Posts Tagged ‘Atlanta’

The Cobb County Braves?

November 12, 2013

I haven’t seen anywhere in the news reports about the Atlanta Braves moving to Smyrna in Cobb County whether the team will still be called the Atlanta Braves. After all, the team will be moving out of  the City of  Atlanta.

WSB-TV reports that Cobb County Commission Chairman  Tim Lee released a statement Monday morning saying, “Atlanta has evolved over the years into a broader community that offers so much for so many. Cobb County is proud to be a part of the region’s continued success.” That could be considered a clue the name won’t change when the stadium opens in 2017.

How do I feel about it?  It will make it easier for my niece Janet Sue Gray and family to get to the games since they live in Smyrna, and it’ll be closer to Cumming where my son and family live, and closer to Kennesaw where my step son Ken Champion and family live, so it suits me.  


Andrew, Me, and a Waco Biplane

May 8, 2012

That’s my step-grandson Andrew Champion standing with me in front of a classic Waco biplane right before we took off. The ride was a Christmas present for me and a 20th birthday present for  Andrew.  It was another example  of creative gifts provided by Ken and Katrina Champion, and my three other stepsons, Richard, Doug, and Mick.

Following pilot Bruce Dance’s instructions, I backed into the cockpit. After I finally got my long legs in, Andrew did the same thing to get his even longer legs in.

The big challenge of  the ride was Andrew and me shoehorning into the front cockpit which was quite roomy for one person, but a little  snug for two  adults. The pilot, Bruce Dance of Biplane Rides over Atlanta, who is also a flight instructor and crop duster, gave us specific instructions on how to back into the cockpit.  It wasn’t easy for an old arthritic guy like me and a young 6’4″ man like Andrew.  It was worth it, though. 

When one flies in an open cockpit biplane one really knows he is flying.  My stepson Richard, who is also a pilot, said that airline pilots fly biplanes when they want to fly for the  fun of it. 

The ride was a hoot.  We flew from Peachtree-Dekalb Airport, a general aviation facility that houses a lot of really expensive corporate jets, to  downtown Atlanta and back.  With the radial engine roaring right in front of us, and the wind blasting around us, we got super views of the downtown Atlanta area.  Bruce warned us to make sure we tightly held on to our camera straps.  “That wind will rip a camera right out of your hands,” he told us.  

Adding to the special experience was the 57th Fighter Group restaurant from where the biplanes operate.  It’s a World War II aviation themed eatery that’s a show in itself. Air Force memorabilia including pictures of WW II fighter pilots decorate it.  Even a trip to the “latrine” is entertaining.  There are sandbags along the walls of the hall leading to the restrooms.  Instead of background music being piped in, recorded speeches of Churchill and FDR were playing.  The background music in the rest of the restaurant was WW II era popular music.   There is a great view of the airport runways and the two biplanes stationed beside the restaurant, and the food is quite good.   

It was a fine family outing and I certainly recommend it for anyone  who loves  airplanes old and new. 

The Movie Theater that hasn’t Gone With the Wind

September 19, 2011

When I was working as a reporter and weekend anchor for WAGA-TV in Atlanta in 1968, a new movie theater opened, and since it  had the interesting name of Tara, I wanted to check it out.  But, alas, I never got around to it before I moved to Columbia, SC to work for WIS-TV.  Much to my surprise, that theater, now 43-years-old, is still in operation.  And while in the Atlanta area this past weekend, we went there to see The Guard,  a dark Irish comedy.  Yes, it is funny, though also serious, and I do recommend it, even though I did miss a lot of the dialogue because of the heavy Irish accents.

The theater itself, though, was also a great show for me, especially since I finally got to see it.  I didn’t get to see the original 1200 seat auditorium, because it was converted in the 70s to a four-screen multiplex, and eventually became the art theater that it is now.  But, the outside, and the lobby are the same as they were in 1968.

The lobby celebrates movie history with pictures of the great stars of the 30s and 40s, actors like Humphrey Bogart and Inger Bergman in Casablanca, and, of course, since the theater is named after the Tara plantation in Gone With the Wind, which premiered at Atlanta’s Lowe’s Grand in 1939, Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh are prominently displayed.  When Tara opened in 1968 it was owned by the Lowes chain. In fact, it opened as Lowe’s Tara.  At one time it was owned by United Artists, but now it’s owned by Regal Theaters.

