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Torpy at Large

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...
Torpy at Large: More airline weasel words for us to ‘re-accommodate’

Torpy at Large: More airline weasel words for us to ‘re-accommodate’

Last week, a round of thunderstorms in Atlanta kicked off a cascading effect that caused more than 3,300 flight cancellations at Delta Air Lines and untold woe to tens of thousands of travelers. At 1,000 cancellations and counting, Delta chief operating officer Gil West said in a written statement, “While we can’t control the weather, we understand the resulting recovery has...
Torpy at Large: Longer green lights, fewer jerks key to post-I-85 life

Torpy at Large: Longer green lights, fewer jerks key to post-I-85 life

A quarter of a million vehicles will be dispersed over Atlanta’s streets and highways with the collapse of I-85. That means we’ll be getting up-close-and-personal with other drivers, even more than we already are. Motorists will be traversing along more slowly on unfamiliar routes all tied up in a grinding commuting dance. Commuters are creatures of habit, and now that their I-85...
Torpy at Large: I-85 collapse might not be as bad as feared. We hope

Torpy at Large: I-85 collapse might not be as bad as feared. We hope

Minutes after I-85’s spectacular collapse Thursday evening, a fellow named Carlos summed it up for us on Twitter: “So a big chunk of 85 just collapsed. God help us all.” It seems likely we’ll need divine intervention, given that 250,000 cars traverse that key section of road each day. So where do a quarter-million cars and their seething drivers go when I-85 shuts...
Torpy at Large: Braves backtrack after biting the fans who feed them

Torpy at Large: Braves backtrack after biting the fans who feed them

What were the Braves thinking?!? At first, when the team announced it was prohibiting fans from bringing food into the new SunTrust Park, I thought that for a supposedly clever billion-dollar organization, it sure has thick-headed management. And those execs don’t have a sense of history, seeing how badly this same business strategy backfired 20 years ago during the move to Turner Field...
Bill Torpy at Large: Will historic Pullman site get railroaded?

Bill Torpy at Large: Will historic Pullman site get railroaded?

Early next month, the state will close bidding on the sale of the Pratt-Pullman train yards in Kirkwood, and the next phase for the historic site will begin. Now, everybody knows the site is historic — except the state of Georgia, which owns the 27 acres of wooded industrial ruins that have become a backdrop for dystopian movie sets. State officials have refused to call it “historic&rdquo...
Torpy at Large: Braves hitting it out of the park in the $$$ column

Torpy at Large: Braves hitting it out of the park in the $$$ column

The Cobb County Braves have had a terrible pre-season, but that’s not important. The team is in the process of rebuilding and the players are merely the backdrop for the real star of 2017: The team’s brand-spanking new ballpark and adjoining live-work-play complex. Sure, the Braves hoped they’d be competitive in their inaugural season at SunTrust Park and not be 72-90 and 19 games...
Bill Torpy at Large: This guy’s spending his Ossoff in the 6th District

Bill Torpy at Large: This guy’s spending his Ossoff in the 6th District

Jon Ossoff is waging a not-so-subtle stealth campaign. The new Boy Wonder of the Democratic Party hopes to break out of a crowded field in the right-leaning 6th Congressional District in north metro Atlanta and steal an election right out from under the noses of the GOP. He has gained national recognition because the special election to replace Tom Price is one of the first post-Trump races....
Gwinnett a minority county. Its government? Not so much | Bill Torpy

Gwinnett a minority county. Its government? Not so much | Bill Torpy

Since January, Gwinnett County Commission meetings have become the movie “Groundhog Day:” Angry spectators line up each week to lecture and admonish the board concerning statements by bone-headed Commissioner Tommy Hunter. Hunter is the pol who went to Facebook to call Atlanta’s U.S. Rep. John Lewis, the old Democratic warhorse and legendary civil rights leader, a “racist...
From statehouse to nude club: An ex-legislator’s 2nd act | Bill Torpy

From statehouse to nude club: An ex-legislator’s 2nd act | Bill Torpy

The Oasis Goodtime Emporium, the nude-dancing nightclub in Doraville fighting for its life, has hitched its survival to a legal argument before the Georgia Supreme Court: It should remain open because it qualifies as a “serious” art venue. This artistic endeavour includes contortionists, burlesque dancers, body painters, and soon a former Republican state legislator — and...
Tip for Atlanta regarding background checks: Use Google | Bill Torpy

Tip for Atlanta regarding background checks: Use Google | Bill Torpy

On May 11, the Jackson (Miss.) Free Press newspaper carried a headline stating: “Kishia Powell: ‘I Don’t Steer’ Contracts.” Powell was responding to reports in Jackson’s other newspaper that alleged a bid evaluation committee changed scoring sheets to award a sludge hauling contract to a buddy of the town’s mayor. “Those altered score sheets, obtained...
Bill Torpy at Large: Atlanta neighborhoods stumped by Treemageddon

