Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 6, 2021

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 6, 2021

On July 6, 1775, Congress issued the “Declaration on the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms” addressed to King George III, stating that they preferred to “to die free men rather than live as slaves.” The document was written by John Dickinson after a draft by Thomas Jefferson.

The Republican Party was formally organized on July 6, 1854.

The party was born of hostility to slavery.

In February [1854] a gathering in Ripon, Wisconsin, resolved to form a new party and a local lawyer named Alvan E. Bovay suggested the name Republican for its echoes of Thomas Jefferson. In Michigan there were meetings in Kalamazoo, Jackson and Detroit, and after the Act had passed in May, the new party was formally founded in Jackson in July. A leading figure was Austin Blair, a Free Soiler lawyer who was prosecuting attorney of Jackson County. He helped to draft the new party’s platform, was elected to the state senate in Republican colours that year and would become governor of Michigan in 1860.

On July 6, 1885, Louis Pasteur successfully tested a rabies vaccine on a human subject.

Happy Birthday to George W. Bush, who turns 75 today.

The Cockspur Island lighthouse is receiving some restoration work, according to WTOC.

“The community loves this place; they love the lighthouse. When the scaffolding went up and we started seeing posts about it on Facebook from folks, everything has been super positive,” Fort Pulaski National Monument Chief of Interpretation and Visitor Services, Joel Cadoff, said.

In 1862, Union forces began their 36-hour bombardment of Fort Pulaski. The lighthouse, in direct line of fire, only suffered minor damage.

This 165-year-old structure has seen a civil war, several hurricanes, but it’s also living and breathing. It’s not just the history behind the structure. This is Savannah Gray Brick; it takes in water and then breathes it out.

While Cockspur has been traditionally painted white – as a day marker – the latest coat of white latex paint and some of the last mortar treatments kept Cockspur from breathing, actually suffocating it.

“And what this is doing – is keeping all the water and moisture inside the building and it’s not letting the building breathe; all buildings need to breathe it can’t be closed up and condemn. You can see all this latex is going to keep the moisture in,” Roman said.

Click here for the National Park Service history of the Cockspur Island Lighthouse.

A cemetery in Virginia may see the next and possibly last, interment of Civil War remains, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Archaeologists are looking for an available plot in Fredericksburg National Cemetery, which hasn’t seen a veteran burial since 1945, according to the National Park Service. The burial is considered “proposed” until a suitable site if found, officials said.

“The new grave will be the final resting place for the unidentified remains of US soldiers found in the City of Fredericksburg in 2015,” the military park posted Wednesday on Facebook.

“The remains were found near the Rowe–Goolrick House, which served as a hospital during the Battle of Fredericksburg.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Snellville City Council member Tod Warner donates part of his council salary to fight homelessness, according to the AJC.

Tod Warner became homeless when he was only 4, shortly after his parents divorced. His mother loaded him and his brother into a 1962 Volkswagen Beetle, and they slept in a vacant lot and garage for about a week.

Warner and his family found places to stay but never permanent homes.

Since January, the now 58-year-old has sent $100 each month of his $8,000 annual council salary to Lettum Eat, a nonprofit that delivers prepared meals to those in need at distribution events across Gwinnett County.

Headed by chef Hank Reid, Lettum Eat largely relies on donations, fundraisers and catering events to meet its goal. Snellville City Council recognized Reid for his work in early January, prompting Warner to begin donating to the nonprofit.

“Once Hank started taking food to people rather than having people come to him, it really hit home because there were many times in my life that was me,” Warner said. “If we don’t help when we can, then can we expect someone to help us?”

Grovetown, Georgia will be my new home if they continue giving away free Barbecue. From the Augusta Chronicle:

The City of Grovetown handed out nearly 4,000 to-go boxes of barbecue and sides Saturday to its residents free of charge. The cost of the food is part of a line item in the city’s budget each year and restaurants bid for the opportunity to provide the meals. This year’s meal was provided by Fish Eye Grill in Girard.

For the last 20 years, the city has hosted an event complete with the barbecue meal and activities at Liberty Park Community Center. The COVID-19 pandemic caused the city to cancel the event last year but this year it handed out the food in a drive-thru at the community center on a first-come, first-served basis. Each car was permitted to take four boxes of food.

“This year we wanted to make sure we didn’t have an issue with COVID so we decided to do the drive thru,” Mayor Gary Jones said. “It’s a way that we can give back to them and that we appreciate them and as a community celebrate July the Fourth.”

