Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 6, 2019

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 6, 2019

Join us Saturday, September 14, 2019 at Georgia State Stadium formerly Turner Field, for the ALS Walk to benefit the ALS Association Georgia Chapter.

My late wife, Stephanie Lotti, known here previously as Mrs. GaPundit, died in 2018 from ALS. During her disability, the ALS Association provided tremendous support to our family, for which I remain grateful.

The Mayflower left Plymouth, England for a voyage to America on September 6, 1620.

On September 7, 1864, General William T. Sherman sent a letter to his Confederate counterpart, General John Bell Hood, offering to transport civilians out of Atlanta for their safety.

The Georgia General Assembly appropriated $1 million for construction of a new State Capitol on September 8, 1883.

President William McKinley was shot on September 6, 1901. He is buried in Canton, Ohio, not far from the Professional Football Hall of Fame.

Alonzo Herndon founded the Atlanta Life Insurance Company on September 6, 1905, one of Georgia’s great success stories.

The Fulton County Courthouse was dedicated on September 8, 1914.

The first supermarket, a Piggly Wiggly, opened on September 6, 1916 in Memphis, Tennessee.

On September 6, 1941, Margaret Mitchell christened the cruiser USS Atlanta – Atlanta would later sink after being hit by 50 shells and a torpedo during the Battle of Guadalcanal.

The Professional Football Hall of Fame opened on September 7, 1963 in Canton, Ohio.

The Summerhill Race Riot broke out in Atlanta on September 6, 1966.

Future Atlanta resident Curtis Mayfield saw his song, “Superfly” turn gold on September 7, 1972.

Here’s my favorite song by Curtis Mayfield, “People Get Ready.”

President Gerald Ford pardoned former President Richard Nixon on September 8, 1974 for “all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in during the period from January 20, 1969 through August 9, 1974.”

Former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter returned to the Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia, on September 6, 1976 to kick off the final phase of his presidential campaign.

On September 8, 1976, the Georgia State Board of Education began reviewing the FY 1977 Department of Education budget, the first to exceed one billion dollars.

On September 7, 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed the Panama Canal Treaty, which promised to turn over control of the canal to Panama by 2000.

On September 8, 1986, Herschel Walker made his professional football debut with the Dallas Cowboys.

Google was founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin on September 7, 1998.

On September 6, 2014, USS John Warner (SSN-785), a mighty Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine, was christened at Newport News Shipbuilding. Big John calls Naval Station Norfolk its homeport. USS John Warner was commissioned on August 1, 2015 at Norfolk Naval Station.

Happy 81st birthday on Sunday to Sam Nunn, who graduated from Emory College (1960) and Emory University School of Law (1963) before being elected to the United States Senate in 1972. If you were born before November 6, 1972, you’ve never seen his name on your ballot.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Early voting is open in the September 17 Special Election for Mayor of Perry, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Randall Walker, a former city councilman, and Robbin Jackson, a Perdue Farms employee, qualified for the race to finish out [former Mayor Jimmy] Faircloth’s term, which ends in 2021. The City Council has called a special meeting Sept. 23 to swear in the winner of the election as mayor.

Governor Brian Kemp lifted the mandatory evacuation of coastal Georgia.

[Thursday] at 9:30 AM, Governor Brian P. Kemp lifted the mandatory evacuation order for people east of Interstate 95 in Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Glynn, Liberty, and McIntosh Counties.

So far, Bryan, Camden, Glynn, and Liberty Counties have authorized re-entry for residents and visitors. The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) has begun inspection of roads and bridges in affected counties. Some roads and bridges may remain impassable even after rescission of the mandatory evacuation order. The F.J. Torras (St. Simons Island), Downing Musgrove (Jekyll Island), and Tybee Island Causeways are cleared for travel. The Sidney Lanier Bridge is also clear for travel. GDOT is inspecting the US-17 Savannah River Bridge.

