Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 19, 2015

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 19, 2015

On June 20, 1732, the signing of the Georgia Charter was completed by the British government.

Georgia’s Trustees voted on June 22, 1737 to seek bids for building churches at Savannah and Frederica.

Georgia’s Royal Colony Seal was approved on June 21, 1754.

Georgia Colony Seal

Georgia Whigs voted on June 22, 1775 to join a boycott against British goods. That same day, the Continental Congress approved the issuance of $2 million in debt-backed currency.

Congress approved the Great Seal of the United States on June 20, 1782.

On June 20, 1819, the SS Savannah entered the port at Liverpool, England, marking the first transatlantic crossing by a steam-powered ship, having sailed out of Savannah on May 20th.

The Georgia Whig Party held its first convention on June 19, 1843 in Milledgeville and elected ten delegates to the 1844 National Convention.

The first Republican National Convention, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, ended on June 19, 1856.

The Republicans, who called for the abolition of slavery in all U.S. territories, rapidly gained supporters in the North, and in 1856 their first presidential candidate, John Fremont, won 11 of the 16 Northern states. By 1860, the majority of Southern states were publicly threatening secession if a Republican won the presidency.

The Civil War firmly identified the Republican Party as the official party of the victorious North. After the war, the Republican-dominated Congress forced a radical Reconstruction policy on the South, which saw the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, abolishing slavery and granting voting rights to African American men in the South. By 1876, the Republican Party had lost control of the South, but it continued to dominate the presidency, with a few intermissions, until the ascendance of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933.

On June 19, 1864, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston retreated from Pine Mountain and Lost Mountain toward Marietta. Click here to watch a two-minute video by Georgia Public Broadcasting and the Atlanta History Center about this week in Georgia in 1864.

On the same day, USS Kearsarge sank CSS Alabama off the coast of Cherbourg, France in one of the most-celebrated naval battles of the Civil War.

Under its captain, Raphael Semmes, the Alabama prowled the world for three years, capturing U.S. commercial ships. It sailed around the globe, usually working out of the West Indies, but taking prizes and bungling Union shipping in the Caribbean, off Newfoundland, and around the coast of South America. In January 1863, Semmes sunk a Union warship, the Hatteras, after luring it out of Galveston, Texas.

During its career, the Alabama captured 66 ships and was hunted by more than 20 Federal warships.

General Robert E. Lee moved on Union forces under General Ulysses S. Grant at Petersburg, Virginia on June 20, 1864.

On June 22, 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the G.I. Bill.

A lynch mob including members of the KKK killed three young civil rights activists who were trying to register African-Americans to vote near Meridian, Mississippi on June 21, 1964.

When Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney, a young black man, were coming back from a trip to Philadelphia, Mississippi, deputy sheriff Cecil Price, who was also a Klan member, pulled them over for speeding. He then held them in custody while other KKK members prepared for their murder. Eventually released, the three activists were later chased down in their car and cornered in a secluded spot in the woods where they were shot and then buried in graves that had been prepared in advance.

When news of their disappearance got out, the FBI converged on Mississippi to investigate. With the help of an informant, agents learned about the Klan’s involvement and found the bodies. Since Mississippi refused to prosecute the assailants in state court, the federal government charged 18 men with conspiracy to violate the civil rights of Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney.

John W. Hinckley, Jr. was acquitted of attempted murder of President Ronald Reagan and others in the Presidential party by reason on insanity on June 21, 1982.

Voters in Sandy Springs approved the new city’s incorporation on June 21, 2005.

Georgia Politics

On July 14, 2015, voters in Houston County will go to the polls to elect a new State Representative in District 146.  The three candidates met in a forum yesterday.

Shaw Blackmon, Kelly Burke and Larry Walker III participated in a forum at the Houston County school board office on Thursday, and the three men held similar opinions on most issues.

“I’m running because we need the right leader with the right experience to move Houston County forward,” Walker said, echoing a theme of focusing on Houston County interests that ran throughout the evening.

Walker and Blackmon both talked about their experience in leadership roles in Houston County, where both men also grew up.

“I attended public schools here, rode the school bus and ate in the cafeteria,” Blackmon said.

Burke noted that the men agreed on a lot of the issues. The difference, Burke said, was in how he would handle the position, if elected.

