In this episode of Peachtree Corners Life, Rico Figliolini video chats with Jane Park, pro golfer and upcoming player in the 67th KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Coming to Atlanta in 2021, this championship golf tournament will have the largest purse in women’s golfing history. Listen in as Rico and Jane talk about her history in the sport, training at a young age, her preparation for this historic event, and her life in Georgia.
But, obviously, with the work that KPMG does with their leadership summit and their charitable initiative to help future girls get development and advancement and empowerment through women’s golf. It could be a great stepping stone to empowering little girls and women and helping us maybe reach that equal pay in the golf life.jane Park
Major championship golf returns to Georgia in 2021 when the Atlanta Athletic Club hosts the 67th KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. The event combines an annual major championship with the KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit and an ongoing charitable initiative called the KPMG Future Leaders Program – all focused on the development, advancement, and empowerment of women on and off the golf course.
Founded in 1898, this will be the second women’s major championship hosted by Atlanta Athletic Club, which was the site of the 1990 U.S. Women’s Open, won by Betsy King. The 2021 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship will be played on the Highlands course, which has also played host to three PGA Championships – 1981 (won by Larry Nelson), 2001 (David Toms) and 2011 (Keegan Bradley) and the 1976 U.S. Open won by Jerry Pate.
The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship – a collaboration between the PGA of America, KPMG and the LPGA – offers a purse among the highest in women’s golf. It is broadcast in partnership with NBC and Golf Channel.
The championship began in 1955 and was known as the LPGA Championship from 1955 to 2014. Since 2015, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship has been played at Westchester Country Club, Sahalee Country Club, Olympia Fields Country Club, Kemper Lakes Golf Club and Hazeltine National Golf Club. The 2020 championship will be played at Aronimink Golf Club in Philadelphia with Australia’s Hannah Green defending her title against the strongest field in golf.
Rico: [00:00:30] Hi everyone. This is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life here in the city of Peachtree Corners in the great state of Georgia. Today this morning, at nine’o’clock. If you’re listening in soon, we’re starting with a really cool guest. She’s been in the pro golf business, if you will, for, since she was 11 years old. So I’m going to introduce Jane Park with me. Jane Park. Hey, Jane. Jane is a pro golfer with the PGA. Great. Thank you. And we’re discussing today, the reason we’re talking, she lives in Woodstock, close enough to Peachtree Corners that we could say she’s, she’s part of the city, if you will. And because there’s going to be a returning championship that she’s going to be part of coming in 2021 and coming just a few minutes North of us at the Atlanta Athletic club, and that’s the 67th KPMG women’s PGA championship that’s returning to Georgia. It’s actually going to have the largest, a women’s purse, I think right.
Jane: [00:01:44] Yes. One of the largest women’s purses. First place is $645,000. So that’s a good.
Rico: [00:01:55] That’s a great pay though. Yes, for sure. And I think the whole purse takes like 3.8, 5 million.
Jane: [00:02:02] I think it’s about 4.3 million..
Rico: [00:02:05] Wow. Okay. That’s grown even more than before. So this is the largest Women’s purse, if you will, in history it seems.
Jane: [00:02:16] I think there’s one that’s slightly bigger, but this is definitely one of the biggest.
Rico: [00:02:21] And that’s a shame because really, I mean, since title I forget, was titled on a title 11. Women have, girls have grown into sports like soccer and other sports coffers. No, no different than that. I believe there are high schools that have women’s golf teams in stuff, and yet the purse’s continued to be smaller than the men’s it seems sometimes. And I, and I’m sure you would love to see that a little bigger.
Jane: [00:02:51] Yeah, for sure. For sure. Maybe a, you know, one day. One day the ladies can play for just as much as the men, but unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll see it in my lifetime. But, obviously, you know, with the work that KPMG does with their leadership summit and their charitable initiative to help, you know, future girls get, you know, development and advancement and empowerment through women’s golf. It could be, you know, a great stepping stone to empowering little girls and women and helping us maybe reach that, you know, equal pay in the golf life. So hopefully one day.
Rico: [00:03:34] Yeah, that would, that would be the right way of going. Now you, you started, you’re born in Chicago. You started at 11 years old putting cuffs with, tell me a little bit about that.
Jane: [00:03:50] I was at a law firm was the, well, you know, when I first started I didn’t really have a love for the game. My older brother was playing. He’s three years older than I am and he was playing and had my dad as a coach. So I pretty much just followed along. And, it was kinda my dad to take me to the golf course and babysit me. So I just got super bored one day just rolling down the hills, you know, like being a kid. So my dad just put a club in my hand and I guess I was a natural when I first started. So he focused his attention, he shifted his attention from my brother to me. So that’s kind of how I got started. You know, hitting a couple balls a day and then kind of making it, you know, hitting more balls, every day. But you know, eventually I wanted to get a scholarship to school. She’s a big Heller family and my goal was to get to UCLA and I was able to reach that goal, so I was very happy about that.
Rico: [00:05:04] Well that paid for college, and I’m assuming that.
Jane: [00:05:07] Yes, yes, it did. It did. Yeah.
Rico: [00:05:11] I’m curious now, because obviously you’re the natural in the family, it seems that your brother’s still like, does he play golf still?
Jane: [00:05:22] He does not, I beat him. I think that was when his love for the game kind of went, okay, well if my little sister can beat me, then I probably shouldn’t really do this anymore. Wow.
Rico: [00:05:36] That’s cool, yeah. Every kid in the family is different. You know, they all, we all have different aspirations in silence. God knows I have three kids and they will differ from each other. Well, they’re older now, so think of this. They will graduate and they live at home, but you know, it’s okay. I don’t mind the noise around the house. But the, so you, I think, you’ve been playing for 13 years now.
Jane: [00:06:08] Yes. So this’ll be this coming 2020, will be my 13th season. So 13th year on the professional tour.
Rico: [00:06:17] I’m sure at the beginning it wasn’t that easy. Right? I mean, a lot more practice.
Jane: [00:06:21] You know what, I actually got really lucky my first few years. I actually had a few good results and I didn’t really go through the growing pains, if you might say. You know, being a newbie on tour. But, you know, the growing pains came a few years after where when I thought, you know, “Oh, I played so well my first few years. It’s just going to be a smoother ride from here now.” But, you know, all golfers will know that you go into kind of slumps and you know, you play well a few weeks and then all of a sudden the next week, you can’t. Even make contact with the ball sometimes. So, you know, it’s definitely been a learning process. I definitely learn something different every year that I’m on tour. And I’m very, very thankful that I’ve been able to have, you know, a pretty relatively long career out here on the LPGA compared to, you know, some of the other players on tour.
Rico: [00:07:28] You know, it’s interesting to me. I mean, I’m sure you know, you would think younger people, I mean, you’re not old. You’re young still 24 maybe or something. Are you like 23?
Jane: [00:07:42] 33
Rico: [00:07:46] Oh well, sorry.
Jane: [00:07:48] That’s okay. It’s very flattering.
Rico: [00:07:52] But still 33 is not old.
Jane: [00:07:53] I mean, you know, it’s not in golf age. I’m pretty ancient actually.
Rico: [00:07:59] Oh, man. All right. Well, you know what? It’s like the Alta tennis players right there. They age at 70 they’ll still be on the court as long as they could spot that ball. So, you know, learning every year, new things I used still. So do you, I heard that recently you were being coached by someone here in Georgia as well. The, does that help having, is it like anything else? Like, you know, sales is like that. Other sports is like that where you need to revisit to a coach to teach you a little bit more?
Jane: [00:08:35] Yeah. I think it’s itself, it’s all part of, you know, as a professional, you’re trying to reach perfection and obviously it’s not possible. But the aspect of trying to get better every day, if you need someone to kind of guide you, because if I’m doing it, if I’m doing this all on my own, then I honestly don’t really have, I don’t really have enough knowledge to teach myself. So having someone who, and my coach, his name is Scott Hamilton, and he’s up in Cartersville, Georgia. And he’s, he teaches many, many players on the men’s tour and a few on the women’s tour as well. But he’s so knowledgeable and just kind of gives me, you know, a drill or two to work on between our lessons. So it just kinda, it’s almost like kind of keeping someone interested with a little tidbit to work on, you know, so you know, if he didn’t have any type of guidance or any type of direction then it would be hard to really work on something to improve yourself.
Rico: [00:09:46] So every young person or parent watching this as they have young kids at sports, they know that they need a coach somewhere.
Jane: [00:09:54] But also you can’t have, you need to be careful that you don’t find the wrong coach. Cause there’s a lot of them out there.
Rico: [00:10:01] Oh yeah. With thanks. Just like any other business. So, when you started out younger than, I mean, your dad was your initial coach, I guess. When did you actually get a coach? A real, not a real coach, but like a professional coach. At what point did that happen
Jane: [00:10:21] You know, I was very lucky in that my father was a huge golf nerd. And he read every single book known to man. And, you know, in terms of golf. So he read, you know, Jack Nicholas, his book, he watched videos and tapes and he learned the fundamentals that way. And, you know, just like any other sport, the fundamentals are the most important foundation of whatever game you’re playing. So he had, he was very knowledgeable in terms of trying to teach me those basics and you know, got me pretty far. But my first coach was, his name is Scott Wilson, and I started working with him when I was about 15. So I would say I had my first PGA professional coach at 15. So, yeah, in a long time since then.
Rico: [00:11:19] You do you have, do you do, if you had, I don’t know if you have children yet or not, and if you do, if you end up, would you encourage them to be in the same sport?
Jane: [00:11:32] Absolutely. I think, I would. My husband is actually is super into golf. He’s actually a golf caddy on the women’s tour, so we get to travel together. But yes, he loves golf. And I think he would love nothing more than to go play golf with his little girl or his little boy.
Rico: [00:11:53] Right, right. Yeah, that would be cool. Yeah let’s get back a little bit to the KPMG and then we’ll talk a little bit more about that. You, your growth as well, but I don’t, I just want to make sure that we cover the championship well enough here. Tell me a little bit more about the KPMG women’s PGA championship that’s going to be coming in 21 to Georgia, to the Atlanta athletic?
Jane: [00:12:18] Well, the KPMG women’s PGA, it’s one of five LPGA majors and the men only have four majors, but you know, the ladies, we’ve got five. So I mean, that’s a little better, I guess. It’s a pretty unique collaboration of the PGA of America, the LPGA and KPMG. And for, I think it’s, I think this is going to be its sixth year as a major. But they basically, you know, the three of them. The three, PGA of America, LPGA and KPMG come together and just host this world class event. And the first time I played the KPMG, I think, I remember thinking to myself, wow, I feel like a PGA tour player, which is. You know, it’s an experience that you can never get unless you were a player in a PGA tournament. But you know, from beginning to end, it’s first-class. We get, you know, our own courtesy car. They have world-class chefs that come in and cook for us. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I mean, I just, I’m getting hungry thinking about it now. But, you know, 2016 was its inaugural KPMG event. The first KPMG women’s PGA and, you know, it’s one of the strongest fields in all of the LPGA schedule. And yeah, I mean, there, it’s going to be broadcasted on NBC and golf channel. It’s going to be on some major networks and you know, pure, if you’re out in the Atlanta area and if you want to see some really great golf, please come to Atlanta athletic club in 2021 and we’re giving you a very large heads up on this, so there’s no reason you can’t make it.
Rico: [00:14:23] Yes. The, they’ve had some big tournaments at the Atlanta athletic club.
Jane: [00:14:31] Yes.
Rico: [00:14:32] I’m looking forward to it. I’m not, you know, anyone that knows me, I’m not a golfer per se, but I can drive the ball a little bit. Prof is good for me, but I don’t mind being on the green watching. That’ll be cool to be up to be out there. So are you, you know, you have, you have two years or a year and a half, I guess, working towards that. Right? There’s going to be 400 players, the guests that run through that now. So what are you planning on doing to get ready for it?
Jane: [00:15:08] Well, I’m, I mean, I’ve played the Atlanta athletic club I think only once or twice. And it’s quite far from where I live. But I might be making a few trips over there. There’s obviously so much history there. It goes into the golf course. It’s got a world-class practice facility, which is amazing. And they’ve hosted, you know, numerous men’s majors and, you know, their most recent men’s major that they held at this course was won by Keegan Bradley, the PGA championship in 2011. So, and they also had the U.S. men’s amateur championship there in 2014. So it’s definitely one of those major championship rotation golf courses.
Rico: [00:16:00] So if you’ve, for parents that have young kids maybe interested in golf and stuff, or sports, but golf in particular, probably. What would you say to them? What would the, what would Jane Park’s advice be?
Jane: [00:16:17] My advice would be a few things. Find a good coach, someone who’s knowledgeable, someone who knows what they’re talking about. But mostly, I would say make the sport fun for your kid, because obviously, you know, a lot of, a lot of kids and parents and kids have a goal, maybe more of the parents school to, you know, get them, get the kid in a sport and get a scholarship to college, which is huge. But you know, even if the kids’ aspirations are just to get a college scholarship, that it’s a lot of pressure to put on a kid. And, I’ve seen so many young players, young talented players who just get burned out so quickly because of the pressure that they feel from their parents, from their coaches. And just, you know the kids are very, very competitive nowadays. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but kids are very competitive and that’s not a bad thing. But I think a lot of positive energy and a lot of, you know, the right type of support, you know. Be a parent and let someone else be the coach because I’ve seen this way too many times where the parent becomes the coach and there is no distinction between a parent and a child. It’s just a parent and a coach, or sorry, a child and a coach.
Rico: [00:17:49] That makes a lot of sense. Yeah. I’ve had my kids go through baseball, soccer, lacrosse, if it’s sports. You learn better, I think a child learns better from a coach than this sometimes. Cause you take it, it’s a different space to take it
Jane: [00:18:07] 100%.
Rico: [00:18:08] Yeah. I can agree with that. Just a couple of… We’re getting towards the end of our time and I want to be able to let you go on time, but I thought maybe we should, we could go
through a couple of quick things. Jane Park and her personal interests and stuff. Do you have a dog?
Jane: [00:18:30] I don’t have a dog.
Rico: [00:18:31] You don’t have a dog.
Jane: [00:18:33] I cap away too much, so I can’t take care of a dog.
Rico: [00:18:40] Do you have a favorite food or foodie thing that you want?
Jane: [00:18:42] I am a foodie. I honestly, whenever my mom’s around when she’s around right now, she’s here in my house. I ate Korean food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. My mom was born in Korea. Yes.
Rico: [00:19:00] You get to eat authentic Korean.
Jane: [00:19:02] I will not turn down a Chicago deep dish though. I mean, you put that in front of me and it will be gone.
Rico: [00:19:09] Chicago?
Jane: [00:19:10] Oh yeah.
Rico: [00:19:10] Yeah. My parents were born in Italy, so growing up with the town.
Jane: [00:19:15] Wow. I’m so jealous. I’ve never been to Italy and it is on my bucket list and I just eat pasta.
Rico: [00:19:23] You need to go. She’s telling me she took the year off and she traveled the world and her favorite, one of her favorite places was Italy. So actually it’s not, we need some, sorry, she’s Korean. Her husband is so different. Are you a waffle house fan?
Jane: [00:19:39] Yeah. I have one that’s almost walkable to my house. Oh, real big.
Rico: [00:19:44] Cool. What’s your favorite part of Georgia? Do you like about your, what? Why did you move to Woodstock?
