Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 30, 2019

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 30, 2019

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.

Atlanta Mayor James Calhoun surrendered the city to federal forces on September 2, 1864.

Calhoun’s two-sentence letter, directed to Brig.-Gen. William Ward stated: “Sir: The fortune of war has placed Atlanta in your hands. As mayor of the city I ask protection of non-combatants and private property.”

The cornerstone of the Georgia State Capitol was laid on September 2, 1885.

On August 30, 1888, Asa Griggs Candler bought one-third interest in the Coca-Cola company, bringing his total ownership to more than two-thirds of the company.

Georgia native Ty Cobb debuted with the Detroit Tigers on August 30, 1905.

The last hanging in Atlanta took place on September 1, 1922 outside the Fulton County jail.

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.

Author John Ronald Reuel Tolkien died on September 2, 1973.

On August 30, 1979, President Jimmy Carter reported being attacked by a rabbit near Plains, Georgia. Here’s an interview in which President Carter was asked about the rabbit incident.

Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell was indicted on August 30, 2004 on racketeering, bribery and wire fraud charges and would later plead guilty to tax evasion.

On September 1, 2004, United States Senator Zell Miller, a Democrat, spoke at the Republican National Convention.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency in twelve counties in anticipation of Hurricane Dorian’s landfall through September 9, 2019 for the following counties:

Brantley, Bryan, Camden, Charlton, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long, McIntosh, Pierce, and Wayne.

Senator David Perdue (R) spoke about who should succeed Johnny Isakson in the Senate, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Georgia’s soon-to-be ranking U.S. senator, David Perdue, said the state needs a “warrior” with “depth and breadth” to follow Sen. Johnny Isakson, who announced Wednesday he plans to retire this year. Perdue also spoke to the area’s ongoing effort to preserve the Savannah River pool in a Thursday interview with The Augusta Chronicle’s editorial board.

“We want somebody who can go and represent the people of Georgia, but have the depth and breadth to add value to these international and domestic challenges we have as a country,” said Perdue, a Republican. “Georgia has a very healthy list of those people.”

Perdue said he remains an “outsider” in Washington who likes to say “we cannot afford it” because “in the federal government, I don’t ever hear it.” Cost is now the biggest issue in the area’s battle with the Army Corps of Engineers over plans to dismantle the New Savannah Lock and Dam, he said.

The fish passage is a requirement of the Savannah River harbor deepening project, which Perdue said he persuaded President Trump to support and cannot be delayed.

“When I showed (Trump) he had a poster child for infrastructure and it would take less than $1 billion dollars and the state had already put their $350 million, he jumped all over it,” he said. “Johnny and I really drove that. We now have three years funding that’s necessary to get that thing finished, hopefully by 2021, but the assumption of that is you get the lock and dam fixed.”

FiveThirtyEight looks at the two Senate contests on the ballot for Georgia next year.

With FiveThirtyEight’s partisan lean of R+12, Georgia is still a red state. But the steady growth of the state’s nonwhite population and the defection of voters in well-educated suburbs (such as those around Atlanta) to Democrats in the Trump era have caused it to drift left. In the 2008 presidential election, Georgia was 12.5 points redder than the nation as a whole; in 2012, it was 11.8 points redder; in 2016, it was 7.3 points redder. It is reasonable to expect, then, that Georgia could be even closer to the tipping point in 2020. In other words, a good national cycle for Democrats — or a good Democratic candidate — could be enough to flip the seat blue (or at least come close).

Furthermore, Georgia’s other U.S. senator, Republican David Perdue, was already up for reelection next year. That’s a big deal because chances are that the same party will win both Senate seats. Why? Because when both of a state’s Senate seats are on the ballot at the same time, they almost always go the same way. The last time there was a split decision in one of these “double-barrel” Senate elections was 1966. So Democrats might try harder in Georgia in 2020 than they were already going to, as they could get two Senate seats for the price of one. That said, with Senate results increasingly determined by presidential partisanship, both seats may simply go the way of the presidential race — and right now, handicappers expect President Trump to carry Georgia in 2020.

There’s also one final twist to be aware of — the reason it would behoove each party to rally around a single candidate: Instead of a normal primary followed by a general election, all candidates, regardless of party, will run in a single “jungle primary” on Nov. 3, 2020. So if no candidate receives a majority, the top two finishers will advance to a runoff. This makes the race extra unpredictable, as any runoff would occur without the increased turnout of the presidential election influencing the results of the race.

Finally, it feels like we say this about some runoff somewhere every election cycle and it never comes true, but it is possible that control of the U.S. Senate could hinge on the result of Georgia’s special-election runoff. That means we might not know which party is in charge until the cycle is essentially over: The runoff would take place on Jan. 5, 2021 (!), which is two days after the new Senate is scheduled to be sworn in.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich told NewsMax that he won’t be appointed to the Senate after Johnny Isakson resigns.

[O]n Thursday morning, the former speaker of the House put to rest the idea of “Sen. Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.” in an email to Newsmax.

“Won’t happen,” Gingrich, 76, emailed us.