“We don’t disagree on much,” he said. “However, I’m the fighter that you need to go up there and do the fighting.”

One battleground that Burke highlighted was over the recently passed House Bill 170, which changed the way fuel is taxed. In addition to increasing the price of gasoline, the bill is expected to raise the cost of hotel rooms.

Even though the bill is intended to pump $1 billion into highway improvements, Burke said one of his first efforts as a representative would be to repeal that bill. Walker and Blackmon both agreed that the bill wasn’t the right way to go, but Walker said immediately attacking the bill as a rookie representative would be unwise.

“So I don’t think that’s going to happen, and it’s kind of laughable to talk about it, really,” he said.

Burke said he didn’t mind that because he knew the citizens of Georgia were unhappy with the transportation bill.

“Sometimes it means ruffling feathers,” he said of the role as representative.

Cherokee County Board of Education Chair Janet Read has resigned in order to take a full-time job with Childrens’ Healthcare of Atlanta, according to the Ledger-News. The Board of Education will appoint a new Chair.

[T]he Cherokee school board could opt to appoint a new chairman or instead choose to serve without a chairman until the regular election in 2016, school board attorney Tom Roach said in a letter Friday.

Roach said unlike other elected officials, the procedure for filling vacancies on a board of education is governed by state law.

“If a vacancy occurs at least 90 days before a general election preceding the general election at which the post normally would be filled, the law provides that a special election is held on that date to fill the unexpired term; if the vacancy occurs after that time, the board appoints a successor to serve until the next general election,” Roach said.

Roach said in the present situation, because the last general election was held in November 2014, the board may appoint a successor to fill the unexpired term.

A legal advertisement will be placed in the Cherokee Tribune and a notice has been posted on the school district’s website at www.cherokee.k12.ga.us noting those adult residents interested in being considered for an appointment to the unexpired term of office for board chairperson by the remaining members of the school board are invited to complete an appointment application.

The application can be found on the district’s website.

In order to be considered, the application must be completed, signed before a notary public and received by the Cherokee County school board attorney on or before July 7 at 5 p.m. Applications must be hand delivered or mailed to Roach, Caudill and Gunn, LLP, 111 W. Main St., Canton, Ga. 30114. Applicants are advised that it is possible the Board of Education may decide not to make an appointment.

Cherokee County Board of Commissioners is planning to adopt the same millage rate as last year, while giving employees a 5% raise, according to the Cherokee Tribune.

County residents can express their viewpoints on the proposed tax rate at two public hearings, which will be held at each of the regularly scheduled commission meetings July 7 and July 21. Commissioners meet the first and third Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. in Cherokee Hall at the County Administration Building at 1130 Bluffs Parkway in Canton. Commissioners will set the final 2015 millage rate at a special called meeting July 23.

The City of Flowery Branch adopted an increase in the property tax millage rate, according to the Gainesville Times.

“I think it’s time, as a council, for you all to sit down and take a look at the budget and see what you can do to take the burden off me,” said resident Craig Lutz during the public hearing prior to the vote. “Because a couple of those items, like (the title ad valorem tax) and (the local option sales tax) were designed as taxpayer relief items that we never saw.

“And certainly, the taxpayer bill of rights act that was passed — which is making you have to go through this advertisement and these three public hearings — was designed to take the burden off us. And so far, it doesn’t look like you all are working very hard to do that.”

Council members approved Thursday a Fiscal Year 2016 general fund budget at $3.53 million, and kept the city’s millage rate at 3.337.

The Columbia County Board of Education will rollback its millage rate, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Schools Superintendent Sandra Carraway said school board members agreed last week while at their retreat in Savannah to set the school tax millage at 18.3 mills for the next year. The current rate is 18.59 mills, which was set in July 2013 when board members voted to raise the rate a full mill to compensate deep cuts in state funding to local school districts.

The planned reduction for this year will result in about a $12 decrease in property taxes on a house valued at $100,000. The school board will officially set the mill rate at a meeting in July.

School officials said the rollback is not as much as they wanted, but still represents a good start.

“We wanted to roll our millage rate back because we were able to do it this year,” school board Vice-Chairwoman Roxanne Whitaker said. “The community has been more than accepting to the fact that we had to move it up a couple of years in a row to meet our educational needs, and now that we have the money this is just a small ‘thank you’ for bearing with us through the lean times.”