Tara could hold the record for a movie theater that continuously showed movies uninterrupted, since it has done it  for 43 years.  The manager, David Perry, told me it never shut down even during its renovations. He also told me that business is good.

Do I recommend it? If you are a movie buff, one who is into movie history, and enjoy art movies, by all means.  I enjoyed it a lot. At one time the section of Atlanta where it is located got a reputation for being rough, but that’s changed. The area gentrified and is in with the young, hip,  intellectual crowd, which has gentrified a lot of old Atlanta, because they don’t have to fight Interstate traffic to get to work in the downtown area. Also, it puts them close to Atlanta arts, entertainment, and major league sports venues, and to Emory University, Georgia State University, and Georgia Tech.

Caution! The Georgia Legislature Goes Into Session

January 10, 2011

Prospects are the worst for those on the low rungs of the socio-economic ladder, and not just because of the immediate effects of budget cuts, but because of long-term damage caused by draconian cuts to public education. Up to another 2 billion dollars will have to be cut from the state budget.  Not only is tax revenue not keeping up with budget demands, but federal stimulus money is ending. That should please all of those who opposed taking stimulus money in the first place.

The council that is recommending “tax reform” reportedly wants to rely even more on  the sales tax, the most regressive of taxes. Regressive taxes take a higher percentage from low-income tax payers than high-income tax payers. For one thing, it is expected to recommend reinstatement of the sales tax on the most basic of commodities, food. 

Another program that truly helps middle-class families, HOPE, is in trouble because college tuition fees have grown more than state lottery income.  Something has to be done to save this highly popular program that enables many middle-class youngsters to attend college. Recommendations include increasing the GPA requirement, rejecting students who are in remedial courses, and using financial need as part of admission criteria. If the legislature fails to save this program, perhaps we’ll get a new legislature when the next election rolls around. 

Already down by three billion dollars over the last eight years, more draconian cuts are planned for the state’s public school system.  This could mean more teacher furloughs and worse.  This is really depressing because the future of the people of this state depends on better public education.   

Rep. Calvin Smyre, GA House District 132

Representative Calvin Smyre puts it this way in his online legislative report:  “Although state revenues have increased by 7.4 percent through the first five months of fiscal year 2011, balancing next year’s budget will be more difficult because Georgia will not be able to take advantage of federal stimulus funding as we have the past two years. Gov.-Elect Deal, who is proposing a tax cut for corporations, has already put local public school systems on notice to brace for further funding cuts. Over the past eight years, the state has already slashed more than $3 billion in funding to local schools, causing larger class sizes, fewer school days, teacher furloughs and layoffs and higher local property taxes.”

In transportation, the legislature is expected once again to ignore the need for commuter rail. This means the Atlanta area gridlock nightmare will probably get worse.

Well, the legislature certainly has one thing going for it:  very low expectations.

Wild Hogging it Again

January 11, 2010

I didn’t go this year so I had to depend on the AP story in the Ledger-Enquirer to tell me about it.  Actually, after reading the story, I got the impression that this year wasn’t much different from last year, the one I attended.

Last year the budget was the main concern of just about everyone I talked with when the politicians and lobbyists and media folks gathered at the Georgia Railroad building in Underground Atlanta, a stones throw from the Capitol.   It appears that’s the same main topic this year.  Last year the state had to cut spending and this year it’s going to have to do the same thing.

With the legislature struggling to balance the budget, does the Capitol really need a lavish gold dome? Gold is expected by some to go to $1500 an ounce this year. Why not melt it down and use the proceeds to help balance the budget?

Last year, gubernatorial candidates were smiling big and shaking a lot of hands. That was no different this year, from what I read. It will be interesting to see how legislators handle the huge problems of water, transportation, and education. With elections looming, their decisions could very definitely have an impact on who wins. 

I received this comment today from a person identifying himself as Norman on the post I did last year about the Wild Hog affair.  “Who pays for this dinner of 1500 or more people? If the budget is as bad as they tell us, be nice if things like this could be cut, not police, fire fighters, and teachers.”

According to what I learned last year, the state doesn’t pay for the Wild Hog Dinner. The affair is hosted by Agricultural Commissioner Tommy Irvin.  State Rep. Carolyn Hugley told me last year that it was paid for by “sponsors,”  which probably translates to lobbyists.  It’s pretty safe to assume that’s what happened this year, too.  So you don’t have to worry about the state paying for it, but those teachers, fire fighters, and police could decide to take retribution at the polls when the budget slashers who cut their compensation run for reelection?

