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


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

On April 8, 1917, U.S. President William Howard Taft (R-Ohio) spoke in Augusta, Georgia, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Former President William Howard Taft spoke on the precarious world situation for more than an hour to an Easter Sunday crowd at Augusta’s Tabernacle Baptist Church.

Taft, who had lost the White House four years earlier to Woodrow Wilson, defended the actions of his former rival.

“Our national conscience is entirely void of offense in this war. We have been forced to vindicate our rights,” Taft told an enthusiastic audience.

Hank Aaron hit home run number 715 on April 8, 1974 to become the all-time home run champion, a title he arguably holds to this day.

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig wrote about what Aaron meant to baseball and America.

As the last major league player who was a part of the Negro leagues, he was one of the game’s most prominent bridges to integration. For 23 years on the field, this humble native of Mobile, Ala., represented the game with unfailing grace, overcoming obstacles that most of us could not even imagine. In the years since then, Hank has remained one of the most distinguished and revered figures in American public life.

Aaron himself spoke to the Associated Press about the 40th anniversary of his record-breaking home run.

Aaron’s record-breaking homer will be celebrated tonight before the Atlanta Braves’ home opener against the New York Mets.

Hate mail and threats made it impossible for him to savor the chase of Ruth’s revered record, but on Monday he said he’ll enjoy the anniversary because such old friends as former teammate Dusty Baker will return for the pregame ceremony.

Aaron, 80, said he has a greater appreciation for fans who still celebrate his career.

“It does. It means an awful lot to me,” Aaron said.

“I’m not one to go around bragging about certain things. I played the game because I loved the game. … I am quite thrilled that people say that he, whatever he did, should be appreciated. That makes me feel good.”

The Braves will wear an Aaron 40th anniversary patch on their uniform sleeves this season. An outfield sign at Turner Field also will mark the anniversary.

Before hitting the homer into the Braves’ bullpen beyond the left-field wall, Aaron told [Dusty] Baker what was about to happen.

“That I can remember like it was yesterday,” Baker said. “It was a cold, cold night in April. Hank told me, ‘I’m going to get this over with now.’ He knew every pitch that was coming. He had total recall of pitch sequences. He was as smart as they came.”

Aaron confirmed Baker’s tale on Monday: “I think that was right. I think I made that remark and made it to Dusty maybe three or four times. I just felt within myself that eventually before the night was over I was going to hit a home run.”

Kurt Cobain was found dead by his own hand on April 8, 1994.

Governor Zell Miller signed legislation proclaiming Gainesville, Georgia the Poultry Capital of the World on April 8, 1995.

The Square Dance became the official state folk dance on April 8, 1996, when Gov. Zell Miller signed legislation recognizing it.

On April 8, 2005, Eric Rudolph agreed to plead guilty to the fatal 1996 bombing at Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park.

The Masters Tournament was won on this date by Gene Sarazen (1935), Jack Burke, Jr. (1956), Nick Faldo (2nd win – 1990), Tiger Woods (2nd win – 2001), and former University of Georgia player Bubba Watson in 2012.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Augusta National Golf Club just put on a master class on how to deal with politics as a private organization. From the Associated Press via the Valdosta Daily Times:

While a tempest brews outside Magnolia Lane over Georgia’s voting rights law, Augusta National would prefer to keep the focus on blooming azaleas, pimento cheese sandwiches and tricky greens.

So, it was no surprise when Chairman Fred Ridley played through any attempt Wednesday to ensnare his club in another contentious issue.

“We realize that views and opinions on this law differ, and there have been calls for boycotts and other punitive measures,” Ridley said during his annual State of the Masters news conference on the eve of the opening round. “Unfortunately, those actions often impose the greatest burdens on the most vulnerable in our society.”

“I believe, as does everyone in our organization, that the right to vote is fundamental in our democratic society,” Ridley said. “No one should be disadvantaged in exercising that right, and it is critical that all citizens have confidence in the electoral process.”

When asked bluntly if he supported or opposed the new law, Ridley laid up.

“I don’t think that my opinion on this legislation should shape the discussion,” he said. “I know you would like for us to make a proclamation on this. I just don’t think that is going to be helpful to ultimately reaching a resolution.”

