Entries by Teresa Johnston

Atlanta University Center a pathway to increase diversity at technology firms


By Guest Columnist DARAKA E. SATCHERpartner and chief operating officer of the Pendleton Group consulting firm

Most of us have seen the news by now. A number of major tech firms recently reported dismally low diversity numbers. Only 2 percent of those who work at Google, Yahoo and LinkedIn are African-American.

If one accepts the widely held premise that these companies are representatives of the economy of the future, then this is a harbinger of a much greater problem.

Are students learning? The second piece of the education puzzle


By Guest Columnist DANA RICKMAN, director of policy and research for the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education

On July 22 there is a primary run-off election in Georgia. One of the statewide offices voters can cast a ballot for in both the Republican and Democrat run-off is state school superintendent. Whoever is elected to this important post will be responsible for guiding the continued implementation of a broad education reform agenda.

Part of that holistic agenda involves the implementation of a new student assessment system.

Fighting for women's rights in Georgia – a state where women need it most


By Guest Columnist STEPHANIE DAVIS, recently retired (or as she says ‘rewired and re-inspired’) executive director of Georgia Women for a Change

To everyone who wonders how a feminist can survive—and thrive—in this state, how she can continue to persist, to overreach, to maintain an optimism in the face of so much hostility to women, I have this to say. I wouldn’t be anywhere else.

In the 30 years I have lived here, I have seen a creep towards more women’s leadership and the difference it has made.

Society's demand for 'big data' creating shortage of skilled workers


By Guest Columnist JENNIFER PRIESTLEY, professor of applied statistics and data science, and director of the Center for Statistics and Analytical Services, at Kennesaw State University

Big Data has created a big employment problem for metro Atlanta – there are simply too many jobs in data science and not enough people. And the gap between supply and demand is getting bigger. Universities in metro Atlanta are filling that void, helping both employers and those who want to obtain those jobs.

A day does not go by that we don’t hear of, or read a news story related to, the topic of data. It seems that everyone is collecting data – everything from our Facebook posts to our energy consumption to the books we read. The data we generate, which someone else collects, has become a pervasive characteristic of our society.

Georgia celebrates Nobel Peace ties as Atlanta's 'Rights Center' opens


By Guest Columnist JAY HAKES, director of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library from 2000 to 2013

Atlanta can boast of a special relationship with the Nobel Peace Prize. For starters, the medals for civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. (1964) and former President Jimmy Carter (2002) reside here. The Nobel Prize organization rates Martin Luther King as its most popular Nobel Laureate of all time in any category, just ahead of Albert Einstein for physics (1921), making the King medals arguably the most important of them all.

Moreover, historically the King and Carter medals have been displayed just off Freedom Parkway within comfortable walking distance of each other.*

Atlanta's Paralympics legacy 'Blazes' on with BlazeSports America


By Guest Columnist JON McCULLOUGH, executive director of BlazeSports America

Atlanta’s Olympic legacy has not just been about buildings and landmarks but it’s also been about the longstanding impact it has set in motion.

In discussing the merits of Atlanta’s Olympic Games on this site in recent weeks, a key element that must not be forgotten is Atlanta’s Paralympic legacy — it is one that has continued to grow since the flame was doused for the last time on August 25, 1996.

The influence and the legacy of the Atlanta Paralympic Games has reached far beyond Georgia.

Atlanta to showcase its volunteer spirit as a city where everyone can serve


By Guest Columnist TRACY HOOVER, president of the Atlanta-based Points of Light, the largest organization in the world dedicated to volunteer service.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, “Everybody can be great because anybody can serve.”

In a matter of days, more than 4,000 leaders in volunteering and service from around the world will gather in Atlanta to share ideas, learn from each other and – as you might expect in Dr. King’s hometown – serve together.

At Points of Light and Hands On Atlanta, I’ve seen our city of volunteers in action: planting trees along the Atlanta BeltLine, tending community gardens in vacant lots, tutoring children in afterschool programs and serving meals to the homeless.

