moreland Avenue. People even expressed concern over the arrival of American Apparel. Yet Java Lords and Aurora are still brewing coffee. Boutiques have come and gone, but the independent vibe has remained.

Culture is another issue, and one that's been played out over the years. "Bohemian is a tricky identity," Ball says. "It's very easy for that to become an 'anything goes' environment. And really the owners of the property and shop owners do not have that attitude. They like and try to foster a sense of cultural and political openness. But they are very focused on a culture in a positive sense. They're not anarchists."

In 2014, the L5P Business Association created a special district to help fund infrastructure improvements in the area. High on its list — but still in its early stages — is building a parking deck that could be located underneath Bass Recreation Center playing field off Austin Avenue. The project could include mixed-income or senior housing circling the sports field. Bender and a team of others hope the facility could help sustain the district as an entertainment and cultural hub and help 7 Stages Theatre and Variety Playhouse pull in more patrons, plus attract more restaurants. Horizon Theatre recently won a highly competitive arts funding award that would help pay for street performances in Findley Plaza, which Ball says could help add another dimension to the street life.

The reality is that L5P has always been changing, just staying true to its DNA. Whether that continues is up to the various property owners and the next generation of people who flock to the Euclid Avenue Yacht Club, the Vortex, or any of the shops that line the multicolored strip of Euclid and Moreland, who move into nearby homes, or take the reins of existing businesses. Agon Entertainment, the owner of Athens' Georgia Theatre, last year purchased the Variety Playhouse from longtime owner Steve Harris, and is planning a $1 million renovation.

"I guess it will depend on the next generation." Shapiro says. "If there is the kind of love for the neighborhood that we've had for the last 20 to 30 years and if that carries over into the next generation."

Bryant says that new generation "is not going to do the same thing we did. If they did it would become passé pretty quickly. But that new generation is working in the same spirit of cooperation and desire for change — and a sense of wanting to create a place for independent voices."

Majors is retiring this year and passing Junkman's Daughter on to her son, who's moving from Los Angeles to oversee the business (he's keeping the name). She says he's already putting his spin on some of the inventory, moving some items out of circulation. The change is exciting but can occasionally make Majors bite her nails.

"He totally remodeled the shoe department this week," she says with a laugh. "He got every semblance of me out of there ... They've been doing a lot of things on their own. It's going to be interesting to see what it becomes. It's going to stay the same but it will definitely have a little bit different personality — just as it did when I took the goods from my parents' stores and added my own twist."



More By This Writer

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Article

Monday October 21, 2019 03:39 pm EDT
Explore the outdoors and commune with nature without leaving town | more...
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  string(13609) "::::No value assignedForty days. That’s how long the Georgia General Assembly has by law to decide what laws should be passed, tweaked, or repealed to run the state. Will lawmakers overhaul Georgia’s education spending? Help MARTA keep expanding? Thumb its nose at the chaos happening in Washington, D.C., or mimic here at home? Here’s a rundown of some of the issues that are on lawmakers’ minds.


EDUCATIONWhen it came to education, Gov. Nathan Deal had a clear plan for the 2017 legislative session: Overhaul Georgia’s school funding formula, the one that’s remained in place since 1985, old enough for the septuagenarian governor to compare it to a Commodore 64 during his “State of the State” address two years ago.But the best-laid plans of politicians often go awry: Voters rejected his Opportunity Schools District referendum intended to fix failing schools but would have seized control from leaders in marginalized communities. Now Deal wants to revisit how to turn around 153 schools that have had failing test schools for three consecutive years — a rising trend that now affects nearly 89,000 students.“If this pattern of escalation in the number of failing schools does not change, its devastating effects on our state will grow with each passing school year,” Deal said during this year’s “State of the State.”Deal’s “Plan B” is still on the drawing board. For starters, though, he wants to give teachers a 2 percent raise in the upcoming budget. But expect anything else beyond that to focus on elementary school students first. How will that happen exactly? The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, following its poll that found voters mostly backed school choice, has reported school vouchers might be in the cards. But the plan’s supposed architect, State Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, has kept quiet on the matter to date.“There’s no magic silver bullet,” says Georgia Budget and Policy Institute senior education policy analyst Claire Suggs. “Just complex and hard work. There needs to be a conversation about the needs of these children, and how to best meet these needs. Whatever emerges should reflect that.”Though Deal has increased K-12 funding by $2 billion over four years, Suggs says the money is just one step toward fully restoring the more than $9 billion in austerity cuts made since 2003. Those funding cuts, state auditors found, have in turn forced college tuition costs to increase by 77 percent over a decade. Expect lawmakers to watch that debate closely: Not just because of its impact on tuition, but because casino backers, who say their foray into Georgia could save the HOPE Scholarship, might use it as a way to gain traction under the Gold Dome.
No value assigned

HEALTHLast summer, policy experts were crafting a plan to increase health insurance coverage to Georgians living on low incomes. In other words, it was an effort to expand Medicaid without expanding Medicaid.Those plans are now on hold, and potentially dead, now that Donald Trump is moving into the White House. With a promise to repeal and (maybe) replace the Affordable Care Act, state officials are now waiting to see what policy comes out of Washington, D.C. Deal said just as much during his annual “State of the State” address, warning lawmakers “against taking giant leaps on health care policy.”State reps and senators will instead focus on ways to keep hospitals from going broke and shutting their doors. First on the to-do list is giving the state department of public health the authority to continue collecting a fee — opponents call it a “bed tax” — hospitals pay. The fee helps generate roughly $900 million a year to fund Medicaid and PeachCare, the state’s insurance program for children living in poverty.Also up for consideration is an effort by state Rep. Geoff Duncan, R-Cumming, to improve a tax credit aimed at coaxing people to donate to rural hospitals. Duncan, who’s said to be considering a gubernatorial run in 2018, wants to increase the credit from 70 percent to 90 percent to make it more attractive.In addition, lawmakers will also consider whether making access to Naloxone, a drug used to reverse opioid overdoses, more readily available. Deal did so in an executive order but he’s asking the General Assembly to codify the measure. And state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, is pushing to allow in-state cultivation of medical marijuana. State law is silent on how people can actually obtain the cannabis oil permitted in Georgia.


