Category: Georgia Politics

11
Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 11, 2019

On June 11, 1776, the Continental Congress appointed Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Roger Sherman of Connecticut and Robert R. Livingston of New York to draft a declaration of independence from Britain. Language in the original draft that condemned the introduction of the slave trade in the colonies did not make the final draft.

Abraham Baldwin, founder of the University of Georgia, arrived in Philadelphia on June 11, 1787 to attend the Constitutional Convention. Baldwin was joined by three other delegates, William Few Jr., William Houston, and William Pierce; Baldwin and Few would sign the Constitution on behalf of Georgia.

On June 11, 1963, President John F. Kennedy issued proclamation 3542 ordering Governor George Wallace of Alabama to allow two African-American students to register at the University of Alabama, as ordered by a federal court.

On the morning of June 11, the day the students were expected to register, Wallace stood in front of the University of Alabama campus auditorium flanked by Alabama state troopers while cameras flashed and recorders from the press corps whirred. Kennedy, at the White House, and Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, in Tuscaloosa, kept in touch by phone.

When Wallace refused to let the students enter for registration, Katzenbach phoned Kennedy. Kennedy upped the pressure on Wallace, immediately issuing Presidential Proclamation 3542, which ordered the governor to comply, and authorizing the secretary of defense to call up the Alabama National Guard with Executive Order 11111.

That afternoon, Katzenbach returned with the students and asked Wallace to step aside. Wallace, knowing he was beaten, relented, having saved face with his hard-line, anti-segregation constituency.

On June 11, 1986, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was released.

[T]he most memorable performer may have been an automobile: the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California, a custom-built car revered by auto collectors.

According to Motor Trend, the first Ferrari 250 GT Spyder California—colloquially known as the “Cal Spyder”—was produced in 1957 and the last was built in early 1963. In addition to the long-wheelbase (LWB) Spyder, Ferrari also produced a sportier, short-wheelbase (SWB) model. Though estimates vary as to exactly how many were made—Cameron says “less than a hundred” in the film—approximately 46 LWB and between 50 and 57 SWB Spyders were produced in all. For “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” the filmmakers used a modified MGB roadster with a fiberglass body as a stand-in for the Ferrari. The filmmakers reportedly received angry letters from car enthusiasts who believed that a real Ferrari had been damaged.

One 1961 250 GT SWB Spyder California, with chassis number GT 2377GT, belonged to the actor James Coburn (“The Magnificent Seven”), who died in 2002. On May 18, 2008, at the second annual Ferrari Leggenda e Passione event at Maranello, Italy, the British deejay Chris Evans bought that car at auction for 6.4 million Euros, or $10,894,400 (including fees), the highest price ever paid for an automobile at auction.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Governor’s Office of Student Achievement and the Georgia Department of Education held listening sessions statewide, according to the Albany Herald.

“My office is committed to working with state, local and federal partners to ensure a world-class education for our children and put Georgia students first,” Kemp said in a news release. “On this tour, I was honored to meet with and learn from educators, students, superintendents and local officials. Together, we were able to celebrate a truly historic legislative session with the largest teacher pay raise in state history, $69 million in school safety funding, and a doubled investment in mental health support for students.”

State School Superintendent Richard Woods said the tour generated valuable feedback.

“It was an honor to partner with Gov. Kemp, the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, and the 16 RESAs on this statewide tour,”” Woods said. “I am grateful to the many local superintendents, board members and educators who took the time to share their feedback, as well as the State Board of Education members and members of the General Assembly who participated.” [said Woods]

“We will now review the comments and plan for the future. It is an exciting time for Georgia to have the Governor’s Office, GOSA, and GaDOE working together with a clear focus on supporting our students and teachers. We have a great opportunity to accelerate the positive direction that public education has taken within our state.”

Daniel Merritt announced he will run as a Republican against U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler), according to The Brunswick News.

“I want to be a representation of every single person here. I want to make this entire district better than where I found it, and I have a track record of success in the military, in business, and I think that’s going to easily translate into a track record of success in politics,” Merritt said at a meeting Monday of the Golden Isles Republican Women. “I’m a pro-gun, pro-Trump, pro-wall conservative Republican, and I’m proudly running for Georgia’s 1st District.”

As to why Republican voters should choose a different option in 2020, Merritt said one reason is to get a new approach.

“I can bring a fresh look at how we do things in Washington,” Merritt said. “I think part of the problem, and part of the gridlock, and part of the same ‘this is how we do things’ over and over and over again — I’m not saying there’s not progress, what I’m saying is that there’s gridlock. And the way that we’ve been doing things is not working.”

The last time Carter faced primary opposition was when he ran for the open seat in 2014 — he took 36.2 percent in leading the original primary field, and won the runoff against Bob Johnson with 53.8 percent of the vote.

The Whitfield County Commission voted to create an advisory panel for a 2020 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

In April, commissioners heard from Floyd County Commission Vice Chairman Wright Bagby and that county’s manager, Jamie McCord, about that county’s process for developing a SPLOST.

For Floyd County and its two municipalities — Cave Spring and Rome — a citizens group makes the final decisions on what projects are presented to voters for each SPLOST. The committee members are selected by the three government bodies, and there are no elected officials on the committee. Proposals for projects are made by the governments and also by private citizens, and the committee members evaluate all proposals before coming up with a final list of projects.

The Whitfield committee won’t have the same powers.

Board Chairman Lynn Laughter said elected officials have a responsibility to make the final decision on which projects will be placed before voters.

Instead, commissioners and the councils of each of the four cities in Whitfield County — Dalton, Cohutta, Tunnel Hill and Varnell — will each develop lists of projects to be funded and bring them to the advisory committee, which will discuss the projects and make recommendations. Then each of the local governments will put together a final list to be placed on the ballot.

The Valdosta Board of Education was recognized as a Georgia School Boards Association 2019 Quality School Board , according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The  Savannah-Chatham County public school system says two public charter schools are liable to reimburse the system, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The board voted 8-1 at its regular meeting June 5 to require Savannah Classical Academy and Coastal Empire Montessori Charter School to repay a total of $982,000 to the school district over the next two years because their 2018-19 enrollments were lower than budgeted.

Savannah Classical Academy will have two years to return to the district $591,953, due to a mid-year adjustment in revenue tied to enrollment. The school’s enrollment declined last summer, after the fiscal 2019 budget process, largely because the Georgia Department of Education put an enrollment moratorium into effect. The Department of Education lifted the moratorium just before school opened after the school’s Georgia Milestones Assessment System scores improved dramatically from the prior year, but it was too late to recover from the enrollment decline.

“I’ll just say I’m disappointed in their decision,” Savannah Classical Academy Director Barry Lollis said Friday about the school board’s decision. The board’s vote came after months of a “should we or shouldn’t we” discussion about whether the charters should be forgiven, or “held harmless” from, the funds some insisted the schools owed the district due to enrollment declines.

Coastal Empire Montessori Charter School is expected to return $390,593 to the district over the next two years because its enrollment declined when it dropped a class.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is investigating the death of a federal inmate in the Chatham County Jail, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Brunswick City Council discussed the coming year’s budget and the cost of city council elections, according to The Brunswick News.

Three candidates for Flowery Branch City Council spoke to the South Hall Republican Club, according to the Gainesville Times.

Lilburn City Council adopted a FY 2020 budget that includes pay raises, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The budget includes four funds: the $8.29 million General Fund, which covers operations and personnel; the $2.59 million Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax Fund; the $1.37 million Capital Projects Fund; and the $75,000 Confiscated Assets Fund.

Overall, the city’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year is up about 4.7% from the approved budget for the current fiscal year, which ends later this month.

A key part of the budget is a 4% cost of living increase for all Lilburn employees to make starting salaries for city jobs — particularly police officer positions — more attractive, City Manager Bill Johnsa told the council. A pay-for-performance salary increase of up to 2%, depending on an individual employee’s performance, was also included in the budget.

“The bulk of the (budget) increase is 4% and 2% salary increases,” Johnsa said.

The Hall County Board of Education adopted a $108.2 million dollar FY 2020 budget, according to AccessWDUN.

10
Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 10, 2019

Bridget Bishop was the first person hanged after being convicted of practicing witchcraft in the Salem witch trials on June 10, 1692.

On June 10, 1793, Washington, DC officially replaced Philadelphia as the Capital of the United States. To honor Washington, today we will adopt a smugly superior attitude, name-drop constantly, and speak condescendingly to those who currently live in the states we used to live in.

Rebecca Latimer Felton was born on June 10, 1835 in Decatur, Georgia and later became the first woman to serve in the United States Senate after being appointed by Governor Thomas Hardwick to fill a vacancy in 1922.

The United States Naval Academy graduated its first class on June 10, 1854.

The Girl Scouts of America were incorporated in Washington, DC on June 10, 1915.

The Republican National Convention in Cleveland became the first political convention broadcast on the radio on June 10, 1924.

Alcoholics Anonymous was founded on June 10, 1935.

President John F. Kennedy signed the 1963 Equal Pay Act on June 10, 1963.

I AM delighted today to approve the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which prohibits arbitrary discrimination against women in the payment of wages. This act represents many years of effort by labor, management, and several private organizations unassociated with labor or management, to call attention to the unconscionable practice of paying female employees less wages than male employees for the same job. This measure adds to our laws another structure basic to democracy. It will add protection at the working place to the women, the same rights at the working place in a sense that they have enjoyed at the polling place.

While much remains to be done to achieve full equality of economic opportunity–for the average woman worker earns only 60 percent of the average wage for men–this legislation is a significant step forward.

Apple Computer shipped the first Apple II computers on June 10, 1977.

Coca-Cola introduced Classic Coke on June 10, 1985.

Ray Charles, who was born in Albany, Georgia died on June 10, 2004.

Those of you who attended the 2003 Inaugural of Governor Sonny Perdue will remember that Ray Charles played that night.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

State tax collections for May are up slightly against the previous May, according to the Albany Herald.

Georgia’s May net tax collections totaled almost $1.76 billion for an increase of just over $1 million, or 0.1 percent, compared to May 2018. Year-to-date, net tax collections totaled $21.67 billion for an increase of $940.7 million, or 4.5 percent, compared to the previous fiscal year when net tax revenues totaled nearly $20.73 billion.

Georgia state healthcare programs covered 20,000 fewer children in 2018 than the year before, according to the Gainesville Times.

In Georgia alone, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which in Georgia is called PeachCare for Kids, covered 20,000 fewer children at the end of 2018 than the year before, according to a new report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.

“That 1.6 percent drop is less than an overall 2.2 percent decline in enrollment nationally,” the report states.

Nationwide, about 828,000 fewer children were enrolled in Medicaid last year, with declines in 38 states.

“While enrollment growth slows during periods of economic growth, it is uncommon for there to be an actual decline in enrollment,” the report states. “The decline in children’s enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP reinforces serious concerns that this alarming trend could continue—and perhaps even worsen.”

Former President Jimmy Carter has returned to teaching Sunday School after a broken hip, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter talked about his recent health setback and his conversation with President Donald Trump, as he returned to teaching Sunday school in Georgia for the first time since breaking his hip.

Carter told people gathered at the Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains that he and his wife, Rosalynn, have nursing care at home and are doing fine. He thanked those present for their prayers and good wishes.

“The main purpose of his call was to say very frankly to me on a private line that the Chinese were getting way ahead of the United States in many ways,” Carter said.

He said he told Trump the U.S. has been in constant war for years, spending trillions of dollars, while China has invested in projects such as high speed rail that benefit its people.

In March, Carter became the longest-living chief executive in U.S. history, exceeding the lifespan of former President George H.W. Bush, who died Nov. 30 at the age of 94 years, 171 days.

U.S. Representative Lucy McBath (D-TN) held a Town Hall meeting, according to the AJC.

McBath, D-Marietta, is among the mass of House Democrats not openly agitating for an impeachment inquiry into the president. But even before a friendly crowd packed with supporters, the first-term congresswoman representing Georgia’s 6th District felt the pressure.

In fact, the second question of the event advocated opening impeachment proceedings against the president. Marietta resident Lori Goldstrom, who described herself as one of McBath’s early backers, said she was “concerned” she had not spoken out in support of impeachment.

“It’s really troubling, all these children who are dying at the border,” she said. “The House has a job to do and you need to have a hearing.”

“Looking at the Mueller Report, there is no doubt in our mind that there has been obstructive behavior in concealing the truth,” she said. But McBath urged patience and switched the emphasis to enforcing House subpoenas issued to current and former administration officials.

McBath tacked toward the Democratic middle throughout the hourlong appearance. Again and again, she stressed the need to find bipartisan solutions to national problems on health care, climate and infrastructure.

“I’m going to continue to reach across the aisle each and every day,” she said. “My goal is to be the Georgia congresswoman who has passed (the most) bipartisan legislation.”

A prosecution against State Senator Nikema Williams (D-Atlanta) has been dropped, according to the AJC.

Capitol Police arrested state Sen. Nikema Williams, an Atlanta Democrat, on Nov. 13 along with 14 metro area residents during a protest in the days following last year’s closely contested gubernatorial election.

Williams’ attorney, David Dreyer, a Democratic state representative from Atlanta, called the arrest an “affront to the First Amendment.”

“The charges should have never been brought in the first place, and she never should have been arrested,” he said.

Williams, who also is the chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, was charged with obstruction and disrupting the General Assembly. The other 14 protesters were charged with disrupting the General Assembly.

In a court filing, Cobb County Solicitor General Barry Morgan said that while there was probable cause for Williams’ arrest, his office decided not to prosecute her.

“While the Capitol Police were professional and correctly did their job, we must also balance the need for public safety in such an important public forum with the inviolable right to free speech and protest, especially of the government,” Morgan wrote in the dismissal. “Our decision here does not reflect condemnation of that arrest decision; this decision is a choice to let the arrest itself serve as punishment for the crime.”

A Joint Commission of the State House and Senate will consider freight movement and logistics challenges, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The Georgia Legislature will take up the matter of truck traffic with a joint House-Senate Commission this summer, seeing both an issue to be solved and economic development opportunities. The Georgia Freight and Logistics Commission will “find ways to move freight more efficiently throughout Georgia spurring economic growth and job creation.” per the press release announcing the house speaker’s and lieutenant governor’s appointments to the group.

The group includes three state senators and three representatives, six members from the logistics industry, and four representative members from local governments. Representatives from the Georgia Municipal Association, Association of County Commissioners of Georgia, the Georgia and Metro Atlanta Chambers of Commerce, the Georgia Department of Transportation and the Georgia Ports Authority will serve in an ex-officio (non-voting) capacity.

