Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 4, 2023

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 4, 2023

On October 4, 1918, President Woodrow Wilson sent a telegram to the Georgia Democratic Party Convention delegates in appreciation for their support of his admininstration.

The Savannah River Bridge opened on October 4, 1925.

The Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, on October 4, 1957.

Beverly Hills, 90210 debuted on October 4, 1990.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

McDonald’s announced the (yet again) return of the McRib. Glory! From WJBF:

“It turns out not everyone was ready to say goodbye to the McRib after last year’s Farewell Tour,” reads a statement from McDonald’s. “While it won’t be available nationwide, some lucky fans may find their favorite elusive saucy sandwich at their local McDonald’s restaurants this November.”

The sandwich, which debuted on menus in Kansas City, Kansas, in 1981, has enjoyed a cult following for decades, thanks in no small part to its fleeting, sporadic appearances at restaurants. Speaking to its elusiveness, Mike Bullington, the senior archives manager for McDonald’s, said in a 2021 press release that the sandwich was designed to be “enjoyed during the colder seasons.”

McDonald’s had also previously revealed that the sandwich infrequently appears on its restaurants’ menus because it’s “a local option based on customer demand,” according to a 2017 tweet from the company.

Early voting in Chatham County municipal elections begins October 16, 2023, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Municipal elections across Chatham County are heating up, with races from Tybee Island to Savannah to Pooler set for election day on Nov. 7.

Early voting across Chatham County’s cities begins on Oct. 16 and runs through Nov. 3, and there are five advance voting locations sprinkled across the county.

Some reminders:

Request an absentee ballot early. You cannot request an absentee ballot any later than 11 days before an election, or Oct. 27 in this case.

Precincts and districts may have changed with the 2022 redistricting. Make sure you know what district you live in and what precinct you can vote in. Those who live in unincorporated Chatham County are not eligible to vote in municipal elections. So, if you reside on Wilmington Island or in The Landings, you cannot vote for Savannah mayor and aldermen.

Advance voting is permitted at any of the five locations for registered Chatham County residents. For example, if a voter lives on Tybee Island but works in Savannah, they could vote at the Civic Center during their lunch break, McRae said.

For those early voting on the weekend, the options will be at the VR Annex and Civic Center. Saturday early voting is on Oct. 21 and Oct. 28.

Governor Brian Kemp announced that Area Development magazine named Georgia the top state for business for the tenth consecutive year, according to Atlanta News First via WTOC.

Area Development’s 2023 Top States for Doing Business rankings are based on scores from approximately 50 leading site consulting firms from across the U.S. in 14 categories, they said.

Georgia placed in the top 10 for all 14 categories, earning the No. 1 spot in seven classifications and claiming the overall No. 1 ranking, according to the magazine.

“For 10 straight years, the people who help businesses choose where to make long-term investments have repeatedly said Georgia is the best state in the nation for opportunity,” said Kemp. “Despite the unprecedented challenges we’ve seen in recent years, men and women across Georgia continued putting in countless hours of hard work for their communities. Thanks to their efforts, we’ve brought record-breaking jobs and investments to all four corners of the state, especially to rural Georgia.”

The Georgia State Elections Board rejected the idea of going back to voting on hand-marked paper ballots, according to the Capitol Beat News Service.

Both state law and the Georgia Constitution require that voters be allowed to cast their ballots in secrecy. But that doesn’t always happen in Georgia, Marilyn Marks, executive director of the Coalition for Good Governance, a ballot-security advocacy group, told board members before Tuesday’s vote.

“The screens are so large and so light it’s hard not to see how other people are voting,” she said.

Marks’ organization brought a proposed amendment to state election rules requiring touch screens be positioned so that no one can get behind a voter within 30 feet of a machine while voting is taking place. Adjacent screens would have to be at least eight feet apart.

Marks said most precincts are large enough to accommodate four to six touch-screen machines and still leave room for hand-marked paper ballot stations.

