Torpy at Large

Torpy at Large: Is ‘progress’ worth a Toco Hill of beans … or bagels?

Torpy at Large: Is ‘progress’ worth a Toco Hill of beans … or bagels?

As metro Atlanta continues its headlong drive toward progress, up-scaling and gentrification, there’s sure to be roadkill. The latest body found on the side of the street is the Bagel Palace, an old-fashioned deli and bakery that served up Reuben sandwiches, egg salad and, of course, its circular namesake. The popular restaurant in the Toco Hill (or Hills, as most prefer) shopping center...
Torpy at Large: Seeing through Reed’s ‘spirit of complete transparency’

Torpy at Large: Seeing through Reed’s ‘spirit of complete transparency’

Perhaps Hizzoner crossed his fingers when he stood amid 1.5 million pages of documents at City Hall last year and spoke about “a spirit of complete transparency.” Former Mayor Kasim Reed was trying to diminish the effects of an unfolding bribery scandal in February 2017 when he called a press conference. Reed is a lawyer, and good attorneys are adept at side-stepping the truth. By...
Torpy at Large: GOP gubernatorial race, or ‘quien es mas macho’

Torpy at Large: GOP gubernatorial race, or ‘quien es mas macho’

At first blush, you can’t help but feel a bit sorry for Brian Kemp. The candidate for governor is undergoing a classic case of SOS, known in doctors’ manuals as Severe Overcompensation Syndrome. Kemp, who is Georgia’s SOS (secretary of state), has been angling at the governor’s office for 15 years in politics — eight of them as one of the state’s most important...
Torpy at Large: GOP cleanup man brings his mop to Atlanta City Hall

Torpy at Large: GOP cleanup man brings his mop to Atlanta City Hall

Attorney Robert Highsmith has long been the guy Republicans call when they’re in a pickle. A few years ago, I told him he reminded me of a character in the movie “Pulp Fiction,” the one who directed an emergency cleanup of a car after John Travolta’s hit man accidentally blew the head off a guy sitting in the back seat. “You mean The Wolf!” Highsmith squealed with...
Torpy at Large: All in all, you’re just another brick in the GeoFence

Torpy at Large: All in all, you’re just another brick in the GeoFence

More than 100,000 times a day, Brookhaven’s electronic Eyes in the Sky shoot license plates on vehicles rolling through the city. Images from the 44 cameras are instantly examined and police are told of any hits, anything from serious crimes such as stolen cars or wanted criminals to low-level stuff such as lapsed insurance or expired tags. It’s called “GeoFencing,” building...
Torpy at Large: ‘Smoke eater’ death revives the horror of Winecoff fire

Torpy at Large: ‘Smoke eater’ death revives the horror of Winecoff fire

The Winecoff Hotel fire was the nightmare on Peachtree Street, a hellish inferno that claimed 119 lives and remains the deadliest hotel blaze in U.S. history. Now, the last surviving fireman who fought those flames is history, too. R.B. Sprayberry, who later became Atlanta’s fire chief, died last weekend. He was 95. The fire in the crowded 15-story hotel on the morning of Dec. 7, 1946,...
Torpy at Large: Kasim’s crazy-cash Christmas sweater caper. It’s ugly!

Torpy at Large: Kasim’s crazy-cash Christmas sweater caper. It’s ugly!

The inauguration of Keisha Lance Bottoms as Atlanta’s mayor on Jan. 2 marked RIP to the Kasim Reed era. But here we are four months later and darned if we’re still waiting for the body to stop quivering. The past few months have been a whirlwind of whispering at City Hall, which culminated in a bizarre scene Wednesday when a rumor spread through the room at a City Council committee meeting...
Torpy at Large: There was just no way to bulletproof contemptible Tex

Torpy at Large: There was just no way to bulletproof contemptible Tex

For a while Monday afternoon, Tex McIver’s legal team harbored good feelings. After four days of deliberating, jurors said they were hopelessly deadlocked on most charges against him. A hung jury after six weeks of trial would have been a victory of sorts for the defense. Tex would keep his feet on the street and prosecutors would be forced to make tough choices about whether it was worth trying...
Torpy at Large: Feds target Kasim Reed, but is that all there is?