Without trying to over-simplify their work, the study will be a matrix of alternatives. Reducing truck traffic likely means increasing the amount of freight shipped by rail. Every box car or container on a train represents a truck not on Georgia’s roads.

In addition, Atlanta’s traffic problem is one that many other Georgia communities see as an opportunity. Upgrading the state’s highways with routes suitable for large trucks that bypass metro Atlanta would alleviate some traffic issues while opening the door for smaller, rural communities to attract their share of employers in the logistics field.

Wes Wolfe of The Brunswick News looks at the fallout for the film industry from Georgia’s passage of the Heartbeat Bill.

It’s possible to look at what’s happened in another Southern state. Film and TV work prospered in North Carolina, but a significant faction of the Republican majority in the North Carolina General Assembly became hostile to the industry it saw as opposed to its social conservatism, and killed the state’s incentive program in 2014, turning it into a grant program, which led to a large reduction in projects based in the state.

On top of that was the fiasco around H.B. 2 in 2016, viewed by detractors as punitively discriminatory against transgender people. During the year H.B. 2 was law in the state, the Associated Press estimates North Carolina lost $3.76 billion in business — $196 million of that from canceled entertainment and sports projects.

A study by the North Carolina Fiscal Research Division concluded, though, it’s hard to tell the impact of small events, like H.B. 2, in larger economic trends in a populous and economically diverse state like North Carolina.

The difference between this controversy and what went down in North Carolina over a period of three or four years, though, is the Georgia legislature is much more supportive of the entertainment industry, and those blockbuster incentives aren’t going anywhere.

State film staff and legislators alike celebrated the 2008 law that revolutionized film and TV investment in Georgia. That law provided a flat 20 percent tax credit on qualified production expenditures and another 10 percent in addition if the production used a Georgia promotional logo, like the “made in Georgia” sequence at the end of an episode.

Georgia was the No. 1 filming location in the world last year, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.

A former landfill site on Jekyll Island now hosts a solar array, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Built on the site of a former construction landfill near the middle of the island, the 1 megawatt facility is expected to produce enough power to supply the energy consumption of more than 100 average homes.

Radiance Solar built the $1.5 million array, which is owned by Atlanta-based Cherry Street Energy. Cherry Street will sell the electricity to Georgia Power under its Renewable Energy Development Initiative, which seeks to increase the utility’s procurement of renewable energy.

“It’s our understanding that it’s one of the largest (solar arrays) on state-owned property,” said Cherry Street Energy CEO Michael Chanin. “I don’t know of a larger one.”

It’s one of two former landfill sites in coastal Georgia that have been been converted for use as solar farms. The other sits at the entrance to Dulany Industries’ multi-use industrial complex called SeaPoint on East President Street in Savannah.

The Jekyll solar farm and the one at SeaPoint are similarly sized. They both sell their electricity to Georgia Power, which distributes it via the grid. Unlike at Jekyll, Dulany Industries owns both the land and the solar arrays. At Jekyll, the state of Georgia owns the land, which is operated by the Jekyll Island Authority. The Authority leases the land to Cherry Street Energy for about $2,000 a month for 30 years.

Statesboro has hired lawyers to help with negotiations with Bulloch County, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Statesboro City Council this week retained four attorneys and their Atlanta-area law firm as the city’s special counsel for negotiations with the Bulloch County government toward a required 10-year service delivery strategy agreement.

Georgia’s Service Delivery Strategy Law mandates that counties and the cities within them reach agreement on how to provide and pay for public services. One frequent source of contention is the fact that city property owners also pay county taxes while rural property owners do not pay city property taxes.

“Service delivery is really about how do you pay for unincorporated services,” said Michael B. Brown, a Savannah-based consultant to the city of Statesboro. “They have to pay their own way. That’s what it’s about. Across the state, that’s what these plans are for.”

[C]ouncil members voted 5-0 to approve a resolution authorizing four attorneys with the law firm Smith, Welch, Webb & White LLC as special counsel “in the preparation, negotiation, mediation and litigation regarding the SDS” (service delivery strategy).

The Chatham-Savannah Board of Education has chosen a vendor to upgrade part of its administrative computer systems, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Hall County has started enforcing regulations on short-term rentals, according to the Gainesville Times.

Hall County’s number of short-term rentals has more than doubled since an ordinance allowing more homeowners to qualify was passed in March. Now, the county has a new system in place for neighbors to report concerns and for property owners to respond.

Hall County’s number of short-term rentals has more than doubled since an ordinance allowing more homeowners to qualify was passed in March. Now, the county has a new system in place for neighbors to report concerns and for property owners to respond.

Planning and Development Director Srikanth Yamala said there are currently 41 registered short-term rentals in Hall, up from just 13 before the ordinance allowing all residential properties to qualify was passed. The county gave people some time to register their short-term rentals under the new rules — many short-term rentals had been operating without a license — and only started issuing citations on May 1. Since then, 61 citations have been issued by the Hall County Marshal’s Office for operating without a license.

Smart parking meters in downtown Macon were never intended to be a cash cow, according to the Macon Telegraph.

When 577 smart parking meters were installed in downtown Macon almost a year ago, the main goal was to encourage more turnover in prime spots to help increase the number of people shopping and dining at area businesses.

If the meters made money, that would be considered an added benefit, and the profit would help fund some improvements downtown, officials said.

“The primary goal of the program was to assist with prosperity downtown by making parking more available for business activity,” Morrison said earlier this year. “We discovered most of the blocks downtown were at or near 100 percent occupied all day every day, and the predictability to find a space was very limited.”

Morrison said the parking program is on track to pay back the cost of the equipment and to get the program under way, as well as contribute to improvements downtown.

The development authority took out a loan for $750,000 to cover the cost of the meters and installation, Morrison said. He said the authority also took about $20,000 out of its general fund to pay Lanier’s expenses before the meters started making money.

The Glynn County Board of Elections will meet Tuesday, according to The Brunswick News.

The Athens Banner Herald spoke with Athens-Clarke County Mayor Kelly Girtz.

Red State Blues

Out of state Democrats continue to think of Georgia as fertile ground for future victories, according to USA Today.

Democrats see Georgia as a potential pickup in 2020, an enthusiasm fueled largely by Democrat Stacey Abrams narrow defeat by Republican Brian Kemp in the governor’s race. The four White House hopefuls comments in Atlanta largely looked past Georgia’s primary and to the potential for Democrats in the general election.

“This is a blue state,” Booker said of Georgia, which last voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in 1996 and where every statewide office is held by a Republican. “What that means is we need to go back to organizing and build a 50-state party.”

National Democrats have also bought into Stacey Abrams’s big lie about her loss in 2018. From the Bipartisan Press:

“Stacey Abrams ought to be the governor of Georgia. When racially motivated voter suppression is permitted, when districts are drawn so that politicians get to choose their voters instead of the other way around, when money is allowed to outvote people in this country, we cannot truly say we live in a democracy,” said Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind., and one of nearly two dozen Democrats running for president.

“I think that we all have to make our own decisions. And I can’t begin to — to speak for what her decision-making is. I know that she’ll do what she thinks is best for herself,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) said of Abrams and Abrams’ future. “But I think the reality is that suppression is real. But more importantly, we can’t stay home and we can’t rely on thin margins. We have to get more people registered to vote. We have to actually turn out more people to vote. Because when you rely on thin margins, then there is always going to be a question on — on what could have happened, but we have to put the work in and people have to recognize that elections matter. When you look at the thin margin of the last presidential election, and you look at where our country is now, it matters.

“My race for mayor in Atlanta almost 100,000 votes cast, 832 votes made the difference,” Bottoms said. “And so I think if we register, continue to register more people and turn out more people to vote, then I think that you’ll — you’ll clearly see that Georgia is blue again.”

National Review takes issue with the revisionist history being offered by Democrats.

Stacey Abrams’s refusal to lose the Georgia gubernatorial election graciously was one of the low points of the 2018 midterms. But her insistence that Brian Kemp and the Republicans stole the election from her has now become an article of faith among Democrats.

Democratic presidential contenders who traveled to Atlanta this week to speak to the African-American Leadership Council repeated the claim, which Abrams has made more than a dozen times since she lost to Kemp by 54,723 votes last November. In rote fashion, they repeated Abrams’s charges that the outcome was determined by “voter suppression” conducted by Kemp, who during the race was Georgia’s secretary of state.

Not be outdone by his supposed competition for moderate Democratic-primary voters, former vice president Joe Biden raised the ante when he addressed the same group on Friday. Biden claimed that voter-integrity laws — which Kemp was legally bound to enforce — were direct descendants of Jim Crow regulations aimed at preventing African Americans from voting. Describing the GOP’s policies as a “methodical assault” on voting rights, Biden said, “voter suppression is the reason why Stacey Abrams isn’t governor right now.”

The assertion that Abrams was cheated, like any legend, gains credibility the more it is told, and now that the presidential field is echoing the sore loser’s refrain, it is becoming harder and harder to contain. Indeed, in none of the accounts of Buttigieg and Biden’s speeches were their claims about cheating or suppression explained, let alone challenged.

The irony is that this comes from the same party that spent much of the fall of 2016 warning that Donald Trump and his supporters would never accept defeat and worrying that democracy was under threat from loose talk that fraud was the only way he could lose. Democrats were not wrong to worry about the damage that kind of rhetoric does to the public’s faith in the system.

When examined soberly, Abrams’s claims evaporate. Kemp’s win was no landslide, but his 1.4 percent margin of victory didn’t even give her the right to demand a legal recount. Demographic changes may mean that Georgia is trending away from the red-state status it has had in the last decade, but Stacey Abrams lost because Republicans still can turn out majorities there even in years when the odds favor Democrats.

Georgia Republican Party Chairman David Shafer spoke to local activists in Hall County, according to the Gainesville Times.

“I think our Republican party is in trouble,” Shafer said. “I think if you look at the last election cycle, the statewide margins had narrowed to a very uncomfortable level and we lost seats that we shouldn’t have lost in the suburbs of Atlanta. I think there are a number of reasons why that happened, but one of them is I think there’s been a complacency that’s overtaken us in the 15 years of Republic supermajority. We’ve allowed it to become weaker and I think that we don’t have any margin of error going forward. We’ve got to pull everything together.”

Shafer stated he believed much of the Republican party’s lack of voter turnout in the 2018 elections boiled down to a need for local outreach and organization, as the same counties that saw fewer Republican voters in the midterm elections weren’t lacking in party support during the presidential election.

“Most of the counties that are unorganized today are counties that were carried overwhelmingly by Donald Trump and Brian Campbell,” Shafer said. “So, we know there are Republicans there, we just haven’t taken the time to plant and nurture local party organizations.”

“We’ve allowed the Democrats to out organize and out work us,” Shafer said. “You saw the damage from that in the last election cycle. When I look at what happened in 2018, I don’t think that what happened in the suburbs is that people who were Republican earlier just decided to become Democrats, what happened is that Democrats did a better job turning out Democrats than we did Republicans. We can’t allow that to happen in 2020, and we’re going to do everything we can to get ready for those 2020 elections.”

7
Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 7, 2019

Georgia’s colonial charter, signed by King George II was witnessed on June 9, 1732.

Click here for the full text of Georgia’s Royal Charter from 1732.

Click here to see the oldest copy of Georgia’s Royal Charter, which was presented to Georgia by South Carolina.

The Battle of Bloody Marsh was fought between Spanish forces and colonists under James Oglethorpe on St Simons Island, Georgia in 1742 on a date that is variously cited as June 9 or June 7, 1742. Thus began the rivalry between Georgia and Florida.

On June 9, 1772, the first naval attack of the Revolutionary War took place near Providence, Rhode Island, as HMS Gaspee, a British tax enforcement ship was baited into running aground and attacked by a boarding party the next day.

Richard_Henry_Lee_at_Nat._Portrait_Gallery_IMG_4471

On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia introduced a resolution before the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia calling for American independence from Great Britain.

Lee’s resolution declared: “That these United Colonies are, and of right out to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; that measures should be immediately taken for procuring the assistance of foreign powers, and a Confederation be formed to bind the colonies more closely together.”

Four weeks later, Georgia’s members of the Continental Congress – Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, and George Walton — voted for a version written by Thomas Jefferson of Virginia and called the Declaration of Independence.

On June 9, 1864, Gen. W.T. Sherman moved his troops to Big Shanty, Georgia, now called Kennesaw, and beginning a four-week period sometimes called the Battle of Marietta.

The first successful ascent of Mt. McKinley, also called Denali, in Alaska, the highest mountain in North America, was completed on June 7, 1913.

On June 7, 1942, Japanese troops occupied American territory in the Aleutian Islands off Alaska.

The first Porsche automobile was completed on June 8, 1948.

Ronald Reagan became the Republican nominee for Governor of California on June 7, 1966.

Cream was formed on June 9, 1966 by Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Jack Bruce.

On June 9, 1973, Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown, the first to win all three of the Triple Crown races since 1948. Secretariat was bred by Christopher Chenery, a graduate of Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, whose jockeys wore blue-and-white silks in honor of Chenery’s alma mater.

Ghostbusters was released on June 8, 1984.

On June 8, 2004, Georgia hosted the G-8 summit meeting of the world’s major industrial democracies, which included representatives from the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United Kingdom, plus a representative from the European Union. The 30th meeting of the G-8 was held at Sea Island at the Cloister.

June 7, 2016 was declared “Prince Day” in Minnesota under a proclamation issued by Governor Mark Dayton. Prince was born on this day in 1958. Governor Dayton missed his chance to begin a proclamation with “Dearly beloved, we are gathered together today….” The next year, Dayton proclaimed Prince Day on April 21, 2017.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

President Donald Trump signed legislation to provide disaster relief to Georgia, according to WSB-TV.

President Donald Trump has signed a $19.1 billion disaster aid bill aimed at helping communities across the country bounce back from hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and fires.

The move comes as a sigh of relief from Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black.

“We’re glad that this is finally done,” Black told Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant. “We’re not knocked out, but we’re certainly knocked down, and our farm families are rising again.”

“This is a good day for Georgia. It’s a good day for America, and we’re doing the right thing standing with the farm families of the state,” Black said.

The $19 billion deal sets aside $3 billion for farmers. But so far, no word how much of that Georgia will see. We also don’t know the specific mechanisms the feds will put in place to get it here.

“I just want to encourage as we move into the funds being appropriated for the federal government and the powers that be to have as much flexibility as possible,” [Governor Brian] Kemp said.

