Rinker Sets Sights on Unseating Archibong: An Interview

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Dustin:  Council Member Natalyn Mosby Archibong has represented Council District 5 since 2001.  In Georgia, it has proven difficult to beat incumbents.  An AJC article from December 2012 sites, “Incumbents defeated challengers in 71 percent of this year’s races [2012]…”  There is that old cliché that says if it isn’t broken then you shouldn’t fix it.  I’m going to assume you’re running for office because you either want the glory of office or you think something is broken.  Why are you running?  Is something broken?  How will you defy the 71%?

Matt:  I made the decision to run for Atlanta City Council after a lot of thought, and after talking to a large number of family members, friends, neighbors and local business owners. Deciding to run for office is no small thing – and it’s a decision I didn’t take lightly.

But I’ve lived in Atlanta for over 10 years, and I know firsthand what a great place it is to live, work and raise a family. I’m proud to call Atlanta my home. But I know we can be doing better. We all know we can be doing better. We see it on the news every night, and we read it in the newspapers every day. There are plenty of things we, as a city, do well – but there are just as many things we could be doing better. And most of them are directly impacted by who we elect to represent our neighborhoods in local office.

Too often long-term incumbent politicians spend money on projects that don’t create new jobs, make our neighborhoods safer, or our schools better. In District Five, which covers part of Downtown and the neighborhoods of East Lake, East Atlanta, Glenwood Park, Kirkwood, Lake Claire, Reynoldstown, and Cabbagetown has seen very little in terms of growth over the past few years.  We have great areas with empty storefronts.  Atlanta has always been the economic engine that drove the rest of Georgia, but if each individual elected official isn’t fighting every single day to bring more good companies with good jobs and good benefits, they we are losing out. We need someone who will make creating jobs and bettering our neighborhoods priority one. And right now we don’t have that.

On a more personal level I’m running against Councilwoman Archibong because she voted against the Atlanta Beltline. Something that was supported by a huge number of families and businesses in our district, and our elected official said “no.”

Natalyn Archibong told our neighbors and local families and businesses that she thought they had no right to vote on Sunday Alcohol sales. Regardless of where you stand on that issue, having your voice on City Council say you shouldn’t have a voice on such an important issue doesn’t sit well with me.

Natalyn Archibong also voted for the new Falcons Stadium after telling constituents the same day that she didn’t have enough information to make a decision.  Voters in District Five have had no choice for the past 12 years.  Now they do.

Dustin:  Did you reach out to Councilwoman when she voted against the Beltline?  If so, what was her response?  And, what will you do to bring “good companies with good jobs and good benefits” into District 5?

Matt:  Ms. Archibong offered the reason that the project didn’t provide enough benefit to District Five.  The plan has the Beltline come through Glenwood Park and through Reynoldstown.  This gives a huge benefit to those two neighborhoods, but also makes easy access for East Atlanta, Cabbagetown and Edgewood.  A short bike ride or jog through those neighborhoods and you are on a trail headed to the Old Fourth Ward or at a festival in Piedmont Park and not sitting in traffic on the Connector.  Interestingly enough, her reason for voting against the Beltline – not providing benefit for the District – didn’t stop her from voting in favor of the new Falcons Stadium, which doesn’t provide any benefit for our District.

To bring quality jobs, we need to fix our continuing issues like transportation.  We have to have alternatives for people to get off the highways and allow for smart development in areas.  Putting incentives for development around MARTA stations, but then also making sure that people can utilize the bus system easily is a priority.  We have to encourage people to bike by adding designated bike lanes, and of course making sure that if someone wants to walk someplace that the sidewalk is actually walkable.  By making sure workers and shoppers can get to a business, it encourages growth and more businesses will do it.

Dustin:  Have you received the endorsement of any legislators from the Georgia General Assembly?  From organizations?  From neighborhood associations?  

Matt:  It’s still early in our race, but we have had serious discussions with multiple groups and individuals and we’ll be announcing some endorsements over the next few weeks.  Since I made my announcement, my main focus has been on meeting and listening to the residents in East Lake, Glenwood Park, Cabbagetown and throughout District Five to hear what issues they have and what they want from their voice on City Council.

Dustin:  Give us an executive overview of your community involvement for the last three years.    

