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Garrett McCurrach: Envisioning the Future of Urban Logistics and Delivery

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How does an autonomous underground logistics system revolutionize city delivery? What makes Pipedream’s approach fast, reliable, affordable, and remarkably emission-less? Join our live simulcast podcast of UrbanEBB, with Garrett McCurrach, CEO of Pipedream, and dive into the world of hyper-logistics.

Garrett shares his journey from mechanical engineering to developing an invisible network that could change the urban landscape. Discover how Pipedream makes deliveries seamless and efficient, transforming how we receive everything from food to daily essentials.

Don’t miss this opportunity to explore a future where city deliveries are streamlined and sustainable. Tune in for an eye-opening discussion on the next wave of urban innovation with your host, Rico Figliolini.

Timestamp:

0:00:00 – Introduction and welcome.
0:01:00 – Introduction to Pipedream as a startup.
0:01:20 – Garrett McCurrach’s entrepreneurial background and role as VP of Business Development at Martin Bionics
0:04:19 – Focus on logistics and the importance of access to delivery services.
0:06:33 – Introduction to the hub and spoke model used by Pipedream.
0:10:40 – The goal is to make delivery more efficient and cost-effective.
0:12:16 – Pipedream system working in Peachtree Corners.
0:15:40 – Challenges faced during the testing phase.
0:16:01 – How technology has evolved over the years.
0:17:52 – The evolution of Pipedream’s business over the past three years.
0:21:16 – Hiring individuals based on curiosity rather than age.
0:24:09 – Potential expansions into other industries and markets.
0:28:23 – Teaser about a new business collaboration with a test site for instant pickup in Peachtree Corners.
0:29:06 – Closing remarks

Podcast Transcript

Rico Figliolini 0:00:00

Hi, everyone. This is Rico Figliolini, host of UrbanEbb, a brand new podcast from Peachtree Corners Life magazine and from Southwest Gwinnett magazine, I have today a special guest with me, the CEO of Pipedream, Garrett McCurrach. Thank you, Garrett, for being with.

Garrett McCurrach 0:00:58

Absolutely. Super excited.

Rico Figliolini 0:01:00

Yeah, this is a good way for UrbanEbb to discover a bit more about what’s going on in our small cities here in Peachtree Corners. You’re a startup, actually, that’s been around for about three and a half years, and you’re based out of Oklahoma, if I got that correct.

Garrett McCurrach 0:01:15

Originally we were based out of Oklahoma City, and then I’ve moved to Austin in the last year.

Rico Figliolini 0:01:20

Oh, wow. Okay, cool. Great place, Austin, Texas. So you’ve been. You’re an entrepreneur. I’ve seen online a few things that some startups that you were involved with, you were a VP of business development at Martin Bionics. So you have a terrific entrepreneurial background, if you will, for a young person coming into this business, in a logistics business, actually, which is what pipe dream is about. Right? Hyper logistics, if you will. But tell us, before you dive into that, tell us a little bit about yourself, your background.

Garrett McCurrach 0:01:55

So I’m a mechanical engineer. That’s what I went to school for. And realized that there’s so many things just not on. Not just the engineering side, but on the business side that goes into changing how things are done. So after I got done with engineering school, I decided not to take a job right away, and I figured I needed to learn business, and so just started building apps to make rent and learned to code. Just started building things for small businesses, things that help them with their day to day and use that. Everything I learned from there, and

I was VP of Bizdev at modern bionics. I’ve always wanted to do prosthetics. It’s really what I went to engineering school for. And after that, just really kind of used that time to think about, okay, what is the one big thing that could spend the next decade of my life on something that is. I wanted to find something that was so important that even if I spend a decade on it and it doesn’t work, but something we learn helps someone else make it work, that’s ten years of my life well spent so around. And there’s not a lot of things that you can do that with. You have payment. Apps are great, but they’re not really changing the way we live. They’re not making people’s lives better. And logistics is just that thing that is so core to how we live. And it’s the thing that separates whether someone has access to something or not, just the cost of delivery. I don’t quite make enough to access some delivery things, but I can get medication delivered and groceries delivered. And if we all had access to that, if everyone had access to laundry and grocery and medication, and then even new product lines like tools and clothes and closed rental, if we can make delivery really cheap, we can just provide that access to more people. And that was just something that we were really passionate about and is going to take a lot of work over the next decade to get there and really locked into that industry as being the thing that we could really make an impact on.

Rico Figliolini 0:04:19

Interesting. I was listening to something on TikTok. You could get lost on there, right? So it was an interview with Bezo, and he was saying the reason he got into, what he got into was that he saw growth, e commerce, and he went out, he picked out categories, and he said the biggest category was books. A million books at any given time. Right? So you probably have seen the same video about. So, finding the right category, the right product. I can appreciate what you’re saying, because startups, people think, come out of the blue sometimes, and they go, they look at Shark tank and they think, wow, it’s like they’re going to be millionaires within a year. They don’t understand the suffering and the blood, sweat and tears that entrepreneurs have to go through. And years, like you said, it could be a decade, you might end up somewhere else, right? Because Instagram started as one thing, ended up as something else. Twitter started as a service to find the right podcast, ended up what it was. So different companies evolve. And I look at yours and I’ve done some work on it, and I just see, even if I don’t think about the tunnel part, everyone likes a tunnel. Elon Musk loves tunnels, I guess. But I could see where this can go, especially when you talk about delivery at restaurants or within certain areas where you have a point, because I think one of your interviews, and we’ll get into that talked about this is not going from just one single point to another point. This is going from a hub property to another hub. Because this way you have a place like Wendy’s, which you guys are working with, the point of delivery right outside the store, but also being part of this, where it’s going through a system, heading into a campus of office buildings where someone doesn’t have to leave their office building because that lunch, that whatever starts out as lunch, but I could see it being products and other things being delivered within that. So tell us, I’m talking too much, but tell us a bit about how that works exactly and where you are with.

Garrett McCurrach 0:06:33

So, you know, when you get something delivered today, we’ll use food as an example. I think food is really interesting because what Amazon did with back then, it know, three to five day delivery, they saw books as this really interesting way to start that industry because a bookstore can’t contain all the books in the world. And so you really need this big catalog of a bunch of books that you can send to people. And that was the perfect, they call it a beachhead for Amazon. And then they expanded into other categories. And then we see food as kind of being that same thing where there’s so much customer demand for having food delivered and that customer demand is already there. It doesn’t have to be created. We all love getting food delivered, and we all hate how expensive it is and how much it just seems to just add up and add up and add up as you’re adding things. And then by the time you get to your delivery, you’re like, oh, how did it get to be $50 to get my $10 cheeseburger delivered? And so it’s a great beach ad for us. So I’ll use that example. But you have a doordash driver who is dispatched. They go to a restaurant and there is 15 to 20 other orders sitting on a shelf. And they go through the orders, they grab the one that they’re going to deliver, they go all the way to your house, they drop it off, and then they go out to another restaurant that is another three, 4 miles away, pick up one other order, drive it to another house. And if you think about if we did nationwide delivery that way, delivery would be impossible. There’s no way know going back to thinking about Amazon, if you had one delivery driver go and pick up a book, travel across the country and drop it off with me, that would be impossible. And so we use this hub and spoke model where there’s a delivery driver who goes to a warehouse, picks up all the books that are being delivered that day. They drive to a hub, they drop it off, all those books disperse out to the hub that’s nearest to me, and a delivery driver goes and picks up all the books that need to be delivered that day. And then they go and they do what is called the milk run and drop it off at a bunch of different houses. And so it’s really interesting. Logistics has always kind of mirrored each other on the different scales. So global logistics has always worked how national logistics has worked, and national logistics has always worked the same way that last mile works, and they all kind of use the same truths, and the hub and spoke model being kind of that main one, but with instant delivery, like doordash and Uber eats, they’ve not followed that model. And it’s because that infrastructure doesn’t exist. And so what Pipedream is doing is creating that hub and spoke model for within cities so that they can take advantage of the same efficiencies of being able to deliver things from hub to hub while not foregoing their fast delivery time. So you need a hub and spoke model that is very fast. You can still get things delivered in under 15 minutes, but with more efficiency. Instead of. I think our children will look at food delivery today and they’ll see six pack of chicken nuggets driving in a 2000 pound car be like, that’s kind of funny that we’re using a car that huge to deliver something so small and just make everything more efficient. I think sometimes people look at us and other autonomous modalities as well and say, you’re replacing delivery drivers. And I think for a really long time, over the next decade at least, it’s just going to make them more efficient. So instead of delivering one delivery at a time, they can deliver five, six, seven deliveries at a time. And so that’s really for us, is we just want to make that delivery to you more efficient. We want to keep it on the same time schedule. We still want it dropped off at your door, but we want to make that cart. When you get to order your delivery, we want you to go, oh no, that’s really cheap. We’ll do that all the time because it’s just as cheap as going to get the food myself.

Rico Figliolini 0:10:40

Yeah, I can see that. I mean, I have a family of five in the house, right? So three of them, because of COVID and stuff, they’re all living home. And we have a Doordash subscription, right? Because otherwise too expensive if you just do it off one at a time. And I love the example that someone gave is like, the lunch you order. If it’s just for one person, you’re paying double that cost because of delivery. Now, if you’re doing five people, it’s a little different, maybe, and you also have a subscription, but it is what it is. There’s different services that also want to get into this space, right? You have drone deliveries, you have other things going on. Robotics delivery, like the autonomous mini vehicle that comes up. And I’ve seen experimented on college campuses. And of course, you leave people that have too much time on their hands, they’ll pick up that robot and they’ll put it somewhere else, maybe, or other things that can happen to that. But you’re talking about closed end system food coming from one place to another in a closed system until it gets to where it’s going. During COVID we all had issues about deliveries and problems like that. This is one reason why there are safety seals on lunch bags and items had to be done, because people are people sometimes, and things could go badly fast. The US is a closed end system. Going from like, Wendy’s or a hub, let’s say there going straight to, let’s say. I think the way this is being an experiment to going right to curiosity lab in the city of peace for corners. Right about a mile away, I think, or so.

Garrett McCurrach 0:12:16

Yeah, about a. Yeah.

Rico Figliolini 0:12:18

And you guys are all done with that’s at work now, I believe.

Garrett McCurrach 0:12:21

Yes, sir. Yeah, it’s been working for a couple of months. We’ve been working on it.

Rico Figliolini 0:12:25

Okay, so you’ve learned a lot in this process. This is the first city that you’ve done like this, I think.

Garrett McCurrach 0:12:30

Oh, yeah, we’ve learned a ton. And that was the goal. We have fallen in love with Petrie corners. It’s such an amazing city filled with just really kind people. And what I love about Petrie corners is, and the reason that we picked it was, one, it’s a tech forward city. The region that we’re doing the system in has a lot of other things as well. You have the self driving cars. You have some of those delivery. Those small delivery sidewalk robots.

Rico Figliolini 0:13:02

Right.

Garrett McCurrach 0:13:03

And that’s one and then two. It’s a really interesting environment as well. You drive around petro corners all the time, as I have too. It gets a little hilly and it’s a little windy and you all have these big, giant, gorgeous trees. And the first time I went, I was like, man, I don’t know how on earth do they grow trees that big and that green? And it’s because it rains ton. And so it’s a great water environment too, to make sure that we have the procedures and the reliability to handle extreme water conditions, the windy roads, the soil conditions. It was just a really good testing ground for us to kind of learn the hard way. We could have done a flat, very dry climate and it would have been really easy, but we wanted to really pressure test the system.

