- Created on 16 January 2013
Georgia residents who receive a subsidy for cell phones and cell phone service will no longer be able to get them for free, at least for the time being.
State officials have decided to impose a $5 monthly fee on low-income residents who use the subsidy to pay for wireless service, according to a report from WABE.
The Georgia Public Service Commission voted 3-2 Tuesday to add the fee to cut down on fraud and make sure recipients had some "skin in the game."
Commissioner Bubba McDonald said while the fee will be a financial burden for many who legitimately cannot afford cell phones, he maintains that he doesn't know of another way to reduce abuse.
"There will be those that are disenfranchised by this but there has been an abundance of abuse out there," McDonald told WABE. "We've seen issues where people are passing out cell phones in shopping malls."
The federal subsidy allows phone companies to offer baseline service to about 700,000 low-income Georgians, mostly free-of-charge.
Georgia Public Service Commissioner Stan Wise opposed the fee, saying the effort is a bad idea and even doubted its legality.
"I think the efforts today are ineffective, poorly-advised, probably not legal, and it really hurt a segment of the population that's not fraudulently receiving these lifeline phones," he said.
Most wireless providers across the state came out against the fee, arguing they had cut down on the vast majority of fraud in recent years with new ID verification requirements.
The free phones are part of a program created by former President Ronald Reagan in 1984.
Known as the "Lifeline program," the legislation permits some households to receive a free landline under Congress's rationale that "telephone service provides a vital link to emergency services, government services and surrounding communities."
That idea dates back to 1934, under the Communications Act, but Reagan was the first to actually implement the legislation.
The program was recently expanded to include cell phones.
Photo: Michelle Dowery, who came to popular consciousness as the so-called "Obama phone lady" in a Youtube advertisement during the 2012 persidential campaign.
- Created on 13 January 2013
By M. Alexis Scott (www.atlantadailyworld.com)
Travis Morgan and Rod Whittaker have been making music since they were in high school. Now they are joining forces to ensure that future generations enjoy the same opportunities that they had.
Their documentary, "Band Room: Cadence for Conscience" premieres on Jan. 28 with an awards ceremony presented by Musical Youth of America.
The film and awards ceremony is set for 7 p.m. on Jan. 28 in the auditorium of the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency downtown. It is free and open to the public with limited seating. For more information and a trailer about the film, visit www.bandroomnation.com.
"We're a product of the Atlanta music scene," Whittaker said in a recent interview.
His documentary partner Morgan chimed in, "We were playing in clubs and traveling the world even before we were old enough to be in clubs."
Now, they say, the music scene has changed. "Hip Hop artists are no longer playing instruments," said Whittaker, who is still an active musician. He plays bass with his group called The Maxx. "This is a problem. They're missing the basics. Instrumentation is a lost art in the urban community."
"Kids today are missing out," added Morgan, who played trumpet and was a drum major when he was a student at Price High School. Now a filmmaker, Morgan knows the importance of band music. "That's why we're pushing to bring musical instruments back."
Whittaker, who also founded Musical Youth of America, serves as the executive producer of the new film, while Morgan is its director. Morgan said he made the transition from playing music to becoming an independent filmmaker by producing music videos. "Everybody had a place to record," Morgan said, "but nobody was offering broadcast quality video production."
He said he began doing music videos about 10 years ago. "The first time I put down the video and put the music track under it, it was instant love," Morgan said. He's been making videos and movies ever since.
Musical Youth of America was started to provide musical training and experiences for elementary and middle school youth, Whittaker said. It's important to start music education while students are still young, he said. His organization raises money to help youth with lessons, instruments and scholarships.
"We also wanted to do something for high school kids," he said. So the idea of a film was born. He said he met with Morgan back in the summer through a mutual acquaintance, and they instantly clicked on the project.
Both say they see the film as a way to advocate for music in schools. Music programs provide students with structure and discipline and offer them many opportunities that they might not otherwise have, they said.
The film focuses on Tri-Cities High School, and the duo sees it as the first in a series over the next few years. Whittaker said that will allow enough time to evaluate the impact that they might have on local music programs.
"These films can serve as fundraising opportunities for high school music programs," Whittaker said. "The band can sell the video to friends and relatives."
They hope the project will have wide-reaching effects.
"We want more kids in music programs," Morgan said. It's an opportunity for post-secondary scholarships, even if they not looking for a career in music. . . . Thousands of kids can benefit."
- Created on 12 January 2013
All power and water services have been turned back on at the Washington Arms Apartments in East Point, according to City Councilman E. Alexander Gothard.
A dozen residents were forced to evacuate the apartments on Friday afternoon because the City of East Point condemned the apartments. Gothard says the owner of the complex, Atlanta-based Meridian Management Group, has until the close of business Friday to make the necessary repairs.
"Per our code, however, the city cannot allow residents to live in unsafe conditions as it is our responsibility to ensure they live in an environment fit for habitation," Gothard told the Daily World in an email. "We are doing our best to see that no one is turned away without option."
