Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 7, 2020

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 7, 2020

On July 7, 1742, General James Oglethorpe was victorious over the Spanish at the Battle of Bloody Marsh and the Battle of Gully Hole Creek; a week later Gov. Montiano would call off the invasion of Georgia from Florida, leaving Georgia to develop as a British colony.

Sliced bread was invented on July 7, 1928 at the Chillicothe Baking Company in Chillicothe, Missouri.

On July 7, 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Alaska Statehood Act.

The first female cadets enrolled at West Point on July 7, 1976.

Sandra Day O’Connor was nominated to the United States Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan on July 7, 1981.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp issued Executive Order 07.06.20.01, declaring a State of Emergency in Georgia through Monday, July 13, 2020 at 11:59 PM, and calling up 1000 Georgia National Guard troops to State Active Duty.

From the Press Release:

Following weeks of dramatically increased violent crime and property destruction in the City of Atlanta, the July Fourth weekend saw over thirty Georgians wounded by gunfire, including five confirmed dead. Today Governor Kemp issued Executive Order 07.06.20.01, which declares a State of Emergency across Georgia and authorizes the activation of as many as 1,000 Georgia National Guard troops.

“Peaceful protests were hijacked by criminals with a dangerous, destructive agenda. Now, innocent Georgians are being targeted, shot, and left for dead,” said Governor Kemp. “This lawlessness must be stopped and order restored in our capital city. I have declared a State of Emergency and called up the Georgia Guard because the safety of our citizens comes first. This measure will allow troops to protect state property and dispatch state law enforcement officers to patrol our streets. Enough with the tough talk. We must protect the lives and livelihoods of all Georgians.”

The Georgia Guard will provide support at state buildings, including the Georgia State Capitol, Georgia Department of Public Safety Headquarters, and Governor’s Mansion. This aid will allow state law enforcement personnel to increase patrols on roadways and throughout communities, especially those in the City of Atlanta.

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Forsyth County News:

The order authorizes Georgia National Guard troops to help quell any unruly protests and for state and local law enforcement “to do all things necessary to maintain peace and good order.”

Kemp’s state-of-emergency order levelled criticism at Atlanta officials, saying they had “failed to quell” recent acts of violence and property damage in the city.

His order also notes between 60 and 100 people “armed with rocks, spray paint and fireworks” vandalized the Public Safety headquarters early Sunday and tried to set it on fire.

“Criminals are now victimizing Georgians to inflict chaos, cause fear among residents and thwart law enforcement,” the order says. “This ongoing threat to public safety will not be tolerated.”

Democratic Party of Georgia Chair Nikema Williams issued a press release:

Today, Democratic Party of Georgia Chairwoman, Nikema Williams issued the following statement on Governor Brian Kemp’s irresponsible executive order to deploy 1,000 National Guard troops in Atlanta:

“It is absolutely disgusting that after months of inaction on the plagues of coronavirus and police brutality currently killing Black Georgians, Brian Kemp is now using his executive power to protect buildings instead of the people he is supposed to serve.”

“For months, we have begged the governor to take serious steps to stop COVID-19 from decimating our communities, but he refuses. His choice to deploy National Guard troops for today’s selfish purpose is outrageous and will endanger lives.”

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Associated Press.

“COVID-19 has literally hit home. I have had NO symptoms and have tested positive,” Bottoms tweeted.

“It leaves me for a loss for words because I think it really speaks to how contagious this virus is,” Bottoms told MSNBC. “We’ve taken all of the precautions that you can possibly take. We wear masks, we’re very thoughtful about washing our hands, I have no idea when and where we were exposed.”

Violence in the city has grown worse since protesters burned down a fast food restaurant where a white officer fatally shot Rayshard Brooks after he seized a stun gun and ran. Armed people have been manning roadblocks at the site and an 8-year-old girl was shot dead near the site on Saturday. At the same time, some police officers have been refusing to answer calls, angry that the district attorney has charged officers in the Brooks shooting.

From the AJC:

To the extent that perception can mimic reality, it’s fair to wonder whether Mayor Bottoms has been distracted by her audition for the vice president slot on the Democratic ticket. Good politicians are often ambitious; nevertheless, the mayor and other leaders now need to step up efforts to lead us through a crisis here at home. The world is watching how well we do that. And lives likely depend on the results.

So, how do you destroy a major city already crippled by a pandemic?

1.) In the midst of protests and rioting, push the Police Chief out.

2.) Throw a police officer under the bus by firing him.

3.) Watch the District Attorney who was forced into a runoff election for his political life indict the officer.

4.) “Blue flu” officer protests cripple the local police force.