Rico Figliolini 0:13:55

Yeah, I don’t blame you see that. Because one of the thoughts that came across me was, it’s underground. How is it going to be sealed? Is it going to be healthy, if you will, safe that way? So a bunch of questions in my mind would come up like that. And also, like you said, the city has helped you with red tape and stuff as far as permitting because God knows utilities and everything else that’s involved when you’re digging into ground, because there’s been times where people have cut the power lines or cut a line they shouldn’t be cutting. So I’m sure you learned a lot. By doing that here with that and going across, because you had to go across the intersection on the street to be able to cut it. So you’re cutting through sidewalks, through land, through property. Most of it, I think right of way maybe, but still to cutting through permissions, you have to get a lot of challenges, right?

Garrett McCurrach 0:14:50

Oh, yeah, definitely. The city has been really great to work with, but I think the people, especially who work on that road and live on the road have been really patient with us too, which we really appreciate and hopefully have done right by them. But they were kind of there with us in the challenges that we faced and we’ll always appreciate that. And I think anyone who drives along that we were able to go under all roads, which is just a benefit we get from not doing this in the 60s, take advantage of the utility technology, but still by nature of it being our first one, there are definitely some challenges and really appreciate the people at Petrie corners for being patient with us through that. And I just testament to your city.

Rico Figliolini 0:15:40

So in the three years that you’ve been doing this, over three years, I guess, has the business evolved a little bit from what you started out as? How have you seen a change from day one to, let’s say, where you are now?

Garrett McCurrach 0:15:53

Great question. I wouldn’t say that it’s changed that much. We try to stay really mission focused.

Rico Figliolini 0:16:00

Right.

Garrett McCurrach 0:16:01

Our goal is to decrease the cost of delivery and expand the access that people have to getting things delivered and expanding the amount of things that can be delivered. And so that’s really been the focus. And we kind of make sure that we never fall in love with any technology or anything that we build. We really want to fall in love with the problem and solve that problem. That being said, the tech has changed a little bit. It has always been pipe based, but we’ve changed how it interacts with the pipe. And a lot of it has been the first time, the very first prototype we built was it worked and it went through, but there were a lot of smaller details that didn’t exist that exist today. So stuff like you were saying, like food safety, we want to make sure that we have higher food safety standards than even like, a doordash driver or any other way that food, we get to someone. So we make sure that the food is sealed. It is sealed within a container, and then that container is put into the robot, which then seals the container, and then the pipe that that is being sealed in is kept really clean and is sealed off from the outside world. So a lot of things like that, little details, customer experience, things have definitely evolved. I don’t know if anything has changed that dramatically. We have expanded. There were product lines that we didn’t know about when we started. We knew that they existed somewhere out there. But just by talking to customers, just understanding, okay, what are the biggest pain points? There’s some, like instant pickup and then some other products that we’re working on that take advantage of the same core system. I can solve some of those smaller pain points for customers.

Rico Figliolini 0:17:52

I can see the expansion of what. I can see college campuses, new college campuses, or even maybe the existing college campuses where you have hubs and pickup points. I can see apartment buildings taking. I could see townhome communities at 300 units. I can see active living communities that are where some of them, let’s say, in Florida right now, they have dumb waiters in the garage because they need to get the stuff upstairs, I guess. But I can see something like this in those communities doing really well if you’re working with the developer directly to build it right into rather than doing it later. So making deals with communities, with developers like that, I can even see the logistics aspect of it where this may morph and evolve into different things, like you’re doing with Wendy’s, though. But even Amazon deliveries, because they even have hub stations where there might be 20 bins with combo locks and stuff where they deliver to forget what they’re called. But it doesn’t have to be just food, right? It could be anything, really. It could be almost anything. There’s probably too many things it could be, but yeah, I can see that happening that way. Do you have those types of sessions with your team as you’re going through this, looking into the future to see what else there is out there, that not only the product that you’re developing currently today, but looking forward to say, okay, how can this evolve if we need to in a year or two? Because your mission is to reduce the cost of delivery, to work logistics in the right way so it’s not stuck in just a product like you said. Do you do that? Do you do that brainstorming?

Garrett McCurrach 0:19:48

Oh yeah. We have a long list of products that we think would be really useful, but we don’t know anything. Right. I think any company within our four walls, we could come up with anything and it may or may not be useful. And I think that is sometimes the frustration with startups is you make this thing, it’s like, okay, but who’s that for? I know that you love it, but I don’t think it’s actually going to be useful to anyone else. And so before we even ever start to make anything, we always make sure that we have at least two customers who are putting money down to buy it. And so a lot of our work with instant pickup started that way. Some other product lines, we always make sure that both it is something, it is a product that has a lot of pull from the industry. And then two, we make sure that we have partners who can help us develop it, people who really want it, and will help us find the pitfalls that otherwise we would have found down the road. But they just know their industry so much better than we could ever research our way into. And they know the problems and they know the landmines to watch out for. And so we always make sure that we have the list, but we’re validating the list with real customers, and I think it’s just a much better way. It saves you from accidentally making something that just ends up in the landfill of useless products.

Rico Figliolini 0:21:16

Yeah, totally. You don’t know what you don’t know. So having expertise of that industry, it makes sense. And also, if they’re able to even help you pre fund the development of what you’re doing, that’s even better, having a contract with them. So Wendy’s is one restaurant. Obviously you’d probably be looking at other places. I would think as see I think at one point there was something I read or something I heard where you talked about hiring experts and they said they couldn’t do it and then you decided, you know what, let’s get some young engineers to figure it out. I think that was you and one of your interviews. But do you find young people, younger people being able to brainstorm these things better to a degree because they don’t have a bias already set?

Garrett McCurrach 0:22:07

I think I know what you’re talking about. I think we try to younger me maybe, said young people as a proxy but I really don’t think it’s an age thing. You’re going to find people with biases who are 1617. You’re going to find the most curious people at 70. And I think it’s really the curiosity and it’s people who look at the problem instead of the solution and say that’s a problem worth solving. So we’re going to figure out a way to do it rather than looking at something. And you know, I think people who lack curiosity look at a problem, they fall into two buckets. They go, well that’s not really a problem worth know. Do we really need things delivered faster? Do we need it delivered cheaper? I think status quo is probably fine. A lot of people said that with Amazon they’re like things are getting delivered in a week, two weeks, really need it faster. That’s totally fine for me. I can go down to the store and buy the thing that I need and then it changed our world. That’s one bucket people fall into is like do we even need it? The second one is like okay, that’s really cool. But if it was possible someone would have already done it. And that’s kind of the second lack of curiosity trap that people fall into. And once you get stuck there it’s really hard to get out. We just really look for people who have a high degree of curiosity and you can usually find those people who, we usually look for people who have a big portfolio of just personal projects, just little things that they’ve done themselves. And the best electrical engineer we’ve ever hired was in his seventy? S and he was more curious and interested in things than any of us. So I don’t think it’s really an age thing. I think sometimes younger people have more time to be curious. Two year old, they definitely understand that. But it’s not really about age. It’s more we’re looking for that curiosity if anything, we tend to look a little older. That balance of curiosity plus the wisdom of being there is like a killer combo that you can’t find anywhere else.

Rico Figliolini 0:24:09

Fair enough. Thinking about the last three years, because we’ve all lived through Covid. The future. When I think of your system and stuff, and I think of the way we’ve changed after Covid, I say after still, people are still masking up in Europe a lot more now than they used to, actually. So it’s not like it’s gone. And there may be variations of it, but I see where people, I mean, even we. I do shopping, but I’ll use Instacart. Sometimes I’ll use doordash or grubhub or something. Some ordering in versus going out to get it, let’s say. And part of that, I think it’s just that we were trained to some degree. Now people are going out. I mean, we go to restaurants still and stuff. But do you see the future? To some degree, we may end up in another pandemic. We may end up in other things that a system like this, or logistics of this sort, where it’s bringing the cost down of delivery and touchless delivery to a degree. Right. Because that’s what this is. It’s touchless delivery. Right. I mean, granted, someone’s touching it on one end, but they’re not coming to you delivering it right to you. You’re getting a robot or an autonomous vehicle delivering it to you. Do you see your company taking advantage of that as well? Just even thinking about it? Even hospital systems could probably use a similar function where you’re delivering to hubs and stuff from a central pharmacy place or pharmacy supply place within a hub like that. Do you see yourself working into other industries, other markets that way as well?

Garrett McCurrach 0:25:48

Oh, yeah. We really see ourselves as kind of this fiber optic network. When you hop on the Internet, you don’t really know. I don’t know how my face is getting to your face by way of a whole bunch of crazy infrastructure, a bunch of different methods. I’m over wifi, and then it goes into fiber optic, then goes to a server, and then more fiber, and then up into your home. And it’s just crazy. There’s no way to tell. We’re just getting Internet. And I think we think about the same way. We just want to be part of the infrastructure that makes things faster, but it’s going to take a lot of different things, and I think that’s just an inevitable. Regardless of COVID I think people are going to look back at grocery stores. I think our grandkids are going to look at grocery stores and they’re going to be like, they used to make you work in the warehouse to get your own thing. And it’s like, yeah, I guess that kind of is what it is we’re going through and doing pick and pack ourselves, and they’re going to use their brain computer to order a carrot, and it’ll be delivered or whatever they have. But I think we should want to go to things in public, and I think that is super important. And coffee shops and restaurants, they’re amazing. It’s great to be around people and be around people in community, and restaurants are really this community asset, just like a park is. But I think you should want to go to be in community, you shouldn’t have to go because it’s the only way that you can access things. And what we want to do is make it to where you go if you want to, but you don’t have to go to these places to make your daily life work. And oftentimes, the way our cities are set up now, if you can’t get around, if you don’t have a car, if you have trouble moving, the city is not set up to get you the things that you need. And so that’s really, we need to get to a place where, regardless of where you are or who you are, you can get the things that you need. And then going out in public and being part of the community is something that you can do if you want and you have the ability to, but you don’t have to in order to just survive.

Rico Figliolini 0:27:56

Makes a lot of sense. Europe is different than here. I mean, you’re right. We’re a car society. So this is why evs and autonomous vehicles want to make it easier for us. This way we can multitask, multi screen, and do everything we want in the moment. So I can appreciate all that. Do you want to share anything else that maybe we’ve missed that I didn’t touch upon yet or that we haven’t touched upon?

Garrett McCurrach 0:28:23

I can’t think of anything. Yeah, you have a big listenership in one of our favorite cities, Peachtree Corners. And so I just want to say another thank you to anyone who lives there. We have really fallen in love with your city, and we’ll always look for ways to thank you for being location number one. There is a business that we are working with that we were actually going out to look at a test site for. I don’t think it’s not public yet, but to put an instant pickup system in Peachtree Corners just because we want to keep giving back to you all and make sure we do things there.

Rico Figliolini 0:29:06

Is it a food place?

Garrett McCurrach 0:29:09

Yeah, there’s probably about as much as we can say right now. There’s probably too much. But just because we love Peachtree Corners, I wanted to give you guys the little hint.

Rico Figliolini 0:29:21

Fair enough. I won’t push it any more than that. We’ve been speaking to Garrett, CEO of Piped Dream. Where can people find out more information about piped dream?