In a sport where Trump enjoyed widespread support, four-time major champion Rory McIlroy has been one of the few players to take an opposing political stand. The Northern Irishman criticized the former president’s leadership last year during the coronavirus pandemic and said he wouldn’t play golf with him again.

When asked for his opinion of the Georgia voting law, McIlroy picked his words carefully.

“I’m not a citizen of this country, but I certainly think all great countries and democracies are built on equal voting rights and everyone being able to get to the ballot boxes as easily as possible,” he said.

There is a CEO of an Atlanta-based Fortune 500 company who could take a cue from Mr. McIlroy. Instead that company has gotten further embroiled in the controversy and appears to be basing its government affairs strategy on Stacey Abrams’s latest demands.

From the AJC:

Here is what Ridley said as a statement before taking questions:

“Before I close, I want to speak about an issue that presently is of great public interest: The recently enacted Georgia voting law. I believe, as does everyone in our organization, that the right to vote is fundamental in our democratic society. No one should be disadvantaged in exercising that right, and it is critical that all citizens have confidence in the electoral process. This is fundamental to who we are as a people. We realize that views and opinions on this law differ, and there have been calls for boycotts and other punitive measures. Unfortunately, those actions often impose the greatest burdens on the most vulnerable in our society. And in this case, that includes our friends and neighbors here in Augusta who are the very focus of the positive difference we are trying to make.”

Q. Following up on the Georgia voting law, just to be clear, are you for the law or against the law? And if you are against it, what does the Club, with its considerable power, plan to do about it?

A. I don’t think that my opinion on this legislation should shape the discussion. As I stated in my previous comments, I believe and I am confident that every member of this club believes that voting is an essential fundamental right in our society and that — as I stated, that anything that disadvantages anyone to vote is wrong and should be addressed. I’m not going to speak to the specifics of the law, but I do know that the best way for — I think there’s a resolution, and I think that resolution is going to be based on people working together and talking and having constructive dialogue because that’s the way our democratic society works. And while I know you would like to — for us to make a proclamation on this. I just don’t think that is going to be helpful to ultimately reaching a resolution. And so we would like to encourage people to talk, to communicate, to let the democratic process work. And hopefully, these fundamentals that I’ve stated are so important to us and I think everyone in this room, can be achieved.

Governor Brian Kemp is relaxing some pandemic business restrictions, according to WTOC.

As more people across the Peach State get vaccinated, restrictions are lifting for restaurants and bars that have been operating at a limited capacity due to social distancing requirements.

[Savannah Restauranteur Wendy] Bennett says they don’t allow more than four or five people to dine-in at one time and with social distance restrictions decreasing, they’re looking forward to having more families come in.

“It would really help us. People would be a lot more comfortable to come in and sit down and just chill and eat, listen to the music stuff like that.”

From 13WMAZ:

Governor Brian Kemp tweeted Wednesday that “Georgia is open for business” after a year when small businesses, especially, struggled to stay afloat and bring customers in, while keeping the virus out.

“We probably will keep the restrictions in place for a little longer,” [Midtown Atlanta Restauranteur Julian] Sery said, “until we feel everybody can be safe. We want our customers to feel safe when they come here. So we’ll see how the vaccine goes and how people, the customers, react to the changes, and we’ll make a decision from there.”

The changes, statewide, as of Thursday include:

•  No more 6-foot distancing requirements for businesses
•  No more restrictions on the size of gatherings
•  No more shelter-in-place required
•  No more enforcement of the remaining restrictions

Service employees must still wear masks, for example.

Even with the new executive order in place, the governor is still urging people to continue to wear masks and practice social distancing.

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Restaurants and bars will be allowed to seat patrons at least 3.5 feet from each other instead of the previous 6-foot requirement. Movie-goers can sit 3 feet from each other in indoor theaters. A shelter-in-place order for nursing homes and other elderly-care facilities also will be lifted.

Additionally, police officers will be barred from shutting down businesses that refuse to comply with the new scaled-back distancing and sanitization rules. A partial ban on mask mandates in Georgia cities and counties will also remain in effect.

“We continue to make steady progress in our vaccine administration here in Georgia,” Kemp said this week. “The life-saving COVID-19 vaccine is our key back to normal, and with all Georgians ages 16 and over now eligible to receive the shot, we are well on our way as we head into spring and summer.”

