Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 14, 2016


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 14, 2016

President George Washington died at Mount Vernon on December 14, 1799. Here’s an article about the nation’s mourning for our first President.

The Congress, in session at the capital of Philadelphia when Washington’s death was announced, immediately adjourned. The House of Representatives assembled the next day and resolved to shroud the Speaker’s chair in black and have members wear black during the remainder of the session. On December 23, John Marshall speaking for the joint committee of both houses, presented five points that became the foundation for the United States’ first “state” funeral. Resolutions structured mourning events around public commemorations that fostered unity and a sense of national identity among grieving Americans.

President William McKinley addressed the Georgia General Assembly on December 14, 1898.

McKinley_at_Atlanta2 McKinley Atlanta SM

On December 14, 1939, a parade was held through downtown Atlanta with stars from Gone With the Wind and the Junior League held a ball that night. The next day, December 15, 1939, Gone With the Wind held its world premiere at Loew’s Grand Theater in Atlanta.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Republican Chuck Payne led the field in the Senate District 54 Special Election yesterday.

Conda Lowery Goodson (R) 8.44% 419
Chuck Payne (R) 36.10% 1792
Debby Peppers 27.42% 1361
Shell Underwood (R) 10.80% 536
William Vinyard (R) 17.24% 856

Republican Payne and Democrat Debby Peppers will meet in a runoff election January 10, 2017, the day after the Georgia General Assembly convenes.

From Payne’s campaign manager, Justin Tomczak,

“Chuck Payne heads into the runoff in strong position v. a life-long Democrat, having bested her in all four counties in the District. Chuck has served his community for decades and supported conservative candidates at all levels. Meanwhile, his opponent was donating to Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter, and voting for Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton for President. NW Georgia has little in common with those liberal politicians” said Payne’s political adviser Justin Tomczak.

“Chuck’s volunteered for every Republican candidate I’ve supported and so I volunteered to run his race” added Tomczak.

Democrat Debby Peppers spoke to the Times Free Press,

“We’re in a good position,” Peppers said. “We’ll just see what happens. I didn’t want to drag [the race] out over Christmas, but it is what it is. My base is pretty loyal and pretty proactive. And I expect them to come back out again.”

Peppers was the only candidate to run as an Independent in this election, with the four other candidates all registering as Republicans. During a candidate forum Nov. 30, when the four other candidates said they wanted to increase sales tax and decrease property taxes, Peppers criticized the plan. She argued that would disproportionately affect poor people.

She is also the only candidate who does not outright oppose abortion in most cases. She said banning the procedure in Georgia would lead to a challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court, costing taxpayers money.

This is in an area that is strongly conservative, where about 78 percent of voters supported Donald Trump in the presidential race last month.

Payne entered Tuesday’s race as the most deeply connected Republican. He has been a member of the local party since the early 1990s and twice served as its chairman. Most recently, he stepped down from the post to volunteer for the presidential campaign of Dr. Ben Carson.

Payne defeated Peppers in all four counties Tuesday. And with three other Republicans dropping out, he has a good shot of picking up extra support over the next month.

Houston County voters will go to the polls on March 21, 2017 to vote on a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.

On Monday, the city councils of Warner Robins, Centerville and Perry approved an intergovernmental agreement on how the SPLOST proceeds will be distributed.

On Tuesday, the commission also approved the agreement, and then commissioners cast the vote to call for the referendum. Both were approved unanimously.

The tax would extend the current 1-cent sales tax for another six years. It would pay for road improvements, buy many law enforcement vehicles and significantly improve recreation facilities in all three cities. It also includes a $7 million indoor swimming facility that would be operated by Warner Robins but available for all residents in the county to use.

The tax is estimated to collect $145 million, which is $10 million less than what was projected in the current tax. The current tax has fallen short of the estimate.

Governor Nathan Deal named members to the Governor’s Commission on South Fulton and Governor’s Commission on Stonecrest.

Gov. Nathan Deal [on Tuesday] named the Governor’s Commission on South Fulton and the Governor’s Commission on Stonecrest. The General Assembly passed HB 514 and SB 208 in the 2016 legislative session, which created referendums to establish the City of South Fulton and the City of Stonecrest. Following approval, the governor is to create a five-member commission, consisting of a chairman and four others, to oversee the establishment of each new city. The referendums for each were approved with 59 percent.

