Sonny Perdue, a man with zero higher ed experience is about to run the Georgia higher educational system
Everyday is a new day in Georgia
Welcome to my newsletter by me, King Williams. A documentary filmmaker, journalist, podcast host, and author based in Atlanta, Georgia. This is a newsletter covering the hidden connections of Atlanta to everything else.
1. Buckhead cityhood is dead for 2022
House Speaker David Ralston, has stated that Buckhead cityhood is effectively dead for this legislative year. The move comes as another blow to cityhood enthusiasts and its leader, Bill White. Since the start of the new year, Buckhead secession has seen an increased lack of appetite from the state GOP.
Cityhood isn’t dead, Cobb is about to have 3 (maybe 4) come to fruition this year, but Buckhead City is. The move by Ralston keeps Governor Kemp from wading into a lose-lose scenario as he is on the campaign trail. The move by higher-ranking state GOP members such as Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan who killed the House version of the bill, and House Speaker David Ralston, who killed the two Senate bills, has ended any talk of secession this year, at least until 2023. This move by high-ranking GOP members also signals to Buckhead business leaders that economic stability is a priority.
2. Atlanta Housing and Integral Group have finally settled
A long-gestating land dispute between Atlanta Housing (fka AHA) and former developer partner Integral Group has been settled. As a part of the deal, Integral Group will receive 54 acres of land across four sections of Atlanta. All four sections, Capitol, Carver, Grady, and Harris homes are former public housing project sites that were cleared over a decade ago for redevelopment that never happened. The city of Atlanta will receive 19 acres of land and $26 million from Integral Group as payment.
The reason for the dispute emerged in the era of former Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration which ended the relationship of Atlanta Housing and Integral Group, which was a preferred developer of the former Renee Glover era of AH. That era saw the demolition of all of the remaining public housing projects in Atlanta following the 1996 Olympics. A proposed deal in 2020 almost happened between Atlanta Housing and Integral Group but was rejected after it was found the new proposed development was too expensive for low-income residents. The move to avoid a March trial is a win for both parties, the likely expensive trial could’ve hurt both parties, with both also subject to potentially even more in a future judgment. For AH, it’s expected that it will now work closely with Mayor Dickens closely on developing the remaining sites in its portfolio. Dickens has championed affordable housing on the campaign trail.
3. Sonny Perdue is likely the next Chancellor of the University System of Georgia
Former Georgia Governor and US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is likely going to be confirmed as the new Chancellor of the University System of Georgia within the next two weeks. Since the announcement of Chancellor Steve Wrigley’s retirement a year ago, rumors have been swirling with Perdue as a likely contender. Perdue will oversee 340,000 collegiate students at 26 public universities with a student body population that is 46.1% are White, 25.7% are Black, 11.7% are Asian, and 10.5% are Latinx.
Who is Sonny Perdue?
Perdue is the man who became the first Republican Governor in Georgia since the 1800s (again, the parties switched over time) in January 2003 beating incumbent Roy Barnes. A big part of that reason for his win was Perdue’s negative campaigning, plus the emphasis on the campaign trail that he would change Georgia’s flag back to the confederate flag—he did fulfill his promise but instead of the stars-n-bars, Perdue et al chose to remix the original confederate flag.
Yes, Georgia’s current flag is a rendition of the actual confederate flag, albeit with the state crest inside of the 13 stars, representing the 13 colonies. The move from the old stars and bars confederate rebel flag was a topic of discussion under Governor Barnes. Perdue since went on to become a political force in Georgia eventually picked by President Trump to be the Secretary of Agriculture.
Why is the nomination controversial?
Perdue has zero experience in higher ed, zero. He is also a 75-year-old Republican in a state that is about 50-50 Democrat-Republican in its voter preference. Perdue continues Georgia’s streak of maintaining all-white political leadership on the highest level from the founding of the US to the present. Georgia is nearly 100% over-indexed in white male Republicans holding the highest forms of leadership in every position of higher-level political power with the exception being Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens.
