Blog Topic: Government

  • In the Loop: VIDEO: What's in SPLOST 2020?

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    On Nov. 5, Athens-Clarke County voters will decide whether to extend a 1 percent tax for special projects called SPLOST, and early voting at the ACC Board of Elections at 155 E. Washington St. started today.

    The Athens Politics Nerd breaks down what the tax will pay for, including projects like an arena at the Classic Center, energy efficiency, a new recycling center and more.


  • In the Loop: Athens-Clarke County Reorganizes Animal Control

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    The organizational chart for the new Animal Services Department.

    Athens-Clarke County Manager Blaine Williams has appointed an interim director to lead the newly created Animal Services Department.

    Selah Gardiner was the volunteer coordinator in what used to be the Animal Control Division. She previously worked at the Humane Society for Greater Savannah, where she assisted with fundraising, shelter operations, staff training, relationship building within the community and the opening of a new spay/neuter clinic, according to an ACC news release.


  • In the Loop: Former Athens Judge Blocks Georgia Abortion Law


    Judge Steve Jones.

    Georgia's infamous "heartbeat bill" banning most abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy suffered a legal setback today when a federal judge blocked the law from taking effect while it's challenged in the court system.


  • In the Loop: ACC Announces Plans to Redevelop Bethel



    Photo Credit: Joshua L. Jones/file

    Bethel Midtown Village.

    Athens-Clarke County announced plans late Friday afternoon to spend $39 million redeveloping the affordable housing complex Bethel Midtown Village if voters opt to extend a 1 percent sales tax for construction projects in November.

    The project, in partnership with the Athens Housing Authority and private developers Columbia Residential and Jonathan Rose Companies, would also include surrounding ACC and AHA properties, in addition to the 190-unit complex off College Avenue just north of downtown.

    “This project would truly transform not only this site and the lives of its residents, but it also has the potential to provide reinvestment into the surrounding area, including downtown Athens,” Mayor Kelly Girtz said in a statement. “This partnership presents a great opportunity to expand the number of affordable and workforce homes downtown and create a healthy, sustainable and well-maintained environment for residents.”


  • In the Loop: School Board Votes Tonight on Buying Milledge Property

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    Photo Credit: Google Streeview

    The Clarke County Board of Education will vote tonight on whether to buy a building at 394 S. Milledge Ave. to serve as the school district's new headquarters.

    The 37,000 square foot building on 2.2 acres, located next door to Clarke Central High School, is valued by the Athens-Clarke County tax assessor's office at $3.9 million. The square footage is less than the 60,000 Superintendent Demond Means has said the district needs.

    CCSD has been looking for a new central office since selling its Mitchell Street building to Advantage Behavioral Health Systems for $2.8 million in 2016 because then-superintendent Philip Lanoue wanted a more central location. Administrators have been split between the H.T. Edwards building and the Whitehead Road Elementary School annex ever since.


  • In the Loop: Is the Justice System Really Just?

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    From left, public defender John Donnelly, Superior Court judge Lisa Lott and Municipal Court judge Ryan Hope.

    The judicial branch is one of the three branches of government, but it’s probably the least well known. Let’s explore the judicial branch of government on the federal, state and local levels.

    Superior Court Judge Lisa Lott, Municipal Court Judge Ryan Hope and Circuit Public Defender John Donnelly discuss their roles in the justice system and how they think this system can be reformed.


  • In the Loop: BOE Member John Knox Responds to Superintendent Means' Allegations


    John Knox.

    Tuesday Flagpole published a story about Clarke County School Superintendent Demond Means' response to a complaint filed with accreditation agency AdvancED in which he alleged that three school board members attempted to micromanage and usurp his authority.

    The story did not include the full response from one of those board members, John Knox. He has provided an 11-page account of his interactions with Means, which you can read here. An excerpt:


  • In the Loop: Firefly Trail Bridge Proposal Blends Old and New

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    Consultants hired by Athens-Clarke County to design a bridge over Trail Creek incorporating the famed "Murmur trestle" have submitted a final proposal that will go before the ACC Mayor and Commission next month.

    Based on feedback from an ACC-appointed user group and the public, consulting firm Kimley Horn came up with a design that involves rebuilding the remaining portion of the wooden trestle, bolstered by more modern steel-and-concrete arches on either side.

    The trestle was part of the first railroad into Athens, and was made famous in the early 1980s, when R.E.M. put it on the back cover of its debut album. Owner CSX started to demolish it in 2000, but R.E.M. fans around the world rallied, and the local government purchased what was left, with plans to turn the historic railroad into a walking and biking trail.


  • In the Loop: BOE Approves Early Learning Center at West Broad

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    Photo Credit: Joshua L. Jones/file

    The Clarke County Board of Education voted Thursday night to approve Superintendent Demond Means' controversial plan for an early learning center at the West Broad School.

    Means' $10 million proposal includes five to 10 Head Start, Early Head Start and/or pre-K classrooms in a new building, as well as community meeting rooms, an office for students to fill out job and college applications, and a school-based health clinic in the historic portion of the school facing Minor Street.

    The vote was 4–2, with Kara Dyckman, Charles Worthy, Linda Davis and LaKeisha Gantt in favor, and John Knox and Greg Davis opposed. Frances Berry was out of town. Patricia Yager abstained. Tawana Mattox, who works for the Athens Land Trust, recused herself—a crucial distinction, because she was counted as not present, meaning only four votes were required to pass Means' plan instead of five.


  • In the Loop: Commission Votes Today on Asking State to Restrict Guns, Let Undocumented Immigrants Drive


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    Photo Credit: Chris Dowd

    Mayor Kelly Girtz (right) and Beto Mendoza read a resolution in support of undocumented immigrants at the Aug. 20 commission meeting.

    Once a year, the ACC Mayor and Commission has an opportunity to sit down with the Athens state legislative delegation to make requests for the upcoming legislative session. Requests that progressive commissioners make of the deeply conservative state legislature are routinely ignored and sometimes even directly refused. Commissioners who deem themselves more practical than progressive have stopped asking for such legislation—gun control, for example—which they know our shotgun-toting Gov. Kemp would veto immediately even if it were to pass.

    The commission is now in the process of compiling this list of legislative requests. When the idea of mandatory gun registration came up, it was shot down quickly by Commissioner Jerry NeSmith. “That’s something I could never support,” said NeSmith. He went on to clarify that, beyond practical considerations, he opposes the concept of mandatory gun registration itself. He even refused to support the motion when limited to assault weapons only. (However, NeSmith does support the banning of assault rifles.)


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