Cleta Winslow. Atlanta Political markets. Atlanta Political wars

Political war reminds me a little bit of trade wars. When country A is not allowed to sell its goods and services in Country B, Country A raises a fuss. It threatens a trade war. It puts tariffs on Country B’s goods and services. It accuses Country B of currency manipulation. Country A may even go as far as waging a military action against Country B in order to destroy Country B’s currency and disrupt the trade alliances Country B has with its neighbors. Country A’s goal is to be the dominant economic actor on the block. It will put up with a weakened Country B as along as Country B trades with the world on Country A’s terms.

Political wars are similar. This tidbit is not new but we need to be reminded: candidates are battling for power and privilege. To the extent that they have to craft welfare programs to win votes, what they can do for you is secondary. How they see themselves in political history, their legacy, is more important.

Political wars are quietly continuous. A smart incumbent maintains the illusion that she is looking out for her constituents by presenting the optics of an engaged and caring politician. Take Cleta Winslow, a member of the Atlanta city council representing the West End.  Ms Winslow has served as the District 4 representative for a quarter of a century. For the ten years I have lived in District 4, Ms Winslow has not faced much a challenge, at least until the last election challenge where fierce loyalty especially by older residents helped her keep her seat.

Demographics can be a potent weapon when warding off potential threats to one’s dominance of a political market. That weapon can backfire especially here in the West End as the residents become ethnically diverse. Loyalty t o Winslow based on what she did in the 1990s and her attempts to save a firehouse back in 2008 can only go so far with a younger African American population that sees bleak economic opportunities and more whites with capital moving in to takeover relatively cheap real estate.

The consumers of Ms Winslow’s goodie bags are leaving and new entrants into the 30310 political market may not like what she is selling. A couple contenders in the last city election were able to raise sizeable amounts of campaign funds and as the 30310 political market becomes more diverse, Ms Winslow’s political trade days may draw to a close.

Strategy wise, a potential deathblow to Ms Winslow’s hold on the 30310 political market would be a salvo of economic initiatives, preferably salvos that circumvent her influence as much as possible and led by potential candidates. These individuals should win over as many allies as possible to avoid last year’s scenario where there were too many opponents on the ballot. Opponents cannot afford to have their optics and influence diluted by too many candidates on the ballot. It creates too much noise.

New residents could just exercise patience and watch the demographics change in their favor, but delay won’t help the young and underemployed who would benefit the most from the election of an economic visionary.

When local government meets high tech sovereigns

Sometimes I think city government is sleeping at the wheel when it comes to technology and capital flows. During its lucid moments, government will fall back on its 1960s playbook of economic development by announcing plans to bring back manufacturing jobs that pay better wages than the service sector jobs that replaced factory work and eviscerated wages. This narrative may have worked in a locality that was created to take advantage of proximity to a local natural resource where factories could then convert the resources into goods for local and other markets, but for a city like a 21st century Atlanta, that narrative is disingenuous.

Atlanta’s “natural resource” today is information. Workers who know how to find, extract, organize, and distribute information are going to be the one’s who obtain employment and the higher wages that come along with work in the information sector. This demand for an information-centric political economy, I believe, is being driven by the changing tastes of capital. Capital wants its goods and services delivered conveniently and its production customized.

Information technology allows capital to target funds directly to high-value driven information entrepreneurs that can deliver a product that was designed, manufactured, packaged in, and delivered from multiple jurisdictions. Capital has no love for mass appeal. Why deal with crowded banks, malls, car dealerships, or grocery stores when extra minutes of leisure can be carved out by the manufacturing and service delivery efficiencies provided by Tesla, Uber, Grubhub, and Insta-cart.

Along with these efficiencies in product manufacturing and delivery come smaller work forces or work forces outside of the jurisdiction of local governments. Local governments have been the front line defense of investor capital from disgruntled labor. They regulate labor union speech during strikes. Where there is violence they arrest the rowdy. However, in an information age where there are a greater number of tech shops employing smaller numbers of non-unionized information workers versus a handful of large factories employing thousands of unionized lower-skilled workers, there is less demand for the police powers of local government. Disgruntled employees at today’s tech shops simply take their information knowledge somewhere else or create their own firm.

Eventually government starts tossing and turning in its sleep. It sees its “labor clamp down” requests severely diminished. Higher incomes start translating into reduced need for government services from garbage removal to security. Higher income earning citizens may consider pooling resources to support campaigns of candidates who agree to reducing tax burdens are, too the extreme, support carving out or “leasing sovereignty” to higher income communities.

