Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 4, 2019


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 4, 2019

On September 4, 1682, Edmund Halley first sighted the comet that bears his name.

Scheduled steamship service first began on September 4, 1807, when Robert Fulton’s North River Steamboat began plying the trade on the Hudson River.

General William T. Sherman ordered all civilians out of Atlanta on September 4, 1864.

Vince Dooley was born on September 4, 1932. Happy birthday, coach!

Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus called out National Guard troops to prevent the desegregation under court order of Little Rock’s Central High School on September 4, 1957.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp has expanded the emergency declaration to now include 21 counties.

This morning, Governor Brian P. Kemp has issued an Executive Order expanding the State of Emergency declared on August 29, 2019 to include Appling, Bacon, Bulloch, Clinch, Echols, Evans, Screven, Tattnall, and Ware Counties.

Currently, there are twenty-one Georgia counties under a State of Emergency declaration. They are Appling, Bacon, Brantley, Bryan, Bulloch, Camden, Charlton, Chatham, Clinch, Echols, Effingham, Evans, Glynn, Liberty, Long, McIntosh, Pierce, Screven, Tattnall, Ware, and Wayne Counties.

For up-to-date information on Hurricane Dorian, visit Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security, call 1-800-TRY-GEMA (1-800-879-4362), or follow @GeorgiaEMA and @GovKemp.

State House District 71 voters will return to the polls in a Special Runoff Election featuring Philip Singleton (R – 36.84% – 1843 votes) and Marcy Westmoreland Sakrison (R – 34.20% – 1711 votes).

Bulloch County continues preparing for Hurrican Dorian, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Hurricane Dorian was shifting westward, moving closer to the United States coast late Tuesday afternoon and disturbing earlier predictions that the storm may move away to the northeast, said Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn.

However, although Savannah and South Carolina are “back in the cone,” no one yet knows what the hurricane’s next move will be, he said.

“For now, we are preparing for a (Hurricane) Matthew scenario.”

As evacuees flee from Savannah and other coastal areas, shelters and hotels are filling quickly. Justin Samples, marketing director for the Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Tuesday that area hotels are primarily full.

“We have some cancellations that are immediately filled with new reservations,” he said.

Camden County has initiated a curfew in preparation for Dorian’s landfall, according to The Brunswick News.

A curfew from 10 a.m. to 6 a.m. beginning Tuesday has been imposed in Camden County for all areas east of Interstate 95.

The curfew, in effect until further notice, means increased law enforcement will be in place to ensure the safety of property for residents who have evacuated in advance of Hurricane Dorian.

Individuals can expect to be stopped and checked by authorities if they are traveling in the mandatory evacuation area.

Cumberland Island National Seashore are closed in anticipation of potential impacts from Hurricane Dorian. The barrier island will remain closed until the storm has passed and damage assessments have been made.

All government offices in Camden County will remain closed through Thursday.

Camden County schools have cancelled classes through Thursday because of the uncertainty of the storm’s arrival and impacts to the region.

Dorian could affect wildlife in coastal Georgia, according to The Brunswick News.

The ocean already rose with vigorous waves to the edge of dune fields at high tide Tuesday, previewing likely heavy beach erosion and sand movement. That comes after the gradual rebuilding of dues laid waste by Irma’s tides.

“On the beach and the dunes, even though to the human eye it looks like a lot of damage — we did have some dunes washed away, and thank goodness they were there to protect everything that lies behind them,” Ben Carswell, JIA conservation director, said Aug. 29. “But wildlife and plant communities have adapted over hundreds of thousands of years to these major disturbances. The dunes, that sand doesn’t wash too far away, and they start building back up pretty remarkably quickly.”

Sea turtle conservationists have been busy for days preparing for the eventual arrival of Dorian — there are still nests in the sand that have yet to hatch.

Haley Watkins at Sea Island reported Aug. 31 that staff inventoried 13 nests and left 18 nests on the beach to continue incubation. Workers on all the barrier islands have been busy removing screens from nests and pulling up stakes from inactive nests. Caleigh Quick on Ossabaw Island reported Aug. 30 they pulled 99 screens and inventoried 11 nests.

Dorian could have a significant effect on sea turtle hatching numbers by the time it’s all over. Irma went through the area in the second week of September 2017, and tides and storms accounted for around two-thirds of all nest losses in Georgia for that year, with 481 nests — 21.9 percent — lost. The losses were 12.4 percent on Jekyll, 24.6 percent on Cumberland, 4.4 percent on Little Cumberland Island and 9 percent on Little St. Simons Island. There was only one nest lost on Sea Island for the year, according to

Chatham County Sheriff’s deputies will work with Chatham County police, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Chatham County Sheriff John Wilcher said today he has brought all of his deputies assigned to street duties and the Chatham County courthouses to assist Chatham County police in maintaining law and order during the duration of Hurricane Dorian.