“I want to thank the countless emergency management officials, law enforcement, first responders, local leaders, and Georgians who worked together to prepare and respond to Hurricane Dorian. As Governor, I am incredibly proud of our statewide collaboration and deeply grateful that we experienced no loss of life. Many Georgians still have challenges ahead – power outages, fallen trees, and property damage – in the aftermath of this powerful storm, but I am confident that we will address them and emerge even stronger,” said Governor Kemp. “Now, we must stand together and offer our assistance to the Bahamas and our neighbors, South Carolina and North Carolina.”

From the Savannah Morning News:

Chatham County Emergency Management officials tweeted that all who evacuated may re-enter.

CEMA said they will be working throughout the day to return those who evacuated to an inland shelter through the Evacuation Assembly Area. In coordination with the State of Georgia and Department of Public Health, efforts to return our Functional Access and Medical Needs population are underway and planning efforts to return them to their homes will begin tomorrow.

Soldiers, civilians, and family members of Hunter Army Airfield (HAAF) are to follow the guidance of the Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield senior command.

Savannah had no reported injuries from the storm, according to the Savannah Morning News.

No injuries were reported from the storm. Dorian toppled about 20 trees countywide. Power outages peaked at around 16,000 county-wide Thursday morning and dropped quickly as crews made repairs. Outages occurred throughout the county but were highest on Tybee and Wilmington islands, Isle of Hope, and Ferguson Avenue near Skidaway Island.

Emergency managers are looking at data from Georgia Power, AT&T and Verizon to determine usages before and after the evacuation order and estimate how many people actually evacuated, Jones said. He downplayed the notion that Savannah residents’ experience with Dorian would make them less likely to evacuate in the future.

“Well, we have a very well educated community,” he said. “They saw the damages that we have with previous storms, they saw the storm that was coming our way. And you know, a lot of the decisions that were made to evacuate were personal decisions based on history.”

The storm brought 1.29 inches of rain to Hunter Army Airfield. The actual storm surge of 3.5 feet fell within the predicted 3-5 feet, but did not coincide with the high tide as forecasters initially worried it would. U.S. 80 to Tybee did not flood and never closed. The tide gauge at Fort Pulaski reached 9.55 feet at its height, lower than was seen last weekend during high tides unrelated to Hurricane Dorian.

The sustained winds at Fort Pulaski topped out overnight at tropical storm force of about 41 mph, gusting to about 60 mph. Gusts at the Savannah Hilton head International Airport reached 45 mph. Sustained winds there reached 28 mph.

Savannah and Thunderbolt lifted their 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfews as of Thursday.

Most of Augusta’s evacuees are returning home, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

With Gov. Brian Kemp lifting the evacuation order for Savannah on Thursday, most but not all of some 1,300 evacuees staying in Augusta shelters headed for home.

As Hurricane Dorian churned up the South Carolina coast toward North Carolina and away from coastal Georgia, the evacuees who’d been bused in from Savannah began boarding charter buses at 2 p.m., starting with 228 staying at Butler High School.

President Trump will get another appointment to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, according to the AJC.

President Donald Trump has yet another seat to fill on the federal appeals court in Atlanta, giving him the chance to appoint almost half of the court’s judges during his first term in office.

Judge Stanley Marcus became the latest member of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to tell Trump he will take senior status with a reduced caseload. Marcus said he will become a senior judge when his successor is sworn into office or on March 2, whichever comes first.

Although Marcus was appointed by a Democrat, President Bill Clinton, he has often sided with the 11th Circuit’s conservative wing.

The 11th Circuit is allotted five judges from Florida, four from Georgia and three from Alabama.

Trump previously filled two Georgia seats with former Georgia Supreme Court Justice Britt Grant and former Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Elizabeth Branch. Trump filled an Alabama seat with former state Solicitor General Kevin Newsom.

Last month, Judge Gerald Tjoflat told Trump that he, too, will take senior status. Trump has yet to nominate Tjoflat’s successor.