Georgia is a state that is seeing its white population declining, with a soon-to-be majority-minority racial status within the next decade. But most importantly with the state GOP’s move to maintain control of the state by any means necessary. This includes various culture war attacks on education, on both the local and state level. When not seeking to write laws banning the teaching of accurate history. The GOP is also guilty of being direct hypocrites in using ‘big government’ to enact laws that usurp both ‘local control’ and ‘small government’ autonomy from schools. Every pick of Chancellor since Governor Roy Barnes has been a white, conservative candidate, despite the demographics of Georgia then and especially now.
Perdue’s nomination has not been as smooth sailing as it seems. Opponents of Perdue have emerged as a result of the nomination. This includes the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSC), the accrediting body for Georgia’s public university system, who last year preemptively issued a statement condemning the nomination rumors. Despite this, SACSC currently has stated that it will not look into his looming confirmation.
Kemp’s stacking of the deck with conservatives continues
But considering Governor Kemp’s appointment of loyalists to the board, including four this year, there will be no dissenters in the decision-making process. The unanimous decision to nominate Perdue has led to protests by members of The American Association of University Professors. Kemp has continued to make it harder for a more open government by using his powers to sign off on gerrymandered state congressional maps, which has now moved into local redistricting efforts, which has once again hurt local Democrat-led counties the most.
Perdue and Kemp have a history
This move by Kemp is a swan song for Sonny Perdue, a man who embraced and endorsed Kemp early in his career. Perdue has endorsed Kemp for both Secretary of State and Governor, including giving his 2018 endorsement on the campaign trail against Stacey Abrams. Perdue elicits ardent support from Georgia GOP voters.
What does the Chancellor do?
The Chancellor is appointed by the Board of Regents, whose members are appointed by the Governor. The Chancellor is the head of the entire university system of Georgia.
For more on this directly from the University System of Georgia’s website:
The Chancellor provides leadership in higher education and stewardship of state and University System resources by promoting a statewide perspective on higher education that attends to the current and developing needs of the State, its citizens and students, and relates them effectively to the University System and its institutions. The Chancellor supports the Board of Regents in furthering and achieving its vision for the University System by providing leadership in analyzing, monitoring, and anticipating higher education trends and developments, and by planning strategically for the future of the University System. The Chancellor also serves on the Georgia-based Alliance of Education Agency Heads, a collaborative partnership with the Governor’s office and Georgia’s education agency heads.
In short, the Chancellor is the person who makes final decisions on higher ed. Considering the next Chancellor is about to be a 75-year-old, former Trump-appointed Republican who won the governor’s office by campaigning on bringing back the confederate flag, it doesn’t seem like the best person to guide higher ed.
What does the Board of Regents do?
The Board of Regents is a volunteer appointed to board overseeing all of the state’s public colleges and universities.
For more on this directly from the University System of Georgia’s website:
The governor appoints members of the Board to a seven year term and regents may be reappointed to subsequent terms by a sitting governor. Regents donate their time and expertise to serve the state through their governance of the University System of Georgia – the position is a voluntary one without financial remuneration. Today the Board of Regents is composed of 19 members, five of whom are appointed from the state-at-large, and one from each of the state’s 14 congressional districts. The Board elects a chancellor who serves as its chief executive officer and the chief administrative officer of the University System. The Board oversees the public colleges and universities that comprise the University System of Georgia and has oversight of the Georgia Archives and the Georgia Public Library Service.
Of the 19 current members, only one works currently in education, Erin Hames, the Headmaster of the conservative Christian private school, Heritage Preparatory School. One additional member, Jose R. Perez, is the only other person with teaching experience, Perez operated as an adjunct professor. Perez was also one of the members who aided in the creation of Georgia’s current accreditation system for charter schools. 16-19 of the members are business executives, all but three are white, including all four new members who were selected in January. Of the four who were selected last month, two of the dissenting members of Sonny Perdue’s nomination were drawn out of their districts, losing their seat on the board. Expect this new board to make more decisions that will keep Georgia middling in educational output.
The GOP is taking the ‘culture wars’ into actual lawmaking
This is in addition to a slew of new GOP-led laws, that do more to undermine any counter efforts and enshrine an educational identity under threat by their own efforts. The first is a new law by Gwinnett lawmaker potential shift to making local school boards ‘nonpartisan’. This includes a recent law for a parents bill of rights, the Unmask Georgia Students Act (SB514), and a new social media censorship bill, SB393.