Question is, how will those with no capital react to the erection of this wall of individual sovereignty?

When local government meets high tech sovereigns

Sometimes I think city government is sleeping at the wheel when it comes to technology and capital flows. During its lucid moments, government will fall back on its 1960s playbook of economic development by announcing plans to bring back manufacturing jobs that pay better wages than the service sector jobs that replaced factory work and eviscerated wages. This narrative may have worked in a locality that was created to take advantage of proximity to a local natural resource where factories could then convert the resources into goods for local and other markets, but for a city like a 21st century Atlanta, that narrative is disingenuous.

Atlanta’s “natural resource” today is information. Workers who know how to find, extract, organize, and distribute information are going to be the one’s who obtain employment and the higher wages that come along with work in the information sector. This demand for an information-centric political economy, I believe, is being driven by the changing tastes of capital. Capital wants its goods and services delivered conveniently and its production customized.

Information technology allows capital to target funds directly to high-value driven information entrepreneurs that can deliver a product that was designed, manufactured, packaged in, and delivered from multiple jurisdictions. Capital has no love for mass appeal. Why deal with crowded banks, malls, car dealerships, or grocery stores when extra minutes of leisure can be carved out by the manufacturing and service delivery efficiencies provided by Tesla, Uber, Grubhub, and Insta-cart.

Along with these efficiencies in product manufacturing and delivery come smaller work forces or work forces outside of the jurisdiction of local governments. Local governments have been the front line defense of investor capital from disgruntled labor. They regulate labor union speech during strikes. Where there is violence they arrest the rowdy. However, in an information age where there are a greater number of tech shops employing smaller numbers of non-unionized information workers versus a handful of large factories employing thousands of unionized lower-skilled workers, there is less demand for the police powers of local government. Disgruntled employees at today’s tech shops simply take their information knowledge somewhere else or create their own firm.

Eventually government starts tossing and turning in its sleep. It sees its “labor clamp down” requests severely diminished. Higher incomes start translating into reduced need for government services from garbage removal to security. Higher income earning citizens may consider pooling resources to support campaigns of candidates who agree to reducing tax burdens are, too the extreme, support carving out or “leasing sovereignty” to higher income communities.

Question is, how will those with no capital react to the erection of this wall of individual sovereignty?

30,000 marching in Atlanta is a waste of time

Thirty thousand people allegedly marched for their lives today in Atlanta in protest of the current state of gun control laws. Using children as an indirect attack on Donald Trump is bloody apparent to anyone who has spent five seconds in the strategic communications game. This kumbaya moment is inconsequential and ineffective progressive, left-wing liberal bullshit.

When compounded by the upcoming 50th anniversary of the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Francis Kennedy, the timing of the messaging is insidious. Why grown ass people fall for the emotional optics is amazing and scary.

If these individuals want to put a dent into the gun industry, they should take the direct approach. First, parents need to look into their stock portfolios and divest themselves of any holdings in gun manufacturers or the suppliers of gun manufacturers. Second, parents need to identify any other suppliers of service to gun manufacturers and stop buying their products.

All this marching does is create a video portfolio that the next Democratic nominee for president can use on the campaign trail.

Black America’s wrong approach to STEM

Black America needs more engineers but not for the reasons we typically hear on the panel discussion stump. On the panel discussion stump, you typically find well dressed and articulate black men and women speaking on the importance of going to college and picking up degrees in science, technology, engineering, or math in order to get a job with a corporation and make six-figures. Going into six-figure debt to get a six-figure job. Where did this school of thought come from?

Black America’s approach to learning about technology favors consumption of the applications that run over broadband networks. That is what I see particularly among poor blacks here in the West End and the Old Fourth Ward. We are using broadband voice applications to share the latest gossip or evangelizing on life. We are keeping occupied reading news items, watching sports highlights, or playing video games as we pass time on MARTA heading to work. Just about everyone has a cellphone and if you don’t, worry not. If you meet income eligibility requirements, you can buy one from a vendor at the corner of York Avenue and Lee Highway.

This propensity to consume technology is not relegated to the Black American poor. According to a 2016 report released by Nielsen,  Black Millennials are expected to help drive the leveraging of $1.2 billion in Black American buying power. With a cellphone ownership penetration rate of 91%, Nielsen sees Black Americans continuing to use the technology to extend black cultural identity and, with Millennials leading the way, continue efforts at civic or institutional change in America. Black America is also expected to buy more beauty and hair care products versus their white counterparts.

Millennials are expected to take their higher incomes into supermarkets as well. Black Americans demonstrate a propensity for cooking from scratch, planning meals ahead, and using fresh ingredients.

