Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 10, 2024

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 10, 2024

On July 11, 1782, British colonists including British Royal Governor Sir James Wright, fled Georgia.

Wright had been the only colonial governor and Georgia the only colony to successfully implement the Stamp Act in 1765. As revolutionary fervor grew elsewhere in the colonies, Georgia remained the most loyal colony, declining to send delegates to the Continental Congress in 1774.

Congress ordered the creation of the United States Marine Corps on July 11, 1798, after the Corps was inactive for a period following the Revolutionary War. From 1799 to 1921, Marine Corps Day was observed on July 11, but is now celebrated on November 10, the date of it’s Revolutionary War establishment.

On July 11, 1804, Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton in a duel in Weehawken, New Jersey. Burr was the sitting Vice President of the United States and Hamilton a former Secretary of the Treasury.

After he shot Hamilton, Aaron Burr quickly fled the nation’s capitol, making his way to St. Simons Island, Georgia, spending a month as a guest of Pierce Butler at Hampton Plantation.

Burr was a fugitive, but his killing Hamilton in a duel held a certain justifiable reasoning since dueling was not illegal, though morally questionable, to be sure. According to H. S. Parmet and M. B. Hecht in their Aaron Burr: Portrait of an Ambitious Man, after the duel, he immediately completed, by mid-August, plans which he had already initiated, to go to St. Simons, “an island off the coast of Georgia, one mile below the town of Darien.”

Jonathan Daniels’ “Ordeal of Ambition” handles the situation this way: “With Samuel Swartwout and a slave named Peter (‘the most intelligent and best disposed black I have ever known’), Burr secretly embarked for Georgia. There on St. Simons Island at the Hampton Plantation of his friend, rich former Senator Pierce Butler, he found refuge…” As Georgia Historian Bernice McCullar, author of “Georgia” puts it, Burr was “fleeing the ghost of Alexander Hamilton” when he arrived on the Georgia island.

“Major Pierce Butler,” she relates, “had fought in the British army and remained in America after the war.” He had married a South Carolina heiress, Miss Polly Middleton, and acquired two Georgia Coastal plantations, which he ran like a general storming after the troops. In fact, he was so strict that none of his slaves could associate with any of the others. He also required anyone who visited his plantations to give his or her name at the gate. With this tight security, Burr should have felt safe..

Actually, Butler’s invitation to visit the island fitted the escapee’s plans nicely. Not only was the Hamilton affair a bother, but also Burr needed to get away from a lady by the name of Celeste; however, the real reason, aside from being near his daughter, who was also in the South, was the nearness of the Floridas. No real purpose is given why the Vice-President wanted to spend “five or six weeks on this hazardous and arduous undertaking.”

Daniels underscores that from this St. Simons point Burr could “make any forays into Florida he wished to make. He traveled under the name ‘Roswell King.” After his Florida odyssey, he planned to meet his South Carolina son-in-law “at any healthy point.”

Parts of the Hampton Plantation survive in the form of tabby ruins on St Simons.

Tabby Hampton Plantation TMR_0549 copy

Tabby Hampton Plantation TMR_0524 copy

A house in St. Marys, Georgia bears a plaque stating that Aaron Burr visited there in 1804.

Clark lived in the home from 1804 until his death in 1848. He was appointed in 1807 by then-President Thomas Jefferson as customs collector for the Port of St. Marys, a position he held until his death. The year Clark bought the house, he is said to have provided a temporary hideout to Aaron Burr, who was traveling in the South to evade federal authorities holding a warrant for his arrest after he killed Alexander Hamilton in their infamous duel in July 1804.

Verification of Burr’s stay in St. Marys is hard to come by. But it is confirmed that he stayed on St. Simons Island and Cumberland Island late in the summer after he killed Hamilton. That Burr knew Clark is not disputed. The two attended law school together in Litchfield, Conn., but there is no mention in either man’s records that Burr stayed in the home.

St Marys Aaron Burr Plaque TMR_1465

Aaron Burr House St Marys GA Front Side TMR_1470

Aaron Burr House St Marys GA Front

Millard Fillmore was sworn in as the 13th President of the United States on July 10, 1850, following the death of President Zachary Taylor.

On July 10, 1864, Conferderate forces retreated south across the Chattahoochee and burned the bridge behind them. General Sherman wrote later of the day,

General Garrard Moved rapidly on Roswell, and destroyed the factories which had supplied the rebel armies with cloth for years.

