Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 26, 2019

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 26, 2019

Georgia and American History

On August 26, 1864, having withdrawn from trenches and fortifications outside Atlanta the previous day, U.S. General Sherman sent most of his forces westward around Atlanta and toward the south of the city. Sherman’s forces tore up 12 miles of railroad between Red Oak and Fairburn on August 29, 1864.

On August 26, 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted. Ratification took place on August 18, 1920, as the Tennessee House of Representatives adopted it, but adoption became official on August 26, when United States Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified the Amendment. It reads:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

On August 26, 1939, the first televised major league baseball game aired, as the Brooklyn Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds split a doubleheader in Ebbets Field.

On August 26, 1961, the 718th Engineer Light Equipment Company of Fort Valley and the 210th Signal Base Depot Company of Augusta were called up to take part in the American response to the crisis in Berlin.

President Lyndon B. Johnson was nominated for President by the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey on August 26, 1964.

On August 26, 1965, Sonny & Cher were at No.1 on the UK singles chart with ‘I Got You Babe’, the duo’s only UK No.1. Sonny Bono was inspired to write the song to capitalize on the popularity of the term “babe,” as heard in Bob Dylan’s ‘It Ain’t Me Babe.’

On August 26, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed a Welfare Reform bill, called the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Goss was found dead of a gunshot wound, according to News4.

An appeals judge in Georgia was found Saturday shot dead behind his Albany home, but officials do not believe it was a homicide.

Albany police were dispatched to the residence and found Judge Stephen Goss, 60, in a wooded area dead from a gunshot wound, news outlets reported.

Dougherty County District Attorney Greg Edwards said the investigation is ongoing, but it doesn’t appear to be a homicide.

A statement from Chief Justice Harold D. Melton said Goss brought “dignity and compassion to the delivery of justice all across this great state” and was known nationally for his work on mental health and substance abuse treatment programs.

“His legacy is as great as our sense of loss,” Melton said. “Our court and this state’s judiciary express our profound condolences to the Goss family.”

Gov. Brian Kemp offered his support to the Goss family.

“A native Georgian, trusted counsel, and man of integrity, Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Goss will be sorely missed by countless people across our state and nation,” Kemp said in a tweet. “The Kemp family asks God to give comfort to his loved ones, friends, and colleagues in this difficult time.”

In 2002, Goss founded Georgia’s first felony mental health court and substance abuse treatment program in Dougherty County. It was one of the early programs of its kind in the country, according to his online bio. The program assists those with felony probation or pending felony charges, many of whom have a long history with substance abuse or diagnosed mental illness. For the past decade, the Dougherty County program has been a designated learning site for mental health courts, one of only four in the nation.

From the Albany Herald:

Dougherty County Coroner Michael Fowler said the body of Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Goss would be sent to a GBI crime lab on Monday morning for a thorough examination before Fowler issues a final report on Goss’ death.

“We give this kind of attention to every death in the county, but we are being especially cautious since the deceased is a state-level judge,” the coroner said shortly after noon on Saturday. “Right now, we are still treating this as a homicide, and we won’t close that chapter until we’ve exhausted all efforts to determine what happened.

“We’ve been in the woods this morning going over the scene thoroughly. We will issue a more complete report once we hear back from the crime lab.”

Goss, who’d served as judge in Dougherty Superior Court for 19 years after being appointed to that position in 1999, was named to the Georgia Court of Appeals by then-Gov. Nathan Deal on Aug. 1 of 2018. He’d been re-elected to his post as Superior Court judge five times after being appointed to the position by Gov. Roy Barnes.

The Georgia Department of Health will track vaping-related illnesses, according to the Albany Herald.

Georgia has joined other states in investigating possible cases of severe respiratory illness that may be linked to vaping.

The CDC said it’s aware of about 190 cases of severe lung disease in 22 states that could be caused by vaping.

The Georgia Department of Public Health said Friday that it’s investigating possible cases of severe respiratory illness linked to vaping.

