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Sicko: The Fire reaches the door of Atlanta's Grady Memorial

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*The stakes are even greater than the Public Hospital

* Should Georgia be run by the people, or by secrecy?

Grady hospital is one of the largest, most historic, county hospitals in the United States. The budget of $700 Million a year is greater than the entire city government of Atlanta. Now, it is going broke, in a microcosm of the public health crisis across the country.

The leaders of Atlanta now claim they are "shocked, shocked" Grady is in crisis. But behind this crisis is another crisis: the addiction of Atlanta’s leaders to secrecy, a mirror of our national policy of putting our head in the sand. The leaders want to bury the causes of the Grady crisis in secrecy, and then propose "solutions" in double secrecy.  Since secrecy is the cause of the Grady crisis, why not try something else: real, open, democratic grass roots government.  Revolutionary?  Atlanta belongs to the people of Atlanta.  The people, not the old boys, need to make decisions about each Atlanta crisis in the open, including the Grady crisis.

Atlanta's shocked leaders claim the only option is immediate, knee jerk conversion of Grady into a quasi-private hospital, accountable to no one. They clam we need to leave this to "experts" and "business leaders."  Really?  Incredibly, Atlanta's leaders show they don't trust the people, and that they believe back-room politics are the only option. Why all the secrets?  What are they hiding at Grady, and at PDK (Peachtree DeKalb Airport)?  A back room conversation never reveals itself or its reasons.  The Heimlich Maneuver must be performed on Georgia’s government

I have a question. How did the fire get to the door before these "experts" realized the house was burning? We support Grady, we want Grady bailed out. But we must put out the fire of mismanagement, favoritism and corruption, and stop the firebugs from spreading to MARTA and other Georgia public institutions. We want Grady, and Georgia, run by the people, and not by a secret old boy's club or their inheritors.

It took decades for the fire to reach Grady. It will take time to put the fire out and to find the firebugs.  Everybody exterminates bugs, don't they? A knee jerk unaccountable secret private system is against everything that Grady stands for.

A host of politicians now claim to have a plan for Grady. Why did they wait until now? Why won't they explain their secret plans to the public?  When does an admiral that has been at sea all his life try to make decisions for the army?

Since 1998, the Grady coalition urged attention to the governance of Grady. Grady has been operating secretly behind closed doors and the old boys were putting kindling on the fire, and now apparently Grady wants to retreat farther behind closed doors, and become a private hospital accountable to no one but the old boys.

The firebugs at Grady were clear since 1998 when Senior Grady Vice President Joyce Harris blew the whistle, and showed that politicians and other good old boy relationships were getting secret, no-bid contracts. Grady was being robbed.

The Grady coalition has put in more than 50 open records requests regarding Grady over these years. Not a single one has been answered. Fulton and Dekalb commissioners, DeKalb District Attorney, the Grady trustees, Emory all stonewalled. Not a single ethics complaint has been acted on. The old boys apparently know a better tune and pulled platinum strings everywhere.

What is at stake is even larger than Grady. Will Georgia abide by its own open records laws? Do we have a government "of, by and for the people?" Or will Georgia forever be run by back room oligarchy?

The one voice that stood up for Grady against the old boys was trustee William Loughrey. Loughrey even went to the suburbs to ask them to pay their fair share. In return, Fulton commissioners ousted Loughrey, at least in part in retribution for his campaign to clean up Fulton politics and end government by secrecy. Who's next?

Do we wait for someone to yell "fire" before we fix anything in Georgia? Already, the same old boys from Grady are appearing at other Georgia institutions, like MARTA, PDK and at DOT.

Anything supported by taxpayers deserves open representation.  Now Grady itself is sick, and I want to help, who else wants to help? Emory University, partner of Grady, where are you?

The only solution for Grady is open, democratic government. The people must be told what went wrong, and who is responsible, first. Grady, and other public institutions will not release documents that will show who are the firebugs, who spreads the fires, and who covers them up?

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Ron Marshall is the chairman of the Grady Coalition. He is also the founder of Georgians for Open Government. Recently, he helped to chair a Congressional forum in Washington on Open Government.

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Sicko: The Fire reaches the door of Atlanta's Grady Memorial

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