Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The coolest book event of 2009

Great news, Atlanta! I've just received confirmation from Wordsmiths Books, my favorite local bookseller, that David Hajdu will be making a stop in Decatur on his upcoming tour to promote the paperback of his latest book, The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America. Hajdu is the music critic for The New Republic and currently a professor at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. Back in '06 and '07, when he still lived upstate, he was a professor in the Goldring Arts Journalism program at Syracuse University, where we got to know each other. Mark your calendars for Thursday, February 12. More details to come...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

This just in...

About an hour ago I received a press release from the City of Atlanta in my Outlook inbox, updating me on the status of the municipal budget for fiscal year 2009. Turns out the status is pretty grim:

City Hall has projected a deficit of $50 to $60 million already. In order to soften the blow, the mayor has implemented a hiring freeze, mandated a 36-hour work-week for all employees in general fund departments (that includes police), and thrown $12 million in reserves in to help plug the hole. Those measures will amount to about $40 million. Where will the rest come from?

Three million dollars will be siphoned off from the Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs. In addition to closing or reducing hours at dozens of rec centers and community pools, the city has axed the Atlanta Jazz Festival (along with "various arts programming"). Yes, the same Atlanta Jazz Festival headlined by Herbie Hancock in Piedmont Park in 2007.

Public Works also took a $2.5-million hit: recycling and yard trimmings will be collected every other week in the future, which makes my little tree-hugging heart sad. I would be remiss if I didn't also mention the more than 200 workers who are now among the jobless.

It's disheartening to watch the city I love struggle, and from so close a vantage point. I take some comfort in Atlanta's longstanding iconographic association with the phoenix. I hope that once we turn the corner on these dark economic times the city will be able to come back stronger than ever before.

UPDATE: I had the opportunity to participate in a discussion with Camille Russell Love, who clarified the situation. The Atlanta Jazz Festival will go on in 2009 and beyond, with the ultimate goal of becoming a freestanding non-profit, independent of the city's whims and financial crises. This year the festival will take place in Grant Park, and as of mid-December they had already raised funds equal to the entire 2008 budget.