Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 1, 2022

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 1, 2022

August 1 was a big day for Benjamin Mays – he was born on August 1, 1895 and became President of Morehouse College on August 1, 1936.

PT-109, commanded by LTJG John F. Kennedy was sunk on August 1, 1943.

On August 1, 1982, Hank Aaron was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office is being criticized for referring to a dead trans-woman as a male, according to the Savannah Morning News.

[W]hen the 26-year-old transgender woman was found shot to death at a hotel in Augusta, Georgia, the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office referred to her as an unidentified male and later used her birth name – commonly referred to as a “dead name”–  in a release to the media.

Geter’s family and transgender advocates said misgendering trans people is insensitive to the family, makes it harder for the public to identify the victim and provide information that could lead to an arrest, and obscures the fact that anti-transgender violence is on the rise.

“Initial reports from local media misgendered Keshia,” said Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative, a branch of the Human Rights Commission. “Keshia Chanel Geter lived her truth as a Black transgender woman.”

“One of the reasons it’s so problematic is it’s just disrespectful, not only to the person who has been a victim of fatal violence, but also to their friends and family,” Cooper said.

[Julie Callahan a 30-year veteran of the San Jose Police Department in California and a member of the Transgender Community of Police & Sheriffs organization] said the organization has found that every agency has its own style. But one commonality is that “they feel that the person’s legal name is the only way they should be addressed.”

In an email to The Chronicle on July 28, an official with the sheriff’s office said for police reports, officers use “the person’s legal name derived from their State ID, Birth Certificate, or SSN, which the State of Georgia declares these are legal documents.”

Democrat Stacey Abrams spoke about affordable housing in Athens, which hosts a giant homeless encampment. From the Athens Banner Herald:

Stacey Abrams made a two-day stop on her campaign trail in Athens, meeting with donors Wednesday evening before stopping at coffee shop Bitty and Beau’s on Thursday afternoon.

Just more than 100 days before the midterm elections, the Georgia gubernatorial candidate held an “Athens Evening with Stacey Abrams” event Wednesday.

Abrams met with local media and addressed housing affordability, the economy and the upcoming election.

“We are not in a recession,” Abrams said.

The governor hopeful, challenging Republican incumbent Brian Kemp, re-iterated a stance taken by other Democratic Party leaders in refuting claims the country is in recession. Abrams went on to say that the economic data is concerning, but the situation it is a global phenomenon.

In order to address the current economic challenge, Abrams said Georgia needs to address housing. This comment came days after Abrams released her “Comprehensive Plan to Tackle Georgia’s Housing Crisis.”

Abrams said as the next fiscal cycle starts, she wants there to be “rightsizing” of wages. Abrams called pay increases in the university system “modest” and said they are not keeping up with housing costs and the general cost of living.

“My plan is a comprehensive plan that will look at the budget in 2023-24 and make certain that we are paying people their value, and that they are able to not only work but live, work and play in the communities they love,” said Abrams.

Abrams is leaning in to her support for President Joe Biden, according to the AJC.

“Georgia is the reason we’ve got Joe Biden,” she said to a burst of applause. “The reason that we’ve got billions of dollars in our coffers, money that’s being spent to help keep us afloat.”

While other Democratic candidates in Georgia are keeping their distance from Biden and his rock-bottom approval ratings, Abrams is following a different course. She’s embracing both her alliance with the president and the legislative agenda he has championed.

“I voted for Joe Biden. Joe Biden is the president of the United States. He’s the president of the citizens of the state of Georgia,” Abrams said to cheers in Dalton when asked about her alignment with the president.

“And because of his leadership, we have the American Rescue Plan that’s poured billions of dollars into this state. Because of his leadership, we’re about to have, for the first time, a true climate action plan in the U.S.”

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker was endorsed by the National Border Patrol Council and others, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“We have a very, very serious crisis on our southwestern border,” council President Brandon Judd said during a news conference outside Alpharetta City Hall. “The drug epidemic … is killing too many of our children.”

