Maria’s Metro

If you were at Bergen Belsen with my mother, I would love to talk with you

WANTED: The lost voicemail from the man who was in the Bergen Belsen concentration camp with my mother during World War II.

A few months ago, I was in my car listening to my work phone voicemails. A man said he was visiting relatives in Atlanta (I believe he said he was staying with his son and his son’s family). His message said he had been in the German concentration camp with my mother. He also told me he had some of the trademark sketches that my father had drawn for him. If I wanted those sketches, I should call him, and he left me his number.

Unfortunately, somehow, that voicemail got deleted or lost. When I went to transcribe my voicemails, that message was not there.
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Remembering the wisdom of Harry West – let’s fix what’s not working

During last week’s memorial service in honor of Harry West, my mind kept wandering back to another time when he was executive director of the Atlanta Regional Commission.

It was 1998, and the Atlanta business community – through its Metro Atlanta Transportation Initiative – was recommending a new state agency to help come up with ways to solve the region’s congestion and transportation problems.

West was that lone voice crying in the wilderness. Let’s not create yet another agency. Let’s fix the ones we have.
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Commuter rail from Atlanta to Lovejoy is: ‘The Little Engine That Could’

A commuter rail line between Atlanta and Lovejoy should adopt the tagline:

“I think we can; I think we can; I think we can.”

And yes, we really can.

Forget all the panic from the Federal Transit Administration’s letter to the Georgia Department of Transportation on July 7 saying it was “deobligating” about $45 million in federal funds that had been earmarked for the commuter rail project by the U.S. Congress for more than a decade.
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Clayton’s yes vote for MARTA sales tax ‘a turning point’ for regional transit

The year 2014 easily may be the year that MARTA and transit gains significant new ground in metro Atlanta.

The first solid indication that the times, they are a changing came Saturday morning when the Clayton County Commission, at specially-called meeting, voted 3-to-1 to place a full-penny MARTA tax on the Nov. 4 ballot.
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Pierre Howard to keep fighting for environment after Ga. Conservancy

In early 2009, former Georgia Lt. Governor Pierre Howard was not convinced he wanted to make a five-year commitment to the Georgia Conservancy as its president and CEO.

So he took his name out of the hat until his close friend – attorney Clay Long – convinced him that as president, he would have “the latitude to do what was right thing for the environment” – free of undue pressure from the board or major donors.

But the person who probably had the most to do with Howard ultimately taking the job was the late Jamie MacKay, a Georgia statesman and political leader.
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Center for Civil and Human Rights dawning of a new day for Atlanta

“Atlanta, it’s time to wake up.”

So began my column in the July 19, 2004 edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

I serendipitously ran across that column – “Civil Rights museum a natural for Atlanta” – a few months ago. Upon reading the column nearly a decade later, I was pleasantly amazed at the challenge I had thrown out to Atlanta and how the Atlanta community ultimately responded to that challenge.

So here we are as the Atlanta unveils its newest destination to the world — the Center of Civil and Human Rights — holding its Grand Opening Celebration on June 23.
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A transit tale of two counties – Clayton looks to MARTA; Cobb looks away

Decisions, decisions.

While Clayton County weighs the all-important step of whether to place a MARTA tax on the ballot in November, Cobb County commissioners seem to be back-pedaling on any plans to implement more transit access from the county to the rest of the region.

The Clayton County Commission is scheduled to vote on July 1 on whether to ask voters in November to approve a referendum for either a one percent or a half percent sales tax to join MARTA.

In Cobb County, leaders appear to have given up any possibility of connecting the northwest county and the existing MARTA system with a light rail line.
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Atlanta region can brag about having 16 Fortune 500 company headquarters

It’s getting to a point where Atlanta will no longer have to exaggerate its role as a home for Fortune 500 companies.

For years, Atlanta has been inaccurately claiming that it has the third largest concentration of Fortune 500 headquarters among cities in the country. A story I wrote back in 2011 explains how this misleading statement became one of our selling points.

While Atlanta may not be able to have those bragging rights for years (if ever), it is steadily adding to its total number of Fortune 500 headquarters.
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City of Atlanta’s parks stuck in the middle in need of dedicated dollars

The Trust for Public Land released its annual ParkScore Index last week grading the top 60 cities in the country on the strength of their urban parks.

The City of Atlanta didn’t fare so well — ranking 42nd among the 60 cities. Last year, when 50 cities were in the index, Atlanta’s rank was 31st. The year before, when 40 cities were in the index, Atlanta’s rank was 26th. The one constant was that Atlanta scored in the bottom half each year.
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Remembering William Worthy, BU, urban studies and balancing anchor institutions vs institutional expansion

For a year of my life, I worked for William Worthy, an amazingly independent journalist who knew no bounds.

He became internationally known for sneaking into China in 1956. He also traveled to Cuba without a passport to interview Fidel Castro, and he went to the Soviet Union in the middle of the Cold War to interview Communist leaders.

All those adventures didn’t make him a popular journalist with the U.S. State Department, which refused to renew his passport unless he limited his travel – a ruling he challenged all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
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