Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 11, 2018


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 11, 2018

911 memorial 2

I was in my car that morning, on the way to my job when I heard on the radio of the first plane hitting. The announcers thought at first that it must be a small plane and likely an accident. Seventeen minutes later all doubt vanished as the second hit. Over the next hour, a third plane hit the Pentagon and a fourth went down in a field in Pennsylvania. We watched on television as the towers burned, then collapsed.

Shortly afterwards, the Family Room opened in a nearby tower to provide a place for loved ones to grieve out of the public eye.

The Family Room opened in April 2002 in space donated by Brookfield Office Properties, the owners of 1 Liberty Plaza, across Church Street from the trade center site. By presenting what was known as a medical examiner’s family identification card, victims’ relatives were admitted during regular workdays and at night, on weekends and on holidays.

On the 20th floor, behind a door marked “The Family Room,” relatives could settle into ample leather couches or stand at windows 15 and 20 feet wide. The room was intended for “quiet contemplation,” said a 2002 notice from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which created and maintained the space, just a few doors down from its own headquarters and those of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center Foundation.

When the Family Room at 1 Liberty Plaza was replaced this summer by a new private gathering space in the National September 11 Memorial Museum pavilion, the [New York] State Museum and the memorial museum painstakingly documented the older room, and the State Museum acquired what contents family members themselves did not choose to reclaim.

There are materials in the Family Room collection related to about 1,000 victims, Mr. Schaming said, or roughly one-third of all casualties that day. “It is the most singular collection of the faces of people who were killed on 9/11,” he said.

A monument on Long Island to victims of 9-11 will include the names of 582 people who later died of conditions related to the aftermath of the attacks.

A separate plaque will have the names of 582 police officers, firefighters, construction workers, cleanup volunteers and others who spent time in the rubble of the World Trade Center in the days or months after the attacks and, years later, died of a variety of causes that they, their families or their doctors suspected were linked to toxic ash and smoke at the site. There will be room to add more names.

“I think what the town of Hempstead is doing is nothing short of honorable,” said John Feal, a longtime advocate for 9/11 responders with health problems. “People who lost a loved one to illness suffer just like someone lost on that day. Hopefully this will offer some ease and comfort to them.”

In May, officials at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum announced plans to set aside a commemorative space at the World Trade Center to honor rescue and recovery workers.

New York’s police and fire departments also have memorials for personnel who have died of illnesses since Sept. 11. A 9/11 memorial in Staten Island recently added a plaque with the names of residents there who have died of illnesses.

Feal’s charitable organization also maintains a memorial wall to 9/11 responders in Nesconset, New York.

One day after Perry’s victory in the Battle of Lake Erie, American Master Commandant Thomas Macdonough led American forces in the Battle of Plattsburg at Lake Champlain, New York on September 11, 1813.

The Union Army began evacuating civilians from Atlanta via Lovejoy’s Station on September 11, 1864.

Georgia-born Ty Cobb took his last at-bat on September 11, 1928.

After a week-long Presidential campaign swing through ten states, former Governor Jimmy Carter returned to Plains on September 11, 1976.

On September 11, 1985, Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb’s career hit record, notching number 4,192 against the San Diego Padres.

One year ago today, all 159 counties in Georgia were under an emergency declaration from Hurricane Irma.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

United States District Court Judge Amy Totenberg will hear arguments on whether to require paper ballots for November elections, according to the AJC.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the defendant in the case, strongly opposes a quick move away from the voting system in place since 2002. He said electronic voting machines are secure and that a rushed transition to paper would result in a less trustworthy election system.

But Donna Curling, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, said Georgia’s electronic voting machines are inherently unsafe. If voting machines were penetrated by hackers, malicious code could rig elections, she said.

The judge will have to consider, among other things, fundamental voting rights and the feasibility of printing paper ballots for Georgia’s 6.7 million registered voters.

Kemp, who supports a transition to paper ballots in time for the 2020 presidential election, said it would be irresponsible to force voters into an election crisis. He warned that early-voting locations would close in Fulton County because of staffing shortages, paper ballots couldn’t be delivered in time in Cobb County and no county has budgeted for the expense statewide.

“The fact is that Georgia’s voting machines are aging, but they have never been compromised,” said Kemp, the Republican nominee for governor facing Democrat Stacey Abrams in November. “The other side is great at grabbing headlines, but in court, they have no evidence to substantiate their claims.”