Jane: [00:19:53] Well, honestly, my favorite part of Georgia is we get four seasons here. And so I moved here from California, and obviously it’s beautiful in California. It’s 75 and sunny every day. But, you know, moving here, I saw snow, you know, for, not for the first time, but I mean, coming from California, you never really see snow. But, you know, waking up one morning and then having everything covered in snow, I mean, that’s just, it’s so beautiful. I love that we get
fall. I mean, fall is so beautiful and in the state of Georgia. But mostly, I mean, I came here because obviously the cost of living is great compared to California, but also, Atlanta Hartsfield is a great airport to my out of tour work. I mean, it’s awesome everywhere, you know, nonstop.
Rico: [00:20:54] So it’s definitely a hub for everyone. My son just left this morning to go to Miami I think for work and it’s, it’s a great place to go from. All right, hang in there for a minute. We’re going to close it out through our Facebook live stream to our fans out there who share, if you all watching, this has been Jane Parks. She’s a LPGA pro golfer. You can follow her actually. What did you, what Instagram?
Jane: [00:21:23] Instagram. I’m @TheJanePark. And on Twitter I’m the same @TheJane Park.
Rico: [00:21:29] the Jane Park. That’s amazing that you got that. That was cool. So follow her on Instagram and you can scroll through until whenever, and you can see her playing in 2021, that the 60, 57th, KPMG women’s PGA championship at the Atlanta athletic club. Thank you guys.
How will State Senate Candidate Matt Reeves Help Peachtree Corners
Republican State Senate District 48 candidate Matt Reeves joins host Rico Figliolini on Peachtree Corners Life podcast to discuss COVID-19, the Governor’s response, mask-wearing, social justice, police reforms, Black Lives Matters, kids going back to school, education funding, state ethics and why he’s running for the State Senate.
[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:02:16] – About Matt
[00:07:01] – Thoughts on COVID
[00:13:26] – Education Issues
[00:16:31] – Budget Cuts
[00:18:55] – Black Lives Matter, Immigrants, and Minorities
[00:26:55] – Police Force
[00:32:47] – Term Limits
[00:34:55] – Ethics in Government
[00:38:38] – Closing
Social Media: @MattReevesGA
“We all chose this area because of the strong schools, jobs, safe communities, good health care. And I want to make sure that all those quality of life pillars of our community are strong going forward.”Matt Reeves
Recorded socially safe online and in the City of Peachtree Corners, Georgia
Rico: [00:00:30] Hi everyone. This is Rico Figliolini host of Peachtree Corners Life. And, I appreciate you coming to the show. We’re doing this socially safe in the city of Peachtree Corners. And before we get to our guest, who’s on screen. Matt Reeves. Hey Matt, how are you?
Matt: [00:00:45] Hello.
Rico: [00:00:46] I’ll introduce him and go in to introduce himself. But first, before we get into that, I want to just talk about our lead sponsor, Hargray Fiber. They’re a Southeastern company that does fiber optics for the business community and for consumers. But the fiber side of it is delivering the type of speed and services necessary for small businesses and large businesses, enterprise businesses, to do their work in this teleworking environment, during the COVID-19. And hopefully, and providing services, unlike the cable companies. Really they’re right there community and they’re providing a lot of things in the community. They are very involved in every community they’re in, whether it’s Savannah, Peachtree Corners, Macon Georgia all over the Southeast, Tallahassee, Florida, they are there. So visit HargrayFiber.com or Hargray.com/business to find out how you can work your smart office and work with them. So now that we’ve done that, I want to tell you that we’re going to be discussing a lot of issues over the next 30 to 40 minutes with Republican State Senate candidate, Matt Reeves. We’re going to be discussing issues of the day; COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, state ethics, term limits, all sorts of things. We’re going to be going back and forth on this, but before we get into all that, I’d like to have Matt introduce himself and tell us why we should be listening to him as a candidate for State Senate.
Matt: [00:02:16] Thanks Rico and great to connect with folks in the audience from Peachtree Corners. Definitely want to be a great advocate for Peachtree Corners in Gwinnett County, in North Bolton, in the States Senate. My name is Matt Reeves. I’m a resident of Duluth for the last 17 years. So I live right next door in Gwinnett County. I have practiced law business and real estate litigation at Anderson St. Cornwall firm for about 17 years. I went to university of Georgia law school before that, and then Mercer undergrad to college before that. My wife Suzette and I, and our three kids who are eleventh grade, eighth grade and fifth grade. Live in the Duluth, we’re active in the community. And I just want to serve our community and keep the quality of life strong in Peachtree Corners, Duluth, Swanee, Lawrenceville, Johns Creek, part of Alpharetta, part of Norcross, for the next generation. We all chose this area because of the strong schools, jobs, safe communities, good health care. And I want to make sure that all those quality of life pillars of our community are strong going forward. The State Senate has 35 Republicans and 21 Democrats. I’m reaching out to independents, to centrist Democrats as well as Republicans, to be a good advocate for our community, because I believe I can get more done for Peachtree Corners in the State Senate on the Republican side of the aisle. I know there are a couple of issues, Rico that you’ve selected, but just, you know, one thing to know is, I spent some time at the Capitol years ago, was a lawyer for the house judiciary committee in 2008. I worked with Wendell Willer, who was the, one of the leaders on the new cities movement, which Peachtree corners benefited greatly from. Chairman Tom Rice was laying the
groundwork for the work in the legislature for Peachtree Corners as was Senator David Schaefer in 2008, when I was down there. Dunwoody was the city that was spearheaded during the session that I was down there. But, I got to see the early stages of Peachtree Corners. And over the last eight years, Peachtree Corners definitely has been a leader in our region, as a new city and I look forward to being an effective advocate and a bipartisan problem-solver on behalf of Peachtree Corners in the state Senate. And I hope to earn people’s support, in the community for this, competitive State Senate seat.
Rico: [00:04:32] Yeah, I’m glad you, you came on with me. I remember doing this from home. I think about two, two and a half years ago during the campaign in 2018, when you ran the first time. And that was, you know, during the, was it the blue wave, we shall say. Democrats coming into, house seats in positions. 2020 is a little different. You know, I don’t know if that, if that still will go on. So this is a proven, this is going to be a test, right. To some degree to see what the voters want. And so this is good way to be able to talk to you and, and see if, if your points of view is what the voters here want in 2020.
Matt: [00:05:12] And I, politics, and partisan politics, changes like the weather. I think what, folks in Peachtree Corners and Gwinnett County, what they ask is who can do the best job for them in this particular office. And, that’s what I’m focusing on in the States Senate race. Who can do the best job for Peachtree Corners in the State Senate seat for the benefit of our schools. The safety of our communities, transportation solutions, health care, the things that are important to us and make our communities strong. Who can be a better advocate in the State Senate. And, you know, David Shaffer was the president pro-tem of the Senate. He was number one out of 50 senators. The, the Democrat who won in 2018 got put on the agriculture committee, which is not exactly the kind of position Peachtree Corners wants to have down there in the Senate and then wait for higher office. And it’s an open seat again. So we get to make a choice about for the next two years, who can serve Peachtree Corners and tackle the issues that face our homeowners and, and, voters, families, and small businesses in Peachtree Corners and be a good advocate in this turbulent time where you’ve got, you know, COVID-19, you’ve got civil unrest. Who can lead the way and make sure Georgia remains number one in jobs, has increasing number of jobs with health insurance coverage. You know, there’s no government program any better for an adult then a job is. There’s no government program, any better for a child than a family is. I think state government ought to do a few things and do them well and keep a climate where we have, where we continue to be, attractive for employers and jobs so that, families can meet their, their needs and have their kids, getting educated and going to college and have a bright future in the job market. That’s my goal, in the State Senate.
Rico: [00:07:01] Yeah. And it’s interesting cause it’s, it is certainly a different look at it. More conservative, look at it. I do believe in personal responsibilities, but I also believe government is there to do certain things. Certainly I believe the federal government you’re spearheaded more than they have during the COVID-19 time. But you know, different points of views. And this is what this is about. An election in 2020, different than any other election in our history for a simple matter that lot of people may not be going to the polls in person, right? They’re going to
be mailed ballots. I mean, Georgia put out over 6 million absentee ballot requests forms, and over a million responded, more than any, you know, I think it was 10 to 12 times more than any other year in fact. So that may still happen November third. We may still end up doing that, seeing that happen because of COVID-19. So staying on the issue of COVID-19, do you think Governor Kemp has done the right job in, in, in the approach that he has done? Would you do anything different? Do you see the State Senate providing any other leadership in this from your point of view?
Matt: [00:08:09] Going forward, what, what I would do, as a State Senator is to make sure that the 95% or more of the population that has not directly encountered COVID, that they have their healthcare needs attended to without disruption. This has been an unexpected, invisible enemy that has attacked us. We’ve handled things on an urgent basis, but, it troubles me to see that a hundred percent of the resources in health care and in, you know, the government part of the government that deals with healthcare is devoted to COVID, when we got folks with diabetes, heart conditions, cancer, many other elective surgery. I talked to somebody this week who has had a thyroid procedure delayed since March, due to COVID issues. And I want to make sure that we definitely attack COVID to preserve lives and livelihoods, but also, make sure that healthcare needs for the other 95% of the population are attended to. And, you know, part of that is, making sure that we’re smart about how we open back up. You know, it sounds like right now, the thing that has gotten us up at the top in Gwinnett County, and then you look in Texas and Houston, we have a very, strong young population and, people like my mother-in-law and people, my age and older have heeded, the warnings. I’ve got my, I’ve got my UGA mask and you know, if I’m out in doors in public, I’ve got that mask on. My office has adopted a protocol from a local engineering firm that is working well here. We get the memo and the middle age and up here in Gwinnett County, but young people have, I think, too rapidly, disregarded social distancing and other health cautions for COVID. And also translating into multigenerational families, who, with English as a second language, I think that we need to do a better job of reaching out. Because both in Atlanta, as well as Houston and some other major Metro areas. Those are two areas, I heard Dr. Arona, the Gwinnett County and Rockdale and Newton health director, this, this week, mentioned that. That Wilburn and Norcross, the testing centers there, you see a lot of multigenerational families, with English as second language, getting hit hard by COVID. So we need to literally communicate in a credible and strong way, that’s easy to understand for our diverse population. I think that will turn the curve. You know, back in March and April the focus nationally and in Georgia was bending the curve. And we did that for a large portion of the population, but we are now a top 15 Metro area in the country. And Gwinnett County is leading Atlanta in cases because I think in large part of young people, as well as they…
Rico: [00:11:02] We’re a larger population. We’re a larger population too, right? The biggest County in the state. I mean, when I drive by CVS that’s right near here on certain days, there will be 15 cars wrapped around that building. So people doing the testing. We’re still some of the, some of the testing. It has to be referred testing it seems. So you have to be symptomatic to a degree. The doctor has to send you there. In some places you don’t have to be symptomatic.
Like Georgia Tech, Walgreens, I think will accept and do testing for you if you’re asymptomatic. You know, there’s that, but for a long time too, I know some of the cities that, it’s difficult to mandate a mask, I guess, right to some degree? Cause if you’ve mandated, you have to penalize it. If you’re not wearing it, right? Cause otherwise does that work or not? Now I’ve had the discussion with my son about this and he brings up a good point. He says, well, Yes. Sure. Do you cite people $50 or $75 for that ticket? Or does the governor mandate it and even if no one gets cited for it, right? There’s a different feel about being, saying that the mask is mandated and people will understand then maybe that they really do need to wear that mask. You know, so sometimes it’s perception, right? It’s the, the lens that you look through it. But we need to do something because it’s just not, I mean, I go out with the mask all the time, I guess I’m part of that demo.
Matt: [00:12:28] Well, and also COVID is an international crisis. And so not only do we have 50 States that we can learn healthcare and medical lessons from, but we have literally hundreds of countries who have approached the situation differently. And there are some success stories in Asia and other countries, South Korea, Japan. Also the US is one of the few countries that takes the summer off of school. And so, hitting in January and, and, ramping up and really reaching us in mass and March, now, and having six and seven months of experience internationally with COVID. I, you know, 95% of the parents locally want to get their kids back in school in person, but I think we can look around the world and see best practices on, getting kids and teachers safely returned to school.
Rico: [00:13:26] So what would, what would you do to do that? I know there’s a, you know, I have a 16 year old that wants, he wants to go back to school. He’s, he wants to be able to do an AP Calculus in person versus online, right? So there are kids that want to go back for social reasons also. How can we keep them safe then? Is there anything, how would your leadership change on that? You know, how do we put them back to school?
Matt: [00:13:51] Number one, I trust the locals. I think the local school boards and local school superintendents, can make decisions for the best interest of their teachers and students better than somebody in downtown Atlanta or Washington, DC can. And I think that North Fulton, which their biggest schools in North Fulton are, you know, 1,500 to 2,000 students. Where in Gwinnett we have the jumbo size high schools with closer to 3,000 or more students a lot of times. So every school system is different. I think that, we all listen closely to parents and, and in large numbers of students also, saying they want to get back in person. But there are some outliers where people want to do digital learning for health reasons or other reasons, or personal precaution reasons. So I think that we ought to give people choices whenever possible in this uncharted waters of COVID. But I think we need to do everything we can to get kids back to school safely, as well as teachers. And we need to look around the country. We need to look around the world about how other countries and other States have safely, had had, students returned to school. The toll on these young people’s education is high. And, we need to make sure that, the ground that was lost in March and April and May, that we make up for that and the kids don’t get behind. Because you know, there’s a digital divide in Gwinnett it’s discernible. A
lot of kids didn’t have the technology readily available when they got sent home, kids never logged in. Some of that is, support at home priority on education. Other, other, situation is it’s resources. But getting those kids’ attention back on their education is critical.
Rico: [00:15:33] So, so let me ask you this and then we’ll, and then I want to move on to another subject. But just to close this out a little bit, the budget, the state budget cut education. They cut a lot of things across the board, but it did cut education as part of it. Gwinnett County’s remaining, with its budget, I believe they’re not going to furlough people. They are mandating masks, so obviously they need to buy PPE stuff to be able to do that. Because some people may not have masks and some kids and families and stuff. They’re going to need those masks, right? So they’re mandating that for the Fall, if they actually open up. And they’re giving two choices, either you do online learning or you do in person learning. So it depends on how people want to choose that, or where they want to go. And if they can afford to do that. Like you said, people are going back to work to some degree, unless things get rolled back. So where do they send their kids while they working, right? Because the school works almost as a daycare in a way.
Matt: [00:16:31] Yeah.
Rico: [00:16:31] Kids in school during the time that adults are working and stuff. So, you know, the State cut that budget. I mean, would you have voted for that cut? Would you, what would you have done? How would you have affected that? How would you want to help school systems throughout the state because Gwinnett County is one that probably can afford to do some of this stuff, but there are other counties and other parts that might not be to do that same thing. So how would you, how would a Matt Reeves position be on some or something like that?
