Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 4, 2018


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 4, 2018

On September 4, 1682, Edmund Halley first sighted the comet that bears his name.

Scheduled steamship service first began on September 4, 1807, when Robert Fulton’s North River Steamboat began plying the trade on the Hudson River.

General William T. Sherman ordered all civilians out of Atlanta on September 4, 1864.

Vince Dooley was born on September 4, 1932. Happy birthday, coach!

Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus called out National Guard troops to prevent the desegregation under court order of Little Rock’s Central High School on September 4, 1957.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Former Duluth Mayor Bobby Williams qualified as a write-in candidate for Governor, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Williams announced this week that he has qualified to be a write-in candidate for the state’s top office, in a race that has been dominated by Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams. The former municipal leader, who served three terms as Duluth’s mayor, said he wanted to run as an independent candidate and felt this was the best route to go.

“The path to becoming an independent candidate in Georgia is so obstructed that the write-in option is the only avenue open to us,” Williams said in a statement his campaign emailed to the Daily Post on Monday.

The number of Georgia children in foster care has hit a new high, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The number of Georgia children in foster care has swelled in recent years, and in May, the number rose to a new high when more than 15,000 young Georgians were in state custody.

Jeff Lukich, who is the chief of staff for the state Division of Family and Children Services, said the state was on track to have 18,000 children in state custody by this summer.

Lukich said several factors likely drove the increase, including a rise in substance abuse among parents, a pair of high-profile child deaths that likely left caseworkers more cautious and a newly created 24-hour call center that made it easier for the public to report suspected child abuse and neglect.

“We were essentially adding 200 additional children in our system every month for almost 24 consecutive months,” Lukich said in a recent interview. “In the spring of 2016, we knew we had to do something.”

Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta, who sponsored the adoption bill, said the new law could help expedite foster-care adoptions but more work needs to be done.

“We took a great first step with adoption and now we must focus even more on our children who are our most vulnerable population,” Reeves said at a press conference held Thursday, referring to children in foster care.

The Gainesville Times writes about Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr’s approach to alleged child abuse.

In light of reports of abuse in the Catholic Church, Georgia’s attorney general issued a statement Friday encouraging churches to be transparent and hold abusers accountable.

“It does not matter whether sexual abuse occurs in the context of human trafficking, by a friend or family member, a teacher or a coach, a public employee, or, as here, by a priest or church official. It must not — and will not— be tolerated,” Carr said.

While neither the Georgia Constitution nor the Georgia legislature gives the Attorney General’s Office the authority to investigate or prosecute crimes against children, Carr said he would use his department’s resources to hold abusers and those complicit in abuse accountable, as well as support victims.

Carr asked the church to address the issue of abuse and work to be more transparent.

“If there are priests or others associated with the Catholic Church in Georgia who are known to have engaged in acts of abuse against children, I call on the church to bring to light those cases and to be an active participant to ensure justice is done,” Carr said. “If a priest was responsible for the abuse, then I call on the church to take immediate action to remove him from the ranks of the priesthood.”

Dalton Public Schools mobile app includes an anonymous tip line, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

School system Chief of Staff Pat Holloway said during a recent Dalton Board of Education meeting that the tip line is available on the school system’s mobile app.

To access the tip line, download the Dalton Public Schools app. Under the resources menu, select tools, then tip line and that will take the user to a form to be filled out.

Holloway said tips can be for suspicious behavior on campus, academic integrity concerns, bullying, campus threats or an inappropriate social media post.

“It may be a student making a threat that needs to be investigated,” she said. “It can be anything people feel needs investigating.”

Holloway said the tip will go to an “appropriate administrator” who will begin an investigation into the claim. Videos and photographs, screenshots of social media posts and other forms of evidence can be submitted.

Free meals for all Bibb County students could be on the chopping block, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Since 2014, the district has been able to serve breakfast and lunch to all students free of cost, through the Community Eligibility Provision, a federal program for schools where at least 40 percent of students automatically qualify for free school meals.

The initiative is linked to the direct certification program, which allows school districts that participate in the National School Lunch program to directly certify children whose households rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or other assistance agencies for free meals at school, without having to submit an application.

But Sharpe said the district’s free meal program could be threatened if the new U.S. Farm Bill passes with some restrictions that might impact the number of Bibb County residents who qualify for SNAP.

A version of the bill that passed in the House of Representatives in June could result in the loss of SNAP benefits for some, said Diane Pratt-Heavner, director of media relations for the School Nutrition Association. The House bill would bolster eligibility requirements, which could affect the eligibility of about 400,000 households, the Congressional Budget Office estimates.

The Ledger-Enquirer takes readers on a video tour of the Columbus Government Center, where leaking water has shut some areas.

Bulloch County’s accountability courts have expanded to serve all four counties in the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The circuit includes the Superior Courts of Bulloch, Effingham, Jenkins and Screven counties, but the accountability court program previously operated only in Bulloch County under a state grant specifically through the county.

“We’ve been wanting to go circuit-wide for a while, and Judge Muldrew was in agreement with implementing programs in the other counties as well,” McClain said in an interview. “I’m sure the hope of the state is they want all accountability courts to be offered circuit-wide, so we finally got that done and have an agreement struck with the other counties, and we’re offering it now.”

Participants enter a contract with the court to remain in treatment, which often means attending support groups as well as taking any prescribed medications, and to stay free of abused drugs and submit to drug testing. The court often requires participants to take life skills and coping classes, and can impose job or education requirements.

A team that includes representatives of the district attorney’s and public defenders’ offices, the county sheriff’s office, probation programs and a treatment services agency, as well as McClain and judge, meets before each court session to consider participants’ progress and compliance. This team also reviews candidates for enrollment.

