Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 24, 2020

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 24, 2020

On July 26, 1775, the United States Postal Service was created by the Second Continental Congress, may God have mercy on their souls. Benjamin Franklin served as the first Postmaster.

On July 24, 1778, Georgia ratified the Articles of Confederation.

Georgia’s John Walton was present on July 9, 1778, and signed the document then. Georgia’s other two delegates – Edward Telfair and Edward Langworthy – did not sign until July 24, 1778, which is the date most often used for Georgia’s ratification of the Articles.

An interesting sidenote is that John Walton‘s brother, George Walton, signed the Declaration of Independence on Georgia’s behalf.

At 12:51 EDT, we mark the safe return from the moon of Apollo 11.

On July 25, 1972, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game was played in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

On July 25, 1974, the United States Supreme Court ruled in the case of United States v. Nixon that executive privilege did not allow the White House to refuse to turn over audio recordings that had been subpoenaed by a special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal.

The number one song in America on July 24, 1982 was “Eye of the Tiger,” by Survivor, from the Rocky III soundtrack.

On July 24, 2000, former Georgia Governor Zell Miller was appointed to the United States Senate to serve in the seat vacated on the death of Senator Paul Coverdell.

On July 26, 2015, former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, the first pitcher inducted who had undergone Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow.

Smoltz won the 1996 Cy Young award and reached the playoffs 14 times with Atlanta. The Braves won five pennants and the 1995 World Series with Smoltz on the roster. He’s the first pitcher to win more than 200 games and save at least 150 games. He’s also the first player inducted with Tommy John surgery on his resume.

Smoltz understood his debt to John.

“I’m a miracle. I’m a medical miracle,” Smoltz said. “I never took one day for granted.”

Smoltz also heaped praise on former manager Bobby Cox and teammates Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, who were inducted a year ago, and delivered a message to parents of the players of tomorrow as the number of Tommy John surgeries continues to escalate.

“Understand that this is not normal to have a surgery at 14 or 15 years old,” Smoltz said to warm applause. “Baseball is not a year-round sport. They’re competing too hard, too early. That’s why we’re having these problems.”

The Macon Telegraph looks back at Georgia newspaper accounts of mask requirements during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. And does the Telegraph really have a reporter named Jason Voorhees?

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections’

The Late Congressman John Lewis will lie in state in the United States, Alabama, and Georgia Capitols, according to the AJC.

John Lewis’ funeral will be Thursday at Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, culminating a nearly weeklong “celebration of life” that will include stops in Troy, Selma and Montgomery, Ala., and Washington.

He will also lie in state or repose at each locale, allowing members of the public to file past his casket. The family has requested that all participants wear masks, regardless of whether the event is indoors or outdoors.

Crowds will likely line the street Sunday morning at 10 a.m. CDT to see Lewis cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge one last time. The theme of the day: “Good Trouble.”

Alabama state officials will receive Lewis’ casket in at the Capitol in Montgomery, and he will lie in state there from 3 to 7 p.m. CDT.

Monday and Tuesday have been given the theme “Conscience of the Congress.” A private ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. inside the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

His casket will then be moved to the East Front Steps for a public viewing. Members of the public will be allowed to line up on the East Plaza to file past Lewis’ casket on Monday from 3 to 10 p.m. and Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Lewis will lie in state at the Georgia Capitol Rotunda from 3 to 7 p.m. [Thursday] and again from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. the next morning. Members of the public will again receive the opportunity to file past his casket.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jane Barwick ordered mediation in the lawsuit by Governor Brian Kemp against Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, according to the AJC.

Judge Jane Barwick’s order came hours after Bottoms disclosed she and Kemp discussed a possible settlement to avoid a contentious court battle over his lawsuit challenging the city’s mask mandate and other restrictions.

It was a notable de-escalation of a recent war of words between the two politicians, who have assailed each other over the past two weeks as their public relationship, functional if not warm, steadily disintegrated into bitter fighting over how to handle the pandemic and public safety.

A compromise is far from certain, and it will be a scramble for both sides since Barwick still plans to hold a 10 a.m. hearing Tuesday to weigh the merits of the case. Senior Judge Cynthia Wright, a veteran Fulton jurist, was tapped as the mediator.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution apparently noticed that the City of Atlanta sanitation department has fallen behind. From the Dunwoody-based newspaper:

The positive coronavirus tests of 19 city of Atlanta public works employees has twice forced the city to shutdown one of its sanitation facilities and caused a backlog of trash collection, especially as it relates to yard waste.