Bill Torpy at Large: Atlanta neighborhoods stumped by Treemageddon

A drive down Peachtree Road in Buckhead has caused many passersby to do a double-take in disbelief as they notice the recently denuded Piedmont Hospital. The friendly canopy of mature trees that greeted visitors to the venerable medical center was cut down last month as the facility gets ready to build an 850,000-square-foot addition out front. The expansion is just the latest in the City Too Busy...
Bill Torpy: Message delivered against Confederate-flag-waving thugs

Bill Torpy: Message delivered against Confederate-flag-waving thugs

Last fall, as the election loomed, then-Douglas County Commission Chairman Tom Worthan whispered what many other white folks were thinking would happen if black Democratic opponents prevailed. “Probably going to have to pack up and get out of here, you know?” the Republican incumbent said to a fellow who, unbeknownst to him, was recording it. “Do you know of another government...
A reflective Hizzoner: I’d whup ‘em all | Bill Torpy

A reflective Hizzoner: I’d whup ‘em all | Bill Torpy

You’d figure Mayor Kasim Reed would rather be elsewhere than here at the Atlanta Press Club luncheon. He’d prefer to be facing a Senate confirmation committee as Hillary’s pick to become transportation secretary or HUD chief or something else as grandiose, befitting a fellow of his stature. Instead, The Donald won last fall, so Hizzoner is left in his hometown facing a roomful of...
Hoochie Koo! How an armed rocker often rolled through TSA | Bill Torpy

Hoochie Koo! How an armed rocker often rolled through TSA | Bill Torpy

Rock ’n’ roller Rick Derringer is 40-some years past his 1970s’ All American Boy phase. His flowing golden locks and shiny silver jacket is replaced by a short-cropped cut and a conservative business suit. Derringer was dressed like that last week because he was appearing at the federal courthouse in Atlanta to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of trying to bring a loaded gun...
Atlanta’s Club Fed: ‘Hogan’s Heroes’ meets Roman orgy | Bill Torpy

Atlanta’s Club Fed: ‘Hogan’s Heroes’ meets Roman orgy | Bill Torpy

I’ve been debating with a fellow AJC reporter how to describe the atmosphere at the federal prison camp here in Atlanta, the place where inmates have lived a bacchanal of drugs, booze and heaps of rich, delicious food. I have likened the atmosphere to the prison scene in “Goodfellas,” where Paulie and his crew of well-connected mobsters gorge themselves on a feast of epic proportions...
Smartphones, stupid drivers and the carnage that results | Bill Torpy

Smartphones, stupid drivers and the carnage that results | Bill Torpy

Phones have gotten smart. Drivers? Not so much. Our yearning to stay connected with the world at all times has made Georgia’s roads an increasingly dangerous place to be. You already sensed it just driving around. People drive like birdbrains: A car blows blithely through a red light (a doctor on her phone once T-boned my family van), the driver ahead of you who just can’t stay in a lane...
‘Lost Boy’ now a man on Thin Blue Line | Bill Torpy

‘Lost Boy’ now a man on Thin Blue Line | Bill Torpy

If ever there was a guy you’d want to root for, it’s Jacob Mach, ardent survivor, eternal optimist, rookie cop. Mach was one of the refugees known as the Lost Boys of Sudan, the band of perhaps 20,000 boys and young men who were displaced or orphaned in the late 1980s and endured untold horror and hardship as they wandered the harsh plains of Africa. His back story is legend — surviving...
Bill Torpy at Large: CNN lawsuit shocker — There’s cursing in newsrooms!

Bill Torpy at Large: CNN lawsuit shocker — There’s cursing in newsrooms!

The lawsuit filed by a former employee against CNN is pretty much a routine racial discrimination claim. Omar Butcher, a black man who worked as an associate producer, says he was passed over several times by less-experienced white employees. CNN repeatedly used the term “denied” in its legal response. I don’t know why Butcher’s talents and ambitions went unrequited...
Bill Torpy at Large: DeKalb scandal ends with a whimper — and a check

Bill Torpy at Large: DeKalb scandal ends with a whimper — and a check

With a quick hearing before a judge Friday morning, DeKalb County quietly wrote a check for tree trimmer Paul Champion to go away and take his allegations with him. And with that move, a long-bubbling scandal that started in a grease trap probably fizzles to an end. It was a scandal that sent county CEO Burrell Ellis to prison, made the county shorthand for corruption and dysfunction, and brought...
Bill Torpy at Large: Hizzoner reams the public in response to probe

Bill Torpy at Large: Hizzoner reams the public in response to probe

In the realm of political theater, Mayor Kasim Reed’s press conference Thursday was a doozy. And by doozy, I mean a stick in the eye to anyone who wants to see what’s going on at City Hall. There’s a federal investigation looking into bribery in exchange for city contracts and that probe is widening. There’s at least $1 million in admitted bribes. So far. Two contractors...
Atlanta: Loserville or Sports Capital of the World? | Bill Torpy