From the AJC:

It will still take weeks, if not months, for any federal money to end up in Georgians’ pockets. Funding must first flow through federal agencies such as the Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency, many of which must create new formulas and regulations to divvy up the money.

“I want to encourage (agencies) – as we move in to the funds being appropriated – to give us as much flexibility as possible,” said Gov. Brian Kemp. “We want a fast process to put this money forward and help our farmers.”

The new law carves out more than $3 billion for farmers hit by Hurricane Michael and other natural disaster, as well as new money for local blueberry growers whose crops were destroyed by a deep freeze in 2017 and the victims of recent tornadoes in west Georgia and Alabama.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, a former Georgia governor, will be in charge of parceling out billions. He said his departments looks “forward to implementing this disaster aid package in a fair way and working with state leadership to identify where the true losses and needs are to best serve our fellow Americans in need of a helping hand.”

“Finally, Americans who were ravaged by historic floods, wildfires, and hurricanes across 12 states have certainty for the immediate future,” said Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue.

 

Former Vice President Joe Biden, a potential candidate for the Democratic nomination for President, spoke in Atlanta yesterday, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden reversed course Thursday and declared that he no longer supports a long-standing congressional ban on using federal health care money to pay for abortions.

“If I believe health care is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment” that makes it more difficult for some women to access care, Biden said at a Democratic Party fundraiser in Atlanta.

The former vice president, who launched his 2020 presidential campaign in April, said he arrived at the decision as part of developing an upcoming comprehensive health care proposal. He has declared his support for a Medicare-like public option as the next step toward universal coverage. He reasoned that his goal of universal coverage means women must have full and fair access to care, including abortion.

Other Democratic Presidential candidates also visited Atlanta yesterday, according to the AJC.

Four leading presidential candidates converged on Atlanta on Thursday to court voters, meet with activists and raise a boatload of campaign cash.

And while they all had different priorities and target audiences during their visits, they each carried the same message: Georgia will be no afterthought in the 2020 election. It’s a sure-fire battleground state.

“What we need to do is get people out to vote,” said [Cory] Booker, a New Jersey U.S. senator. “This is a blue state. What that means is we need to go back to organizing and build a 50-state party.”

Two of the candidates, Booker and [Pete] Buttigieg, tried to impress a crowd of veteran strategists at the African-American Leadership Council Summit in downtown Atlanta. Biden and [Beto] O’Rourke headlined a glitzy fundraiser for the national party in Buckhead.

Booker, who refers to himself as a “junk-food vegan,” appeared at a barbecue and tofu fundraiser. Buttigieg held court with a small group of donors at Manuel’s Tavern, a must-visit for generations of Democratic candidates.

Georgia State House Speaker David Ralston fired back at opponents over allegations of misuse of legislative leave, according to the Daily Report.

Ralston’s attorney James Balli—a member of the state Judicial Qualifications Commission—claims in a June 3 response to the complaints that “a small, disingenuous cabal” is attempting to exploit two women who filed the complaints and use bar disciplinary rules as a “procedural weapon” when “they really only care about attempting to cause political harm” to Ralston.

“This group does not care about either woman and are only seeking to further their self-interested goals and obtain media attention,” Balli said. The bar “should not allow such political nonsense to sully its disciplinary procedure.”

According to Balli, both bar complaints claim the Georgia General Assembly’s legislative leave policy were the sole reason the prosecutions of Ralston’s clients were delayed—claims that Balli argued are false.

Balli said Ralston “never improperly used legislative leave.”

But the lawyer said Ralston does “properly exercise legislative leave” when performing duties as House speaker that include attending meetings, fundraisers, political dinners, tours of state or local facilities or other events that, “but for the fact he is Speaker of the House, he would not attend.”

Balli also said that, while the bar complaints speculate that Ralston had no valid reason to invoke legislative leave in their cases, legislative leave is by law “solely within the discretion” of a state legislator. “Even if a non-lawyer disagrees with that purpose or wildly speculates about the reason, his basis for doing so is not subject to review by any court or the State Bar,” Balli contended.

Georgia is ending Medicaid for 17,000 residents, according to lawyers cited by the AJC.

The state is terminating Medicaid assistance for about 17,000 poor elderly or disabled Georgians, it says, as lawyers for some of them call the move a giant mistake.

The state Department of Community Health said the 17,000 had simply not responded to renewal notices informing them how to continue their coverage. Patients interviewed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution say they never received renewal notices, and their lawyers say their clients’ Georgia Gateway computer accounts show that no such notices were ever sent.

Instead, they say, if they received any notice at all it was a cancellation notice.

Lawyers from Georgia Legal Services, a nonprofit organization that is working for some of the affected patients, have written to the state Department of Community Health to get the move reversed and ask for concrete information about how and why the notices were sent and how many people are affected.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed the first testing of oxygen levels in the Savannah River in connection to the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Required testing of a system to mitigate oxygen loss from the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) is complete, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Wednesday.

Before SHEP dredging on the 22-mile stretch of the inner harbor can begin, the dissolved oxygen (DO) system must be shown to work as expected. The inner harbor deepening starts from near Jones Island to the Garden City port. Jones Island is between Fort Pulaski and Tybee Island.

With a deeper harbor, more salt water will enter the river and estuary, decreasing oxygen levels needed by fish and the whole ecosystem.

Preliminary assessments of the (DO) testing data are positive, Corps officials said.

“We’ve completed the testing and data-collecting phase and we are still making progress in the analysis of the data and plan to release a final report in August,” Bryan Robinson, an engineer with the Corps who oversaw the tests, said. “Our general impression right now is that the tests indicate the system is performing better than expected in the three primary aspects of the tests.”

Film Director Spike Lee, who was born in Atlanta and graduated from Morehouse College, is calling on Hollywood to pull out of Georgia, according to AccessWDUN.

Lee said now is the time for Georgia-based productions to “shut it down” and boycott the state’s booming film industry to drive change.

Lee acknowledged that a mass exodus could dent livelihoods, but cited black bus drivers affected by the Civil Rights Movement-era boycott in Montgomery.

 

Floyd County Superior Court Judge Kay Ann Wetherington has started a new Parental Accountability Court, according to the Rome News Tribune.

It’s a voluntary alternate sentencing option for noncustodial parents who are behind in their child support payments and face sanctions including incarceration.

“We have a lot of people in that category. It doesn’t make sense to suspend their drivers license or put them in jail. It sets them back,” said coordinator Jessica Ferguson, who’s assigned to Wetherington from the Georgia Department of Human Services.

Cohutta Police Chief Ray Grossman will retire after having been put on leave by City Council, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Ferguson said the court program runs a minimum of 12 months. The first move is to send them for a mental health assessment, and the child or children must be legitimized. Ferguson can point them in the right direction for legal documentation.

However, her main focus is to determine why the person isn’t making child support payments and address that. Participants can get help with mental health, substance abuse, housing, employment, clothing, education — if they’re willing to commit.

Ferguson said she expects to start with about 15 to 20 participants because it’s an intensive course. There are monthly check-ins with the judge but she’ll be monitoring their progress on all assignments.

A report by the Urban Land Institute recommends demolition of the Savannah Civic Center, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office K9 Officer Eddy and his human partner passed their national certification from the U.S. Police Canine Association, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Ángel Cabrera, currently President of George Mason University in Virginia, is the sole finalist to become the new President of Georgia Tech, according to WABE.

The Floyd County Board of Education read their FY 2020 budget for the second time publicly, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Floyd County Schools will be receiving an estimated $66.3 million for its 9,324 students bar any austerity cuts, Chief Financial Officer Greg Studdard said. These numbers come from the quality basic education earnings sheet, which is what the state of Georgia uses to determine how much funds systems receive.

The total revenues from state, local and other local sources is projected to be $102.7 million, which will be an increase of around $2 million from FY ’19.

Within this $66.3 million is the $1.4 million the system is receiving for certified personnel. The system will be covering a 2% classified personnel raise which will cost around $1.6 million. Instruction is the largest expense Studdard said, with it being 65% of the systems expenditures. The total estimated expenses for the school system in the FY ’20 budget is $103.5 million.

With the systems expenses rising $5.3 million from last year, the board and school administration had to look for cuts when developing the FY’ 20 budget. The closing of McHenry Primary, ending the free lunch program and not filling 22 empty positions all contributed to cutting the systems expenses for FY’ 20. In total, the system was able to cut $4.5 million of the $5.3 million expense increase.

The Georgia Department of Transportation unveiled plans for a new interchange at I-16 and I-95 west of Savannah, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Major General Neil S. Hersey is the new commanding general of Fort Gordon, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Former Muscogee County Deputy Marshall Alicia Narsis Davenport is considering running for Marshall, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

“Right now I am pondering how well my service can best be utilized for Columbus citizens. I’ve received several calls from local lawyers and citizens to run for marshal,” she wrote in an email Wednesday, when asked about her plans since the city settled her lawsuit.

She filed the federal lawsuit against Muscogee County Marshal Greg Countryman and the Columbus Consolidated Government on Nov. 3, 2014, but then had to put her claim on hold to await the outcome of criminal proceedings, after the city pressed charges against her for violating her oath of office.

The police and marshal have different duties. Columbus police primarily are responsible for daily law enforcement and criminal investigations. The marshal’s office primarily is charged with executing the functions of Muscogee Municipal Court, which handles small claims, wage garnishments and evictions.

The City of Byron has fired its transgender fire chief, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The Glynn County Commission has entered into an agreement with a private company to regulate and enforce short term rentals, according to The Brunswick.

hort-term rentals have a relatively short and spotted history in Glynn County. Most don’t present much of an issue for their neighbors, but some create significant hardship, county commissioner Peter Murphy said at the commission’s Thursday meeting, using the notorious Burton house, or Villa de Suenos, as an example.

To address the issue, county commissioners have been mulling over a contract with Host Compliance — a California-based consultant specializing in helping local governments regulate short-term rentals — for nearly a year now.

[T]he commission voted to enter into the first phase of an agreement with Host Compliance, a $5,000 ordinance-writing consultation. In the first phase, the company will help the commission regulate short-term rentals.

In the second phase, the county would contract with Host Compliance for a number of services to help the county track rentals and enforce the new rules.

The annual service fees come out to around $91,795 while company charges a one-time $5,000 fee for ordinance-writing consultation.

Athens-Clarke County Commissioners are considering a FY 2020 budget that attempts to address poverty, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Mayor Kelly Girtz amended his budget to include a $4 million “prosperity package” at the request of other commissioners, in addition to other measures already built into the budget meant to benefit people with little money. The budget funds a new Inclusion Office and free bus rides for seniors, people with disabilities and county employees. University of Georgia students and workers can already ride for free.

There’s also $100,100 to expand the police department’s Mental Health Co-Responder Unit, money to allow more police officers to take their vehicles home, more money for the Board of Elections and a new housing coordinator job “to support increased creation of affordable housing throughout Athens.”

The second-largest item in a list of projects that could be funded with an extension of the 1 percent Special Local Option Sales Tax is a $44.5 million affordable housing initiative. According to initial plans, the money would be directed mainly at rental housing. The initiative is part of a $278 million list of projects that voters will say yes or no to in a November referendum.

The commission didn’t raise taxes for the 2020 fiscal year, but taxes will go up. The county’s tax digest, an inventory of all taxable property, grew by around 10 percent this year, mainly because of steeply rising property values. The government’s financial planners expect to collect about $65.2 million in property taxes this year, up $5.3 million from a year ago. Property tax is the single largest source for the $140.2 million capital and operating budget.

6
Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 6, 2019

The expulsion of the Cherokee from Georgia began on June 6, 1838 as 800 members left by riverboat.

On June 6, 1944, seventy years ago, Allied forces under the command of General Dwight D. Eisenhower began the invasion of France, called D-Day.

On the morning of June 5, 1944, U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe gave the go-ahead for Operation Overlord, the largest amphibious military operation in history. On his orders, 6,000 landing craft, ships and other vessels carrying 176,000 troops began to leave England for the trip to France. That night, 822 aircraft filled with parachutists headed for drop zones in Normandy. An additional 13,000 aircraft were mobilized to provide air cover and support for the invasion.

By dawn on June 6, 18,000 parachutists were already on the ground; the land invasions began at 6:30 a.m. The British and Canadians overcame light opposition to capture Gold, Juno and Sword beaches; so did the Americans at Utah. The task was much tougher at Omaha beach, however, where 2,000 troops were lost and it was only through the tenacity and quick-wittedness of troops on the ground that the objective was achieved. By day’s end, 155,000 Allied troops–Americans, British and Canadians–had successfully stormed Normandy’s beaches.

On June 6, 1949, George Orwell published 1984.

The Augusta Chronicle spoke to Jim Dover, a 97-year old veteran who was part of the invasion on D-Day.

Dover was only 18 in 1943 when he enlisted as World War II dragged on in Europe and the Pacific. He joined the paratroopers, and a year later he would be at one of the most important days in history and a tipping point in the war.

Dover, now 95, went to Europe in 1944 when his training was completed. He was part of the 101st Airborne Division and one of the thousands of American troops that landed in Normandy on that day.

“We jumped out of one plane called a C47, a cargo plane. It had one door to jump out of,” Dover said. “The plane was set up, it had a bench down each side. There (was) 12 seats for 12 men on each side.”

He was on the left side of the plane and was with the first group of 12 men to jump. The plane was supposed to go over the drop zone, group one would jump, then it would circle back and the second group would jump. However, the plane never circled back.

“It was shot down,” Dover said.

Mr. Dover later served in Korea and Vietnam as well.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Some Democrat I’ve never heard of said Stacey Abrams would be Governor of Georgia if it weren’t for racists, according to CNN.

Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton said Sunday Democrat Stacey Abrams should be governor of Georgia, and said she would be if the US “wasn’t racist.”

“We have a problem with racism in America today. If this country wasn’t racist, Stacey Abrams would be governor,” the Democratic presidential candidate said at a CNN town hall in Atlanta.

“I smoked weed when I was younger. I didn’t get caught, but if I had, I would’ve been fine. Because I’m a white guy,” he said, comparing his hypothetical situation to one involving a man in Louisiana who Moulton said was sentenced to life in prison last year for selling $20 of marijuana.

Sounds like maybe he smoked weed before going onstage.

Fellow failed Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke said Georgia isn’t a red state in Atlanta, according to the AJC.

The Democratic candidate told a few dozen voters in downtown Atlanta that last year’s gubernatorial race between Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp, which was clouded by concerns of voter suppression, helped inform his voting rights agenda.

