Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 11, 2023


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 11, 2023

On August 12, 1492 by the current calendar, Christopher Columbus set sail from the port of Palos de la Frontera in southern Spain with the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. Other accounts date his arrival at the Canary Islands off the coast of northwestern Africa on August 12, 1492.

Juan Ponce de Leon invaded Puerto Rico on August 12, 1508 and declared himself Governor.

On August 11, 1862, Confederate General Braxton Bragg declared martial law in Atlanta.

On August 12, 1864, Confederate General John B. Hood prohibited Confederate soldiers from seizing civilian property.

The first Ford Model T rolled off the assembly line on August 12, 1908.

On August 12, 1908, Ford’s first “Model T” rolled off a Detroit, Michigan, factory floor. Within six years, the car, company and man were propelled to unprecedented success, thanks to the new Highland Park plant’s first-of-its-kind assembly line, which created the intricate product quickly and in large numbers.

“If it hadn’t been for Henry Ford’s drive to create a mass market for cars, America wouldn’t have a middle class today,” wrote [Lee] Iacocca.

Increased travel spurred appeals for better and more roads, the development of suburbs, the oil industry’s rise and a boom in gas stations, strip malls and motels.

But the assembly line itself had the biggest impact on American society, Hyde contended, in making possible the swift, mass production of everything from computers to “fast food.”

On August 12, 1910, Georgia Governor Joseph M. Brown signed legislation prohibiting the carrying of a pistol or revolver without a license.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered the summer commencement address at the University of Georgia on August 11, 1938. Later that day, Roosevelt endorsed Lawrence Camp over incumbent Governor Walter F. George, saying George had not been sufficiently supportive of the New Deal.

East Germany began building the Berlin Wall on August 12, 1961.

[T]he government of East Germany, on the night of August 12, 1961, began to seal off all points of entrance into West Berlin from East Berlin by stringing barbed wire and posting sentries. In the days and weeks to come, construction of a concrete block wall began, complete with sentry towers and minefields around it. The Berlin Wall succeeded in completely sealing off the two sections of Berlin.

Three churches in Albany, Georgia first allowed African-Americans to attend their services on August 12, 1962.

The Atlanta Braves signed legendary Negro League pitcher Satchel Paige on August 11, 1968. Here’s a story on what the Braves signing meant to Paige:

In 1968, the right-hander was 158 days shy of the five years’ playing time needed to qualify for the major league pension. He would reach out to 29 teams and 29 teams would turn him down.

The problem was, he was 62.

But Braves president Bill Bartholomay saw an opportunity. While it would help at the box office for a franchise that was in its third season in Atlanta, it was also about something more.

“I jumped all over it, because I just thought it was the right thing to do,” said Bartholomay, currently the team’s chairman emeritus. “I didn’t think of it so much from the standpoint of diversity, I thought it was just the right thing to do.”

After reaching his 158 required days, Paige left the Braves and less than three years later, began drawing that pension. He received $250 a month.

“It was momentous and he did quality for his pension,” Bartholomay said, “but more importantly, the slight recognition for one of the great athletes, maybe one of the .. certainly short list of greatest pitchers of all time.”

From the AJC:

“Baseball would have been guilty of negligence should it not assure this legendary figure a place in the pension plan,” the [Braves] owner said at the signing in 1968. Looking back 40 years on, Bartholomay says Satchel justified his faith by performing sensationally as a goodwill ambassador.

“He came to us four months after the King funeral in Atlanta,” says Bartholomay. “Those were pretty tough times for African-Americans and the country in its entirety. Satchel understood that. He helped in a way that went way beyond baseball.”

On August 12, 1968, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham played together for the first time.

The first Space Shuttle, Enterprise, made its first flight in the earth’s atmosphere on August 12, 1977.

On August 11, 1984, Ronald Reagan jokingly announced that he had “signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever…we begin bombing in five minutes,” without knowing he was speaking into a live microphone.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp announced that Dr. Robert “Bob” Buschman will serve as the new State Fiscal Economist, according to a press release.