Torpy at Large: Feds target Kasim Reed, but is that all there is?

One must remember that the DeKalb County corruption scandal a few years ago started with a grease trap. In 2011, a fats, oil and grease inspector fessed up to taking kickbacks from restaurant owners. Prosecutors suspected there was more to it and investigated. They ended up convicting CEO Burrell Ellis on unrelated charges that resulted from an investigation that pivoted and looked into election fundraising...
Torpy at Large: Hey, Gov. Deal, don’t allow cities to cannibalize

Torpy at Large: Hey, Gov. Deal, don’t allow cities to cannibalize

Gov. Nathan Deal has not been afraid to use his veto when the Legislature, in all its wisdom, passes a bill that needs to be strangled and quickly buried. Two years ago, he shot down a “religious liberty” bill to avoid a business-sapping controversy. He also stopped the campus carry gun law (although a year later he allowed a watered-down version to become law). Both were big-time...
Torpy at Large: Tex McIver is unlikable and dangerous. But a murderer?

Torpy at Large: Tex McIver is unlikable and dangerous. But a murderer?

Tex McIver is one flawed, hot mess of a human being. Of that there’s little doubt. The 2016 killing of Tex’s wife shined a light on the life of a man — and on a thought process — that was odious to at least half of Atlanta. Probably even a much bigger fraction. Insular, entitled, suspicious, connected, rich, careless and clueless. Tex is all of those. Testimony from this long-running...
Torpy at Large: Rat-infested corruption and Atlanta’s reputation reboot

Torpy at Large: Rat-infested corruption and Atlanta’s reputation reboot

On Monday morning, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms asked more than two dozen top officials at City Hall to hand in their resignations. Bottoms kept in place the existing brain trust when she came to office in January, saying she’d keep the crew she inherited for three months, which would give her time to figure out what was what.
Torpy at Large: Seeing red over Buckhead Pink Palace plan? That’s rich

Torpy at Large: Seeing red over Buckhead Pink Palace plan? That’s rich

For months, a battle has loomed over the fate of Atlanta’s Pink Palace. No, it’s not a raucous nudie bar on Cheshire Bridge Road. It’s a sedate 12,000-square-foot Italian Baroque-style villa on West Paces Ferry Road, a grandiose classic with a long-approach driveway and an expansive front lawn. And that’s the problem — someone could build a gargantuan McMansion out front...
Torpy at Large: Mayor Big Spender vs small-minded response to scrutiny

Torpy at Large: Mayor Big Spender vs small-minded response to scrutiny

In June of 2015, former Mayor Kasim Reed was in New York for an event with Hillary Clinton, who was announcing her presidential run. Hizzoner rented a limo (or at least a fancy chauffeured vehicle) from Carey Executive Transportation. The rental was $1,087 and he put it on his city-issued credit card. He repaid it later with money he had lying around from his old campaign fund (which is legal). But...
Torpy at Large: Timber! Tree canopy disappears one huge home at a time

Torpy at Large: Timber! Tree canopy disappears one huge home at a time

Last June, I wrote about Atlanta’s ongoing Chainsaw Massacre, when builders in a residential Buckhead neighborhood whacked more than 800 trees to plop a couple of developments across from each other. Weeks later, the city announced a six-month moratorium on removal of more than 10 trees on parcels zoned residential and bigger than 5 acres. The move provided a slight speed hump for...
Torpy at Large: Murder trials and Facebook don’t mix in Cobb County

