Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Trusting Private Media With Public Policy


This past Monday, July 28th, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published a front page piece by writer Alan Judd. It was a piece concerning the Central Branch Library and the Library Master Plan. And thought the piece was well written with some facts included, I and others felt that there were just too many glaring omissions (missing facts) for this piece to be seen as entirely independent and objective. Consequentially, I opted to post a public reply here on this site (see below) and I also sent a copy of this reply to Alan Judd via Email.

Thereafter Mr. Judd responded in a timely manner. And in his response and subsequent correspondence(s) I learned that wrote as he wrote because he was essentially "filling in" for AJC writer David Bennett (a.k.a. D.L. Bennett) who is officially assigned to this story, but currently on a two week vacation.

Et Viola!

That's when it all started to make sense. Because, from the start, I had noticed that Alan Judd had not written about this subject before. No, it was writer David Bennett who was the one in the last weeks and months, that had repeatedly wrote about this issue. And in reading Mr. Bennett's news articles, I noted that he had, time and time again, given preference to Commissioner Rob Pitts and Library Director John Szabo, all the while omitting and/or distorting the overwhelming voice(s) of dissent against Mr. Szabo and Pitts' bullish plan to hijack the budget and turn it to their favor.

It was a voice of dissent, which included Commission Chair Dr. John Eaves along with Commissioner Lynn Riley, as well as the Mayor(s) of Roswell and Sandy Springs, just to name a few. Then there were other omissions like the unanimous public support of the two year vetting process, which created the original Library Master Plan; that process now being totally ignored, effectively subverting the will of the people. Another omission was the fact that prior to coming to Atlanta, John Szabo was known as a tourist attraction library builder, as he had successfully done this exact thing (built a big fancy new central branch) when he was the head of The Tampa (Clearwater) Public Library System. Then there is this issue of public officials forming stealthy pacts with private developers, this being seen in the Buckhead Library incident with commissioner Tom Lowe and "friend" developer Ben Carter. There is plenty, plenty more that's been omitted, but I'll stop there.

Bottom line is this. David Bennet never really mentioned any of this. And when I confronted him on this some weeks back he claimed that he was just writing updates. What? What does that mean? The guy has written three or more news articles about this library fiasco and he wants me to believe that he couldn't have done a better job at representing the voice of both sides of this issue? How crazy is that?

Anyway. When David Bennet went on vacation and Alan Judd was temporarily handed the reigns for the follow-up story, he was given a major hot potato issue, with scant half the facts. Mr. Judd had not been ordered to follow this issue from the start, because he was not the writer originally assigned to cover it. But, David Bennet was. Thus, I now sense that Mr. Judd honestly and truly did the best he could. But with being given just a couple of days to write the piece, and with all the prior documentation having come from David Bennett, what else could Mr. Judd do, but mostly fumble the ball? Though with that said, I must say that he still did a better job than Mr. Bennet.

It's a terrible set of circumstances for a writer to find themselves in. And though I offer no apologies for my public reply, I do feel a sincere sympathy for Alan Judd or any other writer who finds themselves faced with such a loaded deck. Yet when one adds to this incident the overall horror that so many corporate news outlets are being faced with today, namely their demise via forced downsizing (AJC just laid off 200 of it's staff) it's a wonder that any work is getting down at all.

Thus as I sit here agape at the media prospects, I can't help but wonder...how can a profit driven, market controlled, corporate media system be consistently depended upon to provide thorough, accurate, independent analysis and prose, when their own financial floor is crumbling beneath their very feet?

Is this realistic? Is this possible? And in the meantime, who's watching our elected officials?


Monday, July 28, 2008

A Public Reply to Alan Judd of The AJC



To your recently penned AJC news article;

Beauty, truth and bonds: Is library a classy eyesore?

I say this:

Your piece is an opinion piece.

That is what you provide.

But with this piece being presented on the front page as "fact", I ask... where are the facts?

...all the facts?

Not the cherry picked facts, but all the facts...you know, the ones that will sink your case.

As a private citizen you are entitled to your opinion, just as you faux news brother David Bennett is. Yet this recent piece was not on the op-ed page, it's on the front page. And while there are plenty of good journalist at the AJC and elsewhere, there can be no denying that the public is ripe with complaints of men (and women) of your ilk; individuals who think we (the masses) are just a bunch of idle fools, eager to gobble up your swill.


