Commentary: PATH Foundation trails are good for Atlanta

Original Story on WABE by Maria Saporta http://cpa.ds.npr.org/wabe/audio/2016/07/MariaSaportaPath.mp3

The PATH Foundation recently launched a $15.8 million campaign so it can build another 37 miles of trails. COURTESY OF THE PATH FOUNDATION

The PATH Foundation recently launched a $15.8 million campaign so it can build another 37 miles of trails.

Since the PATH Foundation was established in 1991, more than 235 miles of multi-use trails have been developed in metro Atlanta. And PATH is showing no signs of slowing down.

It recently launched a $15.8 million campaign so it can build another 37 miles of trails. PATH has received two major gifts – $6 million from the James M. Cox Foundation and $4 million from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation.

Ed McBrayer, co-founder and executive director of the PATH Foundation, proudly points to the organization’s success. By its 25th anniversary, it plans to have completed 250 miles of multi-use trails in the Atlanta region.

There are too many PATH corridors to mention, but some of the best known are the Silver Comet Trail, the Eastside BeltLine trail and the Arabia Mountain Trail

The latest campaign will link a number of trail segments and connect them to what PATH intends to eventually become a seamless regional network of multi-use trails.

PATH Foundation

PATH’s planned trails on the Westside (PATH Foundation)

More than two decades ago, we had almost no off-road bicycle and pedestrian trails where we could escape our auto-dominated city.

Now imagine trails extending from a new bike depot at Centennial Olympic Park and headed to the Atlanta University Campus and to the Westside BeltLine Trail and another trail going along Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard and Northside Drive and extending to a new Mims Park and later the Bellwood Quarry.

From that same bike depot, cyclists and walkers will be able to travel on a trail that goes through the Georgia Tech campus.

One of the most exciting parts of this campaign will be a trail that weaves under and over the interchange at Georgia 400 and Interstate 285.

Several other expansions are planned all over the region – eventually allowing people to walk or ride along trails that are mostly separated from cars.

What PATH has done is help make Atlanta a city we want to live in – a place where we have options in the way we get around – and a region where we can enjoy our natural environment – away from it all.


Commentary: Central Library echoes former landmark’s fate

Original post on WABE by Maria Saporta

The Carnegie Library in Atlanta was demolished in the 1970s. VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / LIBRARY OF CONGRESS PRINTS AND PHOTOGRAPHS DIVISION

The Carnegie Library in Atlanta was demolished in the 1970s.

For decades, I have looked at the Breuer-designed Central Library and longed for the building that used to stand at that same corner, the Carnegie Library: a statuesque building that had adorned that site from 1902 until it was demolished in 1977. Leaders at the time said the building was too old and would cost too much to renovate.

What were we thinking?

The 1970s was a devastating period for Atlanta’s historic treasures. We tore down the Terminal Station, the Union Station and several iconic hotels. We lost Loew’s Grand Theater in a fire. And we almost tore down the Fox Theater until saner heads prevailed.

When the Carnegie was demolished, I barely remember a whimper of protest.

But for me, part of my past was being erased. One of my first jobs was working in the Carnegie, cleaning, sorting and filing classical music albums. I was only 16 and making just $1.60 an hour, but working in such a grand building among people who loved books and music helped anchor my love for Atlanta.

So when the Carnegie Library was torn down, I began my love-hate relationship with the city. For all these years, I have resented the Breuer library for replacing the Carnegie.

But I had an epiphany sitting in the board room of the Central Library last month: dozens of mainly younger citizens and residents testified about what the Breuer building meant to them. Their passion reminded me of my own from years ago.

Each generation relates to its own landmarks, and each landmark gives us a sense of time and place.

To tear down the Breuer Library would be just as much a mistake as tearing down the Carnegie Library was in 1977.


Commentary: The importance of Maynard Jackson documentary

Original Story on WABE by Maria Saporta

Atlanta’s first African-American mayor, Maynard Jackson, was elected in 1973 when he was only 35. He went on to become a national pioneer – establishing affirmative action and joint venture programs to better integrate the economy – both in Atlanta and throughout the United States.

