Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 11, 2023


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 11, 2023

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I was in my car that morning, on the way to my job when I heard on the radio of the first plane hitting. The announcers thought at first that it must be a small plane and likely an accident. Seventeen minutes later all doubt vanished as the second hit. I called Mrs. GaPundit at home. Over the next hour, a third plane hit the Pentagon and a fourth went down in a field in Pennsylvania. We watched on television as the towers burned, then collapsed.

Shortly afterwards, the Family Room opened in a nearby tower to provide a place for loved ones to grieve out of the public eye.

The Family Room opened in April 2002 in space donated by Brookfield Office Properties, the owners of 1 Liberty Plaza, across Church Street from the trade center site. By presenting what was known as a medical examiner’s family identification card, victims’ relatives were admitted during regular workdays and at night, on weekends and on holidays.

On the 20th floor, behind a door marked “The Family Room,” relatives could settle into ample leather couches or stand at windows 15 and 20 feet wide. The room was intended for “quiet contemplation,” said a 2002 notice from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which created and maintained the space, just a few doors down from its own headquarters and those of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center Foundation.

When the Family Room at 1 Liberty Plaza was replaced this summer by a new private gathering space in the National September 11 Memorial Museum pavilion, the [New York] State Museum and the memorial museum painstakingly documented the older room, and the State Museum acquired what contents family members themselves did not choose to reclaim.

There are materials in the Family Room collection related to about 1,000 victims, Mr. Schaming said, or roughly one-third of all casualties that day. “It is the most singular collection of the faces of people who were killed on 9/11,” he said.

A monument on Long Island to victims of 9-11 will include the names of 582 people who later died of conditions related to the aftermath of the attacks.

A separate plaque will have the names of 582 police officers, firefighters, construction workers, cleanup volunteers and others who spent time in the rubble of the World Trade Center in the days or months after the attacks and, years later, died of a variety of causes that they, their families or their doctors suspected were linked to toxic ash and smoke at the site. There will be room to add more names.

“I think what the town of Hempstead is doing is nothing short of honorable,” said John Feal, a longtime advocate for 9/11 responders with health problems. “People who lost a loved one to illness suffer just like someone lost on that day. Hopefully this will offer some ease and comfort to them.”

In May, officials at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum announced plans to set aside a commemorative space at the World Trade Center to honor rescue and recovery workers.

New York’s police and fire departments also have memorials for personnel who have died of illnesses since Sept. 11. A 9/11 memorial in Staten Island recently added a plaque with the names of residents there who have died of illnesses.

Feal’s charitable organization also maintains a memorial wall to 9/11 responders in Nesconset, New York.

James Oglethorpe arrived at Augusta on September 12, 1739, 279 years ago Saturday.

The Second Continental Congress opened in Philadelphia on September 13, 1775; Georgia was represented by Archibald Bulloch, Lyman Hall,  John Houstoun, and John Zubly.

French troops arrived near Savannah to prepare for a siege against British forces there on September 12, 1779.

On September 13, 1788, the Confederation Congress voted to implement the Constitution and authorized states to elect Senators and Representatives and called the first Presidential election, with selection of presidential electors in the states to be held on January 7, 1789, and February 4, 1789 as the day electors would cast their ballots.

One day after Perry’s victory in the Battle of Lake Erie, American Master Commandant Thomas Macdonough led American forces in the Battle of Plattsburg at Lake Champlain, New York on September 11, 1813.

The Union Army began evacuating civilians from Atlanta via Lovejoy’s Station on September 11, 1864.

The first two women to enter the Georgia General Assembly, Viola Ross Napier of Bibb County and Atlanta Constitution reporter Bessie Kempton of Fulton County, were elected on September 13, 1922.

Georgia-born Ty Cobb took his last at-bat on September 11, 1928.

After a week-long Presidential campaign swing through ten states, former Governor Jimmy Carter returned to Plains on September 11, 1976.

On September 11, 1985, Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb’s career hit record, notching number 4,192 against the San Diego Padres.

Six years ago today, all 159 counties in Georgia were under an emergency declaration from Hurricane Irma. The late Mrs. GaPundit and I spent days without power.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

From the AJC:

The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the war on terror that followed claimed the lives of more than 225 Georgians. Those men and women, along with others who died on 9/11 and the Global War on Terror, will be remembered today at the Patriot Day Ceremony at Georgia Military College.

