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7-Eleven Is at War With Its Own Franchisees Over ICE Raids

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The sun hadn’t yet risen over Gurtar Sandhu’s 7-Eleven store near downtown Los Angeles on Jan. 10 when four plainclothes U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents swarmed inside. The place was busy; a lot of Sandhu’s customers are day laborers and other working people who start early. As dozens of customers poured themselves coffee and lined up to pay for morning snacks, the agents flashed badges and told employees to stay put. Three other agents, wearing dark ICE jackets, guarded the entrance, blocking anyone from coming in. The tension was heightened when one cashier darted out the back door into the dawn.

The night manager, Billy Davenport, watched from near the coffee urns. One of the agents handed him paperwork giving Sandhu 72 hours to produce records about every person who’d worked there in the past three years. Then the agents fired questions at Davenport and the other four employees left in the store: Do you have identification? Where were you born? How long have you been in America?

As the raid unfolded, Sandhu was on his way to another of his three 7-Elevens, in the nearby city of Carson. The 48-year-old father of three had built a life around 7-Eleven Inc., a retailer with almost 9,000 stores in the U.S., most of them operated by independent franchise owners. His own father had done the same: After fleeing violent ethnic conflict in northern India, he brought his family to the U.S. and found work behind a 7-Eleven counter. Years later, Sandhu and his dad bought their own franchise, then another, then two more. (They sold one in 2016.)

Sandhu was at the Carson store doing paperwork when the phone rang. Davenport was on the line. “They did what?” Sandhu responded. A few days later, two of the federal agents returned and Sandhu handed over a thick file of employee records, mostly copies of federal immigration forms called I-9s.

In August, sitting in the office of the store that was raided surrounded by boxes of Slurpee syrup, he said he didn’t know if or when he’d hear from immigration again. He appeared still to be baffled by his first experience with ICE. “I totally understand if you are doing something illegal,” he said, “I mean, if they know that I am doing something wrong. But why not just send me the subpoena and say we need to give them the information? Why all the drama? Why all the show?”

The show wasn’t just for Sandhu. The day he was raided, immigration officers fanned out across America, serving inspection notices and arresting suspected undocumented workers at 98 7-Eleven stores in 17 states and Washington, D.C. Since then agents have raided several more, and Bloomberg has learned that ICE and federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, N.Y., are engaged in criminal investigations of multiple franchises. 7-Eleven, an American icon and the world’s largest convenience store chain, has become the highest-profile target of a sweeping corporate immigration crackdown by President Trump.

It’s a huge headache and a public-relations nightmare for the company and its chief executive officer, Joe DePinto. But the immigration crackdown has also given 7-Eleven something potentially useful: the names of franchisees who might be in legal jeopardy. Store owners found in violation of immigration law could be in breach of their franchise agreements. And as they well know, 7-Eleven has the contractual right to take back a store from someone who’s violated his or her agreement. Which is why Sandhu’s mind went into overdrive when, on July 30, he received a letter from 7-Eleven demanding any documents alleging violations of immigration law and warning him that he risked having his store seized if he didn’t comply.

Serge Haitayan’s 7-Eleven store in Fresno, Calif.

Photographer: Joyce Kim for Bloomberg Businessweek

All’s fair in the bitter, protracted war between 7-Eleven and its franchisees. The tensions have built steadily in the years since DePinto, a West Point-educated veteran, took charge and began demanding more of franchisees—more inventory, more money, more adherence in matters large and small. Some franchisees have responded by organizing and complaining and sometimes suing.

As detailed in a series of lawsuits and court cases, the company has plotted for much of DePinto’s tenure to purge certain underperformers and troublemakers. It’s targeted store owners and spent millions on an investigative force to go after them. The corporate investigators have used tactics including tailing franchisees in unmarked vehicles, planting hidden cameras and listening devices, and deploying a surveillance van disguised as a plumber’s truck. The company has also given the names of franchisees to the government, which in some cases has led immigration authorities to inspect their stores, according to three officials with Homeland Security Investigations, which like ICE is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security.

7-Eleven says it had no advance warning of the January raids, or any raids, and gives the government information about a franchisee only if it has reason to believe crimes are occurring inside a store. Still, franchisees, after years of conflict with the company, went from suspicious to paranoid when word spread that ICE had shown up at stores run by men and women who were in legal disputes with 7-Eleven or were prominent critics of DePinto. Bloomberg has documented raids on four such people, including Sandhu, who’s been involved in two lawsuits against the company. That’s why he can’t stop wondering: Why him? Of hundreds of 7-Eleven stores in Los Angeles County alone, why his?

President Johnson signs the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act.

Source: Lyndon Baines Johnson Library

Tropes about 7-Eleven stores being owned by immigrants are largely on the money. The company, started in 1927 by a Dallas icehouse operator named Joe Thompson, began selling franchises in the 1960s to hasten growth. In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Immigration and Nationality Act, which made it a priority to reunite immigrants with their families. Waves of people from India, Pakistan, and other Asian countries came to the U.S., and they were drawn to 7-Eleven. “I started talking to franchisees and asking them, ‘How did you end up here?’ ” recalls James Keyes, who had a 20-year run at the company and was CEO from 2000 to 2005. “Most said they came to the U.S. with nothing in their pocket and their first job was at 7-Eleven. They’d save enough money, make a down payment, and get their own store. Then they’d wire money back to relatives and say, ‘Come over here, and I’ll hire you.’ This replication kept happening throughout the ’70s and ’80s and ’90s, until all of a sudden it was a majority minority. It’s a beautiful story of the American dream.”

