Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 5, 2019


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 5, 2019

On September 5, 1774, the Continental Congress convened for the first time at Carpenter’s Hall in Philadelphia; delegates attended from all the colonies except Georgia.

The Heart of Atlanta Motel opened at 255 Courtland Street in downtown Atlanta on September 5, 1956. It included a three-story diving platform reached by spiral stairs and a pool large enough to hold a ski boat. African-Americans were not allowed at the Heart of Atlanta. [Photos © Georgia State University]

heart of atlanta

After passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned racial discrimination in interstate commerce, the Heart of Atlanta’s owner sued the federal government, asserting that the Act was an overly broad interpretation of the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.

The resulting decision by the United States Supreme Court upheld the Act, finding that Congress was within its authority to ban racial discrimination in businesses affecting interstate commerce.

Atlanta Time Machine has a webpage with interesting images of the Motel.

On September 5, 1969, United States Army Lieutenant William Calley was charged with murder in connection with the deaths of 109 Vietnamese civilians at My Lai. An Army inquiry listed 30 people who knew of the event and charges were filed against 14; Calley was the only conviction. Later, President Nixon paroled Calley. From 1975 to 2005 or 2006, Calley lived and worked in Columbus, Georgia, before moving to Atlanta. In 2009, Calley apologized for the events at My Lai while speaking to a meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Click here for Georgia Power’s outage map.

Glynn County experienced light power outages yesterday due to Hurricane Dorian, according to The Brunswick News.

A large Georgia Power Company crew is already on standby in the Golden Isles and working to repair any power outages that may occur today as Hurricane Dorian nears and weather intensifies, according company officials said.

There were scattered power outages in Glynn County, according to Georgia Power’s outage map. As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, there were 49 total outages with more than 2,400 people affected, according to the map.

Additionally, Georgia Power line crews statewide were summed to pack for a mission of up to one week and be “ready to roll” as soon as Dorian passes. Staging areas along the coast already are set up to receive these crews. Neighboring power crews in Alabama and Mississippi also are on standby.

Coastal Georgia hospitals have evacuated some patients, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Ahead of Dorian’s approach, several babies in neonatal intensive care units have been transferred to Augusta University Medical Center and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Piedmont Columbus hospitals, the Georgia Hospital Association said Monday.

The Augusta Chronicle reported five neonatal patients were brought to University Hospital from Memorial Health in Savannah, one by airlift and two sets of twins by ambulance.

And Fox 5 Atlanta said that a team from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta transported 10 babies from Savannah, who are now in a neonatal intensive care unit at the pediatric organization’s Scottish Rite hospital.

Senior care centers in Brunswick and St. Marys were being evacuated and family members had been notified. All outpatient services and elective surgeries were canceled, and patients were to be contacted later to reschedule the procedures.

More than 1300 evacuees are being hosted in Richmond County school facilities, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Richmond County Schools are now the temporary home of 1,321 Savannah residents evacuated in anticipation of Hurricane Dorian.

The evacuees, bused from Savannah, are being housed at five Richmond County high schools, when two additional shelters opened at Glenn Hills Middle School and Pine Hill Middle School, Augusta Fire Chief and Emergency Management Agency Director Chris James said.

Richmond County public schools will remain closed on Friday, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Richmond County School System will remain closed on Friday to continue shelter support for Hurricane Dorian evacuees currently housed on school campuses from Savannah.

The decision to remain closed on Friday is a direct result of Gov. Brian Kemp’s remaining mandatory evacuation order and the resources necessary to support each shelter site, according to a school system release. The school closings had originally been set for Monday through Thursday.

United States Marine Corps recruits were evacuated from Parris Island, SC to Albany, according to the Albany Herald.

arine Corps recruits from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, totaling nearly 7,000 in all, have come to stay at Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany while evacuation orders remain in effect due to Hurricane Dorian.

With their drill instructors alongside them, a relocation does not stop the recruits’ training.

“Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany is in a unique position to service some of the military units on the Gulf Coast and up and down the Eastern Seaboard as safe haven missions, which is one of our primary missions,” Col. Alphonso Trimble, commanding officer of MCLB-Albany, said in a social media video clip.

Following an evacuation order issued by South Carolina officials that went into effect Monday, the recruits began arriving Tuesday evening and into Wednesday. Brig. Gen. James Glynn, commanding general for the depot, said in a video message that the evacuation order is expected to be lifted this afternoon, and that normal operations at Parris Island ought to resume at noon Friday.

Former State Representative Roger Williams has died, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Roger Williams, who served 22 years in the Georgia House of Representatives from Dalton and later was a member of the State Transportation Board, died Wednesday at the age of 85. Allyson Williams said her father had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Williams was elected as a Democrat and served five consecutive terms from 1977 to 1986. He was elected as a Republican in a 2001 special election to finish the unexpired term of the late Harold Mann and was re-elected each time until he did not run for re-election after the 2012 legislative session.

Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said Williams enjoyed a level of trust and respect among legislators that few have attained.

“Roger Williams served with grace, dignity and integrity,” Ralston said. “He cared deeply about his community and worked hard every day to represent Dalton and Whitfield County. Not only was he a great leader, but he was a dear friend of mine and a solid rock of wisdom and good counsel.”

After he left the state legislature, the local legislative conference elected Williams as the area’s 14th Congressional District representative on the State Transportation Board.

The Georgia Senate Study Committee on Passenger Vehicle Seat Safety Belts met yesterday to discuss the existing exemption for backseat passengers, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

State Sen. Tonya Anderson, D-Lithonia, is leading the initiative to fill in the gap in the current law that exempts adult passengers in the back seat of vehicles from having to wear a seat belt.

“To find this loophole and to bring it in front of the general assembly is in the interest of public safety and saving lives,” Anderson said.

Georgia is one of the 20 states that do not enforce the use of rear seatbelts. Nationally, 47% of motorists killed in car crashes were not wearing seat belts, said Allen Poole, director of the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.

“Just because you’re in the back of the vehicle doesn’t mean you’re more safe than in the front of the vehicle,” Poole said.

Insurance rates are high in Georgia because of the state’s high number of car crashes — especially in the metropolitan area, Poole said. Georgia is ranked in the top five states nationally that have the highest number of car accidents.

Georgia Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Mark Williams signed an order temporarily halting the shellfish harvest, according to The Brunswick News.

“This closure is precautionary and made in the interest of protecting public health,” according to a statement by the DNR’s Coastal Resources Division. “Shellfish harvest will reopen after DNR has conducted water quality and shellfish meat samples and ensured bacterial thresholds are safe for human consumption.”

“Predicted impacts from Hurricane Doran include heavy rains and larger than normal tidal surges that may result in elevated bacterial levels from run off into the growing areas resulting in potential contamination of shellfish beds. This closure includes clams and any other bivalve molluscan shellfish from all Georgia waters at this time.”

Lake Park City Council will hold an emergency meeting today, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Lake Park City Council has called an emergency meeting for Thursday to discuss finding a new municipal court judge — a move the current judge says is financially motivated.

The city clerk’s office sent out a statement Wednesday that the meeting will be held 6 p.m. The clerk’s office also confirmed that discussing a change of judges is the reason for the meeting.

The current municipal court judge, Carlos Rodgers, says council wants him out because he is too lenient on fines.

“If someone comes in with a ticket for “no insurance,’ which is a $600 fine, but has proof he’s corrected the problem, I’ll cut it in half,” he said. “All the classes judges take tell us not to be hard on fines.”

Statesboro City Council adopted a new blight tax, according to the Statesboro Herald.

City Council took another step Tuesday toward a carrot-and-stick approach to compel repair or removal of dilapidated, abandoned houses and the cleanup of other “unsafe” properties, approving a first reading of a blight tax ordinance.

If enacted after a second reading, the ordinance as drafted would impose a special tax, seven times the city’s regular millage rate, on properties deemed “blighted” by the Municipal Court, until ordered improvements are made. After improvements, the tax rate would rate would be reduced to one-half the regular rate for from one to four years.

“This is a hybrid carrot-stick approach to blighted properties within the community,” said City Attorney Cain Smith, presenting the draft ordinance.

Medical College of Georgia is working to reduce the physician shortage in rural Georgia, according to the Statesboro Herald.

A plan by the Medical College of Georgia, part of Augusta University, to send more new doctors to underserved, rural counties has executives of some hospitals in the area interested. MCG intends to shorten medical school by one year and make it tuition-free for up to 50 new physicians each year who fulfill a commitment to complete their post-graduate residencies in Georgia and then serve at least six years in underserved, rural Georgia counties.

Currently, about 75 percent of the new doctors graduating from the five medical schools in Georgia go to other states for their residencies. Where new physicians complete their residency then becomes the largest factor in deciding where they will practice, so most do not return home, Augusta University President Brooks Keel, Ph.D., said in an interview in Statesboro last week.

He is seeking support from state lawmakers and the public for the Medical College of Georgia’s plan to place newly educated physicians in rural communities in Georgia and eliminate much of their student debt load. Even at MCG, which has the lowest tuition for in-state students of any medical school in Georgia, student loan debt averages $150,000 to $200,000 by the time a new physician graduates, Keel said.

So far, Augusta University has been allotted $500,000 for continued planning in this year’s state budget, and Keel said Gov. Brian Kemp has been “tremendously supportive.” Philanthropic and corporate support will also be sought, said Keel, who suggested that communities will need “buy-in,” such as providing a building for a medical practice or having a car dealership furnish a car for a new doctor.

