Posted inDavid Pendered

Paris strengthens business ties with Atlanta, after signing a deal with Memphis

By David Pendered

Atlanta has strengthened its economic development ties with Paris, which is on a $50 billion program to secure its position as a capital of global commerce.

Atlanta and Paris signed a five-year deal last week to promote each other as a business destination. The target audience is companies that already do business, or may expand, in one of the cities and want to reach a foreign market.

Paris evidently has a plan to develop its business ties to the Southeast, and Atlanta is now part of it. Paris signed a similar trade agreement in April with Memphis.

The Paris/Memphis deal envisions the strengthening of an air-freight trade route between the cities. The goal is to put businesses, and their products, just a few hours from their clients and end markets.

Posted inEleanor Ringel Cater

‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2’ — a magical end to the beloved series

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

All’s well that ends well.

And the much-loved “Harry Potter” series has ended very well indeed.

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” the last film based on J.K. Rowling’s extraordinary books, wraps up things wonderfully well for the best-known wizard this side of Oz (and who knows? By now, Baum’s clever humbug may well have to settle for second place…or third.)

True, “Deathly Hallows” doesn’t begin well. If you aren’t already steeped in Harry Potter lore, you may feel a bit muggle-ish (and if you don’t know what a muggle is, you’ll be really stuck.)

Posted inDavid Pendered

Contract delays at Atlanta’s airport mean concessionaires will have to speed construction of their shops

By David Pendered

Atlanta has increased the pressure on companies that want to sell food, drink and other concessions at the Atlanta airport’s new international concourse that opens in Spring 2012.

The shops must be open by April 15, 2012 regardless of the date a company is allowed to begin construction on space it leases in Concourse F, according to city’s new terms for the concessions contracts.

For passengers who use Concourse F, the new requirement seems intended to ensure that service will be available at all of the planned restaurants, beverage and retail shops. And there isn’t to be any annoying sound of construction.

Posted inDavid Pendered

Atlanta’s airport concessions contracts delayed, in part to bolster small businesses

By David Pendered

Atlanta appears to be reinforcing its effort to help small businesses get a piece of the pending food and drink concessions trade at the airport.

The city’s procurement department has added language to its request for proposals for the airport concessions contracts.

The new language hammers home Atlanta’s decision to require the big prime operators to allow their sub-tenants to join up with other prime operators that are competing for contracts.

The amendment, released July 6, will result in the city being about a month behind schedule in receiving proposals to run the airport’s food and drink concessions.

Posted inGuest Column

Taxes for infrastructure should be seen as investments

By Guest Columnist PHILIP CHENG, a graduate of the 2011 class of Emory University, wants to devote his career to helping remedy the world’s agricultural problems

People do not normally get thrilled when they hear the term “infrastructure.”

But fans of “infrastructure” — meeting at the recent Urban Land Institute Infrastructure Summit held at the Georgia World Congress Center — seemed to jump with excitement at the mention of the word.

Jeff DrFresne, executive director of the ULI-Atlanta District Council, believes that a better infrastructure means a better planet. Various speakers at the summit talked about the importance of having strong transportation, education and water resources.

Posted inMaria's Metro

Experts say transportation tax has better chance if vote is held in November, 2012

As it currently stands, the vote on the regional transportation sales tax is scheduled for July 31, 2012.

But some people familiar with political timing and transportation referendums believe that holding the vote during the primary election will make it an uphill battle to pass.

That’s because most of the likely voters next July are expected to be Republican, conservative and suburban. And they tend to have more of an anti-tax attitude than liberal, Democratic and urban voters.

But several observers believe that the political dynamics would be totally different and much more favorable if the referendum were to be held during the general election on Nov. 6, 2012.

Posted inDavid Pendered

Future Wal-Mart, possible stadium and more foster hopes for renewal near Georgia Dome

By David Pendered

A future Wal-Mart store and other civic projects are rekindling hopes for community renewal in a neighborhood west of the Georgia Dome in Downtown Atlanta.

The Wal-Mart is to open in the summer of 2012 in Historic Westside Village, a retail center located at 825 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. It’s located across MLK Drive from the original Paschal’s restaurant.

Wal-Mart is expected to bring more than decent groceries, a pharmacy, money center and jobs to the community, according to Tillman Ward, a community leader who was born in the neighborhood.