Governor Brian P. Kemp today announced his appointment of Dr. Robert “Bob” Buschman as Georgia’s State Economist, effective September 1. Dr. Buschman currently serves as Interim Director of the Public Finance Research Cluster at Georgia State University.

“I look forward to benefiting from Dr. Buschman’s wealth of knowledge as he steps into this new role as a partner in crafting our state budget and ensuring our state economy remains strong,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “With his help, I’m confident we will continue to maintain our AAA bond rating, balance our state budgets, and deliver more opportunity for hardworking Georgians.”

Robert “Bob” Buschman serves as Interim Director of the Public Finance Research Cluster (PFRC), Associate Director for the Fiscal Research Center (FRC), and a Senior Research Associate with the FRC and the Center for State and Local Finance. He is FRC’s key contact for fiscal note analyses of proposed Georgia revenue legislation, the state tax expenditure report, and tax incentive evaluations. Dr. Buschman’s research interests include corporate and personal taxation, growth and equity effects of tax reform, state and local fiscal policy, and other fiscal matters. He has also taught macroeconomics at Georgia State University. Prior to joining the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Buschman worked for several years in corporate banking and corporate financial management. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Duke University, an MBA in Finance from the Goizueta Business School at Emory University, and a master’s degree and a doctorate in Economics from the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University.

Georgia’s first aquaculture leases for oyster farming are producing tasty mollusks, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Georgia is at the precipice of a renaissance for its once great coastal industry: oysters.

Only a handful of the oysters consumers eat on the 100-mile Georgia coast are locally grown. But that number is set to rise as the first handful of oyster aquaculture operations — maritime farms for the mollusks — put out their crop thanks to that state’s first-ever mariculture leases.

Although Georgia once led the nation in wild harvests of oysters, there haven’t been commercial farms for the livestock until now. Whether they’re new to the industry or have decades of experience with similar products like clams, the growers snapping up the coveted state leases for oyster farms are the first of a new era in Georgia food production.

Perry and Laura Solomon own Tybee Oyster Company, the first floating oyster farm in Georgia. They are one of the winners of the state’s lease lottery which took into account eight criteria and weighted them, for example, years of experience in aquaculture, years of residency in Georgia, evidence of funding and more.

Laura and Perry say that oyster farming is a “win-win” scenario: It is good for the environment and good for Georgians, too. Oysters are filter feeders, natural water cleaners that also help add structure to shorelines along the coast. By farming, Laura said they aren’t taking any oysters away from the natural environment and are helping clean the water with their own crop, which can also spawn more oysters out into the water.

For humans, the oysters are fresher and require less trucking and refrigeration. Once harvested, oysters must be kept below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and aren’t shucked until served at a restaurant.

All the Georgia oyster producers grow a native species of oyster that’s produced locally by the University of Georgia Marine Extension and Sea Grant’s Shellfish Research Laboratory. They purchased about 100,000 “seed,” or baby oysters, from the extension that arrived in two batches in June and July.

The mariculture zone in Chatham County is one of two in Georgia: The other is located in the Mud River behind Sapelo Island. The Solomons’ lease is sandwiched between two other leases, but neither of those tenants has received their permits or started operations yet.

“It took us a year and a half to get permitted,” Laura said, “in which time you’re paying on the lease.” She and Perry said the permitting process through the Army Corps of Engineers has held up many of the leaseholders from proceeding.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Savannah District submitted a statement to the Savannah Morning News stating that there is no standard time for this process in large part because these are the first permits of their kind.

“In 2018, we determined none of the existing shellfish farming operations (1,492 acres) had been permitted by the Army Corps under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbor Act or Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and we began working with [Coastal Resources Division] to bring these existing operations into compliance,” USACE spokesperson Cheri Dragos-Pritchard wrote.

Shortly thereafter, Dragos-Pritchard said, the state codified a process for certifying shellfish hatcheries and nurseries, which took effect on March 1, 2020.  Since then, USACE, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Coastal Resources Division and shellfish growers have been working to issue the required federal authorizations. From June 2021 to present, the Savannah District has received 30 individual applications for activities associated with shellfish farm operations.