Matt:  I have been actively involved with many organizations over my entire life, but some that I have focused my energy on over the last three years are CHRIS Kids, The Trevor Project, and Lost-n-Found Youth.  I have helped raise money, organized fundraising events, and attended meetings for these groups.  In addition, through my career, I have worked with the Atlanta Apartment Association’s annual canned food drive which benefits the Atlanta Community Food Bank and is one of the largest canned food drives in the nation.  I am also actively involved in ATLAS Bowling League, Go Kickball League, and Hotlanta Softball League.  With HSL, I have served as league Secretary for the past three years helping lead the almost 600 members and actively promoting charities with our fundraising efforts.  I am very proud of HSL and the work that our members do to help make our community a better place for LGBT youth.

Dustin:  Transportation, water, and education were three hot topics of 2012 for the City of Atlanta because all need improvement.  What role do you see the City Council playing to make sure there is improvement regarding these topics?  If elected, how do you see yourself in the quest to improve these for the City?

Matt:  This is a great example of our long-term incumbent politicians spending their time in committee meetings dealing with smaller issues, and ignoring the bigger issues. With the exception of the sewer repair and expansion in Atlanta over the last half of this decade, our in-town neighborhoods and businesses have largely been making due with infrastructure systems that were designed and implemented five decades ago. Of course we’re having issues now because we are a city of more than 3 million who come in and out of the city each day. But because these issues have been ignored for decades, it’s going to take years to fix them.

But here’s the good news. By electing a voice for our neighborhoods and local businesses who will fight every day to bring more good jobs, make our neighborhoods safer and our schools better, we can actually start to turn these issues around. It starts with having someone willing to address the problem, acknowledge it, and roll up their sleeves and help.

We need to encourage businesses and jobs to be created in local areas and around established transportation zones to help reduce some of our transportation headaches.  By offering incentives for business to locate around our existing MARTA stations and alternative transportation methods, we can encourage people to get off the highways and onto mass transit.  I am excited to see people utilizing the Beltline to get around and as we expand that network, we can expand options for transportation.

The Watershed Department still has a long way to go in order to be an efficient and well run department.  While some of the uproar has simmered, every day we continue to hear stories about unreal bills coming to residents.  There is a drastically slow response to repairs to water meters when they are identified as faulty.  I have heard from residents and businesses who tell me that the city has identified their meter as being faulty – either reading too high or too low – and yet months go by and the city does nothing to repair it.  We need a full and comprehensive audit of the Watershed Department and a serious, thoughtful plan on how to correct the issues that have been occurring for too long.

The Atlanta Public Schools are in crisis right now.  The cheating scandal put a dark cloud over our city and while the City Council has little say over it, I do feel that we must monitor the school system and support changes that will help the system rebound.  This year we have some new faces running to represent the school board districts that cover my city council district.  I have met or spoken with the candidates and the candidates I have spoken with are smart and insightful people.  I think with the selection of the new Superintendent and new voices on the School Board, the system will rebound.  My mom has been a teacher for 25 years so I know how important and thankless the job our teachers do every day.  I also know the value of a productive school board and school system.  I throw my full support behind our school teachers – they are underpaid and overworked, but are there because they know the value they are providing to our children.

Dustin:  MARTA is vital to the city of Atlanta.  Currently, there legislation in the Georgia Senate that would privatize MARTA.  What are your thoughts on the privatization of MARTA in regard to the city of Atlanta and specifically Council District 5?   (**Please note this question was presented while the GA General Assembly was in session.**) 

Matt:  Changes have to occur at MARTA in order for it to sustain itself but privatizing the agency is not the end-all-be-all answer.  The effort failed this year, but I suspect it will be back again.  MARTA needs to reorganize and try and streamline where it can, but they also be need free to utilize revenue in whatever manners the MARTA Board sees fit.  I think that on a local level, we need to work with MARTA in regards to zoning to help encourage growth of the system by both rail and bus.

Dustin:  Council Member Archibong sponsored legislation directing the City’s Chief Financial Officer to provide greater transparency in matters regarding the City’s financial standing.  This is definitely an accomplishment.  Do you feel enough work has been done in regard to transparency with the City’s financial records?    Do you have any plans to further the transparency movement?