Participants facing felony charges can graduate after two years; those with only misdemeanor charges, typically after one year.

Changes in federal banking laws are benefiting local banks, according to the Gainesville Times.

First came business tax cuts in late 2017 that affected all enterprise, not just banking, and then there was this spring’s rollback of the Dodd-Frank Consumer Protection Act.

The rollback, or the Financial Choice Act, scales back or eliminates post-crisis banking rules, making it easier to operate and offer small business loans. It was mostly aimed at small or community banks with less than $10 billion in assets.

“The winners today are the people and businesses in Georgia, as this bill helps banks of all types in every corner of the state,” the Georgia Bankers Association said in a statement.

“It cuts paperwork and costs, makes well-underwritten mortgages easier to provide to more customers and adds consumer protections. And, while it recalibrates certain capital and other regulatory thresholds, key protections remain but they’re now tailored to more appropriately reflect the variety in size, complexity and overall risk posed by different banks.”

Brunswick City Commissioners have a long agenda for their Wednesday meeting, according to The Brunswick News. Among the issues to be considered is a rewrite of the alcohol ordinance that would allow direct sales by alcohol manufacturers, according to The Brunswick News.

Most businesses that sell alcohol won’t see a change to their existing operations if city commissioners approve the updated ordinance. Licensing fees won’t change, nor will the process for obtaining a license. Rather, the new ordinance would create whole new classes and licensing fees for manufacturers who sell and could serve their products.

One other notable change is the permitting for alcohol sales in some public places, like parks or squares. Under the city’s current alcohol ordinance, it’s mostly illegal to sell alcohol on city-owned properties. Under the new ordinance, prospective alcohol vendors would need to apply for a permit from the city and could obtain permission to serve alcohol in city parks for occasions like weddings and festivals.

Part of the reasoning behind the ordinance change is to bring the city in-line with new state laws and streamline the alcohol permitting process, officials have said. The new ordinance is also more adaptable to future changes, according to Mathew Hill, the city’s Downtown Development Authority director.

Brewpubs in Valdosta may get a boost under a new alcohol ordinance, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Valdosta City Council will consider changing the alcohol ordinance to allow brewpubs to sell and pour alcohol malt beverages.

According to city documents, the current alcohol ordinance lacks a provision for brewpubs, such as Georgia Beer Company, which effectively excludes them. The city will consider a change Thursday to amend the ordinance allowing a manufacturer of alcohol to be a retailer or wholesaler.

“Brewpubs have become increasingly popular in Georgia recently and Valdosta has generated interest from entrepreneurs interested in opening this type of establishment,” city documents state. “These amendments to the current alcohol ordinance will allow Georgia Brewery and future brewery companies the opportunity to receive the necessary State of Georgia license.”

Glynn County enjoys higher than average property tax collection rates, according to The Brunswick News.

Roughly 97 percent is generally what’s expected, and it’s what the county’s finance department bases the annual budget on, according to county staff.

“That’s historically what I think they’ve put in,” said Jeff Chapman, county tax commissioner. “Our first year, there was a 2 mil tax increase, and that was an increase of $2 million more than my predecessor, so yes, we did work hard to get a 99.3 percent collection rate.”

Ultimately, increasing communication between the public and the tax commissioner’s office has made the biggest difference, he said.

“We have streamlined procedures so that more contact can be made, more effort can be made to get correct addresses,” Chapman said.

Savannah residents are being urged to sign up online for emergency updates, according to the Savannah Morning News.

A confederate monument in Sylvania was toppled by vandals, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Sylvania Police Department, Screven County Sheriff’s Department and Georgia Bureau of Investigation are investigating the vandalism of a statue of a soldier that was found broken off from its base and located Friday morning broken into multiple pieces laying on the ground.

“The City of Sylvania does not condone the destruction of any historical monument,” said Sylvania Mayor Preston Dees. “We maintain the utmost respect for the men from Screven County who lost their lives.

“We respect everybody,” Dees said. “I am the mayor to all citizens.”

The monument was erected on Confederate Memorial Day, April 26, 1909, and moved to the city cemetery in the 1950s when the city turned the downtown Main Street park — where the monument was originally located — into a parking lot.

Inscribed on the base of the monument which remains intact are these words:

“To the Confederate soldiers who went from Screven County to fight for the South in the War Between the States and who from 1861 to 1865 nobly illustrated Georgia on the field of battle, this monument is erected by their descendants as a memorial of their deeds.”

Gwinnett County received 11 awards from the National Association of Cities, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Drug enforcement helicopters spotted a marijuana field in Jackson County, according to AccessWDUN.

White voter turnout dropped this year in Floyd County, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

Black voters in Floyd County signaled an unprecedented enthusiasm for the upcoming election, casting ballots in the May primary at about three times the rate of white voters.

And they showed up for the July 24 runoff at a similar rate, according to reports from the Georgia secretary of state’s office.

While the local turnout rate for the primary clocked in at just 4.67 percent overall, 13.73 percent of eligible black women and 11.06 percent of black men voted. Asian women also topped the average, at 4.67 percent.

The percentage of Hispanic voters also was higher than that of white women’s 3.96 percent and white men’s 3.47 percent.

White voters, however, make up 75 percent of the county’s active roll of 50,708 as of the Aug. 1 report. For the runoff, that meant a turnout rate of just 0.70 percent of white voters equaled 292 votes compared to the 155 votes that came from a 2.25 percent turnout among black voters.

The level of engagement in the primaries by demographic group is a marked change from the 2016 presidential election.

Turnout rates then were 66.6 percent for white women and 66.17 percent for white men, the only groups to exceed the county’s average of 62.07 percent.

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