The rollback set for Thursday drew praise from local business leaders including restaurant owners who have been hit hard by the pandemic over the past year. Roughly 20% of Georgia’s restaurants remain closed after more than half shut down temporarily in the pandemic’s early days, said Karen Bremer, president of the Georgia Restaurant Association.

Bremer noted the 6-foot distancing rule has limited restaurants to about 60% of capacity, complicating dine-in services as many restaurants turned to curbside and delivery during the pandemic. Restaurants will still have leeway to decide whether to stick with the stricter safety measures once the rollback kicks in, she said.

“Slowly but surely, we have been able to expand to a more reasonable level,” Bremer said. “I’m sure that there will be many that still require the face coverings for people to come into their businesses. It’s their prerogative as a business to do that.”

Chatham County Commission Chair Chester A. Ellis renewed the county’s mask requirement through April 30, according to WTOC.

The order renewed at 12:00 a.m. on Wednesday and remains in effect until 11:59 p.m. on Friday, April 30th unless otherwise updated or canceled. Face masks and coverings are required in all commercial establishments, public places, government buildings or in group of 10 people or more. Masks and coverings must cover both the nose and the mouth.

Social distancing of six feet is also required. Hand washing or use of an alcohol-based sanitizer is encouraged.

Governor  Kemp is using the passage of election reform legislation to rebuild ties to pro-Trump GOP voters, according to the Associated Press via the Statesboro Herald.

The governor was narrowly elected in 2018 as a strong conservative and staunch ally of then-President Donald Trump. But Kemp’s refusal to bow to pressure from Trump to find a way to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 victory in the state left many of the former president’s allies seething — and eager to exact revenge at the ballot box.

That means the sweeping election law could be one of Kemp’s last hopes to rekindle a bond with Republicans who remain fiercely loyal to Trump and will be a critical force in next year’s GOP primary. The legislation, which Kemp signed into law, could give him an opening to persuade Republicans that he is an outsider, willing to stand up to Democrats, corporate leaders and sports leagues who have derided the measure as an affront to democracy that is based on false claims and needs to be rewritten.

The question is whether the fight will be enough to help him win another four years in office. There’s no guarantee that Kemp’s support of the bill will change the minds of Trump’s most loyal supporters, many of whom remain convinced the election was marred by fraud.

For his part, Trump called into the conservative network Newsmax on Tuesday and said the new law doesn’t go far enough and blamed Kemp for what he called a “very strongly watered-down bill.”

“A lot of the real power, a lot of the guts have been taken out of it,” Trump lamented.

Democrats, meanwhile, hope the legislation could invigorate their supporters, serving as a reminder of what’s at stake in 2022. Stacey Abrams, who lost to Kemp in 2018, is being closely watched to see whether she will mount a rematch. She has already proven herself adept at using arguments over voting rights to raise vast sums of money and drive voter turnout.

During the fall, when Trump peddled his false assertions about election fraud, Kemp did not criticize the former president or explicitly take his side. He carefully, even if sometimes clumsily, declared that he was doing what the law required: certifying Biden’s slate of electors once Raffensperger certified the Democrat’s victory.

Let us pause here for a moment and reflect upon why a reporter for the AP feels it’s okay to refer to “false assertions” by former President Trump but doesn’t dispute the provably false assertions by President Biden about Georgia’s legislation.

From the New York Times:

After infuriating former President Donald J. Trump by resisting his demands to overturn the state’s election results, Mr. Kemp became an outcast in his own party. He spent weeks fending off a daily barrage of attacks from right-wing media, fellow Republican lawmakers and party officials, and Mr. Trump vowed to retaliate by sending a hard-right loyalist to oppose him in the primary next year.

But the sweeping new voting bill Mr. Kemp signed two weeks ago has provided a lifeline to the embattled governor to rebuild his standing among the party’s base. The bill severely curtails the ability to vote in Georgia, particularly for people of color. Mr. Kemp has seized on it as a political opportunity, defending the law as one that expands voting access, condemning those who criticize it and conflating the criticism with so-called cancel culture.

Since signing the bill into law on March 25, Mr. Kemp has done roughly 50 interviews, 14 with Fox News, promoting the new restrictions with messaging that aligns with Mr. Trump’s baseless claims that the election was rigged against him.

