COLORBEARER OF ATHENS, GEORGIA LOCALLY OWNED SINCE 1987

Blog Topic: Government

  • In the Loop: Home Goods Company Bringing 500 Jobs to Athens

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    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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  • In the Loop: LGBT Lobbyist Praises Gaines' Syringe Bill

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    Photo Credit: Lee Becker

    Shannon Clawson.

    Shannon Clawson, lobbyist for Georgia Equality, told Oconee County Democrats recently that her group had a mixed record during the 2019 Georgia legislative session.

    Clawson pointed to passage of a number of bills that she said served the interests of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities of the state.

    She included among the successes passage of a bill sponsored by Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens) making it possible for “syringe services” programs to distribute syringes or needles without civil or criminal liability.

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  • In the Loop: Mayor Girtz Names New Athens-Clarke County Attorney

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    Judd Drake, not to be confused with Judge Dredd.

    Mayor Kelly Girtz has named Macon-Bibb County Attorney Judd Drake the sole finalist to replace Bill Berryman, who is retiring, as Athens-Clarke County attorney.

    Drake has served as the attorney for Macon-Bibb County since it unified in 2014. He also served as Macon's senior assistant city attorney and interim city attorney, and interim manager for Macon-Bibb.

    Prior to moving to Macon in 2011, the Metter native had a practice in his hometown for 11 years, focusing on local government, education and real estate law. During that time, he also served as the attorney for Candler County and the Candler County Board of Education, and as chief magistrate judge and state court judge in Candler County.

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  • In the Loop: CCSD Budget Funds Police and Counselors; Cuts Grants for Schools

     

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    Superintendent Demond Means.

    The Clarke County School District’s proposed 2020 budget includes funding for an assistant police chief and new positions focused on student behavior—partially funded by cuts to grants that individual schools can spend however they please.

    Thanks to rising property values and increased state funding, the $164 million budget is $14 million bigger than the current fiscal year, but much of that money will be eaten up by health care and pension expenses. Still, the budget does include about a dozen new positions:

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  • In the Loop: Ethics Complaint Filed Against CCSD Superintendent Demond Means

     

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    Photo Credit: Austin Steele/file

    Clarke County School Superintendent Demond Means.

    An ethics complaint filed against Clarke County School Superintendent Demond Means alleges that he plagiarized part of a letter to colleagues, accepted an inappropriate gift and may have lied about his dissertation on his job application.

    Patrick McKee, a Newnan lawyer, filed the complaint with the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, which certifies educators, on May 3. McKee formerly represented the PSC as a senior assistant attorney general and currently is general counsel for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, an accrediting body.

    McKee told Flagpole that he “represents a group of parents and taxpayers” in Athens, but would not say who. “At some point, the group will become more visible,” he said.

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  • In the Loop: CCSD Announces Staff Shakeup

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    The Clarke County School District has leadership vacancies at six schools to fill after moving several principals to the central office.

    The district announced the moves late Friday, a day after the Board of Education met in closed session to discuss personnel.

    According to Director of Public Relations and Communications Mary Walsh Wickwire:

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  • In the Loop: Jared Bybee Will Resign From the Clarke County School Board

     

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    Photo Credit: Thinc UGA

    Come June, Jared Bybee will no longer be the president of the Clarke County Board of Education. His family and he are moving to southern California, where his wife has accepted a job with the University of California, Irvine.

    Bybee was first elected to the board in 2016. His colleagues voted him president in January 2018.

    “Being on the board has been a ton of work, but very rewarding, and I’ve learned a lot from my colleagues on the board even when we disagreed,” Bybee said. “Even after seeing all the complicated innards of how it all works, I remain steadfast in my optimism for CCSD and the direction we are headed.”

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  • In the Loop: What Should ACC Do About the Murmur Trestle?

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    With the construction of Firefly Trail finally underway after nearly 20 years, Athens-Clarke County finally has to make a decision about what to do with the Murmur trestle.

    In 2000, CSX started to remove rails and demolish trestles along an abandoned rail line running from Winterville to downtown Athens. One of those trestles, near Poplar Street, was featured on the back cover of R.E.M.’s album Murmur. Fans rallied, and ACC purchased the trestle and halted the demolition, but not before it was halfway gone.

    As many cities have done with unused railroads—see New York’s High Line or the Silver Comet Trail west of Atlanta—ACC decided to convert the flat, level rail bed into a walking and biking trail. Sales tax collections, planning and federal approval took over a decade. The first leg of the trail, between East Broad Street and Dudley Park, opened last year. Initially, there was not enough money for a new bridge over Trail Creek, but that’s changed since voters approved a 1 percent sales tax for transportation in 2017.

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  • In the Loop: Georgia House Passes Abortion Bill

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    A bill severely restricting abortions in Georgia passed narrowly with a 92-78 vote on the House floor on Friday. It takes 91 votes to pass a bill.

    Now, House Bill 481 heads to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk to be signed into law.

    Kemp is expected to sign the legislation. In his 2018 campaign, he vowed to his supporters to sign “the strictest abortion law in the nation.”

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  • In the Loop: Bill Would Make Confederate Monuments Harder to Move

     

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    Photo Credit: Nicole Adamson/file

    Athens' Confederate monument, erected in 1872, now sits in the Broad Street median downtown after being moved twice before.

    Athens' Confederate monument, and others, will be harder to move if the state legislature passes a bill granting monuments greater protection.

    Reps. Houston Gaines (R-Athens) and Marcus Wiedower (R-Watkinsville) voted in favor of Senate Bill 77. Rep. Spencer Frye (D-Athens) voted against the bill, which passed 100–71.

    SB 77, sponsored Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), increases the punishment against those who damage or destroy a monument. Those found guilty of damaging a monument could be fined up to three times the costs to repair or replace it, according to the bill.

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