“This is what taking care of the community looks like,” she said. “We’re using tax-payer dollars in the right way and making sure they enjoy the benefits of those tax-payer dollars.”

Georgia deaths linked to Fentanyl more than doubled from 2019 to 2020, according to the AJC.

The number of fentanyl-involved deaths in Georgia more than doubled from 2019 to 2020, according to data from the state’s public health department. The synthetic opioid played a part in killing 803 Georgians in 2020, compared to 392 in 2019.

In each of the core metro Atlanta counties — Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett — the number of deaths nearly doubled or tripled.

Carol Terry, medical examiner for Gwinnett County, became concerned about the drug’s deadly presence toward the end of 2014. Now, the county is in the midst of a fentanyl “epidemic,” she said.

Fentanyl played a role in 60% of all drug-related deaths in the county in 2020, according to medical examiner’s office records obtained by the AJC. Seventy people died from fentanyl-related overdoses in 2020, compared to 26 in 2019.

The drug played a role in killing at least 33 people in the county from January to April of this year. Most people who died had a combination of fentanyl and other drugs in their system.

Cobb County Republicans voted in a straw poll over the weekend, according to the AJC.

Gov. Brian Kemp trounced party-switching former Democrat Vernon Jones, nabbing about two-thirds of the vote. Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black was the GOP leader in the Senate race, though Herschel Walker wasn’t on the ballot.

In the open lieutenant governor’s race, which is still forming, Savannah activist Jeanne Seaver edged out state Sen. Butch Miller by four votes.

Most interesting were the two GOP incumbents in hot water.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger finished last out of the four GOP contenders on the poll. U.S. Rep. Jody Hice led the field, thanks partly to Donald Trump’s endorsement.

The straw poll also amounted to a warning beacon for Labor Commissioner Mark Butler, a three-term incumbent who says he’s running again next year. State Sen. Bruce Thompson, who worked the crowd in a branded, blindingly yellow shirt, captured 81% of the tally.

CNN ranks Georgia’s United States Senate seat held by Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Atlanta) as second-most likely to change parties in 2022, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Republicans are eager to redeem their trifecta of recent losses in Georgia. But they’re still in a waiting game when it comes to who will avenge the loss to Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, who’s now running for a full six-year term.

That’s because Herschel Walker, encouraged by Trump to run, continues to have a freezing effect on the field. Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black announced his candidacy in early June, becoming one of the most prominent candidates so far, while other Republicans have been reluctant to jump into the race if they know someone else will have Trump’s backing. Former Rep. Doug Collins, for example, already passed on a run.

Walker, who lives in Texas, teased a campaign with a June 17 video of him revving the engine of a car with Peach State license plates (in a garage). “I’m getting ready,” the former NFL running back said. Trump said in a radio interview last week that Walker told him he’s decided to run. GOP strategists, however, are nervous about a risky candidate jeopardizing a must-win seat.

Other Republicans are still testing the waters. Former Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who lost to Warnock in the January runoff, recently tweeted about meeting with Trump. And she met with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, too, telling CNN in mid June, “I haven’t ruled it out.” Rep. Buddy Carter, who’s friends with Walker, is waiting to see what Walker does before making a decision. While everyone waits on Walker, national Republicans are not wasting time attacking one of their top targets. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has hit Warnock on TV for supporting the For the People Act, the sweeping voting and elections bill they dub “the welfare for politicians plan” (because of a public financing provision).

The Associated Press looks at Sen. Warnock’s DC demeanor and back home conduct, via AccessWDUN.

On Capitol Hill, Sen. Raphael Warnock assails Republicans’ push for tighter voting rules as “Jim Crow in new clothes,” while his campaign operation blasts emails bemoaning dire risks to democracy.

Back home, Georgia’s first Black senator is more subtle, pitching a “comprehensive view of infrastructure” and avoiding talk of his reelection fight already looming just months after he won a January special election runoff with Senate control at stake.

The high-wire act will test whether Warnock, who will seek his first full Senate term next year, can again stitch together a diverse, philosophically splintered coalition that tilted Georgia to Democrats in 2020. He’s still the high-profile freshman whose election gave Democrats unified control in Washington, but now he’s angling to be seen as a “senator for all Georgians” delivering for the state with nuts-and-bolts legislative work.

The approach is part necessity given Georgia’s toss-up status: Warnock and Sen. Jon Ossoff, also a freshman, each won their seats by less than 100,000 votes out of 4.5 million runoff ballots; Democrat Joe Biden topped Republican Donald Trump in the presidential contest by less than 13,000 votes out of 5 million last November.