Flying Out of Columbus is Affordable Again

June 14, 2009

I’ve started flying out of the Columbus again.  Like just about everyone else, I stopped doing it because the cost was just too prohibitive.  It was a lot cheaper to take the Groome shuttle.  That has changed, according to Carolyn Marlow, who handles communications for  Columbus Metropolitan Airport.  The airport commission has negotiated a benchmarking deal with Delta  that means you can’t be charged  more than $100 – Delta likes to keep it at about $79 – to Atlanta to connect with a Delta flight.  It can cost less, but not more.

Atlantic Southeast - Delta Connection jet at Columbus Metropolitan Airport, Columbus, GA

Atlantic Southeast - Delta Connection jet at Columbus Metropolitan Airport, Columbus, GA

“Flying out of Columbus now is a no-brainer,” she says.

My experience a few weeks ago validates what she said, at least to me.

 I prefer 20 minutes in the air to an hour-and-a- half in a van or a car,   and I don’t like going through the time consuming security hoops at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.   That’s why I went on line and was happy to learn I could fly from Columbus to Fort Lauderdale for just a little more than if I used Groome.  Nothing wrong with Groome, by the way. They do a good job for a reasonable price. A Groome roundtrip from Columbus to Atlanta is less  than Delta;  how much less depends on the rate for an individual flight .  I figured my roundtrip flight from Columbus to Ft. Lauderdale cost me about $60 more than if I had used Groome. 

Passengers waiting to board a Atlantic Southeast jet to Atlanta, Columbus Metropolitan Airport, Columbus, GA

Passengers waiting to board a Atlantic Southeast jet to Atlanta, Columbus Metropolitan Airport, Columbus, GA

And I found that a lot of people were doing it, mostly Fort Benning soldiers and their relatives.  The Atlantic Southeast Airlines jet was almost full on my flight out on a Saturday and my return flight on Thursday.  Boarding in Columbus was a snap.  It took about five minutes to go through the security check, even with everyone taking off their shoes.  The security guards were vigilant, but polite and efficient. You can wait in line in Atlanta for up to  45 minutes sometimes. 

When we got to Atlanta to change planes, it was just a matter of getting off one plane and getting on another one – o.k. my Delta flight to Fort Lauderdale  was at the other end of the sprawling Atlanta airport.  But, I needed the exercise.  I usually walk two miles a day anyway.

Business is picking up at Columbus Metropolitan.  45,000 travelers flew out of Columbus in 2007, and 48,057 in 2008.  Still, it needs to pick up a lot more for the Columbus airport to attract more airlines and add more destinations.  Studies show that 90 percent of folks in our area ,who are flying out of Atlanta, take a ground shuttle or go by car.

NCR CEO and Chairman Nuti Has the Right Idea

June 3, 2009

I liked what the chairman and CEO of NCR said about bringing manufacturing back to America.  Chuck Williams reported in the Ledger-Enquirer that NCR is moving its national headquarters from Dayton, Ohio to the Atlanta area and opening an ATM manufacturing plant in Columbus that will eventually bring more than 800 jobs to the Columbus area.   He quoted Bill Nuti  as saying “We are returning manufacturing to America. We are creating jobs, and as a company we have the courage to do it in America.”  May your tribe increase Mr. Nuti.  That’s the kind of spirit we need.

Muscogee Legislators “Tell It Like It IS’

April 8, 2009

The state budget crisis,  the transportation fiasco,  a July session of the Georgia Legislature,  Sen. Harp’s plans to run for statewide office, billboards highlight the town hall meeting at the Columbus Public Library.

Muscogee County legislators made no attempt to sugarcoat what was not a satisfying session of the Georgia Legislature.

Muscogee County democratic Party Town Hall Meeting, Columbus Public Library, Columbus GA

Muscogee County Democratic Party Town Hall Meeting, Columbus Public Library, Columbus GA

Both state senators,  and the dean of the delegation,  all were not happy that the legislature failed to come up with a transportation plan.

Rep. Calvin Smyre, (D), Georgia House

Rep. Calvin Smyre, (D), Georgia House

Rep. Calvin Smyre said,  “It was irresponsible.  It cannot stand. It will not stand.  I am going to make this clear in a news conference Thursday.   It will be addressed this year. ”

He predicted the legislature will be going back into session in three months to deal with the state budget,  and,  he seemed to be saying it will also deal with transportation plan.