Over General Garrard was then ordered to secure the shallow ford at Roswell and hold it until he could be relieved by infantry, and as I contemplated transferring the Army of the Tennessee from the extreme right to the left, I ordered General Thomas to send a division of his infantry that was nearest up to Roswell to hold the ford until General McPherson could send up a corps from the neighborhood of Nickajack.

General Newton’s division was sent and held the ford until the arrival of General Dodge’s corps, which was soon followed by General McPherson’s whole army.

On July 11, 1877, a Constitutional Convention convened in the Kimball Opera House in Atlanta to replace the 1868 Reconstruction Constitution.

The Scopes “Monkey Trial” began on July 10, 1925, in which a Tennessee public school teacher was tried for teaching evolution, against state law. Three-time Democratic candidate for President William Jennings Bryan volunteered to help the prosecution, and famed lawyer Clarence Darrow defended John Thomas Scopes.

On July 11, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Aid Road Act, establishing a federal program of paying for highway development.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt accepted the Democratic nomination for a fourth term on July 11, 1944.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower was nominated for President by the Republican National Convention on July 11, 1952.

July 11, 1969 was an epic day in rock and roll history, with David Bowie releasing “Space Oddity” and the Rolling Stones releasing “Honky Tonk Women.”

On July 10, 1985, “Classic“ Coke returned, joining the new formula on store shelves.

On July 11, 1985, Astros pitcher Nolan Ryan became the first major league player to strike out 4000 batters.

The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games broke ground for Atlanta Olympic Stadium on July 10, 1993; after the Olympics, the stadium was modified for baseball and became Turner Field.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia ranked worst among the states for two-day delivery of mail, according to 13WMAZ.

Data released by the Postal Regulatory Commission for fiscal year 2024 Q2 included scores for each state, evaluating on-time service for two-day First Class Single mail. These latest numbers from the postal service show Georgia as dead last, with a score of 63.70% on-time performance, below the national average of 87% and nearly 30 points the target goal of 93%.

In comparison, on-time performance in Georgia for Q1 was 87.68%.

Georgia also ranked low – 2nd worst – for three-to-five day performance, coming in at 51.80%. However, this is an area marked by lower performance overall, with the national average measuring 69.9%.

Georgia’s drop in performance for First Class mail –  which can be measured weekly via the USPS Service Performance dashboard and hit a low of 36% after the facility’s launch – also took the spotlight during a tense April 16 hearing on Capitol Hill. During that hearing, U.S. Senators including Georgia’s Jon Ossoff, grilled Postmaster General Louis DeJoy about the DFA plan rollout and its impact on residents and businesses.

The Georgia State Election Board adopted a new rule, according to Georgia Recorder.

The proposed rule, approved by a 3-1 vote during Tuesday’s state board meeting, would require local election officials to count ballots at the precinct level on election night and investigate any discrepancies prior to certifying the election.

Three Republican board members supported a measure they believe will help reduce the likelihood of inaccurate ballot totals requiring  correction long after an election is over.

The changes to election rules could be in place for this November’s general election if the proposed amendments are finalized next month.

The rule also states that election board members  should be able to examine all election records prior to a certification vote if there is a discrepancy in the voting data.

Democratic party election board member Sara Tindall Ghazal voted against a rule change that contradicts current policies mandating local officials to certify elections even if there are inaccuracies.

Certifying election results is a way to record the vote totals in a given election  and any unresolved issues can later be investigated by the courts, state election board and district attorney, she said.

“We’ve seen elections overturned on numerous occasions because there were votes that were not authorized,” she said “They were certified because they had to be certified. It went to a court, the court overturned the election and we ran a new election.”

From the Capitol Beat News Service:

The rule would give counties the authority to conduct a “minimum level of oversight” of election results before they’re certified, Salleigh Grubbs, who chairs the Cobb County Republican Party, told the five-member board before the 3-1 vote.

“There is a crisis of confidence in our elections,” Grubbs said. “The oversight of elections in each county is critical to restoring trust.”

But opponents argued that election officials in Georgia do not have discretion to vote against certification.

