Blog Topic: Government

  • In the Loop: Commission to Consider Curfew, Ban on Gatherings

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    The Athens-Clarke County Commission has called an emergency meeting at 5 p.m. today to consider a curfew and a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people.

    If approved, the curfew will prohibit people from driving or going out in public between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. That includes streets, bars, restaurants, parks and any other public building or public place.

    Because of the need for social distancing, rather than attend in person, citizens are urged to provide comments online and watch the proceedings on Charter cable channel 180 or online at


  • In the Loop: Georgia Pushes Back Presidential Primary; Athens Legislators Issue Coronavirus Warning


    Gov. Brian Kemp.

    Georgia is postponing early voting in the Democratic presidential primary and pushing Election Day back from Mar. 24 to May 19 due to fears of voters and poll workers spreading coronavirus.

    May 19 is also the date of Democratic and Republican primaries for seats in Congress and the state legislature, as well as nonpartisan local races such as the Athens-Clarke County Commission and Clarke County Board of Education.

    Early voting will resume at some point before May 19, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

    In addition, Mayor Kelly Girtz, state Reps. Spencer Frye (D-Athens), Houston Gaines (R-Athens) and Marcus Wiedower (R-Watkinsville), and Sens. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) and Frank Ginn (R-Danielsville) issued a statement today saying that they except to see COVID-19 cases in Athens.


  • In the Loop: State Says Athens Can't Use Paper Ballots


    Brad Raffensperger.

    The State Elections Board voted today to sanction Athens-Clarke County for using paper ballots instead of the new voting machines the state recently sent Georgia counties.

    After a hearing held at UGA that lasted nearly eight hours, the state board voted to require the Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections to cover the $2,500 cost of the investigation into the decision. The state board will also fine the local board $5,000 for each day it continues to use paper ballots.

    ACC could have faced a fine of over $5 million—$5,000 for each of the more than 1,000 paper ballots that had already been cast.


  • In the Loop: Video: Athenians Deliver Petition Asking Kemp to Appoint New DA

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    Congressional candidate Andrew Ferguson (center) and Athens state Rep. Marcus Wiedower (right).

    The resignation of District Attorney Ken Mauldin has cast uncertainty on the race to succeed him. Will there even be an election for DA this year?

    Erin Stacer of Athens for Everyone and Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Tim Denson organized a delivery of over 1,500 petition signatures to Gov. Brian Kemp, asking him to allow the voters to decide who will next serve them as DA. While at the Capitol, the group also asked their state representatives to weigh in publicly on this situation.


  • In the Loop: Mayor Bob Smith Is at Odds With the Watkinsville City Council

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    Photo Credit: Lee Becker

    Watkinsville Mayor Bob Smith suggested delaying a decision on the development plan for the Wisteria Ridge apartment complex on 75 North Main St. at the Watkinsville Mayor and Council meeting last week.

    The mayor votes only in the case of a tie, and the council approved the plan in a 3 to 1 vote.

    Smith strongly opposed the site development plan submitted by Oconee State Bank for its new headquarters at 41 North Main St. Council approved the plan 3 to 0, with council member Brian Brodrick recusing himself from the discussion and vote. (Council member Christine Tucker was absent from the meeting.)


  • In the Loop: Kemp Sets Feb. 20 Deadline to Apply for DA

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    Brian Patterson.

    Gov. Brian Kemp has set a Thursday deadline for applications for the position of district attorney for the Western Judicial Circuit consisting of Clarke and Oconee counties.

    Brian Patterson, currently chief assistant district attorney, has said he will apply for the appointment.

    Deborah Gonzalez, former House District 117 representative, has said she will not submit her application.


  • In the Loop: What Did Antwon Stephens Do With All the Campaign Cash He Raised?



    Antwon Stephens.

    A newly appointed Clarke County Board of Education member never disclosed what he did with $100,000 he reported raising to run for mayor in 2018, and is under investigation for potentially violating federal campaign finance law as well.

    Antwon Stephens raised money to run against U.S. Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) this year despite being ineligible to serve in Congress because he won’t turn 25, the minimum age, until June of 2021. When Collins became President Trump’s chief defender in the House impeachment hearings, actress Alyssa Milano and prosecutor-turned-pundit Preet Bharara tweeted links to Stephens’ ActBlue fundraising account to their millions of followers. 

    According to a letter from the Federal Election Commission to Stephens’ campaign treasure, Ty Kelley, dated Jan. 26, he failed to file a statement of organization in a timely fashion. In addition, he has not filed any reports disclosing his campaign’s donors and expenses, although the most recent deadline was Friday.

    Stephens also did not file any campaign finance disclosures for his mayoral campaign since Jan. 31, 2018, the Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections confirmed. In that report, Stephens stated he had raised $102,396 and had $88,695 on hand.


  • In the Loop: New School Board Appointee Misled Board About Graduating From Cedar Shoals


    Newly appointed Clarke County Board of Education member Antwon Stephens did not graduate from Cedar Shoals High School in 2014, as he implied when he sought a vacant position on the board last month, according to a report in the Cedar Shoals student newspaper.

    A majority of the board chose Stephens from among four applicants to fill the vacancy in District 2 for the remainder of 2020. In his written application and in a speech to the board, he described himself as "Cedar Shoals class of 2014." One of his champions on the board, Tawanna Mattox, cited the fact that he is a recent CCSD graduate as reason to support him.

    But when confronted by reporters from Cedar BluePrints — who noted that he wasn't in the yearbook or listed on the graduation program — Stephens admitted that he didn't actually graduate from Cedar Shoals. He left during either his sophomore or junior year, and said he received a diploma from an online high school.


  • In the Loop: Oconee Board Signs Off on 'Ritz-Carlton of Retirement Communities'

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    Landscape architect Ken Beall (right) speaks to the Oconee County Planning Commission.

    The Oconee County Planning Commission has recommended that the Board of Commissioners approve a rezoning request for just under 62 acres between Old Epps Bridge Road and the Loop for a large retirement community with 398 residential units.

    The project, called Celebration Village Athens–Oconee Campus, will include in Phase 1 two three-story “concierge living” buildings, a three-story assisted living and memory care building, two four-story independent living buildings and 32 independent living cottages.

    Phase 2 will include 86 independent living units that will be sold to interested residents who are 55 years old or older.


  • In the Loop: Live-Work-Play Development Planned in Watkinsville

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    Photo Credit: Lee Becker

    The Watkinsville City Council on Wednesday authorized City Manager Sharyn Dickerson to move forward with creation of a development agreement for the 66.6-acre former Southwire property on Barnett Shoals Road.

    The council took the action following a presentation by developer Duke Gibbs and planner Bob Smith for what they are calling Wire Park.

    The project includes single-family detached housing units on both large and small lots, townhomes and condominium flats, and an adaptive reuse of the existing wire manufacturing building on the site.


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