Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 31, 2017

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 31, 2017

On August 31, 1864, Confederates charged Union forces at the Battle of Jonesboro, in which the CSA suffered more than 1400 casualties in one hour.

On August 31, 1965, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation creating the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which this Senate had previously passed.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal outlined the state response to Hurricane Harvey.

“On behalf of all Georgians, Sandra and I continue to pray for the victims of Hurricane Harvey as they continue to suffer,” said Gov. Deal. “The devastating impact of this storm has yet to be fully realized, and we offer our thoughts and prayers to the families and communities affected by this disaster. As response and recovery efforts continue, the bravery and selflessness demonstrated by first responders and everyday citizens is nothing short of heroic. The kindness and courage of others acts shines light during the darkness faced by so many, and is a beacon of hope for all of us.”

“To those impacted by Hurricane Harvey, you are not alone. Georgia and the rest of the nation are with you. We have boots on the ground in Texas and teams working here to help coordinate response efforts and provide support. This multiagency initiative includes the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency (GEMA/HS), the Georgia Department of Defense (GA DoD) and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR). I stand ready to offer any further assistance or resources that may be needed as recovery operations continue.”

“Finally, I’ve taken steps to mitigate the effects that Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath will have on Georgia’s fuel supply. Earlier this week I applied for, and received, a fuel waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This waiver will help ensure our fuel supply remains uninterrupted. Further, I’ve issued an executive order waiving rules and regulations for truck drivers transporting motor fuel in Georgia, as well as for those carrying hurricane relief supplies. While recovery efforts continue and until normal operations resume, I urge the public to maintain regular consumption levels and travel schedules.”

GEMA/HS is coordinating with state and local partners and has offered Texas and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) the support of 75 Georgia personnel to assist in search and rescue efforts. The state is poised to deploy 50 members of the Georgia Search and Rescue task force and 25 members of Georgia Department of Natural Resources swift water teams.

At Gov. Deal’s authorization, the Savannah-based 165th Airlift Wing of the Georgia Air National Guard yesterday deployed a C-130 H3 cargo aircraft and 15 personnel to aid in the emergency response efforts for the destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey. The crew first flew into Scott Air Force Base in Illinois to pick up disaster recovery pallets before mobilizing to provide relief support to Texas and the Texas National Guard. There have been no new requests for additional personnel or equipment.

Gov. Deal appointed a committee to investigate Spalding County Clerk of Courts Marcia Norris.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr announced he will join an amicus brief supporting the public display of the Ten Commandments.

Attorney General Chris Carr [] announced that Georgia recently joined a 23-state coalition in filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court, which supports the City of Bloomfield, New Mexico’s decision to allow placement of a Ten Commandments monument on its city hall lawn along with other monuments. Earlier this year, a divided U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit relied on the Establishment Clause to uphold a district court’s order to remove the monument. The brief asks the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

“The consistent application of our laws is paramount in maintaining the ideals of our democracy,” said Attorney General Chris Carr. “Georgia joined this coalition because we agree that the Supreme Court’s Establishment Clause jurisprudence needs to be clarified, especially in this area. Local governments need clear guidance as they consider whether to authorize or maintain historical displays on government property.”

Depictions of the Ten Commandments appear on public property throughout the country and have been the subject of several notable lawsuits, including two that the U.S. Supreme Court resolved in 2005. Those decisions relied on different legal analyses to reach different outcomes, increasing confusion in lower courts about what the Establishment Clause prohibits and what it permits.

Gwinnett County has 147 vacancies in law enforcement jobs.

Recruitment and retention continue to be issues facing Gwinnett County law enforcement despite officials taking steps over the last year to make those positions more attractive.

Gwinnett Police Chief Butch Ayers and Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Mike Boyd each raised concerns about the issue of attracting officers and deputies, and then keeping them from wanting to leave for someplace else.

In the police department’s case, there are about 105 vacant positions that officials are struggling to fill. Vacant positions in the Sheriff’s Office included 42 full-time deputy jobs, 16 full-time civilian employee positions and two part-time civilian posts.

Gwinnett County Public Schools has 178,811 students enrolled currently.

Gainesville City School Board held two meetings on raising the property tax millage rate and no residents spoke on the issue.

While the tentative rate is the same as last year at 6.85 mills, it would still mean a tax increase for 4,908 properties subject to school taxes, according to Steve Watson, chief appraiser for the Hall County Board of Assessors. The millage rate equals $1 of taxes on every $1,000 of taxable value.

The final public hearing is set for 6 p.m. Sept. 6 at the school district office located at 508 Oak St. in Gainesville. The board has scheduled a called meeting that night at 6:30 p.m. where it will likely have a final vote on the tax rate.

Valdosta School Board District 5 incumbent Trey Sherwood is unopposed after former Valdosta Superintendent Edward Martin Roesch withdrew his candidacy.

Tybee Island set a new record for sea turtle nests.