Torpy at Large: Murder trials and Facebook don’t mix in Cobb County

These days, the public is souring on Facebook because of the company’s oily manner when it comes to processing our information. Now, Cobb County prosecutors are jumping on the anti-Facebook wave to blame the online giant — and a couple of defense lawyers — for short-circuiting an old double-murder case that recently came up for trial. What probably got the district attorney&rsquo...
Torpy at Large: APD turns its back on shoplifting in Buckhead 

Torpy at Large: APD turns its back on shoplifting in Buckhead 

The Atlanta Police Department’s announcement last week that cops would largely stop responding to shoplifting cases in Buckhead was a head-turner. It’s like the fire department saying it will no longer respond to smoldering garbage cans or fetch cats from trees.
Torpy at Large: The stench of Atlanta City Hall’s ‘POO’ strategy

Torpy at Large: The stench of Atlanta City Hall’s ‘POO’ strategy

You can call them smoking guns. Or steaming communications. But the text messages from former Mayor Kasim Reed’s press secretary Jenna Garland to a city watershed official sure look damning. And now the GBI is investigating the matter to see how badly Garland (or perhaps others at City Hall) thumbed her or their noses at state open records laws. Last March, Channel 2 Action News was sniffing...
Torpy at Large: More racial drama at KSU, and it’s staged

Torpy at Large: More racial drama at KSU, and it’s staged

There was a call to “Stop!” during the rehearsal of the Shakespeare play in the making at Kennesaw State University. In the darkened corner of the stage, an old white guy and a black college student huddled together and started gesturing and laughing in a prolonged conversation, seemingly sharing a few private jokes. It was clear they were buds. For the past couple of months, the elderly...
Torpy at Large: Atlanta man’s powerful, artistic surrender of his AR-15

Torpy at Large: Atlanta man’s powerful, artistic surrender of his AR-15

Maybe he simply outgrew the weapon. Or his politics shifted. Perhaps it was “things gotta change and it must start with me.” Whatever the case, an Atlanta man and war veteran named Chris Purdy went on his neighborhood Nextdoor site recently to say he was disposing of his AR-15 and wanted to make a statement doing it.
Torpy at Large: DeKalb’s sodden Bizarro image proves hard to break

Torpy at Large: DeKalb’s sodden Bizarro image proves hard to break

It felt like old times, standing there last week at the chasm near Buford Highway, the epicenter of DeKalb County’s latest water disaster. Looking down into the hole was Alessandro Salvo, a contractor leading the effort to fix a 48-inch water main that had 700,000 residents boiling water to keep dysentery at bay. I first met Salvo in July 2015 when he was called in to repair an epic break...
Torpy at Large: Cobb’s ATM helps make Braves a cash machine

Torpy at Large: Cobb’s ATM helps make Braves a cash machine

The first-year results are in for Cobb County’s publicly subsidized professional baseball team. And the outcome is “astounding,” according to Liberty Media, the Colorado company that owns the Atlanta Braves. Revenue is up 47 percent, from $262 million in 2016, the last year at Turner Field in Atlanta, to $386 million, the first year at SunTrust Park in Cobb. The new arrangement includes...
Torpy at Large: DeKalb commissioners’ chutzpah exceeds their 60% raise

Torpy at Large: DeKalb commissioners’ chutzpah exceeds their 60% raise

Let’s start out by saying lots of public officials are underpaid. State legislators, for instance, barely make $17,000, which is chump change. You get what you pay for. If remuneration is pathetic, then you limit the number of working stiffs willing to step up, so you end up with the retired, the rich, some thoughtful do-gooders and perhaps some looking to walk off with anything that’s...
Torpy at Large: In Ga. fight, Delta’s muscle no match for NRA’s big guns

Torpy at Large: In Ga. fight, Delta’s muscle no match for NRA’s big guns

Lt. Gov. Crazy Eyes (aka Casey Cagle) was stuck. Delta Air Lines, his friend and benefactor, whom he had dutifully supported through the years, had gone and done something that left him in a pickle: The airline dissed the NRA. In the wake of the latest school slaughter, Delta was getting pressured to end its marketing arrangement with the National Rifle Association, one that afforded members...
Torpy at Large: A driver-cellphone crackdown shouldn't be a tough call