In short, the Nielsen report paints a picture of a Black America that furthers consumer centrism. Since release from their status as chattel slaves, blacks in America have slowly become a population over-indexed on consumption. And to further fuel its $1.2 billion in buying power, Black America has embarked on a campaign to get more of its young people into STEM jobs.

STEM employment pays well, according to a report written by the U.S. Department of Education. The average STEM employee pulls in approximately $65,000 a year. Those specializing in engineering or engineering technology average $73,700 a year. Great incomes for hair and makeup and cultural expression. But what is more important, in my view, is STEM driven creation of resources placed in black communities for blacks.

We don’t hear enough about the entrepreneurial side of STEM although we have examples out there. Firms such as Logistics Systems Incorporated and ATS-Chester Engineers have been providing engineering services for decades. They are demonstrating that blacks can do more than consume technology but design technology solutions as well. Production and ownership of technology assets lie at the heart of wealth creation for blacks and if properly deployed can be the basis for the creation of real black communities in the United States.

Unfortunately for current black communities, their leadership is tainted. Legacy black civil rights organizations that have a leadership class still living in 1968 are still focusing on how best to break into corporate America, or in the case of establishing minority-owned firms, maintaining affirmative action programs that provide set asides from government contracts. To paraphrase Yuval Noah Harari, they do not even have realistic ideas of what the job market looks like in two decades because they cannot see. Black leadership is still nostalgic about the civil rights battles of the 1960s when the focus should be on the resource and capital battles of the 21st century.

One example of a leadership not understanding STEM’s practical use is the lack of solar in the West End. I have yet to see a community solar farm. I see more historic district designations on houses than I see solar panels or wind turbines. Finding low cost energy solutions by pooling more STEM talent into black owned firms is a start. Current legacy black-owned engineering firms should consider investing in new black-owned start-ups that are committed to serving distressed communities. No community should be without its own locally owned energy source and this is one approach toward developing one.

Black America’s one-prong approach to STEM needs an upgrade and new leadership.

Atlanta’s ninety-four percent have no leadership

On the occasions that I ride MARTA, I am always saddened by what I see in the ridership. It is mostly black, overweight, loud, low to middle income in dress and carriage. The body language of the ridership transmits defeat and a lack of control over its resources. Hell. We have no resources.

When blacks engage each other on the train, bus, or the grocery aisles, the conversation tends to center on food prices and domestic turmoil. Social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter have only served to increase the noise, giving a platform for ratchetness in text and in video.

On social media, it seems like blacks are interested in becoming video stars, drinking the Kool-Aid that Atlanta’s “Black Hollywood” narrative transmits. It is not uncommon now to see a bunch of twenty-somethings walking around the West End posing in front of cameras and smartphones shooting videos to be posted on Instagram or Facebook.

But when I visit Peachtree Center I see much less swag and more of “playing it safe, gotta keep this job” demeanor from the few blacks that I see there versus whites and Asians who carry themselves with more confidence likely due to their much greater representation in much higher paying jobs. If Atlanta is the “Black Mecca”, then its tribal chiefs are doing a poor job of representing it.

I say poor job because Atlanta’s black elite have forgotten the basic rule of leadership: you are only as valid as the prosperity of the people around you. Assuming that Atlanta’s black wealth is reflected in national statistics, then blacks are in pretty bad shape. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, 57.6% of blacks own an interest earning account, while 78% of their white counterparts and 78.5% of Asians own such an account. Fifty eight percent of Hispanics own an interest earning account.

Blacks are not as diversified as whites and Asians in terms of participation in the equity markets. Just over six percent of blacks own stock or mutual fund shares, according to U.S. Census data, while 25.2% of whites and 26% of Asians own stocks or mutual funds. Hispanics come in at 5.5% of their population investing directly in stocks or mutual funds.

Blacks have not gotten into the game of owning their federal or local governments’ debt. Three percent of blacks own U.S. government bonds while 0.5% own municipal bonds. Ten percent of whites own U.S. government bonds while three percent of whites own municipal bonds. Other ethnic groups are in the single digits as well when it comes to owning public debt. Four and one-half percent of Asians own U.S. government bonds while just one percent of Asians own municipal bonds. A little over two percent of Hispanics own U.S. government bonds while 0.3% of their population own municipal bonds.

Even with their numerical majority (which is waning with each passing year), black Atlanta couldn’t influence a political outcome without blowing its basic house budget. One is naive about American politics if they believe the vote alone can sustain any level of political power.