Garrett McCurrach 0:29:31

Yeah, like you said, we have a TikTok. It’s Garrett underscore Scott. It’s a great place if you want to just keep up with videos, and then our website is a great place to go for more information. So we have Priestreamlabs Co. And then we have a YouTube labs for other videos.

Rico Figliolini 0:29:50

Excellent. So we’ve learned a little bit more about how UrbanEbb cities are looking into hyperlocal delivery here with Garrett and how his company is moving forward to doing this in the city of Peachtree Corners. A smart city. It’s forward looking city that we are. Lots of opportunities for this type of company to come in and God knows I think we’ve seen forget how many countries we represent actually here now that have companies and startups in representation here in the city of Peachtree Corners from all over the world, from Switzerland to other cities, other countries. But thank you, Garrett. Appreciate you being with me. Hang in there for a second while I close this out. Thank you, everyone, for listening to us again. If you want to find out more about Pipedream, I’ll have links in the show notes, so check that out. There’ll be a video link as well, I think, of what the system looks like through this, and we might be able to put this within our interview on the video or video podcast version. So you might be seeing it during this time. But thank you again for being with us.

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Peachtree Corners Life

Ruwa Romman on Recent Georgia Legislation and Gaza [Podcast]

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Georgia State Representative Ruwa Romman shares insights into the legislative session, highlighting the dynamic of having a third of the House composed of new members. She addresses the complex issues of balancing public safety and civil liberties in immigration status checks, the political landscape challenges during an election year, and experiences of changing positions on bills after hearing new information. Plus, Romman shared her view on the war in Gaza. With your host Rico Figliolini.

Resources:
Ruwa’s Website: https://www.ruwa4georgia.com/

Timestamp:
00:00:00 – Discussing Important Issues
00:03:07 – First-Year Freshman Dynamics
00:04:19 – Concerns over Misuse of Immigration Enforcement Legislation
00:07:03 – Concerns Over Police Funding and Immigration Checks
00:10:43 – Balancing Immigration Enforcement and Community Trust
00:12:41 – Navigating Student Loan Forgiveness and Data Center Legislation
00:15:18 – Changing Perspectives on Film Tax Credits
00:16:59 – Balancing Film Industry Incentives and School Funding
00:18:47 – Navigating Legislation: Freshman Lawmaker’s Perspective
00:25:04 – Improving Early Literacy through Education Reform
00:26:43 – Balancing Work, Campaigns, and Local Elections
00:32:21 – Unsolicited Home Selling Offers
00:33:19 – Engaging the Community and Addressing International Challenges

Podcast Transcript:

Rico Figliolini 0:00:01

Hi, everyone. This is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life. We have a great guest today, Ruwa Romman, the Georgia State Rep, District 97. Hey, Ruwa, how are you?

Ruwa Romman 0:00:11

Hi. I’m good, thanks. Thanks for having me. How are you doing?

Rico Figliolini 0:00:14

Yeah, good. It’s a beautiful day. Just came back from lunch, so all good. Mojito’s at the forum. Excellent.

Ruwa Romman 0:00:20

Delicious.

Rico Figliolini 0:00:21

And I actually had breakfast this morning at First Watch, so I’m just doing dinner, lunch, breakfast, lunch and dinner tonight at a new restaurant that just, that’s opening or media preview called Dahlia’s restaurant at the Hilton Northeast here in Peachtree Corners. We’ll see how that food is, but we have more important things to discuss rather than food. So let’s get.

Ruwa Romman 0:00:48

 I don’t know if there’s, honestly, to me, that’s like, top number one priority in my life.

Rico Figliolini 0:00:53

Well, actually, you know what? That’s funny, because in my family growing up, italian, italian heritage, everything around the dinner table was game, essentially. So that’s the best place to talk about stuff sometimes.

Ruwa Romman 0:01:05

Totally.

Rico Figliolini 0:01:06

Yeah. So let’s, let’s talk a little bit about what’s going on because the session’s over. And it’s interesting because, you know, most people coming from New York state, reps in the House and House Senate seats and stuff, they’re almost practically full time. They work, like, in session, like nine months out of the year here in the state of Georgia. How many days is it that you’re in session?

Ruwa Romman 0:01:31

Yeah, we’re about 40 days, all of January, all of February and all of March. And so the intent, but, you know, the reason it’s 40 days is because we also have, like, committee work days, and we try to have some time to actually go through the bills that gets harder at the end of it. But, yeah, we’re about three months of.

Rico Figliolini 0:01:47

The year, so there’s quite a few bills that cat looked at. I don’t know what the numbers are. Maybe you could share that with us. You know, how many actually got looked at and how many ended up passing? Quite a few passed, I think. And I think we actually vetoed a few also.

Ruwa Romman 0:02:02

Yeah, there were definitely some vetoes, of course. And actually, people can go on legislation. So legis.ga.gov, and you can actually see every single vote that we have done. We took a total of 890 votes this year, or I guess, like this session. And that includes everything from attendance to bills. And to be clear, when we talk about a session. So there’s, like, this year’s session and then last year’s session is technically part of this one because it’s a biannual. So over the course of those, I guess like eight month period, we took over 890 votes. So that was attendance. But a lot of it was on, you know, bills and moving things and, and stuff like that. So we voted on a lot. I think it was. Somebody said we had almost 1200 bills that moved through per like four month period, but only about 200 of them get signed.

Rico Figliolini 0:03:01

That could be good because some of those bills aren’t that great. And this is your first year, really, isn’t it? Is it your first full year?

Ruwa Romman 0:03:11

I am a brand new freshman, as they call us. What was really, actually unique about us this year is about a third of the House was freshmen. So it gave us an opportunity to get to know each other and start on a blank slate. And I think it really made the dynamics of the House a little different in a good way.

Rico Figliolini 0:03:29

Good. Yeah. Because it can be frustrating. I’m sure Congress has their issues, but. Yeah.

Ruwa Romman 0:03:35

Yeah. We actually voted on our speaker on the first try in about 15 minutes. So we did what we were supposed to.

Rico Figliolini 0:03:43

Yes. The grownups are in the room here in Georgia as opposed to Washington.

Ruwa Romman 0:03:48

I don’t know about the Senate, but the House. We’re good.

Rico Figliolini 0:03:51

Yeah. The Senate had its issues, from what I understand. Right. And if they weren’t in session, probably would have been good in some cases.

Ruwa Romman 0:03:59

It’s a fun ride. It’s a fun ride.

Rico Figliolini 0:04:01

Yes. I would think one of the important bills that you were, that you mentioned before we started was House bill 1105 that you wanted to talk about too. Why don’t we start with that one? Let’s go. Because you said that actually wasn’t turned into legislation. I mean, it’s legislation, but it was never signed, right?

Ruwa Romman 0:04:22

No, it was signed. And this seems to happen every election year. And I’ve actually noticed this. I try to watch a wide range of news, or at least follow them, and a lot of news organizations suddenly will start talking about immigration. Everything terrible with immigration, suddenly it becomes every headline. And then as soon as election year is over, it literally go. And I wish I was joking, but it literally does go away. And because of the tragedy that happened with Lake and Riley, all of a sudden, that was all we talked about for the last few weeks of session. And it was a real tragedy. I mean, parents lost their daughter, friends lost a loved one. I mean, and it really shook the UGA campus. But I was left wondering with the fact that if the perpetrator was any other person, any other type of person, if it would have gotten that kind of attention. And so what ended up happening was, unfortunately, some of my republican colleagues used that as an opportunity to push through this bill. And what it does is it mandates that our local law enforcement, so, like Gwinnett Duluth, any, any local law enforcement is now required to do federal type work, which is ensure or I guess, check to make sure that somebody is a documented individual in the United States. There’s a couple problems with that. One, it opens up the door for discrimination, because now a police officer feels like they have to check people’s papers, for lack of a better word, if they seem suspicious. And frankly, you know, those who are, who don’t look brown are not going to be impacted by this, but those who do could be. The other problem with the bill is that our driver’s licenses are not good enough documentation to prove our citizenship. Even though our licenses here in Georgia are verified. You could travel with them. I believe you can even go to Canada driving using your license. And that creates a host of problems, because now police can detain you for 48 hours. Right. So if you’ve got a job, if you got kids, if you got any set of responsibilities, suddenly your whole life can be derailed. Mistaken.

Rico Figliolini 0:06:27

Yeah. Is that prior to being. Being arrested and for a crime? Correct.

Ruwa Romman 0:06:33

So it.

Rico Figliolini 0:06:34

Yeah, go ahead. I’m sorry.

Ruwa Romman 0:06:38

The problem is that the bill is written badly. I think a lot of times people think that because we pass a bill that it’s written well, there are some inconsistencies and lack of clarity. So, like, do you actually have to be booked, or could it be that somebody arrested you because you were being annoying and then they decide to hold you to check your immigration status? And the other piece about this bill, again, along with the contradictions that a lot of people don’t realize, is it defunds the police. And I mean that sincerely. If. If a local police department chooses not to engage on this basically quota system, they could lose state funding as a result. And so it opens up this, like, wide range of issues from how we treat people holding them unfairly and now losing funding if they’re not doing federal level work, which they’re not getting more money for either.

Rico Figliolini 0:07:25

So let me ask you this. I mean, from a common sense point of view, from the way I look at it, is that I can appreciate what you’re saying as far as if you’re being stopped on a road. Yes, I can see that discrimination is. Will never go away. Right. As much as we try. But if you’re arrested and you’re booked for a crime. Right? And you’re mugshot and everything. You’re in prison. Wouldn’t that be a reasonable time then to check because you’ve committed a crime now, you’re not judged yet guilty, haven’t had a court case yet, but you’ve been booked, officially booked on that crime. Would that not be a good time to check to see if there’s an illegal immigrant?

Ruwa Romman 0:08:08

Yeah. The problem. The problem, though, is who do they normally check to make sure it’s not an illegal immigrant? Right. So you then have discrimination on that side of it. So not only are people more likely to be arrested, for example, if they are black or brown, they’re now more likely to have that 48 hours hold. So they could have been released that night, but now, because they have to check their immigration status, they’re now being booked for 48 more hours. And suddenly the problems start to add up on each other, and you end up having to spend valuable jail space on somebody that you wouldn’t have normally had to hold to begin with. Right. Because, remember, our prisons and jails are already overcrowded. You know, our justice system is already at its brink, and so you’re just adding more problems without actually providing any more funding is the other piece of it. So.

Rico Figliolini 0:08:54

So if you hold someone that I want to. Not that I want to get into the weeds or anything, and I won’t say bills, bills are not, God, their intent, you know, they sound good until they’re not. And I heard you and Scott Hilton at a recent legislative panel, and you were giving out some details of particular bills, and had I not heard you say those facts about those bills, I’d be like, well, on the face of it, it sounds good, but apparently it’s not because it’s this. Right? If I was fact checking or if I was able to see further into it, and most citizens don’t have that time or that interest to look at certain things further than a one sentence descriptive. But if a person’s booked and they’re in jail, they’re booked for a reason, right? So they’re going to be there regardless for 24 to 48 hours anyway. So why not check the status during that time?

