Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 23, 2020

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 23, 2020

On July 23, 1864, Union and Confederate forces in and around Atlanta gathered the dead and worked to save the wounded. Union artillery began bombarding Atlanta. On July 23, 2014, Republicans did the same in the aftermath of the Primary Runoff Elections the previous day. Democratic artillery advertising would soon fill the air.

Former President Ulysses S. Grant died on July 23, 1885.

The Cleveland Metropolitan Park District was established on July 23, 1917 and currently has a set of beautiful parks winding through the city.

John Smoltz started his first game as a major league pitcher on July 23, 1988, as the Braves took a win over the New York Mets.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

COVID-19 is hitting Georgia’s medical infrastructure hard, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

However, 3,179 people were in the hospital with the respiratory illness on Wednesday, staying close to the record high set on Monday. Of the state’s critical care beds, 88% were full, amplifying messages from hospital executives and medical workers that hospitals are running out of room for new patients. The number of patients on ventilators also rose, although not all in critical care or on ventilators are sick with COVID-19

For example, the head of Georgia’s largest hospital told reporters Tuesday that Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital was operating at 105% capacity, meaning some inpatients were being kept in the emergency department.

“During this second wave that we’re experiencing in many parts of the country we’re seeing double, triple the amount of COVID inpatients that we saw during the peak that we experienced in May,” Grady CEO John Haupert told WABE-FM.

He said the hospital was cancelling some elective surgeries, a financial hit to the public safety-net hospital supported by Fulton and DeKalb counties.

Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville opened its new mobile medical unit Tuesday, The Gainesville Times reports, and tied its previous record for COVID-19 patient numbers across the four-hospital system on Wednesday. The 20-bed unit, built by the state using modular units, is in a gravel lot, freeing up space in the main hospital. The state has provided similar units in Albany, Rome and Macon.

Governor Brian Kemp and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms may be discussing a settlement of the Governor’s lawsuit, according to the AJC.

The mayor said on The Tonight Show that she had a “very good conversation” with Kemp on Wednesday over litigation he filed that seeks to block her restrictions because they are more restrictive than his statewide order.

“We discussed where we disagree and hopefully we can figure out a way to agree to disagree without having to play this out in court,” said Bottoms.

“At the end of the day, we want the same thing. We want people to be safe. We want to stop the spread of COVID-19. And it certainly doesn’t help when we’re having to fight one another.”

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jane Barwick rescheduled a hearing in the Kemp v. Bottoms case for next Thursday, according to the Daily Report.’

Barwick is the third judge assigned to the case after two others recused themselves. And that was just Tuesday.

Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis says his mask order will win in court, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

 Mayor Hardie Davis says he is confident his mask mandate will hold up in court.

As of Wednesday, Augusta-Richmond County total COVID-19 cases increased by 47 to 2,437. Davis told Augusta commissioners Tuesday that across the 12-county health district, emergency rooms were 75% full, critical care beds were 74% occupied and inpatient beds were 80% in use.

Davis joined the governments in Atlanta, Savannah, Athens and other Georgia cities July 10 by signing an order requiring masks be worn in all public places. Gov. Brian Kemp followed with an order specifically prohibiting local governments from requiring masks.

“The [Georgia Municipal Association] brief argues that the governor does not have the authority to usurp home rule that is conferred upon cities by the General Assembly,” said Davis, a former state senator and representative. “That will be the argument that is taken to the court.”

The Georgia State Board of Education meets today and may advise local school systems to delay reopening, according to the AJC.

The resolution under consideration would seek to have schools delay opening until Sept. 8, according to sources. The Georgia School Boards Association was not consulted about a possible resolution, said Executive Director Valarie Wilson. “We started hearing rumors earlier today, and the rumors started to take more leg this afternoon. Later, we received confirmation the state board would be discussing it tomorrow.”

It is unclear whether the state can do much more than strongly urge districts to move back their start dates as Georgia has locally controlled school districts. Wilson said a statewide push to delay school starts does not help local districts, many of which in metro Atlanta were planning to start with virtual classes.

“It flies in the face of our position of local control,” Wilson said. “The locals are in the community; they know what they were planning. I don’t see how mandating they wait until Sept. 8 helps them. Some districts have teachers coming in Monday. This is last minute. A lot of school boards are going to be caught off guard by this.”

United States Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-Buckhead) will keep her stake in the Atlanta WNBA team, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Georgia, told ESPN on Tuesday she does not intend to sell her stake in the Atlanta Dream as the league embraces the “Black Lives Matter” cause she has discredited recently.“They can’t push me out for my views,” Loeffler told ESPN. “I intend to own the team. I am not going.”

To ESPN, Loeffler was deliberate in distinguishing between “Black Lives Matter” the phrase and “Black Lives Matter” the organization:

“The statement, ‘Black lives matter,’ is very different than the organization Black Lives Matter,” she told ESPN. “I think we all agree the life of every African American is important. There’s no room for racism in this country, and we have to root it out where it exists. But there’s a political organization called Black Lives Matter that I think is very important to make the distinction between their aim and where we are as a country at this moment.

“The Black Lives Matter political organization advocates things like defunding and abolishing the police, abolishing our military, emptying our prisons, destroying the nuclear family. It promotes violence and antisemitism. To me, this is not what our league stands for.”

State Senate District 4 voters will hear from runoff candidates in a virtual forum on Tuesday, July 28, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Dr. Scott Bohlke and Billy Hickman, CPA, will be on the Emma Kelly stage at 6:30 p.m. in the forum sponsored by the Statesboro-Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce and the Statesboro Herald. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no audience will be allowed inside the theater. However, the forum will be broadcast live on the Herald website — statesboroherald.com — and live on the Grice Connect Facebook page.

