Pelosi turns up the impeachment heat

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— House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she has “no choice” but to ask chairmen to draft articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, which will ramp up the pressure on battleground Democrats.

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— Both Cory Booker and Julián Castro have sharply criticized the Democratic National Committee, saying the national party is overseeing a primary process that’s pushing them (and other candidates of color) out at the expense of billionaires. The DNC defended its process.

— Montana Gov. Steve Bullock has adamantly insisted he will not run for the Senate, even after his presidential run ended. But that’s not stopping Senate Democrats from pining for him, anyway.

Happy Friday! Email me at zmontellaro@politico.com, or DM me at @ZachMontellaro.

Email the rest of the Campaign Pro team at sshepard@politico.com, dstrauss@politico.com jarkin@politico.com, and amutnick@politico.com. Follow them on Twitter: @POLITICO_Steve, @DanielStrauss4, @JamesArkin and @allymutnick.

Days until the POLITICO/PBS NewsHour Democratic primary debate: 13

Days until the Iowa caucuses: 59

Days until the New Hampshire primary: 67

Days until the 2020 election: 333

THE I WORD — Pelosi announced Thursday that she asked House chairmen to draft articles of impeachment against Trump, “a historic step that signals the House is increasingly likely to vote to impeach Trump before the end of this year,” POLITICO’s Heather Caygle and Sarah Ferris reported.

“The facts are uncontested: The president abused his power for his own personal political benefit, at the expense of our national security,” Pelosi said in an address. “His wrongdoing strikes at the very heart of our Constitution … Our democracy is what is at stake. The president leaves us no choice but to act.”

The speaker’s decision will increase the pressure on Democrats in swing seats (and a handful of battleground Republicans as well) to say where they stand, as we get closer and closer to an actual vote on impeachment. We have now moved beyond following an investigation to see where it goes, to the speaker of the House saying “the facts are uncontested.” A question all members of Congress can expect, both from reporters in the halls of Congress and voters at home on weekends: Is Pelosi right?

We’re also drawing closer to the one absolute that will clearly delineate where everyone stands: an honest-to-goodness vote on if the president should be impeached, and not a process vote that lays out the ground rules of an investigation. My POLITICO Playbook colleagues have a good rundown on what comes next.

Democrats need 216 votes to impeach the president, leaving some wiggle room for a bit over a dozen to break from the pack should they choose to do so. Two of those who will almost assuredly break away? Reps. Jeff Van Drew (D-N.J.) and Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), the pair of Democrats who voted against the ground rules earlier. Both told CNN’s Manu Raju — not in so many words — that they weren’t on board. Van Drew warned his party to “be careful what you wish for.” But the messaging from the party wit large is clear: “Republicans must vote and state plainly whether they will stand up for the rule of law, or continue their attempt to sweep this abuse of power under the rug,” DCCC spokesperson Cole Leiter said in a statement.

One thing to watch: Has the flood of GOP-funded anti-impeachment advertising changed the politics? Since Oct. 1, nearly $11.3 million has been spent on television ads in Democratic incumbents’ districts, according to data provided to Score by Advertising Analytics. A whopping $9.4 million of that has come from Republican groups, led by American Action Network’s $4.4 million — and to that point, AAN launched a new anti-impeach ad hitting Rep. Susie Lee in NV-03 on Thursday.

THE DEBATE STAGE — Booker and Castro have ramped up their criticism of the Democratic National Committee, after Kamala Harris’ exit from race leaves the potential for an all-white debate stage. “I cannot tell you how much I believe in our primaries. And I’ve seen folk here in Iowa belie what all the predictions are and show us what real viability is,” Booker said in Iowa, per POLITICO’s Nolan McCaskill. .

The DNC pushed back against the criticism: “This has been the most inclusive debate process with more women and candidates of color participating in more debates than billionaires,” DNC spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa said in a statement to Nolan. “While we are legally required to have objective criteria for each debate, our qualifying criteria has stayed extremely low throughout this entire process. Nobody who has failed to reach 4 percent at this point in the race has gone on to be the nominee, and our debate criteria reflects that.”

— Castro said Thursday on a call with reporters that he’s crossed the 200,000 donor threshold for the December debate. But he is almost certain to miss the debate due to the polling threshold, however.

TIT FOR TAT — Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg’s camps fired back and forth Thursday night on transparency, a preview of a likely bigger battle to come. “He should open up the doors, so that the press can follow the promises that he’s making in these big dollar fundraisers,” Warren said, also calling on him to name bundlers and his finance team, per POLITICO’s Alex Thompson. Lis Smith, a senior adviser to Buttigieg, tweeted back that if Warren “wants to have a debate about transparency, she can start by opening up the doors to the decades of tax returns she’s hiding from her work as a corporate lawyer”.

— Buttigieg’s time at McKinsey is shrouded in mystery. But The New York Times’ Michael Forsythe tried to piece some more of it together via interviews with former McKinsey employees, touching on his brief time in Iraq and longer stay in Afghanistan.

WINNING THEM OVER? — The rest of the field is trying to capitalize on Harris’ exit. “Despite Harris’ weak polling, she maintained a sizable well of institutional support that could prove important to the remaining candidates in the early nominating state of South Carolina and in Harris’ delegate-rich home state of California,” POLITICO’s David Siders and Chris Cadelago wrote. “In California, donors and politicians who had endorsed Harris began receiving calls from other campaigns within hours of her withdrawal. Endorsers in South Carolina were fielding a torrent of overtures from rival candidates. And in Iowa, where Harris had attempted to make her final stand, distraught staffers’ phones lit up with text messages from campaigns eager to recruit them.”

— Buttigieg’s camp is pushing to make inroads with the Congressional Black Caucus. “Rep. Don Beyer — one of three members of Congress, all of them white, who have endorsed Buttigieg — is leading the push, distributing a letter to black House colleagues this week imploring them to examine Buttigieg’s ‘Douglass Plan,’ a set of policy proposals focused on black Americans,” POLITICO’s Daniel Strauss and Laura Barrón-López wrote. “Beyer stresses that he’s not pushing for an endorsement right now — just for lawmakers to pay attention to Buttigieg.”