Metro Atlanta's future water supply may rest with Army Corps manual


By Guest Columnist TERRY LAWLER, executive director of the Regional Business Coalition of Metropolitan Atlanta

The Regional Business Coalition of Metropolitan Atlanta, in conjunction with the Georgia Association of Water Professionals and the Council for Quality Growth, co-hosted a lunch last week to discuss the Army Corps of Engineers’ role in determining metro Atlanta’s future water supply.

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson; Jud Turner, director of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division; and Col. Jon Chytka, regional commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; spoke to almost 150 business leaders, environmental activists, elected officials and water professionals about the importance of working with the Army Corps as it updates the Master Water Control Manual for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) river basin.

Atlanta's Olympic legacy does live on – in bricks, mortar as well as our souls


By Guest Columnist CHARLIE BATTLE, an attorney who was one of the original nine people who helped Atlanta win the Olympic bid by building friendships with members of the International Olympic Committee

In a recent column, Maria Saporta seemed to be “cherishing” the memories of hosting the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996 while urging the City to learn from its experiences in organizing this historic event.

While I applaud and support these sentiments and certainly respect Maria’s insights and opinions, I must admit that I was disappointed and even somewhat dismayed by the negative, almost petulant, tone of portions of her column, and the lack of recognition of the many long-term and permanent legacies of the Atlanta Olympic Games.

Georgia and its residents will benefit by investing in trails statewide


By Guest Columnist BRYAN K. ALEXANDER, former manager of Georgia’s Recreational Trails Program

Seeing this state through the lens of the Recreational Trails Program, as I did for eight years, showed me that Georgia is getting prettier and prettier.

Moultrie’s citizens keep loving their Tom White Linear Park with open affection and monetary contributions.

Silver Comet Trail devotees have inspired an economic impact study that has gone viral, and they are supporting movements to expand the Trail towards Rome.

Citizen involvement key to DeKalb County government reform


By Guest Columnist ALLEN MOYE, a lifelong resident of DeKalb County who recently retired as a prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s office and the Fulton County District Attorney’s office

The Georgia General Assembly has gone home. We have no new cities for DeKalb County, but we continue to face nettlesome questions about governing ourselves. No matter how many cities we divide ourselves into, we cannot secede from DeKalb County.

Instead of ignoring its problems, we must make sure that it is operated efficiently and honestly.

My own view is that despite recent problems, DeKalb County government has for the most part served us well over the past 30 years. In 1998, DeKalb was named an “All American County.”

Ashes to ashes – mourning the passing of Emory's journalism degree


By Guest Columnist RICHARD T. GRIFFITHS, vice president and senior editorial director of CNN as well as a member of the Emory Journalism Program Advisory Board

Note to readers: Richard Griffiths delivered these remarks on April 25 at a reception celebrating the Emory Journalism Program’s “18 years of courageous inquiry and ethical engagement.” As of now, Emory no longer offers a degree in journalism.

You know, from time to time, I’ve had a dear friend – someone I’ve grown up with – die.  There’s the disorientation.  How could this be?  What cruel joke of nature was played on my brilliant / funny / loving / challenging friend?

There’s a sense of loss, grieving at the sense that somehow he or she was cheated out of a full and complete existence.  So young, with so much to offer.  Never got to see how the children turned out, never got to meet the grandchildren.

Earth Day 'present' from Nathan Deal's administration threatens to destroy state's fragile coastal marshes


By Guest Columnist STEVEN D. CALEY, senior attorney at GreenLaw, a Georgia-based nonprofit law firm serving environmental and community organizations interested in protecting the state’s natural beauty

Gov. Nathan Deal’s Environmental Protection Division gave an ironic present to the Earth on Earth Day (April 22) by announcing that it will no longer protect hundreds of miles and thousands of acres of invaluable salt marsh along Georgia’s coast.

In order to protect Georgia’s waters from highly damaging runoff pollutants and sedimentation, Georgia law requires a 25-foot buffer between any State Water and adjacent land development. Salt marsh, by law, is a State Water.

