Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 23, 2021

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 23, 2021

On August 23, 1784, four counties is western North Carolina declared themselves the State of Franklin, setting up its own Constitution and treaties with local Indian tribes. In 1788, they rejoined North Carolina but would eventually become part of a new state, Tennessee.

The Kimball Opera House, serving as the Georgia State Capitol, was sold to the state on August 23, 1870.

On August 23, 1961, four African-American citizens attempted to play tennis at Bitsy Grant Tennis Center in Atlanta, which was informally “whites only.” The Tennis Center was hastily closed rather than allow them to play, but it was the first volley leading to the eventual desegregation of Atlanta’s public recreation facilities.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp‘s office announced that the state’s unemployment rate dropped in July, according to a press release.

Governor Brian P. Kemp applauded Georgia’s unemployment rate dropping for the fifteenth straight month to 3.7 percent for July 2021, down from 4.0 percent in June. The national unemployment rate average is 5.4 percent.

“With nearly 84,000 jobs added in the last two months and the lowest unemployment rate of the ten most populous states, Georgia’s economic momentum continues to lead the nation,” said Governor Kemp. “In the industry sectors of trade, transportation, utilities, and business services, Georgia now has more jobs than prior to the pandemic, with restaurants and hotels also adding over 15,000 jobs since June. Coming off a record fiscal year for new investments and job growth in the Peach State, my administration will continue to protect both lives and livelihoods and make sure Georgia stays open for business.”

In Georgia, the labor force increased 6,000 over the month to over 5.71 million, up 204,000 since July 2020. Georgia’s employed residents in July saw a monthly increase of 21,000, up 389,170 since July of last year to 4,977,053. The number of unemployed dropped almost 15,000 from June to July to 193,486, down 428,000 since the beginning of the pandemic. The number of jobs was up 43,600 in July and was up 83,900 over the past two months. The jobs number has increased by 515,000 since April of 2020.

Governor Kemp also signed Executive Order #08.20.21.01 extending the deadline for an advisory committee to present recommendation on the indictment of Augusta Commissioner Sammy Sias.

From the Augusta Chronicle:

Sias, 67, was indicted last month in U.S. District Court for destroying evidence and lying to FBI agents. The charges took place around the same time in August 2019 when FBI and Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents raided his house and removed boxes of materials and computers. He is currently free on a $50,000 bond until trial or the case is otherwise disposed of.

State law requires felony indictments of elected officials be sent to the governor’s office. Kemp appointed a review commission consisting of Attorney General Chris Carr, Georgetown-Quitman Commission Chairman Carvel Lewis and Jefferson County Commissioner Johnny Davis. The panel was given two weeks to make a recommendation, but Kemp is allowed to extend the time.

Former Glynn County Police Chief John Powell was indicted on additional charges by a federal grand jury, according to The Brunswick News.

A grand jury on Friday indicted former Glynn County Police Chief John Powell on additional malfeasance charges, accusing him of failing to act on information of misconduct by the county’s now-dissolved narcotics squad.

Also charged in the indictment handed down by the grand jury in Glynn County Superior Court is Powell’s former chief of staff, Brian Scott, now the police chief in Vidalia. The true bill charges Powell with four additional counts of violation of oath of office and Scott with one additional count of violation of oath of office.

South Georgia District Attorney Joe Mullholland out of Bainbridge presented the charges to the grand jury.

Powell and the three officers were initially indicted by a Glynn County grand jury in February 2020, charges stemming from a scandal involving a married undercover detective’s 2018 tryst with an informant and alleged attempts at a subsequent coverup. Charges against the four in the indictment included violation of oath of office, influencing a witness and criminal attempt to commit perjury.

 

 

United States Senator Raphael Warnock (D-Atlanta) toured transportation facilities in Augusta and discussed the Infrastructure Bill, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

On Friday, Sen. Raphael Warnock visited the Augusta Transit Facility and the Augusta Regional Airport. On a bus ride through the city and out onto the airport Tarmac, Warnock heard from local officials and administrators about the Augusta metro area’s transportation needs they hope will be funded by the new $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package

“The question you’ve got to ask yourself is what is the cost of not doing it,” Warnock said. “We need roads, bridges, our airports look too much like the last century.”

If passed in the House and signed into law, the infrastructure bill would provide $25 million for Augusta-Richmond County public transportation.