It was already a record year for loggerhead sea turtle nests on Tybee when another nest was discovered recently.

Those surprise hatchlings brought the nest count to 25, more than this five-mile stretch of beach has seen since record keeping started in 1988.

The previous record was 23 nests in 2012. Little Tybee is also having a good year with 16 nests. And the hatch rate on Tybee has been above average at 85 percent. With each nest holding upward of 100 eggs, that’s a lot of hatchlings.

Savannah City Council will vote on whether to move forward with approval of a Georgia Power-owned solar farm.

If the council agrees, the former Deptford Landfill site could by year’s end host a 1 megawatt solar farm with a pollinator garden growing beneath the ground-mounted solar panels. Georgia Power will own and operate the solar farm and ratepayers will be able to buy into it. The 7-acre farm would produce enough energy to power about 164 homes.

Hannah Solar won the bid to install the solar panels. Grant Tallon, Hannah’s Savannah business development manager, explained the concept of community solar in a letter to the city.

“‘Community Solar’ is defined as a solar-electric system that provides power and/or financial benefit to multiple community members,” he wrote. “This model allows residents and businesses to buy sections of a solar array from one central solar energy plant. The largest benefit being, Community Solar makes it possible for community member with too much shade or not enough roof space to take advantage of solar energy.”

Georgia utility regulators approved Georgia Power’s addition of new community solar last year. One megawatt is planned for Savannah and another 2 megawatts in Athens, according to the Georgia Power web site.

“We are continuing to work to determine the economic viability of locating a solar facility in Savannah as part of our Community Solar program,” said John Kraft, Georgia Power spokesman. “We have put in tremendous effort to review the particular site mentioned and we will continue communicating with the various local stakeholders during this process as a decision is made about a potential location for our forthcoming Community Solar site.”

The Columbus Mayor’s Commission on New Government and Judicial Building was presented with concepts for a new government center.

The Mayor’s Commission on New Government and Judicial Building is getting closer to making a recommendation to Columbus Council on what to do with the 46-year-old structure.

On Wednesday, architects presented members with three conceptual site studies to consider. Later, the group began making plans for a series of forums to seek public input.

Tomlinson said the commission plans to have four simultaneous public forums in about 10 to 14 days, which would give the city time to advertise the meetings. At the same time, the commission will be working on a rough draft of the report that will be submitted to council.

“And then we’re off to the races,” she said. “… I don’t want to make any promises, but I see this getting to council in the Octoberish timeframe.”

Four candidates for Columbus City Council filed paperwork to run.

Charmaine Crabb, a local realtor who helped lead a campaign against recent property tax increases, filed the “Declaration of Intent” on Aug. 24 for the District 5 council seat currently occupied by Councilor Mike Baker.

Waleisah Wilson, a local advocate for ex-felons, filed her paperwork the same day to run against Councilor Evelyn “Mimi” Woodson.

Also intending to run against Wilson is Jeremy Hobbs, director of Colgay Pride and LGBT Liaison for Mayor Teresa Tomlinson’s Office. He filed his paperwork on Tuesday.

All odd number council seats are up for election this year. Hobbs, Crab and Wilson are the only three people to file DOIs for council positions.

Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis discussed a proposal to replace James Brown Arena.

Mayor Hardie Davis hailed a loosely-drawn proposal to replace James Brown Arena with a new facility at the former Regency Mall site as “visionary” during a Wednesday news conference while backers of a downtown location continued to scratch their heads.

The conference followed Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority’s 4-2 vote last week to reject a decision made a few days earlier by a site selection committee to keep the arena downtown and instead, acting on a letter produced by authority member Darren Smith, build at 1700 Gordon Highway, where the vacant mall stands.

Flanked by south Augusta politicians including Smith and his father, former city Commissioner Jimmy Smith, Davis said Wednesday the Regency site choice “takes our future into consideration” but won’t compromise downtown redevelopment.

“The James Brown Arena will do nothing more than open up SOGO,” Davis’ acronym for South of Gordon Highway, he said. While cyber-driven growth at Augusta University downtown shows the importance of Fort Gordon, “we now want to take that same level of momentum” and “send those efforts toward this area as well,” he said.

Polk County Commissioner Stefanie Drake Burford will step down today, as her family moves out of the county.

Retired Army Colonel Dennis Brown is running for Forsyth County Commission District 2.

“I’ve seen combat zones that had better planning than the current residential communities approved over the last few years by the county commission,” Brown said. “We need to protect what’s great about Forsyth. That means setting a mission and implementing a strategic plan to grow responsibly, shield schools from overcrowding and defend our conservative values.”

Brown retired after 30 years of service to our nation. He is a veteran and most recently served as Civil-Military Officer for Combined Joint Task Force “Phoenix” and then as Kabul Military Training Center Chief of Staff Mentor and Forward Operating Base “Alamo” Chief of Staff.

