Mick Jagger, even by the mid-70s, was regarded as one of the beautiful people. Wanting for nothing. But he did recognize the frustrations of those who had next-to-nothing and yearned for something more — lots more if that’s okay. On “Luxury,” from the Rolling Stones’ 1974 album It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll, Jagger lays out the resentment felt by a working stiff, forever at a standstill.
And you can’t call me lazy on a seven day a week
Make a million for the Texans, twenty dollar me
Yes, I want a gold ring, riding in a limousine
I’m working so hard, I’m working for the company
I’m working so hard to keep you in the luxury
Now listen, I’m a proud man, not a beggar walking on the street
I’m working so hard, to keep you from the poverty
I’m working so hard to keep you in the luxury, oh yeah
And here in Atlanta, the imperial bandwagon rolls on.
On November 15 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that “two luxury GMC Denalis used to chauffeur Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms around town were purchased for a combined $175,000 without the apparent authorization of Atlanta City Council, who had designated the money for police cars used by patrol officers and detectives.”
In 2017, while Kasim Reed was still Atlanta’s mayor, the City Council approved an expenditure of $2.6 million for 91 new police vehicles. $2.6 million. That’ll fill a parking lot with Dodge Chargers and Ford Explorers, but not so many Denalis. Protecting and serving gets pricier every day.
In his two terms as mayor, Reed displayed a taste for the high life, with many of his creature comforts paid for by the working stiffs. The taxpayers keep our elected officials safe, comfy and contented in their luxury.
Reed, who supported Bottoms in her pursuit of the mayor’s office, often conveyed a Trumpian attitude when he wanted something. The hell with the legislative body, and for sure, the hell with the taxpayers. There were six-figure bonuses to award his staff members. A big party at a fat-cats’ steakhouse to celebrate the mayor’s largess. High-flying travel accommodations purchased with city-issued credit cards. Don’t worry about the cost. Joe and Joanne Taxpayer have it covered.
When Bottoms became mayor in January ’18, there was, despite the closeness between her and Reed, the hope that things would get better in the transparency department. Perhaps the new mayor, regarded as a nice person, would think of serving as a privilege — not access to privileges. That notion was set aside when seven months later, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Bottoms had booked 27 rides with Carey Executive Limousine, running up a tab of over $11,000.00. Something else that doesn’t improve quality of life for the taxpayers to cover.
The same AJC story reported that Bottoms was only spending a little more than half of what Reed had on meals charged to the city. We also learned her security detail wasn’t paying for the mayor’s dry cleaning or fast food on city charge cards as was the case when Reed was mayor. Imagine that: paying for your own lunch.
“Luxury,” a faux-reggae track recorded when Richard Nixon was president, laments a wealth gap that seems like The Great Society when compared to the fate of the 1% and the rest of us today. Forbes magazine reports there has been a 50% increase in billionaires in this country since 2010. The Washington Post reports “the top 0.1 percent of U.S. households controls 15 percent to 20 percent of wealth (economists’ estimates vary), a degree of concentration not seen since before the Great Depression.”
But Mick Jagger’s working stiff isn’t contemplating economic stats in historical terms. He’s just tired of being bossed around while his family could use a few essentials:
Harder, harder, working, working, working
I think it’s such a strange thing, giving me concern
Half the world it got nothing the other half got money to burn
My woman need a new dress, my daughter got to go to school
I’m working so hard, I’m working for the company, oh, yeah
Working stiffs in this city who pay local taxes through a variety of means on a daily basis should look back fondly at Shirley Franklin and her mayoral administration (2002-10). Franklin had a Ford Taurus at her command, not a luxury SUV. She also showed her humility in simple ways, like showing up at the city’s jazz festival in Piedmont Park without an entourage, just a lawn chair. Franklin found a spot to plant the chair and then just grooved to the music. Sadly, the example Shirley set has hardly made an impression on today’s most prominent officials. Instead we look back at a time when politicians recognized the wonders of the common touch.
Former Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell, who served one term in the early ’70s, told Atlanta Loop he got around in a Lincoln Continental with one police officer in tow. His predecessor, Ivan Allen, Jr., showed up at the riots in the Summerhill community in 1966 with one high-ranking police officer. It was a gutsy thing to do, given the temper of the times. We were in the decade of assassinations. Knowing he was resented by Summerhill residents, Allen still walked through the crowd, then climbed on top of a police car and asked the people to go home so no one else would get hurt.*
These days we can visualize security clearing a path for a mayor’s SUV to roll through as she waves at the unhappy citizens with her doors locked and windows rolled up.
We shouldn’t resent measures to keep our elected officials safe. This is a democratic republic, not a totalitarian state like the ones Trumpsters admire. Many of us who would have never considered voting for Ronald Reagan were saddened when he was shot and were grateful when he recovered. We shouldn’t settle matters with bullets, which begs one more question: Can we apply the same efforts used to keep officials safe to insuring the safety of school children? Perhaps Republican officeholders, counting their contributions from the NRA, can give us an answer.
(photo by Jeff Cochran)