When Congressmen Behave Badly
My local congresscritter is a Democrat by the name of David Scott. Scott's 13th District is one of the more creatively gerrymandered in Georgia (and that's saying something). It was engineered to ensure a heavily Democratic majority (polling 62%-37% for John Kerry in 2004, when Georgia as a whole went for George W. Bush 58%-41%), with most of the district's population centered in Clayton County, which is just south of the city of Atlanta. The rest of the district stretches around the I-285 Perimeter's west side, finally tapering off up here in Smyrna. To continue the 2004 comparison, Smyrna precincts registered 21,972 votes for Bush to 7,834 for Kerry.
Congressman Scott is rarely seen in these parts; if it weren't for a billboard he puts up next to the Chick-Fil-A every couple of years, I probably wouldn't even know what he looks like. The best I can tell, Scott hasn't held a public meeting here in Cobb County since 2008 -- at least that's what Scott staffer Michael Andel indicated when I emailed Scott's office last summer asking when he planned to hold a recess town hall. After making a jerk of himself at a meeting in Douglas County, Scott scheduled exactly one "health care" event that summer, which was held in his home base of Clayton County and heavily attended by supportive AFSCME and SEIU members.
A few days after my emails with Andel, Scott turned up in the news thanks to a spray-painted swastika on his Smyrna branch office (about a mile from my house), which generated several Scott-friendly column-inches in the Democratic-friendly media, particularly the local Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The AJC apparently didn't have the time to ask how Scott managed to have the defaced sign professionally replaced in a matter of hours, almost as if he'd had one ready in case of just such an emergency. Since then he's scarcely been heard of at all -- with the exception of numerous taxpayer-funded franked mailings, of course.
That is, until a couple of weeks ago. That was when Scott and his wife Alfredia decided to go after a group of their neighbors for starting up a community garden. According to the AJC, residents of Inman Park (an intown Atlanta neighborhood) had set up a garden not unlike the ones being promoted by Michelle Obama (you may have heard of her). The prospective gardeners raised over 150 petition signatures, and more than 50 people had reserved spots to grow vegetables or flowers or what have you.
The AJC article went on to note that Scott, who lives in Inman Park (which, interestingly, is nowhere near the 13th Congressional District) and his wife were among 16 Inman residents opposing the garden, on grounds of additional traffic and congestion -- although apparently the real complaint is that the garden would impact the view from Scott's front porch.
While the AJC obliquely referred to reports of Scott losing his legendary temper when he turned up at a meeting intended for planning the garden, according to an Inman resident who contacted me, Scott "spent a good 15 minutes yelling at us and telling us that what we were doing was wrong."
Never one to put up with the picayune wishes of the pesky citizenry, Scott has since apparently enlisted the aid of new Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and other Scott cronies on the City Council. According to local alt-weekly Creative Loafing, Scott has been "lobbying City Council members and rallying his Hurt Street neighbors. Under the kind of pressure only a congressman can apply, the UDC [Urban Design Commission] has deferred a vote on the garden on six separate occasions. The commission is next scheduled to consider the matter at its March 10 meeting."
One would hope that the UDC would have the nerve to overrule Scott's pompous whining in favor of his neighbors, but who are we kidding here? Atlanta's city government is controlled by the Democratic Party, and Scott is a Democratic congressman who not only can't be bothered to meet his own constituents, he can't even be bothered to live in his own district. Scott is really in the catbird seat here: he doesn't even have to worry about losing his neighbors' votes -- they can't vote for or against him in the first place!
Given all that, Scott will probably get his way. He'll also continue to make a strong case for being one of the biggest jerks in Congress -- and that, friends, is quite an accomplishment.