Torpy at Large

Torpy at Large: Mayor’s race heats up as bribery probe keeps cookin’

Torpy at Large: Mayor’s race heats up as bribery probe keeps cookin’

As the election comes to its final weeks, and as the corruption scandal dumps a new load of fertilizer at City Hall, Mayor Kasim Reed has moved to ensure he’ll have as close to a third term in office as possible. Hizzoner is term-limited, but he wants to keep his hand in his pet project — running Atlanta. So last week he made official what has been known for months: He wants...
Torpy at Large: Knock, knock! The HOA is here for an inside inspection

Torpy at Large: Knock, knock! The HOA is here for an inside inspection

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you live under the vigilant eye of a homeowners association. Estimates say one-fifth to a quarter of Americans live in situations where a gaggle of neighbors have the right — no, the duty — to make sure you keep up your part of the bargain and not let your home degenerate into a tumbledown dump. It’s all about keeping...
Torpy at Large: Of mice and men, and rats and stool pigeons

Torpy at Large: Of mice and men, and rats and stool pigeons

Years ago, when I was still working in Chicago, my lawyer friend, Gary, was bragging on a client who wouldn’t give up his cohorts in a drug case. The defendant was an Italian-American fellow, but he wasn’t necessarily a made guy. He was just a fan of Mafia movies and believed in the whole deal about omerta, which is Italian for not squealing. “He’s just gonna take his licks...
Torpy at Large: Revamped judicial watchdog must prove it’s no lapdog

Torpy at Large: Revamped judicial watchdog must prove it’s no lapdog

The new and improved Judicial Protection Commission has been up and running for three months, and the first inkling of action from the group seems to indicate it’s working precisely as designed. Judges can stop looking over their shoulders. Judge Brenda Weaver, who pushed to have a North Georgia newspaper publisher and a lawyer tossed in jail for snooping around her (public!) financial records...
Torpy: The wolf comes to the door when your kid gets cancer

Torpy: The wolf comes to the door when your kid gets cancer

It’s a daunting sight to see the surgeon who worked on your kid hustling down the hallway in full scrub gear to the ICU unit where your child is recuperating. Three days earlier, Dr. Megan Durham had spent nearly seven hours in my youngest son’s chest, digging nodule after nodule from his lungs.
Torpy at Large: Tom Price, fiscal hawk / highfalutin flyboy

Torpy at Large: Tom Price, fiscal hawk / highfalutin flyboy

Metro Atlanta’s own Tom Price, the surgeon-turned-congressman-turned-U.S. Health Secretary, is now getting pummeled for flying around in private jets. Last week, the news site Politico detailed a three-day sprint for which Price spent more than $60,000 on such flights. Later, Politico said it was more like $300,000 since May, with flights often costing $10,000-plus a pop, even when commercial...
Torpy at Large: The crazy foam board caper, only at ATL City Hall

Torpy at Large: The crazy foam board caper, only at ATL City Hall

On Wednesday, someone filed an ethics complaint against Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s office for spending city time and using city resources to print up placards that could be seen as campaign materials. Later that afternoon, the Mayor had those same 28-by-18-inch foam boards posted in the atrium at City Hall outside his office. The placards beat up on City Council President Ceasar Mitchell...
Torpy at Large: When a judge’s attitude seems prissy, minus the ‘r’

Torpy at Large: When a judge’s attitude seems prissy, minus the ‘r’

I suppose adult diapers should be optional for lawyers practicing in the DeKalb County courtroom of Superior Court Chief Judge Courtney Johnson. Johnson was once described by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution as a “no-nonsense” judge, which I suppose is journalistic shorthand to identify judges who won’t let lawyers go take a pee. Now the state judicial watchdog agency is investigating...
Torpy at Large: Operation Irma — Chainsaw gangs and the yearning to help

Torpy at Large: Operation Irma — Chainsaw gangs and the yearning to help

Not long after Irma’s gales tore through the area, residents of the Medlock Park neighborhood took to Facebook to send out calls for the Chainsaw Gang. Now, the Chainsaw Gang isn’t necessarily a true gang, with initiation rites, matching jackets or hand signals. It’s simply some guys looking for an excuse to fire up their saws and chew into wood. Modern urban life on the outskirts...
Torpy at Large: Cleland’s fight to make peace with ‘The Vietnam War’

Torpy at Large: Cleland’s fight to make peace with ‘The Vietnam War’