ON THE TRAIL — Biden got into an argument with an Iowa man who “suggested the former vice president helped his son get a sweetheart deal in Ukraine and was ‘selling access,” POLITICO’s Marc Caputo wrote from New Hampton (and here’s a video from ABC’s Molly Nagle). “The fiery exchange with the man, who only identified himself as a non-Republican Iowa farmer, ended with Biden challenging him to a contest of push-ups, running or an IQ test before he yelled at him.”

ENDORSEMENT CORNER — Former Secretary of State John Kerry, the Democrats’ 2004 presidential nominee, backed Biden’s bid for the White House. “I believe very deeply that Joe Biden’s character, his ability to persevere, his decency and the experiences that he brings to the table are critical to the moment,” Kerry said in an interview with The Washington Post’s Dan Balz. Kerry is set to join Biden on his Iowa bus tour today.

THE SENATE MAP — Washington Democrats are still holding out hope that Bullock runs in Montana. “Even as party officials are desperate for Bullock to run, they’re taking a soft approach for fear going too hard would backfire,” POLITICO’s Burgess Everett and James Arkin reported, adding that Democrats aren’t courting former Rep. Beto O’Rourke to try again in Texas in the same way. “Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he hasn’t talked to Bullock or O’Rourke … Still, Democratic senators are publicly encouraging Bullock to join their club.”

More: “The different opinions toward the unsuccessful presidential candidates stem from the fact that Democrats are fairly comfortable with their current roster of Texas candidates. Yet in Montana, Bullock would be a game-changer”. If O’Rourke was to get in, he has to file by Monday. But Montana’s filing deadline isn’t until March 9.

— But Bullock really wants you to know he’s not running for the Senate. “I’ve said it before. I’ve said it during. I said it when I got out,” Bullock told reporters in Helena on Wednesday, per KECI’s Maritsa Georgiou. “So, yeah, I’m not running for Senate.”

Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) wouldn’t rule out challenging Sen.-designate Kelly Loeffler in the 2020 special election. “We’ll make a statement or we’ll deal with that after the fact,” he said in an interview with NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly, referencing the impeachment hearing. “I’m not ruling in, ruling it out” (he is, in fact, not ruling it out).

— Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates reiterated she’s not interested in running for the Senate in Georgia, even with two seats up for grabs. “Running for Senate, that’s just not something that’s ever really felt like me. I really am incredibly flattered by your support. We’ve got some great people that are running,” she said at a podcast taping with former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, per The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Greg Bluestein.

RETIREMENT WATCH — Rep. Tom Graves, who represents the ruby red GA-14, announced he would not seek reelection, POLITICO’s Jennifer Scholtes wrote. Some Great Mentioning from The AJC’s Tia Mitchell on which Republicans could run for the seat: Paulding County school board member Jason Anavitarte, state Reps. Steve Tarvin and Katie Dempsey, state House Majority Whip Trey Kelley and state Sen. Jeff Mullis.

THE OUTSIDE GROUPS — NARAL Pro-Choice America is laying out its 2020 political plan. The group said it will focus its efforts in eight states — Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Iowa, and Georgia — for the congressional, statehouse and presidential elections. The group said it plans on spending $34.7 million across those states, which would be its largest presidential election year program ever.

TECH TALK — Facebook still has not publicly said if they’ll make changes to political ads on its platform, or what they would be if they were to do so. But The Washington Post’s Tony Romm and Isaac Stanley-Becker reported that Facebook has floated ideas that include labeling political ads to say they’ve not been fact-checked, limiting the number of ads candidates can run at a given time, imposing a blackout window and raising the minimum number of people that could be targeted with an ad.

AD WARS — Planned Parenthood announced it will run a “seven-figure” ad campaign targeting three battleground senators — Sens. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) — over Title X funding. “Martha McSally lied when she said she supports access to affordable birth control,” the narrator of the television ad targeting McSally said (here’s the Tillis ad and Gardner ad). “Instead, she’s let the Trump-Pence administration force Planned Parenthood out of Title X.” The campaign, which the group said will run stretch through Dec. 20, also includes radio, digital and mailers.

— Protect Our Care, a Democratic dark money group focused on health care, said it would double its ad spend along with other health focused groups to $4 million to back Democrats’ drug pricing bill in battleground districts, Roll Call’s Mary Ellen McIntire reported.

THE GOVERNATORS — New Hampshire Republican Gov. Chris Sununu raised $467,000 for his reelection bid since June, per WMUR’s John DiStaso.

THE HOUSE MAP — The filing deadline has passed in Illinois, and we now have a clear picture of what to watch for in the March 17 congressional primaries. Campaign Pro’s Ally Mutnick breaks down who is running where in her maiden House recruiting notebook for Pros.

— Republican Matt Mowers, a former New Hampshire state party executive director and Trump State Department alum, is considering a run in NH-01 against freshman Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas, WMUR’s DiStaso reported.

ENDORSEMENT CORNER — End Citizens United, the Democratic outside group, endorsed Josh Hicks in KY-06 to challenge GOP Rep. Andy Barr.

CONSULTANTS’ CORNER — Echelon Insights, the Republican polling and research firm, hired Amber Henderson as research director and promoted Kai Chen Yeo to the same role. Alec Bickerstaff is a research analyst.

CODA — QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Let me be more blunt: When your caller ID says it’s a pollster calling, pick up,” Booker in a speech to supporters in Iowa.

Book World: Searching for socialism in the Great Society

Published 6:53 am PST, Friday, December 6, 2019

Great Society: A New History

By Amity Shlaes

Harper. 511 pp. $32.50

Amity Shlaes’ “Great Society: A New History” is a thesis in pursuit of a past. Shlaes, the doyenne of revisionist conservative historians, seeks to demonstrate that the efforts of the 1960s “to make American society over, whether by tinkering or rebuilding, in the name of improving life for all,” were misguided from the start. The uniformly failed results of such reformism, in her view, stemmed from the doomed desire to rely on the public rather than the private sector to solve the country’s problems – an essentially socialist impulse. And Americans risk repeating those errors through contemporary efforts to increase prosperity, shrink inequality, improve the environment, and secure greater access to health care and education.