No value assigned


TRANSPORTATIONOn Jan. 10, House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, broached an idea that just 10 years ago would have been blasphemy to a Georgia Republican: The state would consider funding transit, an important mode of transportation that up until now has mainly been bankrolled by Atlanta, Fulton, and DeKalb counties and the feds.Granted, “considering” allocating cash toward rail and buses is not the same as actually doing it. But the fact that a North Georgia Republican would mention the possibility shows just how far transit, and MARTA, has come under the Gold Dome. After decades of shunning buses and rail as a viable option and demonizing MARTA as a crime-ridden money sump, lawmakers have taken notice. The fact that corporations want to relocate, and developers build, near transit stops, has helped.Last year the Legislature gave Atlanta the OK to ask voters to approve a sales tax to pay for a $2.5 billion expansion of MARTA in the city limits (they overwhelmingly agreed). This year the General Assembly might be asked to do the same for a $5.5 billion boost in unincorporated DeKalb and Fulton.Whether that happens during the next 40 days, or next year, depends on a variety of factors. DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond, new to the job, might first wish to clean up the dysfunctional county before asking residents to hand over more in taxes. There’s also the question over whether South Fulton leaders and North Fulton elected officials, some of whom have gone as far as pushing legislation denouncing MARTA rail, can agree.“I hope this will be another year we can build on our success,” says MARTA Board Chairman Robbie Ashe. “We’re very proud of the job MARTA CEO Keith Parker and his team have done and we think the recent election results make it crystal clear that when transit is on the ballot, transit wins. We believe the rest of Fulton and DeKalb deserve the same choice that Atlanta’s voters got.”In addition, lawmakers will once again weigh the pros and cons of creating a regional transit agency to wrangle metro Atlanta’s various transit systems, potentially allowing seamless transfers between buses and rail systems. Someone should tell them there’s already one up and running. Its name is MARTA.
No value assigned

RELIGIOUS FREEDOMState Sen. Josh McKoon isn’t letting last year’s failed attempt to pass a “religious freedom” bill — or contentious battles over the issue in other states — stop him from trying again. The Columbus Republican tells Creative Loafing he’s resurrecting the measure that critics say would pave the way for discrimination. But McKoon says this year’s version will be an easier pill to swallow than its predecessors.McKoon — or possibly one of his colleagues, he says — will drop a bill this week that will mirror the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act enacted in 1993 by President Bill Clinton. That measure “ensures that interests in religious freedom are protected.”Not surprisingly, the American Civil Liberties Union Georgia chapter Executive Director Andrea Young says the organization will not endorse a state-level RFRA. She says Georgia needs a comprehensive civil rights act replete with protections for all people. “The issue of civil rights needs to be looked at in its entirety,” she says.McKoon says the measure is not anti-LGBTQ. He claims his RFRA pitch last year, Senate Bill 129, caught flak and failed because it was lumped into legislation alongside the “Pastor Protection Act,” a statute that would have allowed religious institutions to deny services in cases that infringed upon their beliefs, such as performing same-sex marriages.McKoon this year is using the story of Nabila Khan, a Muslim Georgia State University student who was asked by a teacher to remove her face-concealing religious veil. Khan declined, and the university backed her up, according to the Signal, the school’s student paper. McKoon says SB 129 could have helped her situation, especially if Khan wound up facing charges for violating Georgia’s anti-mask code.“What about the next person who’s confronted by an authority figure, who doesn’t challenge that person?” McKoon says. Under a state-enforced RFRA, “the government, to enforce that criminal statute, would have to show a compelling state interest and show that this is the least restrictive means,” he says.
No value assigned
BUDGETNow that the part-time lawmakers have parked their horses outside the Gold Dome, they are required to do one thing before they head back to Americus and Zebulon: pass the damn budget! Deal says that task shouldn’t be too tricky considering Georgia has projected a revenue growth of 3.6 percent. From his dais last week, Deal unveiled Georgia’s $25 billion spending plans for the upcoming fiscal year — one of the largest in the state’s history.Yeah, yeah, yeah. Budget, how boring. What’s that cash being spent on? State troopers are getting a 20 percent pay hike to boost morale and lower turnover. (Don’t worry, teachers and child welfare social workers, the guv’s got your back, too.) There’s also more than $1 billion in cash for loans to fund construction for a new Georgia Supreme Court building, Georgia World Congress Center upgrades, and a fancy technical college near the governor’s home up in Hall County.
SON OF A GUN: State Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, plans to bring back his legislation allowing permitted gun owners to tote their shootin’ irons on campus.Joeff Davis

GUNSIt wouldn’t be a legislative session without bills expanding the number of places where people can carry guns. At least four pieces of firearm-related legislation are headed through this year, including the return of the controversial “Campus Carry” bill by state Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper.The bill, which Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed last year, would have allowed college students with carry permits at Georgia’s public universities to tote guns on campus.University System of Georgia officials, school leaders, gun-control advocacy groups, and concerned parents opposed the measure. This year it’s returning with the exact same language, the lawmaker tells CL.“I can carry my weapon if I take my 3-year-old to day care today,” Jasperse says. Why not a college campus?Democrats are likely to oppose the bill, and state Rep. Keisha Waites, D-Atlanta, is reviving her effort to require gun safety training for all firearm carry permit applicants. She likened a safety course mandate to a driver’s license test.“Think about the recent shooting we just had with the individual who was ex-military,” she says, referring to the Iraq war veteran who shot and killed five people in a Florida airport. “Can you imagine a scenario with a good guy with his weapon, but he can’t shoot it, he can’t load it, he knows nothing about it or how it puts the public at-large in danger?”But even Waites' benign proposal is too much for Second Amendment advocates. Both Jasperse and Jerry Henry, executive director of Second Amendment advocacy group Georgia Carry, say government-mandated training would be unnecessary and unconstitutional. U.S. citizens aren’t tested before becoming eligible to vote, they argue, and therefore shouldn’t be tested prior to exercising their rights.Another gun bill detested by Jasperse and Henry, filed in November by state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, aims to ban assault rifles as well as explosive ammo, high-capacity magazines, and silencers.“I want somebody to justify why a cop killer bullet should be sold,” Oliver says, citing the July attack on Dallas police officers, which was carried out by an Army vet wielding legally obtained weapons.
ATLANTA’S WISH LISTIn past years, most of the favors Mayor Kasim Reed and the Atlanta City Council have asked state lawmakers to grant centered around getting the state’s OK to hike taxes on booze. Occasionally, you’d see a measure or two aimed at gun control that promptly went nowhere in the Republican-controlled Gold Dome.This year city officials want House reps and senators to tweak laws to help eradicate blight by allowing the city to move faster on getting rid of dilapidated properties it takes over (and tweaking the state’s eminent domain law to do so), keeping secret some records gathered by a citizen advisory group that hears complaints about police misconduct, and allowing earlier pour times at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Priorities!

