Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 25, 2017

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 25, 2017

On October 25, 1774, the First Continental Congress addressed a petition to King George III raising concerns about the Coercive Acts passed by Parliament and asserting its loyalty to the monarch.

The wooden keel of USS Monitor was laid at Continental Iron Works at Greenpoint, New York on October 25, 1861.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal will deliver the keynote address at a legislative luncheon in Valdosta on December 6th.

The partnership of the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club of Valdosta, Valdosta North Rotary Club, Home Builders Association of South Georgia and Valdosta Board of Realtors host the annual state legislative lunch, Dec. 6, at the James H. Rainwater Conference Center.

“It’s really significant that Gov. Deal has chosen to come to Valdosta as we make preparations for the final legislative session of his governorship,” state Sen. Ellis Black said. “His presence here shows his concern for South Georgia and his commitment to rural Georgia as the agenda for the next legislation is developed.”

During his gubernatorial campaign, Deal listed as his four top priorities: public safety, education, transportation infrastructure improvements and finding a solution to the controversial issue of health care.

“Our chamber very much appreciates Gov. Deal coming to Valdosta to inform us of the activities and opportunities that the State of Georgia leaders are focusing on and supporting,” Chamber Chairman James McGahee said. “We want him to see what Valdosta is doing to attract new business and to grow existing business. We will have the opportunity to show the governor some of the areas we need the state’s support.”

Georgia Public Service Commission Chair Stan Wise (R-Cobb) wrote Governor Deal that he will resign before his term ends, giving the Governor an appointment to the five-member board.

In a letter to Deal on Oct. 17, Wise wrote: “My announcement was silent on whether I intend to serve out my current term. After careful thought, I have decided that early next year, I will resign, creating a vacancy mid-term.”

Wise told the governor he has “unfinished business” at the PSC. He said the commission has a “critical vote” in February as part of the body’s determination whether to continue or cancel the Plant Vogtle project.

“As an unabashed supporter of nuclear power,” Wise wrote, “I intend to be present for that vote and will resign shortly thereafter so that you may appoint my successor prior to the (candidate) qualifying period for the 2018 elections.”

Among the names being floated for Wise’s seat, which covers a stretch of territory west of metro Atlanta, are Republican activists Tricia Pridemore and Justin Tomczak. Political insiders have also said some Georgia state senators are looking at the race.

The skids are greased for a successor.

The DeKalb County Commission voted 6-1 to seek a legal way to remove an obelisk on the old courthouse grounds.

The resolution, approved on an 6-1 vote, orders the county’s attorneys to find a legal way to remove or relocate the 30-foot obelisk located outside the former county courthouse in Decatur.

State law prohibits such monuments from being “relocated, removed, concealed, obscured, or altered in any fashion,” but governments are allowed to take action to preserve or protect monuments. The resolution notes that the monument has been recently vandalized twice.

The county government will try to determine if it actually owns the monument, then explore how it can be moved.

The monument glorifies the Confederacy and says its soldiers “were of a covenant keeping race,” according to the resolution.

DeKalb Commissioner Nancy Jester cast the only vote against the resolution. She said monuments should be put in their historical context instead of being moved.

The Georgia Conservancy and other environmental groups are seeking more funds for parks and greenspace.

A coalition of environmental groups is pushing for the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act to land on state ballots in 2018. It would shift 75 percent of the existing sales tax on outdoor recreation equipment to a conservation fund to purchase new parkland and improve existing greenspace.

The measure, House Bill 332, didn’t gain much traction during this year’s legislative session, but supporters hope to win over some high-profile allies. Robert Ramsay of the Georgia Conservancy met with Deal chief of staff Chris Riley on Tuesday to pitch the idea.

“It’s not a red or blue issue,” Ramsay said. “This would give the state new advantages because you’d have the ability to plan long-term to acquire this land. This would be a real game-changer.”

The governor, who is approaching his final legislative session in office, said through a spokeswoman he is “receptive” to the idea.

It would need two-thirds support in the Legislature and approval by a majority of voters to get baked into Georgia’s law. Ramsay said the new funding would finance land acquisitions, new roads and improvements for existing parks and matching funds for regional and local greenspace initiatives.

Gwinnett County Commissioners approved 4 percent pay raises for county law enforcement workers.

Gwinnett County commissioners voted to give 4 percent raises to sworn police officers, sheriff’s deputies, corrections officers and E-911 communications officers. That is on top of a 3 percent market adjustment for eligible employees that was approved by commissioners.

“County employees went without a pay raise for four years during the recession,” County Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said in a statement after the meeting. “While this board was able to reinstate increases starting in 2014 with a market adjustment and each year thereafter with annual raises tied to performance, a further adjustment is needed to address hiring and retention issues.