“Though the petition claims this rule will clarify ambiguity about an election official’s duty to certify results, the Georgia Supreme Court has consistently interpreted that duty as a ministerial one rather than discretionary,” the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University and the voting rights organization United to Protect Democracy wrote jointly in comments submitted to the board before Tuesday’s meeting.

“Therefore, this language conflicts with longstanding Georgia case law and would sow disorder in the state’s election administration processes, which already have safeguards to ensure election results are accurate and reliable.”

Sara Tindall Ghazal, the lone Democrat on the board, said the proper time to address complaints of voter fraud is after an election has been certified.

“There are procedures for investigating after the fact,” she said. “Without certification, a candidate cannot contest an election.”

Most Georgia delegates to the Democratic Convention back President Biden’s reelection, according to the AJC.

The AJC this week attempted to contact each of the party’s 109 state delegates and interviewed nearly half of them. Of the 50 people interviewed, all but two said they would back Biden’s reelection bid without hesitation.

The delegates also voiced broad support for Vice President Kamala Harris as Biden’s successor should he voluntarily step aside, though many stressed it was a moot point until the president deems otherwise.

In the interviews, Georgia delegates made clear that a last-ditch effort on the DNC floor to defeat him won’t go anywhere, even though party rules don’t require them to vote for Biden if it goes against their “good conscience.”

“He just has to ride it out,” state Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick said of the turmoil. “I’m not saying the concerns about age aren’t valid, but the reality is we have two choices. Democracy or dictatorship. As long as Democrats stick together and do the work to earn every vote, this brouhaha will blow over.”

While the delegation’s support for Biden was overwhelming, it was not unanimous. Two delegates expressed concerns about the president’s reelection bid on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive topics that could cause them to lose their coveted spots.

One said that it has become clear Biden is not the same energetic candidate who defeated Trump in 2020. The stakes are different now, too, with Trump expressing more authoritarian rhetoric and a fresh U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found presidents have substantial immunity for some official acts.

A second delegate feared Biden was doomed no matter how his campaign scrambles to reposition itself.

“I’m very concerned. I don’t think he should run. I think he’s going to lose and the risks are too great. You’re not going to see a revolt from Georgia delegates. We are pledged to Biden. But it’s incumbent on party elected officials to tell Biden it’s no longer tenable.”

Both said they were skeptical anything could be done to change the party’s course just weeks before the convention. And both said they feared speaking publicly to distract from the party’s focus on defeating Trump.

Byron Hickey was sworn in to Columbus City Council weeks after his appointment was announced, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Superior Court Judge Arthur Smith III administered the oath of office to Byron Hickey on Tuesday morning, after which Hickey took his seat as a Columbus city councilor. After the brief ceremony, Hickey spoke to those gathered in Columbus Council chambers.

In a unanimous vote Tuesday, the Columbus Council changed a city law to help a retired police officer who sued the city and won 14 years ago to finally be appointed to council despite controversy.

Despite the Columbus Consolidated Government’s pension board declining in June to recommend amending the CCG employee pension plan, the council voted to do exactly that Tuesday — Byron Hickey refused to finish his swearing-in process without such a change.

If Hickey accepted the council’s appointment to serve as the District 1 representative without this amendment, his pension would have been suspended. So this amendment allows Hickey or any other CCG retiree to still receive their pension payments while serving on the council.

Nobody mentioned this conflict in city law when the council appointed Hickey on May 28 to succeed the late Jerry “Pops” Barnes and fill the remaining two years of the four-year term. Barnes, who died April 14 at age 80 from an undisclosed illness, was the District 1 representative on the 10-member council for 17 years.

A week after he was appointed, and the same day the city’s probate court judge swore him into office, Hickey received an email from CCG human resources director Reather Hollowell informing him that his city pension would be suspended while he served on the council. That’s because the city’s pension ordinance considers councilors as full-time employees, despite the charter treating councilors as part-time employees.

That’s why Hickey’s other half of the swearing-in process, the one that was supposed to be conducted by a superior court judge at the June 4 council meeting, was indefinitely postponed. But nobody would explain why at that point.

After the council’s unanimous vote Tuesday, Chattahoochee Circuit Superior Court Judge Arthur Smith conducted the oath of office for Hickey, and the audience gave him a standing ovation.

Some McIntosh County residents filed a signed petition for a referendum on zoning, according to The Brunswick News.