Matt: [00:17:02] Rico when times are tough and the revenue decreases in state government, it becomes all the more critical to have a strong advocate for your area down in the State Senate, because I was there in 2008 when revenue started to decline, as the great recession hit. And I saw what happens when you have limited resources, the ones who were effective advocates for their districts, or the areas of Georgia that are looked after well, at that point, that was towards the tail end of Governor Perdue’s time in office. So folks in middle Georgia, were well looked after. That’s where, Larry O’Neil was chairman of ways and means. He was literally Governor Perdue’s lawyer back, back home on personal matters. And so, in a competitive political landscape where we have, very strongly held feelings on national issues. I would ask folks in Peachtree Corners in Gwinnett County and North Fulton for this critical State Senate seat ask who can help our area the best in the State Senate, where it’s 35 Republicans, 21 Democrats. I want education money at a time when times are tough financially to go to Gwinnett County schools. If we have somebody who’s on the short end of a 35 to 21 vote, you’re going to have funds go to Cobb County, Forsyth County, Cherokee County, where folks are in the majority. I want to be a strong and effective advocate for North Fulton schools and Gwinnett schools in the State Senate. When, you know, there’s a saying, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the table. And, you know, we’re talking a lot about healthcare and, and, I want to be in the position of
getting resources and decisions and public policy made in favor of our Gwinnett and North Fulton schools, rather than having others make those decisions for the benefit of their own districts elsewhere.
Rico: [00:18:55] How do you, so, so let’s, and I appreciate that. And I think that the citizens of Peachtree Corners appreciates that point of view. They want their representatives to, you know, think big, broad, but they’re also local, right? Because we all, that’s why we have a representative there to be able to talk local and be able to help a city like ours or the area that you represent, Swanee and the other areas as well. But let’s change directions a little bit. Let’s talk about the other news because 2020 is just unusual for all sorts of reasons. So COVID-19 is one, but also the social unrest. Black lives matter, the, whole social justice, police violence against black community, people of black and brown color. It’s just been a tough situation, it’s been also a tough situation to speak honestly, a little bit about these things, because sometimes people can get shut down on both sides of it. Rather than being, allowed to be transparent and talk about issues, because it’s a sensitive issue. And, so I know people are out there saying, well, some people shouldn’t even talk about this issue because maybe they don’t have a, an experience in it. But I think we all need to talk about it right, culturally and for a variety of reasons. How do you feel about this issue? Where would, you know, what do you think the state Senate should do? What do you think your position on, on this should be? And where are you on the speed?
Matt: [00:20:24] Well, I learned a lot and I listened in the peaceful protest in Duluth. My wife Suzette and I went to that along with friends from a group of, city ministry team friends that we had through Perimeter church. There’s a group of pastors in Duluth called the Unite Churches, which is a culturally diverse group of pastors, African American, Asian, Latino, perimeter church, which is, you know, a growingly diverse church, but a lot of Caucasian people, there. But, we went to that peaceful protest, listened and learned a lot, and cared and expressed attention and concern, with this issue. Obviously what happened with George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, and others, it’s wrong. It’s tragic. It showed us that sometimes you can have a fatal and, and murder, actions by folks who wear a uniform. You know, the bill of rights, going back to our founding documents, half of the bill of rights dealt with the criminal justice and keeping government in check and serving the people. 99% of folks with a badge and law enforcement are good people who are serving the public. But there’s always a danger of disastrous consequences of folks in, in, with government power abusing that, particularly, with minorities and other people who are, you know, are helpless, and in custody and, you know, can’t breathe. And so, that hurts my heart. It’s something I want to do something about, but I would like to acknowledge the fact that Georgia has been a leader in what people are asking for now, criminal justice reform. Over the last decade, Georgia has been a leader in the nation in that area. We have, put a priority on getting people rehabilitated and back into the workforce and not having a Scarlet letter for life if you make a mistake. We’ve, we’ve said in Georgia, we want to get people off of drugs and out of a life of crime, and we want to get people educated and employed. I think that’s a good thing. And, you know, we don’t want to warehouse people in jail and throw away the key. We want to get people rehabilitated. Now, folks, who’ve made a decision to live a life of armed robbery and
home invasion, and rape and murder and gun crimes. Yeah, they need to be locked up . But yeah, there are many, first time offenders, sadly people who’ve come, back and are young veterans who, you know, were suffering from a disruption in their life. We have a veterans court in Gwinnett, as a result of that criminal justice reform that we’re helping young veterans who’ve come back and kind of lost their way in addiction and, and other pain, and made some bad choices. So DUI court, veterans court, mental health court, intervention in a way that turns around, people. That’s been, something that’s been good, you know Georgia started as a debtor’s colony. We’ve always believed in a second chance and I think we need to realize our…
Rico: [00:23:19] Also Georgia has a lot of history and other things as well.
Matt: [00:23:24] Well, Martin Luther King. Martin Luther King is from here, the black community and the Christian community in Georgia produced Martin Luther King. And so Georgia has some very special things. We’re now a leader in population and economy. We need to step up to the plate and lead the way in the country on criminal justice reform and other things.
Rico: [00:23:44] So what would you? So then Matt I, listen, I come from New York. So moving down here in ’95, South of the Mason Dixon line, if you will. It’s an old term right, now most people won’t know that I guess. But you know, it is different. If I go out into, and good people, I’m not saying bad people, good people, good ways. But there’s certainly different points of views depending where you go in the state. So not everything is, as good as, as it needs to be, right? That’s all be honest about that.
Matt: [00:24:13] Right, and Rico, let me say on that, my metric, whether you’re in Americus Georgia, or Albany Georgia, or Macon, or here in Gwinnett County. I think every black parent and grandparent, they want their young people to have a diploma, to have career opportunities, to have money in the bank, to be treated fairly. Those are things I think that we can agree on across racial lines, and make sure that the American dream is alive and well in Georgia. But my metric is those. Let’s get our young people educated, have bright employment opportunity, and make sure that they have access to the American dream and they’re not barriers there. Look around Atlanta, we even have more community banks with black entrepreneurs leading the way and, and, if you look at Metro city bank at Verse Intercontinental bank you have some Asian and Indian banks, we even got a Chinese, a new bank and John’s Creek. We need to have a black…
Rico: [00:25:11] There’s Loyal Trust Bank, yeah.
Matt: [00:25:12] That’s right.
Rico: [00:25:13] Yeah. And I, and I agree with you. I mean, I think economically anyone that moves up into the middle class is always better. Because any, any group group of people that do that. I mean, it goes back, I could go back to, you know, we could do the history lesson or go back to the Irish, to Germany, the Italian. Go back to the Asians that came to this country from a
variety of countries, whether it was Laos, Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam. And how a lot of them moved up the ladder. The Latinos that came here that, hard workers, all of them. It seems to be immigrants are always hard workers. There’s a reason why they took the danger and the things to be able to come here because they want to succeed. So there’s a lot to be said about that, right?
Matt: [00:25:58] Here’s, here’s a good example about immigrants. The pharmacy in the neighborhood where that Wendy’s was where the shooting and then the ensuing civil unrest happened, the pharmacy in that neighborhood was started by an immigrant gentlemen from Swanee who invested his life work and life savings down there in that neighborhood, which is near where the brave stadium was where Georgia state has taken over. He had some confidence on that neighborhood, but there are a lot of senior citizens there who are homebound, they deliver a lot of those prescriptions, those senior citizens in need. There are schools there. It is tragic to have all hell breaking loose in that neighborhood that was on the upswing and revitalizing. That has a lot of people who’ve lived there their whole life, and now they’re senior citizens. You’ve got kids in school, George Washington Carver is the high school there. We need to restore safety to communities, ASAP.
Rico: [00:26:55] So then what would you do, Matt? As far as, and then let’s, let’s move on to some other issues too, but just to, because it’s, it’s the thing that’s out there. What would you do to reform police? What would be legislation that would be out there? You know, there’s the, there’s several proposals out there as far as, stopping choke holds and, and, limiting liability so that people can sue the police and stuff like that. What would you do? What would be the specific reforms that you’d like to see go in?
Matt: [00:27:24] Well, I would get to the basics first. I think that the, examining police training and make sure that the new officers who are coming in the Police Academy are getting best management practices of being effective law enforcement and also not having unnecessary escalation. I think that, community policing works. So I think having a recruitment effort of letting middle school and high school students in Clayton County and Dekalb County and Fulton County inside the perimeter know that you have a bright future, both on your, your education as well as employment. If you want to devote your career to being in law enforcement in your own community and making things better in your own community, everybody wants free college. You can go to technical school, do criminal justice there, or get a two year degree for a very low cost and then go to a four year college in Georgia for criminal justice, again at very low costs. And then graduate and be a community police officer in Atlanta and have a bright future. And I think letting kids know that in Georgia, we respect law enforcement and that we support law enforcement and young people in our diverse, young generation have a bright future in law enforcement and we ought to be on the same side. So I think the police training, recruitment. Also little things like, Bruce Lavelle reminded me of the CIB community improvement district. They had an idea about cops, cops in the neighborhood program where housing is an issue. You mentioned the salary of police officers, as we were talking earlier is low. And that pushes a lot of police officers to go moonlight in second or third jobs, which stresses them out when
they’re back on the job as a police officer. Housing, if we can get some affordable housing for law enforcement officers to live in the communities that they police and, be integral parts of the community. Many are already, but housing costs in Atlanta has really sort of disrupted. I, as I’m out in neighborhoods across the 48 Senate District, I see police cars for multiple jurisdictions. And if we could, make sure that, the law enforcement officers are in the community and visible and tied in with their own community where they’re policing. I think that’ll help a lot. But more than anything else, I think we need to have the message that America is a republic and a democracy. Things don’t work in America for people to be out of work and out of school. We need to get things back where our kids are learning and our businesses are functioning fully because bad things are happening. Some of them we needed to address. But when I, you mentioned, your background in New York, I was very disturbed to see what’s happening in New York this week, in terms of violence, gratuitous violence. That is not helping anything for people to be hitting police officers over the head with bats. And, and it raises the question, who’s giving out those bats? I’ve seen some pictures of people dropping pallets off of bricks during a protest.
Rico: [00:30:23] I don’t know about that part of it. Yeah, I mean, there’s all sorts of things on the web and stuff and social media that, are they real are they not. I mean, it’s just, it’s a variety of things. And I’m not saying, you know, violence, even if, if, if a group is angry because of what’s going on, there is no reason in the world. I don’t care. There’s no reason to throw a Molotov cocktail into an empty police car. There’s no reason to be burning a Wendy’s down. There’s just no reason for any of that violence. It’s just, it, it doesn’t help the cause. And it changes, it does change the narrative and to a bad way, right? Because everyone says, Oh, that changes the narrative when you discuss that. You don’t what, it has to be discussed because it’s wrong. How do we teach our kids? I teach my kids right and wrong. Now, you know, I don’t know about other people, but if it’s wrong to throw a Molotov cocktail into a car, it’s wrong. You just don’t drive by and throw one in there. Even if it’s empty. It’s just like, I can never understand that. But, I agree with you. I mean, we have to, it’s a cultural thing too, and we have to really observe all of that and really come, at least move down the road a little bit right? Everything you’ve said, it makes sense to, you know, to that. And we do need to way change the way some of the police are trained I guess. Let’s move on to some other issues we are getting towards the end of our time together. So I do want to make sure we hit a few things.
Matt: [00:31:52] Sure. And Rico, let me just say, Gwinnett schools. Gwinnett police that’s who polices Peachtree Corners? Gwinnett Police, Gwinnett Police, I’ve done ride alongs through leadership Gwinnett and pay attention to what’s going on in my local. Who’s gonna fight for the budget gaps that are needed when, we need funding as well as public policy changes, for Gwinnett Police and, and for our local police departments. I want to be an effective advocate. That’s the stakes in the State Senate race. Who can go down there and get things done for our local law enforcement, our local schools, transportation solutions, healthcare. Washington is not going to solve our healthcare. We can’t just punt and say Medicaid is going to take it over. We need to make sure that we have jobs and insurance and good health care networks here in Georgia. No one’s gonna do it for us. We’ve got to go, send an advocate from our community down there to get good things done on those basic needs.
Rico: [00:32:47] Okay. Good to hear. The other issues you’ve been talking about, I think on the campaign trail has been, nonpartisan, County officer’s nonpartisan term limits. Do you think State Senate should be term limited?
Matt: [00:33:02] Yes. I think if you can’t go get good things done in eight years, pass the baton to somebody else who could do it. Now, when you get elected, I think you oughta serve out your term, and, you know, not be looking at some other higher office. You need to be focused on doing a good job in a short amount of time and then go live under the laws that you make. That’s the principle of having nonpartisan and term limited elections. All of the cities in the 48 Senate district have nonpartisan municipal elections and it works great. Gwinnett County, we now have a multi billion dollar County budget, a multibillion dollar school budget, and of course in Fulton County, they have an equally large school and County budget. Their population is over a million we’re right at a million in Gwinnett. I think having more people having a seat at the table with this high population and budget is a good thing. I think, having citizen legislators and not partisan career politicians, I think that would be a good improvement. Our cities are already doing it and let’s pass it on to our counties. Now this is not a new issue for me. I’ve been an advocate for this in the past, I was the Republican party lawyer, as well as, the Gwinnett County bar association president. And I got called upon, from having served in those two roles to advocate for the master court and the probate court, in Gwinnett to go nonpartisan, six or seven years ago, representative Chuck F Thracian, was a leader in that initiative. Those offices went nonpartisan years ago. I got to go to the bill signing. I’ve got the, the bill signing pen from Governor Deal and those nonpartisan offices have worked well since then, as well as our cities being nonpartisan. And listen, I’m a bipartisan problem solver. I’m a fiscal conservative and, and proud to be a Republican, but I want to reach out to Democrats and Independents and get some good public policy that will serve our community in our state. That’s what I’m all about.
Rico: [00:34:55] Cool. The, let’s get back, okay. And by the way, if anyone notices, there has been some interruption of our Facebook live stream, so you’ll get this full version, after, after the show. So what, you know, let’s. Let’s talk a bit about, you know, term limits is one thing. Yes, we want to make sure that, we have new, new, fresh people in place instead of someone in there 20 years, let’s say. Cause that’s having people in a position too long. There’s something to be said about experience, but there’s also something to be said about, the power structure. When you have people in place for 20 or 30 years in the same seat, right. It becomes a bit of a, contrary to growth if you will. But ethics, ethics is the other issue, that you discuss. Ethics is very tough issue. It’s tough to be self regulated. It’s tough for a body, a State Senator, a state house to have their own ethics committee. And they’re going to self regulate themselves. That’s a bit of an issue. I don’t know how well that can be done. And it seems like it almost never can be done well, I’ve never seen it yet that way. How, how do you think you can do it differently?
Matt: [00:36:06] Sure. And I put this in there just to let folks know in the Senate district, that I think that, state government and the State Senate ought to serve the people and that ought to be the focus and we ought to have transparency in government. And, we need to have, you
know, a vibrant system where everybody knows what’s going on at the Capitol. Now, the state ethics commissioner is across the street from the Capitol, the house and Senate have their own ethics committees. But what I’m talking about is the state ethics commission, I want to make sure they have the resources and the infrastructure to handle their matters promptly. There was just so much, so much turnover over the course of a decade in that office. So we’ve now got a good former prosecutor in there. We’ve got some great lawyers and personnel in the office, and I want to make sure that they can process their cases efficiently. Just like a good district attorney’s office would. You look at Danny Porter and how well he runs things in Gwinnett. And I, I, I don’t think that their focus should be prosecuting people, but I think that they, they should have a good efficient system where they process their cases from beginning to end a lot more quickly and efficiently. And there’s a procedure to weed out the overtly political matters that get opened up versus ones where there’s an actual problem with disclosure and transparency. I’ve raised my money locally from people primarily in the Senate district, or sometimes at the Senate district. I look at races around Metro Atlanta, and you have this flood of outside money coming in and you don’t really know where it’s coming from or why it’s, you know, being spent here in Georgia. But I want to make sure that the State Senate has its focus on serving the people in their districts and there’s transparency and ethics in government public service and citizen, legislators. That’s what we need down there at the Capitol and transparency and I believe strongly in that. My dad retired a couple years ago from being a DA in the Southwestern circuit. I worked at the DA’s office in law school. I drove up to Madison County every Friday in my last year in law school and did prosecution there so I’m familiar with that whole process of how a prosecutor’s office works. And although they’re not, I don’t want them to be criminal, I do want them to have the resources, the personnel, the procedures in place to be efficient and effective and make sure that we match up with our population. Georgia is going to be almost a top five state after the census. We’ve been number one in jobs. We’re almost the top five state. We need to overhaul everything in state government and make sure that we’re delivering that kind of excellence to our citizens.