Posted inEleanor Ringel Cater

Larry Crowne movie is Tom Hanks’ ‘big fat mid-life crisis’

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

I’m afraid I am part of the demographic who is supposed to be thrilled that Hollywood has tossed me a bone this summer.

To wit: the “adult” romantic comedy, “Larry Crowne,” starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.

Lord. Gimme “Transformers 3” any day.

Based on an idea by Hanks and co-scripted by Nia Vardalos, star/writer of the inexpicable mega-hit, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” (which Hanks produced), “Larry Crowne” could be subtitled, “My Big Fat Mid-Life Crisis.”

Larry (Hanks, who also directed) is downsized from his job at U-Mart (read Wal-Mart or Target or whatever) and told the reason is, he lacks a college diploma.

Posted inDavid Pendered

Confidential business plan for Fort McPherson’s future now an issue with reuse plan

By David Pendered

A new wrinkle emerged Thursday in the tense discussion about the fate of Fort McPherson – the contents of the confidential business plan that is to guide the fort’s conversion to civilian use.

The business plan is emerging as a contention because it has guided the redevelopment plan a state authority has approved for the fort’s land.

Over the past month, the redevelopment plan has come under fire from a non-profit group – Georgia Stand Up – that raises questions about whether the current plan will help or hurt the surrounding community.

Suddenly, the business plan that envisions construction of a biotech research facility near the center of the property is at the center of debate over how best to reuse a 488-acre site that the military is abandoning after more than 120 years.

Posted inDavid Pendered

Atlanta City Council votes against extending bar hours

By David Pendered

The Atlanta City Council has again rejected a proposal to extend the drinking hours at bars in the city.

The vote clears the way for an effort to tighten the city’s alcohol ordinances. The goal of that legislation is to make it easier for Atlanta to close businesses that habitually violate the city’s alcohol codes and escape closure through legal loopholes.

The council has considered extending bar hours periodically since 2003, when the hours were shortened following several years of violent outbursts that were linked to late-night drinking.

Posted inDavid Pendered

Atlanta City Council to vote Tuesday on proposal extending bar hours

By David Pendered

The Atlanta City Council is slated to vote Tuesday on a proposal to extend the legal drinking hours at bars to 4 a.m. on Mondays through Fridays, and Saturdays until 2:55 a.m.

The council has been advised by its Public Safety Committee to reject the measure.

However, it’s a truism that the fate of any legislation is uncertain once it’s put before a legislative body. Especially a proposal that comes as a surprise after a holiday weekend – as is the case with this one.

Posted inMaria's Metro

Public broadcasting in Georgia and Atlanta shines, but greater potential exists

Against all odds, public broadcasting is alive and well in Atlanta and Georgia.

This is true despite the ongoing divide between the state’s two largest public broadcasting entities — Georgia Public Broadcasting and Public Broadcasting Atlanta (but more on that later).

Case in point: the recently-released documentary: “Margaret Mitchell: American Rebel,” shows how great local public broadcasting can be. The one-hour documentary was produced, directed and written by Atlanta’s-own Pamela Roberts.

“It’s a gift for the ages to Georgia,” said Teya Ryan, GPB’s president and executive director. “We don’t use any state money for production and

Posted inGuest Column

Georgia gets more time to work on water conservation; but water wars are not over

By Guest Columnist STEVE O’DAY, section head of environmental and sustainability practice group for Smith Gambrell & Russell

If you are sitting back thinking the most recent decision in the Water Wars means Atlanta’s worries are over, turn off that faucet and think again.

Last Tuesday, a three-judge panel for the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court’s 2009 decision that it was illegal for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”) to draw water from Lake Lanier to benefit the metro Atlanta area and otherwise relieved Georgia from the “draconian” obligation to work out water issues with Alabama and Florida by July 2012 or be cut off from the reservoir.

Posted inEleanor Ringel Cater

‘Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times’ questions the future of the daily paper

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

About the only thing lacking in this heavily cosmetic-ized “insider” look at the great Gray Lady is a pair of breast implants.

Maybe that’s because there are so few women featured in the movie (though, to be fair, both females at the daily morning power meeting opted out of being interviewed).

