Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 19, 2022

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Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 19, 2022

President George Washington gave his farewell address on September 19, 1796.

The period for a new election of a Citizen, to Administer the Executive government of the United States, being not far distant, and the time actually arrived, when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person, who is to be cloathed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those, out of whom a choice is to be made.

I beg you, at the sametime, to do me the justice to be assured, that this resolution has not been taken, without a strict regard to all the considerations appertaining to the relation, which binds a dutiful Citizen to his country–and that, in withdrawing the tender of service which silence in my Situation might imply, I am influenced by no diminution of zeal for your future interest, no deficiency of grateful respect for your past kindness; but am supported by a full conviction that the step is compatible with both.

On September 19, 1863, the Battle of Chickamauga was joined between the federal Army of the Cumberland under Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans and the Confederate Army of Tennessee under Gen. Braxton Bragg.

Thirteen marchers were shot and killed and forty more wounded in Camilla, Georgia at the Camilla Massacre on September 19, 1868 as marchers to a Republican Party rally were gunned down.

President James Garfield died on September 19, 1881, of wounds sustained on July 2d of that year. Garfield is one of seven Presidents born in Ohio – he and William McKinley, were both killed by assassins.

Chickamauga National Battlefield was dedicated September 19, 1895.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Flags fly at half-staff today on Georgia state buildings and properties in memory of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, under Executive Order #09.16.22.01.

The World Champion Atlanta Braves will visit the White House, according to the Associated Press via WSAV.

President Joe Biden will host the 2021 World Series champion Atlanta Braves at the White House.

Biden is getting in the Sept. 26 visit with just about a week before the 2022 regular season wraps up and playoffs begin. The Braves beat the Houston Astros in six games last year. The Braves are in second place in the National League East standings with 91 wins. Post-season begins Oct. 7.

United States Interior Secretary Deb Haaland visited the Okefenokee Swamp, according to The Current.

On Friday, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland visited the Okefenokee as a newly revived mining proposal advanced by Alabama-based Twin Pines Minerals is making its way through the state permitting process. Her position carries no regulatory authority over the mine, but it does allow her to shine a spotlight on risks it poses to the swamp.

She and Sen. Jon Ossoff, who openly opposes the mine, toured the refuge by boat, surveyed it by helicopter and heard from about 20 local leaders about the importance of protecting the refuge for the communities in the area.

Earlier this year, bipartisan legislation to protect the Okefenokee was introduced in the Georgia General Assembly. The bill failed to receive a vote. Last month State Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) spoke at the Georgia Environmental Conference on Jekyll Island and vowed to renew the effort in the coming legislative session.

A recent poll of 625 registered Georgia voters by Mason-Dixon Polling on behalf of the Georgia Water Coalition indicated high support for protection of the Okefenokee with 69 percent responding that Georgia’s Governor should take “immediate action” to protect the Okefenokee swamp from “risky mining proposals.” Full polling results are available on Georgia Water Coalition’s website: www.gawater.org/okefenokee-swamp

Georgia set another record for the number of jobs in the state, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Statesboro Herald.

Job numbers increased 15,800 from July to August to more than 4.82 million. The largest gains came in the educational services sector, which added 3,200 jobs; and professional, scientific and technical services, a sector that grew by 3,000 jobs.

“We have found that the new normal for jobhunting is less door to door and more virtual connection,” Georgia Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler said Thursday.

“Our agency connects jobseekers with open positions quickly and effectively utilizing Employ Georgia and virtual job fairs benefitting employers and employees across the state.”

The job sector with the most over-the-year gains last month was accommodation and food services – a sector hit hard by the pandemic – which added 32,700 jobs.

For the first time this year, Georgia saw a drop in the number of employed residents to about 5.13 million.

However, the number of unemployed Georgians also fell in August to 149,650, the lowest since January 2001.

Initial unemployment claims declined last month from July by 1,795, or 6%, to 26,750. Over the year, first-time jobless claims have plummeted by 44%.

Mental health emergency calls take a toll on law enforcement, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

While mental health response has has always been a challenge in the U.S., health leaders have reported seeing an increase in the need for mental health services during the COVID-19 pandemic, and officers are often on the frontlines, responding to calls for mental health emergencies.

From homelessness, shoplifting, disorderly conduct, obstruction, criminal trespass, threats of harming oneself or others, police responding to such calls say the incidents often involve mental health — both from undiagnosed persons and more often diagnosed mental health patients.

Baldwin County, Georgia, Sheriff Bill Massee said he knows the struggle of encountering mental health all too well.

When the area’s Central State Hospital — known for housing patients being treated for mental health disorders — closed more than a decade ago, it left law enforcement to pick up the pieces of many of its residents now out in the community and not taking their medications.

