Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 6, 2019


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 6, 2019

On August 6, 1787, delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia began debating the first draft of the Constitution of the United States.

On August 6, 1958 the wagon train carrying gold from Dahlonega to gild the State Capitol dome reached Atlanta, where city officials were not prepared to receive them.

On August 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act; Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was in attendance and was given one of the pens Johnson used to sign the Act. Here is an auction for one of the pens used in the VRA signing.

John Hughes, director of every meaningful teen angst movie of the 1980s (except Say Anything and Better Off Dead) died on August 6, 2009.

Molly Ringwald wrote in The New Yorker about working as a young woman with John Hughes.

On August 5, 2015, the Jeb Bush presidential campaign announced endorsements by Georgia Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle and Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp yesterday ordered flags on state buildings and properties flown at half-staff in honor of those who died in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.

GPB News spoke to some of the announced candidates in the Sixth Congressional District and has audio files and transcripts.

Congressman Austin Scott (R-Tifton) will speak at the Boys and Girls Club Gym in Valdosta on August 15, 2019, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

In Gwinnett County, a man is accused of placing a Trump sticker on a Democrat’s car and charged with trespass, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

A Lawrenceville man accused of putting “I Love Trump” stickers on a local Democratic Party official’s car while she was grocery shopping, yelling at her and then following her around town has been arrested on at least one charge related to the incident and will likely face more, Gwinnett Solicitor General Brian Whiteside confirmed Friday.

William Thomas Dunaway, 57, was arrested Thursday on a criminal trespass damage charge for putting the stickers on Gwinnett Democratic Party First Vice Chairwoman Sharon Wood’s car in the parking lot of a Lawrenceville Publix in July. The charge is a misdemeanor and Dunaway had been released from jail Thursday on a $650 bond.

“I think it says you shouldn’t follow people around,” Whiteside said. “I don’t think that you should follow a woman around (or) follow anyone around and we’re determined to enforce the laws of Gwinnett County, and the state and the United States of America. (Wood) being a Democrat means nothing. We’re going to enforce the law.”

Whiteside said his office plans to move forward with formal court accusations on charges of simple assault and stalking against Dunaway as well.

Former State Senator and candidate for Governor Michael Williams apologized for running, according to the AJC.

Republican Michael Williams, who finished last place in last year’s gubernatorial primary, said Tuesday he should never have sought higher office and blamed missed “red flags” for mistakes that led to a guilty plea on charges of filing a false report.

The former state senator said he should not have allowed his “public persona to be so drastically changed to something it wasn’t” during a controversial campaign that included a series of ill-fated publicity stunts capped by a “deportation bus tour.”

“I should have found a gubernatorial candidate whom I could support. I should have done what each of you did,” he wrote to supporters. “Instead, I allowed my pride, ego, and bad advice, to persuade me that I had a solid chance in the governor’s race.”

The email did not name his chief strategist, Seth Weathers, who helped devise the publicity stunts. But Williams said his campaign “became solely about doing whatever needed to be done in order to create headlines to build name ID.”

“What does this have to do with the matter at hand?”he wrote. “If I stuck to my standards, followed my gut and not announced until the three prerequisites were met or withdrawn my candidacy when any of the other red flags occurred, the events that transpired that night in May of 2018, never would have happened.”

Candidates for House District 71 will meet in a public forum Wednesday, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

All four candidates for Georgia House District 71 are scheduled to be at Wednesday’s candidate forum, which will be held at the Central Educational Center from 6 to 8 p.m.

The candidates: Nina Blackwelder, Jill Prouty, Marcy Sakrison and Philip Singleton have all confirmed that they will attend, according to Cynthia Bennett, vice president of the Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce, which is sponsoring the forum.

The HD 71 seat has been vacant since the June resignation of Rep. David Stover. The election to fill Stover’s unexpired term will be held Sept. 3. The seat will be up for election again in 2020, with qualifying for that race in March.

Early voting for the race will begin Aug. 12. Early voting will be Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., through Aug. 30. Early voting is also available Saturday, Aug. 24, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. There are two early voting locations: the Coweta Voter Registration Office, at 22 East Broad St., Newnan, and the Central Community Center, 65 Literary Lane, Newnan.

The Atlanta Board of Education voted to increase planned teacher pay raises, according to the AJC.

The Atlanta school board on Monday agreed to give teachers an additional pay increase that will bring the average raise from $2,000 to $3,000.

The Atlanta Public Schools budget for the 2019-2020 school year, as approved in June, had only enough money to provide an average $2,000 increase for teachers. The district said it would need millions more than what APS receives from the state to cover the $3,000 per teacher raise recommended in the state budget and backed by Gov. Brian Kemp.

But after the board approved the budget, APS officials revised local revenue projections based on updated Fulton County property values. The district now expects to receive $7.5 million more in local property tax revenue than it first expected.