According to the CDR, Georgia led the country in oyster harvests at the turn of the 20th century, harvesting 8 million pounds annually. Those were mostly tinned oysters since Georgia’s naturally craggy, clustered oysters weren’t prime for oysters on the half-shell. But by the 1930s, overharvesting hit the industry. Later into the 1900s, tastes changed, and interest for tinned oysters yielded to oysters on the half-shell, thus ending Georgia’s heyday.

Tom Bliss, director of the University of Georgia’s Shellfish Research Laboratory at the UGA Marine Extension and Sea Grant in Savannah, said the lab helped lay the groundwork for the budding oyster industry when it received a grant from the Georgia DNR in 2014 to start an oyster hatchery.

But in 2019, the state legislature passed laws allowing mariculture zones, and between then and about 2021 the CDR spent time studying other states’ models and devising how to implement mariculture successfully in Georgia.

Georgia was the last state from Texas to Maine to legalize oyster mariculture.

That’s a very good, well-written story that goes into great depth explaining a complicated issue. But I am forced to dock five points for that mixed metaphor in the first line.

Burke County Commissioners discussed budgetary issues related to the Sheriff’s Office, according to WRDW.

“Sheriff Williams receives more money per citizen to carry out his duties than any other sheriff’s office close to a county our size. If other sheriffs can keep the peace and enforce the law with far less funds, surely our sheriff can do the same with far more funds,” said the release. “The County Commission has nearly doubled Sheriff Williams’ budget since he took over from Sheriff Coursey. Unfortunately, though, Sheriff Williams has gone over his budget almost every year he has been in office, and this year is on track to be a million dollars overbudget.”

Commissioners also touched on the Georgia Bureau of Investigation case involving training records with the Waynesboro Police Department and Burke County Sheriff Alfonzo Williams. The GBI has given the case to district attorney Jared Williams.

Commissioners say they “will await his response.”

Bulloch County residents turned out in force to oppose a higher property tax millage rate considered by the County Commission, according to the Statesboro Herald.

About 100 people filled the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners’ recently expanded meeting room Aug. 7 for the first of three hearings on the county government’s proposed 1.5-mill property tax rate hike. When one speaker asked, most of those present stood to show they oppose the increase.

“We do not take this proposal lightly. We know it’s not popular,” commissioners Chairman Roy Thompson read from a prepared statement at the start of the first hearing. “We are providing three separate meetings, at night, because we want to give as many people a chance to be heard as possible.”

One thing that makes the proposed millage rate increase “not popular” is that it would follow inflation, averaging about 13.2%, in the assessed value of real estate and other taxable property as determined by the county Board of Tax Assessors. Together, the inflation and the proposed rate increase would create a 28.04% general property tax increase, as stated in the county’s formal notices, for taxed properties on average. Increases in property values vary with type and location, so the total tax increases vary as well.

The commissioners already approved the fiscal year 2024 county budget, with increased revenue and spending projections, in June, and that budget has been in effect since July 1.

“In its simplest form, 90 percent of the revenue that increased property taxes would bring is driven by personnel and support cost; 80 percent of that 90 percent leverages additional public safety personnel,” County Manager Tom Couch told the Aug. 7 crowd. “I hope the citizens try to understand this proposal is public safety directed, so we can have enough first-responders and support resources to answer calls for emergencies.”

Couch noted that the 1.75-mill increase he recommended before the budget was approved has been dialed back to a 1.5-mill increase. Bulloch County has separate fire service millage rates for areas outside the cities, and county officials also proposed increasing these. But while the proposed increase for the “rural” fire district served by the Bulloch County Fire Department remains 1.03 mills, a previously suggested 0.75-mill increase in the five-mile “Statesboro” fire district — outside the city but served by the Statesboro Fire Department — has been eliminated and replaced with a 0.405-mill decrease in that rate.