Rico: [00:38:38] Excellent. We are at the end of our time together. So usually what I do, Matt and we’ve done this before, is that I’ll have the candidate ask for the vote. So you have about two minutes. Give us why Matt Reeves should be the State Senate rep for district 48.
Matt: [00:38:58] Peachtree Corners, you are blessed to have some great elected officials. Mayor Mason, the city council, first lady mrs. Mayor, Debbie Mason, Mary Kay Murphy school board representative, Ben Coux, formally, Linette Howard. You’ve got a great bunch of local elected officials. I want to, augment that excellence down at the State Capitol and effectively be an advocate for Peachtree Corners down there. Bi-partisan problem solving, you look at the Simpsonwood matter where I represented the church. I worked closely with UPCCA that’s how I met Scott Hilton years ago. I worked with the elected officials at the city and the County went to probate court, superior court, appellate court. But problem solved along the way in a way that, that property is now a park rather than not a controversy that worries everybody. So, that’s a good example of what I’ve done out here and the history of the last 17 years as a business and real estate litigation lawyer. And I’ve also cared about the community. I’ve been actively involved
in things like the Duluth parks board, the Gwinnett County education, SPLOST renewal campaign, rotary and other civic matters. I care about the future of our community, just like you do. I want to be an effective advocate for Peachtree Corners, Berkeley Lake, Duluth, and other communities down in the State Senate. I’d be honored to earn your support. Matt Reeves for Senate is my website. Matt Reeves for State Senate on Facebook and, @MattReevesGA on Twitter. Let me hear from you (770) 236-9768 is my number. Call me anytime. I’d love to get to hear about you and your perspective on how Peachtree Corners can be an excellent community through advocacy in the state Senate over the next two years. Thank you.
Rico: [00:40:40] Excellent, Matt. Thank you. I appreciate you coming on. Stay with me while we log off, but everyone, thank you for listening in. Matt Reeves candidate, Republican candidate for State Senate district 48. That represents, that represent Peachtree corners among other cities within that State Senate district. So that’s coming up, November 3rd is the election. There’s early voting. That’s going to be happening obviously for that, I believe
Matt: [00:41:03] October 12th
Rico: [00:41:05] October 12th.
Matt: [00:41:06] That’s early voting
Rico: [00:41:08] Well, okay. Right. The election if you deemed to go in the, November third is, is the it’s but yeah. October 12th. So check out the, go to, you know, make sure you, you’re actually, can people register to vote yet?
Matt: [00:41:23] Absolutely. Gwinnett County board of elections, as well as secretary of state, if you’ve moved or you’re new, get registered now. Make sure there’s no surprises as you get close to the election and be prepared to either absentee vote, early vote, starting October 12th or vote in person November the third.
Rico: [00:41:43] Excellent. Thanks, Matt. I appreciate you being with us. Thank you everyone
Matt: [00:41:46] Thank you for your time.
Moreno Aguiari on Preserving History and Fulfilling a Passion
Moreno Aguiari is looking to preserve some history and along the way maybe establish the Atlanta Air & Space Museum.
On this episode of Peachtree Corners Life podcast, Rico Figliolini talks with Moreno Aguiari, founder of the Inspire Aviation Foundation. Listen as Moreno shares the upcoming plans to build an immersive and educational Air and Space Museum in the Peachtree-DeKalb airport, along with his wonderful stories of the history of Georgian aviation.
Inspire Aviation Foundation: https://www.facebook.com/InspireAviationFoundation/
Warbird Digest: https://warbirddigest.com/
Recorded socially safe online and in the City of Peachtree Corners, Georgia
[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:01:24] – About Moreno and the Foundation
[00:08:00] – Putting the Museum in PDK
[00:10:54] – Inspiring the Next Generation
[00:19:50] – Digitizing Historic Pictures
[00:27:09] – Warbird Digest
[00:32:03] – Closing
“The goal is very simple… We would like to get a little Johnny [and Jane] who, you know, loves airplanes or he doesn’t know anything about airplanes and he comes to our doors, gets inspired and then, you know, he becomes the next Mars explorer.”Moreno Aguiari
Rico: [00:00:30] Hi everyone. This is Rico Figliolini host of Peachtree Corners Life. I apologize for the interruption of the broadcast that we just, had. I don’t know if that has to do with the local thunderstorm that’s going on in the connections that we have today, through Comcast, believe it or not. So we won’t get there, but, but let’s, let’s start. Well, we’re not going to start over again. The, the feed is there. So we’re just going to pick up from where we were actually, with our introductions of, let me just give an introduction again to Moreno Aguiari, who is, founder of foundation, Inspired Aviation Foundation. He’s moved here 20 years ago from Milan Italy and has found a passion in flying certainly in the World War II veterans, even, area. So, why don’t you let’s start with you telling us a little bit more again about yourself, not to repeat things, but give us a little bit more explanation.
Moreno: [00:01:24] As Rico was mentioning I came to the US to become a pilot. And then the goal was to go back in Italy and things didn’t go as planned. I’ve been here for 20 years now and, as far as my passion for aviation, it comes from both my uncle and my dad who were in the Air Force. And my passion for World War II came from, you know, talking to my both of my grandfathers, who both fought in World War II and always been a history buff in general. And obviously combining World War II aviation and my passion for history, naturally I fell into following a research in World War II aviation. Although I really like any, any, any era of aviation, but World War II, it’s very, very fascinating as a lot of great stories and we are still able to meet veterans for World War II. So, you were asking me about the NAS Atlanta archives, but the NAS Atlanta archives are a project of Inspire Aviation Foundation. So you don’t mind allow me to explain what Inspired Aviation Foundation is? Essentially, we are a five, 501c3 nonprofit, dedicated to the goal of bringing up a world-class air and space museum and educational campus at the Peachtree-DeKalb airport or as we call it PDK, you know, not that far from here. So we set up this foundation to, you know, to essentially build an aerospace museum and an educational camp at PDK. Because of COVID-19 things obviously slowed down a little bit, so we, we wanted to act quick in order to not, avoid to go unnoticed and to keep the momentum going. So, I had a previous relationship with this group called NAS Atlanta Union, which is a group of, veterans who served at NAS Atlanta. NAS Atlanta for some of your listeners, might know or might not know. We know the last base being in Marietta at Dobbins air force base that’s the last location. NAS Atlanta, which I believe was closed down in 2009, but NAS Atlanta started here at PDK Peachtree-Dekalb airport, 1941. Essentially, NAS of PDK was a NAS Atlanta Naval air station training pilots, essentially to go to combat. And, this group has been meeting, essentially this veteran group has been meeting since 1960 and has been collecting artifacts, photos, log books, newspapers, all kinds of material from 1960, you know, until recent years. And, it was about five years ago that I met, I met a gentleman named Will Tate. I organized an event called The Atlanta Warbird Weekend at PDK, it was held in September. We brought in a bunch of World War II airplanes for rides to the public and we had an educational programs, educational displays. And these gentlemen came up to me and, and we had an airplane called Corsair, with the bent wings and there was a famous TV show called Baa Baa Black Sheep back in the days.
Rico: [00:04:39] Right.
Moreno: [00:04:41] And he goes, you know, this airplane was based here at, in Chamblee, 1960. I said really Sir, how did you know? And he goes, well, you know, I grew up here in Chamblee. I was a kid, that was jumping the fence and was going to play with the airplane. So when I was a little younger than, my son was next to me, little younger than your son. So we started talking, we went back and forth and found out, he was the president of th NAS Altanta the union group. We became good friends. And he lives in Pensacola we went back and forth until essentially he knew, I told him about the museum, the goal of the museum. And, until, you know, these guys are getting very old. They don’t have the energy really to do those reunions again. So I help them out put up a reunion, three years ago. And I’m actually going to help them again this year. And in return they asked, essentially asked me, look, we are getting old, we’re getting tired. We need, we want this history of NAS Atlanta to continue. Would you guys be interested in taking over the archives? And for me it was like, absolutely. I mean, this is great. So essentially, they donated the archives to the foundation. And as obviously as part of the museum, our job is to preserve history in the best ways as possible. All these pictures were essentially, they are 70, 75 years old. Things like the original drawings, of the blueprint of the base. It’s paper and obviously very fragile. So what we did in order to start moving the first steps towards our educational mission with the foundation and the museum, we decided to start a small fund raising campaign to preserve the archives. And we do that, because all of these photos are paper, paper and printed material and they’re a very large format. We decided to essentially hire a photographer with a high resolution camera and he essentially photographed all the archives with a vertical, he’s got a beautiful vertical rig. That camera is mounted vertically. And shots picture at, 74, 80, megabyte, or, or gigabyte resolution. I mean, huge files. So the goal is to preserve the archives digitally, but then the digital material will be turned into an exhibit. Once we have the museum built. And, we stopped about a month ago and I was very surprised with the positive feedback. We were able to reach our fundraising goal. And, in fact, the photos now are digitized and next week I’m going to pick them up and organize them again. So the next step would be, possibly creating a book, with, with this, this material. A book about NAS Atlanta. And the other interesting fact of Peachtree-Dekalb airport before World War II, it used to be, World War I it used to be called Camp Corbyn. So, soldiers who fought in World War I trained in PDK. So there is a lot of history in Chamblee and PDK in particular. So, yes.
Rico: [00:08:00] So that sounds like that’d be a great place for the museum actually.
Moreno: [00:08:04] Yeah. Yeah. I mean, the museum is set to be on a runway 27, which is now not open, it’s been closed for about 10 years. And so we already have the land. We already have, you know, we know where it’s going to be, which is, that was the most important thing. Making sure to have a land to build a museum because you can have the best project, a great, best ideas, but if you don’t have a place to put it, it’s never going to happen. The good thing is that the airport director Mario Evans. He’s a, one of our board of directors. He loves the idea. He has a vision for PDK to be more than just an airport, more than just a place for people to really land and take off with airplanes, and the museum fits in his master plan, really creating a place for economic development and for the community. So the museum fits perfectly.
Rico: [00:08:54] Yeah. I personally liked the idea of having a, air and space museum. I mean, because it’s not just airplanes then, right? I mean, is the mission to also handle anything that flies?
Moreno: [00:09:05] Absolutely. Absolutely. We want to tell the story of, you know flying, flight from you know, the Wright Brothers. It happens that at PDK, we have a company, the company I worked for actually, and Ben T Epps was the first man who flew in, in Georgia. So, and there is actually a replica of his plane in the hangar where I, where we work. So it happens that Mr. Epps, his son is still alive and big supporter of, of the museum, he’s 86 years old. And his father was the first man who flew in Georgia. So there is a lot of history, definitely at PDK. So it’s, and it’s centrally located. you know, the, the goal is really to build an experience with visitors, that is as dynamic and inspirational in the fields of aviation and space travel. So, we are not envisioning, I guess your old school aviation museum, where you have your airplane and a sign. Read the sign. This is an F16 or whatever. That’s, that’s not, that’s not, making that sound inspirational. So we’re really, we’re really thinking outside the box here. We are talking to Disney Imagineers. Disney imagineers are actually, those guys who build the theme parks for Disney. So we really want to provide an experience that, that goes beyond your box full of airplanes and yes.
Rico: [00:10:30] Yeah, I’m, I’m, I’m personally excited by it. I’m a, I’m a SpaceX Elon Musk fan. Most people don’t even know that in the state of Georgia, we have a spaceport in Camden County, on the coast. And they’re trying to be, and I don’t know if, if it was Bizos or one of these private companies actually, has leased out that spaceport, I think for part of it.
Moreno: [00:10:54] Well, you know, one thing that people don’t know that Georgia is number one state in business for, has been the number one state in business for the past five years, but it’s number three in aerospace. So people think of, we have Delta, we have UPS. Absolutely. But Georgia is a big player in the aerospace industry, which includes general aviation space and everything else. So our state is definitely a big player in, in aerospace. So that’s, that’s why, you know, we think that what we are going to do, will make, will make a difference and an impact too. The goal, is very simple Rico. We, we would like to get a little Johnny who’s, you know, loves airplanes or, or he doesn’t know anything about airplanes and he comes to our doors, gets inspired and then, you know, he becomes the next Mars explorer. And that’s why we are, you know, the project title, it’s Atlanta Air and Space museum, which might change to Georgia Air and Space museum, but there is another important component attached to it, which is the educational campus. In fact when we mean educational, we are not just meaning, come to the museum we’ll tell you a story about an airplane. Absolutely. They’re really talking about tangible education. In fact, the, DeKalb County school district is our partner and we are developing a master plan of classrooms within the museum premises. So students can come in and learn the STEM subjects related to aviation. And we are starting, going back to what I was saying earlier that we don’t want to really lose the momentum because of COVID, that we want to be acting now, well we have developing with DeKalb County, a syllabus for K-12 grades, based on STEM
aviation. And hopefully everything goes well, we’re going to deploy it with the next school year, whatever happens to it, obviously it’s going to be all digital. So we, we didn’t plan for that. So we are actually now kind of adjusting as well, but the point is that, yes, it’s an aerospace museum, but we really want to focus on the educational side of things. And not just saying education because it sounds good. But because we want to really bring these little Johnny to the museum as a little child and, you know, with the partnership with DeKalb County school district and hopefully Georgia Tech. We’re going to accompany this little Johnny museum, high school, college. And we’re already talking to companies that are interested in having an RD facility, research and development facility within our campus. So all of a sudden than you have, you know, a path. You know, you go from the museum all the way to hopefully get into the job market because of our work and our influence of being around our facility.
Rico: [00:13:44] And I know that you’re not doing it on purpose, but we want to make sure that people understand. It’s obviously not only John, but Jane.
Moreno: [00:13:54] Oh absolutely, yeah.
Rico: [00:13:55] We’re talking about women in coding, we’re talking about, the history that, the history of women in NASA that have done terrific work. So being able to, to put that enthusiasm out there, especially in a time like now, when people can learn online. Where there are apps, where there’s virtual reality, VR systems that can be used to a degree right? My kids fly, you know, they’re playing games like War Thunder on Steam or on a PC. And it’s literally what you will see on a dashboard of a plane and you’re literally doing the same thing. So…
Moreno: [00:14:31] No you’re right, it’s Jim and Jane, absolutely no question about it. And, in fact, one of our board members, she’s, you know, I’m a fan of, of this woman because she’s super, really. She’s a pilot. Used to be a transport plane. She flies, at Dobbins. She used to be a, 130 mechanic then started working for Vail as a mechanic, decided to become a pilot. And now she’s flying C130s. She’s a math teacher and she has a degree in aerospace and she just applied for the NASA astronaut program. And she’s, I think she’s a 37, Latesa and she, so absolutely it’s not only James, it’s Jane as well. And I have two daughters, so I hope that what I’m doing will in a way, influence them as well.