From the AJC:

The rule change would have permitted paper ballot voting stations along with touchscreens in polling places where there isn’t enough space to shield voters’ choices from eavesdropping.

Janice Johnston, a member of the board, said she’s uncomfortable with permitting hand-marked paper ballots and touchscreens at the same time.

“I have reservations about having two voting methods being performed constantly throughout an election, with the poll workers’ obligations to track both of those, to track the counts, the paper, the logistics,” Johnston said. “It doesn’t seem to add to the potential for orderliness in elections that we’re striving for.”

The Georgia Constitution requires a secret ballot, and state law calls for “voting in absolute secrecy so that no person can see or know any other elector’s votes.”

The State Election Board previously upheld the universal in-person use of touchscreens when it ruled against Athens-Clarke County’s effort in March 2020 to switch to hand-marked paper ballots because of privacy concerns. A judge in Sumter County also rejected a lawsuit over the same issue the month beforehand.

Several environmental groups want to join a lawsuit to ensure fishing access on the Flint River, according to the Albany Herald.

The Georgia Wildlife Federation and Flint Riverkeeper, represented by Southern Environmental Law Center, have asked to join a lawsuit in Talbot County Superior Court in support of the state of Georgia’s defense of the public’s right to fish in the Flint River.

Marker 21 LLC, a riverfront property owner, is suing the state for a ruling that the company can control who fishes a portion of Yellow Jacket Shoals, a stretch of the Flint River that is world-renowned for its shoal bass. Shoal bass are a relatively rare, native species of black bass that are difficult and fun to catch.

“Anglers from all over the country, and even the world, travel to Yellow Jacket Shoals to pursue this unique fish in this beautiful place,” Georgia Wildlife Federation President and CEO Mike Worley said. “It is good for the fishery, and it is good for the local economy.”

“The Flint River, including Yellow Jacket Shoals, is a treasure meant for people to enjoy. The dry land is private; the river is not,” Flint Riverkeeper Gordon Rogers added.

According to Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources, Yellow Jacket Shoals is navigable and open to the public for fishing. For centuries people have used the Flint River for fishing, paddling, swimming, and agricultural irrigation.

“Our state government builds boat ramps and stocks our rivers with fish so the public can access scenic waterways, like the upper Flint River, for fishing,” SELC Senior Attorney April Lipscomb said.

Previous efforts to limit fishing rights on the Flint River resulted in Georgia lawmakers creating a new law earlier this year clarifying that the state of Georgia owns rivers that are navigable across the state and members of the public have a right to fish and hunt in them.

The Georgia Ports Authority plans to build a new terminal on Hutchinson Island in Savannah, according to the AJC.

The Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) recently submitted a permitting application for the terminal with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The facility is to be built on land the authority owns in the shadow of Savannah’s Talmadge Bridge on Hutchinson Island, a 2,000-acre isle that prior in the 1990s was a CSX railroad-owned wildland.

Today, Hutchinson Island is home to the Savannah Convention Center, a Westin hotel resort and golf course, a fledgling luxury housing community and a still-under-construction mixed-use development and marina. The ports authority plans to build three berths for freighters to dock on a swath of land upriver from the convention center and hotel.

Global trade is a growing part of the Georgia economy, touching every corner of the state. A 2022 report by the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business commissioned by the authority concluded that the state’s deep-water ports in Savannah and Brunswick support 561,000 jobs across the state.

The Hutchinson Island Terminal “will allow GPA to meet future demands for container volumes, to grow with the growing economy, and to accommodate the changing trends to transportation and shipment of goods across the Southeast,” wrote Christopher Novack, GPA’s director of Engineering and Facilities Maintenance, in the permit application.

The Georgia Senate will empanel a committee to study the Fulton County jail, according to a Press Release.