“As I watched what happened in Georgia and I saw the lines that stretched hours long, voting machines that didn’t work … and the implication that some people weren’t intended to vote,” he said, adding it was proof “you need an incredibly strong civil rights division at the Department of Justice.”

The former Texas congressman also wants to make Election Day a federal holiday, allow automatic and same-day voter registration, abolish voter ID requirements and enact legislation that establishes independent redistricting commissions.

And O’Rourke proposes a constitutional amendment that would limit the terms of U.S. Supreme Court justices and members of Congress, along with new restrictions on campaign contributions from individuals and corporations.

“Texas and Georgia – they’re not red states. They’re non-voting states,” he said. “If everyone was registered … we would be voting. And at the end of the day, that’s what’s most important.”

The visit comes ahead of a busy day in Georgia politics. O’Rourke and three other presidential candidates will stump in Atlanta on Thursday at a string of events: Former Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind. and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker.

Speaking of Democratic candidates coming to town, the AJC has more on the story.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., and ex-U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke plan to attend a parade of events across the metro area before capping the evening with a fundraiser to benefit the national Democratic Party.

No, Georgia isn’t getting the attention of early-voting states that claim a sliver of its population. But the state is no longer an afterthought in picking the next president, a convenient spot for candidates to swoop in and raise money before spending it in more competitive territory.

On the heels of the state’s tight election in 2018, White House hopefuls are visiting Georgia earlier and more often than they have in decades. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis shows that major candidates have already made more than a dozen trips to Atlanta, and lesser-known contenders have made it a point to swing by, too.

“We are now more than an ATM for presidential candidates,” said David Brand, a Democratic donor and marketing specialist in Atlanta. “They see how close Stacey Abrams ran, and they want to come and invest here.”

All this is happening without a primary date on the calendar: Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has yet to select a time for the vote, though most politicos believe it will be held March 3– a budding “Super Tuesday” when California, Massachusetts, Texas and a swath of other Southern states are scheduled to hold votes.

Local officials in Columbus told the Ledger-Enquirer they would support use of Fort Benning to house unaccompanied minor immigrants.

Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson, who got a call Tuesday from HHS to let him know that Fort Benning was being considered, said officials didn’t tell him the specific sites at the base they were examining to house the children.

“Nobody has identified anything. I imagine they’ll let us know where it is and what they’re talking about,” Henderson told the Ledger-Enquirer. “But ultimately, this is an agreement between two federal agencies. Columbus just happens to be a really supportive neighbor.”

Henderson said, the city would provide support to Fort Benning, if it is selected to house migrants.

“The only thoughts I have on it right now is Columbus, as a community, has always supported Fort Benning and the soldiers,” Henderson said. “So, if Fort Benning needs anything from Columbus, we’ll do our best to try and provide it.”

Sanford Bishop, the Georgia congressman whose district includes Fort Benning, said that housing the children at Benning would be better than having them live in other overcrowded facilities.

“Senator Perdue is aware of the site visit at Fort Benning and looks forward to receiving more details from Administration officials,” the statement reads, “The Senator has seen the crisis at our southern border firsthand and continues to work with the President, and his Senate colleagues, to find commonsense solutions to fix our immigration system.”

Mac Sims, a gay Army veteran, is running as a Democrat for State House in Savannah, against incumbent Democrat J. Craig Gordon, according to Project Q.

The 23-year-old West Point graduate and U.S. Army veteran got the political bug after working on Stacey Abrams’ campaign for Georgia governor in 2018.

“That was how I got my feet wet in Georgia politics and discovered that I really loved it,” Sims (photo) told Project Q Atlanta. “I loved the issues-based advocacy and figuring out what we can do to make people’s lives better in Georgia.”

Sims hopes to unseat state Rep. J. Craig Gordon in House District 163, which includes Savannah.

“I know him well, he’s a good guy, but at the end of the day I’m philosophically opposed to 14-year incumbents,” Sims said.

A fire safety reclassification in Statesboro will save homeowners on insurance premiums, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Effective last October, areas outside the city limits but within the five-mile district and near hydrants on the city’s water system, as well as Statesboro itself, were assigned a “2.” Statesboro’s previous rating had been a “3,” and Grams noted that a “2” is almost unheard of for fire departments this size.

However, the new rating for the entire district was a split 2/2Y,” where “2Y” represented a lower level of protection available for addresses that are not on the city’s water system and had a private water supply not certified to provide sufficient flow. As he explained in February, households with a “2Y” had the equivalent of an old-style “8B,” or roughly a “9,” rating.

Many homeowners’ annual insurance premiums in those areas actually increased, in some cases by thousands of dollars.

But after submitting a new report to the ISO in March, the Fire Department received a “flat classification,” with a slight reduction in overall score but still well within the range for class “2,” [Statesboro Fire Department Chief Tim] Grams told Statesboro City Council.

The Savannah-Chatham County Board of Education adopted a $632 million dollar budget that requires no millage rate increase, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Savannah-Chatham County school board agreed Wednesday to tentatively adopt a $632 million budget at the existing 18.881 millage rate for the upcoming fiscal year.

The expected 2019 tax levy, which was posted Wednesday as required by law, indicates the tax digest will provide Savannah-Chatham County schools with $267 million in 2019, up $13.56 million or 5% from the amount provided in 2018. Tentative adoption of the millage rate was required to meet the timeline for the board’s official vote on the budget June 19, according to a board document.

The board voted unanimously to tentatively adopt budgets totaling $631.65 million for fiscal 2020. They include a general fund budget of $445.6 million, a general obligation debt budget of $5.45 million, a special revenue fund budget of $69.26 million, an “other funds” budget of $15.47 million and a capital projects funds budget for $95.92 million, chief financial officer Larry Jackson said.

Besides the $3,000 raise for teachers and a 2% classified personnel pay raise, most of which the state is providing for, the proposed budget includes $3.7 million in a mid-year step increase for teachers.

Demolition has begun on the federal courthouse annex in Savannah, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Brunswick Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission is considering projects for inclusion in a 2020 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), according to The Brunswick News.

The Georgia Department of Transportation is considering two routes for a truck bypass around downtown Valdosta, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Paul Tanner, GDOT state transportation planning administrator, said an analysis has been completed for creating two potential routes with variations on each for a truck bypass in Valdosta from U.S. 84 and State Route 38 around downtown. Included in the bypass project is a railroad crossing overpass on St. Augustine Road south of U.S. 84.

The overpass is not contingent on the truck bypass project, but would be a piece of the overall bypass. The $19 million project would be funded by the transportation special purpose local option sales tax, better known as TSPLOST, and is proposed for construction for Fiscal Year 2028, according to a GDOT release.

The analysis of the truck bypass shows about four possible options with the cost of each ranging between $55 million and $103 million.

Tanner said the next step of the process is getting the public involved deciding to choose the route, which will go to the Valdosta-Lowndes Metropolitan Planning Organization, a federally designated transportation planning organization for the Valdosta urbanized area.

Jerry Bridges Sr. resigned as Jones County Coronoer after being indicted and arrested, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Jerry Bridges Sr., 76, faces two counts of misappropriation of funds and 22 counts of theft by conversion, said Jones County sheriff’s Lt. Kenny Gleaton. Bridges is accused of pocketing at least $100,000 from funeral home clients with pre-need accounts.

Bridges is free on a $100,000 property bond pending trial. Bridges could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Bridges is accused of misappropriating funds from pre-need funeral accounts from his business, Bridges Funeral Home, that closed in 2018, Gleaton said.

5
Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 5, 2019

According to “This Day in Georgia History,” on June 5, 1775, the first Liberty Pole in Georgia was raised in Augusta, Georgia. Another account holds that the first Liberty Pole in Georgia was raised June 4, 1775 at Tondee’s Tavern in Savannah. Those who fly the “Appeal to Heaven” flag should know that it has some common history with Liberty Poles.

Light Horse Harry Lee, later the father of Robert E. Lee, led a group of Continental soldiers, South Carolina and Georgia militia as the British surrendered Augusta on June 5, 1781. The capture of Augusta led to Georgia’s inclusion in the United States, though it had previously been so divided between Patriots and Loyalists that Georgia was the only American colony to not participate in the First Continental Congress.

The Republican National Convention met in Philadelphia on June 5, 1872, nominating Ulysses S. Grant for President the next day. Twelve years later, on June 5, 1884, William T. Sherman refused the Republican nomination for President, saying, “I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected.”

Republican candidate for Governor A. Ed Smith died in a car accident on June 5, 1962.

Senator Robert F. Kennedy was shot after winning the California Primary on June 5, 1968 and died the next day.

President Ronald Reagan died on June 5, 2004.

Columbus will celebrate the 75th anniversary of D-Day on Thursday at the National Infantry Museum, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Trump Administration may start housing unaccompanied minor immigrants at Fort Benning, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Both NBC and CNN report the Department of Health and Human Services, the agency responsible for housing immigrant children under the age of 18 who cross the border unaccompanied, is operating near capacity with facilities overwhelmed and crowded.

Department of Defense spokesman Major Chris Mitchell told NBC that no decision has been made but HHS would soon be touring Fort Benning with defense officials.

“Health and Human Services will conduct a site assessment of DOD property for potential future use by HHS as temporary emergency influx shelter for unaccompanied alien children (UAC) at Fort Benning, Georgia,” Mitchell said to NBC.

“DOD officials will join the HHS staff as they tour the property available for potential future use. HHS will make the determination if the site will be used for UAC operations. This effort will have no impact on DOD’s ability to conduct its primary missions nor on military readiness,” he told NBC.

Georgia ranks 47th in the nation for access to mental health services, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

According to the non-profit Mental Health America of Georgia, the state ranks 47 out of 50 for access to mental health care, resources and insurance.

In Georgia, one in five people with a serious mental illness has a better chance of ending up in a prison than getting adequate treatment at a mental health facility, according to officials.

“In Baldwin County, a small county, we spend out of the general funds of the county, $150,000 to $200,000 a year just on psychotropic drugs for those who are mentally ill,” [Baldwin County Commissioner Henry] Craig said. “The cost of housing those persons who are mentally ill in the county is very expensive, and in Baldwin County alone, 60 to 65 percent of all of our prisoners in the jail are mentally ill. We must do something different. … The largest mental institution right now in the country is the Los Angeles County Jail, the second largest mental institution right now is the Dade County Jail in Miami. And in Baldwin County, the largest mental institution is the county jail.”

In Thomasville, the Thomas County Sheriff’s Office spends hundreds of man-hours transporting mentally ill people to out-of-town mental-health facilities. To date this year, the sheriff’s office has transported 267 people, driving 8,515 miles requiring more than 53 hours. Last year, transports totaled 986, with 83,884 miles driven in more than 849 hours.

“Ten percent of our jail population is diagnosed mental patients,” said Capt. Steven Jones, Thomas County Sheriff’s Office public information officer.

Southwestern State Hospital, a former Thomasville state mental hospital, closed in 2012 and 2013. The Thomas County Jail immediately saw a dramatic increase in mentally ill inmates, Jones said.

The Georgia Supreme Court will review a lower court decision on racial makeup of juries in Columbus, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

It’s the issue of how Muscogee County compiles its jury pools — which are lists of potential jurors for court cases.

The issue of fairness and racial makeup of juries has recently been brought to the U.S. Supreme Court, but in 2012 Georgia made a rule to help ensure all jury pools are representative of each county’s overall population and demographics.

In 2017, the state Supreme Court ruled that the way a Canadian vendor called Courthouse Technologies compiled lists of potential jurors for Fulton County violated that rule.

But Muscogee County still uses that vendor.

Judge Gil McBride, chief judge of the six-county Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit, twice this year held hearings on Muscogee County’s jury-selection issue. After the hearings, on April 10, McBride ruled against the defense, deciding any alterations Courthouse Technologies made to the jury list before Haynie and Phillips were indicted in 2016 were not significant enough to quash the indictment.

The AJC reports that State Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) will likely announce a congressional campaign on Thursday.

State Sen. Renee Unterman is set to join the race for Georgia’s 7th District on Thursday, intensifying a polarizing race for one of the nation’s most competitive U.S. House seats and sharpening a debate over abortion rights.

The Republican will announce her candidacy at a rally Thursday in her hometown of Buford, in an attempt to contrast with lesser-known rivals who entered the race with splashy TV ads and polished websites but no public events.

Unterman’s entry into the race to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall will shift the focus of the campaign squarely toward the anti-abortion “heartbeat” measure that’s divided Georgia politics.

Georgia will receive a $269,000 dollar grant from the federal EPA to develop beach monitoring and notification programs, according to the Albany Herald.

“Ensuring Americans have clean water for drinking and recreation is a national priority, and EPA is doing its part to make sure our coastal and Great Lakes waters are clean and healthy for beachgoers this summer,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a news release.

“These grants will increase public information about water quality at our beaches and help our state and local partners conduct testing and address potential sources of contamination.”

“We want people to feel confident that their beach is healthy and clean,” Jill Andrews, chief of Coastal Management with Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources Coastal Resources Division, said. “We test our beaches weekly and notify the public immediately of swimming advisories. Results are posted online and at beach access points. Fortunately for Georgia beachgoers, swim advisories are not the norm.”

The Georgia Department of Transportation will host a public meeting in Garden City to discuss planned transportation improvements, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Harrison Floyd dropped out of the race for the Seventh Congressional District and urged State Rep. Todd Jones (R-Forsyth) to run, according to the AJC.

The Athens Banner Herald spoke with Athens-Clarke County District 1 Commissioner Patrick Davenport.

How much has your faith influenced your politics?

A lot. Jesus was a very caring man regardless of people’s backgrounds, regardless of people’s affiliations, and I believe that’s the message He wants to teach everyone in the world. Just to be kind to everyone. To help everyone. In today’s modernized world, I believe if you have the ability and skill to help someone, do it.

Do you believe that’s the role of a public official? Someone who helps others?

That’s correct. But more than help others. It’s help the community be better. There are a lot of different personalities, a lot of needs and wants in the community, but as a public official you should do what’s best for everyone.

Why did you decide to run for commission?

I had been active in the community behind the scenes for a few years; working with nonprofits, helping other people campaign. When you talk to people you start collecting a dialogue. You start hearing the needs and wants of people. I just felt that I would be able to do a better job in executing those (ideas) the people in the community had.

One of the biggest problems I know we have on the eastside is ambulance service. A lot of the elected officials didn’t talk much about the ambulance service. … A lot of retirees live in that district. I want to be a voice for those individuals, making sure we’re at least addressing some of those issues like ambulance service.

Varnell Police Chief Lyle Grant has been reinstated and will retire by the end of the year, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

A Whitfield County grand jury declined to indict Grant last week for felony theft by taking for providing a county-owned, encrypted radio to a Dalton wrecker service.

