Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 8, 2021

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Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 8, 2021

The Georgia General Assembly appropriated $1 million for construction of a new State Capitol on September 8, 1883.

The Fulton County Courthouse was dedicated on September 8, 1914.

On September 8, 1966, viewers of the Star Trek debut first heard the monologue opening, “Space, the final frontier…”

On Sept. 8, one of the most enduring franchises in TV and movie history celebrates its 50th birthday. Star Trek debuted on NBC in 1966, developed by Roddenberry, a former Los Angeles cop who wanted to make a TV series which could sneak past the rampant escapism of most programs back then.

At a time when scripted TV rarely dealt directly with the turbulence of the times, Star Trek set its social messages against a space opera backdrop. Swashbuckling Captain Kirk ran the Enterprise, backed by cerebral first officer Mr. Spock and emotional Southern medical officer Dr. Leonard McCoy.

On the surface, the show’s plots dealt with exotic alien worlds in a future where space travel was commonplace. But Roddenberry and his writers slipped in subtle messages.

One classic story pointed out the absurdity of racism by depicting a war among members of an alien race, where one faction was colored black on the left side of their face and body and white on the right. The other faction had the colors reversed.

And as the end of state-sanctioned segregation rattled America, Roddenberry featured TV’s first interracial kiss: Aliens forced Captain Kirk to smooch his African American communications officer Lt. Uhura.

President Gerald Ford pardoned former President Richard Nixon on September 8, 1974 for“all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in during the period from January 20, 1969 through August 9, 1974.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Former President Donald Trump will headline a rally on September 25 at the Georgia National Fairgrounds in Perry, according to WMAZ.

You can register for the event here.

The doors open at 2 p.m [for the 7 PM scheduled start].

Perhaps the biggest candidate is Herschel Walker, the UGA legend who previously announced he would be running against Sen. Raphael Warnock in 2022. He recently received an endorsement from the former POTUS.

Trump has also thrown his support behind state senator Burt Jones for the Lieutenant Governor position currently held by Geoff Duncan, who announced he would NOT be seeking re-election in May, and Jody Hice for Secretary of State.

He has not yet publicly supported anyone in the governor’s race.

From the AJC:

At Donald Trump’s last rally in Georgia, he promised to return to the state in 18 months to campaign for a slate of supporters on the 2022 ticket. He’s set to easily beat that timeline with a major event later this month.

The former president is likely to hold court before thousands of supporters alongside a pro-Trump ticket he’s helped recruit and endorsed for office.

Governor Brian Kemp issued Executive Order #09.07.21.01, appointing a panel to review the indictment of Cordele City Commission Ward 2 member Royce Reeves.

From WALB:

The review board will look into Cordele City Commissioner Royce Reeves, Sr.’s indictments on obstruction of an officer, violation of oath by a public officer, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct charges.

The commission has 14 days to make a recommendation on suspension.

The commission is made up of Attorney General Chris Carr, Barnesville City Councilmember Christopher Hightower and McDonough City Councilmember Benjamin Pruett.

From the WALB story on the indictment:

The state alleges that Reeves pushed a state trooper in an effort to get beyond the police line surrounding the wreck scene.

Reeves was indicted on two counts of obstruction of an officer, violation of oath by a public officer, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct.

“According to the state patrol, he used his position to say, ‘you have to listen to me, I’m a city commissioner.’ And of course, they don’t,” Coleman previously told WALB News 10.

Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Mark Jones (D) was indicted on counts related to alleged bribery, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The indictment accuses Jones, who took office in January 2021, of the following criminal acts in his first nine months in office:

•  Two counts of influencing a witness, a felony that carries 1-5 years
•  Two counts of bribery, a felony that carries 1-20 years
•  Two counts of violation of oath by public officer, a felony that carries 1-5 years.
•  Two counts of attempted violation of oath by public officer, a felony that carries 1-2.5 years
•  One count attempted subornation of perjury, a felony that carries 1-5 years

The indictment alleges that Jones attempted to persuade Corporal Sherman Hayes’ testimony in State of Georgia v. Elijah Farral, a case stemming from a February 2021 shooting where police said 20-year-old Farral and two friends were dancing around with a handgun before Farral decided he would use it to “scare” Sara Holtrop, who had fallen asleep face-down on a couch.

Jones allegedly told Hayes that he should testify that Farral thought Holtrop was cheating in their relationship, providing motive evidence that could lead to Farral being charged with murder. Hayes told the court that police believed Farral accidentally pulled the trigger as he approached Holtrop, sending a bullet into her back.

The indictment also alleges that Jones offered to give Chief Assistant District Attorney Sheneka Jones and Assistant District Attorney Kimberly Schwartz $1,000 each to obtain murder convictions in cases. Those cases are not specified in the court document.

Jones’ second influencing witness charge stems from allegedly using a “threat and (engaging) in misleading conduct” to “influence and prevent the testimony” of Chris Bailey.

“It is important for the citizens of Georgia to know that our office will not hesitate to enforce the rule of law, including when it involves the actions of a public official,” Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said in a statement. “We appreciate the critical role and service of the Muscogee County grand jury, and we thank the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for their hard work in this investigation. We look forward to presenting our case in Court.”