Lawton Sack, chairman of the Bulloch County Republican Party, was the first citizen to speak in opposition to the tax hike. He said he had been listening to many people who call him, and hoped the commissioners would do the same.

“People want their voices heard, and there are a lot of people in this room that aren’t elegant speakers, and they want to stand before you just to tell you from their heart that they can’t afford these tax increases,” Sack said.

The Bulloch County Board of Education also plans to raise their property tax millage rate, according to WTOC.

School district leaders explained their reasons for this increase. They say, mathematically, they have no choice.

Superintendent Charles Wilson spoke to a handful of citizens who brought concerns about a proposed millage increase. Financial staff explained how the increase would bring about $100 in additional tax on a $225,000 home.

They explained the district must maintain 14 mils of taxes -either in property tax or sales tax – to qualify for what’s called Equalization Funding through the state. Wilson says they don’t take the increase lightly when it comes to taxpayers.

“There’s a good reason we’re going this and it’s basically so we maintain the 14 mil minimum and we don’t jeopardize the state funding,” said Superintendent Charles Wilson.

Wilson says losing the equalization funding would cost the district more than $7 million – far more than what what they’ll receive from the millage increase.

Dougherty County voters will vote this year on whether to renew the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Transportation (T-SPLOST), according to the Albany Herald.

Voters will weigh in on the issue on Nov. 7. Albany voters will vote on the T-SPLOST issue as well as in elections for mayor and City Commission Wards I, IV and VI.

For the first five years the tax, split between the county’s share of 33% and the city of Albany’s 67% portion, has been in place, the county is expected to receive a total of about $26.4 million. Collection of the new sales tax started in July 2019.

“There was a prioritization when staff was looking at that,” interim Dougherty County Administrator Barry Brooks said of projects funded with the transportation tax. “You’re looking at safety, No. 1. You’re looking at projects that are making safety a priority.”

A big selling point for the transportation sales tax is that much of the money to improve the county’s roadways comes from residents of other counties who work and shop here. As a regional hub, Dougherty County brings in a daytime population of non-residents who work here and is also a destination for events and shopping.

The T-SPLOST is one of three penny sales tax initiatives, along with a special-purpose local-option sales tax (SPLOST), dedicated to infrastructure outlays, and the local-option sales tax (LOST), which can also be used to pay government operational costs that are in place.

“If we didn’t have those kinds of opportunities with SPLOST, T-SPLOST and LOST, it would be a struggle for the smaller governments in these rural areas to be able to address these infrastructure needs,” Brooks said. “If we didn’t have those, the (property tax) millage rate would have to be the equivalent of 22, 23 mills instead of the 19 mills that was approved, and the homeowners would bear the full brunt.”

Adel City Council member Gregory Paige was arrested, according to WALB.

District 1 Post 2 Councilman Gregory Paige turned himself into the Cook County Sheriff’s Office on Monday on warrants of simple battery and terroristic threats and acts, according to Adel’s City Attorney Timothy Tanner.

Paige was previously banned from the Cook County Board of Education for his reported involvement in a physical fight with a board member in 2008.

Getting in a fight with a school board member gives new meaning to “fighting for our children.”

Rome has hired a new lawyer to deal with ethics issues, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Mayor Sundai Stevenson approved the terms of an engagement letter from Avery S. Jackson from Carrollton law firm Tisinger Vance, P.C. That letter outlines the basic costs to the city. The rate for Jackson and his expected co-counsel David Mecklin is $300 per hour.

This comes after the city’s former attorney in the matter, Chris Balch, sought to be removed from the case and penned a blistering letter to city commissioners.

However, there is one hiccup in that process, albeit a minor one. On Tuesday, Floyd County Superior Court Judge John “Jack” Niedrach denied Balch’s motion to withdraw, citing mistakes in the filing process.

The City of Albany is asking residents and businesses to allow access to their video cameras, according to WALB.

“The community wants police officers’ eyes everywhere. This is the closet we’re gonna get to that,” APD Crime Analyst William Sparks said. “And with their assistance, we really could take a large chunk of these reporter crimes and have something to back them.”

