OK Cafe’s Confederate battle flag could be next target

Fire fighters are reflected int he takeout window as they investigate a blaze at the OK Cafe restaurant during the morning breakfast rush on Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014, in Atlanta. (AJC Special/David Tulis)

Fire fighters are reflected int he takeout window as they investigate a blaze at the OK Cafe restaurant during the morning breakfast rush on Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014, in Atlanta. (AJC Special/David Tulis)

One prominent Democrat hopes that the electrical fire that gutted the Atlanta landmark OK Cafe burned up the carving of Georgia’s 1956 flag, complete with the controversial Confederate battle emblem, that hung on the restaurant’s wall.

Bobby Kahn, the former chief-of-staff to Gov. Roy Barnes and longtime Democratic guru, said he urged the manager to take the piece down during his last visit to the restaurant.

Your daily jolt on politics from the AJC's Political Insider Blog“They told me it was artwork, and that they weren’t going to take it down,” said Kahn. “They need to change that flag.”

The restaurant’s rehabilitation is plagued by delays since the December fire, but it’s expected to open its doors within months. Kahn doesn’t seem to be alone.

Susan DeRose, the restaurant’s owner, said she hasn’t decided how she will redecorate the restaurant, which she said has “always stood with an open mind and an open heart.” But she said Kahn’s protest will have nothing to do with her decision.

“It’s a part of my history, and my history has absolutely nothing to do with prejudice against anyone,” said DeRose, who is from Athens. “I was around when that flag flew on the day that Martin Luther King Jr. was buried. I also was around when women and blacks didn’t have the same civil rights under the American flag. Does Bobby want to change that flag, too?”

She added: “If Bobby has an idea what color I should make the booths and the tables, he should call and let me know.”

For Kahn, this must be deja vu. He was Barnes’ top aide in 2001 when the governor made his transformative call to change the 1956 flag.

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U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, meanwhile, is not keen on taking down Confederate flags or monuments at this point.

As he told a town hall meeting last night in Kennesaw, according to the Marietta Daily Journal:

“We’re chasing the symptom, not the problem,” Loudermilk responded. “If you ban the battle flag, hatred is still going to be here. … Until we start addressing the evil that exists, you can ban anything you want to. You can remove sculptures from Stone Mountain.” …

“I’m not answering that until the nation has a chance to heal,” Loudermilk said. “This should not have even been a discussion until the emotions are settled (and) the families have a chance to heal.”

Loudermilk said he told the press to think about where the massacre happened: a church.

“That was an attack on the freedom of religion just like the shooting in Garland, Texas, was an attack on the First Amendment,” Loudermilk said. “They’re all attacks on rights.”

Loudermilk also revealed that he recently had lunch with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who expressed concern about the court’s social engineering.

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Augusta’s legislative delegation is about to get shaken up.

State Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Evans, is leaving office this summer to take a gig with a national lobbying firm. And former Augusta Mayor Bob Young announced on Twitter that he will run for the seat now held by fellow Republican Barbara Sims.

Sims, who was first elected in 2006, said Monday that she will not seek re-election.

“I am proud of what we have accomplished in continuing to make Georgia a better place for our children and grandchildren,” she said in a statement.

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Our AJC colleague James Salzer reported Monday that Democrat Jason Carter has started a new politically minded venture.

From Salzer’s story:

And his final payment, to close out the account, was for $656.28 and went to a political action committee called Generation Georgia PAC. The address for the PAC is Carter’s home, a likely sign the former candidate will remain politically active.

Indeed. Carter and his allies are mum on the PAC’s purpose, but keep in mind the disclosure comes days after Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Carter’s frenemy, reminded the political world that “I have another election in me.”

 

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President Barack Obama is rolling out an executive order to boost some workers paychecks today, by increasing the salary cap for workers who must be paid overtime for working more than 40 hours per week.

Obama changed the threshold for mandatory OT from $455 per week ($23,660 per year) to $970 per week ($50,440 per year). According to Department of Labor data, 160,000 Georgians would be newly eligible for overtime.

From the New York Times:

The administration has the power to issue the regulation, which would restore the overtime salary threshold to roughly where it stood in 1975 in terms of purchasing power, without congressional approval. …

“The president said he wanted to go big here and he did,” said Jared Bernstein, a former White House economist who co-wrote an influential report on the benefits of expanding overtime pay after leaving the administration in 2011. “I can’t think of any other rule change or executive order that would lift more middle-class workers.” …

Conservatives and business groups have bitterly opposed the idea, warning that it will cost jobs. The National Retail Federation, a trade group, has argued that expanded overtime will “add to employers’ costs, undermine customer service, hinder productivity, generate more litigation opportunities for trial lawyers and ultimately harm job creation.”

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie joins the 2016 fun today with a long-awaited presidential announcement at his high school alma mater. McClatchy Newspapers’ David Lightman puts the moment in context:

Chris Christie’s no longer the Democrats’ worst nightmare. He’s not even the chief concern of his Republican presidential rivals.

The New Jersey governor’s stock has plunged dramatically since he coasted to re-election in November 2013. Now he launches his bid Tuesday for the Republican presidential nomination as a long shot.

Rounding out the Republican presidential field, we’re still waiting on Ohio Gov. John Kasich (who announced his announcement will be July 21), Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and a partridge in a pear tree.

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If you love reading tax forms, today’s your lucky day: Jeb Bush will release 33 years (!) of tax returns on his website this afternoon, per Politico’s Playbook.

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The charter for the Export-Import Bank — the obscure agency in the midst of a years-long lobbying fight that has riven the Republican Party, while pitting Delta Air Lines against Gulfstream — expires tonight, but the fight is not over.

From Politico:

The Export-Import bank is slated to die on Tuesday night, and conservatives are shoveling hard to dig a deep grave.

“It is a culturally corrupt organization,” said Rep. Bill Flores of Texas, who chairs the conservative Republican Study Committee. “It is the worst of the federal government. It is the Enron of federal [government-owned companies]. And it’s gotta go away.”

But for Washington institutions, death can be just a first step toward rebirth: Democrats, along with a handful of GOP lawmakers, are already laying the groundwork to resurrect the bank, as soon as the end of July. They’ll push to renew the bank’s charter, which expires on June 30, after which the bank would not be able to make any new loan guarantees.

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Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, added to his considerable trophy case over the weekend with the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights Leadership by the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee. From a news release:

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based UUSC honored the tireless iconic leader as “the greatest living hero of the U.S. civil rights movement.” Lewis accepted the award during the 2015 General Assembly of Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, held this week at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland.


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