Rico: [00:15:25] Sure. How old are your kids?
Moreno: [00:15:27] I have a 11, Rebecca is 11 will be 12 in November. Jada is eight will be nine in September. Our little guy. Morgan will be six tomorrow, in fact.
Rico: [00:15:41] Wow. Alright, cool. Three kids. That’s right. I have three kids also. They’re all 16 and above actually. So, but a great, great age, great time to be inspired to get inspiration, right? Because they’re all learning what they want to become at some point. It’s still young, right. But it’s good to be inspired by the right people. And sometimes it’s a matter of showing and experiencing rather than telling.
Moreno: [00:16:06] Yes, there’s no question about it that, you know, by, by living an experience, you learn more. And this idea comes from an experience I had about eight, nine years ago. I went to, I was in California and I was visiting the mecca of World War II aviation called Planes of Fame in Chino, California. And I met a friend of mine with kids, I guess like your age kids, 14, 15, two boys. And we walk inside the museum and I was in awe. I mean, World War II planes, I always wanted to see. They actually are flying, so it’s even better. And after 10 minutes I heard these two kids telling their dad, this is boring, nothing moves. You know, they’re only, there are just signs, there’s nothing interactive. I said, what are you talking about kids, this is awesome. And then of course, it’s different generations. Now you’ve got to immerse them. But even for us adults, if you think about it, cognitive process works the same at different speeds, depending on the age. But the process is the same. So if we are immersed into an experience, you really learn it at a different, different level. So that’s really what we’re trying to do. And that’s why I mentioned the Disney Imagineers, because when you go to Disney, you have an experience. So the way we envision the museum is yes, we want to have airplanes, but we are not going to focus necessarily or we need that specific airplane because it broke the war break or blah, blah, blah. We want to be able to use that airplane to tell a story and to bring an experience, an immersive experience. So, I mean, they’re not going to be the old school box of airplanes.
Rico: [00:17:47] Well, this is, like I said, it’s an exciting time because you have the ability to do that in a very interactive way. I mean, virtual reality allows for that, where you can actually, instead of you know, building something that has to stay that way for 10 years before you do another buildout or something, you actually can adjust and do things on a quicker basis right. And give an experience a little different. You know, exhibition museum stuff, you know, it’s, it’s an interesting, proposition because you know, kids, kids are interested at a different level like you said. They want that interactiveness. Whereas adults like you and me maybe, we’re cool with seeing the airplanes hanging or maybe flying or, you know, whatever, it might be a little different. Although I got to tell you, watching my son play War Thunder on the PC big screen in front of me. And I’m like, man, can I sit down and do that too? He’s like, no, no, get away from me. But you know.
Moreno: [00:18:43] I think also for us adults Rico, you never know when you’re going to fall in love with a new passion, you know. So we definitely, definitely, we want the kids, we are, are building this for the younger generation of the kids, but we also want the adults that, you know, had a dream of flying or had a dream of being around airplanes. But because of life, work, whatever happened was never able to get around it. So, you know that’s the beauty of flying. It’s really, a really passionate thing. And some people have it since the beginnings since young children, or young child like me and people, other people discover it later in life. So that’s why we think that really what we are trying to build here that really will allow to, attract and inspire different generations.
Rico: [00:19:36] I think that’s exciting, but obviously the first step, so the baby steps, right? So the first step is to take care of the NSA archives that you have. And you need some money to be able to preserve that and take care of that.
Moreno: [00:19:50] We did. We did. And, again, that’s something that we had, we had there, but because of COVID we had to, we were really preparing to, put together a, feasibility fundraising campaign starting really to get out in the public. But obviously this climate right now, it’s not ideal. So we said, look, we have the archives. What if we do something with it. And we all, I always deep inside, I always knew that I wanted to digitize them and I called to the board, and I, you know, convinced them to, let me try this campaign and sure enough, it was well received. We had a couple of articles in the media and the donations came in and everyone told me, Oh, nobody is going to give you money. It’s tough times. Actually, we reached more than, we raised more than what we expected because I think people understand what we’re trying to do. So people might not have, you know, money for, for, you know, silly things. But I think they still have money to donate for important things. And then these archives are really, really awesome. And you really the, I know you have some pictures, so if you want, we can.
Rico: [00:20:58] As we were talking before, it was a expanding some pictures, yeah.
Moreno: [00:21:05] Yeah. This is, this is a 1945. This is again, Peachtree-Dekalb airport as it looked like, looked like in 1945. Believe it or not without believe it or not, what’s interesting, there are still buildings that I can see. It’s hard, it’s really hard for me to describe in these pictures, but there are new buildings that are still existing, right now, and that are still being used as hangers. And it’s really fascinating because the history buff that I am, I walk around the airport and I always find things that I recognize that are still existing since World War II. So that’s how the airport looked like in, in 1945, on the lower part of the picture. Okay this is no, this is good. It’s good. This is actually for those who are listening, who go to PDK, there is a great kid’s park, with the Magnolia tree and more control tower. And next to it, there is a restaurant called the Downwind restaurant of the building, building right behind those Corsairs, that’s where the Downwind restaurant is. On the upper level, upper level right now you have the administration offices of the airport. Right below there are flight schools and those white doors are still there, although they’re not white anymore. They’re obviously aluminum and glass, the control tower is still there, although there not shaped as, as it looks like in this photo. This photo is posed for about 1950. On the far right, you see the doors of the main hanger and that hanger right now it’s aviation. That, those doors are still there, still move by hand or with a tug actually, like back in the days. Those two, those airplanes, are FG1D Corsairs. FG means that they were built by Good Year. During the war chance bought, produced the Corsair but because of the demand, they outsourced the production. So Good Year actually manufacturing in Akron, Ohio, those, those aircraft. And, this is when the base was a reserve base was after the war. So there is service used to, you know, service, I don’t know, a week in a month, do weeks in a month. So those planes, are, you know, very iconic. They serve in the war and they flew all the way to the late fifties in South American countries. There is, down in Peachtree city. One of the museums I belong to called Commemorative Air Force has a Corsair then was actually based at NSF
Atlanta in 1950. In 1950, 1952. So it might be very likely one of the airplanes in that picture. It’s very cool.
Rico: [00:23:57] What about this one? This was another one.
Moreno: [00:24:01] Yeah, that’s a 1942. I remember the date because it’s actually printed on the bottom, corner, right corner of the original photo. That’s just, just essentially all the officers and enlisted personnel of the base, on the far right side, you see, the doors of the, essentially this is the back of the previous picture. That’s the ramp behind the hanger shown in the previous picture. Everything you see in the background, it’s gone, no longer exists that are only hangers back there. But that the ramp where those folks are sitting on, it still exists to this day. And it’s still being used as an airplane ramp. Yeah.
Rico: [00:24:43] Yeah. We got also this, this one that.
Moreno: [00:24:45] Yeah, these were the first airplanes that were assigned to, they’re called end to ends, or yellow perils and, or as more popularly known Stearman biplane. And, they were all yellows and those were the first biplanes, assigned to the base in 1941. Those were trainers. Trainers for Naval aviators, and, well, On the, essentially in front of the, in front of the airplanes, that’s where the current hanger is. In fact, in the full picture, you can see it, you still see a piece of the hanger. What’s interesting that maybe the viewers cannot see it, but on the side of the airport and there is actually a Donald duck, running with a parachute and that, interestingly enough was the first time in the Walt Disney designed anything for the military. It was actually the mascot of NAS Atlanta Chamblee. It’s probably too old to see and some airplanes had it, some didn’t. But, that, that the interesting fact is that Walt Disney, first time to design anything for the military was for NAS Atlanta Chamblee, which I thought was pretty unique.
Rico: [00:26:02] Cool. Well, we, went through the picture archives that we had. I only had like four or five samples of those. So, but if, so when, you know, I mean, even if the, museum is not set up, I know there’s a website that you all have that you set up. It’s called the AtlantaAirandSpaceMuseum.org. These digitized versions appear somewhere on that website.
Moreno: [00:26:27] Yeah. Yeah. I think, originally I was not planning to put up a dedicated website, but the turnout of the job is so phenomenal that I’m thinking to, put up a website, just for the archives. In the meantime, very likely I will post some pictures on the website, which they’re already available on the Atlantic Air and Space museums that’s our website. But, I’m inclined towards building a dedicated website just for DNS Atlanta Archives. Because it’s really cool the stuff that, that, we have been digitizing. I’m not sure when, but yeah, definitely in the upcoming months, along with that book project that I was, I was mentioning to you.
Rico: [00:27:09] Excellent. You’re also a publisher of Warbird news, right?
Moreno: [00:27:14] Yeah. We, it’s a magazine called Warbird Digest. Warbirds news is, is our news outlet and, that’s something I started back in 2013, as a hobby. I came from a digital marketing background and I just wanted to have my own blog and from a blog, you know, it became more than a blog and from a blog became a magazine. So it’s a, it’s a labor of love and, frustration too, because you know, you’re a publisher, you know this. But it takes work. And sometimes the contributors, you know, are not running on time. They don’t deliver the material when they have to, right? And the photos are not really good. So…
Rico: [00:27:57] There’s always a problem. It’s not going to print right.
Moreno: [00:28:01] But in a way we published this magazine for the same reason. We are all of us in this vintage aviation community, ready to preserve the history of aviation to tell stories of veterans and to honor for their service and the magazine. And warbirds news is that, does essentially that. I, you know, again, I, I was born in Italy obviously, but I’ve always been grateful for, well, one, I going to mention these real quick. I know you probably are running out of time, but, I always, everyone asks me, why do you do that? You know, you grew up in Italy and blah blah. I said, well, I grew up in Italy but you know my, what my grandparents always told me, if it weren’t for the American soldiers that came over and liberated Europe. We probably would be speaking German. And I have very sad stories of my grandparents, you know, being in prison camps. And, one of my grandfather was, my grandfather was what’s called a partisan or under war underground warrior that actually fought against the Nazi and risked his life because he never really approved of the facist regime. So when I came in the US I really, I was looking for a way to kind of pay my, you know, my tribute and do my part to honor this is young Americans that came over and liberated us. And last year I was fortunate to be a part of the D-day 75th anniversary. And that was, that was the experience really of my life. I was actually hired, two years prior to that, by a foundation called twenties on foundation to put together this mission. And at the end of the day, we left on May 18 from Oxford, Connecticut, and we flew with 15, C47 World War II cargo transport from Connecticut all the way to Normandy, including Greenland, including Iceland. We essentially did the same route that the C47s did 75 years ago. And then in June, it was phenomenal on June the sixth we flew, Omar beach over the cemetery, in front of president Trump, president Macron and the presidents, all of the other allied nations it was phenomenal. That was kind of like the apex of my, you know, volunteer career. It’s really rewarding when, you know, you get to meet some of these guys and I still do know, World War II veterans are still with us and a couple I’m very close with. I call them every week and we have great chats. And so it’s really, really, really rewarding.
Rico: [00:30:44] It’s, so anyone listening to this, you were, I’m going to in the show notes on the website, you will find a link to the Vimeo video, which is a promo of the documentary. If I understand correctly of the Normandy flights of those, that flight. To find out more about the foundation or the museum itself, how can people get involved if they want to reach you, to be able to either help in whatever the way they want.
Moreno: [00:31:12] Yeah, absolutely, you know, AtlantaAirandSpaceMuseum.org there’s a contact, a contact us page so they can send it there. Or we just yesterday, actually, we finally opened up all our social media channels on the Inspire Aviation foundation. So Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and, well, I don’t have YouTube because I don’t have any, maybe this video will be our first YouTube Videos. But find the Inspired Aviation foundation on social media and on the web or at AtlantaAirandSpaceMuseum.org. I’m the one managing all that. So I’ll be getting all the messages.
Rico: [00:31:52] Excellent. So for those people that want to get involved, certainly reach out, to Mareno. And, do you want to say anything else before we end the show?
Moreno: [00:32:03] No, I want to really thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about this project. It’s very, it’s a passion of mine and, and that’s what I want to do when I grow up. I just, be around the museum or, or work at the museum and, They’re doing a phenomenal, phenomenal work. We’re still not there, but, if anyone wants to get involved, this is very much a grassroots effort. A lot of people get together business professionals of different backgrounds and really trying to build something, something unique for the city of Atlanta. But we think for the state of Georgia and the Southeast. So anyone who wants to help you’re more than welcome.
Rico: [00:32:39] Excellent where, if you want to find out more information, once this is posted on our website, it’ll be LivinginPeachtreeCorners.com that you can visit. Be aware of the next issue coming up, the issue after this one, let’s pick that up. So this is our last issue that we have, but we’re working on, the latest issue. That’ll be August, September, and the article one of the articles in there is about Mareno, about the foundation, about what’s going on there as well as SOAR, which is an organization, a rocketry organization. That meets once a month to shoot rockets. I mean, everything from one footers to five footers. So it’s, it’s a cool thing. So we’re going to be covering them as well because the second week of August is the national aviation week. And so we thought this would be a great time to be able to share some of these stories. So, Marino Aguiari, I appreciate you coming out on this interview. Hang in there with me as we sign off. Everyone if you’ve been listening to the live stream originally, there was some interruption of it. I’m going to be uploading this as the full video on Facebook shortly after the show ends. But thank you for being with us and look forward to the next podcast. Thanks.
Community Leadership in Social and Racial Justice, Part Three
City of Peachtree Corners, Georgia residents, and leaders speak out about change and actively becoming a more anti-racist community.
This third episode of this mini-part series includes community activist and multimedia consultant Mo Reilley and activist Michael Murphy-McCarthy (Director of Information Technology and Information Management Systems at The North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church.) Join them along with Peachtree Corners Life podcast host Rico Figliolini and series co-host Karl Barham in this intensive discussion to try and solve these issues. Recorded socially safe online and in the City of Peachtree Corners, Georgia
[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:05:29] – Thoughts on the Protests
[00:09:57] – Why Now?
[00:12:07] – Can this Happen Everywhere?
[00:23:38] – Defunding
[00:34:59] – Racism in Schools
[00:43:25] – Zoning Issues
[00:53:34] – Having More Voices at the Table
[00:59:07] – Actionable Steps
[01:10:13] – Closing
“I don’t know what the ask is, but I believe that out of giving that, we can coalesce and come up with some specific actions that we want to ask the city to do. And this isn’t just about standing on the street. This is about affirming people, gathering voices, gathering more voices, starting to work together, trying to create some change.”Michael Murphy-McCarthy
Rico: [00:00:30] The serious issue that over the last month, two months almost, has taken to the streets of every city in the country. So, you know, we, Karl Barham and I have put together this series. Karl did a lot of the heavy lifting and all the work on this really, I’ve got to say of bringing the guests together. And, so Karl take it from here, introduce who we have today.