Bohlke and Hickman are on the Republican ballot to represent District 4 in the Georgia Senate for the 2021–22 term. Also, Bohlke and Hickman appear as candidates for the state Senate seat on the nonpartisan ballot, which is a runoff to fill the remainder of the term for Hill, who died in April.

In addition to Bulloch County, Senate District 4 includes Evans, Candler, Effingham and parts of Tattnall and Emanuel counties.

DeKalb County Democrats will choose a candidate for District 1 in a runoff, according to the AJC.

The winner of the Aug. 11 runoff between Robert Patrick and Cynthia Yaxon will run against sitting Commissioner Nancy Jester, a Republican, in November. Jester has served on the commission since 2014 and is the only Republican on the board.

The northern DeKalb County district includes Dunwoody, Doraville, and parts of Chamblee, Brookhaven, Tucker and unincorporated DeKalb.

Early voting is now open for the runoff election. In addition to the District 1 race, some DeKalb residents will vote in the Democratic runoff in Commission District “Super 6,” which covers the western half of DeKalb. Democrats Maryam Ahmad and Ted Terry are vying to replace retiring Commissioner Kathie Gannon.

And all county residents will vote in a special election to fill the unexpired term of former Sheriff Jeffrey Mann. The winner will serve as sheriff for the remainder of the year. Ruth Stringer is challenging incumbent DeKalb County Sheriff Melody Maddox in the Democratic runoff.

A state audit found lax controls on Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids spending, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

Dalton Public Schools will add a Coronavirus Prevention and Response Coordinator for the upcoming school year, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

“This person would be a nurse, and we would be better off to let a medical official handle this,” said Superintendent Tim Scott. “This is so big I felt we really needed some help there.”

This person would assist with contact tracing if a student or staff member has COVID-19, Scott said. He or she would also lead in educating students, staff and families about the virus, as well as provide health and safety tips.

Dalton Public Schools will now start classes on Aug. 31. The system plans a hybrid schedule for the first two weeks of the new school year, with half of students attending two days per week (Monday and Tuesday) and the other half attending the other two days (Thursday and Friday) with Wednesday being a digital learning day for all. Then, on Sept. 14, traditional, daily, in-person classes are slated to begin for all students (except those who opt for total online education).

“We know people are going to get” coronavirus at some point during the year, but handling and responding to those cases will be key, Scott said. “We’re not promised a virus-free environment.”

Macon-Bibb County residents must wear masks in public, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The Bibb County Board of Commissioners voted to approve a mask mandate at its meeting Tuesday with a vote of 7-2.

The issue of enforcing the mandate was discussed, but Commissioner Virgil Watkins compared the mandate to requiring seat belts or prohibiting people from texting and driving.

“I doubt very seriously that the sheriff ever arrests or tickets a whole lot of people on this issue, but the fact is the way that we show force is making a law,” Watkins said. “It does help us make the point, so that’s why I’m for making it a mandate.”

“I can’t see a situation where we’re going to make an arrest for somebody not wearing a mask,” [Bibb County Sheriff David] Davis said, in [a previous Telegraph] article. “But we would strongly encourage them to wear them for their own safety.”

Clarke County public schools will reopen with online instruction only, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

“It is with a heavy heart that I share the news we will begin the school year in a 100% online environment,” said Clarke County Schools interim superintendent Dr. Xernona Thomas in a statement. “This difficult decision was based on our recognition of the effects of COVID-19 and the commitment to the safety and wellness of students and staff.”

Clarke County’s Board of Education previously elected to move schools re-opening date from early August to Sept. 8 to add time to further a plan to ensure safety, according to Clarke County School District Chief Academic Officer Brannon Gaskins at a July 16 board meeting.

Much of that extra time would be spent developing virtual learning practices, he said.

Rome City Schools is preparing for both in-person and online classes with an August 13 return date, according to the Rome News Tribune.

According to Superintendent Lou Byars, teachers will be conducting hybrid classes, a combination of online and in-person instruction.

Around 1,400 students have already chosen to enroll in the RCS Virtual Learning Academy, which is around 20% of their student body.

“Everyone, at some point, may be virtual,” Byars said. “We want all our teachers to know how to teach in that environment.”

One way or another, school will be starting back on Aug. 13. Byars said they will follow whatever guidelines the DPH and Gov. Brian Kemp have for schools reopening.

The school system plans to organize sessions for students and parents to meet teachers and learn how the virtual and in-person instruction programs will work.

City of Brookhaven Police Chief Gary Yandura was named Outstanding Chief of the Year by the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, according to the Albany Herald.

Yandura has a long list of accomplishments that have placed the newly formed Brookhaven Police Department on the leading edge of law enforcement agencies in Georgia. Under his leadership, the department as earned certification through the GACP Law Enforcement Certification Program. He also played a large role in increasing the number of sworn officers from 56 to 82, with a total staffing level of more than 100 employees.

As a result, the community has seen a dramatic reduction in violent crime and improved police-community relationships, particularly among minority and historically disengaged populations. Programs implemented to improve these relationships include the department’s Citizen’s Police Academy conducted in English and Spanish, Citizens on Patrol, Police Explorers, a Drug Take-Back Program and Shop with A Badge.

His vision to establish public-private partnerships with corporations, local businesses and neighborhood associations helped the city of Brookhaven earn recognition of being the Safest City in DeKalb County by Safe Home in 2016-2017. In addition, the department’s innovative partnership with Georgia Power Co. was the first of its kind to bring fixed Automated License Plate Readers technology to every road in the city, paving the way for many other Georgia police agencies.

Floyd County Commissioners will hold a planning session Friday to discuss public safety pay raises, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The City of Brunswick appointed an advisory committee to discuss what to do with a Confederate monument in downtown, according to The Brunswick News.

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