Ruwa Romman 0:09:49

Totally. And, you know, so, first off, I do, like, I feel like I do need to give voice to the fact that people who are more likely to be booked, and I’ve seen this happen in front of me are, you know, again, black and brown folks. However, to your point, if they’re already there, why not check there’s a couple of problems with that. One, it can be really, really cumbersome depending on the kind of software that they’re using, whether or not they are on a special system that can do that kind of checking. But that’s why, for example, there is that 48 hours hold to give time for that check is my point. Right. So in order to allow for that check to happen, it does take up to 48 hours. And now you’re holding somebody for two days that you normally wouldn’t have to hold otherwise.

Rico Figliolini 0:10:32

Okay, understood. I mean, in a perfect world, it would be fine. You release them as they normally would be released. And if it comes back that they were illegal and they should have been held, then you go back out and get them at residence that they declined.

Ruwa Romman 0:10:51

Have to take care of that. Right. That’s what federal, like, we spend federal money on this kind of stuff that’s under the purview of the federal government and federal agents, because the other thing people don’t realize is when you do this kind of stuff, it reduces, there’s already a lot of distrust between law enforcement and community members. And so now you’re reducing that little bit of trust. So someone, for example, who is seeing a crime or is a victim of domestic abuse and might be undocumented, they’re now choosing not to seek help because they’re scared of this specific piece.

Rico Figliolini 0:11:20

And again, going back to legislation and details, I mean, it could be then that it would be checked for felons. Felon felony level crimes versus a misdemeanor crime would be better. I mean, so there, there’s some pathway there, right, to be able to do this. Yeah.

Ruwa Romman 0:11:36

And to be clear, you know, we have, with things like this, a lot of times when I engage with my colleagues, I try really hard to engage on implementation because I know sometimes we come at it from a different perspective. Like you said, it’s not a perfect world. I wish it was, but it’s not. And so a lot of times we do offer straight up, just technical feedback, but the reality is, especially in an election year, it sort of ends up with a mind of its own and kind of just, you know, goes. But in the meantime, I tell folks, like, make sure your passport is up to date. We’re now at that kind of situation, truly. Like, I’m actually, because an expired passport does not count. So if they were to book me, for example, for whatever reason, and my husband brings my passport, it’s expired, they will not accept it, and I could be held for 48 hours. So, yeah, yeah.

Rico Figliolini 0:12:29

Difficult national identification code. That’s what it comes down to at some point, I guess. Yep. What are the bills? Are two closest to you that you’d like to talk about?

Ruwa Romman 0:12:43

Yeah. So we actually had some really great movement this year on things like student loan forgiveness. There were a few bills that we passed, but they were specifically related to student loan forgiveness on sectors that we needed more people in. So, for example, mental health care, those who provide drug addiction services, which kind of do overlap a little bit, which was really great to work on. I think last year we did something similar. It was the governor’s bill on law enforcement. I was kind of hoping we would do the same for teachers. So, like, if a teacher teaches for however many years, specifically in a rural area, we could provide a student loan forgiveness faster than the federal government. I think that would go a really long way with retention and recruitment. But it was really heartening to see that we were beginning to, as a body, recognize the importance of sort of filling in those stopgaps. We also, unfortunately, the Okefenokee, the one bill that I got a lot of emails on was actually to protect the Okefenokee. Unfortunately, that bill did not pass. But I do encourage people to reach out to our senators, Senator Ossoff and Senator Warnock. From my understanding. I think specifically Senator Ossoff’s team is looking at ways to designate it as a UNESCO heritage site. It is a heritage site, but it’s not the right kind of heritage site list, I guess. But there is a way to protect it from that angle. So we’re hoping to maybe try to get around it. There. There was some back and forth on data centers to. Tax break. Yeah, I actually originally was a. And this is kind of my favorite kind of legislation where I. I’m not sure what I think about it, and I like to hear the arguments because, you know, it’s just, you learn a lot and.

Rico Figliolini 0:14:25

Yeah, for sure.

Ruwa Romman 0:14:26

I originally was a yes on that bill, particularly from an environmental perspective. But what had changed my mind was one of my colleagues. Her district relies on jobs in data centers. And apparently a lot of data centers now are moving towards, like, multiple elements of energy, like solar. So they are less, I guess, bad in terms of, like, energy consumption. So I learned a lot through that bill, and it did end up getting. It did not pass to take away their tax break, which was good because we need to study it a little bit more. But I learned a lot. Right. I went in with, like, one idea, and I heard from my colleagues who had better experience than I I did. I thought, okay, I’ve got new information. I’m going to adjust accordingly.

Rico Figliolini 0:15:08

And that’s a great way of doing that. And I’m assuming your colleagues were from both sides of the aisle, maybe on the subject.

Ruwa Romman 0:15:13

Oh, yeah. There were no’s on both sides of the aisle. There were yeses on both sides of the aisle. Same thing with the film tax credit, by the way, which also didn’t make it to the finish line. You know, I remember going into. Because they were trying to reduce the film tax credit. And originally I went in as a no, and I actually walked out. Yes. And same thing. We had some. Because for me, I actually had a constituent. And again, this is like my favorite thing to tell people, and I hope more people hear this. I had a constituent reach out to me, and she is in the film industry. And she told me about how, like, job to job. Yes. It’s not how much we’re giving in tax breaks, but if you look at, for example, when a movie comes to a town, how much revenue provides that town in hotels, food, lodging, et cetera. And so she gave me some, like, really, really great information, and I found myself going, huh. Maybe I don’t fully agree with this. And I would much rather be able to study it more and the downward effects more. So it was just. It was just like, really, really interesting. And then I think. So I. So sorry. Now I mix it up. I originally went in. No, I ended up with that.

Rico Figliolini 0:16:18

Okay.

Ruwa Romman 0:16:20

I originally went in, No. End up being confused myself. Hold on.

Rico Figliolini 0:16:24

It’s okay.

Ruwa Romman 0:16:27

Yeah, yeah. So the reason I went in. Yes. Is because of my constituent. And then I end up being a no because the bill itself doesn’t actually talk about the. Or it didn’t address, like, the smaller. Like, how are they called? They’re like little companies. Right? Like there’s little builds of film and then there’s like, the big budget films.

Rico Figliolini 0:16:47

So the.

Ruwa Romman 0:16:49

Correct. So the bill made a distinction between those two things. So what she actually told me about wasn’t. Wasn’t going to be impacted by this bill. So I ended up being a yes. But I would have. I don’t even think I would have considered a no on a bill like this because it meant more revenue for schools, as an example, had it not been for that constituent. So I.

Rico Figliolini 0:17:06

More revenue for schools because. Less tax credits.

Ruwa Romman 0:17:10

Correct. Because right now we’re losing. We’re losing out on revenue that these film studios. Because they’re big film studios. Right. We’re not talking about the small films. We’re talking about huge film studios that are currently not paying taxes, even though they’re using a lot of our roads, a lot of our infrastructure, things like that.

Rico Figliolini 0:17:29

But don’t they bring. So. Okay. This pedestrian a little bit on my part because I don’t know all the facts on it, but I would think, because I think was North Carolina or South Carolina ended theirs, and we got a lot of business moving south to our state, and we’re the biggest one.

Ruwa Romman 0:17:46

Yeah. Normally, I’m a yes on bills like this. I was a no for a little bit because of that constituent. So what happened? Because so many of us were no, they actually limited the bill on the House side. The reason it failed on the Senate side is because they tried to expand it way further than a lot of us were comfortable with. And had it not been for that constituent, I wouldn’t have even thought to ask my colleagues to limit the bill that way.

Rico Figliolini 0:18:07

Okay.

Ruwa Romman 0:18:08

Yeah.

Rico Figliolini 0:18:08

All right. All right.

Ruwa Romman 0:18:09

Yeah. All right. I use, like, my yeses and my nos, but, like, I was just trying to explain the details. Like, again, for us, the details are where this kind of gets lost in the sauce. And so when we have constituents come to us and say, this is what I think about this bill, I can go to my colleagues and say, here’s a concern I’ve heard. Normally, I would be a yes on this. Can you fix it? And then they fixed it. Okay.

Rico Figliolini 0:18:31

So, you know, it’s interesting, because when people are voting sometimes on legislation or resolutions that are not a yes or no. Well, yes or no, but not for someone, that’s. Sometimes it’s written in such a way that if you put no or yes, it could be the wrong way of going. Right of the way you’d want to.

Ruwa Romman 0:18:51

Yeah.

Rico Figliolini 0:18:51

Yeah.

Ruwa Romman 0:18:52

And there are. And part of the confusion, to be clear, like, you will sometimes see a legislator vote one way the first time on a bill and a different way the second time on a bill, it’s because the bill changes in the process. Right. For us, as the House, we could. The version of the bill, it goes to the Senate, it comes back a different version, or in committee. That’s the other piece of, like, why I was originally, I became a no because of this constituent. Because originally in the committee, because I do follow committee stuff, too. Like, if I know a bill is definitely making it to the floor, I try to go back and watch the committee. So I remember watching the committee hearing and marking it down as a no again, truly because of this constituent. And when it then the committee actually changed it to address the concerns that I had and others had. And so then it became. Yes, because that’s actually the best part of the legislative process.

Rico Figliolini 0:19:41

Yes, it does. Everyone gets the two cent to put in on it. Did it end up. Did that bill end up having amendments to it?

Ruwa Romman 0:19:49

Yeah, it got amended in the Senate, and that’s why it didn’t pass at all.

Rico Figliolini 0:19:52

Okay. Okay. Sometimes unrelated stuff.

Ruwa Romman 0:19:56

Correct.

Rico Figliolini 0:19:57

There was another bill that ended up dying in the Senate, but I thought it was interesting how brought it up. It was the EMS changing that to essential or identifying it as essential services. So tell me a little bit about that one.

Ruwa Romman 0:20:09

That was actually my bill. I was incredibly grateful that House leadership allowed me to pass a bill as a freshman Democrat, which doesn’t always happen, but, you know, that goes to show the importance of, like, building relationships and sort of treating this as a professional job like you would anything else, because it goes a long way, and my husband’s in a part time EMT, and I was chatting with his co workers, and they said, yeah, we’re not considered an essential service. And I go, why not? And it’s because EMS actually started after law enforcement and fire. So law enforcement and fire have been around for almost a century. EMS started in the 1970s. Sorry, they started in, like, the 18 hundreds. EMS started in the 1970s. So it never got, like, put into all these laws that we’ve created around EMS and fire or around police and fire. And so what the bill would have done is actually would have reduced a lot of red tape for our EMS personnel and, frankly, recognize them as the essential service that they are. It ran out of time on the Senate side, so my hope is, if I get reelected, is to continue working on that bill and get it across the finish line.

Rico Figliolini 0:21:09

Congratulations, because I know how difficult it is for a freshman to get. To get their own bill, and this was a really good bill. I’m just surprised it didn’t get passed this year. I’m actually surprised hearing you saying it wasn’t essential services.

Ruwa Romman 0:21:23

So, yeah, only 15 would have been the 15th state to designate EMS as an essential service.

Rico Figliolini 0:21:29

Oh, wow. Sometimes I wonder about how we do things. Was there other legislation that you’d like to. I know there was one that I saw, HB Senate. Well, it was a Senate bill, so I didn’t even know if it went to the House. Senate Bill 233 was Georgia promise scholarship. It’s a $6,500 voucher for students attending lower performing public schools. But I guess they never get to the House. It looks like maybe, or no, it.