Shlaes is hardly the first to criticize President Lyndon Johnson’s hugely ambitious Great Society initiative, which led to the creation of hundreds of domestic programs between 1964 and 1968 – she quotes presidential assistant Joseph Califano’s observation that Johnson adopted programs the way a child ate chocolate-chip cookies. Even at the time, Johnson’s pledge to eliminate (rather than mitigate) poverty and racial discrimination struck many observers as hubristic overreach. And liberal intellectuals like Daniel Bell and Irving Kristol became neoconservatives when they cast a skeptical eye on the scale and cost of Great Society bureaucracies.

But Shlaes isn’t greatly interested in rehashing those critiques by examining, for example, how Medicare’s architects attempted to placate health-care interest groups in a way that drastically increased the cost and complexity of the program, or how the dramatic reduction in poverty among the elderly helped make them a separate, self-interested constituency. Her book is rife with assertions that she doesn’t seriously try to defend, among them: that high taxes and federal rules squelched innovation in the 1960s, that unions made U.S. companies internationally uncompetitive, that the War on Poverty made poverty worse and that citizens saw Keynesian economics as “mere window dressing for political expedience.”

Rather, her intent is to illuminate the interlinked efforts of those 1960s leaders who pushed the country toward socialism, such as writer Michael Harrington, United Auto Workers President Walter Reuther, student activist Tom Hayden and academic/administrator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and those who in various ways pushed back, including conservative politician Ronald Reagan, urban theorist Jane Jacobs, and Silicon Valley pioneers Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore.

She further complicates her task by considering the presidencies of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon to have been all part of a unified Great Society era – all were “of a piece in their effort to get to ‘great.'” And since her principal symbol of Big Government failure is the Pruitt-Igoe public-housing complex in St. Louis – built between 1952 and 1956, and made possible by the federal housing acts of 1937, 1949 and 1954 – her broader target ultimately is all federal domestic policy from the New Deal onward.

With such a wide span to cover, Shlaes doesn’t really attempt to present a comprehensive history. This is a tale of the 1960s that manages to omit any significant discussion of either the counterculture or the conservative movement, in which many of the most familiar figures of the era (from the Beatles to Betty Friedan to New York Mayor John Lindsay) are largely offstage and Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination is covered in one sentence, Robert Kennedy’s in two.

Shlaes often skips over incidents and developments that critically affected the story she chooses to tell. There’s no indication in this account, for example, that the Great Society was made possible by voter revulsion against the radical conservative views of the 1964 Republican presidential nominee, Barry Goldwater. His resounding defeat dragged down the rest of the GOP ticket, handing the Democrats a 2-to-1 majority in both houses of Congress, without which Johnson could never have passed what amounted to a second New Deal.

Shlaes concedes that the civil rights acts of the early 1960s “indeed redeemed our democracy,” but whatever indignation she may feel about Jim Crow segregation pales in comparison with her outrage over Nixon’s ending the convertibility of dollars to gold. She bemoans that the provisions that prohibited business owners from discriminating against African Americans deprived such individuals of the authority of their own conscience, “substituting a federal, national conscience to overrule them.” In addition, she adds darkly, the civil rights laws “set a precedent for federal supremacy over states to an extent some of the Constitution’s authors would have likened to tyranny.”

Since the civil rights movement appears here principally as an agent of potential oppression, it’s unsurprising that Shlaes pays little heed to the ways desegregation was central to the Great Society. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were monumental achievements, but so too was the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which gave both the Johnson and Nixon administrations leverage to desegregate Southern schools. Medicare and Medicaid, combined with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, further compelled hospitals and nursing homes to admit patients without regard to race or national origin and to treat them with respect and professionalism.

The most insightful parts of Shlaes’ book are those where she puts aside her socialism-hunting to consider elements of a new order taking shape. Key among these was the development of the computer industry in California and the anti-hierarchical, iconoclastic culture of upstart businesses like Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel. Shlaes points toward a certain kind of future when she quotes one engineer explaining his departure from an establishment firm on an exit questionnaire: “I … want … to … be … RICH.” But she also notices how Japanese automaker Toyota leapfrogged Detroit in the ’60s in part by respecting factory workers enough to include them in the process of innovation and improvement, as opposed to the “ritualistic class war” that characterized sclerotic U.S. companies and unions.

Shlaes also has an eye for some of the absurdities of the era, such as the Office of Economic Opportunity’s effort to win public support for its program by producing a 90-minute televised special called “It’s What’s Happening, Baby!” The emphasis on community action that carried over from Democratic to Republican administrations meant that one of the guests at a Nixon inaugural ball was Mickey Cogwell, a member of Chicago’s notorious Blackstone Rangers gang. The tails-clad Cogwell, tongue firmly in cheek, took credit on behalf of his gang for the success of Nixon’s law-and-order campaign: “(BEGIN ITAL)We(END ITAL) elected Nixon. (BEGIN ITAL)We(END ITAL) are the ones who put crime in the streets.”

Spoiler alert: Shlaes’ quest to find socialism in the Great Society comes up empty. No industries were nationalized during the 1960s. In fact, Johnson and his advisers rejected quantitative, New Deal-style measures to bring about greater equality (such as cash transfers) in favor of qualitative measures to give every citizen an equal starting point in life and to offer the least advantaged better chances to share in the opportunities of American society.

Shlaes is quite correct that this broad aspiration was shared by the Nixon administration, a fact that has largely been forgotten by the left. A comprehensive assessment of the federal initiatives of the 1960s – their successes, failures and missed opportunities – should extend across both Democratic and Republican administrations. But any such historical investigation shouldn’t have all the answers before the questions have been asked.

Kabaservice is the director of political studies at the Niskanen Center and the author of “Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party.”

Lil Nas X on coming out: ‘I wanted to be someone that people are proud of’

The morning before Thanksgiving, Lil Nas X was driving around Atlanta recounting the whirlwind year in which he broke longstanding Billboard chart records, became the biggest gay pop star in the world and scored six Grammy nominations, including best new artist, record and album of the year.

For the whirlwind sensation born Montero Lamar Hill, talking to a journalist by phone while tooling around his hometown constitutes downtime. He has been going nonstop since his country-rap confection “Old Town Road” teleported from silly meme to cultural phenomenon, and he’s still catching his breath.