“He knows that this is a real opportunity and he can’t blow it, because I don’t think he gets another layup like this again anytime soon,” said Randy Evans, a Georgia lawyer whom Mr. Trump made ambassador to Luxembourg, and is also a close ally of Mr. Kemp.

Late Tuesday, the former president signaled how difficult it would be to win him over, releasing a statement slamming Mr. Kemp and Georgia Republicans for not going far enough to restrict voting access in the new law.

“Kemp also caved to the radical left-wing woke mob who threatened to call him racist if he got rid of weekend voting,” Mr. Trump said. “Well, he kept it, and they still call him racist!”

“I’ve not seen our party in Georgia as united in five and half years,” said Chip Lake, a longtime Republican strategist in the state. “This has allowed people who are angry at Brian Kemp for not doing enough for Donald Trump to get back on board with Brian Kemp.”

From The Hill:

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) on Wednesday pushed back on criticism of the state’s controversial new voting law that in part prohibits nonelection workers from providing food and water to voters standing in line, arguing that people can “order Grubhub or Uber Eats.”

Kemp said during an interview on Newsmax’s “Wake Up America” program that “misinformation and lying by people all the way up to the White House” fueled statements of condemnation against the voting bill from businesses such as Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines. MLB also moved its 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver over the voting measures.

“They’re just saying it’s suppression, it’s Jim Crow,” Kemp said Wednesday, adding, “It’s a false narrative, and people need to understand that.”

“They can order a pizza. They can order Grubhub or Uber Eats. The county officials can provide water stations,” he said, adding that the restriction on handing out food and water “is just within 150 feet of the precinct.”

“If you’re 151 feet, campaigns can set up tables, food trucks, they can hand out flyers, put up signs,” he continued. “This has been the case in Georgia for a long time and many, many other states.”

Democratic Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said her office will not prosecute State Rep. Park Cannon (D-Atlanta), according to AccessWDUN.

“After reviewing all of the evidence, I have decided to close this matter,” Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said in an emailed statement. “It will not be presented to a grand jury for consideration of indictment, and it is now closed.”

Rep. Park Cannon, a Democrat from Atlanta, was arrested March 25 after she knocked on the door to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s office while he was on live television speaking about the voting bill he had just signed into law. Police charged her with obstruction of law enforcement and disruption of the General Assembly. She was released from jail later that evening.

“While some of Representative Cannon’s colleagues and the police officers involved may have found her behavior annoying, such sentiment does not justify a presentment to a grand jury of the allegations in the arrest warrants or any other felony charges,” Willis said.

The new law follows former President Donald Trump’s repeated, baseless claims of voter fraud after he narrowly lost to President Joe Biden in the state that has reliably voted for Republican presidential candidates in recent decades. Compounding the Republican losses, two Democrats beat Republican U.S. Senate incumbents in a runoff election in January that flipped control of the chamber to their party.

NB: again with the “baseless claims” language about President Trump while giving President Biden a pass for inaccurate and baseless statements about Georgia’s new law.

The Georgia Secretary of State‘s office referred for investigation complaints against three county election boards, according to the Albany Herald.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has referred Coffee, Grady and Taylor Counties for investigation after those counties failed to do their absentee ballot transfer forms in violation of Georgia Rules and Regulations. The office of the secretary of state has confirmed with the other 120 counties that had absentee ballot drop boxes in November that they completed ballot transfer documents.

Absentee ballot drop boxes were allowed by emergency rule of the State Election Board to address the absentee ballot voting surge caused by COVID-19. The emergency rule required counties with drop boxes to fill out ballot transfer forms that included the date, time, location and number of ballots in the drop boxes whenever election officials collected ballots from the drop box.

In total, 123 counties had absentee ballot drop boxes for the November election. Of those, 120 have confirmed they filled out and retained ballot transfer forms in accordance with Georgia rules. Elections officials in Coffee, Grady and Taylor counties said they had not filled out the forms as required. The three counties account for only 0.37% of all the absentee ballots cast in the November election.

The Savannah Morning News examines the provision in Senate Bill 202 that allows the state to take over some elections.