Atlanta police called out of work in staggering numbers in an apparent protest against the legal response to Rolfe’s June 12 interaction with Brooks. More than 61 percent of Atlanta beat cops missed work on June 17, the day Howard brought charges against Rolfe, and more than 65 percent were absent on June 18. By June 19, the demonstration started to taper off, with about 51 percent calling out then and about 33 percent gone on June 20, according to APD roll call documents from the department’s six police zones.

5.) Allow an occupation by armed “protesters.”

The deadly shooting death of an 8-year-old girl outside of a Wendy’s restaurant occupied by armed people raises questions about why the mayor, city leaders and the Atlanta Police allowed the group to continuously remain on the property and block a city street.

For weeks, there were multiple reports of threats — and at least one beating — against people approaching the site in the days leading up to the fatal shooting of Secoriea Turner, who was riding in the back seat of her mother’s car Saturday as she tried to turn into a liquor store near the restaurant and was stopped by a group of protesters.

The AJC Monday tried to ask Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and interim Police Chief Rodney Bryant why the city did not remove the armed protesters, but the mayor, who announced she tested positive for COVID-19, did not comment.

A spokesperson for the chief didn’t respond to questions from the AJC about if police were aware that the group had threatened people with guns, and if so, why they took no action. The protesters who camped out at the Wendy’s denied responsibility in Secoriea’s killing.

The police chief also declined to answer questions about whether Bottoms made the decision to allow protesters to remain at the site, if the department was aware of people being threatened by armed protesters, and why they didn’t stop armed demonstrators from using guns to block the road.

6.) Watch gun violence soar, doubling killings in the same period the previous year.

Ninety-three people were shot in Atlanta during the four-week period of May 31 to June 27, up drastically from 46 in the same period last year, the latest complete data available. And fourteen people died of homicide in that span, compared to six during the same time frame in 2019.

Those shot have included a 10-year-old boy who survived, an 18-year-old who may have been selling water on the street in Midtown when he was killed, and an 80-year-old man who died as the unintended target of a drive-by in his home.

The numbers are still climbing.

On Saturday, an 8-year-old girl was shot dead near the burned out Wendy’s where Rayshard Brooks was killed by an Atlanta cop. Atlanta police said it appears a group of armed people stopped the car in which the child was riding before someone shot into it.

A few hours later, 14 were shot during a fight at an outdoor party in northeast Atlanta where people had gathered to watch fireworks, police said. That shooting occurred about the same time a crowd was busting out windows of the Georgia State Patrol headquarters.

7.) Allow the vandalization of a state law enforcement agency’s headquarters.

The Georgia Department of Public Safety Headquarters on United Avenue was vandalized early Sunday morning when a large group descended on the building armed with rocks, spray paint, fireworks, bricks and Molotov cocktails.

The Georgia State Patrol said the group was estimated to be between 60 and 100 people and they were dressed in dark clothing with many wearing masks.

“Their one mission was to destruct property and that’s what they did,” said Lt. Stallings of the Georgia State Patrol.

According to Lt. Stallings of the Georgia State Patrol, the group caused extensive damage to multiple windows along the front of the building, damaged a DPS car parked in front of the building, and heavily spray painted several places. Fireworks were also tossed into the building causing a small fire in one of the offices.

The AJC Political Insider notes that this could become an election issue. Ya think?

This could also reconfigure Metro Atlanta dramatically in the coming years. I may be wearing my doom-and-gloom pants, but here’s my worst case scenario.

a.) The current situation looks like the City of Atlanta’s law enforcement agencies are collapsing from the top.

b.) We’re probably looking at a cratering of commercial real estate markets. From the National Herald:

Hotels, restaurants and stores that closed in March have seen only a partial return of customers, and many may fail. Commercial landlords have already reported an increase in missed rent payments. They expect vacancies to rise through the end of the year.

Two trends compound the problem: Office tenants are considering renting less space as more employees work from home, and the trend toward online shopping is accelerating, which could cut already weak demand for retail space in downtown areas and malls.

And not just office space for traditional companies, but tech startups appear to be dying off at an accelerated pace.

Retail is collapsing. Neiman Marcus and J. Crew bankruptcies could cause vacancies at places like Lenox Square. Microsoft is closing all its retail stores. Starbucks is shifting toward more drive-through, and closing 400 stores.

I suspect that at least part of the residential market will follow, as people who formerly worked in offices now no longer need to be near the home store. As an example, I’ve been looking at real estate at Lake Oconee, and the inventory has evaporated. I suspect some of that is people from Atlanta coming to terms with the fact that they no longer have to commute to the office 5 days a week.

And don’t get me started on Gwinnett County. I hope I’m being overly pessimistic, but I suspect that if I am, it’s a matter of degree rather than being competely wrong.

Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton chided local courts who are not following the Supreme Court’s orders on COVID-19, according to the Daily Report.

