COLORBEARER OF ATHENS, GEORGIA LOCALLY OWNED SINCE 1987

Blog Topic: Government

  • In the Loop: Sheriff Reverses Policy on ICE Detainers

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    The Clarke County Sheriff's Office will no longer detain undocumented immigrants for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to deport unless requests are accompanied by a judicial warrant, the sheriff's department announced late this afternoon.

    Sheriff Ira Edwards instituted a new policy in July, complying with ICE requests to hold undocumented inmates—many of whom had not been convicted of a crime—for up to 48 hours beyond when they would have otherwise been released so that ICE could pick them up and deport them. The policy change met with widespread criticism from activists, churches and other elected officials once it became public in December.

    In January, Edwards convened an advisory committee that could not come to a concensus on the issue and recommended that he seek legal counsel from the Athens-Clarke County attorney's office, which told him "there is case law that has identified gaps in the current system that do not allow the Sheriff's Office to hold individuals solely on a detainer from ICE," according to a news release. "As such, the Sheriff wishes to avoid the potential risk to the county of civil litigation relating to ICE detainers."

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  • In the Loop: Residents Oppose Development in South Oconee

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    Photo Credit: Lee Becker

    Celestea Sharp's (left) documentary "Carving Up Oconee" featured Farmington/Bishop area residents Tony Glenn (center) and Courtney Gale (right).

    Ann Stoneburner said she was motivated to help set up a program at the Oconee County Library late last month by a concern with the rewrite of the county’s Comprehensive Plan and its impact on development in the county.

    The centerpiece of that program—sponsored by the Oconee County Democratic Committee and the Oconee County Progressives—was a screening of the 2008 film by Celestea Sharp, Carving Up Oconee. Stoneburner is vice-chair of the Oconee County Democratic Committee.

    The 50 minutes of discussion that followed the film indicated that those in attendance shared Stoneburner’s general concern, and those familiar with the draft of the Comprehensive Plan focused on one particular change it contains.

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  • In the Loop: What's Up With the Trees on the Loop?

     

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    Photo Credit: Mccunicano/Wikimedia Commons

    RIP Loop trees.

    Or what’s down, rather. Many readers have noticed that trees on the Loop are being cut down and have asked who’s doing it and why. It’s the state Department of Transportation, and they say they’re thinning the trees for safety reasons.

    “We are doing vegetation management along the corridor the last few weeks,” GDOT spokeswoman Katie Strickland said. “Trees can be a hazard for roadways in many instances. Winter weather, along with other storms, can take trees down across power lines and also block routes. We also have seen pedestrians and drivers injured by trees located too close to our right of way.”

    Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

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  • In the Loop: GDOT Proposes Truck Bypass Around Bishop

    The Georgia Department of Transportation has developed an alternate plan for improvements to U.S. 441 that involves a close-in truck bypass on the east side of the City of Bishop.

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    Photo Credit: Lee Becker

    Officials from GDOT presented the broad outlines of the plan to the city council of Bishop on Monday night, where it got at least some support.

    The officials said they would present the plan in fuller detail to its citizen advisory committee in a meeting from 5–6:30 p.m. on Mar. 19 at the community center in Oconee Veterans Park.

    The truck bypass would take some land from the University of Georgia Equestrian Complex and pass very close to two houses on Old Bishop Road, possibly necessitating the purchase of those two properties, the officials said.

    The truck bypass—which could be one or two lanes wide in each direction—would connect to a four-laned U.S. 441 at Astondale Road and High Shoals Road with roundabouts.

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  • In the Loop: A4E Gives Low Marks to Most Commissioners

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    Only three Athens-Clarke County commissioners graded higher than a C on a report card issued by the progressive political group Athens for Everyone earlier this month.

    A4E’s grades were based on commissioners’ votes and public statements on the issues of transit expansion, fare-free buses, an anti-discrimination ordinance, Complete Streets, marijuana decriminalization, affordable housing, living wages, early learning and a plastic-bag ban or fee. "Champions" received extra credit for taking a leadership role on certain issues.

