Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 9, 2015


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 9, 2015

Georgia’s colonial charter, signed by King George II was witnessed on June 9, 1732.

The Battle of Bloody Marsh was fought between Spanish forces and colonists under James Oglethorpe on St Simons Island, Georgia in 1742 on a date that is variously cited as June 9 or June 7, 1742. Thus began the rivalry between Georgia and Florida.

On June 9, 1772, the first naval attack of the Revolutionary War took place near Providence, Rhode Island, as HMS Gaspee, a British tax enforcement ship was baited into running aground and attacked by a boarding party the next day.

On June 9, 1864, Gen. W.T. Sherman moved his troops to Big Shanty, Georgia, now called Kennesaw, and beginning a four-week period sometimes called the Battle of Marietta.

Cream was formed on June 9, 1966 by Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Jack Bruce.

On June 9, 1973, Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown, the first to win all three of the Triple Crown races since 1948. Secretariat was bred by Christopher Chenery, a graduate of Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, whose jockeys wore blue-and-white silks in honor of Chenery’s alma mater.

On June 9, 1976, Jimmy Carter’s opponents in the Democratic Primary for President, George Wallace, Henry Jackson, and Chicago mayor Richard Daley, released their delegates and endorsed Carter, assuring the Georgian of the nomination.

Georgia Politics

Yesterday, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp disqualified Democrat Tyrone Brooks, Jr. from the Special Election in House District 55 after Administrative Law Judge Robert Malihi recommended the removal. That leaves 5 Democrats and Independent candidate John Guest in the race. The seat was previously held by Tyrone Brooks, Sr., who resigned to plead guilty to federal charges of misappropriating funds.

As of yesterday, 334 early ballots were requested in HD 55, according to the Secretary of State’s office. In comparison, 436 early ballots have been requested in Forsyth County during the Special Election for HD 24.

The Forsyth County elections office said 483 ballots were cast early – there’s often a slight lag in reporting from the County to when absentee vote counts are available from the SOS, and Forsyth County also hosts a special election for Cumming City Council Post 1.

Ethan Underwood and David Van Sant debated issues in the HD 24 race this past weekend.

Attorneys Ethan Underwood and David M. Van Sant both pointed to congestion and infrastructure as primary concerns facing the county, though they opted for different fixes.

Fellow Republicans Sheri Gilligan and Will Kremer also are seeking the seat in the June 16 special election, though they did not take part in the debate at McDonald & Son Funeral Home & Crematory.

The legislative seat opened last month when longtime incumbent Mark Hamilton stepped down to relocate to Tennessee for a job opportunity.

If a runoff election is required, a second debate would be held at 7 p.m. June 24 in the County Administration Building, according to Jason Mock, chair of the Forsyth County Republican Party, which organized the event.

Van Sant came out against the nearly billion-dollar state [Transportation Finance]bill, which Hamilton helped pass in the 2015 legislative session.

“We already had our own [transportation] bond that fixed our needs, but now we’re going to be subsidizing transportation for the rest of Georgia,” he said.

Underwood said the bill is “imperfect,” and if elected he would work to alter areas, such as where the money is dedicated.

Both candidates agreed they want to eradicate Georgia’s income tax and the federal Common Core standards for public schools while reducing spending by slashing the annual budget.

The only heated moments came when Van Sant was asked about his previous voting record, including a vote in the Democrats’ 2012 presidential primary, and whether he donated money to Michelle Nunn, a Democrat who ran for governor last year.

That’s pretty solid reporting from the Forsyth News on  the local debate.

DeKalb Corruption Big and Small

The second trial of suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis on corruption charges begins today with opening statements.

This is the second time the charismatic politico has gone on trial on charges that he ordered work withheld from vendors who wouldn’t donate to his 2012 re-election campaign. Last fall, a jury deliberated for 11 days but couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict.

While testimony last year took three weeks, Superior Court Judge Courtney Johnson said Friday she expected it to last about two weeks this time.

Ellis, who has been suspended with pay for two years, is accused in a nine-count indictment of extortion, attempted extortion, bribery and perjury. District Attorney Robert James dropped four charges against Ellis that were part of the first trial.

DeKalb CEO Lee May has ordered the end to “P-cards,” which are like debit cards that county employees and officials were able to use to buy stuff with tax dollars with little oversight.

Interim DeKalb County CEO Lee May announced Monday that he’s indefinitely suspending the use of taxpayer-funded purchasing cards, which at times have been handed over to pay for personal items like plane flights, cellphone charges and ski resort bookings.

May’s decision is based on recommendations from special investigators, who found examples of suspicious expenses that didn’t benefit the county.

The charge card ban applies to county commissioners, their staffs and most of the nearly 300 DeKalb employees who have been issued P-cards. The cards may still be used in some circumstances, such as for emergencies, motor vehicle repairs and court expenses.

An audit of the county’s purchasing-card spending found lax oversight of the program and receipts missing for some expenses. The audit found that the DeKalb Board of Commissioners and its staff have spent $257,170 on P-cards since 2006. Receipts were submitted for only 57 percent of those transactions.

Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton said too much emphasis has been placed on minor charge card purchases.

“We’re focusing on the sensational part, the P-card purchases,” she said. “I want to get to the meat and potatoes and see what’s going on” in other areas of government, like the Department of Watershed Management.

DeKalb County Commissioner Nancy Jester was at the forefront of ending P-cards when she made it policy in her office that no P-cards would be issued to herself or employees in her office. To date, no P-cards have been issued in her office, but you won’t read that in the AJC. Common sense doesn’t require a recommendation from special investigators after the fact, nor does it make headlines.

Speaking of minor corruption, this weekend, I found a flyer placed on my mailbox. It was put there by DeKalb County workers who arrived on a full-blown garbage truck to stick it onto my mailbox.

Illegal Flyers628

This happens to be illegal under the Domestic Mail Manual, the bible that guides the use of the mails. DMM D041 §1.02 states:

Except under 2.11, the receptacles described in 1.1 may be used only for matter bearing postage. Other than as permitted by 2.10 or 2.11, no part of a mail receptacle may be used to deliver any matter not bearing postage, including items or matter placed upon, supported by, attached to, hung from, or inserted into a mail receptacle. Any mailable matter not bearing postage and found as described above is subject to the same postage as would be paid if it were carried by mail.

On Facebook, someone suggested that I’m talking about small potatoes.

Maybe it is small potatoes, but here’s my concern: (1) the DeKalb County Sanitation Department doesn’t seem to think the rules apply to them; (2) that these were delivered on a Sunday morning by garbage trucks; and (3) that iCEO Lee May thought it was a great idea to put a full-color photo of himself on the 4-color, die-cut door hanger distributed to every voter household in the County.

In sum, here’s my approach: letting government get away with the little stuff leads to them trying to get away with ever bigger stuff. When Elaine Boyer saw no repercussions for misuse of the county debit card for buying lunch for herself here and there, it led to ever larger purchases eventually totalling more than $15,000 and then to scamming taxpayers out of $70,000 through phony invoices from a vendor. Maybe if she’d been stopped after $100 in Starbucks cards or $452.31 at McKendrick’s Steakhouse, she never would have gotten to the $83k.

[Warning: there’s some language in the following clip that might be against the rules where you work.]

Brookhaven Prepares a Coronation Succession Plan

The Brookhaven Post writes about succession planning to fill the seat vacated by Brookhaven Mayor J. Max Davis, who is running in the Special Election for House District 80.

Due to Davis’ resignation, the Council will appoint someone to become Mayor. Through many conversations with both city officials and administrators, we are told the Brookhaven Council-members will nominate and vote on whether to appoint District One Councilwoman Rebecca Chase-Williams as the new Mayor. Davis’ unexpired term ends on December 31, 2015.

If Williams receives the nomination and appointment through a majority Council vote, it will leave her District One Council seat vacant. Once Williams has been sworn in as the new Mayor, she will then appoint a successor to serve the remainder of her term as District One Council-person, a term which also ends on December 31, 2015.

The Post is told Williams will nominate District One resident, Attorney Linley Jones as her successor on Council.

You also could have read most of this about three weeks ago in the morning news email.

Meanwhile, the City will use taxpayers sheep to clear the brush in Briarwood Park.

Beginning on Wednesday, June 10, sheep from the company Ewe-Niversally Green will be housed on three acres of the park for several days to help with the removal of what has become an issue in many of the city’s parks – the invasive growth of English ivy, privet and kudzu.

“At Briarwood Park, the location we have initially identified is one within a drainage swale where the only means to remove the overgrown vegetation is through the use of sheep herds,” said Parks Manager Gary Schussler.

The sheep will be enclosed with an electric fence built by Ewe-Niversally Green and will be protected by a livestock dog.

Body Camera Video Storage a Budget Issue

Floyd County Commissioners will vote on whether to apply for a federal grant to pay for storage for video generated by police body cameras, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

The commission will hold a public hearing on the $14,400 grant, which is awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice. A vote to apply for the grant, which has never been denied by the federal agency, will occur later in the meeting.

The purchase and installation of the server will require an additional $6,000, which the county has budgeted.

County Manager Jamie McCord said he wants to order the new computer server shortly after commission approval.

The Floyd County Sheriff’s Office was the first public safety agency in the county to get body cameras for its deputies. The county police department followed.

McCord said the existing server already stores data captured from in-car cameras used by law enforcement. The age of the current computer server coupled with the added data from the sheriff and police department’s body cameras warrants an upgrade.

The Valdosta City Council is also considering using a federal grant to deal with body camera video.

The city will consider a grant supporting an application with the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance for improvements to the Valdosta Police Department’s body-camera program.

The VPD is requesting a $40,000 grant for an $80,000 program. The grant requires a 50 percent local funding match.