The chief justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia warned Monday that judges who continue to ignore public health guidelines regarding COVID-19 or who fail to abide by his emergency declarations could face discipline by the state’s judicial watchdog.

Melton said he intends to issue a new emergency order this week. The current judicial emergency expires Sunday, and Melton said a fourth order extending the current emergency until Aug. 11 will likely include “stronger, more mandatory language” about following public health directives intended to stem the virus’ spread.

Melton said the new order will address whether judges who require attendance at hearings when their courthouses or courtroom are not in compliance with state and local public health and CDC guidelines may be found to have committed an ethical violation. Chuck Boring, executive director of the state Judicial Qualifications Commission, which polices the judiciary, has already called several judges who failed to follow Melton’s emergency orders, the chief justice said.

Melton said his new order will “make clear that the provisions of the declared [judicial] emergency are, in fact, mandatory” and will clarify that the JQC has jurisdiction to investigate judges who have ignored his emergency declarations.

The Athens-Clarke County Commission will vote today on whether to require face masks in public, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

A proposed ordinance on the commission’s monthly meeting would require people to wear face masks in public places, including commercial establishments. Churches would be exempted.

Employees of restaurants, retail stores, salons, grocery stores and pharmacies in Athens-Clarke County would also be required to wear face masks.

If the ordinance passes as expected, Mayor Kelly Girtz plans to sign the ordinance Tuesday night, which means it would go into effect at 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Violators would not face incarceration, but would be cited and fined — $25 for a first offense, $50 for a second and $100 on the third offense. The ordinance would expire at midnight Aug. 4, but the commission could extend it.

The Augusta Chronicle asked candidates in runoff elections for City Commission whether they support a mask mandate.

Catherine Smith McKnight, one of two candidates in the Aug. 11 runoff for Augusta Commission District 3, said cases turning up in her family’s circle of friends prompted her to now support requiring masks in public places.

Her runoff opponent, Sean Mooney, said as a small business owner he is torn but unwilling to challenge [Governor Brian] Kemp without hearing from “medical and legal experts.”

Jordan Johnson, who faces Michael Thurman in the Aug. 11 runoff for commission District 1, said the commission can and should require face coverings in public places, and he urged it to “act quickly.”

Thurman said he supports going beyond [Governor] Kemp’s order to slow the spread.

Dalton City Council members are unlikely to vote for a mask requirement, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Dalton City Council members agree that wearing a face mask can help reduce the spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19). But it doesn’t look like the support is there for a city ordinance mandating that people wear such masks in public.

Whitfield County Board of Commissioners Chairman Lynn Laughter said she plans to put a measure on the agenda for the board’s Monday, July 13, meeting requiring people to wear masks in public “just to see how board members feel about it.” Most members of the Board of Commissioners have indicated they do not support mandating masks in the county.

But people with business at Dalton City Hall are asked to call first for an appointment.

Students at Georgia public colleges and universities will be required to mask up for class, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The University of Georgia and other Georgia public colleges such as Georgia Southern University and Savannah State University will require everyone on campus to wear face masks beginning July 15. The university system announced the new rule on its Twitter account Monday evening, along with other, stronger health protective measures system administrators say schools must implement when, they hope, in-person classes can resume in August.

Those who don’t obey face university disciplinary proceedings.

Critics have also called on the system to allow more flexibility to workers with issues such as child care, or care of family members with health issues or risks.

The University System also updated its list of underlying medical conditions that make workers eligible for “alternate work arrangements,” such as working remotely from home.

Marietta City Schools will require masks for students, according to the AJC.

The Dougherty County Commission held a public meeting in-person for the first time since March, according to the Albany Herald.

It was the first live meeting with members of the public granted access to a commission session since mid-March, when the meetings were closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The audience, including several county employees, totaled 19, with seating marked with yellow tape to enforce social distancing. Five of the seven commissioners were in attendance.

Flowery Branch has closed its city hall to the public temporarily after an outbreak among staff, according to the Gainesville Times.

DeKalb County‘s Board of Elections had a second employee test positive, according to the AJC.

Tillman said officials were notified of the temporary employee’s positive test on Friday. The elections office will likely be closed for the week, he said.

The news comes about two weeks after another temporary worker in the elections office tested positive, delaying the county’s certification of June 9’s primary election results.

After that initial diagnosis, elections employees potentially exposed to the infected worker had to test negative for COVID-19 before returning to work, Tillman said. The second employee now diagnosed with COVID-19 tested negative at the earlier date, he said.

Any extended closures would put even more pressure on DeKalb elections officials as they prepare for August’s runoff and November’s general elections.

Whitfield County schools approved an FY 2021 budget without reducing student or teacher days, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

An Augusta Circuit Superior Court Judge is the object of a protest over a decision to grant bond to defendants in two cases, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

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