During a wide-ranging media briefing Thursday, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ Chief Operating Officer acknowledged that the city closed down a sanitation site on Chester Ave. in the Reynoldstown neighborhood used to house equipment.

Overall Bottoms said that at least 146 of the city’s roughly 8,000 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and two have died.

The city’s Office of Solid Waste Services had already seen an increase in its workload with more trash generated as residents spend more time at home during the pandemic. Customers have requested more bins than the city could provide.

Unemployment news was mixed as the state received fewer claims last week but paid out more than the three previous years combined, according to the Albany Herald.

For the week ending July 18, 122,313 Georgians filed initial unemployment claims, down 16,139 from the previous week, the state Department of Labor reported Thursday.

The agency paid out more than $1 billion in unemployment benefits last week, more than the $922 million paid out during the last three years.

“When you think that the average weekly benefit amount is $246, the sheer volume of payments we are issuing is phenomenal,” he said.

The labor department processed more than 3.2 million initial unemployment claims between March 21 and July 18, more than in the last seven years combined.

From the Savannah Morning News:

The number of Chatham County workers who filed initial unemployment claims due to the COVID-19 pandemic decreased by nearly 10,000 from May to June. A total of 19,363 claims were filed in June compared to 29,284 filed in May, a decrease of 9,921claims or 34%, according to data released by the Georgia Department of Labor on Thursday.

The Savannah Metropolitan Statistical Area unemployment rate, which includes Bryan, Chatham and Effingham counties decreased 2.2% in June, to 8.6%. A year ago, the rate was 3.5%.

The Savannah MSA ended in June with 175,000 jobs, an increase of 6,600 compared to May, but a decrease of 12,800 compared to June 2019.

From the Dalton Daily Citizen News:

In Metro Dalton, the unemployment rate decreased 3.3 percentage points in June, reaching 7.6%. A year ago, the rate was 4.5%.

Metro Dalton ended June with 63,000 jobs. That number increased by 1,000 from May to June but was down by 3,400 when compared to this time last year.

The State House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee heard testimony on the idea of repealing the statute on citizens’ arrest, according to the Albany Herald.

The idea of reforming or repealing the citizen’s arrest law drew support Thursday from Georgia’s law enforcement community.

Pete Skandalakis, executive director of the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia, said he never came across an incident involving a citizen’s arrest in 32 years as a prosecutor.

“I don’t think prosecutors would object to repealing it,” he said.

[Terry] Norris, executive director of the sheriffs’ association, said he doesn’t believe the law enforcement community and the bill’s supporters are far apart on how to approach the citizen’s arrest law.

But he said citizens must retain the right to detain someone they see committing a crime in order to protect lives and property.

A Republican Congressman from Illinois wants answers on Fulton County voting, according to the AJC.

Rodney Davis, a Republican from Illinois, wrote a letter to Fulton’s elections board Thursday seeking explanations for missing absentee ballots, polling place closures and inadequate staffing that led to hours-long waits for some voters in the June 9 election.

“I have identified Fulton County as one where voters are likely to face significant hurdles voting in the Nov. 3 general election, and where the risk of failure is simply too high,” wrote Davis, a member of the U.S. House Administration Committee, which has jurisdiction over elections.

Davis targeted Fulton along with nine other locations across the country where voters faced obstacles, including Chicago, Los Angeles, Milwaukee and Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston.

The Georgia Board of Education did not vote on delaying school reopenings, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Georgia STEM and The Atlanta-Journal Constitution posted Wednesday that the state school board would likely discuss and vote on delaying start dates for schools throughout the state.

However, the topic only came up late during the two-and-a-half-hour meeting when the board discussed schools in every district being able to make their own plans.

Jeff Amy, a reporter for the Associated Press, tweeted Thursday that, while there was originally a resolution calling for the school to not start face-to-face instruction until after Labor Day, the board did not follow through with the item.

The Trump Campaign has an active ground game in Georgia , according to the AJC.

