I recently posted a review of Whole Foods on my Yelp! page that got some buzz on Facebook, so I decided to post it here, too. There is a good lesson in customer care that all retail places can learn from. The review follows in full below—you can also see and interact with it on the Yelp website.
Whole Foods is really not a place where one goes as a "need." Can we agree on that? Judging by other reviews of this location, everyone raves about the products and selection (accurate), but laments about the prices--also true, but its in-house brands are usually cheaper.
I wrote a line on my joke page, and I think it actually came true recently: "If Whole Foods' customers don't completely crush your soul, its employees will finish the job." Although not true in all locations, THIS location--about which I've written here before--has gotten. just. terrible.
On two successive visits to Whole Foods (referred to as "Food Hole" between friends), employees asked me the "need" question. After waiting for help in the meat section a few minutes, a guy dashed over and said: "what do you need?" I was taken aback. "I don't *need anything," I said in by best Manhattan attitude. "I'd just like some chicken cutlets."
A few days later, I was in the shopping center buying dog food so I ducked in The Hole. I really like WF's in-house gelato, so I went to the counter. Nobody there. I waited. Still nobody. I finally flagged someone down and asked them if they could help me, and she said she'd get someone.
A few minutes later, a gal with an apron came up to me in a rush. She didn't go behind the counter to assist, she just walked up to me and asked, "what do you need?" "I'd just like to taste the pumpkin gelato" I said. she walked behind the counter, dug out a taste with one of those plastic dollhouse spoons and started back to what she was doing. She left the counter, even though I was ready to buy.
These two experiences culminate in a check-out experience I had last week that was, in a word, surreal. The bagger and cashier had zero interest in me, what I was buying or how it should be packed to go home. Bagger Joe was retelling a story about his girlfriend and how she wasn't behaving right and how he was gonna set it all straight later. It was one, long, sordid, misogynistic, run-on sentence. The cashier said nothing, and I'm not sure he was even listening to him. (Bagger dude started to put the frozen stuff in the not-frozen bag, so I had to interrupt him.)
Mindfulness seems to be a bragging point of Whole Foods in general, with magazines at the check-out counters that urge you to become a vegan, cross-legged Shaman who only eats hemp, lettuce and twigs with an occasional organic fennel tea. But mindfulness and courteous behavior amongst employees at this location is not there, and I'm starting to lose hope it ever will be.
Will I still go for the product selection? yes. will I be ready for the "need" question? feels like I'll always need to be ready for that.
I wonder if “kind of” is a box you check on the ticket? Whatever. As a huge Law & Order fan, I welcome the chance to go down and check out the freakshow that is invariably there every week. Basically, this is me:
I welcome jury duty, too, but I don’t take it upon myself to call in for cases.
Some fun things that happened today:
• The judge was absent, playing golf probably, so I have to go back a second and third time.
• Officer Polk, the bailiff, was AWESOME - just like the wise-cracking one on Judge Judy.
• I was trolled by a Chatty Cathy dude, who was cited for selling cookies at Five Points. Yes, really. He had the most disgusting sneeze involving fluids and screeching that it made me mentally gag. Officer Polk, to his credit, kept telling him to stifle. Cathy just kept talking - even to people like me who for sure weren’t listening.
• About half of the names called were absent, which triggers a bench warrant. I wonder how much that costs the city - keeping track of city deadbeats.
• Those of us with minor citations were given the option to pay a reduced fine - about half. 99% of people eligible to do this (called “PTIT” or pre-trial intervention traffic) accepted and went to pay - I declined so I could have my judge time.
• I took MARTA, which is relatively easy since I don’t have to change trains. Much easier than parking downtown - ably pointed out by my Tweep, @Kategram1.
Stay tuned. I’ll update this post in a month when I go back to the City Circus. - WP
Last night I went to bed ill, literally ill, because of yesterday’s “Support Chick-Fil-A” events. I saw a woman riding down the street on a bike with a, “I heart Chick-Fil-A” shirt. I saw the news “reporting” on the long lines and massive crowds waiting to “show their support” for their fellow Christians. And spoke to a dear friend who was oh so proud that she had gone and supported her fellow Christians in their stand for “the first amendment rights of Christians” in support of traditional marriage. It felt like I was stabbed in the heart. I am a married straight woman, in love completely with my husband and, on most days, happily married. I’m not going to try to fathom how this day has made my fellow human beings of the LGBT community feel. If I am this upset, I can only imagine this was a very painful reminder of just how little our country truly cares for their human rights and their equality. (read the full post here)
(ATLANTA - 25 October 2011) “Too big to succeed.” And no, I’m not talking about AIG or Morgan Stanley.
Those horrible four words could be the new-new-new-new Facebook tagline. As the social-networking giant has grown exponentially, it has changed UIs (user interfaces), bells and whistles, functionality, and security preferences more than Tara Reid has changed boyfriends. While Twitter has streamlined and improved without blowing up their core product - and spawning a cottage industry of top-notch Twitter clients - Facebook has seized on an ill-perceived need to change, change and change again.
This issue came to a boiling point while running ARTvision Atlanta - which, smart as it was at the time, has a Facebook page for the sole purpose of expanding our earnings reach and branding. As many folks have noted (here and here), love it or hate it, Facebook is a critical element in growing exposure to charitable causes.
