Torpy at Large

Torpy at Large: Who’ll get burned next as City Hall scandal steams up?

Torpy at Large: Who’ll get burned next as City Hall scandal steams up?

Another one bites the dust at Atlanta City Hall. This time, it’s former Mayor Kasim Reed’s deputy chief of staff, a highly educated City Hall veteran who pocketed bribes but insists she didn’t know what they were at the time. Oh well, I suppose the concept of corruption takes a minute to sink in on some people. Katrina Taylor-Parks stood trembling before a federal judge Wednesday...
Torpy at Large: Will DFCS leader continue to be disposable?

Torpy at Large: Will DFCS leader continue to be disposable?

Gov. Nathan Deal just appointed longtime child advocate Tom Rawlings as interim director of the Division of Family and Children Services, a job also known as Human Cannon Fodder. Heading the agency charged with protecting vulnerable kids in awful homes is arguably the toughest and most frustrating job the state has to offer. The gig often explodes in the face of the dutiful leader, despite his or...
ONLY ON AJC: Fulton judge’s bad bet on mercy will ripple for years

ONLY ON AJC: Fulton judge’s bad bet on mercy will ripple for years

In March, a Fulton County judge released a young hoodlum named Jayden Myrick over repeated objections of prosecutors. In July, he allegedly shot to death a young father during a stickup outside the Capital City Club in Atlanta. For nearly eight months, Fulton Superior Court Judge Doris Downs anguished and deliberated whether to release the teen who was 14 when he robbed a woman at gunpoint...
Torpy at Large: Ga. Tech’s long, hard road to finding ethics

Torpy at Large: Ga. Tech’s long, hard road to finding ethics

What a long, strange ethical trip it’s been for the Ramblin’ Wreck. Ten years ago this month, I sat in a federal courtroom and watched a Georgia Tech employee get sentenced for stealing $316,000 with her university P-card. Her theft was audacious and prodigious, purchasing 3,800 separate items including a popcorn machine, a wide-screen TV, robotic vacuums, a treadmill, a metal detector...
Torpy at Large: Man grows pot. Admits it. Jury sends him home

Torpy at Large: Man grows pot. Admits it. Jury sends him home

Javonnie McCoy was growing marijuana when the cops came to his Middle Georgia home. He was caught red-handed with it. Almost a pound of it, in fact. He admitted it to police, and later he looked jurors in the eye and said, yep, it was mine. I used it as medicine. The jurors let him go. He was minding his own business and wasn’t hurting anybody, they reasoned. He just doesn’t belong in...
Torpy at Large: Butt of jokes and Rep. of political darkness

Torpy at Large: Butt of jokes and Rep. of political darkness

Rep. Jason Spencer’s foray into the underside of popular culture is one of the most cringe-worthy moments in recent memory, an occasion where you can’t help but feel sorry for the guy. I thought he was the type of pol who’d say or do anything and not step back from it. I figured he was absolutely unembarrassable. I was wrong. Spencer is the now-infamous — and soon-to-be...
Torpy at Large: What’s really at fault in the assault on Atlanta trees

Torpy at Large: What’s really at fault in the assault on Atlanta trees

Once again, Atlanta, which likes to call itself the “City in a Forest,” is going to see a bit more city and a little less forest. The latest flash point in that ongoing drive toward deforestation is a block-long stretch along DeKalb Avenue where a small private school once operated. It’s a 3-acre property shaded by perhaps 250 trees. A few months back, neighbors went into panic mode...
Torpy at Large: Trump wannabes Cagle and Kemp head to Crazytown

Torpy at Large: Trump wannabes Cagle and Kemp head to Crazytown

Gov. Lite Casey Cagle has gotten himself into a pickle in his race for governor. He did it by not patting down the losing candidate who came to talk with him … and by telling the truth. In a secretly recorded tape, Cagle told voters that politics has become professional wrestling. And that ‘rasslin is fake! Last week, Cagle’s runoff opponent, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, released...
Torpy at Large: 2 metro Atlanta ZIPs in America’s widening wealth gap

Torpy at Large: 2 metro Atlanta ZIPs in America’s widening wealth gap

Times are swell, right? Unemployment’s down. Stocks are up. Construction cranes are swinging. Head to Suwanee in Gwinnett County and you’ll see that: Stately homes, manicured lawns and a sense that business is booming. Storefronts are occupied, fine cars queue up at traffic lights, and everything is just so brand spanking new. But drive 35 miles south to the South Atlanta and Lakewood...
Torpy at Large: Something stinks in Brunswick, and it ain’t paper mills

Torpy at Large: Something stinks in Brunswick, and it ain’t paper mills

I must admit, I got snowed by District Attorney Jackie Johnson in Brunswick. And it was a masterful obfuscation by an office that seems to master the art. Johnson is the prosecutor who helped a couple of trigger-happy Glynn County cops avoid prosecution in the sickening 2010 shooting death of Caroline Small, an unarmed mother trapped in her car after a slow-speed chase. Two months ago, Johnson...
Torpy at Large: Any excuse given for littering is garbage

