Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 21, 2018


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 21, 2018

James Oglethorpe and the Creek Indians signed the Treaty of Coweta Town, delineating geographic areas open to British settlement, on August 21, 1739.

On August 21, 1831, Nat Turner led the largest slave rebellion in American history; Turner was later hanged in Jerusalem, VA.

The first of the Lincoln-Douglass series of seven debates was held in Ottawa, Illinois, on August 21, 1858, pitting Democrat Stephen Douglass against Republican Abraham for the United States Senate seat held by Douglass. Expansion of slavery in the United States was the topic for the debates.

On August 21, 1907, Georgia Governor Hoke Smith signed legislation to place a Constitutional Amendment designed to disenfranchise African-Americans by requiring passage of a literacy test to vote. A number of exceptions allowed local officials to exempt white voters whom they wished to allow to vote; one exemption was for anyone descended from a U.S. or Confederate wartime veteran – the so-called “grandfather clause.”

On the same day, Gov. Smith also signed legislation prohibiting fishing on Sunday, subject to misdemeanor prosecution.

On August 21, 1935, Benny Goodman and his orchestra began a seven-night stand at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles, beginning the Swing Era.

Happy 59th birthday to Hawaii, which became the 50th State on August 21, 1959; they’ve undoubtedly been receiving AARP literature in the mail for ten years.

The 1968 Democratic National Convention began in Chicago on August 21, 1968.

The name of Julian Bond of Georgia, then-27 and too young to serve, was placed in nomination for Vice President during the 1968 DNC.

The Historic Depot in Dalton is for sale, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

The city of Dalton is accepting bids for the purchase of the historic depot, which is being marketed at a suggested sales price of $500,000 through the Georgia Trust’s Revolving Fund, a program that provides effective alternatives to demolition or neglect of architecturally and historically significant properties.

Due to the historic significance of the property, buyers are required to submit a written preservation plan, outlining the rehabilitation of the property in accordance with a timeline for completion, with the bid.

If I had the money and lived close enough to Dalton, I’d want to buy it to install the greatest HO train layout ever.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Georgia Department of Transportation said part of Route 46 in Jesup will be closed for filming for a week beginning Thursday, according to the Statesboro Herald.

That a movie starring Christian Bale and Matt Damon is being filmed partly in the Savannah area has been public knowledge for some time. CDC Extras Savannah has been posting casting calls for extras on social media since July 31. The movie reportedly concerns a 1966 real-life effort by a Ford Motor Company design and racing team to beat Ferrari’s cars and drivers in a major European race.

“As noted, none of our principal cast will be present for these scenes,” Worman wrote. “They are in Los Angeles where the main unit is currently filming.”

He mentioned this more than once. Local officials also noted the secondary, starless nature of the filming here, dropping a strong hint that for safety reasons, people not to flock to the area expecting to see them.

Forget the actors, I’d go to see the cars.

The Savannah Film Office wants to renew incentives for local film production, according to the Savannah Morning News.

So far this year the incentives have helped bring in a total economic impact of about $232,765,400, which exceeds the economic impact from all previous years, shattering the 2017 record of $137 million, which was spread across 260 projects, including 12 feature films, 23 television projects, 13 commercials and 161 student projects.

“What we’ve been able to do is with that investment we have gotten $236 million in direct business here in Chatham County, that’s a real number,” said Ralph Singleton, Entertainment Industry Liaison for the Savannah Film Office, who outlined the potential changes during SEDA’s board of directors retreat on Saint Simons Island Monday morning.

Launched three years ago by the Savannah Economic Development Authority, the incentive is set to expire at the end of the year.

The State Road and Tollway Authority set a new pricing plan for express lanes, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The State Road and Tollway Authority rolled out new a pricing plan for the toll lanes that, among other things, raises the cost of using the lanes and does away with the $13.95 per trip price cap. The new pricing plan, which starts at a 10 cents per mile, was approved by SRTA’s Board of Directors earlier this month and went into effect Monday.

It comes as the state prepares to open the Interstate 75 northwest Express Lanes in Cobb and Cherokee counties.

“For the ease of customer use and a consistent customer experience on Georgia Express Lanes, we have established a uniform approach to toll rate pricing,” SRTA Executive Director Chris Tomlinson said earlier this month. “The Northwest Corridor Express Lanes join the I-85 Express Lanes and the I-75 South Metro Express Lanes, as well as future tolled express lane projects in improving the commuting experience of Georgia residents and others who drive in our state.”

The new plan has prompted speculation that prices could get up as high as $16 to use the 16-mile length of the existing toll lanes on I-85. SRTA did not mention how much a person could end up spending for a full trip in its explanation document on the Peach Pass website.

The Georgia Supreme Court denied hearing an appeal in a class action lawsuit against Glynn County, according to The Brunswick News.

With its decision, the class action lawsuit representing around 7,500 Glynn County homeowners will return to Superior Court for determination of damages, Jay Roberts, with St. Simons Island law firm Roberts Tate, said in March.

Roberts said the county will need to take action soon, however, because it can’t continue taxing the homeowners involved in the case at the same property tax rate.

“If they send out tax bills again in November, it will be in violation of the court’s ruling,” Roberts said.

The decision handed down by the court of appeals stated the original class action suit, one of three, was filed in 2012.

State law only allows tax refunds for the preceding three years, meaning the members of the original lawsuit can’t seek refunds for years prior to 2009.

Local election officials who actually run elections and count votes said it would be too late to implement paper ballots for November, according to the Macon Telegraph.

County election officials across Georgia say it’s too late to switch to paper ballots in the upcoming elections, despite warnings that hackers could easily penetrate the state’s antiquated electronic voting system and that Russia could unleash a new wave of disruptive cyberattacks.