Among the myriad challenges that charities face, spending time fixing a fatal code bug on a Facebook page shouldn’t be one of them. (My Googling shows that this is a widespread and as-yet unaddressed issue.) Alas, this is the case with our page now. Without getting into the geeky-gritty of it: Facebook has inexplicably violated its own TOS (terms of service) by allowing administrators to inadvertently change the name of a group with 100+ members by indicating the location of said group. So now, ARTvision Atlanta - which was closing in on 500 members - now reads as its beneficiary, Positive Impact, and the name cannot be changed back.
A group’s name is, last time I checked, the very foundation on which fundraising stands. Our AV page has three years of activity, history, photos and proven sales history that we have abandoned for a new page until Facebook gets off its ass to fix the issue. Sending bug reports, posting on help pages and other pleas for assistance have been systematically denied - because, well, Facebook is just too damn big. At last count, the site has 800 million users and they, by sheer volume, cannot address everything individually.
But is that a good enough reason to refuse help when charitable funds are at stake? This bug rises to a different level entirely when we’re talking about charitable giving. We depend on the networks and reach of Facebook to get word out, and this fatal flaw in their code - being no fault of any user - must be addressed now. Lest the company go down in history as the giant who got too big for their britches and couldn’t care properly for their philanthropic micro-communities.
When it comes to charitable giving and fundraising, a different urgency should rise through the ranks. And if this post helps to fix the overall bug itself, fine by me. In the meantime, please visit our new Facebook page and forgive the occasional grumble from me. - WP
Big HT and shout out to WannaBAuthor for the awesome devilish FB image.
Blogger’s note: I will be blogging at the ARTvision site from here until the end of the year.
UPDATE: After hitting hard, Facebook came back and addressed the Group name issue. We now are back in business as ARTvision Atlanta on Facebook! Of course, they attributed it to our mistake. But I don’t care... as long as we have the real name back.
The attacks were ghastly and altering, changing our country’s composition down to its DNA. But what we did in response trumps even those dastardly deeds: we gave ourselves over to the very “evil” that attacked us in the first place.
“Pride” (Provincetown, Mass.), by Will Pollock
Please allow a bit of a parallel: If electing Kennedy allowed us to successfully avert nuclear war during the Cuban Missing Crisis, then how would a President Gore have handled the country before, during and after this assault? How would we have been led as a country in response to 9/11? Would we have sunk trillions of dollars in nation-building in Iraq, or perhaps used it as a rally cry to show attackers that we can survive and thrive, even in the aftermath of death and misery? “A lot of other people behaved badly” after that day, as Paul Krugman put it today. “The memory of 9/11 has been irrevocably poisoned; it has become an occasion for shame. And in its heart, the nation knows it.”
Recent events show that we have been on a sad, downward spiral ever since the attacks. Our financial system has collapsed and is still limping; profiteers have bounced back with an assault on commonsense regulation; our previous administration is so demonized elsewhere that they risk arrest if they travel abroad; we tortured people in custody and are still protecting those responsible today; and, most recently, we’ve seen a culture emerge where folks who hate government are the very ones making policy. What’s our response?
I say, enough. Let’s remember today in a factual way, without embellishment or agendas. Let’s return our country to the very compassionate, understanding, engaged folks who make this country great: the people. Let’s elect representatives who reflect that value system, not those who want, need and manipulate for profitability or glory. When a politician fails us, as Bush and his team did - and still do, thumbing their noses at truth and fact - we only have ourselves to blame. And that includes the voters who didn’t punch the ballot for the offending party. We are all complicit if we are all Americans.
But if it’s about all of us, it’s still cannot be “us vs. them.” Peace and ambassadorship have been reframed, inexplicably, as weak and useless when juxtaposed against our lionized, “boot in the ass” politicians. I say, loudly, no more. No matter whom you vote for, make sure it doesn’t reflect the mistakes we made when slammed with the calamity on this day 10 years ago.
Today, I take pride in my country, and want to go forward with a people-first agenda. Where we come first, and yet all the while knowing that we are still the global leader that can think outside ourselves, and never take the world around us for granted. Superior actions, not superiority.
After this day of remembrance, returning this country to the people is the best step forward over the next decade.
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UPDATE: Jack Lessenberry imagines a fictitious United States response with Al Gore as president. Money quote: “Yet it would be nice if, a century from now, we remembered it as a sad milestone that started the process of greater understanding.”
In celebration of hovering around 400 Twitter followers - clearly, some of the smartest folks on the web - I give you my “Simple Four” social-media tips and suggestions. Here we go:
1. Leave dirty laundry to the cleaners. Your best pal, your hairdresser, or perhaps an unlucky neighbor - those folks are the sympathetic ear you’re looking for. They could also be the object of your ire; don’t complain about someone or something unless you’re a) saying explicitly why it matters and b) following it with a solution. Any complaints about people in particular will feel to your readers as venting and sour grapes. Contribute to discourse and two-way discussion, because, in the end...