All eyes are watching, and with so many news organizations collapsing before our very eyes, you might want to rethink your strategy of playing kissy face with the highest bidder.

I'm not saying that you are taking bribes (though I wouldn't be surprised). No, I'm suggesting that the highest bidder = the loudest, slickest, most well-connected voice.

The media has a responsibility to the public to tell the whole, unvarnished truth. Omitting vital facts = lying. And don't worry, I won't bother to point out all of your omissions, you know what they are.

So does Szabo. So does Pitts.

And if Pitts et Co. are fully at ease with subverting the truth. Let them do that. But that's not your job. You are (supposedly) an unbiased, independent journalist.

Because, what Pitts & Szabo are doing amounts to nothing more than legalized money laundering. They have re-routed and finagled money that in a 2 year vetting process, had been decided to be spent a certain way. They have ignored that 2 year vetting process, in which, not a single citizen asked for a new central branch. Not one. And to that, Commissioner Lynn Riley has gone on the record saying,Pitts et all hijacked the process. But has a prosecutable crime been committed? Not yet. And though what's being done might be legal, but it's anything but right. No, it's wrong.

Very wrong.

In closing, I'll say this. I have no delusions of grandeur in thinking that I am some supreme arbiteur of justice. I am just one man. Yet, it is interesting how the facts seem to have a way of showing up at the most inopportune time...just ask GWB. He can tell you all about that.

Oh yea, and I hear the AJC is laying off 200 journalist. How painful. Yet, with slop like yours being sold as news, I can't imagine why.

Now is not the time to squander money on some extra $100M pet project. The City of Atlanta is already struggling with insurmountable debt. Again, The AJC is laying off 200...hello? Even Starbucks is closing 600 stores...hello? Foreclosures??? Banks are collapsing??? The economy???

You have misrepresented the voice of the people.

You have done the public a great injustice.

And it has not gone unnoticed.




Friday, July 18, 2008

Progress Is Preservation


Update: Central Branch Library

In the two brief orations that I (Max Eternity) have been fortunate to give before The Fulton County Board of Commissioners, and in a desire to echo the same sentiment(s) online, a set of beliefs have developed, which prompted me to create the Central Branch Library blog (see first blog entry). Then here in today's edition of the The Atlanta Journal Constitution, the same case is put forth in perfect form.

With clarity and vision, a woman named Cynthia Rogers has penned a piece entitled: Progress In Preservation.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Dead On Arrival: The Library Master Plan (revised)



What started out as beauty, has been transformed into the beast. For today, five of the seven Fulton County Commissioners, decided that their own personal interests were more important than the publics' collective best interest. With the end result being that from the original Library Master Plan's budget, $34M dollars has been siphoned off, to this $50M has been added for some down the road (pie in the sky) pork barrel 'trophy library' project. Of course we were assured that this would be in the people's best interest, yet by judging the crowd at today's meeting, the commissioners (save Riley and Eaves) were the only ones who seemed convinced of that.

The rest of us weren't buying it.

Not only that, why attempt to force something onto the public that they don't want. Meaning that not a single person who attended the meeting asked for a new downtown library. We like the one we already got and fixing it up will only cost us $34M...$34M which has now been stripped away.

Now again, this $34M was the money that was supposed to refurbish the existing Central Branch Library, a noteworthy building that was designed by legendary Bauhaus architect, Marcel Breuer. But now that money is gone. And as if it were not enough to toss the Central Branch Library down a memory hole of abysmal neglect, the commissioners then decided to go back and double dip in the public treasury to add another $50M to this Faustian deal, sitting a total of $84M aside (supposedly with good intent) yet bloating the Library Master Plan's total budget by almost 25% bringing the grand total to $275M.

So let's see, we GET LESS but PAY MORE...with the promise of something (maybe?) down the road.


Needless to say, by the time all this ridiculousness rolled around, the entire room began to reak of bacon and fatback.

And if you're reading this wondering, why? What? This doesn't make good sense. Well, join the club. Because if ever there were a textbook example of over-indulgent, self-congratulatory, pork barrel spending, disguised as loyal, public service...then this is it!

The people didn't ask for this. For as it is, we are already struggling to maintain what we've already got. Thus, we do not want any additional, unnecessary debts. We already have buildings that need taking care of and the commissioners themselves have publicly admitted several times that everybody was happy with the original plan and that the people were overwhelmingly against any additional new debt that went beyond any monies already decided upon. And yet, somehow or another, we got screwed.