Of all the changes the widely criticized Senate Bill 202 made to Georgia’s election law, the State Elections Board’s new power to replace a duly elected county elections board with a single person is perhaps the most drastic.

Recently, the ire from those left-of-center has turned to this part of the bill, which some claim could be used by the Republican-majority legislature to overturn election results.

But the language of the bill makes it impossible for the state board to replace a superintendent in time to change any results immediately following an election.

The bill allows legislative representatives, county commissioners or the State Elections Board itself to request an investigation of the county’s election’s superintendent. For some counties, that means replacing the probate judge, but in others, it means replacing an entire election board with a single individual.

If, after a performance review, the majority of the five-person State Elections Board votes that the county elections officials demonstrated “nonfeasance, malfeasance, or gross negligence,” then they can appoint a replacement superintendent.

But this provision has limits. It can only be done in four counties at a time. Plus, it would be impossible to put an appointee into place during or immediately following an election, since the preliminary hearing required beforehand must be at least 30 days after the request to investigate.

The certification deadline for Georgia counties is 10 days after the election, and 17 days after for the state certification.

Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, the vice-chair of the Special Committee on Election Integrity for the Georgia House, said a challenge to certification would lead to an audit or recount, which may find legitimate and illegitimate votes, but not overturn an entire county’s results.

“The idea that people think that an election could be overturned, it’d just be like saying ‘Well, I didn’t like the results, and we’re going to overturn it.’ No, you’ve got to have a pathway to do that,” Powell said.

At the end of the day, there still has to be evidence of error or wrongdoing, which was also part of the intent of this facet of the bill, Powell said.

“The intent was to let it be known that if your county continues to be dysfunctional during an election process, if it continues to draw complaints — not just frivolous complaints, but major complaints — then the state will step in,” Powell said.

It’s really an excellent piece that demonstrates what we should expect from local journalism in order to make it worth paying for their publication.

United States Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Extreme Northwest Georgia) has become a fundraising juggernaut, fueled largely by the left’s disdain. From CNN via the Albany Herald:

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene announced on Wednesday that her reelection campaign raised an astonishing $3.2 million in the Georgia Republican’s first three months in office, after reports detailed her embrace of conspiracy theories and support for executing prominent Democratic politicians.

“I am humbled, overjoyed, and so excited to announce what happened over the past few months as I have been the most attacked freshman member of Congress in history,” said Greene in a statement. “I stood my ground and never wavered in my belief in America First policies and putting People Over Politicians! And I will NEVER back down! As a matter of fact, I’m just getting started.”

From Politico:

That eye-popping haul came from over 100,000 individual donors, for an average donation of $32. Greene did not self-fund this quarter, the source added.

That is a staggering sum of money for a House member, especially for a freshman who is more than a year out from her next election. For context, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), then a freshman, raked in $728,000 in the first quarter of 2019.

Greene appears to have actually benefited from all the controversies that have consumed her first few months in office. She directly fundraised off of Democrats’ decision to kick her off her committees for past incendiary rhetoric and warned her supporters that Democrats are trying to expel her from Congress. Greene is also still a fan favorite in Trumpworld: she met with Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago last week and they posed for a video together.

“Over 100,000 individual donations says it all. The People are with Marjorie Taylor Greene and her America First agenda. It’s clear she’s the heir to President Trump,” said the source close to her campaign. “While politicians inside the Beltway attack her daily, Americans are rushing to stand beside the Notorious MTG as she fights tooth and nail on the House floor utilizing procedural tactics to shut down Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats’ hostage takeover of Congress.”

My dear friends of the left are learning that the Law of Unintended Consequences affects them too.

Georgia Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan (R-2.0) appears to be making ready to “Exit, Stage Left.” From the AJC:

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan is unlikely to run for a second term as the state’s No. 2 politician, according to a senior aide who said the Republican is instead expected to focus on his “GOP 2.0” initiative to reframe the party in a post-Trump era.

Duncan has signaled for months that he would not seek reelection, but he’s declined to say publicly whether he will stand for another term. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Duncan’s decision has not yet been finalized.

Even before Duncan has made his plans clear, Republicans are already openly jockeying for position. Among the possible contenders are state Sens. Steve Gooch, Burt Jones and Butch Miller. GOP activist Jeanne Seaver is also running. And Democratic state Rep. Erick Allen announced his campaign for the seat last week.