Local governments are lagging in adopting ordinances to allow sale of fireworks after legislation to allow fireworks sales passed the General Assembly earlier this year.

Clermont and Flowery Branch are the only Hall County governments that have crafted ordinances addressing the law, which takes effect July 1.

Officials with Gainesville, Hall County, Oakwood, Lula, Gillsville and Braselton said they have nothing planned, at least at this point.

“The newly adopted law is in its infancy, (so) we believe the actual cost to the community should be explored as it relates to licensing before adoption,” Lula City Manager Dennis Bergin said.

However, he added, Lula City Council “should discuss this matter in-depth in the coming months. We certainly can learn as other communities begin to adopt ordinances in what works and what issues are still vague.”

Kip Padgett, Gainesville’s city manager, said he hasn’t looked at the new state law, but the city “may need to look at an ordinance based on that.”

Cobb County Commissioner Bob Ott (R) asked for a measure require a referendum before beginning a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) program, and Chairman Tim Lee placed it on the agenda for next week, when he knew Ott will be absent, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.

“What is your problem?” Ott said in a text to Lee. “You wonder why I don’t trust you. You know I’m out of town next week. Are you that insecure that you had to wait until I’m out of the country to move behind our backs. At least I made my intentions known publicly. You’re over the edge. It’s pathetic.”

Lee responded to Ott by writing:

“Have a great day.”

Ott was less than pleased by that response.

“People are a lot smarter than you think they are. This will backfire on you. So the last laugh will not be yours. Either way I think you lose,” Ott wrote.

The corruption trial of suspended DeKalb County CEO continued yesterday, with Ellis taking the stand.

Thursday, most of the jurors scribbled notes as Ellis introduced himself, but looked directly at him when he started answering questions about the vendors he is accused of strong-arming.

Ellis’ versions differed from that given by company officials and employees who have already testified.

Joann Wise, who is a lobbyist for the IT company Ciber, testified last week that Ellis threatened to end Ciber’s contract with DeKalb and to tell her bosses she was to blame after she said the business would not make a campaign contribution.

But Ellis said that Wise was the one who linked campaign contributions to Ciber’s county contract.

“She said they had an open procurement and she was waiting to see if they got the contract (with the count) before they would decide (if they would make a campaign contribution),” Ellis said. “I told her I did not know they had an open procurement and my call had nothing to do with it.”

Defense attorney Craig Gillen used the notes Ellis took on campaign calls to walk his client through conversations with two of the four vendors named in the indictment.

To make his calls, Ellis testified, he used a list of contacts that came from his head of county procurement and contracts, Kelvin Walton, who secretly recorded Ellis to avoid being charged with lying to a special grand jury. The jury heard hours of the secret recordings of conversations with Ellis.

House Bill 225, passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Nathan Deal was intended to address the legality of ridesharing service like Uber and Lyft, but it’s also have an effect in Athens, according to the Banner Herald.

[A]s of May 6, when the governor signed House Bill 225 into law, Athens-Clarke County’s stricter permitting requirements, which among other things include annual renewal, submittal of the applicant’s driver history, an employer recommendation, and a detailed explanation of any criminal history, became invalid.

Also, as of July 1, the Athens-Clarke County government won’t be able to impose any vehicle inspection standards for taxis more stringent than the state’s general standard, which simply requires that vehicles be “in good working order and adjustment” when driven, with the possibility that a vehicle believed to be unsafe can be inspected by any law-enforcement officer.

Currently, Athens-Clarke County’s taxi ordinance requires twice-yearly inspections by a police officer. The ordinance includes a long list of standards that taxis must meet to successfully complete an inspection.

At Tuesday’s non-voting commission work session, Girtz promised his colleagues and the public that he would be contacting local legislators in an effort to get stricter licensing and inspection standards into the state laws governing taxis and their drivers.

Girtz continued to voice his concern about House Bill 225 at a Thursday meeting of the Legislative Review Committee, calling it “frustrating” that taxi inspections would now be limited only to what local police officers can observe.

Chatham County Public Defender Michael Edwards is resigning to take another job, according to the Savannah Morning-News.

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