“I’ve been in a constant state of realization that this is all happening, and I have to remind myself that I deserve anything coming my way,” the 20-year-old singer-rapper says with a sense of wonder that’s discernible despite the 2,000 miles separating us.

Engineered with virality in mind — right down to its lyrics, promotion and many remixes — “Old Town Road” changed our ideas of what pop, hip-hop and country music look and sound like today, and did so on Hill’s own instinctual terms.

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Born on the cusp of the new millennium, Hill has been glued to the internet since adolescence. The youngest of six, he lived with his parents until he was around 6 and moved with his mom and grandmother to Bankhead Courts, a housing project on Atlanta’s west side, before his father got custody of him and his brother a few years later.

Like most Gen Z kids, he sought refuge and community on social media, where he’d spend hours posting funny clips and memes. Hill was always into rap but never considered pursuing music until last spring, as a bored freshman at the University of West Georgia.

His first EP, “Nasarati,” released shortly after leaving school, was a haphazard attempt to establish himself with mostly generic trap songs. It didn’t take off, but it gave him the confidence to continue. After finding a beat on YouTube created by a teenage producer in the Netherlands named YoungKio, Hill bought it for $30 and spent a month writing what became “Old Town Road.”

Wanting an anthemic song with viral appeal, he crafted lyrics built around quotable Western lingo and worked with a banjo sample on the beat (pulled from a Nine Inch Nails cut). He posted it online last December.

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Within months, the song was streamed so often it broke onto the Billboard charts, and Hill’s career went into overdrive. In a matter of weeks, Hill signed to Columbia Records, recorded an “Old Town Road” remix with Billy Ray Cyrus that catapulted the song to No. 1 and quickly turned around his major-label debut EP, “7.”

And he hasn’t slowed since. A few days after we spoke, he was in a West Hollywood photo studio, dressed in a vintage vaquero costume, a nod to the Mexican cowboys of the late 1800s. He braced himself as a stylist carefully topped his head with cowboy hat after cowboy hat that added an extra 3 feet to his slender 6-foot-1 frame. Impressed with the finished look, he broke into YG’s mariachi-flavored trap hit “Go Loco” — rapping and smiling at himself in the mirror as his sister looked on.

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Lil Nas X poses for a portrait at Cactus Cube Studio on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019 in West Hollywood, Calif.

(Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times)

When you started doing music, were the Grammys ever on your mind?
I’m just getting started as an artist, and I know there is so much more to come, but the nominations gave me more validation than I already had given myself.

How did your dad react to you leaving school to rap?
He wasn’t happy about it. Gradually, he eased into supporting me. He was, like, “This is a one-in-a-million thing.” And I told him, “Well, maybe I’m that one.”

You were confident you would break online?
One hundred percent. When I was putting out music before “Old Town Road,” I was using the internet heavily to promote [myself]. I would go to YouTube comments and try to get attention there and on Reddit, Genius, Instagram — everywhere I could. I was known for tweeting memes and stuff like that, and with “Old Town Road” I decided to incorporate the song within those funny videos and test reactions. When you don’t have money, which I did not have, you have to use your best advantage, and that’s what I did.

Do you remember the day “Old Town Road” took off?
Almost from the first second of me putting the snippet out. I tweeted “country music is evolving” with a video [of a man dancing at a rodeo], and it immediately went viral. The song got stagnant at one point, but then TikTok came along and moved the song 100 times faster.

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I knew the song was going to be something from the first time I heard the beat — not that it was going to become a worldwide song or break any records, but I knew it was special. I’d heard a lot of songs, but I’d never heard a song like this.

When Billboard dropped you from the country charts it reignited a conversation about the genre’s relationship with black artists. Did you care?
I didn’t. I honestly didn’t think the conversation was as big as it actually was, and then I thought, “Oh, my God, everything’s centered around me.” Of course, I understood why it was such a big deal, but I was happy that I had people rooting for me. I felt protected.

Most of us don’t have the world watching when we come out, but you did, and you did it as a young black man with the No. 1 song in the country. Did anyone try to talk you out of standing in your truth?
Yeah, there was definitely someone trying. I think it was more of a protective thing than anything else. I had only come out to, like, my sister and my dad in the same month … but I wanted to be someone that people are proud of.

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“I knew the song was going to be something from the first time I heard the beat — not that it was going to become a worldwide song or break any records, but I knew it was special,” Lil Nas X on his record-breaking hit, “Old Town Road.”

(Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times)

How’s the new album coming along?
It’s pretty great, but I’m not going to stop until it’s absolutely incredible. I want to keep it a little more under wraps for now, but I’m working with a lot of new people. I’m most proud of being able to work with Pharrell.

Do you feel any added pressure to deliver the music quickly? The internet has a quick pace when it comes to music.
At first, I was feeling that way. But now I feel like I don’t have to fear that if I don’t rush music out, things are going to go away. The truth is, as long as I put out a song that people want to listen to, I’m going to be fine.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Best of Atlanta 2019: Arts & Culture

See all Best of Atlanta 2019 winners

Shanequa Gay standing in front of the Vine City MARTA station mural
Vine City MARTA station

Photograph by Martha Williams

Best Banner Year: Shanequa Gay

Look on any street corner or in any gallery in Atlanta, and it seems like you’ll find artist Shanequa Gay, whose work ranges from painting to sculpture to performance. This year alone, she’s exhibited work at Chastain Arts Center, the Zuckerman Museum of Art, and the University of North Georgia. The southwest Atlanta native has made it her mission to depict the experiences of people from hybrid cultures, who are often forgotten. Her abstract mural at the Vine City MARTA station recognizes homeless youth throughout the city. The twice-extended Lit Without Sherman, showing at the Hammonds House Museum through December 22, tells the stories of West End residents whose neighborhood is being gentrified.

Lil Nas X

Photograph by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Best Surprise Superstar: Lil Nas X

When teenage rapper Lil Nas X set out to create a country music record, many in the hip-hop and country music worlds guffawed. Now, he’s having the last laugh with his hit song, “Old Town Road.” Even without Billy Ray Cyrus’s appearance, Lil Nas X is certified country. His “Old Town Road” spent 17 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, breaking the previous record held by both Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men’s “One Sweet Day” and 2017’s “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber. Is Lil Nas X a one-hit-wonder or a man on a mission? Only time will tell.

