Entries by Lyle Harris

MLK’s “Beloved Community” and the G-Word

An almost surefire way to start an argument in Atlanta is to utter the “G-word” – as in “gentrification.” In the midst of a torrid development boom, the inflow of affluent newcomers to Atlanta – and the involuntary uprooting of low-income residents that inevitably follows – reveals the racial and economic fault lines running through city’s social bedrock.

Sorry Mayor Reed; cannabis is no “gateway”

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said he believes marijuana (cannabis) is a “gateway drug” that can lead young people to experiment with dangerous narcotics. That theory has been around since the 1970s and is often floated as the rationale for punitive anti-cannabis laws at the national and local level. Although this popular bromide tugs at our heartstrings, it has one major problem: There’s no evidence that it’s true.

A mother’s love vs. Georgia’s “reefer madness”

Bridgett Liquori is an outlaw, not that you’d know from looking at her. This petite 34-year-old single mother’s crime? She loves her children and is risking everything to keep them as happy, safe and healthy as possible.

If that means breaking state and federal laws to get the medical cannabis her kids need to treat their daunting illnesses, then so be it.

Rising up in the age of Trump

Welcome to the “United States of Atlanta.”

From the capitol dome to the Georgia Dome, our city’s ascendance as a pop cultural and political powerhouse was on full display over the weekend. For very different reasons, and in markedly different ways, a diverse cross-section of citizens living in the U.S. of Atlanta were inspired to “Rise Up.”

Better late then never: ‘A path forward’ for Ga. transit funding

No more flying pigs?

Georgia’s Legislature has suffered a failure to launch on the issue of public transportation for years, but that may finally be changing. A legislative study committee report released last month recommends that the state provide operating funds to local transit agencies all across Georgia – including MARTA.

Yes, it’s only a study committee and waaay to early to start celebrating. But this promising and long overdue development has implications that are too important for even the most cynical among us (me) to dismiss. While flying pigs exist only in fantasy, a serious discussion about dedicated transit funding in Georgia is already taking flight.

Q & A with State Rep. Allen Peake, Georgia’s “Dean” of Medical Marijuana

Republican lawmaker Allen Peake of Macon has emerged as Georgia’s unlikely “dean” of medical marijuana. Peake strongly opposes legalizing marijuana for recreational use. But he’s a staunch champion in the fight to provide legal access for Georgians suffering with chronic illnesses who benefit from cannabis oil, a form of marijuana that offers relief without getting users high. In the first installment of the I-420 Georgia travelogue series, I interviewed Peake at his office in Bibb County. Peake spoke openly about the challenges that advocates face in expanding Georgia’s existing medical marijuana law, and the unusual (and illegal) steps he’s taking to aid patients in the meantime.

New “I-420” columns highlight marijuana reform efforts

And so it begins.

After quitting my good government job four months ago, I’ve been on a journey without a road map or any guarantee that I’ll reach the final destination in one piece. I confess this adventure seems a little bit nuts. Scary too.

But, throwing caution (and what’s left of my 401K) to the wind, I’m planning a regular feature on SaportaReport called “I-420 Georgia.” The goal is simple: to create a rolling travelogue highlighting the people, places and businesses being impacted by Georgia’s existing marijuana laws.

CEO-Elect Michael Thurmond offers “new vision” for DeKalb County

For local voters suffering from PESD – Post-Election Stress Disorder – DeKalb County CEO-elect Michael Thurmond provided just what the doctor ordered.

Flush from an election night victory, Thurmond delivered a thoughtful and inspiring speech last Thursday that hinted at his “new vision” for repairing the county long beset by racial divisiveness, bureaucratic mismanagement and political scandal.

Major Journo Fail: Why the “60 Minutes” story on Marijuana was Half-Baked

  Diehards still watching broadcast TV may remember CBS as the “Tiffany Network,”  and the venerable “60 Minutes” newsmag as its crown jewel. Sadly, the show’s pre-election curtain-raiser about historic votes to legalize marijuana felt more like shopping for cubic zirconia knockoffs at the strip mall. The “Pot Vote” story started out O.K. with an intro from Dr. […]

With MARTA, ownership has its privileges and responsibilities

Quick question: When’s the last time you washed a rental car? If the answer is “never,” you’re hardly alone. The timeworn adage that most people take better care of physical assets that they own outright has been confirmed by scientific research and just plain common sense.

However, the innate human impulse to be a good custodian of one’s possessions is attenuated (or disappears) when it comes to public goods such as our transit infrastructure, including MARTA.