Gov. Brian Kemp will headline the 10th annual event in Milledgeville. Kemp’s remarks will be followed by a somber campus tradition: students and faculty will write the names of all those who died on campus bricks.

United States Senator Jon Ossoff (D-Atlanta) urged state officials to reject a proposal for mining near the Okefenokee Swamp, according to the AJC.

“I’m calling today on the state of Georgia to reject strip mining near the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge,” he said.

Ossoff’s speech was delivered during the Georgia Rivers Gala, a fundraising event in Atlanta hosted by the Georgia River Network, a nonprofit that protects waterways statewide and is opposed to the mine. Ossoff also name-checked the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD), which is in charge of reviewing the company’s permit applications, and said there is “clear and convincing evidence” that the mining plan does not meet the state’s standards.

The Alabama company behind the mining project, Twin Pines Minerals, is seeking to extract titanium on a 580-acre tract of Trail Ridge, an ancient inland sand dune complex that forms the eastern boundary of the swamp.

The Okefenokee is a critical habitat for hundreds of species — including some that are endangered — and draws more than 700,000 tourists a year. It also holds millions of tons of peat deposits, preventing huge amounts of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from escaping into the atmosphere.

Earlier this year, scientists with the federal National Park Service also questioned the company’s claims, writing in a sharply worded critique that the hydrology modeling used by the company “obfuscates the true impacts from mining on the refuge.”

EPD spokeswoman Sara Lips said the agency has asked Twin Pines to “clarify” some items in their mining plan. Once those are received, Lips said EPD would determine whether additional information is needed and respond publicly to the volumes of comments and technical feedback it has received.

Voters in Leesburg and Smithville will elect new municipal officers in November, according to the Albany Herald.

The cities of Leesburg and Smithville will each have one competitive race in municipal elections in the fall, with one Leesburg City Council member and Smithville Mayor Vincent Cutts each drawing a challenger.

In Leesburg, Michael Brian Revell qualified recently to run for the District 5 seat currently held by Rufus Sherman Jr.

In Smithville, Jessie Angry qualified during the August qualifying period to challenge Cutts.

There are about 2,276 registered active voters in Leesburg and about 424 in Smithville, according to Lee County Election Supervisor Veronica Johnson.

Albany will have three competitive races on the Nov. 7 ballot, with four candidates vying to become mayor in January 2024, two candidates competing in Ward 1 and three in Ward IV.

Dougherty County Chief Deputy Terron Hayes announced he will run for Sheriff in 2024 after incumbent Sheriff Kevin Sproul announced he will retire, according to WALB.

On August 1, Sheriff Kevin Sproul announced that he does not plan to run for re-election in 2024. Sproul introduced and endorsed Hayes while announcing his retirement.

Hayes said that the work he has been doing with Sproul and in his current position as chief deputy has been a continuation of years of helping and assisting the community and youth of Albany-Dougherty County.

“When the sheriff announced that he was going to retire, I felt it was time for me to step up and take the reins and continue to make our office better and continue to take our office to another level,” he said.

Hayes outlined his vision should he be elected to be the county’s 19th sheriff. Jail to Jobs and assisting the current workforce to obtain degrees are among his vision.

Jail to Jobs is a program that gives inmates an opportunity to get their GED, an Associate’s Degree and be able to go out and go to work so that they do not have to worry about going back to jail due to a lack of opportunity or feel that there is nothing out there for them.

“Giving them an opportunity to become part of our workforce, will lower the recidivism rate and their chances of coming back to us because they’d be making their own money instead of taking other people’s money,” Hayes said.

If he is elected as sheriff, Hayes said Dougherty County residents can expect the sheriff’s office to go to the next level to help residents and youth have opportunities that they wouldn’t normally have.

“Given we have with our youth a sheriff activity league that we’re going to implement,” Hayes said. “That sheriff activity league is going to give youth something to do. It’s going to have an after-school program, it’s going to have an athletic program, it’s going to have opportunities that kids wouldn’t normally have here in Albany, Georgia.”

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says some Berrien County farmers may be eligible for aid after Idalia, according to WALB.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is encouraging farmers in Berrien County to follow these three steps if they have suffered crop damage due to Hurricane Idalia.

Before taking any action, farmers are encouraged not to start cleanup, unless it is harmful or dangerous damage. All other damage should remain until the Farm Service Agency (FSA) adjuster completes his survey.

Lowndes, Cook, and Glynn County residents may be eligible for FEMA aid, according to WALB.