And producers are working a documentary about his life.

On June 20, 2003, three days before he died, Maynard Jackson Jr. delivered the keynote address to a gathering of the National Association of Securities Professionals (NASP).

The organization was co-founded by Jackson in 1985 to be a venue for minorities working in the financial sector.

At that speech, Jackson called on the organization to combat what he called black apathy and white indifference in urban America.

Jackson begged for aggressive, intelligent leadership in the nation to continue to work on issues of equity and financial inclusion.

When NASP recently gathered for its national convention in Atlanta, members held a reception in Jackson’s honor.

Locals and visitors alike repeatedly said they would not have not been as successful without the former Atlanta mayor.

That is why producers and family members are making a documentary on Maynard Jackson.

The project is expected to cost about $3 million, and so far they have only raised $300,000.

Maynard Jackson III and his wife, Wendy Eley Jackson, are championing the documentary – working to ensure that the fight for economic integration is neither forgotten nor taken for granted.


Commentary: Emory’s new head wants to change school’s image

Original Story on WABE by Maria Saporta

Claire Sterk Emory

Newly-named Claire Sterk will be the first woman president of Emory University when she assumes the post on Sept. 1 (Special: Emory University)

Starting in September, Emory University welcomes its first female president, Claire Sterk. She served as Emory’s provost since 2013.

She succeeds Jim Wagner, who has been Emory’s president for 13 years.

When she was being interviewed to be Emory’s new president, Sterk repeatedly brought up a novel idea.

She wants the university to strike a memo of understanding with the city of Atlanta to work on issues critical to the city’s needs.

Officially, Emory is not located in Atlanta, and it is often perceived as an Ivy League institution set apart from the urban problems of poverty and despair.

Sterk wants to change that perception. She would like Emory to play an active role in solving society’s ills.

A native of the Netherlands, Sterk moved to Atlanta in the mid-1980s to become a visiting scientist at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. She worked on the AIDS/HIV epidemic, and later joined the faculty of Georgia State University – teaching public health and anthropology.

One of her areas of focus was witnessing the demolition of the nation’s first public housing project – Techwood Homes – and the area’s redevelopment into a mixed-income community – Centennial Place.

Universities in other cities have taken on the role of helping their surrounding communities, and Sterk believes Emory can be such a university and an example for Atlanta institutions.

Sterk is a refreshing face for our community – one where she has been working in for decades. But now she will be contributing as president of one of our most important universities.

Claire Sterk, we welcome you to your new role.


Commentary: A call to help Georgia’s young entrepreneurs

Original post on WABE by Maria Saporta

Liz Koch Jim Hannan

Elizabeth Koch and Jim Hannan at recent reception celebrating 10 years of Youth Entrepreneurs Georgia (Photo by Maria Saporta)

The Koch brothers have a national reputation for funding Republican candidates and conservative causes.

But in Georgia, there is another side to the Koch family. Koch Industries bought Georgia-Pacific in 2005. One year later, Charles Koch’s wife, Elizabeth Koch, started Youth Entrepreneurs Georgia to help spark an entrepreneurial spirit among students attending public schools.

Elizabeth Koch remembers how upset her husband was when he realized economics was not being taught in most public schools.

Ten years later, YE Georgia has expanded to several counties and worked with 2,000 students. The program currently reaches 360 students a year in 13 schools.

But Koch, along with Georgia-Pacific CEO Jim Hannan and YE Georgia executive director Scott Brown, have much more ambitious plans for the program.

They would like to reach 1,000 students a year by 2020.

YE Georgia celebrated its 10th anniversary in May at a reception held in the Center for Civil and Human Rights.

That’s when Koch launched the Chairman’s Circle, asking for support from individuals, foundations and corporations.

During the reception Scott Brown said YE Georgia is now primed for its next level of success by reaching more classrooms throughout the state.