2. It ain’t about you. This web-advice gem came from a talk I heard from the incredible Peter Shankman, offered mostly to folks who get pissed off about something or someone, and take that complaint to Twitter or Facebook. “I deserved that promotion.” “I hate my sister.” “My colleague is a douchebag.” Or, a more specific Facebook post from a friend in response to a celebratory, pre-grilling food picture I loaded to Facebook: “That looks like dog food. Food pictures are my pet peeve!” I care about that, why? How about you be irritated in your quiet voice and let me, and the rest of us, celebrate a fun moment? (The burgers were exceptional, btw.) Make your posts useful to your friends and followers, or run the risk of appearing self-aggrandizing.
The “offending” Facebook dinner preview
Make your posts about your friends and followers - in this case, inspiration for cooking recipes - or run the risk of sounding vapid, self-obsessed and useless to the people who look to you for wisdom.
3. Don’t be a jerk. This is pretty straightforward: be respectful and always keep it classy. Here’s an example in support of this bullet, courtesy of the seemingly thin-skinned @Shoq on Twitter. After questioning his fiercely one-sided impugning of people who are concerned about Bradley Manning’s treatment - and after I joined with @a_picazo in asking him why - he Tweeted this: “.@wildcatatl I think you might either be sleeping with @a_picazo, trying to, or alternatively, you're just fucking stupid.” He then blocked me from his stream. I honestly didn’t understand why this otherwise progressive voice was railing on people so hard, without proof or support of his skepticism, and I honestly wanted to know why. The lesson: engage in conversations and debates in a mature way and do not needlessly flame people. Especially folks who know how to post about it later.
4. Always, whenever possible, include links. Be kind, support your findings. Your followers want to learn more about your positions and opinions. Tweets are nominations, if you will, for the most compelling news items of the day. Go to Mashable for more on this topic. The immediate click-through rate isn’t staggering, but if someone is evaluating your Twitter stream to decide if they want to follow you, those links will stay there and quite likely help you later.
Folks on the Internet want engagement, not one-sided preaching or personal blather. Scale to and maintain the high road - in the end, you’ll be rewarded.
This past July, Mary Grabar - somehow, inexplicably, professor at Clayton State University and conservative speaker and author - wrote a piece for the AJC entitled, “Freedom to Hate in College Shrinks.” With apologies for the dated material, it seems appropriate given recent events. In her piece, she led her pedestrian swat of ironic prose with this gem: “I tell my college students to feel free to hate.”
In the piece she gets busy demonizing groups - the Anti-Defamation League, Gay & Lesbian Straight Education Network, among others - that fight for the rights of marginalized youth and espouse understanding in schools, including use of emotional intelligence, for the advancement of society. Grabar bemoans that her students’ rights to youthful, exuberant, unencumbered hate have been systematically denied. They are “enjoined from hating” the people and behavior around them, and are, in her mind, neutered from expressing their opinions by evil feeling circles:
“Their teachers act as “guides on the side” for their little groups in which they are forced to expose their feelings and discuss historical examples of ‘hate.’ Creepy ‘emotional intelligence’ consultants make them show all the other kids how they react when they get angry or sad. They are made sissies in front of everyone when a big bearded guy asks them, “What was it doing to your heart?”
Some of them are even graded in a new subject called “Social and Emotional Learning.”
But I declare to my students, “Now that you are legal adults you may hate whomever you please!”
They look at me like prisoners who have forgotten what freedom is like.”
What’s “creepy,” Ms. Grabar, is you. Not you, specifically - your ideas. Do you see what’s happening in this country as it pertains to unchecked hate? In the past two weeks, we’ve had no fewer than five suicides related to bullying of gay teens. Is this a form of the hate you want your students to freely express? Why not teach them the perils of hate along with responsible self expression - rather than couch it in some form of social martyrdom where folks are let out of a metaphorical prison that simply, absolutely, doesn’t exist?
We had the situation in New York City where three men were allegedly sodomized, burned and whipped simply for being gay - at the hands of nine youth who, I think it’s fair to say, expressed their prejudice as free thought. We’ve had myriad other examples of hate run amok in this country - I, too, was bullied in school when I was a kid. It makes you feel small; like you want to die. Have you ever felt that, Ms. Grabar? I can tell you with 100% certainty, kids all around this country ARE feeling that. And your ideas put them in greater peril.
This weekend was Gay Pride in Atlanta. It’s one of the nation’s most festive celebrations of free expression and togetherness and non-hate you can find; this year brought a bit more poignancy because of recent events. I invite you to come visit and see for yourself what understanding an anti-hate looks like, and what good it can do.
I drove down a Midtown Atlanta street on Saturday and saw a religious protestor’s sign that read, “I now pronounce you Pervert & Pervert.” Perhaps one of the sign holders is a former student of yours, Ms. Grabar? Why should you condone such speech when you have the opportunity to persuade otherwise? Not control, not imprison, as you suggest - persuade. That’s your job as a teacher. Do it.
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This is a multifaceted political trainwreck in that, since this charge, Handel has renounced any and all progressive values as she seeks the GOP state of Georgia gubernatorial nomination - and the conservative Deal appears to think he can score points with voters here in our state by calling her on it. (He trails in the polls.) John Oxendine, also a GOP candidate in Georgia, tried to outdo Deal by associating himself with a mailer that basically used the same message.