Matt:  Transparency with our city government has been a long complained about issue – and the minor attempts to provide greater transparency has done little to help the average citizen navigate their way in getting information.  I do not feel that enough work has been done to make sure that citizens can easily find information – whether it be on financial standing or issues before City Council.  Council member Archibong’s own website hasn’t been updated for over four years – which be a great starting place for a citizen to get information.  I also feel annual audits need to be published of all City Council members expenditures as well as other departments within the City government.  As our world relies more and more on having information as close as a click of a mouse, our City needs to provide easy to read, easy to navigate information and resources to its citizens.

Matt:  As our next member of the Atlanta City Council, I will work hard to provide multiple avenues of information for every constituent, and believe that transparency is something you do every day – not just one bill that is passed. It means showing up to meetings, doing your homework, actually soliciting the opinions of families and businesses in District 5, not dodging difficult questions the day of an important vote, and understanding that the District 5 seat belongs to all of us – not one politician.

Dustin:  Recently, the City of Atlanta Parks Department changed its rule for festivals so that if a festival does not rent all facilities within the park area for their event then COA Parks has the authority to rent to any group to set up another event at the same time as long as they obtain a park rental permit.  Personally, this seems like the City is bullying people so it can make more money.  What are your thoughts on the change?     

Matt:  I am not specifically aware of the full policy regarding this change in Park policies, and the honest answer is I would need more detail. Having said that, festivals are a major source of economic development and a tourism magnet for Atlanta so we need to make the process as easy as possible while preserving and maintaining our parks. They bring in millions of dollars each year, and as our next member of the Atlanta City Council I would do whatever I could to support the festivals and our parks system.

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Hell To The No, Ms. Mobley

The women FORMERLY known as Judge Barbara Mobley resigned today.  Why would a Dekalb County judge who made around $150,000 a year resign?  Well, Ms. Mobley is floating in a well cooked stew of allegations.  Today, the AJC reports that Mobley has allegedly done everything from use her position to benefit someone behind on child-support to have a state worker access the Georgia Crime Information Center for information not related to a judicial matter to use public funds to make purchases for a church. I think Ms. Mobley forgot that Jesus said to obey the laws of the land unless they interfere with His word.  Maybe she got a call from Jesus authorizing the church purposes.  I could be out of the loop, or I could be thinking about the $3,800 in cell phone bills she racked up in 2008.  I digress! I wish I could tell you that these were all of the allegations made against Ms. Mobley; however, it boils down to the fact that after working eight hours I don’t have the energy to type all the allegations!  Barbara Mobley is one hot mess!  Yes ma’am, indeed!  If these allegations are true, I have one thing to say— HELL TO THE NO, Ms. Mobley, the citizens of Dekalb County deserve better than a trifling judge sitting on the bench.

The Flip-Flopping Sen. Balfour & GA Senate Committee Assignments

The GA Senate committee assignments for the 2010-2011 Regular Session of the Georgia General Assembly have been announced.  Click here to visit the Senate’s website and review the assignments.

At the bottom of this post I will list the members of the all important Senate Rules Committee.  The Rules Committee establishes the rules for the orderly procedure and placement of bills on the legislative calendar.

Senator Don Balfour  (pictured to the top left) is back for the 2010-2011 Regular Session.  Why do I say he’s back?  Well, for a brief period Senator Balfour wanted to leave state politics for Congress; however, he changed his mind about Congress AND briefly the State Senate.  Here’s an excerpt from one of Senator Balfour’s press releases from March 2010.

“Being a congressman has been something I thought I wanted to do. Needless to say, when John Linder announced that he was not running for re-election, I jumped at the opportunity to be the new voice of leadership. However, for the past three weeks, I have not been at peace about this decision. I feel this is an appropriate time to let all my supporters know that I will also not be seeking reelection for the 9th district senate seat.”

Flash forward to April 2010 for a press release from Senator Balfour:

“I would like to thank my family, friends, and devoted supporters who reached out to me and encouraged me to continue leading and making a difference in the lives of Georgians by seeking re-election for the 9th District Senate seat. I have spent many nights worrying about the safety of my son in Afghanistan and the future of our country at home. There is still much to be done and I simply cannot continue to make the changes that Americans need from the sidelines. In times like these, what our state needs most is a dedicated, seasoned leader who will stand up for what’s right and put Georgia back on the road to economic recovery and prosperity.”

