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MARCH 26, 2014 · VOL. 28 · NO. 12 · FREE
Mail-Order Drugs The Legislature Punted on Medical Marijuana, But Apparently Everything Is For Sale Online p. 7
No Chewing or Dipping, Either Not to Worry: No Enforcement p. 8
The Band’s Kingdom Technology Displays Its Human Fingerprints p. 12
TED Talks p. 8 · Emily Hearn p. 13 · Katër Mass p. 14 · Dancing Stars p. 19 · “Little Red” p. 19
FLAGPOLE.COM ∙ MARCH 26, 2014
Not Just About Prince “I’m sick of hearing about Prince Avenue.” One of our commissioners was quoted as saying that last week, and the general rap is that those who are pushing for traffic calming on Prince are pushing too hard, too fast. The mayor wants them to slow down. What’s the hurry? Prince isn’t going to be resurfaced for four or five more years, so why study it now? You may be sick of hearing about Prince Avenue, too. You may live over on the Eastside, where your thoroughfare is the five-lane Barnett Shoals Road. Y’all had a big battle a decade ago with the same issues as Prince faces now: whether to figure pedestrians into the traffic mix. Pedestrians were eliminated. It’s an auto-centric world over there, and you wouldn’t want to send your kid to the store for a loaf of bread. Safe Routes to School aren’t. It’s the suburban model. Drive. All our major streets are different. Lumpkin was fairly recently reworked into a three-lane configuration with ample bike lanes, and traffic moves along well, even with a lot of UGA buses. Milledge is three-lane with no bike lanes, and it seems more sluggish than Lumpkin. And then there’s Hawthorne, with those traffic lights and weird lanes running up to the interminable wait at the Atlanta Highway—the street that gives three-laning a bad name everywhere. Hawthorne went from a narrow, four-lane racetrack to a slowed-down feeder into a bottleneck, making people remember the racetrack with nostalgia. Prince Avenue has its own personality. The overriding conundrum on Prince is that it brings us into town—to jobs, to doctors’ offices, to schools, to churches, to shops and stores, to restaurants and bars, to downtown and the university—and we’re usually in a hurry. And, as we all know, Prince also happens to run right smack-dab through a large intown, walkable, bikeable neighborhood, the kind of area that makes Athens so attractive to those who prefer to live close-in instead of far-out, the kind of neighborhood that makes people glad to move here, glad they can walk to the book store, the hairdresser, the co-op, the restaurant, the school. Our common-sense mayor says “What’s the hurry?” Our commissioner is “sick of hearing about Prince Avenue.” Our citizen advocates want a trial with traffic-calming devices to get some data on how well a new configuration would work, but the mayor has killed that idea. There’s another oddity to Prince Avenue’s personality. It is a local street from Athens Blueprint to Dunkin Donuts. That’s the stretch where the mayor killed the traffic study. But from Milledge on out through Normaltown and beyond, Prince Avenue is a state highway under the control of the Georgia Department of Transportation. Come to find out, GDOT is ready to do its own study of its own portion of Prince Avenue to see what the street might need in upgrades to its driveability, bikeability and walkability. And the state asks only a minimal assist from the city. Is it possible that the mayor might withhold even that cooperation and thus kill the state study, too? It’s possible. It’s the way she works—behind the scenes. It’s the way she killed the River District initiative to pave the way for Walmart. It’s the way she has worked so far on Prince Avenue. It’s the way she can kill the state traffic study, with just a word to the city manager. The commission won’t even have to think about Prince, much less vote on whether we need a traffic study. And, of course, you know, the commission represents the people—when it gets the chance. But the mayor works behind the scenes, guided by her own common sense, without involving us in the decision. We used to have that kind of government in Athens, and with Mayor Denson, it has come back. It’s Chris Christie government, except that in this case a real traffic study gets killed behind the scenes. Would we be better off with an inexperienced guy as mayor, one who is all about open government and including everybody in on the discussion? Could be. The commission would go overnight from being a bypassed rubber stamp to having the real power to enact or refuse the mayor’s initiatives. With a mayor who doesn’t operate behind the scenes, all public decisions would go through the commission. So, this discussion is not just about Prince Avenue. It’s about how we conduct the people’s business in AthensClarke County, Georgia. It’s about coming out from behind closed doors and making public decisions in public. It’s about democracy. Pete McCommons firstname.lastname@example.org
from the blogs In the Loop: Check out Twitter’s reaction to last week’s #DensonDebate. Homedrone: Peep the latest installment of Behind the Scene, which profiles Drive-By Truckers guitar tech Paul McHugh. Grub Notes: Downtown brewery Creature Comforts, which has been in the works for over a year, will finally start brewing this week.
athens power rankings: MAR. 24–30 1. Khalid Alsafadi, Carden Wyckoff & Marquise Lane 2. Creature Comforts Brewery 3. Eleanor Davis 4. Kai Riedl and Eric Marty 5. UGA women’s swim team Athens Power Rankings are posted each Monday on the In the Loop blog on flagpole.com.