Seriously? You’re so married to your conservatism - and so desperate to win at all costs - that you’d blatantly ignore and foment disgust within a segment of your constituency by maligning support of it?
My problem is that there are NO issues discussed in these mailers - NONE. Zip. Just a fraudulent indictment of someone who bucked her party on progressive issues in the past.
I am an independent voter who can at least appreciate when Roy Barnes, Democratic state candidate, calls out the GOP for its state shenanigans about succession and rejection of stem-cell research.
Get real, Mr. Deal, et. al. If you are to be considered for governor of this state, you must realize that you ALSO are asking to preside over the city of Atlanta, its people and its surrounding environs. The city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia’s relationship has only gotten more adversarial under the leadership of Sonny Perdue, who has thwarted key city funding and development, and even disturbingly lead a prayer in front of the statehouse for rain. I object to those and other of his policies, although there is evidence of a thawing in relations of late.
If I am to swallow your bitter advertising pill, Mr. Deal - and if you make it into office, or even if Handel does - YOU are also required to accept, acknowledge and nurture the moral, civil, cultural and commercial center of this great southern state.
Here’s a hint: it’s NOT the statehouse, nor does it live under the Gold Dome. It’s Atlanta. And we will be voting this season.
Atlanta - cited as the “gayest city in the nation” by the Advocate (a story picked up by the AJC, NPR, and our own ProjectQ Atlanta) - is a national treasure that includes gays and lesbians, Mr. Deal (Miss Karen, I’d pay attention to this, too). Your advertisement is disgusting and offensive, and will hopefully be ineffective as a dual-discriminatation, negative-attack ad.
I’d like to remind you that Atlantans - gay or straight, black or white, liberal or conservative - will continue to speak up and seek the gay-partner spousal rights and gay-adoption benefits you malign in your ad. We will ALWAYS try and speak truth to your pursuit of power, and keep you honest at every point in the process. In other words, the more the state of Georgia tries to marginalize and diminish this great city and its people, the taller we will stand in reminding you not to mess with us.
Handel now says that Gay parents are "not in the best interest of the child." I happen to know gay parents, many of them. And you are completely and utterly full of shit.
As an intended gay parent myself, I represent the opinions mentioned in Deal’s ridiculous ad or in Handel’s comments or in Oxendine’s direct-bigot mailer campaign - and I object to all methods AND the content of the argument. They are all, down to their very core, false promises intended to scare people into voting for you. And it’s utter nonsense.
Mr. Deal, Ms. Handel, Mr. Oxendine: I invite you to take 10 minutes to speak to a candidate like Graham Balch - he has a mature and open worldview and an understanding of urban life that seems to be lost on you (and he’s in a tough race of his own). He rejects the status quo. He sees a city and state where EVERYONE thrives, where all people are accepted and encouraged to enter into partnerships and parenthood if they so choose. He is fiercely protective of our environment and wants us to pay teachers fairly and create superb learning environments. He is the Democrat for Georgia State Senate District 39, so feel free to look him up.
This Atlantan will be in the voting booth tomorrow, and I will select those candidates who understand me, my friends and my family, and whomever can celebrate diversity - not use it to malign your opponents.
(This post was sent to both the offices of Mr. Deal and Ms. Handel; I will update if I receive any official comment.)
(Photo courtesy of 11Alive.com, Atlanta.)
Will the persons who believe Apple can roll out their products properly please raise your hands?
Thought so. No hands.
My last review of this place remains the same: why don't we dial down the smug, the pretty, and the fanciful-whimsy, and amp up the speed and common sense we use to help customers?
I'm thankful for the Genius Bar, and while I was here I was able to talk to an expert and solve an issue a friend was having with his MacBook. I appreciate having that chance, believe me I do.
But overall, the very environment that made Apple what it is today, its retail spaces, is now its most mind-numbing albatross. The stores have become the in-person, big-for-their-britches experience that I can no longer tolerate. I can really only speak to the Lenox Square location, but really people - move your customers through with better pace and stop trying to be iTiffany.
Putting people on these vague, long iPad waiting lists that don't go anywhere just irritates, frustrates and causes your fans to act out with rage, rabid frothing and poor manners. The folks in front of me today shopping for iPads were about ready to have a meltdown - and I with them.
I got so frustrated after being on a waiting list for a 1/2 hour that I walked out - and, totally unwittingly, mind you - with a five-user, family-pack of Snow Leopard. Without paying. Oh ethereal-white Apple Store (“futuristic Swedish hospitals,” according to Jon Stewart): you turn people into shoplifters with your fancy design and tantalizing products! Does it have to be so?
To review: I got a package of the newest, snoozer Mac OS version and not the finger-sliding slice of goodness I came for. (The software will be returned, FYI.) No product, all frustration, and a sour taste in my mouth.
Like Jon Stewart, I have been a Mac Head since the Apple IIe, and I swear, I'm just so sick and tired of the attitude. We get it, your products are cool. You have consistently won the "gorgeous OS war" with Microsoft and even survived the dark days of OS9.
But please - give it a rest already. When you come up with a stunner of a product like the iPad, be ready for the response. Be ready for the customer clamor. You've had, like, six different trial runs before this product even made it to the drawing board, so dismount the ivory tower and help us buy your fucking products.