Army Veteran Harold Earls announced his campaign for the Sixth Congressional District, currently held by Democrat Lucy McBath (R-TN), according to the AJC.

Harold Earls, a U.S. Army veteran with a vast YouTube and Instagram following, launched his campaign to run for the suburban Atlanta district. His announcement telegraphed his plan to run as an outsider.

“Time after time in Georgia, we keep going back to the same type of candidates, expecting different results,” he said. “That failed approach, it ends now. It’s time for a new generation of conservative leaders to reignite a movement and lead the way for the future of this country.”

Earls is a graduate of West Point and led the first Army team to the summit of Mt. Everest. He and his wife Rachel authored a book, “A Higher Calling,” and their YouTube channel with over 500,000 subscribers is called “Earls Family Vlogs.”

But they’re all engaging in a bit of a guessing game. That’s because the north Atlanta district, along with the adjacent Gwinnett-based seat held by first-term Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux, could dramatically change when state legislators redraw the boundaries later this year.

Augusta Judicial Circuit judges and administrators are considering the legislative split of the circuit, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Superior Court judges are feeling their way along the path to normalcy while implementing the split of Columbia County from the Augusta Judicial Circuit by July 1.

Richmond and Burke counties will continue to comprise the Augusta Judicial Circuit, and five of the circuit’s Superior Court judges will continue to preside over civil, domestic and criminal cases in the two counties.

The Superior Court judges remaining in the Augusta Judicial Circuit are Chief Judge Carl C. Brown Jr., Daniel J. Craig, John Flythe, Jesse Stone and Ashley Wright.

The three judges who will work solely in Columbia County handling all of the criminal, civil and domestic cases filed there will be Superior Court Judges James G. Blanchard Jr., and Sheryl B. Jolly and J. Wade Padgett .

The other courts in the counties – probate and state courts – won’t be affected by the judicial circuit split.

The Lake Park City Council voted to raise water rates, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

In a 3-1 vote, Lake Park City Council decided in its monthly meeting to raise base rates for residential water users from the present $15.50 per month to $19.50 for the first 2,000 gallons, increasing to $41.50 per month for 10,000 gallons and up.

Commercial water users will see base rates rise from the current $15.50 per month to $25.50, increasing to $43.50 for 10,000 gallons a month, according to a chart provided by City Hall.

The Brunswick News writes that opposition is growing to a biomass plant in Franklin and Madison Counties.

[Madison County resident Drago] Tesanovich and others formed the Madison County Clean Power Coalition to battle the problems created at Georgia Renewable Energy plants in Madison and Franklin counties.

They have taken a full-page ad in the Charlton County weekly newspaper to warn residents about “the true story about the people behind Twin Pines Minerals.”

The executives who own Twin Pines also own Georgia Renewable Energy.

The letter to Charlton County officials urges them to reconsider their support for Twin Pines to mine heavy minerals near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge if the company is granted a permit.

“Do not let Twin Pines Minerals do to your community what its affiliate, GRP, has to ours,” the letter said. “(Twin Pines Minerals) can’t be trusted with something as precious as your health, your quality of life and the integrity of the Okefenokee Swamp.”

Steve Dailey, a vice president for Georgia Renewable Energy, said the ad was taken by a “very small group of vocal citizens.”

“It was seriously lacking context, grossly misrepresented our operations and failed to note the tremendous support we have in Madison and Franklin counties,” Dailey said. “Nor did they note the truth that we operate well within the parameters of our permits and are in good standing with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.”

Athens-Clarke County Commissioners voted to extend a municipal program that increases outdoor dining availability in downtown, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The parklet program was introduced at the start of the pandemic when the need arose for safe outdoor dining. Parklets were created by converting business-adjacent parking spaces or small sections of road into mini-parks with small dining areas.

Tuesday’s commission vote extended the program, as well as the outdoor retail areas pilot program. The Washington Street outdoor retail program permits outdoor dining space and alcohol service for restaurants and retail stores in the area.

The parklet program is tied to the COVID-19 local emergency ordinance currently in place, so the program will be extended for as long as that order is active.

As a part of this extension, commissioners voted to have the Government Operations Committee develop plans for an ongoing parklet program that would continue past the emergency ordinance.

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