Warnock’s gambling that he can be an unapologetic advocate for Democrats’ agenda, including on voting laws, yet still prove to Georgians beyond the left’s base that he is a net-benefit for them. Come November 2022, that would mean maintaining enthusiasm among the diverse Democratic base in metro areas and Black voters in rural and small-town pockets, while again attracting enough suburban white voters, especially women, who’ve drifted away from Republicans in the Trump era.

Candidate for Augusta Mayor discussed purchasing cards and other issues, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Prevented by term limits from a third run for mayor, [Mayor Hardie] Davis’ heavy use of his city credit card recently prompted the Augusta Commission to develop a policy for its use where none existed before but most members refused to discuss or audit the charges.

Since he took office in 2015, Davis has grown the office budget by 70% and staff by two or three and added an SUV to its resources, all with commission approval.

A number of Davis’ credit card charges appear associated with travel, and Williams said he supports the mayor as well as commissioners traveling to conferences and to other cities, to bring ideas back to Augusta.

Alpharetta City Council candidate Brian Will is taking issue with an ordinance that would block him from running as he holds alcohol licenses issued by the city, according to the AJC.

Brian Will said after submitting candidate paperwork to run for City Council he was notified by the code enforcement department of a qualification problem. Will’s restaurants, three of which are located in Alpharetta, serve alcohol.

“It was quite surprising,” Will said, of learning of Alpharetta’s law. “It really isn’t about me. It’s about disqualifying an entire group people at restaurants, hotels, markets … any establishment that serves alcohol.”

An Alpharetta ordinance reads that if you hold an alcoholic beverage license, or intend to, you are not eligible to be elected to a city office. During a June 21 City Council meeting, city attorney Sam Thomas encouraged Council members to amend the ordinance. The law was drafted in 1986, Thomas said, and conflicts with the city charter, which has no criteria prohibiting elected officials from having alcoholic beverage licenses.

Council members were divided on the law change during a first reading and it was not approved to go forward for a final vote at the June 28 meeting.

Will said he is moving ahead with his run for City Council. The candidate owns Cantina Loca, Central City Tavern and Tavern House in Alpharetta.

“We are running,” he said. “Our position is the ordinance is unlawful and unenforceable. We will deal with issues as they come up.”

Former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed continues to take criticism over a federal probe of his past campaign spending, according to the AJC.

[H]is opponents and some residents say they were not shocked at all to read an AJC story last week revealing that Reed is the target of a federal wire fraud investigation, and that his campaign is fighting a subpoena that would require the grand jury testimony of his campaign attorney.

Reed allegedly used campaign funds to make personal purchases of jewelry, resort travel, lingerie and furniture for his mother, the AJC found after comparing details disclosed in a recent court ruling with Reed’s campaign disclosure reports.

It remains to be seen how the grand jury investigation could affect the Nov. 2 election.

A Reed campaign spokesperson said in a statement Thursday that Reed will focus his energy in the campaign “on the issues that matter: addressing violent crime and restoring our sense of community.”

The federal investigation of City Hall has been ongoing for several years, and has ensnared several members of Reed’s team. There have been bribery convictions against his chief procurement officer and a deputy chief of staff. Reed’s chief financial officer is currently under indictment for fraud and weapons charges, and his former director of human services is facing a 12-count fraud indictment.

Reed has repeatedly told the AJC and Channel 2 Action News that authorities never accused him of corruption and he apologized for the ongoing federal investigation.

Commercial bee removal services will now require a state license for removing bee hives from a building, according to WTVM.

It is now illegal in Georgia to remove bee hives from inside someone’s home or a structure unless you have a license from the state.

[Licensed Master Beekeeper Dale] Richter said the problem being seen is that many people with no license and no experience have been taking on the job of beehives in homes.

State lawmakers decided they needed to protect the consumer.

“If you exterminate the bees inside the structure, which is very difficult to do in the first place to do,” said Richter. “But if you are successful in doing it, you have the dead bees, the honey, the comb and all that kind of thing. And it just becomes a buffet for ants, roaches, and mice. So you are eliminating one problem, and creating 4 or 5 more.”

The new law states that only licensed people can try to kill or remove bee hives inside Georgia buildings.

The Lake Lanier Association and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers held a public meeting to discuss upcoming issues for the lake, according to the Gainesville Times.

