Friday, October 30, 2009

Mary Norwood and race

Hey, did you know that Mary Norwood is white?  No, seriously.  She's from Buckhead, and she's a white housewife.  What?  You knew that?  I just wanted to make sure you were aware, these sorts of things can be hard to catch. 

The big story lines of the election have been:
  • Atlanta is broke!  What a mess...
  • Crime sucks, and so does the police chief
  • Republican bogeyman!
  • Mary Norwood is white
Most of the attention has been on the changing demographics of the City of Atlanta, and the usual suspects have injected race into the debate in a way that the candidates have studiously avoided.  (FTR, I think the DPG attacks on Mary Norwood are poor form.)

However, what I really want to focus on is the fact that Norwood is getting 34% of the black vote according to the cross tabs in the latest Insider Advantage polling.  She is pulling more black support than either black candidate.  She is pulling 56% of white voters, which is a majority but far from an overwhelming landslide. 

Let's say that Norwood were polling at say 10% among black voters (about what Republicans can expect to get from black voters).  By my math, she'd only be getting 32% of the total votes, and we'd be talking about a much closer race. 

If Mary Norwood is Mayor of Atlanta, it will be because of black voters, and their willingness to vote for a white candidate.

Just something to chew on the next time someone from Macon who traffics in selling outrage wants to tell you this election is all about race. 

Thursday, October 29, 2009

My non-endorsement for mayor

I thought making a decision on who I'd vote for mayor was going to be difficult.  Well, it was until I actually looked into it.  Let me explain...

I started this election out with a certain point of view.  I worked at the State Capitol in 2004 and 2005 for a state senator representing Atlanta.  I got the chance to meet Kasim Reed a few times, although I'd be surprised if he remembered since my direct involvement in politics since then has been minimal.  I came away with a positive impression of Reed.  I thought he was indicative of a newer model for black politicians - simply compare Reed's accomplishments and style with Senator Vincent Fort.  Reed actually gets things through the legislature, while Fort mostly gets press attention. 

I think Reed was a great senator, but I never came away from him thinking that he was particularly visionary or dynamic.  He is a solid legislator and a good politician.  I am not particularly sure why he wants to be mayor, or what drives him for this particular position.  I also have concerns that he has spent too much time in legislative politics, which kind of adjusts your expectations towards inertia and status quo.  After a while at the Georgia General Assembly, you kind of get used to nothing happening and adjust your expectations accordingly. 

I have only met Lisa Borders in passing.  I was introduced to her once at a function.  I've seen her at City Council meetings.  I've read about her getting broken into, and I know all about her connections to "big developers," as well as her family ties.  I don't think she has done much as Council President, although it isn't the sort of position where you can get much done.  Despite making it her pet project, Cathy Woolard couldn't get the BeltLine very far off the ground until the Mayor decided it was important.  The BeltLine wouldn't have happened if it weren't for Woolard's support, but the position of Council President is terribly impotent. 

Among the things I like about Borders are that she has executive business experience and the confidence of the business community (which is necessary to get anything done as mayor).  She has lived in the city, and has personal experience with crime.  I don't think this necessarily makes her more qualified to deal with it, but at least she is more likely to get what people are talking about. 

So I approached the race with the following ideas:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

More from Saporta on GDOT's ineptitude on transit

Maria Saporta reports on how Washington is viewing GDOT's actions.  They are unimpressed:
Just last month, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood came to Atlanta to deliver the message for transit in person. Get your act together , he told Georgia officials...
“They were already aware that we were demoting the Intermodal Division,” Stoner said. “They said, ‘Obviously Secretary LaHood’s message did not get through.’”
Stoner’s contacts in Washington, D.C. even jokingly asked him if there were anything more Georgia could do to hurt its ability to get federal transportation dollars. (Don’t tempt them).
Yup.  Sounds about right for this state.

The state of transportation in this state almost makes me want to cry.  Not just because the state is moving backwards or because GDOT is comically inept.  It is because I have zero faith that this will change any time soon.  As far as I know, none of the major GOP candidates for Governor would be any better on these issues than Perdue has been.  I wish Sam Olens were running, I would vote in the GOP primary.  (Oops, did I say that out loud?)