Torpy at Large: A driver-cellphone crackdown shouldn't be a tough call

This cellphone legislation may hit a lot of us hard. Many days after work, I return calls during my half-hour drive home. I grab my iPhone, tell it to “Call Mom!” (or whomever), tap the speaker button, put the phone on my lap and yack. It’s a good way fill what one might consider to be dead time. Now, a bill sponsored by state Rep. John Carson will make that illegal. Basically...
Torpy at Large: If lobbyists win, Hidden Predator Act will stay hidden

Torpy at Large: If lobbyists win, Hidden Predator Act will stay hidden

It’s hard to come out — at least publicly — against measures meant to clamp down on child molesters. A bill in the state House called the Hidden Predator Act would expand the age (to 38) that past victims of child sexual assault could sue for damages. Moreso, it would hold accountable organizations, businesses and even churches that were derelict in their duties and allowed...
Torpy at Large: Propping up the boonies, Atlanta’s thankless burden

Torpy at Large: Propping up the boonies, Atlanta’s thankless burden

A bill proposed in the state House would require city dwellers like myself to pony up extra when watching movies on Netflix so they can run high-speed internet out to the boonies. It turns out that it’s not worth it for companies to deliver broadband out to these far-flung localities. The free market system, the cornerstone of conservative thought on business, is working against them. You...
Torpy at Large: A push to rebrand MARTA as ‘The ATL’ has me SMH

Torpy at Large: A push to rebrand MARTA as ‘The ATL’ has me SMH

Ever since it was envisioned half a century ago, MARTA has always felt hemmed in. Sure, the transit agency has tried to venture out to places such as Cobb and Gwinnett counties. But voters there have summarily smacked the agency back to its Atlanta home, including an ugly racially tinged referendum in 1990. Time has — somewhat — worn down anti-MARTA antipathy. Three years ago, a poll found...
Torpy at Large: Even arugula can’t offset the ills of gerrymandering

Torpy at Large: Even arugula can’t offset the ills of gerrymandering

I took one of those Facebook personality tests the other day to rank my political leanings: I’m a left-leaning centrist, 55 percent lib/45 percent right. The test, I figure, ranked me a bit left because I said I liked arugula. I bring this up because a couple of hours after taking this quiz, I attended a Georgia legislative committee meeting concerning an effort to remove partisanship from the...
Torpy at Large: Carving a city like a turkey to get Eagles Landing

Torpy at Large: Carving a city like a turkey to get Eagles Landing

Imagine if Buckhead residents decided they’d had enough of the city of Atlanta and wanted out. They were tired of the political clout residing elsewhere in the city. Or they wanted to leave behind the city’s poorer, less desirable portions to form their own government. Well, a bill now in the state Legislature would create an avenue for that kind of thing to happen. The bill would carve...
Torpy at Large: Is a Hawks arena in College Park nothing but net loss?

Torpy at Large: Is a Hawks arena in College Park nothing but net loss?

In late 2016, College Park officials announced a deal to bring the Atlanta Hawks’ minor league basketball team to an arena they planned to build near the airport. The 3,500-seat facility, which would be part of the Georgia International Convention Center, would cost somewhere between $10 million and $40 million, a city official ventured. That was a pretty wide range, even as guesstimates go...
Torpy at Large: It takes a big shovel — Amazon — to fill Atlanta’s Gulch

Torpy at Large: It takes a big shovel — Amazon — to fill Atlanta’s Gulch

Atlanta’s Gulch, that gaping hole downtown next to where Arthur Blank plopped his $1.5 billion football stadium, now needs something to fill it up. How about 11.5 million square feet of live-work-play? But mostly work, as in 50,000 Amazon workers. The quest to snag Amazon’s second headquarters, the Great White Whale of Commerce, is focused on the spot where Atlanta first started,...
Torpy at Large: Racial slurs in online posts? Try this n-word, ‘NO’

Torpy at Large: Racial slurs in online posts? Try this n-word, ‘NO’

Another week, another college student is toast after dropping a racial slur on social media. In the most recent case, Natalia Martinez, a freshman soccer player at Georgia State University, dropped out of school rather than face the brewing conflict started by her own foolishness. The team had suspended her and a petition circulated — online, of course — to have her expelled. Martinez...
Torpy at Large: Corruption at City Hall and MARTA: The daily double!