Ruwa Romman 0:22:01

Unfortunately passed and got signed by the governor. I was actually opposition to this bill. It passed the House by only one vote. And there was, yeah, there was actually bipartisan opposition to it. Only one Democrat voted in favor. And the problem with bills like this, frankly, is that no matter how, which way you parse it, taking money out of public schools is not a solution. And you’ll hear people say that we have spent a record amount of money on public schools this year, but we forget that after the great Recession, we actually defunded education for almost ten years. Right. We have a hole that we still need to fill because of those ten years and be able to meet our obligations now. And I feel like people forget that just because, yes, we’re spending a lot of money on education right now does not mean we’ve actually met our obligation. And what some of my colleagues think is that it’s best to just let some kids leave these failing schools rather than just fixing the failing schools. And I don’t think that’s a good path forward. The other thing is that this $6,500 that is technically supposed to be for a kid in a quote, unquote, failing school does not address getting there, like transportation, any extra supplies that they might need, any extra expenses that might come up in tuition and fees. The majority of private schools in Georgia charge way more than $6,500.

Rico Figliolini 0:23:27

Yeah, yeah.

Ruwa Romman 0:23:29

And so I just, for me personally, I don’t like school vouchers. I would much rather, for example, allow a student to pick a public school in their county to go to. That’s what I got. I grew up in Forsyth county, and each, each school had like a kind of, what I call it, almost a magnet program. Right? So had the IB program. Central has the humanities program. So each of these high schools had something that would attract students. And if you signed up for those programs, you could go to that school, even though it’s not in your district. And I would much rather be able to have public schools compete together rather than move them to a private school system where, by the way, these dollars, there’s not a lot of good oversight for them, because technically, those who homeschool can use this money, but there is no way, for example, to claw back that money if it was being improperly used.

Rico Figliolini 0:24:18

True. Yeah, I can see that. But, and to your point about tuition being much higher than that 6500, it’s like double or triple that, depending where. And even with scholarships, you still can’t. So, I mean, if you’re going to do a voucher program, in my mind, it either has to be more money or you have to do it differently, like you said. And quite frankly, I think we just need to change the way we do education altogether. And it’s just not, I mean, yeah, it’s just not working. I think that it needs to be more attention than, personally, I feel it needs more attention. The first four grades, four years of education to get the kids set in the right path before they even get to middle school.

Ruwa Romman 0:24:59

And so you do smaller class sizes, reducing the standardized testing so that we teachers can teach students rather than teach a test. Focus on them. One thing I will say on education is we actually did pass another set of bills over the past two years about how we test if a kid is dyslexic. Because right now what’s happening is that students are getting to the third and fourth grade. They can’t actually read, but they’ve been able to get away with it because of, like, everything has pictures on it. And then in third and fourth grade, those pictures go away and you realize, oh, no, this kid does not read. We did pass legislation to have better testing for that kind of stuff earlier on so we can catch it earlier. And we are trying to kind of get to a place where other school systems have done this and they are now seeing their literacy rate just exponentially increase. It’ll just take a little bit of.

Rico Figliolini 0:25:52

Time to fully set in this type of thing takes a lot of political will to be able to do, to change because you have to change.

Ruwa Romman 0:26:03

Yeah.

Rico Figliolini 0:26:04

Yes. Process the whole mental attitude of what people look at and maybe they can do it nicely. Yeah. Instead of, yeah. Burnett County, I think, has had some issues so far, but. Well, so we’re done. So I’m curious, we’re done with the house and stuff. What do you do the rest of the year for your job? What do you do?

Ruwa Romman 0:26:27

So unless somebody is independently wealthy or retired, they go back to their work in an election year. We are also campaigning. So our, the primary is coming up here May 21. I don’t have a primary. Senator Islam does have a primary and our commissioner, Kirkland Carden, doesn’t have a primary. But if you are in the part of Peachtree corners that has Sally Harrell, she does have a primary. So please come out and make sure you vote. We also have a bunch of judgeships up for reelection, including a Supreme Court judge in Georgia. So please make sure you go to the bottom of your ballot to vote on that. There is also school board. So we have school board seat that is open again. Go back to the bottom of your ballot to see that seat. And last but not least, there.

Rico Figliolini 0:27:12

And that’s. So then people know that’s a non partisan. So whoever wins in this May 21 on the school board is the school board person.

Ruwa Romman 0:27:21

Yeah. So unlike, for example, myself and our commissioner and our senators, we. This is like the end for judges and school board. There might be a runoff, but again, we can prevent one if we all come out and vote. And last but not least, there are two tax exemptions on our ballot. One is a broader tax exemption for a homestead exemption that would save about 20, $30 a month for most people, which I know for some is a lot, but for some, they’re kind of like, what’s the point? So definitely make sure you vote on that. And then the one I personally signed on to and co sponsored is the one for teachers and public, any kind of public service employee to get an extra tax exemption because it’s becoming harder to afford to live in Gwinnett for those who provide our most needed services. So that’s where we are.

Rico Figliolini 0:28:09

All right. That’s cool. Yeah. And it’s not only difficult to live here, but it’s also. And maybe that’s why it’s difficult even higher. I mean, I know the school system has budget money for positions they can’t even find people to and even the police elected. It’s sad when you have the money sitting there and you can’t find anywhere to fill the spot.

Ruwa Romman 0:28:30

You know, it’s interesting you say this. Unfortunately, Georgia law preempts Hoas from preventing companies from purchasing single family homes. And what we’re seeing is all these hedge funds are coming into states like Georgia and buying single family homes and forcing all these prices to artificially kind of increase. And they’re artificially reducing supply. Definitely. That’s something I want to be working on this year. What I did is actually co sponsored legislation with Stephen Fry, and we actually co wrote it where right now, if you buy a business, a commercial space, you actually get a tax break because it depreciates over time. What we’re seeing is that these companies are getting that tax exemption for homes that appreciate in value. So they actually double dipping. And with the way the bill and unfortunately didn’t move, and I hope it does next year, but the way the bill would have done it is that if a business bought a home and that business owner does not live in Georgia. Cause I know sometimes, like, small business owners will, like, for asset purposes and stuff, purchase it through their business.

Rico Figliolini 0:29:30

Yeah, sure.

Ruwa Romman 0:29:31

Yeah. If the business owner does not live in Georgia. They will no longer be, like, allowed to get that tax credit, for lack of better word, and hopefully disincentivize some of this purchasing of single family homes. And I really wanna repeal the law that preempts Hoas from. From prevent cause. I will tell you this, I think, like, seven or eight homes in my neighborhood have been bought by cash from hedge funds, and they put them on the market for, like, an insane amount of money per month. That is even higher than a mortgage.

Rico Figliolini 0:29:58

Yeah. I don’t even understand how people can afford to pay that rent, unless what happens, too, sometimes is that they split pad the house and you get four people, let’s say, living in four separate rooms. And I know in our neighborhood, there’s 84 homes here, at least I’m sure about three of them are owned by companies like American Federation homes, I think is one of them. Yeah, no, I totally agree with you. I mean, my oldest son, he’s like, he has enough money for a down payment, and he’s like, why? There’s not enough property out there for me to even look through to see what I want to buy because. Because Vanguard and Blackrock and all these other companies are out there purchasing. Yeah. So we’re essentially becoming, as he says, and I agree, a subscription society. Right. You can’t buy Adobe software anymore. It’s subscription.

Ruwa Romman 0:30:50

Yeah.

Rico Figliolini 0:30:50

You can’t buy stock photos. It’s subscription. Can’t buy your home. It will be subscription, essentially through a lease of rent.

Ruwa Romman 0:30:58

Yeah.

Rico Figliolini 0:30:58

It’s kind of sad. Everything’s like, then. And then you. So instead of owning it outright, at some point you’re going to end up just continuing to pay someone who’s making that money. Exactly.

Ruwa Romman 0:31:10

That’s an important piece of wealth for people to be able to build that wealth for themselves. So that’s why I’m in the state house. That’s why I ran, is to try to kind of bring some of that sanity back into our society.

Rico Figliolini 0:31:21

Yeah, no, that’s great. And I would love to see, I don’t know if anyone’s really done this. I think it was in Atlanta, maybe I saw some. Something about maybe in Atlanta was like, forget what the percentage was. That was company owned. I’d love to see a study like that done in Gwinnett county specifically, especially because I’m in pastry corners to see how much, how many home housing stock is owned percentage wise by these types of companies.

Ruwa Romman 0:31:47

In Atlanta, it’s 35% of single family homes are owned by corporations.

Rico Figliolini 0:31:52

That’s nuts. That’s just crazy. Yeah, let’s just. If you already own a home, maybe that value. I mean, I get texted every day and same, you know, are you ready to sell? Or. The messages are the weirdest things because, like, it’s me. It’s Bobby again. And I’d like to know, you know, from our discussion last time, are you ready now? And I’m like, we didn’t even talk last time. What’s going on?

Ruwa Romman 0:32:19

We. We started getting. So we were very lucky. We actually got our home right before, like, the market went really crazy during COVID So that was the only reason we could afford. It was, like, right when the market was perfect. But within a month of us moving into our house, we started getting solicitation to sell it.

Rico Figliolini 0:32:35

And the value has gone up. I think I have to. What do you call it? I just got my tax bill from the assessment I’m looking at. I’m like, really? Where do they even called them up? And I said, how is this figured out? Can you guys give me a formula? No one can give me a formula. And it’s just like, are you kidding me? You think it’s this much? That’s crazy.

Ruwa Romman 0:32:58

So, you know, we want more people involved in this process. The more of y’all that come down people’s house, the less influence these other special interests have. So I always love to invite people to come down and talk to us about this kind of stuff.

Rico Figliolini 0:33:09

Good.

Ruwa Romman 0:33:10

But, you know, really appreciate the opportunity to talk about this. And I’m always open to meet with people, talk about legislation. We try to host what I call mini town hall. So I’ll go sit around coffee shops in the district. Usually it’s either peachy corners, even though it’s not in my district. I do try to go down there. 45 south cafe. Unme coffee and break coffee are usually where we kind of try. We try to, like, spread out across the district, but I usually post up there for a few hours about once a month for folks to come down and chat. So.

Rico Figliolini 0:33:37

Cool. And I’m going to have you give your website and all that. It’ll be in the show notes also. But before we get there, it should be remiss in not acknowledging the things going on internationally a little bit. We had spoken about that. You’d be cool talking about it a little bit. You’re the only palestinian in the state house on either side, I think, right. Of the. Of the house. How does that, by the way, how does that feel? I mean, how have. Has it been fine.

Ruwa Romman 0:34:10

Not even a little bit you know, I think it feels like my obligations have sort of burst past the boundaries of our district, for lack of a better word. I am the only elected Palestinian in the state, in much of the southeast. The only other elected Palestinian, Isam Rasul, up in Virginia. So it’s just the two of us, which meant that a lot of Palestinians, regardless of whether or not they’re in our district, are coming to us and asking us for help to sort of navigate what resources they can use. It’s mostly to either get their family out or get food in has been sort of the biggest ask of people. And so it’s been hard. I have tried to be as communicative as possible with the public. I really do try to shy away from interviews, but this is a very serious moment, and I know that I have a platform and I have a duty to use it. And so I try really hard to educate people, to get them to sort of understand a perspective they might not have thought about and to recognize that at the end of the day, we are dealing with people. They’re not human shields. They are women, men, and children who had nothing to do with what’s going on and had no voice in what’s going on. And I’ve always believed in protecting lives, all life, as much as possible. And that is where my advocacy and politics will continue to go.