Best Up-and-Coming Director: Tinashe Kajese-Bolden

Atlanta theater fans will recognize Kajese-Bolden from her numerous roles over the years, including turns in Serial Black Face at Actor’s Express and Detroit ’67 at True Colors Theatre. A few years ago, she hopped in the director’s chair, helming an award-winning production of Danai Gurira’s Eclipsed at Synchronicity Theatre. This year, she won a national Princess Grace Award; next, she’ll direct the Off-Broadway hit School Girls; or, the African Mean Girls at True Colors.

Gabrielle Ortiz, Viviana Chavez, and Denise Santos
Left to right: Gabrielle Ortiz, Viviana Chavez, and Denise Santos

Photograph by Ben Rollins

Best Latinx Leaders: New Play Showcases by Latinas in Media Atlanta

According to a study by the University of Southern California, Latinos made up only 4.5 percent of speaking roles in top U. S. films during the last 12 years. This statistic is no surprise to the women behind Latinas in Media Atlanta, an organization whose mission is to “build a community of Latinas in the performing arts to create a platform and advocate the representation of Latin(a/o/x).” For the past couple of years, they’ve produced fall evenings of original one-act plays by Latinx playwrights. Tickets go fast, so follow the Latinas in Media Atlanta Facebook page to find their next show.

Best Museum Redux: Hammonds House Museum

When Leatrice Ellzy Wright became executive director of the Hammonds House Museum two years ago, she was challenged with transforming the historic house into a museum for the 21st century. After a decade of working with the National Black Arts Festival, she was more than ready for the job. Under her tenure, the museum has launched Hammonds House Honors, the city’s only visual art awards for black artists. In addition, last summer’s Dandy Lion: (Re) Articulating Black Masculine Identity photography exhibition (and corresponding cigar and Cognac sampling) introduced new audiences to the museum. January 10 marks the opening of a solo exhibition from mixed-media artist Masud Olufani, who extrapolates narratives around objects typically used to oppress black people. Next summer, Kevin Sipp will curate The Art of Crunk According to Pastor Troy, an exhibition featuring works by photographer Shannon McCollum and rapper Pastor Troy.

Tyler Perry Studios opening Atlanta
Tyler Perry

Photograph by Paul R. Giunta/Getty Images

Best New Movie Studio: Tyler Perry Studios

To celebrate the opening of his new $250 million, 330-acre studio at Fort McPherson in early October, Tyler Perry threw a massive gala that attracted international celebrities like Oprah, Beyoncé, and Hank Aaron. Perry now claims one of the largest studios in the U.S. and is the first black person to own one outright, without partner backing, since Oscar Micheaux in the early 20th century. The studio has 12 soundstages, each named after black Hollywood legends including Sidney Poitier and the late Diahann Carroll, and 21 ready-made sets including a diner, prison yard, mansion, suburban neighborhood, trailer park, courtroom, baseball field, and even the White House, which Perry is using for his new BET series, The Oval. All of this is set among more than 200 acres of sprawling manicured lawns and rolling hills.

Best Instagrammable Exhibitions: Museum of Design Atlanta

Whether it’s displaying couture gowns or a rock star’s guitar, MODA maximizes its small space to create exhibitions that are the source of Insta-envy. The museum’s aesthetic is all about how smart design has made life better and how it will inform the future. Currently on view, The Design of Dissent features posters from political movements around the world. Up next, Full Circle: Design Without End shows how designers and inventors are tackling climate change.

Best Author to Watch: Tayari Jones

Tayari Jones’s novel An American Marriage explores the complicated dynamics between a wife and her husband, who is wrongfully imprisoned, then unexpectedly exonerated, after she has found comfort with the best man at their wedding. The novel became an instant bestseller when Oprah made it her 2018 book club selection and optioned it for a film. Now, Jones teaches creative writing at Emory University and is writing her fifth book, Old Fourth Ward.

Performers hanging from the ceiling during an aerial silk routine

Photograph courtesy of Havoc Movement Company

Best Moves: Havoc Movement Company

The performers at Havoc Movement push the bounds of physical strength to create something that looks like a collision of burlesque, circus, and optical illusion. Cofounders Jake Guinn, Kristen Noonan, and Jake Scott-Hodes want the company to be “a playground for all the physical storytellers in Atlanta,” and they perform on silks and anything they can climb. They’ve got three original productions slated for next year, including their signature piece, Just Another Play About Rainbows. Performances (and classes!) are mainly held at East Point’s Windmill Arts Center.

Best Dance Innovator: Lauri Stallings

Lauri Stallings keeps coming up with new ways to blend visual art, dance, film, and other media to make live art. In 2009, she created Glo, “a nonprofit platform aimed at building relationships across issues, identities, and creative possibilities.” Up until this spring, she and the Glo artists worked out of the Goat Farm Arts Center, which is currently undergoing a $250-million facelift. Her list of accolades is long and includes the 2018 Hudgens Prize, a 2017 MOCA GA Working Artist Fellowship, and an exhibition at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport (on view through the end of the year). Over the summer, she became the High Museum’s first choreographer as artist in residence. Collaborating with Glo, she created Supple Means of Connection, an interactive, live installation about the roles of women in society—which she was invited to show at the 2019 Florence Biennale.

Best Emerging Theater Company: Atlanta Theatre Club

Actress Rebeca Robles noticed that onstage roles for 20-something women were limited to mean girls and babysitters. So she started her own theater company to offer more diverse opportunities for women like herself. From coming-of-age dramas about abortion to quirky comedies about cancer, Atlanta Theatre Club’s lineup includes the best of Off-Off Broadway plays, plus higher-profile works like the Tony Award–nominated Blackbird.

Best Concert to Catch: Algebra Blessett

You only have to hear Algebra Blessett’s singles “U Do It For Me” or “Nobody But You” once for the songs to get stuck in your head. The R&B songstress has been appearing on Atlanta stages for the last two decades, and we hope she never stops. Her voice is soulful, sultry, and sweet with heartbreak and the excitement of new love dripping from every note. She’s lent her vocals to hits such as Esperanza Spalding’s “Black Gold” and Vivian Green’s “Light the Universe.” Blessett runs her own imprint, Slim Frances Music, and sells out dates at City Winery, Center Stage, and other venues throughout the year.