Governor Nathan Deal announced yesterday that state tax revenues were up 7 percent in August over the prior year.

Gov. Deal’s Chief of Staff Chris Riley spoke to the Gainesville Times about their time in office.

Riley said improving Georgia’s educational system has been a focus of the Deal administration. The Hope scholarship was heading into bankruptcy, and state officials traveled throughout Georgia to speak with colleges about how the program could be reformed, passing recommendations to keep the program going, he said.

Then in May, Deal signed off on a budget that fully funded Georgia’s Quality Basic Education program, which is used to determine dollars sent to each district, for the first time since the program began in 1985.

And when Deal, took office, his administration had the challenging task of dealing with a budget crisis in the fallout of the economic recession. In 2011, the state’s rainy day fund was $116 million, Riley said.

“This is cash in the bank. That’s enough to operate the state of Georgia for two days,” he said. “That first year, we literally cash flowed the state of Georgia.”

Riley said officials had to make some cuts to get the budget in order — the size of the state government was reduced by 10 percent by consolidating and streamlining state agencies. Reserves are now at $2.5 billion, Riley said.

The economy, particularly the manufacturing sector, has seen growth and has helped Georgians get back to work, Riley said. He said the unemployment rate was about 10 percent statewide in 2011. Now, that number is just below 4 percent.

Savannah has arranged for housing and meals in Perry for storm workers, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The city has only one category 3 rated structure in Savannah, the Industrial and Domestic water plant on Ga. 21, and that facility will only accommodate about 250 of the 1,700 employees the city could need to respond to such a storm, said David Donnelly, Savannah Emergency Management director.

As a result, the Savannah City Council recently approved a contract to house and feed those workers at an emergency response training facility in Perry in the event of a category 3 storm or above.

The Guardian Center is an 830-acre campus located about three hours from Savannah. The location is out of the impacted area, but close enough to get employees back into Savannah as quickly as possible, Donnelly said.

The cost to retain the facility annually is $12,500. If the city ended up using the center, it would cost $141.42 per person, per day, which represents at-cost expenses for the Guardian Center.

Democrat Stacey Abrams unveiled her healthcare plan at Grady Hospital, according to WJBF.

First, Medicaid expansion to reclaim the $8 million dollars per day that Georgia taxpayers have already paid in but can’t get back unless expansion is approved — this would help working families who can’t afford insurance and also help hospitals in rural Georgia stay open. It’s a move Vice President Mike Pence made as Governor of Indiana.

Abrams says she will also look at a federal waiver to try to stabilize and bring down Georgia premiums, which have risen 50 percent.

Another key part of the plan — maternal and infant healthcare, because Georgia has the highest maternal mortality rate in the United States.

Democrat Josh McCall, running against Republican Congressman Doug Collins, will host a forum on legalizing marijuana, according to AccessWDUN.

Josh McCall said in a press statement the meeting on Thursday, Sept. 13 will focus on  the economic, environmental, medical, criminal justice and legal aspects of legalization.

“I don’t smoke any illegal substance – never have. But I still believe that people should make their own decisions over what they do with their bodies, in the privacy of their own home,” McCall said. “I also support the medical community, and believe that doctors should have as many options as they need to provide proper care for their patients.”

State Senator Renee Unterman received the Georgia Municipal Association’s “Champion of Georgia Cities” award in Sugar Hill last night, according to a press release.

The City of Sugar Hill would like to congratulate Senator Renee Unterman on her receipt of the of the 2018 Champion of Georgia Cities Award from the Georgia Municipal Association. This award is given at the end of every two-year legislative term to state legislators who actively support major initiatives and goals.

The Georgia Municipal Association recognizes Senator Unterman for the efforts to help local governments have consistent control over home rule and to challenge legislation that attempts to thwart that control. Some examples of the legislation that Senator Unterman stood firm with were SB 469 Building Code Pre-emption and SB 418 Preemption of Retail Sales Regulation/Puppy Mills/Synthetic Opioids. This same legislation would have limited the control of local governments to regulate businesses such as pet stores that use puppy mills for inventory supply.

Senator Unterman is a fighter that protects the authority that allows Georgia’s cities to deliver quality of life services for their residents and works to expand economic opportunities across the state. She sponsored the Brunch Bill SB 18 which allows local governments to change Sunday alcohol sales hours through a ballot referendum.

