Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 30, 2023

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 30, 2023

On August 31, 1864, Confederates charged Union forces at the Battle of Jonesboro, in which the CSA suffered more than 1400 casualties in one hour.

On August 30, 1888, Asa Griggs Candler bought one-third interest in the Coca-Cola company, bringing his total ownership to more than two-thirds of the company.

Georgia native Ty Cobb debuted with the Detroit Tigers on August 30, 1905.

On August 31, 1955, the first solar powered car was demonstrated by William Cobb of General Motors.

On August 31, 1965, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation creating the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which the Senate had previously passed.

On August 30, 1979, President Jimmy Carter reported being attacked by a rabbit near Plains, Georgia. Here’s an interview in which President Carter was asked about the rabbit incident.

Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell was indicted on August 30, 2004 on racketeering, bribery and wire fraud charges and would later plead guilty to tax evasion.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Bulloch County has declared a local state of emergency anticipating Idalia’s landfall, according to the Statesboro Herald.

When about 60 county, city, school system, public safety, volunteer organization and power utility leaders met in Bulloch County’s Emergency Operations Center at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday to coordinate planning, Hurricane Idalia was still more than 600 miles away in the Gulf of Mexico.

Chairman Roy Thompson of the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners had signed a local emergency declaration, which Wynn said also covers Statesboro and the other towns, beginning Aug. 29 and lasting until Sept. 28 or until a state of emergency declared by Gov. Brian Kemp expires. The local declaration prohibits overcharging for goods, materials, housing and services and would allow curfews to be imposed.

“We’re not going out in the dark, still clearing roads just for people to travel,” [Public Works and Transportation Director Dink] Butler said. “Please, anybody who has no need to be on the road for an absolute emergency, stay home, especially stay off the dirt roads with this rain event coming and projections of the volume of water.”

Sheriff Noel Brown backed Butler’s statement, and Wynn reframed it to advise everyone who can to stay off the roads to do so from noon Wednesday until Thursday morning if the storm arrives as expected.

Jury selection in Bulloch County courts has been suspended due to the weather, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Glynn County has also declared an emergency, according to The Brunswick News.

The Glynn County Commission declared a local state of emergency Tuesday afternoon as Hurricane Idalia was set to bring tropical storm conditions to the Golden Isles on Wednesday.

The state of emergency was declared at a special-called meeting at 4 p.m. Tuesday following the declaration of a state of emergency by Gov. Brian Kemp earlier in the afternoon for all of Georgia.

The Georgia Department of Transportation plans to close the Sidney Lanier Bridge at noon on Wednesday or earlier if winds reach faster than 40 mph.

The Glynn County Emergency Operations Center has been operating at Opcon 3 on Tuesday and will be fully activated by 7 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson is expected to declare an emergency for the coastal city, according to WSAV.

Mayor Van Johnson will be declaring a local state of emergency for Savannah ahead of Idalia.

The order will take effect on Wednesday at 6 a.m.

This does not mean an evacuation order is in place. The order will allow the city manager to execute emergency plans and gather resources to prepare for Idalia and respond to any impacts.

The city is considering a curfew that would be in place starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday until 6 a.m. Thursday.

Government offices, except for essential emergency functions, will be closed on Wednesday. Doors could reopen on Thursday depending on the storm’s impacts.

Chatham County Commission Chair Chester Ellis signed an emergency declaration, according to WTOC.

Savannah-Chatham County area schools will close due to the weather, according to WSAV.

Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools will shift to virtual learning on Wednesday, Aug. 30, and Thursday, Aug. 31.

Bacon County Schools will be closed Wednesday, Aug 30, with plans to return to normal on Thursday, Aug.31.

Bryan County Schools will be closed Wednesday, Aug. 30.

Bulloch County Schools will be closed on Wednesday, Aug. 30, and Thursday, Aug. 31. The next district update about school operations for Friday, will be on Thursday, Aug. 31 by 3 p.m.

Camden County Schools will be closed on Wednesday, Aug. 30.

Effingham County Schools will be closed on Wednesday, Aug.30 and will determine Thursday’s schedule on Wednesday.

Glynn County Schools will be closed on Wednesday, Aug. 30.

