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

30
Sep

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

Wyoming adopted the first state constitution to allow women to vote on September 30, 1889.

President Woodrow Wilson spoke in favor of Women’s Suffrage in an address to Congress on September 30, 1918. The bill to pass the 19th Amendment would die in the Senate that year after passing the House.

On September 30, 1927, Babe Ruth hit his 60th home run of the season.

On September 30, 1976, Democrat Jimmy Carter led the Harris Poll for President over President Gerald Ford by a 50-41 margin. In November 1976, the popular vote tallied 50.08% for Carter to 48.01% for Ford, with an Independent taking nearly a point.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office will host a blood drive in honor of a local native who was disabled in the military, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Snellville native and U.S. Army Special Forces staff sergeant [Justin Lascek] was in critical condition in March after a life-threatening injury during his second deployment to Afghanistan. An improvised explosive device exploded during a combat operation in a mountainous area. It cost Lascek both his legs, but not his life. One of Lascek’s friends died in the explosion.

Hoffman said her son lives in Colorado, but she will be on hand at the blood drive to greet donors. The sheriff’s office hosted a blood drive in honor of fallen Gwinnett County Police Department officer Antwan Toney in February. Members of Toney’s friends and family made the trip to Lawrenceville from Los Angeles.

Volkodav said the sheriff’s office was eager to host the drive because of the military connections of several of its deputies and staff. Military and law enforcement share the same discipline and focus, and it makes for good partnerships.

She encouraged those interested in participating to register at redcrossblood.org.

“I think most citizens are deeply appreciative of people who chose a life of service,” Volkodav said. “Whether your career is in service of your country or community, most people have a deep appreciation of people who chose that life of services. Certainly law enforcement officers, who often suffer and risk lives, we can appreciate the military.”

Former Cobb County Commission Chair Tim Lee has died, according to WSB-TV.

Former Cobb County Commission Chairman Tim Lee has died following a battle with cancer, his family confirmed Sunday afternoon.

Lee was surrounded by his family when he died at Northeast Georgia Medical Center about 1:30 p.m., according to family spokeswoman Kellie Brownlow.

Lee may be best known for bringing SunTrust Park and the Braves to Cobb County by negotiating the public financing deal.

“The Braves will tell you there is no SunTrust Park without Tim Lee,” Brownlow said. “He had a vision for this area. He wanted the Cumberland CID area to be a place where people lived and worked and played, and when this opportunity came along, he said this was what he was waiting for.”

Brownlow sent this statement on behalf of Lee’s son, Christian Lee.

“My father died peacefully surrounded by friends and family. He fought his disease with courage and tenacity, but in the end, God had different plans. Our family is humbled by the legacy my dad leaves behind, one that not only includes the Atlanta Braves, an economic juggernaut for the future growth and prosperity of Cobb County, but also one of a man with integrity in his decisions, who fearlessly led and did so with a playfulness and humor for which he will be so missed.”

Georgia Office of Planning and Budget Director Kelly Farr addressed the legislature’s Appropriations Committee, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Georgia’s budget director told lawmakers on Friday that Gov. Brian Kemp is trying to avoid state employee layoffs even as he orders budget cuts.

Office of Planning and Budget Director Kelly Farr, speaking Friday before a joint meeting of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, told lawmakers that state officials don’t entirely understand why revenue collections are lagging.

The Republican governor has ordered agencies to cut 4% from their budgets this year and proposed 6% cuts from the 2021 budget that lawmakers will write beginning in January. Many areas of the $27.5 billion budget are exempt from cuts, however, including most education services and the state-federal Medicaid program. This year’s cuts, which begin next week, amount to about $200 million. Next year’s cuts would be about $300 million.

Farr noted that when a number of agencies reported they planned job cuts, he sent a letter last week telling them to justify why they weren’t cutting other expenses instead. He said budget staffers are examining how many state agency jobs are vacant and how many employees normally quit, retire or are fired. He said officials are also examining travel, vendor contracts and other expenses.