Robert Spano orchestrating
Robert Spano

Photograph courtesy of Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Best Musical Legacy: Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

One of Atlanta’s crown jewels is celebrating its 75th birthday this year. Throughout the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s illustrious history, it has entertained world leaders, brought Oscar Award–winning films to life by performing scores live on stage, and won numerous Grammy Awards. Through collaborations with dancers, authors, and actors, music director Robert Spano has proven that classical music is vital. He founded the Atlanta School of Composers to nurture a new generation—with the symphony performing nearly 100 contemporary works, including seven ASO-commissioned world premieres, two additional world premieres, and one U.S. premiere. This season opened in September with violinist Joshua Bell, and renowned musicians Itzhak Perlman, Midori, Emanuel Ax, and André Watts will join later in the season. Bravo!

Best Neighborhood Bookstore: FoxTale Bookshoppe

Nestled in downtown Woodstock, this charming bookstore carries New York Times bestsellers and the latest releases from Georgia authors that everyone needs to know. Karen Schwettman opened the store in 2007 with her friends as a passion project for their second act. For Schwettman, “the fox tail is a symbol for feminine creative energy.” They’ve run with that baton over the years, hosting a wide variety of authors, such as Fancy Nancy author Jane O’Connor and Dog the Bounty Hunter for book signings. FoxTale also hosts workshops for writers of all ages.

Best Year for Street Art: 2019’s New Murals

When nonprofit Living Walls held its first annual conference in 2010, Atlanta was known for its ambivalence toward street art. Alex Brewer, whose murals have been commissioned by the High Museum, used to deny he was “HENSE.” But, thanks in no small part to Living Walls, which has facilitated more than 100 murals throughout the metro area, the city is now recognized as one of the nation’s best places for viewing street art. Two cases in point: To commemorate last winter’s SuperBowl LIII, the host committee commissioned 30 murals highlighting the city’s civil rights history. And, as part of a major renovation, Peachtree Center commissioned two massive murals: downtown’s largest, Symphony, by French artist Hopare and the rooftop Paradigm Shift, a seemingly three-dimensional installation by German-based artist 1010. (Unfortunately, this piece is visible only from private offices in Peachtree Center—or on the cover of this magazine!)

Best Clandestine Art Space: The Beacon Atlanta in Grant Park

For many years, Grant Street was a sleepy residential street, but no longer. With the arrival of the Beacon, the already-cool Grant Park neighborhood has gotten a little cooler. Noteworthy tenants include Patria Cocina Mexican restaurant, Pin & Proper (a gaming and entertainment venue), a Haute Cookie, the Brazilian-inspired Buteco Coffee & Bar, and Cardinal (our “Best Secret Bar,” page 79). But there are also many artist studios, which offer works for sale, hold classes, and host open studio nights.

EarthGang Atlanta Mirrorland
WowGr8 and Olu

Photograph by Grizz

Best New Album: EarthGang

This rap group’s shoutouts to their hometown may remind you of OutKast. On EarthGang’s first album, Mirrorland, released earlier this year, you’ll find references to Greenbriar Mall, Underground Atlanta, and the I-85 bridge fire. Comparing Atlanta to the Land of Oz from the all-black musical, The Wiz, Olu and WowGr8 believe there’s no place like home.

Chris Devoe with headphones on
Chris Devoe

Photograph by Alec Robertson

Best Experimental Album: Chris Devoe’s With the Moon

At times quiet and chilling, moody and hypnotic, shimmering and sad, With the Moon feels like the lost soundtrack to a story set in rain-slicked alleys and underground EDM clubs. Created by Chris Devoe, a longtime DJ and fixture in Atlanta’s music scene, and released by Adult Swim, the album is bestowed with gifts from guests such as Brooklyn-based avant-pop musician Helado Negro and trailblazing instrumentalist Prefuse 73. It’s a gorgeous swirl of electronica, with streaks of hip-hop and jazz.

Best Sunday Series: Found Stages Wine & Reading Series at Dunwoody Nature Center

Since its inception, Found Stages has produced plays in a ballroom, office, and via text message—yes, you read that correctly. Removing the walls of theater, the group’s mission is to build community through innovative storytelling. The Wine & Reading Series takes the drama to a pavilion among the trees. From spring to fall, it hosts monthly readings of a new work by a local playwright performed by professional actors. “We put a lot of thought and time into how we allow the audience to explore both the story and space, and how to marry them together so that you couldn’t imagine one without the other,” says cofounder and artistic director Nichole Palmietto.

Lace Larrabee pointing at someone in a crowd during her standup performance

Photograph by Lola Scott

Best Comedy Class: Lace’s Laugh Lab

Live comedy has long been a boys club, but stand-up comic Lace Larrabee is out to change that. Through a six-week course, aspiring performers learn the arts of joke writing, stage presence, managing audiences, and more. At the end of the class, they take the stage at the Punchline for an audience of friends, family, and strangers. Sorry fellas, there are no boys allowed in this all-female class.

Best Place for Kids to Act Out: Atlanta Children’s Theatre Company

Spring Mason has coached the next generation of superstars for more than 20 years. She’s helped audition or cast productions on stage and screen, including Broadway tours of the Lion King and Aladdin and productions by Cartoon Network and GPTV. She’s also a mainstay at Horizon Theatre, coproducing its annual production of Madeline’s Christmas. The company offers after-school classes at metro-area elementary schools as well as summer camps.

Best Up-and-Comer: Lil Baby

Since releasing his debut mixtape and signing with Quality Control Records in 2017, 25-year-old rapper Lil Baby has vaulted to the top of Atlanta’s music scene. His first studio album landed at no. 3 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart; one year later, BET named him the Best New Artist of 2019. Next, catch him with Future, Young Thug, and Gunna on Super Slimey 2 and on his second album, scheduled to drop at the end of this year.

HOT HACK
On a budget? Most professional theaters, from Broadway to Peachtree Street, offer discounted preview performances before opening night. For example, Georgia Ensemble play previews cost only $14, less than half of some regular tickets. get.org

HOT HACK
Another budget tip: Signing up for arts venues’ email lists can hold big rewards since most of them share discount codes with subscribers.