CRAZY BILLSDo not rule out nonsense during the legislative session. In addition to debating whether casinos should be allowed in Georgia, lawmakers will also hear measures to aggravate immigrants by tacking a fee on wire transfers to other countries and withhold state funding from colleges that push back against immigration policies. Considering past years have brought us measures advocating for the state to ignore federal laws and bills that prohibit the involuntary implantation of microchips in people, the sky’s the limit."
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________
::____::
::__EDUCATION__::When it came to education, Gov. Nathan Deal had a clear plan for the 2017 legislative session: Overhaul Georgia’s school funding formula, the one that’s remained in place since 1985, old enough for the septuagenarian governor to compare it to a Commodore 64 during his “State of the State” address two years ago.But the best-laid plans of politicians often go awry: Voters rejected his Opportunity Schools District referendum intended to fix failing schools but would have seized control from leaders in marginalized communities. Now Deal wants to revisit how to turn around 153 schools that have had failing test schools for three consecutive years — a rising trend that now affects nearly 89,000 students.“If this pattern of escalation in the number of failing schools does not change, its devastating effects on our state will grow with each passing school year,” Deal said during this year’s “State of the State.”Deal’s “Plan B” is still on the drawing board. For starters, though, he wants to give teachers a 2 percent raise in the upcoming budget. But expect anything else beyond that to focus on elementary school students first. How will that happen exactly? The ''Atlanta Journal-Constitution'', following its poll that found voters mostly backed school choice, has reported school vouchers might be in the cards. But the plan’s supposed architect, State Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, has kept quiet on the matter to date.“There’s no magic silver bullet,” says Georgia Budget and Policy Institute senior education policy analyst Claire Suggs. “Just complex and hard work. There needs to be a conversation about the needs of these children, and how to best meet these needs. Whatever emerges should reflect that.”Though Deal has increased K-12 funding by $2 billion over four years, Suggs says the money is just one step toward fully restoring the more than $9 billion in austerity cuts made since 2003. Those funding cuts, state auditors found, have in turn forced college tuition costs to increase by 77 percent over a decade. Expect lawmakers to watch that debate closely: Not just because of its impact on tuition, but because casino backers, who say their foray into Georgia could save the HOPE Scholarship, might use it as a way to gain traction under the Gold Dome.____
____%{[ data-embed-type="image" data-embed-id="587fcf3b6cdeeab644a8d9c5" data-embed-element="span" data-embed-size="640w" contenteditable="false" ]}%____
::____::
::__HEALTH__::Last summer, policy experts were crafting a plan to increase health insurance coverage to Georgians living on low incomes. In other words, it was an effort to expand Medicaid without expanding Medicaid.Those plans are now on hold, and potentially dead, now that Donald Trump is moving into the White House. With a promise to repeal and (maybe) replace the Affordable Care Act, state officials are now waiting to see what policy comes out of Washington, D.C. Deal said just as much during his annual “State of the State” address, warning lawmakers “against taking giant leaps on health care policy.”State reps and senators will instead focus on ways to keep hospitals from going broke and shutting their doors. First on the to-do list is giving the state department of public health the authority to continue collecting a fee — opponents call it a “bed tax” — hospitals pay. The fee helps generate roughly $900 million a year to fund Medicaid and PeachCare, the state’s insurance program for children living in poverty.Also up for consideration is an effort by state Rep. Geoff Duncan, R-Cumming, to improve a tax credit aimed at coaxing people to donate to rural hospitals. Duncan, who’s said to be considering a gubernatorial run in 2018, wants to increase the credit from 70 percent to 90 percent to make it more attractive.In addition, lawmakers will also consider whether making access to Naloxone, a drug used to reverse opioid overdoses, more readily available. Deal did so in an executive order but he’s asking the General Assembly to codify the measure. And state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, is pushing to allow in-state cultivation of medical marijuana. State law is silent on how people can actually obtain the cannabis oil permitted in Georgia.
::____::
::____::
::%{[ data-embed-type="image" data-embed-id="587fcf3b39ab46d82e2a2c1a" data-embed-element="span" data-embed-size="640w" contenteditable="false" ]}%____::
::____::
::____::
::__TRANSPORTATION__::On Jan. 10, House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, broached an idea that just 10 years ago would have been blasphemy to a Georgia Republican: The state would consider funding transit, an important mode of transportation that up until now has mainly been bankrolled by Atlanta, Fulton, and DeKalb counties and the feds.Granted, “considering” allocating cash toward rail and buses is not the same as actually doing it. But the fact that a North Georgia Republican would mention the possibility shows just how far transit, and MARTA, has come under the Gold Dome. After decades of shunning buses and rail as a viable option and demonizing MARTA as a crime-ridden money sump, lawmakers have taken notice. The fact that corporations want to relocate, and developers build, near transit stops, has helped.Last year the Legislature gave Atlanta the OK to ask voters to approve a sales tax to pay for a $2.5 billion expansion of MARTA in the city limits (they overwhelmingly agreed). This year the General Assembly might be asked to do the same for a $5.5 billion boost in unincorporated DeKalb and Fulton.Whether that happens during the next 40 days, or next year, depends on a variety of factors. DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond, new to the job, might first wish to clean up the dysfunctional county before asking residents to hand over more in taxes. There’s also the question over whether South Fulton leaders and North Fulton elected officials, some of whom have gone as far as pushing legislation denouncing MARTA rail, can agree.“I hope this will be another year we can build on our success,” says MARTA Board Chairman Robbie Ashe. “We’re very proud of the job [MARTA CEO] Keith Parker and his team have done and we think the recent election results make it crystal clear that when transit is on the ballot, transit wins. We believe the rest of Fulton and DeKalb deserve the same choice that Atlanta’s voters got.”In addition, lawmakers will once again weigh the pros and cons of creating a regional transit agency to wrangle metro Atlanta’s various transit systems, potentially allowing seamless transfers between buses and rail systems. Someone should tell them there’s already one up and running. Its name is MARTA.
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::____::
::__RELIGIOUS FREEDOM__::State Sen. Josh McKoon isn’t letting last year’s failed attempt to pass a “religious freedom” bill — or contentious battles over the issue in other states — stop him from trying again. The Columbus Republican tells ''Creative Loafing'' he’s resurrecting the measure that critics say would pave the way for discrimination. But McKoon says this year’s version will be an easier pill to swallow than its predecessors.McKoon — or possibly one of his colleagues, he says — will drop a bill this week that will mirror the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act enacted in 1993 by President Bill Clinton. That measure “ensures that interests in religious freedom are protected.”Not surprisingly, the American Civil Liberties Union Georgia chapter Executive Director Andrea Young says the organization will not endorse a state-level RFRA. She says Georgia needs a comprehensive civil rights act replete with protections for all people. “The issue of civil rights needs to be looked at in its entirety,” she says.McKoon says the measure is not anti-LGBTQ. He claims his RFRA pitch last year, Senate Bill 129, caught flak and failed because it was lumped into legislation alongside the “Pastor Protection Act,” a statute that would have allowed religious institutions to deny services in cases that infringed upon their beliefs, such as performing same-sex marriages.McKoon this year is using the story of Nabila Khan, a Muslim Georgia State University student who was asked by a teacher to remove her face-concealing religious veil. Khan declined, and the university backed her up, according to the ''Signal'', the school’s student paper. McKoon says SB 129 could have helped her situation, especially if Khan wound up facing charges for violating Georgia’s anti-mask code.“What about the next person who’s confronted by an authority figure, who doesn’t challenge that person?” McKoon says. Under a state-enforced RFRA, “the government, to enforce that criminal statute, would have to show a compelling state interest and show that this is the least restrictive means,” he says.____
____%{[ data-embed-type="image" data-embed-id="587fcada57ab46ce3a6daede" data-embed-element="span" data-embed-size="640w" contenteditable="false" ]}%____
::__BUDGET__::Now that the part-time lawmakers have parked their horses outside the Gold Dome, they are required to do one thing before they head back to Americus and Zebulon: pass the damn budget! Deal says that task shouldn’t be too tricky considering Georgia has projected a revenue growth of 3.6 percent. From his dais last week, Deal unveiled Georgia’s $25 billion spending plans for the upcoming fiscal year — one of the largest in the state’s history.Yeah, yeah, yeah. Budget, how boring. What’s that cash being spent on? State troopers are getting a 20 percent pay hike to boost morale and lower turnover. (Don’t worry, teachers and child welfare social workers, the guv’s got your back, too.) There’s also more than $1 billion in cash for loans to fund construction for a new Georgia Supreme Court building, Georgia World Congress Center upgrades, and a fancy technical college near the governor’s home up in Hall County.____
____{img src="//media.baseplatform.io/files/base/scomm/clatl/image/2017/01/640w/cover_preview1_3_39.587fcd7b1eb34.png"}SON OF A GUN: State Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, plans to bring back his legislation allowing permitted gun owners to tote their shootin’ irons on campus.Joeff Davis
::____::
::__GUNS__::It wouldn’t be a legislative session without bills expanding the number of places where people can carry guns. At least four pieces of firearm-related legislation are headed through this year, including the return of the controversial “Campus Carry” bill by state Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper.The bill, which Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed last year, would have allowed college students with carry permits at Georgia’s public universities to tote guns on campus.University System of Georgia officials, school leaders, gun-control advocacy groups, and concerned parents opposed the measure. This year it’s returning with the exact same language, the lawmaker tells ''CL''.“I can carry my weapon if I take my 3-year-old to day care today,” Jasperse says. Why not a college campus?Democrats are likely to oppose the bill, and state Rep. Keisha Waites, D-Atlanta, is reviving her effort to require gun safety training for all firearm carry permit applicants. She likened a safety course mandate to a driver’s license test.“Think about the recent shooting we just had with the individual who was ex-military,” she says, referring to the Iraq war veteran who shot and killed five people in a Florida airport. “Can you imagine a scenario with a good guy with his weapon, but he can’t shoot it, he can’t load it, he knows nothing about it or how it puts the public at-large in danger?”But even Waites' benign proposal is too much for Second Amendment advocates. Both Jasperse and Jerry Henry, executive director of Second Amendment advocacy group Georgia Carry, say government-mandated training would be unnecessary and unconstitutional. U.S. citizens aren’t tested before becoming eligible to vote, they argue, and therefore shouldn’t be tested prior to exercising their rights.Another gun bill detested by Jasperse and Henry, filed in November by state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, aims to ban assault rifles as well as explosive ammo, high-capacity magazines, and silencers.“I want somebody to justify why a cop killer bullet should be sold,” Oliver says, citing the July attack on Dallas police officers, which was carried out by an Army vet wielding legally obtained weapons.
::__ATLANTA’S WISH LIST__::In past years, most of the favors Mayor Kasim Reed and the Atlanta City Council have asked state lawmakers to grant centered around getting the state’s OK to hike taxes on booze. Occasionally, you’d see a measure or two aimed at gun control that promptly went nowhere in the Republican-controlled Gold Dome.This year city officials want House reps and senators to tweak laws to help eradicate blight by allowing the city to move faster on getting rid of dilapidated properties it takes over (and tweaking the state’s eminent domain law to do so), keeping secret some records gathered by a citizen advisory group that hears complaints about police misconduct, and allowing earlier pour times at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Priorities!____
____
::__CRAZY BILLS__::Do not rule out nonsense during the legislative session. In addition to debating whether casinos should be allowed in Georgia, lawmakers will also hear measures to aggravate immigrants by tacking a fee on wire transfers to other countries and withhold state funding from colleges that push back against immigration policies. Considering past years have brought us measures advocating for the state to ignore federal laws and bills that prohibit the involuntary implantation of microchips in people, the sky’s the limit."
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  string(13945) "    Guns, health care and some good old-fashioned edumacation   2017-01-19T01:43:00+00:00 2017 Legislative Preview   Thomas Wheatley|Max Blau|Sean Keenan  2017-01-19T01:43:00+00:00  ::::No value assignedForty days. That’s how long the Georgia General Assembly has by law to decide what laws should be passed, tweaked, or repealed to run the state. Will lawmakers overhaul Georgia’s education spending? Help MARTA keep expanding? Thumb its nose at the chaos happening in Washington, D.C., or mimic here at home? Here’s a rundown of some of the issues that are on lawmakers’ minds.