The Albany Police Department is asking both residents and businesses to help them solve crimes. They are doing this by asking people and businesses to register their surveillance cameras by opting into their Fusus camera software.

APD says officers still have to ask for permission before tapping into a homeowner’s camera if a crime happens near their home, even if they’ve opted into the program. They are also limited to the specific timeframe of the crime for reviewing the video, and only a few officers have permission to access the system at all.

“Literally, they fill out a form and it says ‘hey, here’s the address, here’s a camera’,” Sparks said. “They would be willing for you to contact them that they’ve got footage if they’ve got footage. And that’s it. They’re not connected.”

For businesses, the access is a little bit different. Officers don’t have to get permission before tapping in if there’s a crime in that area if the business has opted into Fusus.

Albany City Commissioner Demetrius Young will host a Town Hall, according to the Albany Herald.

The Glynn County Board of Elections voted to adopt a plan that consolidates some voting locations, according to The Brunswick News.

There are now 17 polling places, three fewer than in 2019.

The fewer number of precincts will enable elections officials to better staff quality poll worker teams at each location.

There are no longer any polling places in schools, a process that began several years ago for security and safety concerns, said Christina Redden, the board’s deputy director. Five Glynn County schools were used as polling places in recent years.

“On Election Day you have all these strangers walking around the school,” she said. “It was an unfair burden on our schools.”

There were also complaints by voters who waited in long lines of cars as schools were getting out.

The biggest challenge was to find new polling locations that met the needs to conduct an election, including having enough parking, being compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and having the electrical capacity to handle all the equipment, Redden said.

All the polling places in schools were relocated to churches, Redden said.

Redden said voters in the affected areas will receive new voter precinct cards soon. Elections officials plan to get the word out through advertising, interviews, public service announcements and word of mouth.

The City of Milton will also consolidate voting precincts, according to the AJC.

The city of Milton is cutting its voting locations from eight to three, a reduction in access since the city took control of this year’s local elections from Fulton County.

City officials say they have responded to residents’ concerns by voting to add a third election day polling place in southeast Milton after initially planning just two. They say voters will continue to have adequate opportunities to cast ballots this November, with lower costs to taxpayers.

The dispute over voting locations follows Milton’s decision to run its own municipal elections this fall after a feasibility study conducted by one of Georgia’s fake presidential electors, the president of a Republican Party group and city officials.

Milton Families First questioned whether it was legal for the City Council to set polling places while its members are eligible for reelection. State law gives the election superintendent — in this case, the city manager — authority to set voting locations, according to the group.

Milton’s election consultant, Vernetta Nuriddin, said the city’s three election day precincts and one early voting site will be able to serve the city’s voters in this year’s municipal elections, when turnout is expected to be lower than in general elections. There are over 30,000 registered voters in Milton, and about 3,800 turned out for city elections two years ago.

The Chatham County Democratic Committee voted to appoint Glynda Jones to the Chatham County Board of Elections, according to the Savannah Morning News.

On Wednesday night, Jones was elected by an 11-7 vote to fill the Democratic seat vacated by Malinda Hodge on the Chatham County Board of Elections.

Hodges resigned in June as vice chair of the Board of Elections. She subsequently launched her campaign to serve as Chatham County Commissioner for District 2, a seat held by the late Larry “Gator” Rivers, who died in April. Jones will fill the remaining three years left on Hodge’s term.

The Board of Elections of Chatham County is comprised a chairperson and four elected members, two each from the Chatham County Democratic Committee and the Chatham County Republican Party.

The Board of Elections is tasked with running primary and general elections according to Georgia state law, which includes establishing voting precinct boundaries, securing facilities for polling, recruiting and training poll officials, and qualifying candidates, among other measure to ensure the integrity of the election process.

“I believe in the election process and maintaining the integrity of elections,” said Jones. “I believe they should be fair and that communities need to be educated about elections.”

As is customary, I’ll dock two points for improper use of the word “comprising.”

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