Can anyone give me a single reason why the next Governor, who will almost certainly be a Republican, will be any different than Perdue?

This sort of stuff is why the metro area needs its own source of transit funding and its own process to allocate that money. 

Monday, October 26, 2009

Shirley calls out Mary Norwood

Shirley Franklin commented on a Political Insider post Sunday, and had this to say about Mary Norwood:
I support candidates with vision, integrity and intelligence and I have voted for candidates with these 3 characteristics throughout my life. Mary Norwood has none of these. Therefore, I do not support her candidacy for mayor.
Wow.  The rest of the comment is in that same line of thought.  I guess that is to be expected when Norwood has spent her entire time running for mayor blasting Shirley.  I'm only surprised that Shirley was willing to go on the record with such harsh language when she has been relatively silent on the mayor's race thus far.

I don't follow Norwood enough to comment on her integrity, although watching her show up at any community event where there is a camera certainly says something about her character.  As for vision and intelligence, nothing I have seen of Norwood's public life leads me to disagree with Mayor Franklin.  We are talking about the woman who wanted to make it illegal to build a high rise if it blocked the view from another high rise! 

I'm working on a post about who I'll be voting for in the mayoral race.  I'm not calling it an endorsement, since I'm not nearly that important.  It will simply be the mental process which has led me to vote for one candidate over the other.  My mind is about 90% made up, and hopefully I'll have something up in the next few days.  I'll give you a hint: it isn't Mary Norwood. 

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Saporta: DOT moving backward on transit

I missed this last week.  Maria Saporta reported that new GDOT commissioner Vance Smith has moved the "Intermodal Division" to the "Intermodal Programs" of the Engineering Division.
And the timing couldn’t be worse. Last month, Ray LaHood, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, came to Georgia where he criticized the state’s lack of planning and development of transit and rail.

Georgia already is being scrutinized closely in Congress for sitting on $87 million in federal funds that are supposed to have gone towards building a passenger rail line between Atlanta and Lovejoy (or preferably Griffin or Macon). The state has been told that it will lose those dollars if it doesn’t move forward with the project.
Yes sir, just the people I want running MARTA... Of course, what did we think would happen when we put a road builder in charge of the DOT?  This would all be comical if it weren't so sad. 

Idea on eminent domain a bit silly

Lisa Borders said she'd use eminent domain to let the city take abandoned/blighted properties.  It created a big to-do.  As a blog that focuses on local politics and real estate, I guess I should have a say....

I got the impression from the quote that it was in reference to foreclosed or abandoned properties with absentee landlords (typically banks) who cannot or will not maintain property.  So my question is, why do we need to use eminent domain?

Friday, October 23, 2009

State control of MARTA? No thanks...

Okay, I'm sure you expected that my reaction to the idea of a state takeover of MARTA would be, "No."  However, I did try to give the idea a chance.  For one thing, I think Rep. Fran Millar's approach is a million times more productive than any other approach I've seen from the state level:
...to compound the problem, we have now been told by Georgia State University that MARTA will probably be short $85 million in sales tax receipts for fiscal 2010 and over the next decade could be short $1.4 billion. In other words, MARTA cannot be financially viable in the long run with only Fulton and DeKalb as its source of primary funding.... 

This is our one chance to get away from a department of highways and have a meaningful department of transportation. With this new MARTA financial data, any reasonable person must conclude that Fulton and DeKalb can no longer carry this burden alone.
I like Republicans at the state house who are interested in actual solutions, as opposed to morons like Jill Chambers.

My problem is less with Atlanta "losing control" of MARTA or anything like that, but rather that I don't think the GDOT is the right place for MARTA to end up.  MARTA needs to be a regional system, which logically suggests a regional management agency.  GDOT is a state agency with a broken power structure, whose transit program is in disarray, with entirely too many connections to rural road builders.  All the reasons why I disliked the state-wide transit funding idea still exist in Millar's scenario.  Anything that lets rural legislators have a say over MARTA won't end well.