EDUCATIONWhen it came to education, Gov. Nathan Deal had a clear plan for the 2017 legislative session: Overhaul Georgia’s school funding formula, the one that’s remained in place since 1985, old enough for the septuagenarian governor to compare it to a Commodore 64 during his “State of the State” address two years ago.But the best-laid plans of politicians often go awry: Voters rejected his Opportunity Schools District referendum intended to fix failing schools but would have seized control from leaders in marginalized communities. Now Deal wants to revisit how to turn around 153 schools that have had failing test schools for three consecutive years — a rising trend that now affects nearly 89,000 students.“If this pattern of escalation in the number of failing schools does not change, its devastating effects on our state will grow with each passing school year,” Deal said during this year’s “State of the State.”Deal’s “Plan B” is still on the drawing board. For starters, though, he wants to give teachers a 2 percent raise in the upcoming budget. But expect anything else beyond that to focus on elementary school students first. How will that happen exactly? The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, following its poll that found voters mostly backed school choice, has reported school vouchers might be in the cards. But the plan’s supposed architect, State Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, has kept quiet on the matter to date.“There’s no magic silver bullet,” says Georgia Budget and Policy Institute senior education policy analyst Claire Suggs. “Just complex and hard work. There needs to be a conversation about the needs of these children, and how to best meet these needs. Whatever emerges should reflect that.”Though Deal has increased K-12 funding by $2 billion over four years, Suggs says the money is just one step toward fully restoring the more than $9 billion in austerity cuts made since 2003. Those funding cuts, state auditors found, have in turn forced college tuition costs to increase by 77 percent over a decade. Expect lawmakers to watch that debate closely: Not just because of its impact on tuition, but because casino backers, who say their foray into Georgia could save the HOPE Scholarship, might use it as a way to gain traction under the Gold Dome.
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HEALTHLast summer, policy experts were crafting a plan to increase health insurance coverage to Georgians living on low incomes. In other words, it was an effort to expand Medicaid without expanding Medicaid.Those plans are now on hold, and potentially dead, now that Donald Trump is moving into the White House. With a promise to repeal and (maybe) replace the Affordable Care Act, state officials are now waiting to see what policy comes out of Washington, D.C. Deal said just as much during his annual “State of the State” address, warning lawmakers “against taking giant leaps on health care policy.”State reps and senators will instead focus on ways to keep hospitals from going broke and shutting their doors. First on the to-do list is giving the state department of public health the authority to continue collecting a fee — opponents call it a “bed tax” — hospitals pay. The fee helps generate roughly $900 million a year to fund Medicaid and PeachCare, the state’s insurance program for children living in poverty.Also up for consideration is an effort by state Rep. Geoff Duncan, R-Cumming, to improve a tax credit aimed at coaxing people to donate to rural hospitals. Duncan, who’s said to be considering a gubernatorial run in 2018, wants to increase the credit from 70 percent to 90 percent to make it more attractive.In addition, lawmakers will also consider whether making access to Naloxone, a drug used to reverse opioid overdoses, more readily available. Deal did so in an executive order but he’s asking the General Assembly to codify the measure. And state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, is pushing to allow in-state cultivation of medical marijuana. State law is silent on how people can actually obtain the cannabis oil permitted in Georgia.