Trump’s nominees to succeed Marcus and Tjoflat must be from Florida, because Marcus’ chambers are in Miami and Tjoflat’s are in Jacksonville.

Southern Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Harry Jay Altman, II is resigning his seat on the bench, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Southern Circuit Chief Judge Harry Jay Altman has submitted a letter of resignation to Gov. Brian Kemp.

“… It is time for me to retire. It is time to pass on the responsibilities of my position,” according to a copy of the letter sent to The Valdosta Daily Times.

Altman, 68, was appointed to the bench in August 1994, serving in the position for a quarter-century. The Southern Judicial Circuit covers Brooks, Colquitt, Echols, Lowndes and Thomas counties.

He became chief judge of the Southern Circuit in 2009.

Altman said his resignation becomes effective Jan. 1.

Altman, a Thomasville native, graduated from Thomasville High School, Washington and Lee University and the Georgia Law School, returning to Thomasville after finishing law school in 1975.

State Rep. Ed Rynders (R-Albany) is resigning his seat, according to the Albany Herald.

A 17-year House veteran, Rynders revealed to The Albany Herald that he has health concerns that are part of a “perfect storm” of issues that led him to make the decision to step down from his seat in the House with a year left on his current two-year term.

“My wife, Jane, and I had already been talking about what we would do when we retire, and two of the places we talked about were the Georgia Coast and Athens,” Rynders said during a lengthy Thursday-morning conversation. “The local (Lee County) school system also made some personnel changes that would have made my daughter (Megan Ealam) one of my wife’s supervisors (at Twin Oaks Elementary School), which had the possibility of being awkward.”

“Plus, and not a lot of people know this, I had a heart attack in June and needed three stents. I had health issues going back to the last session of the Legislature — I even missed a couple of votes because of these issues, which I rarely do — and knew something was wrong. I’m not one who shares my personal issues with a lot of people, but I was doing some cleaning (on rental property) while Jane was out of town and it grabbed me. I got in my truck, tried to catch my breath, drove home and went to bed. But (the symptoms) did not go away.”

“I called (now former Phoebe CEO) Joel Wernick and told him I thought I was having a heart attack,” Rynders continued. “I managed to walk in, and within a minute of getting there they had me hooked up.”

“But going through the voting machine issue during the last session required a lot of ‘heavy lifting’ on my part, and with redistricting coming up, I knew there was going to be a great deal of pressure once again. In the end, I look at the distinguished careers of two men I admire, Doug Everett and Johnny Isakson, and one thing I took from conversations with them is ‘It’s OK to walk away.’”

When Rynders sends a resignation letter he has written to Gov. Brian Kemp, Kemp will set a date for a special election to complete the year left on Rynders’ current term.

Deloitte Consulting issued a report on Georgia health care to Gov. Kemp, according to the AJC.

Enabled by a new law granting him a budget and power to draw up new health care proposals for the state, Gov. Brian Kemp hired the consulting firm Deloitte to report back to him on the landscape of Georgia health care. The goal of the report is to help him chart the new path. He recently got Deloitte’s findings.

Georgia has worse access to health care than most states, such as available doctors and mental health care providers. In one recent year, 17% of Georgians said they needed to see a doctor in the past 12 months but couldn’t because of cost.

And it shows in health outcomes. Georgia, the home of nationally known hospitals and other top health programs, ranks in the bottom one-third of states for the health outcomes of its residents, such as premature deaths, infant mortality or diabetes.

Large numbers of uninsured means people who don’t get care until it’s an emergency, or ever. It means people who get care in emergency rooms, leaving hospitals and caregivers with unpaid bills.

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan convened a Task Force on Healthcare Access and Costs, according to the AJC.

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan convened the meeting with the goal of guiding future legislation, he said.

“Ultimately, the goal of this task force is to create a plan,” Duncan told the attendees. “It’s not already written. But to create a plan for us to be able to tackle some of the biggest initiatives in Georgia.”

