Author: Stefan

Cheesecake Factory Bridge Gets Even More Fattening

The bridge required by the new Braves Stadium, sorry, Suntrust Park, to ferry fans across the Perimeter from the Galleria area to the stadium has reached the stage where you have to punch new holes at the end of the belt in order to make it stay on.

Yes, the $9 million dollar bridge that was supposed to cost taxpayers $0, has recently begun to tip the scales at, well let’s add it up.

Let’s turn to the AJC to get us up to speed:

The AJC has previously reported on other costs associated with the bridge project that are not included in the county’s $9 million estimate — including the county’s $2 million estimate for land purchase; an estimated $3.5 million to reinforce a parking deck into which the bridge would tie; and approximately $800,000 to the bridge engineers.

Add to that what the AJC has more recently found: $500k to move (yet another) pipeline, and $2.2 million to get people over some sort of lake it looks like, bring the total up to a cool $17 million.

In case you were curious, that’s 2,720,000 slices of Oreo Cheesecake.

And there is no plan on the table that is anything but 100% public money.

Must be a cheat meal.

This may be a surprise to Cobb County Commission Chairman Tim Lee, as he has reassured us time and time again that no public money would be used. But then again, he probably knew that was never true, as our story from November of last year indicated:

Cobb County let the Atlanta Regional Commission, which specifically stated that the traffic plans the County submitted would not work at all without people circulators (read as trolleys, trams, or buses), that they would be tapping Cobb’s share of federal transit funds to fund 50% of the construction cost. Cobb County taxpayers would be responsible for the other half. That was in June.

But in July when asked if tax money would go toward the bridge construction, Tim Lee responded “Probably not. No. I doubt it,” Lee responded. “I doubt it seriously.”

We are getting closer and closer to the reality that is the Cheesecake Factory Bus Jump.

Morning Reads for Tuesday, October 6th, 2015


On this day in 1979, Pope John Paul II became the first Pope to visit the White House. Anwar Sadat was assassinated on this date in 1981. Robert Bork’s nomination was voted down in the Senate Judiciary, which, sadly, is why we never had Supreme Court Justice Richard Posner. Discuss.

  • Children of the Yuan Percent: Everyone Hates China’s Rich Kids (Bloomberg)
  • Inside The Epic Fantasy That’s Driven Donald Trump For 33 Years (Forbes)
  • How Prescription Drugs Get So Wildly Expensive (Wired)
  • A Brief History of the Corporation: 1600 to 2100 (Ribbon Farm)
  • A Country Is Not a Company (Harvard Business Review)
  • The Politics of Star Trek (Claremont Institute)
  • Can Surfing Reprogram the Veteran’s Brain? There’s no quick fix for post-traumatic stress disorder, but research has shown that surfing’s physicality and flow can give victims some relief and a way forward. (Outside)
  • In Unit Stalked by Suicide, Veterans Try to Save One Another (NYT)
  • How the Church of Scientology fought the Internet—and why it lost (Kernal)
  • Sneaker Wars: Inside the Battle Between Nike and Adidas (GQ)
  • Wonks for Hire: Elizabeth Warren challenged a think tank over iffy, industry-backed research. There’s a lot more where that came from. (Slate)
  • The Troubles of “Bitcoin’s PayPal” Show Why the Cryptocurrency Is Not a Good Payment Mechanism (MIT Technology Review)
  • Utz review the competing Dekalb city proposals (Decaturish)
  • Comcast’s plan to cap unlimited data. Remember when words had meanings? (AJC)

Oh, and for your listening pleasure, Tim Keane, Atlanta’s new design czar:


On Bill Torpy, the AJC, and the Mayor

This week Bill Torpy wrote a piece that chronicled his attempts to tell the story of brave Atlanta firefighters who went into a burning blaze to rescue children. Or he wrote a piece that’s part of a continuing series of attempting to chide the Mayor of Atlanta. Or both. It works because he’s writing as a columnist and not a journalist. Readers should understand that’s his take on the news of the day. They also need the history of the relationship between the Mayor and the columnist.