McIntosh County voters may be deciding the fate later this year of a 2023 zoning ordinance on Sapelo Island that allows larger homes to be built in one of Georgia’s last bastions of Gullah-Geechee culture, something freed-slave descendant residents there say threatens the culture’s existence.

McIntosh County Probate Court Judge Harold Webster was handed more than 2,300 signed petitions Tuesday seeking a referendum to repeal the zoning law passed in September 2023 that allows for larger homes to be built in the small community of Hog Hammock.

“This is about us asking our local officials and wanting to work with them and them not hearing us, not listening to us,” said Jazz Watts, a Sapelo descendant and justice strategist for the coastal advocacy group One Hundred Miles. “So now we are demanding that they hear us, that they listen to us. The voters.”

The law allows for homes built in the Hog Hammock community, also called Hogg Hummuck, to be as large as 3,000 square feet of interior space. That more than doubled the size of homes previously allowed in the district, which were 1,400 square feet of heated-and-cooled space.

The ordinance also allows for homes to be up to 37 feet tall and for maximum lot coverage in Hog Hammock to be up to 4,356 square feet of impervious surface.

Residents whose families have lived in Hog Hammock for generations, since being freed from slavery following the American Civil War, were and still are staunchly opposed to the zoning changes. They say the new zoning ordinance is unnecessary and is a way to allow others to push them off of their ancestral land and make the mostly state-owned island a haven for wealthy, mostly White tourists and vacation homeowners.

The petition takes advantage of a clause in the Georgia Constitution that has only been used successfully once, when Camden County residents called for a referendum on the proposed Spaceport in 2022, said Megan Desrosiers, executive director for One Hundred Miles, the organization that helped to spearhead the petition.

The effort was truly grassroots, she said. One Hundred Mile staff and dozens of volunteers spread the word, carried paper petitions with them everywhere they went and encouraged registered McIntosh voters to sign it.

“Wherever I made my little rounds, I just took my petitions with me,” said 91-year-old Alberta Mabry, a Sapelo Island descendant who helped in the effort. “In church, meetings, wherever I went, and really, I got a lot of rejections. I said no problem. You know, no problem, whatsoever. But most of the people were very responsive.”

Organizers needed more than 1,764 signatures, at least 20% of the registered voters in the county during the most recent general election, to trigger the referendum, according to Georgia law.

With all petitions submitted to Judge Webster, the court now has up to 60 days to certify the signatures on the petitions through the board of elections. After the signatures are certified, the judge has 30 days to call for a special, countywide referendum.

“There will be a special called election,” Desrosiers said, should the certification process go as planned.

Personally, I think they should have submitted at least 3,528 signatures for a better chance of having their petition certified.

Augusta Mayor Garnett Johnson cast his first vote after voters approved a referendum giving the Mayor voting rights in City Commission meetings, according to WJBF.

Before, mayors could only vote to break ties, but that changed after voters approved a referendum in May allowing the mayor a full vote.

“It felt great, you know I tell everybody this is just the beginning,” said Mayor Garnett Johnson following the historic vote. “I’ve campaigned and said many times we needed effective and efficient governance for our people, this is just the beginning of probably a long process. We’re ready for it, we’re excited about it, we’re excited about everything happening in the city.”

For the record, Mayor Johnson’s first vote was yes in favor of going into legal session.

Augusta Transit and Chatham Area Transit will each receive federal funding to purchase electric buses, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Savannah Morning News.

Augusta Transit will get almost $12.1 million for quieter, safer, and more reliable electric buses. The agency also will receive funding to buy a bus simulator to use in workforce training.

The Chatham Area Transit Authority in Savannah will get more than $7.8 million to replace old diesel buses with electric buses, furthering the agency’s transition to zero-emission transit vehicles.

“This is about improving our transit services for all riders and converting fleets of diesel-powered buses into clean energy vehicles for the future,” said U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., who made the announcement of the funding Tuesday in conjunction with Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga. “This is a ride to the future.”

The money comes from the bipartisan infrastructure spending bill Congress passed in 2021.

The funding announced Tuesday is in addition to nearly $60 million in federal funding seven Georgia school districts received in January for new electric and low-emission buses.

Besides the money going to Augusta and Savannah, MARTA will get more than $25 million to build a transit hub in South DeKalb County for both bus and rail connections.

The Glynn County Board of Education approved the purchase of vaping detectors for some schools, according to The Brunswick News.