We demanded satisfaction, but instead we were treated to a dog and pony show to the tune of $84M. Because, neither do we get a refurbish central branch nor do we get a new central branch. Basically, all we get is a promise. And while we are all looking the other way waiting for our "cross my heart, hope to die" promise to be fulfilled in the form of a glorious new central library...who will be watching the $84M? Because with the price of the average new "centerpiece" city library costing near $300M, exactly how, how long and what will getting that kind of money actually involve.

Hello? The economy? The falling dollar? The collapsing banking system?

Hence in the end, there is only one way to explain why we got what THEY wanted instead of what WE wanted.

Hubris and Pork.

But perhaps by the time the referendum reaches the ballot box (general election) in November 2008, this nefarious, money-siphoning plan will brought to the light of day and the people (we, all of us) will reject it hands down.

It's the only sensible thing to do.

But, until then...we're stuck with hubris and pork.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

July 16th - The Final Push

July 16th marks the final critical phase for the Central Branch Library, a historical site that was designed by legendary artist/architect Marcel Breuer. (scroll down to learn more)


Date: July 16th, 2008

Time: 10:00am - 3:00pm

Fulton County Board of Commissioners
141 Pryor Street, SW
Atlanta, Georgia 30303


If you can make it to this meeting, your support would be much appreciated. Otherwise, phone calls and emails to the county commissioners make a wonderful substitute.

Contact The Fulton County Board of Commissioners by clicking here.


Friday, July 4, 2008

Library Master Plan

The executive summary of the Atlanta-Fulton Library Master Plan as drafted by it's director, John Szabo, leads off by clearly calling for the renovation of the existing Central Branch and NOT for building a new $173,000,000 Central Branch, as desired (and pushed for) by Commissioner Robb Pitts; a disastrous idea that would lead the county toward unprecedented debt.


Your Library's Facility Master Plan

Executive Summary

The stakeholders of the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System have realized for some time that a comprehensive master plan for library facilities is needed. It was clear that our Board of Commissioners and Library Board of Trustees needed and wanted a plan to guide decisions on facilities: identifying where citizens are unserved, where they are underserved, where libraries are most needed, what is the optimal size, and what improvements need to be made to our existing facilities-a plan that will examine these issues for the entire service area, not just one neighborhood or community. Most importantly, this much needed and desired plan must be fair, unbiased, and based on good information and valid, authoritative data. I believe this plan accomplishes this.

With the excellent assistance of the Sizemore Group, the Fulton County General Services Department, the Department of Environment and Community Development, the Atlanta Housing Authority and many others, this plan makes recommendations for:

• Ten new branch libraries-five of which will replace services at seven existing facilities.
• Major expansion and improvements of the Auburn Avenue Research Library
• Complete reprogramming and renovation of the Central Library
• Renovations and improvements at most existing branch facilities.


The above statement is just the intro to the Library Master Plan. For those interested in reading the entire master plan, it can be be found by clicking here.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

UPDATE: Commissioners Meeting

Though it's still undecided as to what the fate of the current Central Branch, Library will be, one things for sure. The push by Commissioner Robb Pitts to add an additional $173,000,000 to the already $225,000,000 Library Master Plan, so that a new (tourist attraction) Central Branch can be built, is losing steam fast. As today, during the Commission meeting, there were signs of a cracking solidarity between board members. This was most notable when Commissioners Emma Darnell, Bill Edwards and John Eaves expressed their concerns about the inadequate planning and bloated budget put forth by Robb Pitts. But it's it's not over just yet. There's one last critical meeting coming up on July 16th, whereupon it should become entirely clear what the future of the Central Branch will be. Nonetheless, there is still cause for celebration, as we have now been assured that the Buckhead Library will be kept intact. Buckhead has been saved!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

June 2nd Commissioners Meeting

There will be a commissioners meeting on July 2nd, 2008. Among other things, at this meeting will be discussed (and debated) the financial (and cultural) costs of abandoning the existing Central Branch Library; designed by legendary artist/architect Marcel Breuer.

Time: 10:00am - 3:00pm

Place: Fulton County Board of Commissioners
141 Pryor Street, SW
Atlanta, Georgia 30303

For those you can attend, this is a very important meeting. And for those who (for whatever reason) cannot attend. You can always make phone calls or send emails. Click here to visit the commissioners website which has all pertinent contact information.