Max Cleland said he tried to talk his friend Ken Burns out of making his opus on the Vietnam War, which will premiere Sunday night. “This series is going to kick up dust,” Cleland told the filmmaker. “How can you deal with Vietnam without getting people pissed off? It will split the country again.” Cleland’s torn body represents the absolute folly of that war —...
Torpy at Large: Politics so nasty, city should be called ‘Smell-vile’

Torpy at Large: Politics so nasty, city should be called ‘Smell-vile’

Danny Porter has been Gwinnett County’s district attorney for a quarter of a century. And during that time he has witnessed an odd, yet recurring, tradition. “During every election in Snellville,” Porter told me, “I have gotten a request from one side or another to do a criminal investigation.” One of those requests, from a now-deceased resident/activist named Randy Simpson...
Torpy at Large: In mayor’s race, Hizzoner goes out Bottoms up

Torpy at Large: In mayor’s race, Hizzoner goes out Bottoms up

First, let me say this to Mayor Kasim Reed: No, sir, I do not want to be the press guy for mayoral candidate Mary Norwood, as you suggested. Such a job would not be as bad as having to be a communications staffer for another mercurial politician. But writing press releases saying, “Isn’t Mary swell?” would just not be my bag. Besides, Norwood runs at 110 mph, which would wear me...
Torpy at Large: Et tu, Kasim? Then rise, Ceasar!

Torpy at Large: Et tu, Kasim? Then rise, Ceasar!

Eight years ago, civil rights icon and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young asked then-City Councilman Ceasar Mitchell not to run for mayor. “I told him I’d support him next time,” Young told me this week. “Ceasar was generous and wise enough not to compete.” Young, who carries the most prestigious endorsement in Atlanta’s black community, had known Ceasar and his...
Torpy at Large: Fat-cat state pensions distort rank and file’s reality

Torpy at Large: Fat-cat state pensions distort rank and file’s reality

In 2011, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution carried a story that 1,100 state retirees receive more than $100,000 a year, including a former Teachers Retirement System bigwig who received $318,000 a year. That’s for life, perhaps 20 or 30 years. Just for waking up every day. Last week, the AJC’s state government maestro, James Salzer, returned to that statistical well and found that...
Torpy at Large: Democracy divided should not stand

Torpy at Large: Democracy divided should not stand

The electoral insanity that was the 6th Congressional District race this year was a wild aberration in Georgia, a man-bites-dog story, if you will. No, it wasn’t that the candidates spent more than some countries spend on defense budgets. It was that a congressional race in Georgia ended up this close. Republican warhorse Karen Handel beat Democratic boy wonder Jon Ossoff by 4 points. Any closer...
Torpy at Large: Confederate monuments whitewash the truth

Torpy at Large: Confederate monuments whitewash the truth

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams announced she wants to blast the Confederate carving off Stone Mountain. Removing Confederate monuments from public spaces has become a white-hot issue since the deadly violence last weekend in Charlottesville, Va. It’s the old hate-versus-heritage debate, only now the brass knuckles are out. So Abrams, who is staking out her place in a heated...
Torpy at Large: A tale of 2 Staceys, or how Dems destroy their own

Torpy at Large: A tale of 2 Staceys, or how Dems destroy their own

When I first saw the video of activists shouting down Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Evans at the Netroots Nation convention last weekend, I had one thought: Hello, Governor Cagle. The event was just the latest example of why the Democratic Party seems ready to relegate itself to permanent bridesmaid status, not only here in Georgia but from sea to shining sea. And the Republican front-runner...
Torpy at Large: Bike lanes a gentrifying tool?

Torpy at Large: Bike lanes a gentrifying tool?

Bike lanes are being created all over the city Atlanta, whether residents want them or not. The lanes are supposed to help unclog traffic by facilitating a commuting mode that doesn’t belch carbon. It’s Smart Growth. Or New Urbanism. And when talking to the bike crowd, the cause carries a sense of moral superiority. But on the west side of Atlanta, not far from Morehouse College, a 1,000-foot...
Torpy at Large: What did APD learn from the Eagle gay bar fiasco?

Torpy at Large: What did APD learn from the Eagle gay bar fiasco?