Two years ago, Republican Brian Kemp narrowly won the race for governor with the help of a stealthy canvassing initiative aimed at supporters of President Donald Trump dubbed “Operation Red Wall.”

The program mobilized Trump voters in deep-red rural counties who typically skip midterm elections, and it ultimately knocked on more than 120,000 doors to help Republicans counter Democrat Stacey Abrams’ drive for new left-leaning voters.

As Trump prepares to face the voters in November, his Georgia campaign operation is expanding those on-the-ground efforts.

The Republican’s Georgia campaign boasts more than 100 staffers and thousands of other volunteers who have hosted 1,000 events and knocked on a quarter-million doors.

Staffers and supporters have logged more than 4 million voter contacts this year — including calls, texts and in-person appeals — nearly doubling the total for all of 2016.

Retired Superior Court Judge Thomas Hodges ruled against a challenge to the District 6 Athens-Clarke County Commission election, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Hodges, retired from the Northern Circuit and appointed to hear the case in Athens, cited a state case called Jones vs. Norris, which in part reads “votes cast for candidates who have died, withdrawn or been disqualified shall be void and shall not be counted.”

District 9 incumbent Commissioner Jerry NeSmith died days before the June 9 election. As a result, Athens-Clarke Attorney Judd Drake concluded that [Jesse] Houle could take the seat in January despite losing the vote count to NeSmith. NeSmith tallied 1,864 votes to 1,404 for Houle.

Savannah City Council heard proposed changes to its non-discrimination ordinance Thursday, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The revamped law would prohibit discrimination based on who residents love, how they worship, their age and the color of their skin.

Specifically, the ordinance would prohibit discrimination by businesses located within the city based on actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, marital status, familial status, or veteran/military status.

Additionally, the ordinance defines hate crimes and provides that the city develop training to law enforcement for reporting of hate crimes under local, state and federal laws. The police department will also collect and provide data on hate crimes to the FBI for national crime information databases.

The City of Statesboro is combining two proposals for changes to the anti-discrimination law, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Statesboro city officials are merging an anti-discrimination ordinance drafted by City Attorney Cain Smith with the “equity package” prepared by the “One Boro” commission to create a Statesboro Inclusion and Equity Act.

The anti-discrimination part would prohibit businesses from discriminating on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or military status in hiring and employment, in housing and in selling or renting real estate in general and in public accommodations.

A provision that would seek a certain percentage of participation by minority-owned businesses in city bids and contracts was not included yet in either draft. But Mayor Jonathan McCollar suggested that this be added.

“What I would like to propose to City Council is that we bring both of these pieces together, the equity piece was well as the discrimination piece, but I would also like to see that economic piece in there as well, that piece where we are deliberately working to make sure that we work with all businesses across the board in with the city of Statesboro,” McCollar said during the work session.

Peachtree Corners City Council passed a non-binding resolution urging mask use, according to the AJC.

The Augusta Commission will pay for an independent study of the needs of the Augusta Fire Department, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Lowndes County has delayed school reopening until August 14, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The Gainesville and Hall County Superintendents discussed reopening in a webinar, according to the Gainesville Times.

The superintendents of Gainesville and Hall County schools said Thursday that COVID-19 infection in schools is not a matter of “if” but “when” and laid out how they would do their best to continue the best instruction possible during the pandemic.

Both school districts are planning for a return to in-person school on Aug. 17 but are allowing families to choose, with registration, a 100% online option as well. However, Gainesville Superintendent Jeremy Williams and Hall County Superintendent Will Schofield said schools could be forced by an outbreak of COVID-19 to return to virtual learning at any time. Both superintendents pointed out that they continue to see an uptick in the number of students and staff who are reporting that they have COVID-19.

Gwinnett County Libraries are closing to the public again and going back to curbside pickup due to rising COVID numbers, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“Over the past several months, we have worked closely with the Gwinnett, Newton, and Rockdale Health Dept.’s director to follow the virus trends and understand Gwinnett’s infection rates, testing capacity, and hospital capacity,” library system officials said. “There is now substantial data to show Gwinnett’s COVID-19 fighting infrastructure is becoming strained.”

“We also see rising numbers of customers visit the library without masks, exacerbating the potential for germ spread. As dedicated as we are to providing library service, we have reached the point where full service is too great a risk to both customers and staff.”

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