Gothard also said that Washington Arms has decided to relocate eight families to other properties under the same ownership and 11 families will receive refund checks. Other families that have not paid rent have the option to contact United Way, Red Cross or the Health Department for assistance. He asserted that there was a representative on the scene who would help residents get to those services.
"On Monday the City Manager will host a planning meeting with the City Attorney, Planning and Zoning, and Fire Departments to discuss practices going forward regarding inspections and permitting," said Gothard.
Earlier in the week, residents were notified by the City of East Point that their homes were "unfit for human habitation," and that further use or occupancy of the premises would be illegal.
On Wednesday, residents of the Washington Arms apartments on Washington Road were given 48 hours to vacate the premises. The residents were ordered to leave before the power and water were shut off.
With this year's chilly winter weather, residents complained that the apartments did not have heat. They also went through periods where the water was cut off or hot water did not work. Many of the residents living in these apartments have young children.
"The heat's been out since we've been here," Gabriella Gonzales, a three-year resident who said she used electric space heaters to keep her family warm, told AJC.
The abrupt notice for residents to relocate from the apartments came as the property changed hands in order to maintain its certificate of occupancy. In order to do so, the property had to undergo a city inspection.
Meridian Management Group acquired the apartment complex early last month through receivership, which is the process of appointment by a court of a receiver to take custody of a property until a final decision is made on the disbursement of a lawsuit.
Meridian regional manager Caleb Barber said that he will continue to negotiate more time for those families who aren't able to move right away.
"We just can't do it within the strict timeline that they gave us," he said. "It's kind of hard to pack up and move everything in 48 hours."
- Created on 13 January 2013
Charlayne Hunter-Gault did not plan on becoming a civil rights hero. She just wanted to go to school. But, her own personal courage and determination to exercise her right to a public educational facility 50 years ago last week made her just that.
Civil rights history-maker Charlayne Hunter-Gault visited Madison to serve as keynote speaker for the 26th Annual City-County King Holiday Observance on Monday, Jan. 17, at the Overture Center Capital Theater.
Hunter-Gault has earned acclaim in her career as an award-winning journalist, both on television and in print. She is known for her work in Johannesburg, South Africa as National Public Radio's chief correspondent in Africa and later for her work as CNN's Johannesburg bureau chief. Her awards are numerous, including two Emmys and a Peabody for her work on "Apartheid's People," a NewsHour series on South Africa.
She took some time away from the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of the University of Georgia festivities recently to chat with The Madison Times from her home in Athens, Ga. That tense and very chaotic first day of school at UGA, she still remembers like it was yesterday.
Interested in journalism, a young Charlayne Hunter wanted to attend a college with a strong journalism program. In Georgia this meant the University of Georgia, which in the early '60s did not admit African Americans.
Fifty years ago, an impeccably dressed teenager walked through an angry mob of screaming and howling White students to attend her first day of classes, breaking the long-existing color barrier at that school.
At the time, Hunter-Gault was taking on more than just those students; she was taking on the entire state of Georgia.
"That atmosphere was quite charged," remembers Hunter-Gault. "I actually think that it wasn't a lot of students who were doing all of the yelling of racial epithets. It just seemed that way. I think a lot of the students were just curious. But, there was enough of them making noise."
On Jan. 9, 1961, the University of Georgia accepted its first two Black students -- Hamilton Holmes and Hunter-Gault. On that first day at the school, Holmes and his father, and Hunter-Gault and her mother had no security escort as they walked on campus with their lawyer Vernon Jordan, who gained respect as a civil rights activist and later became a close adviser to former President Bill Clinton.
"It was a very busy time because we began our enrollment in the morning and the judge who ordered us in suddenly gave a stay of the order so we had to stop registering," Hunter-Gault remembers.
"Halfway through that day we were re-ordered in by another judge and we managed to get through the crowd and finish registering."
That night, a mob rioted and chanted outside of her dormitory room. It took a suspiciously long time for the police to get there to disperse the students, Hunter-Gault remembers.
"Ultimately, they had to use tear gas. I had heard this '2-4-6-8... We don't want to integrate... cha, cha, cha, cha' all night long. That first night, I would eventually go to sleep with that peculiar lullaby in the background.
"The next night, when I expected the same thing, a brick came through my window and I thought, 'Well, this changes things!'"
The university came in and made the decision to suspend her for her own safety. "But, the next day our lawyers went to court and got us readmitted," she remembers.
Hunter-Gault's struggles to attend classes at the University of Georgia shone a national light brightly on an inherently racist system and bigoted society and was a huge event in the Civil Rights Movement.
Did Hunter-Gault realize the magnitude of what she was doing at the time or was she too young to appreciate fully what was transpiring?
"I was a pretty mature 19-year-old, but I couldn't imagine that 50 years later we would be having the kind of celebration that we are having," Hunter-Gault says. "Without being falsely modest, at the time our principal concern was not so much making history, but entering the state university -- which we were entitled to -- in order to realize our dreams."
For the ambitious Holmes and Hunter, their goal wasn't to attend Atlanta's Georgia State, as their legal team suggested, but instead to go to the state's flagship school. After all, UGA offered the best pre-med and journalism courses in the state.