Oh and watch for a package from me in the next few days. I might even slip this review in for good measure.
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UPDATE: Not that I feel vindicated, but “Appholes” is pretty app-ropos.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
And then there’s CNN’s Jeanne Moos asking the question, “Is Apple acting rotten,” here:
Update No. 2: More of the same “big for their britches” from CNN.com:
“Dispassionate, curt, thoughtless and sloppy. Our visit here, from beginning to end (including an obnoxious, mealy-mouthed teabagger-rant from a staff nurse just before surgery) was an utter failure.
Before I highlight the nuts and bolts of this experience, I should say I wasn't the actual patron, but rather, an ardent supporter of a pal going under the knife for umbilical-hernia surgery.
In my important role, I wanted to be strong for the person going in to have this general-anesthesia procedure. It was no small event, despite being downplayed by the surgeon in the consult beforehand.
The universe continued to work its mysterious ways, too, because the House of Representatives passed healthcare reform the day before our visit to Doctors Hospital. President Obama was due to sign the bill the following day. We were sandwiched in between those two events.
So... Rule No. 1 of the "first do no harm" mantra: keep your GD political views of this legislation in the nurse's break room. Seriously. As we awaited the actual start of the surgery behind a keeping-room curtain, we had the misfortune of listening to an attending nurse verbally regurgitate Glenn Beck's talking points, at great length, about how healthcare reform is going to cause "armageddon" and that it was "rammed down people's throats" without consultation from all sides.
Aside from that point being utter fucking crap, I just simply do NOT want to be distracted from anything other than support for the person I'm with. Period. You, ma'am, are deeply and profoundly inappropriate in your expression of your views - thrown around the hospital common area as if everyone (other nurses, doctors, patients, family, et. al.) agreed with you, or even had the faintest desire to listen.
Well, let me break it to you in this public arena: we don't all agree with you. but that SO isn't the point: Keep your GD eyes on your charts and your patients and your schedule and your medicines and shut the hell up about politics. Do you want to change the way the system works? Then do THAT instead of trying to heal people. Period. Co-opting your workplace to espouse political views - ones that directly offend and undermine your place of business - is the height of irresponsibility. And it caused me and my friend a lot of consternation before an important procedure.
My suggestion to hospital admin staff is to take this Yelp review (which, btw, will be provided to them) to your next nurses meeting and let them know that festering, vitriolic healthcare diatribes should be left in Congress and have no home in ANY workplace, but especially a hospital.
Now, about the actual day. We waited 3.5 hours from admission to surgery wheel-in; the doctor skipped over us in his initial rounds; despite having my contact number, no call was made when surgery was completed; when I returned I got attitude from the receptionist who promptly implied that I was MIA when she called me in the waiting room even though she knew I needed to stop home before returning to the hospital; our discharge care was nonexistent and our instructions looked like they had come from a third-rate, Wichita doc-in-the-box.
Before this experience, I was center-left on healthcare reform. Listening to this nurse, though, catapulted me into a rabid, Air America socialist firebrand lefty who will, if any future visits call for it, stay the hell away from the OR at Doctors Hospital.”
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If you’re so inclined, write a letter of complaint to the Mayor’s office of communications and then make a comment here about the reply you get.
Here’s the contact info:
Beverly L. Isom, Director of Communications
Mayor Franklin has apparently played pretty dumb in responding to this aggressive action, so we need to hit them with protests.
A round of applause to Mike Alvear and Justin Ziegler and everyone else who spearheaded this City Hall protest - taking a stand in the torrential rain.
And then finally, a rally outside the bar:
(Actually, I just wanted an excuse to swear and be able to justify it -- like I needed one.)
I was cussin’ in the same way after a recent news post about Novare Partners, a local company with whom I’ve had a beef for a number of years in its flagrant greed and disregard for what’s best for Atlanta. “For whom are we building in this city,” I asked back then. “For the people, or for the bank accounts of the suits?”
Turns out the bank accounts are not as fat as we thought they are - in fact, this company is being questioned as a “going concern.” Seriously? This is your legacy for our city?
Just because you CAN make a building, it doesn’t mean you should. Evidenced by the spectacular disaster that is Spire Midtown - its retail more than 50% vacant (sometimes more) and its interior spaces looking more like a Budget 8 Motel. Anyways, my set-up on Facebook, sparking a number of comments from my friends, included the following few-sentence editorial from yours truly:
“When you build shitty buildings, fuck up your retail spaces and allow a city to be mired by sameness... I say: you had it coming. (This is my version of "I Told You So.")
Then it reminded me of the Piedmont Park parking deck controversy, that was a soap opera starring a highly paid executive presiding over a no-bid contract and very little transparency in how they awarded it. Here’s the editorial I sent to the AJC:
The Garden, Parking Deck & Conservancy: Of Two Minds In Midtown
I’m following the debate over the Botanical Garden’s parking deck, as I hope many city residents are. The work of the Piedmont Park Conservancy has benefited me -- as an investor at Piedmont Crest, a new Park-side condominium development off of 12th street; as an ALTA player out of Piedmont Park Tennis Center; and as a frequent visitor to Park events such as Screen on the Green, the Dogwood Festival and the Dave Matthews Concert.