Begining today, that will add 60 certified officers who will work in two 12-hour shifts with their county police counterparts, Wilcher said, adding that he and Chatham County Police Chief Jeff Hadley have a great working relationship and remain on board in their planning.

Another 18 deputies in training with jail duties are being assigned to assist the jail staff.

In addition, the sheriff will feed those officers and give them a place to sleep in a refurbished, but unoccupied, area of the jail, Wilcher said, adding that will accommodate 427 people.

Wilcher also reported that he will continue to house the 1,862 inmates now in the jail with no plans to evacuate them.

Chatham County reiterated warnings about evacuating, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“I would say to the folk out there though, if your street homes flooded during Matthew, you should pretty much expect you’re going to flood in Dorian, and you’re encouraged to leave,” County Commission Chairman Al Scott said at a 1 p.m. press conference at the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens at the Historic Bamboo Farm.

Gov. Brian Kemp on Sunday announced an evacuation for coastal Georgia east of I-95, an area in Chatham County that is designated as zones A and B. That evacuation began Monday, with I-16 converted to a contraflow west from Savannah to Dublin at 8 a.m. Tuesday. Scott said he wasn’t planning to call for an evacuation west of I-95 unless the storm path shifted.

“It will be off the coast of Georgia, roughly in the next 36 hours, which is a very dangerous time for us,” Scott said. “No one can predict whether or not that storm with the stall off the coast of Georgia or whether or not it drifts to the left. That’s the worst case for Chatham County.”

Chatham Emergency Management Agency Director Dennis Jones said “tropical storm force winds are projected to pass through Chatham County sometime Wednesday into Thursday.”

“Rainfall and flooding with inundation three feet or higher above ground is expected,” he said. “We could have upwards of four to seven feet of storm surge. The high tide sequence is also significant for us. We’re looking at a high tide over 11 feet over two different time periods. One of them is one o’clock tomorrow. The other one is going to be 1am on Thursday.”

Savannah homeless advocates are working to get homeless people evacuated ahead of Dorian, according to the Savannah Morning News.

As Hurricane Dorian makes its way toward Savannah Wednesday, Cindy Murphy Kelley said she has been repeatedly visiting the camps and other sites where homeless gather to try and get them to leave town ahead of the storm.

“Unfortunately we have some folks who will kind of hunker on down,” the executive director of the Chatham Savannah Authority for the Homeless said. “We can’t make them go.” According to a recent census, Savannah has about 700 chronically homeless people on any given day.

Kelley said her efforts began last week as the hurricane started its trek toward the Bahamas and then Florida, including sending out fliers urging the homeless population to leave.

She praised the efforts of City of Savannah, police officers, firefighters and volunteers for their efforts there, adding that the Salvation Army provided meals for volunteers.

Chatham residents without transportation are being evacuated by bus, according to the Savannah Morning News.

They came by CAT bus and car and on foot to evacuate from Chatham County by charter bus. By about 8 a.m. Tuesday hundreds of people were gathered at the Savannah Civic Center to get a free ride to an inland shelter.

A line of people and luggage snaked across the front of the building and down the sidewalk to the corner with Liberty Street, resigned to biding their time in the muggy pre-storm weather.

About 130 staffers including 25 volunteers were running the evacuation assembly area at the Civic Center, said Chatham County Police spokeswoman Betsy Nolen. The county chartered 56 buses to convoy 16 at a time to shelters in Augusta. The same buses will return evacuees after the storm.

During Irma about 2,300 local residents took advantage of the free service, available to residents without their own form of transportation to evacuate. Pets are welcome if they have proof of vaccination and are crated. No pets were in evidence by 8 a.m., however.

Bus evacuations from the Civic Center were scheduled to continue until 6 p.m. Tuesday.

A Red Cross shelter in Macon is hosting almost 100 coastal evacuees, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Nearly 100 evacuees from Georgia’s coast have settled in at an American Red Cross emergency shelter in south Macon after many began arriving Monday to escape the likely path of slow-churning Hurricane Dorian.

As of late Tuesday afternoon, the shelter inside the South Bibb Recreation Center at 7035 Houston Road just south of Sardis Church Road was housing upward of 90 displaced residents, many from Glynn and Liberty counties in southeast Georgia.