Under the legislation, each commission is to prepare for the establishment of its respective city by facilitating the provision of community services and facilities, the collection of taxes and fees, and the negotiation of intergovernmental agreements.

The members of the Governor’s Commission on South Fulton are as follows:

Camilla Moore, Chair

Moore is the president and CEO of Moore, Johnson, Williams & Associates LLC. She was previously the director of housing and community development with the Fulton County Manager’s Office. Moore is a member of the American Planning Association, the American Political Science Association, the American Society of Public Administration and the International Economic Development Council. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of West Georgia. Moore has two children and resides in Atlanta.

Sen. Donzella James

James represents the 35th District of the Georgia State Senate. She sits on the executive advisory boards for Tapestry Ministries, Sonje Yo, Keep South Fulton Beautiful, the African Women Leadership Organization and the International Women’s Think Tank. James earned a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and Political Science from Morris Brown College. James has one child and three grandchildren. She lives in Atlanta.

Rep. Roger Bruce

Bruce represents the 61st District of the Georgia House of Representatives. He is the vice president of human resources for Atlanta Life Financial Group. Bruce sits on the board of directors for the Fulton Atlanta Community Action Authority and All Children Are Special. He is also a trustee for the Interdenominational Theological Center. Bruce earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Morehouse College. He and his wife, Angela, have three children and reside in Atlanta.

Josh Belinfante

Belinfante is a government and commercial litigator at Robbins Ross Alloy Belinfante Littlefield LLC. He previously worked as the executive counsel to Gov. Sonny Perdue and as counsel for U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s campaign committee. Belinfante sits on the University of Georgia Law School Alumni Council and the board of directors for the Atlanta chapter of the Federalist Society. He is a graduate of Leadership Atlanta, Leadership Sandy Springs and the Coverdell Leadership Institute. Belinfante earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a law degree from the University of Georgia. He and his wife, Karina, have three children and live in Atlanta.

Kevin Grimes

Grimes is the CEO of CFO Leasing Inc. He is a veteran of the U.S. Navy, where he was a part of the Nuclear Submarine Force. Grimes teaches compliance, contracting and procurement courses at universities, including The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech. He is a member of the finance committee of Twelve Centennial Park and the mentorship committee of the New Leaders Council. Grimes also sits on the board of directors of ExecuSys Inc. He is a graduate of Leadership Atlanta and the Naval Submarine School. He earned a master’s degree in Business Administration from Florida Metropolitan University. Grimes and his wife, Nakeedra, have one child and reside in College Park.

The members of the Governor’s Commission on City of Stonecrest are as follows:

Joel Thibodeaux, Chair

Thibodeaux is the director of audits and compliance with the DeKalb County School System. He was previously a program analyst with the Senate Budget and Evaluation Office and a financial planning and analysis manager with Premiere Global Services. Thibodeaux earned a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from DeVry University and a master’s degree in Public Policy from Georgia State University. He and his wife, Stacey, have two children and one grandchild. They live in Lithonia.

Jim Burgess

Burgess retired as the executive director of the Georgia Municipal Association. He was previously the mayor of Social Circle and the president of Public Research and Management Inc. Burgess was also a legislative liaison for the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and the City of Savannah. He earned a bachelor’s degree from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a law degree from the Woodrow Wilson College of Law. Burgess and his wife, Madeline, have three children and four grandchildren. They reside in Social Circle.

Markus Butts

Butts is the manager of land acquisition and real estate for the City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management. He is also a commissioner on the DeKalb Planning Commission. Butts is a member of the International City/County Management Association, the Project Management Institute and the International Council of Shopping Centers. He is a past co-chair of DeKalb County SPLOST Citizen Review Committee and a graduate of Leadership DeKalb. Butts earned a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership and Management from Morris Brown College. He and his wife, Sonya, have three children and live in Stone Mountain.

Michelle Emanuel

Emanuel is an account manager for Oracle Corp. She is the secretary and social committee chair for her homeowners association. Emanuel earned a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Walden University. She has three children and one grandchild. Emanuel resides in Lithonia.

