Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 21, 2019

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Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 21, 2019

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 55th 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.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp called on two companies to clean up their act, according to the Rockdale Newton Citizen.

Kemp met with Sterigenics at their plant in Smryna during the day Tuesday where officials there voluntarily agreed to reduce its ethylene oxide emissions reduced.

Governor Kemp tweeted he appreciates Sterigenics voluntarily reducing EtO emissions and called on BD to do the same.

“My number one job is keeping Georgia families safe. While we had productive conversations with BD and Sterigenics this afternoon, our work is not done.”

Tuesday night he called on the BD plant in Covington to do the same.

“I appreciate Sterigenics’ willingness to voluntarily agree to a significant reduction in ethylene oxide emissions,” Kemp tweeted. “This proactive measure demonstrates commitment to the local community & helps to restore public confidence. Now, BD should do the same.”

Tom Baxter in the Gainesville Times writes about how Gov. Kemp responded to the issue.

The response from Kemp came not in the form of a traditional press release but a video statement, which his office posted on Twitter Friday afternoon.

“As a parent, I understand why local families are worried. The results are confusing, the news coverage is frightening, and the public has been left in the dark. This situation is simply unacceptable,” Kemp said.

A local law firm has been running ads for at least a couple of weeks seeking people in these areas who think they might have been affected by the toxic emissions, so you can’t exactly say Kemp’s video response was swift. But it did show he is aware just how politically volatile this issue is.

This isn’t the first time environmental issues have affected the public health in Georgia, but it’s the first to have prompted this kind of response from a governor.

“I assure you that we will take the necessary steps to protect our citizens from harmful emissions and ensure a healthy future for all Georgians,” Kemp said. There are some who will want to hold his feet to the fire on that one.

I’m awarding five points to the Governor and his team for using modern communications in addressing a political issue without using a flamethrower.

The Augusta Commission voted to reduce penalties for some marijuana offenses, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Augusta Commission reduced city marijuana penalties and moved forward with a gateway sculpture project but took no action Tuesday on an item several hoped to address – missed fire inspections at a community center.

The vote was 8-0 to reduce the fine for misdemeanor possession of marijuana from $1,000 to $150 and eliminate jail sentences, with commissioners John Clarke and Brandon Garrett leaving the meeting when Fennoy refused to reconsider the agenda.

The changes mirror those made in other Georgia cities and make it easier for those charged to pay their probation fines, state Sen. Harold Jones of Augusta said last week. Those who refuse to pay the fine within 60 days will be at the discretion of Richmond County Magistrate Court, which might revoke their probation, State Court Solicitor Omeeka Loggins explained to Fennoy at Tuesday’s meeting.

Glynn County will seek outside funding to help local residents with damage from Hurricane Irma, according to The Brunswick News.

On Tuesday, county grant writer Monica Hardin told the county commission about a program offered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Georgia Department of Community Affairs to help people with lingering home damage.

“The purpose of the CDBG-DR funds — or the Community Development Block Grant funds, DR is for disaster recovery — they’re meant to address victims after the disaster,” Hardin said. “Obviously to help them get back on their feet and become more resilient.

Residents of the zip codes 31520, 31705 and 31548 — Brunswick, Kingsland and Albany, Ga., respectively — were determined by HUD to be the most impacted by the storm, Hardin said.

Both the city and county governments will have to operate one central intake location for residents to apply, but they will manage two separate programs, Hardin said.

The county will begin advertising the program and location of the intake center once it reaches an agreement with the DCA.

Dalton voters will decide between the current Mayor and a former Mayor in November, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

The last two men elected mayor of Dalton — current Mayor Dennis Mock and former Mayor David Pennington — have qualified to be on the ballot for the Nov. 5 municipal election for the city’s top elected post.

Qualifying for municipal elections in Dalton, Eton and Tunnel Hill began on Monday. Qualifying for Chatsworth and Varnell elections begin today, and qualifying for two posts on the Cohutta City Council begins Monday.