Grant, who had been placed on paid administrative leave on April 30 after District Attorney Bert Poston said he would present evidence from a Georgia Bureau of Investigation report to the grand jury, will return to duty on Wednesday. His two-year contract with the city runs through December, and Dickson said Grant will retire after he completes the contract.

Grant declined to answer questions from a reporter after the council members met in executive session for 20 minutes and emerged to vote 5-0 to reinstate him.

Meanwhile, Whitfield County is developing a policy for the use of encrypted radios by municipalities.

Lawrenceville City Council voted to adopt a $167 million dollar FY 2020 budget, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Cave Spring City Council will begin the process of adopting a new comprehensive alcohol ordinance at their meeting next week, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Rome and Floyd County named a litter and blight advisory committee, according to the Rome News Tribune.

4
Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 4, 2019

On June 4, 1785, James Oglethorpe, founder of Georgia, met with John Adams, the first ambassador from the new United States to Great Britain.

On June 4, 1919, Congress passed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to always be right vote. In August 1920, enough states had ratified the 19th Amendment that it took effect.

The Battle of Midway began on June 4, 1942. During the battle, four Japanese aircraft carriers that had participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor and one cruiser were sunk at the cost of one American carrier and one destroyer.

Today is the 30th Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre in Beijing, China.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Roll Call reports that Georgia State Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) is expected to announce a campaign for Seventh District Congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Rob Woodall.

State Sen. Renee Unterman is expected to announce Thursday her campaign for the Republican nomination in Georgia’s 7th District, a demographically changing seat outside Atlanta that had the closest margin of any House race in the country last year.

Democrats are hoping they can put Georgia in play at the presidential level, seriously contest the Senate race and finally flip the 7th District, which they came within 433 votes of winning last fall. Republicans are trying to win back the neighboring 6th District, which they spent millions of dollars defending in a high-profile special election in 2017, only to narrowly lose it a year later.

lthough she threatened to switch parties earlier this year after losing a committee chairmanship in the state Senate, Unterman’s entrance into the GOP contest could push her to the front of the pack given that she already has a constituency in the Legislature. Her sponsorship of the law that bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected will likely endear her to GOP primary voters.

Deloitte Consulting has been chosen to develop Georgia’s federal healthcare waiver applications, according to a press release.

Governor Brian P. Kemp and the Department of Community Health (DCH) announced Deloitte will work with state officials to develop federal healthcare waivers for Georgia’s Medicaid program and private health insurance marketplace based on the Patients First Act.

“As Governor, I am committed to tackling the healthcare challenges facing our state. Georgians need better options – reduced costs, enhanced access, and improved quality of care – as soon as possible,” said Governor Kemp. “Through the Patients First Act, we are now one step closer to reaching these objectives in every corner of Georgia. Deloitte offers unmatched experience in developing innovative solutions for complex healthcare issues. Working with our federal counterparts, the Department of Community Health, and Deloitte’s team, I look forward to crafting a Georgia-centric healthcare system that puts patients first.”

“The Department is eager to roll up our sleeves and get to work, and we are excited to utilize Deloitte’s experience and results in this arena to support our team and stakeholders in the coming months,” said Frank W. Berry, DCH Commissioner. “The Patients First Act is about affordable, accessible, high-quality health care for Georgians across our state. Today’s important announcement – and the work that has gone into making it happen – has laid a strong foundation upon which to build options for Governor Kemp to consider.”

In the Amended FY 2019 Budget, the Legislature allocated $2.6 million in funding for healthcare waiver consulting services. At $1.92 million, Deloitte’s proposal is under budget, and state officials expect to submit the 1115 Medicaid and 1332 State Innovation Waivers to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the U.S. Department of Treasury by December 31, 2019.

Congress has passed disaster relief for Puerto Rico and for Georgia farmers affected by Hurricane Michael, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The House of Representatives passed a multi-billion dollar disaster relief bill Monday, sending the measure to the White House for President Donald Trump’s signature. The vote was 354-58.

The President had previously said that he supports the legislation, which will bring much-needed relief to Americans affected by hurricanes, floods, wildfires and other disasters. But despite the green light from the President, a handful of House Republicans held up passage of the measure last week after the Senate passed the bill.

At the end of May, a deal was finally struck between Democrats and Republicans to pass a $19.1 billion bill without funding for the border that the President had sought. The measure passed in the Senate by a vote of 85-8, and the President later tweeted to say it had passed “with my total approval.”

But the lengthy negotiations over the bill underscore how even a priority that typically receives broad bipartisan support — aid to rebuild after natural disaster — has become subject to partisan infighting in Congress, raising questions over how lawmakers will manage to work together in upcoming spending fights that loom on the horizon.

From the AJC:

“Today, Congress finally put hardworking Americans first by advancing the disaster relief package,” said Gov. Brian Kemp, who is planning to soon visit with South Georgia farmers who were hit by the storm in October. “I applaud President Trump for his support and the Georgia delegation for their tireless efforts. Together, we will rebuild South Georgia and keep our great state moving in the right direction.”

The partisan bickering that preceded the House vote — over a problem everyone agreed urgently needed to be fixed — portends just how difficult it will be for Congress and the administration to get anything of substance done in the lead-up to the 2020 elections. Until a few years ago, emergency assistance bills for natural disaster victims were considered essentially nonpartisan.

“I am so pleased that we could come together to help our farmers recover after Hurricane Michael,” said U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville. “Going forward, Congress needs to put politics aside and work together on bipartisan solutions that will help communities that need it the most.”

Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) says the disaster relief package will help blueberry farmers, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Congressman Earl L. “Buddy” Carter (R-District 1) said in a statement released late Monday that, among other disasters, the aid will assist Georgia blueberry growers who were devastated by unusually harsh weather in 2017. Georgia was expected to produce around 90 million pounds of blueberries, but was drastically reduced to 30 million because of the record-setting freeze combined with warm winter weather, he said.

In 2018, blueberry growers faced another freeze and another year of significant losses, he said. This legislation will provide the assistance needed to recover from the devastating losses due to harsh weather in both 2017 and 2018.

“I am thrilled this assistance is finally on the way,” said Carter. “For too long, real Americans, real Georgians have been suffering because Congress failed to deliver this desperately needed relief. Blueberries are a $1 billion industry for Georgia, and the backbone of many of our rural communities. The loss of this crop isn’t only devastating for the growers, but entire local economies. It has taken months of negotiations, but help will be there soon.”

The legislation includes more than $3 billion for emergency assistance for hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, wildfires, freezes and other severe weather. This funding specifically includes the Georgia blueberries which were damaged by the devastating freezes in 2017 and 2018. It also includes funding for areas of Georgia hit by Hurricane Michael in October 2018.

Former President Jimmy Carter has been awarded tenure on the faculty at Emory University, according to AccessWDUN.

Carter earned the distinction after serving as University Distinguished Professor for the past 37 years, the university announced Monday.

He’ll be the first tenured faculty member at Emory to hold a Nobel Prize and the first to have served as U.S. president.

Elaine Justice, Emory’s director of media relations, said Carter lectures about once a month in subjects ranging from religion and public health to political science and history. Any Emory professor can request that Carter address their class, Justice said. He also holds yearly town hall sessions where first-year students get the opportunity to hear him speak and ask questions.

Carter joined the university as a professor in 1982, just over a year after leaving the White House. Also in 1982, Carter partnered with Emory to launch The Carter Center, a nongovernmental organization focused on global human rights issues, an affiliation that continues today.

Emory President Claire E. Sterk said of Carter: “Across nearly four decades, he has given Emory the full measure of what it means to be a public intellectual and an engaged faculty member. He has viewed teaching as a revered calling — the same humble approach he has brought to every undertaking, large and small, across a lifetime.”

Democrat Stacey Abrams will go to Hollywood to continue playing Governor of Georgia meet with film industry executives, according to the AJC.

The Democrat is scheduled to meet with Hollywood figures on June 11 in Los Angeles along with Ilyse Hogue, the president of the abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America, according to an invitation obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The invite, distributed by former CBS chairwoman Nina Tassler, sets up a session to address the “reality that employees in the state may not have full access to healthcare or the freedom to make decisions about their futures and their families.”

“Many of us have projects in the state. I know it’s complicated,” wrote Tassler. “There’s lots of money and jobs at stake – for us and for the people of Georgia. That’s why Ilyse Hoge and Stacey Abrams want to meet with us.”

Abrams and her allies have pushed a “#StayAndFight” movement that encourages Hollywood leaders to donate to candidates and groups challenging the law instead of boycotting the state. The industry employs more than 90,000 people in businesses that range from set design to catering.

Abrams told The Los Angeles Times that the fallout “puts us in a unique position to fight back — not only against the legislation here but the legislation around the country — and to fund the defeat of these politicians and their horrible behavior.”

Georgia’s population could be undercounted in the next census if a citizenship question is included, according to the AJC.

The possible inclusion of a citizenship question in the 2020 census, the national debate over immigration and other factors could cause an undercount of Georgia’s population by as many as 177,000 people, or nearly 2%, according to a report released Tuesday.

Georgia ranks fifth among states for the highest possible undercount in percentage terms, with blacks, Hispanics and children under 5 years of age at the biggest risk, according to the Urban Institute, a left-leaning think tank whose report was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Trump administration has argued introducing the citizenship question would help it better track demographics and enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

“The American people deserve to know who is in this Country,” President Donald Trump tweeted in April.

Georgia Democrats will attempt to flip control of the State House through a new “Georgia House Majority Project,” according to the AJC.

The Georgia House Majority Project will zero in on the most vulnerable GOP incumbents by peppering their districts with digital ads, direct mail and voter outreach starting later this year, according to a press release.

The group’s finance director is Bobby Kaple, a former newscaster who ran unsuccessfully for Georgia’s 6th District last year. He said the organization has lined up a campaign team that includes veterans of President Barack Obama’s campaign.

The organization is a type of “independent expenditure group” that is legally barred from coordinating with political campaigns but can still spend money promoting candidates and attacking their rivals.

Democrats sense an opportunity to turn the tables on nearly two decades of Republican rule. The party flipped about a dozen seats in the Georgia Legislature in November, mostly in Atlanta’s northern suburbs, leaving the GOP with a 105-75 advantage in the chamber.

Democrats are now circling 15 House seats where Republicans won by less than 55 percent that includes the Acworth-based district of state Rep. Ed Setzler, the GOP sponsor of the new abortion restrictions, which outlaw the procedure as early as six weeks.

Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene has declared her candidacy for the Seventh Sixth Congressional District, according to the AJC.

The political newbie is hoping her private sector experience and message of fiscal responsibility will resonate in a primary that already includes former Congresswoman Karen Handel and a state senator.

Greene is the owner of Taylor Commercial, a commercial construction company started by her father five decades ago. She bought him out in 2002 and now renovates apartments, townhomes and commercial buildings in 11 states.

Greene said overhauling the country’s finances would be her top priority in Congress. She pledged to rein in government spending, balance the federal budget and support the Fair Tax, a proposal that would replace federal personal and corporate income taxes with a national retail sales tax.

“If we look at our country as our household, we’re going to go under foreclosure because we’re overspending. I look at it that way as a business owner and then I also look at it as a mom,” said Greene in an interview. “This is where we have to dial in, and it takes people like me to step into it to solve these problems.”

Former State Senator Michael Meyer von Bremen took the oath of office as Dougherty County Magistrate Judge, according to the Albany Herald.

Meyer von Bremen, who is leaving his position as managing partner in the Albany office of law firm Hall Booth Smith P.C., will take over his duties on the bench on June 10. He was sworn in by Dougherty County Probate Court Judge Nancy Stephenson with his wife Peggy by his side.

“I’m looking forward to following the law and treating people fairly when they come into court,” he said during an interview following the Monday morning ceremony at the Dougherty County Judicial Building.

Meyer von Bremen is replacing retired Magistrate Court Judge John F. Salter, who also served as Dougherty County State Court judge before being appointed magistrate judge in 2012. Meyer von Bremen was appointed to the position by State Court Judge John Stephenson in late April.

The City of Savannah has created an online platform for receiving public comments, according to the Savannah Morning News.

[T]he city has launched, Speak Up, Savannah!, an online site where residents can learn about and comment on projects.

The site, at SpeakUpSavannah.com, gives residents a voice in decisions that impact the community.

Nick Zoller, the city’s new communication director, said the site not only offers residents a place to relay their concerns, residents can also converse with project managers on specific topics.

“The relationships and information sharing that Speak Up, Savannah! encourages will help us to continue moving our community forward,” Zoller said. “Digital engagement platforms like this one truly provide a direct link between the city and those who we serve.”

The Gainesville Times Editorial Board opines that politicians found guilty of crimes should receive harsh sentences.

Former gubernatorial candidate Michael Williams last week accepted a plea deal under the state’s First Offender Act that will see him serve four years on probation for insurance fraud and lying to investigators, after which his criminal record will be expunged and he will be exonerated as far as the state’s judicial system is concerned.

It’s hard to see that as justice being served.

Williams’ total sentence under his First Offender plea is four years of probation, a fine of $5,000, and 120 hours of community service. Somehow we don’t think that $5,000 fine will come close to offsetting the expense of law enforcement officials investigating for months a crime supposedly committed against someone who was running for governor.

Georgia’s First Offender Act was not meant for hypocrites like Michael Williams, but having reached an agreement with the district attorney and judge, he is able to take advantage of the law.

Not everyone is eligible for sentencing under the FOA. The law exempts from its application those accused of a variety of crimes, ranging from sexual offenses to elder abuse and assaulting a law enforcement officer.

We would like to see those exemptions expanded to include those who commit serious crimes while serving in public office. At the time of his false report of a crime, Williams was a member of the Georgia Senate, having served a Forsyth County district for two terms before deciding to run for governor.

The Dalton Daily Citizen Editorial Board wants to encourage candidates for an open seat on the Whitfield County Board of Education after the death of Thomas Barton.

Applications and nominations are being accepted to fill Barton’s unexpired term as the District 1 school board representative, which encompasses parts of southeastern Whitfield County. Per the state Constitution, a Whitfield County grand jury is required to appoint a member to the school board to serve out the remaining term for District 1, which ends Dec. 31, 2020.

The Whitfield County District Attorney’s Office is handling the application process. The application deadline is Friday, June 21, at 5 p.m. The grand jury is expected to interview applicants the week of June 24.

Serving on a school board is often a thankless job that opens members up to criticism, but it’s a vital job nonetheless. We encourage those who are civic-minded and reside in District 1 to offer themselves for public service.

