Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 27, 2023

27
Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 27, 2023

William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, invaded England on September 28, 1066.

On September 27, 1779, John Jay, who previously served as President of the Continental Congress, was appointed minister to Spain to seek Spanish support for the revolution.

President Franklin Roosevelt made his ninth visit to Warm Springs, Georgia on September 27, 1927.

September 27 is a red-letter day for the Atlanta Braves and pitcher John Smoltz. The team won a record 14th straight Division Championship on this day in 2005. Smoltz set a team record for regular season wins (24) on September 27, 1996 and extended his team record for strikeouts hitting 276.

On September 27, 2002, Smoltz set a National League record with 54 saves.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

AAA says that gas prices are falling as Governor Kemp’s suspension of the motor fuel tax becomes effective, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

The Georgia gas price average continues to decline at the pump compared to a week ago. Georgia drivers are now paying an average price of $3.30 per gallon for regular unleaded gasoline (subject to change overnight).

Monday’s state average was 9 cents less than a week ago, 29 cents less than a month ago, and 18 cents more than this time last year. It now costs an average of $49.50 to fill a 15-gallon tank of regular gasoline. Georgians are paying an average of $4.35 less to fill up at the pump compared to a month ago.

“The switch to less expensive winter blend gasoline and the governor’s suspension of Georgia’s state gas tax continue to be the driving forces lowering prices at the pump,” said Montrae Waiters with AAA.

Last night, returning to Atlanta from Athens, I saw multiple stations with gas at $2.95. I can’t remember the last time we saw it under $3/gallon. Thanks, Governor Kemp.

The United States Supreme Court rejected Alabama’s Congressional redistricting map, according to SCOTUSblog.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected Alabama’s request to allow it to use a congressional map in the 2024 elections that a lower court had concluded likely violates the Voting Rights Act. The brief unsigned order, from which there were no public dissents, came less than four months after a divided Supreme Court agreed that the 2021 iteration of the map violated federal law by weakening the collective voting power of Black voters in the state.

Tuesday’s order from the Supreme Court means that the redistricting process in Alabama will go forward with court-appointed experts preparing new maps that include a second majority-Black district.

A federal court in Alabama agreed with the challengers that the 2021 map likely violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which bans racial discrimination in voting. In February 2022, the Supreme Court temporarily put that order on hold, which allowed Alabama to use its map in the 2022 elections, and agreed to review the lower courts’ decisions.

The state returned to the drawing board, and in July the legislature enacted a new plan that once again contained only one majority-Black district. Finding it “substantially likely” that the 2023 map violates the Voting Rights Act because it failed to create an additional majority-Black district or “something close to it,” the lower court appointed two experts to draw a new map.

Alabama came back to the Supreme Court on Sept. 11, asking the justices to intervene quickly. It told the Supreme Court that the lower court had rejected the 2023 map solely because it did not contain a second majority-Black district – which, the state argued, the Supreme Court has said is not required. And citing the court’s recent decisions striking down the consideration of race in university admissions, the state contended that the lower court’s rule “has no logical endpoint,” but would instead require it to “have to continue intentionally creating a second majority-black district in lieu of keeping together” local communities indefinitely.

In a pair of unsigned orders issued shortly before 10 a.m., the justices turned down Alabama’s request to intervene in the dispute. If any justices disagreed with the disposition of the request, they did not voice that disagreement publicly.

From the AJC:

The court’s decision followed a surprise ruling in June that reaffirmed a landmark civil rights law in finding that Republican lawmakers in Alabama diluted Black voting power. Plaintiffs contesting Georgia’s maps recently wrapped up a two-week federal trial, arguing lawmakers’ redrawing of U.S. House district lines in northern metro Atlanta had a similar effect.

The new boundaries contributed to Republicans gaining one seat in the state’s congressional delegation in the 2022 election. The changes were so overt that the then-U.S. House member from the 6th District, Democrat Rep. Lucy McBath, ran for — and won — the seat in a neighboring, more left-leaning district rather than seek reelection in the gerrymandered 6th.

McBath and other Democrats are already maneuvering to compete in otherwise safe GOP districts in the north Atlanta suburbs in case the lines are overhauled again. McBath, a Marietta resident, could return to the 6th District if the seat is redrawn.

