Photo Credit: Joshua L. Jones
The University of Georgia held a memorial service today for 105 people whose gravesites were found during construction on a Baldwin Hall expansion project and moved to nearby Oconee Hill Cemetery.
"From the moment the first remains were discovered in November of 2015, the university's guiding principle has been to treat these individuals with dignity and respect, and it is in that spirit that today's ceremony was developed," UGA President Jere Morehead said.
Most of the 30 remains that could be tested were of African ancestry—presumably slaves, given that the Jackson Street or Old Athens Cemetery where they were found closed in 1956—and some members of Athens' African-American community have been critical of the way UGA has handled the situation.
This may be the worst-kept secret in Georgia politics, but the AJC reported today, citing an anonymous source, that Secretary of State Brian Kemp will run for governor in 2018.
Rumors have swirled that Kemp, who also served a term representing Athens in the state Senate, was gearing up for a run for governor almost since he was elected secretary of state back in 2006.
Athens-Clarke County Commissioners criticized the developers of The Mark—the massive luxury student apartment complex under construction on Oconee Street—for being the only major development downtown to opt out of enlarged downtown boundaries the commission approved Tuesday.
The area covered by the Athens Downtown Development Authority was set in 1977, but since the downtown area has greatly expanded. The ADDA is seeking to expand its boundaries north of Dougherty Street and along Prince Avenue, North Avenue and Oconee Street.
The authority gave property owners the option of opting out of the district. Despite paying an additional one mill in property taxes ($1 per $2,500 of property value), only a handful elected not to be a part of the ADDA.
"Unfortunately, there were a couple of folks who elected not to be part of the boundaries, a couple of them I think rationally so—very small scale residential properties, one very small scale commercial property… but there’s one large property that’s not include, The Mark,” Commissioner Kelly Girtz said. “That’s a disappointment to me, and I certainly hope folks will recognize there are benefits of being in the ADDA district down the road.”
A woman's ex-husband shot and killed her boyfriend during a drunken argument on Linda Avenue Sunday night.
Tommy Lee Morris, 53, had been drinking at a nightclub and started to argue about the woman with Tony Curtis Foster Jr., 43, according to police. Morris went to his car, got what police described as an "assault-style rifle" and shot Foster several times. He then moved closer to the victim and shot him again while standing over him, police said.
Foster was dead when police arrived at about 10:30 p.m.
Shortly after, police found Morris hiding in the woods near the scene. He is being held at the Clarke County Jail on a charge of aggravated assault.
In addition, Athens-Clarke County police reported four drive-by shootings over the weekend:
Photo Credit: Maxim DaPlug
A group of Athens African Americans is calling on the University of Georgia to reconsider its decision to reinter dozens of slave remains at Oconee Hill Cemetery.
"We are very upset by all of this," said Fred Smith, head of the Athens Black History Bowl, before the group's annual celebration Saturday at the Morton Theatre. "This is disrespectful to us as black folks."
The university discovered 27 gravesites while working on an addition to Baldwin Hall, which was built on top of Old Athens Cemetery, also known as Jackson Street Cemetery. UGA officials said in 2015 that they thought all of the remains had been removed during Baldwin's initial construction in 1938.
UGA initially thought the remains were white, but DNA analysis conducted by UGA anthropology professor Laurie Reitsema recently revealed that the vast majority were black.
Photo Credit: Clarke County Sheriff's Office
Athens-Clarke County police arrested a Gainesville man downtown early Saturday morning and charged him with beating up an Athens man who was dressed in women's clothing.
Chad Andrew Weaver, 24, saw the victim on Clayton Street near Georgia Bar and called him a "faggot," according to a police report. After exchanging more words with the victim, Weaver punched him in the face. At one point, the 6' 5", 210-pound Weaver had the 5' 6" victim on the ground and was pulled off by a bystander, police said.
A bill that would allow people with concealed-carry permits to bring weapons onto the University of Georgia and other public college campuses cleared a key hurdle Monday.
The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee passed House Bill 280, sponsored by Rep. Mandi Ballinger (R-Canton), according to the AJC, sending it on for a likely but yet-to-be-scheduled vote before the full House.
Shirley Sherrod, a U.S. Department of Agriculture official who was fired and reinstated during a bogus Obama Administration scandal, will be the first speaker in a new lecture series named for DeKalb County CEO and Athens native Michael Thurmond.
Sherrod was the Georgia state director for rural development at the USDA in 2010 when conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart posted a video online that purported to show Sherrod detailing how she refused to help a white farmer in a speech to the NAACP. Sherrod was fired; however, the video turned out to be misleading and selectively edited, and the Obama Administration apologized to her and offered her a new position, which she turned down.
Photo Credit: Blake Aued
The presidential race feels like it's barely over, and local elections are still 15 months away, but campaign season officially arrived again when young businessman Richie Knight declared his candidacy for Athens-Clarke County mayor today, joined by a few dozen supporters at City Hall.
Knight said he wants to "see a new generation take over the helm... We've been stuck in a rut the past 20-30 years."
His top priority, he said, is economic development—high-paying jobs to alleviate the city's 30-plus percent poverty rate. He said he would focus on recruiting businesses that will pay a living wage, although he hasn't settled on a figure of what a living wage should be. (It's $10.17 an hour in Athens, according to MIT.)
"We need to have real conversations with employers, not just about coming here, but about what it means to be part of the community, whom they should be hiring, wage amounts," he said.