"[Hamilton Holmes] could have gotten the basic education he needed at Morehouse, which he loved, [but] the university [of Georgia] had the facilities par excellence and they were facilities that were enabled by the taxes of our parents," says Hunter-Gault. "So, we felt pretty much entitled to attend the University of Georgia."
Unfortunately, there were many that didn't harbor those same sentiments at the time, including the governor, the Regents, the Legislature, and the judiciary, and the University System of Georgia. The university did everything conceivable and possible -- legal and illegal -- to keep them out. But they could not.
"As time went on, we began to recognize the breadth of this and the impact in the larger society," Hunter-Gault says. "But, when we first decided to do it, it wasn't with the idea of making history, nor did we even think about being exposed to the kind of hatred and venom and even the rioting that took place outside of my dormitory the second night I was on campus."
This week, Hunter-Gault returned to Mahler Auditorium at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education to give speeches to mark the 50th anniversary of when she and Hamilton Holmes, who passed away in 1995, became the university's first two Black students. She took part in roundtable discussions on racial issues that she hopes will turn into a yearlong series of television and radio programs, and ultimately even a college course. The 50th anniversary festivities allowed her to meet many eager young people -- some more knowledgeable about the Civil Rights Movement than others. "I think for the most part it's kind of ancient history for a lot of them. I spoke with some students and I mentioned SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] and they were like, 'What was SNCC?'" Hunter-Gault
laughs. "But, that's what I will be talking about today -- the importance of history and why we must preserve memories.
"From everything I was able to see last night at the opening reception, where we had an attendance that was just mind-blowing, there were so many students, Black and White, who came up to me and hugged me and thanked me for what I had done." Hunter-Gault says that it's important that we understand and learn from our past as we continue to fight and struggle in the future.
"We do make progress, if those who believe in justice continue to fight in whatever way they are equipped to fight," she says. "There are enough positives in our struggle for freedom and dignity and justice and equality that should inspire us no matter what the challenge is, but we can be more empowered and encouraged to fight those fights if we look at the battles that we've fought in the past and won. "You know, Barack Obama said when he was campaigning in Selma in 2008 that he stands on the shoulders of giants," she adds. "Well, Barack Obama wouldn't be president
of the United States if all of those people going back generations had not fought for equality and justice."
How much progress have we made in race relations since a young Charlayne Hunter fought through that angry mob of White students to get to class?
"We've made progress in the advancement of Black people to positions that they might never have been in before and wouldn't have access to prior to the '60s," Hunter-Gault says. "But we still have challenges that revolve around race, that revolve around class, and that revolve around gender. It doesn't serve us to say that we haven't made any progress, because we have. But, there are new challenges out there and we need all hands on deck to meet those challenges.
"I think we should be encouraged by the progress that we've made in this country, yet when you look at the Gallup polls that show people's reaction to race since the Obama election, Blacks are more pessimistic than anybody else about race," she adds. "You have a rise in hate crimes, you've got airwaves that are populated with vicious, venomous racism that isn't even muffled. You have a resurgence in the kind of things that can get very bad unless good people do the right thing. So that's what I hope to see."
- Created on 11 January 2013
Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall recently launched the 2013 edition of his initiative to revamp the city's Boulevard corridor.
Hall created the Year of the Boulevard Initiative last year and plans to revamp it this year. The councilman is looking for even greater results.
Hall told East Atlanta Patch that "the initiative aims to revitalize the Boulevard corridor, particularly the stretch that includes the Bedford Pines Apartments off Winton Terrace."
Last year's efforts included tackling public safety, unemployment and job skills training and community beautification. This year Hall plans to double down on these efforts.
Hall also plans to emphasize his focus on the 700 children who live on and around the stretch of Boulevard.
This year's initiative features several new partnerships with programs such as Children's Museum of Atlanta and the Renaissance Learning Center, Premier Academy, ABC Child Care Center, Hope-Hill Elementary School and Intown Academy. The programs are designed to expand educational experiences and students will be granted free admission and transportation to the Children's Museum of Atlanta.
In addition, Hall announced an internship and job training opportunity with the Greater Atlanta Economic Alliance for teens interested in aviation-related careers.
Other opportunities include a partnership with Microsoft. The company is donating computers to Martin Luther King branch library and will offer free computer and app development classes at the Microsoft Store.
Additionally, technology based programs include a "technology day" program being offered by Black Girls Code, which focuses on the development of young ladies in technology. The program will focus on showcasing and sparking interest among girls in the tech fields.
This year's initiative also includes an expansion of summer camp offerings such as the Museum of Design's Atlanta Robotics Summer Camp. The camp will include scholarships for Boulevard teens. The VSA arts of Georgia and the Creatives Project, a photography camp for Boulevard kids, also plan to expand their summer camps.
Furthermore, Hall's initiative includes seniors and beautifying and preserving the Boulevard area.
Hall also announced a Black Vintage movie series geared toward Boulevard's senior citizens along with projects to preserve the area. Preservation groups like the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the National Trust for Historic Preservation will work on developing empty or dilapidated lots in the residential and commercial districts of the greater Old Fourth Ward.