The Muscogee County Board of Education voted for a $17 million dollar contract for Special Education services, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

During a called meeting Monday evening, the board voted 8-0-1 in favor of spending $17 million over three years for a continuum of services provded by ChanceLight Behavioral Health, Therapy and Education of Nashville, Tennessee, a proposal the Ledger-Enquirer first reported on in February.

District 3 representative Vanessa Jackson abstained, so the approval wasn’t unanimous, but the contrast still was stark.

Bibb County and Houston County Public Schools will offer free breakfast, lunch, and snacks for students over the summer break at nearly 100 locations, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The Glynn County Planning Commissions are considering changes to their bylaws, according to The Brunswick News.

The Gainesville City Board of Education held a public comment meeting and no one commented, according to the Gainesville Times.

No community members spoke on Gainesville City Schools’ proposed budget at a hearing on Monday.

The proposed millage rate is 6.614, a full rollback from 6.85 to make up for increases in assessed property values.

After receiving the city’s final tax digest, the originally proposed rollback rate of 6.612 mills was adjusted to 6.614 mills, Superintendent Jeremy Williams said Monday. That cuts about $140,000 from the revenue that had been projected, but Williams said expenditures did not have to be adjusted. Reserve funds could be used to make up the difference, he said.

There will be another hearing on June 17, when the board will cast the final vote.

Statesboro City Council will consider a resolution to create a Creek District Oversight Committee, according to the Statesboro Herald.

In February when the council agreed to have the city take over financial responsibility for the Creek on the Blue Mile project, assuming a role initially filled by the Development Authority of Bulloch County, the “assumption” agreement called for an oversight committee. Funding sources now assigned to the city include a 30-year, low-interest line of credit for up to $15.5 million from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority and a state direct investment, like a grant, of $5.5 million.

Bacon County Sheriff Mark Cothren was charged with elder abuse, battery, and violating the oath of office, according to AccessWDUN.

Nonstop flights from Augusta Regional Airport to Washington, DC will resume in January, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Beginning Jan. 7, there will be one flight a day from and to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Va., on American Airlines.

“This is big,” said Herbert Judon Jr., the airport’s executive director. “Washington, D.C., that capitol region is the No. 1 destination to and from the Augusta market.”

That includes people from the military and Fort Gordon, the cyber communities as well as the private sector, he said. This will allow them to take a fairly short direct flight as opposed to having to fly to a hub airport and grab a connecting flight, Judon said.

The Dougherty County Commission began considering a $69 million dollar budget for FY 2020, according to the Albany Herald.

3
Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 3, 2019

On June 3, 1941, Georgia voters ratified a Constitutional Amendment extending the term of office for Governor and the other Constitutional Officers from two years to four. Governor Eugene Talmadge campaigned for the Amendment, hoping to serve a four-year term after the two-year term he currently held, but was defeated in the 1942 Democratic Primary by Ellis Arnall. Remember this phrase: legislation almost always has unintended consequences.

On June 3, 1942, Curtis Mayfield was born in Chicago, Illinois and would later live in Atlanta, dying in Roswell in 1999.

On the morning of June 3, 1962, a plane carrying 106 Georgians crashed on take-off from Orly near Paris, the deadliest crash in aviation to that date.

On June 3, 1980, Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter had amassed enough delegates to assure his nomination in the Democratic Primary for President.

Today is the anniversary of the beginning of the Tiananman Square Massacre in Beijing, China. Pro-democracy protests had begun on April 15, 1989 and on May 20, martial law was declared. The People’s Liberation Army began taking the square back on the evening of June 3d.

The Brunswick Times dusts off an 1888 Harper’s Weekly article discussing the coastal city.

“Its industry is a feature the article makes a point of noting. “Brunswick has profited greatly by her harbor; in fact, the present prosperity of the city is due to its unsurpassed shipping facilities. Great quantities of cotton, pine lumber, resin, turpentine and other products are shipped from Brunswick to all parts of the world … The people of Brunswick have awakened to the fact that their city has within its reach the making of a great shipping-point, as well as a popular resort.”

Promoting Brunswick as a resort destination for winter weary northerners was the point of this well-placed, paid article in Harper’s Weekly. Coastal Georgia was just then establishing itself as a balmy retreat from the bitter cold of northern environs. The Jekyll Island Club already had become an exclusive playground of the Vanderbilts, Morgans and other movers and shakers of the Gilded Age.

As the lumber mills churned away at Gascoigne Bluff on the river side of St. Simons Island, the St. Simons Hotel catered to vacation-minded visitors on “9,588 feet of magnificent sea-beach front,” the article noted.

The article cautioned discerning readers not to overlook Brunswick. “The visitor has no need to confine his attention to Jekyll Island alone, for the mainland and the Brunswick peninsula have attractions enough to keep one busy the whole season.”

“Brunswick is not unlike New York in its water and harbor facilities. St. Simons Sound and the Brunswick and Back rivers will float vessels of the largest class, and that, too, up to the streets of the city, as in the case of New York. Navigable water flows on three sides of the city, while in the bay toward the sea is water enough, as well as room enough, to float the navies of the world.”

Savannah will celebrate the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Savannah area’s role in the historic invasion will be commemorated at ceremonies in Pooler and Savannah.

The National Museum of the Mighty Eighth in Pooler will be honoring the bravery of those who fought during the invasion with programs throughout the day.

Admission to the museum will be $8 on Thursday. That fee is waived for World War II veterans and children under the age of 6.

In Savannah, a maritime commemoration at the Savannah Convention Center will recognize the role of Savannah’s Liberty ships — constructed wartime freighters designed to bring supplies and equipment overseas as replacements for merchant ships sunk by German U-boats.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp appointed four new Superior Court Judges, according to the Daily Report.

The new judges will fill openings in the Cherokee, Coweta, Macon and Stone Mountain judicial circuits. Their appointments will take effect as soon as they can be sworn in.

Troup County Solicitor General Markette Baker is the new judge for the Coweta Judicial Circuit.

Bibb County State Court Judge Jeffery Monroe will move up to the Macon Judicial Circuit Superior Court.

DeKalb County State Court Judge Shondeana Morris will step up to the Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit Superior Court.

Jeffrey Watkins, founder of a general practice firm in Cartersville, is the new judge for the Cherokee Circuit.

Georgia Public Broadcasting‘s “Political Rewind” will tape tonight in Cartersville, according to the Rome News Tribune.

State Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, is among the local officials expected to participate in the taping of a “Political Rewind” road show in Cartersville tonight.

The Atlanta-based GPB radio staple hosted by Bill Nigut features prominent politicos talking about the issues of the day.

Panelists today include Buddy Darden, a former congressman from the area, and conservative activist Julianne Thompson. Other state lawmakers and political writers also are scheduled and Nigut said he plans to take questions from the audience.

The taping, which is open to the public, is set for 7 p.m. in the Grand Theatre, in downtown Cartersville. It will air at 2 p.m. Tuesday and stream on Facebook across the GPB statewide network.

Democrat Stacey Abrams is fighting subpoenas by the Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, according to GPB News.

The Abrams campaign sent more than 3,600 pages of financial records to state ethics officials. But it withheld nineteen emails, according to a letter attached to the campaign’s response to David Emadi, the executive secretary of the ethics commission hired in April.

The subpoena asked for banking records beginning in May of 2018, as well as communications between the Abrams campaign and organizations that advocate for people of color and often encourage them to vote.

It also requested communications between the campaign, and state Sen. Nikema Williams, the current head of the Democratic Party of Georgia. In 2018, during the campaign for governor, Williams was first vice-chair of the state party.

Specifically, the Abrams campaign withheld nine campaign emails “involving” the civil rights organization called the New Georgia Project, and 10 emails “involving” Williams.

“The Subpeona is conspicuously over broad without a factual context for the requests,” wrote Abrams campaign lawyer Joyce Gist Lewis.

“Demanding that the Abrams campaign identify and produce ‘all communications’ months following the certification of the election results is unreasonable and extraordinary,” Gist Lewis wrote. “Especially where, as here, the Commission has declined to explain how these requests are related to its investigation.”

From the AJC:

Emadi would not discuss specifics of the case, but he revealed in a letter that he intends to present evidence that the Abrams campaign accepted donations from four of the groups that exceeded maximum contribution limits for a statewide campaign.

The four groups Emadi singled out are Care in Action, a nonprofit Williams co-founded that advocates for domestic workers; Higher Heights for Georgia, a New York-funded organization geared toward electing black women; PowerPAC Georgia, an “independent group” that spent more than $5.6 million promoting Abrams and attacking Kemp, mostly funded by liberal San Francisco-based philanthropist Susan Sandler; and Gente4Abrams, a Latino advocacy group.

Lewis said the Democrat has “nothing to hide” and questioned in a response to Emadi why investigators only demanded records from groups “led by black or Latinx Georgians working to increase election participation among voters of color.”

Emadi has dismissed accusations that he was pursuing a political vendetta, insisting his probe is being conducted in a “fair and impartial manner.”

And he said in a statement this week that all candidates from the 2018 campaign for governor will be investigated for potential violations “without any concern or benefit regarding partisan affiliation.”

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law sent a letter to Randolph County condemning alleged plans to close voting precincts, according to the AJC.

But the county’s attorney said there are no plans to close precincts, and the local government needs to assess the costs of repairing dilapidated polling places so that they’re accessible to people with disabilities. He said it’s premature for the Lawyers’ Committee to say the cost assessment will lead to precinct closures.

Randolph County, with a population of about 7,000, found itself in the national spotlight last year when election officials considered a proposal to close seven of the county’s nine voting locations. The county elections board voted 2-0 in August to keep all its polling places open before November’s election for governor between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp.

The renewed scrutiny comes after Elections Supervisor Todd Black gave a presentation to county commissioners April 17 about his plan to assess the costs of repairing dilapidated precincts.

Many of the precincts lack ramps or parking spaces for voters with disabilities, and they should be upgraded to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, said Tommy Coleman, the county’s attorney.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama made a suprise appearance at Spelman College, according to GPB News.

Obama met with a group of students from Spelman and Morehouse Colleges who studied the book this semester. Professor Marilyn Davis used it as the foundational text for the honors political science course, Black Women: Developing Public Leadership Skills.

During the round table discussion on Mother’s Day weekend, Obama and the students talked about topics including overcoming imposter syndrome and breaking barriers in education and professional life. She shared how she managed her educational and professional struggles with the students.

The Saturday visit on campus was not Obama’s first visit to Spelman. The first-generation college graduate spoke at Spelman’s commencement in 2011 and recently co-chaired a voting event ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

The Rome News Tribune looks at how Georgia’s rape laws work (or don’t).

In the past, law enforcement decided whether a victim’s rape or assault would receive a forensic exam in the first place. Money was a big factor because the agencies paid for the kit assets, said Kim Davis, executive director of the Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia.

“There wasn’t anything we could do about it,” says Davis. “We couldn’t afford to do the exams because we didn’t have enough money to pay for the equipment.”

Rape kits are expensive. It costs crisis centers or law enforcement agencies upwards of $1,000 for rape kit materials, not including medication to help prevent STDs or pregnancies from rape. Now, crisis centers such as the SAC can bill Georgia’s Crime Victims Compensation Program for much of the cost.

In 2011, Georgia’s law changed so that anyone who claimed to have been assaulted had the right to a rape kit exam. But though an exam was done, if the victim didn’t officially report the crime to law enforcement, there was no guarantee the kit would be sent to the GBI. The SAC would keep the kit for a year and then destroy it.

Thanks to a 2016 law, now all kits are required to go to the crime lab. But for those who survived an assault prior to that year, this can be devastating news.

Richmond County saw an increase in violent crime last year, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

According to data from the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, there were 603 violent crimes in 2018 compared with 565 in 2017, a 6.7 percent increase. There were 3,993 property crimes in 2018 after 4,151 in 2017, a 3.8 percent decrease. As of May 17, there have been 1,180 property crimes in 2019.

Chief Deputy Patrick Clayton said property crimes tend to have more patterns than violent crimes, so they can be a bit easier to track.

“There is usually more of them, so usually there is more patterns,” he said. “The violent crimes tend to be more random. Usually what you see on property crimes, for example, if you have car break-ins, it’s usually more than one car break-in.”

Clayton said offenders tend to go to different areas and do multiple break-ins or burglaries. According to sheriff’s office data, the most common property crime in Richmond County is larceny auto with 1,932 cases in 2017 and 1,938 in 2018.

The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office is accepting public comments as part of its reaccreditation process, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Muscogee County School District is running an online survey on school starting times, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The survey was intended for only parents of elementary school children, who would see an extra 30 minutes added to the school day, Muscogee County School District Superintendent David Lewis told the Ledger-Enquirer.

When informed that the survey was posted Wednesday on the district’s website and is available for anyone to take multiple times on the same electronic device, he referred the L-E’s questions to district communications director Mercedes Parham.

“The parents’ survey was sent to elementary parents,” Parham told the L-E in an email Friday. “However, to prevent limitations, the parents’ survey link was also provided on the families section of our website. All surveys responses, regardless of the access point, are automatically generated in Microsoft Office’s survey system. With any survey, there are variables, but our focus is to have more points of inclusion than exclusion, where possible.”

The explanation didn’t satisfy Muscogee County Council of PTAs second vice president Gloria Brown, who is taking care of four grandchildren living with her, two in elementary school and two in middle school.

“That’s not going to give an accurate opinion of the parents it will affect if it’s open up to anybody in the world,” Brown said in a telephone interview Friday.

The Hall County Sheriff’s Office has begun a “Citizens’ Watch Surveillance Camera Program,” according to AccessWDUN.

Many home and business owners have surveillance camera systems these days. Law enforcement often use these images to help solve crimes at those homes and businesses. But, they can also be used to help investigators get to the bottom of crimes in adjacent homes and businesses.

According to the sheriff’s department, Citizens’ Watch is a secure program that allows surveillance camera system owners to report their system to the Sheriff’s Office through a secure website. The information is mapped for law enforcement, allowing for quick and easy reference when deputies are seeking surveillance images in an area where a crime was committed.

Part of the posting emphasizes that officers would not have access to security cameras and any images they capture without the permission of the owners.

An inmate video conferencing system is saving the state money by reducing prisoner transport costs, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Superior Court rules allow video conferencing for a number of court proceedings – as long as they are recorded, [Judge J. Wade] Padgett said. He volunteered to try it in the Augusta Judicial Circuit. The Corrections Department paid for the necessary computer system and worked with Augusta’s IT department to set it up. The offices of the public defender and district attorney jumped on board, Padgett said.