Torpy at Large: Corruption at City Hall and MARTA: The daily double!

Tuesday was seemingly Public Corruption Day in the Atlanta courtroom of federal Judge Steve Jones. In the morning, Adam Smith, the disgraced Atlanta procurement director, stood before Jones, dabbed his eyes and was sentenced to 27 months in prison  for taking more than 40 bribes — $1,000 a pop — over a two-year period. Then, after fortifying himself with some lunch, the same...
Torpy at Large: Feds send message in Atlanta bribery case: Own up. Or else.

Torpy at Large: Feds send message in Atlanta bribery case: Own up. Or else.

Adam L. Smith graduated from Morehouse, Yale and Georgetown Law, so we can stipulate that he’s no dummy.  Crooked, yes. But not stupid. Smith was the city of Atlanta’s corrupt procurement director, specializing in the procurement of bribes from people wanting to do business with the city. When he got a whiff of a federal investigation, Smith did what any graduate of the School of...
Torpy at Large: Yet again, GA war on drugs shoots itself in the foot

Torpy at Large: Yet again, GA war on drugs shoots itself in the foot

Every now and again, the war on drugs gives us a flash of good old-fashioned absurdity and even some ham-handed hostility. For the latest chapter in that saga, let’s go to Cartersville, where scores of people at a house party were arrested and charged with possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. COLLECTIVELY, that is. A houseful of people were arrested — and it turns out there was...
Torpy at Large: What Reynoldstown’s 50-50 split says about ‘One Atlanta’

Torpy at Large: What Reynoldstown’s 50-50 split says about ‘One Atlanta’

During and after the mayoral election, one kept hearing references to “One Atlanta,” a sense that no matter how divided we are as a city and a society, we can all pull together with one common purpose. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms mentioned it in her inaugural address, a reference to a divisive, yet extremely close, campaign that had some precincts up north going 90-1o for Mary Norwood,...
Torpy at Large: DeKalb grabs Atlanta’s unwanted murder crown

Torpy at Large: DeKalb grabs Atlanta’s unwanted murder crown

For the first time in history, DeKalb County has taken the lead in something it sure as heck doesn’t want. It has registered more homicides than the city of Atlanta. In 2017, there were 98 killings compared to 79 in Atlanta, which indicates what we’ve all known for years — that DeKalb has become more urban. The county has come off a few bad years of political and school turmoil,...
Torpy at Large: New mayor, new council prez, new independence? Hope so

Torpy at Large: New mayor, new council prez, new independence? Hope so

Inauguration day is kind of like opening day in baseball — no matter how good, or bad, a team is, they all sit there at 0-0 with hope springing eternal. On a brisk Tuesday afternoon, Keisha Lance Bottoms was sworn in as Atlanta’s 60th mayor, a woman who evokes the power of Black Girl Magic as a victory theme, a force that uplifted an underdog candidate to heroic heights. That is an...
Torpy at Large: ATL ‘Transportation Mayor’ rolls off into the dark

Torpy at Large: ATL ‘Transportation Mayor’ rolls off into the dark

Last weekend was the Mayor’s Masked Ball, the gala fund-raising event and last one hosted by outgoing Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. It was an occasion for Hizzoner to bask in his own glowingness and pass the baton to his mentee, Keisha Lance Bottoms, who will become Atlanta’s 60th mayor. But such a joyous celebration couldn’t end there. For a proper after-hours after-party, Reed...
Torpy at Large: Assembling ATL’s long-delayed south downtown dream