Atlanta: Loserville or Sports Capital of the World? | Bill Torpy

Like nothing else, sports fandom binds a community with the shared experience of hope, triumph and loss — a tribal thing that causes otherwise reserved individuals in Atlanta Falcons’ gear to high-five perfect strangers. A study in the 1990s at Georgia State University found that fans of winning teams had a 20 percent boost in testosterone, while fans of losing teams saw a correlative...
Bill Torpy at Large: A brother gone, a hard hole to repair

Bill Torpy at Large: A brother gone, a hard hole to repair

It’s strange how death sinks in. My younger brother John’s this week was months coming but didn’t put the hooks in me until I walked into my mom’s basement. There, for the past 40-some years, is a mini Western village, complete with a livery and a two-story saloon with swinging doors and stairs so kids can climb to the second floor. John Patrick Torpy was perhaps 14 when he...
Bill Torpy at Large: City Hall watchers wait for the next rat to drop

Bill Torpy at Large: City Hall watchers wait for the next rat to drop

A corruption scandal is swirling through the corridors of Atlanta City Hall, causing its denizens to become circumspect. “Everybody has their heads down at City Hall,” said a long-timer, adding, “This won’t be a Groundhog Day where anybody sticks their head up.” Last week, politically connected contractor and serial briber Elvin “E.R.” Mitchell Jr. pleaded...
Bill Torpy at Large: Got a beef with the McMansion next door?

Bill Torpy at Large: Got a beef with the McMansion next door?

It is absolutely impossible to drive up the 900 block of Indian Hills Parkway and not crane your neck when passing the new home under construction. By comparison, the surrounding homes look like tool sheds, as one neighbor put it. That neighbor, Violeta Toma, who lives three doors down, is still incredulous at the scope and magnitude of her future neighbor’s abode. “People stop and take...
Bill Torpy at Large: A bike lane on DeKalb Avenue? How?

Bill Torpy at Large: A bike lane on DeKalb Avenue? How?

As motorists, we all create internal maps of street routes that can get us to where we need to go in the most efficient manner. That map is an ever-changing maze, shifting as development takes over parts of the city or as others discover our traveling secrets. For decades, DeKalb Avenue, an ugly duckling of a route running along the railroad from Atlanta to Decatur, has been such an efficient mover...
Bill Torpy at large: Street giveaway is as transparent as asphalt

Bill Torpy at large: Street giveaway is as transparent as asphalt

In 1842, Samuel Mitchell donated five acres of land to the state to build a depot for the future railroad. The bet on the railroad worked — especially for Sam, who had 200 more acres. The act spurred development and, ultimately, a thriving city. Now, almost 175 years later, the city is turning around and donating several streets in that same plot to a real estate investor. Atlanta is hoping...
Bill Torpy at Large: The sorry saga of Burrell Ellis, the wrong target

Bill Torpy at Large: The sorry saga of Burrell Ellis, the wrong target

It’s a fitting DeKalb story: just as Burrell Ellis enters the last month of his second term as the county’s CEO, the Georgia Supreme Court overturns his corruption conviction. You might remember that the first week of Ellis’ second term in office began, in January 2013, with investigators carrying computers and boxes of files out of his home as part of a grand jury investigation...
Bill Torpy at Large: Mayor still using blue lights to run red lights

Bill Torpy at Large: Mayor still using blue lights to run red lights

“If I did what he did, I’d be ticketed or behind bars. It’s an abuse of his position." On the morning of Nov. 2, Melissa Runyan was driving south on Peachtree Road, headed to work, when she caught sight of some blue lights behind her. She and three other cars pulled over to let the black GMC Yukon by, figuring it was headed to an emergency. She noticed the Yukon flipped on its...
Mayor Reed complains of AJC's 'personal campaign' against him

Mayor Reed complains of AJC's 'personal campaign' against him

This column marks the 32nd time Bill Torpy has written about Mayor Kasim Reed, a man he has spoken to twice in his career. » Torpy's column: using blue lights to run red lights On Nov. 2, 2016, a police report was filed alleging that Mayor Reed’s city vehicle used blue lights and sirens while en route to a radio interview. The accusations contained in the report are false. The Atlanta...
Bill Torpy at Large: Scout’s honor, a 105-year-old’s secrets to long life

Bill Torpy at Large: Scout’s honor, a 105-year-old’s secrets to long life

A day after his birthday, the magnitude of the occasion was still hitting Lamar Wallace. “I’m looking at the balloon in my room, it says ‘Happy Birthday, 105,’ ” he said. “It’s not understandable. There’s no reason for it. It’s hard for that to sink in. How did I make it so long?” It’s a question he increasingly gets as longevity transforms...
Bill Torpy at Large: Do facts matter anymore?

Bill Torpy at Large: Do facts matter anymore?

My three sons have been high school debaters with four state titles between them. They’ve been trained to marshal facts and respond to countervailing opinion with clear-eyed, irrefutable truth. It has often won the day, although I wonder whether it’s a skill no longer needed. I’ve spent my career chasing facts. I try to boil info down to the source: How do you know that? Who said...
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