Everyone in the working world must undergo training to stay current on their jobs. Sometimes, that continuing education is evocative and interesting and improves your skills. But often, that process is a joyless, mind-numbing exercise in tedium that turns minutes into hours. Atlanta police officers are currently undergoing the latter, trying to meet a training deadline that ends next week. The cops...
Torpy at Large: DeKalb has annexation anxiety over Emory, CDC

Torpy at Large: DeKalb has annexation anxiety over Emory, CDC

Atlanta is a gentrifying city on the upswing and like the young hipsters flocking to all those overpriced urban apartments, Emory University wants in. The university and its buddies, the CDC and Children’s Healthcare, want their Atlanta mailing addresses to become official and have filed to be annexed by the city, leaving behind their unincorporated DeKalb County status. The move feels like...
Torpy at Large: Time for statewide cop pay hike? Send bill to Atlanta

Torpy at Large: Time for statewide cop pay hike? Send bill to Atlanta

Soon after moving to Georgia, I learned the disillusionment of police work. In 1992, Budweiser was opening a brewery in Cartersville and I interviewed job hopefuls queuing up outside — textile workers, truck drivers, cashiers and a fellow in a police uniform. The man was tired of small-town policing. “I’m only making $8 an hour — and I’m the chief!” he said, requesting...
Torpy at Large: You’re not in good hands with Hudgens

Torpy at Large: You’re not in good hands with Hudgens

Generations ago, firemen were vital to the operation of locomotives. Firemen were the guys who shoveled coal into the furnace to create steam and power engines. Then came diesel engines, which were cheaper, more efficient and didn’t need a coal shoveler. But the railroad unions didn’t see it that way. And so for decades trains continued to carry firemen, although they were no longer soiled...
Torpy at Large: A new kind of lust at the Cheetah: It’s a hot property

Torpy at Large: A new kind of lust at the Cheetah: It’s a hot property

The Cheetah, Atlanta’s iconic — or perhaps infamous — nude dancing club, sits on 2 acres of the most sought-after dirt in the Southeast. When you hear the real estate term “highest and best use,” this Spring Street property has 35 stories of live/work/play written all over it, not a reconfigured Chrysler dealership, which is exactly what the nudie club is. This week...
Torpy at Large: Cruising the comfy skies of Hizzoner

Torpy at Large: Cruising the comfy skies of Hizzoner

As we embark on this journey, let’s start with the stipulation that Atlanta is an International City. We know that because our leaders keep saying so. Construction cranes have been busy erecting new offices, and our Hometown Airline keeps its planes packed as business people stream in and out of our city. So when the spiritual leader of this Very Important City wants to go somewhere way far...
Torpy at Large: Ann Coulter makes us feel sympathy … for Delta

Torpy at Large: Ann Coulter makes us feel sympathy … for Delta

In the ongoing feud between Our Hometown Airline and The Blustering Blonde, one must remember that corporations are people, too. Both Mitt Romney and the U.S. Supreme Court have afforded corporations human virtues, and now Delta Air Lines has shown that it can get its feelings hurt. Ann Coulter, who has made a comfortable living as a catty sourpuss, started tweeting her annoyance with Delta and...
Torpy at Large: Poor Man’s Trump scratches for a path in governor’s race

Torpy at Large: Poor Man’s Trump scratches for a path in governor’s race

It seems state Sen. Michael Williams, Republican candidate for governor, is waging a gorilla campaign. No, that’s not a misprint. I didn’t mean guerrilla. I mean that any day now Williams might show up at the state Capitol wearing one of those gorilla suits in an effort to get himself noticed. Last month, Williams, a tea party fave and the first elected official in Georgia to publicly...
Torpy at Large: Nuanced views on immigration? Nah. Get 'em outta here!

Torpy at Large: Nuanced views on immigration? Nah. Get 'em outta here!

Sometimes reading the online comments section at the bottom of a news story can make a guy lose his faith in his fellow man. You keep hearing from some quarters that this is a Christian nation. But a lot of that religiosity is situational. Last week I wrote about a couple from El Salvador who were being deported. Julio Moran and his wife, Anna Escobar, have been in the country for two decades...
Torpy at Large: Shattered families, broken hearts — America on ICE

Torpy at Large: Shattered families, broken hearts — America on ICE

Candidate Trump vowed to sweep up the “bad hombres” here in America, the illegal aliens peddling drugs or waging mayhem on our native population. It makes sense. Who wants to import pistoleros, criminales and “hombres mals”? We have enough of our own. Julio Moran and his wife, Anna Escobar, fit none of those descriptions. Moran, a native of El Salvador, is a church deacon;...
Torpy at Large: DeKalb corruption, or when what’s old is new

Torpy at Large: DeKalb corruption, or when what’s old is new

For years, former DeKalb County Commissioner Stan Watson was widely seen as Commissioner Walking Indictment. The question wasn’t if it would happen but when. The two-term commissioner and former legislator always seemed more than a bit hinky when it came to handling public money. As a commissioner, he voted to award $1.5 million in contracts to a local developer. But there was a problem...
Torpy at Large: A big check for Atlanta’s Homeless Maven to go away