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VOLUME 28 ISSUE NUMBER 12
Association of Alternative Newsmedia
MARCH 26, 2014 · FLAGPOLE.COM
city dope No Vote Planned for Prince Avenue
Tim responded to Nancy by saying that businesses would keep part of the fee to offset any additional costs, and shoppers could avoid it by bringing their own bags or asking for paper. The point is not to charge people extra, but to get them to stop using plastic bags. A few days later, a tipster spotted Nancy awkwardly photographing a confused-looking woman holding a bunch of plastic bags at a bus stop on Chase Street, so expect this issue to turn into kind of a thing. Combined with the Prince Avenue controversy, could Nancy (mildly) insulting a wide swath of largely overlapping voters give Tim an opening? As one keen political observer told me, “This one might get interesting.” Then there was the revelation that Nancy, like Tim, favors reducing the penalty for marijuana possession. “I would like to see small amounts of marijuana decriminalized,” she said. “This is the first time I’ve said that publicly.” The comment may have caused the mayor’s campaign some heartburn. She released a statement the next day clarifying her stance, saying that she supports a state-level bill to legalize medical marijuana, as well as decriminalizing marijuana possession on the state or national level, but plans to take no action locally. “While I do not support legalizing marijuana, I find it unconscionable that we ruin the lives of young people by creating criminal records for possession of small amounts of marijuana that follow them for the rest of their lives,” she said.
Reversing her earlier position that she would support temNancy, as one would expect from the incumbent, ran on her porarily reconfiguring Prince Avenue this fall, Mayor Nancy record: primarily Caterpillar and all of the development that’s Denson said last week that she’s now in no rush to schedule a been happening around town lately. The Athens Banner-Herald’s vote on the pilot project. “I don’t feel a sense of urgency,” she Jim Thompson reported that her tone was “decidedly conservasaid. “It needs to be very well thought out. We need to have a tive.” She generally criticized Tim’s ideas—free public transit lot of questions answered.” and expanded child care programs, for example—as too idealDenson said as much in an email obtained by Flagpole. Any istic. “Many of the things he would love to do, I would love to permanent changes to Prince Avenue would be made during do, but you have to prioritize scarce resources,” she said. repaving in four or five years, she said, so there’s no rush to While neither candidate was particularly impressive—Tim test out a road diet with pedestrian refuges at dangerous midseemed a bit jittery and still has not explained how he’d pay block crossings on the locally owned portion of Prince between Pulaski Street and Milledge Avenue. Denson said she has asked Athens-Clarke County Manager Alan Reddish to schedule a work session on the issue June 10 and is unlikely to call a July vote on conducting the test in October, as Commissioner Kelly Girtz had wanted. “I just have not committed to a time frame for it,” she said. Girtz expressed frustration and disappointment. There is a time element involved, he Sine Die: When state legislators convened in said—the Georgia Department of Transportation January, they promised a quick session and is doing a Complete Streets study of the stateplanned to pass a budget and not much else so owned part of Prince west of Milledge, which they could go home and raise money in advance could put ACC in the embarrassing position of of the earlier-than-ever May 20 primary. It’s being somehow less progressive than the state. an election year, so we should have known He said he wants to see some action coming out better—they at least took a hard look at a of the work session, not yet another committee host of measures appealing to the Republican or study. “I’m in an action-oriented mood,” he base, including a sweeping gun bill, an attempt said. “Talk is cheap.” to nullify the Affordable Care Act and further Area residents, Girtz said, have been waitrestrictions on abortions. Please read Capitol ing a long time for something to be done about Check out all these SUVs in the Earth Fare parking lot. It remains unconfirmed whether they’re driven by Impact on p. 6, but here’s a look at some bills yuppies. pedestrian safety on Prince. Denson, though, of local interest. said she’s heard little public outcry. “I’m not The aforementioned gun bill did pass, but getting many inquiries from people asking for that,” she said. for some of his proposals—even some Nancy supporters were without a clause that would have reduced the penalty for car“Maybe six at the most.” dismayed by her performance. She rambled at times and comrying a gun onto a college campus to a measly $100 ticket. That email address is nancy.denson@athensclarkecounty. pletely lost her train of thought on at least one occasion. Gov. Nathan Deal stopped that provision on the last day of com, in case you’re inclined to share your opinion. Then there was Earthfaregate. Tim proposed requiring stores the session Thursday, Mar. 20 by expressing his opposition. to charge a fee to shoppers to use plastic bags, an environHowever, going downtown will get a lot more dangerous— Trouble in Nancytown: Denson debated challenger Tim “No mental measure that was proposed here in 2009 and went assuming Deal signs the bill, guns will be allowed in bars Relation” Denson for the first time Wednesday, Mar. 19 at a nowhere, but it’s been done in Washington, D.C. unless the owner specifically bans them. The bill originally did University of Georgia Young Democrats