Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 11, 2020

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 11, 2020

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I was in my car that morning, on the way to my job when I heard on the radio of the first plane hitting. The announcers thought at first that it must be a small plane and likely an accident. Seventeen minutes later all doubt vanished as the second hit. I called Mrs. GaPundit at home. Over the next hour, a third plane hit the Pentagon and a fourth went down in a field in Pennsylvania. We watched on television as the towers burned, then collapsed.

Shortly afterwards, the Family Room opened in a nearby tower to provide a place for loved ones to grieve out of the public eye.

The Family Room opened in April 2002 in space donated by Brookfield Office Properties, the owners of 1 Liberty Plaza, across Church Street from the trade center site. By presenting what was known as a medical examiner’s family identification card, victims’ relatives were admitted during regular workdays and at night, on weekends and on holidays.

On the 20th floor, behind a door marked “The Family Room,” relatives could settle into ample leather couches or stand at windows 15 and 20 feet wide. The room was intended for “quiet contemplation,” said a 2002 notice from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which created and maintained the space, just a few doors down from its own headquarters and those of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center Foundation.

When the Family Room at 1 Liberty Plaza was replaced this summer by a new private gathering space in the National September 11 Memorial Museum pavilion, the [New York] State Museum and the memorial museum painstakingly documented the older room, and the State Museum acquired what contents family members themselves did not choose to reclaim.

There are materials in the Family Room collection related to about 1,000 victims, Mr. Schaming said, or roughly one-third of all casualties that day. “It is the most singular collection of the faces of people who were killed on 9/11,” he said.

A monument on Long Island to victims of 9-11 will include the names of 582 people who later died of conditions related to the aftermath of the attacks.

A separate plaque will have the names of 582 police officers, firefighters, construction workers, cleanup volunteers and others who spent time in the rubble of the World Trade Center in the days or months after the attacks and, years later, died of a variety of causes that they, their families or their doctors suspected were linked to toxic ash and smoke at the site. There will be room to add more names.

“I think what the town of Hempstead is doing is nothing short of honorable,” said John Feal, a longtime advocate for 9/11 responders with health problems. “People who lost a loved one to illness suffer just like someone lost on that day. Hopefully this will offer some ease and comfort to them.”

In May, officials at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum announced plans to set aside a commemorative space at the World Trade Center to honor rescue and recovery workers.

New York’s police and fire departments also have memorials for personnel who have died of illnesses since Sept. 11. A 9/11 memorial in Staten Island recently added a plaque with the names of residents there who have died of illnesses.

Feal’s charitable organization also maintains a memorial wall to 9/11 responders in Nesconset, New York.

James Oglethorpe arrived at Augusta on September 12, 1739, 279 years ago Saturday.

The Second Continental Congress opened in Philadelphia on September 13, 1775; Georgia was represented by Archibald Bulloch, Lyman Hall,  John Houstoun, and John Zubly.

French troops arrived near Savannah to prepare for a siege against British forces there on September 12, 1779.

On September 13, 1788, the Confederation Congress voted to implement the Constitution and authorized states to elect Senators and Representatives and called the first Presidential election, with selection of presidential electors in the states to be held on January 7, 1789, and February 4, 1789 as the day electors would cast their ballots.

One day after Perry’s victory in the Battle of Lake Erie, American Master Commandant Thomas Macdonough led American forces in the Battle of Plattsburg at Lake Champlain, New York on September 11, 1813.

The Union Army began evacuating civilians from Atlanta via Lovejoy’s Station on September 11, 1864.

The first two women to enter the Georgia General Assembly, Viola Ross Napier of Bibb County and Atlanta Constitution reporter Bessie Kempton of Fulton County, were elected on September 13, 1922.

Georgia-born Ty Cobb took his last at-bat on September 11, 1928.

After a week-long Presidential campaign swing through ten states, former Governor Jimmy Carter returned to Plains on September 11, 1976.

On September 11, 1985, Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb’s career hit record, notching number 4,192 against the San Diego Padres.

Three years ago today, all 159 counties in Georgia were under an emergency declaration from Hurricane Irma. The late Mrs. GaPundit and I spent days without power.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today, flags at the State Capitol and Georgia state properties fly at half-staff, under Executive Order 09.10.20.01 from Governor Brian Kemp.

The Georgia Supreme Court yesterday issued a new Order governing court proceedings. Among the changes from earlier orders is that Grand Jury proceedings may now be held, though jury trials are still prohibited.