And the list of closures is long.

Bryan County declared a local state of emergency, according to WTOC.

Georgia farmers are apprehensive about the likely effects of the storm on their crops, according to the Albany Herald.

“We’re just trying to get everything safe and tied up and string on it (to protect it)from the wind,” said Colquitt County vegetable grower Sam Watson. “There’s only so much you can do. We’re just trying to get everything stabilized in case we do get heavy wind.”

In its latest update at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday the National Weather Service noted that Tropical Storm Idalia has tracked somewhat to the west, and with that change in course Colquitt County has been added to Georgia counties under a Tropical Storm warning. Other south Georgia counties added in the latest warning include Ben Hill, Berrien, Cook, Irwin and Tift.

“We’re pretty dry right now, so we need the moisture,” Watson said. “If we get some 50, 60 mile per hour wind coming through, it’ll lay it down. The wind is probably the biggest fear right now.”

Among the crops Watson, who serves District 11 in the state Senate, has in the ground are bell and hot peppers, squash, cabbage, cucumbers and eggplant.

Cotton is also vulnerable to the wind. Heavy wind can blow the crop to the ground and twist vines, making harvest more difficult.

Some farmers are harvesting corn, and those stalks could blow on the ground in strong wind conditions.

“That’s what’s probably going to take the most damage,” Watson said.

“We had hail this spring,” Watson said. “We’ve had the extreme heat, then drought and dry weather on top of that. Now we’re looking at a lot of wind and rain.

“We can take a couple of inches of rain. We just don’t need a lot of rain.”

A new group called “Competitive Georgia” will advocate for tort reform, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Statesboro Herald.

Competitive Georgia announced its formation Tuesday, the latest sign that business leaders are preparing a major push for the General Assembly to curb what they see as frivolous lawsuits that drive up the cost of doing business.

The coalition is being led by Atlanta-based Troutman Pepper Strategies, Cornerstone Government Affairs, and Robbins Government Relations, also headquartered in Atlanta. Ben Tarbutton III, president of Sandersville Railroad Co., and Mitch Stephens, chairman and CEO of Atlanta-based commercial construction and real estate firm Mitchell Stephens Co., will serve as co-chairs of the organization.

“Frivolous lawsuits caused by Georgia’s legal environment have cost businesses – large and small – millions of dollars,” Tarbutton and Stephens wrote in a joint statement. “We look forward to working with Competitive Georgia and our elected leaders to make Georgia’s legal system fair and equitable for all parties so we can keep our state growing and on track for decades to come.”

Gov. Brian Kemp told an audience of political and business leaders earlier this month he will push for tort reform legislation during the 2024 session of the General Assembly starting in January.

“Georgia companies, health-care providers and others have seen the cost of doing business rise substantially over the past decade due to runaway nuclear verdicts,” state Senate Majority Leader Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, said Tuesday. “We cannot let Georgia lose its status as the best state for business because of skyrocketing prices on goods and services, and insurance premiums reaching all-time highs.”

The University System of Georgia will no longer require diversity statements in job applications, according to the AJC.

The University System of Georgia in July issued a new employee recruitment policy barring such statements, typically one-to-two-page documents in which applicants describe their understanding of diversity and detail experiences and goals related to advancing it. Another revised human resources policy states that mandatory employee training cannot include diversity statements.

The University System pointed to language approved in the spring by the Georgia Board of Regents as the trigger for the prohibition.

“The Board of Regents in April released a statement of principles regarding academic freedom and freedom of expression that, among other things, affirmed that the University System of Georgia values the diversity of intellectual thought and expression among students and faculty as well as the need for faculty to be unburdened by ideological tests, affirmations and oaths,” the system said in a statement in response to questions from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Georgia Professional Standards Commission earlier this year removed references to “diversity” and “equity” from its rules that guide colleges that train prospective teachers, saying such terms are “ambiguous.”

Two-thirds of University System instructional faculty members are white, compared to 45% of all students, according to fall 2022 data.

Dougherty County Commissioners adopted a property tax millage rate, according to the Albany Herald.

The Dougherty County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to adopt proposed property tax increases for the county-wide and special services digests during a special called meeting held on August 28, 2023. The millage rates in both will remain the same as last year.

