Blog Topic: Government

  • In the Loop: Athens-Clarke County Will Recount a Third of Its Votes


    Photo Credit: Blake Aued

    From left, Board of Elections members Jesse Evans, Michele Simpson and Charles Knapper and Director of Elections and Voter Registration Charlotte Sosebee.

    In any other year it would have been a mere formality. But an Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections meeting on Monday to certify the county's vote ended with a vote to recount eight precincts on an extremely tight deadline before sending the results on to the state.

    Newly appointed board member Jesse Evans submitted petitions to conduct a "recanvassing" in eight out of 24 precincts: Howard B. Stroud, Clarke Central, Lay Park, the multimodal center, Whitehead Road (which includes both 5A and 5B), Chase Street and Cedar Shoals.

    Under state law, three voters in a precinct can submit a notarized request to trigger a "recanvassing"—essentially a recount, followed by testing of voting machines—if they believe there is a discrepancy. Commissioners Melissa Link and Mariah Parker and Commissioner-elect Tim Denson worked with voters in their districts to submit the petitions, according to Link.

    That triggered a three-hour discussion among board members and attorneys—as well as, at times, some of the 20 or so activists who attended the meeting and interjected or were given permission to speak—about whether such a recanvassing could even be accomplished.

    The law requires a quorum of the Board of Elections and the poll manager for each precinct to be present, as well as giving notice to all of the candidates on the ballot and political parties so they can attend or send a representative. And the recanvassing has to be accomplished by mid-afternoon today, or ACC will be in violation of another state law requiring counties to certify their vote totals by 5 p.m.

    "This is all news to me," ACC Attorney Bill Berryman said when he learned about the petitions. He asked for and received an hour-long recess to research this issue.


  • In the Loop: Groups Demand Answers on Chief Freeman's Departure

    ACCPD Chief Freeman.jpg

    Three local political groups want answers on why Scott Freeman is no longer chief of the Athens-Clarke County Police Department.

    The Athens Immigrant Rights Coalition, the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement and Athens for Everyone—representing the Latinx community, African Americans and progressives, respectively—issued a statement over the weekend demanding "clarity" on Freeman's departure.

    Freeman made a concerted effort to reach out to minority communities and refused to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement during his three-plus years as chief. He resigned under pressure last Thursday, with his boss, ACC Manager Blaine Williams, citing problems with attrition.

    According to the groups' statement:


  • In the Loop: Scott Freeman Is Out as Athens Police Chief

    ACCPD Chief Freeman.jpg

    Scott Freeman is no longer chief of the Athens-Clarke County Police Department, but the circumstances surrounding his departure are unclear.

    As an Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement town hall meeting about community relations with police was wrapping up, AADM co-founder Knowa Johnson announced that Freeman had been fired.

    The Athens Banner-Herald broke the story at about 7:30 p.m., quoting Mayor Nancy Denson as saying that ACC Manager Blaine Williams had fired Freeman.

    “I wasn’t surprised that he was let go because I know there were several issues,” Denson told the ABH. “Evidently he wasn’t a good fit for Athens.”

    Neither Williams nor Freeman immediately returned calls seeking comment. But about 20 minutes later, the ACC government issued a news release saying Freeman had resigned effective today. The announcement said he is leaving to "pursue other opportunies."


  • In the Loop: AADM Hosts Town Hall Meeting Thursday on Community Policing and Race Relations

    CD cop cookout Cole.jpg

    Photo Credit: Savannah Cole

    Athens-Clarke County police held a cookout in the Columbia Brookside neighborhood off Hawthorne Avenue last week. Under Chief Scott Freeman, the department has held occasional cookouts as a way to improve relationships between police and local communities.

    The Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement will host a town hall meeting on community policing and race relations at the Athens-Clarke County library from 5:30–7:30 p.m. Thursday.

    Co-founder Mokah-Jasmine Johnson said that residents and community leaders are concerned that ACC police aren't doing enough to build trust and ensure safety in the wake of two recent incidents—an officer who hit a fleeing suspect with his car in June, and another officer who tackled a 10-year-old boy in July.


