Political Insider

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

The Jolt: Say good-bye to Confederate Avenue in Atlanta


Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed today will take formal possession of a report on streets and monuments to Confederate cause and its leaders within the city – and what should be done with them.

Confederate Avenue could disappear as quickly as next week.

In an interview with Denis O’Hayer of WABE (90.1FM) just as the weekend broke, Reed gave a preview of what the report would say:

“Candidly, they want action taken immediately on streets that it really doesn’t take a scholar to understand that they’re offensive. So regarding streets like Confederate Avenue, East Confederate Avenue, any street named after Confederate leaders like Nathan Bedford Forrest or John B. Gordon or Robert E. Lee. They believe these should be changed immediately.”

On the timing, Reed said:

“I’m going to take a few days as we go into the Thanksgiving holiday, I’m going to reflect on it all, and then I’m going to have a public meeting where I make the decisions that I make as the mayor of this city know.”

In 2001, as part of a bargain to pull down the 1956 state flag and its Confederate battle emblem, the Legislature was given all authority over Confederate monuments and statuary – even if they were owned by specific counties or cities.

In the interview, O’Hayer asked the mayor if he expected any legal attempts to block the city’s move to change street names. Said Reed:

“I think that it’s certainly within the city’s purview to change the name of a street. We’re going to change the name of the street. If a member of the Legislature decides that they have a different opinion, that’s something that we’ll just have to have a conversation about.

“… If it becomes the subject of litigation, then the city will do what it needs to do until a court decides. But in a short order, we’re going to take decisive action regarding the recommendations that were made related to streets, and then we have some very thoughtful legislation recommendations relating to monuments.”

It's worth noting that even some Confederate enthusiasts admit, in backhanded fashion, that the 2001 compromise didn’t include street names.

In 2016, state Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, introduced HB 854, under which:

[T]he name of any street or road under the jurisdiction of a political subdivision that, on January 1, 1968, was named for a veteran and whose name has been changed since such date shall on January 1, 2017, revert back to the name which such street or road was named on January 1, 1968, and shall not be subject to any further change.

In Atlanta, that would have meant a portion of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard would have reverted to Gordon Road, in honor of Confederate Gen. John B. Gordon, an early leader of the Georgia Klan.

The bill was withdrawn after Benton made remarks supportive of the KKK.

In the WABE interview, O’Hayer noted that Reed grew up in Atlanta. He asked the mayor how aware he was of the Confederate symbolism in his community. Said Reed:

“Stone Mountain has always been offensive to me for my entire life. I was always aware of Confederate Avenue and East Confederate Avenue because there’s a part of a city facility where they take towed cars. The straight answer to your question is some were very offensive, some were not.”

The Atlanta mayoral campaign of Keisha Lance Bottoms has scheduled a 10 a.m. press conference in which she’s expected to show off endorsements from Jason Carter, the former Democratic candidate for governor; state Sens. Elena Parent and Nan Orrock; former state Rep. Kathy Ashe; and state Reps. Park Cannon and David Dreyer.

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Meanwhile, Alex Wan, in a runoff for president of the Atlanta City Council with Felicia Moore, has been endorsed by the third candidate in that race, Councilman C.T. Martin. The quote of note from Martin:

“Disagreements are natural in developing policy, and he and I have had our disagreements, but unlike Ms. Moore, Alex was always respectful, so we could work toward solutions on other issues at other times.”

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The city of Atlanta's economic development arm is going to court over the right to receive free tickets to sporting events at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Invest Atlanta filed a petition in Fulton County Superior Court challenging a ruling by the city's Board of Ethics that found tickets to football and soccer games at the stadium are illegal gratuities barred by city ordinance, according to The Fulton County Daily Report.

Invest Atlanta attorney Josh Belinfante said the more than $220 million the agency facilitated for the stadium, through public funds, was proof enough there was nothing "free" about the tickets. He told the newspaper the agency should be allowed the tickets to showcase the city.

The ethics agency didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. (Greg Bluestein)

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Gov. Nathan Deal threw state’s law enforcement community into turmoil last year, when he proposed – then passed – huge raises for members of the Georgia State Patrol.

The pay hikes have sparked a conversation on the need to raise the salaries of sheriff’s deputies and municipal police officers throughout the state. The Marietta Daily Journal on Saturday may have published the most significant response yet:

For some time now, west Cobb Commissioner Bob Weatherford has been hunting for a way to properly fund the county’s public safety department. He’s mulled floating a bond and considered a homestead option sales tax. Weatherford now believes he’s found the solution.

He’s calling it a public safety option sales tax. His plan would raise Cobb’s sales tax from 6 to 7 cents on the dollar through a public referendum. The commissioner estimates the extra penny would bring in about $138 million a year. The county would share that sum with its six cities, leaving it with an estimated $98 million.

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It is fair to say that there’s more than a book-publishing breach between Donna Brazile, the former Democratic party chair, and former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Brazile was in town on Sunday for her book tour. Clinton was at the Fox only seven days ago, on a similar mission. From our AJC colleague Jill Vejnoska:

Brazile, 57, told her audience it was only this past February that Clinton called her for the first time after unexpectedly losing the presidency to Republican Donald Trump last Nov. 8. And Clinton hasn’t ever called again.

“That’s OK, she’s busy, she had to write her book,” Brazile, who’d taken over as interim chair of the Democratic National Committee just four months before the election, said to appreciative chuckles from the crowd of some 160 people who packed the elegant gallery located near Mercedes-Benz Stadium. “She wrote her book, I wrote my book.”

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Democrat Stacey Abrams raised a cautious note about the push to offer Amazon a sweep of tax incentives to build its second headquarters in the city of Atlanta. The candidate for governor said in a podcast on Recode that she generally is “weary of tax incentives” to attract business, particularly if they involve tax abatements. “That means you’re not investing in schools, you’re not investing in infrastructure, you’re not investing in safety,” she said. “That comes at a cost, because you’re usually bringing new people to the community who are going to use all these services.” Abrams said the balance the state should seek to strike is a tricky one: “You want incentives that incentivize growth but not cripple the underlying infrastructure of the community.” (GB)

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A familiar face from Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle's office is moving over to work with U.S. Sen. David Perdue. Ben Fry, Cagle's former chief of staff, starts today as Perdue's state director, which puts him in charge of the Georgia Republican's representatives and operations across the state. Fry was most recently a lobbyist with UnitedHealth Group, a major insurance underwriter. He replaces Joyce White, who has moved on to work for Perdue's cousin, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, as Georgia State Director of Rural Development. (TH)


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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.