The Mayor and City Council of Sugar Hill wish to thank Senator Unterman for defending Sugar Hill, Gwinnett County and all of the citizens of Georgia. Senate District 45 could not have a better leader in the State Legislature.

NOW, THEREFORE, the City of Sugar Hill Mayor and City Council extend congratulations to Senator Renee Unterman for being recognized as the 2018 Champion of Georgia Cities Award and request that all citizens join in recognizing September 10, 2018, as Senator Renee Unterman day in Sugar Hill.

Rome City Commission‘s Public Safety Committee will discuss a proposed smoking ban, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

Since a coalition of local healthcare professionals, agencies and nonprofits called Breatheasy Rome brought the idea to the board last month, commissioners have heard from a host of different interests.

[Commissioner Craig] McDaniel said a large percentage of restaurant workers smoke, which has employers concerned some would leave for competitors outside the city. There also are smokers who live and work downtown, he noted.

Commissioner Bill Collins said he’s heard from a business owner who thinks a ban would deter some customers and another who thinks it’s an overreach.

“He said ‘Why do y’all feel like you have to tell other people what they can and cannot do’ … These are the hurdles we face,” Collins said.

The Whitfield County Republican Party will hear about homeland security at its meeting tonight, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

the guest speaker will be Darren Webb, the resident agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Dalton and a former United States Secret Service special agent.

State Sen. Bruce Thompson, R-White, who has worked closely with Homeland Security, will also speak. Together, they will provide valuable information pertaining to some of the most pressing issues of the day, immigration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Refreshments and fellowship time start at 6:30 p.m. and the meeting starts at 7.

Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Joe Allen wants to defund ten nonprofits and agencies, according to the Macon Telegraph.

One commissioner says his plan is to give those organizations enough time to find money to make up for the loss, which would total $762,200 among all the agencies. Another county leader, however, argues the focus should not be on removing money from entities such as the Middle Georgia Community Food Bank, Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful and various cultural arts organizations.

Commissioner Joe Allen said Macon-Bibb government can no longer afford to pay money to certain agencies when the county will have to find $8 million next year to cover the Other-Post Employment Benefit fund, which covers some benefits, such as health care, for retirees.

“It’s not right for us to spend John Doe’s or Jane Doe’s money,” Allen said. “If they want to spend it, then let John Doe or Jane Doe spend it wherever they want to.”

Allen’s resolution calls for notifying the 10 organizations that they will not receive any funding in the next budget. The proposal is scheduled to be discussed at Tuesday’s commission committee meetings.

The Augusta Commission is still dealing with financial issues from Hurricane Irma last year, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The city is seeking $428,246 in federal funding debris cleanup from Hurricane Irma, which wreaked minor havoc on the area almost exactly one year ago. Between Sept. 10 and Oct. 5, 2017, the city said it collected 10,487.9 cubic yards of “vegetative debris” from roads, public property and roadsides and hauled it to the landfill. That effort involved 74 employees working more than 571 hours, including 67 who put in 1,488 hours of overtime. The city estimates the total cleanup cost was more than $503,000 and would include more than $37,000 in state funds.

The largest item on the agenda for the Finance Committee won’t be quite as large as it first seemed and won’t obligate the county or state for anything. AU Health System’s 2018 bond series through the Development Authority of Augusta will come up for approval. While the series is listed as not to exceed $230 million, the actual amount will be much smaller at around $85 million, said Greg Damron, the chief financial officer for the health system.

About $35 million will go toward refinancing a bank loan from 2012 to fund capital projects such as renovating the old Dental College of Georgia building into its new Professional Office Building, which includes the Digestive Health Center, he said. Of the rest, about half would pay back a line of credit that financed projects such as a new transplant clinic and others underway, including renovating lab and pharmacy space for automation and moving the infectious disease program to a building on Chaffee Avenue, Damron said.

“There are a number of capital improvements in that last piece of the project that are ongoing right now,” he said. The money would not go toward building a hospital in Columbia County that the health system still plans once the state license to build it is free of appeals, Damron said.

The Muscogee County Board of Education considered increasing pay for bus drivers, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The Muscogee County School Board discussed during its monthly work session Monday night a proposal to raise the pay and incentives for bus drivers in the wake of a shortage of drivers and an increase in the number of students needing transportation, resulting in an avalanche of complaints about students being picked up late or transported on overcrowded buses.