State House District 71 voters will go to the polls in the Special Runoff Election tomorrow, according to the AJC.

Newnan-area voters will choose between two Republican candidates Tuesday in a runoff election that’s become a referendum of sorts on House Speaker David Ralston.

Marcy Westmoreland Sakrison and Philip Singleton received the most votes in a special election earlier this month to replace former state Rep. David Stover, R-Newnan.

Singleton has fashioned himself as the anti-establishment candidate, picking up the baton from Stover in calling for Ralston to step down from his position as House speaker, the top job in the chamber.

Sakrison, the daughter of a former state House Republican leader and congressman, is supported by prominent Republicans, including Ralston. Ralston donated $2,800 to Sakrison. Other Republican lawmakers donated at least $10,500 to Sakrison, and several lobbyists and statehouse special interests also donated to her campaign.

“Speaker Ralston, I believe, is supporting me because the person who was in the seat before me voted no to just about everything — and the guy running against me has essentially pledged to do the same,” she said. “The speaker is not supporting me because I am going to be his pawn. I’m going to represent House District 71.”

Georgia State House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) appointed two new members to the House Rural Development Council, according to the Albany Herald.

State Rep. Gerald Greene, R-Cuthbert, has been appointed as a member, and Rep. Greg Morris, R-Vidalia, has been named an ex-officio member.

“Chairman Greene and Chairman Morris are respected leaders in our House who have a deep commitment to the quality of life in rural Georgia,” Ralston said. “I know they will lend their expertise to the ongoing conversations on critical issues like broadband, infrastructure and work force development as the RDC works to expand opportunity across the state.”

Greene will fill the vacancy on the RDC left by the resignation of Rep. Ed Rynders, R-Leesburg.

Morris will be an ex-officio member in his capacity as chairman of the Banks and Banking Committee.

The House Rural Development Council, which was reauthorized by House Resolution 214 during the 2019 legislative session, will continue to work with rural communities to find ways to encourage economic growth.

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce will host a Rural Prosperity Summit in Tifton, according to the Albany Herald.

This year’s Rural Prosperity Summit will feature policy leaders, senior governmental officials, entrepreneurs and business owners, academics, economic development practitioners and other partners impacting rural communities.

The summit is held to foster what Georgia Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Chris Clark calls the “Rural Renaissance.”

Taking place Tuesday and Wednesday at the University of Georgia Tifton Campus Conference Center, the summit is an annual two-day event that brings together hundreds of business leaders and elected officials who are passionate about creating vibrant, robust rural communities throughout the state.

The two-day event will feature speakers, practitioner panels and small group conversations presenting possible solutions for challenges facing today’s struggling rural communities. The event offers attendees an opportunity to share new ideas and make connections.

Summit topics will focus on health care, rural education and work force, the opioid epidemic, housing, defense, rural economic development trends and tactics, civic health, nonprofits, cybersecurity, manufacturing and entrepreneurship.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division has issued a burn ban, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division has set summer burning restrictions to reduce emissions from ground level ozone that may jeopardize air quality, according to a Georgia Forestry Commission Chief news release.

Nearly all Middle Georgia counties — Bibb, Monroe, Houston and Peach — were among the 54 counties under the summer restrictions.

Merwither and Troup counties near the Chattahoochee Valley were also placed under restrictions.

The Georgia Forestry Commission will resume issuing burn permits in these counties once the restrictions are lifted on Oct. 1, according to the release.

“We recognize the importance of and promote prescribed burning for the many wildfire prevention, forest management and agriculture benefits it provides… We’re asking everyone to be extremely vigilant when doing any open burning, including burning yard debris,” Sorrells said in the release.

Democrat Jon Ossoff will launch a voter registration drive in his campaign for the United States Senate seat held by Republican Sen. David Perdue, according to the AJC.

At his first campaign rally since announcing a U.S. Senate run, Democrat Jon Ossoff and his allies promised an ambitious new voter registration effort Saturday to help oust President Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. David Perdue in 2020.