From the Rome News Tribune:

Under the order, Floyd County Superior Court Chief Judge Bryant Durham is authorized to resume grand jury proceedings.

However, juror summons will have to be sent out, and over the next few days court officials will be nailing down the exact way they’ll bring grand jurors back into the courthouse, Rome Judicial Circuit District Attorney Leigh Patterson said.

“We want jurors to feel safe,” Patterson said.

Courts have been restricted from holding grand jury proceedings or jury trials, by order of the Georgia Supreme Court, since the pandemic hit the state in March.

The order signed by Chief Justice Harold D. Melton on Thursday extends the statewide judicial emergency until Oct. 10. The order also continues the suspension of statutory deadlines for indictments and jury trials.

Governor Brian Kemp is asking Georgians to get COVID-19 tests if they attended Labor Day gatherings, according to WSB-TV.

Kemp told Channel 2′s Richard Elliot that he is urging Georgians to get tested for the virus if they took part in any Labor Day gatherings, including family barbecues.

Kemp said the new Department of Public Health COVID-19 numbers are trending down. But he worries those numbers could spike because of the holiday weekend.

“I think that this thing that we need to do now if you were in those environments and you may have let your guard down a little while or you’re worried about that. Go ahead and get tested.”

Kemp told Elliot that many testing sites are operating way below capacity. But that, he says, means it’s a perfect time to get a test.

“The wait times are down, the return of results is way down, and so I think that would be a good idea for people that may have been in that environment to keep up from experiencing another fight, spike,” Kemp said.

From the AJC:

“To prevent increased community spread following the holiday weekend, we are asking all Georgians who participated in gatherings, were not able to socially distance, or who may have been exposed to the virus to schedule a COVID-19 test,” Kemp said in a news release.

“To prevent increased community spread following the holiday weekend, we are asking all Georgians who participated in gatherings, were not able to socially distance, or who may have been exposed to the virus to schedule a COVID-19 test,” Kemp said in a news release. “To stop the spread of COVID-19, Georgians must be part of the solution and not the problem, as we have said from the beginning.”

“Testing is a key component in our fight to stop COVID-19,” [Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen] Toomey said in the release. “Governor Kemp and I are asking all Georgians who may be at risk of exposure to the virus after Labor Day to schedule a test at one of our testing sites throughout the state. I would also recommend that all Georgians go ahead and schedule a flu shot. These two steps can mitigate community spread and keep Georgians healthy as we continue on a positive trajectory with the virus.”

Governor Kemp met with rapper and entrepreneur Killer Mike. Chaos ensued online. From the AJC:

Killer Mike, a native of Southwest Atlanta, has been a visible, vocal proponent of progressive politics, Black businesses and investing in skilled workers throughout the last couple of presidential campaigns. On Wednesday, he met with Kemp, a Republican, and discussed myriad issues affecting Georgians. Kemp’s office posted a photo of the artist, whose real name is Michael Render, with the governor and his wife Marty.

“Today, Marty and I had a great meeting with @KillerMike,” reads the tweet. “We discussed how small businesses and the music industry are weathering the pandemic, the value of our skilled trade workers, and our fight to end human trafficking in Georgia. We look forward to seeing him again soon!”

From the New York Post:

Atlanta rapper and progressive activist Killer Mike is facing a wave of scrutiny from Democrats over his decision to meet this week with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican.

As for how the political opposites got along during the meeting, Killer Mike wrote, “I will say I was welcomed with respect. I was heard and our exchange was productive,” before thanking Kemp and his staff for meeting them.

“This is the 1st [sic] of many real and frank conversations to be had,” he wrote.

“I can’t imagine that Killer Mike believes that the governor of making Black votes disappear has any real interest in tackling racism in Georgia or anywhere else, so I guess the real question here is: Who was this meeting even for?” columnist Zack Linley asked in the piece.

In multiple tweets, the rapper discussed how creating change sometimes involves doing things that appear unpopular. In this case, he argued, following the unpopular route of meeting with a hard-line Republican could lead to productive change.

After one user wrote to him asking if he really met with the Republican governor, the progressive activist wrote, “Absolutely. I pay taxes in Georgia and own business there. I’m checking up on my dollars At work. I also meet with my city council member, state rep and mayor.”

“I suggest all Georgians do the same,” he added.

And a follow-up from the AJC:

Both appeared Thursday on The Shelley Wynter show on WSB radio to clear the air about their get-together, revealing they discussed Kemp’s efforts to crack down on sex trafficking and Killer Mike’s push to increase minority participation in state contracts.