Shawn Jones

Jones is a programmer with Northrop Grumman and contracts with the Centers for Disease Control. He is a volunteer mentor with the Atlanta 5th Ward Boys Association and Malachi Ministries. Jones is a past president of the Fairington Farms Homeowners Association and a member of the Stonecrest City Alliance. He earned a bachelor’s degree from York College and lives in Lithonia.

Pierce County, Georgia is deep red, casting more than 85% of ballots for both Donald Trump and Senator Johnny Isakson.

Turnout was 79.27 percent in what is thought to be a record turnout. A total of 7,359 of Pierce County’s 9,283 active, registered voters cast ballots in the election.

Johnny Isakson will be honored with a bridge named after him crossing the Chattahoochee River on Johnsons Ferry Rd.

Braves fans will be able to crack open their bottle of Pappy Van Winkle in a BYOB area around the new stadium.

Cobb commissioners at their meeting Tuesday approved plans setting an alcohol district and tailgating area for SunTrust Park, the future home of the Major League Baseball team, and The Battery Atlanta, its adjoining mixed-use development. The plans designate a tailgating area — a parking lot along Circle 75 Parkway at its intersection with Herodian Way — where fans of legal age would be allowed to consume alcohol they bring.

“This is a good location for the tailgating area because people who wish to partake in events at the tailgating area will not need to actually physically cross a road in order to get to the park, because there will be two pedestrian bridges to safely get people from point A to point B in order to see the events at SunTrust Park,” said Dana Johnson, the county’s community development director.

No alcohol would be allowed to be sold in the tailgating area — fans will have to consume beverages they brought — but under the plan The Battery would be designated as an open container area where alcoholic drinks could be sold by properly licensed vendors and consumed outside by those who purchased them.

Kennesaw State University President Sam Olens presided over his first graduation ceremony.

The Hall County Board of Education voted to sell $19.5 million in bonds.

Hall County school officials moved ahead this week on the issue of two bonds totaling $19.5 million that will go toward major school improvements, including the building of an addition to the Academies of Discovery on Atlanta Highway.

School board members unanimously approved a resolution Monday to cover each of the $9.75 million bonds, which will be repaid by funds collected through a 1 percent education special purpose local option sales tax approved by voters in November 2015.

Borrowing the money to improve school facilities immediately and pay it back as funds from the E-SPLOST are collected will allow school officials to lock in on attractive interest rates on each of the bonds.

The county’s bond attorney told administrators that the first bond to be issued Dec. 30 will be paid back with an interest rate of 1.7 percent. The second bond will be issued Jan. 6, and it will be charged interest at a rate of 1.72 percent.

Valdosta and Tifton have added electric vehicle charging stations.

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently named the stretch of Interstate 75 from Valdosta to Tifton an “Alternative Fuel Corridor,” meaning it has enough charging stations to fuel the electric vehicles traveling in the area.

In Valdosta and Tifton’s case, it’s three. Griner Nissan in Valdosta and Tenneson Nissan in Tifton both have charging stations, and the Tifton Starbucks even has a Tesla charging station.

Heading north on I-75 from Tifton, the next charging station is 75 miles up the road in Perry. Heading south from Valdosta, the next electric charging stop isn’t until Lake City, 62 miles later.

If anyone wants to loan me a Tesla Model S or better, a Roadster, I’d be happy to test the charging network.

A Chatham County grand jury is asking the Judicial Qualifications Commission to investigate the Recorder’s Court.

The Chatham County grand jury has recommended that the state’s Judicial Qualifications Commission review “as soon as possible” a scathing report that found a “dysfunctional” Recorder’s Court shadowed by “racially motivated behavior.”

“The facts presented appear to indicate tolerance of racially motivated behavior as well as blatant disregard for lines of authority,” the recently completed September-term grand jury found after a Nov. 2 meeting with Savannah attorney Maury Bowen, who conducted an investigation into the court for the city of Savannah.

The grand jurors said Bowen’s investigation found human resources “complaints filed by (court) personnel appear to be valid.”