Click here to read the full indictment, as posted by the Ledger-Enquirer.

DA Jones turned himself in and bonded out, according to WTOC.

Jones denies all of the allegations and says his office will continue operations as normal.

“I did not do what they say I did. I’ve never taken a bribe, never tried to influence a witness. I’ve never tried to get someone to testify untruthfully,” said DA Mark Jones. “So i feel like I’ve fought so hard for this city. I’ve gotten convictions on cases that matter, and I feel like we’ve been responsive to the community.”

Also from WTOC:

Jones was indicted in 2020 on charges that stem from two different incidents. One is from a DUI on Nov. 11, 2019 where Jones injured a woman. The jury has charged Jones with three counts of serious injury by vehicle, one count of driving recklessly and two counts of driving under the influence.

The second felony charge was from Jones’ campaign video in the Civic Center parking lot. In the video, men were spinning tires and drifting in the parking lot without authority in the vicinity, putting two other men in danger. He is charged with criminal damage to property in the first degree and interference with government property after. This court hearing is set to take place September 13.

Jones took office in January 2021.

The Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit serves Chattahoochee, Harris, Marion, Muscogee, Talbot and Taylor Counties.

Former Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jacqueline Johnson (R) was arrested after her indictment on counts related to the Ahmaud Arbery case, according to the AJC.

[Johnson] turned herself into the Glynn County sheriff’s office on Wednesday morning and was booked into jail in Brunswick.

She was then released from the Glynn County Detention Center on a $10,000 bond.

A grand jury indicted her last Thursday on two counts. Johnson is charged with obstruction of a police officer, which is a misdemeanor. On the day of the Feb. 23, 2020 shooting, she allegedly instructed two Glynn County police officers not to arrest Travis McMichael, the man who shot and killed Arbery, the indictment says.

The Brunswick Judicial Circuit serves Appling, Camden, Glynn, Jeff Davis, and Wayne Counties.

Four candidates have said they might run for the State House District 165 seat vacated by the late State Rep. Mickey Stephens, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Chatham County Elections Board Member Antwan Lang said he would run if Stephens retired.

Former Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson had said [earlier] she was considering a run for the position as well, but said she wouldn’t formally announce until Stephens officially retired as a sign “of respect.”

Sabrina Greene-Kent, who described herself as “semi-retired” and works part-time as a payroll specialist for ILA 141, is running.

Clinton Young, a retired Army specialist and vending machine businessman who mounted unsuccessful runs for Savannah City Council in 2007, 2011 and 2015. is running as well.

Savannah-Chatham County public school bus drivers protested after the deaths of four colleagues from COVID, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Mallory and several other drivers were protesting for the second day outside of the bus lot on Gamble Road. Their concerns center on students not wearing their masks on bus rides and the administration’s payroll structure. According to district policy, students are required to wear masks on the bus and in school.

A total of 45 drivers called out on Tuesday, according to a statement released by SCCPSS. On Friday the district reported 54 drivers had unexpectedly called out. Typically, 218 drivers cover routes that transport more than 18,700 students.

A driver for nine years, Leah Framble said her bus routes are packed and some of the younger children have a hard time keeping their masks on. Framble would like to see the district go back to its 3-day/2-day hybrid plan.

The drivers also want to see change when it comes to the way the district pays them. Among the concerns is the desire to opt out of reserve pay, which makes up for the summer months when they aren’t driving.

The Savannah-Chatham County school system said they reached an agreement with the drivers to end the protest, according to WTOC.

Bus drivers say they did not want to burden the community anymore and felt they had a successful negotiation meeting Tuesday with the superintendent and deputy superintendent.

Banks tells us that the district administration and the transportation staff all came to an agreement about their concerns. They are taking steps to work on the pay situation and get a pay schedule that works better for the bus drivers. They also have created a hotline number for the drivers and monitors to call anytime they feel that protocol has been violated on the bus or any other unsafe situation occurs and they will be investigated on an individual basis.

SCCPSS released the following statement Tuesday evening:

“SCCPSS continues work to overcome staffing issues among bus drivers that created transportation delays on Friday, September 3, 3021 and again today. An already understaffed department has been hindered by dozens of drivers unexpectedly calling out. Some of those drivers have protested outside our Gamble Road maintenance facility, speaking out regarding concerns over pay, retirement, and work conditions.

From CNN via the Albany Herald:

This issue is especially acute among school districts grappling with a shortage of school bus drivers as the new academic year begins this week for many schools across the country.

For school districts, this shortage is becoming a significant problem as they head into the fall, though a lack of drivers has persisted throughout the pandemic.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the number of drivers plunged at the beginning of the pandemic. Between March and April 2020, the trucking industry lost more than 88,000 jobs, and transit and ground passenger transportation lost more than 185,000 in that month alone.

Nationally, the need for school bus drivers is expected to remain at “critical levels” over the coming months. This shortage will likely impact the industry’s ability to provide consistent service stretching well into the school year, according to the National School Transportation Association.