Torpy at Large: A big check for Atlanta’s Homeless Maven to go away

Anita Beaty feels cheated. The fiery maven of Atlanta’s underbelly, innkeeper for the unwanted, believes the city’s unfeeling Powers That Be were let off the hook. Beaty’s old organization, the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, which she headed since the Reagan Administration and left this year, last week settled a lawsuit, one that accused those who pull the strings in...
Torpy at Large: A Tale of Two Troublesome Tommys 

Torpy at Large: A Tale of Two Troublesome Tommys 

It has been a bad run of late for The Tommys, a couple of foot-in-the mouth Georgia pols who are being abandoned and spanked by their Republican compatriots. The Tommys — Hunter and Benton — are a public example that words do matter, even in this environment of toxic public discourse where every numbskull has an opinion and is damned sure to let you hear it. Tommy Hunter, of course, is...
Torpy at Large: Georgia officials excel at suppressing public info 

Torpy at Large: Georgia officials excel at suppressing public info 

It’s a proud moment to see the state of Georgia finally get the recognition it so richly deserves. From the rural hills up north to the gritty urban streets of Atlanta, there’s one thing politicians have in common — they don’t like your nose in their business. And so the national organization Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) last week nominated two Georgians for its...
Torpy at Large: Flying with Fido for ‘emotional support’ 

Torpy at Large: Flying with Fido for ‘emotional support’ 

The airlines are going to the dogs. I’m not talking about cramped seating or the never-ending list of add-on fees. No, I mean we are increasingly traveling with animals. In recent years, passengers are increasingly flying with emotional support animals (usually dogs). The humans holding the leash insist their furry friends are needed to ease anxiety or soothe stress. But a good proportion of...
Bill Torpy on drug deaths: No, they didn’t ask for it

Bill Torpy on drug deaths: No, they didn’t ask for it

It appears more than 59,000 — perhaps as many as 65,000 — Americans died last year from drug overdoses, with opioid deaths fueling a good majority of that number. And the New York Times, which compiled those numbers, estimates that toll will rise again this year. When you figure 58,000 Americans died in Vietnam, that puts the scope of drug deaths in stark perspective. Last week, central...
Torpy at Large: Local park latest front in Atlanta Chainsaw Massacre

Torpy at Large: Local park latest front in Atlanta Chainsaw Massacre

Whenever a developer’s name sounds vaguely rustic, one word immediately comes to mind: “Timber!” Case in point is Ashton Woods, which is looking to clear-cut and then squeeze 44 high-end townhomes onto a 4-acre lot in a tree-lined, bungalowed Buckhead neighborhood. Ashton Woods also seems to be setting an Atlanta precedent by becoming the first private developer to use public park...
Torpy at Large: Assault a reporter, make a sheriff smile

Torpy at Large: Assault a reporter, make a sheriff smile

Preamble: I agree people are too easily outraged. Folks are just looking to take quick offense, ready to stand up full of righteous indignation, screaming about some affront. And, yes, I admit to an occasional daydream about going all World Wrestling Federation on some elected official, lawyer or fellow motorist. So now, at the risk of sounding like a snowflake, let me say I was dismayed when the...
Torpy at Large: Rebel flag furled again! The Civil War that never ends

Torpy at Large: Rebel flag furled again! The Civil War that never ends

The Confederate flag belongs in a museum. President Barack Obama said that. That is, unless it’s in Henry County. Last week, yet another Rebel flag fracas unfurled as a hole-in-the-wall history center — the Nash Farm Battlefield Museum — called it quits after a new county commissioner told the facility to take down its Confederate flags, museum people say. It’s another...
Bill Torpy on road rage: The Dirt Devil made me do it

Bill Torpy on road rage: The Dirt Devil made me do it

My brother-in-law recently visited from California and realized something fairly quickly — Atlanta drivers won’t give an inch. “You signal to change a lane and they fill in the space to not let you in,” he said. “They take it personally.” It’s the stock car mentality, I told him. Folks just hate an extra car slipping in ahead of them. It adds .027 seconds...
Torpy at Large: Vernon Jones and his bid to ‘fix’ DeKalb’s ethics board