Other Republican leaders who spoke to Newsmax agreed they still admired Gingrich and he would immediately emerge in the Senate as a force of intellectual firepower for the Trump agenda.

The Georgia Department of Transportation will suspend interstate lane closures for the Labor Day weekend, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“We are limiting construction and associated lane closures to make travel to Georgia’s mountains, beaches, parks and attractions easier and safer for all.”

The restriction goes into effect at noon Friday and last until 5 a.m. Tuesday. There is a caveat to the holiday treat, however: lane closures may still happen over the weekend if they are needed to accommodate responses to traffic accidents or if there is a road maintenance issue.

GDOT officials said 1,514 people died on roadways in Georgia over the course of 2018, and that unsafe driving behaviors caused the majority of preventable crashes in the state.

“During heavy travel holidays we typically see an increase in roadway fatalities,” Hancock said. “I urge drivers to slow down, drive alert and eliminate distractions. Buckle up, put down the cell phone and do not drive impaired. Focus on driving.”

Georgia State Patrol troopers will not be taking the weekend off, according to the Albany Herald.

Last year, 18 people lost their lives on Georgia roadways over the holiday period widely referred to as the unofficial end of the summer travel season that traditionally starts on Memorial Day weekend.

“Troopers and motor carrier officers will be on patrol in full force for the upcoming 78-hour Labor Day holiday travel period this weekend,” Col. Mark W. McDonough, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety, said. “They will focus their attention on speeders, unrestrained occupants, as well as distracted and impaired drivers.”

The DPS reckons the holiday period as being from 6 p.m. today through midnight Monday.

“Motorists should expect heavier traffic this weekend, as most people use the extended weekend to take their final family trips before the summer ends,” McDonough said.

During the 2018 Labor Day holiday period, troopers investigated 490 crashes with 296 injuries and nine fatalities. In addition to crash investigations, DPS officials said, troopers and motor carrier officers wrote 9,008 citations, 12,180 warnings and arrested 332 motorists for driving under the influence.

The Atlanta Regional Commission announced that Gwinnett County’s population grew by 15k in a year, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The ARC announced Gwinnett’s population grew by 15,100 people between April 2018 and April 2019. That puts the county’s population at about 925,800 people as of this past spring, according to the regional group.

For some perspective, the ARC said Gwinnett’s population has grown by about 120,000 since 2010, when the last U.S. census was taken.

It’s been no secret for a while that Gwinnett is surging toward having more than 1 million residents. In recent years, ARC and county officials have been predicting that the county is expected to cross the 1 million population threshold in the next few years.

The projection is for Gwinnett to have 1.5 million residents, and become Georgia’s most populous county, by 2040.

A state Senate study committee is considering how to promote Georgia agriculture, according to the Georgia Recorder.

Wednesday afternoon, a tour of the new distribution center followed a state Senate committee meeting focused on ways to better promote agriculture in the Peach State. Those ideas include considering the potential of creating a Georgia Agricultural Marketing Authority to boost financial stability for the state’s farmers markets.

The Atlanta Farmers Market is billed as one of the largest of its kind in the world and is one of nine farmers markets operated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture. Roughly 100 small businesses, including trucking and recycling companies, wholesalers, processors and more are based at the Atlanta location.

A new state-level authority could provide some financial independence, said Matthew Kulinski, deputy director of the state Department of Agriculture’s Georgia Grown marketing division. It would become easier to issue bonds, raise money for capital and plan for the long haul.

The state will spend about $7.1 million this year to promote Georgia farmers, which includes funding for the state-run farmers markets, the Georgia Grown program and other marketing efforts here and around the globe.

The Atlanta Farmers Market makes up the bulk of the revenue of Georgia’s market program. It netted $3.3 million during the last budget year, which was the overall profit after accounting for results from the other eight locations.

Georgia’s scattered farmers’ markets deliver mixed results from Savannah to Augusta, Macon, Valdosta, Cordele, Moultrie, Thomasville and Cairo. The Macon and Cordele farmers’ markets are money pits, losing a combined $147,000 in fiscal 2019, according to figures from the Senate Research Office. Meanwhile, farmers’ markets in Valdosta and Thomasville consistently ring up profits.

The Albany Herald looks at the benefits of accountability courts.

Accountability courts that steer people with underlying mental health and drug abuse issues away from jail and into treatment programs are changing lives and also saving taxpayer dollars, a Dougherty County Superior Court judge said Thursday.

“The last numbers I received, it cost over $54 a day to keep someone in the Dougherty County Jail,” [Judge Victoria Darrisaw] said. “That does not include the cost of medical (care), because while you’re in Dougherty County Jail you’re our baby.”

There are five types of accountability courts — drug court, mental health, veteran’s court, DUI court and family court — of which Dougherty County has the first two.

“Many times a person who has an underlying mental health issue will self-medicate with drugs, so they go together,” Darrisaw said.

Those benefits include keeping a person who otherwise would be sitting in a county jail or prison at home with family and earning a living to support them.