Augusta Transit is looking into new electric busses, which would come with environmental and logistical advantages and, the department hopes, expand ridership.

Georgia Ports set another monthly record, according to WTOC.

Georgia’s seaports in Savannah and Brunswick report handling record cargo volumes in the first month of the 2022 fiscal year.

The Georgia Ports Authority says the Port of Savannah moved 450,000 container units of imports and exports in July, a 25% increase from the previous year and new all-time high for that month. Meanwhile, shipments of automobiles and machinery units through the Port of Brunswick jumped 39% last month to 61,470 units, another July record.

Georgia Ports Authority executive director Griff Lynch says the growth is being driven by strong consumer demand and extra ships being dispatched to meet that demand.

A local Non-Discrimination Ordinance appears to have been sidetracked in Columbus, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Councilor Walker Garrett, the proposal’s primary sponsor, told the Ledger-Enquirer that there were not enough votes to pass the ordinance which was set for discussion during the Columbus Council’s Aug. 24 meeting. Councilors Toyia Tucker and Jerry “Pops” Barnes co-sponsored the ordinance.

Garrett said he may bring the measure back following additional public forums, and if he can get the support needed.

The legislation would protect Columbus residents regardless of a person’s race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, marital status, familial status and veteran status.

Lamar County public schools will “pause” in-person attendance , according to Fox5Atlanta.

The Lamar County School District on Friday posted on its website that the school system would impose a two-week “pause” for all students beginning Monday, August 23, 2021.

Randolph County public schools, which earlier closed in-person teaching, will go virtual through September 7th, according to WTVM.

“Starting on September 7, 2021, if the COVID-19 positivity rate has decreased, the two options of virtual learning and face-to-face instruction, will be given to parents,” Dr. Tangela Madge said. “The virtual/face-to-face instruction will last only for the first nine weeks. Our desire is to have all students back in the traditional school setting for the second nine weeks of school.”

Clayton County has switched eight schools to virtual learning, according to the AJC.

The COVID surge is causing more emergency calls for local first responders, according to The Brunswick News.

Glynn County Fire Chief R.K. Jordan said the call volume is about 23 percent above normal so far in August, a month that has seen a rise locally, statewide and nationally in COVID-19 cases. Conversely, the department has had 23 firefighters, EMTs or paramedics test positive for COVID-19 since July 31, Jordan said.

Presently, 15 people who would normally be serving at one of the county’s nine stations is out with the virus, he said. And the calls from residents with COVID-19 or symptoms of the virus just keep coming.

“The vast majority of the increase in call volume right now is COVID,” Jordan told The News. “If it is not COVID, it is people who feel they have COVID. Of course, a large percentage of them have ultimately been positive.”

While the department will respond to all medical calls, he urged those whose COVID-19 symptoms do not include “respiratory distress” to contact a primary care physician or an urgent care center.

Hall County Solicitor General Stephanie Woodard announced her office will be closed to the public, according to AccessWDUN.

““With recent increase in local COVID cases, the strain on our hospital and local medical providers, and with a desire to protect our community – the Hall County Solicitor’s Office will be closing our office to the public beginning Monday, August 23rd. We will be available for meetings by phone if video conference,” Woodard said.

Court proceedings in Hall County are ongoing, and Woodard said her staff will continue to participate in person, but will conduct any preparations and negotiations on a virtual [basis].

The Muscogee County Jail is temporarily suspending visitation, according to WTVM.

No visitors are allowed at the Muscogee County Jail, at least for now. The move comes as COVID-19 cases are on the rise throughout the county. Officials made the decision with hopes to stop the spread of the coronavirus among staff and inmates.

John Wade with the sheriff’s office says this move was absolutely necessary for safety.

“At the end of the day, we want to try and avoid a disaster. If that jail winds up collapsing because of COVID, we got some serious issues.”, said Wade. “Number one, with the increased number of exposure cases with the variant and COVID-19 in the area, the jail is no exception to what happens when you have different cases that pop up.”

The Gwinnett County Health Department is offering COVID vaccine booster shots for eligible recipients, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale Health District began administering the booster vaccination shots this past week in light of guidance from the federal government that such shots can be helpful for more vulnerable populations. The booster is only for people who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine late last year, or earlier this year, according to health district spokesman Chad Wasdin.

“As of (Wednesday) afternoon, we have started giving the third dose to immunocompromised individuals,” Wasdin said. “It actually, first off, is qualified as moderately or severely immunocompromised individuals and there is a list available provided by the CDC, and that is also on our website as well.”