Karl: [00:00:56] Oh, absolutely. Well, this is our third installment of a discussion we thought was important to just show the people in local communities like Peachtree Corners here in Georgia can have conversations about social justice, racial justice. Talk about their experiences, talk about things they’ve seen in the community. Talk about ways that we can learn from each other, ways that we can improve the community, not just for ourselves, but for our children. As we go forward, back in May on the 26th of May, everyone has probably seen the video. George Floyd being killed by a police officer during an arrest. A couple of weeks later in June 12th, another 27 year old African American father was shot and killed by Atlanta police officer while he was responding to a complaint of a man being asleep in his car. Anyone could watch that and would agree, including the officer that that’s not the outcome we wanted to see, or they would hope that would happen. But if you think about it, we’re 30 days past the beginning of the black lives matters movement protests and various protests around the country. And we’re, the conversation has opened up, it’s hitting corporate America and businesses. It’s happening in churches. It’s happening in schools, it’s happening in households. And so today on Peachtree Corners Life, we invited some local residents and leaders in the community to start this discussion here. And if you’ve seen any of the first two episodes, you can go to Peachtree Corners Life to see some of those conversations. And today, I am honored and privileged to have two more local residents leaders, and members of the community just to continue that conversation. So people could see that we can talk about this. We can maybe offer some suggestions and opinions on how we feel about, how it impacts systemic racism and some of these things that help allow things like what’s happening in the police, in law enforcement, what’s happening with black people, how it’s impacting different areas. So I’m going to ask our guests, Mo Reilley, who is a resident and entrepreneur and a mother of several wonderful children to introduce herself first. And then I’ll introduce Michael.
Mo: [00:03:27] Hey everybody I’m Mo Reilley. You pretty much did my introduction for me. I’m from the Midwest originally. But we have been in Peachtree corners for over seven years. I guess we came shortly after it actually became a city, which is kind of cool. I have three boys. I have twin ten-year-olds and a four year old. I guess for the sake of this discussion, we could also mention that they are biracial. My fiance is black. He works in Tech Park, Atlanta Tech Park, even though this is Peachtree Corners. And, yeah, I’m excited to join the conversation with you guys.
Karl: [00:04:08] Excellent. Next up Michael Murphy-McCarthy, is also a resident. He is a local leader active in many civic pursuits. And I’d love for you to tell a little bit about yourself, Michael.
Michael: [00:04:24] I moved to Georgia in 1995 to go to grad school. And bought a house in the city and had a job downtown and was living the, the city life. And then my job moved out here to
Peachtree corners and my wife and I were debating what to do and we had a three year old. So we decided to just move up here to Peachtree Corners and had a nice short commute for a long time about, 14 years. And then my, employer decided to mess up my life and move the office back inside the Perimeter. But I’ve stayed here in Peachtree Corners and expect to stay here. So I’ve been here in Peachtree Corners now for, almost 18 years. So my son who’s 21, went up through the schools, graduated Norcross high school. And, so I’ve seen quite a bit of change in this area. I remember when the BP gas station, on 141, which is no longer there was like a major landmark. It was across from the CVS. Seems like a far distant past.
Karl: [00:05:29] Well, the city’s evolved quite a bit, since then, and it’s continuing to evolve. For one of the things that’s impacting all of our communities around the country is what’s happening with black lives matters and the protest. So I’m curious if I, if I wanted to start off with as we were in the middle of COVID-19 and all of the, the social distancing, what was your reaction when you saw George Floyd and the protest that came out of that that’s been going on for 10 years, but as that started to come alive again, what’s your reaction to what’s been going on, around both the racial injustice that’s being displayed and, and the protest. Maybe Michael, you could start?
Michael: [00:06:24] Well, since you brought up COVID, I’ve been social isolating since March. Haven’t actually worked out of my office since then. And, you know, has been a bit of adjustment since then. When George Floyd was killed. My reaction was not again. Because you know, there’s been Ahmaud Arbery, there’s just, you know, obviously a long list of black men who have been killed by the police, in the streets. And I usually don’t watch a lot of online video, but I watched the video of George Floyd and, I guess actually watching a video of it impacted me, pretty strongly. And I’ve in response I decided to break isolation for protests. It’s funny. I haven’t been to a grocery store or a restaurant anywhere, but I’m out on the streets regularly protesting now. Because I’m just angered and fed up by how people are being treated and that we have sanctioned killing of black men in the streets of America. And I find it completely unacceptable.
Karl: [00:07:41] Mo I’m wondering, you’ve got young black men you’re raising and I can imagine the impact that you might’ve felt.
Mo: [00:07:55] Yeah to Michael’s point, we hadn’t really been doing anything either. We’d been in the house. And of course, immediate rage took over myself and you know, basically all of my friends and anybody who saw the video that I’m connected with, it immediately took me back to what is that six years ago to Michael Brown in Ferguson. And when that happened, I just remember being like, we have to go there. I was just trying to figure out anyway to get involved. Can we go there? How do we, how do we help? How do we get involved? So with this, we did not go down to the protest the very first day. I remember it just like turning up and feeling that I wanted to go, okay, we have to go. We have to go. But on top of the COVID you could kind of see with everything that was already happening in Missouri and kind of in other big cities that everything was going to reach a fever pitch very quickly. So I made the personal decision. Okay,
we’re not going to go. We’re not going to take the boys. And they have gone to protests with me. We went to the abolish ice protest. They’ve been actively involved in things before. I knew this one was going to be just a little bit different. So I stayed home, but I immediately got involved the best way I could from the house. Making phone calls, watching the live streams, sending out resources, donating, connecting people with Atlanta solidarity in case there were arrests that were made. I did everything and have been doing everything I could from the house while also communicating why mommy is glued to her phone and why she’s on the computer so much and, you know, sharing a little bit with the boys what we feel is okay to share with them, and just navigating it that way on top of COVID. And that’s, that’s the other reason why, we chose not to go out as a family, you know, it was kind of multi-tiered.
Karl: [00:09:57] I’m wondering in your conversations with, you know, friends, family, what is it about this that triggered this, this wider spread awareness? we know that it’s happened before there over the last 10 years. But something hit, With people on this one, I’m wondering, what is it, do you think you’re hearing from people that you talk to that makes, makes them more aware and more angered by what they’re seeing?
Mo: [00:10:32] I think, you know, to Michael’s point really enough is enough. Because news and I’m not talking about mainstream media, but actual live news comes at you so quickly with Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. And with everybody being able to go live and catching it in real time. You’re not faced with the delay of it being shown on the news or the recap at 6:00 PM or 11:00 PM and oh, this happened earlier. You know, it was literally like this happened, there was already a crowd of people that crowd is growing. Boom. And there is nothing good about what happened, but to just use the phrase of a perfect storm. You know, with COVID more people were at home, more people, it was like a pause. Everybody’s awareness is already heightened and we’re kind of already tuned into what’s going on. We’re already looking at the news. We’re already checking social media and then bam. It was there. And to that point, you know, a lot of people are not at work right now. So there’s more people available to get involved, whether it be at the protests or online, or going to, you know, the meetings or being part of these zoom meetings and conversations. So I just think, you know, good, bad and indifferent in such a time as this and why not now? And now that it’s here, there’s no letting up.
Karl: [00:12:07] Is there an element of it that with Michael Brown and so many others, those were in you know, whether it’s New York, city, Baltimore, other places, cities where, you know, there’s going to be this intersection of law enforcement and others. And, and these things can happen because it’s not here. When you think of Minneapolis and Minneapolis, for those that have been there, has, an urban city area, but a lot of it is suburban. But if you’re not from there, you can think of the Midwest as pretty much laid back and seeing that this is repeating all over the country. Not just in the cities or in the coast, it’s happening in communities all over. Is there, is there an element of this that might be where, where people feel this could happen in their neighborhood? Can this happen in Gwinnett County and Fulton County and Alpharetta and Duluth in Peachtree corners. Is this something that, that you think can happen here? Not so
much because, the police force is a particular way, but just the systemic racism that allows that to happen, it can manifest itself anywhere in the country.
Mo: [00:13:24] Do you want to jump in Michael?
Michael: [00:13:27] You can talk again or I can jump in.
Mo: [00:13:34] Jump in.
Michael: [00:13:36] I, I’m not sure. You know, cause I’m thinking Minneapolis has a history of issues with the police. And so, you know, if you’ve been, yeah, so it’s on the one hand of all it’s, you know, nice thinking mid West. But on the other hand that you’ve been paying attention to Minneapolis, you know, that they’ve had a history of issues. I, I think in some ways it comes down to what Mo said about it being a perfect storm more than necessarily the incidents. But on the other hand, watching that video, I think there’s something about the fact that. There was just this kneeling for eight minutes and 46 seconds. That’s a long time to just very intentionally kneel on someone. It wasn’t a quick pull out the gun and shoot him three times in two seconds or, you know, as they’re running away. This was a very, very slow, deliberate act. And you know, he could’ve gotten up after four minutes. He could have gotten up after five minutes and he would have lived, but eight minutes and 46 seconds of slowly, deliberately killing him.
Karl: [00:14:53] With witnesses on camera and three other law enforcement officers present, that paints a very telling picture.
Mo: [00:15:04] Yeah. I just think, to your question about, you know, people wondering, can it happen here and is it possible, you know. Of course, because, there is a system in place where, as Michael said, you know, police brutality is sanctioned. We can’t act like law enforcement and the system of policing didn’t originate in slavery. All of the systems that are in place come from that time. And we’ve yet to address it. We’ve yet to disband it or abolish it or defund it or whatever words, you know, people are using whatever the mission is. So of course it can happen here because just a couple of weeks after George Floyd, it did happen here. Sure, it was over on university Avenue, but Rayshard Brooks was killed. Just you know, 20 minutes from where we live in Peachtree Corners. So it’s here. It might not be directly, you know, in this zip code and it might not be in Alpharetta, but you also have to think about, why is that? Well, you have to look at the demographics of the city. If your city is naturally segregated and it’s a higher white population, then is the possibility of police brutality or police killings less than, you know, in the inner city, the Metro city of Atlanta. Sure. Because that’s what statistics show us. You know, we, and we saw Major Kane come and give her presentation at the city council meeting. And I honestly was just left with more questions. So I have a list and you know, and I know you’ve reached out to some of them to have them on the show and, you know, she used there’s these buzz words, and she just kept saying, and we do this for transparency, and we do this for transparency and she kept saying it, and I’m thinking, so if you have an early identification review board, how many incidents involving use of four police officers happened
before the review? The example she gave, and I don’t know if it was actual statistic or if it was a flippant example, was that say if the, early identification review board is looking at everything annually. And this officer happens to have used force 10 times an alarm goes off or a bell rings and then, you know, that person is placed for review. So we’re waiting an entire 12 year period or whatever their reporting period is. And allowing this one officer to have 10 instances of use of force before we’re reviewing them. How does that work? What outside agency is reviewing the use of force reports, because Gwinnett County police department, Atlanta police department, wherever you are, they cannot police themselves. You simply can’t. And she kept talking about, you know, how these reports happen and how things are sent up the chain of command. How do I know your chain of command is not corrupt? And if it’s a bunch of white cops reviewing their buddies what’s, what’s being missed in between? And I’m just, so I have a lot of curiosity and questions about the use of force reports, how they’re reviewed when they’re made public, what action is taken with the officer after they’ve been pinged, you know, a multitude of times for use of force. What is happening? And she was saying there’s transparency. But I’ve Googled. I don’t and if I don’t know what to look for or where to look, that’s not transparent. You’re telling me the information is there, but if you’re not telling me, Hey, you can go on the Gwinnett County police department and click on this link. And this is going to show you, which of our officers were disciplined or fired or looked into for their use of force. You’re not being transparent. We have no idea who’s policing us.
Karl: [00:19:33] That’s very interesting. As you mentioned that specific event example, because that’s often how systemic racism, is sometimes not seen or addressed. Because if the system is set up in a way where, those reviews or, or third party accountability isn’t happening. It’s easy for folks and it’s a tough decision for many of my friends in law enforcement. There was a, a brotherhood that exists and they’re doing a very hard, dangerous job for protecting us. Their, their job very often they work late, they work hard. but if there are individuals that in a particular instance, Is doing something that doesn’t fit the values of the, of the police department stepping in, deescalating, helping, you know, my brother’s keeper, helping the other ones stay within the values that they’re, that they strive for. If there isn’t a culture that’s that’s okay. Say, look, you know what you got, you’re getting out of hand or if someone else is seeing something, they don’t say something to get the person, whether it’s mental health, counseling, coaching, retraining, all of these different tools that are available. Someone’s got to be there. That can be that objective person that’s looking at it. So I don’t know if there’s a citizen review board for our…
Rico: [00:21:09] Not in Gwinnett County. But you bring up a good point though, Karl. The, and it is a police culture because I mean, if you’re looking at the Atlanta police force, they could 58 or 60% black African Americans on the police force. It’s majority minority on the police force and yet they still have issues, right? So it is a cultural thing within the police force where they’re protecting themselves. This is what unions do. Also, if it’s union honest and protect themselves, we’ve been through this discussion where, you know, they’ll negotiate salaries and stuff, and maybe even bring back police officers that are not, that were suspended at one point let’s say. Or quite frankly I know, for example, Gwinnett County police trains quite a few police in their Academy, they have a great Academy. They train them well, I believe. But after a year or two,
these guys, they leave and they join other city police forces. And then you get, and I’ve seen it because I’ve had some friends from New York, New Jersey, the Northern States. Where they retire and then they come down and then become police officers in more rural towns. So, you know, and they’re used to doing things a certain way. Maybe that culture is, you know, coming here. I mean, it’s, I don’t think a police force does any different from, from one place to another as much, because, because of what you said too Karl, they face a lot of, there’s crime in the streets. I mean, there’s things that are bad. They can get killed. They’ve been targeted for assassination themselves even. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have, we shouldn’t have respect for each other, that the police force is not there as a violent tool of government, that it’s there to keep everyone safe and, you know, and we just have to, I think we have to see how we get past where we are. So then we can, we can, I don’t know. I don’t say personal dismantling. I don’t know. I don’t know how Mo and Michael feel about dismantling. I think changing and maybe actually dismantling is the word defunding, right? Dismantling it. I guess if we’re going to use words like that as what you want to do, you want to remove the parts that need to do the police duties way from the parts that don’t need police to be doing that, right? You don’t need it.
Karl: [00:23:38] There’s always rhetoric. Like Rico, you’re mentioning these terms of defunding, dismantling the police force. There’s an element of it that’s political rhetoric that folks will do and play in that arena. Well, let’s just keep it simple. What do you think is meant by changing the police force, whether it’s to defunding or dismantling. What do you, what do you think people are asking for there? I’m curious your opinion on that.
Rico: [00:24:07] My opinion? Or let’s go to Mo maybe.
Mo: [00:24:13] Well, it means what it says. I think, especially now with, policy budgets and everything being looked at in most of the major cities. There is no city right now that should be having an increase of funding going to their police force. I’m looking at the numbers last year, right? Gwinnett County police department responded to 516,570 calls. Over a half a million police calls. Do they have a tough job? Yes. We also have to look at what community issues are happening and what is happening in people’s brains, that they are calling the police 516,000 times instead of in many instances. Talking to your neighbor, talking to the person that you’re saying is acting suspicious or ignoring it. That’s an option too, depending on what it is that you’re seeing and what it is that you’re calling the police for. And so, you know, Major Kane, did say that they have, some nonprofits and some organizations on standby that they can call if somebody is having a mental break or having an episode. And the goal is not always necessarily to take people to jail. But I know that if you go very, very baseline and scale, we’re talking about way down, starting at like my kid’s age and start looking at, the inequality and inequity in the school system. That’s where things start. So you start going through these systems and it’s like, okay, well, where else could that money be going instead of shoveling it into the police systems. And allowing them to have more riot gear when we don’t have enough PPE for the hospitals and the facilities that are handling COVID. Things are not balanced. So the defunding conversation has to happen because I’m not understanding why medical
programs, community outreach programs, educational programs, and all of these things are being cut and people can understand what defund that means. But when we started talking about defund police, people are like, I don’t get it. I don’t understand. Yes, you do. But maybe it’s scary or maybe you don’t understand. And there are websites and there is literature out there to help people understand, but you have to take a huge chunk of this money and redistribute it over here so that we can start seeing a balance happen in our communities and in the systems that are in place.