Head of the class? What Georgia can learn about using marijuana to improve education

The reception I’ve received from well-wishers welcoming me back to TSR (Uh-huh, that’s what I’m calling the SaportaReport from now on) has been flattering, as well as humbling. My sincere thanks to everyone who has posted a message on this website, texted, tweeted, emailed or called me with their congratulations on my admittedly wayward return to journalism. I truly appreciate your support and I’ll do my best not to screw this up.

While all that goodwill is still fresh on my mind, I wanted to highlight the comments of Shirley Franklin who is not only the former Mayor of Atlanta, but also a whip-smart policy wonk and all-around good egg.

Lyle Harris is coming back home to SaportaReport

Who says you can’t go home again?

Nearly eight years ago, I briefly joined the ranks of SaportaReport shortly after its debut. Following some career diversions that took me in a very different direction (namely, flakking for MARTA) I’m returning as a regular columnist and sometime-editor for SaportaReport, which has become one of the best, most influential newsblogs covering our region.

Arizona senator defends polarizing immigration bill

By Maria Saporta

One of the leading champions of Arizona’s controversial immigration bill passionately defended the state’s need to clamp down on illegal aliens.

State Sen. Russell Pearce, who has had a career in law enforcement, described a dangerous Arizona overrun by gangs and criminals, many of whom have crossed the border into the state illegally.

Pearce told an influential group of about 100 Atlantans on the annual LINK trip said the media’s reporting of the new bill has been full of “misinformation.”

At one point, Pearce questioned allowed “how the president of the United States can stand up and support law breakers rather than law makers.” Pearce said Phoenix is second in the world in

Here’s to 2010 — And to Hope for a new regional “Odyssey”

The sci-fi masterpiece “2001: A Space Odyssey” was released way back in 1968, a year when it seemed as if the whole world was coming undone.

I was an 8-year-old science nerd at the time, and my big sister Gail took me to watch director Stanley Kubrick’s G-rated head-trip at the Rialto Theater on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn.

I didn’t understand most of the movie but couldn’t wait for the day when I could travel across galaxies talking to computers and scooting between the stars with my very own jet pack.

Really Want to Fight Crime? Let’s Shift from Gulags to Green Economy

Go to any neighborhood meeting, mayoral forum or happy hour in Atlanta and ask folks to rank the issues that worry them most. I’d bet dollars to donuts that “crime” and “the economy” will top their lists.

I’ve been wondering a lot about how these issues are related and concluded that instead of putting more people in prison-issue, orange jumpsuits we’d be better off preparing them to become part of the coming “green collar” economy.

I realize that talking about job training for criminals seems untimely when we’re so busy being scared witless about becoming their next victims. But I’m convinced my proposition would ultimately be much cheaper, and saner.

It’s easy to see why our community is obsessed with crime. Our fight-or-flight response has been raised to fever pitch by a series of high-profile crimes in Atlanta – including the tragic murders of an elderly laundry worker, an outstanding young boxer and a popular bartender.

As a result of our anxieties, gun sales are up and more people are getting home security systems (assuming they can still afford to actually live in their homes).

Our local news outlets are also feeding the frenzy; most TV stations have adopted the “if it bleeds it leads” approach to journalism and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution launched a new online service that will enable its readers to track neighborhood crime stats as easily as Braves box scores.

Old Question, New Answers for Atlanta’s Struggling Media

Who will tell the people?

That oft-repeated line was first written by Mary Anne Evans, the Victorian novelist who was best known by her pen name, George Eliot.

Don’t get me wrong; I wouldn’t know George Eliot from George Foreman. Frankly, until I sat down to write this column, I was clueless about the fact that Eliot (who more famously authored the classic, Silas Marner) was a woman.

But that trenchant question, asked rhetorically by one of Eliot’s fictional characters, has been nagging at me lately.

Considering what’s happening to the newspaper industry, in general and metro Atlanta media, in particular, I wonder ‘who will tell the people?’

As a lifelong reporter, the meltdown of modern journalism has me understandably worried. As a citizen of this region, the implosion of our local newspapers has me terrified.

My former employer and the state’s largest daily newspaper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has shrunk – literally and figuratively – into a shadow of its former self as its readership and revenues have tanked.

In the two years since I left the AJC, the staff has been cut dramatically, key departments have been downsized or eliminated and the reporters still working there are stretched far too thin to do their best work.

Recently, the paper’s publisher announced the decision to shutter the AJC’s storied downtown headquarters and move the bulk of its operations out to the suburbs by the middle of 2010.