“By keeping the millage rate the same as it was in 2022, the County benefits from the growth of the tax base while Dougherty County taxpayers will see either no increase to a minimal increase from improved 2023 valuations on property,” Interim County Administrator Barry Brooks said.

Augusta Commissioners voted to lower the property tax millage rate, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The vote was 7-0, with three commissioners − Alvin Mason, Tony Lewis and Brandon Garrett − absent from the meeting.

The mill rate, or “millage,” is applied to each $1,000 worth of a property’s taxable value, which is 40% of its assessed value.

From WRDW:

A special meeting took place a little after 11 a.m., where commissioners voted to adopt a rollback millage rate. This was done to soften the blow of recent property assessments in Richmond County, which went up on average by 40% in the past two years.

The commission approved 12.100 mills as the rollback rate, which is a decrease from last year, when commissioners approved 14.063 mills.

The Richmond County Board of Education, while aiming to approve a lower millage rate than last year (17.650), approved a rate of 16.493 mills, which is still 10.67% over the state-recommended rollback rate.

A rollback rate is a recommended amount of mills or “points” to create the same revenue collected by the county from the previous year.

Due to more than 60,000 property assessments in Richmond County going up by about 40% on average, commissioners asked both the city and the Board of Education to take the rollback rate, so the rise in property assessments wouldn’t increase Richmond County taxpayers’ bills dramatically.

Augusta Commissioners may consider an ordinance to make it easier to evict hotel guests , according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Augusta Commission’s Public Service Committee soon plans to hold a dedicated meeting with a number of government departments and groups to discuss the issue of hotel overstays.

Laura Lee Blake, president and CEO at Asian American Hotel Owners Association in Augusta, had presented the commission with a sample ordinance to potentially give law enforcement clearer authority to remove people who are overstaying in hotels. Hotel owners in other parts of Georgia have not reported having issues with getting law enforcement to remove guests who are overstaying, she said.

“I have not heard this in any other part of Georgia,” she told the commission during a Tuesday meeting.

Several commissioners expressed frustration that the issue has not been resolved yet, as it has been before the body several times in recent weeks.

“I feel like we’re kicking it down the road again which I don’t like,” said Commissioner Sean Frantom, after noting that Delaney had only been asked to look at the issue recently.

Voters in Brooklet will decide a liquor sales referendum on November 7, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Voters in Brooklet will decide Nov. 7 whether to allow liquor stores within their city limits. The referendum will appear on Brooklet’s municipal election ballot along with a multi-candidate race for one seat on Brooklet City Council.

During its Aug. 17 meeting, the council by a 3-2 roll call vote approved a resolution to put the liquor store question on the ballot. Council members Bradley Anderson of Seat 2, Rebecca Kelly of Seat 3 and Johnathan Graham of Seat 5 voted “yes” to the resolution. Council members Nicky Gwinnett of Seat 1 and James Harrison of Seat 4 voted “no.”

The question, to which voters will check “yes” or “no,” is simply: “Shall the issuance of licenses for the package sale of distilled spirits be approved?”

Major changes on alcohol sales policy are one of the things that Georgia law requires must go before the people for approval, he noted in an interview Monday. However, elected city councils and county commissions decide whether to put the questions on the ballot in the first place, except in cases where voters successfully petition for a referendum.

Brooklet officials have not written an ordinance in advance to regulate liquor stores, preferring to wait to see whether voters approve. That was also the approach that Statesboro City Council and the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners took with referendums in 2021 and 2022, respectively.

Gwinnett, who after last week’s candidate qualifying is unopposed to become Brooklet’s next mayor, cast one of the two council votes against putting this new referendum on the ballot.

“I honestly don’t think that Brooklet’s quite ready for all that just yet,” he said Monday. “I think we’ve got too many other things that we need to tend to, such as the sewer project and all that comes with that, before we are able to move in that direction. Last time we passed liquor by the drink for restaurants, and that’s worked out really good, and I think that’s a good stopping point for right now. But that’s just my opinion.”

Brooklet voters will also have a decision to make about who fills Council Seat 1, which Gwinnett is leaving to become mayor. Three residents qualified as candidates for the council seat Monday, and the specially extended qualifying period for the seat continues until 5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 29.