Rico: [00:27:14] Wouldn’t it be better if, I remember there was a zero budget thing done there Reagan’s time. I’m not saying that that would be it, but you know, you start from a budget of zero. What do you need to accomplish the thing that you need to do? Right? Policing break-ins, murder, robberies, whatever it takes, money police force. Wouldn’t it be better. Because just, you know, I think it was a, was it the Blasio? I think, but just the other day I said, we’re going to take a billion dollars from the police. We’re going to move it somewhere else. That sounds easy. That’s a lot of money. What would the using a billion dollars for it to begin with then, that he could easily take that away. And still do what the police is supposed to be doing at least on a minimal basis, right? Because how does that work? I mean, I don’t know. I’m bringing up some more questions cause I don’t think it’s as easy as moving money around because if it was that easy. It’s definitely a cultural thing. It can’t just be that, but I do agree with you Mo and I’ve always felt that education from Pre-Kindergarten or from taking care of our kids because they all start innocent. No one is born a racist, they all start innocent. If we could just bring them up the right way with the right mentors, then I think we’d have a better world, but I agree with you there for sure. And it’s hard work. It’s not going to be easy. It’s really hard work doing that.
Michael: [00:28:52] One of the things that I think about when I hear defund police is it’s terrible marketing. People just have a viscerally bad reaction to defund the police. Yes, we, we defund education. We defund healthcare all the time, but we don’t even talk about it in that language because people wouldn’t, you know, that language to do those things would not be acceptable either. And I, I do think that we have, a priority issue here with what we do with our money. And that, you know, reevaluating how much we’re spending on policing and healthcare and all these things are a big piece of it. Cause we we’ve created. a society where we spend more money on militarizing the police and on sticks and on punishment and on the prison pipeline and, on weapons than we do on creating a caring community where we actually take care of each other. And, and if we created, if we put our money into education and health care and building better community, we wouldn’t be locking people up in the same way that we are.
Karl: [00:30:15] I think you’re, you’re that that’s a really good insight you’re sharing because I could see someone listening to the conversation and hearing defund police. And immediately I used to remember a description, the wall comes up and says, you’re saying make me less safe. And, and I don’t think that’s what you’re saying. So there’s a nuance to listening to, to this movement, to this statement around defund police. But let’s say there was a billion dollars out there that could be moved to other places. If you replace defund police with, address racial injustice, let’s take a billion dollars and put the smart people in government universities, elected
officials and give them a billion dollars and say, look, let’s start with one system at a time. Criminal justice. Let’s look at the data. Let’s look at who, who gets pulled over. What specific actions, different behaviors can drive different outcomes when you pull somebody over. If, if someone is sleeping in their car in a Wendy’s drive through and you get the call and whatever the circumstances are, there’s an awareness that the outcome of that should be someone get an Uber. So let’s take some of that billion dollars and let’s give everybody an Uber credit card where you could send people home that needs to be sent home when there’s no immediate threat to life and so on. If you look in the education system, there’s, there’s many statistics out there that show people of color get, higher disciplines. They get less access. So that’s happening and it’s, I don’t know that any single individual is intentionally doing that. Let’s take some of that billion dollars and let’s figure out why that’s happening and put systems and things in place to help decrease that. If you go to the healthcare system, COVID-19 exposed, who gets impacted? We can’t get the right people if you’re frontline workers, that’s giving us groceries, can’t have, family leave if they get sick, they can’t afford to get sick. Even though they’re providing the service, let’s take some of the billion dollars and do that. But I think there is the part of this where you look at the systemic nature of what’s going on and people’s response. And if you could, I think you said it right, Michael, market that make that sound interesting. Make that sound a more just society. Sound like something people would want to do. I think people could understand with a constraint budget that maybe some of those funds could be better used in these other areas, especially if it brings about a more just society where people can be more evenly or equitably, responded to, or their needs being met. Food for thought.
Rico: [00:33:17] In a, in a utopian society. We’d all be equal, right? We’d all have the same income. We’d all have the same pleasures, same life. We’d be enjoying life. We wouldn’t be worried about all these other things, right? Politicians keep coming back to us and they tell us, well, if we do universal basic income where everyone has at least a minimum income, we should be all firing. We’re in, you know, I’m Italian heritage, born first generation American. I saw my father work for 18 hour shifts and stuff to, to build a business, to do, do what you hear immigrants do all the time, right? But we’re all tribal too, in a way, right? We all like to be among ourselves sometimes. Now that’s been changing. I know from my generation, for example, I wanted to be Americanized. I learned the language, and became American right? My kids, second generation American don’t even know how to speak Italian. I know how to speak it a little bit. My cousin will slap me around a little bit because bad grammar maybe but, you know, but would be that they assimilate, right? My kids, you know, Mo. You’re married to an African American, right? My kid’s going out with an Asian American. You know, I went out with, Hispanic girls when I was in Brooklyn. I mean, we grew up different, right. We have different, but not everyone’s like that. So it’s a cultural thing. That’s going to take generations to change. Maybe this is the beginning. Cause that eight minute, eight plus minute is just, I mean, it’s wrong. I mean, anyone that looks at it that has got to be sad about it.
Karl: [00:34:59] Here’s an interesting thought around that line. And I, and I look at growing up watching and being taught about racism from, from my family, my dad, and so on. There was always, he would always talk about the individual racism. Someone comes up to you and treats
you badly and, you know, be aware of that, you know, it could be dangerous or these things, some people’s hearts are that way. Don’t know that we could change that rapidly. There’s only a few things that can change people’s hearts and they may be better served finding it through, through their pastors. And other means to do that. But, but this, this systemic one is the one that my dad would tell me about and that’s the one that I think, today people have an opportunity to impact that. So I would say I’m not terribly concerned of the individual racism, that people have in their hearts. That exists. It’s a problem. We want that to change. But it’s been interesting. if you take, education, if you apply to an Ivy league school like Harvard they’re there, everyone is not on a level playing field and getting into a school like Harvard, there’s going to be challenges and people talk about affirmative action and all these different things. But I know for a fact that most schools have legacy programs. That means if your parents went to the school, it gives you a leg up to get into school. That sounds like a form of affirmative action. If someone now, if everyone didn’t historically have the same opportunity to go to all these schools, that’s built in systemic racism, playing out in a way that’s hidden, but it’s commonly acceptable.
Rico: [00:36:44] Do you know where that came from though Karl? That came from the thirties and twenties, where there were too many Jewish people entering those colleges and they decided to create a legacy program to stemie that.
Karl: [00:36:57] So, right. So what if you break the chain? Right? So there’s a lot of things. I mean, monuments are coming down. Things are changing. But I don’t know, I’m not particularly focused on any particular one thing, I just know that if people want to impact change, They can look at and search for these evidence and examples of systemic racism in their workplace, in their church, in the schools, in any part of society and take the beautiful talents that people have. Leadership, business leaders out there, individual leaders get involved and pull together that coalition that could change it, if you see it’s unjust. You know, folks can influence and change policies if that’s what they want to do to help everybody. If you want to help people of color, you know, changing hearts is great, but I can tell you there’s a, there’s a very specific action that could be done to change systems. Break the chains that these systems have that could be holding people back.
Mo: [00:38:05] I think, just to your point about education, because things sometimes seem very grand or distant when we talk about colleges and, and things like that. So just to bring it back to Peachtree Corners, right. Gwinnett County is a bubble outside of Metro Atlanta, Forsyth down there. You know, you come up here sometimes you don’t even know what’s going on in the city. Peachtree Corners is its bubble. And then inside there, you have its own little bubbles. Because when you look at Simpson elementary and Peachtree elementary, you can very clearly see between them, Berkeley Lake and some of the other schools that we are still very much segregated in our community. Our community is segregated. There’s no way to get around that. And I don’t know if that we’re still falling victim to redlining that happened 60, 70, 80 years ago, or sooner than that. Or if it’s just been, yes, it started with redlining and segregationist policies, and then people just got comfortable. Simpson elementary is over 70% white. How, how is that even possible? And how are the parents who are sending their kids to Simpson oblivious to that,
or not aware or not cognizant of. What’s happening in our community. It’s 70% white and only 7% black. And speaking to the disciplinarian and the school to prison pipeline. As far as suspensions and disciplinary actions, the white students make up less than 1%. Black students it’s over 4%. So there’s less black kids in your school. And yet here we are seeing that they’re suspended and disciplined more then the white students who are the majority. My kids go to Peachtree before COVID, anyway, we don’t know what we’re doing now. Who knows? So Peachtree is 40% black, 40 ish percent Hispanic, Latinex, and then 10% white. So it’s still an issue, right? We’re still segregated. We’re just on the completely opposite side. Everybody feeds into Pinckneyville. All of these surrounding schools. That’s the middle school. That’s where all of our kids are going. When you get up to the middle school level, things start to balance out. You’re about 30, 32, 33% white. Same for black. Same for Hispanic, Latinex. White students equal 3% or lower of suspension and disciplinary actions and black students are suspended at a rate of 14% or higher. Are you telling me somehow that black kids are, they’re acting out more, they’re fighting more, something is happening? No, the system is built against them from the very beginning. And so when you talk about people being community leaders and making effective change and making a difference in what to do moving forward, you don’t have to be an elected official. You don’t have to be a business owner in the community. You don’t have to serve on the board. You have to just look outside your front door. Holcomb bridge is literally like the proverbial railroad tracks. It’s what it is. And it’s been that way. And it’s why my kids and most of their friends are over here. And you have all of these other kids that are in Amberfield and Simpsonwood and all these other neighborhoods. And we are not even really considering buying a house over there because one, if my kids have to transfer to Simpson, they’re going to be the only black kids in their class. Almost guaranteed. My fiance, who’s the big black guy with dreads, when he wears a hoodie or he’s out wanting to jog in one of those neighborhoods or he’s out hanging out, is he going to be able to be comfortable knowing that none of his neighbors are gonna call the police on him? No. Our community is segregated and people have to take that into consideration. It’s not a far off thing. It’s not happening just in Atlanta. It’s not happening just in Detroit where I moved here from, that’s not the case. It’s here, it’s at our front steps. So if people actually want to affect change, you literally have to look at your cul-de-sac. Why does it look like this? And how can we change it? And that’s where it starts.
Rico: [00:43:25] Can I jump in a second? Because I agree to some extent for what you’re saying, racism is like Karl said individual, right. And Simpson is majority white and because of the way, just to play the other side of that, right. It’s majority white because the area is majority white, that, that feeds into. The homes are a certain price level because that’s the nature of these homes. You’re not going to make them any cheaper. This is the way the neighborhood is. If you can afford to live here. I haven’t seen in my, since 95, I’ve seen plenty of people come and go. I don’t see, and I’ve, I I’m familiar with red lightening and worked for Chuck Schumer for a year through a constituent work and I worked with the democratic party in Brooklyn, so I’m familiar with that. I don’t see that here. At least not now. Was it here 20 years ago? I have no idea. But I don’t see that now. I see, what I see is it’s an economic, it’s almost like a class thing versus racial thing on that aspect of it. Right? More expensive homes. You have to have the income to come here to buy. I mean, my son can’t move here. He’s going to have to buy a
condo somewhere where it’s cheaper because he can’t afford it. And that’s fine because he’s a younger guy, he’s twenty-four years old, right, so.
Karl: [00:44:48] But Rico, if I could, if I could build on that a little bit. So if you peel that back, we do, and you worked on the zoning and zoning when we make multi-year strategic plans and there’s a dynamic here that there are expensive homes here and others. The millennials and many of the folks that are looking at downsizing, retiring needs a place to live. Building, affordable housing and communities by design, by construct is a way to do that. Now this isn’t new other cities have done it. People are evolving it and you can look around the country and get best practices. But it takes will. It takes, this is important to us, so that in different community that have that dynamic historically, we can’t change the past. The next housing we build, they’re building townhouses across the street next to the town center. Those houses could be different. They could be a half million dollar town home. They could be more affordable townhomes, which would change the demographic that’s there that now are the only ones that are working in grocery stores. And so people could afford.
Rico: [00:46:00] Okay so.
Michael: [00:46:01] Can I jump in?
Rico: [00:46:02] Karl, I’m sorry, just to add one more, one more thing to that. Those townhouses are on inexpensive property. They’re going to be whatever the market value is there. You’re right. Unless it’s rezoned and you force a subsidy, there are ways to do that. I used to be on the planning commission too so I understand that. There’s 165 apartments that supposed to be built right on, right next to town center. You know that, right? So that’s affordable housing for sure to a degree. Now I wish they were condos and not apartments because that’s where at least it’s ownership, right? And reasonably priced condos, not like a ridiculous price. Those I can see, and they should have been something, that could have been a great way to do that. But it’s not.
Karl: [00:46:45] So Michael, you’ve got perspective here being here for awhile, please, please share.
Michael: [00:46:57] I’m very concerned about what’s happening in Peachtree Corners and like, Karl, I think one of the things you said when you reached out to me was that not a whole lot is being said here and, by the city leadership. And I’m going to get around to the housing and school thing. I got a slightly long story here. My, what, what struck me in the last few weeks is that, you know, frequently people after shootings and things say, you know, there’s lots of thoughts and prayers and stuff, but we’ve actually gone through a period of time where we’ve not even had that where our mayor said, it’s better not to say anything. And it’s better just to listen. If you want to be our mayor, you ought to speak up and say something. You ought to be talking to the people who are feeling oppressed. You ought to be educating yourself on why people are out on the streets protesting. That it’s not okay to just sit back and go, I’m a white guy, I’m not afraid of the police, I don’t know what you’re feeling. The, the opt, I got a slightly
different thing out of the police presentation at city council. I love those, review of it, but what I got out of it is okay, so, what do you do when you don’t know what to do? You bring in the police to talk about why they’re already doing things correctly? When a lot of us don’t, you know, have a lot of concerns and questions about how are things being done, but what does our city council do? Bring the police in to talk about, don’t worry, we’re already doing it okay. And then you follow that up with a presentation on why the South side of the city, where the minorities live, where the poor communities are, why they’re blighted and why we have to dissolve them so we can tax them because they’re blighted. We’re not going to tax the whole city. We’re not going to tax the white parts of the city. We’re not going to tax the wealthy parts of the city. We’re going to tax the blighted parts of the community through redevelopment zones. I don’t think that was good, wait, Rico, let me talk. I don’t think that was good optics for the meeting that their first public meeting, after all this hits is to have the police come in and to say, we’re doing it okay. And then to follow it up immediately with the presentation on the blighted south side? Give me a break. That ain’t right. To get around to Simpson and what’s going on on the North side, I happen to be living in that zone. I, as I mentioned, my job moved up here, I moved out here. I bought a house here, so I could have a really short commute, literally on a bad day to work I see 6 cars. That’s how short my commute was. I frequently saw more deer than cars on the way to work. And what struck me and disturbed me after I moved here was the fact that my neighbors were proud that nobody in apartments went to the same school that my son went to. They were proud that it was mostly white. They wanted to keep it white. They wanted to keep the townhomes and the apartments out of the area. When you go out to the forum to the new town center, why did the city buy that land? To keep apartments out of the Simpson elementary school. They could have bought, built their town center somewhere else. They build it across from the forum to protect the home values of the people who send their kids to Simpson elementary. Okay, that’s my rant.