Such a shift at this stage would cause “significant administrative and financial burden” on Muscogee County, which borders Alabama in central Georgia, said Nancy Boren, its election director.

The county would want more time to train poll workers and educate the public and currently lacks enough scanners to handle all ballots, Boren said.

Using paper ballots in November would add nearly $200,000 in printing costs in Cobb County, wrote its election department director, Janine Eveler, in her court statement.

Eveler said that after talking with the county’s vendor, she realized the ballots may not even arrive on time for early voting, which begins Oct. 15.

Columbus City Council could take up a staff recommendation to impose restrictions on short term rentals, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The city’s Finance Department, along with the Building Inspections and Code Enforcement Department, has developed recommendations to amend a unified development ordinance that would require short-term property renters — referred to as hosts by Airbnb — to complete a number of steps before doing business.

“Georgia is just getting in play with this. This is a hot topic across the nation and every city is trying to wrap their heads around what do we do and how can we be fair to our other business owners who operate hotels,” city revenue manager Yvonne Ivey said during a recent Columbus Planning Advisory Commission meeting.

“We looked at other cities, Savannah and even New Orleans, and we tried to mimic what they put into play because it’s already in action,” she said. “Everything is a work in progress as we go along and try to better this.”

The proposed rules for the short-term rentals include requiring hosts to complete a permit application and criminal background check. They also must purchase a business license, which will be renewed annually, while also listing someone as a 24/7 contact person should city officials or law enforcement need any information in an emergency.

The amended ordinance also would require short-term rental properties to have proper insurance, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and an exit escape plan in place for guests staying in rental homes. Hosts also would be required to have no unpaid financial obligations to the city before renting, while also notifying property owners of the rentals taking place should the host not own the dwelling themselves.

Macon-Bibb Commissioners adopted additional budget cuts as they move toward a final budget and tax rate, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The financial constraint is the result of a 3-mill tax increase only providing $12.3 million in new revenue, about the same amount it will cost to keep the transit system, libraries and the county’s Recreation and Parks and Beautification departments and Bowden Golf Course operating at the same level.

Another $4 million was needed to cover the costs for some nonprofits, museums and governmental agencies such as the Macon-Bibb County Planning and Zoning Commission, Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority and Macon-Bibb County Health Department.

“They’re kicking this can down the road, and we’re going to have to figure out what in the world to do about that $4 million … that we’ll owe out of the general fund,” in fiscal 2020, Mayor Robert Reichert said following the meeting.

Commissioners are expected to vote Tuesday on the changes that would provide $8.6 million for outside agencies and those county departments, a reduction from $10.4 million now budgeted.

Budget cuts may affect healthcare providers in Macon-Bibb, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The amended budget, proposed by Commissioner Virgil Watkins, slashes an average of 14 percent of funding to over a dozen agencies. In the amended budget, the health department will receive $580,000, 15 percent less than the previous year, and River Edge Behavioral Health, a mental health provider, will receive $350,000, which is 13 percent less than its allotment in fiscal 2018.

Because the health department uses its budget allocation from the the county to match state grants, changes in county funding have a ripple effect on the agency’s overall financing plan. Last week, the Board of Health sent a memo alerting county commissioners that a loss of local funding would put the health department at risk of violating its contract with the state and jeopardize more than $1.5 million in grant-in-aid dollars.

The Columbus Government Center has sprung another leak, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

For the third time in two months, there has been an issue with the plumbing that has led to flooding inside the Columbus Government Center, according to the chief judge in Muscogee County.

The latest incident with a toilet occurred Sunday and caused water damage on the fourth, third and second floors of the tower, said Chief Superior Court Judge Gil McBride, who surveyed the damage Sunday night.

Dalton City Council set the FY 2019 property tax millage rate, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Dalton City Council members cut the city’s property tax rate slightly Monday night, but because of growth in the digest, the city expects to collect about $212,987 more in revenue.

Council members voted 4-0 to set the city’s 2018 property tax rate at 2.505 mills, down from 2.506 mills in 2017. Mayor Dennis Mock typically votes only in the event of a tie.

Finance Director Cindy Jackson said that represents the rollback rate necessary to cancel out any additional revenue caused by reassessments.

Habersham County is discussing how to cost-effectively house prisoners, according to AccessWDUN.

Boarding of inmates at jails across North Georgia is costing Habersham County taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

Some of that cost is directly related to the Opioid drug crisis, sheriff’s office officials told Habersham County Commissioners during recent budget meetings.

Another problem is that the county’s current detention center, occupied in the mid-1990s, was undersized when it was completed, officials have said.

Currently, Habersham County is paying $35 to $50 per inmate per day to house inmates the county’s detention center can’t handle due to capacity issues.

Plans call for the new detention center to be constructed on a little more than six acres the county purchased a few years ago for $50,000. That property is adjacent to the existing jail on Detention Drive in Clarkesville.

Four candidates qualified for a special election to Richmond County Board of Education District 3 seat, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

At the start of candidate qualifying for the Nov. 6 election, three hopefuls – Walter Eubanks, Robert Cooks and Sherill Whiteside – filed qualifying paperwork and paid a $100 fee to run for the seat. Whiteside was later joined Monday by her husband, Tony Whiteside, in qualifying for the seat.

“No matter who wins, I think everyone wins in the end,” Whiteside said. “Women may be more apt to vote for the women or they may be more apt to vote for a man. We’re trying to give parents a choice.”

Swainsboro Council member Johnny Ray Stafford will not resign after suggesting youth can go pick cotton, but he left the door open for a later resignation for health reasons, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Grayson City Council adopted a FY 2019 budget and will add a “Brunch Bill” referendum to the local ballot in November, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is looking into allegations that a Warner Robins municipal department head threatened another employee, according to the Macon Telegraph.

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