Photo Credit: Smith Planning Group
A mixed-use development on Prince Avenue that actually excited the neighborhood will no longer be happening.
Piedmont Athens Regional spokesman Mike Pilcher confirmed an Athens Banner-Herald report last night that the developers behind the project—Bryan Austin, John Stamm and Trey Wallace—have abandoned it. The project was slated for six acres next to the "flying saucer" Rite-Aid that are owned by the hospital and are currently used as a parking lot.
"The developer was unable to find an anchor tenant," Pilcher said.
Photo Credit: UGA Athletics
A memorial service for Athens native and former University of Georgia football player Quentin Moses will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at Cedar Shoals High School.
Moses, 33, was killed in a house fire in Monroe Sunday morning, along with Andria Godard, 31, and her 10-year-old daughter, Jasmine Godard.
Rather than hire a single person to replace former Athens Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Pamela Thompson, the ADDA board has opted to split the job in two.
After hours of deliberation behind closed doors Friday night and again Tuesday afternoon, the board voted to hire David Lynn as director of planning and outreach, focusing on economic development, and Linda Ford as director of business services, focusing on parking and assisting downtown businesses.
"Instead of putting the weight all on one person, we're going to have two people with two distinct skill sets," ADDA board member Richie Knight said.
Photo Credit: John Buckley
Athens for Everyone pushed back today against a spokeswoman for Georgia Sen. David Perdue who called a rally in Greensboro Friday "manufactured."
A4E, along with Indivisible Georgia District 10 and other local groups, organized a trip to Greensboro to speak to staffers for Perdue, Sen. Johnny Isakson and Rep. Jody Hice about their concerns about the Trump Administration. The rally drew about 500 people, including several hundred from Athens.
Perdue's spokeswoman dismissed those concerns in a statement to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Saturday:
Photo Credit: Joshua L. Jones/file
"Hundreds of concerned citizens" will travel to Greensboro Friday morning to "voice their opinions on current national issues and seek answers to questions surrounding the same issues," according to the local activist group Athens for Everyone.
They'll meet with staff members for Rep. Jody Hice (R-Monroe) and Republican Sens. David Perdue and Johnny Isakson from 10 a.m.–noon at the Greene County Government Office, 1034 Silver Drive.
In spite of rumors that have swirled for months and recently intensified, Athens-Clarke County commissioners say they've been assured that the owners of iconic fast-food restaurant The Varsity have no imminent plans to redevelop the property.
The Gordy family, which owns the chain of seven restaurants, has assembled nearly the entirely block bordered by Milledge Avenue and Broad, Chase and Reese streets, including purchasing the Dairy Queen that closed last year and several homes.
Most of the rumors involve the property becoming a mixed-use development featuring a Publix grocery story, with The Varsity either becoming part of the new development or moving to Epps Bridge Parkway. Others have speculated that the Gordys merely want more parking for car shows and game days, or that the property will become student housing—which seems unlikely, given that its commercial zoning would only allow about 30 apartments.
ACC Commissioner Jerry NeSmith addressed the rumors at last night's commission meeting, saying that an agent for The Varsity and Publix called him Monday to assure him nothing is currently in the works.
Photo Credit: Blake Aued/file
As expected, the Athens-Clarke County Commission approved a temporary ban on most new downtown bars and apartment buildings Tuesday night over concerns about overcrowding and the downtown drinking culture.
The ban covers bars with a capacity greater than 49 people, unless they open in a space that housed a bar within the past year, and apartments with more than three units. It will last for up to one year while a consultant conducts a study on downtown health and safety, and commissioners consider potential new regulations.
Mayor Nancy Denson said she placed the moratorium on the commission's agenda Monday afternoon to give officials a chance to get a handle on "crowding" and related challenges delivering services like garbage pickup, as well as "excessive drinking."
Photo Credit: Randy Schafer/file
Athens-Clarke County commissioners will vote on a one-year moratorium on most new bars and apartment buildings downtown at its meeting Tuesday night.
The moratorium was added to the commission agenda late this afternoon. It would cover new bars—except those that open in spaces where another bar has closed in the past 12 months—with capacities larger than 49 people. New apartments of more than three units would be temporarily banned as well.
University of Georgia President Jere Morehead emailed a "personal follow-up" to the UGA community this afternoon on President Donald Trump's ban on refugees and travel from seven Muslim nations.
An initial statement released this morning—taken almost verbatim from an email University System Chancellor Steve Wrigley sent to college presidents—was met with derision among some faculty and students for its stilted language. For example, one professor referred to it on social media as "weak sauce," while another called it "tepid, at best."
The latest statement reads:
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore
No UGA faculty or students were affected by the executive order President Donald Trump signed Friday restricting travel from seven predominately Muslim nations, according to the university.
UGA President Jere Morehead, Pamela Whitten, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Pamela Whitten and Associate Provost for International Education Noel Fallows released a statement this morning:
Two former Athens-Clarke County commissioners are among the finalists to head the Athens Downtown Development Authority.
Linda Ford represented Five Points from 1999–2003. David Lynn represented the Prince Avenue area from 2003–2011.
A third finalist, William Herbig, is currently a program director at the Congress fort he New Urbanism in Washington, D.C., and former director of urban design for the Midtown Alliance in Atlanta. He studied architecture and historic preservation at the Savannah College of Art & Design, and holds a bachelor's degree in urban policy studies from Georgia State University and a master's in city planning from Georgia Tech.
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