Rico: [00:50:56] Alright. Can I, can I, do you mind? One is I ended the, just to clarify the facts, Michael, the CID or the tax Haven part, the taxing part, it’s a self taxing district to the businesses that are in the district that want to spend their money there.
Michael: [00:51:16] I’m not talking about the CID.
Rico: [00:51:19] Then what are you talking about? That’s the overlay that they were talking about. I think, if I remember correct.
Michael: [00:51:24] I’ve gone to some of the evening planning meetings and I’m not sure of all the exact details, but they are talking about creating redevelopment zones in blighted areas. That’s a completely separate issue than the CID.
Rico: [00:51:39] Right. But I believe it has, the component with self taxing district that they would allow them to be able to tax themselves, which is what, you know West Gwinnet or whatever, West village, whatever they do. But I, you know, there’s another facet of it. But the apartments across the way that was, that’s the town centers, I’ll tell you that there was a lawsuit at the very
beginning back when Charlie Roberts had that property. Way back when the people were saying, he actually said, actually the lawsuit was brought to say that they would try to block his rezoning there because of racism. So that goes back. I don’t know, 20 odd years ago or something.
Michael: [00:52:24] Rico, I understand you’re going over facts and a little history and maybe I mean slightly more nuanced interpretation, but I fundamentally believe that our city has structural racism in it. And what you are doing by talking about the facts in such a manner is to defend, possibly, that what I’m trying to point out is we have issues here that we need to deal with. And I thought that was the point of the conversation here.
Rico: [00:52:49] Yeah, that is. I’m not defending them what I’m trying to put out is facts. So I, at least, well, let’s deal with the facts. We want to deal with the facts of, of everything. So let’s deal with the facts though. That’s all I’m saying. There are 165 apartments that are going across there by the way, is my point. So they’re are apartments going there. There may not be the 300 apartments originally that was supposed to go. But when Charlie Roberts sold that to get there, to be able to put his 165, which by the way, he was zoned to do, he could have kept the property and done the 300 apartments there. He decided to sell part of it. That’s part of that issue by the way, just to keep things straight, but there will be apartments there that are about 160 units.
Karl: [00:53:34] I’m curious Rico though, as, if, if you stepped back from, from the particular actions that any city takes, bridges and town centers and apartments and more, the question is who are the stakeholders that are being impacted by those decisions? And we can, we can reasonably say there are people of all ethnicities, all socioeconomics and in a city the size of Peachtree Corners or any local city. But the people making the decisions, the people that are influencing those decisions, I’m just curious how diverse that is. Concerning, considering when a decision is made like that, are the voices being heard and being represented that could influence because if you bring in a different perspective, the same decision may be decided on. That, that’s not the question. The question is if only a few folks can make the decision and admittedly, whether the mayor or other people may have a particular point of view, that may differ from others, there’s a blind spot. So when you start talking about systemic community leadership, I’m curious, what, what is the role of community leaders, residents, in making sure that these big decisions that may impact the community that has systemic racism built into it, are they getting information? I think they are really smart people that run, that run the city and other places. My question is, are they getting the information they need to understand the impact of the decisions they’re making on various people. And if the answer is yes, if they’re getting counsel and guidance from all parts of Peachtree Corners, whatever side of Holcomb bridge, whatever school, the parents, if they’re getting that and you can’t just say, we asked for it and we didn’t get it. If folks are shut out from the system, at some point they stopped talking. But if you really want to pull those voices in, that’s part of what people can do. Stepping up, whether run for office, whether they’re get involved in, in local, in local matters or outreach on the other side. There, there, I remembered, a mentor of mine, he, he gave us a really interesting
challenge with leadership team. I, I worked for an organization that was in an industry that was mostly male dominated, aerospace. If you go and you look at any aerospace company, there’s going to be mostly men dominating in there. And I remembered, he challenged, everybody on his staff to improve the recruiting, onboarding development and promotion of women in the aerospace industry. And so we had a very specific task. We had to go out to organizations and build relationships so we can identify engineering talents and management talents, sales talents, and find ways to bring them in. That was literally on our goals. We got paid and compensated based on how we perform them in particular way. Now, I didn’t argue with it. If he said, that’s what you had to go do, but was it the right thing to do? He was thinking of something larger then just making a particular number, but here’s the funny thing. And I measured it. When we hired women in sales and in aerospace, they often outperform men. Who knew? You wouldn’t know that, but he had an insight. He challenged us to change. He challenged us to bring, make us uncomfortable and bring other people to the conversation. So in community leadership, it’s going to be uncomfortable for folks to start to engage in real ways, challenge themselves to get different voices. But if you’re a person that doesn’t feel you understand someone else, someone else’s culture, somebody else’s experience in life, and you have a title, self appointed or, or not. A leader or member of the community. The challenge to you is what are you going to do to change that? And that’s, I think, you know, the optics of, of, of a particular meeting. If you, one resident saw the meeting in that way. The question is, did others? And it happened, but do you learn from it or do we show up at a meeting two months from now and it’s the same thing? There’s no learning that happens. I don’t know the answer to that, but I think this is a time where folks are really starting to examine their biases and their blind spots. And I’m just curious to see, you know, does this continue beyond this moment in time? And it leads to action and change. That’s what’s going to be interesting to see. So I’m curious on, what, what advice would you give to folks and just taken from your perspective, people can do to get, more active, aware and involved whether individual or community leader. And Michael, I know you’ve been organizing some, some protests and activities, but, maybe you could share some of the things that, that people can get involved with locally.
Michael: [00:59:07] So we started, I mentioned I started going to protests, and I’ve actually avoided the big ones in the city. I’ve been more focused on local. I know it’s an old phrase, but all politics is local. So I’ve gone to the two Peachtree Corners ones that were organized by our youth. Great events. And, I’ve been, after chatting with some friends and deciding that we could go out and do this, decided to, just go out along Peachtree Parkway periodically in support of black lives matter and have been, slowly growing that event. We had our biggest turnout this morning. We’ve decided to do weeklies from 7:00 AM to 9:00 AM down just North of Holcomb bridge. And I’m hoping more people will turn out. We, we have a revolving group of people and in order to do a weekly, that’s what we need. So if you can come, great. Part of it is to show our support of black lives matter and show support for people who are coming and protesting with us and the people driving by. We’ve had people, you know, pull over, get out of the car and scream I love you to us, and get back in the car and take off. And we, we it’s been, it’s clearly affirmative to the people who are driving by. And I know that’s not gonna create the structural change that we need and necessarily deal with the structural racism here in Peachtree Corners.
But I think it’s important that we get our voice out there and we let people know that there are people, other people in the community who, support black lives matter and support creating change in the community. And another side thing that I’ve seen, that’s a huge benefit from this is that I believe that there’s a bunch of us who are in our own little grassroots gardens. Like there’s a group of us up here in North Peachtree Corners who are organizing around HD95 and helping to get, some political, we’re supposed to be nonpartisan here, so I’ll just say political candidates, elected or reelected. And, you know, we’re trying to organize. And one of the things we’re very clear is our garden is too small. We’re in a bubble. You know, Mo referenced bubbles, and the bubbles in the different part of the city need to connect for the garden, I’ve been using the garden analogy. We need to connect our gardens, and reach out so that we can become more effective. And, I don’t know what the ask is, but I believe that out of giving that we need to come to, we can coalesce and come up with some specific actions that we want to ask the city to do. And this isn’t just about standing on the street. This is about affirming people, gathering voices, gathering more voices, starting to work together, trying to create some change.
Karl: [01:02:01] Thank you. Mo, I’m curious to get your thoughts.
Mo: [01:02:09] On how to move forward and make the world a better place?
Karl: [01:02:14] If you got that one, I’d think you’d be quite wealthy. But we could start with what little small, innocent folks that live in their homes and in their communities can do.
Mo: [01:02:28] Well, I hope people in our community watch these conversations that you guys have been hosting. And then continue having the conversations. Recognize that there’s an issue and choose to take action. I think part of the reason why things have been the way they have for so long is because of the people that benefit from the system. So, you know, we’ve talked about why certain people have not agreed to come on the show and it’s either, if you support black lives or equity in education or any of these things say that. And if you don’t support it, say that, or I’ll be left to assume that your silence leans in that direction. So I think that’s first and foremost, recognizing that there are some serious issues in Peachtree Corners with diversity, inequality, inequity, and it starts from Pre-K up. It starts from the way the lines are drawn for the zoning, for the school boards, it starts with the fact that, you know yes, we have a beautiful town center and yes, there’s new townhouses, but when the townhouses costs 400, 500, 600, $700,000, certain people are being kept out of the community. Yes. Apartment buildings are being built, but are they affordable apartments or are they luxury apartments that start at 1200, 1500 for a one bedroom. And so the people who are serving our community, that work at Sprouts that work at Wendy’s that work at Cool Runnings, the Jamaican restaurant that work at J Alexander, they work at all these places, but they can not live in our community, right? All of these things, people have to open their eyes become aware and then take action to change that. It starts at home. You have to talk to your kids about why there’s no black kids in their school. And do you want that to change? Do you want them to have a diverse group of kids that they’re playing with on the playground? What are the actionable steps there? When we return to the school and you start ignoring COVID and the protests go away, you can’t just close
your eyes and become blind to the situation that’s happening. So beyond that, I’m part of a couple mom groups in the neighborhood, and I know folks love to do book clubs. So there’s plenty of literature on the subject. I would encourage white people to do anti-racism work. There are books, you can get. Me a White Supremacy, White Fragility, you can look up, Rachel Cargill, the Great Unlearn, Brittany Packnett Cunningham, Laila F. Sod. These are all people that you can Google. You can find them on social media. There’s tons of resources that go beyond us having this conversation. If you actually want to effect change within yourself first with your kids, with their school, and then out into the community.
Karl: [01:05:55] That’s really, really helpful to hear some of those, cause these things start individually, and people could build it and expand out from that. Rico, I’m curious if you’ve got any, any thoughts on, as you’ve heard this discussion, this is our third, our third one in this. And the purpose is to start the dialogue, but any takeaways and things that you think might really help folks as they go through their own journeys?
Rico: [01:06:25] Well, Mo, thank you for the list of reading. Number one that does help and some of those books are, are on my list as well, so to, to read. But you know, it’s a good way. And Michael, I didn’t mean to get on you, but it’s good to have this tough conversation, right? And it’s good to point out different things in it. And Karl and I had at one point said, why don’t we just get, you know, maybe you get, get three white people on to just talk about from their perspective that they used to think, and maybe that they changed their minds and their thinking different, you know, it’s hard to change people’s minds. I think, you know, And there’s different things that you can affect. I think. You know, listen, the Simpson elementary school being majority white, again, I think that’s just, you know, I don’t want to re-go through that, but some things are the way they are, because that’s the lines and stuff. That’s not necessarily, that school’s been there for so long that this Peachtree Corners has grown out and it’s, can’t even accommodate the kids at one point that it could accommodate. So from within this circle, if you want to call it a bubble of a Pinckneyville middle is right down the block and it’s majority minority. And yes, it feeds from three different elementary schools. The biggest thing, you know, and that’s just to set the playing field, but the biggest thing is involvement, right. But involvement has to come like Joe Sawyer when he ran for city council, involvement has to come to go to the planning commission. To you know, if you’re going to talk about, you know, rezoning and how do you affect lower-income rezoning? I’ve talked about that when we you know, when I was on the planning commission, how do we do that? Of course Gwinnett County at the time would tell me we can’t do those things, it would be illegal, we get lawsuits, we’d have to protect it. It’s like, I don’t see it. I just, I don’t see putting multi-units like 13, like apartments next to homes. Doesn’t work that way. You know, it just doesn’t. But if we’re all involved, if we all have a voice at the table and it’s hard when maybe two people work in a family and maybe they’re doing two jobs, three jobs and they can’t get there, we have to make it easier for them at least to participate. See the stuff online, be able to communicate online. We’re doing all our telework and online, there’s no reason in the world why we can’t communicate online to our representative. And if they’re not being responsive, throw them out. I mean, that’s, that’s politics. That’s the way this works. That’s the way it’s always worked. If we’re not, if we want to make the change, we need
to do it from the inside out. Unless you want a revolution that takes down a government, that’s a whole different story and I don’t want to go there. But the best way to do it and the way that people will accept it better is from inside out to do that work. And it has worked, but you know what? There are people that just don’t want to do that work. It’s easier to just talk about it. If you’re going to be there, you need to do the work, get your representatives and go to those meetings. I mean, really, it doesn’t take a lot of votes to put a city council person in or a state Senator or a house seat. Now, president, you know, can’t talk about that. But, and I don’t understand how 3 million people can vote for one person. Not that I was for her, but vote for the one that’s in their house now. I just don’t know how that goes, but you have to be involved and I don’t want to keep going on, but that’s, to me that’s a…
Karl: [01:10:13] Alright, I’ll wrap up by saying, first, thank you all for coming out. Let’s have this conversation. We would normally be doing this together. We’d be doing it while breaking bread and having coffee or drinks and talk. And we can’t do that now. But I think it was still important that we have this conversation and that more of these happen. My only tips to folks would be, fundamentally falls around three things. One, this weekend I hear that Hamilton will be streaming on Disney plus, so if you want to talk about getting involved, doing more with, with the talents that you have, take a watch at Hamilton. And you don’t have to do all the things he did, but you could do what you can in your own community and in your own house. The second thing, I would say for those folks that, you know, feel that there’s an injustice that they’re starting to realize, and they know something about it doesn’t feel right, and they want to do something. It’s really simple. If you want to tell people that you support social justice, more than words, where you put your time and where you put your resource, money tells people what’s important to you. So, whether it’s protesting, whether it’s supporting schools, whether it’s supporting things in the community. Think about where you spend your time, where you put your resources, if you want to help drive more, equity in the community you live, you live in. And the last thing I’d say for folks to think about, reach out. And if you haven’t talked to someone that’s different from you, it’s a great time to start doing that. Learn to understand different perspectives. And for those that are uncomfortable with it yet, that’s okay too. This may not be your time and moment, but I’ll tell you something, your kids are changing. And they’re going to follow. The millennials and the generation to follow are going to force us to change it regardless. So it’s a question when you want to jump on the bus, but I do think that that the next generation is going to dictate how and what this society is like. So thank you Mo. Thank you, Michael and Rico again for allowing us to have these conversations.I appreciate you for creating this platform to do that. Take care everybody have a good day and tune in to Peachtree Corners Life podcast. It’s streamed, this’ll be on Facebook live along with the other conversations. And, you know, start having your own. Thank you everyone.
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- JTS Announces 2021 Evaluation and Management Services with Evangelical Community Hospital’s MSO
- Early Voting Dates and Locations
- 7 Things You Should Know that’s Going on In Peachtree Corners [Podcast]
- How to Position Your Small Business to Grow Sales During and After COVID-19 [Podcast]
- The Pharmacy Business and People’s Access to Prescriptions During COVD-19 [Podcast]
Education3 days ago
U.S. Secretary of Education Announces Cornerstone Christian Academy as a 2020 National Blue Ribbon School
Elections and Politics1 day ago
Early Voting Dates and Locations
Business2 days ago
Vineyard Johns Creek, Assisted Living & Memory Care Community, Announce Information Center Opening and Recent Hires
City Government1 day ago
7 Things You Should Know that’s Going on In Peachtree Corners [Podcast]