Blog posts by Blake Aued, Editor

  • VIDEO: Trash Pickup, SPLOST 2020 and Plans for Lexington Road and Atlanta Highway

    Blog: In the Loop

    For awhile now, Chris Dowd, under the moniker Athens Politics Nerd, has been making videos recapping Athens-Clarke County Commission meetings and delving into policy topics like ambulance service, clean energy and affordable housing.

    We're pleased to announce that Dowd is now partnering with Flagpole. We'll be posting his videos on our website—they're also available on YouTube and the Athens Politics nerd site—and Dowd will be contributing some city government coverage to the paper, as well.

    The latest installment of Athens Politics Nerd covers SPLOST 2020, proposals to overhaul trash pickup in the formerly unincorporated parts of Athens, and two studies that recommend major transportation improvements for Lexington Road and Atlanta Highway.

  • Athens Police Suspend Pot Arrests

    Blog: In the Loop

    The Athens-Clarke County Police Department has temporarily stopped arresting people suspected of possessing marijuana because its drug-testing equipment can't tell the difference between marijuana and hemp.

    The Georgia legislature legalized hemp production earlier this year. However, hemp is indistinguishable from marijuana, except for its lower THC content (0.3% or less). Tests used by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, ACCPD and other law enforcement agencies can only detect the presence of THC, not measure its potency.

  • Mokah-Jasmine Johnson Explores State House Bid

    Blog: In the Loop


    Photo Credit: Joshua L. Jones/file

    Mokah-Jasmine Johnson.

    Local activist Mokah-Jasmine Johnson is considering running for an Athens state House of Representatives seat that Democrats surprisingly flipped in 2017 but lost again last year.

    Johnson filed paperwork Tuesday to begin raising money to run in House District 117, currently held by Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens). Last November, Gaines ousted Democrat Deborah Gonzalez in a rematch of a special election the previous year.

    The district—which includes parts of Clarke, Oconee, Jackson and Barrow counties—had been in Republican hands for decades. It's now a swing district that's considered crucial if Democrats hope to win control of the House in 2020. The GOP currently has a 14-seat advantage but lost ground last year, mainly in the metro Atlanta suburbs.

  • GOP Official Tells Oconee Republicans That Democratic Women 'Forgot to Reproduce'

    Blog: In the Loop

    Frost 4 cropped.jpg

    Photo Credit: Sarah Bell

    Brant Frost V.

    A Georgia Republican Party official told Oconee County Republicans that the GOP will continue to win elections because Democratic women "forgot to reproduce," and "Christian and conservative women" are having more children.

    Brant Frost V, the party's second vice-chair, claimed at an Oconee GOP meeting last month that Republicans have a 35 percent "fertility advantage" over Democrats.

    According to Lee Becker at Oconee County Observations:

  • Update: ACLU Says Prayer Vigil at Athens School Raises 'Serious Concerns'

    Blog: In the Loop


    New Gaines Elementary School principal Luther McDaniel's invitation to a now-canceled prayer event at the school this weekend raises "serious Constitutional concerns" because government resources can't be used to promote religion, and it could make non-Christian students unwelcome, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. 

    “In his personal capacity off school property, Dr. Luther McDaniel is, of course, free to invite Christians to pray for his school, and people of all faiths are free to pray for his school,” Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, said in a statement provided to Flagpole. “There are other ways to invite the community to show their heartfelt good wishes for a successful school year for all of the students, teachers and staff in the school without promoting one kind of religion.”

  • DA Ken Mauldin Will Not Run for Re-Election

    Blog: In the Loop


    Western Circuit District Attorney Ken Mauldin will not run for re-election in 2020, he announced Wednesday.

    Mauldin, a Democrat, has served five terms as the DA for Clarke and Oconee counties. He released the following statement about his retirement:

  • Suspect Arrested in Shooting of Pregnant Woman

    Blog: In the Loop


    Photo Credit: Blake Aued

    Auriel Callaway's mother LaShanda, uncle Bryant Gantt, Police Chief Cleveland Spruill, sister Kearia Rucker, cousin Vanessa Johnson and Deputy Chief Jeff Clark.

    Athens-Clarke County police arrested a Clarke Gardens resident Wednesday night and charged her with the murder of neighbor Auriel Callaway during a gunfight at the Eastside apartment compex Monday.

    Although others were also shooting, police say Kiresa Shanice Cooper, 27, fired the bullet that killed Callaway, 24, who was walking with her 3-year-old son when the gunfire broke out. Callaway was trying to get her son to a safe place when she was shot, according to Police Chief Cleveland Spruill. She died, along with the unborn child she was carrying, at a local hospital shortly after the shooting Monday night.

