Your article on Jan. 23 about the budget shortfall for Atlanta (Fallout, "Oops, they did it again") referred to "an $8 million annual subsidy" to Underground Atlanta. This figure is misleading. It includes noncash charges, but more importantly, 75 percent of the bonds for Underground were used to construct public improvements, including the plazas, streets and parking decks. Only 25 percent of the bond issue was used for the so-called commercial facilities.
The complex is owned by the Downtown Development Authority and leased to the city. Since the "rent" is equal to the debt service on these bonds, only 25 percent of the rent paid by the city, about $1.5 million, applies to the commercial space. Most of the cost of the parking decks is covered by the net income from the 1,256 parking spaces, and the other public improvements are part of the city's public infrastructure.
In reality, these bonds were issued in large part to cover the gaping hole that was left in the middle of the city following the construction of the MARTA lines. The city did not have the funds to pay what was a traditional public expenditure.
I don't disguise the fact that other federal funds were used to construct the commercial portion of Underground and that other funds were used to purchase the land, which the city still owns. There are also ongoing maintenance expenses for the public areas. But the "subsidy" for the commercial part of Underground is only a small fraction of the number you cited and does not reflect any of the substantial tax revenues to the city.
– Joe Martin, Atlanta
Democratic or Republican Racism
(This letter is in response to John Sugg's Jan. 16 Metropolis column, "A new sheriff is riding into Dixie.") About every third time I read your articles, I have to say, "what a dumbass!" You report that you were on the front lines of counterculture a few years ago. The more I read your articles I have to wonder where you really came from. Your rhetoric against Republicans is completely hollow. Sure, these clowns deserve pretty much what they get, but it is as if you lived in North Dakota most of your life. If ever any group in America deserved scorn, it has to be the Democrats and in particular, the Southern Caucus Democrats. Since you weren't here in 1968, I need to tell you a little story: A despicable man, the former Exalted Cyclops, Robert Byrd, came to Atlanta to try and convince Georgians NOT to vote for George Wallace and vote for Hubert Humphrey. Huh? An arch-conservative (former) Klan senator asking the good conservative Democrats to vote for a liberal good guy and not a racist governor from Alabama. Now, this being the state of such stalwarts for racial equality as the vile Talmadges, Lester Maddox and the man who did more to keep Democrats in power from 1937 until 1963 AND the man who strong-armed this nation to keep blacks out of power, unable to vote and basically without rights, your favorite Democrat, Richard Russell. Russell, who hurt an entire race for 30 years, which hurt all of America in the process and still hurts to this day. He who kept JFK from enacting any Civil Rights or Voting Rights legislation, the man who made the deal with JFK to keep the South southern. Georgia voted 70-plus percent for THAT Democrat Wallace in 1968. Byrd went back to his seat and beat Humphrey a few years later for Democratic leadership. Good grief, Sugg, these very powerful people were all Democrats! Maybe while you were in college in Florida you were campaigning for that angel George Smathers, a Democrat, the man that JFK asked to be his running mate! Stennis, Thurmond, Southern Manifesto for Christ's sake! All but two of the Manifesto signors were DEMOCRATS. Unforgivable. At least LBJ came through with the Civil Rights legislation and the Voting Rights Act, with the help of the Republicans. After the 1968 elections many of your conservative Democrat voters seemed to jump the fence. As much as you want to put lightweight Sonny Perdue and Republicans down, there is nothing Republicans could do that could be as painful as what the Democrats actually did to America. Could you imagine how much better off America would be today if the Democrats had allowed blacks their rights?
I don't know how you were raised, but my Caucasian Republican parents despised all the racist Democrats and all the racist attitudes that permeated throughout their lives. I can say I gave them a lot of grief about Nixon and Reagan. As an impressionable youth, after Martin Luther King had come to our school to speak and some of the school nuns had gone downtown to protest march for the equal rights, I asked one of my parents' friends, "Why, as a state representative for many years, do you not support the Civil Rights Act or the Voting Rights Act?" His answer, "I would lose my job if I did that, even though I think I could support it." "Wouldn't you rather be on the side of right?" "It's just the way it is."
"It's just the way it is," is the same phrase my father would use when explaining the Klan marches down Peachtree, the riots (not many) downtown, blacks not allowed jobs or privilege. "Nothing I can do about it except try and vote these clowns out of office."
– Bill Hardin, Atlanta
John Sugg responds: If you truly read what I write, you'd know the utter wrongness of your comments. Yes, the Democrats were the party of segregation and racism in the South until the 1960s. But parties change. Southern Democratic leaders – Bill Winter in Mississippi, LeRoy Collins in Florida, Jimmy Carter in Georgia, and many, many others – moved away from segregation. These people truly brought light to the South. Meanwhile, the Republicans adopted the infamous "Southern Strategy" following the debacle of the 1964 election. That strategy intentionally and overtly played to the racism in the South – while the Democrats headed the other way. As LBJ noted after signing the Voting Rights Act, the Democrats faced losing the South for a century. That likely will be a shorter period, but LBJ was on target. The truth is, the racists merely changed from D to R.