By the 1980s, so many immigrants were running 7-Elevens that the company and the convenience store industry it created became the butt of comedians’ jokes. Keyes says when he was introduced at an awards ceremony in the early 2000s, the emcee quipped, “Amazing, you’re the first 7-Eleven guy I’ve ever met who speaks English.” He didn’t laugh. Keyes went out of his way to laud the company’s diversity. When people were throwing bricks through the windows of 7-Elevens after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he aired commercials that celebrated immigrant store owners. In 2002 he staged the company’s 75th anniversary party on Ellis Island.

Three years later, in 2005, Japanese billionaire Masatoshi Ito, who already owned a large stake in 7-Eleven, paid $1 billion for the remaining shares. This quintessentially American company became a subsidiary of a new Japanese holding company called Seven & I Holdings Co., which now has 67,000 convenience stores worldwide. Just days after the sale, Keyes retired and 7-Eleven brought in DePinto.

By then, store margins were thinning in the face of rising minimum wages, increasing costs, and heavier taxes on cigarettes and beer. When the global recession hit in 2008, the company’s Japanese owners prescribed an aggressive expansion strategy. Some owners felt betrayed when new stores were allowed to open near their own. DePinto also introduced additional fees, controls, and demands. In 2012 he rolled out a camera system that allowed Dallas executives to peer into any store at any hour of the day. By that point he had lost the support of many franchisees.

A 7-Eleven button from the ’70s.

Running a 7-Eleven is a complex, stressful endeavor. A generation ago it was easy enough to make a living selling little more than milk, cigarettes, and lottery tickets. Today, according to franchisees, the company expects stores to keep an inventory of thousands of items at all times. Corporate employees or contractors, some disguised as mystery shoppers, regularly drop by stores to see if they’re abiding by a litany of rules, down to making sure the Red Bull cans are displayed front-facing. A range of infractions—from lesser things such as running out of Butterfingers and Diet Coke to more serious matters like failing to deposit the day’s receipts—can trigger warnings called letters of notification, which can lead to what 7-Eleven calls a breach of the franchise agreement. An accumulation of four breaches in two years can give the company cause to terminate an agreement and take over the store.

Not all of DePinto’s changes have been received poorly. Franchisees liked the introduction of 7-Eleven’s own Sonoma Crest Cellars wine brand to draw in more upscale patrons and an energy drink called Inked to target millennials. But they complain that other changes are expensive and burdensome, such as a requirement to stock fresh food, which means staffing additional people to prepare it. Then there are equipment costs—maintenance for the Slurpee machine alone is about $4,000 a year. Profits on store merchandise are the lowest they’ve been in a decade, according to company financial filings.

The company’s 2017 disclosure documents give the example of a store in Chicago with $1 million in annual sales. After all the fees and costs and taking into account that the company’s share of the take rises as revenue increases, the franchise owner took home $37,000 before taxes. “7-Eleven always sold its franchises as a gold mine,” says Hashim Syed, a former 7-Eleven franchisee and ex-president of the Chicago franchisee-owners association. “I say it’s more like a coal mine.”

Immigration officers raid a New York store owned by Farrukh Baig in 2013.

Photographer: Michael Nagle/The New York Times/Redux

The Farrukh Baig scandal changed 7-Eleven. Baig came to the U.S. in the 1980s from Pakistan and started at the bottom at one store. He was ambitious and soon bought his first franchise. Over the next 20 years he, along with his wife and several business partners, built a small empire of 14 stores in New York and Virginia. He was such a successful and well-regarded owner that the company picked him to serve on a franchisee leadership committee that provided input on 7-Eleven strategy. The company even distributed a recruitment flyer featuring Baig’s picture.

Then in 2010, a New York state trooper told immigration agents he’d received a tip about widespread hiring of undocumented workers and labor abuses inside Baig’s stores. The feds started digging and before long had cultivated a network of informants. The government later alleged that Baig was not only hiring undocumented workers but also outfitting them with stolen identities, stealing their earnings, and forcing them to work more than 100 hours a week while docking their pay for rent in housing that he owned.

As investigators familiarized themselves with 7-Eleven, they found it hard to believe the company’s executives knew nothing about what Baig was doing, according to six current and former federal law enforcement officials familiar with the case. The company is deeply involved in the minutiae of the stores—it regulates thermostats, tracks every sale with data analytics, and records every human interaction. Store owners are required to deposit all sales receipts into a 7-Eleven bank account. The corporate payroll department in Dallas reviews time sheets for each employee, deducts taxes, and sends workers their pay, sometimes on debit cards that don’t require a bank account. Franchisees’ earnings are deposited in their personal bank accounts.

In July 2011 the company received subpoenas demanding information about Baig’s stores. 7-Eleven vowed to cooperate with the investigation and over several months handed the government copious amounts of information, including payroll records for every store in the U.S. It’s possible those records are still being mined by immigration officials for leads on stores to raid, according to a person familiar with the company’s operations.

“All I hear is 7-Eleven being raided. ... Why?”

DePinto and other 7-Eleven executives told investigators on multiple occasions that they were shocked to learn about Baig’s alleged behavior and urged the government to prosecute him aggressively, the law enforcement officials say. Nonetheless, by May 2013, prosecutors told the company they were opening a new front in its investigation. They began probing the operations of the Dallas headquarters for potential violations of immigration and payroll laws.

The bust of Baig was on June 17, 2013. Then came a shock. In September, three months after Baig and eight others were indicted—and now several years into the government’s case—investigators received a call from an attorney at Jones Day, the company’s outside counsel, requesting a meeting. At a sitdown at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, 7-Eleven’s lawyers revealed that the company had investigated Baig eight years earlier. An anonymous handwritten letter had come into corporate headquarters, detailing labor abuses and the hiring of undocumented immigrants at Baig’s stores. 7-Eleven had conducted an investigation and presented findings to the company’s audit committee. Now the lawyers were disclosing that report. It cleared Baig of any wrongdoing. The anonymous nature of the letter impeded 7-Eleven’s ability to investigate the claims, Stephanie Shaw, a spokeswoman for the company, said in a statement.