Superlative Services

Art lessons at the Beacon Atlanta
In the Artist Cove at the Beacon—a collection of studios that offers work for sale to the public in the evenings—SCAD professor Jena Dost teaches painting, drawing, and sculpting classes for children and adults. For the writers in the room, Buteco coffee shop hosts an open-mic night every Tuesday.

New authors events at Foxtale Book Shoppe
Emerging authors who are self-published or who have been published by a small press can pitch and sell their books at six events throughout the year at this Woodstock venue (for more, see page 94). Any published author can apply.

Young professionals at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
If you’re under 40, the ASO’s BRAVO young professionals program offers networking mixers, free tickets to a Delta Classical Series Concert of your choice, and more perks. For the youngest audience members, the orchestra’s Music for the Very Young concerts are designed for kids under five to dance and sing along.

Readers’ Choice

Best mural
“Rush Hour” by Chris Veal (Boulevard and Edgewood Ave.)

Best local rapper
Killer Mike

Best local band
Zac Brown Band

Best small concert venue
Eddie’s Attic

Best large concert venue
Tabernacle

Best annual festival
Atlanta Pride Festival

Best art gallery
Whitespace Gallery

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RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Monroe County Museum to host reception honoring late artist

Robert Duncanson died in 1872, he had lived in Monroe for a time and was known for his landscape paintings.

On Thursday the Monroe County Museum will host a reception honoring the multiyear effort to recognize the final resting place of renowned artist Robert S. Duncanson.

The event will run from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the museum, with light refreshments followed by remarks from Valerie Mercer, Curator of African American Art and Head of the General Motors Center for African American Art at The Detroit Institute of Arts; Henry Harper, cofounder of the Detroit Fine Arts Breakfast Club; and Dora Kelley, the Monroe resident who spearheaded the initial efforts to locate Duncanson’s grave and install a headstone.

Best known for his landscape paintings, Duncanson passed away in 1872.

Although historical records indicated he and his extended family had been buried in Woodland Cemetery, Duncanson was buried in an unmarked grave in his family’s plot. It’s exact location had been lost to history.

Through the efforts of Kelley, along with assistance from others including Michael Huggins of Woodland Cemetery, and Leo LeClair of LeClair Monuments of Lambertville, a headstone has been installed at Duncanson’s resting place.

Attendees for Thursday’s free event at the museum are encouraged to visit the cemetery following the reception.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Siebel Newsom’s Representation Project raises funds and…

Gov. Gavin Newsom wisely played second fiddle recently at the Ferry Building as his wife and first partner, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, celebrated the ninth anniversary of her gender watchdog organization, the Representation Project, during its Flip the Script gala.

Led by co-chairs Bahya Oumlil-Murad and AT&T Western Region President Ken McNeely, with Representation Project Board President Joanna Rees, 300 supporters raised $475K for the project’s continued efforts to eliminate harmful gender stereotypes from our culture.

The evening also featured three young filmmakers who created short films last summer during the project’s Summer Youth Media Academy in Oakland. And Siebel Newsom’s efforts to inspire those youth garnered her the inaugural Founder’s Award. Then she and her husband dived into a delightful onstage tete-a-tete about her latest film, “The Great American Lie.”

“How dare you! What do you mean ‘The Lie’? This is America,” joked Gov. Newsom. “This is America. And God bless America and no one else.”

Siebel Newsom explained that her new film examines the root cause of systemic inequity and a belief system rooted in the idea that future success is determined by the color of one’s skin or the ZIP code where one was born.

“Representation Project is about values: about reminding people of our human connectivity, so we see the humanity in each other,” she said. “That goal could heal so many of the nation’s problems if we can redefine the American Dream.”

Honoree Lloyd Dean (left) and the late Bernard Tyson at MoAD’s Afropolitan Ball. Oct. 19, 2019. Photo: Drew Alitzer / Drew Altizer Photography

Photo: Drew Alitzer / Drew Altizer Photography

Honoree Lloyd Dean (left) and the late Bernard Tyson at MoAD’s Afropolitan Ball. Oct. 19, 2019.

Many rivers: Since its 2005 founding, the Museum of the African Diaspora recently reveled in its most successful fundraiser ever as 400 guests, led by event chairs Beryl Potter and Robin Washington, raised a whopping $1.6 million for MoAD arts and education programs during the Afropolitan Ball.

The setting in City View at Metreon drew inspiration from artist Rashaad Newsome, who previewed large-scale projections from his video work inspired by the 1980s Harlem dance craze, “Vogue,” on view at MoAD through March 2020.

But the elegant evening’s beating heart was embodied by philanthropist Lloyd Dean, who received the museum’s Visionary in Philanthropy Award from his late friend, Bernard Tyson, the Kaiser Permanente CEO who unexpectedly, and sadly, died a few weeks later.

Swathed in a dazzling sequined blazer, Dean, CEO of CommonSpirit Health, was recognized for his impact on the health care system and excellence in leadership in the black community.

“This museum has a powerful role in educating youth and presenting our history — the world’s history — through many different lenses. Unique stories, that combined together, bring us to the totality of humanity and the world,” toasted Dean. “I pray we continue to have an entity like MoAD that can unite us from so many different places of origin.”

Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis and George Marcus at the Elios Foundation's Hellenic Charity Ball. Nov. 16, 2019. Photo: Drew Altizer / Drew Altizer Photography

Photo: Drew Altizer / Drew Altizer Photography

Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis and George Marcus at the Elios Foundation’s Hellenic Charity Ball. Nov. 16, 2019.

Opa!: Philhellenes from around the globe (that’s a Greek lover, to you and me) turned out in force recently at the St. Francis Hotel as shouts of “Opa!” rang out during the biennial Hellenic Charity Ball.

And a sold-out crowd of 500 black-tie revelers raised a record $530K for the Elios Charitable Foundation and its mission to preserve and foster the values of Hellenic culture.

Led by actor Marilu Henner, with Elios President John Gumas and generous sponsors Judy and George Marcus, the lively fete honored Greek American artists: actor Dennis Boutsikaris; screenwriter George Pelecanos; Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancer Constance Stamatiou; and DreamWorks Animation director Aliki Theofilopoulos.