The Biden Administration’s Secretaries of Education and Agriculture wrote Governor Kemp asking him to address historical state funding levels they say disfavored the HBCU Fort Valley State University, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The disparity between the two land-grant universities in Georgia — the University of Georgia and Fort Valley State University — from the past 30 years or so alone was calculated to be in excess of $600 million. “These funds could have supported infrastructure and student services and would have better positioned the university to compete for research grants,” said the letter sent to Gov. Brian Kemp. “Fort Valley State University has been able to make remarkable strides and would be much stronger and better positioned to serve its students, your state, and the nation if made whole with respect to this funding gap.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, in a statement last week, said, “Unacceptable funding inequities have forced many of our nation’s distinguished Historically Black Colleges and Universities to operate with inadequate resources and delay critical investments in everything from campus infrastructure to research and development to student support services.”

Statesboro and Bulloch County hosted a public input session to discuss transporation planning, according to the Statesboro Herald.

In-person public input toward an update of the Long-Range Transportation Plan for Statesboro and Bulloch County began Monday evening with some of those workshop exercises where people from the community put color-coded sticky dots on charts and maps.

But city and county officials and their consultants from the GMC firm hope to move on to less abstract planning by a second public workshop meeting in February and, by next August, to produce detailed action plans for road improvement projects and  potentially also for projects to benefit alternative transportation modes such as walking and cycling, extending through 2045. Projections for funding of projects from federal, state and local sources is also expected for a five-year first stage.

White County Commissioners voted to adopt a moratorium on new Short Term Rentals, according to AccessWDUN.

The White County Board of Commissioners has been struggling with a flood of zoning applications from homeowners seeking to put their property up for short-term rental use. The process has become so burdensome that during Monday night’s commission meeting, Commissioner Edwin Nix proposed placing a moratorium on the process.

“I don’t think we will ever get rid of them, I think we will have to deal with them somehow or another but I think this board needs to put a 120-day moratorium on all short-term rentals until the planning commission gets an opportunity to clear the ones that are clogging the system up and we get an idea of how many we really have,” said Nix.

The moratorium will go into effect on October 2 and Commission Chairman Travis Turner said, “Any application that has been filed up to October 2 will be honored and will be allowed to go through the zoning process.”

Commissioner Terry Goodger seconded the motion and the board approved it unanimously.

Columbia County Commissioners are considering new zoning rules for tattoo parlors, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Under the proposed change, businesses legally designated as tattoo parlors must be located at least one mile from other tattoo parlors. The ordinance wouldn’t affect tattoo studios that already are in business.

Commissioners voted unanimously June 6 to place a moratorium on tattoo-shop applications after concerns arose about placing the businesses on certain types of commercial property. The moratorium was scheduled to last either 120 days or until new amendments to the county code are adopted.

The one-mile-distance condition is similar to another Columbia County ordinance passed in May 2022 requiring liquor stores to stay at least one mile apart from one another. That change was spurred after three applicants asked unsuccessfully in late 2021 to erect separate liquor stores at the same intersection of Furys Ferry and Evans to Locks roads.

Augusta Commissioners are considering a PR campaign to reduce panhandling, according to WRDW.

[C]ommissioners were pushing for a new panhandling campaign based on “Give Change that Counts” that’s already active in Savannah.

“There is a difference between panhandling and homelessness. For example, everyone whose homeless does not panhandle. And everyone who panhandles is not homeless,” said Danielle Hayes, Augusta Public Information Manager.

The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office said in last week’s panhandling meeting upwards of 90% of the panhandlers they’ve interacted with are not homeless.

The goal is to make sure your money isn’t misused on the street, but sent to a non-profit that provides valuable resources.

It would cost $25,000 for a one-year campaign including media ads and fliers. The funds would come from the city administrator’s budget.

Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson has nominated interim police chief Stoney Mathis for the permanent position and City Council will vote on whether to confirm the appointment, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Mathis was hired as the interim chief in May after the council pushed out former chief Freddie Blackmon. Blackmon, whose attorneys threatened to sue the city for racial discrimination, ultimately accepted a $400,000 severance package.

