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In the Loop

  • VIDEO: Trash Pickup, SPLOST 2020 and Plans for Lexington Road and Atlanta Highway

    For awhile now, Chris Dowd, under the moniker Athens Politics Nerd, has been making videos recapping Athens-Clarke County Commission meetings and delving into policy topics like ambulance service, clean energy and affordable housing.

    We're pleased to announce that Dowd is now partnering with Flagpole. We'll be posting his videos on our website—they're also available on YouTube and the Athens Politics nerd site—and Dowd will be contributing some city government coverage to the paper, as well.

    The latest installment of Athens Politics Nerd covers SPLOST 2020, proposals to overhaul trash pickup in the formerly unincorporated parts of Athens, and two studies that recommend major transportation improvements for Lexington Road and Atlanta Highway.

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  • Athens Police Suspend Pot Arrests

    The Athens-Clarke County Police Department has temporarily stopped arresting people suspected of possessing marijuana because its drug-testing equipment can't tell the difference between marijuana and hemp.

    The Georgia legislature legalized hemp production earlier this year. However, hemp is indistinguishable from marijuana, except for its lower THC content (0.3% or less). Tests used by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, ACCPD and other law enforcement agencies can only detect the presence of THC, not measure its potency.

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  • Mokah-Jasmine Johnson Explores State House Bid

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    Photo Credit: Joshua L. Jones/file

    Mokah-Jasmine Johnson.

    Local activist Mokah-Jasmine Johnson is considering running for an Athens state House of Representatives seat that Democrats surprisingly flipped in 2017 but lost again last year.

    Johnson filed paperwork Tuesday to begin raising money to run in House District 117, currently held by Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens). Last November, Gaines ousted Democrat Deborah Gonzalez in a rematch of a special election the previous year.

    The district—which includes parts of Clarke, Oconee, Jackson and Barrow counties—had been in Republican hands for decades. It's now a swing district that's considered crucial if Democrats hope to win control of the House in 2020. The GOP currently has a 14-seat advantage but lost ground last year, mainly in the metro Atlanta suburbs.

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  • GOP Official Tells Oconee Republicans That Democratic Women 'Forgot to Reproduce'

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    Photo Credit: Sarah Bell

    Brant Frost V.

    A Georgia Republican Party official told Oconee County Republicans that the GOP will continue to win elections because Democratic women "forgot to reproduce," and "Christian and conservative women" are having more children.

    Brant Frost V, the party's second vice-chair, claimed at an Oconee GOP meeting last month that Republicans have a 35 percent "fertility advantage" over Democrats.

    According to Lee Becker at Oconee County Observations:

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  • Update: ACLU Says Prayer Vigil at Athens School Raises 'Serious Concerns'

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    New Gaines Elementary School principal Luther McDaniel's invitation to a now-canceled prayer event at the school this weekend raises "serious Constitutional concerns" because government resources can't be used to promote religion, and it could make non-Christian students unwelcome, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. 

    “In his personal capacity off school property, Dr. Luther McDaniel is, of course, free to invite Christians to pray for his school, and people of all faiths are free to pray for his school,” Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, said in a statement provided to Flagpole. “There are other ways to invite the community to show their heartfelt good wishes for a successful school year for all of the students, teachers and staff in the school without promoting one kind of religion.”

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  • DA Ken Mauldin Will Not Run for Re-Election

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    Western Circuit District Attorney Ken Mauldin will not run for re-election in 2020, he announced Wednesday.

    Mauldin, a Democrat, has served five terms as the DA for Clarke and Oconee counties. He released the following statement about his retirement:

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  • Candidate for Oconee Sheriff Seeks Democrats' Support

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    Photo Credit: Robert Wyatt

    Jimmy Williamson speaks to Oconee County Democrats June 20.

    Jimmy Williamson is running for Oconee County sheriff as a Republican, but he asked Democrats assembled at the party meeting last month to help him with his campaign.

    “Anybody that wants to help me get my name out, and help people understand that I’m the most qualified candidate, I appreciate the help,” Williamson said.

    The former University of Georgia police chief even asked those present to consider selecting the Republican ballot in the May 2020 primary and picking him because of his experience and leadership.

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  • Suspect Arrested in Shooting of Pregnant Woman

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    Photo Credit: Blake Aued

    Auriel Callaway's mother LaShanda, uncle Bryant Gantt, Police Chief Cleveland Spruill, sister Kearia Rucker, cousin Vanessa Johnson and Deputy Chief Jeff Clark.

    Athens-Clarke County police arrested a Clarke Gardens resident Wednesday night and charged her with the murder of neighbor Auriel Callaway during a gunfight at the Eastside apartment compex Monday.

    Although others were also shooting, police say Kiresa Shanice Cooper, 27, fired the bullet that killed Callaway, 24, who was walking with her 3-year-old son when the gunfire broke out. Callaway was trying to get her son to a safe place when she was shot, according to Police Chief Cleveland Spruill. She died, along with the unborn child she was carrying, at a local hospital shortly after the shooting Monday night.

    "I cannot think of a more tragic circumstance that for an innocent mother to be gunned down in front of her residence while her child looked on," Spruill said at a news conference this afternoon to announce Cooper's arrest.

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