Duncan announced the task force as a means to find private-sector-oriented solutions for Georgia health care. Thursday’s meeting was the first of several, and it focused on data.

The task force also heard from speakers on telemedicine and using data analytics to detect fraud. The committee, which includes health lobbyists, officials and policymakers, is scheduled to meet again Oct. 9.

Bulloch County was minimally damaged by Dorian, according to the Statesboro Herald.

In Bulloch County, only one tree was reported to have fallen Wednesday night — a tree on Niver Road, said Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn. No damages were reported anywhere in the county, and “sporadic power outages” experienced in some small areas were not caused by wind, he said.

With Dorian taking a path similar to Hurricane Matthew, wavering from Category 5 to Category 2 and then back to Category 3 strength, Bulloch County public safety was prepared for the worst, he said. Work crews, emergency responders and law enforcement stayed out all night, a curfew was set for midnight to daylight, and everyone was ready to handle high winds, flooding rains and power outages. Fortunately, those never appeared.

Georgia Southern University remains closed for classes Friday, but offices will be open. Ogeechee Technical College is normally closed on Fridays.

Bulloch County public schools and related activities will resume a normal schedule Friday, said marketing director Hayley Greene.

Also suffering minimal impact, according to The Brunswick News were Camden County, Glynn County, and the Golden Isles.

Damage to Tybee Island was de minimis, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is assessing coastal damage from Dorian, according to The Brunswick News.

“It’s a little early to even get people on the islands. We’re still kind of assessing what the status of the infrastructure out there is…,” said Mark Dodd, head of the state Department of Natural Resources’ sea turtle program. “It’s going to be a couple days before we’re able to get people out on the islands and get roads cleared and get equipment running again. The islands we work on, they’re mostly remote islands, and it’s really logistically difficult — without a hurricane — to get to all the beaches.”

“We had to move the equipment and kayaks and canoes and ways that we access the more remote parts of the beaches have all been put up for the hurricane,” Dodd said. “So, we’ve got to get all that back into place before we can get to some of these areas.”

“Just looking at the tide gauge data … the tides were actually higher prior to the storm during the new moon period,’ Dodd said. “Obviously, with the storm there was a lot of wave energy associated with that, so we expect that we lost some beach, and certainly that we lost some of the nests that were at low elevations on the beach. But, we also think that a lot of nests probably weather the storm — the higher nests on the beach weathered the storm without any negative effect.”

Over on Cumberland Island, assessment continues as U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-1, announced late Thursday that the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded a grant of more than $3.5 million for repair of the Cumberland docks damaged by Hurricane Irma in 2017.

“As the representative of the entire coast of Georgia, I understand the critical importance of not only preparing for severe weather, but also ensuring recovery,” Carter said in a statement. “This grant is very important as it will work to return the docks to pre-disaster conditions.”

Augusta law enforcement agencies will purchase crime fighting technology with a federal grant, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

At a joint press conference Thursday, U.S. Attorney Bobby Christine announced the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office and the Augusta Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s office have been awarded grants through the DOJ’s Project Safe Neighborhoods program to purchase expensive equipment.

Sheriff Richard Roundtree said the $35,790 grant for his department will be used to buy GPS tracking equipment, covert cameras and more mobile fingerprint scanners. The department will have enough scanners now to ensure there is one available in each zone so officers can confirm identities in the field.

Whitfield County‘s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) advisory committee announced criteria for projects to be included in a prospective referendum, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Committee members agreed that any SPLOST projects should be non-recurring, agreeable to the voters and positively impact a substantial portion of the population.

The committee members appeared in favor of paying off at least some — or all — of the $2.955 million remaining on a bond for construction of a fire station on Riverbend Road in the county’s southern section. That was listed as the top priority by Edward O’Brien, the fire chief for Whitfield County.

“We need to establish some sort of general guidelines” for what a SPLOST project ought to be in Whitfield County, said Chris Shiflett, chairman of the committee. For Shiflett, projects warranting consideration should be extraordinary, “truly beneficial to the community,” and outside the normal budgets of the respective governmental entities.