Currently, Brown teaches terrorism and homeland security part-time at Kennesaw State University, while working to obtain his Doctorate degree. He obtained his undergraduate degree from University of Alabama in human resource management and his MBA from Kennesaw State.

Brown has lived in Forsyth County for almost two decades, and is happily married to Suzy, a retired employee of the Forsyth County School System. They currently reside in South Forsyth and are the parents of two children, Lucia and Louie, and three grandchildren, Michael, Allaina and Matthew.

Democratic Party of Georgia Vice Chair Nikema Williams announced her campaign for State Senate District 39, which was vacated when Vincent Fort qualified to run for Mayor of Atlanta.

She’s likely to face primary opponents in the district, which has been in Democratic control for decades. Among the potential challengers is state Rep. “Able” Mable Thomas, who has served three separate stints in the House totaling about 18 years.

Georgia Power will today recommend to the Georgia Public Service Commission whether to continue construction of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle.

The Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) has given Southern [Company] affiliate Georgia Power Co. a deadline of Thursday to make a recommendation on the project’s fate. If the utility wishes to continue the work, the PSC will have until the end of February to decide whether to let the project go forward.

The commission approved a resolution two weeks ago essentially endorsing completion of the project despite the huge price tag, nearly twice the origina[l] estimate when the construction of two additional nuclear reactors at the plant south of Augusta, Ga., was approved in 2009. The work also has fallen six years behind schedule.

If Georgia Power moves forward with the Vogtle expansion, the first of the two new reactors wouldn’t be completed until 2022, followed a year later by the second reactor unit.

UPDATE: Georgia Power recommends continuing construction of the nuclear reactors underway at Plant Vogtle. From the Press Release:

Georgia Power today filed a recommendation with the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) to continue construction of the Vogtle nuclear expansion near Augusta, Georgia. The project’s co-owners, Oglethorpe Power, MEAG Power and Dalton Utilities, all support the recommendation. The recommendation is based on the results of a comprehensive schedule, cost-to-complete and cancellation assessment. The Georgia PSC is expected to review the recommendation and make a decision regarding the future of the Vogtle 3 & 4 project as part of the 17th Vogtle Construction Monitoring (VCM) proceeding.

“Completing the Vogtle 3 & 4 expansion will enable us to continue delivering clean, safe, affordable and reliable energy to millions of Georgians, both today and in the future,” said Paul Bowers, chairman, president and CEO of Georgia Power. “The two new units at Plant Vogtle will be in service for 60 to 80 years and will add another low-cost, carbon-free energy source to our already diverse fuel mix.”

Based on all factors considered, completing both units represents the most economic choice for customers and preserves the benefits of carbon-free, baseload generation. Assessments of the project included robust economic analyses; evaluation of various alternatives including abandoning one or both units or converting the units to gas-fired generation; and assumptions related to potential risks including future payments from Toshiba, availability of production tax credits and extension of loan guarantees from the Department of Energy (DOE). The latter two benefits were prescribed in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Georgia Power expects Vogtle Unit 3 will reach commercial operation in November 2021 and Unit 4 in November 2022. The total rate impact of the project remains less than the original estimate, after including anticipated customer benefits from federal production tax credits, interest savings from loan guarantees from the DOE and the fuel savings of nuclear energy. Once the project is on line, the company should still be able to offer retail rates below the national average with the additional long-term benefits from this new source of clean and reliable energy.

“Since the beginning of the Vogtle expansion, we have worked to minimize the impact of this critical project on customers’ monthly bills and, even as we assessed our options of whether or not to continue the project, our focus has been to ensure long-term value,” added Bowers. “Today, the total cost of electricity from Georgia Power is significantly below the national average, and when the project is completed, we expect that the new units will help keep energy bills competitive.”

Georgia Power, which owns 45.7 percent of the new units, has invested approximately $4.3 billion in capital costs in the project through June 2017 and estimates that its cost to complete the project is approximately $4.5 billion, for a total Georgia Power capital cost forecast of approximately $8.8 billion. The Georgia PSC has already approved $5.68 billion in capital costs for Georgia Power’s share of the project. With $1.7 billion in anticipated payments from Toshiba, the company’s potential additional capital costs are approximately $1.4 billion. Based on the new assessments, the total estimated capital cost forecast for 100 percent of the project is approximately $19 billion.

Georgia Power also announced today that it has contracted with global engineering, construction and project management firm Bechtel to manage daily construction efforts. Bechtel will work under the direction of Southern Nuclear, the Southern Company subsidiary which operates the existing units at Plant Vogtle.

“We have seen a marked increase in productivity throughout this year, with the best improvement being the most recent improvement, and our experience provides every indication that we can do a better job than Westinghouse alone as we move forward to complete the project,” said Bowers. “Since Southern Nuclear assumed control of the site from Westinghouse at the end of July, momentum has accelerated with a consistent focus on safe, high-quality construction. We expect this trend to continue with Bechtel.”

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