And if you’re an elected official who skips a crucial meeting at which large sums of money are divvied up, you stand a good chance of seeing your share shrink — or disappear entirely. And that pretty much sums up what happened on Thursday at Marietta City Hall.
The City Council held a public hearing for Mayor Steve Tumlin’s proposal to spend $35 million as a catalyst for the redevelopment of the problem-plagued Franklin Road corridor on the city’s east side. Most of those who spoke favored the idea and the council voted 5-1 afterward to decide at a June 12 meeting whether to call a Nov. 5 referendum that would ask voters to approve the issuance of the necessary funding.
The council on Thursday also reallocated how the bond funds would be spent. The bulk, about $31 million, would go to buy and demolish blighted garden apartments along Franklin, although that allocation was downsized by $1.3 million.
But by meeting’s end the amount earmarked for improvements across town along Whitlock Avenue had unexpectedly more than doubled, to $4 million from the first-announced $1.5 million. Rather than just the originally planned sidewalks, the Whitlock spending also would now pay for lamp posts, a bike path and possibly even a median turn lane, at the behest of west side Councilmen Grif Chalfant of Ward 2 and Andy Morris of Ward 4.
So where would the money come from for the Whitlock frills? Well, not from issuing additional bonds, but mostly by nixing the $1.2 million that had been set aside by the mayor for renovating the old Lemon Street School in Anthony Coleman’s Ward 5, the segregation-era high school for local African-American students.
What was Coleman’s reaction to seeing the funding for his Ward stripped?
He’s unlikely to have gone down without a fight — had he been there. But he was not at the meeting, telling Around Town late Friday that he’d been “under the weather.”
As one city politico told Around Town on Friday, “You snooze, you lose.”
COLEMAN told AT he was surprised that the mayor had gone along with the council to strip the funding from the Lemon Street School project since it had been Tumlin’s idea to put it in there in the first place.
“This was his baby. I was shocked that he didn’t advocate for it to stay in there. … Why would I support (the bond) when you’re pulling the money away from my area? But that’s the nature of the beast. It’s called ‘politics,’” Coleman said.
Coleman said he might try to have the money put back in at the June 12 meeting. He also told us he might prefer to see the $1.2 million used on improvements along the North Loop in his ward, similar to what’s being done on Whitlock. But he added that he first would consult with the Lemon Street School heritage group and see what its preference is.
“I’m leaving my options open, but if they want to spend it on the school (rather than streetscapes), that’s what I’ll support,” he said. “It means a lot to those who went to school there in that era.”
WE’VE ALL HEARD of the “Single Bullet Theory” as pertaining to the Kennedy assassination. But few had heard of the “One More Bullet Clause” as it pertains to leases and contract law — at least not until Thursday evening’s hearing.
During the public hearing portion of the meeting, local political consultant Mitch Hunter told the council that a friend who rents space along Franklin told his landlord he was willing to renew his lease, but only with the stipulation that he’d have the right to terminate “if there is one more bullet hole” put in his place of business. Perhaps not surprisingly (this is Franklin Road we’re talking about — would you bet against more bullet holes?), the landlord refused the suggestion, and the business moved away, Hunter said.
PEOPLE: Pebblebrook High/Cobb Magnet School of the Arts alum Billy Tighe has just been cast in the Broadway production of “Pippin,” which Strand Theatre director Earl Reece says is one of the most sought-after lead roles on Broadway. Tighe, who has spent the past year appearing in the national touring company of “Wicked,” will be understudy for the lead and all other male roles in the cast.
“I’ve had the opportunity to be in many different productions, but Pippin on Broadway is unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” Tighe emailed Reece on Wednesday. “It’s magical, dangerous, enchanting and I’m entirely awestruck every time I see it. The process of learning the show is definitely going to take a while, but I’m excited to join the circus and can’t wait for my first performance.”
POLITICS: Michael Opitz, who unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta) for the 11th District congressional seat last year and had talked of running again next year, tells Around Town that instead he’s endorsing former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr (R-Smyrna), who is running for the congressional seat Gingrey plans to vacate in his quest to succeed Saxby Chambliss in the U.S. Senate.
“Bob led the impeachment inquiry against Bill Clinton, so we know that he has the leadership necessary for today’s political environment, and he doesn’t buckle,” Opitz said.
SACRED SOIL: A big salute to retired Army Lt. Col. Rick Lester of Marietta, who not only was the keynote speaker at Monday’s Memorial Day rededication ceremony for the Atlanta History Center’s Veterans Park but who also masterminded the creation of a “Sacred Soil” time capsule as part of the event.
The Vietnam veteran persuaded Center leaders to collect soil samples from battlefields of every war in which we have taken part, from the Revolutionary War to Afghanistan, and sprinkle it in the revamped park. But as the project grew the samples were placed in a time capsule instead and buried beneath an 8-foot-diameter United States seal carved from Elberton granite.
Samples were ultimately collected from those and other wars, including soil from Omaha Beach in Normandy and Tinian Island (from which the Enola Gay took off on its fateful trip). A fragment of the wall of the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” POW camp was donated as well.
Costs of the memorial were underwritten by a $500,000 grant from the Home Depot.
MARIETTA First Baptist Church will host a series of free organ concerts on the first Sunday of each month this summer, starting Sunday with Helen Weiss Phelps, director of music ministries and organist at the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection. Coming July 7 will be Arie Motschman, associate director of music and organist at First United Methodist Church of Marietta; followed Aug. 4 by Dr. Calvert Johnson, organist at First Presbyterian Church of Marietta and professor emeritus of music at Agnes Scott. All concerts are free and start at 3 p.m.
COMMANDER Jack Bridewell of the Georgia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans declared Friday that today and future June 1sts would be remembered as “Little Mary Phagan Day.” Phagan was the Marietta teen whose 1913 murder unleashed a chain of events that culminated in the lynching of her former boss, Leo Frank, near the present-day Big Chicken.
IF YOU watched “Tardy for the Party” on the Bravo Network recently you saw a familiar face — that of Marietta florist Paul Conyngham, co-owner of Owens Flowers. Owens did the flowers last fall for the first wedding anniversary surprise party at the Historic Foundry at Puritan Mill in Atlanta for Kim Zoliciak (star of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta”) and Atlanta Falcons defensive lineman Kroy Biermann. And the party was taped for Zoliciak’s new show, “Tardy for the Party.” Conyngham, wife Joanna, son Cotter and delivery supervisor Ed Wilson were all on hand, although only Paul made it on-screen.
“I had no idea the large number of people that would be involved in the production of a ‘surprise’ party,” said Conyngham, whose shop was founded 60 years ago by his wife’s parents, Glenn and Margaret Owens Sr.
AND A BELATED “Happy Birthday” to Bill Wissing of Marietta, who celebrated his 80th birthday May 12 at a surprise party at the home of daughter Becky Enser and husband David in Marietta. On hand were his wife, Dee — and all 16 of their children. We suspect the crowd will be back in January, when the couple celebrates their 60th wedding anniversary.