The 35 hearings Padgett held from January through March saved the prison system nearly $6,000. Video-conferencing equipment was set up at two of the state’s 34 prisons.

Last year, Corrections Department employees did more than 35,000 prisoner transports for court hearings, said Stan Cooper, the special assistant to department Commissioner Timothy C. Ward. The department estimates 40 to 45 percent of the hearings involving prison inmates could be done by video conference.

The success of Padgett’s pilot project has Ward wanting to set up equipment at every prison, Cooper said. It has increased the safety of employees and prisoners and increased efficiency, not to mention the financial savings, he said. It could also help sheriff’s departments that are responsible for prisoner transports, Cooper said.

Padgett said there are talks with the sheriff about holding arraignments for those in local jails by video conference.

Recently in one of the smaller Richmond County Superior Court courtrooms, Padgett conducted 22 arraignments of inmates at Augusta State Medical Prison and Phillips State Prison.

Former Fort Valley City Administrator Karin Vinson is suing the city and several individuals alleging sex harassment over her pregnancy, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The harassment allegedly involved several officials — including Mayor Barbara Williams and Councilwoman Juanita Bryant — falsely accusing then-City Administrator Karin Vinson of having a sexual relationship with the police chief and claiming she was unable to perform her job duties, the lawsuit said.

Vinson is suing the city, Williams and Bryant for creating a hostile work environment during her two years as city manager. She is seeking a minimum of $350,000 in damages in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on May 23.

Vinson accuses the mayor of retaliating against her because she raised concerns about Williams helping a business get contracts with the city, and for refusing to budget $40,000 to buy a digital sign from a company that made signs for the mayor’s campaign, the lawsuit said.

Warner Robins began construction on a new North Houston Sports Complex as part of a $20 million dollar expansion, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Attorney Marvin Lim announced that he will announce on Tuesday his campaign for House District 99, which is being vacated by State Rep. Brenda Lopez Romero, who is running for Congress. From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Lim has lived in state House District 99 since 2001. He graduated magna cum laude from Emory University and then graduated from Yale University as well. He is also one of the founding board members of the grassroots progressive group 159 Georgia Together.

“As an immigrant, I learned there’s no replacing hard work,” Lim said on his campaign website, www.marvinlimforga.com. “But no one should have to pay too high a price — like too many Georgians do — to yield fruit from their labor. Our government must make sure this will no longer be the case.”

The state House District 99 seat has not drawn Republican candidates in recent election cycles, which means that, unless that trend changes, the winner of the Democratic primary election essentially wins the seat.

Georgia’s Shoal Bass is popular with anglers and legislators, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

[T]here is a movement to crown the species — a fish that, with the exception of a Florida river, is now only found in Georgia streams — as the state’s official native riverine sport fish.

“It’s the quintessential Georgia fish. Georgia’s the only place that you would go in the whole world to catch a six-pound shoal bass,” said Steven Sammons, a researcher with Auburn University’s School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences. “Truly, to me, it is the Georgia fish.”

After years of trying, the shoal bass nearly clinched the coveted title this legislative session, but the proposal’s backers had to cut bait after some last-minute opposition surfaced.

The shoal bass, which became its own species just two decades ago, has been gaining in popularity for years.

Rep. Debbie Buckner, a Democrat from Junction City, said she sees the proposal as a way to help small, rural businesses in an area with few other economic opportunities cultivate a tourism economy centered on the quaint fish.

A handful of fishing guides devoted to escorting visitors to shoalie hotspots already exist. Buckner said she also sees an opportunity for restaurants and lodging to benefit from an influx of visitors.

Buckner’s proposal nearly passed this year, but opposition from one north Georgia state senator, Bill Heath, caused the provision to be very publicly cut from a larger bill as the clock expired on this year’s legislative session.

When asked why he objected to the designation, the Bremen Republican said he saw the proposal as “not germane to the issues” in the broader bill. Buckner’s proposal had been tacked on to a bill that included various changes to the state’s hunting and fishing law.

31
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 31, 2019

Benjamin Franklin became Georgia’s agent in England on June 1, 1768, making him also Georgia’s first lobbyist.

On June 2, 1774, Britain’s Parliament passed the Quartering Act, the last of the Coercive Acts, meant to punish the American colonies and reassert British control. Eventually, the Third Amendment to the United States Constitution would prohibit the forcible quartering of soldiers in private homes.

On June 1, 1775, Georgia patriots sent a care package to their brethren in Massachusetts comprising 63 barrels of rice and £122 after the battles at Lexington and Concord.

The court martial of Benedict Arnold convened in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on June 1, 1779.

Arnold negotiated his defection to the British and the subversion of West Point over several months. The British already held control of New York City and believed that by taking West Point they could effectively cut off the American’s New England forces from the rest of the fledgling nation.

In August 1780, Sir Henry Clinton offered Arnold £20,000 for delivering West Point and 3,000 troops. Arnold told General Washington that West Point was adequately prepared for an attack even though he was busy making sure that that it really wasn’t. He even tried to set up General Washington’s capture as a bonus. His plan might have been successful but his message was delivered too late and Washington escaped. The West Point surrender was also foiled when an American colonel ignored Arnold’s order not to fire on an approaching British ship.

Arnold’s defection was revealed to the Americans when British officer John André, acting as a messenger, was robbed by AWOL Americans working as pirates in the woods north of New York City. The notes revealing Arnold’s traitorous agreement were stashed in his boots.

The Treaty of Augusta was signed on May 31, 1783, between the Creek Indians and Georgia Commissioners. A second, identical document would be signed on November 1 of that year.

The first graduation ceremony for the University of Georgia was held on May 31, 1804.

Savannah-born John C. Fremont was nominated for President of the United States by the Radical Republicans on May 31, 1864. Fremont had previously been nominated for President by the Republican Party as their first presidential candidate in 1856.

Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith, commanding forces west of the Mississippi, surrendered on June 2, 1865, and this date is generally considered the end of the Civil War.

The Capital City Club in Atlanta was chartered on May 31, 1889.

United States Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan certified the 17th Amendment as part of the Constitution on May 31, 1913, authorizing the direct election of United States Senators. Georgia never ratified the Amendment.

On June 1, 1942, a Polish newspaper first published information about the gassing of Jews at Nazi concentration camps in Poland.

Queen Elizabeth II was crowned on June 2, 1953.

On June 2, 1962, Georgia-born Ray Charles hit #1 on the charts with “I Can’t Stop Loving You.”

The Beatles released Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on June 1, 1967. The album is listed as #1 on the Rolling Stone top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the most important rock & roll album ever made, an unsurpassed adventure in concept, sound, songwriting, cover art and studio technology by the greatest rock & roll group of all time. From the title song’s regal blasts of brass and fuzz guitar to the orchestral seizure and long, dying piano chord at the end of “A Day in the Life,” the 13 tracks on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band are the pinnacle of the Beatles’ eight years as recording artists. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were never more fearless and unified in their pursuit of magic and transcendence.

Issued in Britain on June 1st, 1967, and a day later in America, Sgt. Pepper is also rock’s ultimate declaration of change. For the Beatles, it was a decisive goodbye to matching suits, world tours and assembly-line record-making. “We were fed up with being Beatles,” McCartney said decades later, in Many Years From Now, Barry Miles’ McCartney biography. “We were not boys, we were men… artists rather than performers.

“It was a peak,” Lennon told Rolling Stone in 1970, describing both the album and his collaborative relationship with McCartney. “Paul and I were definitely working together,” Lennon said….

Rolling Stone should stick to writing about music.

Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter appeared on the cover of Time magazine on May 31, 1971.

Carter Time Cover 1971

A summit between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev ended on May 31, 1988. Four years later, in 1992, Gorbachev was dancing for dollars in the United States, including the keynote address at Emory University’s graduation.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp addressed the Georgia Press Association on Jekyll Island, according to The Brunswick News.

The governor recounted the efforts of the state first lady, Marty Kemp, on combating human trafficking, and discussed some of the policy goals he and legislative leaders worked to address in the last session and will look at again next year.

The first applause break was for education spending, especially teacher pay raises.

“We’ve again, for the second year in a row, fully funded the public school education formula, which is just huge — it’s over $10 billion for our local school systems,” Kemp said. “We’ve given Georgia educators the largest teacher pay raise in the history of the state government. I know that is a huge issue in the areas that you are covering in your local media, because it doesn’t matter where you are — people are having teacher retention problems.”

The governor’s focus on addressing gang crime also brought acclimation from the media audience, as did when Kemp discussed the state’s hometown publications themselves.

“Hardworking Georgians make a huge difference in their local communities,” Kemp said. “Our teachers, our coaches, business owners, volunteers, public servants, those who give charitably in their local community — they’re all working for one thing, and that’s for a better tomorrow, for a better state tomorrow than it is today.

 The Lowndes County Commission first heard the proposed FY 2020 budget this week, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Lowndes County Commission Chairman Bill Slaughter said he felt good about the proposed budget of $108 million that the county will vote on at its next meeting.

“We do have a balanced budget proposed in front of us, which we are very, very fortunate to have,” Slaughter said.

The Lowndes County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing at 5 p.m., June 11, in the commission chambers. The public is encouraged to attend if residents have any thoughts or concerns about the budget.

The $108 million represents the total cost of expenditures for Fiscal Year 2020. The county’s general fund balance, which pays for most of the county’s services provided to the public, is set at $58 million and is completely balanced, county staff said.

The Glynn County Board of Elections hired Assistant Elections and Registrations Supervisor Chris Channell as the new Elections Supervisor, according to The Brunswick News.

The Glynn County Fire Department is working with a deficit, according to The Brunswick News.

The department is expected to go into the next fiscal year with a $616,000 deficit, according to interim Chief Financial Officer Tamara Munson.

Overall, the department’s expenses dropped, she explained to the Glynn County Commission during a special called meeting on Thursday. The commission gathered specifically to discuss a proposed budget for the fiscal year 2019-2020.

The problem arose because the department’s revenue dropped as well, in large part due to the county diverting the insurance premium tax that once went to the fire fund. It’s now going to the Glynn County Police Department’s new fund to cover for a drop in overall tax revenue.

“There are four reasons why we had to fund with (reserves) this year, and we did not in the past. The first reason is the insurance premium tax,” Munson said. “… The second reason was there was $175,000 worth of (promotions) for the fire department this year, so that caused an increase in personnel costs … in addition to the (cost of living adjustment). The SAFER grant, also, will cause a $70,000 increase this year.”

The department could close most of the $616,000 gap by paying off two fire trucks. Annual debt payments come out to around $600,000, but paying them off would cost around $4 million in total. The money could either come from the $4 million in the fire department’s reserves or out of the county’s $19 million in undesignated funds, Munson explained.

Muscogee County School District has a new police department, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

It’s the first time the Muscogee County School District’s new police department will be put into action — after being created in response to the school shootings in Parkland, Florida, and Santa Fe, Texas.

The first hiring phase is this year for the command staff (one captain and two sergeants, in addition to the already hired police chief) and 15 officers, one at each of the nine high schools and six rotating among the 12 middle schools. The second phase will be next year, hiring six officers to rotate among 32 elementary schools.

Ground was broken for a new Chatham County Behavioral Health Crisis Center, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The psychiatric crisis facility has been a joint effort of the Georgia General Assembly, the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, and the Chatham County Commission.

The facility is 22,000 square feet with an 24-hour, year-round walk-in crisis service alternative to hospital emergency rooms.

Services are for people needing emergency help with psychiatric diagnoses, including hallucinations, psychosis and severe depression.

Alpharetta City Council member John Hipes announced he will run for reelection this year, according to the Patch.

Tybee Island City Council member Shirley Sessions announced she will run for Mayor, according to the Savannah Morning News.

About a week after Tybee Island Mayor Jason Buelterman announced that he will not seek reelection in 2020, the city has it’s first candidate for the upcoming mayoral race.

Tybee Island City Councilwoman Shirley Sessions announced on Thursday her intention to run for mayor.

Some of her top priorities include beach renourishment, public safety and infrastructure.

She said she believes networking “across the bridge” is critical to the long-term success of Tybee.

“For me the mayor’s role is one of uniting people,” she said. “I’m a big believer in finding common ground. As mayor, it’s always important to work for beach renourishment, public safety, infrastructure and also I think respect for individuals. I’m a big believer in accountability and transparency in government. My plan is to help Tybee really be more united.”

Gainesville City Council is considering a property tax rollback, according to the Gainesville Times.

Gainesville officials are recommending the city roll back its millage rate to 3.322 mills from 3.364 mills, the amount needed for the average city property owner to maintain their rate in light of increased property valuations.

City Manager Bryan Lackey presented the recommended budget to the City Council on Thursday and also outlined some proposed capital projects and improvements for the police and fire departments.

The Floyd County Board of Education held its first hearing on the 2020 budget, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The second and final hearing will take place next Thursday at 8 a.m. at the same location. After the second hearing the board will take a vote to accept the budget as tentative with a final vote taking place at the next board meeting.

“We’re passionate about getting a balanced budget,” Superintendent Jeff Wilson said. “We feel really good about this budget and hope the community will, too.”

The proposed budget is $121.9 million which increased $5.7 million from last year. This number is reached by combining the school system’s beginning balance — $19.2 million — with its revenues and equals the system’s ending balance — $18.3 million — plus expenses.

The system is receiving an estimated $66 million from the state for its 9,324 students, Chief Financial Officer Greg Studdard said. These numbers come from the quality basic education earnings sheet, which is what the state of Georgia uses to determine how much funds systems receive.

The biggest expense for the system will be raises for certified and classified personnel, which comes in around $3 million. Certified personnel will be getting the $3,000 raises from the state, Studdard said, but with declining enrollment the system lost about a million in funding and will be receiving $1.4 million for the raises.

The Floyd County Commission is considering zoning changes that would allow some farm animals for personal use, according to the Rome News Tribune.

30
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 30, 2019

On May 30, 1922, Chief Justice of the United States William H. Taft dedicated the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. Inside the memorial is a seated statue of Lincoln by Daniel Chester French carved from 175 tons of Georgia white marble.

French also created the statue of Jame Oglethorpe that stands in Chippewa Square in Savannah and a seated statue of Samuel Spencer considered to be a prototype of the Lincoln carving. Samuel Spencer was the first President of Southern Railway and was originally located at the rail station in downtown Atlanta before moving to the Southern Railway passenger station in Buckhead in the 1970s and is currently at 1200 Peachtree Street in front of Norfolk Southern.