Here’s to hoping that the Senator Balfour left his flip-flopping nature in 2010!

Rules Committee Officers
Chairman:  Balfour, Don
Vice Chairman:  Hamrick, Bill
Secretary:  Mullis, Jeff
Rules Committee Members
Ex-Officio Members

Healthcare……..

Healthcare Bills: House Version & Senate Version

Now, time for articles on the much discussed topic.  You’ll find articles from various organizations/news outlets, such as the American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, and more.

In a letter to Senate leaders, ACS CAN, the advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, said the proposed legislation includes a number of strong provisions that would significantly improve the health care system for cancer patients by refocusing the system to emphasize prevention; guaranteeing quality, affordable coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions; reducing the cost burden on families; eliminating lifetime coverage limits; covering routine health costs for those who enroll in clinical trials; and emphasizing patients’ quality of life.

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In the battle to control spiraling prescription drug costs, the Senate made an advance and a retreat late Tuesday as it pledged to close the infamous “doughnut hole” coverage gap in Medicare Part D even as it voted to kill a measure that would have permitted Americans to buy cheaper drugs from other countries such as Canada.

AARP had pushed aggressively for the Senate’s health care reform bill to close the Part D coverage gap and to allow the importation of less expensive drugs.

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American Dental Association Urges Senate to Reject Proposal to Tax Cosmetic Procedures: In keeping with its long-standing policy opposing taxes on dental procedures, the American Dental Association today sent a letter to all members of the Senate, asking them to reject a proposal to enact a 5-percent excise tax on cosmetic surgery.

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The Need for Health Care Reform:  When people with diabetes face a health care system that leaves them without adequate coverage, or any coverage at all, they often forgo the care needed to prevent, delay or slow diabetes progression. Without adequate care, too many suffer needlessly from preventable life-limiting or life-threatening complications, and require more expensive care later.

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While the Senate focused attention Thursday on the defense spending bill until the wee hours of the morning, Senate Republicans began to put pressure on another area to stop the healthcare reform bill. A current GOP governor and four GOP senators, who were once governors (from New Hampshire, Idaho, Nebraska, and Tennessee), said they oppose the “unfunded mandate” of Medicaid expansion included in the bill.

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We learned today from the Congressional Budget Office that this bill will reduce the deficit by $132 billion over the first decade, and more than $1 trillion in the decade after that. That makes it the biggest deficit-reduction effort in over a decade. All while expanding coverage to 30 million more Americans.

But bringing down the deficit and expanding coverage are only part of what insurance reform will do. And today the Senate introduced a package of changes to their bill that will make critical progress in ensuring competition, providing affordable choices, and holding the insurance companies accountable.

Links: Hate Crime to HIV/AIDS to Healthcare to Apple

Hundreds of members and supporters of Israel’s homosexual community have rallied in Tel Aviv a day after a masked gunman killed two people at a gay youth centre.

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A new strain of the virus that causes AIDS has been discovered in a woman from the African nation of Cameroon. It differs from the three known strains of human immunodeficiency virus and appears to be closely related to a form of simian virus recently discovered in wild gorillas, researchers report in Monday’s edition of the journal Nature Medicine.

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Confusing claims and outright distortions have animated the national debate over changes in the health care system. Opponents of proposals by President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats falsely claim that government agents will force elderly people to discuss end-of-life wishes. Obama has played down the possibility that a health care overhaul would cause large numbers of people to change doctors and insurers.

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How Apple can mess with your life

Obama and The Gays

Yesterday, President Obama released a press statement proclaiming June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. This is fine and dandy, almost like a hard candy Christmas.

I think it is great that President Obama references Stonewall. I think it is great that he calls on Americans to end discrimination; however, I would rather President Obama his promise of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Back in January, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs answered questions from the Public on Youtube. “Thadeus of Lansing, Mich., asks, ‘Is the new administration going to get rid of the “don’t ask, don’t tell policy?'” Gibbs answered,”Thadeus, you don’t hear a politician give a one-word answer much. But it’s, ‘Yes.'” We need to call on President Obama and ask him to cash in that “yes.”