Rico Figliolini 0:35:24

Good to hear. Appreciate you sharing that with us.

Ruwa Romman 0:35:27

Thanks.

Rico Figliolini 0:35:28

If people want to reach out to you or find out a little bit more about what you’re doing, where can they find that information?

Ruwa Romman 0:35:35

You can sign up for our newsletter. You can send a contact form which goes to my email at Ruwa4georgia.com. You’ll also find us under the same handle, Ruwa for Georgia everywhere. We’re on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, if you’re interested. And social media is something you’re passionate about. I am currently hiring a social media fellow. I didn’t have a primary, so I’m in a big, like, hiring spree. So if you’re interested in getting politically involved, reach out.

Rico Figliolini 0:36:02

Excellent. Good. And I see you on TikTok, so it’s all good. You, good job out there. You and Scott Hilton, I saw him on there, too, a little bit. We tried. I appreciate you sharing time with me today and talking about these things. We’ll get together, no. And we’ll get together again soon about more things that are going on, I’m sure. So hang in there for a second. But thank you, everyone, for joining us. Peachtree Corners Life. We’re working on. What are we working on? We’re working on the next issue of Peachtree Corners magazine, the best of issue. You can always find more information at livinginpeacetreecorners.com. Follow us also on Instagram and Facebook and LinkedIn if you’re listening to the podcast, Spotify or I heart radio, YouTube and all that. And we are on TikTok also as well. We’re putting out some stuff. So it’s all good. It’s all good. Thank you, everyone, for being with us. Appreciate it.

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Podcast

Comic Book and Children’s Book Author Greg Burnham

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on

Appearing at MomoCon Memorial Day Weekend 2024

Greg Burnham, a Norcross-based comic book and children’s book author who is attending this month’s Momocon over Memorial Day Weekend, spoke with Rico Figliolini this week. They talked about his recent contributions to comic anthologies Milestone Initiative (featuring Icon), Ghouls Just Wanna Have Fun (featuring Superman), and DC Power 2024 – and, his latest children’s book, Swim, Kelly! Swim! They also talked about collaborating with artists, crafting compelling characters, feedback from beta readers, and the evolving landscape of diversity and representation in comics, stressing the importance of authentically empowering marginalized voices to shape narratives.

Related Links:
MomoCon Website: https://www.momocon.com/
Greg Burnham Facebook:   / gregburnhambooks  
Tuskegee Heirs
Children’s Books

Timestamp:
00:00:00 – Greg Burnham: Comic Book and Children’s Book Author
00:02:25 – Collaborative Indie Comics Creation
00:04:51 – Crafting Captivating Visual Narratives
00:06:53 – Learning the Publishing Process
00:07:56 – The Story of Solace: A Collaborative Comic
00:09:41 – Crafting a Spooky Superman Story
00:12:48 – Navigating Creative Collaboration
00:14:53 – Balancing Indie Work and Deadlines
00:16:55 – Coaching Basketball and Crafting Characters
00:18:56 – Crafting Authentic Characters: Balancing Inspiration and Individuality
00:21:05 – Crafting Complex Characters
00:24:35 – Navigating Diversity and Stereotypes in Comics and Media
00:29:57 – Unreal Engine 5 and the Blurred Lines of Reality

Podcast Transcript:

Rico Figliolini 0:00:26

Hi, everyone. This is Rico Figliolini, host of UrbanEbb. And I have a great guest today, Norcross comic book children’s book author Greg Burnham. Thanks for joining me, Greg. Appreciate you being here.

Greg Burnham 0:00:40

Thank you for having me.

Rico Figliolini 0:00:42

Yeah, no, this is great. This is like, you know, I love, I’ve loved comic books since I was ten years old or younger. Mainly Marvel. DC also a little bit, but Marvel was always my best. And then graphic novels as I got older and they got into trends. But we have Greg here. He’s been an author, writer for quite a bit for a couple of decades. Right.

Greg Burnham 0:01:05

I think about it, well, a little bit over a decade. I started with the children’s books. I’ve been writing my whole life. Professionally, like a little over a decade.

Rico Figliolini 0:01:16

Okay. Okay. Well, we’re going to talk a bit about that. What got you into this and stuff? So we’re the. So let me just say that we’re ahead of MomoCon. That’s going to be coming Memorial Day weekend. It’s actually running four days, May 24 through the 27th. Greg is going to be at that. This is why we’re interviewing him also. So looking forward to meeting you in person, possibly when I come out and visit, it’s going to be at the Georgia World Congress center. It’s considered the largest gaming event in the southeast. But, you know, like any of these, there’s artists alleys, there’s all sorts of things going on in cosplay. There’s a lot of things going on at MomoCon. So it’s going to be an interesting four days. So I’m looking forward to it. I’m sure you will be, too. What days would you be there, Greg?

Greg Burnham 0:02:03

Oh, the entire time.

Rico Figliolini 0:02:05

Okay.

Greg Burnham 0:02:06

MomoCon is. It’s one of our, it’s our, one of our home conventions, obviously, but it’s also one of my favorite. So, yeah, we’re there the whole time, actually.

Rico Figliolini 0:02:18

What are you going to be doing? Where can people find you?

Greg Burnham 0:02:21

No, we’re going to be in the artist alley. And I would have to search. I just show up. But I think they told us our tables. I want to say it’s like, 304.

Rico Figliolini 0:02:32

No, that’s fine. But artist Alley, you’re going to be in, so that’s cool.

Greg Burnham 0:02:35

Artist Alley yeah. So I’ll have. We always have books, posters, other light stickers, some different knickknacks. All the books we’ll be talking about today, I’ll have. And then also, I know I’m doing at least two panels, but it could be more.

Rico Figliolini 0:02:55

I’ll see if I can find those. And I’ll put that in the links below. So whoever’s watching on YouTube, I mean, you can find it there or in the show notes if you go, if you’re visiting the website. So Greg has been doing a lot of indie comic hits that he has under his belt, but he’s also doing work with DC and Marvel. So why don’t we get you to tell us? And by the way, I just recently didn’t get a chance to read a check because it just came in this afternoon, just got one of these. So looking forward to going through that. Tell us a little bit about, I guess let’s talk a little bit about how you got into this. I mean, it’s a challenging job, right? You’re writing. It’s not like a novel. This is collaborative work. So what does that work? How do you do that? How do you handle it, man?

Greg Burnham 0:03:46

It’s usually fun. I think the toughest part is fine. Like, when you’re doing it on the indie side, it’s finding people that are reliable and fun to work with, people that are passionate. Like, as a writer, I always want to deal with artists. I want to make sure that they’re having fun, you know, doing it. So I’m always like, what do you like to draw? Like, are there certain things you think you’re better at? So, you know, once you get, you know, the team together, it’s a blast. It’s just like any other team, really.

Rico Figliolini 0:04:19

I would imagine also for you, envisioning what your characters look like, do you give that input to the artist? Do they give you sketch?

Greg Burnham 0:04:29

Yeah, definitely. The cool. So Marcus Williams, who’s my co creator and the artist for Tuskegee years, he and I, we’ve been working together for decades, you know, like, doing stuff artistically and business wise, so I can, it’s easy for me to, you know, convey it to him. Like, what the character look like this. Give him a couple examples, and we’re good. But then when you’re working with other artists, it’s like, you have to be, like, really, really descriptive. Try to, you know, I’m. I’m the guy. Like, I’ll pull up examples, like, stuff on Google. You know, like, this is the hairstyle you know, this is, you know, the body type even. I do that with, like, backgrounds and scenery sometimes. Like, this will be a cool shot, you know. So trying to help them out as much as possible. And it makes the process a lot more efficient too.

Rico Figliolini 0:05:28

Yeah, I would think. No, that’s great. I do that with photographers sometimes. I show the pictures what I think it should look like and then I tell them and then give me what you think you’re thinking it should look like as you’re there. But, but, yeah, no, that’s great that you’re given direction like that because worst thing to do is getting, is drawing stuff, then all of a sudden having to shift from that.

Greg Burnham 0:05:50

Yeah.

Rico Figliolini 0:05:51

So you’ve, you’ve been some of these. So tell us some of the creator owned properties, some of the indie stuff that you’ve been doing. What was your, so what was your first one? Was it Tuskegee airs? Oh, yeah.

Greg Burnham 0:06:03

Comic wise? Well, the way it started, I’m sorry.

Rico Figliolini 0:06:09

Okay.

Greg Burnham 0:06:09

I just got back in town, so please forgive the coughs. Yeah. It started with a book. I always have props at my desk, this book, you know, 20 years ago, over 20 years ago, Marcus and I and another friend, Nicholas, who we created this, but we had no idea what we were doing. People were loving it. People were buying it. We didn’t understand the business side at all. So we had to kind of, we were printing them up at Kinko’s.

Rico Figliolini 0:06:37

Yeah, we did.

Greg Burnham 0:06:41

Yeah, we did everything ourselves. And, like, people were buying it. They were buying it heavy. But we were spending so much money to produce a book that it wasn’t lucrative at all. So we had to kind of step back and kind of learn the business. So I did a couple children’s books. Marcus illustrated those, and then he got in on a comic book called Hero Cats. And he was doing the art for that for a while. But the whole time we’re, like learning publishing, we’re learning comic conventions, you know, who to talk to print wise, all those things. So when we did come up with the idea for Tuskegee airs, we felt confident that we knew how to execute.

Rico Figliolini 0:07:30

At that point and get it printed. I’m assuming you got it printed yourself. It looks great. Great.

Greg Burnham 0:07:35

Yeah. So we used a really good printer out of Canada that prints for, like, the big guys as well.

Rico Figliolini 0:07:42

Okay. Okay.

Greg Burnham 0:07:43

So all that stuff, you know, it’s like learning as you go.

Rico Figliolini 0:07:47

I could tell from the quality. And it’s just I’m, I’m in a nut when it comes to graphics and printing and stuff like that. So I can appreciate the quality that went into this. So you’ve done that. You’ve done the search for SDK Sadika?

Greg Burnham 0:08:03

Yeah.

Rico Figliolini 0:08:05

Little Rock files and. Little Rock files and the story of solace. Yeah, I guess.

Greg Burnham 0:08:13

Yeah. So, like, the story of solace, that’s was my brother’s idea. He wrote. He’s had this idea for a long time, and so I just kind of, you know, kind of guided and helped him, you know, making it into a comic because he had written it in prose and. But we always thought it would be a comic. So we have one issue of that. We’re working on the second one now.

Rico Figliolini 0:08:40

Just the Kickstarter we were talking about before. Is that different?

Greg Burnham 0:08:43

Yeah. Well, we did a Kickstarter for that last year. We may do one for the next book, but we’re trying, like, we like to try to have the book finished or have it really close to be finished before we do a crouch one.

Rico Figliolini 0:08:58

Yeah, yeah, no, I can’t imagine because otherwise things will take longer then. And that’s. So I can appreciate that. You’ve done three comic book, three comic anthologies last year, 2020.

Greg Burnham 0:09:10

Oh, yeah. Yeah. Within the last twelve months. One of those was in February. I did DC power, which is like their black history anthology. This is one of the covers. I like the prompts and would. Oh, yeah, I keep props. And so I got to write a mister terrific story. I was super happy because I snuck and brought him to Atlanta. Nobody said I couldn’t do it, so I did it.

