Political Insider

An AJC blog about Atlanta politics, Georgia politics, Georgia and metro Atlanta election campaigns. Because all politics is local.

Andrew Young on Atlanta politics: ‘Things are not all white’


And yet Andrew Young is still worried about the future of the biracial power-sharing agreement – whites have the reins of business, blacks control City Hall – that has been a hallmark of Atlanta politics for decades.

Last month, we told you about a Thanksgiving Day conversation with Young on the topic. The former mayor and U.N. ambassador was a supporter of Keisha Lance Bottoms, who defeated Mary Norwood in the Dec. 5 runoff.

From his office on 14th Street in Atlanta, Young, 85, has now poured his thoughts into a YouTube video, "> which you can watch here:

He begins his musing thusly:

“Things are not all white. And if they’re not all white to some people, they’re not all right. There’s almost….a feeling that because the politics has been run by the minority community – well, you hear the term corruption all the time.

“The assumption is, if black people are making money, they’re doing it illegally. The truth of it is, the money being made by black people and white people for the most part is not coming from taxpayers….”

Young does not mention the several federal investigations currently underway at City Hall, but he would probably argue that the probes are incidental to the larger picture he's attempting to address. Another snippet:

“…Frankly, whether you like it or not, and maybe it’s race, but I doubt that any white mayor could have pushed us through the Olympics. I doubt that any white mayor could have built the Mercedes-Benz stadium – or the Georgia Dome, which I helped build. I took a whole lot of cussin’ outs.

“Even our mass transit system probably could not have been built if we had not been black and white together. But it happened to be a Jewish mayor (Sam Massell) that lowered the bus fare from 55 cents to 15 cents for 10 years, that provided the margin of victory. But that was only because he was in active communication with the black leadership…

“If you try to move on and leave anybody behind, you’re going to upset the balance that has made this city work. If you want to go somewhere where it’s all white, go – to St. Louis. Go to Cincinnati. Go to Columbus. Go to Chicago…”

There’s always been a little bit of the Daoist in Andrew Young.  Here’s his conclusion:

“It’s not about race, but it is about race. I ran a race against a very nice fellow...”

This was Sidney Marcus, who like Massell was Jewish. The year was 1981. To continue:

“But here I was, an associate of Martin Luther King, 10 years working in a non-violent movement, four years in Congress, three years at the United Nations. And I come back here and I’m running against a guy who’s a nice guy, but he got the overwhelming majority – I think I got 14 percent of the white vote.

“Now, that doesn’t mean this is a racist city, but it does mean that race is very conscious in everybody’s thinking.”

It still is. Unlike some, Young isn’t saying this is a bad thing, or a good thing. Rather, he’s arguing that race is a real thing in Atlanta, if I might interpret his remarks, and that reality on the ground is something that requires respect.

***

Some unexpected news out of the tax-rewrite now in its final stages of congressional negotiation, via the Washington Post:

In a minor win for Democrats, the final GOP tax bill will not include a repeal of the Johnson Amendment, a change that would have allowed religious institutions and all nonprofit entities organized as 501(c)3s to endorse political candidates.

President Trump had strongly advocated the repeal.

In fact, the president had promised to “totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment in February.

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Butch Miller's election to the second-most powerful post in the senate Senate further consolidates statehouse power in the hands of a few north Georgia Republicans. Like Miller, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Gov. Nathan Deal also call Hall County home. And House Speaker David Ralston hails from Blue Ridge, a 70-mile journey through the mountains north of Gainesville.

Folks in the governor's office and some House Republicans cheered Miller's victory. Miller is a former Deal floor leader with close ties to the governor. And he's a welcome sight for some House lawmakers who had a testy relationship with his predecessor, David Shafer, a Lawrenceville Republican running for lieutenant governor. (Greg Bluestein)

***

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle sent us a lengthy statement about Miller's victory. The gist: He's good with the Miller victory, but glad Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert is still the No. 3 in the chamber. And he applauded another potential candidate, state Sen. Brandon Beach, for deciding not to run and letting Miller win by unanimous vote. Here's the essential part of the statement from Cagle:

“This is a great leadership team that will work well together to advance Georgia. With session beginning in just three weeks, it’s important that we have as little turnover as possible. We have strong leadership in both Senators Miller and Cowsert, and having them serve alongside one another in these key roles will better enable us to tackle some of the most significant challenges facing our state.

"Anytime you run in a contested race, you are risking something. In the case of Senator Cowsert, I expressed that the Caucus could not afford to lose his proven, natural ability to drive debate to a final consensus as the Majority Leader. At the end of the day, the decision was his to make, but - selfishly - I recognize that his value to our overall success is far too important in the position in which he already serves...."

There could be some 2018 strategery here. The lieutenant governor's chief rival in the Republican race for governor is Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Who is Cowsert's brother-in-law. And during this session, the brother-in-law will remain inside Cagle's tent -- not outside.

Cowsert isn't the only senator whose loyalty might be divided. State Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-Marietta, is the uncle of Clay Tippins, another Republican in the race for governor. Lindsey Tippins was named vice-chairman of the Senate Republican Caucus on Wednesday. (GB)

***

On Thursday, Democratic candidate for governor Stacey Abrams entertained former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm at an event here. But we wanted her reaction to Doug Jones' U.S. Senate victory in Alabama, where African-American voters became a powerful force in the defeat of Republican Roy Moore. "It was like watching an experiment and realizing, yes, the experiment works," Abrams said. (Maya Prabhu)

***

Via Twitter, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, on Thursday distributed one of the most painful video clips we’ve seen come out of D.C. in a while:

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Also in Washington, Politico.com today takes note of WSB Radio’s Jamie Dupree’s status as a radio reporter without a voice. A taste:

Inside the Capitol, he has taken to passing out business cards to members: “Hello. I would like to speak with you, but...I am unable to talk to you at this time,” they say. Most members have done their best to accommodate Dupree, happy to answer the questions he writes out.

Some have done even more. When Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) met Dupree in a tunnel under the Capitol, the former pastor stopped and laid his hand on Dupree’s shoulder. “We prayed for comfort and strength,” Hice told me, “and that the hand of God would touch him and heal him.”

Dupree is not religious, but he bowed his head. “It’s another example of how for the most part members of Congress are for the most part very good people,” he wrote.

***

During this week’s hearings on the continued construction of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle, the chairman of the state Public Service Commission prevented two individuals from making remarks on the issue.

Both are Democrats fighting for the right next year to challenge Chuck Eaton, a Republican member of the PSC. Chairman Stan Wise cited their candidacies when he ruled them out of order.

On Tuesday, we told you that one of those candidates, Lindy Miller, had put her thoughts into a Facebook video. This morning, John Noel has gone one better. He snuck into an empty PSC hearing room and delivered his remarks, which he also posted in a Facebook video:


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About the Author

Jim Galloway is a three-decade veteran of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution who writes the Political Insider blog and column.