SPLOST is a financing method for funding capital and other special projects; if approved by voters, the 1% tax is levied on most goods sold in the county.

A SPLOST allows a county to receive revenue that would otherwise have to derive from property taxes, said Pam Partain, a committee member, noting, “I’m a fan of SPLOST.”

Bob Huskey, another committee member, believes projects covered by a SPLOST need to benefit a significant number of residents to succeed at the ballot box. This community has a history of voting against SPLOST referendums, including earlier this year, he noted. However, “if we come up with the right list, I think we can get it done,” he said.

Chatsworth will open qualifying for a November 5 special election to city council, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Qualifying will take place Wednesday, Sept. 18, and Thursday, Sept. 19, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Friday, Sept. 20, from 8:30 a.m. to noon for the unexpired term for the Post 1 seat formerly held by K.W. Gong. That term expires on Dec. 31, 2021.

Gong stepped down last month to run for mayor. He is unopposed in that race. Mayor Tyson Haynes did not seek re-election.

Nine candidates for Atlanta Board of Education will meet in a forum before the September 17 special election, according to the AJC.

Voters will have a couple of opportunities to hear from Atlanta school board candidates before the Sept. 17 election for the District 2 seat.

The need for the special election was caused by the departure earlier this year of former school board member Byron Amos, who left to run for Atlanta City Council.

A League of Women Voters of Atlanta-Fulton County forum will take place at 6 p.m. Sept. 10 at Lindsay Street Baptist Church, 550 Lindsay St. NW.

KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools will host a forum at 6 p.m. Sept. 11 at KIPP Atlanta Collegiate High School, 98 Anderson Ave. NW. The charter school network operates several schools in District 2.

The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension completed its “Great Georgia Pollinator Census” last month, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

More than 4,500 people participated in the nation’s first statewide pollinator census and recorded seeing about 134,000 insect pollinators.

Volunteers from 133 of Georgia’s 159 counties participated, said Becky Griffin, school and community garden coordinator with the extension and the count’s organizer.

Volunteers, including many school groups, were asked to watch a blooming plant for 15 minutes, counting the insect pollinators that visited and putting them into broad categories such as honeybees, bumblebees, butterflies and so on, along with information about time of day and location.

Griffin expects to be able to derive some scientific data from the count — for example, the presence of native bees.

“That’s a really important piece of data,” she said. Georgia has about 400 species of native bees.

Norcross is soliciting bids to install speed cameras, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The city issued an invitation for companies to submit bids for the purchase and installation of speed cameras, which would capture speeders without the presence of an officer. The cameras capture the plates of speeder and notify police, who issue tickets to offenders.

The bid invitation says the chosen vendor will provide and install all equipment and monitor the camera system for violations. The equipment and monitoring will be provided at no cost to the City of Norcross with revenue sharing of collections.

“Like many agencies now in Georgia, we are asking for bids to place speed cameras at four of our city school zones where we have had a history a chronic speeding problems,” Norcross Police Chief Bill Grogan said. “This is all under House Bill 978 approved last year by house and senate.”

House Bill 978 amended state laws regarding penalties and fees for overtaking stopped school buses and opened the door for cities to install automated traffic enforcement safety devices in school zones.

Suwanee City Council voted to amend their alcohol ordinance, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

A recent amendment to an ordinance approved by the Suwanee City Council will allow patrons of licensed restaurants or vendors to carry mixed drinks outside at Town Center Park.

The City Council’s minutes from that meeting specifically say that Chapter 6 of the City Code of Ordinances will now allow mixed drinks outdoors in the Town Center District. The language of the ordinance states “licensed eating establishments, downtown pubs, and mobile food vendor-served establishments located in the Town Center District may sell individual alcoholic beverages for consumption to persons authorized to possess or consume alcoholic beverages in the Town Center District including Town Center Park.”

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