Macon-Bibb County Mayor Lester Miller will introduce a measure to extend a moratorium on new pawn shops, according to 13WMAZ.

Miller argues some of these pawn shops are leading to “violence, poverty, blight and decreased property values” in some neighborhoods, according to the proposal.

In January, Macon-Bibb County commissioners voted to approve moratoriums on pawn shops as well as liquor stores in a unanimous decision.

Valdosta City Council adopted a rollback rate for the property tax millage rate, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Valdosta City Council unanimously voted to decrease the current millage rate from 7.974 to 7.796 late last week. The amount of money this will save citizens will vary by the size of their house, Chuck Dinkins, city finance director said.

Dinkins said if you had a $50,000 piece of property, you’re taxed on 40% of that value, $20,000, and if you qualify for the homestead exemption ($6,000), that’s a $14,000 taxable value.

“The difference between the rollback rate and the prior year rate is $2.50 a year,” he said. “Of course as the property value gets bigger, the savings change and the percentage is also going to change.”

The rollback is also designed to keep taxes from going up due to reassessment.

Council also approved the additional five mills for property located in the Central Valdosta Development Area and adopting the 16.318 mills set by the Valdosta School System, another rollback.

The five mills for property located in the CVDA has not changed in while, but did see a higher millage rate when it had debt, city officials said. These mills are only for that specific area and are used to find that area’s operations.

Qualifying ended for municipal offices in the upper left-hand corner of Georgia, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

On Friday, Manuel Meza qualified to run for the Dalton Board of Education. Meza will seek the seat held by incumbent Palmer Griffin, the school board vice chairman, who qualified earlier in the week.

On Thursday, Rodney Craig Miller qualified for the Ward 2 post on the Dalton City Council. Earlier in the week, incumbent Annalee Harlan qualified for that post.

Also earlier in the week, Gary Crews qualified to seek reelection to the Ward 4 seat on the City Council, where he’ll be opposed by former state senator Steve Farrow, who also qualified for that seat.

Former mayor Dennis Mock qualified earlier in the week in the special election to fill the unexpired term of Derek Waugh for the Ward 1 seat. Waugh stepped down in July after taking a job in the Atlanta area. The term runs through Dec. 31, 2023.

Richmond Hill will cancel municipal elections as no seat has a contest, according to the Savannah Morning News.

[City Clerk Dawnne] Greene said Thursday there will be no election because there were no qualifying candidates to run against incumbent Mayor Russ Carpenter and incumbent council members Kristi Cox and Robbie Ward, thus the trio will retain their respective offices.

Qualifying began Tuesday and concluded at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.

Carpenter, a two-time council member before being elected mayor in 2017 when he also was unopposed, will be serving his second and final term as Mayor. The position is term-limited under the city charter.

The past decade saw Bryan County as the fastest growing county in the state with a 48% growth in population. Much of this growth has taken place in Richmond Hill and south Bryan County.

Three Bulloch County municipalities will hold contested elections, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Only in Register and Statesboro is the office of mayor up for election this year, and both will have mayoral races, since more than one candidate has qualified in each.

Register Mayor Barbara Rushing … now has a challenger, Donnie Roberts, who previously served on Register City Council but has not served as mayor. Rushing has served at least six years as mayor.

In Statesboro as of Thursday afternoon, no additional candidates had qualified since Monday, when there were qualifiers for all three available offices, with races for two of them. Those candidates are challenger Ernest Larry Lawton and incumbent Jonathan McCollar for mayor; challenger Kristine Yager-Rushton and incumbent John Riggs for City Council  in District 4; and incumbent Phil Boyum, unopposed as of Thursday for the District 1 council seat.

Milledgeville Mayor Mary Parham Copelan will serve another term after no one qualified to oppose her, according to 13WMAZ.

Nine candidates qualified for three seats on the Albany City Commission, according to the Albany Herald.

With Ward II Commissioner Matt Fuller deciding not to seek a second term, the candidates in the running for his seat are former commission member Bobby Coleman, Adam Inyang and Jalen Johnson.

In Ward III incumbent Commissioner B.J. Fletcher has drawn two challengers, Vilnis “Dip” Gaines and Daa’iyah Salaam.

In Ward V, incumbent Bob Langstaff also will face two challengers, Burley and Colette Jenkins.

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