Torpy at Large: Any excuse given for littering is garbage

The other day, I watched a driver in front of me toss a fast-food cup out the window. I started to try to catch up to and scold this fool. But I remembered half of Georgia is packing, so I bit my tongue and eased off the accelerator. That some lazy, inconsiderate boob is using our public space as a garbage can is not necessarily unusual. But you’re less likely to catch them in the act these...
Torpy at Large: When a murderous cop has law-and-order enablers

Torpy at Large: When a murderous cop has law-and-order enablers

I tried for a couple of days this week to get a hold of District Attorney Jackie Johnson in Brunswick to ask her some questions. The most pressing: How can you look at yourself in the mirror? The bodies are piling up in Glynn County in southeast Georgia. And a good part of that blame falls in Johnson’s office. Johnson is the prosecutor who cake-walked a couple of trigger-happy cops through the...
Torpy at Large: Bitter sting as Atlanta officials sour on Sweet Auburn

Torpy at Large: Bitter sting as Atlanta officials sour on Sweet Auburn

Once again, it appears Sweet Auburn is getting shunted aside. The city of Atlanta has been quietly trying to pull the switcheroo on this historic area by killing off a tax scheme meant to help redevelopment. City officials have been arguing that a Tax Allocation District (TAD) set up for the area east of downtown has already served its purpose, and that the area near the insanely popular Beltline...
Torpy at Large: Georgia political turbulence? Grab Atlanta’s airport

Torpy at Large: Georgia political turbulence? Grab Atlanta’s airport

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle has had his fun beating up on the People’s Republic of Decatur for political sport, calling the liberal bastion a sanctuary city for unauthorized immigrants and MS-13 desperadoes. But that was just the appetizer. Now for the main course: Atlanta. Earlier this year, state Sen. Burt Jones, a Republican who was once a University of Georgia football battering ram, sponsored...
Torpy at Large: Why Clay ‘The Mole’ Tippins went commando against Cagle

Torpy at Large: Why Clay ‘The Mole’ Tippins went commando against Cagle

Clay Tippins, the vanquished gubernatorial candidate, smiled awkwardly during an interview last week and brought up the question everyone is asking. “Is Clay a sneaky SOB or a Boy Scout?” he asked. Tippins — a businessman, Stanford University swimming star and former Navy Seal — looks like the latter. But a good number of folks, including many in his own Republican Party, lean...
Torpy at Large: ‘Homes from the $500s!’ So, where do regular folks go?

Torpy at Large: ‘Homes from the $500s!’ So, where do regular folks go?

Robert Kee knew his intown Atlanta neighborhood had inordinately changed when he saw a jogger dragging some weights on wheels. “You could see the turn right there because no one would try that crap five years ago,” said the computer programmer who lives in Reynoldstown, a gentrifying neighborhood 3 miles east of downtown. Kee, who is white, had rented in the once predominately black area...
ONLY ON AJC: The Tin Man meets The Spirit in the Sky

ONLY ON AJC: The Tin Man meets The Spirit in the Sky

I spent a couple of decades around boxing gyms, but David Jayne is probably the toughest guy I ever met. But after 30 years of fighting ALS, David decided last week to pull the plug.
Torpy at Large: Riding the rails in search of what ails MARTA

Torpy at Large: Riding the rails in search of what ails MARTA

MARTA’s ridership has been falling for a decade, down 22 percent since 2008. It dipped again last year, 2.6 percent, despite the I-85 bridge collapse crisis (which brought a host of new riders) and the fact that Atlanta’s population is growing as the city gentrifies. This is occurring as the city goes on a $2.5 billion transit building spree, one that includes a $1.5 billion bet on...
Torpy at Large: Cagle campaign continues to condemn 'illegals'

Torpy at Large: Cagle campaign continues to condemn 'illegals'

The GOP gubernatorial primary runoff is underway and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle can return to the important work of beating up on illegals. I can almost see the ad where he borrows from the catchy TV commercial of his opponent, Secretary of State Brian Kemp. After the requisite shotgun blast, Casey manfully ambles over to his monster truck and drawls, “Ah’ve got a big truck, just in case...
Torpy at Large: Uneasiness along Atlanta’s newest gentrification front

Torpy at Large: Uneasiness along Atlanta’s newest gentrification front

In March, a philanthropic organization, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, announced a $26 million mixed-use project featuring restaurants, shops, offices and light industrial businesses. The project on University Avenue, 2 miles south of downtown Atlanta on the border of Pittsburgh — the historically black community founded in 1883 — will take up half the 31-acre site and be at a future...
Torpy at Large: When activists eye a prize they once despised

Torpy at Large: When activists eye a prize they once despised

Government has increasingly been held in low regard in recent years. Often with good reason. And public officials are left shooing away like gnats the constant stream of self-appointed do-gooders, watchdogs and gadflies who sit in the front rows at public meetings and point out the failings, doublespeak and inconsistencies of those in power. Sometimes, those reform-minded folks get the bug and decide...
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...
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