I am also a paid member of the Conservancy. Their work has, without question, brought this great park of ours forward – and has made it greener, cleaner and more full of life. We are the better for it.
So it’s with a heavy heart that I question the defensive and self-promoting editorial by Debbie McCown, the Conservancy’s Executive Director (“Conservancy openly takes park from blight to bright,” @issue, 22 August). This stuffy piece was the second of the one-two punch I read in the AJC, after a gaggle of attorneys wrote in defense of the Botanical Garden’s independence from city affairs and state Sunshine laws (“Plan will be a boon; Garden has nothing to hide,” 25 August 2007). Why are we rehashing this stuff?
Both McCown and Team McBeal are missing the point. We are on a slippery slope when we as a city give ourselves wholly over to the private sector. It’s one thing to source corporate assistance to help create a commercial thoroughfare such as the Midtown Mile; but quite another to give over a natural jewel such as Piedmont Park. Not only have our city planners ceded control of that treasured asset – we are, in many ways, relinquishing the spirit that our residents, our Mayor, our visitors and our city council members have worked so hard to build. As an activist, property owner, journalist and business manager here in Atlanta, I stand firmly behind Mike King’s plainly worded editorial (“Park groups should let sun shine in,” 17 August 2007). It asks, in simple language: Now that the Botanical Garden’s Grecian Army of lawyers has snake-charmed the presiding judge to toss many of the claims brought by Friends of Piedmont Park, just come clean.
Show us how you’ve awarded contracts, to whom, and why; disclose your finances and balance sheets; and give us less lip when we ask you to comply with Georgia’s Sunshine laws. You’re doing the city’s work, the people’s work, even if it’s not coming directly from City Hall. If you’ve given no-bid contracts to friends of the Conservancy, as is rumored, then I want to know about it. And so do a lot of other folks.
Doug Abramson, principal of Friends of Piedmont Park, the advocacy group leading the legal opposition to the parking deck, also says our great gains in beautification have come at a price.
“The Garden and the Conservancy do some good work in the Park, but when questioned about their decisions and their practices they respond that they have raised millions of dollars over the years and somehow that should insulate them from public scrutiny and accountability,” he says. “As stewards of our public park and as representatives of the City, they should act transparently and disclose how and where money is spent, and otherwise conduct their affairs publicly.”
Actually, the current parking arrangement works pretty well. Piedmont Park Tennis Center – one of the last units of the park still managed by the City of Atlanta, run expertly by Sharon Lester and her team – enjoys regular access off Park Drive to the modest yet ultimately convenient parking lot adjacent to Magnolia Hall and, yes, the Botanical Garden. We have managed with this arrangement because the unpretentious parking area provides a small, controllable yet effective resource when these great events happen (including our home tennis matches). My teammates and I use this lot frequently and do not want to see it torn up. Rather, it should be maintained and used as is. What about eco-friendly asphalt? Low-water landscaping? More restricted access? Other creative uses? This area could be a testing ground for new environmentally friendly landscaping products, but all we ever hear about is how this mammoth car deck is going to be our savior, an expansive car heaven that will alleviate Midtown’s parking woes.
Let’s also remember how royally the private sector can fumble the public ball. After mulling this issue, I kept having nightmare reminders of Iraq reconstruction getting handed over to the likes of Halliburton, Parsons Corp. and others -- only to have billions wasted. Do we need such a profound example of alleged no-bid private contracts gone awry? I don’t think so. Privatization, in some weird way, seems to absolve officials from the personal care and obligation that comes with public management. And since secrecy breeds skepticism and mistrust, here we are.
I write this, clearly, of two minds, because again, I know full well the benefits we’ve seen in the Park. I may be a Conservancy member, but remain a dissenting voice within, hoping the air around this project is cleared. But this nose-thumbing, redundant, “look what we’ve done for you lately” approach is maddening and makes me want to scream – and it should bring all Atlanta residents to their front porches, too, to do the same. McCown earned nearly $115,000 in annual salary in 2005, which has most certainly increased since then; in that year, the Conservancy paid more than $100,000 to an external PR firm. Are these needed expenditures or extravagant usage of donors’ generosity? And that’s only the stuff we know about.
Simply singing one’s own praises does not magically immunize you from public speculation – particularly when you have people in the city who enjoy the park set-up as is, and would rather not indulge the Botanical Garden’s desire to give their members in Alpharetta a more convenient place to park in the city. I use the tennis center proudly, along with its parking area, knowing the recently updated clubhouse and courts there are the last bastion of municipal-managerial excellence that the park has.
I am a traditionalist and would prefer to see the park’s car-management system kept the same while still have the park expanded and enhanced. However, if the parking deck is our savior, show us how. If any of our private partners must stand on a pedestal to claim grand success, and continue to move us forward in this great city of ours, let us peek behind your curtain so we’re all on the same page. Without that, it’s a mystery too great to accept.
I **definitely** would have swore a lot more if I thought it would have spurred them to print it. (They didn’t.)
A man was beaten in midtown last week for no other reason than his sexual orientation. “Are you gay?” two white men asked. When he replied, “Yes,” he got his ass kicked. Here’s some reaction:
To those two perpetrators, I say: get your shit together, because otherwise, you’re just taking up space. Also, get a better way to pass the time than to vomit your internalized fear onto other innocent people.