The prosecutors and investigators on the case were incensed. The revelation caused the government to intensify its probe, which at one point involved pressing 7-Eleven to pay a substantial fine and consent to government oversight. “We wanted to make sure the control environment was such that it wouldn’t allow for franchisees to ever do this again,” says a former senior law enforcement official involved in the discussions. The company pushed back, arguing it couldn’t be held liable for the behavior of independent operators. Ultimately, the government didn’t prosecute or penalize the company or its employees. In 2015, Baig was sentenced to more than seven years in federal prison. The following year, the U.S. Attorney’s Office informed 7-Eleven that it was no longer considering a case against the company.

ICE agents serve an employment audit notice at a 7-Eleven in Los Angeles on Jan. 10.

Photographer: Chris Carlson/AP

Around the time the government started investigating Baig, DePinto began building a group of ex-cops and private eyes charged with identifying stores that were cooking the books, skimming cash, or otherwise gaming the system. One goal was to build cases to terminate franchise agreements, according to former employees interviewed by Bloomberg and lawsuits filed across the U.S. The tactics could be aggressive. In a 2014 lawsuit, Adnan Khan, a leader of 7-Eleven franchisees in California, alleged that a company investigator followed him for months in an unmarked car and at one point hit and injured him with the vehicle. 7-Eleven settled the suit.

In the corporate office and inside stores there was talk about lists of franchises targeted for repossession, known internally by code names including Operation Philadelphia and Operation Take Back. Multiple lawsuits have alleged that stores on the list were owned by members of 7-Eleven franchise owners’ associations. For years, they’d agitated against DePinto’s policies.

Executives tried to keep the programs secret but were forced to reveal their existence during discovery as multiple lawsuits proceeded through the judicial system. In December 2015 a federal magistrate admonished 7-Eleven for trying to conceal the programs in defiance of multiple court orders, saying that “the court was thoroughly frustrated by 7-Eleven’s obfuscation.”

Shaw, the company spokeswoman, characterizes the programs as “short-lived initiatives to curb fraud in a small number of stores in New Jersey and Philadelphia.” Greg Franks, a senior vice president who was involved with Operation Philadelphia, says 7-Eleven employs extreme measures such as surveillance only in “rare cases,” including fraud or other conduct potentially damaging to the 7-Eleven brand. “Termination is a costly, tiresome, never-ending legal process,” he says. “Nobody wins in a termination.” The company says 2.4 percent of stores changed ownership last year, and of those “only a tiny fraction” were involuntary terminations.

Earlier this year company investigators scoured store surveillance cameras to gather evidence that immigration agents had raided stores in Chicago on April 12, according to internal documents reviewed by Bloomberg. Last summer, 7-Eleven cited evidence of immigration raids to go after Ketan Patel, president of the Chicago franchise owners’ association, who’d organized opposition to the company’s most controversial policies. ICE visited four of his eight Chicago-area stores on April 12 and arrested four employees. On Aug. 1, 7-Eleven filed a lawsuit citing those events and alleging that Patel had underpaid workers and failed to comply with immigration laws. Two days later, the company seized all of his stores. Patel, who declined to comment for this story, said in court documents that he did not underpay employees and that he took reasonable steps to verify his employees’ legal status.

Donna Bucella, a former federal prosecutor who was hired in January as chief compliance officer at 7-Eleven, says the company doesn’t steer investigators toward store owners with whom it has disagreements or disputes. If the company has specific, credible evidence of wrongdoing, she says, it will pass it along to law enforcement. Bucella says she didn’t know about the company reviewing store tapes.

Paranoia has swept across the universe of 7-Eleven franchisees. At franchisee conventions, inside stores, and on private email chains, they swap stories about perceived offenses from headquarters in Dallas. In particular they’re alarmed by the ICE raids on stores owned by critics of the company. They all but assume 7-Eleven has something to do with it.

That was the first thing Sandhu thought when he heard about the raid on his store. Within hours, friends began stoking his suspicions, asking, “What did you do to upset 7-Eleven’s executives this time?” Sandhu knew why they were asking. In 2014 he and four other Los Angeles franchisees sued the company, accusing it of deploying threats, intimidation, and trumped-up allegations of wrongdoing. Last year he was a material witness in another lawsuit, which claimed the company was treating franchisees as low-wage employees, not as independent store operators, and as such was violating state and federal labor laws by failing to pay overtime. 7-Eleven denied the allegations in both suits, and they were dismissed. The franchisees are appealing the overtime wage case.

Haitayan in Fresno.

Photographer: Joyce Kim for Bloomberg Businessweek

7-Eleven has recently taken steps to ensure stores don’t hire undocumented workers. It’s introduced a contract that will require stores to certify compliance with U.S. immigration law. The company also plans to outsource payroll services. The new franchise agreement also piles on additional costs, according to an analysis by the national franchise owners association. That includes an $8,000 grand-opening fee for some stores and a $50,000 renewal fee. And it gives a bigger share of gross profits—up to 59 percent—to 7-Eleven. Franks says more than 80 percent of franchisees eligible for renewal have said they plan to sign the new agreement.

All this has escalated the feud between the company and its franchisees. 7-Eleven recently sued the national franchisee association to block the use of its trademarks. The association and its members boycotted the company’s annual meeting in Las Vegas in February, despite 7-Eleven’s attempt to lure them with entertainment featuring A.R. Rahman, a Bollywood legend. Five months later, DePinto wasn’t invited to speak to the franchisees’ own annual meeting outside Orlando.