Not that it matters much. “Front Page: A Year Inside The New York Times” is shameless hagiography poorly disguised as a we-can-take-it/warts-and-all documentary.

To begin with, you must accept the notion that the Times is something sacred: the Valhalla of print, the Light beside the Golden Shore.

Posted inDavid Pendered

Atlanta’s Beltline embodies healthy lifestyle envisioned by new sustainability group

By David Pendered

A new organization in Atlanta met Thursday for the first annual EcoFest Sustainable Development Opportunities Forum.

The event kicked off with a morning-long driving tour of the Beltline, the sweeping urban renewal project in Atlanta that embodies many ideals of the new organization. An afternoon slate of speakers talked about green business opportunities, green efforts at Atlanta’s airport and energy efficiency.

Verdant Elements, Inc. is a non-profit that intends to foster healthy lifestyles through sustainable development and environmental strategies, said VEI’s board chairman, Gregory Wilson.

Posted inEleanor Ringel Cater

The late Peter Falk enjoyed a respectable and diverse movie career before ‘Columbo’

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

Before he found his perfect persona in a rumpled trenchcoat and a shambling manner…

That is, before he became world-famous as the TV detective, Columbo, Peter Falk had a strong movie career, which included two Oscar nominations for best supporting actor.

The first was for playing a homicidal thug in 1960‘s “Murder Inc.”

The second was for a light-hearted riff on the same sort of mobster in Frank Capra’s last movie, “A Pocketful of Miracles.”

Falk was headed toward becoming the Joe Pesci of his era — the go-to guy if you had a gangster role to cast, funny or murderous. Falk did play another bad guy — again, more of a spoof than a killer — in “Robin and the Seven Hoods” He was the villain to Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack.

Posted inDavid Pendered

State Tollway Authority helping to relocate Amtrak Station to Atlantic Station, GDOT board member says

By David Pendered

The state’s tollway authority is negotiating the planned relocation of Amtrak’s train station from Buckhead to Atlantic Station, the mini city on the western edge of Midtown.

The station’s proposed relocation was to be the first item discussed at a meeting convened today by Emory McClinton, a member of the state transportation board. The matter never came up.

“Gena [Evans] is negotiating it. That ‘s all I can say,” McClinton said after the meeting.

Evans is executive director of the State Road and Tollway Authority. The agency is best known for collecting tollsa long Ga. 400.

Posted inDavid Pendered

State tollway authority helping to relocate Amtrak station to Atlantic Station, GDOT commissioner says

By David Pendered

The state’s tollway authority is negotiating the planned relocation of Amtrak’s train station from Buckhead to Atlantic Station, the mini city on the western edge of Midtown.

The station’s proposed relocation was to be the first item discussed at a meeting convened today by state Transportation Commissioner Emory McClinton. The matter never came up.

“Gena [Evans] is negotiating it. That’s all I can say,” McClinton said after the meeting.

Evans is executive director of the State Road and Tollway Authority. The agency is best known for collecting tolls along Ga 400.

Posted inDavid Pendered

Some Atlanta residents question direction of the city, fate of Fort McPherson

Anyone who wanted to discuss Atlanta’s proposed comprehensive development plan at a meeting in a church Tuesday evening in Southwest Atlanta left gravely disappointed.

The crowd of more than 60 who crowded into a meeting hall at St. Peter Missionary Baptist Church wanted to talk about issues that nag them over the kitchen table every day.

Where’s the city’s plan to attract industrial jobs? Why does Atlanta plan to use property taxes to induce development when existing building have such high vacancy rates? Who’s looking after folks at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure?

Don’t even talk about redeveloping Fort McPherson once the military vacates Sept. 15. Some of its neighbors think the city’s already cut a secret deal with developers

Posted inGuest Column, Moments, Moments Season 1

To my dear mother: please don’t let me be misunderstood

By Guest Columnist CHRIS SCHRODER, a former newspaper reporter and publisher, is president of Schroder Public Relations in Midtown Atlanta and chief operating officer of

I fancy myself to be a professional communicator – and after 22 years as a newspaperman and 9 years of running my own public relations firm in Midtown Atlanta, I suppose I have a little bit of “street cred.”

But it doesn’t take long for me to be humbled, particularly by my 94-year-old mom.