Atlanta's small towns being redefined through principles of new urbanism


By Guest Columnist THOMAS WALSH, ASLA, a founding principal of Atlanta-based TSW, a planning, architecture and landscape architecture firm

For decades, Atlanta has been defined by its sprawl – and perhaps no communities have felt the effects of the often unchecked growth more than the small towns surrounding our city.

The tidal wave of suburban development, and the construction of major thoroughfares that bypassed the small towns, sounded a death knell for once-bustling town centers.

A MARTA story: Why the state never contributed funding – from day one


By Guest Columnist W. STELL HUIE, a retired Atlanta attorney who served as MARTA’s first general counsel

Background information for readers: MARTA was formed by an act of the Georgia General Assembly in 1965 and was originally proposed as a rapid transit agency for the Atlanta metropolitan area – DeKalb, Fulton, Clayton, Gwinnett, and Cobb counties.  That year, Clayton, DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett and the City of Atlanta passed a referendum authorizing participation in the system. The referendum failed in Cobb.

It was November, 1970. Huie and Harland was serving as general counsel to the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), and I was the responsible partner. We had just reached a very delicate local compromise on how to finance the MARTA transit system.

As Atlanta's economy rebounds, let's be sure to include lower income areas


Guest Columnist BRUCE GUNTER, president of Progressive Redevelopment Inc., an affordable housing developer that has been divesting itself of its assets

Atlanta is getting its mojo back….and at an accelerating pace. Cranes are returning to our skyline, a welcome sign of a rejuvenating real estate sector, with new office construction joining the multifamily housing that was first out of the gate.

This is unadulterated good news for the region, but a quick look reveals a very selective recovery. Midtown, Buckhead, Perimeter, Cumberland (thank you, Braves) and the 400 corridor are fast heating up, but—not surprisingly—long neglected sectors remain overlooked.

City of Atlanta must carefully weigh its future transit and streetcar options


By Guest Columnist HEATHER ALHADEFF, president of Center Forward, a land-use and transportation consulting business

The reaction to Maria Saporta’s recent streetcar/BeltLine articles produced an unusually hot-tempered string of comments.  From my perspective as a transportation planner, what seems to be muddying the waters of this debate is a natural misunderstanding of the long-term, multipurpose benefits of a variety of transit routes.

Commenters tended to lump all trip purposes and transportation technologies together.  A more nuanced understanding could help the dialogue become more productive.

City of Atlanta must carefully weigh its future transit options


By Guest Columnist HEATHER ALHADEFF, president of Center Forward, a land-use and transportation consulting business

The reaction to Maria Saporta’s recent streetcar/BeltLine articles produced an unusually hot-tempered string of comments.  From my perspective as a transportation planner, what seems to be muddying the waters of this debate is a natural misunderstanding of the long-term, multipurpose benefits of various transit routes.

This includes a common propensity to lump all trip purposes and transportation technologies together.

What we teach is the foundation of Georgia's education reform puzzle


By Guest Columnist DANA RICKMAN, director of policy and research for the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education

Nearing the end of the 2014 legislative session, Georgia’s House Education Committee voted down Senate Bill (SB) 167, the anti-Common Core bill, essentially killing it.

Had it passed, it would have prevented the state from its continued participation in the Common Core State Standards, known in Georgia as the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards (CCGPS).  Why does this matter?  To answer that question, one must have an understanding of the educational reform landscape that has shaped Georgia.

Offering quality childcare saves taxes and helps poor reach middle class


By Guest Columnist PAM TATUM, executive director of Quality Care for Children

Upward mobility is not as elusive as it is sometimes presented. In fact it is no more elusive than good public policy and wise investments.

As Maria Saporta pointed out in her February article “City of Atlanta’s income divide of rich and poor – it didn’t have to be this way,” Atlanta leaders recognized that a strong middle class was in the city’s interest decades ago and actually had a pretty good plan for making it happen. Unfortunately, no one implemented the plan – or even parts of it.

What struck me most about the Atlanta Renaissance Plan was the proposed initiative to provide more assistance to help single moms find work and get ahead. Single moms are often misunderstood and, at times, even demonized in our society.