Anger was palpable at the franchisee meeting when Allison Carter Anderson, a special agent with the Department of Homeland Security, stood onstage in a ballroom before hundreds of 7-Eleven store owners. Most were immigrants from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and China, and many were terrified of the prospect of people like Carter Anderson showing up at their doors. But they’d invited her here, out of desperation and in search of answers, to explain how to comply with federal immigration law. She handled the crowd well, plodding through a PowerPoint deck for a government program called Image, which gives businesses a chance to open their payroll records voluntarily in exchange for getting lenient treatment if any violations are discovered.

Haitayan, a 7-Eleven critic in Fresno, got his first visit from federal agents this year.

Photographer: Joyce Kim for Bloomberg Businessweek

When Carter Anderson paused and asked if anyone had questions, Serge Haitayan took a microphone. He owns a 7-Eleven on a highway lined by grape farms in Fresno, Calif. Last year he joined Sandhu in the lawsuit alleging 7-Eleven was wrongly treating them like employees. On July 16 of this year, three federal agents walked into the little store he’s operated for 28 years, giving him three days to produce employee records dating back a year. He did that, and he hasn’t heard from ICE since.

“Why is immigration targeting 7-Eleven?” Haitayan asked Carter Anderson, drawing a rumbling of support. “Why?”

Carter Anderson paused, smiling nervously, as she scanned the crowd. “I understand getting this question,” she said. “But I cannot specifically answer this question.”

Haitayan continued. “All I hear is 7-Eleven being raided. It seems to be we are the only ones being targeted by ICE. Why?”

“I’m sorry,” she said.

The audience boiled over. One man shouted from the back: “So are you saying you can’t answer our questions? I don’t see why you are dancing around this question!”

Perhaps some of the franchisees would have liked DePinto to be there. But he had other business that day. He spent it making inspections of stores while some of their owners were away at the annual meeting.

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notadoctor
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A supplemental chapter from the “if it ain’t broke, we can probably make even more money by changing it” files
Oakland, CA
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Eviction isn’t just about poverty. It’s also about race - and Virginia proves it. - The Washington Post

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What happens during an eviction couldn’t seem more straightforward: A tenant doesn’t have the money to make rent, so the landlord gives him or her the boot.

New research, however, is complicating that picture of eviction in America. It’s not only a matter of poverty. It’s also a matter of race.

That’s the striking conclusion of researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University, who published a report this fall that found eviction rates are disproportionately high in minority communities. Across the state, roughly 60 percent of majority African American neighborhoods have an annual eviction rate higher than 10 percent of households — roughly four times the national average — even after controlling for poverty and income rates.

In Richmond, where some neighborhoods have rates of eviction higher than 33 percent, the results have been even more stark. For every 10 percent increase in African American share of the population, the eviction rate increases by 1.2 percent. But if the white population increases at the same rate, the eviction rate shrinks by .9 percent.

“This is about understanding the ‘why,’ ” said Benjamin Teresa, an assistant professor at VCU who conducted the research and has co-founded a think tank at the university to study eviction in the state. “Why are [evictions] more concentrated in parts of the state and cities?”

The research comes amid increasing attention to evictions in Virginia, sparked by a sweeping analysis published in April by Princeton University researchers that found the state’s eviction rate of 5.1­ percent is twice the national average, based on data from 2016. And within Virginia, some cities have some of the country’s highest urban rates.

The examination, led by Pulitzer Prize-winning sociologist Matthew Desmond at Princeton’s Eviction Lab, showed that half of the 10 large-population cities with the nation’s highest rates of eviction were in Virginia. And among midsize cities, three of the top five were in the state as well. Of all large cities, Richmond had the second-highest eviction rate, with 11.4 percent of tenant households evicted in 2016, for a total of more than 6,300 evictions.

The question that was then asked:

“What is it about Virginia?” asked Kathryn Howell, one of the VCU researchers studying the role of race in evictions.

The answer, housing advocates and academics theorize, may lie in a combination of circumstances that make Virginia stand out in the region. They include a low state minimum wage of $7.25, pockets of concentrated poverty, fewer social services, less housing activism and fewer tenant organizations, and laws that advocates say are tilted in favor of landlords.

In Virginia, it can take as little as six weeks to evict someone after they’re late with rent. Tenants aren’t guaranteed legal representation. And, unlike in Washington, which has an eviction rate of 2.6 percent, there’s no rent control. Maryland, by comparison, is also a landlord-friendly state, according to housing lawyers, but has a higher minimum wage of $10.10, less poverty and an eviction rate of 3.6 percent.

Then there’s the matter of race, which research suggests is a factor in evictions across the country. The Princeton analysis found evictions are most concentrated in the Southeast, with its large historic African American population, and even more so in counties with large black communities. And an Apartment List survey of 41,000 responses last year determined that black households were more than twice as likely to face eviction as white households, after controlling for education.

Still, when Teresa started digging into Richmond’s eviction data, it wasn’t clear what he would find. The first startling discovery came when he saw that the poorest pockets of Richmond weren’t also the places with the highest eviction rates, challenging explanations other Richmond housing experts had offered. Something beyond poverty, he began to think, was at work.

“It definitely was surprising,” he said. “It was unraveling the mystery. . . . It’s not just poverty.”

The findings make sense when viewed through the prism of history, according to Teresa and other experts: Residential segregation patterns shunted African Americans into certain neighborhoods. Discriminatory lending practices made it harder for African Americans to buy a house, then build equity to pass down to subsequent generations. Richmond’s absolute poorest live in public housing, where the public housing authority filed eviction lawsuits against 25 percent of residents, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. But the eviction rate creeps up higher still in private housing, often controlled by companies that have all but automated the eviction process, immediately taking someone to court for overdue rent.

Then there’s simple bias, said Marty Wegbreit, director of litigation for the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society in Richmond.

