COLORBEARER OF ATHENS, GEORGIA LOCALLY OWNED SINCE 1987

Blog Topic: Government

  • In the Loop: Rep. Jonathan Wallace Announces Office Hours

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    Photo Credit: House Photo Office

    State Rep. Jonathan Wallace (D-Watkinsville).

    Have a concern or question about state politics? Rep. Jonathan Wallace (D-Watkinsville) is ready to talk to you about it. And the best part is, you can have a beer while you meet with him, or alternatively, you don't even have to put pants on.

    Wallace—who represents parts of Clarke and Oconee counties—recently announced a schedule of summer "office hours" that don't take place in an office.

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  • In the Loop: Nine Athens Transit Bus Routes Have Changed

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    Photo Credit: Joshua L. Jones/file

    Changes to nine Athens Transit routes—5, 7, 9, 12, 14, 22, 25, 26 and 27—took effect on Sunday.

    The changes mainly affect service to the Eastside, the Westside and the University of Georgia campus. Buses that run along Sanford Drive have been rerouted during construction, service has been added to Whitehead Road, and several Eastside bus routes have been revamped to create a circulator between Walmart and campus:

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  • In the Loop: New Law: Put Down Your Phone While Driving

     

    Georgia’s new “hands-free law” took effect July 1. No, that doesn’t mean it’s legal to drive with your knees while you eat a cheeseburger and watch YouTube. In fact, it’s the opposite: The law cracks down on distracted driving by making it illegal to use your cellphone while driving. That means not only texting—which was already illegal but difficult to enforce—but making or answering phone calls, browsing the internet, using social media or watching or recording videos as well.

    The law prohibits drivers from having a phone or other electronic device in their hand or supported by any part of their body while driving—including at stop signs and traffic lights. Calls can still be made by speakerphone, earpiece, wireless headset or smart watch, or by connecting your phone to the car and dialing by voice. Voice-to-text remains legal as well, as does using a continually recording dash-mounted camera.

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  • In the Loop: Oconee IDA Approves Bonds for Senior Living Center

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    Last month the Oconee County Industrial Development Authority approved unanimously the spending of up to $375,115 on a contract to beautify Mars Hill Road and preliminarily approved up to $115 million in bond funding to Presbyterian Homes for construction of its Oconee campus.

    Jerry Peterson, representing Presybyterian Homes, told the IDA he was asking for preliminary approval for the Authority to issue up to $115 million in revenue bonds for Presbyterian Village Athens, to be located on U.S. 441 at Hog Mountain Road.

    He said the bonds would be repaid through funds potential tenants pay as entrance fees, through a U.S. Department of Agricultural loan for heath centers, and bonds sold to institutional investors and banks.

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  • In the Loop: Sheriff Reverses Policy on ICE Detainers

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    The Clarke County Sheriff's Office will no longer detain undocumented immigrants for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to deport unless requests are accompanied by a judicial warrant, the sheriff's department announced late this afternoon.

    Sheriff Ira Edwards instituted a new policy in July, complying with ICE requests to hold undocumented inmates—many of whom had not been convicted of a crime—for up to 48 hours beyond when they would have otherwise been released so that ICE could pick them up and deport them. The policy change met with widespread criticism from activists, churches and other elected officials once it became public in December.

    In January, Edwards convened an advisory committee that could not come to a concensus on the issue and recommended that he seek legal counsel from the Athens-Clarke County attorney's office, which told him "there is case law that has identified gaps in the current system that do not allow the Sheriff's Office to hold individuals solely on a detainer from ICE," according to a news release. "As such, the Sheriff wishes to avoid the potential risk to the county of civil litigation relating to ICE detainers."

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  • In the Loop: Residents Oppose Development in South Oconee

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    Photo Credit: Lee Becker

    Celestea Sharp's (left) documentary "Carving Up Oconee" featured Farmington/Bishop area residents Tony Glenn (center) and Courtney Gale (right).

    Ann Stoneburner said she was motivated to help set up a program at the Oconee County Library late last month by a concern with the rewrite of the county’s Comprehensive Plan and its impact on development in the county.

    The centerpiece of that program—sponsored by the Oconee County Democratic Committee and the Oconee County Progressives—was a screening of the 2008 film by Celestea Sharp, Carving Up Oconee. Stoneburner is vice-chair of the Oconee County Democratic Committee.

    The 50 minutes of discussion that followed the film indicated that those in attendance shared Stoneburner’s general concern, and those familiar with the draft of the Comprehensive Plan focused on one particular change it contains.

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  • In the Loop: What's Up With the Trees on the Loop?

     

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    Photo Credit: Mccunicano/Wikimedia Commons

    RIP Loop trees.

    Or what’s down, rather. Many readers have noticed that trees on the Loop are being cut down and have asked who’s doing it and why. It’s the state Department of Transportation, and they say they’re thinning the trees for safety reasons.

    “We are doing vegetation management along the corridor the last few weeks,” GDOT spokeswoman Katie Strickland said. “Trees can be a hazard for roadways in many instances. Winter weather, along with other storms, can take trees down across power lines and also block routes. We also have seen pedestrians and drivers injured by trees located too close to our right of way.”

    Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

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  • In the Loop: GDOT Proposes Truck Bypass Around Bishop

    The Georgia Department of Transportation has developed an alternate plan for improvements to U.S. 441 that involves a close-in truck bypass on the east side of the City of Bishop.

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    Photo Credit: Lee Becker

    Officials from GDOT presented the broad outlines of the plan to the city council of Bishop on Monday night, where it got at least some support.

    The officials said they would present the plan in fuller detail to its citizen advisory committee in a meeting from 5–6:30 p.m. on Mar. 19 at the community center in Oconee Veterans Park.

    The truck bypass would take some land from the University of Georgia Equestrian Complex and pass very close to two houses on Old Bishop Road, possibly necessitating the purchase of those two properties, the officials said.

    The truck bypass—which could be one or two lanes wide in each direction—would connect to a four-laned U.S. 441 at Astondale Road and High Shoals Road with roundabouts.

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  • In the Loop: A4E Gives Low Marks to Most Commissioners

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    Only three Athens-Clarke County commissioners graded higher than a C on a report card issued by the progressive political group Athens for Everyone earlier this month.

    A4E’s grades were based on commissioners’ votes and public statements on the issues of transit expansion, fare-free buses, an anti-discrimination ordinance, Complete Streets, marijuana decriminalization, affordable housing, living wages, early learning and a plastic-bag ban or fee. "Champions" received extra credit for taking a leadership role on certain issues.

    The worst commissioner, from A4E’s perspective, was District 7 representative Diane Bell, who received an F. Mayoral candidate Harry Sims received a D- despite opposing A4E on every issue the group tracked. So did Mayor Nancy Denson, who received an F. District 1 Commissioner Sharyn Dickerson also received a D-.

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