The proposal came from representatives John Thomas of District 2 and Frank Myers of District 8. They want the Muscogee County School District to raise the minimum pay for bus drivers to $17 per hour. That’s an increase of 16 percent from the current rate of $14.66 per hour.

“Thereafter, every bus driver employee shall be rewarded with a $1 raise per year for each year he or she serves the district,” the proposal says.

Yard debris pickup has slowed considerably in Macon-Bibb County, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Lilburn City Council revised their alcohol ordinance to allow liquor store owners to hold two licenses, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Oakwood City Council will hold three public meetings on a potential property tax millage rate, according to the Gainesville Times.

Oakwood is looking to keep its property tax rate the same in 2019, but that still could mean a slight tax increase for some residents.

The South Hall city is proposing a tax rate of 4.174 mills, with 1 mill equal to $1 per $1,000 in assessed property value.

However, for Oakwood to keep revenues at the same amount, the city would have to set the rate at 4.093 mills. At 4.174 mills, a home valued at $225,000 would have a tax bill that’s $7.29 higher than at 4.093 mills.

Still, those with higher property assessments could see higher tax bills. Those who saw assessments stay the same or go down will see tax bills likewise stay the same or go down.

Jason Souther was sworn in as an associate juvenile court judge for Whitfield County, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is investigating the dumping of my lunch hundreds of pounds of blue crabs in a local stream, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Hundreds of blue crabs, a salt-water delicacy native to the waters of the western Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, were discovered Sunday night along the Chattahoochee RiverWalk in Bibb City.

Crabs such as the ones along the riverbank are much more likely to be found in restaurants. The market price for blue crabs in Panama City Beach on Monday was about $4 per pound. There were easily more than 1,000 of them, Franklin said. Because the crabs were whole, it could have been more than 500 pounds, bringing their value to about $2,000.


Gwinnett County Transit will begin operating door-to-door “microtransit” service next week, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gwinnett County Transit will begin offering bus service in the south Gwinnett community next week to get residents from their homes to medical and other types of appointments, shopping centers and other local destinations. It just won’t be the type of service residents might be used to seeing in Gwinnett.

It will be what county officials are calling “Microtransit,” a six-day-a-week door-to-door service that the county is trying out as a test program.

“As we developed our comprehensive transit plan earlier this year, we received a lot of community feedback that serving areas like Snellville needed to be a priority,” Gwinnett County Transit Division director Karen Winger said. “Since regular bus routes require more population density than Snellville has, we had to come up with another way to do it.

“Microtransit seemed to be the next best option. It’s flexible and comprehensive. We hope it will be a good fit.”

Since Microtransit is something new for the county, it is currently set to last six months in Snellville. At the end of that time, Gwinnett officials will put it on hiatus while they evaluate how it worked and whether it should be continued in Snellville.

Electric scooters are becoming a nuisance, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Last month, the city of Charleston banned the scooters after the upstart company Bird began dropping off the vehicles with no advance announcement. Officials in Athens are considering restrictions on the scooters that appeared there. The University of Georgia has even been impounding them, according to recent coverage in the Athens Banner-Herald.

Bird and its competitors are facing similar restrictions and legal hurdles in cities across the nation.

Largely because of concerns about safety, Savannah City Council is poised to approve an ordinance banning the scooters even before they arrive. According to a story by Savannah Morning News reporter Eric Curl, the ordinance “would prohibit the operation of personal transportation vehicles that are accessed by an on-demand portal, such as a smartphone, and made available to the public in unstaffed, self-service locations.”

Flowery Branch may be moving toward legalizing golf carts on the street, according to the Gainesville Times.

A recent Flowery Branch survey said 76 percent of respondents believe personal transportation vehicles — or golf carts, mainly — should be legalized in the South Hall city.

The survey, which ran July 10-Aug. 24, was one part of a city process toward an ordinance governing golf carts in the city.

Also, the city would have a map that “identifies legal streets for PTV operations on internal neighborhood streets and streets signed 25 mph or less.”

Sterling on the Lake, a subdivision off Spout Springs Road that is being developed with up to 2,000 homes, is considered one of “the top locations identified for PTV use.”

Otherwise, they’re suggested on “other neighborhood streets, any streets signed 25 mph or less, downtown streets and city parks.”

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