In Georgia, Public Health has requested that health care providers ask patients with severe respiratory illness whether they have used devices for vaping nicotine and/or THC.

The agency also is asking the providers to report possible cases to the Georgia Poison Center.

State Senator Jen Jordan (D-Cobb) spoke to the Glynn County Democratic Party, according to The Brunswick News.

The debate lasted five hours, but it was state Sen. Jen Jordan’s speech to her fellow senators and the state in general before the vote on House Bill 481 that got other people talking. Her emotional recounting of her own pregnancy struggles and defense of reproductive rights led to the speech going viral. People began talking about her as a candidate for statewide office.

What lies in the future for Jordan may remain unknown at present, but she brought her health care message Saturday to Brunswick as a featured speaker for the Glynn Democrats’ annual banquet.

“The lack of access to basic, essential health care — pap smears, contraception, things all of us in this room may take for granted. This lack of access for poor, frightened women in this state, working mothers who are raising children, is simply untenable. It hasn’t gotten any better.”

“In current-day Georgia, before H.B. 481, it was difficult to get an abortion, but I will tell you, it’s even more difficult to give birth, and exceedingly more dangerous,” Jordan said.

She noted that’s more pronounced in poor, rural areas of the state, and worse for black women in particular.

“You are four times more likely to die in childbirth if you are a black woman in this state…,” Jordan said. “It is something that kind of blows you away, when you think of where are our priorities in terms of health care.”

D.A. King has filed an ethics complaint against Gwinnett County Commissioner Marlene Fosque, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Two weeks after Gwinnett County Commissioner Marlene Fosque publicly accused Dustin Inman Society President D.A. King of “spewing hatred and bigotry and racism,” King has filed an ethics complaint requesting Fosque be verbally reprimanded for her comments.

In the complaint, which was filed Thursday, King asked that Fosque immediately apologize to him during a board meeting, requested that the Board of Commissioners “take out an advertisement in the legal organ of Gwinnett County” apologizing to him, asked that Fosque be fined an undetermined amount and requested that he be granted “any further relief deemed just under the circumstances.”

King has accused Fosque of violating six of the 16 ethical standards listed in the county’s ethics ordinance.

“Defendant has violated the Georgia law regarding defamation … by making charges against Plaintiff’s work with his non-profit organization the Dustin Inman Society and by uttering disparaging words causing special damages to Plaintiff,” the complaint said. “… the actions of the Defendant clearly demonstrate an occasion where she did not uphold the laws of the State of Georgia as required by the relevant portion of the Gwinnett Code of Ordinances.”

King’s complaint also alleges that Fosque “placed her own, anger, bias and loyalty to her political party above that to the highest moral principles and the county by defaming the Plaintiff with her inflammatory remarks,” thus violating the county’s code of ordinances.

“It is most unbecoming of the Defendant as a member of the Board of Commissioners to verbally assault the reputation of the Plaintiff, someone who merely responded to an invitation to participate in a public forum on a matter of public concern and who was not present or able to respond to false allegations,” King wrote in the complaint.

The Georgia Department of Driver Services is leading in issuance of RealID driver licenses, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

As the deadline of Oct. 1, 2020, approaches, DDS has issued 96.2 percent of its customers a Real ID driver’s license or ID card. With more than 8 million cardholders, it is expected that less than 20,000 of those on Georgia’s driver history data base could be without a Real ID by Oct. 1, 2020, state officials said.

At that time, individuals will not be allowed to clear TSA or enter a federal building using a non-compliant state-issued driver’s license/ID card. state officials said. Real ID cards show the holder has presented the required Homeland Security information during the issuance process and have a card marked with a gold or black star in the righthand corner.

“I am very proud of the position that Georgia is in,” DDS Commissioner Spencer R. Moore said.