With expanded support, the organization will be able to change even more lives of young people in Georgia by opening up new doors of opportunity.


Commentary: Honoring those who help teens stay in school

Original post on WABE by Maria Saporta

Communities in Schools Atlanta recently held its annual Choose Success Award Dinner and spotlighted two of its co-founders – Neil Shorthouse and Bill Milliken, and two of its strongest backers – real estate leader George Johnson and philanthropist Anne Cox Chambers.

Atlanta has been an entrepreneurial city for nonprofits and perhaps no organization symbolizes that better than Communities in Schools.

Atlanta has been an entrepreneurial city for nonprofits and perhaps no organization symbolizes that better than Communities in Schools.

Atlanta has been an entrepreneurial city for nonprofits and perhaps no organization symbolizes that better than Communities in Schools.

The nonprofit began in Atlanta in the late 1960s to help teenagers stay in school.

After nearly 50 years, the mission is the same – but its scope of work has gone national.

“It started in one school in Atlanta, and now it’s in 2,400 schools across the country,” said Milliken, who became CEO of the national organization

Shortly after meeting Milliken and Shorthouse in the early 1970s, George Johnson remembers wondering what these two hippies from Pittsburgh were doing in Atlanta.

But he said they ended up changing the way he looked at the world forever. They helped Johnson realize that not everyone was able to enjoy the stable home and lifestyle he had known. And those children needed hands-on attention from loving adults to help them stay in school.

Johnson was honored for his longtime support of the organization.

Another convert was Anne Cox Chambers, who has been a generous donor to the organization for decades. In fact, the reward Johnson received is called the Anne Cox Chambers Champion for Kids Award.

Seeing her at the dinner, Johnson said no one had done more for the organization than Chambers and her family.

Today, Communities in Schools is serving 1.5 million students in more than 25 states. It helps 122,000 students in Georgia.  And 90 percent of all the program’s students in the country graduate from high school.

When they were launching the organization five decades ago, Shorthouse said they naively thought it would only take five to 10 years to solve the problem of keeping poor kids in schools.

But now Milliken said he realizes the problem is not the kids, but the adults.


Commentary: Coca-Cola promotes foundation leader from within

Original story on WABE by Maria Saporta.


One of the most important civic roles in Atlanta is the person who heads the Coca-Cola Foundation. The Coca-Cola Co. just named Helen Smith Price as the new president of its foundation – succeeding Lisa Borders, who left in March to become president of the WNBA.

The Coca-Cola Company looked internally to find the newest president of the Coca-Cola Foundation. Read more


Commentary: Rescuing Grady Hospital a life-saving choice

Original Story on WABE by Maria Saporta

Ten years ago, Atlanta’s Grady Hospital was facing insolvency. A group of business and civic leaders stepped in, raising hundreds of millions of dollars, to transform the aging hospital into providing best-in-class healthcare for the uninsured and underinsured.

At the Grady Health Foundation’s White Coat Gala one of the key ringleaders was recently honored – Pete Correll, retired CEO of Georgia-Pacific. Read more


Commentary: Ga. Tech envisions blueprint for greener future

Original story on WABE by Maria Saporta


Georgia Tech has just selected the architectural team of Lord Aeck Sargent and the Miller Hull Partnership to design what is expected to be the most environmentally-friendly building in the Southeast.

Imagine a building that produces more energy and water than it uses.

That is the challenge that Georgia Tech and architects face as they design a “net positive” building. Read more


Commentary: Atlanta Inquirer continues tenacious journalism

Original Story on WABE by Maria Saporta

In the early 1960s, the Atlanta Student Movement bubbled up from the historically black colleges on the west side of downtown.

They wanted to be able to eat at restaurants, shop at department stores and not live as second-class citizens.

But their efforts were not being covered by the traditional media. Even the existing black press ignored them – fearing they were too radical and disruptive to the status quo. Read more


Commentary: Former Atlantan wins prize for military women aid

Original Story by Maria Saporta on WABE


Nancy Parris received Georgia Tech’s Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage.