Mathis has held the position of police chief at the Chattahoochee Hills Police Department and the Fairburn Police Department.

During his tenure as the police chief in Fairburn from 2018-22 the city saw a 52% reduction in its crime rate, according to Henderson.

“I’m going to come in and raise the level of morale, that’s my goal,” Mathis said at a news conference during his first few days as interim police chief. “Build relationships with the community, that’s my second goal…. My management style is I manage by walking around.”

Milton City Council member Rick Mohrig is being criticized for allegedly trying to hide a private meeting he held with two poll workers, according to the AJC.

Councilman Rick Mohrig met with the Milton poll workers, a married couple who have since resigned, at their home Sept. 7, according to the city manager Steve Krokoff.

“There is nothing inherently wrong” with the meeting, but the councilman’s efforts to hide it raises questions and concerns, Krokoff said.

Krokoff is Milton’s elections superintendent. The city is managing the set-up of the November municipal election for the first time, instead of Fulton County. Mohrig is running for reelection against candidate Phillip Cranmer.

The political action committee Milton Families First is accusing Mohrig of trying to “influence the outcome of his own election.”

During public comment at a Milton City Council meeting on Sept. 18, Adam Hollingsworth, president of Milton Families First, accused Mohrig of attempting to meddle in the upcoming election and called for him to step down from his position.

The organization supports Mohrig’s opponent. Hollingsworth said on Monday that he believes Mohrig has made himself a priority over Milton residents’ needs.

Winder and Barrow County identified an issue rendering stormwater fee bills misleading, according to AccessWDUN.

Winder city officials learned of a billing error last week and has verified that the Barrow County Tax Commissioner acknowledged receipt of timely, accurate data in early August.

Therefore, City of Winder property owners should expect to receive a revised bill reflecting the correct stormwater fee in the coming weeks.

Six candidates for Savannah City Council’s At-Large District 1 seat met in a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Coastal Georgia, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Tuesday’s event was the first in a series of forums by the League of Women Voters of Coastal Georgia, which will host events for Post 2 and mayoral candidates in the coming weeks.

At one key moment Tuesday night, moderator and WJCL anchor Greg Coy asked the six candidates present how they would have voted on one of the current city council’s major actions: maintaining the current millage rate. Roshida Edwards, a small business owner, was the only candidate who said she would have rolled back the rate.

“People are in a position right now where they are struggling,” Edwards said. “With the half billion-dollar budget that the city has, I just feel that we could have found other ways to come up with that money other than putting it on our taxpayers.”

A rollback would have allowed residents to save on property taxes, but added city revenues from the current millage rate will go toward three stormwater improvement projects. The council vote to maintain the millage rate was 6-3, with Alderwomen Kesha Gibson-Carter, Alicia Miller Blakely and Bernetta Lanier voting against the item and in support of a rollback.

Eight candidates for Tybee Island City Council met in a forum, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Moderated by Susan Catron, managing editor of The Current, the candidates answered rounds of questions, submitted by Tybee Islanders, about the city’s hot topics including short term vacation rentals, large unsanctioned events such as Orange Crush and quality of life issues.

The candidates vying for the three seats this year include incumbents Barry Brown and Jay Burke III, who couldn’t attend the event, John Branigan and Kathryn Williams, former councilmembers, Joey Goralczyk, Jack Long, James Lucas, Tony Ploughe and Nick Sears.

The forum, hosted by Forever Tybee and the League of Women Voters of Coastal Georgia., began with each candidate giving an opening statement. Information about the candidates can be found on Forever Tybee’s website in the Tybee Island Voter Guide.

Tony Davis is running for Mayor of Pooler, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Davis has been a resident of Pooler since 2018, when he and his wife moved there. Davis said his platform is about every child.

“I think everything starts in any community with the kids,” Davis said. “You want them to be more successful than we were growing up. It’s also about respect, I want everybody to have respect for one another.”

“Pooler’s growing like the outside of every major city like Alpharetta, Marietta,” Davis said. “I think it’s time to pick and choose with the council to see what’s going to be brought next and not just, get another fast-food restaurant or anything you want more quality stuff here for the city that the community can enjoy.”

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