“I want the national Democratic Party to invest in the state of Georgia,” said U.S. Rep. John Lewis, speaking to a few hundred people at the MLK Recreation Center in Atlanta. “We can turn the state around and make it blue.”

Ossoff, one of four Democrats challenging Perdue, has taken a different stance [from Rep. Lewis]. He said he supports impeachment if allegations prove true that Trump “pressured a foreign power to smear his political opponent, dangling security assistance as leverage.”

Much of the rally focused on rolling out what Ossoff has promised will be the largest statewide voter registration drive in state history when taken together with other partisan efforts and Stacey Abrams’ initiatives. He said his campaign and others should build on the work from Abrams and the New Georgia Project, a voter registration effort she helped launch.

He also said his campaign’s attorneys were ready to bring lawsuits or join legal challenges to contest potential voting rights violations.

The Gwinnett Daily Post covers the impeachment positions of candidates for the Seventh Congressional District.

Gwinnett voters will see a Democratic candidate for Sheriff on the ballot for the first time in nearly three decades, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Twenty-seven years.

That’s how long it has been since a Democrat ran for sheriff. It was 1992 and James “Jim” Keinard was the Democratic Party’s nominee against Republican Jim Carsten.

Carsten won in a landslide.

Next year’s election for sheriff will break a nearly three decade trend of the sheriff’s office appearing on general election ballots without the Democrats putting up a candidate for the office. Although the county’s longtime sheriff, Butch Conway, has faced write-in opponents and challengers from within the Republican Party before, he’s never faced a Democrat in an election.

Not only will there be a Democrat running for sheriff in 2020, but five people — Curtis Clemons, Keybo Taylor, Ben Haynes, Floyd Scott and — have already jumped in the race to seek the party’s nomination for the seat.

Republicans began sweeping offices in Gwinnett in the 1980s as the GOP rose to prominence in the county and the Democratic Party went into a decline.

“At one point, you literally could have been laughed out of the room if you ran as a Democrat in Gwinnett County,” Curtis Clemons said.

The last few election cycles, particularly the 2016 and 2018 elections, have shown a major shift happening in Gwinnett politics as the county’s electorate grows more diverse alongside its overall population diversity.

Columbus attracted more than 2 million tourists and $364 million dollars in the last year, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

According to the local visitor’s bureau, 2.3 million people visited the city in fiscal year 2019, which is an increase of 400,000 people over the year before.

It’s the first time that number has broken 2 million, according to Peter Bowden, president and chief executive officer of Visit Columbus GA.

Bowden said the city has “matured as a destination,” giving people reason to come, stay a while and spend their hard-earned cash. The local economy was infused with $364 million from tourism between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019, according to the visitor’s bureau.

“We have a lot of cool stuff going on in Columbus these days. Visitors come and find their niche and what they’re into: art, food, adventure, those kinds of things,” Bowden said. “We’ve really gotten in stride and positioned ourselves as a destination.”

The market has also shifted as more people visit the city as tourists, as opposed to coming to attend a Fort Benning graduation, a RiverCenter concert or a business conference.

The Georgia National Fair opens its thirtieth season this week, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The fair began in 1990 with 270,000 people attending. Today it draws about half million people over 11 days. It drew nearly that many last year even after having to shut down for a day when Hurricane Michael struck the state.

Randall Walker, the newly elected mayor of Perry, said the fair has a big impact on the city.

“It brings a large number of people to our city that would not come naturally,” he said. “I think the partnership between the fairgrounds and city is extremely strong.”

Stephen Shimp, the executive director of the agricenter, said the annual budget is about $10 million. The state provides about $1 million of that, he said, most of which goes to youth programs. The remainder of the annual funding comes from revenue generated by the fairgrounds from the events held there.

Shimp said a study conducted by the University of Georgia determined that the agricenter generates at least $5 million in sales taxes each year from people coming into the state for events there. The study found that overall the facility has an economic impact of $80 million annually.