Now that Lowndes County will receive FEMA funds, residents and businesses can apply for grants for temporary housing, repairs, and low-cost loans for uninsured property losses. Money for local governments and some non-profits will go towards debris removal and emergency protective measures.

“It’s been brutal. This is the first hurricane in our 166-year history,” Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson said. “We just did a $2 million contract this morning to aid ourselves, and we’re still looking at six to eight weeks for clean up.”

Lowndes County sustained the worst damage, with around 80 homes destroyed and over 800 homes with major damage as winds reached nearly 70 mph.

“It has been inspiring to watch everybody turn around and help each other. It was inspiring to see almost 1,500 bucket trucks from Mississippi and Alabama show up in our community to get our power restored fast,” Matheson said.

The Georgia Management Agency expects more counties will be added with additional types of assistance granted.

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla) discussed hurricane damage, according to 13WMAZ.

“We are probably 50-60% loss of this year’s pecan crop in the impacted zone and upwards of 25 percent loss of trees in the impact zone,” he said at a press conference.

Harper says although that’s significant, it’s only a tiny portion of what Georgia could produce this season. And central Georgia farmers like Cason Anderson largely dodged the worst of the storm.

Hurricane Idalia may have a small impact on what you pay at the market this year, but something else is in the works. India has lowered their tariffs by seventy percent to get Georgia pecans into that market.

India could become a big paycheck for Georgia farmers.

“I always think you make the most money when you export something,” Anderson said with a smile.

Georgia is the top producer of pecans in the country, and the United States is the leader in producing pecans on the planet.

Anderson projects you will pay about $6 for 12-ounce packages in the store. And $8-$11 for a one-pound package.

The University System of Georgia conferred a record number of degrees, according to WRDW.

The overall number of degrees awarded by University System of Georgia institutions in Fiscal Year 2023 increased by 1% over the previous fiscal year, reaching a new all-time high of 75,228.

Augusta University also awarded a record number of degrees in Fiscal Year 2023, surpassing the 2,543 awarded the year before.

Across Georgia, the number of degrees awarded has risen by 37.1% since USG joined the Complete College America program in 2011 and prioritized increasing degree completion in Georgia.

Over the same period, system enrollment increased 5.2%, meaning the rate of awarding degrees continues to outpace enrollment.

USG officials say several initiatives have continued to help promote degree completion, including the Momentum Year program, which focuses on the first-year college experience. Other programs include those that use predictive analytics to more quickly alert advisors to lagging student performance and provide “degree roadmaps” to help students avoid spending time and money in courses that do not count toward their degree.

Opponents of “Cop City” will present a petition asking for a referendum, according to Atlanta News First via WRDW.

Opponents of Atlanta’s future public safety training center are planning to submit a petition Monday featuring more than 116,000 signatures in an attempt to force city leaders to let voters decide whether the plan should move forward.

A group called “The Vote to Stop Cop City Coalition” has planned a news conference at 10 a.m. followed by the delivery of the signatures.

The delivery will happen ahead of a timeline an appeals court had imposed.

City officials must then verify that at least 58,223 of the signatures are from registered Atlanta voters.

From the AJC:

The group leading the effort, Cop City Vote Coalition, announced its plan Thursday, close to three months after the collection of signatures began and ahead of a new timeline a federal judge had granted the group. On July 27, Judge Mark Cohen’s ruling allowed non-Atlanta residents to collect signatures and extended the collection timeline by 60 days.

However, on Sept. 1, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted the city of Atlanta a temporary delay in the July 27 injunction.

The order by the 11th Circuit caused confusion, one of the plaintiffs in the case said, so organizers decided to go ahead and submit the signatures Monday instead of using the entire 60 days that Cohen’s ruling had allowed.

“It was a one-sentence ruling that just says that the stay of the injunction was granted but there were no stipulations that came with it, there were no instructions, so we really don’t understand what that stay actually means,” said Keyanna Jones, community leader and plaintiff in the federal case. “The only thing that was very clear to us is that we need to go ahead and submit the petitions that we have.”

The city outlined the verification process as follows:

The signature pages will be sealed in front of petitioners and taken to a secure vault until they are scanned. Petitioners and the media will then be provided with copies of the pages, and each page will be marked with a unique identifying designation. Then, each line will be reviewed to determined whether the name and other information present corresponds to a registered Atlanta voter, and whether those signatures match that of the unique voter.