On Monday, the school board voted to adjust the budget so that it can provide an average pay raise of $3,000 for teachers, or 4.85%, plus additional compensation for other employees.

A lawsuit claims that Fulton County overtaxed homeowners has been filed, according to the AJC.

A Fulton County homeowner has filed a lawsuit claiming the county missed a crucial deadline to complete thousands of property value appeals and now must accept lower assessed values for those properties — a mistake that could cost the county tens of millions of dollars over several years.

More than 42,000 property owners, representing a combined $5.9 billion in real estate, appealed their appraisals last year when the county assessor’s office increased property values after years of failing to update the tax rolls.

More than 5,000 property owners could be affected by the suit. Many of those property owners have already paid taxes based on the higher assessment, and they would be due refunds if the lawsuit is successful.

A spokesperson for Fulton County declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Atlanta City Council is considering a moratorium on new permits for rental scooters, according to the AJC.

In the aftermath of the city’s third electric scooter fatality, the Atlanta City Council on Monday introduced legislation that affirmed a prohibition on additional permits to the companies deploying the devices.

The proposal appears to be a stop gap measure and is unlikely to have any immediate effect on the number of scooters on city streets.

Currently, there are 9 companies permitted to deploy 12,000 scooters, although only about 5,500 have been deployed, according to city officials.

After another scooter-related death last week, a handful of people at Monday’s Atlanta City Council meeting urged council members to make city streets safer for scooter riders.

Last month, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued an executive order prohibiting new permits. The mayor said it would remain in effect until the council’s Monday meeting.

Bottoms also said she would propose legislation to “address the long-term impacts the devices levy against the City’s infrastructure and public safety” in advance of the meeting.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation continues looking at allegations against Augusta Commissioner Sammie Sias, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

A week ago, the Augusta Commission referred the allegations against one of its own to the GBI after former center director Willa Hilton made several accusations regarding Sias’ activities at the center.

Among the allegations, Hilton said Sias pocketed sales tax and other funds intended for the center, used alcohol and watched pornography and engaged in child cruelty at the site. The commission referred the child cruelty claim to the Division of Family and Children Services.

Colquitt County Commissioner Al Whittington said that local immigrants are fearful of violence, according to the Albany Herald.

“The Hispanic community is quite large and an absolute necessity,” he said. “They’ve worked in the fields, a lot of them six days, and they go into town on the weekend to buy groceries.”

In October 2005, six Mexican immigrants were killed in Tift County in a crime spree that began in Colquitt County with the rape of a woman and shooting of her husband. The suspects were thought to be part of a group that had carried out more than a dozen home invasions and robberies targeting the Hispanic population in the months leading up to the slayings in Tifton.

Immigrants often do not have the documents needed to open bank accounts, meaning they often carry cash with them.

“I think really that community stays in fear,” said Whittington, a former Colquitt County sheriff who referenced the 2005 crime spree in Colquitt and Tift counties. “They’re afraid as far as robberies. Every time they turn around, it’s something else.”

The Georgia Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission in a lawsuit against Glynn County Schools, according to The Brunswick News.

It all started in 2014 when the school board determined that it could not pay the debt service portion of its water and sewer bill. The JWSC took the school board to court in 2015, over what at the time was roughly $140,000 in unpaid debt service fees.

Since then, however, JWSC officials say that amount has risen to $516,070. Utility legal counsel Charles Dorminy said the two parties will have to go before a superior court judge to have the total, final amount owed determined, however.

Glynn County Superior Court Judge Stephen Kelley ruled in the utility’s favor in 2018. On appeal, the Georgia Court of Appeals passed the case up the chain to the Georgia Supreme Court because it involved a constitutional question.

Tybee Island will receive $1.1 in federal grant funding to elevate a dozen private homes in the flood plain on the marsh side of the island, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Per the City’s Floodplain Ordinance, each structure will be elevated two feet above the base flood elevation.

The total cost of raising the homes will be $1,548,318. The federal grant will cover 75% of the cost, at $1,161,238.50. Ten percent of the cost will be covered by the state.

Homeowners will still have to pay 15 percent of the cost to elevate their homes, a process that requires contracting a construction company that specializes in the process.

“So there’s still a burden on them financially, and they’ll be inconvenience while the house is being lifted up, they’ll have to stay at a hotel or a relative’s house,” Buelterman said.

A separate grant request, which has not yet been rewarded, was made to help mitigate the cost of another 49 homes.

“We picked 61 homeowners who live on Tybee who have low-lying homes that were at risk of, or have flooded,” [Mayor Jason] Buelterman said.

Camden County was recertified as a Coast Guard Community, recognizing its support of the local Coast Guard units, according to The Brunswick News.

Bulloch County‘s public school system delayed roll out of a sex ed curriculum previously announced, according to the Statesboro Herald.