And Kemp said his administration planned to connect Killer Mike’s team with Georgia’s technical college system to promote a workforce initiative aimed at training more workers for jobs in the construction industry.

“It’s really kind of interesting that some people are upset about us having that conversation. Quite honestly, we need to have more of that in today’s world, in my opinion,” said Kemp, who added that he planned to soon visit the hip-hop star’s barbershop to grab a haircut.

The artist said one reason he chose to meet with Kemp was to serve as a “messenger” for his community and that he left the sitdown feeling there was “no question left unasked.”

“I feel like that was the first meeting of many, and I look forward to sitting down again and gauging our progression, because I want this state to be the most progressive, the most money-making, the most educating, the most wonderful, dynamic state in the union.”

Recount results are in (again) for State House District 163, according to the Savannah Morning News.

A hand recount showed Derek Mallow defeated Anne Allen Westbrook by 19 votes in the Georgia House District 163 Democratic primary runoff, according to Elections Supervisor Russell Bridges.

The Board of Elections completed the recount late Wednesday afternoon.

The hand recount verified that the vote info in the QR code reflects the choices the voters made on the ballot marking device, said Bridges, the elections supervisor.

“The hand recount did support the machines’ accuracy,” he said.

The recount outcome means Mallow will represent the district in the Georgia House starting in January. He will run unopposed in the Nov. 3 general election. The longtime incumbent, J. Craig Gordon, chose not to run for re-election.

The State Elections Board adopted a new rule on how absentee ballots will be counted, according to the AJC.

The State Election Board passed a rule Tuesday that sets thresholds for how scanners count absentee ballots in Georgia, discarding votes that fill in less than 10% of an oval.

The rule means that votes marked as check marks or X’s outside ovals won’t necessarily be recorded.

Opponents of the rule, which passed 3-1, said election officials should count all votes where intent is clear.

The decision on what counts as a vote comes after mismarked or lightly marked ballots didn’t register on ballot scanners in at least five counties after the June 9 primary, leaving bipartisan panels to go through them one by one to determine voters’ intent

Mark my words: this is today’s hanging chad. This may be an issue in November or beyond, especially if control of the United States Senate hangs on a Georgia runoff.

Democratic nominee for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is asking the GBI to step in to protect records as defeated incumbent Paul Howard prepares to leave office, according to the AJC.

Fani Willis, Howard’s onetime chief deputy, soundly defeated him last month in the Democratic primary runoff. She said she was forwarded a pair of interoffice emails with subject lines stating: “destruction — burn boxes.”

“What are they burning?” she said during an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Willis said she has asked GBI Director Vic Reynolds to open an investigation into her concerns, writing “it is urgent that records be retained so that my staff and I have access to them when my team begins in January.”

State Rep. Sam Watson (R-Moultrie) held a meet-and-greet with Speaker David Ralston, according to WALB.

Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston (R) made his way to Southwest Georgia for the meet and greet. He spoke on many important topics, including the economy of rural Georgia, agriculture, health care and broadband internet.

“We want to dialogue with the people here in Southwest Georgia, listen to their ideas, I care about their ideas and take those ideas back to the capital and see if we can find better solutions to some problems,” said Ralston.

Watson said Ralston has been a champion for rural Georgia among the many challenges the area has faced.

“None of those problems happen overnight, and we’re not going to fix them overnight, but we’ve made a lot of successes along the way and we’re continuing to take those steps to try to improve broadband and improve health care,” said Watson.

“I think it’s essential that we provide high-speed broadband all over the state,” said Ralston.

“I think it’s just the start of the beginning of growing that broadband out where people have that access, which will just improve health care, it’ll help with our mental health issues, it’ll help with our education issues as we continue to deal with the pandemic,” said Watson.

From the Moultrie Observer:

Rep. Sam Watson of Moultrie was joined by Rep. Joe Campbell of Camilla, who was making his first appearance here since winning a special election for the seat of the late Rep. Jay Powell, and they welcomed Georgia’s Speaker of the House, Rep. David Ralston of Blue Ridge.

“We’ve got a very important election coming up so we need to make sure [everyone] knows how important it is to get out and vote,” [Watson] said. “As a state, we have a lot going on but at some point, we’ve just got to put that first foot forward and start getting out there.”

Campbell won the District 171 special election Jan. 28. The Legislature had already been in session two weeks when he was elected. He said his time in the position so far hasn’t been about “big shoes to fill,” rather about coming into his own for the district.