Georgia’s process proactively issues Real IDs to all customers who presented the required documentation, state officials said. Many states created a separate credential or allowed customers to opt out of Real ID issuance which likely added to their scramble now.

Sports betting may be an issue in the next General Assembly, according to the AJC.

Earlier this month, House Speaker David Ralston issued a press release announcing a Special Committee on Economic Growth. Little deciphering was required.

This House panel is to look at new industries that would “require legislation creating a new regulatory framework.” One of the committee’s leaders will be state Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, a long-time advocate of allowing casinos – er, destination resorts – to operate in Georgia.

In his statement, Ralston referred to budget cuts that Gov. Brian Kemp has ordered up. “We would be remiss if we did not explore options for new sources of revenue to continue funding priorities while keeping the tax burden on Georgians as low as possible,” the speaker said.

On Tuesday, Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, will convene the Senate Study Committee on Gaming and Para-Mutual Wagering on Horse Racing and Growing Georgia’s Equine Industry. Beach, who is also running for Congress, is a veteran advocate of horse-racing, which he argues could generate jobs in rural Georgia.

In the House, Stephens hasn’t given up on casinos, nor has Beach abandoned horse-racing on the Senate side. But both lawmakers say the priority of their committees will be to examine whether Georgia should join a massive, national rush toward sports betting.

Georgia Republicans met in Perry for another annual fish fry, according to WMAZ.

Prominent state Republican leaders, like Governor Brian Kemp and Senator David Perdue, spoke at the event about GOP achievements and the upcoming election.

Governor Kemp says the GOP is gearing up to keep a Republican majority across the Peach State and in the White House.

“Republicans gotta get fired up for this election to elect our president, Donald Trump, and I think they’re fired up in this room,” Kemp said.

An Op-Ed in The Hill suggests that Georgia’s most famous Governor sore loser is benefiting from lying talking about voter suppression.

Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams lost her 2018 gubernatorial bid to Republican Brian Kemp by nearly 55,000 votes, but she still refuses to concede. Instead, she claims the election was stolen from her. She has uncritically peddled that falsehood in countless interviews on national television and has capitalized off of it, by starting the group Fair Fight.

A conservative watchdog group, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, filed an IRS complaint pointing to “roughly $100,000 worth of Facebook ads featuring Abrams, an advertisement for a ‘Stacey Abrams Fundraiser’ that featured Fair Fight Action’s logo, travel for Abrams’ post-election ‘thank you’ tour of Georgia and a professionally produced ‘highlight reel’ of Abrams footage on the group’s website.” Fair Fight is also staffed by her former campaign aides.

This isn’t the first time that Abrams appears to have benefited from the issue of voters’ rights. The Atlanta Journal Constitution raised other concerns ahead of the 2018 election. Between 2013 and 2016, the newspaper reported, Abrams raised $12.5 million for the Third Sector Development and the Voter Access Institute, both non-profits and tax-exempt. Abrams wouldn’t say “where the money came from, even though the two foundations paid her, over three years, nearly half a million dollars,” the newspaper reported.

What’s even worse than Abrams using these groups as a launchpad for her career is the fact that Fair Fight appears to be predicated on a false premise. Despite her claims of voter suppression, Georgia had more than 6.9 million registered voters heading into the 2018 midterm elections. That is the most registered voters in the state’s history. Almost 4 million Georgians voted in the midterm elections, which neared presidential levels. Further, minority voters made up a record 40 percent of the electorate, 30 percent were African American.

Despite her unfounded claims of voter suppression and a history of using voting groups to raise her profile, the media has uncritically pushed her false narrative and fawned over her. Vogue even recently profiled her in a piece called, “Can Stacey Abrams Save American Democracy?” But if her past foundations are any indication, Abrams’ isn’t trying to save democracy — she’s trying to boost her own career.

Congressman Tom Graves (R-Ranger) spoke to the Floyd County Republican Women, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Northwest Georgia’s congressman, Rep. Tom Graves, acknowledged the partisan divisions in the House during an August recess meeting with the Floyd County Republican Women.