“The reason they work is it’s tougher to be in the program than it is to be on regular probation,” she said. “The goal is to rehabilitate, to produce tax-paying citizens who can provide for their families.”

Darrisaw had no figures for the county, but statewide as of Fiscal Year 2017 each successful graduate of an accountability court meant a $22,000 benefit to the state in terms of money saved due to not having to keep an inmate behind bars. The total savings were estimated at $38 million through that time.

Dalton Public Schools will partner with City of Refuge to provide services to at-risk elementary school students, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Burke County law enforcement issued more than 100 tickets after beginning to use a school bus camera system, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

In February, the school system and sheriff’s office announced a partnership with BusPatrol, a Virginia-based company that installs cameras outside buses, to catch violators. The seven-camera system was installed on 10 Burke County School District buses.

Chief Deputy Lewis Blanchard said 118 citations have been given out since it launched earlier this year, with 19 so far for the current school year. He said it is too early to tell if it’s having a positive effect.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have the data to answer the question. I don’t know how many people pass (school buses) that don’t get caught,” Blanchard said. “I don’t know how many people were doing it before, compared to now, so it’s hard to articulate, but we’ve been blessed that we still haven’t had any student hit.”

Hank Ford withdrew as a candidate for Eton City Council, leaving a single candidate in the race, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

The city of Eton will not hold an election in November after all.

The Floyd County Police Department will provide resource officers for county schools, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Beginning in January, the Floyd County Police Department will permanently assign two officers each to the four county school districts.

The County Commission ratified this week a memorandum with Floyd County Schools that renews automatically each year. The idea is to foster relationships between students, parents, teachers and police that will help reduce crime in the long run.

City Clerk Kim Hall says Hank Ford, who qualified last week for City Council Post 3, has withdrawn his candidacy. Qualifying ended last Friday. That leaves Post 3 incumbent Jim Bartley and Post 4 incumbent Joan Dooley unopposed in November.

No one has qualified in Cohutta for the November Town Council elections. The seats held by J. Shane Kornberg and Shelia Rose are up for election. Qualifying concludes on Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the office of the city clerk in the Town Hall. There is a $75 qualifying fee.

The Bulloch County Sheriff’s Department will provide resource officers for their county schools, according to the Statesboro Herald.

After emphatic objections from two members, the Bulloch County Board of Education by a 5-2 vote last week approved an agreement with the Board of Commissioners and Sheriff Noel Brown to continue providing deputies as school resource officers.

District 4 school board member April Newkirk wanted to add language cautioning the officers against “using the schools as a venue for questioning and searching students” about alleged law violations unrelated to school.

Valdosta City Council voted to adopt the rollback rate for property taxes, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The city approved the rollback millage rate of 7.809 for the city, 5 mills for property located in the Central Valdosta Development area and 16.751 mills set by the Valdosta City School System. A move that should have most homeowners paying about the same property taxes as last year.

At a special called meeting Wednesday, the Valdosta City Council voted 6-0 to reduce the millage rate by 0.107 from the 7.916 mills approved last year. Councilwoman Vivian Miller-Cody was absent.

The rollback rate is computed under Georgia law to account for an increase in property values.

If the city wanted to increase the millage rate beyond the rollback rate, then three public hearings would be required and the city would have to run advertisements advising the public of a proposed tax increase.

The State Charter School Commission approved a new charter school for Savannah, according to the Savannah Morning News.

About three months after the Savannah-Chatham County school board rejected a petition for a new charter school, the State Charter Schools Commission has approved the new school’s petition, giving the green light to its director, Roger Moss, and a governing board to proceed.

The State Charter Schools Commission of Georgia unanimously approved the petition Wednesday, Aug. 28, for Savannah Exploratory Charter Academy to operate as a state charter school, independent of the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System in the fall of 2020, said Lauren Holcomb, executive director of the State Charter Schools Commission. The school plans to release information about registration and an entrance lottery in October.

“We’re kind of ecstatic. We’re thrilled,” said Julie Diebolt, a human resources generalist at Brasseler who sits on the new school’s board. “We’re just expanding choice in Chatham County.” The charter school expects to be located near Georgia Southern’s Armstrong campus and has a tentative existing site selected, Diebolt said.

Suicide prevention signs have been added to the Sidney Lanier Bridge, according to The Brunswick News.

Those signs are now clearly visible at various locations on the 185-foot-high bridge over the Brunswick River. Each of the four signs installed Aug. 13 on the bridge offer a reminder that the person considering this final desperate act is not alone.

“When it seem like there is no hope,” the signs read, “THERE IS HELP.”

Above this is the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Helpline: 800-273-8255, or TALK. Beside it is the same message in Spanish, with the Spanish language National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s number: 888-628-9454. There is a 6 foot x 5 foot sign at the approach on either side of the bridge; smaller 2 1/2 foot x 2-foot signs are located on the barrier along the walkway at the top on each side of the bridge.

While the signs were installed by the DOT at a total cost of $836.50, the real impetus behind these suicide prevention measures was a group of concerned citizens. It started in March when hundreds took part in the Shine A Light Bridge Walk at the Sidney Lanier Bridge.

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