“I’m just going to have to be me and learn as I go and just see how things flow,” Campbell said. “But to say that I can fill Jay’s shoes and be Jay, I’m just going to do the best I can.”

Ralston himself was amazed at seeing the growth of crops as he drove to SRTC’s Moultrie location, specifically the peanut crop. He said when you’re in politics, it’s important to see the communities you’re representing.

“I like to see the things that we have worked on coming out of the ground and I like to be able to talk to people when they’re in their own community, and get their ideas on what we could do better,” Ralston said.

Though looking past the positive and looking toward the next legislative session — the future — Ralston said the state will still be looking at the pandemic issues in terms of its effect on the budget.

“We cut 11 percent of the budget this year,” he said. “I don’t know if we’ll have to do that much cutting next year, but it’s still going to be a factor, a big factor, probably will be for another couple of years until we get out of this.”

Higher federal unemployment benefits will start being issued, according to AccessWDUN.

Many people collecting unemployment benefits in Georgia will get up to $1,800 in extra federal assistance over the next two weeks, Labor Commissioner Mark Butler announced Thursday.

The amount represents up to six weeks of $300-a-week emergency federal payments that President Donald Trump announced last month using $44 billion in federal disaster money. The Republican president announced the plan after an additional $600-a-week that was paid on top of other jobless benefits expired on Aug. 1

Georgia was approved for the federal money on Aug. 23, but had to program its computer system to pay the money.

Butler said the first three weeks of payments backdated to Aug. 1 and totaling up to $900, will be made early next week. The remaining three weeks of payments, for weeks through last Friday, will be made late next week.

Georgia State Senate candidate Linda Pritchett was arrested for allegedly breaking into her own home, according to the AJC.

A candidate for the Georgia senate was arrested after reportedly breaking into her own home and moving back in after being evicted from it. The woman, however, claims she never should have been evicted in the first place.

Linda Pritchett, who is running to represent District 39 in a special Democratic primary Nov. 3, was arrested at the home in South Fulton on Friday. She is charged with first-degree burglary, obstructing an officer and criminal property damage, Fulton County Jail records show.

Pritchett said she was “maliciously prosecuted and charged excessively” when South Fulton police arrived at her home Friday afternoon. She said the incident stems from a dispute over who owns the property.

“This is a situation where my house was wrongfully foreclosed,” she told AJC.com.

The legal battle dates to 2018. In November of that year, Pritchett filed a complaint against several companies, including Main Street Renewal, alleging they foreclosed on the home improperly and prematurely without giving her room to dispute it.

Gainesville City Schools have reopened for in-person instruction, according to the Gainesville Times.

Pre-K through second graders, sixth graders and ninth and 10th graders returned to in-person class on Tuesday, Sept. 8, after three weeks of virtual school. The remainder of the students returned on Thursday, Sept. 10.

After a successful and seemingly incident-free first day back on Tuesday, the introduction of the second half of the student body at school buildings across the district hasn’t seemed to phase school staff, according to interviews with teachers and administrators.

“We did not have any added challenges. Third through fifth graders came in this morning with their masks already on,” said Gwenell Brown, principal of Fair Street International Academy. “I had to give out one mask this morning.”

Bulloch County and City of Statesboro property tax rates are being held at the previous year rate instead of the rollback rate, according to the Statesboro Herald.

During hearings at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Tuesday, no residents or property owners spoke against the on-average 2.25% increase in Statesboro city property tax resulting from reassessments and the proposed lack of a millage-rate rollback.

Under a 20-year-old Georgia law called the Property Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, local governments must adopt a rollback rate to offset inflationary growth in assessed property values or announce a tax increase and hold three hearings.

The Bulloch County Board of Commissioners held tax increase hearings in mid-August and kept the county government millage unchanged at 11.833 mills, instead of adopting a rollback rate of 11.676 mills. That resulted in an average 1.34% increase in the county tax from inflation in property values. The county’s notices cited the examples of a $150,000 home with a homestead exemption, with a $9.11 higher tax this year, and a $150,000 property with no homestead exemption, whose tax would be $9.42 higher.

But the Bulloch County Board of Education on Aug. 13 adopted a rollback rate of 8.918 mills for the school-funding portion of county taxes, down from last year’s rate of 9.038 mills, and so had no need to hold tax increase hearings.

Murray County Sole Commissioner Greg Hogan adopted the rollback rate for property taxes, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

New Tiny Absentee Ballot Application Boxes

These are sprouting in an in-town Atlanta neighborhood. Complete with stamped envelopes.

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