    "I cannot think of a more tragic circumstance that for an innocent mother to be gunned down in front of her residence while her child looked on," Spruill said at a news conference this afternoon to announce Cooper's arrest.

  • Pregnant Woman Shot and Killed in Front of Son

    Blog: In the Loop

    Screen Shot 2019-07-24 at 10.23.41 AM.png

    ACCPD spokesman Geoffrey Gilland speaks to reporters Tuesday.

    An Athens woman was shot and killed Monday night while walking outside with her three-year-old son.

    Athens-Clarke County police received a call about gunshots fired at the Clarke Gardens apartment complex off Barnett Shoals Road at 9:37 p.m. Monday. When they arrived at Carriage Court, they found 24-year-old resident Auriel Callaway on the ground, bleeding. 

    Police provided first aid until EMS arrived to transport Callaway to a local hospital, where she died. Callaway was four months pregnant, according to police, and the fetus she was carrying did not survive. Her son was unharmed and is staying with relatives, police said.

  • Will Merger Mean More Cuts at the ABH?

    Blog: In the Loop


    Photo Credit: Michael Rivera

    The Athens Banner-Herald could be facing more cuts if, as the Wall Street Journal reported last week, owner GateHouse Media takes over another major newspaper chain, Gannett.

    It's no secret that newspapers are in big trouble and have been for a decade, and the Columbia Journalism Review reports that a merger could buy the resulting behemoth company—which would own 265 dailies with a combined circulation of 8.7 million—a few years to figure out how to make their digital operations profitable. The best-case scenario is readers don't notice a difference.

  • Arena Makes Final SPLOST List; BOE Extends Means' Contract

    Blog: In the Loop


    Classic Center Executive Director Paul Cramer.

    A controversial proposal for an arena at the Classic Center will be on the ballot this November after the Athens-Clarke County Commission included it on the final SPLOST list Thursday night.

    Commissioner Tim Denson joined commissioners Mariah Parker and Melissa Link's proposal to set aside the $34 million earmarked for the arena into a more general downtown development pot. But the other seven commissioners voted against Parker and Link's plan.

    Supporters say the 5,500-seat arena, which will be partially funded by the Classic Center and the private sector, will create 600 jobs and generate millions of dollars in sales taxes. A senior living facility, office building and hotel are also included in the project.

  • Climate Change Is Going to Make Athens Hot as Hell

    Blog: In the Loop


    It was 97 degrees in Athens yesterday. You think that's bad? Just wait.

    Greenhouse gas emissions are projected to cause an 8-degree jump in global temperatures over pre-industrial levels, and a group called the  Union of Concerned scientists calculated what that would mean for individual counties..

    Clarke County averages 61 days a year with a heat index above 90. (Sort of like wind chill, the heat index combines the temperature and humidity level into a number that expresses how hot it feels.) Nine days a year on average, it rises above 100 degrees, and twice, it hits 105.

    If nothing is done about climate change, the heat index will hit 90 110 times a year by mid-century, and it'll hit 100 six times as often as it does now. For nearly a month out of the year—29 days—the heat index will be 105 or above.

  • Deborah Gonzalez Is Running for District Attorney

    Blog: In the Loop

    Deborah Gonzalez web.jpg

    Former state Rep. Deborah Gonzalez is running for Western Circuit district attorney, she announced Thursday.

    “All of us want to keep our communities strong and protected, but we know that the old tough-on-crime way of administering justice has been too tough on our communities,” Gonzalez said in a video posted online. “It’s left us all less safe, less whole and with less opportunity. It’s time for a new approach to justice and crime. It’s time for new leadership.”

    Gonzalez is a media and entertainment lawyer with no experience as a prosecutor, but in the House she served on the committee that handles bills related to criminal justice, and she also served on a criminal justice task force for the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators. 

  • Mail Delivery Resumes at Bethel Homes

    Blog: In the Loop


    Photo Credit: Joshua L. Jones/file

    The U.S. Postal Service resumed delivering mail to Bethel Midtown Village today after a meeting with Athens-Clarke County Police Chief Cleveland Spruill.

    Spruill met with Atlanta District Post Office Operations Manager Anne Berger to "clear up confusion and misinformation regarding crime in the community," according to an ACCPD news release. Berger agreed to temporarily resume mail delivery at Bethel, and a meeting on permanently restoring mail delivery is scheduled for next week.

    Commissioner Ovita Thornton said at the July 2 commission meeting that Bethel residents had not received their mail for over a week.

  • Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry Is Running for Senate

    Blog: In the Loop


    Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry is joining what is shaping up to be a crowded Democratic field for U.S. Senate.

    The Atlanta suburb, a city of about 13,000, is home to many refugees and often referred to as the most diverse square mile in America. 