The Fairfax County, Virginia, school system — just outside the nation’s capital — is trying to fill almost three times its normal driver openings amid the ongoing pandemic.

For school bus drivers, though, there are positive signs that financial incentives are starting to proliferate across the country. Those with commercial driver’s licenses are so in demand that Fairfax County is offering new bus drivers a $3,000 sign-on bonus, in addition to competitive starting salaries, Furby told CNN. Other counties are advertising similar financial incentives.

From the AJC:

The long-running substitute teacher shortage that intensified during the early days of the pandemic last school year may be growing worse as more students return to classrooms amid the surge of COVID-19 driven by the delta variant.

The rise in case counts has led to more teacher absences as they become infected or come in contact with others who are and must quarantine. Meanwhile, the pool of substitute teachers that was already constrained before the pandemic has continued to shrink as substitutes, many of them older, retired teachers, are refusing to enter classrooms.

Staffing shortages have already resulted in temporary school closures and are disrupting classrooms in less visible ways, as students are left in the care of adults who aren’t always skilled teachers.

Gwinnett Superintendent Calvin Watts described the substitute shortage as the most significant challenge he faces.

“When we see shortages of our instructional leaders, our support staff, we have to make way for substitutes. What happens when that employee group also has shortages? Those are very real challenges that I know that my colleagues are grappling with as well,” Watts said at a superintendents’ panel hosted by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week.

Earlier that day, Gwinnett had had 977 requests for substitutes, with 582 of the positions filled. That “fill ratio” of 60% was down from 96% on the first day of school less than four weeks earlier.

Schools newly affected by COVID-19:

Bibb County – remote for two weeks until September 20

Fulton County – Bear Creejk Middle and Liberty Point Elementary, and Third Grade at Summit Hil Elementary

Henry County – Austin Road Middle and McDonough Middle

Griffin-Spalding County school system

From the Associated Press:

At least 210,000 Georgia students in 54 districts and charter networks have had their school schedules disrupted because of COVID-19. Some districts have taken days off, some shifted to every-other-day schedules and some sent home individual schools or grades. That’s more than 12% of Georgia’s 1.7 million public school students.

More than 34,000 COVID-19 cases have been reported among children aged 5-17 in the two weeks ended Sept. 2, according to Georgia Department of Public Health data, with more than 125 infection clusters reported in K-12 schools during that period.

In the Griffin-Spalding district on the southern fringe of suburban Atlanta, bus driver Natalia D’Angelo and monitor Marie Darley died from COVID-19 last month, while driver Bobby Leverette died Sunday.

The district is offering $500 to new bus drivers, and is considering paying all bus drivers an additional $1,000 or more.

Chatham County is asking for public input on how to spend $28 million in remaining federal COVID relief funds, according to WTOC.

Statesboro will host another COVID vaccine clinic and will give away 300 gift cards of $50 each, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Cedartown City Hall is closed to the public through September 13th, according to the Polk County Standard Journal.

United States Representative Jody Hice (R-10th District) has endorsed State Rep. Timothy Barr as his successor, according to the AJC.

Hice announced Tuesday that he’s endorsing GOP state Rep. Timothy Barr for the seat. “Timothy is a proven fighter who will put America first and be an active member of the Freedom Caucus,” Hice said in a statement.

If Hice’s written endorsement didn’t make his pick clear enough, he also stars in Barr’s first ad, which his campaign released Tuesday. In it, Hice gives Barr advice for serving in Congress to fight Socialism and cancel culture, among other things. The ad even includes Hice’s grandchildren playing with Barr’s children.

State Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome) chaired a meeting of the State House Study Committee on Childhood Lead Exposure, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Children exposed to lead at a young age are at higher risk for physical, mental and behavioral problems as adults, a panel of experts told members of a Georgia House study committee.

Studies show lead poisoning is more prevalent in kids who live in older homes and rural areas, with lower access to healthcare. Race and ethnicity are factors as well, along with poverty.

Dempsey said during the initial meeting that the committee will take testimony twice more in October and may meet a fifth time to finalize recommendations for action during the 2022 legislative session.

“This has been discussed for a long time … We need to make sure we’re not missing a population of children that are exposed to these adverse reactions; make sure these really dreadful irreversible conditions are not impacting children.”

Baldwin County Commissioners will consider a property tax millage rate that would result in higher tax revenues, according to 13WMAZ.

The proposed property tax increase means that the bills of county residents would go up a little more than $25 for every $100,000 their property is worth.

The idea is to bring in more money for EMS services, storm water fees, fire and rescue, law enforcement, elections and more, according to assistant county manager, Dawn Hudson.

“As everyone knows because of COVID-19, the costs of all supplies are going up and our commissioners want to keep current services the way they are. They don’t want to have to reduce services… because of the increases and all of the costs of goods and services, they felt it best to propose the property tax increase,” she said.

Two public hearings have already taken place. A third and final hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday.

After the final public hearing, the county commissioners will vote on the proposal. Should it go through, Baldwin County tax payers would see an increase on the 2021 Tax Bill in November.

Lowndes County will receive $11.64 million in road construction funds from Georgia DOT, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

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