As reported in June, lessons on gender identity and sexual orientation were not scheduled to be introduced in ninth grade until 2020–21 or in the seventh and eighth grades until 2021–22.

But that part of the plan is subject to further review with input from the community, and the more basic sex education curriculum slated for 2019–20 will not be taught until second semester and could be delayed until next school year, Superintendent Charles Wilson said last week and this.

“What is being implemented, at this point, is yet to be determined,” Wilson said as students returned to school Aug. 1. “The state puts this very much back to the local community. We have a board policy. Now, we have to develop our own curriculum around this.”

“We have slowed that down because until we get all the feedback we need from the community and from the board, we don’t know for sure what that’s going to look like,” Wilson said Monday. “Right now what we’re doing is getting feedback from teachers, we’re going to get feedback from the board, and until we have all of that figured out it’s hard for us to proceed with a definitive curriculum.”

Under the announced plan, “sexual orientation and gender identity” and “undoing gender stereotypes” were scheduled to be introduced as two one-day topics for the ninth grade unit in 2020–21, not this school year. Beginning in 2021–22, “sexual orientation and gender identity” was slated as a one-day topic for eighth grade, and “talking about sexuality,” as the first-day topic in the seventh grade unit.

These would not become sixth-grade topics even under the original plan.

Hall County Commissioners will likely extend a moratorium on permitting new hookah lounges, according to AccessWDUN.

Hall County commissioners agreed Monday to place the moratorium’s extension on the consent agenda for Wednesday’s commission voting session. The commission will also vote Wednesday on a newly proposed moratorium to prevent the opening of new vape shops or lounges until the same date.

Hall County Planning Director Srikanth Yamala said the county’s planning staff needs more time to examine non-traditional tobacco sales.

“We have completed our initial research, if you will, on some of the regulations that we’ll propose to bring forward as part of the new ordinance,” Yamala said. “We also want to look at every single non-traditional tobacco products, you know, like the vape lounges, vape shops and so forth,” Yamala said.

Floyd County Juvenile Court lost data in a cyber attack, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Superior Court Clerk Barbara Penson said there’s been no word on a resolution from the Administrative Office of the Courts.

“They’ve asked us to not even call,” she said Monday. “The project manager said we’ll hear from them when ‘we are able to stand eCourt up again’ and when the federal investigators release something to them.”

“We’re staying ahead of the new cases by working Saturdays … We’ve figured out a survival route, but it’s temporary. We can’t do this forever,” Penson said.

Floyd County Juvenile Court Judge Greg Price was harder hit. He said Monday that most juvenile court records are not public and they were kept on the Administrative Office of the Courts’ server.

“All our data was maintained by the AOC – up until the time it was corrupted,” Price said. “We lost literally all of our data, historical and current.”

Savannah City Council member Bill Durrence announced he will run for reelection to his seat representing District 2, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Dalton City Council hired the law firm Smith, Welch, Webb & White to represent them in service delivery agreement negotiations with Whitfield County, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Council members voted 4-0 Monday to appoint attorneys from the McDonough law firm Smith, Welch, Webb & White as a special counsel to represent the city in those negotiations. The agreement between the city and Smith, Welch, Webb & White calls for the attorneys to be paid $225 to $300 an hour.

“We want to be thorough in our approach to the agreements,” said Parker. “We refer to it as a service delivery agreement, but it’s actually about 40 to 45 different agreements. It includes every local government service. So we have to agree who is providing which service and at which locations and who is paying the costs of those services. Sometimes in these discussions you can find out there’s a better way to provide that service or to consolidate service delivery.”

By state law, cities and counties must negotiate a new service delivery agreement every 10 years spelling out which services the different governments will provide and how they will be funded. The agreements are aimed at reducing duplication of services.

The current service delivery agreement between the city and county expires Oct. 31 and covers services ranging from fire protection to operations of the Dalton-Whitfield County Public Library to building permits.

Andrew J. “Andy” Welch, one of the attorneys the city has appointed as a special counsel, is a former member of the Georgia House of Representatives.

The Macon Bacon will host their first ever playoff game tonight, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The Macon Bacon took home a win in one of their most important food fights to date, as they knocked off the Savannah Bananas in the playoff opener.

The Bacon beat their rivals by a score of 7-3 Sunday to eliminate them from contention for the Petitt Cup.

The Bacon will now host their first-ever home playoff game Tuesday night against the Forest City Owls. The Bacon and the Owls met three times in the regular season, with Macon winning two out of three games.

Cave Spring City Council will review proposed new rules to allow golf cart use on some city streets, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Mayor Dennis Shoaf has said he wants to be able to start issuing golf cart permits within a month of adopting the ordinance. Residents will be able to get their vehicles inspected and registered at the police department.

The fee of $15, which is set by the state, pays for a street-legal decal that will be good for up to three years or until the cart is sold. Drivers must be licensed and anyone under 16 will have to have a parent present in the cart.

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