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who represented a district in Atlanta’s northern suburbs for 20 years, characterized Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock as soft on crime.

“Senator Warnock favors policies that put criminals back on the streets,” Gingrich said.

Former Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren, a friend of Walker’s for almost 30 years, said Walker served the Cobb sheriff’s department as an honorary deputy and often spent time at the jail talking to prisoners.

“He made a lot of difference with a lot of inmates at that facility,” Warren said. “Herschel Walker is probably one of the best ambassadors for law enforcement in this country. … We need him in the Senate.”

Suspended Augusta Commissioner Sammie Sias was convicted on federal charges, according to WRDW.

Former Augusta Commissioner Sammie Sias was found guilty after a four-day trial of destroying records in a federal investigation and then lying about it to federal investigators researching the case.

He has 14 days to file an appeal. U.S. District Court Chief Judge J. Randal Hall will set a sentencing date for Sias following an investigation by U.S. Probation Services. He faces up to 20 years in prison.

“First off let me say to y’all this, the process it is what it is. I think it was fair. We’ll be prepared to deal with this from this point forward. My team, I believe, put on a very good defense for me, but obviously, it did not go my way. We’ll be prepared to move forward from here. I hold no malice against the process. I hold no malice against the jury, or the judge, or the prosecutors. It is time for me, personally, to go ahead and prepare for this, deal with this and go on from there,” said Sias.

Chatham County District Attorney Shalena Cook (D) claimed a leaked prosecution rubric was a discussion  draft, according to the Savannah Morning News.

After publishing an article Wednesday regarding the Chatham County District’s Attorney proposed prosecution rubric, which the DA’s office characterized as a “draft,” the Savannah Morning News later learned that DA Shalena Cook Jones sent a two-page memo to State Court division staff on April 26 that referred to the rubric as “prosecutorial priorities” to “provide clarity and insight and to focus our department efforts on ‘smart prosecution’.”

The second to last line of the memo reads: “Please review and follow the rubric that is attached.”  At no point does the DA stipulate that the rubric is a draft for discussion purposes.

During a phone conversation with SMN, Jones insisted the rubric was not a policy and reiterated multiple times that the rubric was a draft memo sent to attorneys who work in State Court and was sent to State Court judges for their input.

Jones further criticized the leak of the draft, saying “release of this document has adverse consequences to fair and just prosecution, and those who continue to promulgate it are not doing so with the public interest in mind. Further and finally, the sole intent of this discourse is to harass, distract and obstruct the good work of this office,” Jones wrote in a lengthy email to SMN.

Chatham County Commissioners appointed an interim County Manager, according to WTOC.

All questions have gone unanswered as to why Chatham County Manager Lee Smith is on administrative leave.

With Lee Smith’s suspension, the Chatham County Commission appointed Michael Kaigler Interim County Manager.

Kaigler was formerly an assistant county manager.

Chairman Chester Ellis would only read a short statement to the media.

“Regarding the Chatham County Manager Lee Smith, the county commission met and discussed his administrative leave the county manager will remain on administrative leave until further notice.”

Chatham Commissioners also voted to add a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Transportation (T-SPLOST) to the November ballot, according to WTOC.

If approved, county sales taxes will increase 1%.

“It puts money in places were we can resurface streets, redo streets totally. So we can put drainage in cause everybody in Chatham county knows under the ground our drainage system from the 1950′s and 60′s.”

Chairman Chester Ellis says the funds from T-SPLOST will help the county qualify to receive more federal money for projects.

Floyd County voters will decide a referendum on whether to expand the hours for liquor sales, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The Floyd County Commission approved the referendum at its July 26 meeting in a 3 to 1 vote. Commission Chair Wright Bagby Jr. and Commissioners Rhonda Wallace and Scotty Hancock were in favor. Commissioner Larry Maxey voted no and Commissioner Allison Watters was not present.