Underlying threads of an "Us vs. Them" mentality have been poisoning our politics, our daily lives actually, for decades. In the words of Colin Powell, we need a "transformational figure" to dismantle and permanently dissolve that ideology:
Barack Obama is just that person to bring about dramatic change in our country. Yes, he's only one person and yes, he's just a politician... with the same shortcomings as any of us.
But as I told my relatives out West, it's not just about what he represents - it's about whom he'd surround himself with; the potential pool of those sharp, astute policy wonks - people who can problem solve and not wag fingers (that is, when they're not sitting on their hands). That made the difference for me. We need expert leadership in as many positions in government as possible, and now here's our chance.
Even Andrew Sullivan, a conservative writer and pundit, someone I watch intently, has been blogging about why Obama is the best choice. Thanks to Musty for passing along his post about an essay in the Times of London, talking about how Obama is the sensible salve for "profound national demoralization."
This is not about party affiliation or loyalty for me - this is about who presents the better solutions for our social (Supreme Court), economic (broken credit markets) and other woes.
I've already voted Obama and Jim Martin to defeat Saxby Chambliss, and will be volunteering tomorrow on Election Day. I will bring my camera along with me and record anything of interest.
As I said before... can you imagine intellectual curiosity in the White House again?
We're one more day away from restoring it.
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If you agree that we are as good as the people we gather around us, he's starting off with one of the biggest mistakes of his career.
But there's a somewhat strong chorus of boos coming from a surprising group of people: conservatives.
-- Kathleen Parker from the National Review urged Palin to bow out, at the end of a diatribe that revoked Parker's early support of Palin. She refers to the choice and Palin's continued verbal stumblings as triggering her "cringe reflex."
-- George Will, a curmudgeonly journalist and writer I deeply admire, calls out Palin for "negligible experience."
-- Peggy Noonan and Mike Murphy were busted with hot mikes in deriding McCain's "narrative" pick. "It's over," Noonan said, among other things.
-- Fareed Zakaria was especially damning today on CNN, where he called the selection "fundamentally irresponsible." He writes a striking piece for Newsweek that you can't miss.
In addition to the high-profile snub from the always conservative WSJ op-ed page, here's an extensive line-up of other commentators who are seeing their skin start to crawl.
Is this the countdown to her recusal or the death knell of McCain's candidacy? Or perhaps neither... but that's a "door No. 3" I'm not interested in seeing.
We are in the midst of an attempted religious hijacking of American politics from pulpits across the country.
We don't need more examples of this than McCain's choice of Palin; she's fired up the conservative base of the party. But here's a clear one in case you do. Many people have expressed concern about her freakishly conservative religious views that could be a "heartbeat away" from the presidency.
Are we open to that idea? Absolutely NOT.
A group of pastors are going to intentionally violate tax law and endorse McCain - the same candidate who called Jerry Fallwell an "agent of intolerance" and then a few years later embraced him and spoke at his school. (The self-proclaimed "Maverick" is a shape-shifting neo-con cypher that is a shadow of the shadow he used to be back in 2000.)
Still more dangerous is the Alliance Defense Fund (link intentionally omitted), a group that is poised to defend these pastors in court as they attempt to shape the campaign from the pulpit.
So, let me understand: you're going to break the law and then ask us to foot the bill when you are taken to court? This is not civil disobedience - you are BREAKING THE LAW. Equally bad is that you're pushing your religious beliefs in the public sector and our Constitution says it's wrong.
Let your parishioners make up their own minds and stay out of the process. Your job as spiritual adviser and advocate does not make the podium on which you speak a political bully pulpit.
Allow this trail of religion to inject itself and you'll see Roe v. Wade blown up... and our Supreme Court will start looking more like an Evangelical revival than a respected judicial body.
We can see how well we do when we see ourselves as the chosen ones. Vote Obama and quite literally block this delusional world view from infecting our political system.
(Image courtesy of DailyKos)
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I had actually been leaning toward Obama for some time now, even through the primaries. And I'll always go to the polls and vote... but not publicly on my blog say anything about a particular candidate, or endorse - to at least maintain a modicum of integrity and neutrality as a journalist.
Two words: fuck that.
My political reporting for the MSM pretty much began and ended with marketwatch.com, anyway.
From this point forward, you'll see and hear many posts on wp.com about why Obama is the better choice than McCain-Spears, and why we need to bring light to the fundamental (pun intended) differences between our choices this year.
It's this sound byte that got me:
Just as I've done with this post, don't devolve your vote or sell it short as de facto "buying into" or "endorsing" a person as a phenomenon. Rather, see it as an opportunity to appoint someone to a lofty, unthinkable position in which we will drive him to be the best he can be - without ever letting up, no matter what your political persuasions are.
The side of the people should be the side of the president, and the reverse is true. For too long it has been precisely the opposite.