    The worst commissioner, from A4E’s perspective, was District 7 representative Diane Bell, who received an F. Mayoral candidate Harry Sims received a D- despite opposing A4E on every issue the group tracked. So did Mayor Nancy Denson, who received an F. District 1 Commissioner Sharyn Dickerson also received a D-.

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  • In the Loop: ACC Will Start Posting Videos of Commission Work Sessions

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    Today's Athens-Clarke County Commission work session will be moved to City Hall so that it can be recorded and video posted online for the first time.

    ACC has broadcast the commission's agenda-setting and voting meetings since 2002, but for years local activists have complained that work sessions—more informal meetings where important decisions are often made—have not been recorded or broadcast, meaning citizens have to physically attend what can often be three- or four-hour meetings to learn about the issues discussed.

    Unlike the commission chamber at City Hall, the Dougherty Street auditorium where work sessions are held does not have cameras, which had been county officials' justification for not recording or broadcasting them in the past.

    The Mayor and Commission decided at a recent retreat to try moving the work sessions to City Hall—a move some had resisted in the past because they thought the formal setting would stifle what is often a freewheeling discussion.

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  • In the Loop: Commissioner Sims Will Resign; Business Owners Ask to Delay Downtown Project

     

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    Commissioner Harry Sims.

    Harry Sims will officially resign his Athens-Clarke County Commission seat next Tuesday to run for mayor, he announced at last Tuesday’s commission meeting.

    Because Sims has almost three years left in his term, state law requires him to resign before he qualifies to run for mayor the first week in March. Commissioner Kelly Girtz, who’s also running for mayor, is not required to resign his term will expire at the end of 2018—the same time he’d be sworn in as mayor if he wins—although he is not allowed to run for re-election and for mayor at the same time.

    Sims said he decided to resign now so that “this seat will not be vacant any longer than it has to be... and to save the taxpayers money.” The timing will allow a special election to be held for his seat on May 22, the same day as the mayor’s race and other commission races.

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  • In the Loop: Oconee County Could Vote on T-SPLOST Next Year

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    Photo Credit: Lee Becker

    Oconee County Commission Chairman John Daniell.

    Oconee County probably will consider whether to pursue a Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax after it completes an ongoing transportation study and might ask voters to approve such a tax next year, Board of Commissioners Chairman John Daniell said Tuesday night.

    Daniell made his comment in response to a question posed at the first quarterly Board of Commissioners town hall meeting for 2018, held at the Community Center in Oconee Veterans Park.

    Jeanne Barsanti of 1170 Oliver Bridge Road, in the south of the county, asked “what your feelings as commissioners are” about doing a local Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, now that Clarke County has passed its own T-SPLOST.

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  • In the Loop: Athens State Reps, Local Churches Condemn Sheriff's Policy of Detaining Undocumented Immigrants

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    Photo Credit: House Photo Office

    Gonzalez (center) and Wallace (right) at their swearing-in ceremony in November.

    Newly elected state Reps. Deborah Gonzalez (D-Athens) and Jonathan Wallace (D-Watkinsville) issued a joint statement today condemning Clarke County Sheriff Ira Edward's policy of detaining inmates so they can be deported.

    It came to light in December that the sheriff's office had quietly changed its policy in July and begun, at Immigration and Custom Enforcement's request, detaining inmates that ICE says are undocumented immigrants for up to 48 hours past the point when they'd otherwise be released so ICE can pick them up and deport them.

    The policy change met with harsh criticism from progressive and immigrants' rights groups, to which Wallace and Gonzalez have added their voices:

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  • In the Loop: Clarke and Oconee Schools, UGA Are Closed Wednesday

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    Everybody stay warm.

    Both the Clarke and Oconee county school districts announced Tuesday night that schools will be closed Wednesday in anticipation of possible snow early this morning. The University of Georgia delayed opening before calling off classes entirely.

    The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory for central Georgia (including Athens) until 10 a.m. Wednesday. There is a 70 percent chance of precipitation, with a predicted low of 23 degrees. One to two inches of snow is possible.

    "Plan on difficult travel conditions, including during the morning commute on Wednesday," the advisory says.

    Gov. Nathan Deal has declared a state of emergency in 83 counties, including Clarke. Non-essential state employees are not expected to report to work on Wednesday.

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