The Corps is about to crack down on unauthorized brush clearing on Corps property, said Tim Rainey, Army Corps of Engineers operations project manager for Lake Lanier,

“We are going to start addressing these (cases) more frequently and more (harshly),” he said. To me, it’s unacceptable to have the amount of unauthorized clearing we have going on, and we’ve got to start holding people accountable.”

Rainey is closely watching the $973 billion infrastructure bill in Congress.

“It’s not specific to Lake Lanier, but we do feel good that the Corps of Engineers, as an agency, would get some of that money,” he said.

Rainey said he has totaled up about $22 million in projects for Lanier, from road paving and shoreline rock to park bathrooms.

“That’s what I’m going after,” he said. “I don’t know what I’m going to get. It certainly won’t be that much, but I hope to get some of it.”

The Georgia Department of Public Health will provide free back to school checkups in some areas, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Georgia Department of Public Health has scheduled a series of health clinics for students entering Georgia schools for the first time; or students returning to Georgia schools after an absence of one school year.

Free vision, hearing, dental, and nutrition screenings required for school entry will be offered at the clinics. Health screenings usually cost $30; immunizations will be available at a normal cost with most insurance plans accepted.

Students will be seen on a first come, first served basis and no appointment is necessary.

Bibb County public schools will team with Atrium Health Navicent to provide vaccination clinics before the return to school, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The effort from the school district, Atrium Health Navicent, the Georgia Department of Public Health and Macon-Bibb County held its first event last Wednesday at the Wellness Center on Northside Drive. Two other vaccination events are scheduled for July 24 (first and second doses) and Aug. 14 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (for second doses only).

Vaccinations are available by appointments for students 12 and up, and adults. A parent or guardian must accompany minors to appointments. To make an appointment, visit CovidsafeGA.org or call 478-633-SAFE.

“We must as a community in Middle Georgia step forward and lead that effort to make the system, and community a safer place,” said Macon-Bibb County Mayor Lester Miller. “We can only do that by starting that initiative to make sure children 12 or older are getting vaccinated.”

About one-third of Bibb County residents are fully vaccinated, according to the state health department, a percentage that concerns health experts and but ranks the county in the top 25% across Georgia.

Clarke County public schools are seeking public input on COVID relief spending, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The Clarke County School District is seeking input on how to spend $17 million — one-third of the money received through the American Rescue Plan.

District officials are asking the public to fill out a survey on how the money should be used from the federal act that has allocated a total of $48.5 million to the school system.

Some of these funds have already been earmarked for specific areas, though as of May, none of the money had been spent. The district has until 2024 to spend the federal funds. While the district has a plan in place, it can be adjusted, said Hope McGuire, the school district’s director of federal programs.

Tybee City Council will consider a 90-day contract with Chatham County to provide some leadership functions for fire services, according to WTOC.

On Thursday (July 8), Tybee Island City Council will discuss at its meeting a 90-day agreement with Chatham Emergency Services. The proposed agreement is for the subscription-based fire company to provide leadership positions for the Tybee fire chief and assistant fire chief roles.

According to a copy of the draft agreement, it would allow for remote leadership for the fire chief as long as that person stays in contact with the city manager. The assistant fire chief, however, would need to be on Tybee property for oversight of the Tybee Fire Department.

The proposed agreement does not lay out exactly how much it would cost Tybee taxpayers – only to say Chatham Emergency Services will bill the city on a monthly basis using its current payroll structure for the chief and assistant chief positions.

I wonder if the last eighteen months with remote workers and Zoom meetings made it easier for Tybee Island to consider “remote leadership.”

Gwinnett County Commissioners are considering retaining the existing property tax millage rate for the coming Fiscal Year, according to AccessWDUN.

The flat rate could cause property tax increases for some owners in the county. The board will hold three public hearings in the next two weeks with the first coming Monday, July 12 at 9:00 a.m. at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center on Langley Drive in Lawrenceville.

Commission Chairwoman Nicole Hendrickson said the county is looking to use the added tax revenue to fund services.

“From engaging programs for our seniors, to our libraries, our roads and transit system and even how our court system runs – these are just a few services the tax revenue will pay for,” Hendrickson said in a release Saturday.

Stone Mountain City Council backtracked on a proposed property tax hike after citizens objected, according to the AJC.

Stone Mountain’s property taxes will hold steady in 2021 after multiple split votes and dozens of residents complained about the threat of rising taxes.

Every Georgia city has to advertise a property tax increase if property values rise and city leaders don’t commit to lowering the tax rate. Stone Mountain advertised keeping the rate the same, and since the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a housing market boom, a steady rate would have led to the city bringing in tens of thousands of extra dollars in taxes. Residents weren’t afraid to voice their opposition during the town hall.