There is an ongoing saga between some firefighters and the Mayor that stems from the pension reforms of 2011. Nearly everyone agrees that pension reform was needed or the city would have been in dire financial straits. The firefighters then sued, and now the Mayor won’t give them pay raises until the lawsuit is concluded.

It’s clear that Torpy wanted to play the pension dispute against the heroism of the firefighters (and possibly some scantily clad photos taken in the firehouse) but he was thwarted by his inability to interview the firefighters involved. You can’t interview city employees without the City’s permission, and here it was not given, and the reasons why not were set forth in the City’s response. Both the column and the response are worth reading.

But is clear that the history is even more important than the present in evaluating what’s going on here. Cast your mind back to this spring, when the City was trying to hold absentee landlords accountable for the deplorable conditions of their property holdings (read burned out vacant homes) in Vine City and English Avenue (two impoverished neighborhoods near the new Falcons stadium). Rick Warren, no not the minister, held a ton of these properties, or maybe did, but the maze of shell corporations made that difficult to prove. He was on trial in municipal court in May and the Mayor took the afternoon (at least twice) to sit in the audience and watch the proceedings. (I’ve sat in those benches and they are none too comfortable). Torpy wrote a column on the proceedings, and though he accurately described the problem, he left the impression that the Mayor’s presence was there not to emphasize the importance of the case, but to affect its outcome.

Torpy’s columns carry weight in this city. And when he decides that the Mayor has overstepped his bounds, he is right to point that out (as he did in both columns). But the problem is that more people read Torpy than the actual news, so the characterization he gives becomes the truth, rather than an opinion. And in the case of Rick Warren and Vine City, he may well be wrong.

The article that really tells the tale of Rick Warren and English Avenue is elsewhere on the AJC’s website. It reveals Warren’s ownership of derelict properties that he refuses to fix and instead they become sites of prostitution and drugs. Neighbors trying to clean up the neighborhood hit a roadblock when they got to his houses. He owns 10% of the neighborhood. Consider that for a moment.

So Mayor Reed wanted the world to know that this day of code violations in municipal court was different than all other days. And instead he took the blame of subverting justice.

So when you read both pieces, Torpy’s and the Mayor’s keep in mind the historical context of that relationship.



Morning Reads for Tuesday, September 29th, 2015


Can you imagine how government might be different if those turnout numbers were flipped? What policies might be favored by politicians if the poor voted in higher numbers? On to the reads!

  • Shutdown hurts job creators (thehill)
  • Greencracker’s guide to Tucker an LaVista Hills (greencracker)
  • Georgia student invents condiment (athensbannerherald)
  • LaVista Hills an some emails (11alive)
  • Why Is Art Expensive? (Priceonomics)
  • Laissez Prayer: The secret history of the 1950s Christian right and its zeal for capitalism. (Democracy)
  • 87 Deceased NFL Players Test Positive for Brain Disease (Frontline)
  • Life on the Congo (Roads & Kingdoms)
  • On Kasim Reed and his brand of leadership (ajc)
  • The Study That Started the Volkswagen Scandal (CityLab)
  • The transformative potential of self-driving electric cars (Vox)
  • Wherever You Go, Your Personal Cloud Of Microbes Follows (NPR)
  • The West is on fire – and the US taxpayer is subsidizing it (The Conversation)
  • Mystery Solved? How Universe’s Brightest-Ever Galaxies Formed (Space)

Morning Reads for Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Emancipation Proclamation was on this date in 1862, and the Great Smyrna Fire was finally extinguished after nine days in 1922. No, different Smyrna. The above is a photograph of Downtown Atlanta shot in 1895 from the Equitable Building’s roof. No, different Equitable Building.