Back in April of 2008, I interviewed two veterans and asked about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Check out that interview here.

Below is the President Obama’s proclamation as it appears on www.whitehouse.gov:

LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, AND TRANSGENDER PRIDE MONTH, 2009
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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A PROCLAMATION

Forty years ago, patrons and supporters of the Stonewall Inn in New York City resisted police harassment that had become all too common for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Out of this resistance, the LGBT rights movement in America was born. During LGBT Pride Month, we commemorate the events of June 1969 and commit to achieving equal justice under law for LGBT Americans.

LGBT Americans have made, and continue to make, great and lasting contributions that continue to strengthen the fabric of American society. There are many well-respected LGBT leaders in all professional fields, including the arts and business communities. LGBT Americans also mobilized the Nation to respond to the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic and have played a vital role in broadening this country’s response to the HIV pandemic.

Due in no small part to the determination and dedication of the LGBT rights movement, more LGBT Americans are living their lives openly today than ever before. I am proud to be the first President to appoint openly LGBT candidates to Senate-confirmed positions in the first 100 days of an Administration. These individuals embody the best qualities we seek in public servants, and across my Administration — in both the White House and the Federal agencies — openly LGBT employees are doing their jobs with distinction and professionalism.

The LGBT rights movement has achieved great progress, but there is more work to be done. LGBT youth should feel safe to learn without the fear of harassment, and LGBT families and seniors should be allowed to live their lives with dignity and respect.

My Administration has partnered with the LGBT community to advance a wide range of initiatives. At the international level, I have joined efforts at the United Nations to decriminalize homosexuality around the world. Here at home, I continue to support measures to bring the full spectrum of equal rights to LGBT Americans. These measures include enhancing hate crimes laws, supporting civil unions and Federal rights for LGBT couples, outlawing discrimination in the workplace, ensuring adoption rights, and ending the existing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in a way that strengthens our Armed Forces and our national security. We must also commit ourselves to fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic by both reducing the number of HIV infections and providing care and support services to people living with HIV/AIDS across the United States.

These issues affect not only the LGBT community, but also our entire Nation. As long as the promise of equality for all remains unfulfilled, all Americans are affected. If we can work together to advance the principles upon which our Nation was founded, every American will benefit. During LGBT Pride Month, I call upon the LGBT community, the Congress, and the American people to work together to promote equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.

BARACK OBAMA

House votes to leave in March, return in June

House votes to leave in March, return in June

By Aaron Gould Sheinin | Friday, February 6, 2009, 09:50 AM
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The state House just voted unanimously to split the 40-day legislative session into two parts, which lawmakers hope will give them flexibility to deal with whatever economic stimulus package comes from Washington.

The House voted 165-0 to meet three days a week through March 25 and then return in late June. The General Assembly is constitutionally required to meet for no more than 40 days a year, although those 40 days do not have to run consecutively.

House Majority Leader Jerry Keen (R-St. Simons) said Senate leaders have also agreed to the change, although that body must approve the adjournment resolution before it takes effect.

This, Keen said, allows the Legislature to be “responsive to things that may or may not come down from Washington.”

Congress is debating a $800 billion to $900 billion economic stimulus package, which by some estimates could send $5.6 billion in additional federal dollars to Georgia for education, Medicaid, infrastructure and more.

State lawmakers, meanwhile, are consider an amended budget for the current fiscal year that must find $2 billion in savings, as well as a budget for the year that begins July 1 that seeks even deeper cuts.

Going to a three-day work week — the House and Senate would convene Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday — slows down the clock and allows budget writers and Congress more time to figure out what money is available.

“All of us see the news and read the newspaper,” Keen said. “We have worked very hard with the Senate to craft a schedule to let you know where we are but at the same time allow us enough flexibility to respond to what may or may not happen in Washington.”

Committees, especially budget-writing panels, would likely continue to meet on Mondays and Fridays, Keen said.

March 25 would represent the 35th day of the session, under the adopted resolution, and returning June 27 would give lawmakers five full days before the beginning of the next fiscal year July 1.

“If we leave and things change, this will allow us to come back in a five-day period,” he said. “It gives us a lot of flexibility and options in terms of what we do.”