But the Ranger Republican held out hope of closing the chasm through the bipartisan Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. The goal is to recommend reforms in staffing, technology and accessibility.

“It’s one of only two committees split down the middle, six Republicans and six Democrats,” Graves said.

“We’ve passed out nearly 30 recommendations to fix the place. Now the challenge is to implement them,” he said.

While it might seem a bit wonky to outsiders, Graves said it’s important work that strikes at the heart of the current gridlock and incivility. One example is to overhaul the new-member orientation process to make it nonpartisan.

Savannah-Chatham County public schools spent nearly $8 million dollars on substitute teachers in the last year, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The cost of hiring substitute teachers in Savannah-Chatham County public schools to cover for absent teachers and staff increased to $7.9 million a year in fiscal 2019 from $7.5 million in fiscal 2017, according to an internal audit Leah Underwood presented Thursday at a Savannah-Chatham County public school board Audit Committee meeting. She is senior internal auditor for the district.

But the cost of using substitutes also should consider the impact on student achievement, said Larry Lower, a former Savannah-Chatham County school board member who sits on the Audit Committee. “What’s the impact on students of having substitutes in the classroom?” Lower asked.

During the past three years, about 9% of a school’s workdays were used for teacher leave. About 1,842 teachers in Savannah-Chatham County public schools used zero to 10 days of leave in the 2018-19 school year, while 750 teachers used 11 to 17 days and 395 teachers used 18 or more, according to the audit report.

The average hourly rate for substitutes in Savannah-Chatham County public schools is $13.83 per hour, compared with an average hourly rate of $12.12 for the state and of $15.56 for the nation, based on May 2018 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Savannah saw a dramatic increase in violence, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Savannah police chief Roy Minter said “Savannah has a gun problem.” He said when it comes to shootings, they aren’t random crimes — the victims and suspects usually know each other….

“Unfortunately, we’re seeing more and more incidents where people are resolving conflict or challenging each other by the use of the weapon,” Minter said. “We’re seeing situations where people are not resolving conflicts with fistfights or some type of physical altercation. A lot of times these conflicts are being resolved by the use of weapons.”

By July 20 of this year, violent crime in Savannah, which includes robberies, rapes, aggravated assaults and homicides, was up 32% from last year.

According to Savannah police’s crime statistics, police had investigated 662 violent crimes by July 20. At that point last year, the number was only 494.

The largest increase in violent crime this year was aggravated assaults.

This year, Savannah police have investigated 180 aggravated assaults with guns, 62 more than those investigated by July 20 last year.

The largest percentage increase across the board came in the way of aggravated assaults without guns. Police have investigated 289, 113 more than they had at that point in 2018.

The Rome City Commission is considering new ordinances addressing homeless people, according to the Associated Press.

The Rome City Commission is considering ordinances that would ban “urban camping” and regulate panhandling.

There have been complaints about people begging for money at stoplights and outside of shops; and about garbage and human waste left in public spaces, The Rome News-Tribune reported .

Police officers need clearer direction about how to deal with people living on the streets, Rome Police Chief Denise Downer-McKinney said.

Two proposed Rome ordinances have been adopted recently in a number of northwest Georgia communities, the newspaper reported.

In Rome, there were preliminary plans to enact the new laws later this month. However, City Manager Sammy Rich said the board wants to get more input first.

Four candidates qualified for Mayor of Savannah, according to the Savannah Morning News.

It will be a familiar line-up for the most part in the mayor’s race with qualifiers including, Mayor Eddie DeLoach, Alderman Van Johnson and two former candidates, Regina Thomas and Louis Wilson Sr.

Albany had six qualified candidates for Mayor, according to the Albany Herald.

One candidate joined the field of Albany mayoral candidates on the second-to-last day of qualifying, but the incumbent had not made her intentions known as of Thursday afternoon.

