With a vote on SPLOST 2020 coming up Tuesday, it's obvious that a lot of folks have questions—and misconceptions—about the sales tax and the projects it will fund. The community group Friends of ACC SPLOST 2020, headed by Shannon Wilder, who chaired the citizens committee that recommended projects, is here to provide some answers.
Visitors spent $330 million in Athens last year, up 6.6%, accounting for nearly 3,000 jobs and over $22 million in tax revenue, saving the average local taxpayer $488, the Athens Convention and Visitors Bureau announced at a hospitality industry awards banquet Oct. 27 at the Classic Center.
The CVB’s Partner of the Year was Russell Stalvey, brewery events business manager at Terrapin Beer Co. The Classic Host Award went to Jean Lord, event manager at UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, who has brought numerous conventions to Athens. Piedmont College President James Mellichamp won the Louis Griffith Hospitality Leadership Award. The CVB also honored Valencia Landry, a server at Hotel Indigo, as the city’s front-line hospitality employee of the year.
Photo Credit: Lee Becker
Oconee County is an excellent opportunity for Democrats, DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond told a gathering of party members at the Bogart Library earlier this month, because of the demographics of the county.
The county has one of the highest educational levels in the state and in the Southeast, Thurmond said, and the college educated, and particularly college-educated women, are being targeted by Democrats nationally.
Athens-Clarke County police officers killed a man Saturday who they say opened fire on them while they were investigating a noise complaint on the Eastside.
Officers received a call at about 8 p.m. Saturday about a dispute over noise between two neighbors on Royale Road, off Gaines School Road, where one had threatened to shoot the other.
When officers located the man accused of threatening his neighbor—identified as Nan Zhao, 45—and tried to question him, Zhao "produced a handgun and fired several shots at the officers," according to police. The officers returned fire. Zhao was taken to a local hospital, where he died.
Body camera video released by Athens-Clarke County police today shows an officer shooting a woman who started to charge at him while holding a knife.
On the morning of Oct. 14, Senior Officer Lamar Glenn responded to a call about a suspicious woman with a knife and a gun on Chalfont Drive, off Tallassee Road.
Glenn arrived and immediately told the woman—later identified as Bonny Thomas, 54—to put down the knife. Thomas repeatedly said no and walked toward Glenn with the knife raised and her other hand under her shirt, saying, "I have a gun and a knife." Glenn backed up and pulled his handgun, and as Thomas started to break into run, shot her once in the chest.
Athens-Clarke County's first inclusion officer—charged with making the local government more diverse—is Krystle Cobran, a former consultant, podcast host, author and UGA instructor.
ACC Manager Blaine Williams announced Cobran's hiring Friday, and she started work this week. Mayor Kelly Girtz created the position in the current year's budget, based on a recommendation by a task force appointed by former Mayor Nancy Denson after widespread reports surfaced of discrimination at downtown bars.
“I am excited that we have found someone of Krystle’s caliber to launch and develop such an important new part of the Unified Government to serve this community in such profound ways,” Williams said in a news release. “Her work on inclusion initiatives and background in the law gives her a unique and valuable perspective as we continue to make Athens-Clarke County a welcoming and inclusive community for all residents and visitors.”
The Federal Railroad Administration and the Georgia Department of Transportation are currently taking public input on three proposed routes for high-speed rail between Atlanta and Charlotte, one of which would run through Athens.
The "greenfield corridor" through Athens offers the highest speeds—125 miles per hour for diesel or 220 mph for electric—as well as the highest potential ridership, carrying up to 6.3 million people in 2050.
Another route, along I-85, with the nearest stop in Commerce, would have similar speeds and ridership, but at a much higher cost of $13.3 billion to $16.4 billion, compared to $6.2 billion to $8.4 billion for the greenfield corridor.
The third alternative would run along the existing Silver Crescent track through Toccoa and Gainesville. It would be much cheaper at $2 billion to $2.3 billion to upgrade those tracks. But it would also top out at 79 mph for diesel and 110 mph for electric, and carry far fewer people, about 940,000 to 1.1 million in 2050.
Photo Credit: Lee Becker
Democrat Stacey Abrams, who ran unsuccessfully for governor a year ago, is watching the outcome of the mayoral race in Watkinsville, Bob Smith, one of the two candidates in that contest, told Oconee County Republicans last month.
The race is nonpartisan, but Smith made it clear he is running as a Republican and told those gathered they needed to make sure he wins to send a message back to Abrams.
Abrams “has these billionaire socialists pumping money” into her nonprofit voting rights organizations, Jason Thompson, Republican National Committeeman from Georgia, told the same gathering. He told them to take action to thwart her.
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