“There’s a good return on that $1 million,” he said.

Whitfield County Sheriff’s Deputies helped train law enforcement in pursuit techniques, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

During August the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office — working with the Georgia Public Safety Training Center (GPSTC) — had the opportunity to provide High Speed Track Training for the entire Uniform Patrol Division.

The Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office has been performing the Precision Immobilization Technique (PIT) since 2015. This maneuver is used in an attempt to end a high-speed chase as quickly as possible to limit the danger to the general public that such a chase presents.

“While the PIT maneuver is extremely effective in ending a chase, it cannot be performed if our deputies can’t catch up to the vehicle that they are pursuing,” said Lt. Juan Martinez, training officer for the sheriff’s office.

Deputies are often involved in high-speed pursuits with vehicles that are far better equipped for high speeds and criminals that are generally not concerned with obeying traffic laws, he said.

“For these very reasons the Training Division along with the captain of Uniform Patrol, Clay Pangle, determined that the only way to even the odds is to make our deputies better drivers at high speeds,” Martinez said. “This is not something that would be easy to accomplish as there is no location in our area to conduct such training and then we would also have the issue of the abuse this would cause to the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office’s fleet.”

Whitfield County will open a new fire station on October 11, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Glynn County Commissioners discussed a possible 2020 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) election, according to The Brunswick News.

A new SPLOST — a one percent sales tax approved or denied by public vote — will be on the ballot in the May 2020 primary election. Proceeds from the tax must be spent on whatever is outlined on the ballot.

While the general outline on the ballot will likely not include the full list, each government entity has generally stuck to the lists of projects they released prior to the SPLOST 2016 vote.

The city of Brunswick and the Brunswick Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission are still working on setting their priorities. The Jekyll Island Authority submitted its final list, while Glynn County released a wishlist of projects county commissioners will cut to fit projected revenue from SPLOST 2020.

Foremost on county commissioners’ minds is an expansion of the Glynn County Courthouse and infrastructure.

Glynn County Commissioner Peter Murphy will host a Town Hall on St Simons Island, according to The Brunswick News.

Glynn County residents interested in hearing about St. Simons Island issues are encouraged to attend Glynn County Commissioner Peter Murphy’s next quarterly town hall meeting on Wednesday.

“The whole concept behind the town halls, which is something no other commissioner has, is to transmit information to the public who may not know this because they haven’t been utilizing information sources,” Murphy said. “We’ve been working on quite a few things, and some of them are more controversial than others.”

On the agenda — in no particular order — are topics such as hurricane preparedness and where the community can find up-to-date information, impact fees, Neptune Park trees, a $2.5 million shoreline protection grant, pickle-ball courts, short-term rental regulations, the special- purpose, local-option sales tax and related infrastructure projects, clarifying right of way laws regarding bicycles, the county’s new golf cart ordinance and a new drug drop-off box at the Glynn County Police Department’s St. Simons Island precinct.

Statesboro City Council will meet twice on Tuesday, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Statesboro City Council has two meetings Tuesday morning: the regular meeting at 9 a.m., but first, a special meeting with City Manager Charles W. Penny and a consultant at 7:30 a.m.

Both meetings will be held in the council chambers at City Hall. City officials have issued an agenda stating that the 7:30 a.m. meeting’s first order of business after the call to order will be “consideration of a motion to enter executive session to disuss ‘personnel matters.’” This is apparently based on an assertion that this closed-door session will involve evalution of Penny, who has been on the job exactly three months.

One action on the 9 a.m. regular, open meeting agenda is the second reading and likely adoption of an ordinance establishing new alcoholic beverage license types. This follows the renewal of licenses on a special six-month basis while the license fees were determined and to reset the renewal date to Jan. 1.