  • In the Loop: Commission Approves Barnett Shoals Bike Lanes, Delays Decision on Boulevard

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    Athens-Clarke County commissioners approved preliminary plans Tuesday night for bike lanes in the Boulevard neighborhood—but not on Boulevard itself.

    The concept plan approved Tuesday includes narrowing lanes on a Chase Street bridge to slow traffic coming into town off the Loop and multi-use paths along Barber Street and Oneta Street.

    However, plans to eventually stripe bike lanes along Boulevard were scrapped—for now—after residents of the street objected that Boulevard is already safe for cyclists, and the markings would ruin its historic character.


  • In the Loop: BikeAthens: Commission Should Move Forward With Barnett Shoals Bike Lane


    A two-way protected bike lane in the Washington, DC suburb of Montgomery County, MD.

    Athens-Clarke County commissioners are expected to vote tonight on plans for removing one car lane from four-lane Barnett Shoals Road south of College Station Road to make room for a two-way protected bike lane when the road is repaved.

    The new configuration would be tested for 30 days before being made permanent. But two Eastside commissioners, Andy Herod and Sharyn Dickerson, don't even want to test it. They have proposed replacing a sidewalk with a multi-use path instead. BikeAthens recently posted an article explaining why that's a bad idea.


  • In the Loop: Athens Police Will Start Ticketing Scooter Scofflaws


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    Photo Credit: Savannah Cole

    A group of Athens-Clarke County commissioners said on Thursday that the grace period is over for Bird scooter users who do not abide by state and local law.

    State law bans people over 12 from driving any vehicle on the sidewalk in most areas. County ordinances prohibit parking on sidewalks and driveways, in front of alleys and driveways or in the middle of the street.

    The Legislative Review Committee—chairman Jerry NeSmith, Allison Wright, Sharyn Dickerson and Mariah Parker—were scheduled to discuss motorized vehicles on public property such as golf carts, scooters, mopeds and segways. However, their attention quickly honed in on how to address the new dockless electric scooters in Athens.


  • In the Loop: Discrepancies in Voter Info Will Be Corrected, Election Supervisor Says

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    An astute reader noted the other day that her voting location listed on the secretary of state's website did not match up with the one listed on the Athens-Clarke County Board of Election's interactive precinct map.

    Given Secretary of State Brian Kemp's well-documented voter suppression efforts and lack of security in the system, this was cause for concern.

    Further investigation found at least two other discrepancies between the Board of Election's map and its list of polling places.

    Charlotte Sosebee, director of the Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections, told Flagpole that the map has taken a long time to update, and those discrepancies will be resolved by the middle of next week. In the meantime, here is the correct information:


  • In the Loop: Work Starts on Retirement Homes as Oconee County Waits on Documents


    Photo Credit: Lee Becker

    Oconee County officials are still waiting on Presbyterian Homes to indicate how much money it wants the county to borrow through bond sales to help finance construction of its Presbyterian Village Athens on U.S. 441 at Hog Mountain Road.

    In the last two weeks the company began land clearance and construction of a chain-link fence along U.S. Highway 441 for its complex. The county issued a land disturbance permit for the 79-acre property nearly a year ago.

    The fence is covered with signage promoting the continuing care retirement community, but county code enforcement officials say those signs will have to be removed because they are in violation of county code.


  • In the Loop: Bishop Mayor Opposes 441 Bypass Plan

    Colquitt County Roundabout.jpg

    GDOT used this roundabout in Colquitt County as an example of what a roundabout on 441 near Bishop could look like.

    Bishop Mayor Johnny Pritchett has written to the Georgia Transportation Board criticizing the proposed close-in U.S. Highway 441 truck bypass of Bishop and saying the state should resurrect the 2007 plan that called for a bypass further east of the city.

    Pritchett told state Transportation Board Chairman Jamie Boswell that the current plan, which the state revealed in March, does not address his concerns about traffic inside Bishop reaching the bypass, the use of roundabouts on each side of the city and the safety of the road south of Bishop.

    In the letter, Pritchett also said he is concerned that the proposed route might lead the University of Georgia to move its equestrian facility from its current location near the proposed highway, and that such a loss would adversely affect the economy and reputation of Bishop.


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