    In his campaign announcement, the 36-year-old touted his record as the "millennial mayor," including decriminalizing marijuana, enacting a $15 minimum wage for city employees and making Election Day a holiday.

  • Portrait Unveiled of Miriam Moore, First Black Woman Elected to Local Office

    Blog: In the Loop

    p3 Miriam Moore.jpg

    Photo Credit: Blake Aued

    A portrait of former Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Miriam Moore hangs in the community room of the East Athens Development Corp., a nonprofit she helped start, in a former elementary school that's now named after her.

    Community leaders unveiled the portrait at a ceremony Saturday attended by about 100 people who knew or were influenced by Moore. Known as Mimi, Moore fought to bring social services and quality affordable housing to East Athens before, during and after her four years on the Athens City Council and ACC Commission. She was the first African-American woman elected to both bodies in 1988 and 1990, respectively.

    Along with the late Jessie Barnett and Evelyn Neely, Moore helped revitalize Triangle Plaza and create the Classic Center, EADC, Athens Neighborhood Health Center and East Athens Park. The Miriam Moore Community Service Center on McKinley Drive was named for her in 1999. She died in 2006 at the age of 80.

  • Video Shows Man With Knife Attacking ACCPD Officers Before They Shot Him

    Blog: In the Loop

    Screen Shot 2019-07-02 at 1.28.18 PM.png

    A still from Officer Charles Bidinger's body camera shows Officer David Harrison wrangling with Aaron Hong.

    The man who two Athens-Clarke County police officers shot and killed at an apartment complex off Macon Highway on Monday attacked one of the officers and tried to take his gun, body camera video released by ACCPD today shows.

    Police Chief Cleveland Spruill walked reporters through the footage at an 11:30 a.m. news conference.

    It shows the two officers, David Harrison and Charles Bidinger, responding to a call at the River Club apartments about a knife-wielding man covered in blood. They encountered the man—identified as Aaron Hong, 23—in the parking lot. (The blood is believed to be Hong's own.) 

    Bidinger and Harrison immediately drew their guns and repeatedly told Hong to drop the knife, alternating between orders and pleas. "We can help you," Harrison said. Hong walked toward the officers with the knife as they retreated back down the long driveway to Macon Highway, shouting at them to "do it!"

  • Wayfair Workers Walk Out Over Migrant Camp Sale

    Blog: In the Loop

    Screen Shot 2019-06-26 at 5.36.32 PM.png

    Photo Credit: Screenshot via WCVB

    Hundreds of workers at Boston-based online retailer Wayfair walked out earlier today to protest the company's sale of $200,000 worth of furniture to a contractor that runs migrant detention facilities for the federal government.

    Wayfair is opening a call center in Athens next year that will employ 500 people, Athens-Clarke County and state officials announced last week.

    Despite the controversy, Mayor Kelly Girtz said he has no regrets about approving up to $60,000 in local incentives for Wayfair to locate in the planned General Time development off Newton Bridge Road.

    "I'm still excited about them coming here, but I'm also happy they have employees who are concerned about human rights violations at the border," Girtz said.

  • Candidate Announces Run for Commission District 8 Seat

    Blog: In the Loop



    Andrea Farnham.

    Andrea Farnham recently announced her intention to run for the Commission District 8 seat held by Andy Herod since 2007.

    Farnham, a couples and sex therapist who owns the private practice Just Relationships, has lived in Athens since 2012. She is active in the Green Acres/Crestwood neighborhood association, the local Democratic Party chapter, Oconee Street United Methodist Church, Gaines Elementary School and several professional organizations. She said she was motivated to run by entrenched poverty in black communities and social and political disenfranchisement.

    From her news release:

  • Means Addresses Chase Street Principal's Resignation

    Blog: In the Loop



    Clarke County School Superintendent Demond Means.

    Clarke County School Superintendent Demond Means was “surprised” and “disappointed” that Chase Street Elementary Principal Andrea Neher resigned earlier this month, he said in an email to parents and staff last week. 

    Neher abruptly left her job June 14, saying that, although Chase is one of the highest-performing schools in the district, Means had told her she had “more than fallen short in meeting his expectations.” Just days later, she became principal of Winder Elementary in Barrow County. 

    Here is the full letter:

  • Home Goods Company Bringing 500 Jobs to Athens

    Blog: In the Loop

    Screen Shot 2019-06-19 at 3.06.18 PM.png

    A rendering of the General Time development by architects McMillan Pazdan Smith.

    Wayfair, an online furniture and home goods retailer, will open an operations center in Athens that will employ more than 500 people.

    The center will occupy about 45,000 square feet out of 250,000 in General Time, a planned mixed-use development at a former clock factory off Newton Bridge Road near the Loop. The Boston-based company plans to invest $7.7 million in the facility, described in documents as a call center, over the next five years.

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