Roughly a third of those at the shelter were described as people with medical needs and they were brought in by bus. Others traveled on their own, said shelter manager Stephen Pollitt.

Meanwhile, United Way of Central Georgia said its 2-1-1 Contact Center will continue to operate 24-hours a day, 7 days a week during Hurricane Dorian.

Evacuees can call 2-1-1 or text DorianGA to 898-211 to access information on food, shelter, and emergency relief services available in our area, according to a news release.

“We are deeply concerned about our neighbors fleeing the storm destined for the East Coast,” said George McCanless, President and CEO of United Way of Central Georgia. “Before, during, and after the storm, our 2-1-1 Contact Center is here to help our communities recover and rebuild. We want to spread the word, so people know, they can make a free call or text to get the help they need.”

A Red Cross shelter in Columbus has more than 240 evacuees, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The American Red Cross of West Central Georgia, in partnership with the city, began using the civic center as a shelter Monday night. It opened just hours before the first busload of evacuees arrived, said Adelaide Kirk, executive director, Red Cross of West Central Georgia.

As of Tuesday afternoon, around 240 people were being housed at the shelter. Six buses had already dropped off evacuees, and at least one more bus was expected Tuesday. The civic center could hold 800 to 1,000 evacuees, Kirk said.

Pet evacuees could also be arriving in Columbus. Paws Humane Society at 4900 Milgen Road is housing pets, according to the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency. It’s unclear how many evacuee pets have arrived in Columbus.

Nearly all of the people currently housed at the civic center are residents who couldn’t have left without assistance, but the shelter is open to all Dorian evacuees. All of the evacuees the civic center Tuesday afternoon were from Glynn County in southeast Georgia, Kirk said. The county is home to St. Simons Island and the city of Brunswick.

Augusta hotels are filling with evacuees, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Being “two hours from the beach” is a key quality-of-life attribute for metro Augusta residents. But it’s also a highly desirable distinction for tens of thousands of coastal evacuees during a hurricane.

And Hurricane Dorian is proving to be no exception. Area hotels are beginning to fill up with residents from Savannah, Ga., Charleston, S.C. and other coastal communities in its path.

“People understand Augusta is far enough away, but not too far,” said Tijuana Jenkins, general manager of The Partridge Inn. “Augusta has the recognition and the (hotel) bandwidth for people who don’t want to travel too far.”

The region’s inventory of 7,200 hotel rooms gives it the ability to handle more than 22,000 visitors, assuming an occupancy of three people per room. The actual number of visitors could be much higher because of evacuees staying in shelters, with friends and family or at homes or rooms rented through third-party services such as Airbnb.

Governor Kemp wants state agency heads to skip House budget hearings, according to the AJC.

Legislative plans are to send out letters to state agency directors asking them to copy House and Senate leaders on their proposals to deal with the 4% budget cuts Kemp is requiring this year and 6% next year. House Appropriations Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn, said he hoped to invite department heads to attend the Sept. 26-27 hearings to discuss what they propose to cut.

But the Kemp administration will tell agencies to ignore those requests, saying it wants to consider the proposals like it would any other budget plans, without legislative interference.

Kemp said the state would begin withholding money from agencies starting Oct 1.

Some massive enrollment-driven programs — such as k-12 schools, universities and Medicaid, the health care program for the poor and disabled — are exempt from the cuts.

In all, only about 23% of the state-funded portion of the budget was not exempted, but that still leaves several agencies on the hook for cuts, including the departments of Agriculture, Corrections, Driver Services, Public Health, public defenders, the Georgia State Patrol, the GBI, most of the Department of Natural Resources, and the administration of k-12 schools and colleges.

“We will work to take the governor’s concerns about a slowing economy into account as we begin this important work, and we look forward to working with Governor Kemp’s staff, state agency heads and economists to determine the prudent way forward,” England said last week.

But the Kemp administration plans to make clear it won’t participate, and neither will the people it has appointed to run state agencies.

Nick Conner may step off the Whitfield County SPLOST committee after qualifying for Cohutta Town Council, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Conner qualified on Friday for the November election for the Cohutta Town Council, one of four candidates seeking two seats on the council.

A bylaw of the SPLOST committee says a member can “not currently (be) an elected official nor expected to be a candidate for an election during the term of service.” The committee is expected to meet at least through mid-November.

Conner said it would be “understandable” if he is now removed from the SPLOST committee.

“There would be no negative feelings,” he said. “I understand their point of things. When I filled out the application form I said that I planned to run. But if it means resigning from the SPLOST committee, to better serve my town, that’s what I will do.”