I would be more amenable to a truely regional transit agency.  Clayton County is shutting down its C-Tran bus service, one of the heaviest used bus systems in the metro area.  Cobb County has its own bus service, as does Gwinnett.  Seriously, let's go ahead and combine all this and set up a regional transportation agency that is funded with a regional sales tax.  Use the sales tax to fund transit, as well as all the other transportation needs for the metro area.

I have absolutely no problem with the realization that a regional transportation agency would probably lack the focus on Atlanta that you get now with MARTA.  I have no problem with suburban counties sharing the governing power for MARTA, since they'd actually have something to do with the service (unlike Jill Chambers).

DeKalb stadium? Guess what category I'm filing that under...

If you read this on RSS, you may have missed my "stupid ideas" tag.  It exists for ideas such as building a new Central Library, reviving I-485, and video casinos at Underground.  We can add "building a stadium in Doraville" that that list.

On a simple level, I believe that a stadium for the Atlanta Falcons should be in, um, Atlanta.  The Georgia Dome also regularly hosts events such as the SEC championship games, Final Fours, Peach Bowls (not gonna call it that other thing), celebrity get-rich seminars, and church revivals.  Many of these events pack the hotels Downtown.  What sense does it make to try and move this infrastructure to Doraville?

"Livable" parks

I didn't realize that the National Park Service not only owned the MLK birthplace block on Auburn Avenue, but that they let people rent the houses.  I suppose I could have put one and one together, but I'd never really considered who owned and lived in those houses.  They recently acquired another piece of the block from the Trust for Public Land, and the article included this bit:
“We will fix it up to the time Dr. King was living here, and then we allow people to live here,” said Forte of the renovated houses on the block. “Structurally, it’s in pretty good shape.” ...

The MLK district is only one of three “livable” national parks that preserve the historical and cultural qualities of a place while it continues to thrive as an ongoing community.

Forte also hopes that the street can be transformed into being less of a thoroughfare and more of a residential, pedestrian-oriented street, much the way it was when King was growing up there. She would love to see streetlights and landscaping that would become even more of a tourist and educational destination.
I have done a little bit of searching, but I can't find what the other two "livable" parks are.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Google maps adds parcels

It appears that Google Maps has added parcel info to their display.  Apparently this is a result of Google switching to in-house map data from an outsourced data company.   This is lots of fun for real estate junkies such as myself...

Also, much apologies for the lack of posting.  School is quite a lot of work this semester (although I think I set the curve for my financial analysis class on the last test).  I'll try and have some posts about the upcoming elections, although I probably won't be "endorsing".  I will probably note who I will be voting for, however, along with reasons. 

Monday, October 5, 2009

I don't really think 13th counts

The ABC cites a poll showing Atlanta "among most popular places."  This means that Atlanta is the 13th most desirable place for people to live:
New York City topped the Harris Poll this year as American’s No. 1 choice to live, followed by San Francisco, which tied with Denver at the No. 2 spot, San Diego was No. 4 and Seattle was No. 5. The other cities on the top 10 are Chicago (No. 6), Boston (No. 7), Las Vegas (No. 8), Washington, D.C. (No. 9), and Dallas (No. 10).
So..... I look at that list and I think "man, we've got a lot of catching up to do."  Not, "hey, we are one of the most popular places."  Also, a lot of these places are areas that strong urban/pedestrian cores.

I think there are some "institutional advantages" that places like San Francisco, NYC, Chicago, Boston, and maybe DC have over Atlanta in terms of history and walkable infrastructure that results from that.  However, Seattle, San Diego, Dallas, Denver and Vegas should all be on a short list of "cities we should be better than."  Perhaps the natural environment makes Denver, San Diego, or Seattle a bit more attractive than Atlanta - we don't have the Rockies or the Pacific on our door step.  Atlanta DOES have lots of natural resources at its disposal, however, and we have very vibrant outdoor community.

We SHOULD be able to compete with some of these cities - the fact that we aren't higher on this list is because of our city and region's inept leadership over the last two decades.  We should have been cultivating a stronger walkable core with more alternative transportation, but instead we've been sitting on our hands....