COLORBEARER OF ATHENS, GEORGIA LOCALLY OWNED SINCE 1987

Blog Topic: Government

  • In the Loop: ACC Officials Raise Concerns About Housing Bill

     

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    Commissioner Mike Hamby.

    ACC officials are concerned about a House bill co-sponsored by Rep. Spencer Frye (D-Athens) that groups like the Georgia Municipal Association say would prohibit local governments from setting design standards for single-family homes.

    Commissioner Mike Hamby told Flagpole that House Bill 302 could make it easier to construct cheaply built, oversized infill McMansions. “This takes away local government’s ability to regulate designs for single-family homes,” he said. Frye, however, said it only applies to a house’s appearance—roof styles, window styles, exterior cladding and color—and won’t affect zoning laws related to height or setbacks.

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  • In the Loop: Three Candidates Apply for Clarke County School Board Seat

     

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    Former Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Harry Sims.

    Former Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Harry Sims is among three applicants for the District 2 seat on the Clarke County Board of Education vacated by Vernon Payne.

    East Broad Street resident Mary P. Bagby and Mulberry Street resident Frances Berry are the other two applicants for the open seat. Berry, a photographer, is a former president of the Federation of Neighborhoods and managed Commissioner Patrick Davenport’s campaign in 2018.

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  • In the Loop: Commission Debates Drug Grant, Approves Rezonings

     

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    Commissioner Mariah Parker.

    The Athens-Clarke County Commission could create a criminal justice committee later this year after two commissioners briefly held up a federal grant that funds drug investigations.

    The Byrne Justice Assistance Grant funds the Northeast Georgia Drug Task Force, which consists of nine officers, six of whom work for the ACC Police Department. The grant partially funds four of those six officers, according to ACC Manager Blaine Williams.

    Commissioner Mariah Parker removed the grant from the commission’s consent agenda—a package of noncontroversial items—at its Feb. 5 meeting. She and Commissioner Melissa Link said they would approve of the grant if the commission were to take action to establish a criminal justice committee. After discussion, the commission unanimously approved the grant and decided to return to the subject of creating the committee in six months, once new Police Chief Cleveland Spruill has time to settle in and take part in creating the committee. Mayor Kelly Girtz said the commission is scheduled to review the criminal justice system at its March work session.

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  • In the Loop: Mayor Kelly Girtz Signs Clean Energy Pledge

     

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    Photo Credit: 100% Athens

    Mayor Kelly Girtz has signed on to the Sierra Club’s Mayors for 100% Clean Energy Initiative, the first step toward committing Athens-Clarke County to 100 percent clean and sustainable energy by 2035 in an effort to fight climate change.

    Girtz joined about 100 other mayors when he signed the pledge last Monday, Feb. 4. The next step, he said, is for the Athens-Clarke County Commission to approve a proclamation officially setting the goal, then to discuss ways to meet it.

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  • In the Loop: Kemp Settles Lawsuit, and Athens Legislators Receive Committee Assignments

     

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    Gov. Brian Kemp.

    Just before taking office, Gov. Brian Kemp quietly settled a lawsuit filed against him by a Kentucky company he’d invested in, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last week.

    A consent order signed by a Gwinnett County judge Jan. 8 doesn’t disclose terms of the settlement.

    The lawsuit was an issue in last year’s gubernatorial race. Businessman Rick Phillips claimed in the lawsuit that Kemp never repaid a $500,000 loan Phillips gave Kemp to invest in Hart AgStrong, a Georgia-based seed company that ran into financial trouble after expanding into Kentucky. At one point, the company owed farmers there $2 million. AJC reports indicate that Kemp invested a total of $750,000 and guaranteed another $10 million in loans. He resigned from the company’s board in 2017 and began to sell off his stake, and now owns about 8 percent of AgStrong.  

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  • In the Loop: Vernon Payne Resigns from Clarke County BOE

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    Photo Credit: Clarke County School District

    Payne.

    Vernon Payne has stepped down from the Clarke County school board for health reasons after 40 years of service.

    Payne submitted his resignation to Superintendent Demond Means and Gov. Nathan Deal in a letter dated Dec. 28, but it was not made public until last Friday.

    Payne has not attended a meeting since March, according to meeting minutes. The school district had no procedure to replace him unless he resigned, causing some concern among his District 2 constituents that they would go unrepresented until his term expires at the end of 2020. 

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  • In the Loop: Meeting Between Oconee Commissioners and Legislators Focuses on Kemp

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    Photo Credit: Lee Becker

    From left, state Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens), Rep. Marcus Wiedower (R-Watkinsville) and Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens).

    Brian Kemp, the governor-elect of Georgia, was not invited to and did not attend the pre-legislative session held late last year by the Oconee County Board of Commissioners for the county’s delegation to the Georgia General Assembly.

    But Kemp’s presence at the gathering was strong nonetheless.

    In closing the session, Republican Sen. Bill Cowsert said “the most interesting thing about this session” is going to be seeing how the personalities of Kemp, newly elected Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan,and House Speaker David Ralston “mesh” and how their goals “match.”

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  • In the Loop: Athens-Clarke County Names New Police Chief

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    Photo Credit: Courtesy of Athens-Clarke County

    Cleveland Spruill.

    Athens-Clarke County Manager Blaine Williams has appointed a North Carolina police chief to take over the ACC police department effective Feb. 4.

    Cleveland Lee Spruill Sr. has been the police chief in Huntersville, NC, since May 2014. The Huntersville police department has 102 sworn officers, 111 total employees and a $12.8 million annual budget.

    Although Huntersville, population 60,000, is half the size of Athens, Spruill has experience running a larger department. Prior to becoming the police chief in Huntersville, Spruill was the executive chief deputy in Alexandria, VA, which had 320 sworn officers, 105 civilian employees, a $57 million budget and served a population of 150,000.

    Williams said in a news release that Spruill stood out among many qualified applicants as the best person to uphold ACC's philosophy of community-oriented policing and serve as an ambassador to the community.

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  • In the Loop: Gov. Nathan Deal Will Teach at UGA

     

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    Photo Credit: Office of the Governor

    Gov. Nathan Deal, whose second term ends on Monday, will soon be teaching at the University of Georgia.

    The University System of Georgia Board of Regents voted today to appoint Deal as a Regents Professor. His appointment will be effective for at least three years beginning March 1.

    Deal plans to occasionally lecture undergraduates with interests in political science and law at UGA and other institutions in the University System of Georgia, the Atlanta Journal-Constitutionreported. He's also starting a consulting firm with his longtime chief of staff, Chris Riley.

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  • In the Loop: Photos: Athens Mayor and Commission Swearing-In Ceremony

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    New Mayor Kelly Girtz and four new Athens-Clarke County commissioners, along with re-elected incumbent Melissa Link, were sworn in Tuesday at City Hall, ushering in a new era of progressive politics for Athens.

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