Rico Figliolini 0:09:39

But Atlanta’s famous. Yes.

Greg Burnham 0:09:41

Yeah, but, so, yeah, that one was really cool. And then in October, for their Halloween anthology.

Rico Figliolini 0:09:51

Right.

Greg Burnham 0:09:52

They changed the names of these every year. I don’t think I have that one over here, but I did. Ghouls just want to have fun. It’s an anthology.

Rico Figliolini 0:10:03

I think I’ve got. Hold on a second. Let me just bring that up. I think it was this. Maybe that’s not quite the COVID Yeah, that’s the.

Greg Burnham 0:10:12

That’s the main cover right there.

Rico Figliolini 0:10:14

Okay.

Greg Burnham 0:10:15

And, yeah, I got to write a clean page Superman story for that one. Like this. It’s like a spooky. It’s not super extra spooky, you know?

Rico Figliolini 0:10:28

Okay, so how does that work? You have an, you have your own ideas of what you want to do, but now you have this icon, Superman and. Yeah, they’re giving you. I know they’re not giving you totally free reign. I’m sure you got a protective brand maybe, but.

Greg Burnham 0:10:44

But, yeah.

Rico Figliolini 0:10:45

How do you handle that? How do you do that when they give you something like that and you go flying.

Greg Burnham 0:10:50

So I think it’s part, I mean, I think for all us nerds, like, if we’ve been reading comics and movie, watching the movies and everything, I feel like you always think about, like, what would I do if I got a chance to tell these characters stories? So I just, I wanted, like, with this one, I wanted to tap in. I mean, I’ve been watching Superman for my entire life in some way. So I wanted to kind of tap into the stuff that I loved about Superman. You know, I loved him and Lois’s interactions and, but I also wanted to tell, like, something. It’s like there every, there’s so many stories. So I was just trying to figure out a way to do something unique. And I think I did that. It wasn’t like it was a ghost, huh? Yes. Well, that even that description they gave is kind of sort of, but not all the way I used, you know, I wanted like a ghost because, you know, you think about who, you know, they say Superman is susceptible to magic. So I figured like a ghost, you know, like, what can he do if he can’t actually make contact with him, you know? Yeah. So, yeah, but it was cool because for these little one off stories, it’s like canon is not, you know, end all, be all. So they’re kind of like, it doesn’t have to, you know, be, you know, perfectly in canons. They made it easier. But there are still, like, there’s a lot of things that you, you know, you have to get, I wouldn’t say approval, but more so, like, certain things they’re not going to really do with Superman versus others.

Rico Figliolini 0:12:38

Okay, well, fun anyway, I would imagine. And I’m sure you got on your stuff.

Greg Burnham 0:12:43

I just, the whole time I’m working on it, I just, you know, have to keep pinching myself. Like, this is Superman.

Rico Figliolini 0:12:53

Okay, so you’ve done that. DC Power 2024. You’re talking a little bit about that milestone initiative. There are other artists that are in there. Do you get a chance to, when you meet other artists, other writers, other creative people, do you guys share notes? Do you like to shop talk?

Greg Burnham 0:13:18

I like to talk more. Not necessarily in general, but we talk about, like, creating one thing I’m always careful of because it’s like we, you know, you soak up so many things subliminally that sometimes something that you heard or you’ve seen could come out accidentally in your own, like, I’ve plenty of times where I come up with an idea and I’m like, oh, this is gonna be great. And I have a rule, like, I’ll come up with the idea. Usually I wait for, like, a couple of weeks, and then I come back and revisit it.

Rico Figliolini 0:13:50

Uh huh.

Greg Burnham 0:13:51

And when I revisit it, I’m like, oh, no, that’s nothing but new skin on this story. Yeah. So I try to, like, you know, keep it more in general, like, about creating stuff like that than sharing notes on what we’re creating.

Rico Figliolini 0:14:10

Gotcha. I’ve heard authors, like, best selling authors and other writers, they don’t accept anyone’s manuscript for that reason.

Greg Burnham 0:14:19

Yeah.

Rico Figliolini 0:14:19

Or unsolicited scripts, for that matter. That could be a problem, too, I guess. You know, when you’re balancing creative work, your, your independence and publishers expectations. Right. There’s two different things. We talked about that a little before, just, just before about how it’s easier to do your own stuff because you’ve set your deadlines. You can pick the quality of work, people to collaborate with, but sometimes that may not be the case on the other side of that, where you have publishers expectations, you have to work with people maybe you’re not familiar with.

Greg Burnham 0:14:56

Yeah.

Rico Figliolini 0:14:57

How does that work? Is that fun or can that be challenging?

Greg Burnham 0:15:02

For me, it’s fine. So a little bit more about me. Like, I coached youth sports in, you know, Norcross, and I’m not doing it currently, but I did for about 15 years. So I think that one of my strengths is being able to bring people together and figure out how to work with people, you know, in a pleasant kind of way where we’re all moving in, you know, the same thing. So I think I utilized some of that, but I’m, when you’re doing indie stuff, it’s like, typically, you know, there’s going to be a little bit extra leeway, you know, whereas, like, if you’re working with one of the major publishers, it’s like, the deadline is this day and that’s all there is to it. If you can’t have it by this day, they’re going to get somebody else to do it, you know?

Rico Figliolini 0:15:55

Yeah.

Greg Burnham 0:15:56

Yeah. So it’s like just trying to figure out balance. Not to be like a tyrant, but also to be like, we still got to make sure we’re getting it done, so, but it’s, it’s fun. I love collaborating, especially with artists. Love it.

Rico Figliolini 0:16:12

Yeah. I got to believe that you see your stuff visually being rendered is as a whole, that got to be a whole different feeling. Right. You’re writing it, you have it in your head, but that artist is rendering what you’re hopefully pulling out of your head you want. But it’s a whole, it’s almost like me seeing AI art sometimes it’s not the same thing, but, you know, you type in some words and AI will generate a picture. Right. It’s never quite as good as everyone says it is. That’s for sure. I’ve experimented and trust me, it’s. But that’s what you see on Instagram, I guess. But the, so I’m sure it’s exciting to see the rendering of what an artist produces for you.

Greg Burnham 0:17:00

Absolutely.

Rico Figliolini 0:17:02

I was curious, what sports did you coach?

Greg Burnham 0:17:05

I coached mostly basketball. I did baseball some, but it was mostly basketball.

Rico Figliolini 0:17:12

I like the way you were phrasing it before about moving in the right. Sort of in the right. In the same direction or something.

Greg Burnham 0:17:17

Yeah.

Rico Figliolini 0:17:18

Getting parents move with you to just competing.

Greg Burnham 0:17:21

Yeah. So, and it’s like if you, if you can do that, you know, coaching twelve, you know, adolescent boys, then, like, you could do a lot of things.

Rico Figliolini 0:17:33

Yeah. Yeah, I would think. And, you know, that’s, that also brings up something else in my mind. When you’re, when you’re writing stories and you have five characters, and then I’m sure some of them are your most favorite characters. Right. More favorite one. How do you know, you have to decide these darlings, how much time they get on that page because you’re not, you know, and do you, it’s just a, that’s an interesting thing, too, to decide that. Well, what is your favorite character or two that you’ve written?

Greg Burnham 0:18:03

Oh, man, I don’t know, because, like, I mean, I love the Tuskegee heirs. Like, it’s like they’re, all of them are like your kids, all the stories. So I love Sadaka from the search for Sadica. I just don’t want to say one’s my favorite and then the other characters attack me in my dreams. But, like, I’m doing this book now called Little Rock Files. It’s like a eighties noir detectives story takes place in the south. And the main character, Owsley, I love, I also love his little sidekick Tia. She’s good. Good fun. So I don’t know, it just kind of depends on the day, I think.

Rico Figliolini 0:18:50

Do you ever, do you ever base these characters on people, you know?

Greg Burnham 0:18:55

Absolutely. So one of my things is so sometimes. So, like, with Tuskegee heirs, I have two kids, Marcus has two kids. So four of the kids are named after our actual real life kids. Now, we, I don’t necessarily, we didn’t, we modeled their look a little bit after them, but their personalities aren’t necessarily the same. But I. One of my things that I want to do, because it’s like, I love creating characters, but I want them to feel, like, organic. I write a lot of female characters, and so I definitely take inspiration from people I know. You know, it could be somebody I went to elementary school with, but I just take those inspirations because I’m always careful. I don’t want characters to be empty and feel like, you know, like, you ever read a comic where you’re like, okay, this sounds like a dude trying to sound like a woman or trying to, you know, I don’t want to be one of those. So I really try to get in. Like, I’m working on a book right now with four girls, superheroes, and I finished the first, you know, like, my first iteration of the script, and I was like, I need to add more, you know, like, depth and more emotional personality to them.

Rico Figliolini 0:20:23

Yeah. Some background, different language. I mean, you want that voice to be individual, right?

Greg Burnham 0:20:29

Yeah. It’s like, I want, like, all your main characters, I want to make sure they have, like, a voice, like, their own distinct kind of way.

Rico Figliolini 0:20:38

So. So the flames of destiny, the first character that I find slip, and he just doesn’t listen. He just wanted to do his own thing. It seems like she pays someone with the kids.

Greg Burnham 0:20:49

No, actually, he’s our. He’s our lone, you know, completely out of thin air guy.

Rico Figliolini 0:20:56

Oh, okay.

Greg Burnham 0:20:57

So, yeah, but he, you know, like, he provide. Like, he’s. People love him. Like, fans all over the place really, really love him, but he’s, you know, got some. He was kind of created to add, like, the, you know, comedy, but he’s also feisty. And as you go, you know, we’ll get more depth and stuff behind him, and readers will understand why he is, you know, how he is.

Rico Figliolini 0:21:27

So do you work through the writing process when you’re doing this? And you said, like, you did the first. Everything goes through drafts, I guess. And you want to continue to add voice and complexity to a character when you’re doing this, do you ever decide. Do you ever decide that maybe a character is not the right character and you have to change it?

Greg Burnham 0:21:52

Yeah. So, yeah, sometimes it’s like I’m hyper vigilant. I utilize sensitivity readers. I have some really good friends that will say, hey, man, this is some crap. Go back to the drone board. Good. They’re not mean people, but I tell them, I want you to talk to me. You know, like, yeah. So usually by the time they actually, like, we get into the scripting and everything. I’m pretty cool. I’m pretty sure, you know, but up until that point, yes. Like, plenty of people get cut, are changed altogether.

Rico Figliolini 0:22:31

Okay, cool. So beta readers and just other people giving advice, that’s a tough thing to find, people willing to give honest advice.

Greg Burnham 0:22:38

To the ones without ego. Like, one of my friends, she’s a really good writer, and she was telling me recently a story about, she gave to one, you know, had a beta reader, and this lady, like, ripped her apart. It’s like, you know, this book doesn’t need to be made. Like, and really, she already has tons of fans. And when she releases the book, it hit, you know, it’s breaking all these sales records and stuff. And it’s like, you know, so you want people that are going to give you, like, the kind of that raw opinion, but not the one with the ego behind it, like, better than you like, because there’s so many, you know, like, readers like different stuff, you know? So just because it doesn’t sit with you doesn’t mean it’s not going to resonate with its intended audience.