On this day in 1992, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion by Georgia-based The Black Crowes reached number one on the Billboard US Album chart.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Disney may cease filming in Georgia if the heartbeat bill goes into effect, according to the New York Times.

Disney’s chief executive, Bob Iger, said on Wednesday it would be “very difficult” for the company to continue filming in Georgia if the state’s highly restrictive abortion law is carried out.

Iger’s comments, made during in an interview with Reuters, were the strongest sign yet that Hollywood could pull back from Georgia, which has lured television and film producers with generous tax breaks, but has also at times repelled the industry with its politics.

“I rather doubt we will” continue filming in the state, Iger said. “I think many people who work for us will not want to work there, and we will have to heed their wishes in that regard. Right now we are watching it very carefully.

“I don’t see how it’s practical for us to continue to shoot there” if the law is enforced, he said.

Columbus City Council will consider raising the property tax millage rate by a percentage point, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The Columbus Consolidated Government has issued a notice saying next year’s tentative budget requires a higher millage rate and three public hearings are required by Georgia law before it’s raised.

The council is proposing to leave the millage rate at 17.18 mils for urban service districts 1, 5, 6 and 7, according to the notice.

That means a property in one of those districts with an assessed value of $100,000 would receive a tax bill from the city of $1,718.

Because there was no increase in the total digest for districts 2 and 4, and the millage rates of 11.20 mils for district 2 and 10.30 mils for district 4 will remain the same and there will be no tax increase advertised.

City Manager Isaiah Hugley said Wednesday that despite the language in the advertisement, people whose property taxes are frozen on their homes and who have not made any additions will not see an increase.

The one percent increase has more to do with the growth in the total digest, or list, of taxable properties in Columbus, she said.

“If we did everything exactly the same during the course of the year, but we added 600 new homes and two new 50,000-square-foot buildings, all else was the same, those 600 new homes and those new buildings would increase the digest because you’ve added to the inventory,” he said. “Adding to the inventory gives the appearance that we had an increase in property taxes.”

Savannah City Council is considering a rezoning for the Savannah Harbor project on Hutchinson Island, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The change will create a new Planned Unit Development (PUD) zoning district, the Savannah Harbor Parcel 5 PUD.

The property where the zoning change would apply is parcel 5, a 27.41-acre section of the Savannah Harbor master planned area on Hutchinson Island.

The area is already zoned for residential housing, lodging and retail uses. The zoning change would allow outdoor events, food trucks and watercraft activities on parcel 5.

Phase one of the project includes a marina, with an adjacent public plaza and greenspace. The marina would be located to the east of The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort and Spa.

Also included in phase one are plans for residential housing in three blocks of the parcel.

The Augusta Commission Personnel Committee approved a new severance policy, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Lee County Commission approved an agreement to implement text-to-911 service, according to the Albany Herald.

Gainesville City Board of Education is considering offering an early contract extension to superintendent Jeremy Williams, according to the Gainesville Times.

A Chatham County grand jury indicted former Chatham County Probate Court Clerk Kim Birge on 39 counts related to alleged theft in office, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The indictment returned by the Chatham County grand jury identified 18 individual who were alleged victims between Jan. 1, 2009, and June 30, 2011, and it is the first time Birge has been charged in a state court proceeding.

Birge, 64, is currently serving a six-year federal sentence imposed in 2015 for her guilty plea to stealing $223,000 from the Probate Court.

The new charges, obtained on evidence presented by Chatham County Assistant District Attorney Scott Robichaux, charged Birge with racketeering activity by obtaining interest in and control of real estate and personal property by improperly managing Probate Court funds and accounts by forging or altering documents related to disbursements and expenditures for her personal use.w

Glynn County Commissioners meet today to discuss budgeting, according to The Brunswick News.

“What we plan on doing is ask whatever questions you have, and then in a little over a week, we’re going to have another budget session,” commission chairman Mike Browning said at the work session last week. “Be prepared to come in here and everything you want to deal with, be ready to deal with it.”

Due to a number of changes between this year’s budget and the recommended budget for the next fiscal year, it’s difficult to compare them directly, County Manager Alan Ours told the Glynn County Commission at the work session. However, the total budget for the last fiscal year added up to around $142 million while the 2019-2020 budget comes out to around $132 million.

The $10 million difference can largely be attributed to fewer purchases and an expected drop in revenue from Brunswick and Jekyll Island property taxes, according to Tamara Munson, the county’s interim chief financial officer.

The structure of the proposed 2019-2020 budget is far enough removed from previous budgets to make direct comparisons difficult, Ours said. For one, the Glynn County Police Department’s budget is moving out of the general fund, where it has historically been categorized, and into its own police fund within the new special revenue fund.

Valdosta Board of Education members are considering changing their compensation from $50 per meeting to $300 per month, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The proposal was brought up by member Warren Lee, leader of the benefits committee, at the regular meeting Tuesday.

“Board members now have more responsibility put on them than ever before,” Lee said. “I would like to see us discuss it. I’ve been kicking this can down the road for a long time.”

Currently, the nine board members are paid a per diem allowance of $50 each every time they attend a meeting or school board function, which is funded through local school tax funds.

Now, they’re asking for $300 a month, which would come from the same source.

The University of Georgia will open beer sales in the football stadium to some donors, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

In Rome, the Coosa River Basin Initiative will monitor bacteria levels in local streams for public safety, according to the Rome News Tribune.

29
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 29, 2019

On May 29, 1836, the United States Senate ratified the Treaty of New Echota, which required the movement of all Cherokee out of Georgia and led to the “Trail of Tears.”

On May 29, 1942, Adolf Hitler ordered all Jews in Nazi-occupied Paris to wear a yellow Star of David on their coats.

On May 29, 1953, Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay, a Nepalese Sherpa, became the first to summit Mount Everest.

On May 28, Tenzing and Hillary set out, setting up high camp at 27,900 feet. After a freezing, sleepless night, the pair plodded on, reaching the South Summit by 9 a.m. and a steep rocky step, some 40 feet high, about an hour later. Wedging himself in a crack in the face, Hillary inched himself up what was thereafter known as the Hillary Step. Hillary threw down a rope, and Norgay followed. At about 11:30 a.m., the climbers arrived at the top of the world.

News of the success was rushed by runner from the expedition’s base camp to the radio post at Namche Bazar, and then sent by coded message to London, where Queen Elizabeth II learned of the achievement on June 1, the eve of her coronation. The next day, the news broke around the world. Later that year, Hillary and Hunt were knighted by the queen. Norgay, because he was not a citizen of a Commonwealth nation, received the lesser British Empire Medal.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

United States Senator David Perdue is not amused with a Congressional Republican’s tactic to delay farm aid in the wake of Hurricane Michael, according to the AJC.

As a second Republican House member delayed final approval of a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill on Tuesday, a top Congressional ally of President Donald Trump publicly denounced those GOP objections, accusing fellow Republicans of grandstanding against a relief plan which is backed by the White House.

“It’s time to stop the political games,” said Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, who helped seal the disaster aid deal with the President last Thursday. “It’s time to get disaster relief across the finish line.”

“Unfortunately, more clowns showed up today to once again delay disaster relief for the states and farmers devastated by the storms of 2018,” said Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA), who has also criticized the White House for a lack of urgency in getting storm relief through the Congress.

Legislation to improve school safety gives local districts much control over how it is implemented, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Kemp has pointed to the state funding in the budget this year – which was on top of the $16 million approved last year – as a better approach, at least for now.

“That’s the quickest way instead of us implementing some new state program or mandate or requiring the schools to do something,” Kemp told reporters gathered at the Douglasville school. “You can see they’re already doing it here. We just got out of session a couple of weeks ago and this is being implemented already right here in Douglas County.”

“I don’t want this state to try to micromanage schools,” House Speaker David Ralston said. “That’s why we have school boards and local superintendents.

“But I think there are minimum expectations that we could have, certainly as it relates to keeping kids safe once they walk in that building in the morning, keeping the teachers safe and the staff safe. I don’t think that’s asking too much, frankly.”

Netflix may rethink filming in Georgia if the heartbeat bill goes into effect, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“We have many women working on productions in Georgia, whose rights, along with millions of others, will be severely restricted by this law,” Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said in a written statement to Variety. “It’s why we will work with the ACLU and others to fight it in court. Given the legislation has not yet been implemented, we’ll continue to film there, while also supporting partners and artists who choose not to. Should it ever come into effect, we’d rethink our entire investment in Georgia.”

Among the Netflix properties that have filmed in Georgia over the past few years include “Stranger Things,” “Queer Eye,” “The Haunting of Hill House,” “Insatiable” and “Ozark” whose star, Jason Bateman, already said he would leave the state should the law go into effect. “Insatiable” star Alyssa Milano has also been vocal about not continuing in the state should the law go into effect, including delivering a letter to Kemp signed by celebrities such as Alec Baldwin and Mia Farrow joining her in opposition to the legislation.

Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams’ HBO series “Lovecraft Country” is currently filming in the state, but both Peele and Abrams have said they would donate 100 percent of their “episodic fees” to organizations such as the ACLU of Georgia and Fair Fight Georgia to challenge the bill.

Michael Williams, former State Senator and losing candidate for Governor, pled guilty to allegations of insurance fraud, according to the Gainesville Times.

Williams took a plea deal under the First Offender Act last week for five years of probation in the insurance fraud case, Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh said.

Williams was given five years of probation each on insurance fraud and false statements charges and 12 months of probation on a false report of a crime charge. Those sentences will run concurrently, meaning Williams serves five years probation.

Williams was sentenced under the First Offender Act by Superior Court Judge Clint Bearden, who also imposed a $5,000 fine and 120 hours of community service, Darragh said.

Yet another candidate announced for the Sixth Congressional District, according to the AJC.

Nicole Rodden launched her campaign for Congress with a three-minute video that emphasized her faith, multicultural background and experience in the Merchant Marines and Navy Reserves.

She called the GOP’s recent suburban wipeout a “wake-up call” and said the party needs “a new face and a fresh perspective in Washington.”

“For too long, liberals have tried to sell the lie that if you are a minority, a female, or a young person, then you must be a Democrat. I am here to show voters that is simply not true,” she said.

“Georgia’s 6th district must have someone who can break the mold in order to defeat Congressman Lucy McBath, and I’m ready to serve,” she added.

The Associated Press writes that Georgia’s strict interpretation of legislation regarding felon voting rights has disenfranchised thousands.

Georgia strips voting rights from people convicted of all felonies, from murder to drug possession, even though a straightforward reading of the law suggests not all felons deserve such punishment.

Felons seeking to restore their voting rights must not only finish their prison sentences, but also any parole or probation, as well as pay any outstanding court fines. That has a big effect in Georgia, which has more people on probation than any other state.

Georgia law prohibits voting by anyone convicted of a “felony involving moral turpitude,” a legal phrase rooted in the state’s Reconstruction-era constitution of 1877. The phrase has endured several revisions, including the latest version from 1983.

State lawmakers have never defined which felonies involve “moral turpitude.” Georgia election officials have long interpreted the state constitution to mean all felonies trigger the loss of voting rights.

Hall County is considering “micro-transit,” according to the Gainesville Times.

A request for proposals concerning microtransit services in Gainesville and Hall County is being prepared, said Phillippa Lewis Moss, director of Gainesville-Hall County Community Services.

Officials hope to put out the request before July, “allow it to circulate for a couple of months and select a vendor by fall,” Moss said last week.

“Depending on the vendor and terms of the contract, we may introduce microtransit services by spring 2020.”

Parents pushed back against a Muscogee County School District proposal to add 30 minutes to the school day, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The Muscogee County superintendent’s proposal to add 30 minutes to the daily schedule for elementary schools brought a chorus of opposition at the last school board meeting.

Six parents voiced objections during the Muscogee County School Board’s May 20 meeting — and no parent spoke in favor of it.

That came a week after Superintendent David Lewis agreed to postpone a vote on his proposal, after several board members expressed concerns.

Lewis said the administration will take a survey of parents and teachers on the proposal. He told the Ledger-Enquirer there’s not yet a time or method for when the survey would be taken.

Whitfield County will move many county offices into leased space in a Wells Fargo building in Dalton, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

A wildfire in the Okefenokee Swamp has been contained, according to The Brunswick News.

A burn ban on campfires and charcoal grills remains in effect in the refuge and Stephen C. Foster State Park, but all entrances and concessions are open for business.

The Glynn County Commission Finance Committee took no action on a proposal to create a new joint Brunswick/Glynn County narcotics unit, according to The Brunswick News.

The Rome Alcohol Commission voted to adopt new policies, according to the Rome News Tribune.

“Policy is that we only consider offenses that go back three years,” City Clerk Joe Smith said. “More than once I have had an ACC member suggest that might be a little bit short and maybe something along the lines of five years might be more appropriate.”

Smith explained during the meeting if a business violates any laws regarding the sale of alcohol — like selling it to a minor — anything additional that may have happened more than three years prior can not be looked at. Another concern Smith brought up is that infractions histories are also re-set if the name of the violating owner changes, so if for instance a business is caught selling to minors the owner can put the business license in a family member’s name and their violation history reset.

Gator (and other game) hunters can apply online for quote hunts starting Saturday, according to the Albany Herald.

“Because quota hunts allow a predetermined number of hunters in a particular area, they most certainly provide exceptional hunting opportunities,” John Bowers, chief of the Game Management Section with the Wildlife Resources Division, said in a news release. “So, if you are hoping to get to hunt the area of your choice, don’t let the deadlines get past you without applying.”

A quota hunt is a scheduled event at a Wildlife Management Area or other state-managed property where a limited number of hunters are allowed. Quota levels are based upon the sound principles of wildlife management and public desires for a quality hunt. These hunts provide a challenging and rewarding experience to hunters of all levels. Selected hunters must be properly licensed to participate in a quota hunt.

Visit www.gooutdoorsgeorgia.com and select “Quota Hunts” and follow the steps to complete your application. Make sure that your email is current and correct in order to receive quota updates, confirmations or any notices about quota hunts.

Former Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver has published a new book, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office is increasing patrols after nine shootings since May 15, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

A shooting Monday involving an altercation with a deputy is the ninth since May 15, with three of them fatal. The most recent deadly shooting involved Kwadere Barno, 31, who was arrested and charged in the death of Tony Sanford on Meadowbrook Drive.

Chief Deputy Patrick Clayton said they have no indications the shootings are gang related, but the high number over a short period of time is of concern.

“Gun violence that has been our number one thing that we are focusing on and that has been the number one thing we continue to struggle with,” Clayton said. “This is a gun violence culture.”