Nancy Parris received Georgia Tech’s Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage.

Social justice advocate Nancy Parrish received Georgia Tech’s Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage on Feb. 18.

It’s one of the most prestigious awards given in Atlanta, named in honor of late Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen Jr. He gained national respect in the 1960s for supporting integration in the South.

Allen stood up for justice, despite receiving threats from strangers and harsh criticism from friends and neighbors. Read more

Commentary: Hank Aaron statue dispute getting ‘absurd’

Original Story on WABE by Maria Saporta

Update: The Braves back down and say the Hank Aaron statue will stay in Atlanta. Read Maria’s report HERE


Absurd. That’s how I’d describe the custody battle over the statue of Hank Aaron hitting his 715th home run.

Hank Aaron means so much to Atlanta and the Braves. The dispute over the location of the statue has become as emotional as the baseball team’s decision to leave its 50-year-old Atlanta home for a new stadium in Cobb County. Read more


Commentary: Citizens Trust moving, but continuing mission

Original Story on WABE by Maria Saporta


Citizens Trust has been a fixture on Auburn Avenue for decades, but it will soon call Peachtree Street home.

The bank was known for lending money to African-Americans who couldn’t borrow money from white-owned banks.

And in the 1960s Auburn Avenue was called “the richest Negro street in the world.” Read more


Commentary: Michelle Nunn pushing for humanitarian movement

Original Story on WABE by Maria Saporta

Michelle Nunn, CEO of CARE USA, with Nisreen, a community representative in Asraq Refugee Camp in Jordan. MARY KATE MACISAAC / CARE

Michelle Nunn, CEO of CARE USA, with Nisreen, a community representative in Asraq Refugee Camp in Jordan.

After losing her 2014 bid for the U.S. Senate, Michelle Nunn did not return to her role as CEO with the Points of Light Foundation. Instead, she was named president and CEO of CARE, an Atlanta-based international relief organization.

After six months as the president and CEO of CARE, Michelle Nunn is seeking a little help from her friends. She is hoping to engage key women leaders from Atlanta to help reduce extreme poverty around the world by focusing on the needs of women and children.

She wants them to become part of the Atlanta Women Really CARE group. Read more

Commentary: Atlanta must keep New Year’s Eve tradition alive

Original Story on WABE by Maria Saporta

The Peach Drop – the New Year’s Eve celebration at Underground Atlanta – almost didn’t happen this year because the property is being sold.

Peach Drop celebration (Photo by Amy Wenk)

Maria believes Atlanta needs to keep an annual New Year’s celebration for the public. (Photo by Amy Wenk)

It was not clear who should put on the Peach Drop – the city or the developer who is buying the property. At the 11th hour, the city decided to take it on, and thousands of people showed up, as they have for years.

Over the years, Atlanta has held a variety of public New Year’s Eve celebrations. We used to welcome the New Year at the Coca-Cola sign next to what is now the Georgia Pacific Building, until the sign came down in the early 1980s.

In the 90s, the Midtown Alliance organized the family-oriented First Night with a number of arts and cultural events along with a fireworks display at midnight.

Then came the Peach Drop – a gathering place where Atlanta’s diverse population could enjoy the uplifting feeling of starting a new year.

With redevelopment plans for Underground, it’s unclear if the Peach Drop will continue.

But Atlanta needs to keep an annual celebration for the public.

We could ring in the new year at the new neon Coca-Cola sign, overlooking Woodruff Park.

Centennial Olympic Park would be a good place to bid farewell to one year, while ushering in a new one.

Or we could recreate First Night in downtown or Midtown – closing off Peachtree – and creating an Atlanta Streets Alive experience.

A New Year’s Eve celebration is important, because it’s the one day of the year when we can remove our fears and reach out to people we do not know – to simply wish them well.

We also can show off our hospitality to out-of-town football fans here for the Chick-fil-A bowl.

It’s moments like these that bring out the best in us.

Happy New Year Atlanta.