Rico Figliolini 0:23:31

You almost have to have thick skin when you get these things back.

Greg Burnham 0:23:34

Yeah. Like one, I think for me, like, one of the things, like, whatever the criticism is, I’m usually okay with it because whatever I showed you in that book, I, it was 100% intentional. It’s, you know, there’s not a lot of, like, ooh, how did that get there? You know? Okay, so I’ve had people that like the way you did, you know, whatever, but then they read the next issue and they’re like, oh, okay, I get why you do. It makes more sense.

Rico Figliolini 0:24:05

So it’s like, yes, they gotta wait. They gotta live through the. Live through it. Yeah, no, for sure. I mean, sometimes the backstory comes out later. Right. You wanna give it all at once when we talk about. We talked a little bit before we start about diversity and representation, right. In works, it’s changed over the years. Diversity is a little better now. Certainly better now. I mean, even in probably the sixties and seventies, it wasn’t too much of a stereotype. Although, you know, that’s one of the things you got to worry about, or other writers have to worry about. Stereotyping people does. You don’t mean to. And sometimes the stereotype is meant, right. As a comic, it’s a comic turn or something. Maybe we’re being used in a way, but it’s not long lived in a character. Right. How do you handle that. How do you do, you know, with, with especially this industry. I mean, when you think about comic books, when people think, well, not today, but before comics, comic books was very white, you know, I mean, up until about sixties and seventies, and then there was some diversity that came in. Not a lot, but some black panther, Luke Cage or a bunch of them got more. So, as, you know, X Men came in. So that was supposed to be a thing about diversity, of accepting different people. So. But there’s a lot more indie. Well, there were indie authors back then, too, indie comics, I remember, but, but there’s a lot more now than there were before. And some of them get tv shows, too. So it’s becoming a bit more. A bit more profitable or lucrative to be able to do some of this stuff. Do you see yourself trying to get into, breaking into that, you know, multimedia, just the print?

Greg Burnham 0:25:56

Yeah, definitely. As we go, we’ve had some near misses with certain stuff, but it’s definitely a way that we, you know, would want to move to where because, okay, so with the diversity, it’s like they’re starting to realize that. And I’ve heard this from, like, execs at, like, major publishers, they’re starting to realize that diversity isn’t just putting a character, you know, like, you know, different character in, it’s allowing people to tell their, tell these stories like people, you know, so, you know, instead of dropping a black character in a book, it’s like, allow a black person to tell the story, because that’s when it’s like, you start really getting into diversity representation with stereotypes. If you’re not even aware of all the stereotypes, then, you know, yeah, you might hit one here or there. So it’s good. Like, for us, we want to do, you know, we’d love to get into animation. We’re working on a little bit of animation right now, but we would love to work on a lot of bit. But, you know, it’s very expensive. Our thing is we, we would love to be, we want to be able to kind of guide it. We already know if somebody gives you, you know, millions of dollars to make a cartoon, sure, they’re going to have, you know, the power and, you know, but we want to at least be able to keep it on the rails because we’ve seen so many times, like, I think about teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which I, you know, we loved the iteration that came, you know, to animation and everything, but it’s so much different than what the comic was and what the creators I be, you know, what their, you know, dreams about what it would be. It’s just, it was a lot different.

Rico Figliolini 0:28:01

Yeah.

Greg Burnham 0:28:02

And that was, you know, that was an instance where it still was super successful and lucrative, but you can talk to, like, a lot of creators who, like, man, they took my idea and made it terrible, so it flopped in.

Rico Figliolini 0:28:18

Yeah.

Greg Burnham 0:28:19

You didn’t get to control it.

Rico Figliolini 0:28:20

So I think. I think a lot of times when Netflix or other companies get into that, they’re just making more vanilla to just be able to reach a broader audience rather than niching it down, because, you know, it’s telling it, I think telling the stories of, from a diverse background, like you said, you don’t just drop in an indian or a black woman or Hispanic into a story. It needs to come out of their story. Right. It just needs to be. It’s more authentic that way. It’s more interesting. The storytelling is way more interesting to me when it comes out that way then, than someone. I can’t write a black story. Right. I mean, I can’t. Having diversity in the creative process is important, so. And things are becoming better. Animation is actually becoming cheaper and cheaper to make because of digital, all the digital movement that’s going on right now. So it’s gonna be. Give it another five years, you’ll be able to make your animation. 30 minutes show.

Greg Burnham 0:29:24

Yeah, it’s coming. Like, we. We were, we were awarded a bit of a grant from Epic Games to do, like, unreal engine short.

Rico Figliolini 0:29:36

Yeah.

Greg Burnham 0:29:36

So.

Rico Figliolini 0:29:37

Really?

Greg Burnham 0:29:37

Yeah. So we’re working on that. And something else that you might be able to see. We have something cool that we’re going to be. Hopefully we’re going to be dropping at Momocon, so.

Rico Figliolini 0:29:48

Yeah. Okay. I’d love to see that. Unreal engine five. That’s the last one that came out. That last version. It’s unbelievable. It looks so real.

Greg Burnham 0:29:58

Yeah.

Rico Figliolini 0:29:58

That you’re stepping into a place that’s just like, my God, you want to be afraid that something’s going to scare the death out of you.

Greg Burnham 0:30:05

Right? I just watched the planet of the apes, the new movie.

Rico Figliolini 0:30:10

I didn’t get a chance.

Greg Burnham 0:30:12

Half the time. I’m like, that’s unreal engine right there. That’s unreal engine. Like, it’s. It’s, like, almost seamless. Like, you can’t.

Rico Figliolini 0:30:21

Yes.

Greg Burnham 0:30:21

Yeah. Like, I can tell because we’re working in it right now, but for, you know, that most people.

Rico Figliolini 0:30:28

Well, I think. No, most people can. I mean, unless you put a person in it, then it becomes these nuances that.

Greg Burnham 0:30:36

Yeah.

Rico Figliolini 0:30:36

That you sort of figure that’s there’s something not quite right there, but I can’t wait for them to do more VR work because unreal engine five can do in real time renderings. I believe, as you. As you move through a story, it’s just so much technology. You can’t even tell what’s real or not anymore. If you’re like the Matrix, almost.

Greg Burnham 0:30:57

Yeah. So. Waiting for this?

Rico Figliolini 0:31:00

Yeah, sure. I’m just tell us the. So you have another book that you’ve done. So we’ve been talking about graphics and comic books. But you did swim, Kelly. Swim truly?

Greg Burnham 0:31:12

Oh, yes.

Rico Figliolini 0:31:13

Very different. So I want to make sure you tell us a bit about that, that, you know, what. What went into that, why you did, why you wrote that one.

Greg Burnham 0:31:22

So, so far, I’ve done three children’s books. Every one of them was based off of, like, an experience from my childhood. And of course they’re based, but I, you know, will make it more fantastic and all that stuff. But this one was a story that actually happened with my brother. And I taught my brother how to swim when he was way too young. So, like, by the time he’s, like, three, he can swim for. So we were at the pool. We’re military kids, and so we were at the pool, and I probably should have been paying more attention to him, but I knew he was good. He was supposed to be in the kiddie pool. And so I look up and there’s a lifeguard blowing. They’re all blowing their whistles, and they’re yelling, get down. And my brother is standing there on the high dive getting ready to jump, and he’s nine years old, and so they’re yelling, telling to get down, he gets down. And at the pool had a rule where in order for you to jump off the diving boards, if they felt like, you know, you were like, it was like you’re in danger, they would make you swim all the way across the pool in the deep end. So it’s like 10ft, you know, you gotta swim across. So I convinced them to let us do it. They let me swim beside him, you know? Cause it’s like my mom will, you know, disown me if something happens to my brother at the pool. Yeah. So, you know, we swam, and it was just fun because, like, the people, like everybody, it’s like people got out of the pool and everybody’s just cheering for him. His name is Kelly. It’s totally real. So. So I told that story, but then I also added, like, little things, you know, about swimming. The goal was to like, demystify swimming. So if, you know, it’s funny because I’ve had adults that are like, man, this is for me, you know, because people, people want to learn how to swim, but, you know, the older you get things like swimming, they seem like, that’s not real. I can’t do that. My body can’t do that. So that was the goal, is to kind of demystify it a little bit to where, you know, kids will understand. If you learn how to do it, you believe in yourself. You could be a great swimmer like Kelly.

Rico Figliolini 0:33:43

So it’s a great cover, too. Yeah.

Greg Burnham 0:33:47

My friend Michaela Moore, she’s an absolute jewel. I met her at a comic convention, and, you know, we, like, this became, you know, like, we would see him all the time. She’s younger, so it’s like we always try to, you know, not necessarily mentor all the time, but just encourage. And one day I was like, hey, have you ever done a children’s book? She’s like, sure, I’ve done one, and we ended up with this one.

Rico Figliolini 0:34:16

That’s cool. It’s good to work with people. We’re at the end of our time together. Greg, it’s been, yeah, it’s been great talking with you about your work, about the business. I love talking shop, finding out how people are creative and doing stuff. So you’re going to be a MomoCon this Memorial Day weekend, all four days from May 24 to May 27 at the Georgia World Conference center. And you’re going to be at artist alley and some panels from what you said before. So we’re going to try to find those links to the panels. Get that there. Otherwise, if you’re looking to go to MomoCon, everyone, momocon.com is where you should go. Buy your tickets. You could get day tickets weekend. I think it’ll four day passes also. It’s going to be a great event. Artists like Greg there and say, hi, especially if you’ve seen this podcast. But thank you, Greg. Appreciate you being with us.

Greg Burnham 0:35:16

No problem. Thank you for having me.

Rico Figliolini 0:35:19 Thank you, eve

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Peachtree Corners Life

Peachtree Corners Development Pressures Lead to a Moratorium and More Proactive City Planning

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This episode features special guest Shaun Adams, Peachtree Corners’ new Community Development Director who continues as Assistant City Attorney. Shaun’s responsibilities include identifying areas that could benefit from redevelopment, planning, administering, and implementing redevelopment projects, and helping to identify and obtain public funding for projects. Part of our discussions include the 6-month moratorium on new residential development in the central business district which reflects a reassessment of the city’s needs. Included in the podcast discussion was a discussion on zoning and development, emerging market trends, navigating development pressures, and community and business roles. Hosted by Rico Figliolini.

Related Links
Redevelopment Authority of Peachtree Corners: https://www.peachtreecornersga.gov/21… Peachtree Corners City Meeting Calendar: https://www.peachtreecornersga.gov/Ca…

Timestamp:
00:00:00 – Shaun Adams: New Community Development Director
00:01:21 – Peachtree Corners Resident Balances Legal and Community Roles
00:03:26 – Community Development: Zoning, Permitting, and Collaboration
00:07:24 – Adapting City Codes to Changing Needs
00:09:54 – Adapting Zoning to Emerging Market Trends
00:12:37 – Navigating Zoning Overlays and Mixed-Use Developments
00:15:07 – Examining Zoning and Development Trends
00:20:01 – The Impact of COVID-19 on Cities and the Growth of Smaller Communities 00:21:30 – Navigating Development Pressures and Public Input
00:25:28 – Leveraging Comprehensive Plans for Strategic Development
00:29:43 – Exploring Proactive City Planning
00:32:23 – Upcoming Agenda and Code Updates
00:33:57 – Upcoming Planning Commission and City Council Meetings

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