The probe “found what amounts to a gross misuse of power to include the use of alcohol during court hours, the substitution of judges to oversee courtroom proceedings for no other reason than that of convenience, favoritism of certain employees as opposed to others, dismissal of cases due to mismanagement of files and the mishandling of paid employee hours for time actually spent out of the court,” the general presentment by foreman Sharon Robertson Brooms said.

Effingham County legislators are optimistic that the economy will improve under Donald Trump’s presidency.

The three lawmakers speaking at the Effingham County Chamber of Commerce’s eggs and issues breakfast on Dec. 7 are all Republicans — state Sen. Jack Hill, R-Reidsville; state Rep. Bill Hitchens, R-Rincon; and state Rep. Jon Burns, R-Newington.

Hill told more than 100 people at the Effingham College and Career Academy that he hasn’t been to Trump Tower, but looking at the cabinet appointments so far, he’ll be surprised if some regulations such as the EPA’s Waters of the United States are not reversed.

“I’m very optimistic about some changes,” Hill said. “Not only there but a lot of other places too.”

Hitchens said he doesn’t see how farmers can survive if someone else is in control of their groundwater. “If you’ve got a puddle in your yard, EPD just about has control over it,” he said.

Trump “has said publicly he’s going to deal with it,” Hitchens said. “So far, he’s been a man of his word.”

Burns said farmers want to protect the environment, but he’s hoping that the new administration will use some common sense.

Hill said economists at a recent state meeting were extremely bullish on Georgia’s prospects, some of which is because of the results of the presidential election.

They are optimistic about Trump pledging to cut the corporate tax rate and change regulations to favor companies bringing back into the country funds that have been parked overseas.

“With the port deepening, we see nothing but positives ahead for us,” Hill said.

High speed rail from Columbus to Atlanta will require an environmental study, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Weber summarized the results of a 10-month feasibility study, which was funded with a $300,000 Georgia Department of Transportation grant and about $50,000 in private donations.

She said a regional or express rail line traveling along Interstate 185 and Interstate 85 corridor seemed to be the most feasible options, transporting passengers between the Columbus Metropolitan Airport and Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Aiport.

Weber said top speeds can reach 110 to 150 mph on a regional line and 150 to 220 mph on an express line. The Columbus-Atlanta route is not long enough to reach such speeds, she said. So the top speeds are expected to be closer to 63 and 71 mph, which are the average speeds for regional and express lines,respectively.

The regional trip would be 1 hour and 26 minutes and express would take about an hour.

For the year 2030, the express rail system would generate an estimated $28.5 million in revenues against $23.5 million in expenses, according to the feasibility study available at The Regional system would generate $24.6 million in revenues to offset $21.5 million in operating expenses. One-way trips are projected to be 1.1 million by 2030.

“In the process of doing the environmental study, we may find that there’s some sort of environmental constraint that we can’t do it, or we might have to tweak a little bit, or it could be a different type of technology,” Weber said later in an interview with the Ledger-Enquirer. “At this point, we just don’t have those answers.”

Reading to dogs is being used in a Macon magnet school to help students.

It’s a Thursday tradition in Karen Dean’s classroom at Alexander II Magnet School in Macon. After the bell has signaled the end of the school day, up to a dozen children stay an hour longer for the Drop Everything and Read to Dogs Club.

Twelve students in second grade were invited to participate in the program to enhance and improve their reading, said Dean, an instructional coach. They go to the classroom at 3:30 p.m. to refresh their skills before Flame and Beau, a Shih Tzu, arrive at 3:50 p.m. with their handlers, Lisa Sims and Jo Caywood.

The DEAR Dogs Club provides a non-threatening, nonjudgmental way for students to learn and become stronger readers, Caldwell said. It keeps them engaged, strengthens their listening and reading skills, and gets them excited about reading, Hintermaier said.

“It’s a very relaxed, anxiety-free environment where you can just sit back, laugh, love and enjoy,” Dean said.

Some students start out being afraid of the dogs and sit in the teachers’ laps. But before long, they are petting and kissing the animals, Dean said. Many of the older students consider reading to the dogs among their best school memories.

“The dogs are loved not only by the kids but by the teachers and staff too, because everyone needs their dog therapy,” Dean said. “They just give lots of love.”

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