“This is to match the city’s already adopted in place resolution,” Bagby said. There was no further discussion.

If approved by voters, licensed outlets in the unincorporated area could sell alcohol by the drink and by the package between 11 a.m. and midnight on Sundays. Sales currently can’t begin until 12:30 p.m.

The Stewart County School District announced it will require masks, according to WTVM.

The Stewart County School District has announced a mask mandate for students and teachers in the 2022-2023 school year.

This decision comes from a high transmission of COVID-19 in the area. All students and staff must wear a mask in the building of the school and also on buses and transportation.

Speaking of masks, the CDC is again recommending their use in Georgia, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends Georgians wear masks for public indoor settings as new COVID-19 cases rise throughout the state.

Although the CDC is reporting high transmission, the number of cases being reported remain much lower than in previous surges, such as the omicron surge at the start of the year.

In Muscogee County, the West Central Health District has seen an increase of people getting tested for COVID-19, said spokesperson Pamela Kirkland, with 192 tests performed in the week ending on July 9, to 236 performed in the week ending on July 23.

Columbus courts continue working through a backlog of cases related to COVID, according to WTVM.

A backlog of criminal court cases continues to be an issue in Columbus, leaving inmates in jail for prolonged periods and many without yet being formally charged with a crime.

“Now Mr. Fitzpatrick has been continuously incarcerated for somewhat about 805 days, give or take.” That’s about two years and two months without an indictment.

[Nico] Fitzpatrick’s case [related to a 2018 homicide] was bound to Superior Court in April 2020. He is just now facing the Superior Court judge.

With the recent backlog of cases, Judge Arthur Smith, President of the Council of Superior Court Judges, had a large unindicted bond docket today for people who have been jailed for over 90 days and have not been indicted.

Judge Smith is using money from a $2 million grant to help clear up the backlog.

“The money has allowed us to engage our senior judges who are not on the bench actively involved to come back to work and handle civil cases and family law cases,” says Judge Arthur Smith.

District Attorney Stacey Jackson, who was just appointed back in May, says issues hiring staff plays a part in creating the backlog but filling those positions remains important to him.

Judge Smith says it will probably take a little over two years to get back on track and to get court cases flowing through the system the way they should.

A reproductive rights rally was held in Brunswick on Saturday, according to The Brunswick News.

The Richmond County Board of Education adopted a lower property tax millage rate, but many property owners will pay more due to increased values, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Richmond County Board of Education is reducing the property tax rate by 8.6% to 17.65 mills, the lowest it’s been in nearly 20 years, officials said Thursday.

Taxpayers may not feel much relief, however, as the lower millage competes with their rising property values. Rising property values, meanwhile, have triggered reductions in state funding for Richmond County schools.

And despite the tax decrease, state law requires the board to advertise the new rate as an increase, because it did not adopt the “rollback” millage rate that would raise the same revenue as last year.

Qualifying opens today for three municipal councils in Habersham County, according to AccessWDUN.

Three Habersham municipalities will have Special Elections to fill vacant council seats on Nov. 8.

Residents of Alto, Clarkesville, and Demorest interested in running for an open council seat in their city can qualify this week (Aug. 1-5) at the Habersham County Elections and Registration Office, 130 Jacob’s Way, Suite 101, Clarkesville.

Lawrenceville Police Department will start testing school zone speed cameras, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Drivers who are traveling at least 11 miles over the speed limit in the school zone will receive a citation for speeding. That means a driver who is traveling at least 36 mph, when the flashing sign tells them to drive 25 mph, will get a ticket. If the lights are not flashing and the speed limit is 35 mph, a driver could then receive a ticket for driving at least 46 mph.

Once the warning period ends on Sept. 5, drivers will be fined $75, plus a $25 processing fee, for the first offense and $100, plus a $25 processing fee, for each subsequent citation.

“Unpaid violations are handled through the Department of Revenue by prohibiting the renewal of a car tag or sale of the vehicle, rather than a bench warrant,” city officials said.

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