  • The golden age of the Western corporation may be coming to an end (The Economist)
  • Digital Assistant Revolution, or beyond hitting send (Wired)
  • Looks like Charter schools could get more money (ajc)
  • this story about a ‘Boro Bi-Lo is so long it’s not funny. (Herald)
  • Take Our Solar Panels, Please! San Antonio’s consumers go from givers to takers. (Slate)
  • Tesla Should Be Afraid of German Carmakers (Bloomberg View)
  • The Sharp Rise of the Upper-Middle Class, in 1 Chart (CityLab)
  • The Kasim Reed google alert that buzzed Carter’s and Abrams’ phones (ajc)
  • Moultrie man goes all George Jones (Observer)
  • Hedgefund manager buys drug, raises price ungodly percent (nytimes)
  • Cancer Killing Chili Peppers may be heaven-sent  (Vice)
  • We write stories to make people cry (Poynter)
  • Sounds like a hit: the numbers game behind Spotify (The Verge)
  • The Future and How to Survive (Harvard Business Review)
  • campaign sources v. data, what makes a better campaign scribe? (NY Mag)

9:30 Update

The USDA does not think it’s okay to live in Gay. (fox5)

Morning Reads for Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

It is William Howard Taft’s birthday, the only man to be both President and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Here he is on a water buffalo. I show you this because its the 52nd anniversary of the Birmingham Bombing and that’s still too much to bear. On to the reads!

  • What Makes Uber Run: The transportation service has become a global brand, an economic force, and a cultural lightning rod. (Fast Company)
  • What Are a Hospital’s Costs? Utah System Is Trying to Learn (NYT)
  • How Art Reveals the Limits of Neuroscience (Chronicle of Higher Education)
  • The Sunniest Climate-Change Story You’ve Ever Read: This Is the Year Humans Finally Got Serious About Saving Themselves From Themselves (NY Mag)
  • see also We Might Be Near Peak Environmental Impact (Bloomberg View)
  • Life Story: Looking at unsolved scientific mysteries, we ask how living things got going and whether they exist elsewhere than Earth (The Economist)
  • From Spygate to Deflategate: Inside what split the NFL and New England Patriots apart (ESPN)
  • What Kinds of Pets Get Adopted? (Priceonomics)
  • see also This Korean lab has nearly perfected dog cloning, and that’s just the start (TechInsider)

Georgia’ TANF Shell Game: The Third Party May be Over

Over at WABE, Michell Eloy has the story of a potential $100 million budget hole that will be caused by a likely change in the way the federal government counts state spending for matching grants.

Georgia, along with Utah, has relied very heavily on third party charities who are spending to alleviate hunger and other needs of the poor toward what’s called their “Maintenance of Effort” or MOE. Georgia gives these charities some cash infusion, which is what allows them to count their total assistance toward the goal. It was allowable under the law and some creative accounting and lawyering, but it was never a grand idea.

Whether the Senate changes are enacted or the President gets his way, it likely means the end of the above accounting practice. The history of this movement is important, as when the economy was booming, states could shift money away from TANF-type spending onto welfare to work and similar programs, but when the economy went into recession, they couldn’t get the funds back. Many states who did this type of counting put their TANF money into child tax credits. Good luck undoing those.

So what’s Georgia to do? Federal grants are always about rewarding state spending within specific guidelines. Georgia policy makers rightly claim that these strictures prevent states from carving out their own specific solutions to their problems, calling them “golden handcuffs.”

But just as my allowance depended on mowing the lawn and cleaning my room, Georgia is going to have to play within the federal rules to avoid a huge hole.

Calhoun Is Doing it All Wrong

The Southern Center for Human Rights has filed a lawsuit challenging the frequent practice of jailing people indefinitely for being arrested for minor crimes. Not convicted, mind you, these are folks who have been picked up for jaywalking, or public intoxication and been given bail amounts they just can’t pay.

So their real crime, the one that has them in jail, is being poor.

The City of Calhoun is in the crosshairs of this particular lawsuit, City of Calhoun v. Walker, which seeks to stop the City from jailing people too poor to pay bond for minor offenses.