Property taxes are charged based on a “millage rate,” which is the amount per $1,000 of property value that is used to calculate taxes. In 2020, Stone Mountain had a millage rate of 20 mills. Since the tax rate is tied to assessed property values, residents can end up paying more taxes if their home’s appraised value increases.

Led by Monroe, three councilmembers voted for a rate of 16 mills, but Mayor Patricia Wheeler overruled that proposal following a tie vote. The city ultimately passed a rate of 17.8 mills, which keeps property taxes at the same level as 2020, with Wheeler breaking another tie vote.

Shontay Jones now serves as Election Supervisor for Bulloch County, having previously served as Deputy Registrar, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Jones moves up from her position as the county’s deputy registrar and, effective Thursday, became the department’s second-ever supervisor, according to a release from the county.  She replaces Pat Lanier Jones, whose previously announced resignation took effect Wednesday and who is now the volunteer fire coordinator for the Bulloch County Fire Department.

“I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to continue my journey in Elections and Voter Registration as elections supervisor,” Shontay Jones said in the release. “I will continue to enlighten and serve the citizens of Bulloch County with the same enthusiasm, compassion and transparency regarding elections since I came to this office 22 years ago.”

Former State legislator and current Glynn County Tax Commissioner Jeff Chapman was named sole finalist for Glynn County Manager, according to The Brunswick News.

As Glynn County tax commissioner, Jeff Chapman understands he has to deal with people who don’t necessarily agree with some of the decisions made by his office.

“I’m tax commissioner so I hear it from both sides,” he said.

Chapman, a former county commissioner, state senator, state representative and candidate for governor and Congress, said being an elected official and a constitutional officer gives him a different perspective than most county managers.

Commissioner Cap Fendig, who once served with Chapman on the commission, made the motion to name Chapman the lone finalist. It passed 4-3 with Commissioners Sammy Tostensen, Wayne Neal and Walter Rafolski joining Fendig in favor of the motion. Commissioners Allen Booker, David O’Quinn and Bill Brunson cast the dissenting votes.

Fendig said Chapman’s long experience as an elected official and a lifelong Glynn County resident convinced him to be the swing vote because of his job as tax commissioner.

“He brought the tax office to the next level of efficiency,” he said.

Cave Spring City Council will hold a work session tonight to consider animal control ordinance revisions, among other things, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Zoning, animal control and the upcoming city elections are among the items on the agenda for the meeting set for 4 p.m. in City Hall, 10 Georgia Ave.

Also on Tuesday, the board is slated to discuss a potential animal control ordinance. Rome and Floyd County recently adopted new regulations.

The principle change is a ban on leaving animals tethered outside and unattended.

Also on the work session agenda is a report from City Clerk Judy Dickinson on the election schedule. Dickinson serves as Cave Spring’s election supervisor.

Three of the five City Council seats will be on the Nov. 2 ballot — those held by incumbents Nellie McCain, Charles Jackson and Nancy Fricks.
Qualifying is scheduled for Aug. 16-20. The qualifying fee is $45 and the terms are for four years.

Sea turtle nest counts are up in Georgia, but not to record levels according to The Brunswick News.

Mark Dodd, a senior wildlife biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources who coordinates sea turtle conservation efforts in the state, said Thursday that while nesting numbers are above average this summer, the approximately 1,630 nests found and recorded so far are below what’s been seen in recent years when nesting has taken place at high rates.

“We’re predicting maybe 2,400 nests, which is definitely lower than the biggest nesting year in 2019 when we had almost 4,000,” Dodd said. “It’s down from previous years.”

The fluctuations in total numbers are influenced by sea turtle nesting patterns. Female loggerheads do not nest every year and typically return every two to three years to lay their eggs.

Conservation workers, including staff at DNR and volunteers, walk the state’s beaches every morning and evening throughout nesting season, which begins in May, to monitor the beaches and keep track of and protect nests.

Beach visitors during the summer are asked to keep an eye out for nests, which are clearly marked, and to avoid using light on the beaches at night. White light can disorient a turtle or its hatchlings.

DNR and other state conservationists are closely watching the recovery of the loggerhead sea turtle population. Nesting numbers recorded so far this year offer a reason to continue being optimistic that the species is recovering, Dodd said.

“In 2004, we had only 350 nests in the whole state, so we’re luckily coming out of that and we appear to be in a recovery period,” he said. “We still have a long way to go to recover the population to where it was prior to the decline.”

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