“It is wrong for the state to tell the people of Atlanta what they can do with the penny tax they approved at the polls to expand Marta.”

Marta,  the Atlanta area public transit system whose ridership has soared,  cannot access it’s own money to improve and expand the system without the state’s approval.

“That’s wrong.  It has to be changed.”

The audience at the Muscogee County Democratic Party town hall meeting at the Columbus Library applauded enthusiastically.

Sen. Seth Harp, (R), Georgia Senate

Sen. Seth Harp, (R), Georgia Senate

And the Republican state senator who was at the Democratic meeting also got a few big hands, himself.  Sen. Seth Harp, said he would have voted for either of the plans, the one favored by the House or the Senate plan, but he didn’t think either would get taxpayer support.

“They waited too late.  They should have passed it last year. Now, with the recession causing pain in the pocketbook,  it is doubtful that people will vote a penny tax regionally or statewide,” Senator Harp said.  The tax is necessary to fund the plan, which advocates say is urgently needed.  All you have to do is drive to Atlanta to know that the situation is critical.

Sen. Harp might not have pleased his Republican following with one remark he made.  He joined Rep. Smyre in thanking President Obama for sending $1.6 billion in stimulus money to Georgia.  He said with the critical budget problem facing Georgia, the federal money does help. 

“I agree with Calvin.  The legislature will be going back into session in July.  The budget just approved by the legislature banks on the economy getting better. I hope it will, but I am not confident about that.  We will be making more cuts.  For instanceteachers will probably have tobe  furloughed.

“And if we have to do that, say for ten days.  I – and I hope my fellow legislators will join me – will not accept my pay as a senator for those ten days.”

That one elicited a big round of applause. 

Sen. Seth Harp, (R), Sen. Ed Harbison, (D) Georgia State Senate

Sen. Seth Harp, (R), Sen. Ed Harbison, (D) Georgia State Senate

Sen. Harp looked over at Sen. Ed Harbison,  a Democrat,  and said the two of them work together probably better than any two lawmakers in the Senate.  He also let everyone know that he recently learned that he and Harbison served in the same unit in the Vietnam War.  More applause.

Rep. Debbie Buckner, (D), Georgia House

Rep. Debbie Buckner, (D), Georgia House

And Rep.  Debbie Buckner, also a Democrat,  drew a round of applause when she said that, though some things she supported weren’t approved,  the effort that she and other lawmakers to kill the bill that would allow billboard companies to cut more trees on public property was successful.  The crowd like that one, too.

Rep. Carolyn Hugley, (D), Georgia House

Rep. Carolyn Hugley, (D), Georgia House

Rep. Carolyn Hugley was the first to point out that the state is in dire straights over the econ0my and that the cuts that will accompany the budget will cause pain for a lot of people.

When Sen. Harp confirmed he is not running for again for the seat he now holds,  but instead will run for either insurance commissioner and attorney general,  and will make an announcement next week on which one,  Rep. Hugley said, “Oh, go ahead and announce it tonight.”  Sen. Harp said he would wait.

All in all, I have to say I was impressed with the candor of the legislators at the town hall meeting.   They didn’t try to spin the truth about the state of the state or the legislative session that just ended.  The one they predict for  July will, no doubt,  will be a stem-winder.

Josh McKoon on Georgia 85, Georgia Legislature Coverage, Excessive Crime Reporting, and Gaza

January 7, 2009

  Josh McKoon, chair of the the Muscogee County Republican Party, sent the following email to me about recent  posts on this blog.  I decided to use it as a post rather than run it as a comment to one of the posts he addresses. 