Wegbreit has witnessed the interplay of race and eviction at work. He spent 24 years in Southwest Virginia, where there is as much poverty, in the mountain hollows and coal fields, as anywhere in the state. The only difference, however, is that it’s white poverty. Buchanan County, for instance, which is 96 percent white and has a poverty rate of 25 percent, has an eviction rate of less than 1 percent, according to Eviction Lab.

“A lot of people don’t want to talk about the racial issue, but we’re going to,” Wegbreit said. “White people simply have a deeper bench, more access to wealth than black and brown people. . . . And there’s a subconscious belief that, ‘We can let the white folks slide; they’ll be good for it. And the black folks, not, because they won’t be good for it.’ ”

Others worry, however, about the consequences if the conversation about Virginia’s high eviction rates becomes mired in the fraught terrain of race and discrimination.

“People shut down when you talk about race in this state, which is unfortunate,” said Christie Marra, an attorney with the Virginia Poverty Law Center who is leading a campaign to reduce evictions. “But you’ve got to look at what happened before: Who owns houses, and who rents, and how did we get here.”

That’s why Teresa is now pressing for more information and will probably publish an additional report later this year that will bring a finer analysis to race and eviction in the state.

“There are very poor parts of the state that may not have that high of an eviction rate,” he said. “Why would that be?”

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notadoctor
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acdha
2 days ago
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I’m glad to see racism getting recognized specifically in a mainstream press article. Over a million Virginians voted for Corey Stewart, whose personal heroes include neo-Nazis, and presumably many of them are landlords.
Washington, DC

Fox News Can't Believe Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Won't Sell Clothes She Doesn't Own To Pay DC Rent

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This Tuesday, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, earning 78 percent of the votes in New York's 14th district. On Wednesday, the New York Times published a very nice profile of her, in which she explained that it was going to be difficult for her, a person who had most recently been making 29K a year, to afford to live in in Washington, DC -- a place with a very high cost-of-living -- for three months without a salary.


Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said the transition period will be "very unusual, because I can't really take a salary. I have three months without a salary before I'm a member of Congress. So, how do I get an apartment? Those little things are very real." She said she saved money before leaving her job at the restaurant, and planned accordingly with her partner. "We're kind of just dealing with the logistics of it day by day, but I've really been just kind of squirreling away and then hoping that gets me to January."

Now, to me, a person who also could not afford to live in Washington, DC, for three months without a salary (Or possibly even with one! It is really expensive there!), that seems like a fairly normal thing to say. In fact, it also makes a pretty good point about the fact that there are financial barriers to being elected to office that make it a pretty tough thing for a regular, non-rich person to do. But I do not work for Fox News, where the very idea of such a thing is just silly.

One of the running themes of AOC criticism on the Right has been trying to prove that she is actually a secret rich person who was working as a bartender making 29K a year for however long in order to disguise this fact so that she could run for office as a socialist and look like a "woman of the people" or something. They have been eager to point out her upbringing in this sprawling mansion in fancypants Westchester County ...

... and the fact that one time she did a photoshoot for a magazine in which she wore some very expensive clothes ... that they lent to her.

These were two of the things brought up by Fox's Ed Henry to bolster his theory that AOC was only pretending to not be able to afford rent in a very expensive city with no income. In fact, he wanted to know why she did not just sell those fancy clothes she was wearing in that dang photo shoot! Surely, she could afford it then!

America's Newsroom - 10:14:08 AM - 10:14:39 AM youtu.be

Is it that Ed Henry does not know how these photo shoots work, or that he thought she should have stolen the clothes from the photo shoot for rent-paying purposes? Is that it? Or is he just saying things he knows aren't true because it's what his audience wants to hear? Is he, perhaps, just really, really stupid?

Ocasio-Cortez has since responded:

Haha! It is funny when people can't afford to pay rent.

Now, I'm not going to call anyone out specifically, but I've seen a few Dems on Twitter also joining in the "Haha, she can't pay DC. rent, what a loser! She just makes us all look irresponsible! What? Does she expect the American people to pay her for three months she's not working??!?" fun because they are mad at her for liking Bernie or whatever. This is gross! Do not do this! I happen to like her a whole lot, but you can dislike her all you want, you can hope and pray that Crowley gets the seat back in the next election, but let us please leave the "being shitty to people about not having money" to the Republicans. Thank you.

And now this is your open thread!

[New York Times]

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notadoctor
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Fox News: “POOR PEOPLE? IN MY GOVERNMENT?!?!?”
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GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos threatens to limit power of Tony Evers

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Tony Evers talks to the crowd after he was declared the winner in the Wisconsin Governor’s race. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Democratic candidate for governor Tony Evers (left) and lieutenant governor candidate Mandela Barnes greet supporters at their watch party at the Orpheum Theater in Madison.(Photo: Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)Buy Photo

MADISON - Less than 24 hours after Tony Evers was elected governor, the Republican leader of the state Assembly threatened to take power away from him even before he is sworn in.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said Wednesday he would discuss whether to look at limiting Evers' power with Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau). FItzgerald is open to the idea, according to an aide. 

"If there are areas where we could look and say, 'Geez — have we made mistakes where we granted too much power to the executive,' I'd be open to taking a look to say what can we do to change that to try to re-balance it," Vos told reporters.

"Maybe we made some mistakes giving too much power to Gov. (Scott) Walker and I'd be open to looking at that to see if there are areas we should change that, but it's far too early to do that before I talk to Scott Fitzgerald."

UPDATE: Republican lawmakers consider limiting incoming Gov. Tony Evers' power over state rules

Evers spokeswoman Britt Cudaback said it's "unfortunate Vos is doubling down on division" after Evers asked to set aside differences and work together.

"These are the same desperate antics of politicians hell-bent on staying in power after eight years," Cudaback said in a statement. "The people of Wisconsin deserve better from our government, and that’s why they voted for a change yesterday.”

Fitzgerald is willing to consider taking away some of the governor’s powers before Evers is seated, said his chief of staff, Dan Romportl.

