COLORBEARER OF ATHENS, GEORGIA LOCALLY OWNED SINCE 1987
September 30, 2015

Ort in Court, Complete Streets Athens and More Local News

City Dope

Photo Credit: Blake Aued

Ort sorts through records Thursday, Sept. 24.

“I’ve got to triage this,” William Orten Carlton said as friends carried stack after mud-covered stack of old 45 records from his backyard to be thrown away.

Ort, as he’s known by almost everyone (and almost everyone knows Ort), landed in the clink the night of Monday, Sept. 21, on a probation violation charge stemming from a citation he’d received more than a year ago for (allegedly) having a messy yard, including a couple of junked cars, three damaged sheds and other debris. By Tuesday afternoon, lawyer Bill Overend sprung him on his own recognizance, and Thursday, friends gathered at his Homewood Hills house to help start finishing a big job.

It’s easy to see why, given his vast, vast, vast collection of books, records, beer cans, assorted Athens scene memorabilia and other ephemera, Ort might have let the situation get a bit… unwieldy, and why he may have had a hard time throwing anything away. Athens-Clarke County spent 15 months trying to get him to get the situation under control, starting with a warning in August 2014, then citations in October. A dozen visits from the Community Protection Division, several continuances, two missed court dates, a trial, a sentence of 90 days’ probation and multiple extensions later, Ort found himself in the reformatory.

Contrary to popular belief in the Facebook firestorm that followed Ort’s incarceration, this was the not the heavy hand of government run amok. Rumors that a county attorney lived nearby and was persecuting him proved unfounded. The record shows that CPD and the attorney’s office gave Ort chance after chance to comply with our local “quality-of-life” ordinances. But he’s 66 and not in great health. Luckily, he has lots of friends who’ve been helping him out, because that’s what we do here in Athens.

In the wake of Ortgate, though, I wouldn’t be surprised to see us revisit these quality-of-life ordinances that regulate things like junked cars and trashy lawns. Many of them were passed during the Heidi Davison days in response to widespread community concerns about the condition of student rental property. It’s one thing to apply the law to a student or a neglectful landlord, though; it’s another to apply it to a beloved local legend.

Complete Streets Athens: Almost anyone in Athens can tell you about the time(s) they almost got run over. But until now, no one’s been collecting those stories.

The fledgling advocacy group Complete Streets Athens held a kickoff meeting last week, where BikeAthens Executive Director Tyler Dewey announced that the organization will be gathering data on near-misses to better make the case for cyclist and pedestrian infrastructure improvements. “We know the official crash data is vastly under-reported,” Dewey said, because near-misses don’t count, and because many people either don’t think the police will do anything or are afraid to talk to the police.

At the website bikemaps.org, people can anonymously report any kind of road hazard or traffic incident using a desktop or by downloading an app. Complete Street Athens is also soliciting feedback from residents all over the county on where they think safety improvements are needed.

“What we’re looking for is innovative, out-of-the-box solutions to make our streets safe for everyone,” co-founder Tony Eubanks said. Hit up completestreetsathens.com, their Facebook page, @CSAthensGA on Twitter or CompleteStreetsATH@gmail.com.

Georgia Dogs: The university just couldn’t get its story straight last week when People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals filed a federal complaint over a UGA program that trained National Guard soldiers in battlefield medicine using live goats, pigs and dogs.

The animals were under anesthesia during the procedures and were euthanized afterward. PETA argued that UGA could use human simulators, as many other institutions now do, to provide the training.

The program passed muster with a panel that examines the ethics of using animals in research. At first, UGA defended the program, saying that it was vital to saving human lives. Later that day, though, the university released another statement saying that it had been discontinued in 2013.

The following day, PETA provided documentation that the program had extended at least into 2014. “I can only give you the information I was given,” UGA President Jere Morehead said during his regularly scheduled media briefing that day. “The last time the program was authorized was 2013. We didn’t do anything at that time. The session in August 2013 was canceled by the military.”

But the day after that, UGA Vice President for Research David Lee acknowledged that PETA was correct—the course had not been offered to military personnel since 2013, he clarified. A similar course was offered to “self-paying private practitioners” in 2014.

“The University of Georgia will not use dogs for future medical readiness training provided to personnel responsible for human health,” Lee wrote to PETA.

Medical College Dean: In July, a committee appointed by University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby selected four finalists for dean of the Athens medical school to replace Barbara Schuster, who resigned in February, reportedly because she was pushed out by administrators at UGA’s partner in the medical school, Georgia Regents University (formerly the Medical College of Georgia and recently renamed Augusta University), who did not appreciate her independence.

Two months later, UGA is “working closely” with Augusta University to hire a dean, and they’re making progress, Provost Pamela Whitten told reporters last week. The timetable is “as soon as possible,” she said.

ImmiGRANT: U-Lead Athens—an organization that helps undocumented immigrant students in Clarke County who are banned from UGA go to college elsewhere—received a $20,000 matching grant from Educators for Fair Consideration. Since its inception last year, U-Lead has given scholarships to 15 local students and helped others apply to out-of-state colleges that don’t have such draconian restrictions on immigration status.

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