[T]he Glynn County School Board on Tuesday approved the purchase of vape detectors for all bathrooms at the county’s two high schools.

These vape sensors can even detect, and sound the alarm for, the presence of cigarette and marijuana smoke, said Senetra Haywood, the Glynn County School District’s executive director of student services.

The school board voted unanimously to approve purchasing the vape detectors for $174,513 from ProLogic of Acworth. The cost includes installation and four years of licensing.

Glynn County Board of Elections and Registration members heard about plans for backup power for voting equipment, according to The Brunswick News.

The battery packs have enough power to provide backup power when the regular power source drops below an unacceptable level.

Elections officials said they were provided more battery packs than requested, and they take up less space than the old battery packs.

In other business, Christina Redden, deputy elections director, gave an update on cyber and security activities in Georgia.
Redden, who recently attended a conference to discuss the issues, said the current threats are on against elections security. lnstead, the concern surrounds misinformation and malinformation.

Some of the misinformation is spread by people who believe what they have been sent via social media and other sources. While other information sent deliberately and maliciously includes inaccurate information about poll closures and the change in election dates.

Those threats are coming from Iran, China and Russia and include hundreds of fake Facebook pages, she said.

Redden said there will be greater security to ensure accurate election audits.

“They are more prepared than four years ago,” Redden said of state elections officials. “I was impressed with all the tools out there.”

Some Tift County property owners were surprised by rising property tax assessments, according to WALB.

Many homeowners in Tift County are stunned after they received a notice showing the potential for a major property tax increase.

Property owners in Tifton tell WALB that they received their standard tax notice, but they were shocked by the property taxes they may have to pay in the future.

Property taxes are based on a formula that factors both property value and the millage rate. The potential property tax that was shown on the tax notice was calculated from the mil[l]age rate in 2023 which means the increase came from adjusted home values.

There will be an emergency town meeting at the Tifton Municipal Courtroom, 130 E. 5th St. on July 13 at 10 a.m. to discuss this matter, but at the moment, there has been no set tax change.

Cleveland City Council members heard about the potential need to raise municipal service rates, according to AccessWDUN.

The White County community’s council held a public hearing Monday night that addressed the need for increased fees in such areas as water, sewer, garbage pickup, building permits, and other administrative fees.

City Administrator Kevin Harris told the council duiring Cleveland’s first hearing that officials are looking at a three-step increase over the next three years, while trying to keep the impact on citizens as low as possible and not impact residents all at one time.

City Finance Director John Solmon detailed to the council that some areas the fees that the City of Cleveland is charging are the lowest throughout most communities within northern Georgia municipalities.

An example of the increases is homeowner garbage fees which are proposed to increase by about two dollars each year for the next three years.

Cleveland Mayor Josh Turner said the fee increases will only impact those who use the services., telling WRWH Radio, “With inflation rising and the cost of doing business going up, it’s important that the people who utilize these services are paying the user fees that cover the cost of doing business, so we felt like it’s not right for the taxpayers to make up that gap.”

Administrator Harris said they will address this issue again at the August 5 council meeting with possible adoption expected during the August 15 meeting.

United States Senator Jon Ossoff (D-Atlanta) introduced legislation aimed at reducing human trafficking, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Macon Telegraph.

U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., and Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., introduced bipartisan legislation Tuesday to strengthen support for victims of human trafficking.

Ossoff chairs the Senate’s Human Rights Subcommittee, and Blackburn is the ranking Republican on the panel.

The bill would give the Justice Department’s Office for Victims of Crime more flexibility in funding for programs that serve human trafficking victims and help increase training and technical assistance for organizations that receive federal grants to help those victims.

“Human trafficking in Georgia and nationwide is a crisis,” Ossoff said. “That’s why Sen. Blackburn and I are introducing this bipartisan bill to strengthen support and protections for victims of trafficking.”

“The modern-day slave trade of human trafficking is a $150 billion a year global industry that is devastating our communities,” Blackburn added. “By passing the Supporting Victims of Human Trafficking Act, the Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime will be more responsive to the needs of organizations serving survivors of human trafficking.”

The new bill is being backed by key organizations that support victims of human trafficking, including Hope for Justice, Street Grace, Wellspring Living, 3Strands Global Foundation, Polaris, and Thistle Farms.

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