Torpy at Large: Vernon Jones and his bid to ‘fix’ DeKalb’s ethics board

For the next year, DeKalb County might be left without a functioning ethics board. The reason for this, on first glance, is Dwight Thomas, the shrewd lawyer hired by Sharon Barnes Sutton, the race-baiting, hot mess of a county commissioner who was booted by voters last year. Sutton faced a host of ethics complaints, so her hired gun got a judge to invalidate the ethics board, arguing its formation...
Torpy at Large: The Sessions plan to stack ‘em up like cordwood

Torpy at Large: The Sessions plan to stack ‘em up like cordwood

At first glance, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions strikes one as a pinched-faced fellow who lacks empathy or any experience with those who are unlike him. That he has urged prosecutors to bring back the hammer — and the accompanying Draconian sentences — for nonviolent drug offenses seems to bear out his countenance. By all indications, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III aims to bring...
Torpy at Large: Markel Hutchins’ bid for the middle in brutality debate

Torpy at Large: Markel Hutchins’ bid for the middle in brutality debate

A month ago, on the day two white Gwinnett County cops beat up a young black motorist, the Rev. Markel Hutchins was setting up a meeting with county police leaders. The videotapes of the beating had not yet gone public. Actually, the beating had not yet even happened. But Hutchins was in Gwinnett to set up an initiative to build relationships between police and minority residents, an age-old...
Torpy at Large: This is no walk in the park for DeKalb sheriff

Torpy at Large: This is no walk in the park for DeKalb sheriff

When the cop’s flashlight illuminated the hapless form of DeKalb County Sheriff Jeffrey Mann lingering in the gloom of Piedmont Park, the good sheriff undoubtedly saw his political career flash before his eyes. For generations, Atlanta’s premier park has been the after-dark grounds for anonymous male hookups. And the thought of an elected official — especially one heading a...
Torpy at Large: Atlanta’s pot laws discriminate, so change them

Torpy at Large: Atlanta’s pot laws discriminate, so change them

The Atlanta City Council is considering making the penalty for getting caught with pot similar to finding a parking ticket flapping on your windshield. The effort is based on the idea that black residents are overwhelmingly the target of marijuana enforcement in the city, staining them with jail time, fines and arrest records that follow them in life. The effort was put forward by Councilman Kwanza...
Torpy at Large: Even the N-word Lite can be transgressive and toxic

Torpy at Large: Even the N-word Lite can be transgressive and toxic

Pity Valerie Hoff, the local TV reporter who went down in flames for having the temerity to use the N-word in pursuit of a story. Or don’t pity her. Folks have lined up in both camps. Granted, the former WXIA employee was parroting the term back to a young black man who had used it. But she made one big mistake. She’s white. Hoff wasn’t using the term in an ugly fashion from what...
Torpy at Large: State may have left $$$ on table in Pullman site bids

Torpy at Large: State may have left $$$ on table in Pullman site bids

When the Georgia Building Authority put the old Pratt-Pullman train yards up for sale a few months ago, it was criticized for refusing to designate the century-old railroad buildings on the site as historic. In fact, the state fought off an attempt by the city of Atlanta to allow that designation. The common wisdom was the state wanted to sell the land in Atlanta’s hot Kirkwood neighborhood...
Torpy at Large: Decatur bike plan a way to stick it to nonresidents

Torpy at Large: Decatur bike plan a way to stick it to nonresidents

Sometime this fall, construction crews will start tearing up a perfectly good commuter route in Decatur, cutting car capacity in half for the purpose of installing protected bike lanes. Commerce Drive, which was built decades ago as sort of a mini-I-285 around downtown Decatur, will change from two lanes in each direction to one with turn lanes. The city is putting Commerce Drive on a “road...
Torpy at Large: They live/work/play but can’t sleep because of club

Torpy at Large: They live/work/play but can’t sleep because of club

For the past year, residents in the 109 units of the Peachtree Battle Condominiums have endured the “THUMP! THUMP! THUMPING!” exuberance of the dance club downstairs. DS17, the club bearing the initials and number of one of its owners, Atlanta Hawks star Dennis Schroder, is one of the newer late-night party places in Buckhead. It also continues another Buckhead tradition — a...
Torpy at Large: 67 use-of-force cases were OK, until video surfaced

Torpy at Large: 67 use-of-force cases were OK, until video surfaced

When Gwinnett County officer Robert McDonald ran onto the scene and immediately stomped on a handcuffed motorist’s head to get him under control, it probably seemed natural to him. The relatively new cop — in a widely viewed video — had been learning from the master, Sgt. Michael F. Bongiovanni, a burly veteran officer who was a cop’s cop, a one-man wrecking crew adept at meting...
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