Culture wars work, it works better with government overreach
The pivot of small-minded, small government tactics using bigger government is in full force. Kemp’s pivot into parental choice is a hedge against Stacey Abrams would be swing voters. The move also gives him, even more, W’s before his November election against Stacey Abrams, provided David Perdue doesn’t pull an upset.
The state GOP’s recent heavy swing into culture war tactics included changing laws to enshrine a GOP majority on both a state level (the Board of Regents), changes to local redistricting, which saw two board members be removed as a result.
Kemp and the GOP’s heavy move into following this nationalist pattern are in-line with an overall shift in views on America by Republicans and conservatives. This strategy helped Virginia elect Glenn Youngkin as the first Republican Governor in 12 years as well as a sweep of the upper house positions in ‘blue’ Virginia
Kemp is closing off all loose ends on the campaign trail
The move is a further solidifying of control of the state by the GOP. The moves are also a signal to Republican voters that the culture wars emerging on issues such as transgender rights, critical race theory, mask mandates/vaccines, school board control, and the teaching of accurate history will be staunchly conservative. The most important move by Governor Kemp has been to eliminate his would-be enemies from any encroachment by supporting this. Kemp forcing the hiring of the cousin of his GOP campaign rival David Perdue, is a signal that the governor is quelling any would-be dissent amongst the establishment GOP ranks. Kemp is playing to win, again.
4. 3 Atlanta zip codes were among the top US donors to the Ottawa, Canada truckers MAGA adjacent convoy
Roswell, Marietta, and Alpharetta were among the 10 biggest US donors to the Canadian covid convoy that has been pestering Ottawa’s government this month.
A few things to note: 1) this was another astroturfed campaign, following the 2020 re-opening campaigns in the US, 2), over 90% of Canadian truckers are vaccinated, and 3) almost 1-in-5 truckers are of South Asian descent, not reflected in the convoy.
New Podcast Alert: Mariah Parker, Athens City Councilwoman
I sat down with Athens city councilwoman Mariah Parker. Parker gained virality in June of 2018 after winning a special election, by holding up a fist and swearing-in on The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Since then Parker has stayed another term, in addition to becoming a more well-known politician outside of the borders.
Instead of focusing on that viral moment, the interview is comprised of questions on being a non-traditional candidate, prison abolition, calls to ban educational materials, and a framework for reparations for Linnetown, a small Black section of Athens that was destroyed to expand the campus of the University of Georgia.
She is also a battle rapper and we talk about that in the interview as well. She also has released a new single under her rap moniker, Linqua Franqa. Her first video, 'Wurk' has just been released, which will accompany her latest album Bellringer on April 22nd. Her music can be found on Apple Music, on Spotify, and on Tidal.
Red Clay News
AJC reporter Greg Bluestein is now a contributor at MSNBC.
Leadership DeKalb has selected Marquetta Bryan as the new board chair, becoming the first Black person to do so.
Former Democratic DeKalb County Commissioner Vernon Jones has announced that he will be stepping out of the Governor’s race to pursue a race for US Congress in District 10.
A group of Black families has bought 500 acres of land in Toomsboro, Georgia to build a farm.
The NFL has hired former Obama-era AG Loretta Lynch to defend itself against a racial discrimination case by former coach Brian Flores.
US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) to ban no-knock warrants.
Dems lose one Senator, New Mexico Senator Ben Ray Luján for the Supreme Court nomination to replace Justice Stephen Breyer until at least March.
US Senator Cory Booker and US Congressman Jim Clyburn have introduced a national anti-poverty bill.
The first two months of 2022 are the driest in California history.
The US shifted in preference from Democrat to Republican in 2021.
A Miami cruise ship was rerouted to the Bahamas after the ship itself had a warrant for its arrest based on back taxes.
The New York Times has bought Wordle.
Several European governments are anticipating a refugee crisis in Ukraine.
Worldwide dementia cases are set to triple by 2050.
Several Haitian journalists have been murdered by local street gangs.
The world’s largest condom manufacturer saw a 40% decrease in sales and has pivoted to making gloves.
Anne Frank’s betrayer has been identified after 77 years.
The UK is about to experiment with a 4-day workweek.
Have a good weekend everyone! - KJW