“He has said previously that he is open to it, and plans to discuss the topic with Senate Republican caucus members (Thursday),” Romportl said by email.

Vos and Fitzgerald did not say what kind of limits they were considering placing on the governor’s power. Any change would need to be passed before Jan. 7, when Evers is sworn in, and signed into law by Walker.

Aides to Walker did not say if the governor would be willing to curtail the powers he enjoyed for eight years.

Even if the Republican-controlled Legislature does not pass legislation limiting the governor's power, Evers will almost certainly face a common feature of split government — gridlock. 

Evers, who has been state schools superintendent since 2009, will face a Legislature that is firmly in the hands of Republicans. 

RELATED: Tony Evers denies Scott Walker a third term as Wisconsin's governor

RELATED: Gov. Scott Walker concedes to Democrat Tony Evers

RELATED: Lawmakers slash public records access in 2015 budget bill

Democrats expressed relief Wednesday that Walker was conceding the race rather than pursuing a recount, but they acknowledged Evers will face challenges in getting much done with Republicans in control of the Legislature — even if lawmakers don't strip the governor's office of power. 

Vos underscored that Wednesday by pouring cold water on plans Evers' campaigned on, including adding $1.4 billion in new funding for schools over two years. 

"That's not possible unless you have a massive tax increase," Vos said. "It literally cannot be accomplished without either taking from some to give to another or a massive tax increase."

Vos also said he wouldn't support "putting a bunch of money into empty buses," referring to mass transit solutions to transportation woes, but would consider a plan that puts money into fixing roads and bridges.

While Evers likely won't get help from GOP lawmakers, Democrats see his victory as a major achievement after Republicans controlled all of state government for most of the past eight years. Democrats stood on the sidelines while Republicans approved policy after policy they opposed, including limits on unions, looser gun laws and tax cuts that they believed were tilted too heavily to businesses and the wealthy.

RELATED: GOP lawmakers, Scott Walker abandon open records changes

As governor, Evers will be able to veto any legislation Democrats don't like. That power is granted in the state constitution, and Republican lawmakers can't take it away from him before he is sworn in.

Republicans don't have the two-thirds majority needed to override vetoes. 

The win by Evers will create the first sustained period of divided government in Wisconsin in a decade.

Before the 2008 election, Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle led the state with a Republican Assembly and Democratic Senate. That year, his party gained complete control of state government only to lose it all in the 2010 election to Republicans. 

Other than a brief period in 2012, Republicans have had complete control of state government since Walker began his first term in 2011. 

Evers and his running mate, Mandela Barnes, won on a night that saw Democrats capture all other partisan state constitutional offices — attorney general (Josh Kaul), secretary of state (Doug La Follette) and state treasurer (Sarah Godlewski).

It is the first time since 1982 that one party — the Democrats — won elections to all those offices.

ELECTION RESULTS: Wisconsin and Milwaukee-area midterm races 

FULL COVERAGE: 2018 Wisconsin elections

While Evers will be able to block policies he does not like, he will face difficulties in getting much of his agenda done. 

One of his goals is to take hundreds of millions of dollars in additional federal aid under the Affordable Care Act to expand BagderCare, the state's Medicaid program that provides health care to low-income people. Under such an arrangement, the state could cover more people and free up state taxpayer funds for other purposes.

Vos said last month he would never go along with such a plan. 

"Not going to happen. No way. Never," Vos told reporters Oct. 2 after a forum hosted by Wispolitics.com. 

RELATED: The Scott Walker era of GOP dominance in Wisconsin ends with the election of Tony Evers amid massive midterm turnout

He said he wouldn't be willing to accept the money even if Evers included it in a package to cut taxes, a top Republican goal.

"Medicaid right now does not pay the cost of your provider," Vos said. "So the more people we put into Medicaid, the more the private sector will have to pay to subsidize those who are on Medicaid. So all it does is make the private system less stable."

John Matthews, former executive director of the Madison teachers union, fought a lengthy court battle with Walker over Act 10, the legislation curtailing collective bargaining abilities for public employees. 

On Wednesday, he was realistic about an Evers administration's ability to reverse those measures with a Republican-controlled Legislature.

"That's a big question — I tell you," Matthews said. "I think all working people will benefit from his administration and I say that because he understands the value of the employer-employee relationship. ... What I have discussed with him is promoting the value of employers working with their employees and we will move down that road somewhat gradually."

Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton), who sits on the Legislature's budget committee, said he believed Democrats and Republicans could reach an agreement to fund the state's roads. Walker had blocked efforts to increase the gas tax or find new sources of funds for highways, despite support for the idea from many Republican lawmakers.

Evers has said he wants to cut a deal with Republicans on the issue and would be willing to consider raising the gas tax or implementing tolls. 

The state budget was stalled for three months last year because Republicans couldn't agree among themselves on transportation.

Evers and Republican lawmakers will have to put together a new two-year budget starting early next year.

Republicans will determine what gets to Evers' desk — and when — but Evers will be able to reshape the budget using some of the vastest veto powers in the country. Wisconsin governors are able to trim out individual words in fiscal legislation, allowing them to rewrite how budgets are crafted.

Evers has said repeatedly he wants to compromise with Republican lawmakers and has not always held traditionally liberal opinions on public policy matters. He recently told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that catering to "the edges" of the political spectrum won't produce results. 

Vos said if that approach changes, gridlock is all but certain.

"If he chooses to poke Republicans in the eye, he will end up getting very little of what he wants," Vos told reporters. "So that’s a choice I can’t make for Tony Evers. He’s got to make it for himself."