Six candidates vie for two seats on Brunswick City Council, according to The Brunswick News.

Seats on both the city’s North and South wards are up for grabs this election, drawing two candidates seeking to represent the southern half of Brunswick and four to the race for the northern half.

Julie Martin currently holds the South Ward seat and is stepping aside this year. Lance Sabbe, a 15-year Brunswick resident and executive director of the Forward Brunswick nonprofit and owner of Brunswick Old Town Tours, is one of two candidates who qualified to run for the seat.

Facing off against him for the seat is Christoper Bower, a New England native who is currently homeless.

He also wants to see more consideration and public assistance for people in Brunswick who are homeless. He himself is homeless — he gave mailing and residence addresses as the Glynn County Courthouse and The Well, a daytime shelter for the homeless in downtown Brunswick, election officials said. He wasn’t shy about that.

Gwen Atkinson-Williams, Leroy E. Dumas Jr. and Zack Lyde qualified for the North Ward race. Johnny Cason is not seeking reelection.

In Calhoun, voters will decide between reelecting their Mayor and a challenger by a County Commissioner, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Local elections are shaping up to be interesting this year as Gordon County Commissioner Bruce Potts has stepped up to the plate to challenge long-time mayor Jimmy Palmer for his seat.

He resigned from his commission seat — which was, to him, the only negative part of the whole thing — and has qualified for the mayoral election.

Potts has nothing bad to say about Palmer, a longtime pharmacist who’s been mayor of Calhoun since 1998. He’s throwing his hat into the ring not because he dislikes current leadership, but because he can make a difference in the community.

“You’ll never hear me complain about (Palmer’s) record because there’s nothing to complain about,” said Potts.

Between the new ideas and perspectives Potts hopes to bring in and Palmer’s track record as mayor, Potts is confident that no matter who wins, the community will be in a good place.

“I think our people win no matter what,” he said.

Due to Potts’ resignation, County Commission Post 3 will be on the Nov. 7 ballot as a special election. Qualifying for that seat will be held at Gordon County Board of Elections and Registration Office, 100 S. Wall St., beginning 9 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 6, and ending Friday, Sept. 8, at 1 p.m. The qualifying fee is $180.

Tina Slendak announced she will run in 2024 for the Augusta Commission seat currently held by Sean Frantom, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

“I’ve always been interested in local politics, and now, with our district seat opening up next year and my ’40-hr’ job winding down, I look forward to the challenge of being able to represent the district I’ve lived in my whole life, and the city I love,” Slendak wrote on Facebook.

In a message to the Chronicle, Slendak said that she is a lifelong resident of District 7, including the last 35 years in National Hills. She wants to work on the issue of homelessness with departments and nonprofits, and wants the city to “tighten belts” if they are going to raise taxes.

The nonpartisan commission election will be held on May 21 with odd-numbered districts will be up for election − 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 − according to Richmond County Board of Elections Executive Director W. Travis Doss Jr. Frantom is the only commissioner who is term limited this election. Qualification will be in March.

Hall County Fire Rescue Chief Chris Armstrong and Deputy Chief Tim Woodward both resigned, according to AccessWDUN.

Assistant Fire Chief Jerry Smith has been named as interim Fire Chief by the county with Bryan Cash being named interim deputy chief. Both have at least 29 years of experience with Hall County Fire Rescue.

Hall County Administrator Zach Propes thanked Armstrong for his service in a statement.

“Chris brought a wealth of knowledge, experience and many innovative ideas to life during his tenure with Hall County,” Propes said. “He has served the county well and has the utmost respect of the Hall County Board of Commissioners and County Administration, and we wish him well in his future endeavors.”

Armstrong served as fire chief for the county for five years. The county did not release details on the reason for Armstrong and Woodward’s resignations.

Wilcox County Sheriff Robert Rodgers died in a car accident, according to 13WMAZ.

Wilcox County Sheriff Robert Rodgers is dead after a car crash on Tuesday, according to Wilcox County Coroner Janice Brown.

Rodgers most recently ran for re-election in 2020, and he was first elected sheriff in 2016, according to his re-election Facebook page.

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