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TRANSPORTATIONOn Jan. 10, House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, broached an idea that just 10 years ago would have been blasphemy to a Georgia Republican: The state would consider funding transit, an important mode of transportation that up until now has mainly been bankrolled by Atlanta, Fulton, and DeKalb counties and the feds.Granted, “considering” allocating cash toward rail and buses is not the same as actually doing it. But the fact that a North Georgia Republican would mention the possibility shows just how far transit, and MARTA, has come under the Gold Dome. After decades of shunning buses and rail as a viable option and demonizing MARTA as a crime-ridden money sump, lawmakers have taken notice. The fact that corporations want to relocate, and developers build, near transit stops, has helped.Last year the Legislature gave Atlanta the OK to ask voters to approve a sales tax to pay for a $2.5 billion expansion of MARTA in the city limits (they overwhelmingly agreed). This year the General Assembly might be asked to do the same for a $5.5 billion boost in unincorporated DeKalb and Fulton.Whether that happens during the next 40 days, or next year, depends on a variety of factors. DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond, new to the job, might first wish to clean up the dysfunctional county before asking residents to hand over more in taxes. There’s also the question over whether South Fulton leaders and North Fulton elected officials, some of whom have gone as far as pushing legislation denouncing MARTA rail, can agree.“I hope this will be another year we can build on our success,” says MARTA Board Chairman Robbie Ashe. “We’re very proud of the job MARTA CEO Keith Parker and his team have done and we think the recent election results make it crystal clear that when transit is on the ballot, transit wins. We believe the rest of Fulton and DeKalb deserve the same choice that Atlanta’s voters got.”In addition, lawmakers will once again weigh the pros and cons of creating a regional transit agency to wrangle metro Atlanta’s various transit systems, potentially allowing seamless transfers between buses and rail systems. Someone should tell them there’s already one up and running. Its name is MARTA.
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RELIGIOUS FREEDOMState Sen. Josh McKoon isn’t letting last year’s failed attempt to pass a “religious freedom” bill — or contentious battles over the issue in other states — stop him from trying again. The Columbus Republican tells Creative Loafing he’s resurrecting the measure that critics say would pave the way for discrimination. But McKoon says this year’s version will be an easier pill to swallow than its predecessors.McKoon — or possibly one of his colleagues, he says — will drop a bill this week that will mirror the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act enacted in 1993 by President Bill Clinton. That measure “ensures that interests in religious freedom are protected.”Not surprisingly, the American Civil Liberties Union Georgia chapter Executive Director Andrea Young says the organization will not endorse a state-level RFRA. She says Georgia needs a comprehensive civil rights act replete with protections for all people. “The issue of civil rights needs to be looked at in its entirety,” she says.McKoon says the measure is not anti-LGBTQ. He claims his RFRA pitch last year, Senate Bill 129, caught flak and failed because it was lumped into legislation alongside the “Pastor Protection Act,” a statute that would have allowed religious institutions to deny services in cases that infringed upon their beliefs, such as performing same-sex marriages.McKoon this year is using the story of Nabila Khan, a Muslim Georgia State University student who was asked by a teacher to remove her face-concealing religious veil. Khan declined, and the university backed her up, according to the Signal, the school’s student paper. McKoon says SB 129 could have helped her situation, especially if Khan wound up facing charges for violating Georgia’s anti-mask code.“What about the next person who’s confronted by an authority figure, who doesn’t challenge that person?” McKoon says. Under a state-enforced RFRA, “the government, to enforce that criminal statute, would have to show a compelling state interest and show that this is the least restrictive means,” he says.
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BUDGETNow that the part-time lawmakers have parked their horses outside the Gold Dome, they are required to do one thing before they head back to Americus and Zebulon: pass the damn budget! Deal says that task shouldn’t be too tricky considering Georgia has projected a revenue growth of 3.6 percent. From his dais last week, Deal unveiled Georgia’s $25 billion spending plans for the upcoming fiscal year — one of the largest in the state’s history.Yeah, yeah, yeah. Budget, how boring. What’s that cash being spent on? State troopers are getting a 20 percent pay hike to boost morale and lower turnover. (Don’t worry, teachers and child welfare social workers, the guv’s got your back, too.) There’s also more than $1 billion in cash for loans to fund construction for a new Georgia Supreme Court building, Georgia World Congress Center upgrades, and a fancy technical college near the governor’s home up in Hall County.
SON OF A GUN: State Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, plans to bring back his legislation allowing permitted gun owners to tote their shootin’ irons on campus.Joeff Davis