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Gov.-elect Tony Evers (center) acknowledges the crowd of media as he and Lt. Gov.-elect Mandela Barnes (rear left) and state Rep.-elect Shelia Stubbs (D-Madison) (left) visited the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County in Madison the morning after they were elected. Mike De Sisti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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Gov.-elect Tony Evers speaks next to Lt. Gov.-elect Mandela Barnes and state Rep.-elect Shelia Stubbs (D-Madison) before they visited the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County in Madison. Mike De Sisti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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Gov.-elect Tony Evers (left) and Lt. Gov.-elect Mandela Barnes take a selfie with Linda Hoskins, the mother of state Rep.-elect Shelia Stubbs (D-Madison) after they visited the Boys & Girls Club. Mike De Sisti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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Gov.-elect Tony Evers jokingly hold a smiley emoji pillow to reflect how he's feeling after winning the election as he and Lt. Gov.-elect Mandela Barnes visited the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County in Madison after they were elected Tuesday. Mike De Sisti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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Gov.-elect Tony Evers talks with Boys & Girls Club assistant teacher Lisa Simmons as he visits the Boys & Girls Club. Mike De Sisti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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Gov.-elect Tony Evers laughs as he, Lt. Gov.-elect Mandela Barnes and state Rep.-elect Shelia Stubbs (D-Madison) visit the Boys & Girls Club. Mike De Sisti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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Gov.-elect Tony Evers (center), Lt. Gov.-elect Mandela Barnes and state Rep.-elect Shelia Stubbs (D-Madison) laugh as they tour the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County in Madison. Mike De Sisti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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Gov.-elect Tony Evers (right), Lt. Gov.-elect Mandela Barnes and State Rep-elect Shelia Stubbs (D-Madison) visited the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County in Madison. Mike De Sisti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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About 120 people associated with the Solidarity Singers belt out songs while celebrating the defeat of Republican Gov. Scott Walker during the lunch hour at the Capitol in Madison. Since 2011, a group of singers has gathered on most weekdays at noon to protest Walker and Republican lawmakers. Walker was seeking a third term in Tuesday's election. He was defeated by Democrat Tony Evers. Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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About 120 people associated with the Solidarity Singers belt out songs while celebrating the defeat of Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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About 120 people associated with the Solidarity Singers celebrate the defeat of Republican Gov. Scott Walker during the lunch hour at the Capitol in Madison on Wednesday. Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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Incoming Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas (left) and Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales meet Wednesday at the Police Administration Building in Milwaukee. The two are looking to smooth the relationship between the two forces after the turbulent one with former Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. and Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn. Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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Incoming Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas laughs as he and Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales meet Wednesday at the Police Administration Building in Milwaukee. Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales laughs as he meets with incoming Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas Wednesday. Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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Incoming Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas (left) and Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales meet Wednesday at the Police Administration Building in Milwaukee. The two are looking to smooth the relationship between the two forces after the turbulent one with former Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. and Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn. Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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Democrat Josh Kaul (right) claims victory in the attorney general's race during a news conference at the Dane County Courthouse in Madison. Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul (right) talks to supporters after claiming victory during a news conference at the Dane County Courthouse in Madison. Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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Photos: The day after the Wisconsin midterm elections

Read or Share this story: <a href="https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/politics/elections/2018/11/07/wisconsin-elections-tony-evers-likely-face-gridlock/1918875002/" rel="nofollow">https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/politics/elections/2018/11/07/wisconsin-elections-tony-evers-likely-face-gridlock/1918875002/</a>

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notadoctor
4 days ago
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BUT BOTH SIDES, RIGHT?!
Oakland, CA
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I KNOW WHY YOU'RE SAD.

6 Comments and 17 Shares

On paper, Tuesday was a good day for Democrats. They took the House for the first time in eight years. Several important Governorships (in advance of post-Census 2020 redistricting battles) were won. Notably vile Republicans like Kris Kobach, Scott Walker, and Dana Rohrabacher lost. The high-visibility Senate races Democrats lost (Missouri, Tennessee) were pipe dreams anyway. You already knew that Florida sucks, hard. So you're not sad because "The Democrats did badly."

You're also not sad because Beto lost, or Andrew Gillum lost, or any other single candidate who got people excited this year fell short. They're gonna be fine. They will be back. You haven't seen the last of any of them. Winning a Senate race in Texas was never more than a long shot. Gillum had a realistic chance, but once again: It's Florida.

No, you're sad for the same reason you were so sad Wednesday morning after the 2016 Election. You're sad because the results confirm that half of the electorate – a group that includes family, neighbors, friends, random fellow citizens – looked at the last two years and declared this is pretty much what they want. You're sad because any Republican getting more than 1 vote in this election, let alone a majority of votes, forces us to recognize that a lot of this country is A-OK with undisguised white supremacy. You're sad because once again you have been slapped across the face with the reality that a lot of Americans are, at their core, a lost cause. Willfully ignorant. Unpersuadable. Terrible people. Assholes, even.

You were hoping that the whole country would somehow restore your faith in humanity and basic common decency by making a bold statement, trashing Republicans everywhere and across the board. You wanted some indication that if you campaigned hard enough, rednecks and white collar bloodless types alike could be made to see the light that perhaps the levers of power are not best entrusted to the absolute worst people that can be dredged up from Internet comment sections running on platforms of xenophobia, nihilism, and racism. In short, you wanted to see some evidence that corruption, venality, bigotry, and proud ignorance are deal-breakers for the vast majority of Americans.

And now you're sad because it's obvious that they aren't. Even where horrible Republicans like Walker or Kobach lost, they didn't lose by much.

So I get it. It's depressing. There's no amount of positives that can take away the nagging feeling that lots and lots of people in this country are just…garbage. They're garbage human beings just like the president they adore. These people are not one conversation, one fact-check, and one charismatic young Democratic candidate away from seeing the light. They're reactionary, mean, ignorant, uninteresting in becoming less ignorant, and vindictive. They hate you and they will vote for monsters to prove it.