Organizers, state and local officials, as well as local voting and civil rights groups expressed concerns over the city’s usage of signature match to verify the collected signatures, but Webb said the city “will not engage in signature exact matching” during the verification process and will only use “individual inspection of signatures” to determine validity when clarity is needed.

Gwinnett County Transit may expand its services to include Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

County commissioners got their first look at Gwinnett’s new Transit Development Plan on Tuesday. The plan throws out all of the concepts included in plans that voters rejected in back-to-back referendums in 2019 and 2020 and starts over from scratch with plans to expand local and microtransit services — and provide connections to the world’s busiest airport.

“This is a plan that is mobility for all,” Transit Capital Program Director China Thomas said. “This plan, it allows our residents to now rethink the way that they can move around our county. It takes them out of their vehicles. It allows them to reduce some of their costs when we think about gas and insurance. It allows them to have an alternative mode.

For now, the plan is just a proposal. County commissioners are expected to vote on whether to adopt it at their Sept. 19 business meeting. After that, the plan will go to the Atlanta Transit Link Authority, better known as the ATL, for review and inclusion into its regional transit plan.

The University System of Georgia Board of Regents finalized their ask for the next state budget cycle, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The University System of Georgia is taking advantage of a strong state economy by seeking a $385.4 million increase in its fiscal 2024 mid-year budget.

With the state sitting on a massive budget surplus, Gov. Brian Kemp has given state agencies permission to request 3% spending increases in both the mid-year budget, which covers spending through next June, and the fiscal 2025 budget, which takes effect next July.

The system’s Board of Regents voted Friday to request a mid-year budget of $3.6 billion in state funds. The largest portion of that money — $119.1 million — would go to pay off the bond indebtedness incurred in building seven fee-funded public-private construction projects, including student dorms and parking facilities.

Paying off the debt portion of those projects would considerably reduce the fees students who use the facilities would have to pay, Tracey Cook, the university system’s chief fiscal officer, told board members before Friday’s vote.

Former Dougherty County Administrator Michael McCoy began work as interim County Administrator for Terrell County, according to the Albany Herald.

“The leadership (in Terrell County) reached out to me about working there, and with more than 25 years of management experience in the public sector, I’ve always loved the work,” McCoy said. “I saw this as an opportunity to continue serving the people of southwest Georgia, and Terrell County in particular.

“The leaders here know that my case is still pending in Dougherty County and there’s a possibility that I will retain my job there. That’s why we agreed to make this an interim position. But I’m prepared to devote myself to the people of this community, just as I did in Dougherty County.”

McCoy has a $5 million lawsuit pending against Dougherty County after four members of the Dougherty County Commission voted to fire him, declaring that McCoy “disrespected” them by not discussing plans to hire a white assistant county administrator. McCoy and all four members of the commission who voted to oust him are black.

McCoy’s suit includes charges that the Dougherty board defamed his character, operated a hostile work environment and broke state whistleblower laws. Commission Chairman Lorenzo Heard and Commissioners Victor Edwards, Clinton Johnson and Gloria Gaines also have been charged with breaking state and local laws in their handling of McCoy’s firing.

Researchers at UGA and Georgia Tech say Georgia’s traditional accent is waning, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“We found that, here in Georgia, white English speakers’ accents have been shifting away from the traditional Southern pronunciation for the last few generations,” said Margaret Renwick, associate professor in UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of linguistics and lead on the study. “Today’s college students don’t sound like their parents, who didn’t sound like their own parents.”

The researchers observed the most notable change between the baby boomer generation (born 1943 to 1964) and Generation X (born 1965 to 1982), when the accent fell off a cliff.

“We had been listening to hundreds of hours of speech recorded in Georgia and we noticed that older speakers often had a thick Southern drawl, while current college students didn’t,” Renwick said. “We started asking, which generation of Georgians sounds the most Southern of all? We surmised that it was baby boomers, born around the mid-20th century. We were surprised to see how rapidly the Southern accent drops away starting with Gen X.”

The UGA/Georgia Tech team is the first to identify the accent shift in Georgia.

“The demographics of the South have changed a lot with people moving into the area, especially post World War II,” said co-author Jon Forrest, UGA assistant professor in the department of linguistics. Forrest noted that what the researchers see in Georgia is part of a shift noted by others across the entire South, and furthermore, other areas of the U.S. now have similar vowel patterns. “We are seeing similar shifts across many regions, and we might find people in California, Atlanta, Boston and Detroit that have similar speech characteristics,” Forrest said.

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