Art collector Pamela Joyner at the de Young Museum opening of “Soul of a Nation” exhibition. Nov. 7, 2019. Photo: Catherine Bigelow / Special To The Chronicle

Photo: Catherine Bigelow / Special To The Chronicle

Art collector Pamela Joyner at the de Young Museum opening of “Soul of a Nation” exhibition. Nov. 7, 2019.

Soul train: One of the hottest exhibitions in town, “Soul of the Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power” (through March 15), is attracting art-loving hordes to the de Young Museum.

The show was organized by Tate Modern in London and curated here by Timothy Burgard. Advance interest was so high that Fine Arts Museums Executive Director Tom Campbell hosted two opening-night previews to accommodate show sponsors and museum members.

This version of the exhibition has a special emphasis on race and identity politics that connect to the Bay Area experience of that turbulent mid-sixties era. Among the 150 works by 60-plus artists, at least four were loaned by philanthropists Pamela Joyner and her husband, Fred Guiffrida, early collectors of such artists as Sam Gilliam.

“This show is rewriting the history of these black artists who were systematically overlooked and contextualized in their own time,” explains Joyner. “Now many of these artists are finally recognized for their contributions. As important, it also highlights the universality of the work and the voice and aesthetic of individual artists. This show is a game-changer.”

Willie Brown celebrates his portrait unveiling with former San Francisco first lady Gina Moscone. Nov. 27, 2019. Photo: Drew Altizer / Drew Altizer Photography

Photo: Drew Altizer / Drew Altizer Photography

Willie Brown celebrates his portrait unveiling with former San Francisco first lady Gina Moscone. Nov. 27, 2019.

Pretty as a picture: Da Mayor Willie Brown celebrated his 85th natal day way back in March. But it took until Nov. 27 for his pal, Academy of Art University President Elisa Stephens to finally figure out what to gift this storied politician and charismatic clothes hound who has almost everything.

“Then it struck me,” she said, with a laugh, during a McCalls lunch at her 79 Montgomery St. campus. “What better gift for Willie Brown than his own portrait — for a guy who, frankly, likes himself a lot?”

She drafted Craig Nelson, executive director of painting and printmaking for the academy’s School of Fine Arts, who created a spot-on likeness of his Willieness.

“Craig expertly captured the lines of resilience and perseverance etched in the face of this former shoe-shiner who grew up in Mineola, a small segregated East Texas town,” toasted Stephens. “And we also see the man Willie Brown became: a visionary leader who helped restore our museums, bring Mission Bay to life and gave us a downtown ballpark.”

Catherine Bigelow is The San Francisco Chronicle’s society correspondent. Email: missbigelow@sfgate.com Instagram: @missbigelow

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

UAW Names Rory Gamble As President, The First African American To Lead Union

Rory Gamble was unanimously as president by the executive board at the United Auto Workers union Thursday. Paul Sancya/AP hide caption

toggle caption

Paul Sancya/AP

Rory Gamble was unanimously as president by the executive board at the United Auto Workers union Thursday.

Paul Sancya/AP

Members of the United Auto Workers executive board Thursday approved Rory Gamble as president of the union through June 2022.

He was elevated from his acting role and will serve the rest of the term vacated by former president Gary Jones, who resigned last month after being implicated in a years-long federal investigation looking into embezzlement and bribery at the union.

Gamble, 64, was unanimously confirmed by the UAW’s International Executive Board, according to a union spokesperson. Gamble previously spent a dozen years as a regional director at the union before being elected vice president. He was appointed last year to lead the union’s Ford Department.

In recent weeks, Gamble has pledge to move quickly to implement ethics and other reforms in an attempt to restore credibility to the union that represents more than 400,000 members.

Some of those reforms included “a clawback provision to recover misspent money; new financial controls including auditing and identifying and implementing stronger financial management practices,” according to UAW a statement.

For his part, Gamble said it was “an honor to complete my career and serve the members in this great union.” He also alluded to the challenging circumstances that lead to his appointment.

“This wasn’t planned and it is a tall order. There are difficult decisions that will need to be made in the coming months for our members,” Gamble said in a news release. “But I promise one thing, when I retire and turn over this office, we will deliver a clean union on solid footing.”

Gamble started his career repairing welding equipment, according to the Detroit Free Press, which also notes that he “makes history as the Union’s first African-American president.” The paper also notes:

“Gamble led negotiations for the union as it inked a deal for a new four-year contract with Ford, the second agreement the union negotiated with the Detroit Three during this year’s bargaining. The union announced on Wednesday that its deal with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles would go to members for a vote beginning Friday.”

As NPR has reported, Jones, his predecessor, abruptly resigned last month as UAW leaders threatened to expel him and another top union official as the FBI continues investigating a scheme involving illegal payoffs to top officials at the UAW by Fiat Chrysler.

When the UAW elected Jones in 2018, “he had been chosen as a president as he seemed removed from the scandal,” Reuters reported last month.

By late August, the FBI raided Jones’ home along with other UAW officials, Michigan Radio Sarah Cwiek reported, adding: “The move signals a widening of the ongoing investigation into corruption within the UAW ranks, as well as accomplices within the business community, including the three Detroit automakers.”

In all, eight former UAW and Fiat Chrysler employees have pleaded guilty to charges related to misusing funds.

Buncombe receives early childhood health report, musical garden opens at Charles D. Owen Park

State report compares Buncombe’s early childhood health benchmarks

As part of its Early Childhood Action Plan, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services released reports on over 50 measures of health outcomes for every county in North Carolina on Nov. 12. Buncombe County’s report showed many numbers in line with the rest of the state but some that bode poorly for the county’s youngest residents.

Among Buncombe’s biggest differences with other counties was the mortality rate among its black infants. While 12.7 African American babies die during the first year of life per 1,000 live births on average in North Carolina, that number is 19.6 per 1,000 in Buncombe County. Moreover, the county’s rate has doubled since 2012, when it was 9.8 per 1,000.

Buncombe bested other counties on metrics such as early childhood wellness visits, asthma care, injury emergency room visits and childhood reading ability. Members of the county’s Health and Human Services presented an update on the Community Health Improvement Plan, which includes lowering infant mortality as one of two key targets (alongside improving mental health), to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners on Dec. 3.

New musical garden opens at Charles D. Owen Park

Charles D. Owen Park musical garden