Remember this feeling. Remember it every time someone tells you that the key to moving forward is to reach across the aisle, show the fine art of decorum in practice, and chat with right-wingers to find out what makes them tick. Remember the nagging sadness you feel looking at these almost entirely positive results; it will be your reminder that the only way to beat this thing is to outwork, outfight, and out-organize these people. They are not going to be won over and they will continue to prove that to you every chance they get.

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notadoctor
6 days ago
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“They are not going to be won over and they will continue to prove that to you every chance they get.”
Oakland, CA
popular
5 days ago
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5 public comments
zwol
5 days ago
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This seems like the right place to tell the story of the dude who drove me to the airport the other day. His other job, apparently, was owning a gun store, and when talking about guns his opinions were informed and reasonable , e.g. "banning bump stocks won't stop school shootings, but we should require gun owners to go through safety training and have proper gun safes," ok, I can see that. But then the conversation took a hard right turn into Fox News conspiracy land: all politicians are corrupt, Planned Parenthood spends 10x as much money on lobbying as the NRA, etc. etc. etc. and I just didn't know what to say.
Pittsburgh, PA
tdarby
5 days ago
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Yes.
Baltimore, MD
rocketo
5 days ago
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How many words fit on a sampler? I don’t want to get this as a tattoo.

“Remember this feeling. Remember it every time someone tells you that the key to moving forward is to reach across the aisle, show the fine art of decorum in practice, and chat with right-wingers to find out what makes them tick. Remember the nagging sadness you feel looking at these almost entirely positive results; it will be your reminder that the only way to beat this thing is to outwork, outfight, and out-organize these people. They are not going to be won over and they will continue to prove that to you every chance they get.”
seattle, wa
lelandpaul
5 days ago
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Oh, this is so hard for me. On the one hand, the piece is dead right: This is exactly what I'm feeling today.

On the other: I fundamentally believe people are redeemable and that we shouldn't write them off. (That's sort of core to Christianity...)

I don't know how to reconcile these two things.
San Francisco, CA
sirshannon
5 days ago
You can’t redeem the unwilling.
lelandpaul
4 days ago
But does that give you the right to stop giving them opportunities to redeem themselves?
sirshannon
2 days ago
Yes. You’re not powerful enough to stop someone from redeeming themselves any more than you are powerful enough to make them redeem themselves. As long as you’re not actively working to prevent them from doing the right thing, you’re good.
cjmcnamara
6 days ago
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gin and tacos absolutely spot on once again

How a Rich, White Community Is Attempting to Leave a Black City Through a Ballot Referendum

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An SUV believed to transporting Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain enters the Eagle’s Landing Country Club in McDonough, Ga., Friday, Dec. 2, 2011. Cain lives in the community and was coming home to meet with his wife.
Image: Associated Press

The city of Stockbridge, part of the Atlanta metro area, is rapidly diversifying: In 2017, the city elected its first black mayor and first all-black city council, and has been named one of the top 10 places to live for African Americans. But because nothing intimidates white people more than the success of black people, the city is now bracing for a strange, despicable form of white flight: The Atlantic’s City Lab reports that “rather than moving,” the wealthy, gated country club community of Eagle’s Landing—which exists within Stockbridge—“are standing their ground, and building new municipal borders around their mansions and fortresses.”

A disturbing ballot referendum will determine the fate of Stockbridge without input from its own residents. CityLab reports:

The Eagle’s Landing plan seeks to merge into its boundaries the primest real estate and wealthiest households from the city of Stockbridge, leaving behind a smaller, mostly African American population with fewer resources to pay for Stockbridge city services. The Eagle’s Landing city proposal will be voted on via ballot referendum on November 6, but Stockbridge residents who live outside the Eagle’s Landing footprint—the people who will be most hampered by the division—are not eligible to vote on it. Meanwhile, neither lawsuits nor letters from global finance agencies warning that the proposal could wreck economies across Georgia have been able to stop it.

If Eagle’s Landing gets its way, this would reduce the voting power of Stockbridge’s black residents:

Taking half of Stockbridge, as Eagle’s Landing plans, would not only leave Stockbridge with a less wealthy population, but also with a black population with weakened voting power. Right now, African Americans are just over 57 percent of the voting-age population in Stockbridge—a clear-cut majority. If Eagle’s Landing were to form, it would take a third of Stockbridge’s population along with it, including a nice chunk of Stockbridge’s black residents. In that scenario, African-American voting power would be reduced such that they wouldn’t constitute a majority of voters in either the new city of Eagle’s Landing nor the old city of Stockbridge. Meanwhile, the white voting-age public would see its voting power rise in both cities.

All of this, because the rich white residents of Eagle’s Landing want a fucking Cheesecake Factory nearby. And Cheesecake Factory won’t come to Stockbridge right now, in part because the median income of the area is too low.

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“I kept seeing all of these places like Bojangle’s, Waffle Houses, dollar stores, and all this going up in our county,” Vicki Consiglio, chair of the Committee for the City of Eagle’s Landing, told City Lab. “And I was like, why can’t we get a Cheesecake Factory, or a P.F. Chang’s or a Houston’s? We have areas that have high incomes, so what’s the deal?” The only way, however, to lure Cheesecake Factory to Eagle’s Landing is to incorporate it into a city, Consiglio says.

In May, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed two assembly bills that allowed Eagle’s Landing to redraw its district lines and another that put the creation of a city up to its residents on a ballot referendum in November.

“What’s at stake now is whether Stockbridge could even continue to function if the Eagle’s Landing ballot is successful,” CityLab reports, noting that the proposal could “claim nearly a third of Stockbridge’s population” and “more than half of Stockbridge’s total assessed property value,” slashing its revenue by half. All of this so white people can eat at a Cheesecake Factory.

Read the full report here.

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notadoctor
6 days ago
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Oakland, CA
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