Omar Salaam qualified on Thursday morning to seek a four-year term as mayor. Ward I Commissioner Jon Howard also paid his qualifying fees for the November election.

On Monday, Edward Allen, Bo Dorough, Henry Mathis and James Pratt Jr. qualified to seek the mayor’s seat currently held by Mayor Dorothy Hubbard. Tracy Taylor qualified on Wednesday, making Salaam the sixth in the race.

Two candidates, John Hawthorne and Leroy Smith, have qualified to run in Ward VI, and Chad Warbington qualified on Wednesday to challenge incumbent Roger Marietta in Ward IV.

And then the incumbent Mayor made it seven, according to the Albany Herald.

The field of candidates to lead the city of Albany as mayor grew to seven on Friday when incumbent Mayor Dorothy Hubbard filed paperwork to seek a third term in the city’s November municipal election.

On the same day, which ended the qualifying period, Demetrius Young became the third candidate to qualify to fill the Albany City Commission Ward VI seat now held by Tommie Postell, who is not seeking re-election.

Smyrna has five candidates for Mayor after incumbent Max Bacon announced he will not run again, according to the AJC.

Mayoral candidates include Alex Backry, a retiree; Ryan Campbell, a business owner; Laura M. Mireles, a business owner/contractor; Mayor Pro Tem and Ward 1 Councilman Derek Norton, director of Governmental Affairs for the Medical Association of Georgia and Steven Rasin, a real estate consultant.

A self-described former gang member said Albany doesn’t understand the extent of the problem, according to the Albany Herald.

Colby Carroll said a white businessman convinced him to attend the Thursday Criminal Network of Action Task Force meeting. He was a member and a leader in the Rolling 30 Crips.

“I feel like the city of Albany does not know the magnitude of the gang problem here,” he told the audience. “I have three preteens in my neighborhood who have AK-47s, with two drums (magazines).

The task force meeting began in a conference room at the Albany-Dougherty Government Center, but with some 80 people in attendance, many standing around the walls, the group moved to the larger room where Albany City Commission meetings are held.

During the meeting, Albany Police Chief Michael Persley said his officers will enforce the law, but more is needed to address the issue of street gangs in the city.

“It will take the involvement of everybody to make people not want to go down that road,” he said. “Making arrests won’t solve it all. What is going to help this is (the involvement of) whoever has resources, whoever has capabilities to reach the people before they go down this path.”

The Dougherty County District Attorney’s Office has pledged to put as many gang members as possible in jail. Officials in that office say they plan to do this by enforcing terms of probation, parole and bond agreements that prohibit association with known gang members. Those who violate those agreements will be arrested.

The Dougherty County School System is looking to reach some of the children who are in danger of falling into gang activity due to dropping out of school, retired educator Jessie Massey told the group. Turning Point Academy will start on Sept. 4, he said.

 

Brooklet, Statesboro, and Register will have contested municipal elections in November, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Brunswick also has contested city elections, according to The Brunswick News.

Incumbent Brunswick City Commissioner Julie Martin qualified to seek a third term in office on Monday. After she filed the paperwork, nobody stepped up to challenge Martin or seek the North Ward seat held by Johnny Cason.

Friday, however, was a different story.

Al Verheyn qualified to challenge Martin for the South Ward seat.

Three challengers filed the paperwork Friday to qualify for the North Ward seat held before incumbent Johnny Cason filed the paperwork to seek a third four-year term in office.

Cason will face Gary Cook, John Perry II and Zack Lyde. Both races will be determined in the Nov. 5 elections.

Warner Robins voters will choose among candidates for City Council, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Ten people have qualified to run for three Warner Robins City Council seats up for grabs Nov. 5, including a former Warner Robins councilman who went to prison.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether John F. Williams can actually run for office having been in prison. He served 11 months of a 15-month sentence.

Election Superintendent Michelle Riley is expected to hold a hearing next Wednesday to decide whether Williams’ name will go on the ballot, a city official said. Riley declined comment.