GUNSIt wouldn’t be a legislative session without bills expanding the number of places where people can carry guns. At least four pieces of firearm-related legislation are headed through this year, including the return of the controversial “Campus Carry” bill by state Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper.The bill, which Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed last year, would have allowed college students with carry permits at Georgia’s public universities to tote guns on campus.University System of Georgia officials, school leaders, gun-control advocacy groups, and concerned parents opposed the measure. This year it’s returning with the exact same language, the lawmaker tells CL.“I can carry my weapon if I take my 3-year-old to day care today,” Jasperse says. Why not a college campus?Democrats are likely to oppose the bill, and state Rep. Keisha Waites, D-Atlanta, is reviving her effort to require gun safety training for all firearm carry permit applicants. She likened a safety course mandate to a driver’s license test.“Think about the recent shooting we just had with the individual who was ex-military,” she says, referring to the Iraq war veteran who shot and killed five people in a Florida airport. “Can you imagine a scenario with a good guy with his weapon, but he can’t shoot it, he can’t load it, he knows nothing about it or how it puts the public at-large in danger?”But even Waites' benign proposal is too much for Second Amendment advocates. Both Jasperse and Jerry Henry, executive director of Second Amendment advocacy group Georgia Carry, say government-mandated training would be unnecessary and unconstitutional. U.S. citizens aren’t tested before becoming eligible to vote, they argue, and therefore shouldn’t be tested prior to exercising their rights.Another gun bill detested by Jasperse and Henry, filed in November by state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, aims to ban assault rifles as well as explosive ammo, high-capacity magazines, and silencers.“I want somebody to justify why a cop killer bullet should be sold,” Oliver says, citing the July attack on Dallas police officers, which was carried out by an Army vet wielding legally obtained weapons.
ATLANTA’S WISH LISTIn past years, most of the favors Mayor Kasim Reed and the Atlanta City Council have asked state lawmakers to grant centered around getting the state’s OK to hike taxes on booze. Occasionally, you’d see a measure or two aimed at gun control that promptly went nowhere in the Republican-controlled Gold Dome.This year city officials want House reps and senators to tweak laws to help eradicate blight by allowing the city to move faster on getting rid of dilapidated properties it takes over (and tweaking the state’s eminent domain law to do so), keeping secret some records gathered by a citizen advisory group that hears complaints about police misconduct, and allowing earlier pour times at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Priorities!

