Blog Topic: Breaking News

  • In the Loop: Commissioner Allison Wright Will Run for Re-election, Draws Opposition

    Allison Wright web.jpg

    Allison Wright will run for a third term on the Athens-Clarke County Commission, she announced today.

    Wright, a medical illustrator, has represented District 4, the Five Points area, since 2013.

    In her announcement, she took partial credit for a number of initiatives during those seven-plus years, including fare-free transit for children, seniors and the disabled; affordable housing; police body cameras; and addressing discrimination at downtown bars.

    She said she wants to continue to expand transit, provide training on discrimination and sexual assault to bar employees, and address poverty and the aging population.


  • In the Loop: Athens Gets Grant to Help Lure Airline

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    Athens-Clarke County has received a $750,000 U.S. Department of Transportation grant to help bring commercial air service to Athens Ben Epps Airport.

    An airline hasn't flown out of Ben Epps since 2014, when Congress cut the Essential Air Service subsidy for small airports.

    County officials are currently negotiating with American Airlines to fly 50-passenger jets twice a day between Athens and Charlotte, according to Commissioner Jerry NeSmith, who serves on the Airport Authority. ACC is also offering other incentives, such as no landing fees for the first year.

    "I'm confident we can convince them to do this," NeSmith said.


  • In the Loop: Interim Principal Appointed at Chase Street

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    Whitehead Road Elementary assistant principal Laura Kraus will serve as interim principal at Chase Street Elementary through the end of the school year, Clarke County School District interim superintendent Xernona Thomas announced today.

    Kraus will replace Nikki Hittle, who abruptly resigned Monday.

    "As a strong instructional leader who understands the importance of building a collaborative culture, Mrs. Kraus enjoys and values making connections with students and families," Thomas said in a news release and note to parents. "I am confident in her ability to lead the Chase Street Elementary community until a permanent replacement is selected."


  • In the Loop: More Departures at CCSD as Chase Street Principal, Clarke Middle Band Director Resign


    Photo Credit: Chase Street PTO

    Chase Street Elementary School.

    A tumultuous year for the Clarke County School District continues as the new principal at Chase Street Elementary School and the popular band director at Clarke Middle School both resigned within the past week.

    Nikki Hittle, whom former superintendent Demond Means hired to lead Chase in August, resigned today effective immediately. Interim Superintendent Xernona Thomas did not give a reason in a news release.

    As with all principal hirings, Chase's Local School Governance Team—made up of teachers, parents and community members—will provide input into the new principal. In the meantime, Executive Director of Leadership Development Rachel Williams will support assistant principal Allison Niedzwieki, Thomas said.

    "I am confident our teachers and staff at Chase Street Elementary will continue to serve our students and maintain a focus on instruction," Thomas said.


  • In the Loop: Gonzalez: Kemp Should Call Special Election for District Attorney

    Deborah Gonzalez web.jpg

    Deborah Gonzalez.

    Western Circuit District Attorney Ken Mauldin announced earlier this week that he's resigning. No big deal, right? He wasn't going to run for re-election anyway. So Gov. Brian Kemp appoints someone who gets beaten by the favorite in the Democratic primary, Deborah Gonzalez, in November.

    Well, not so fast. An obscure law passed in 2018 means that there will be a special election in November for district attorney, not a regular one. That means no Democratic primary in May and a nonpartisan "jungle primary" where every candidate is on the November ballot together. Which means a likely runoff in January if a Republican gets in the race—and Democrats don't turn out for runoffs.

    Still, to Gonzalez, it's better than the alternative: If Kemp waits until after May 3 to appoint someone, the election gets pushed to 2022.


  • In the Loop: New Hampshire Students Press Candidates to Remember Poor People in Climate Change Policies



    Photo Credit:  Derek Kouyoumjian

    Deval Patrick speaks at the NH Youth Climate and Clean Energy Town Hall.

    NEW HAMPSHIRE—Students at a youth climate town hall extracted promises from several presidential candidates that their climate-change policies will benefit low-income people, not hurt them. 

    “Equity has to be at the heart of climate policy,” said Pete Buttigieg, who appeared at the NH Youth Climate and Clean Energy Town Hall Wednesday morning, hours after partial returns showed him in first place in Iowa’s Democratic caucuses. The former mayor of South Bend, IN was responding to Dartmouth College MBA student Melina Sanchez Montanes, who asked what he would do to make sure low-income households “don’t bear the brunt of the transition” to cleaner energy. 


  • In the Loop: District Attorney Ken Mauldin Is Resigning


    Ken Mauldin, the district attorney for Clarke and Oconee counties, is resigning effective Feb. 29, he announced today.

    Mauldin had already said he would not run for re-election this year, but had planned to serve out the end of his term. However, he said in a news release that he's had a change of heart.


  • Grub Notes: Earth Fare Is Closing All Its Stores


    Earth Fare, the Asheville, NC-based natural and organic supermarket chain with dozens of locations across the southeastern and midwestern U.S.—including one in Athens' Five Points neighborhood—has begun the process of closing all its stores, the company announced Monday.


  • In the Loop: UGA Prof Richard Dien Winfield Launches Senate Campaign

    Richard Winfield web.jpg

    University of Georgia philosophy professor Richard Dien Winfield is running for U.S. Senate, he announced today.

    Winfield, a Democrat, is seeking to fill out the remainder of former Sen. Johnny Isakson's term, which runs through 2022. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp appointed businesswoman Kelly Loeffler to the seat in December, after Isakson resigned for health reasons. A special election will be held this November.

    He supports a federal job guarantee, paid family leave and vacation time, the Green New Deal, free child and elder care, the right to unionize and "Medicare for all" single-payer health insurance. His website includes more information about his platform.


  • In the Loop: BOE Picks Antwon Stephens as New Member



    Photo Credit: photo via Twitter

    A 23-year-old political consultant will serve out the year as the District 2 representative on the Clarke County Board of Education, other board members decided Thursday. A majority of the BOE selected Antwon Stephens from among five applicants to replace Frances Berry, who resigned in December. 

    In a speech to the school board at its Jan. 16 meeting, Stephens said he is concerned about the school-to-prison pipeline. He called Vernon Payne—who held the East Athens seat for decades before illness forced him to resign—a mentor. “I’m tried, I’m tested, and I’m ready to serve,” he said.

    Stephens is perhaps best known as a potential candidate for Athens-Clarke County mayor in 2018, although in the end he opted not to run because of health problems. He also made headlines in 2013, when he ran for chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia as a 17-year-old and faced charges of not paying speakers at a tea party conference he organized. Despite not being old enough to serve in Congress, he has been running as a Democrat against U.S. Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville).


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