“It just made the problem much worse. When they first closed the hospital it filled up the emergency rooms in Middle Georgia,” Massee said. “Occasionally, EMS will respond to them, but many times if we’re called and a law has been broken and we have to detain them, then we transport. and sometimes, they’ll become combative with EMS and we will transport them to the hospital for EMS.”

When responding to a mental health emergency, Baldwin County deputies now have to transport patients some 100-plus miles to Atlanta, or often further to Augusta or Moultrie, for in-patient services, Massee said.

“Occasionally we’ll have a few beds open up closer to us, a few in Macon. But from a practical standpoint, we don’t make plans to go there. We normally project that we’ll be going at least to Augusta, the state hospital,” Massee said.

Access to mental health care appears to be more of an issue primarily in the South, according to a 2022 ranking by Mental Health America, a nonprofit promoting mental health and preventing mental illness through advocacy, education, research and services.

Lt. Ricky Long of the Dalton Police Department in Georgia said the local Emergency Medical Services often responds to such calls with officers to provide on-scene evaluation, and transport to a local hospital if necessary. On some calls that require further mental health aid, Long said officers reach out to the state’s mobile crisis team, which generally takes an hour to arrive on the scene.

“Hopefully one of our officers out there is (Crisis Intervention Training) certified and most of the time they just sit and talk to him (or her),” he said. “Sometimes that’s all they want. I know of cases where the person was trying to harm himself and the officer puts them in handcuffs just to protect them and then sit and talk (until) the (state crisis team) gets there.”

It’s a thoughtful and thoroughly-researched take on a complicated topic and worth reading in its entirety.

Democrats and Republicans are knocking on doors to turn out voters, according to the AJC.

“We’ve got to outwork them. And I’ll be honest with you: They’ve been outworking us the last four or five cycles,” Kemp said at a recent campaign stop in Calhoun, warning of another resurgence in Democratic enthusiasm. “We can’t let them do that this year. We have got to have your help.”

Democrats acknowledge the pressure is ratcheting up as polls tighten. Even as GOP volunteers were scouring Cobb County for votes, Democratic canvassers and their allies were fanned out across the state to promote Abrams, U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and other contenders.

Keron Blair of the New Georgia Project said roughly 150 canvassers are knocking on 10,000 doors a day — with hopes of reaching an additional 800,000 households through Election Day.

The groups are putting increased emphasis on the push to turn out voters for the November election because they know that even a small change in voter patterns could determine the outcome in a state where fewer than 12,000 votes decided the 2020 presidential race.

Fred Hicks, a Democratic strategist, said the party’s ground game will “play a larger role in Democrats’ success this year than anything else — including TV ads and mail.”

“Historically, a well-executed ground game increases a candidate’s performance by 3 to 4 points,” he said. “That’s enough to not just secure Sen. Warnock’s election and flip the governor’s race, but also allow for another statewide pickup and gains in the state Legislature.”

What sets the GOP efforts apart this cycle is a more intense focus on reaching voters of color. The RNC and other GOP organizations have launched outreach centers to mobilize Black, Hispanic, Asian American and other minority voter blocs.

Republican Georgia State Representative Matt Dubnik discussed how he will campaign in a modified district, according to AccessWDUN.

Dubnik has represented District 29 since 2016, but in the recent redistricting he gained territory in Oakwood that extends to the Flowery Branch city limits. He gave up the 30506 zip code, but he also gained the 30501 zip code and other parts of Gainesville.

Despite the redistricting, Dubnik said that many of his new constituents recognize him from his work in the community. Dubnik spoke on WDUN’s Newsroom about his campaign plans and his efforts to meet new constituents.

“Folks know me,” Dubnik said. “I’ve been out and about not just in my district before. Gainesville and Hall County have been home and are home. My business is here. Katie and I are involved in the community. So it’s been a little easier than the first time trying to introduce myself.”

Dubnik also voiced his support for the Heartbeat Bill, which he voted for when it was introduced in 2019.

“I believe that life begins at conception, and I believe that all life has value,” Dubnik said. “And those are things that are the core of who I am and are grounded in me because of my faith. I think that that bill struck a balance of allowing for exceptions. I think that that bill struck a balance of protecting the lives of the unborn.”

Democrats rallied in Glynn County, according to The Brunswick News.

[p]arty leaders celebrated the sale of 370 tickets for the dinner that brought in a diverse mix of party faithful.

Among the statewide Democratic candidates meeting and greeting were Nakita Hemingway, who is running for agriculture commissioner, insurance commissioner candidate Janice Laws Robinson, Bee Nguyen and who is running for attorney general. Former Brunswick Mayor and County Commission candidate Cornell Harvey was there, as was Wade Herring, who is hopeful of unseating U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler.