Statesboro City Council District 3 member Jeff Yawn is running for reelection, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Yawn faces a challenger, Venus Mack, in the Nov. 5 municipal election. Occurring in the middle of the mayor’s term, this election will not be citywide. Only Districts 2, 3 and 5 will elect council members, and all three districts have two-candidate contests.

The Bulloch County Board of Education discussed how property tax relief for seniors would work, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Any exemption for Bulloch County senior citizens from the school-funding property tax would likely take the form of a local addition to the existing statewide, limited exemption for people age 62 and older.

Troy Brown, Bulloch County Schools’ chief financial officer, presented that interpretation Thursday evening at the Board of Education meeting. Having heard from citizens on both sides of the issue in August and from some proponents of the exemption again on Sept. 12, the board members discussed the question among themselves and with Brown and the superintendent Thursday.

School board members requested more information, including how much an increase in the exemption would cost the school system, but made no commitment to propose a local exemption, with some members citing the interests of students as their priority.

The Rome-Floyd Planning Commission will discuss proposed changes to rules on hotels, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Hotels are currently allowed by right in most commercial zoning districts, Planning Director Artagus Newell said during a presentation seeking input from the City Commission last month. That means they can be built without notice to nearby property owners, and without vetting by elected officials.

“If we shift it over to a special-use permit, it would go from just a development review to a zoning review,” Newell explained.

Commissioners have asked Newell to have the appointed citizen board consider the pros and cons of the issue. The planning commission meets at 2:30 p.m. in Rome City Hall, 601 Broad St.

Kenneth Bradshaw, the new Superintendent for Richmond County Schools, spoke to the Augusta Chronicle.

Q: What are the three biggest areas for improvement in the Richmond County school system?

A: Staying focused on student achievement is always going to be the No. 1 focus. We have many great initiatives in place. Since I was here before, I am aware of those initiatives. Some are new since I’ve been gone. We’ll do program evaluations to make sure the initiatives are yielding the results that we anticipate.

The second is making sure we have good communication with the internal and external stakeholders, making sure we are transparent and we are open and responsive to all of the concerns from our constituents.

The third would be community engagement – making sure we’re not just communicating to the public but making sure it’s a two-way communication and that our internal and external stakeholders stay engaged, whether that’s parent/teacher meetings, meet-and-greets, listening sessions, collaboration meetings with the chamber and our business partners and even listening to the students. We have a student advisory group.

Bald Eagles are being poisoned by an invasive water plant, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The water-loving hydrilla has brought a painful death to an untold number of American bald eagles and thousands of other water birds over the last 25 years — no one can say exactly how many. The plant isn’t killing the birds directly, but by providing a home for a new kind of cyanobacteria that produces a lethal toxin.

Scientists at the University of Georgia’s Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Study were puzzled when they first began seeing the damage to the United States’ national bird — bald eagle carcasses found at an man-made Arkansas lake. Wildlife and lake managers also reported seeing distressing losses of motor control in eagles and in a water bird called the coot. Symptoms included wings that twitch but don’t flap and an inability to maintain balance.

Meanwhile, more and more afflicted birds began showing up in Arkansas, Georgia, and other Southeastern states, nowhere more than at Thurmond Lake, a man-made reservoir on the Savannah River between Georgia and South Carolina.

University of Georgia professor Susan Wilde saw patterns, though. Every lake where eagles were dying of AVM was man-made, and had been heavily invaded by hydrilla. The coots were eating the hydrilla, and the eagles found easy prey in the disabled coots.

Nowhere has Aetokthonos Hydrillicola’s killing ability been on display more than at Thurmond Lake, transformed into a kind of ecological death trap where some 105 AVM eagle deaths have been confirmed so far. Wildlife scientists believe the actual death toll is much higher, since most animal carcasses are never found.

Managers have had some success stocking Thurmond and other lakes with a kind of sterile grass-eating carp to gnaw away at the hydrilla, combined with sowing native water plants. The fish live 12 to 14 years, but don’t reproduce. Lake managers are also using chemical killers on the plants, though that carries its own set of environmental risks.

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