The city will consider a second grant with the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Assistance for improvements for law-enforcement capabilities for VPD and for the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office. The grants are joint projects where VPD and the LCSO work together to request federal grant funds to improve law-enforcement services.

If approved, the city and county will apply for $13,476.50 for VPD and $4558.50 for LCSO. No match is required from the city, which will file the grant.

When the Newnan Police Department considered body cameras, the cost of video storage was tallied at roughly $60,000 per year.

Richmond County’s Sheriff found that video storage is the largest expense associated with body camera usage.

[Richmond County Sheriff’s Deputy Lt. Allan Rollins] said a server the size it would need was estimated to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and would have a short lifespan. Instead, the office opted for a cloud-based management system. While still extremely expensive, he said it was cheaper than getting a server. The annual cost of the cloud-based system was not disclosed and will depend on the amount of space needed.

“Data storage is the most expensive part of body cameras, but it has to be done,” Rollins said.

Body cameras are much smaller and store far less data than dash cameras, requiring more frequent emptying.

The Cobb County Police Dep­artment, which added 40 body cameras in June and uses a server, is already seeing potential storage issues.

“We have been confronted with management issues regarding body cameras, in that the storage space is so great that we are having to research additional resources for storing the data,” Public Information Officer Alicia Chilton said in an e-mail. “If all Cobb County officers are required to wear body cameras in the future, we are anticipating having a storage capacity issue.”

Cobb County Considers Transit

Four members of the Cobb County Commission support putting plans to implement Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) from midtown Atlanta on the ballot for a voter referendum, but Commisison Chair Tim Lee thinks that might not be necessary.

Cobb’s four district commissioners are all in favor of putting a proposed bus rapid transit project to connect the county with Midtown Atlanta on the ballot for a voter referendum.

Cobb Chairman Tim Lee told the MDJ last week he “could not answer right now” whether he would personally advocate putting the BRT on the ballot, but the other four members of the Board of Commissioners all said they supported a voter referendum.

On Monday, Lee offered a clarification to his previous statements.

“I certainly do not oppose a referendum if the (Board of Commissioners) chooses to move in that direction once the details of the project are known,” Lee said in an email. “There are too many unknowns — including project scope, timing, cost and available funding sources — to make a definitive statement today. It is always my policy to make sure I have all of the relative facts in front of me before I make a declarative statement about how I am going to vote on any issue.”

Random Shorts

Three very large cranes will pass under the Talmadge Bridge, which will be closed for the event, making their way to Puerto Rico.

Walton EMC will allow customers to reserve solar panels and benefit from energy produced at the coop’s solar farm.

Customers will pay $25 per month for five solar panels. In exchange, they’ll get a credit on their bill for the amount of energy the panels produce.

“This is the first one of its size anywhere for community solar,” said Jamie Porges, co-founder of Radiance Solar. His company built the six-acre facility in Monroe. He said more solar cooperative projects in Georgia are likely.

They’re expected to produce about 180 to 260 kilowatt hours per month, but it depends on the sun’s angle and weather. Because solar panels don’t involve rooftop installation, renters can also participate in the program.

“A lot of people are interested in the environmental aspect of it,” Brooks said. “They believe in solar power, they think it shows a lot of promise.”

Brooks said more than 100 customers have signed up thus far for the service, which begins July 1.

The Marietta City Council may consider an ordinance allowing alcohol sales at water parks in the city, according to the AJC.

Marietta City Council members are expected to review a proposal to allow the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages at water parks during their next meeting at 7 p.m. June 10, Council Chambers, City Hall, 205 Lawrence St.

This request came from Michael Sard, representing SFOG Acquisition Company for Six Flags White Water – Atlanta, 250 Cobb Parkway North, Suite 100, Marietta.

This comes after they denied an earlier request.

The City Council denied a request from Six Flags White Water to sell alcohol in the park in a Monday evening vote.

After about an hour of conversation about the request to change the city’s ordinances to allow wine and beer sales in White Water, only Philip Goldstein and Stuart Fleming voted in favor of advancing the request to the council’s Wednesday meeting for final action.

The request failed to go forward by a 4-2 vote with Grif Chalfant absent.

City Manager Bill Bruton said the city code only allows restaurants and bars to apply for a license to serve alcohol.

The ordinance change requested by Michael Sard, an Atlanta attorney representing the water park, would allow water parks at least 69 acres in size to apply for permits. White Water, the only water park in Marietta, is 69 acres.

The amendment would have allowed the park to sell alcohol between May 1 and Sept. 30. The park would have been allowed to store alcohol on its property during the other months.

Personally, I think that mixing alcohol and water is a bad idea unless it’s bourbon and branch. I’m not overly concerned about White Water patrons being overserved, however, as each beer is likely to cost roughly $73 dollars if soft drink prices at Six Flags are any indication.

Erratum: Yesterday, I wrote that Sen. Brandon Beach will host a meeting on transportation infrastructure, and the correct date is June 18 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Cherokee County Administration Building in Canton.

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