meeting. Nancy, though, said such a fee would drive grocery stores the same for churches, but now it’s an opt-in, so congregations Tim characterized himself as a fresh face bursting with new out of Clarke County and primarily affect the poor, not “the will have to vote if they want to allow guns. ideas on issues ranging from economic development to sexual little yuppies who get in their SUVs and go to Earth Fare.” The A watered-down version of a bill that would have scuttled assault, using the word “ambitious” over and over again. “I comment drew some outrage on social media. Journalist and the federally funded University of Georgia health care navigator want to shoot for big goals that will help our entire commuFive Points resident Rebecca McCarthy joked about forming a program also passed. The bill bars government employees from nity,” he said. group called “Earth Fare Shopping Yuppies for Tim.” pressing for Medicaid expansion, rather than the Affordable
PAIN & WONDER
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Care Act as a whole, so UGA navigators can continue to help people sign up for insurance through the federal exchange (which, of course, was never the same as advocating for or against the law, no matter what the tea party might think). Other bills would allow the state Department of Human Resources to drug-test people who get Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, aka food stamps; declare 60,000 contract workers at public schools ineligible for unemployment; and take away abortion coverage for people on state insurance plans, such as K-12 teachers and UGA employees. Better news for Athens residents: The aforementioned $21 billion budget does include $44 million for a new UGA science learning center on College Station Road, as well as additional funding for HOPE grants for students at Athens Tech and other technical colleges. The medical marijuana bill, however, has died. Sorry, Tim and Nancy!
Broun Rowndup: The Federal Election Commission will not punish U.S. Rep. Paul Broun (R-Athens) for misreporting the source of $179,000 in campaign funds in 2007 and 2008, because the statute of limitations expired. (Brounâ€™s campaign had reported that the money came from Brounâ€™s own pocket, when in reality it came from a second mortgage on his house.) The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint in April 2012, two months before the five-year statute of limitations expired, but the FEC didnâ€™t get around to ruling on the complaint until last month. Team Broun didnâ€™t respond to a request for comment, but CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan blasted the FEC. â€œA real enforcement agency would take its duties seriously, meting out severe penalties for the Broun campaignâ€™s deliberate violation of campaign finance law,â€? Sloan said. â€œRep. Broun deliberately concealed the source of the loans, and the FEC let him off scot-free. Given Rep. Brounâ€™s track record, the FEC should be reviewing his Senate campaign [finance] reports with a fine-tooth comb.â€? Blake Aued email@example.com
RoboTrucks: Within the next year, Athens-Clarke County officials plan to replace human trash collectors with automated garbage trucks. The countyâ€™s current fleet of 11 garbage trucksâ€”each requiring a two- or three-man crewâ€”is due to be replaced, and switching to one-man automated trucks will save customers $500,000 annually on salaries and benefits, as well as maintenance and insurance costs, Solid Waste Director Jim Corley told commissioners at a work session Tuesday, Mar. 18. The trucksâ€™ drivers use joysticks and cameras to operate robotic arms that pick up rollcarts from the curb and dump them into the truck. â€œThe truck reaches out, grabs the rollcart, tips it, then puts it back where it picked it up at,â€? Corley said. ACCâ€™s current garbage trucks are, on average, almost 11 years old. Replacing them would cost $1.5 million, compared to $1.9 million for eight automated trucks, he said. Automated trucks have several other advantages, according to Corley: Theyâ€™re faster and more efficient, and because theyâ€™d all be the same model rather than the current hodgepodge fleet, easier to repair. The move would lead to eliminating 11 positions at Solid Waste. Corley said he is confident that the cuts could be made gradually through natural attrition without layoffs. â€œWe fully anticipate that, by December, weâ€™ll have the number we need,â€? he said. Bids will go out in April, with a final vote on buying the trucks scheduled for June. Theyâ€™d hit the streets in January, after a training period. If the commission approves the new trucks, some education might be needed, Corley said. Drivers would note customers who donâ€™t put their rollcarts close enough to the curb for the arm to reach or park in front of them andâ€”after getting out to grab the rollcarts themselvesâ€”would talk to those customers. Eventually, repeat offenders could be ticketed. The arms canâ€™t pick up recycling bins, but by the end of the year, all recycling bins would be replaced with green rollcarts, Corley said. Drivers would continue to pick up hand rollcarts belonging to the 6 percent of ACC customersâ€”including the elderly and disabledâ€”who still subscribe to backyard pickup. Downtown presents different challenges. Depending on how commissioners decide to deal with trash collection downtownâ€”a decision expected in Mayâ€”Solid Waste could purchase smaller trucks with arms on both sides that could navigate downtownâ€™s on-street parking and one-way streets, Corley said. But what if the trucks become sentient? Commissioner Jerry NeSmith had a solution: Simply add Asimovâ€™s Three Laws to the code of ordinances.
8 * /2014/ & 3
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