On Thursday, October 5, Senator John Albers (R – Roswell) and Senator Randy Robertson (R – Cataula) will hold a press conference at Liberty Plaza. Lt. Governor Burt Jones will join the press conference addressing Senate action in response to the current incidents and challenges reported at the Fulton County Jail.

From the AJC:

The announcement comes as some Senate Republicans seek to punish Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis for initiating a wide-ranging election interference indictment against Donald Trump and 18 others.

The subcommittee is expected to scrutinize Willis’ use of resources and her strategy to tackle an enormous backlog of cases that worsened during the pandemic. But officials say she won’t be the singular focus of the investigation.

“We don’t know the root cause of the challenges so anything would be premature at this point. We will follow the facts,” said Albers, who is tapping Robertson to head the subcommittee. “This issue is the conditions and deaths at the jail.”

“The DA is required by Georgia law to have a grand jury inspect the sanitary condition of the jail and the treatment of inmates, and it isn’t clear she’s carried out that duty,” said state Sen. Jason Anavitarte, one of the chamber’s top Republicans. “She did find time and resources to pursue politically chosen cases when the jail has been deteriorating, resulting in deaths.”

More than 60 people who were held at the jail or other facilities operated or leased by Fulton County have died since 2009, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation.

And the Justice Department is also investigating conditions inside the jail, citing the Sept. 13 death of a homeless and mentally ill man in the lockup’s psychiatric wing.

Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat has been blunt about the jail’s disastrous conditions, calling it a “humanitarian crisis.” He’s talked of inmates crafting crumbling walls into makeshift weapons and “longstanding, dangerous overcrowding” as he’s called for a next-generation replacement facility.

State Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome) read to students in a local school, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The Georgia High School Association (GHSA) board voted to allow “name, image, likeness” deals for high school athletes, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Macon Telegraph.

Monday’s vote will put high school athletes on a par with their older brothers and sisters playing college sports. The General Assembly passed legislation two years ago letting student-athletes at Georgia colleges, universities and technical colleges receive compensation for use of their name, image and likeness.

Students may not wear school logos, school names, school uniforms, or any items depicting school mascots or any trademarked GHSA logo or acronym in association with NIL advertising.

Compensation paid through NILs must not be contingent on specific athletic performance or achievement, or as an incentive to enroll or remain enrolled at a specific school.

Columbia County Commissioners voted to require a mile distance between existing tattoo parlors and new permit applicants, according to WRDW.

An unanimous vote by the Columbia County commission now limits on where new tattoo parlors can go.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” said Randy Teston, owner of The Body Shop Tattoo Parlor and Piercing. “I think that’s good for business. I don’t want to encroach on anybody else’s business. I’m not trying to take any of theirs. I think there’s enough to go around and spacing out the places.”

District One Commissioner Connie Melear said: “We had several applications come in at once that had to do with tattoo parlors and those businesses in order to keep them all from being on top of each other.”

“We don’t want to take away anybody’s opportunity to have a business or make money in a capitalist society for sure. But we want to be sure we do the right thing for everybody. And this will make them all more successful in the end,” she said.

Current tattoo parlors are fine where they are. The distance between businesses now goes into effect for anyone looking to bring in a business in the future, making the process as clear as it can be and hopefully ending up with what Teston has.

I deduct two points for incorrect use of “an unanimous” instead of “a unanimous decision.”

Augusta Commissioners voted to rename a section of the Riverwalk after a former Mayor, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Augusta Commission on Tuesday voted to change the name of the Augusta Riverwalk and 8th Street Plaza to the Edward M. McIntyre Sr. Riverwalk Park and Square at 8th Street. The commission also approved renaming the utilities building for the late director Tom Wiedmeier and a baseball field at Diamond Lakes for the late commissioner Fred Ancil “Andy” Cheek III. The roll call vote for all three proposals was 6-3.

Gwinnett County Commissioners voted for 5% pay raises for county employees, according to AccessWDUN.