Whitfield County Board of Commissioners Chairman Lynn Laughter said Conner became ineligible for the 16-member committee when he qualified to run for office, and his position will be filled by county alternate Micheal E. Kelley II.

Groundbreaking for a new Georgia State Patrol post in Suwanee was held, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Local elected officials, members of law enforcement, contractors and engineers celebrated the “groundbreaking” of a roughly $5 million Georgia State Patrol facility that will serve as a command post for 16 troopers and a HERO Unit along the Interstate 85 corridor in Suwanee.

“I’ve seen their (temporary) facilities on Plaster Avenue, and it’s been a great holding place for the time being, but this will be a much better spot,” Georgia State Patrol Public Information Officer Stephanie Stallings said. “One of the big words we heard today was teamwork, and that’s exactly what this is. There was huge teamwork today between the Gwinnett County commissioners — we’re so thankful for them to see the project through as well as DOT — and for us to be on board and to get the benefits of this building will be fantastic for Post 51-Gwinnett.”

State Rep. Eddie Lumsden (R-Rome) discussed the House Rural Development Council, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The House Rural Development Council will focus on jobs and high-speed internet access next week when it holds its second of five scheduled meetings this year.

This is the third year Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee, has served on the council, which was established to address the economic disparity between rural and urban counties in Georgia.

He gave as an example the proposal to expand telemedicine. That would ease the doctor shortage that makes industries shy away from rural areas and leads their young people to head for bigger cities.

“But you need rural broadband,” Lumsden said. “If you don’t have good access, how does that expand healthcare? And education — we have broadband at all the schools but students don’t have it at home.”

“Education is the cornerstone to building a more robust economy in any community, so it’s essential to begin this year’s work by examining the educational needs in our rural Georgia areas,” Lumsden said.

Floyd County is adding a parental accountability court, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Laura Lee, the regional child support services program director, said Floyd County has started a parental accountability court that targets chronic non-payers, many of whom have been in jail multiple times for failure to make support payments.

The court will have workers available to work one-on-one with the adult to “help them find work, help them find job skills, whatever barriers they may have.”

Floyd Superior Court Judge Kay Ann Wetherington will preside over the parental accountability court.

The child support recovery program served 5,487 children in Floyd County during FY 2018 — 4,288 are being served today.

A primary focus for the court’s programs is to help non-custodial parents find employment that would help them keep child support payments up-to-date.

Cornelia City Commission added a “Brunch Bill” referendum to the November 5, 2019 ballot, according to AccessWDUN.

Tuesday night, the city commission voted to place the “Brunch Bill” issue on the Nov. 5 municipal election ballot.

“The Brunch Bill is new legislation that was adopted last year, and it allows for the city to hold a referendum and let the voters decide whether or not restaurants can start serving alcohol beginning at 11 a.m. on Sunday mornings,” said City Manager Donald Anderson. “Currently, they can’t do it until 12:30 p.m., so tonight the commissioners adopted a resolution to instruct the county elections superintendent to do a call for this referendum to be held on Nov. 5 to let the voters decide.”

Also appearing on the city ballot Nov. 5 is a contested race for the Ward 1 City Commission seat. Incumbent Wesley A. Dodd Jr. will face Cornelia resident Mark Reed, a previous mayor of Baldwin.

Additionally, city voters, like those throughout Habersham County, will vote Nov. 5 on whether the county should issue $31.7 million in jail bonds to finance construction of a 314-bed jail to keep pace with the county’s growth.

Columbia County Commissioners voted to approve a rezoning for a new solar farm, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The project has caused debate among residents who are concerned about how it could affect property values, the environment and aesthetics.

The planning commission approved the rezoning Aug. 15 on the condition that the developer include at least a 25-foot buffer and provide a plat showing the portion of the property to be rezoned. The developer said there is not much data about how property values could be affected but that the land will be returned to its natural state at the end of the lease.

Residents questioned commissioners Tuesday about why they have not set a limit of how many solar farms can be built. The county has previously approved projects on Yelton Road and Ridge Road in Appling and on Parham Road in Grovetown.

“This commission has been very cognizant of the fact that we want to make sure that the landowners have the ability to do what they want to do with their property within reason, but we want to make sure we have what’s called smart growth,” county administrator Scott Johnson said.

A new record high toll rate was set on I-85, according to the AJC.

The cost to use the lanes between Old Peachtree Road to Shallowford Road hit a record $16.60 and promptly rose to $16.90 before topping out at an even $17, according to the State Road and Tollway Authority.

The previous record, set in August 2018, was $15.50.

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