CRAZY BILLSDo not rule out nonsense during the legislative session. In addition to debating whether casinos should be allowed in Georgia, lawmakers will also hear measures to aggravate immigrants by tacking a fee on wire transfers to other countries and withhold state funding from colleges that push back against immigration policies. Considering past years have brought us measures advocating for the state to ignore federal laws and bills that prohibit the involuntary implantation of microchips in people, the sky’s the limit.             20849514         http://dev.creativeloafing.com/image/2017/01/Outsidecover1_1_39.587fc7dc4504a.png                  2017 Legislative Preview "
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Wednesday January 18, 2017 08:43 pm EST
Guns, health care and some good old-fashioned edumacation | more...
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  string(3323) "%{data-embed-type=%22image%22 data-embed-id=%22587fdb9639ab46ca322a2bbf%22 data-embed-element=%22span%22 data-embed-size=%22640w%22 contenteditable=%22false%22}%On Jan. 17, after nine glorious years, God knows how many stories and blog posts, and mounds of paper piling higher and higher on my desk, I bid farewell to co-workers I consider friends and a newspaper I love. By the time this piece passes your eyeballs, I’ll be at Atlanta magazine, a publication I’ve long admired, where I’ll write and edit stories about this complex city.The first time I read Creative Loafing, I was a fifth- or sixth-grader living in the suburbs and spending my free time skateboarding or listening to punk and industrial music. My mom, aware that Cobb County was lacking when it came to cultural stimulation, suggested we take trips to Little Five Points. After I pored over band stickers and cassettes, my mom and I would meet up. She always had a copy of CL.On the car ride home I would study the articles. I had no clue what the news writers were writing about. But I was fascinated by how they wrote about it. I grew up in a household filled with magazines, books, and the nightly news, but CL was the first publication I read that had a voice. I knew I wanted to write that way. And I knew I wanted to at some point work at CL.You can imagine the joy I felt in 2007 when Ken Edelstein, the editor-in-chief at the time, and Scott Freeman, the senior editor, gave me a chance. Since then I’ve been fortunate to learn from, work alongside, and laugh and occasionally cry with a family of writers, editors, photographers, designers, and sales teams.I watched my work get torn apart and made legible by Edelstein, Freeman, Mara Shalhoup, and Debbie Michaud. Scott Henry taught me the importance of structure and some fashion sense. I learned that John Sugg was not as menacing as his author photos made him look. I once dressed as Santa Claus and Andisheh Nouraee sat on my lap. I shared laughter and deadlines with Gwynedd Stuart, Max Blau, Besha Rodell, Joeff Davis, Rodney Carmichael, Chad Radford, and Alicia Carter, and so many others. I would list them all if I had four more pages.Along the way I was able to find my own voice and became fascinated with the city where I was born. I wore hard hats in the “Horrible” Fifth District’s sewers with Congressman John Lewis, sat in living rooms of people fighting to keep their communities intact, and marched in streets alongside protesters. These experiences showed me that Atlanta has plenty of deep problems. But it’s also a city filled with people actively working to solve them. I had a chance to see what works, meet the people finding the answers, and occasionally pester people in power (it’s very cathartic to write the Golden Sleaze awards).
              

More than anything, my time here gave me the joy of being engaged with Atlanta. It showed me I can’t imagine another job as fulfilling as being able to write about the place you call home. You see people at their highs, lows, and in betweens, learn and help others discover how we got here, and play some small role in nudging the city closer to where it should be. It’s a good feeling to stand back and be proud of what you accomplished with people you love. Thank you for giving me that chance."
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More than anything, my time here gave me the joy of being engaged with Atlanta. It showed me I can’t imagine another job as fulfilling as being able to write about the place you call home. You see people at their highs, lows, and in betweens, learn and help others discover how we got here, and play some small role in nudging the city closer to where it should be. It’s a good feeling to stand back and be proud of what you accomplished with people you love. Thank you for giving me that chance."
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  string(3691) "    CL's news editor says farewell and thank you   2017-01-18T16:21:00+00:00 The next step - Thomas Wheatley ben.eason@creativeloafing.com Ben Eason Thomas Wheatley Thomas Wheatley 2017-01-18T16:21:00+00:00  %{data-embed-type=%22image%22 data-embed-id=%22587fdb9639ab46ca322a2bbf%22 data-embed-element=%22span%22 data-embed-size=%22640w%22 contenteditable=%22false%22}%On Jan. 17, after nine glorious years, God knows how many stories and blog posts, and mounds of paper piling higher and higher on my desk, I bid farewell to co-workers I consider friends and a newspaper I love. By the time this piece passes your eyeballs, I’ll be at Atlanta magazine, a publication I’ve long admired, where I’ll write and edit stories about this complex city.The first time I read Creative Loafing, I was a fifth- or sixth-grader living in the suburbs and spending my free time skateboarding or listening to punk and industrial music. My mom, aware that Cobb County was lacking when it came to cultural stimulation, suggested we take trips to Little Five Points. After I pored over band stickers and cassettes, my mom and I would meet up. She always had a copy of CL.On the car ride home I would study the articles. I had no clue what the news writers were writing about. But I was fascinated by how they wrote about it. I grew up in a household filled with magazines, books, and the nightly news, but CL was the first publication I read that had a voice. I knew I wanted to write that way. And I knew I wanted to at some point work at CL.You can imagine the joy I felt in 2007 when Ken Edelstein, the editor-in-chief at the time, and Scott Freeman, the senior editor, gave me a chance. Since then I’ve been fortunate to learn from, work alongside, and laugh and occasionally cry with a family of writers, editors, photographers, designers, and sales teams.I watched my work get torn apart and made legible by Edelstein, Freeman, Mara Shalhoup, and Debbie Michaud. Scott Henry taught me the importance of structure and some fashion sense. I learned that John Sugg was not as menacing as his author photos made him look. I once dressed as Santa Claus and Andisheh Nouraee sat on my lap. I shared laughter and deadlines with Gwynedd Stuart, Max Blau, Besha Rodell, Joeff Davis, Rodney Carmichael, Chad Radford, and Alicia Carter, and so many others. I would list them all if I had four more pages.Along the way I was able to find my own voice and became fascinated with the city where I was born. I wore hard hats in the “Horrible” Fifth District’s sewers with Congressman John Lewis, sat in living rooms of people fighting to keep their communities intact, and marched in streets alongside protesters. These experiences showed me that Atlanta has plenty of deep problems. But it’s also a city filled with people actively working to solve them. I had a chance to see what works, meet the people finding the answers, and occasionally pester people in power (it’s very cathartic to write the Golden Sleaze awards).
              