“Last year I talked about bold compensation as a means of keeping Gwinnett the public sector employer of choice,” Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson, said in a press release. “Today we must continue to offer generous compensation and benefits to attract and retain the talent needed to provide superior services to our vibrantly connected community.”

The move will also increase the salaries of first responders in police, fire and emergency services, sheriff’s office, district attorney’s office, solicitor’s office, corrections and E911 by an additional three percent, bringing the total pay raise for these employees to eight percent.

The Board’s focus on increased compensation also aims to acknowledge the impact the rising cost of living has had on employees since the last market adjustment.

“Our employees are dedicated public servants and the foundation of this benchmark organization,” County Administrator Glenn Stephens, said. “This market adjustment demonstrates our commitment to their well-being and positions us to compete with other jurisdictions to recruit the best and the brightest employees to serve our residents and businesses.”

From the AJC:

The Gwinnett County Police Department has 199 vacancies as of Wednesday, representing about 21% of authorized positions. Chief J.D. McClure said police academy graduation rates had improved and the county has eight more 911 dispatchers than the beginning of the year.

“We’re slowly getting there,” he said. “It just takes time.”

Sheriff Keybo Taylor thanked commissioners and County Administrator Glenn Stephens after Tuesday’s vote. He did not know the number of vacancies in his department offhand.

The county commission last year approved 8-10% raises across the board, but cost of living has increased more than 6% since then, Human Resources Director Adrienne McAllister said.

The raises will cost the county $8 million, which comes from the payroll budget for vacant positions and unspent funds from various county departments, Hendrickson said.

Some Montgomery County residents seek greater transparency from County Commissioners, according to WTOC.

“Tell me what you’re doing tell me where my money is going. Tell me what you’re gonna do for me.”

The recent tax assessment has residents of the county concerned, and even confused about where the money is going, so a group they call the Informed Citizen Coalition started asking those questions.

“I feel as if we’re doing everything we can to be transparent. They have one question and requested numerous open record request,” said County Commissioner Chad Kenney.

Commissioner Chad Kenney points to open records requests filled by the county as well as printed off financial breakdowns of county spending saying he doesn’t want citizens to feel as if they are in the dark.

“I have no problem with the citizens forming a coalition and asking questions. I haven’t been contacted by a single one of them. All they have to do is reach out to the county commissioners. Every single one of us definitely will answer the questions and do whatever they can to get them the answer they’re looking for,” said Commissioner Kenney.

Commission Chairman Leland Adams says that when it comes to transparency, it’s a two-way street.

“Their thing is to stand up in the meetings, and say transparency, transparency. I need you to be more transparent. My question then is what are you not seeing? If I don’t know what you’re not seeing, I can’t share it,” said Commission Chairman Adams.

 

 

 

 

Statesboro City Council member Phil Boyum will remain in his seat through at least the end of 2023, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Councilman Phil Boyum from District 1 attended Tuesday’s 9 a.m. Statesboro City Council meeting remotely, by Zoom teleconferencing, actively participated and didn’t say a word in public about the status of his previously announced resignation from the council.

But it was the last meeting that his resignation, if offered immediately, could have occurred in time for the council to call a special election to fill the remaining two years of his unexpired term and have it occur along with the Nov. 7 regular council election in District 2.

So the Statesboro Herald phoned and texted Boyum after Tuesday’s meeting. Texting in reply, he said he now intends to remain on the council until the end of 2023, “at a minimum.”

Boyum had announced, during a council meeting Aug. 15, that he intended to resign effective Dec. 31, and made a motion, which was approved 5-0 by the council members, to call a special District 1 election for Nov. 7. Holding a special election on the same day with the regular election, and especially since Districts 1 and 2 share the same Election Day voting place, would save the city money and staff members time, he asserted.

If he resigned at the end of the year or later, a special election next year would have to be held on a date when no regular city elections are scheduled. In Georgia, 2024 is a county, state and federal election year, and municipal elections are normally held in odd-numbered years.

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