Dear Dick,
As always I enjoy reading your blog posts and just wanted to share a few comments with you.
I am glad you reminded people they can travel on Georgia 85, it is much better than I-85 given the mess between Exit 41 and 47.  And as you mentioned, it is a more pleasant drive.
And I could not agree more with your January 3 post regarding news coverage of the Georgia Legislature.  I wonder if the various local media organizations could pool resources to send one reporter up for the session.  I get tired of having to read the Atlanta and Savannah papers to find out what our legislators are up to under the Gold Dome.  Lawmakers is an excellent resource, as is Dick Pettys web site, Peach, the AJC’s political insider on, the Georgia Gang (if you can get Atlanta television stations) and Insider Advantage online.  I am interested to see how Richard Hyatt and hopefully you, provide information to local citizens on the upcoming session.  But it is right to put a big spotlight on this issue as the lack of coverage the last few years is a dereliction of duty on the part of the press.
I also have to agree with you regarding the overemphasis on crime in the media.  If I want to hear about the police 24/7, I will buy a scanner.  If you really want to cover crime, how about an in depth story on the incredible success of the Muscogee County Juvenile Drug Court program, or the Junior Marshal program or the Truancy Intervention Project, or Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and the hundreds of volunteers that devote time to helping at-risk children from becoming another crime blotter story?
Finally I do have to take issue with you on your most recent entry regarding the conflict in Gaza.  I agree with you that any short take on the conflict is necessarily simplistic given the history.  However, take this most recent upsurge in violence and what I see is the Israeli government making significant territorial concessions (Sharon’s effort to abandon settlements in Gaza and leave it to the PA to control).  In return, terrorists take control of the government and now being even closer to Israeli population centers they fire rockets indiscriminately, killing men, women and children.  The Israelis suffer this for so long before finally saying, we cannot let the killing of our people continue unanswered and take military action to end the violence. 
To put this in perspective, let us say that Mexico wanted to reclaim portions of California and Texas and, that after lengthy negotiation, the U.S. agreed to territorial concessions.  Within a short period of time, militant Mexican nationalists start firing rockets into Los Angeles, Houston and New Orleans.  What would the U.S. do in response?  I highly doubt we would have negotiated for any period of that time and given the aggressors the opportunity to cease and desist.  I expect U.S. tanks would be rolling immediately into those areas and taking those responsible out of commission.
Unfortunately, the terrorists in Gaza not only target innocent Israeli civilians, when they are confronted with a counterattack they hide behind innocent people as well, and then when someone is killed in the ensuing fighting the terrorists seek to blame the Israelis for killing people they are using as human shields.
So it is unsurprising to me that Republicans and Democrats widely agree on the subject of supporting our ally Israel, the only totally functioning democracy in the whole of the Middle East, over the terrorists running Gaza.
Thanks for letting me share my thoughts with you and keep up the great work, it is always a delight to read your take on what is going on in our community and elsewhere.

Will Columbus Media Give Repsonsible Coverage to the State Legislature?

January 3, 2009

  On January 15th something very important, if you live in Georgia, is going to happen. The state legislature is going into session and, times being what they are, really critical, almost economically critical as the Great Depression, a world changing event that had cataclysmic outcomes, the legislature has some important decision to make. 

  This session of the Georgia legislature should get top attention by the state’s news media, but, judging from recent performances, it probably won’t.  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution will probably give the most in-depth and incisive coverage, as far print media is concerned. And, thank goodness, GPTV will have its nightly Lawmakers reports that sum up each days legislative activities, but that’s not enough. It is imperative for Columbus that the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer give the legislature full coverage this year.  And Columbus television stations, the place where most people get their daily news, need to make a special effort to keep Columbus informed about what our state lawmakers are up to because what they do will have enormous impact on the ordinary citizen.

  But will Columbus media meet this challenge? It hasn’t for a number of years. I can remember when it did. The paper would have reporters that spent a great deal of time at the Capitol. And, television made an effort to keep audiences informed. I can remember when me and a photographer would drive up to Atlanta in the morning,  cover the local delegation with footage from inside the House and Senate chambers showing floor action and interviews with principals involved, and driving back in time to get the film processed and report on the action on the evening newscast. It was very rough and stressful work but it was the responsible thing to do.

  Later, when I was news director at WRBL-TV, I contracted withan Atlanta- based reporter for two or three reports a week. He would shoot reports during the day, put them on a Greyhound bus, and they would air that night.  Well, with today’s satellite capapabilties just think how effective reporting from the capitol could be.

  Now, some present day consultants may say that people really aren’t that interested in such reports, and these consultants are most interested in ratings. Well – guess what –  we had very good ratings then. Much better than they are now on any Columbus station.   

  Instead of a nightly parade of the days crimes, the easy stuff to cover, let’s see some real journalism for a change.  Yes, it takes reporters with some intellectual depth to cover political news and they don’t, as a rule, work for peanuts, but,  the investment can be worth it, not only in ratings, but in building public respect for news operations.