Unitarian Universalists are aiming to turnout voters, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Augusta congregation of the Unitarian Universalist Church held a phone bank training Saturday as part of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s national effort to increase voter turnout. The nonpartisan group’s UU The Vote project is targeting twelve states including Georgia. Events are taking place in Augusta, Athens and Lawrenceville.

The association intends make contact with four million voters by November, letting them know how to register, where and when to vote.

The Georgia General Assembly Joint [House and Senate] Georgia Music Heritage Study Committee heard from music industry officials in Macon, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Macon music figures and Georgia legislators met at Capricorn Studios in Macon recently to discuss how to grow Georgia’ music industry.

One way forward is by establishing tax incentives for people to record and release music in the Peach State. Georgia lawmakers created similar incentives to boost the film industry back in 2008. The film and TV industry’s economic impact has since skyrocketed from $242 million to $4.4 billion.

Macon’s music industry seeks the same success, with local icon and Rolling Stones pianist Chuck Leavell leading the charge to convince the senators and representatives to push for the tax incentives.

“The whole idea is to create more incentives to bring artists to Georgia,” Leavell said. “We’re talking about tax incentives to do their rehearsals, start their tours in Georgia, and record their records here.”

The Macon meeting kicked off a series of stops for the committee, which is officially titled the Joint Georgia Music Heritage Study Committee and is led by Sen. Jeff Mullis of Chickamauga.

“We’re here to sort of get an idea of the industry and the hardships it’s had after COVID-19, and see how music contributes to Georgia’s economy,” Mullis said. “We want to make it easier here and keep musicians from going to somewhere like Nashville, or another music city.”

The Georgia Senate Study Committee to Review Education Funding Mechanisms heard testimony on the state’s allocation of education dollars, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

The Senate formed the study committee this year to look for ways to modernize the state’s Quality Basic Education formula, which dates back to the 1980s.

“When this was originated, Ronald Reagan was president,” Senate Majority Leader Bill Dugan, R-Carrollton, the panel’s chairman, said at the start of the meeting, held on the campus of Savannah State University. “We need to look at the formula to make sure we’re putting the appropriate funding in the appropriate locations.”

In Georgia, funding of public education is about evenly divided between the state and local governments, Christian Barnard, senior policy analyst for the Reason Foundation, a Los Angeles-based libertarian think tank, told committee members.

The local component of school funding comes primarily from property tax revenues, which vary greatly depending on the wealth of the community, Barnard said.

Several speakers suggested Georgia adopt an “opportunity weight” system of funding public education, which dedicates additional funds to students living in poverty.

“The circumstances a child is born into should not dictate his or her chances of success,” added Denise Grabowski, a member of the Savannah/Chatham Board of Education.

Grabowski complained that Savannah schools aren’t being given the funding needed to keep pace with changing technology. She said the system has only one tech support specialist for every 1,100 students.

FWIW, the Senate Majority Leader is named Mike Dugan, not Bill.

 

 

Port Wentworth is working on a comprehensive rewrite of its zoning ordinance, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The zoning ordinance, which is a blueprint for land use and development within the city, needs to be entirely rewritten, according to City Manager Steve Davis.

Third-party auditors, Horizon Community Planning, pointed out major issues with the local zoning laws during an Aug. 28 council meeting, calling it “very difficult to interpret” and “inconsistent.”

“Forgive me for being blunt, but there’s so much wrong with the ordinance that we really need to start over,” said Paul Le Blanc of PLB Planning Group, a partner on the project. “I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’ve written dozens of ordinances … and we really struggled maneuvering through the ordinance. So, I can only imagine what a citizen would experience and even developers.”

Port Wentworth’s city council regularly amends its zoning ordinance to accommodate new developments, which is common for a city to do. But years of changing administrations and stopgap amendments have introduced inconsistencies. The ordinance hasn’t been looked at in its entirety for nearly three decades, said Davis, so this revamp is long overdue.

Glynn County Commissioners are also considering zoning changes, according to The Brunswick News.

Glynn County will host a session on Wednesday to promote the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax on the November ballot, according to The Brunswick News.

Local government officials will answer questions about SPLOST 2022 at an open house on St. Simons Island Wednesday.

It will take place from 5-7 p.m. in the Glynn County Casino, 530 Beachview Drive. County staff member will be present to answer questions and discuss aspects of the SPLOST referendum. The format is a drop-in style open house and will not include formal presentations, according to a news release from the county.

SPLOST is a 1% sales tax that must be approved by voters. SPLOST 2022, if approved, will run for six years and collect upwards of $170 million. If voters approve the SPLOST referendum in the November general election, the city of Brunswick will get 27% of the money generated. Brunswick-Glynn Joint Water and Sewer Commission will get $13 million, the Golden Isles Development Authority will get $3 million, Jekyll Island Authority will get $3.1 million and the airports will get $6.1 million.

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