We live in a country that has been hijacked by corporations, fringe groups and crusaders; we are promised election reform, and always vow to change it, yet it never happens; our economy is in the crapper due DIRECTLY to perverted, GOP-led ostrich financial principals; we are on the cusp of some of the most important Supreme Court nominations of our time, perhaps ever; we have states that are teetering as full-on toss-ups with every single vote mattering; and we have been overrun by liars and their surrogates who try to convince us that Iraq a) had something to do with 9/11 and b) that our fight there somehow threatens Americans' daily lives.
That's right, I said liars. In this sick, warped world where up is down, day is night and blue is red.
Palin is George W. Bush in a miniskirt, and you should be scared. Be VERY afraid that this person, regardless of gender, has the ear of a potential president.
Watch my blog for a three-part series on why Obama is the better choice than McCain, and I've added a link to his Web site at the top of my blog. It'll be there until Nov. 5.
Meantime, get educated, be as active as you can and tell your friends. If you haven't already, of course, which I'm sure you have. Talk with your friends and family and make sure your decision is the best it can be.
As I was finishing this post, "The Man Who Waited" came up on TV as an animated short. An amazing parallel. If you have not seen it, do it as soon as you can. The film is a stirring existential interpretation of the consequences of waiting for the truth.
As always, peace...
But it's her comments about Gen. Wesley Clark that have caused Twirl Factor 10 in the Pollock household this morning.
Will someone please tell me when Clark joined the Obama campaign? Oh that's right... NEVER. Clark's opinion that getting shot down in open warfare doesn't qualify someone to be commander in chief has been contorted by Hazelbaker. Partial clip from RedLasso:
Quoting directly from American Morning: "This is not about Wesley Clark, this is about Barrack Obama. Let's drop the pretense that Barrack Obama is going to raise the dialogue and elevate the debate in this election. If Barrack Obama really wanted to do that, he would get Wesley Clark off the airwaves attacking John McCain's long record of and legacy of service to the American people."
Even though John Roberts meekly tried to explain to this hack that Clark wasn't impugning McCain's integrity, she replied (this portion is not in the clip because the interview rolled over the top of the hour):
"John, let's be clear, this is not about Wesley Clark, this is about Barrack Obama. He talks about changing this country and yet his surrogates are attacking John McCain on a daily basis. This is a pattern of going at John McCain's strength which is his military service and his long legacy of leadership in this country. And if Barrack Obama wants to really let us believe that there is truth behind his words he would stop his surrogates from attacking John McCain."
So let's US be clear: Gen. Clark is not an Obama spokesman. He is on his own. He speaks from his own experience. He may be vying for a VP spot, but Obama has no control over what he says, nor should he try to exert any. This is a concerted attempt by the McCain campaign to redirect and spin political gold out of a nothing quote, a nothing event -- on behalf of a candidate that looks desperate to surf a false tide of negativity against his opponent.
Most of all, I wish Roberts would have reiterated the fact that Clark is not -- despite the frequent use of this pejorative word -- a "surrogate" of Obama's campaign.
Hey Jill, dude: stick to the issues. Our country is in the crapper and we need to focus on how to move forward.
I suppose I played right into their hands by attending the concert, but at least I kept my protest clean by not patronizing Ticketwhore, oh sorry, I mean Ticketmaster. I bought directly from Variety Playhouse's box office.
Enjoy the clip below. More to follow on my YouTube channel.
Overall, Colbie Caillat's vocals were strong and the audience seemed chill and engaged. A rare combination. Kudos to her for sticking with small venues.
Also, I've put a permanent link in the sidebar for the future. Being a civil libertarian indicates a political thought process rather than a specific party loyalty.
In a nutshell, this country was founded on freedoms, with an "s" - and our founding fathers' intent should never be interpreted as a tool of restriction, prejudice, hatred, excessive intrusion or any other violation that keeps America from the greatness it once knew.
For the past seven years, "power to the people" has been overtly, blatantly, construed and twisted into "power to the executive branch." And that royally sucks. I hope we're on our way to changing that.
Freedom is also NOT something we can "spread" or impose on other people. It's not a tool, it's a privilege. We should treat it as such. Personal freedoms, our civil liberties, are both a collective and a personal obligation. And that's why it's so important to me to protect them... so long as we use them wisely.
Remember: live consciously, be responsible and achieve, think freely and love regularly. That makes our freedom actually mean something. - WP
Why? Because she's a clueless hack with very little ability to see past party loyalty. She's a Yes Girl, a presidential suck-up, and one of the many dozens of poor choices that Bush has made in his two terms. I trust her about as much as I trusted Christie Todd Whitman to craft energy policy - or to analyze global-warming causes after her tenure ended.
Consider this C-Span clip, in which Townsend says if Osama had an actual street address we'd have already nabbed him:
There are countless other examples of her mealy-mouthed rendition of facts and fiction. Today, with Scott McClennan's book out, she was given full reign on CNN this afternoon to respond to claims that the president knowingly misled the public with pre-war Iraq propoganda. It was twirl-factor 10 in the Pollock household.
Her sour grapes were disgusting to watch, even on a good day. With CNN's Brianna Keilar putting up softball questions to Townsend with soft-voiced ease, the interview turned out to be free White House rebuttal time.
Disgusting. I don't care if McClellan's book is a Peter Pan fairy tale spun from magic gold, let's take it to people who are trying to save their own bacon on international TV, and never give them a free pass like that again. - WP