Plaintiff Maurice Walker is a recent arrestee who is currently incarcerated in the Gordon County Jail for the offense of “pedestrian under the influence” because he cannot afford to pay $160 – the amount of money generically set by the bail schedule used by the City of Calhoun.  Walker is a 54-year-old disabled man who owns no property and has little income because he is unable to work.  He cannot afford to purchase his release from jail.

No matter how you feel about a drunk person on the sidewalk, nobody’s interests are served by jailing such a person in advance of their court date. Not taxpayers, not residents of the city, not the interests of justice, and certainly not Maurice Walker.

Morning Reads for Tuesday, September 7th, 2015

Huey Long was shot on this day in 1935. He died two days later. On to the reads!

  • Is Overwork Killing You? (Harvard Business Review)
  • How Trains are Easing America’s Trucking Crisis (National Journal)
  • Is a Cambrian Explosion Coming for Robotics? (IEEE Spectrum)
  • The Oil-Sands Glut Is About to Get a Lot Bigger (Bloomberg)
  • College Calculus: What’s the real value of higher education? (New Yorker)
  • Financial Leaders Agree to Act to Bolster Growth (NYT)
  • Productivity and Pay (Krugman)
  • Climate Change Means One World’s Death and Another’s Birth (Wired)
  • Transmedics’ Heart-in-a-Box Could Help with Organ Transplant List (MIT Technology Review)
  • Stop Playing Monopoly With Your Kids And Play These Games Instead (fivethirtyeight)
  • On the Governor’s race three years hence (ajc)
  • First teacher pay, next public schools (Northwest Georgia News)
  • Colorado has so much tax revenue from weed, it’s giving $30 million back (ap)
  • Effingham commissioner sickened by comments by NAACP head (Savannahnow)
  • (note on the above, they may have been the host’s comments)

Morning Reads

Ease his pain: Shoeless Joe Jackson, maybe South Carolina’s greatest contribution to sport, might be reinstated tomorrow. He deserves to be in the Hall. Let’s all hope he gets there.

  • “Cowboy Doctors” and Health Costs (Harvard Magazine)
  • airbnb and the General Assembly (Clatl)
  • Fare thee well, Jonny Gomes, we’ll always have this: (mlb)
  • Ajc’s take on the proposed energy merger (Ajc)
  • One pan pasta! (slate)
  • German literary critic reviews the IKEA catalog (apartmenttherapy)
  • Overhaul of teacher pay, on the way (ajc)
  • Gerrymandering so hard, only one person left, and that was accidental (alternet)
  • Josh McKoon on Georgia’s big businesses (ajc)
  • Donald Trump Is Running A Perpetual Attention Machine (FiveThirtyEight)



Morning Reads for Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

Paris was liberated by the Allies on this day in 1944 (above). Springsteen’s “Born to Run” was released in 1975, in 1950 President Harry Truman took over the railroads to prevent a strike, and in 2009 Ted Kennedy died. On the the reads…

  • Krugman: Debt Is Good (NYTbut see Collender: Paul Krugman Is Wrong (Forbes)
  • 16 Startup Metrics (Andreessen Horowitz)
  • How Autistic People Helped Shape the Modern World (Wired)
  • ‘Peak TV in America’: Is there really too much good scripted television? (Hit Fix)
  • The 10 most cringeworthy Fox News interviews of the last decade (Salon)
  • Science Isn’t Broken: It’s just a hell of a lot harder than we give it credit for. (FiveThirtyEight)
  • How is the Apple Watch doing? (Benedict Evans)
  • Meet the Most Powerful Political Players in Silicon Valley (Re/code)
  • Check out these photos taken from the same spots immediately after Katrina and now (nola)
  • Atlanta’s parking addiction (Clatl)

Morning Reads for Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

On this date in 1920, the 19th Amendment was ratified giving women the right to vote. James Meredith became the first black person to graduate from the University of Mississippi in 1963, and Jimi Hendrix closed out Woodstock with his set in 1969. On to the reads!