Torpy at Large: Assembling ATL’s long-delayed south downtown dream

The future of downtown Atlanta is at the intersection of Mitchell and Broad streets. Or it will be if German money has any say. It doesn’t look like much right now. Currently, the corner consists of a barber supply store, an incense shop and a vacant lot next to a candle distributor. In July 2016, a baby-faced development exec walked a couple of investors from Hamburg to the corner and let it...
Torpy at Large: ‘Druid Hill’ is a state of mind — and fighting words

Torpy at Large: ‘Druid Hill’ is a state of mind — and fighting words

Clark Ashton’s eyes get big with theatrical and maniacal glee. “I’ve seized the high ground,” he says with a cackle concerning his ongoing fight for federal recognition. Ashton has raised a flag. He’s even erected an official-looking historical marker: “The Battle for Druid Hill.” He wants the U.S. Board on Geographic Names to designate his property as Druid...
Torpy at Large: Snowballs and mischief my kind of wintry mix

Torpy at Large: Snowballs and mischief my kind of wintry mix

Every now and then you see a sliver of sunshine and know there’s hope for humanity. Last weekend on our local Google group, a lady warned the neighborhood that “three teenage boys are throwing snow balls at passing cars and people. Including older women.” A self-identified “older woman” chimed in, saying she’d retaliate if so attacked, which is what you want to...
Torpy at Large: Now, 1 mayor must somehow bridge Atlanta’s 2 sides

Torpy at Large: Now, 1 mayor must somehow bridge Atlanta’s 2 sides

A Keisha Lance Bottoms supporter was teasing (sort of) that the Great White Hope went down in flames during the mayoral election Tuesday. I responded that flags were at half-staff in mourning along West Paces Ferry Road in Buckhead, where three precincts went 92, 93 and 95 percent for Mary Norwood, who lost by 759 votes out of 92,000 cast. White folks overwhelmingly vote for white candidates...
Torpy at Large: City Council high jinks reflect roughshod Reed era

Torpy at Large: City Council high jinks reflect roughshod Reed era

The Atlanta City Council’s last regular meeting during the reign of Mayor Kasim Reed demonstrated what Atlanta has become — confident, successful, chaotic and a bit of a bully. When time is short, there’s a sense of urgency. Legislation must get rammed or even sneaked through. First, though, the council had to endure the public comments section of the meeting. Monday’s meeting...
Torpy at Large: It’s the end of ‘The Pine,’ but homelessness continues

Torpy at Large: It’s the end of ‘The Pine,’ but homelessness continues

Just before noon on Thursday, the last occupants of the homeless shelter at Peachtree and Pine streets in Atlanta carted their belongings to a van and then drove off to their new lives. Anthony Murphy, 68, a six-year resident and a volunteer leader there, carried a painting and a bag and glanced wistfully back at the massive brick fortress that has been at the vortex of a nasty political and...
Torpy at Large: Atlanta politics as usual? Not this mayoral runoff

Torpy at Large: Atlanta politics as usual? Not this mayoral runoff

Former Mayor Shirley Franklin broke ranks this week with Atlanta’s traditional black political alliance and endorsed Mary Norwood, a mayoral candidate who is noticeably white. I called civil rights icon — and former mayor — Andrew Young to see what this means. Is the old Maynard Jackson Machine now dented and in a ditch? “I haven’t figured it out yet; it’s...
Torpy at Large: Reefer Madness still lives in parts of Georgia

Torpy at Large: Reefer Madness still lives in parts of Georgia

Here’s a dispatch from the ongoing war on drugs that Georgia continues to wage. You keep hearing that nickel-and-dime marijuana cases no longer take place. That law enforcement has moved on to real crimes. Not so. This is one of those throwback cases that the state’s drug-industrial machine can’t seem to let go of, even though such prosecutions have been discredited for inherent...
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