Decreased political power is a boat with a big hole in it, rudderless, with a stalling engine and a navigator that cannot read a compass. For 44 years, the Atlanta black political elite have benefited from enjoying a political largess that is increasingly scarce. Rather than dominance, the political elite appears willing to settle on being the minority pivotal vote. Will the Atlanta black political establishment fare well at its future deal maker role and will new pluralities in the future be willing to pay the bribe?

 

Does Atlanta’s mayor have any influence in the Georgia legislature?

It is still early, but the decision of the Georgia General Assembly to make Delta Air Lines an example of what happens when you enter their gun rights cross-hairs has me puzzled about Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottom’s influence at the Capital. A major economic driver for Atlanta and the state of Georgia sits in her back yard and her public response to the general assembly’s actions have been very cautious. Mayor Bottoms recently said the following to the Atlanta Business Chronicle:

“We are grateful for the partnership we have with Delta. So much of what we do in Atlanta is with the corporate community, including Delta. Atlanta will remain a city that is welcoming, inclusive, and diverse.”

“We value our partnerships and relationships with our corporate partners. We have mutual respect for the positions they take on any number of matters. Anytime there are discussions on issues that are divisive, there are concerns not just in Atlanta, but at the state level.”

“I know that Delta has navigated this before. The City of Atlanta remains open for business, and we remain a committed partner with Delta.”

The Mayor did not issue a press statement on her own website. Her comments to the Atlanta Business Chronicle sounded canned; like messaging that a politician would issue during some social strife involving race or sexual orientation discrimination. In addition, there was nothing in her messaging that tells me that she or her staff went up to the Capital to speak with Lt. Governor Cagle, the architect of the campaign against extending a fuel tax exemption for Delta. The usual language like, “We implored the Lt. Governor to blah, blah, blah…” or, “We are working with our Atlanta delegation to the general assembly to yada, yada, yada …” was not uttered in the interview or anywhere else in public. Even if the Mayor tried to work behind the scenes to head off Mr Cagle’s retaliation, Mrs Bottoms blew an opportunity to create the appropriate political optics.

Mrs Bottoms will need to start working more authoritative optics if she is to survive politically the dawn of a new political era in Atlanta. Changes in Atlanta’s demographics will weaken “The Black Slate” that helped Mrs Bottoms defeat fellow Democrat Mary Norwood last November. Mrs Norwood lost, for the second time, her bid to become Atlanta’s first white mayor since 1974. Mrs Bottoms might not find it easier in 2021 as a city, formerly known as “The Black Mecca” becomes increasing white and beige.

Atlanta’s black population made up 57.4% of the city’s populace in 2000. By 2010, according to U.S. Census data, Blacks made up 54% of the city’s population. The proportion of the city’s non-Hispanic white population increased from 31.3% in 2000 to 33.3% in 2010.  Asians saw their share go from 3.9% in 2000 to 5.1% in 2010.

Anyone doubting the increase in the Latino population need only take a jaunt up Buford Highway to see for themselves. Atlanta’s Latino population share has gone from 7.5% in 2000 to 10.2% in 2010.

And speaking further of optics, Mrs Bottoms looks less in tune with the 12.8% of the Atlanta population that describes itself as gay or bisexual. I suspect a married Black American woman with four children and a husband has a personal philosophy out of touch with the LGBTQ community, where her messages about inclusiveness and diversity may become increasingly vacuous.

Lastly, her calls for affordable housing may find themselves falling on deaf ears. When my son and I moved to Atlanta in 2008, you nary saw a white person in the Fourth Ward unless they were visiting the King Memorial or driving down Boulevard to hang a right on Ponce de Leon on their way to Whole Foods. Blacks were in abundance then, much less so now.

The Fourth Ward has been gentrifying for a decade. One of the first signals was the establishment of an elementary grade level charter school off of Pine Street. The school failed but gentrification is succeeding. More whites have moved into the area. Even the Taco Bell on Ponce has gotten a facelift as a result. Even as city development agencies such as Invest Atlanta divert bond financed funding to support the development of “affordable” residential housing, increased demand for city services and creeping yields on bonds will mean selecting potential home buyers that can afford the interest rates. Except for a few bourgeoisie Blacks, I suspect that most of the people taking advantage of “affordable” housing will be white and Asian.

Mrs Bottoms hasn’t come out swinging. She is acting more like a house sitter than the mayor of a growing city with a significant level of poverty among the Black Slate that elected her. To validate the usefulness of government as a provider of “protective services” and to avoid losing political consumers from the political markets, Mrs Bottoms will have to step up.