  • Verizon’s new, experimental FiOS service is 10 times faster than Google Fiber (Washington Post)
  • Donald Trump, Through the Ages. (McSweeney’s)
  • California Has a Plan to End the Auto Industry as We Know It (Bloomberg)
  • The Kansas Experiment: My uncle Gene is a state legislator in Topeka. This year, he and his fellow Republicans tried to do something pretty drastic with the state budget. And I got to watch the whole thing. (NYT Mag)
  • The Man Who Found the Titanic Is Not Done Yet: Thirty years ago, Bob Ballard discovered the wreck of the Titanic. He could have stopped there. Yet today, at seventy-three, he remains the world’s most vigorous ocean explorer. (Popular Mechanics)
  • Tracking Police Violence A Year After Ferguson (FiveThirtyEight)
  • Stores Suffer From a Shift of Behavior in Buyers (NYT)
  • Wikipedia suddenly lost a massive amount of traffic from Google (Business Insider)
  • Music Festivals: Peace, Love and a Business Battle (WSJ)
  • How scientists hope to find alien life, in 7 steps (Vox)

Morning Reads for Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

The Battle of Amiens ended on this day in 1918 (above, the Cathedral in Amiens during Mass in World War I). The Mall of America opened on this day in 1992. And, of interest to at least one of you, the Eiger was climbed for the first time on this date in 1858.

  • Yes, Uber Lost a Lot of Money — And It Will Lose More (Re/code)
  • The buzz(kill) about caffeine (Reveal)
  • It’s clear the US should not have bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Quartz)
  • In first debate, Republicans ditch the lessons of 2012 (WaPo)
  •  Treatment of women a topic after GOP presidential debate (Seattle Times)
  • We Remade Our Atlas to Reflect Shrinking Ice (Nat Geo)
  • Marines Say Costly F-35 Jet Fighter Is Finally Ready (WSJ)
  • How baseball’s tech team built the future of television (The Verge)
  • The Friedrich Hayek I knew, and what he got right – and wrong (New Statesman)
  • How corn made its way into just about everything we eat (WonkBlog)
  • How I Gave Up Alternating Current (Mostly Harmless)
  • The True Story of an Ex-Cop’s War on Lie Detectors (Bloomberg)
  • Billy Beane on Making Better Decisions and Avoiding Biases (Farnam Street)
  • “Hell is Empty and All the Devils Are Here”: A Shakespearean guide to the Republican primaries. (McSweeney’s)
  • So you got in a car accident in Botswana, or was it a heart attack in Manaus? Either way, here’s somethings you should know (NPR)

Morning Reads for Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

Louis Armstrong was born on this day in 1901. On to the reads!

  • How Germany Prevailed in the Greek Bailout (NYT)
  • Secrets of the Brain: New technologies are shedding light on biology’s greatest unsolved mystery: how the brain really works. (National Geographic)
  • The Attack On Truth: We have entered an age of willful ignorance (Chronicle of Higher Education)
  • Frank Zappa’s ‘last word’: The musician’s widow, Gail, says she promised him that she’d look out for his legacy. (LA Times)
  • Roughly 100 Fantastic Pieces of Journalism: Exceptional nonfiction stories from 2014 that are still worth encountering today (The Atlantic)
  • In America, mass incarceration has caused more crime than it’s prevented (Quartz)
  • Puerto Rico fails to make Aug. 1 payment, signaling default (Reutersbut see Municipal Bonds Still Safe, Despite Some Ailing Governments (NYT)
  • 17 podcasts that will make you smarter (Business Insider)
  • The long and well-documented decline in family-owned businesses (538)
  • White House Warns States On Job-Licensing Requirements (Real Time Economics)
  • North Carolina’s legislature’s track record has lessons for Georgia (News & Observer)
  • Georgia not getting on opt-out of standardized tests bandwagon…yet (BannerHerald)
  • Michael Warner makes the case for Downtown (GlobeSt)