Williams joins Miranda Britt and Jonathan Nichols as having qualified to run for the Post 6 seat held by Larry Curtis, according to the city of Warner Robins website. Curtis, who also qualified, was appointed by council to fill the unexpired term of Mike Davis, who died in office.

Stephen Baughier, Charles “Charlie” Bibb and Zachary Adam Collins and Eric Langston qualified to run for the Post 2 seat held by Carolyn Robbins. Robbins, who has been battling health issues, did not qualify to seek re-election.

Tim Thomas qualified to seek re-election in Post 4. Kevin Lashley has qualified to run for that seat.

The Ledger-Enquirer looks at how new legislation may protect some renters from eviction.

Columbus officials are hoping a new Georgia law that went into effect July 1 will help curb the number of evictions in the city caused by unresolved repair issues.

The law, created by the adoption of House Bill 346, means that tenants who seek repairs to their housing can be legally protected from retaliation by their landlords, including rent hikes and eviction.

According to Capt. Curtis Lockette with the Muscogee County Marshal’s Office, between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018, the office served 8,854 dispossessory warrants, which means landlords filed with the court to evict a tenant.

Meanwhile, the marshal’s office performed 1,221 evictions, where marshals physically removed the belongings of the tenants from the rental properties.

The Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office said it performed an additional 489 evictions.

According to the new law, if a landlord files a dispossessory action in retaliation to a tenant requesting repairs, the tenant can use that as a defense in court. If a landlord is unable to provide proof in court that an action was not retaliatory, the tenant may recover one month’s rent, plus $500, court costs and attorney’s fees.

The Hog Hammock Library on Sapelo Island will be largely solar powered, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Sixteen solar panels sit atop a newly constructed pavilion outside the small library that serves Hog Hammock, a Gullah-Geechee community of about 40 permanent residents who trace their Sapelo roots to people enslaved on the island’s plantations in the 1700s.

The donated installation, at nearly 5 kilowatts, is about the size of a residential rooftop array. The panels should offset much of the energy needed to power the library, with any excess fed back onto the grid for a modest reimbursement from Georgia Power.

Sapelo sits about 60 miles south of Savannah in McIntosh County and is accessible by boat only, with a regular ferry service from the mainland. The location’s remoteness was the main challenge in installing the solar panels, said Bret Sowers, principal and vice president of development and strategy at Charleston-based Southern Current LLC. Sowers said he’s aware of only one other solar array on the island, a two panel array that powers a pump on a rain-collection cistern at the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve.

The $35,000 project, which includes a playground upgrade, was funded through donations. Southern Current donated the solar panels. Yellawood donated materials for a pavilion. EDF Renewables donated the construction costs. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources donated ferry time to bring materials to the island. DS Smith provided services to clear dilapidated trees. The University of Georgia is providing students to landscape. Darien Telephone donated picnic tables. Island residents are assisting with site preparation and assembly of picnic tables and playground equipment.

The idea for the solar addition to the library came from Georgia Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols, who challenged the Georgia Large Scale Solar Association to coordinate a project on Sapelo after he visited there. Most of the solar in Georgia is in large, utility-scale installations, like projects on former landfills in Savannah and on Jekyll Island.

A solar farm in Appling is under scrutiny from local residents, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

As a solar farm project in Appling moves forward, residents are concerned it eventually could cause erosion, devalue property and become an eyesore.

The Columbia County Planning Commission voted unanimously last week to approve rezoning land at 2734 Scotts Ferry Road for Inman Solar to develop about 32 acres on the back of the property.

“Solar farms are all throughout Georgia, but I think a lot of people (in Appling) are misinformed because they’re still new to our area,” Buckner said. “I wanted to be a good steward of my property, and I wanted to use the land as best I could.”

The county has previously approved the addition of separate solar farms on Yelton Road and Ridge Road and does not have plans to set a limit on additional similar projects.

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