“Our competitors are granting pay increases, too, and frankly we have to keep up or risk losing talented employees to other agencies.”

Georgia Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer (R-Duluth) won the Gwinnett County GOP straw poll for Lt. Governor with 56 percent of votes cast.

Alcohol sales is the hot issue in the upcoming Clermont municipal elections.

The town of about 1,000 residents with deep-rooted conservative values has resisted pressure in recent years from a few business owners who have been clamoring for Clermont to lift its ban on alcohol sales. They claim they can’t compete with other businesses that are able to sell alcohol throughout most of Hall County.

Fielding questions related to the controversial issue were incumbent Mayor James Nix and his challenger Steve Reeves; and Ward 4 council rivals Donna Reeves and James Castleberry Jr. Sharing the stage with them was Marcia Kesler, a former Clermont council member who is running uncontested for the Ward 3 seat.

“This is the hot topic,” Donna Reeves, who is married to Steve Reeves, said when asked about alcohol sales right off the bat. She said the same issue cropped up in Gainesville where she owns a restaurant along with a massage therapy establishment.

Donna Reeves and her husband said they were glad to see that the issue is being placed on the Nov. 7 ballot by way of a straw poll.

Everyone except Castleberry was OK with letting the residents decide the matter in the straw poll.

“My whole issue about beer and wine sales in Clermont has to do with the quality of life in Clermont,” Castleberry said. “This is where I live, this is where I hope my children and my grandchildren will live someday and I hope the generations after us will have a nice town to live in.”

Thunderbolt may lose its library branch, planned to close this week.

Last week, during a forum at Thunderbolt Town Hall, each candidate for mayor and Town Council vowed to fight for the library’s survival, with several of the candidates saying they would entertain opening a town-run library if other options are exhausted. Still, staff answering the phone at the library Tuesday said it will close this week. Plans are to relocate staff and reading material to Islands Library, about 2.8 miles away on Johnny Mercer Boulevard.

On Sept. 26, the Live Oak Public Libraries Regional Board, acting on recommendations from interim executive director Stephen Whigham, voted to close the branch out of concern the library system did not have the money to maintain the facility.

The town of Thunderbolt owns the property, something Live Oak’s legal counsel said during the board meeting meant the town was responsible for maintenance. In his report to the board, Whigham said the building was in need of an estimated $100,000-$200,000 in repairs, and that operating costs are roughly $147,000 each year.

“It’s the primary responsibility of the Board of Library Trustees to be conscientious of how our funding is spent throughout the library system,” board chair Charlotte Welch said in a prepared statement. “Our largest funding agent is Chatham County and its taxpayers, and we must make difficult decisions in order to best serve the community.”

Columbus police are targeting distracted driving for enforcement, according to The Ledger-Enquirer.

Police issued more than 102 citations Oct. 18 in three hours of patrolling between North Lumpkin and South Lumpkin roads. Of that, 29 were for distracted driving, which includes texting or manipulating a cellphone.

It was the third such operation since June 1.

Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) is successfully raising money for his reelection campaign, according to the Brunswick News.

As the 2018 election cycle crests the horizon, the Pooler Republican is in an even more-secure position ahead of a contested general election effort in what is known as a safe Republican seat.

Carter raised more than $210,000 during the third quarter of 2017, besting his 2015 numbers by more than $32,000.

And despite spending slightly more during this cycle, the two years in-between were good for the Carter campaign coffers — he shows more than $793,000 on hand, besting the mark of more than $393,000 two years ago.

And, that happened while cutting his campaign debt from just over $500,000 in October 2015 to $250,000 today. The debt represents the hundreds of thousands of dollars of personal money Carter loaned to the campaign during his initial run for the seat in 2014.

The Banks County Commission voted to move forward with plans to place a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) on the ballot.

The commission acted on a formal request from the Development Authority of Banks County, whose members suggested the 1-cent sales tax would bring the county’s roads up to the level needed for sustained economic development and related residential growth.

Scott Ledford, chairman of the Development Authority of Banks County, told commissioners and those in the audience the proposed 1-cent tax would raise about $3 million per year over its five-year term.

If approved by the voters of Banks County, the current 7-cent sales tax would become 8 cents on each dollar purchased.

Tuesday night’s decision was to begin the process of getting the 1-cent LOST on an upcoming ballot so the voters of Banks County can decide the issue. During that process, there will be an education and public input phase where residents will have the opportunity to learn specifics of the proposed tax, its impact on Banks County households and individuals, and how the proceeds would be used by the county.

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