Pennington was mayor of Dalton from 2008 until 2014 when he stepped down to make an unsuccessful primary challenge against Republican Gov. Nathan Deal. Mock won a special election in 2014 to finish out Pennington’s tenure and was unopposed for a full term in the 2015 general election.

Statesboro has a contested race for City Council District 2, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Both District 2 incumbent Councilman Sam Lee Jones and announced challenger Paulette Chavers completed the paperwork and each paid the $227 candidacy fee Monday morning at City Hall. The council seats in districts 2, 3 and 5 are scheduled to be part of the Nov. 5 nonpartisan city election.

Rome will have odd municipal elections, according to the Rome News Tribune.

In Rome, there are three Ward 1 and three Ward 3 seats on the ballot. The elections are city-wide, with the top three vote-getters in each contest winning the seats.

City Clerk Joe Smith said Bill Irmscher qualified Tuesday to seek another term representing Ward 1.

Political newcomer Mark Cochran qualified for the Ward 1 race Monday, as did another incumbent, Milton Slack. The third incumbent is Sundai Stevenson, who has not yet signed up to run.

Two candidates qualified to run for Ward 3 seats Tuesday: Bonny Askew, who served on the board for two years in the 1980s, and local attorney JJ Walker Seifert.

Bill Collins, a Ward 3 incumbent, qualified Monday. The two other incumbents are Evie McNiece and Craig McDaniel.

Albany gained a fifth candidate for Mayor, according to the Albany Herald.

Albany firefighter Tracy Taylor arrived at the Voter Registration and Elections Office at about 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Taylor joins four candidates who paid the mayoral qualifying fee of $750 on Monday for a spot on the November ballot that will also include races in Albany City Commission Wards I, IV and VI.

On Monday, Edward Allen, Bo Dorough, Henry Mathis and James Pratt Jr. qualified to seek the mayor’s seat currently held by Dorothy Hubbard. Dorough and Mathis are former Albany city commission members, while Allen and Pratt have not sought office before.

The Gainesville Times does a comprehensive job of covering local candidate qualifying.

Valdosta City Council will consider whether to put a “Brunch Bill” referendum on the November 5 ballot, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Senate Bill 17, known as the “Brunch Bill,” was signed into law May 8, 2018 and permits counties and municipalities with Sunday alcohol sales, such as Valdosta, to allow earlier Sunday sales beginning at 11 a.m. rather than 12:30 p.m.

It is up to the Valdosta City Council to decide if the public will have the opportunity to vote on the issue. The item was added to the city agenda after members of the public spoke in favor of it at a recent meeting.

If the referendum is approved, establishments eligible for Sunday sales would be able to serve alcohol from 11 a.m. until midnight Sundays only if they have purchased a Sunday sales license.

Valdosta‘s local elections are taking shape this week during candidate qualifying, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

After two days of qualifying, David Sumner, J.D. Rice and Brooks D. Bivins have filed to qualify to run for mayor in Valdosta, according to a list released Tuesday evening by the Lowndes County Board of Elections.

Sumner and Rice, along with Kevin Bussey and Scott James Matheson, declared their intent to run for mayor months ago. Bivins ran for mayor four years ago.

Mayoral candidates seek the office that’s been held by John Gayle for two terms. Gayle has said he is not seeking reelection to a third term.

For Valdosta City Council At-Large, incumbent Councilman Ben H. Norton has filed. So has Edgar “Nicky” Tooley, who announced his intention to run several weeks ago. Jeremy Stone also announced his intention to seek the at-large office in the past months.

The Dalton Board of Education decided to retain the previous year’s millage rate, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

The board voted 3-0 to keep the millage rate at 8.2 mills even as revenues for the system have increased due to a strong economy and the system has been able to build the fund balance to more than $19 million.

Board member Palmer Griffin, who was still in the education field when the country went through the economic downturn and recession of the late 2000s, said the board remembers how difficult it was to fund the system among cuts in funding sources. Griffin voted in favor of the millage rate along with Matt Evans and Rick Fromm. Members Tulley Johnson and Pablo Perez did not attend the meeting.