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Article

Wednesday January 18, 2017 11:21 am EST
CL's news editor says farewell and thank you | more...
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  string(1318) "Gov. Nathan Deal says he plans to push state lawmakers over the next 40 days to give pay raises to some state workers, renew a controversial tax on hospitals, and reform education, along with investing in cybersecurity. 

Per tradition, Georgia representatives and senators gathered on Wednesday to hear Deal's annual "State of the State" address to outline his policy agenda. Deal, who's halfway through his second and final term in the governor's office, also urged lawmakers not to make any major changes to healthcare policy — for example,  expanding Medicaid — because of potential changes from the incoming Donald Trump administration. Here's his full speech. 

Deal's speech was framed around Georgia songwriter Johnny Mercer's 1944 hit "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive," which considering the upcoming presidential administration, is about as good as any advice we're gonna get. CL Photographer Joeff Davis was on hand to document the festivities. 

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Gov. Nathan Deal during his annual address to lawmakers.Joeff Davis

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  string(3529) "Gov. Nathan Deal says he plans to push state lawmakers over the next 40 days to give pay raises to some state workers, renew a controversial tax on hospitals, and reform education, along with investing in cybersecurity. 

Per tradition, Georgia representatives and senators gathered on Wednesday to hear Deal's annual "State of the State" address to outline his policy agenda. Deal, who's halfway through his second and final term in the governor's office, also urged lawmakers not to make any major changes to healthcare policy — for example,  expanding Medicaid — because of potential changes from the incoming Donald Trump administration. [http://gov.georgia.gov/press-releases/2017-01-11/deal’s-state-state-address-georgia-will-‘accentuate-positive-eliminate|Here's his full speech]. 

Deal's speech was framed around Georgia songwriter Johnny Mercer's 1944 hit "[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3jdbFOidds|Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive]," which considering the upcoming presidential administration, is about as good as any advice we're gonna get. CL Photographer Joeff Davis was on hand to document the festivities. 

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  string(1682) "    Governor taps the oldies to talk about Georgia's present and future   2017-01-12T23:46:00+00:00 The state of the State of the State   Joeff Davis|Thomas Wheatley  2017-01-12T23:46:00+00:00  Gov. Nathan Deal says he plans to push state lawmakers over the next 40 days to give pay raises to some state workers, renew a controversial tax on hospitals, and reform education, along with investing in cybersecurity. 

Per tradition, Georgia representatives and senators gathered on Wednesday to hear Deal's annual "State of the State" address to outline his policy agenda. Deal, who's halfway through his second and final term in the governor's office, also urged lawmakers not to make any major changes to healthcare policy — for example,  expanding Medicaid — because of potential changes from the incoming Donald Trump administration. Here's his full speech. 

Deal's speech was framed around Georgia songwriter Johnny Mercer's 1944 hit "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive," which considering the upcoming presidential administration, is about as good as any advice we're gonna get. CL Photographer Joeff Davis was on hand to document the festivities. 

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Gov. Nathan Deal during his annual address to lawmakers.Joeff Davis

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Thursday January 12, 2017 06:46 pm EST
Governor taps the oldies to talk about Georgia's present and future | more...
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  string(982) ">> The Georgia General Assembly has returned. Prepare for madness.

>> The United Methodist Children’s Home in Decatur might sell its 77-acre property. If it does, what goes in its place? A school? Greenspace? A massive housing development?

 

>> A group of Cheetah dancers allege they were drugged and sexually assaulted at the Midtown strip club's VIP rooms. One dancer has filed a lawsuit, which the club's attorneys say is an attempt to "extort" money.

>> "Most SEALs did not commit atrocities, the sources said, but the problem was persistent and recurrent, like a stubborn virus. Senior leaders at the command knew about the misconduct and did little to eradicate it."

>> Donald Glover and the team behind "Atlanta" walked away with two Golden Globes on Sunday night. And he had special words for the city. 

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  string(1520) ">> The Georgia General Assembly has [http://news.wabe.org/post/what-expect-georgias-2017-legislative-session|returned]. Prepare for madness.

>> The United Methodist Children’s Home in Decatur might sell its 77-acre property. If it does, [http://www.decaturish.com/2017/01/united-methodist-childrens-home-considering-sale-of-property/|what goes in its place]? A school? Greenspace? A massive housing development?

 

>> A group of Cheetah dancers [http://www.myajc.com/news/local/cheetah-dancers-allege-sexual-assault-top-atlanta-strip-club/6udoC3nhtw2JXJM9uzv3vJ/|allege] they were drugged and sexually assaulted at the Midtown strip club's VIP rooms. One dancer has filed a lawsuit, which the club's attorneys [http://www.wsbtv.com/news/2-investigates/atlanta-strip-club-investigation-cheetah-dancers-allege-sex-assault/482508852|say] is an attempt to "extort" money.

>> "Most SEALs did not commit atrocities, the sources said, but the problem was persistent and recurrent, like a stubborn virus. Senior leaders at the command [https://theintercept.com/2017/01/10/the-crimes-of-seal-team-6/|knew about the misconduct and did little to eradicate it]."

>> Donald Glover and the team behind "Atlanta" [http://www.eonline.com/news/820781/why-donald-glover-can-t-believe-atlanta-won-two-golden-globes|walked away] with two Golden Globes on Sunday night. And he had special words for the city. 

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Article

Tuesday January 10, 2017 05:21 pm EST
Plus, a massive redevelopment opportunity awaits in Decatur | more...
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