Warner Robins Election Superintendent Michelle Riley addressed challenges to two city council candidates, according to the Macon Telegraph.

After a hearing earlier this week, City Election Superintendent Michelle Riley found that Zachary Adam Collins is not qualified to seek the post, according to a city of Warner Robins news release.

Another candidate, Eric Langston, also challenged due to residency, was found to be qualified to run after a separate hearing earlier this week.

Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson raised the possibility of an active campaign against a regional sales tax for transportation, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

In order to keep the transportation tax from competing head-to-head with a new local sales tax set to appear on the ballot for Muscogee voters next fall, Henderson asked leaders from 15 neighboring counties to consider delaying a vote until 2021 or 2022.

The region has the option to put the transportation tax on the ballot in 2020, and again in 2022, should it fail.

Henderson made the comments Wednesday morning during a meeting of the River Valley Regional Transportation Roundtable. He said Muscogee County has an “overwhelming critical need” to replace the government center, which will cost anywhere from $100 million to $150 million.

To do that, council will ask voters to approve a 1% sales tax as opposed to issuing debt, the financial burden of which would fall on property owners.

But if it ends up head-to-head on the 2020 ballot with the county’s local tax (called special purpose local option sales tax or SPLOST), it would put the council in an “awkward position” to “actively campaign against the TSPLOST,” Henderson said.

The Floyd County Democratic Party will host an event Saturday, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Republican Matt Reeves will run again for State Senate District 48, according to the Forsyth Herald.

Reeves was the 2018 Republican candidate for the seat, which represents parts of Duluth, Johns Creek, Suwanee, Peachtree Corners and Berkeley Lake. He lost to Democrat Zahra Karinshak 53.6 percent to 46.4 percent.

“First, I want to thank the over 30,000 citizens who voted for me last cycle, and I will continue to keep reaching out to voters who didn’t,” Reeves said. “If you want a bipartisan problem-solver focused on health care, our schools, keeping our community safe and fiscal conservatism, then I’m your candidate.”

“I care deeply about our families, homeowners, working people, and small businesses and will fight hard in the State Senate for our values and quality of life, working with our local elected officials,” Reeves said. “We are going to work hard to raise money and bring our message to all the voters in District 48 in 2020.”

Reeves could be running for an open seat. Karinshak announced earlier this month she intends to run for U.S. House District 7.

My favorite headline of the week comes from the Cherokee Tribune & Ledger News: Lawn parking dispute leads to aggravated assault arrest

A 70-year-old Woodstock man was jailed Saturday after he allegedly pulled a gun on a man he had reportedly ordered to get off his lawn.

Malone then told the deputy that visitors to a nearby house had parked on his lawn, which he pays to have maintained. He said he went over to the house and asked the woman who lives there to have the vehicles removed from his lawn.

The 80-year-old woman who owns the house told a deputy she was hosting a family reunion and that Malone was yelling and using profanity, including in front of children.

The AJC looks at why some municipalities in Georgia are sticking with paper ballots for local elections.

[I]n Chattahoochee Hills and about 70 other cities, residents vote using paper ballots. In many of those cities, the votes are even tallied by hand.

On election night in Chattahoochee Hills, residents can pile into City Hall to watch City Clerk Dana Wicher and a handful of poll workers open a locked metal ballot box and call out the names on each ballot. Like keeping score at a baseball game, they can even tally along.

“Folks like coming in and doing the paper ballots. It’s that old-town community feeling,” Wicher said. “There is some suspense. There’s probably more transparency with the paper system.”

Residents in six Georgia cities will even use mechanical lever machines during November’s elections. Those machines have been known to occasionally fail to record votes, and they lack the kind of paper trail provided by paper ballots. But they also avoid the risks of hacking inherent to computerized voting systems.

Kristi Ash, the elections superintendent in Loganville, said she expects this election will be the last one where residents vote on such machines. While they’re relatively reliable, she said only two people in the state know how to program the machines, and they are getting older. Residents often ask whether the city ever plans to update its technology.

[S]tate Sen. Jeff Mullis, a Chickamauga Republican who thought he won his first election to the state Senate, in 1998, by 23 votes. But when election officials conducted a recount, they found 151 additional paper ballots, with just six of those new votes being cast for Mullis.

“I am totally 100% against a handwritten paper ballot. It can be fraudulently done in a back room somewhere and added to the ballot box,” said Mullis, the chairman of the powerful Senate Rules Committee. “I’m glad we got the electronic machines because I think they’re very trustworthy.”

In Chattahoochee Hills, it cost $1,800 to run city elections in 2017; the cost to contract with Fulton County this fall would have been $6,722.

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