“With what is going on today in the national economy, that concerns me even as a local board member,” Griffin said of fluctuating economic markets and some concerns from many of the nations economists of a coming recession. “I think our board is being prudent and looking out — No. 1 — for our children and providing them with quality facilities and quality resources.”

The budget anticipates $83 million in revenue, up from $80 million in the 2019 budget. The school system will reach into its fund balance to cover the difference between revenue and spending. The budget forecasts ending the 2020 fiscal year with a fund balance of $16.3 million. Perry said the goal is to have a fund balance equivalent to 15% of your operating budget, which would equate to between $12 and $13 million. Perry said the system has current reserves of $19 million in the fund balance.

The Richmond County Board of Education will vote to extend an employment offer to a candidate for school superintendent, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Richmond County Board of Education will vote to offer Dr. Kenneth Bradshaw a contract as the new superintendent Thursday.

Bradshaw, the current chief operating officer for Hamilton County Schools in Chattanooga, Tenn., previously served as the deputy superintendent for Richmond County. He will be present for Thursday’s meeting.

After the vote, there will be a 10-day waiting period for public scrutiny. After that, Bradshaw will officially become superintendent. Board President Jimmy Atkins said Bradshaw’s start date will be after Labor Day.

Voting

Lee and Terrell counties in Southwest Georgia may need to purge voters, according to the Albany Herald.

The Public Interest Legal Foundation issued a report this week that it said spotlights jurisdictions that has “bloated rolls” that the group said might lead to voting irregularities.

“We heard from that group and from a group called Judicial Watch around 2017, and they said the same thing then,” Johnson said. “But the problem is they’re basing their findings on 2010 Census figures. We’ve had a lot of growth since then. Plus, we felt that Lee County was grossly undercounted in the 2010 Census. The Census folks were projecting a count of around 32,000 for us, and they usually do a pretty good job of keeping a watch on counties’ population. But we ended up with a count of 28,000.

“While we appreciate the interest of any group in our elections process, all the folks had to do was call and ask or come and sit down with us. We would be glad to show them our records. Once you see the growth in the school system and the increased building, you understand there is genuine growth here.”

“What these groups essentially say, based on old data, is that we are not doing a good job of cleaning up our voter rolls,” Johnson said. “But we do daily maintenance. As a matter of fact, we just finished a comparison with data compiled by the U.S. Postal Service, and we sent notices to 1,400 people to check on their status.

The Forsyth County Board of Voter Registration is considering changes to polling places, according to AccessWDUN.

Changes may be coming for some polling places in Forsyth County for the 2020 election cycle, and county elections officials will hold a series of public meetings over the next few weeks to share the plan with voters.

According to a statement released by the county, the changes have been drafted by the Forsyth County Board of Voter Registrations and, if approved, would go into effect during the 2020 election cycle.

“The board is continuously looking for ways to enhance the voting process for residents and has been carefully preparing these changes over the past few months,” said Voter Registration and Elections Director Mandi Smith. “If approved, these proposed plans may alter where residents will vote, but district lines and who represents residents will not change.”

The plan calls for additional precincts and polling places in time for the 2020 elections.

DeKalb County elections officials canceled the voter registration of a small number of voters who used a business address when registering, according to the AJC.

The DeKalb elections board canceled the registrations of voters who listed the Peer Support, Wellness & Respite Center as their address because the center is a business, not a residence, according to the board’s Aug. 1 minutes. The center provides up to three days of housing for people who need a place to stay to avoid psychiatric hospitalization.

The voters’ registrations shouldn’t have been canceled based on preconceptions about what a “residence” looks like, according to a letter sent Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

“It is morally wrong for government officials to judge where someone calls home,” said Sean Young, legal director for the ACLU of Georgia.

The property owner, who coincidentally is the county’s administrative coordinator for elections, responded with a letter saying no one lives at the Peer Support, Wellness & Respite Center. The letter from Mary Frances Weeks cites a state law that defines residence as a place of fixed habitation that a person doesn’t currently intend to move from.

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